2 Corinthians 11:33


Wednesday, 23 December 2015

…but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.
2 Corinthians 11:33

Here Paul details how he made his escape from Damascus. His words here explain “the things which concern my infirmity.” There are other examples of people escaping in such a manner in the Bible. One is found in Joshua 2 –

“Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall; she dwelt on the wall.” Joshua 2:15

Another similar account, with less detail, is found in 1 Samuel 9 –

“So Michal let David down through a window. And he went and fled and escaped.” 1 Samuel 19:12

What is explicit in the Joshua account, and which might be inferred from the story of David, is that these men let themselves down by a rope which was thrown over the side for them. However, in Paul’s case, he had to be let down by a “basket.” It shows that he was too infirm on his own to climb down a rope. Thus he seems to be hinting at the shame he felt for having to rely on others to deliver him in this way.

It was in a basket, through a small opening in the wall called a thuris that he was let down. The thuris is only mentioned twice in the Bible, once here and once in Acts 20:9 where Eutychus fell out of the window he was sitting in. Such little windows or doors were placed into the walls of a city for those who dwelt in houses along the wall. Paul was able to get free from his foes in this manner.

Of interest is that the word “basket” here is not the same as that used in Acts 9:5. There it was called a spuris, which is a tightly wound plaited basket of reeds. Here, Paul calls it a sargané. This is a plaited rope basket. This is the only use of this word in the Bible. This probably comes from the Hebrew word sarag, which means to be intertwined. Thus, the same idea is conveyed for both words. If this comes from sarag, which is likely, Paul is subtly continuing with his comparison of himself to the false apostles by using a word of Hebrew rather than Greek origin.

Life application: God uses those who are dependent on Him and often that dependence on Him is realized in the assistance of others. Paul was placed in a situation where he needed the help of others in order to find his relief. There is nothing wrong with showing such dependence on those around us, particularly when we realize that God placed them in our lives for that very reason.

Lord, it is good to know that You are there for those who depend on You. And even more, You often put us in a position where we need to depend on others. If you have put us in that position, then the help from those others is Your divinely directed way of providing us relief. And so Lord, help us to not shun the help of others through pride, but to be thankful to You for those who do come into our life in order to relieve our needs. In the end, You have us just where You want us, even in such times. Amen.




2 Corinthians 11:32


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; 2 Corinthians 11:32

Paul just said in verse 30 that “I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.” After that, he gave a solemn testimony that his words were true. Now suddenly, he introduces this statement as his first evidence of his “infirmity.” To set up what he considered this infirmity to be, he opens with this verse concerning his time in Damascus. It is referred to in Acts 9:23-25, but with different detail given here.

He first notes, “…the governor, under Aretas the king.” The term for “governor” is used only here in the New Testament. It is ethnarches. It is a word consisting of two separate words: ethnos which means “a race” or “a people group,” and archo which means “rule” or “reign.” Thus he was the leader of the people of Damascus. Aretas, or Hareth, was the father-in-law of Herod Antipas whose capital was the city cleft out of rock at Petra. Historians suppose that Caligula placed Damascus under Aretas as a gift to him.

This unnamed governor under Aretas had “the city of the Damascenes” guarded with a garrison. This was done so that if Paul was located he was to be arrested. In addition to this guard, Acts 9 shows that Paul had other foes waiting for him as well –

“Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. 24 But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him.” Acts 9:23, 24

Paul was hemmed in and any chance of getting out of the city in a normal way was considered impossible. Therefore other means had to be employed to get him out. This is detailed in the next verse and shows why he chose to name this under his list of infirmities.

Life application: If you are hemmed in from all sides, and if the Lord still has purposes for you in this life, He will get you out of the situation. Never fear that He has every circumstance in our lives completely within His capable hands.

Lord God, at times we feel hemmed in from every side and it seems that there is no avenue of escape from our troubles. At times like these, why would we consider turning anywhere but to You? You have the span of our lives safely in Your capable hands and there is no trial or hardship that we face which is unknown to You. Help us to trust this and to remember that there is nothing that we are facing which is not also without Your attentive eye upon it. Thank You for this wonderful reassurance. Amen.



2 Corinthians 11:31


Monday, 21 December 2015

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.
2 Corinthians 11:31

Paul now invokes the name of the Father for what he is about to say. It is certain that this is about the coming verse and not the preceding verses, because in just the verse prior he said, “If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.” This was concerning future thoughts. Now, in order to show the truth of what he will say, he invokes the name of the Father as a solemn testimony that his words will be truthful.

“The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” is named as a confirmation of the Godhead itself. His gospel message of Christ is approved by “God the Father.” The next words, “who is blessed forever” could be speaking of either “God the Father” or “our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Romans 1:25, he uses “God” and “Creator” in one thought. In Romans 9:5, he uses “God” and “Christ” in one thought.

In this case, “Lord Jesus Christ” is the nearest antecedent. It appears that He is saying that “our Lord Jesus Christ is blessed forevermore” being the Son of God the Father. In other words, it is a reference to the Godhead. This might seem like over-analyzing the few words he has penned, but he has done it for a reason.

And in his invocation of the Godhead, he says that He “knows that I am not lying.” Why would Paul find it necessary to make such a solemn affirmation? A few possibilities exist. First, because of the incredible nature of some of the things he is about to relay. Secondly, because there were no witnesses at hand who were available to support his claims. Third, because there may be those who charged him with not being straightforward about his claims. For these and possibly other reasons, he makes this solemn invocation.

Life application: We are shown in the word that it is not inappropriate to invoke the name of God in order to substantiate our claims, but like Paul, let us do so sparingly and for reasons which are sound. A person who continuously invokes God’s name, even over minutiae, demonstrates the he probably can’t be trusted in the first place. It also shows that the name of God is not held in high esteem by him.

Lord Jesus, You who are God, You have made it very simple for us to come to know You and to be saved. We are told that You stepped out of eternity to live the life we cannot live and then gave up Your life on Calvary’s cross to pay our sin debt. You have told us that if we believe this, we have eternal life. Either this is true or it is not. Why do we have to muddy the waters of Your word? Help us to trust in the simple gospel message and not add to Your word things which it does not say. And give us the strong desire to tell others of this marvelous thing You have done for us. Amen.



2 Corinthians 11:30


Sunday, 20 December 2015

If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. 2 Corinthians 11:30

Paul has established that of all the things the false apostles had boasted in, he had more reason to boast. What they were, he was also, and even more. After demonstrating to the Corinthians that he was eminently qualified to boast in such things, he then wrote about his weakness and that he was one who stumbled. From that thought, he now adds on the words of this verse, “If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.”

In other words, the previous boastings were done in an ironical and sarcastic manner. He didn’t really boast in those fleshly things at all, but instead named them to show that what the Corinthians thought to be important was, in fact, unimportant. Now, he will begin to show the things that he could truly boast in; “the things which concern my infirmity.”

In this, he is showing that the very things which are considered weak, unappealing, useless, etc. are those things which are greater than the supposed greatest boastings of the false apostles. It is nicely reflected in his previous words to them in his first epistle –

“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

These things are well summed up in his coming words of chapter 12 verse 9 which say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Life application: Those things which seem contemptible in the eyes of the false apostles are the things we might have reason to boast in the most. The Lord is looking on the internals. If they are sound, then all of the outward flash is seen to be useless, even harmful, in our walk with the Lord.

Heavenly Father, how good You are to us. You have allowed us to have freedom of worship within Your church by allowing us to structure our churches as we see fit. There is no “one size fits all model” and there is no “true style” of church mentioned in Your word. You have not directed a certain type of music, a particular type of building, or a set time of the week or day to meet. Instead, You have asked us to worship You in spirit and in truth. And so, Lord God, be pleased to receive Your worship and praise from a thousand different cultures in ten thousand different ways. Surely You are the God of the nations! Hallelujah to Jesus our Lord who has united us as one. Amen.



2 Corinthians 11:29


Saturday, 19 December 2015

Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?
2 Corinthians 11:29

From verses 22-27, Paul spoke of those physical things which pertained to him which were in comparison to the false apostles he has been referring to. He was showing the Corinthians that if they could adore the false apostles for their attributes, then he had that much more of all of those attributes to which they could attach their adoration to. This was done, of course, in a manner not intending for them to idolize him, but to show them that they were misdirected in their attitude of elevating man in the way they had.

In verse 28, Paul went from the external to the internal with the words, “besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.” His concern for the churches and all of the mental trials were also a part of his efforts for the churches he ministered to. Continuing on now with the inward things with which he struggled, he asks, “Who is weak, and I am not weak?”

This is a verse concerning his empathy for the trials that those in the church face. He was showing them that he was just like them. They had weaknesses and he too faced his own weaknesses. However, he not only faced his own weaknesses, but he also empathized in their weaknesses with them. To understand this, we can first go to 1 Corinthians 8:13 where he says, “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

Paul understood that there were those who were weak in the faith over certain issues. If their weakness demanded that he become like them in order to keep them from stumbling, then he would do so. This is then confirmed in his actions that are noted in 1 Corinthians 9:22 with the words, “…to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

Following this, he next asks, “Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?” Again, he shows his empathy for their situation as believers still trapped in this weakened body of flesh. There are two general views on how this verse is to be interpreted. One is purely of empathy, and one is of indignation over the offense. In other words, is the word “burn” pertaining to his own internal lusts which he struggles with (empathy with those who face the same), or is the word used concerning his indignation over their weakness?

The word for “burn” is only used one other time in a non-literal sense. In 1 Corinthians 7:9, it says –

“For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” 1 Corinthians 7:9.

What seems more than probable is that Paul is using it in this same manner when applied to himself. Thus, this is a verse of empathy, not of indignation. First, it is in line with the previous example of being weak, and secondly, it conforms to the next verse which speaks of “the things which concern my infirmity.”

It is unlikely that Paul would show indignation at another’s weakness and then boast in his own frailties. This doesn’t mean that Paul didn’t burn with indignation at his own stumbling, or at the stumbling of others, but that he really faced such things as a human being.

However, it appears that many scholars are afraid to admit that Paul actually burned with passions, as if admitting this would somehow diminish him in his ministry. But… this is exactly what he is trying to do. He is trying to get people’s eyes off of the flesh and onto the strength of Christ which is more powerful than our weakness.

Charles Ellicott is one of the few who is willing to accept that this is the proper way of interpreting this verse. He says –

“Men came to the Apostle with their tales of shame, and told how they had been tempted and had fallen; and here, too, he, in that illimitable sympathy of his, seemed to have travelled with them on the downward road. He felt himself suffused, as it were, with the burning glow of their shame. He blushed with them and for them, as though the sin had been his own.”

Life application: Anyone (even your favorite pastor or preacher) burns inwardly in one way or another. Don’t think that anyone is above this. If you face weaknesses and they claim that they don’t, you might start looking for a new church without such an arrogant soul making claims which are simply not true. If he cannot empathize with you, then he might be prone to lording his supposed superiority over you!

Lord God, help us in our internal struggles of life. Each of us burns with some sort of moral deficiency. We secret these things away in fear that others will find out our true selves, but You know each and every one of our limitations. Help us through them. Strengthen us in our resolve, and grant us the ability to focus our eyes on Jesus whose strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. Thank You for Christ Jesus. Amen.