Paul Unmasks His Opponents (11:1-21)

Sometimes extraordinary circumstances can push us to abandon scruples that we otherwise cling to tenaciously. For example, when one of our children takes a tumble, our aversion to the sight of blood is forgotten. The sound of a fire alarm and the smell of smoke at night cause us to disregard our usual sense of modesty. In Paul's case, news of a worsening situation at Corinth leads him to abandon his normal aversion toward self-praise and proceed in chapter 11 to do the very thing that he eschewed earlier in the letter—boast in his ministerial achievements. He certainly is not comfortable in doing so, as "I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it" (12:11) shows. His willingness to lay down his scruples indicates how desperate the situation at Corinth had become.

The circumstances that drove Paul to commend himself are spelled out in 11:1-5. I am afraid, he says, that . . . your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ (v. 3). His converts are being led—as we say—down the garden path by rival missionaries, and they are not even aware of what is going on (vv. 18-21). Paul's motivation is thus pastoral rather than personal in nature. It is his concern for the Corinthians' spiritual welfare, and not for his own reputation, that pushes him to engage in self-praise.

But why must he resort to boasting? Why not just expose the intruders for the frauds they are and leave it at that? Unfortunately, by the time the news reached Paul, the intruders had already made significant inroads at Corinth. This was largely because of the Corinthians' penchant for impressive credentials (vv. 21-23), fine-sounding words (v. 6) and extraordinary shows of power (12:12). So in order to win the congregation's ear, Paul must match the opposition point for point: What anyone else dares to boast about . . . I also dare to boast about (11:21).

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