7 Did I commit sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge?
8 I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you.
9 And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself.
10 As the truth of Christ is in me, no one shall stop me from this boasting in the regions of Achaia.
11 Why? Because I do not love you? God knows!
12 But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast.
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.
14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.
15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
exalted (v.7) — raised to that state of mind which ought to characterize a Christian
God knows! (v.11) — God knew that Paul did love the Corinthians
The meaning of verse 12 is that Paul determined to continue his practice of preaching the Gospel at Corinth without payment so as to prevent the false apostles making the point against him that they preached gratuitously and that he did not; and so they could hint that his object in preaching was to get their money.
In verses 13-15 Paul says that these preachers of “an ethical gospel” were sham apostles, deceitful workers, servants of the devil and doomed to the lake of fire. Such language shocks modern religious feeling; but the shock proves the existence of the immense gulf lying between the teaching of [Paul] and of those who profess to be [his] successors. — Williams, page 906.
[Paul] could speak plain truths boldly. But with the self-important bishops from Jerusalem it was an altogether different matter. Were they not fully qualified to come to Corinth (from which Paul was now absent!) and ask the Corinthians whether Paul could prove that he was an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, one of the twelve! If not, what right did he have to call himself an apostle? His lack of stature was evident from his simplicity of speech, his plainness of dress, his preaching without salary and his lack of letters of commendation from the Church at Jerusalem.
The authorities there, with James as their acknowledged head, had sent these emissaries to Corinth to discredit Paul and to teach the Corinthian saints that salvation without obedience to the Law was impossible. But what an argument they gave for legalism! “Just look at Paul,” they said, He is no qualified preacher, much less an apostle.” Ah, but they misjudged Paul, for his arguments here are to men parading their own questionable qualifications and recommendations.
Had he committed an offense, he asked, in preaching the gospel freely, i.e., without cost, thus abasing himself so that they might be exalted? He knew beforehand that this would cause much discussion about “the growing church at Corinth,” and less about himself. Will these Judaizers now condemn him for this? How self-effacing his ministry among them had been!
Some 12 years previously the apostle had gotten a job making tents with Aquila and Priscilla, to support himself and his coworkers, but as the Corinthian church was founded and rapidly grew, would one not conclude that they should have offered to support him, indeed should have insisted on doing so? But not the Corinthians! For 12 years, as he labored tirelessly among them, this thought, evidently, had not struck them. As the burdens of the work became greater and more time-consuming, it was the beloved Macedonians, especially the church at Philippi, who, out of their “great trials” and “deep poverty,” supported him financially (8:2, cf Philippians 4:15-16). “I robbed other churches,” he says, “taking wages of them to do you service” (v.8). Imagine, the poor, afflicted Macedonians supporting him while he worked for the rich Corinthians, yes, and lived among them making certain that he would not be in any way a burden to them (v.9).
But the overbearing Jerusalem bishops, with their haughty attitudes and their exorbitant demands actually convinced some of the Corinthian believers that all this proved that Paul was not qualified to be a preacher, much less an apostle.
Ah, but they were no match to a man of God such as Paul, for Paul pointed to his manner of life to “cut off occasion from them which desire occasion, that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we,” i.e., fragile human beings (v.12).
When the apostle declared that no one would stop him from this glorying in his way of life “in the regions of Achaia,” it was not because his love for the Corinthians had waned, but it does show that the Corinthians’ manner of life had spread throughout that whole region. — Stam, pages 208-209.
It is rather frightening … that religious leaders of high repute, men who stand in the pulpit and preach from the Bible, may be “false” and “deceitful.” … At the great Jerusalem council of Acts 15, “false brethren” were “unawares brought in,” says Paul, “to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus; that they might bring us into bondage” (Galatians 2:4).
Think: False brethren … secretly brought in … to spy out the liberty from Moses’ law which the Gentile saints had so richly enjoyed, so as to bring them into the bondage of the Law, a yoke which neither these Judaizers nor their fathers had been “able to bear” (Acts 15:10).
Thank God for “our beloved brother Paul,” that “good soldier of Jesus Christ,” who could later write: “To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Galatians 2:5).
It was not merely Paul, writing to the Ephesians; it was the Holy Spirit speaking to believers of every generation, who said: “… be no longer children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).
Indeed, 2 Timothy 3:13 warns us that: “… evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (This by no means indicates that they are innocently deceived. These are “evil men,” self-deceived, determined to believe what they wish to believe.) — Stam, pages 210-211