2 Corinthians 11:16-33
I read this yesterday.
After starting a new diet I altered my drive to work
to avoid passing my favorite bakery. I accidentally
drove by the bakery this morning and as I
approached, there in the window were a host of
chocolates, donuts, and cheesecakes.
I felt this was no accident, so I prayed … “Lord, it’s
up to You. If You want me to have any of those
delicious goodies, create a parking place for me
directly in front of the bakery.”
And sure enough, on the eighth time around the
block, there it was! God is so good!
Two weeks ago we studied the first 1⁄2 of 2 Corinthians 11
Paul gave us several examples of his love for the church
He describes his jealous love, his generous love, and his
protective love for them.
Today we are going to study the final verses in the
chapter and we will see Paul defend his apostolic
authority through various types of boasting.
2 Corinthians 11:16-21a
Rationale for Boasting
Paul was happy to boast in Christ, but he wasn’t one who
would boast about himself. So this chapter is difficult for
him to write. So he employs a bit more sarcasm.
He explains that the reason for his boasting is that the
Corinthian believers had been listening to the boasting of
the so-called super apostles.
They were putting Paul down and questioning his
authority as an apostle. The Corinthians had been
believing what the false teachers had been saying about
Paul despite what they knew about him.
He makes the point that he wouldn’t normally boast since
that isn’t the example that Jesus set while He was on
earth. But he continues to boast in the flesh and become
a fool so the Corinthian believers would see how
ridiculous it was to boast about oneself.
Notice how Paul calls them wise for bearing with fools.
Then he goes on to list some of the ridiculous things they
have allowed themselves to deal with at the hands of the
Enslaves them – the false teachers taught that grace
wasn’t enough. You need legalism too, they said.
Devours them – false teachers took money from the
church for their own gain. Not for the benefit of the
Take advantage of them – false teachers tricked them
into thinking they needed more than Jesus and His grace.
The opposite of what Paul taught them.
Exalts themselves – ESV has put on airs, but I like the
NKJV, it says the false teachers exalted themselves not
Struck them in the face – some Corinthians thought it
was an honor to be mistreated. This goes against the
gospel. Jesus helped the people who were hurting and
sick and was kind even to His enemies.
Paul’s point is that the false teachers were not seeking
the good of the church. Paul loved the church and only
wanted what was best for them.
Notice the sarcasm again when he says he was too weak
to treat the church how they had allowed the false
teachers to treat them.
So, even though Paul isn’t a huge fan of boasting. He
continues on to boast to defend against the attacks of the
false teachers in Corinth.
2 Corinthians 11:21b-22
Boasting in the Flesh
Paul could boast in his Ethnic identity because he was a
Jew. He knew the Hebrew language and studied under
Gamaliel, who was one of the premier teachers of the
Law in the first century.
Paul could boast in his Religious identity because he
practiced the law. He was zealous for the law before he
was converted on the Damascus road. Now he is zealous
for Christ and His grace.
Paul could boast in his Covenant identity because he
was from the tribe of Benjamin. He was a descendant of
Abraham, God’s chosen family.
Paul brought up these qualifications to the church at
Philippi. Philippians 3:4b-6 “If anyone else things he
has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:
circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of
Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of
Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a
persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under
the law, blameless.”
Remember, Paul is only boasting in the flesh to counter
the claims that he wasn’t really qualified for the ministry.
He was more qualified than any of his detractors because
he was called by the will of God.
Now, let’s see how Paul describes his suffering for Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:23-28
Boasting in Suffering for Christ
Paul suffered much for the gospel. And this shouldn’t be
a surprise to Paul or to us. After Paul was converted on
the Damascus road the Lord called Ananias to go find
Paul and told him these words, “But the Lord said to
him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to
carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and
the children of Israel. For I will show him how
much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’”
Something that resonated with me last week when
Meghan was sharing with us about her trip to
Cambodia. She said “missions is going to be a lot
more of a sacrifice than I thought it was going to
be” and “I’m going to have to give up a lot of my
Short term mission work gives you a taste of another
Long term mission work immerses you in the culture and
forces you to interact with people in their own
environment. It also requires you to give up the comforts
of home and everything you are familiar with.
So how exactly did Paul suffer?
Imprisonment – we know that Paul was in prison
multiple times. He was in prison with Silas. And he wrote
many of his letters from behind bars. Prison never
deterred Paul from the ministry.
Beatings – Jewish law allowed for 39 lashes from a cat of
nine tails. This would have likely been done in the
synagogue. The Jews thought Paul was preaching
blasphemy when he taught the grace of God and that
Jesus fulfilled the law.
Paul endured this punishment 5 separate times!
Not only was Paul beaten with the cat of nine tails, he
mentions being beaten with rods 3 times. One of those
occurrences can be read of in Acts 16:22.
Stoning – we can read in Acts 14 tells us of Paul being
stoned and left for dead. But God kept Paul alive through
that because He had plans for his ministry.
Shipwrecked – Acts 27 tells us about one of Paul’s
shipwrecks. I’m sure one shipwreck must be traumatic,
imagine going through that 3 times. I’m not sure I would
get on another boat if mine went down.
Dangerous people – Paul wasn’t making friends and
getting himself to high social places. He was making
enemies because he preached Christ and Him crucified.
The Jews wanted him dead, the Gentiles didn’t care for
him since he was a Jew. He lived his life in constant
Paul wasn’t afraid to trust God when he was going
through difficult situations. He trusted God to see him
through the beatings, the shipwrecks, stonings, and
danger from many sides. We never know what ministry is
going to look like, but we follow God wherever He leads
us. When we obediently follow Him we bring glory to His
name and people into the kingdom.
Greater than the physical perils Paul dealt with was the
mental anguish Paul suffered in his care for the churches
he started. He loved each church like it was his own child.
It’s how every pastor should feel about the church God
calls him to. He should have a devoted love and desire
for their spiritual growth.
Now let’s see how Paul continues his boasting.
2 Corinthians 11:29-33
Boasting in Weakness
Again, Paul isn’t a fan of boasting, but if that is what the
Corinthians need, that is what he will give them. But
notice here how he is not boasting in his strength, but in
He even calls on the testimony of God and Jesus that he
is telling the truth. He is weak but God used him to reach
the church at Corinth as well as many other cities.
He realized that he was doing the Lord’s work through his
own weakness so that God’s strength would be evident in
Finally, Paul tells the story of him being in Damascus
when the governor under the King was guarding the city
waiting to capture Paul.
The same city he was headed to in order to capture and
persecute believers. But God met him on the road to that
city and changed his life. Now the king wanted him dead.
But God, in control of the situation allowed him to be
lowered down in a basket through a window to safety.
In our weakness God is strong.
You see, even though Paul is boasting. He is boasting in
God not in himself.
In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul, writing about the thorn in his
flesh, says that when he prayed for God to remove it,
God told him “my grace is sufficient for you, for my
power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.
Isn’t that true? God has all power. He doesn’t need our
power. He needs our weakness and obedience.
That way we can point others to Him so they won’t think
what we do is in our own strength.
The main purpose of the second half of chapter 11 is that
Paul has the best interest of the church at heart.
He will do whatever necessary in order to keep them
following Christ. Even if it requires boasting.
The application for this text requires some introspection.
What are you boasting about?
Are you boasting in self and what you have done?
Or are you boasting in Christ because of what He has
No matter what we face in life, God is in control and we
should be boasting about Him in every area of our lives.