What does 2 Corinthians chapter 11 mean?Paul feels protective of the Christians in Corinth. He compares them to a betrothed bride and himself to her father. False apostles in Corinth are trying to seduce the Corinthians away from their commitment to Christ. As their spiritual father, Paul is attempting to keep the Corinthians from sin. The false apostles teach a different Jesus, a different spirit and a different gospel—all false. They are like the serpent in the garden temping Eve to sin (2 Corinthians 11:1–3).
Paul wonders if one reason why the Corinthians are so easily led astray by the false "super-apostles" is because of his refusal to take money from them for his own needs. He did so to keep anyone from being able to accuse him of having false motives in serving them. They seem to think that his working with his hands and taking money from others is an insult to them and diminishes his status in their eyes (2 Corinthians 11:4–8).
Paul states that his refusal to take money sets him apart from the false apostles, who likely took all the money they could from the Corinthians. Their boast that they work on the same terms he does is clearly false. Paul describes them as liars, pretending to be apostles to deceive the Corinthians. They disguise themselves as servants of righteousness in the same way Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Their end is coming, and it will fit their evil deeds (2 Corinthians 11:9–15).
The so-called "super-apostles" treat the Corinthians horribly, and they seem to gladly put up with being bullied, ordered around as slaves, taken advantage of, and treated as inferior. Perhaps the Corinthians felt this was the way strong apostles should treat people. Paul sarcastically says he is ashamed he was too weak to treat them that way (2 Corinthians 11:16–21).
Next, Paul says that he will, after all, foolishly boast about himself as the false apostles boast about themselves. He calls himself a madman for saying he is a better servant of Christ than they are, since a true servant of Christ would never say such a thing. His reason for doing so, of course, is not really to brag about himself, but to contrast his actions with those of the false teachers. When he actually begins "boasting," though, he mostly makes a list of all the terrible things he has experienced in his service to Christ. To the Corinthians who valued strength, position, and privilege, this list would sound only like weakness and failure (2 Corinthians 11:21–29).
In the end, Paul agrees that he is boasting about all of the things that show his weakness, including his very first escape from a royal death sentence for declaring that Christ is the Son of God in a Damascus synagogue. As Paul will show in the following chapter, Christ's power is made perfect in the weakness of his servants (2 Corinthians 11:30–33).