STUDY II Corinthians 11:16-33 (click here for notes)

I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive jme just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!

What anyone else dares to boast about-I am speaking as a fool-I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. Are they sersvants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwerecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have beren constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have oftgen gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands. (NIV)


Paul has just finished clearly stating the nature of the false prophets' transgression against him and the Corinthians. They have trampled the boundaries of God's appointments and have tried to take for themselves the eager loyalty which the gospel had awakened in the Corinthians' hearts. Now Paul emphasizes why he is not inferior to the imposters. Since the Corinthians have responded so energetically to the false teachers' boastful claims, Paul decides to talk to them in a similar way in order to get their attention. He emphasizes, however, that he is "not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool." (v. 17)

1. On what other occasions did Paul differentiate between his own words and the Lord's words? (see 1 Corinthians 7:6, 10, 12, 25)


2. Paul says that since many are boasting as the world does, he also will boast. What distinguishes the way the world boasts from the way Paul normally talks? (see 2 Corinthians 5:6; 10:4; 11:21; Philippians 3:3,4)


3. "You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise," Paul rebukes in verse 19. Compare this verse with verses 1 and 4 and also with 1 Corinthians 4:10. Describe Paul's tone, attitude, and emotional state as he writes this letter. Explain why you think he allows himself to express such sarcasm or irony.


Tolerating Abuse

In verse 20 Paul hints at the nature of the abuses the false teachers were perpetrating on the Corinthians. He says they have put up with enslavement, exploitation, and physical abuse.

4. Given the evidence (see v.21-22) that the false teachers were apparently Judaizers, what was the nature of the enslavement the Corinthians tolerated? (see Galatians 2:4; 4:9; 5:1)


5. What type of exploitation was likely occurring, and what do you think blinded the Corinthians to the manipulative nature of such behavior? (see Mark 12:38-40)


6. What contributed to the Corinthians' vulnerability to the false teachers' taking advantage of them? (see v. 4; 1 Corinthians 3:1-4; 2:12-13)


7. Given the Corinthians' vulnerability to enslavement and exploitation, what dynamics do you think shaped the circumstances that led to the false teachers' actually slapping or hitting the Corinthians?


8. Although his response is sarcastic, what is the "weakness" which Paul claims inhibited him from treating the Corinthians the way the false teachers treated them? (see 2 Corinthians 10:1-2, 10; Matthew 11:29)


Question of Identity

9. In verses 21-22 Paul points out that his biological pedigree is as faultless as is the false teachers'. How does Paul, however, explain throughout his letters and sermons that this pedigree is of no intrinsic value and might even contribute to arrogance that causes harm? (see Philippians 3:4-6; Acts 22:3-5)


10. The false teachers are claiming their Jewish superiority and apparently insisting, as they did in other new Christian churches, that the Gentile converts observe Jewish rituals in order to become God's people. Why does Paul oppose this position so vehemently? (see 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28-29; Ephesians 2:11-18; Colossians 3:11)


11. Paul states that his heritage is as impeccably Jewish as the false teachers'. He becomes more heated, however, when he compares his service for Christ with theirs. He cites a daunting list of suffering he has endured for the sake of Christ. He leads by saying he has "worked much harder" than they have. To whom does he credit this hard work? (see 1 Corinthians 15:10)


12. Next Paul mentions his imprisonments, his floggings, and his continual exposure to death. He specifically identifies his floggings: forty lashes minus one on five different occasions from the Jews, and beatings with rods by the Romans three different times. From what did the Jews devlop their practice of punishing people by giving them 39 lashes? (see Deuteronomy 25:1-3)


13. What was legally wrong about Paul's floggings by the Romans? (see Acts 16:37-39; 22:25-29)


14. Paul continues by stating he was stoned, a traditional way for Jews to kill law-breakers. What was the occasion of his stoning? (see Acts 14:19-20)


Personal Suffering

15. From beatings and stonings Paul transitions to discussing his shipwrecks and his survival on the open sea. He stresses that he has been constantly moving and in danger from not only nature but also human nature. He suffered danger from rivers and bandits, from his own countrymen and from Gentiles; he suffered danger in cities, in the country, and at sea. Finally, Paul says, he's been in danger from false brothers. Of what specific incident do we know in which false brothers tormented Paul? (see Galatians 2:4)


16. What other incident of betrayal by a false brother lives in history? (see Acts 1:16)


17. Compared to the dangers Paul experienced from stonings, shipwrecks, bandits, and other life-threatening forces, what kind of danger did the false brothers pose?


18. Paul further elaborates that he has suffered from lack of sleep, food and water, clothing, and shelter. What can we conclude about God's will and provision for his people? (see 2 Corinthians 12:8b; Matthew 5:11-12; 6:25-34; John 17:15)


19. Paul ends his list of sufferings with a statement of his identification with the people in the church at Corinth. Why did Paul take the Corinthians' problems so deeply to his heart? (see 1 Corinthians 4:14-21)


20. To what sort of weakness is Paul referring in v. 29? (see Romans 14:1-4; 15:1-4)


21. How serious is the offense of leading someone into sin, and why is this offense so grave? (see Matthew 5:29-30; 18:5-9)


Weakness as Strength

22.Why does Paul say he will boast in the things that show his weakness? (see 12:9; 1 Corinthians 2:3-5; 4:9-13)


23.How does Paul's anecdote of hiding from King Aretas and subsequently escaping in a basket over a wall (v. 32-33) illustrate Paul's commitment to boast in his weakeness as the medium of God's glory?



24.In what ways have you allowed yourself to tolerate abuse in the name of piety?


25.How have you been abusive, either by force or by manipulation, of the authority or power God gave you?


26.What is your point of weakness where Satan has the most access to you and where God's power would most be a miracle?


27.What benefit or "payback" are you getting from the chronic weakness or suffering in your life?



28. What suffering in your life do you need to release and to surrender to God in order to experience peace instead of control?


29. Into what relationships and situations do you need to ask God to give you his discernment so you can know the truth instead of being vulnerable to abuse and deception?


30. What weakness do you have that you need to surrender to God, accepting it as part of your life if it is His will and asking Him to glorify himself through it?


31. Ask God to reveal to you what deceptions and weaknesses He wants to heal in your life. Ask him to give you his his faith to acknowledge your deep flaws and to surrender them to Him. Ask God to give you a willingness to know the truth and to accept His will and discipline in your life. Ask God to glorify himself through you.


Copyright (c) 2002 Graphics Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Posted December 1, 2002.
Send comments and questions to webmaster@formeradventist.com