I grew up in tornado alley. In fact, my entire house was once blown away by a tornado. After that catastrophic event, my family and the family that lived across the street from us split the cost of an underground storm shelter, located in our neighbors’ backyard. Occasionally, the storm sirens would sound in the middle of the night, and every member of my family would sprint across the street, pajamas and all. You see, extraordinary circumstances sometimes push us to abandon traditional social scruples, like not running around in pajamas. In today’s passage, Paul also faced an extraordinary situation that necessitated implementing unusual means.
- What circumstances in the life of a believer might necessitate abandoning traditional sensibilities?
READ THE WORD: 2 CORINTHIANS 11:16-33 (ESV)
16 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. 19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!
But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.
- Although he didn’t want to “go there,” Paul felt forced to use the techniques of fools (the false teachers preying on the Corinthian church) to defend the cause of Jesus. What repetitive language in verses 16-21 shows us this?
- In verses 22-29, Paul gave in to boasting, but it is not what we would typically expect to hear someone boast about. What kinds of things did Paul boast about?
- Verse 30 summarizes the main point of this difficult passage. Reread the verse. Why might it be effective for Paul to boast in his weakness? How would this have separated him from the other boastful teachers?
- In your own life, how might being brave enough to admit—even boast—in your weaknesses make you attractively different to those around you? How might it point others to the one true God?
RESPOND TO GOD
The sirens had sounded in the Corinthian church. False teachers and apostles were deceptively drawing the Corinthian believers away from “a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). Communicating the extreme danger of this situation, Paul boldly alerted the Corinthians because of his love for them. Paul boasted, but he boasted about his weakness and the strength that Jesus supplied him. Paul saw life with the proper perspective, knowing what things were worth getting worked up about, and protecting the purity of the gospel. Yet even as he fought back, he did so with humility, to bring honor to Jesus alone.
- Ask God to reveal where you are compromising “a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
- Pray that you would fight against it with boldness and humility.