Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All Scripture references are to

the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984

International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations

from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes

the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: You will remember from our study last week that Paul

spoke (2 Corinthians 10:3-4) about waging war with divine weapons

instead of the weapons of the world. This week we find Paul

defending himself from attack and giving the Corinthians advice on

how to remain true to God. Let’s dive in and see what we can



     A. Read 2 Corinthians 11:1-5. Have you ever
heard an elderly
person say, “Please put up with my foolishness?”
What was
generally the topic? (Talking about the “old
days” or showing
devotion towards you.)

          1. Paul says
please put up with my foolishness. What
is he talking about? Is it defending himself
and bragging
about himself? (See 2 Corinthians 11:5)

          2. Do you recall
last week that Paul told the Corinthians
(2 Corinthians
10:12) to beware of those who commended
themselves and
who compared themselves with themselves?

          3. Is Paul doing
exactly what he told them was wrong? Is
that why he
calls this “a little of my foolishness” —
that he is doing
exactly what he told them was wrong with
his opponents?
(Some commentators think so, but I think
he is primarily
referring to his “jealousy” as his

     B. Let’s see if we can work this out. Let me
read v.2 again.
What kind of mental picture does Paul paint
in verse 2? What
kind of story comes to mind? (A wedding.)

          1. Is Paul the

          2. What is he?
(He looks like the agent of the bride.
Barclay, in
his “The Letters to the Corinthians,” page
246 (Westminster
Press, rev. ed.), reports that in a
Jewish wedding
two people called “the friends of the
would act as the representative of the bride
and the representative
of the groom. Their chief duty was
to guarantee
the chastity of the bride. This seems to be
the role Paul
is playing here.)

a. Would it be reasonable for the “friend of the
bridegroom” to be jealous in the context I just

(1) Why? How?

(2) What interest does he have here? (If the
bride’s agent says “I have this wonderful
bride who is pure and will marry you,” then
the agent’s reputation is at stake. If the
agent is close to the groom, then it becomes
even more important that the wedding take
place and the bride remain pure.)

     C. In verse 3 Paul paints another mental picture.
What is
that? (The temptation of Eve in the Garden
of Eden.)

          1. What elements
of that temptation apply here?  In what
way is it similar
to the situation at Corinth? (Eve was
not married
to God, but God often refers to His people as
His “bride.”
(Revelation 19:7; Isaiah 62:5) Satan’s
effort in Eden
was to alienate the loyalty and affection
of Eve towards

a. What if you had promised God that you would
“watch over” Eve and make sure she did not get into
trouble. If you tried to convince her not to talk
to Satan, could that reasonably be called “godly
jealousy?” (See 2 Cor. 11:2)

          2. Do you remember
Satan’s approach towards Eve in Eden?
(Genesis 3:1-6)
What parallels do you see with the
people who are
trying to alienate the Corinthians?
(Satan’s approach
was an appeal to the pride of Eve (Gen.
3:5 — “you
will be like God”). Remember last week Paul
complained that
these opponents used the “weapons of the
We decided in our discussion last week that
those weapons
include pride, arrogance, power, beauty,
wealth: all
superficial measures of importance.)


     A. What does Paul suggest in verse 4 to the
Corinthians (and
us) is the only safe course for us to take?
(Avoid those who
preach a new Jesus, new Spirit or new gospel.)

          1. Is it a criticism
that the Corinthians “put up [with
the new doctrines]
easily enough?

          2. What should
be our approach to “new doctrine?”

a. Should we listen to it?

b. Should we avoid it?

c. If new doctrines are “off-limits,” would these
Corinthians ever have been converted by Paul? How
about you? How did you become a Christian? A
member of the church? Did you listen to “new

(1) Is the key to this found in the phrase “you
put up with it easily enough?” Should we
resist new doctrine? (The NIV seems to tone
down Paul’s phrase. It seems this phrase could
also be translated in part “sustain
beautifully.” The NAS translates this “bear
this beautifully.” It appears that the
Corinthians are not just “putting up with” the
new doctrines, they are “sustaining them
beautifully!” This is not exactly what you
want the “faithful” to be doing with false

     B. Let’s read on by re-reading verse 5 and
then verse 6.
Remember we debated whether Paul was being
sarcastic when he
quoted those who “put down” or denigrated
his speaking
ability? What do you think now?
Was he really not that good
a speaker? (Now I believe that he was not
a terrific speaker.)

          1. What makes
up for his lack of speaking ability? (His

          2. Surely the
“super-apostles” must have knowledge too.
Probably, they
had more knowledge in the area of how to
speak! What
kind of knowledge is Paul talking about?
(Paul clearly
taught the Corinthians that Jesus appeared
to him just
like He did to the other apostles. (1
9:1; 15:3-8) His “knowledge” is that he has
seen Jesus.)

          3. In “testing”
doctrine, is it important to judge the
knowledge of
the teacher? (Yes! A Christian has to say
that the Bible
forms the basis against which every
teaching must
be tested. If every person who claims to
have a message
from God becomes the standard for our
faith — then
we have no standard. Every teaching has to
be tested against
the Bible. If it does not measure up,
it should be
rejected and not “sustained beautifully” in
the church.)


     A. Read 2 Corinthians 11:7-9. It seems that
Paul’s opponents
attack him for working for free for the Corinthians.
The only
modern parallel I can think of is the charge
of “dumping” made
by the automotive industry and organized labor.
For example,
Chrysler charged that Toyota was “dumping”
it mini-van in the
United States; ie., charging the U.S. consumers
less than it
cost Toyota to build the mini-van.

          1. As a U.S.
consumer, do you see this as a problem?

          2. How could
this attack by Paul’s opponents possibly
help them or
hurt him? Paul is working for free, how
terrible! Why
would Paul think he should defend against
this attack?
(There are three possible reasons. First,
our lesson points
out it was common to have “patrons,”
wealthy individuals,
who would “sponsor” you. This
linked the prestige
of the wealthy person with the person
being supported.
Paul failed to attract the support of a
patron, which
may have been a basis to say his work was
Second, is the “class-bias” issue. Do you
want your spiritual
leaders to be “common,” blue-collar
workers (tentmakers)?
Last, we do not always properly
appreciate what
we get for free. Sometimes we feel the
need to pay.)

a. Do you understand the logical basis for these

b. Do you agree with them?

c. What do you think about Paul’s defense (v.8) that
he “robbed other churches” to be able to help the
Corinthians for free?

(1) What if he was “robbing” the Macedonia
church, a church which he earlier (2
Corinthians 8:1-2) admitted was suffering
“extreme trial” and “extreme poverty?” (This
is a sort of “reverse-snobbery” argument. A
patron did not support him out of his great
riches. Instead, people who could barely
afford it supported him because they believed
in his work.)

     B. Let’s skip a few verses now and read 2 Corinthians
15. Do you think Satan uses a “sinful” or
“righteous” mask for
most of his work?

          1. Why?

          2. It has always
been my practice to assume that
who claim to work under the banner of Jesus,
and who claim
to advance His kingdom, are sincere
Christians even
if I do not agree with all of their
theology or
practices. What do you think about my
Should I change it based on these verses?

          3. My practice
has been based on the conversation between
Jesus and the
Pharisees which is recorded in Matthew
12:22-32. Jesus
had healed a demon-possessed man and the
Pharisees attributed
this healing to the power of Satan.
Jesus not only
argued that it was illogical to believe
that Satan would
work against himself, Jesus also said
that to attribute
the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan
(v.31 “blasphemy
against the Spirit”) was the

a. Now do you agree with my practice?

b. Am I understandably “gun-shy” in attacking those
who claim to be fellow Christians?

c. How do we reconcile Jesus’ statements with Paul’s
statement to the Corinthians that Satan would
logically appear as an “angel of light?”

C. Read 2 Corinthians 11:21-33. What is your
reaction from my reading of this?

          1. Why do you
think Paul recited all of this suffering?

          2. Does his recitation
of the hardships that he has
suffered prove
that he is more of a servant of Christ
than the “super-apostles?”
(2 Corinthians 11:23)

a. If so, why does he say that he is “out of his
mind” to make this recitation? (A good parallel is
the subject of faith vs. works in salvation.  If we
focussed on our works, someone might wrongly be
lead to believe that we earned salvation.  Paul
does not think that “bragging” about his trials
“earns” him a superior status.  However, as a
practical matter, if someone has a long list of
works we can be pretty sure that person’s heart
(faith) is in the right place.  So it is with Paul.
From a practical point of view, we are forced to
conclude that Paul had a real relationship with his
Lord, otherwise he would never have gone through
all of these hardships. However, none of these
hardships “earned” him spiritual status.)

b. As we look at our life, can we say that we have
given up something or suffered something because of
our relationship to Christ?

IV. NEXT WEEK: “Strength for Ministry:” study 2 Corinthians 12:1-

13:14! p;       
b. As we look at our life, can we say that we have
given up something or suffered something because of
our relationship to Christ?

IV. NEXT WEEK: “Strength for Ministry:” study 2 Corinthians 12:1-