2 Corinthians 11:16-33: Power from Him and Not You
May 13, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
1 Samuel 29-31, Psalm 106:24-48, Mark 13:14-31, 2 Corinthians 11:16-33
Paul is continuing to defend his ministry—because by doing so he is defending the gospel. But now he takes the defense of the gospel a stage further. Apparently the false-teachers had been accusing Paul of being weak and inadequate because he had suffered so much. How could someone who was God’s messenger have suffered to that degree? That was the kind of implicit—or no doubt explicit—criticism that they were mounting against Paul. But Paul now turns that argument on its head: he “boasts” in his sufferings. This issue of “boasting” (when it is good, when it is not, how we can “boast” today by promoting Christ, is an important one—so important I have written a book on it that you can find here!). In what way is suffering a matter of boasting for Paul, and how does that help us defend the gospel today?
First, Paul is not bashful and is willing to, if necessary, promote the work that Christ has done through him. He feels this is essentially foolish—after all it is Christ’s work, not his. But in order to protect the Corinthians from being taken in by self-serving charlatans, Paul is willing to argue on the same ground and promote what God is doing. There is a time for us to publicly speak about what God is doing.
Second, though, as he starts to “boast,” he begins with the kind of credentials that the false-teachers might be impressed by (his heritage and race and calling as a minister), but then quickly moves on to what counts. After all, who can really (with a straight face) boast about being a servant of Christ! And so Paul moves on to turn this “boasting” on its head. He has worked harder. And he has suffered more. As you start to read down this list of suffering, consider all the scars that Paul must have had. Think about what his back must have looked like when he took off his shirt. Scars for Christ. Wounds for Christ. Physical, but also mental: the pain, the anguish, the attacks from “false believers.” And on top of all this—even more—he faces the daily pressure of his concern for the churches. Until you have felt the pressure of being responsible for a church (let alone, as Paul was, many churches), you may not appreciate the truth of what Paul is saying. Every sin, mistake, weakness becomes ours as we bear the burden of the churches.
Third, then Paul makes it explicit what he is doing. He is boasting of the things that show his weakness. Why? Because—as we will see in the next section—it is when we are weak that we are strong, for in our weakness God’s power is made manifest. We must depend on him in such weakness.
Perhaps you have wondered why you have been led into a situation which has shown your weakness. Perhaps you have been put into a set of circumstances where your resources are worn out and you feel broken—and seem to yourself (and perhaps others too) foolish. Why? God in his mercy and providence is using the very things that make you seem weak to cause you to depend on him and so show that the power is from him and not from you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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