Life-Study of 2 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Thus far we have covered three aspects of Paul’s vindication of his apostolic authority: his warring according to the Spirit, the measure of God’s rule, and his jealousy for Christ over the believers against the false apostles. In this message we shall consider a fourth aspect, Paul’s compelled boasting. In a rather long section of 2 Corinthians (11:16—12:18) Paul vindicates his authority by a compelled boasting. Although he did not want to boast, it was necessary for him to do so.
In 11:16-33 Paul was not wise in a natural way, and he did not play politics. If he had been wise or political, he would not have boasted. However, Paul was willing to appear foolish by boasting.
We need to learn from Paul that there are times when we should not be so wise or political. Our natural politeness may be a kind of subtle wisdom. Instead, we need to be faithful, honest, and frank. But in so doing, we may appear foolish in the eyes of others.
In these verses Paul begs the Corinthians to bear with him in his foolishness. He asks them for permission to exercise foolishness in boasting. In verse 16 he says, “Again I say, let no one think me to be foolish; but if otherwise, accept me even as foolish, that I also may boast a little.” Here Paul seems to be saying, “Bear with me in my foolishness. Up to this point I have been wise, but now I must speak in a strong way. Before I do this, I ask you to bear with me in my foolishness. I am about to tell you something in a very frank way.” Then Paul proceeds to use certain frank expressions and severe utterances.
A person exercising wisdom would never speak in this way. Instead, he would be polite and try to cause others to appreciate him. In the foregoing chapters Paul was wise, but here he appears to be foolish, boasting and using ironic expressions.
At times, in order to speak the truth, we may need to appear foolish to others. Martin Luther did this when he declared to degraded Christianity that justification is altogether by faith. When he did this, he exercised foolishness. Anyone who wants to maintain a high position in the religious hierarchy will never do this.
As we have indicated, in chapter eleven we see Paul’s foolishness. He has already used terms such as false apostles, deceitful workers, and ministers of Satan. When we read such expressions, we all take sides with Paul. However, when he wrote this Epistle, it was not easy for him to use these terms. If you had been Paul, would you have had the boldness to write such an Epistle? Probably most of us would never write in this way. We may have spoken kindly about the Judaizers. We would not have had the boldness to use terms like false apostles, deceitful workers, or ministers of Satan. But because Paul was willing to appear foolish, he had the boldness to speak in this way.
Would you not say that verse 16 is the writing of a foolish person? First Paul says, “Let no one think me to be foolish.” Then he goes on to say, “If otherwise, accept me even as foolish, that I also may boast a little.” What would you think if a person came to your locality and spoke in this way? Would you not regard him as a very foolish person? A wise man would certainly speak differently.
In verses 17 and 18 Paul continues, “What I speak, I speak not according to the Lord, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. Since many boast according to the flesh, I also will boast.” Would you not say that Paul seems to be beside himself when he declares that he will speak something not according to the Lord? We may think that if Paul is not speaking according to the Lord, he should be silent. How could an apostle speak something that is not according to the Lord? Nevertheless, Paul uttered such a word. If we had been present at the time, we may have advised him not to write in that way.
What does Paul mean by “this confidence” in verse 17? This confidence seems related to Paul’s being foolish, to his being beside himself. If he did not have such a confidence, he certainly could not boast. Otherwise, he would have conducted himself like a very cultured person and would not have boasted at all. A person who has the confidence that he is not beside himself will never boast in the way Paul did in 2 Corinthians 11.
After speaking an ironic word to the Corinthians about bearing gladly with fools (v. 19), Paul says in verse 20, “For you bear it if anyone enslaves you, if anyone devours you, if anyone takes you, if anyone lifts himself up, if anyone beats you in the face.” Here Paul seems to be saying, “If you gladly bear all this, can you not bear with me, one who is foolish and beside himself?”
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