2 Corinthians 11:16-20
2 Cor 11:16 (KJB)
I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.
A fool - An unwise person or one who acts in ignorance
Receive - Accept or approve
Paul now attempts to boast a little but it is not his normal desire nor his regular method of doing ministry. He asks the Corinthians that they not think of him as a fool but he asks that he be received as a fool so he may boast a little. The false teachers were always boasting about something they have done or taught and maybe Paul, who thought boasting was foolish, asks to be received as a fool and in this way makes a little sport of the regular methods of the false teachers. He is trying to set up a visible difference between his philosophy of doing ministry and the false ministry of the false teachers.
2 Cor 11:17 (KJB)
That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.
After - According
Confidence - Conviction or assurance
Paul is very careful to note that boasting is not a normal trait of the Christian life. It must be noted that Paul is not speaking here of the inspiration of the Spirit when he speaks “not after the Lord.” The Spirit of God had definitely led Paul into a defense of the truth so the preaching of the Gospel would not be hindered or become suspect in the ears of the hearers. Paul spoke of the “confidence of boasting” which meant that he had a necessary reason to do this. It was not something he did to puff himself up but he did this for the purpose of defending himself against spurious accusations coming from the false teachers. This is something we must do from time to time in our Christian walk when someone accuses us of something. It is necessary for the sake of the Gospel and our Christian testimony that false charges be answered. Now sometimes false charges may be made which are of a general nature and need not be answered but each situation has to be evaluated whether a response is needed or not.
2 Cor 11:18 (KJB)
Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also.
The situation has become so that Paul now had to bring himself down to the method of the false teachers, that is, he is now going to do a comparison on the level of a human standard. (Prov 26:5 KJV) Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. Paul probably knew the verse from Proverbs and now is following the advice of that verse. If these false teachers were allowed to continue unchallenged, then they will seem wise to the Corinthians if no answer is given to them. For example today, we have the debate about creation versus evolution and if the Christians allowed the evolutionists to teach it unchallenged, then they would look wise. The words in Proverbs 26:5 in the Hebrew for “his own conceit” carries with it the meaning of “in their own eyes or appearance.” In other words, these false teachers, going unchallenged, would continue to puff themselves up and would be able to state that no one can refute their teachings. This is what Paul planned to do, to refute their teachings, and show the Corinthians how unwise the false teachers were. Sometimes this is a necessary part of the Christian walk but it is not the major part.
2 Cor 11:19 (KJB)
For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.
Ye suffer - You bear with or allow
Gladly - With pleasure
Wise - Understanding, thoughtful, or intelligent
Here Paul chides the Corinthians over the fact that they never rebuked nor rejected the false teachers. In fact, he told them that they put up with these fools, but the worst part was they tolerated them gladly. Then in a seemingly sarcastic mode, Paul tells them that they are very wise. What he really meant was that they were very unwise in the way they handled the false teachers. This is one of the main problems in the churches today. It seems the more false a teaching, the more it is welcomed in the church and most of the time a false teaching is accepted because of the person who brings it. The problem is we look at reputation or education rather than comparing their teachings to Scripture. If pastors would be doing their job, they would be protecting the flocks from false teaching, instead they themselves lack spiritual discernment because they allow their education to filter Biblical truth and the result is disastrous doctrine.
2 Cor 11:20 (KJB)
For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.
Ye suffer - You bear with or allow
Devour - Consume, eat up, or destroy
Smite - Beat or strike
Here Paul speaks of the Corinthians going above and beyond just tolerating these false teachers. First, the false teachers had brought them under bondage to their false teachings. Whether they were teaching that one must keep the law for salvation or not, the Corinthians had placed themselves under the authority of these false teachers. Next he chides them for allowing these false teachers to devour them, that is to live off of them including offerings for their support. These men would not only lust after the physical goods, they devoured the truth which Paul had taught them and replaced it with their brand of gospel. Then Paul chides them for literally enjoying the fact that these false teachers were exalting themselves, like they do today with glass pulpits and huge mega-churches but when you listen to their message, it is right out of the pits of hell because it is all about money, prosperity, and how to live the good life. Then Paul gives the final ignominy in that these false teachers had become so entrenched and so bold in their own eyes that they could slap someone on the face, which is a very high personal insult, without any response from the individual. Today we hear many false preachers who threaten the sheep from the pulpit concerning finances or something else and this is nothing more than a verbal or spiritual slap in the face. Basically, what Paul is chiding them for is how easily and willingly they were able to be manipulated and abused. Many Christians in the modern church are manipulated by fast talking pastors and evangelists who are in it for the money and popularity. The efficacy of the pastors and evangelists must be scrutinized by Scripture. If they have no fruit except personal gain, then they are as phony as a three dollar bill and should be ousted from the church and not further exalted.