Lesson 51: "Seeing That Many Glory After the Flesh, I Will Glory Also." (II Corinthians 11:18)
II Corinthians 11:1--12:13
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson #51. Welcome again. Chapter 10 ended: "Not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth." Do you remember Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the publican that went up to the temple to pray, Luke 18: 9-14? The Pharisee said: "I thank thee [God], that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in a week, I give tithes of all that I possess." What was wrong with the Pharisee's prayer? He commended himself. He said in essence: God, you must accept me! Look what 1 do! I fast twice a week! Boy am I good! This Pharisee COMPARED himself to the publican near by; commending himself and degrading the publican. What was Jesus' conclusion to this parable? "Everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." This principle is taught in many places in the New Testament. If we live by the standards of men; it doesn't mean a cotton-picking think towards obeying God. We can measure ourselves by men's standards to the minutest detail; but, those measurements will not count for one iota in the day of judgment. Jesus said: "the words that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." (John 12:48) You see, the words of Jesus set the standard. The standards of men may be very cunning, very intellectual, and very equitable; but, they simply don't count. How could Paul say it any plainer? "Not he that commendeth himself...but [him] whom the Lord commendeth." Last night on the evening news was a story about a well know religious denomination in our country and our state that is dividing. The reporter interviewed several quibbling leaders of both factions. This is very TYPICAL in our creed bound age. One faction accused the other of "not dealing with the issues". What were the issues? These religious leaders and religious counselors began to list such things as this: they said THEIR church was not adopting policies that were conducive in helping to get jobs and employment for their members or helping to elevate educational levels of their young people. They flaunted the accusation that one faction was guilty of not promoting social justice among the races. Now, there nothing wrong with working, there is nothing wrong with education; we need more of that! AND, it WILL COME with Christianity. But, Christianity comes by planting a seed called the word, the word of God, Luke 8:11. When that seed is planted in the hearts of men and women, it will produce spiritual fruit. However, they're trying to harvest that spiritual fruit from a creed book. Look at Paul's principle one more time. "Not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth," he is approved. Some confuse the will of the majority with the will of God.
Now, let me ask you! What was the doctrinal differences separating the Christians at Corinth from the Judiazing teachers and their followers? What was the doctrinal difference? What was it? Some had black skin and some had white skin, was that it? That may have been true, I don't know; but that was not the doctrinal differences that separated them. You couldn't tell the difference in their clothing, you couldn't tell the difference in their skin, you couldn't tell the difference in their homes; it was not in their education or their bank account or how many slaves they owned. It simply was not a physically observable phenomenon. Let's face it! The difference was in their minds, up in that gray matter called brain cells. In verse 3 chapter 11, Paul said it very clearly: their minds were corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. The Judiazing doctrine was a damnable doctrine. They were false apostles (11:13). They were deceitful workers (same verse). Now, that's an inspired apostle's view. It's not my interpretation! So, let me ask you; what about those who write creed books today? What about those big denominational general conferences that meet every three years and vote on what their doctrine shall be for the next three years? You tell me! Are they following the Bible? Their minds have been corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. That's what Paul said (11:3). Now I know; when my denominational friends hear me say that; they're going to swell up like a big toad. It amazes me that you can talk to the average member of a denominational church and they don't even know that their denomination is led, directed and governed by a creed book. Some have been taught those creed books are compatible with the Bible.
O.K., let's try to get our pry-pole under chapter 11-12-13. Keep in mind, Paul's opponents at Corinth were made up of two kinds: leaders and followers. It was primarily the followers, that Paul was pleading with and concentrating on. Here you will find some of the strangest statements in the whole New Testament. Did you ever notice what a competitive stance denominational people take as you try to talk with them? It's like talking to a brick wall. Paul had talked to that brick wall so long he was disgusted. Honestly, most of us, when we get pushed into conversing with that mentality of people; we have tendency to withdraw. I do! If you lay it on them; quote by quote; they get all riled up and start hurling degrading slander and they never seem to get over it. You just can't get them back to the basics on common ground where you can ever discuss the Bible, God's standard for mankind. They want to talk about the ISSUES, as they call it. Now, the reason I said all of this was, hopefully, to get you in the right frame of mind for reading II Corinthians chapter 11-12-13. Paul simply got down on his knees and said to those people in essence: if you can't think and you can't speak in anything but bragging and boastful terms...If you can't understand anything but outward appearance and self-comparison; I'll tell you what I'll do! I'm going to stack degrees with you, on your own terms, on your own ground. If you want to brag, let's brag! If you want to glory in self-comparison, I'm going to accommodate you! We'll lay aside spiritual things for the moment. You have bragged and boasted and gloried after the flesh, how dedicated your are. I'm going to take you on, on your own terms. And then, Paul cut loose! Now, I'm paraphrasing; but that's Paul's approach. However, Paul did not feel comfortable with that boasting approach, that's evident from several statements. In chapter 12:11, it's as if Paul got a deep breath in the midst of all this and said: "I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me..;" But, for the benefit of those followers of the Judiastic teachers; Paul wanted them to know he was more dedicated than all of them put together. If some could see that such boasting was vane, it might cause them to sit up, give it some thought and realize they were commending themselves. If you can get Paul's frame of mind here in focus and his non-spiritual accommodative approach to getting the attention ofhis opponents; then we might make a little sense out of this.
O.K. let's read! Beginning in chapter 11, first verse. Please read with me! We're going to read down through chapter 12:13...46 long verses. Here we go! "Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 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. For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles. But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been thoroughly made manifest among you in all things. Have I committed an offense in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia. Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth. But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut offoccasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 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. 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. That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit, whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool,) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils of mine own countrymen, in perils by the Heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands. It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) how that he was caught up into paradise, and hear unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing ami behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong."
O.K. we're going to stop right there. Going back to verse 2 of chapter 11; Paul said," I have espoused you to one husband..." By this I would infer, the apostle said they were once Christians, i.e. they had originally obeyed correctly. However, in verse 3, Paul feared Satan had seduced them. Now, if they had been taught about another Messiah, a new spirit or a different gospel; one might be inclined to (at least) hear their case (vs. 4). But, you see the Judiazers claimed to be teaching the same Jesus, the same spirit and the same gospel as Paul; therefore, they were without excuse. Paul conceded (vs. 6) his speech might not have been as slick as some; but, he says they couldn't say that about his knowledge. Paul's miraculous knowledge had been thoroughly demonstrated among the Corinthians (vs. 6). Then in vs. 7, IT WAS TRUE Paul had not been supported by the Corinthians. These self-appointed apostles (who ever they were) interpreted this as a weakness on Paul's part; i.e. that Paul wouldn't accept money because he was not a legitimate apostle. Thus, it is obviouSi some of the false teachers were receiving support. We discussed this in II Thess. 3:8, if you can remember. Also, this was covered in I Corinthians chapter 9 where Paul gave the principle:"They which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." Paul did take support from the Macedonians, I would assume that to be Philippi; mentioned here in vs. 9 and also in greater detail in Phillipians 4:15. In the last part of vs. 9 (here in chapter 11), Paul vowed to continue that policy and not to accept support from the Corinthians in the future. Thus, no one could say (on the other hand) that Paul refused to come to Corinth for lack of support. You see, the deceitful workers, themselves, were the problem (vs. 13-14-15). Then in vs. 18, apparently fashioned after the claims of the self-styled apostles themselves (I would infer); Paul began to make sport out of their glorying after the flesh. This is where he began to indulge them a little, as we said. "I will glory also" (end of vs. 18). And the rest of chapter 11 is more or less a list of Paul's glorying, so-to-speak. As I said, this section is undoubtedly fashioned after some list the false teachers themselves had recited or flaunted; showing their dedication and their piety. Obviously, Paul's list made their list look pretty puny. Then in chapter 12, Paul switched from glorying after the flesh to visions and revelations (vs. 1). Again, Paul's list was likely fashioned after and imitated the false teachers in some way. We'll get into this in our next lesson, (which is also our last lesson in II Corinthians). Until then, have a good day.