I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things. Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge? I robbed other churches by taking wages from them to serve you; and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so. As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia. Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.Corinth was (and is) in Greece; the Corinthians were Greeks, at least the majority of them. How's that for saying the obvious? But where I'm going is this: the Greeks were proud (with considerable justification) of being the pre-eminent philosophers and mathematicians of their world. As far as it goes, that's a good thing; I'm certainly not here to disparage learning or the life of the mind. Still, because something is good doesn't necessarily mean that it's the highest good. Paul is finding fault with the Corinthians here because they are quick to follow erroneous teachers, provided that they have the appearance of wisdom (verses 4-6: For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things.). The believer is to cultivate his or her mind, pursuing excellence in this way as in all others. But, as somebody said (sorry, I'm feeling too lazy to try to look it up), "the purpose of having an open mind is to close it -- on the truth." Our understanding of the truth of the gospel, and of its applications to what we see, hear, and do, are always to be open to refinement and correction; however, such refinements and corrections must be consistent with the written word of God in the scriptures (" ... the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" -- Jude 3).
Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, so that I also may boast a little. What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly. For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face. To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison. But in whatever respect anyone else is bold (I speak in foolishness) I am just as bold myself. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.
In the remainder of the chapter, Paul seems to be dealing -- somewhat sarcastically -- with what I assume was some criticism of him among the Corinthian believers, based on his lack of dazzle, perhaps, as an orator and generally charismatic figure. What jumps out at me here is the nature of wqhat Paul presents as his important credentials or decorations: labors, beatings, imprisonments, whippings, stonings, hunger, thirst, cold, exposure, and so forth. Again, it's the inversion of the "natural" order of things that is the signature of true Christianity: the last being first, the first being last, the greatest as servants of the least, the innocent dying so that the guilty might live. All thought of getting what I deserve is to be dumped, and quickly. I won't get what I deserve -- God be praised!
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