2 Corinthians 11:1
I hope you will bear with a little of my foolishness, but you are already doing that.
Godly JealousyB. Beddome, M. A.2 Corinthians 11:1-6
Godly JealousyH. Stowell, M. A.2 Corinthians 11:1-6
Relations of the Apostle to the Corinthians; Ground of AnxietyC. Lipscomb 2 Corinthians 11:1-6
Self-VindicationF. W. Robertson, M. A.2 Corinthians 11:1-6
The Soul's Espousal to ChristT. Boston, D. D.2 Corinthians 11:1-6
How shall we read this chapter? To read it aright it is certain that we must do more than exercise the understanding on its contents; more than treat it as an argument intended to set forth a definite conclusion; and, especially, more than a defence, on any private grounds, of St. Paul's character and conduct. First of all, a general view of the situation is necessary. In this large, growing, and influential city, a bond of connection between Asia and Europe, a medium through which the most prominent agencies of the day operated over a very broad surface, - in this active and aspiring city a Christian Church had been founded by St. Paul on his first visit. It was an era in his apostleship. Of Greek intellect and habits, he had learned enough at least to give a special bias to his style of preaching. Thrown among a population of Jews, Romans, Greeks, and adventurers from every quarter of the globe, he found a degree of skill and prudence necessary in the management of his work that had not been required in any previous stage of his career. Shrewd money lovers were all around him; he would practise his trade and support himself. Aquila and Priscilla had stood faithfully by his side and cheered his toil. He preached in the synagogue, trouble came, and he transferred his work to the house of Justus. A vision from God assured him of help and protection, and one of its fulfilments occurred when Gallio drove the apostle's persecutors, the turbulent Jews, from "the judgment seat," and, in the subsequent tumult, "cared for none of these things." But it was more than an era in his ministry. It was an epoch in the history of the gospel. There had been something like a repetition of Pentecost. None of the outward symbols, and yet a mighty descent of the Holy Ghost in the number and variety of gifts. If the great Pentecost had been followed by sad lapses in the cases of Ananias and Sapphira, even by lying unto the Holy Ghost whose dispensation had just been inaugurated, could it be wondered at that disorder, misrule, heart burnings, strife, immoralities, had sprung up as tares among the wheat in this luxuriant harvest? It was Corinth out and out. It was the excitable emporium in one of those ferments, good and evil intermixed, which have happened at intervals in the history of the Church. To check the unhealthy excitement, to purify the Church from corruption, to suppress rivalries and animosities between parties, St. Paul had put forth all his wisdom, energy, and fidelity, and, in large measure, had succeeded. At this point, a closer view of the situation becomes necessary. Looking at St. Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles, we see at once the significance of his relation to the Corinthian Church. Humanly speaking, he had fought here his greatest battle and had won a grand victory. Where was there a Church potentially of such promise? Where such an array of brilliant endowments? Where such a manifoldness and plenitude of captivating gifts? Here, in the very city where the Jews had required a sign and the Greeks had sought after wisdom; here, in the very metropolis of Achaia, where learning and culture and Jewish traditions were so strongly entrenched behind wealth and social influence, he had chosen to lay a peculiar and profound stress on "the foolishness of preaching." And the Christ crucified had suddenly revealed himself as the Christ glorified, had refulfilled his promise of the Holy Ghost, and a glorious Pentecostal season had been granted to Corinth. It was the miracle of all the miracles in his career. How personal it was to him as the apostle to the Gentiles is obvious. It was akin to the demonstration made before Jerusalem and her Sanhedrim in behalf of the twelve; and if that event gave St. Peter a commanding attitude at once, only second to that, if indeed second, was this outpouring of the Holy Spirit as an attestation from Christ the Lord of the special ministry of St. Paul. Amid these signs and wonders dissension and bitter strife had appeared at Corinth. Most alarming of all, Judaizers had come from Jerusalem to assail St. Paul's authority and destroy his influence. They had been zealous, unscrupulous, persistent, malignant. At every point they had attacked him, and they had a sufficient following to make the apostle apprehend serious damage. The persecution, he had hoped, was checked if not ended. But it had broken out anew, and that, too, while writing this Second Epistle. It was a severe blow. He was not prepared for it. Could it be possible that his work here was to be undone, or, if not that, to be arrested by these unprincipled adversaries? Corinth was the key to the vast citadel of the West; should he lose it from his hand? It is in the light of these facts that we must read this eleventh chapter. And if we find him making a most vigorous and determined effort to reinstate his authority over the disaffected portion of the Corinthian Church, let us remember that it is not Paul as an individual, but St. Paul as an apostle - the apostle to the Gentiles - who pleaded for a cause far dearer to him than reputation, honour, or life itself. It was not a party, however strong, but the Church he needed in his future work. The opening verse of the chapter indicates his sense of the embarrassing position. "Would that ye could bear with me in a little foolishness, nay indeed bear with me." To commend himself to them by this frequent recital of his labours and sufferings must have been exceedingly painful to one of his sensibility. Only as a duty to his apostleship and to them could he do it, and hence he says, "I am jealous over you with godly jealousy." The figure introduced is expressive of love and purity: "For I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." But what is the actual state of the Corinthian Church? Is it making ready for presentation as a bride to the Bridegroom when he shall appear in his glory? There is ground for his jealousy: "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." Deception is plainly stated as the danger threatening them - no ordinary danger, for it had an infernal origin, one that had been successful even with Eve in Paradise; and as these new teachers were using just such insidious arts, he warns them lest they fall into the snare. The character to be maintained was virginal purity; the end to be kept in view was that Christ's betrothed Church might be worthy of her Lord at the marriage supper; the peril was the deceitfulness of agents who, under the mask of instructors and authoritative guides, were acting in the interest of Satan; and the enforcement of the warning was the success of the serpent as Satan's instrument in beguiling Eve. If Eve could be deceived in her purity, how great the danger to this chaste virgin! The "subtlety" had lost none of its persuasive arts; thorough the deception then, thorough would it be now, if they hearkened to these false teachers. To supplant the gospel by the Law, to sink the Christian Church in the Jewish Church, to rob him of his disciples and degrade them into the slaves of Pharisaic superstitions already in their dotage, - this was the mercenary aim of these emissaries of Satan. Such they were, as he would presently show. And what were the evidences of imminent danger? If this new preacher come to you preaching another Christ, another Spirit, another gospel, how would you receive him? Would you refuse to hear him? Nay; you would "bear with him," dallying with temptation, blinded, fascinated, opening your hearts to the "subtlety" of the "serpent." On this account he was unhappy. The chaste virgin should listen to no hints of another love. Aside from such conduct, as most evil in itself, what consistency had it with their relation to him as their apostle? He it was who had espoused them to Christ as the Bridegroom, and therefore his jealousy lest they should be "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." The passage is very difficult to understand, and we are by no means sure that we have caught the true meaning. But these seem to be the main points, viz.:

1. St. Paul claims that he has espoused them to Christ, and that he was anxious to present the Church as a chaste virgin to him.

2. There was great danger of their losing this virginal purity.

3. If this purity were lost, it would be through the subtlety of Satan acting by means of human agency.

4. This agency threatened the Corinthians even now, some of whom were inclined to reject his authority and become the disciples of these arrogant and self-sufficient teachers.

5. His authority was indisputable. "Not a whit" was he "behind the very chiefest apostles," and this had been demonstrated most signally by his apostolic labours in Corinth. "Rude in speech," according to the Grecian standard of rhetoric, but "not in knowledge;" so that if some of the Corinthians went after another preacher with a different Christ and Spirit and gospel, and would "bear with him" and "might well bear," it would be in contempt of him who had been "made thoroughly manifest" among them as "not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles," and that, too, "in all things." "Bear with him," the new teacher, weaning you away from your former love? Then "bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me." If you accede to his claims who comes to you with such a novel, presumptuous, and overbearing manner, then surely you can tolerate me in the little folly of lowering myself to a comparison with him. I condescend to it for your sakes and for my own. The equal of any apostle, I let myself down to this folly, and "would to God ye could bear with me" in it! - L.

Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly.
The next two chapters are entirely occupied with the boastings of an inspired apostle; in the previous chapters we find him refuting separately each charge, till at last, as if stung and worn out at their ingratitude, he pours out, unreservedly, his own praises in self-vindication. All self-vindication, against even false accusations, is painful; not after Christian modesty, yet it may sometimes be a duty.


1. It was not merely for his own sake, but for the sake of others (vers. 2, 3). Clearly this was a valid excuse. To refuse to vindicate himself under the circumstances would have been false modesty. Notice two words here —(1) "Jealousy." This was not envy that other teachers were followed, but anxiety lest they might lead the disciples astray. He was jealous for Christ's sake, not his own.(2) "Simplicity." Now people suppose this means what a child or a ploughman can understand: but in this sense Paul was not simple. St. Peter says there are things hard to be understood in his epistles. We often hear it alleged against a book or a sermon that it is not simple. But if it is supposed that the mysteries of God can be made as easy of comprehension as a newspaper article or a novel, we say that such simplicity can only be attained by shallowness. "Simple" means unmixed, or unadulterated. We have an example in those Judaisers who said, "Except ye be circumcised, ye cannot be saved": they did not deny the power of the Cross: they said something was to be mixed with it.

2. It was necessary. Character is an exceedingly delicate thing, that of a Christian man especially so. It is true no doubt, to a certain extent, that the character which cannot defend itself is not worth defending, and that it is better to live down evil reports. But if a character is never defended, it comes to be considered as incapable of defence. Besides, an uncontradicted slander may injure our influence. And therefore St. Paul says boldly, "I am not a whit behind the very chiefest of the apostles." Some cannot understand this. But Christian modesty is not the being or affecting to be ignorant of what we are. If a man has genius, he knows he has it. If a man is falsely charged with theft, there is no vanity in his indignantly asserting that he has been honest all his life long. Christian modesty consists rather in this — in having before us a sublime standard, so that we feel how far we are from attaining to that. Thus we can understand Paul saying that he is "not behind the chiefest of the apostles," and yet that he is "the chief of sinners."


1. That he had preached the essentials of the gospel (ver. 4). His matter had been true, whatever fault they might have found with his manner. St. Paul told them that, better far than grace of language, etc., was the fact that the truth he had preached was the essential truth of the gospel.

2. His disinterestedness (ver. 7). St. Paul had a right to be maintained by the Church, "The labourer is worthy of his hire." And he had taken sustenance from other churches, but he would not take anything from the Corinthians, simply because he desired not to leave a single point on which his enemies might hang an accusation. There is something exquisitely touching in the delicacy of the raillery with which he asked if he had committed an offence in so doing. He asked them whether they were ashamed of a man of toil. Here is great encouragement for those who labour; they have no need to be ashamed of their labour, for Christ Himself and His apostle toiled for their own support. The time is coming when mere idleness and leisure will be a ground for boasting no more, when that truth will come out in its entireness, that it is the law of our humanity that all should work, whether with the brain or with the hands, and when it will be seen that he who does not or will not work, the sooner he is out of this work-a-day world of God's, the better.

3. His sufferings (vers. 23-28). It is remarkable that St. Paul does not glory in what he had done, but in what he had borne; he does not speak of his successes, but his manifold trials for Christ.

4. His sympathy (ver. 29). This power of entering into the feelings of every heart as fully as if he himself had lived the life of that heart, was a peculiar characteristic of St. Paul. To the Jew he became as a Jew, etc. Conclusion: All these St. Paul uses as evidences of his apostolic ministry, and they afford high moral evidence of the truth of Christianity. It gives quite a thrill of delight to find that this earth has ever produced such a man as St. Paul. He was no fanatic, but was calm, sound, and wise. And if he believed, with an intellect so piercing, so clear, and so brilliant, he must indeed be a vain man who will venture any longer to doubt.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy

1. It was lest their minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ (ver. 3). Many, like the Galatians, begin in the Spirit, and end in the flesh. Professors of religion are evermore in danger of being tossed to and fro, etc. (Ephesians 4:14).

2. It was lest an increasing lukewarmness should prepare the way for greater departures from truth and purity. Persons may retain the doctrines of the gospel, and yet lose the spirit of it.

3. It respected the outward deportment, as well as the dispositions of the mind. Men may turn grace into wantonness, and use their liberty as an occasion to the flesh. Corruption is not so mortified in the best of men as to preclude the necessity of watchfulness and godly jealousy.

4. It was founded in his knowledge of the depravity of human nature. He himself found it necessary to keep his body under, etc.; and the same principle excites his jealousy and fear with respect to others (1 Corinthians 9:27). The best of men are but men at the best.

5. It was derived from his acquaintance with the stratagems and the strength of the great enemy. He himself had a messenger of Satan to buffet him; and what he had felt himself, made him fear for others (ver. 3). None but Jesus could say, The prince of this world cometh, and findeth nothing in Me.

6. It was justified by various instances of defection in the apostle's time (1 Corinthians 10:6).

7. It was augmented by the apostle's peculiar relations with the Church. He had espoused them as a chaste virgin to Christ, and should he at last be disappointed in them, it would be to him a matter of inexpressible grief, and to them of shame and dishonour (1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:8).


1. It proceeded from the purest motives, from a sanctified heart, and was marked with sincerity and truth. He who was jealous over others, was not negligent of himself. Many indulge in what they condemn in others, and by making a virtue of their fidelity, intend it as a substitute for all other virtues.

2. It was expressed not with rancour and malice, but the greatest good-will. The apostle had learned of Him who was meek and lowly in heart, and did not indulge his own prejudices under a pretended zeal for religion.

3. It had for its object the promotion of true godliness. He was not only zealously affected, but it was in a good thing, and to answer the best of purposes.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

Jealousy is sensitive aliveness to any abatement or transference of affection. There is a sense in which God Himself is said to be jealous over His people. For God will endure no rival. And the faithful ambassador may be allowed to indulge his Master's feeling. It was such a sentiment that filled the heart of Paul here. Note —

I. THE WORK OF A FAITHFUL MINISTER. There is a delicacy in the figure employed, viz., that souls who are brought into covenant with God in Christ are betrothed to Him. And the ministers of Christ are represented as the friend of the Bridegroom, who transacts between the Bridegroom and His future bride, and bespeaks her and betroths her to the Bridegroom against the nuptial day. We have a beautiful illustration in the mission of the faithful servant of Abraham. This is the minister's highest and holiest function.

II. HIS HOPE AND PURPOSE — "that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." At the coming of Christ to have a goodly company of saved souls. What an expectation past all that our poor hearts can conceive! That those whom he has sealed with the seal of Christ in baptism; that those whom he has warned, rebuked, exhorted with all longsuffering, may be preserved, undefiled, uncorrupted, from the simplicity that is in Christ; that is the goal to which he must ever look. All short of this cannot content an earnest minister's mind. That they should respect and love Him; that they should be regular in frequenting the house of the Lord, etc. All this is in its place important; but all comes short of his desire and prayer.

III. HIS CONSEQUENT DUTY. To watch over his people with a godly jealousy. Not with an unhallowed or unfriendly jealousy; not with a censorious and a suspicious spirit. It is not the prerogative of ministers to judge. On the contrary, it is for them to have all longsuffering and charity — they need it themselves, and they should exercise it in the Church. But they are jealous for their Master. And if they see any who profess Christ's name falling into error in doctrine or viciousness in life, then the minister ought to be jealous for the honour of Christ and for the souls of his people. It is a godly jealousy; it comes from God, it is unto God. The man who is jealous for his own party and sect, alas, for him! Surely we may fear lest your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christi! How many have corrupted it by observances that the gospel requires not, and that its spirit is at variance with! And how many are departing from the simplicity of their trust in God's holy Word as their only foundation of faith, and Jesus as their only resting-place! How many there are, too, who are drawn aside into wordly conformity!

(H. Stowell, M. A.)

I have espoused you to one

1. Consider this match betwixt Christ and His people.(1) The first degree of it was the purpose of it, in the heart of God, from all eternity.(2) Impediments are next removed. Justice says, there can be no match betwixt God and guilty man till I be satisfied. The law says, they are mine, and I will not part with them, till death part us. Truth says, God Himself made this marriage betwixt them and the law, and therefore they cannot be married to another, unless first death dissolve the marriage. But the designed Bridegroom removes these impediments by His obedience to the law, and by His death in our nature and in our stead (Galatians 2:20). The sinner dies to the law in Christ, and the law dies to the sinner (Romans 7:4). And so the parties being thus dead, the truth of God has nothing to object against the purpose of this new marriage.(3) The contract is written and ready for the subscribing. There are two things in the contract —

(a)Christ's consent to match with poor sinners (Revelation 22:17).

(b)The dowry promised to the bride (Romans 8:32). A large maintenance and a good house (John 14:3).Yea, the contract is subscribed by the Bridegroom and His Father (Jeremiah 31:33). The contract is also sealed. "This cup," saith the Bridegroom, "is the new testament in My blood." All this before famous witnesses (1 John 5:7, 8). The whole is registered in this Bible.(4) The courting of the bride in order to gain her consent. And this is managed in two places.(a) Christ comes into her mother's house, to the public ordinances, and there He, by His ambassadors, courteth her consent.(b) Christ comes into the chambers of the heart, and then there is a heart conference betwixt Christ and the soul, without which the former cannot prevail.(5) The espousals. The soul being overcome, gives its consent to take Christ for a husband, renouncing all others. The soul makes choice of Christ. With the whole soul, the soul makes choice of a whole Christ. Makes choice of Him all, for all, and instead of all.(6) The espousals are in this life, at our believing the marriage is consummated in glory (Revelation 19:7). Now there is a time betwixt the espousals and marriage.(a) This time is for the trial of the bride. The old lovers will come back again, and endeavour to recover her affections which they have lost, and often do they succeed.(b) This interval is that the bride may make herself ready by making progress in sanctification.

2. What hand ministers have in this match.(1) They are proxies for the Bridegroom, sent as Abraham's servant, to seek a wife for their Master's Son (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).(2) They are witnesses, though not to the formal consent, yet to that which imports a consent. They see how their message is entertained.(3) They are the attendants of the bride, to adorn her for her husband. It is by the word that the espoused soul is made clean and fitted for Christ, as the Greek word in our text signifies.(4) They present her to the Bridegroom at the last day (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20).

3. Why the Lord employs men in this great and honourable work.(1) It is in condescension to our infirmities. If God had employed angels, how could we have looked upon them?(2) It is very agreeable in that the Divine nature is united with the human in Christ, that men should deal with men.(3) That God may have all the glory.


1. What it is for the espoused to keep chaste.(1) They must never be called by another name than their espoused husband (Hebrews 10:23).(2) They must never go back to their former husband, for the soul that is really espoused to Christ, is divorced from idols, and lusts, and the law (Romans 7:2).(3) Christ must always have their hearts.(4) They must cleave to Christ over all the world's smiles and frowns. They must neither be bribed nor driven from Him (Song of Solomon 8:6, 7).(5) They must be separated from the world: not only in their hearts, but in their practices (Revelation 14:4; Romans 12:2).(6) They must be sincere and upright, Hypocrisy would spoil all. Our espoused Husband is a searcher of hearts.

2. The presenting to Christ of those that keep chaste.(1) The time of it — it will be at the great day (Matthew 25:1-12).(2) They, and they only, shall be presented. They that depart from Christ here shall be made to depart from Him there.(3) The bride's attendants. Angels that were witnesses to her espousals, shall also be witnesses to her marriage. Christ's ministers shall say, "here are we, and the children Thou hast given us."(4) The place where the marriage shall be solemnised, that is the Bridegroom's Father's house, even in heaven.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

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