The Tenth and Last in a Series of Sermons on Second Corinthians
Yes, Paul is willing the play the fool with the Corinthians to expose the foolishness of the false apostles in Corinth. But Paul is also willing to use his apostolic authority to rebuke the Corinthians for tolerating false apostles and their false gospel in their midst. Having done all that he could do by letter, Paul informs the Corinthians that he will be making yet another (a third) journey to Corinth, and this time, he will deal with the false apostles once and for all. In other words, Paul is not planning a vacation to the beautiful city of Corinth. Paul is coming to Corinth to put an to the turmoil the false apostles have created in the church, which Paul himself was so instrumental in founding.
With this sermon, we wrap up our series on 2 Corinthians as we turn to Paul’s stern rebuke of the Corinthians found in the last half of chapter twelve, and in the thirteenth and concluding chapter of this epistle. Before we turn to 2 Corinthians 12:11 and following, we need to set the context so as to understand the issues being addressed by Paul in our passage. In the final chapters of 2 Corinthians, it is apparent that Paul has gotten word that a group of false apostles had arrived in Corinth soon after Paul had left the city. Although Paul had been directed by Christ himself to preach the gospel elsewhere, the false teachers used Paul’s absence as evidence that Paul was not truly interested in the Corinthians. In his response to the efforts of the false apostles to undermine his Christ-given authority and office, Paul identifies these men as agents of Satan, because they preach a different Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel.
Although Paul shows his own mastery of Greek rhetoric through the skillful use of irony (playing the fool throughout this section of 2 Corinthians so as to expose the foolishness of the false apostles), Paul refuses to make himself the issue. Paul had endured all kinds of persecution, affliction and suffering. The false apostles who are attacking Paul for being weak could never endure what the “weak” Paul has endured. Paul could boast about this, but he doesn’t. Furthermore, Paul had been taken to the third heaven (or given a vision of it). He had even seen the risen Christ. None of the false teachers could boast of these things–yet Paul can boast. But he does not.
Paul responds to the charges that he was weak and indifferent by recounting all the horrific things that he endured precisely because Jesus had called Paul to his office as apostle to the Gentiles. Although Paul had much to boast about if he chose to boast, instead, Paul takes a different tact. He chooses to boast about his weakness, reminding the Corinthians that it is because of his weakness that his only confidence is in the power of Jesus Christ which is manifest in that gospel which Jesus had assigned Paul to preach. Paul may be weak. Paul may not be an eloquent speaker. But is it the self-proclaimed “strong” (i.e., the false apostles) who were exploiting the Corinthians with the very same pagan foolishness (which they call wisdom) from which Jesus Christ had delivered them. For good reason, Paul is exasperated with the Corinthians because they cannot see the damage that is being done to them by these men.
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