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The phrase “super-apostles” is mentioned in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian Church: “I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:5-NIV). “Super-apostles” is not a reference to the Twelve disciples but to the false apostles (the judaizers) who had been troubling the early churches and Paul. The apostle Paul always spoke of the twelve disciples with great respect (1 Corinthians 15:8–10; Galatians 2:8–10).
But in 2 Corinthians 11:5, Paul used the expression “super-apostles” to show his condemnation and irony rather than seriousness. In this passage, he described the activities of the “super-apostles” as like those of the serpent that had deceived Eve by its craftiness and their work that corrupted believers away from the simplicity of Christ. For they preached another Jesus and a different gospel (2 Corinthians 11: 3,4).
In the first nine chapters of 2 Corinthians, Paul addressed the collective majority, and there is only passing reference to the “super-apostles” and any who may have been influenced by them (2 Corinthians 2:17; 3:1; 5:12). But in chapter 10, he clearly warned the Corinthians against the false apostles among them.
Exposing the Judaizers
The Judaizers or the “super-apostles” branded Paul as a false apostle (2 Corinthians 3:1). They spoke evil of him and held his preaching and ministry in contempt and spoke of him as an impostor (2 Corinthians 2:17; 4:2; 11:22). And they have charged him with weakness and timidity (ch. 10:1, 2), hateful speech (ch. 11:6), doubtful mind and judgment (vs. 16–19). But to Paul, their accusations were only an opportunity for fellowship with Christ in His sufferings (Philippians 3:10; Matthew 5:11; 1 Peter 4:14).
So, in response, Paul presented the full weight of his authority and personality against the false accusations of these Judaizing leaders (2 Corinthians 11:22). He explained that the judgment of the “super-apostles” is not true because they are untrue guides with erroneous teachings and “another gospel” (2 Corinthians 11: 4). In addition, they were impolite braggarts (verses 20, 21), rude intruders (2 Corinthians 10:15), and guilty of forcing themselves upon the believers (2 Corinthians 11:20).
And Paul defended his apostleship by setting forth certain aspects of his life and ministry that should commend him as a genuine apostle. For even though he persecuted the church, He owed his calling to the mercy of God (1 Corinthians 7:25; 15:9, 10; Galatians 1:15, 16; 1 Timothy 1:12–16).
Paul’s love, zeal and care for the church moved him to warn the members against the wolves that were trying to steal their hearts away from the truth. Paul’s opponents were conceited, willful, and proud. They interpreted his meekness for weakness and his gentleness for cowardice. Appropriately, they were beyond the reach of proper appeals and kind rebuke (2 Corinthians 1–7).
The only way to reach their self-righteousness minds was by stern rebuke and exposure (2 Corinthians 10–13). Nowhere else in Paul’s writings is there anything comparable in stern spirit to what appears in 2 Corinthians 10–13. But Paul always spoke in the spirit of Christ and in harmony with His commands (Matthew 5:38–42; Luke 6:22; 10:16; Galatians 1:10). He and his co-workers gave no offense, either by showing hate to the opponents or by self-exaltation.
For a time, Paul’s rebuke of the “super-apostles” seemed to have freed the church from the discord they caused. And his decisive dealing with the situation left no question in the hearts of the Corinthian Christians as to his authority as an apostle. The closing chapters of 2 Corinthians are full of advice for those who may meet similar disagreeing situations in our churches today.
In His service,