What does 2 Corinthians 11:19 mean?
ESV: For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves!
NIV: You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise!
NASB: For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly.
CSB: For you, being so wise, gladly put up with fools!
NLT: After all, you think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools!
KJV: For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.
Paul has written that he is about to do something foolish. Like his opponents in Corinth, he too will boast "according to the flesh" or in order to bring glory to himself. He's very clear that this is being done—almost with sarcasm—to prove a point. He has described worldly bragging as something fools do, not something the Lord would expect. To further prove his point, Paul's "boasting" will mostly focus on God's power through him in his weakness and not about any achievements of his own.
The Corinthians should tolerate his boasting—they have gladly put up with fools teaching falsehoods about Jesus! The Corinthians do so, Paul adds, because they are so wise. He is being satirical, as he was when he wrote about their great wisdom in 1 Corinthians 4:10. There he said sarcastically that he and his associates were "fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ."
It is possible the Corinthians thought themselves wise enough to admire Paul's impressive-sounding opponents and decide for themselves what was true and what was not. Paul wryly says they should be willing to hear his foolishness out, as well.
Second Corinthians 11:16–33 includes Paul's long list of ways he has suffered in his service to Christ. He describes this as crazy talk, mocking the arrogant style of the false apostles. In truth, the Corinthians probably would have thought of these as signs of failure, weakness, and loss. Paul is shocked that they are so willing to be mistreated by the false apostles. This abuse was something Paul was ''too weak'' to do in his Christlike service for them. Paul's discussion of his weakness will lead to his conclusion in the following chapter that Christ is strongest in him when he is weak.
Second Corinthians 11 compares the believers in Corinth to a betrothed bride. It also pictures them as Eve facing temptation from the snake in the garden in Genesis 3. Paul's job as their spiritual father is to protect them from the lies of false apostles. These deceivers disguise themselves as servants of righteousness in the same way that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Paul is shocked the Corinthians put up with such harsh treatment from these men. He sarcastically pretends to brag about himself as the false teachers do about themselves. Instead, he boasts mostly about the ways he has endured suffering in his service to Christ.
Chapter 11 follows Paul's warning in the previous chapter. There, he vowed to be as bold as needed when he comes to see them in person. He describes himself as a protective spiritual father trying to save the Corinthians from the deceptions of the false apostles to teach a false gospel about a false Jesus. He is shocked the Corinthians put up with their harsh treatment and says he has decided to foolishly boast in order to compete with the false apostles. His boasting about his service to Christ, though, is mostly a long list of all the ways he has suffered for Christ. That theme continues into chapter 12, where Paul explains just how much his suffering has improved his walk with Christ.
Second Corinthians returns to similar themes as those Paul mentioned in his first letter to this church. Paul is glad to hear that the church in Corinth has heeded his advice. At the same time, it is necessary for Paul to counter criticisms about his personality and legitimacy. Most of this text involves that subject. The fifth chapter, in contrast, contains comforting words which Christians have quoted often in times of hardship. Paul also details his expectations that the church in Corinth will make good on their promise to contribute to the needs of suffering believers in Jerusalem.
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