II Corinthians 11

 

1 Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: (boasting) and indeed

bear with me.  2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy” - literally, with a

jealousy of God. My jealousy is not the poor earthly vice (Numbers 5:14), but a

heavenly zeal of love - “for I have espoused you” - rather, for I betrothed you; at

your conversion. I acted as the paranymph, or “bridegroom’s friend” (John 3:29), in

bringing you to Christ, the Bridegroom. The metaphor is found alike in the Old and

New Testaments (Isaiah 54:5; Ezekiel ch. 23; Hosea 2:19; Ephesians 5:25-27) – Paul

had “espoused,” or united them, to Christ, as the bride to the Bridegroom — a

relationship the most sacred, close, tender, and lasting. To unite men in supreme

affection and supreme purpose is the grand work of the Christian minister, and what

work on earth is so sublimely beneficent and glorious as to make men one with Christ?

Souls disconnected from Christ are in a guilty and ruined condition - “to one husband” - 

(Jeremiah 3:1; Ezekiel 16:15). Our Lord used an analogous metaphor in the parable of

the king’s wedding feast, the virgins, - “that I may present you as a chaste virgin to

Christ.”  The same word as in ch. 4:14. The conversion of the Church was its betrothal

to Christ, brought about by Paul as the paranymph; and, in the same capacity, at the

final marriage feast, he would present their Church as a pure bride to Christ at His coming

(Revelation 19:7-9

 

3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve” – Paul merely touches

on the central moral fact of the temptation and the Fall (Genesis 3:1-6). He enters into

no speculation about the symbols, though, doubtless, like John (Revelation 12:9; 20:2), he

would have identified the serpent with Satan (comp. ch. 2:11) – The apostle here seems to

ascribe the possible dissolution of the marriage of souls to Christ to Satan,

 through his subtilty” - The word means “crafty wickedness.”  It is used in ch.12:16,

and is found in ch. 4:2; Luke 20:23 – Satan’s work is to “corrupt,” and thus undo the

grandest of all works. This he does insidiously, or craftily, just as he dealt with Eve

(Genesis 3.). How craftily this huge enemy of souls pursues his soul-corrupting work!

“Beware of his devices.”  (ch. 2:11)  Satan tries to thwart the work of God by:

 

  • Insidiously corrupting the mind  - this verse
  • By the agency of false teachers – next verse
  •  

 so your minds (thoughts) should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”  

The apostles always insisted on this virtue, but especially Paul, in whose Epistles the word

(aJplo>thv) - hap-lot’-acesimplicity – occurs seven times – There can be no union

between a soul morally corrupt and impure with Christ - The moment those who are

united to Christ become corrupted, the union is at an end; the rotten branch falls from the

trunk.

 

4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or

if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which

ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”  - This is not without a touch of

irony. You are all set against me; and yet the newcomer does not profess to preach to

you another Jesus, or impart a different Spirit! Had he done so, you might have had

some excuse (kalw~v) kal-oce’ – good reason – for listening to him. Now there is

none; for it was I who first preached Jesus to you, and from me you first received the Spirit.

 

 

 

5 For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.” - The word

used by Paul for “very chiefest” - uJpe>rlianhuperlian -  is one which, in its strangeness,

marks the vehemence of his emotion. It involves an indignant sense that

he had been most disparagingly compared with other apostles, as though he were

hardly a genuine apostle at all. Yet he reckons himself to have done as much as

the “above exceedingly” — or, as it might be expressed, the “out and out,”

extra-super,” or “super-apostolic,” apostles. There is here no reflection whatever on

the twelve; he merely means that, even if any with whom he was uufavorably

contrasted were “apostles ten times over,” he can claim to be in the front rank with

them. This is no more than he has said with the utmost earnestness in I Corinthians

15:10 and Galatians 2:6. There is no self-assertion here; but, in consequence of the

evil done by his detractors, Paul, with an utter sense of distaste, is forced to say the

simple truth.  Few things in human life are more distasteful than egotism or vanity.

There are those in society whose chief delight is to parade their own imaginary merits and

distinctions. We are wrong, however, if we regard the man who sometimes

speaks about himself as an egotist. When a man is denied virtues which he knows he

possesses, and charged with faults of which his conscience tells him he is not guilty,

he is bound by the laws of his nature to stand up in self-defense. Every man is justified

in fighting for his moral reputation, which is to him more precious than gold, and dear

to him as life itself. This is just what Paul does here and in many other places in his letters

to the Corinthians.

 

6 But though I be rude in speech” - Paul did not profess to have the trained oratorical

skill of Apollos. His eloquence, dependent on conviction and emotion, followed none of the

rules of art – “yet not in knowledge” -  Spiritual knowledge was a primary requisite of an

apostle, and Paul did claim to possess this (Ephesians 3:3-4) - Paul was not trained in all

the rhetorical parts of Grecian oratory, his periods were not polished, his sentences were

not tuneful, and, perhaps, his utterances lacked flow and his voice music. This he seems to

have felt; but what of that? He had the highest “knowledge.’’ What is the grandest oratory

without true knowledge? Clouds of golden splendor without water for the thirsty land. Paul’s

knowledge was of the highest kind. He knew Christ; he knew what Christ was to him; what

he had done for him, as well as what he was in himself and in his relation to the Father and

the universe. This is the science of all sciences; the science of which all other sciences are

to it the mere leaf, or stem, or branch, of which this is the root. “This is life eternal, to

 know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”  (John 17:3) –

“I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” 

(Philippians 3:8) -  “but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all

things.”  This would be an appeal to the transparent openness and sincerity of all his

dealings, as in chps. 4:2 and 12:12.

 

7 Have I committed an offense” -  An ironical exception to his manifestation of

knowledge in the previous verse; “unless you think that I committed a sin in refusing to

accept maintenance at your hands.” It is clear that even this noble generosity had been

made the ground for a charge against the apostle. “If he had not been conscious,” they

said, “that he has no real claims, he would not have preached for nothing, when he had

a perfect right to be supported by his converts” (Corinthians 9:1-15) – “in abasing

myself” - The trade of tentmaker was despised, tedious, and mechanical, and it did

not suffice to provide even for Paul’s small needs (Acts 18:3; 20:34) - “that ye

might be exalted” -  - namely, by spiritual gifts (Ephesians 2:4-6) – “because I have

preached to you the gospel of God freely?”  Some of them would feel the vast

contrast between the words. The gospel was the most precious gift of God, and they

had got it for nothing. Compare the fine lines of Lowell:

 

                                    “For a cap and bells our lives we pay,

                                        Bubbles we earn with our whole soul’s tasking;

                                    Tis only God who is given away,

                                       Tis only heaven may be had for the asking.”

 

To be a free and unpaid missionary was Paul’s pride (ch.12:14; I Thessalonians 2:9;

II Thessalonians 3:8-9; Acts 20:33).  Truly that man might well exult who feels that,

however deficient in mere verbal learning, he possesses the highest knowledge —

the knowledge of Christ; and who also feels that he is rendering to men the

highest service from kindly generous impulses without a desire for fee or

reward, giving freely to men what God has given freely to allthe gospel

of Jesus Christ.

 

8 I robbed” – The intensity of Paul’s feelings, smarting under base calumny and

ingratitude, reveals itself by the passionate expression which he here uses - “other

churches” – The only church of which we know as contributing to Paul’s needs is that

at Philippi (Philippians 4:15-16) - taking wages (literally rations) of them, to do you

service.”

 

9 And when I was present with you, and wanted” - The aorist shows that this sad

condition of extreme poverty was a crisis rather than chronic. Yet even at that supreme

moment of trial, when from illness or accident the scanty income of his trade failed him,

he would not tell them that he was starving, but rather accepted help from the

Philippians, who, as he knew, felt for him an unfeigned affection. It is needless to point

out once more how strong is the argument in favor of the genuineness of the Acts and

the Epistles from the numberless undesigned coincidences between them in such

passages as those to which I have referred in the foregoing notes. “I was chargeable

to no man” literally, I did not benumb you. The word katanarkesa - katenarkesa,

burdensome – chargeable – which occurs only here and in ch. 12:13-14, is ranked by

St. Jerome among Paul’s cilicisms, i.e. the provincial expressions which he picked up

during his long residence at Tarsus. narkh -Narke (whence our narcissus and narcotic)

means “paralysis,” and is also the name given to the gymnotus, or electric eel — in

Latin, torpedo, the cramp-fish — which benumbs with the shock of its touch. “I did not,”

he indignantly says, “cramp you with my torpedo touch.” Perhaps in a less vehement mood

he would have chosen a less picturesque or technical and medical term  - “for

that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia

supplied; rather, for the brethren, on their arrival from Macedonia; filled up my

deficiency. This must have been the third present which Paul received from Philippi

(Philippians 4:15-16). These brethren from Macedonia accompanied Silas and

Timotheus (Acts 18:5) -  and in all things I have kept myself from being

burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.”

 

10 As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the

regions of Achaia.  11 Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth.  12 But

what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion;

that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.”  “These new teachers boast to

you how disinterested they are. Well, then, I have proved myself to be equally disinterested.”

But the words apparently involve a most stinging sarcasm.  For these teachers were not in

reality disinterested, though they boasted of being so; on the contrary, they were exacting,

insolent, and tyrannical (v. 20), and did not preach gratuitously (I Corinthians 9:12), though

they sneered at the apostle for doing so. Being radically false (vs. 12-13), “while they were,”

as Theodoret says, “openly boasting, they were secretly taking money,” and therefore were

not “even as we.”

 

13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into

the apostles of Christ.  14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into

an angel of light.”  This is one of Satan’s devices (ch. 2:11). The allusion may be to the

temptation (Matthew 4:8-9); or to the appearances of Satan with the angels before God

in the Book of Job (Job 2:1).  15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also

be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to

their works.” “Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory

is in their shame, who mind earthly things.”  (Philippians 3:19)

 

The last three verses suggest three things:

 

  • MAN HAS THE POWER OF MISREPRESENTING HIS CHARACTER TO

      OTHERS. Naturalists tell us of animals which have the power to appear what

      they really are not. Some feign sleep and death. Be this as it may, man has this  

      power in an eminent degree — he can disguise himself and live in masquerade.  

      Hence our Savior speaks of “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” (Matthew 7:15)  In          

      fact, throughout all circles and populations those who appear to be what they    

      really are have ever been in a miserable minority.  As a rule men are not what    

      they seem.

 

  • IN THE EXERCISE OF THIS POWER MAN CAN INVEST EVIL

            WITH THE HIGHEST FORMS OF GOOD. The “false apostles,” to

            whom reference is here made, seem to have done so. Paul speaks of them

            as “deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.

            And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” The

            worse a man is the stronger the temptation he has to assume the forms of

            goodness. Were corrupt men to show the state of their hearts to their

            contemporaries, they would recoil from them with horror and disgust, and

            they would be utterly unable to enjoy social intercourse or to transact their

            worldly business. As a rule, the worse a man is the more strenuous his

            efforts to assume the habiliments of virtue. Selfishness robes itself in the

            garbs of benevolence, error speaks in the language of truth. Hence it does

            not follow that a man is a true apostle or minister of Christ because he

            appears in the character. Some of the worst men on the earth have been

            deacons and priests, occupied pulpits and preached sermons. “No marvel,”

            says the apostle; “for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”

            Hence it behoves us all to look well into the real moral character of those

            who set themselves up as the representatives of Christ and the teachers of

            religion. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether

            they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”

          (I John 4:1)

 

  • HE WHO EXERCISES THIS POWER IN THIS WAY RENDERS

            HIMSELF LIABLE TO TERRIBLE PUNISHMENT. Whose end shall

            be according to their works.” Of all characters the hypocrite is the most

            guilty and abhorrent. More terrible and more frequent were the

            denunciations Christ hurled against such than against the voluptuary, the

            gross sensualist, or the sordid worldling. “Woe unto you, scribes and

            Pharisees, hypocrites!” etc. (see Matthew 23:13-33). As such are the

            greatest sinners, such will have the most terrible end; the “end shall be

            according to their works.” They will reap the fruit of their own doings.

 

16 I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me,

that I may boast myself a little.”  A fool… boast. Here, again, we have the two

haunting words of this section.  Boast” occurs sixteen times in these three chapters alone.

 

17 That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord” - As if he had said, “I do not

talk of myself by ‘commandment;’ I have no special commission from Christ.” How

frequently does the apostle, in his communications to the Church at Corinth, guard against

the impression that everything he wrote was divinely inspired! Indeed, in one

case he indicates an imperfection of memory. “I baptized also the household of Stephanas:

 besides, I know not whether I baptized any other” (I Corinthians 1:16). “I know not.” 

What, an inspired apostle not knowing what he had done, forgetting the religious ordinances

he had celebrated!  “Boasting,” or what might be stigmatized as such, may become a sort

of painful necessity, necessitated by human baseness; but in itself it cannot be “after the

 Lord.”  There is nothing Christlike in it. It is human, not Divine; an earthly necessity, not a

heavenly example; a sword of the giant Philistine, which yet David may be forced to use –

but as it were foolishly, in this confidence

of boasting.” 

 

18 Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also.”  Paul does not glory in

what he has done but in what he has borne.  19 For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye

yourselves are wise.

 

20 For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage” - This verse gives us an

unexpected and painful glimpse of the enslaving (Galatians 2:4), greed-loving (Matthew

23:14; Romans 16:18), gain-hunting (I Peter 5:2-3), domineering (3 John 1:9). and even

personally violent and insulting character of these teachers; whom yet, strange to say,

the Corinthians seem to take at their own estimate, and to tolerate any extreme of insolence

from them, while they were jealously suspicious of the disinterested, gentle, and humble

apostle – “if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man

smite you on the face.”   They must have brought their insolence with them from Jerusalem,

where, as we see, not only from the details of our Lord’s various mockeries, (Luke 22:64);

but from the accounts of the priests in Josephus and the Talmud, the priests made free use

of their fists and staves! The fact that so many of the converts were downtrodden slaves and

artisans would make them less likely to resent conduct to which they were daily accustomed

among the heathen. Neither Greeks nor Orientals felt to anything like the same extent as

ourselves the disgrace of a blow. That sense of disgrace rises from the freedom which

Christianity has gradually wrought for us, and the deep sense of the dignity of human nature,

which it has inspired.  Christ had been so smitten, and so was Paul himself long afterwards

(Acts 23:2), and he had to teach even Christian bishops that they must be “no strikers”

(I Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7). The “syllogism of violence” has, alas! been in familiar use among

religious teachers in all ages (I Kings 22:24; Nehemiah 13:25; Isaiah 58:4; Matthew 5:39;

I Corinthians 4:11).

 

In this verse we have the picture of a religious impostor.  He is:

 

  • Tyrannical.  “For ye suffer [bear] if a man bring you into bondage.” The

      reference is undoubtedly to those described in v. 13, who were false teachers in

      Corinth. They were enslaving the souls of men with their dogmas and rites.

            False teaching always makes men spiritual serfs.  Spiritual bondage is infinitely   

            worse than physical or political. A man’s body may be in chains, yet he may be

            free in spirit; but if his spirit is enslaved, he himself is in captivity. The work of

            a false teacher is always to subdue souls to himself; the work of the true, to win           

            souls to Christ.

 

  • Rapacious.  “If a man devour you.” False teachers devour widows’ houses.

      (Mark 12:40)  They teach for money, turn temples and churches into shops.

      They shear the sheep instead of feeding them. Greed is their inspiration.

 

  • Crafty.  “If a man take of you [taketh you captive].” The expression “of you”

      is not in the original. The idea to me seems to be — if a man takes you in,         

      deceives and entraps you. This is just what religious impostors do — they

      take men in,” they cajole men, and make them their dupes.

 

  • Arrogant.  “If a man exalt himself.” It is characteristic of false teachers that

      they assume great superiority. With this they endeavor to impress men by their  

      costume, their bearing, and their pompous utterances. They arrogate a lordship

      over human souls.

 

  • Insolent.  “If a man smite you on the face.” This is the last form of outrage;

      no greater insult could be offered to a man. The religious impostor has no

      respect for the rights and dignities of man as man. With his absurd dogmas

      and arrogances he is everlastingly smiting men on “their face,” on their

      reason, their consciences, and their self-respect.  (This is illustrated in

      our culture today by the secular-humanist left and their anti-biblical

      philosophies that are being entrenched by the Judicial Branch of our

      form of government – this situation, God, too, WILL JUDGE – and to

      think that judges are to represent “the judge of the earth who only doeth

      right” – [Genesis 18:25] – CY – 2010)

 

21 I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit

whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.” – If they derive

their right to this audacious and overweening line of conduct from any privileges of theirs,

there is not one of these privileges which I too may not claim.

 

22 Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed

of Abraham?”  It may seem strange that Paul should have found it necessary to make

this statement; but his birth at Tarsus and Roman franchise may have led to whispered

innuendoes which took form long afterwards in the wild calumny that he was a Gentile

who had only got himself circumcised in order that he might marry the high priest’s

daughter (Epiphan., ‘Haer.,’ 30:16).  so am I.

 

23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) - Not merely as before a]frwn, -

aphronfool – but parafronwnparaphrononinsane, madman.  It is downright

insanity on my part to enter into this contest of rival egotism. The verb does not occur

elsewhere in the New Testament; the substantive is used of “downright infatuation”

in II Peter 2:16 – “I am more” - I may claim to be something beyond an ordinary

servant of Christ ( compare v. 5). This is the “frantic” boast which he proceeds to

justify in a fragment of biography which must ever be accounted as the most

remarkable and unique in the world’s history. And when Paul lived the life was, as

Dean Stanley says, “hitherto without precedent in the history of the world.” No

subsequent life of saint or martyr has ever surpassed Paul’s, as here sketched, in self-

devotion; and no previous life even remotely resembled it.  The figure of the Christian

missionary was, until then, unknown – “in labors more abundant” – (1 Corinthians

15:10) – “in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent” -  St. Clement of

Rome says that Paul was imprisoned seven times. The only imprisonment up to this

date recorded in the Acts is that at Philippi (Acts 16:23). The imprisonments in Jerusalem,

Caesarea, and Rome all took place later. He says later, The Holy Ghost witnesseth

in every city that bonds and imprisonment await me (Acts 20:23) – “in deaths oft.”  

He alludes to the incessant opposition, peril, and anguish which make

him say in I Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily” (comp. ch. 4:11; Romans 8:36). With

the whole passage we may compare ch. 6:4-5.

 

24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.”  Not one of these

Jewish scourgings — which yet were so severe that the sufferer often died under

them — is mentioned in the Acts. This paragraph is the most striking proof of the

complete fragmentariness of that narrative, marvelous as it is. On the circumstances

which probably led to these Jewish scourgings, see Acts 22:19; 26:11; Matthew 23:34.

The question arises — Was Luke entirely unaware of all these scenes of anguish and

daily martyrdom? Had Paul, in his humble reticence, never cared to speak of them? or

were the Acts only intended for a sketch which made no pretension to completeness,

and only related certain scenes and events by way of specimen and example? “Forty

 stripes save one” -  (Deuteronomy 25:3). The Jews gave thirty-nine to make sure they

did not exceed forty.

 

25 Thrice was I beaten with rods” - or vine sticks, of soldiers, or with the fasces of lictors.

Only one of these horrible scourgings, which likewise often ended in death, is narrated in the

Acts (Acts 16:22). We do not know when the others were inflicted. In any case they were

egregious violations of Paul’s right of Roman citizenship; but this claim (as we see in

Cicero’s various orations) was often set at nought in the provinces - “once was I stoned” -

At Lystra (Acts 14:19) – “thrice I suffered shipwreck” Not one of these shipwrecks

is narrated in the Acts. The shipwreck of Acts 27, took place some years later - “a night

and a day I have been in the deep,” - An allusion, doubtless, to his escape from one

of the shipwrecks by floating for twenty-four hours on a plank in the stormy sea. We

have no right to assume that the deliverance was miraculous. The perfect tense shows

Paul’s vivid reminiscence of this special horror. “In the deep” means “floating on the

deep waves.” Theophylact explains the words ejn buqw~| to mean “in Bythos,” and says

that it was a place near Lystra, apparently like the Athenian Barathrum and the Spartan

Caeadas — a place where the bodies of criminals were thrown. The word does not occur

elsewhere in the New Testament.

 

 26 In journeyings often” - In those days and in those countries journeys were not only

perilous and fatiguing, but also accompanied with many severe hardships and discomforts –

in perils of waters” -  rather, of rivers. In all countries which, like parts of Greece and

Asia Minor, abound in unbridged mountain torrents, journeys are constantly accompanied

by deaths from drowning in the sudden rush of swollen streams.  in perils of robbers”

 - Then, as now, brigandage was exceedingly common in the mountains of Greece and Asia

in perils by mine own countrymen” literally, from my race. These are abundantly

recorded in the New Testament (Acts 9:23, 29; 13:50; 14:5,19; 20:3; I Thessalonians

2:15-16; Philippians 3:2) - “in perils by the heathen They were generally instigated

 by the Jews (Acts 16:19-39, 17:5; 19:23-34) -“in perils in the city” - as at Damascus,

Jerusalem, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Ephesus, etc. — “in every city” (Acts 20:23) –

in perils in the wilderness” - As, for instance, in travelling through the wild waste

tracts of land between Perga and Antioch in Pisidia, or thence to Lystra and Derbe; or

over the mountain chains of Taurus to the cities of Galatia. in perils in the sea” –

Storms, leaks, pirates, mutinies, etc. “in perils among false brethren;”

 

27 In weariness and painfulness” - literally, in toil and travail (I Thessalonians 2:9;

II Thessalonians 3:8) –   “in watchings;” literally, in spells of sleeplessness

(Acts 20:34). in hunger and thirst” (I Corinthians 4:11; Philippians 4:12) – “in

fastings often” - It is not clear whether this refers to voluntary fastings (ch. 6:5;

Acts 27:9) or to general destitution short of the actual pangs of hunger - “in cold and

nakedness.”  Paul’s ideal, like that of his Master, Jesus Christ, was the very antithesis

of that adopted by the wealthy, honored, and full-fed Shammais and Hillels of Jewish

rabbinism, who delighted in banquets, fine garments, pompous titles, domestic

comforts, and stationary ease.

 

28 Beside those things that are without” - The adverb thus rendered

parekto>v, - parektos only occurs in Matthew 5:32; Acts 26:29. It may either mean

trials that come to me from external and extraneous sources or things in addition to

these, which I here leave unmentioned.’’ The latter meaning is (as St. Chrysostom saw)

almost certainly the correct one – “that which cometh upon me daily”- The word

thus rendered is either  epistasiv epistasis - which may imply “halting, lingering

thoughts; “attention,” and so “anxiety”  -  “the care of all the churches.” No doubt

he is thinking of his own Churches, the Churches of the Gentiles (Colossians 2:1).

 

29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?” - In

other words, “Is not the intensity of my sympathy whenever any scandal occurs an

addition to the trials of my life?”

 

30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” 

Paul cannot keep up even for a few verses anything which can be regarded as “boasting

after the flesh” (v. 18). Practically his boasting has been only of those afflictions which to

others might sound like a record of disgraces, but which left on him the marks of the

Lord Jesus. His hairbreadth escapes were to him “marks of the protection of Heaven.”

 

31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore,

knoweth that I lie not.”

 

32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the

Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:  (for the incident

referred to, see Acts 9:22-25) – Aretas - Hareth, the Emir of Petra, father-in-law

of Herod the Great. He had either seized the city during his war with Herod, to

avenge the insult offered to his daughter by Herod’s adultery with Herodias; or it

may have been assigned to him by Caligula. His relations with Damascus are

confirmed by coins.

 

33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and

escaped his hands.” - The word used by Luke in Acts 9:25 is spurioi - spuris,

which is a general name for a large basket. The word here used is sargah

sargane, which is defined by Hesychius to be a basket of wickerwork, but which

may also mean a rope basket. This particular incident, no doubt, seems to be less

perilous and trying than many which Paul has already mentioned. We must, however,

remember that escape from a window in the lofty wall of a city guarded by patrols

was very perilous, and also that such a method of concealment was very trying to the

dignity of an Oriental rabbi, such as Paul had been. Further, it is clear that Paul only

mentions this as the earliest incident in along line of perils which it had been his original

intention to recount. But at this point he was interrupted, and laid aside his task of

dictation — an incident which has not unfrequently had its effect in literature. When

next he resumed, the Epistle, he was no longer in the mood to break through his rule

of reticence on these subjects. He had played “the fool” and “the madman,” as he

says of himself with indignant irony, enough; and he proceeds to speak of other

personal claims which he regards as more important and more Divine. This is a chapter

of unwritten history to be regretted.

 

 

                                    ADDITIONAL NOTES (vs. 21-33)

 

The Churches were dear to Paul’s heart, and all the dissensions, heresies, unchastities,

immoralities, that appeared from time to time in the Churches would carry anguish

into his heart. Why he should refer in the last verse to the event that happened at Damascus,

when he was let down“through a window in a basket,” has been a puzzle to

commentators. But as it was amongst his first trials as an apostle, it, perhaps, made

the greatest impression on his mind. The trials here sketched indicate several things.

 

  • The mysteriousness of Gods procedure with His servants. One might

            have thought that the man inspired with supreme love to God, and

            receiving a commission from Him, involving the salvation of souls, would

            have had his way made clear and safe and even pleasant for him; that in his

            path no enemy should appear, no peril should threaten, no pain should be

            endured, that all things would be propitious; that he who embarked in such

            an enterprise as Paul’s would sail in a bark absolutely secure, under a sky

            without a cloud, with every billow and every breeze propitious. But not so.

            The more important the Divine work entrusted to a man, and the more

            faithful he is in its discharge, the more trials will embarrass and distract

            him. For an explanation of this we must await the great explaining day.

 

  • The unconquerableness of Christly love in the soul. What stimulated

            Paul to embark in such an enterprise as this? What urged him on through

            innumerable difficulties and dangers? What bore him up under distressing

            and ever-thickening trials? Here is the answer: “The love of Christ

            constraineth me.” (ch. 5:14) This is the love that is unconquerable and all-      

            conquering, the love that makes the true hero.

 

  • The indelibility of the impressions which trials produce. The trials in

            this long catalogue, so varied and tremendous, had long since transpired,

            but they were fresh in Paul’s memory. Each one stood before the eye of his

            memory in living reality. It is a law in our nature that our trials make a

            deeper impression on us than our mercies. Why should this be so? Because

            they are the exceptions, not the rule.

 

  • The blessedness which the memory of trials rightly endured produces.

            In Paul’s case it did two things:

 

ü      It generated sympathy with the woes of others. “Who is weak, and I

      am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?” No man can         

      sympathize with the trials of others unless he has passed through trials   

      himself. The sufferings that Christ endured qualified Him to sympathize  

      with the woes of the world. He who hungers for sympathy in his

      sufferings will go in vain to the man who has never suffered.

 

ü      It inspired the soul with true rejoicing. “If I must needs glory, I will

                        glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” (v. 30)  The                            

                        reminiscence of the trials he had endured, the foes he had encountered,

                        the perils he had braved, in the cause of Christ were now for him

                        subjects for congratulation and glorifying. They had exerted such a                                

                        beneficent influence on his character, and were endured in such a noble                         

                        cause, that he rejoiced in them. In declaring all this Paul makes a

                        solemn appeal for its truth. “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus                         

                        Christ, which is blessed forevermore, knoweth that I lie not?  (v. 31)

 

 

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