Paul uses the word “boast” 21 times in his epistle to the Corinthian Church in response to the false leaders at Corinth who had been claiming false authority (2 Corinthians 5:12). Paul wanted to brag so to speak for the main purpose of establishing his divine authority as an apostle of Christ, for those who might as yet sincerely doubt it.
However, there was a great difference between the apostle and the false teachers’ bragging. For they bragged of an authority that was man-made moved by selfish goals, whereas, Paul bragged of an authority that was God given for the purification of the church.
The false teaches have accused the apostle with timidity (ch. 10:1, 2), detestable speech (ch. 11:6), and foolishness (vs. 16–19). But they themselves have been corrupt leaders with wrong doctrines teachings and “another gospel” (v. 4). They were braggarts (vs. 20, 21), intruders (ch. 10:15), and guilty of imposing themselves upon the believers (ch. 11:20). The result of Paul’s message would be the building of the church at Corinth, the exposure of the false teachers and the confirming of Paul as an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Paul’s response to the false teachers
Paul’s critics had made him to be a fool, so as a “fool,” he listed his persecutions and “infirmities” (2 Corinthians 11:30). He apologetically spoke of his sacrificial ministry as “folly.” To speak of ones sacrifices for God, was utterly opposed to the spirit of Christ (Philippians 2:5–8), and Paul felt foolish indeed to be placed in this position (2 Corinthians 10:8, 13–18; 12:10, 11).
Paul wrote, “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.”
“Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches…” (2 Corinthians 11:22-30).
In his speech, Paul calls attention to:
- His apostleship—his title, office, and authority—as being in no way lower than that of the “chiefest apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:5).
- His teaching of the truth without financial support from the Corinthian believers, whereas his accusers had actually robbed them (2 Corinthians 11:7–10, 19, 20; 12:13–18).
- His equality of heritage (2 Corinthians 11:22).
- His extensive ministry among the members (2 Corinthians 11:23).
- His great sufferings, trials, and persecutions for Christ’s sake (2 Corinthians 11:23–33).
- His visions and revelations (2 Corinthians 12:1–5).
- His “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7–10).
Paul vindicates his apostolic divine authority and contrasts it with that of his opponents, the “false apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:13) who were confusing the church at Corinth. If bragging is appropriate, Paul has much of which a person could brag about. In comparison, what had his enemies to brag about? By bragging, Paul exposes the claims of the false teachers. His reason for lowering himself to show his sacrifices as he does was to edify the church to understand what he had done among them, so that they might not be deceived by the false apostles and reject God’s message to them.
In His service,