2 Corinthians 11:16-21

16 I say again, let no one think me a fool. If otherwise, at least receive me as a fool, that I also may boast a little.

17 What I speak, I speak not according to the Lord, but as it were, foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.

18 Seeing that many boast according to the flesh, I also will boast.

19 For you put up with fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise!

20 For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face.

21 To our shame I say that we were too weak for that! But in whatever anyone is bold—I speak foolishly—I am bold also.

I say again, let no man think me to be foolish. But even if you do, as is the case, yet receive me as foolish in order that I also [as well as they] may boast a little. That which I am saying, not after the pattern of the Lord am I speaking, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many are boasting in accordance with human standards and in human attainments, I also will boast, for you gladly tolerate those who are foolish, being wise yourselves. For you tolerate a man, if, as is the case, he brings you to the point of abject slavery; if a man strips you of your possessions [by greedily demanding maintenance]; if a man takes you captive; if a man exalts himself; if a man slaps you in the face. I am speaking by way of disparagement [humbling of myself], as though, as for ourselves, we have been weak. And yet, whereinsoever a man is bold, I am speaking in foolishness, as for myself, I am bold also. — Wuest, page 434.


“I say again” (v.16), i.e., “to return to what I was saying in verse 1:” that is, “don’t think I am foolish in speaking of myself; but if you do think me foolish, yet listen to me as you do to my detractors.”

“After the Lord” (v.17), i.e., not as commanded but permitted; and I speak as a fool in his foolish boasting speaks when applauding himself.

Verse 19 is ironical. Claiming to be wise they listened with good-humored conscious superiority to fools.

“Suffer” (v.20), i.e., accept or tolerate. “Devour,” i.e., lives at your expense. “Exalt himself,” i.e., claims priestly land divinely appointed authority. “Smite,” either with a hand or a foot. “Reproach,” i.e., in self-disparagement (v.21). This means that when with them, far from acting with such arrogance, he had lived among them as an ordinary, feeble man. — Williams, page 906-907.


Again and again the apostle apologizes for his boasting in this epistle. He knows that boasting is foolish, but they have forced him to remind them of his qualifications. If his apostleship could be disproven it would mean that the gospel of the grace of God was nothing more than a product of his imagination, so this was necessary.

So, admitting that boasting is foolish, he says in verses 18-19: “Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.”

This was cutting sarcasm, but they well deserved it. In verse 20 he says in effect: “they make slaves of you” (he had served them), “they devour you, even financially” (he had labored without charge), “they take” (he had given his all), “they exalt themselves” (he had abased himself), “they ‘slap you in the face’ I speak concerning reproach” (they had insulted him).

So these “great men,” with their important recommendations, their eloquence—and their big salaries really did not amount to much when compared with this humble man of god who had first led the Corinthians to Christ and had caused them to rejoice in the riches of his grace. — Stam, page 214-215.

Paul’s manner and his message should have been enough to convince the Corinthians of his apostolic authority. But the Judaizers had come with impressive credentials, impressive words, and with scorn for Paul’s humility. Their foolish boasting had impressed the Corinthians and caused them to doubt Paul. So in response, Paul said, in essence, “Fine, if you want it that way, I can boast too. It’s foolish for me to have to do it, but it seems to be what you want. And even on this foolish level, I come out looking far more impressive.”

This entry was posted in 2 Corinthians. Bookmark the permalink.