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The Epistles of Paul - 2 Corinthians Part 11: Ministers of Satan
From the early portion of 2 Corinthians chapter 10, from verse 7, Paul of Tarsus has been discussing those men in Corinth who had been causing disturbances within the Christian assembly, boasting and inflating themselves during the troubles that the Corinthians had in relation to the fornicator whom Paul discussed in 1 Corinthians chapter 5. Doing so, Paul had told the Corinthians that they “must look at things according to appearance”, asserting that even if his adversaries were of Christ, he was also of Christ, and that the fruits of his ministry according to the standards of the Word of God are the proof of its legitimacy, while those in Corinth who were opposed to him were only exalting themselves according to their own standards. One aspect of the standards of which he speaks and which he expected his readers to notice is the edification of the Body of Christ which had come by his ministry, where he suggests that his adversaries sought the destruction of that same body. He also asserted that his ministry edified and magnified the Body of Christ through knowledge of the Gospel, while his adversaries took to “boasting in others' troubles” whereby they magnified themselves.
In the opening verses of 2 Corinthians chapter 11, Paul of Tarsus had asked that the Corinthians abide with him in a little foolishness. It shall become evident later in the chapter that Paul had considered that foolishness to be his having to boast in the fleshly aspects of his own ministry, including both how he had conducted himself in Corinth, and the trials which he had suffered in order to perform his ministry, in contrast with those who were opposing him.
Then Paul had made an analogy contrasting the corruption of Eve which is related in Scripture in Genesis chapter 3 with the spiritual purity of the assembly of Christ. Doing so, he exhorted the assembly at Corinth to retain its spiritual purity, as if losing it would be tantamount to Eve's having lost her virginity to the serpent of Genesis. Explaining this we had cited several scriptures pertaining to each side of the analogy. In order for an analogy to be effective, one side of it has to be literally true while the other side can be allegorical. The corruption of the virgin assembly at Corinth is of course the allegorical side of Paul's analogy. The Israel of Yahweh alienated in the Old Testament but now being reconciled in Christ in the Gospel was also presented as a virgin bride to her groom in the words of the prophets, namely in both Isaiah and Hosea, and the theme is also repeated several times in the Gospels. Here we shall proceed with verse 4 of 2 Corinthians chapter 11, where we see Paul describe how that virgin bride may be corrupted:
4 For if indeed one coming proclaims another Yahshua whom we did not proclaim, or you admit a different spirit which you have not received, or a different good message which you had not accepted, would you hold up well?
Neither the Novum Testamentum Graece nor the King James Version, nor any other major version have this verse as a question. The grammar certainly allows us to read the verse as a question, since the verb ἀνέχω is in the Indicative mood (here it is “would you hold up”) and the particle εἰ (which is generally “if”) is often used as an interrogatory particle. In the context of Paul's other epistles, and according to the first epistle of John, here Paul must have intended this passage as a rhetorical question, or he is found to be in direct contradiction with himself and contrary to the admonitions of other apostles.
For instance, in Galatians chapter 1, which was written a few years prior to this epistle, Paul had said “8 But even if we, or a messenger from heaven, should announce a good message to you contrary to that which we have announced to you, he must be accursed.” So is Paul really telling the Corinthians to uphold or to bear with those who were preaching other gospels, as many of the various popular translations of this passage have him doing here? Again, in the epistle to the Ephesians, written at least a year or two after this epistle, in chapter 4 of that epistle Paul had said “1 Therefore I summon you, I who am in bonds in the Prince, to walk worthily of the calling of which you have been called, 2 with all humility and meekness, with forbearance, having patience with one another in charity, 3 being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 One body and one Spirit, just as you have also been called in one hope of your calling. 5 One Prince, one faith, one immersion, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” So if there is one lord and one spirit, is Paul really telling the Corinthians here to endure those preaching a different Jesus and a different spirit?
The apostle John said in his first epistle, in chapter 4, “1 Beloved, do not have trust in every spirit, but scrutinize whether the spirits are from of Yahweh, because many false prophets have gone out into Society.” Paul expressed a similar understanding in Ephesians chapter 4 where he said that there is “One body and one Spirit, just as you have also been called in one hope of your calling.” So is Paul really telling the Corinthians to endure those bearing spirits which are not of Yahweh?
Of course Paul is not doing any of these things, but rather he is asking a rhetorical question in a challenge to the Corinthians. He is asking them if they would hold up if someone had presented them with a false gospel, a false Christ, or an alien spirit, and whether they would be established enough in the faith that they would be able to withstand any of those things.
5 For I reckon in nothing to have been inferior to those most eminent ambassadors.
Popular commentaries assume that Paul's Greek here refers to the original apostles of Christ. However we interpret the phrase τῶν ὑπερλίαν ἀποστόλων as a sarcastic reference to his opponents in Corinth, for it is they who are the subject here. Paul refers to his opponents as “those most eminent apostles”, and the remark certainly is sarcastic, as later on in this chapter he calls them “false ambassadors” who were “transforming themselves into ambassadors of Christ” and explains that even the servants of the Adversary, or Satan, “transform themselves as ministers of justice”. Then in verse 23, he asks in reference to them “Are they servants of Christ?”where he then makes the parenthetical remark “I speak wandering from reason”. Paul certainly did not consider them to be eminent ambassadors at all, and especially not eminent ambassadors of Christ. Here he uses the phrase sarcastically.
Further evidence of the truth of this interpretation lies in the next verse. Paul would not make such a statement if he were contrasting himself to James or Peter or John, since it is clear from the Gospel accounts and the Book of Acts that none of those men were practised in rhetoric, for which instruction was given in the schools of the Greeks that none of the other apostles had ever attended:
6 And even if unpracticed in speech, yet not in knowledge; but rather [P46 wants “but rather”] in every way being made known in all things to you.
Paul depicts himself as a man unlearned in rhetoric, but not unlearned in knowledge, ostensibly meaning a knowledge of the Scripture, which is an area where he was indeed well-schooled. Since Paul had spent a year-and-a-half among the Corinthians, these things must have been well-known to the Corinthians, which Paul is also attesting.
7 Can it be that I have made an error, humbling myself in order that you may be elevated, because I have announced the good message of Yahweh to you freely?
While Paul was teaching the Gospel in Corinth, he had every right to be sustained by those whom he taught. This he outlined in 1 Corinthians chapter 9 where he said “11 If we have sown things of the spirit in you, is it too great if we should reap your fleshly things? 12 If others of authority are partaking of you, still more not we? Rather we have not used this authority, but we cover all ourselves, in order that we should not give any hindrance to the good message of the Anointed. 13 Do you not know that those who in sacred things are laboring, from of the temple they eat? Those who are attending at the altar take a share with the altar? 14 Also in that manner has the Prince appointed those announcing the good message, from of the good message to live.”
But for some apparently unknown reason Paul had refused such communion in Corinth. In the Book of Acts, when Paul had first gotten to Corinth he had met Priscilla and Aquila and he immediately took to working at his trade along with Aquila to support himself, where it says in Acts chapter 18: “1 After these things departing from Athens he went into Korinth. 2 And finding a certain Judaean named Akulas, of Pontus by birth, recently having come from Italy, and Priskilla his wife, on account of Klaudios ordering all of the Judaeans to depart from Rome, he went with them 3 and because being in the same trade he abode with them and they worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4 And he argued in the assembly hall during each Sabbath and persuaded Judaeans and Greeks.”
So Paul had chosen to work at his trade when he first got to Corinth, as he also had attested in 1 Corinthians chapter 9, in verse 6 where he asks another rhetorical question where he had written “Or do only Barnabas and I not have license to work?” Paul had earlier mentioned “working with our own hands” in 1 Corinthians 4:12, in relation to that same predicament. However evidently that alone did not sustain him, or perhaps in the conduct of his ministry he was not able to work for himself for long, since here he also admits needing help from outside of Corinth:
8 I have deprived other assemblies, taking provisions for your service. 9 And being present with you and wanting, I had burdened no one, (indeed my need had been filled by the brethren who came from Makedonia,) and in everything I have kept and will keep myself unburdensome to you.
In the Greek world, the teachers of philosophy, if they did not themselves come from wealthy families, were often supported both by patrons and by those whom they taught. In the ancient Hebrew scriptures the Levites, who not only served as administrators and judges but as scribes and readers of Scripture and teachers of the Law in the assemblies each Sabbath, were supported by compulsory tithes. In like manner, in 1 Corinthians chapter 9 Paul asserted that Christ had provided that those bearing the Gospel should live from the communion of those whom they taught.
So Paul having been supported to some extent by the Makedonians while he was preaching the Gospel in Corinth, characterizes that situation as having “deprived other assemblies”. Ostensibly, being supported by the Makedonians Paul may have remained to teach the Gospel in Makedonia, but instead he was teaching the Corinthians with that support. Doing this, he makes it a point that he never burdened the Corinthians themselves.
10 The truth of Christ is in me, for that this reason to boast shall not be contained in me within the regions of Achaia.
Paul's having brought the Gospel to the Corinthians freely, and having stayed to teach them for a year-and-a-half without ever requiring anything from them in exchange was indeed a reason to boast.
11 For what purpose? Because I do not love you? Yahweh knows.
In boasting about things we may do for our brethren we show a lack of regard for our brethren. If Paul boasted here, it was for reasons of necessity, and not because he did not have love for the Corinthians. Here he insisted that Yahweh God would know that he did love them.
12 But that which I do, and I will do, in order that I cut off the pretext of those desiring a pretext at which in that they may boast that they would be found just as we.
Evidently these other apostles to whom Paul refers, those whom were opposed to Paul, had demanded their sustenance from the Corinthians. So while Paul is reluctant to boast that he did not require anything of them, he must boast, so that he can demonstrate to the Corinthians his own sincerity in comparison with those others. If Paul, and Timothy also, had profited from ministering to the Corinthians, they would be no different from Paul's opponents in Corinth. Not profiting from the Corinthians, Paul's opponents have no legitimate complaint against him.
13 Such as these are false ambassadors, treacherous workers, transforming themselves into ambassadors of Christ.
Paul was able to assert that those opposing him in Corinth were indeed treacherous workers simply because they were opposing him. If Paul's ministry was valid, then any other valid minister of the Gospel would not be opposed to Paul even if he had nothing to do with Paul. We see this in the words of Christ, as they are recorded in Luke chapter 9: “49 And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. 50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.”
An example of this is in the relationship of Paul and Barnabas. Although they had a disagreement over the value of Mark as a fellow-worker and for that reason they chose to no longer work together, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 15, after they split they did not attack or seek to discredit one another. Paul even continued to give Barnabas approbation, as he wrote of him in his letters in 1 Corinthians chapter 9, and of Mark also, who is mentioned in Colossians chapter 4 and 2 Timothy chapter 4. So we see that ministers of the Gospel may disagree over personal issues, and continue to work towards the common goal beneficial to the entire Body of Christ.
But if men purporting to be servants of the Gospel attack the character or persons of others because they disagree with the Gospel, they are indeed false ambassadors and treacherous workers. In our opinion, the surest way to detect such deceitful men is simply to listen and see where it is that one side or another in such a dispute disagrees or disputes with the Scripture. That requires diligence on the part of the hearer. Where in 2 Corinthians chapters 7 and 8 Paul had described the account he received from Titus regarding the steadfastness of the Corinthians in the faith and their zeal for Paul himself, Paul had also commended them for their diligence.
[I will offer an example of this problem from our own ministry, as it affects our work in Christian Identity today. If one Christian pastor teaches that “all Israel will be saved”, which is what the Scriptures say in several places, and another so-called pastor says something like “oh no, there are some wicked Israelites who are going to burn in hell”, then he is revealed to be a “false ambassador” and a “treacherous worker”, not because he disagrees with the first pastor, but because he denies the plain word of God found in several witnesses in Scripture. Another example is that if one Christian pastor accepts and exposits on the Word of Christ where He says “I and My Father are One” and another attempts to refute that concept with a multi-part series of sermons entitled “Oneness Refuted”, claiming that somehow Christ and His Father are three rather than One, where he also attacks the character of the first pastor, then he is revealed to be a “false ambassador” and a “treacherous worker”, not because he disagrees with the first pastor, but because he is denying the plain words of Christ which also have several other witnesses in Scripture. Of course, we ourselves once worked with such a “treacherous worker” who after we split had immediately begun attacking our character and person and doing those very things, contending not with us, but with the Scripture itself while he only pretends to be contending with us. The personal attacks are therefore only a cover for the hatred of the truth.]
14 And no wonder [the MT has “And it is not marvelous”; the text follows P46, א, B, and D], for the Adversary himself transforms himself into a messenger of light. 15 Therefore it is no big thing if even his ministers transform themselves as ministers of justice; of whom the end shall be in accordance with their deeds.
Here it may seem that Paul is referring to that Genesis 3 serpent of the event which he employed for the analogy at the beginning of this chapter. However the reference may also be to the collective adversary, the “seed of the serpent” which are the races sprung from that “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” to which the serpent had belonged. Paul of Tarsus saw Satan not merely as a fallen angelic being, but also as an earthly collective. He demonstrates that in Romans 16:20 where he told the Christians at Rome “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” There he must have been referring to the impending destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans which was prophesied in Daniel chapter 9, and only thirteen years later were Daniel's prophecy and Paul's words fulfilled, in 70 AD. In an earlier epistle, in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, Paul also displayed this understanding of the collective Satan where he wrote of “the son of destruction, he who is opposing and exalting himself above everything said to be a god or an object of worship, and so he is seated in the temple of Yahweh, representing himself that he is a god … whose presence is in accordance with the operation of Satan in all power and signs and wonders of falsehood”. The reference to “the son of destruction” could only be to the Edomite Jews who had taken over the office of high priest, those “vessels of destruction” descended from Esau, as Paul calls them in Romans chapter 9.
The epistle of Jude connects apostasy to the same bastards who from the most ancient times had been infiltrating the assemblies of God. From Jude verse 4: “For some men have stolen in, those of old having been written about beforetime for this judgment, godless men, substituting the favor of our God for licentiousness and denying our only Master and Prince, Yahshua Christ.” These are the same infiltrators whom Paul writes of here in a different way. They were contemporary to Paul, and later in his epistle Jude points out that they are contemporary to him, serving as a second witness where he says of those same infiltrators in verses 12 and 13: “These are the spots in your feasts of charity, feasting together without fear, tending to themselves, clouds without water being carried away by the winds, late-autumn trees without fruit, twice dead being uprooted, stormy waves of the sea foaming up their own shame, wandering stars for whom the gloom of darkness is kept forever! ”
The ancient children of Israel were warned not to admit the Canaanites, lest they follow after their idolatry, and they admitted them anyway. So it was prophesied that they would be thorns in their eyes and pricks in their sides. Therefore we see that Israel sinned and they were judged for their falling away. In Isaiah chapter 5 we see that judgment does indeed begin with the House of Yahweh: “20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! 22 Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: 23 Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! 24 Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. 25 Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.”
Now we still have these spots in our feasts of charity, and Christendom continues to be deceived by them until the day comes when Yahweh sanctifies Israel, as it is described in Revelation chapter 19. So today we see many evil men preaching many evil things in the name of good. John Hagee, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, every Jewish rabbi, every follower of Islam, even the popes and priests of the Catholic Church, all pretend to be righteous in the name of the God of the Bible, or at least how they read portions of the Bible, and all of them are ministers of Satan seeking to destroy the true people of God with their works. All of them openly despise the Law of God, deny the deity of Christ, and those things alone prove that they are indeed ministers of Satan. They are all ministers of evil transforming themselves into angels of light. Yet they all have plenty of White pastors and priests following them in their deeds. Neither is Christian Identity immune to such infiltrators, where we also see certain so-called pastors denying that Yahshua Christ is Yahweh in the flesh. And many Christians are deceived by these infiltrators at all levels and in all sects of Christianity.
So in that manner the reference to those ministers of Satan could be a reference to anyone who would bear a false gospel and do the work of the enemies of God - even to men who are apparently Israelites, which Paul goes on to indicate here in verse 22. Then and now this collective Satan has ministers of every race, yet those who do the most damage to the people of God are those of the children of Israel who are in his employ.
[With this, I am going to make another digression, which shall serve as an example of the challenges which Identity Christians face in this regard.
Speaking of ministers of Satan posing as angels of light, I recently had an email exchange with a character named Paul Schlegel [who is also a fan of the pudgy little jewboy in Chicago]. This Schlegel character calls himself “Professor Truth”, and he has a very high opinion of himself. When I was copied on an email list and noticed that he had referred to so-called “Palestinian Christians”, as if arab bastards could possibly be Christians, so I chastised him for his remarks. Sometimes I do things like that just for sport. He responded with the comments that “there is much more to scripture than the surface layer - and there is much more to reality than skin color in 3D… I teach HD not 3D…” and then he added “I have become aware for example of two black skinned men in a taxi - that turned out to be Angels, as they performed good and just disappeared… so to limit God is quite foolish…..”
With this I had felt that Schlegel exposed himself as a “false apostle” and a “treacherous worker”, and I sent him a response quoting this very Scripture concerning ministers of Satan who transform themselves into angels of light. I also told him that “The beginning of pride and arrogance is at the point where a man believes that his personal experience trumps the Word and Will of Yahweh God", and I said "You think you saw negro angels? I tell you they were devils, and they have persuaded you to disregard the Word of God.”
However Schlegel rejected my admonitions, and then only exposed himself even further. He said “Bill I have been to the heavens and back more than once - and all I will say is you do not know as much as you think you know” and then among other quite arrogant things he said “Here is our conundrum…. I speak Martian and you speak Greek…” but I never claimed to speak Greek, I only speak English. Then he continued: “different realities my friends - not even possible to see each others perspective…” It gets even worse than that. Paul continued by saying things such as “We share an Alpha line - but I jump to Beta lines and you are not there… see - we are not even in the same game….” Then he had his own message to me which he set forth as if it was from God Himself, and he arrogantly said “OK from Father - get rid of the hate…and balance your gifts of wisdom with Love… I did not say Universalism - Father said LOVE…. if you fail this TEST…it is not good - since with what I have given you - you have an unfair advantage…to whom much is given much is expected…” My first response to that is “wow...”
So it is what Paul gives a man which counts, and what Paul gives a man even gives that man an advantage with God! Paul Schlegel is convinced that he has a direct line from God, that he is an insider who can somehow persuade God, and that he has esoteric knowledge and special gifts which other men do not have, knowledge and gifts from God which are nowhere mentioned in the Word of God. Paul also evidently believes that he dispenses to men those gifts which are from God. What an arrogant ass he is! Instead, the Scripture attests that it is Christ who has dispensed the gifts of God. Paul evidently thinks that he is the Holy Spirit. Then Paul told me not to “limit God”, which is a common ploy of many idolaters who seek to define their own God and to write their own Scriptures!
I am not trying to limit God, but I believe the Scriptures and in those Scriptures Yahweh our God has defined Himself, and He has also told us that He does not change. Therefore, God limits Himself by His Word, and men cannot limit God. In the epistle to the Hebrews Paul of Tarsus wrote “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” In the opening verses of that same epistle Paul also wrote that “1 On many occasions and in many ways in past times Yahweh had spoken to the fathers by the prophets. 2 At the end of these days He speaks to us by a Son, whom He has appointed heir of all, through whom He also made the ages. 3 Who being the radiance of the honor and the express image of His substance, and bearing all things in the word of His power, bringing about a purification of errors has sat at the right hand of the majesty in the heights. 4 Becoming so much better than the messengers, He has inherited a name so much more distinguished beyond them.” The days of the prophets are past, and as Paul of Tarsus also said, Christians have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).
It is beneficial that Christian Identity has no catechism, because a catechism would prevent us from learning and refining our knowledge of Scripture. A catechism is limited to the understanding of the men who write it, and other men will indeed come along who are more studied, more blessed, and have better understanding. So our only catechism should be the Word of God unadulterated, or at least as unadulterated as possible.
But it is detrimental when interlopers steal in among the sheep and claim to have esoteric knowledge outside of the Scripture. We know they are interlopers as soon as they claim to have such esoteric knowledge, because by it they preach a different gospel, which we have not received from the apostles of Christ. Then they set themselves up as the high priests of their own peculiar and special knowledge. They are no better than the priests of ancient Babylon. Dewey Tucker and Paul Schlegel are perfect examples of this method of deceit. So is the Chicago Impersonator, the Novemberist who constantly promotes things such as 12-21-2012 and the coming of Nibiru and other rabbit holes foreboding doom, when Christians should instead seek repentance and the coming of Christ which forebodes life. Teaching things which they claim come from their own special knowledge, and especially those things they teach which are contrary to Scripture, doing those things they themselves ascertain that they are indeed ministers of Satan. But Tucker and Schlegel and the Chicago Impersonator are certainly not the only false apostles and treacherous workers which Identity Christians must cope with today, and which Identity Christians certainly must confront and discredit if we are ever going to stand in the truth of Yahweh our God. Rather sadly, there is a long list of such clowns. We do bad to impugn those who disagree with us. But we do good to impugn and to ostracize those who disagree with Christ! They are ministers of Satan, false apostles and treacherous workers.
Now we shall return to 2 Corinthians chapter 11:]
16 Again I say, no one should suppose me to be a fool, otherwise even if as a fool you accept me, that I then at least may boast a little.
Here Paul once again portrays boasting as something that would be expected of a fool. But he also pleads that he is not a fool for boasting, for he had already given his reason for thinking it necessary to boast, which was to cut off the pretext which those who were opposed to him would have to hold against him.
17 That which I speak, I do not speak with authority but as if in folly, in this the substance of that reason to boast. 18 Since many may boast in accordance with the flesh, then for my part I will boast.
The phrase κατὰ κύριον is “with authority” here where most translations have “as the Lord”, or “after the Lord”, or “according to the Lord” or something similar. The King James Version and other popular translations always translate κύριος as a noun, and render it as lord. While it can be a noun when it is used as a Substantive, where it is customarily accompanied by a definite article, the word is primarily an adjective and according to Liddell & Scott it means having power over or having authority over, ordained, appointed, regular, proper, legitimate, valid, authorized, etc. The phrase κατὰ κύριον is not such a Substantive and does not necessarily reference a person, so we have treated it as the adjective which it is. The phrase may have been rendered “I do not speak authoritatively”, which is Paul's way of saying that he has no precise Scripture to cite in order to support the method he has chosen to employ in his argument here, since he is considering himself to be boasting where he is about to describe some of the events of his ministry.
[We have likewise treated the phrase the phrase παρὰ κυρίου, which also is not a Substantive, and have rendered it to read “as appropriate” in several places, in Ephesians 6:8, 2 Timothy 1:18 and 2 Peter 2:11.]
The Greek word ὑπόστασις (Strong's # 5287) is substance here, but it is confidence in the King James Version. In 2 Corinthians 9:4 we translated this word as matter where the King James Version has confident. Liddell & Scott define the word to mean “that which settles at the bottom, sediment...II. anything set under, subject-matter of a speech or poem...the foundation or ground of hope, confidence, assurance...III. substance, the real nature of a thing, essence....” The substance of Paul's reason to boast is not only his own lineage but also the facts of the events of his ministry, the many things which he had overcome which lend to demonstrate that he is a legitimate apostle of Christ and that his ministry was indeed commissioned from God.
19 For you, being prudent, gladly bear with those being fools. 20 You bear it if anyone enslaves you, if anyone devours your substance, if anyone takes, if anyone exalts himself, if anyone thrashes you upon the face.
It may seem as though Paul is giving instructions to the Corinthians here, that they should submit to these things. However what Paul is saying in verse 19, that “you, being prudent, gladly bear with those being fools” is only a reflection of the understanding which Christ had imparted in the Gospel in the Sermon on the Mount, although here it is also evident that Paul considers anyone who would enslave, anyone who would devour the substance of, anyone who would take from, anyone who would exalt himself over or even anyone who would thrash his brethren to be fools. Putting ourselves over our brethren in any of these ways, we put ourselves in a place where only God Himself belongs, and therefore we certainly are acting like fools.
The Sermon on the Mount contains instructions by which Yahshua Christ expected Christians to treat one another. None of it is applicable to non-Christians, who are not the enemies of man but are instead the enemies of God from whom Christians are commanded elsewhere to separate themselves. From Matthew chapter 5: 38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
So it is evident that what Paul indicates that Corinthians should endure here in verses 19 and 20 are those same things that Yahshua Christ has admonished Christians to endure from their brethren, for the sake of Christ, even if those brethren make themselves fools for their behavior. As a result, if all Christians truly followed Christ, no man would suffer any of these things at the hands of his brother.
21 I speak concerning dishonor, as though we had been weak; but with this should anyone be daring (in folly I speak,) I also am daring.
The example Paul makes here is that Christians should humble themselves concerning fleshly things for the sake of their brethren, but on the other hand, Christians should also boldly uphold the truth of the Gospel and the Word of God.
22 Are they Hebrews? I am also. Are they Israelites? I am also. Are they offspring of Abraham? I am also.
As Paul had said in the opening verse of this portion of his epistle, where he began his discourse in regard to his opponents at 2 Corinthians 10:7: “You must look at things according to appearance. If one is confident in himself to be of the Anointed, he must again reckon this by himself: that just as he is of the Anointed, even so are we.”
From the words of Christ recorded in John chapter 15: “19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” Likewise, from Isaiah chapter 49: “7 Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.”
Here Paul spells out what is expected for one to be “of the Anointed”, as Christ has called His people out of the ancient children of Israel who alone had been chosen by Him. If Christians would make a distinction of themselves, as Paul advised in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 that they must do, then they may more easily recognize those spots in their feasts of charity.
23 Are they servants of Christ? (I speak wandering from reason.) I am even more.
Here Paul reveals a sense of humor, where he makes a parenthetical remark, “I speak wandering from reason” in reference to whether his detractors are servants of Christ. Of course they are not servants of Christ, or they would not have been his detractors in the first place! However even if they are somehow imagined to be servants of Christ, Paul too is a servant of Christ, and had a much greater legacy in his ministry to prove that than anything which his detractors may have done for Christ. So while having to describe the feats and trials of his ministry were considered by him to be boasting, which he in turn considered foolishness, he was compelled to do so because of these men who had opposed him.
Paul proceeds to make mention of some of the trials of his ministry, the things he overcame in its fulfillment:
In labors more excessively, in imprisonment more abundantly, in thrashings exceedingly [א has “in thrashings more abundantly, in imprisonments exceedingly”; H and the MT have “in thrashings exceedingly, in imprisonments more abundantly”; the text follows P46, B, and D], in perils of death often.
The Greek phrase ἐν θανάτοις is “in perils of death” here, but literally it is only “in deaths”, for which see Liddell & Scott where they attest to the idiom at θάνατος, 3. “plural θάνατοι, kinds of death...” and also Thayer at θάνατος, 1 (Strong's # 2288).
24 By Judaeans five times I have received forty lashes except one, 25 three times I have been beaten with rods, once I have been stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked, I had done a night and a day in the deep.
The word lashes is added to the text here, however the reference is obvious and Paul could mean little else. The Scripture holds the appropriate reference in Deuteronomy chapter 25: “1 If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked. 2 And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. 3 Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee.” Of course, the Judaeans denying the Christian faith may not have been on the side of righteousness when keeping this law, but they still would have kept it.
26 In journeys many times in dangers of rivers, in dangers of pirates, in dangers from kinsmen, in dangers from heathens, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the desert, in dangers on the sea, in dangers among false brethren;
The phrase ἐκ γένους is “from kinsmen” here. The Greek word γένος (Strong's # 1085) is properly “race, stock, family” (Liddell & Scott) but also “...a clan or house...a tribe...a class, sort, kind...” Although συγγενής (4773) is usually kinsmen (at least in the King James Version) the Greeks often used the word γένος, which is basically race, in a narrower sense than we use it today, to mean only a certain distinct portion of the wider race, or sometimes even the descendants of a single individual. So the children of Israel are a race in that respect, since even though they are now many nations they are all descendants of a single individual. Therefore a race can be a portion of another race, and Paul uses the term in that narrow sense here.
The phrase ἐξ ἐθνῶν (ἔθνος, Strong's # 1484) is from heathens here. The word ἔθνος was used in the plural to describe a collection of peoples of diverse ethnic backgrounds, even when they were gathered together in one place. The popular translations generally ignore that use of the word. Here we may interpret it to describe all of those people who were not of Paul's own γένος, which in this context may be limited in scope to the people of Israel in Judaea, or even to those of the tribe of Benjamin in Judaea.
The term “false brethren” would refer to Israelites from any tribe, from among the Greeks or the Judaeans, who professed to be Christians and instead turned out to have other agendas.
27 in labors and hardships, often in sleeplessness; in hunger and thirst, often in fasting; in cold and in nakedness. 28 Apart from the external things hindering me daily is the care of all of the assemblies.
The Codex Freerianus (I 016) and the Majority Text have the first part of verse 28 to read “apart from the external things gathering against me daily”, or ἐπισύστασις. The text, following the reading of ἐπίστασις, follows the 3rd century papyrus P46 and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Vaticanus (B), Claromontanus (D), and Coislinianus (H 015), and may well have been read “Apart from the external things in my attention each day”.
29 One is weak, and I am not weak? One is entrapped, and I am not inflamed? 30 If there is need to boast, I will boast of the things of my [P46, B, and H want “my”] weakness. 31 Yahweh [D has “The God of Israel”], even the Father of our Prince Yahshua Christ knows, He who is being praised to the ages, that I do not speak falsely. 32 In Damaskos, the ethnarch of Aretas the king had been guarding the city of the Damaskenes, to lay hold of me [א, H, and the MT have “wishing to lay hold of me”; the text follows B and D]. 33 Then through a window in a basket I had been let down over the city wall, and had escaped his hands.
We have often commented upon the modesty of the Book of Acts, where certain events, if they are recorded, are recorded in a very terse manner, and we frequently find out later in Paul's epistles that there is much more to the story than we read in the account in Acts. We have also often mentioned the fragmentary nature of the Book of Acts, how it only records a relative few of the significant events which took place over a thirty year period between the Resurrection of Yahshua Christ and the last days of Paul of Tarsus.
The commission of Paul of Tarsus is recorded after his conversion, in Acts 9:15 where it says in part “For he is a vessel chosen by Me who is to bear My Name before both the Nations and kings of the sons of Israel.” After that time Paul spent about 3 years in Damascus, which we learn from Galatians 1:18. It is at the end of that three year period that we find Paul barely escaping the Judaeans in Damascus, which he mentions at the end of his discourse here in 2 Corinthians chapter 11, and the year is probably 37 AD. A mere 30 verses in Acts chapter 9 cover the time during which Paul had persecuted the assembly of Christ, his conversion, the subsequent three years in Damascus, and then his going to Jerusalem, his sojourn among the apostles, and the threats against him for which cause he went to Tarsus in Kilikia. That period alone is roughly 4 years, so we see how the account is very fragmentary and concise.
The death of Herod Agrippa 1 described in Acts chapter 12 was in 44 AD. Allowing 14 years between Paul's conversion and his appearance in Jerusalem described in Acts chapter 15, as he attests in Galatians, the visit to Jerusalem was in 47 or 48 AD and the events of Acts chapters 16 and 17 must have happened in 48 and 49 AD. The edict of Claudius mentioned in Acts 18:2 was most likely issued in 49 AD. Paul spent a year-and-a-half in Corinth, most likely in 50 and 51 AD, which can be dated from the tenure of Gallio as proconsul of Achaia which is recorded in inscriptions. Then after traveling to Ephesus, Jerusalem, Antioch in Syria and back to Ephesus through Galatia and Phrygia Paul spent over 3 years in Ephesus from 53 to 56 AD. Leaving Ephesus and passing through Makedonia he is now in Nicopolis in the early months of 57 AD, 23 or perhaps 24 years after his ministry began in Damascus.
Up to this time, Luke is only recorded as being with Paul and recording the events of Paul's ministry first-hand during the events of Acts chapters 15 and 16, until when Paul had left Luke behind in Philippi which is recorded at the end of Acts chapter 16. Ostensibly, Luke met Paul in Antioch and was in Jerusalem with him during the events described in Acts chapter 15. So until they were reunited in the Troad in the spring of 57 AD, which is recorded in Acts chapter 20, Luke had actually only traveled with Paul for about two to three years, from perhaps 47 to 49 AD.
While Paul was imprisoned and also suffered beatings during his travels with Luke, many of the things which befell him which are described here are not recorded in the Book of Acts. Yet Paul's extensive travels certainly afforded many opportunities for all of these things to have befallen him. In the ancient world, shipwrecks and encounters with robbers, pirates, and many other more common road hazards were very frequent, especially since Paul traveled long and sparsely-populated roads across northern Syria, Cilicia and central Anatolia several times in his journeys. In Acts chapter 14 Paul was stoned and left for dead in Iconium. In Acts chapter 16 we see that Paul was both flogged and imprisoned in Philippi. But it is a testament to Paul's modesty that many of these events are not found in the Book of Acts or in his epistles, and here he only mentions them along with an admission that he is boasting because he mentions them. There is enough of a record in Acts of some of these things that we see that Paul is truthful. However the fact that the Book of Acts is focused on the enlightenment of the Apostles to the meaning of the ministry, death and resurrection of Christ as well as on the spread of the Gospel, rather than being focused upon the heroics of the apostles themselves, is a testament to the veracity of the apostles and a monument for Christianity.