Paul has had many problems, serious setbacks that have caused him grief. Accusations have been made against him, not unlike those at Jerusalem. There he denied all, but he bent to the will of the Twelve and went through the purification ritual to assert his innocence. Now the same insinuations are being made again, namely that the apostolic authority he claimed for himself was false. It was said that he was arrogant and self-seeking, "...a weighty letter writer but an ineffectual and contemptible speaker." (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 966: 844e)
Paul was being charged as being a liar, and that when he refused financial aid from the Corinthian congregation, he was plotting to get their money through his underlings. They said, "...got the better of you by guile." (II Corinthians 12:16.) He was not a true apostle. Paul, who could, "...speak in tongues better than you all." (I Corinthians 14:18), and told of visions which no one else had witnessed or could verify (Acts 9:3; I Cor. 9:1; II Corinthians 12:2 ), and that he was mentally unbalanced. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Pages 271-272)
Here, in II Corinthians Paul gives the fourth version of his, 'Damascus' vision. Was Festus right? This student would prefer to believe that Paul was 'crazy as a fox,' shrewd, an egomaniac, but 'mentally unbalanced'?
Of his excellence with words we have proof, about his skill as a speaker we know nothing, except what he tells us. His self-proclaimed apostleship, only one of many other items, is highly questionable, especially when it is agreed that during Paul's lifetime the commission of 'apostle' was restricted to Jesus' disciples.
As we have seen by his own words, Paul is overly authoritative, brutal and inconsiderate when it came to dealing with people, one easily consigned to 'rewriting' God's Holy Scriptures for his own interests and without regard to their original context, one who was manipulative and always interested in his gospel, his authority, his standing within his congregations, his work, his suffering, his calling, his titles.
He would accept no picture of Jesus other than his own limited image. He espoused a brilliant theology of his own conjectured images, and he would accept no gospel other than his own, not that of the Twelve and Jesus' own brother, not even that of an Angel of God. This goes beyond vanity!
Of evidence, we have seen how he has taken credit for his own sense of mission by abandoning Ananias. He claimed that the founding of certain congregations were his own when Barnabas, Peter, and others had actually started them. He wrote to congregations long established, that he had never even visited, as though he were their master.
He was quick to rid himself of those who dared question his teachings and his 'authority' such as Ananias, John Mark and Barnabas. And he moved with great dexterity to reaffirm his unquestioned authority when Timothy, Titus, Cephas, and Apollos became more popular with certain congregations where they had preached, than he had been.
We have his own words to confirm these charges. He was challenged more than twice by his own congregations, by the Apostles, and by the elders of the Jerusalem Church. The charges that were made against him by the so-called, Judiazers, are confirmed by Paul's own words. He taught others to abandon the Law, and he acted in contrary fashion to them himself, and to his purported calling as , Nazarite.
He manufactured a sacrament based on the blood offering of a human sacrifice, and openly induced others to use it in direct defiance of his agreement with the mother Church concerning Gentile admission into the faith.
And last, we must consider once again that at no time did Paul have witnesses to his 'spiritual' encounters and visions. On the other hand, Jesus had witnesses at every encounter.
At the baptism, John was present along with the two or three witnesses necessary at every baptism. When Jesus went up onto the mount and spoke with the great prophets, he was not alone. He took Peter, James, and John with him that there might be witnesses to the transfiguration. Nothing that he did was done in secret or alone.
So wherein did Paul's trouble lie? The name of the person, or persons, who challenged him this time, is not known. There is much conjecture, but theologians refuse to indict the Apostles because to commit to one or another would mean denying the authority of Jesus' disciples, or turning on their own prodigy, Paul.
The Interpreter's Bible, speaks of those who came to, 'deliberately' undermine Paul's work, but they refuse to comment on who these individuals were. The reference is listed anyway, to provide others with opposing comments. In all probability, they were from the Disciples and the Elders of the Jerusalem Church. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 266)
Realistically, it was discovered by the Twelve and the Jerusalem elders that Paul had lied to them concerning his teachings about the Law, they had to take action. He had profaned the rite of purification! Missionaries or preachers would have been sent out to replace Paul and to rectify the damage he had done in preaching 'his own gospel', and for his heretical acts.
As a result, Timothy was scorned by the congregation, probably because Paul had been indicted as a false teacher, along with other wrongdoing. But this man was not about to give up, and as was the custom with him, instead of going to Corinth himself he sent his 'agents', namely Titus, to handle this dangerous business.
But consider this, for Paul is about to reveal himself point blank. If Timothy had been rejected, it is hard to conceive of Titus going to that rebellious congregation by himself. It is more than likely that others went with him, but no such assemblage has been mentioned yet. It is necessary for us to look ahead for the true story, and Paul betrays himself once more by his own words.
"I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by guile. Did I take advantage of you through any of those I sent to you? I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him..." (II Corinthians 12:16-18; RSV)
So, Titus did not go alone, and who was this, 'brother'? He goes unnamed, a shadowy, mysterious figure. But this is not the end of the matter, for as we shall see, Titus did not go with two, but with several. Not alone, but with a group of Paul's trusted inner circle.
We must be concerned by the intense manner in which Paul was challenged. The congregation was quite vocal in their dissent, and yet, without explanation, without knowing how Titus, and 'the brother', subdued their anger, they suddenly turn and accept Paul and his entire message.
This student must assume that though human nature is fickle and ever vacillating, force of some type, threats of violence, had to have been used. Paul had grown strong, powerful beyond anyone's understanding and he demanded, contrary to his 'Christ-like' teachings, that, "...they punish the open rebel who was leading the opposition." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 266)
There was no forgiveness in Paul, he wanted his revenge, and he wanted those at fault punished.
The Corinthians could not control those from outside the congregation. The Interpreter's Bible, agrees with this. Paul certainly could do nothing from where he was, so in outrageous anger, he demands that the leader of the Corinthian congregation be punished. Paul would have his pound of flesh. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 266)
So malevolent was this man that when he could not punish those directly responsible, he made a scapegoat of the most available personage. In this case, it was the leader of the congregation. With these things noted, and proven, we move into the body of the letter itself.
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God..." (II Corinthians 1:1; RSV)
We have touched this subject before, but the interpreter's have chosen to make an open statement concerning the name, "Jesus Christ." It is necessary to have other comment on this subject.
The word Christ (Christos) is a title, an adjective, meaning, as did "Messiah" in Hebrew, "anointed one." It was a title for Jesus; he was 'the anointed one' of God, promised as the people's redeemer. But Paul changed this and used it as a proper name. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 277)
Once again Paul lays claim to a God given commission, in a manner which no one can argue with, without witness or proof. Theologians tell us the truth of this matter even though they honor Paul. It lies in the fact that the specific title, as we have noted before, has been 'generalized' by Paul himself.
"Paul is careful to say that his apostolic status was conferred by the will of God." (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 968: 846a)
But even, The Interpreter's Bible's, scholars would seem to decline the commission, stating, "...and finally in later times was limited to the twelve (Matt. 10:12)..." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 276)
Paul instantly shifts into a confounding game of words which ply between suffering and comfort, comfort and suffering. Once bewildered by this barrage Paul goes on in what must appear to be a babble of words that in the end have no apparent meaning to his purpose. And what is Paul's purpose?
He speaks of his plans to visit them, plans gone astray, and then describes the unfinished visitation as his own resolve. He explains that he decided not to visit them. As Paul says, "...it was to spare you that I refrained from coming to Corinth...For I made up my mind not to pay you another painful visit." (II Corinthians 1:23-2:1; RSV)
"But had he proved fickle in altering his plans? Not 'fickle' in a worldly sense, which means answering 'Yes' and 'No' in the same breath." (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 968: 846c)
Paul finally gets to the meat of his 'purpose,' for having demanded the punishment of the congregation's leader because of the rebellion, he finds that the congregation has followed his orders and he says that, "...this punishment by the majority is enough." (II Corinthians 2:6; RSV)
Why has Paul sought his 'pound of flesh', and then recanted only after the punishment has been inflicted, possibly gone too far? His reason is hideous, ridden with a sense of his own personal power.
"For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything." (II Corinthians 2:9; RSV)
The King James is even more explicit in its wording, and may well ring with a louder bell than the RSV.
"For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye are obedient in all things."
Obedient to whom, to God? No, obedient to Paul!
Something out of the ordinary had to have happened for these people to be turned in their moment of rebellion against a tyrant, to turn on a prominent member of their own congregation. Why should he have been punished? Had he failed Paul in allowing the dissension to take place? Unfortunately, we will never know, for these things Paul kept secret in his own heart.
Paul demands punishment, Paul tests the congregation. Paul demands their obedience, in fact, he insists on it. Obedience to God, to Christ? No, in this case, to himself, to know 'whether they are obedient in all things!'
Interpreter's believe that Paul had to make an example of the cause of the rebellion. Was the leader of the rebellion the leader of the congregation? We are not told that he was. (The Interpreters Bible; Volume 10: Page 296)
The entire matters reeks of a malicious spirit. The next statement Paul makes is heavy with ego, as though a Christ-like figure were speaking. It leaves a bad taste in ones mouth, for he sounds almost as though he had nothing to forgive, even though, for a moment, he was afraid that he might have gone too far.
"Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake..." (II Corinthians 2:10; RSV)
Paul really doesn't believe he has done anything wrong, and he even speaks as if he had anything to forgive. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 296)
And then Paul makes a declaration for the ages, one I am afraid that we have all come to regret.
"...to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs." (II Corinthians 2:11; RSV)
If Paul and the church are so aware of the Evil Ones 'designs,' how is it that we find our world plunged into darkness following a tangle of traditions, doctrine, and erroneous information? If Paul was so aware of Satan's 'designs,' how is it that the 'church' has become a faltering institution, with a two thousand year past as dark and unscrupulous as any we find in history?
Paul had an opportunity to evangelize openly in Tro'as, but he was so concerned with the situation in Corinth, and anxious to get some news from Titus concerning his 'position' with that congregation, that he left. Paul himself states that, "...a door was opened for me in the Lord." (II Corinthians 2:12; RSV) (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 298)
But Paul decides that his own personal business is more important. Perhaps God was testing Paul to see if he was 'obedient in all things.' And once again, claiming a 'commission' from God, Paul derides the Law once more, proving that the claims made against him in Jerusalem were true.
"... our sufficiency is from God, who has qualified us to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life." (II Corinthians 3:5-6; RSV)
The written code is the Law of Moses. Paul states that it kills.
The New Covenant, is another invention of Paul's Hellenistic philosophy. He places Jesus at its head and claims that in it, Jesus rebuked God's written law. It is doctrine in the Christian religion.
But what did Jesus say? "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself it cannot stand." (Mark 3:4) And I tell you in like manner, How can Jesus cast out God? If a kingdom is divided against itself, it cannot stand.
This student has made a claim that Paul misused, misquoted, God's Holy Scriptures, to suit his own purposes. Some proof text has been brought into evidence, but now we must conclude with a stronger argument and the opinion of theologians.
"Now if the dispensation of death, carved in letters of stone, came with such splendor that the Israelites could not look at Moses' face because of its brightness, fading as this was.... Indeed, in this case, what once had splendor has come to have no splendor at all... Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of the fading splendor." (II Corinthians 3:7-13; RSV)
The least of all students knows that Paul has misused God's Holy Scripture here. This is not what the story in Exodus relates to us, nor is the meaning that Paul gives to it the truth. Moses' face was lit with a light that came from speaking with God! The 'dispensation of death' Paul speaks of is the, Ten Commandments, and he dares to say that it is fading, that God's work is temporary and incomplete? Those are his words, it must be his intent.
By, The Law, Paul means not only the ceremonial functions, but the entire legal canon established by the Pentateuch and embodied in Judaism. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 307)
Whether we agree with Paul, or not, the fact is that he put down the Law of God, and that premise is also understood by Christian scholars.
"When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been speaking with God. And when Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him...And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out..." (Exodus 34: 29-35; RSV)
Exodus 34:29-35, tells us that the face of Moses shone when he came down from Mount Sinai. In order not to frighten the people, he put a veil on his face. This brightness soon faded. Paul sees this as a sign that although the old covenant was God's, it has now been, "...superseded by the greater and permanent order of the new covenant..."
Paul purposely vilified God's Word, it is in black and white. And in the 'New Covenant,' an invention of Paul's mind, he implies that God's work is transient and insubstantial. Then he has the audacity to write, "We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word..." (II Corinthians 4:2; RSV) which he has just done!
No one is so innocent, no one is so blind that they cannot see this deception, yet Paul is ready for that argument too. If his gospel seems wrong, an aberration of his own mind, then it is because "...it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers..." (II Corinthians 4:4; RSV)
Paul's opinion, stated in an argument that cannot be reasoned or disproved.
Of course, that is the answer. If we do not believe Paul, then we have been blinded by the god of this world. If we dare to contend with him, to discourse with him about his message, then we are to be thrown to the evil one for the destruction of our bodies.
In God's name, was there no one to object to this chicanery? Was there no one to object to his lies, to challenge the evil of such a man? These devices are maniacal.
Even more depressing is Paul's obsession with death, it underlies everything he preaches, and for his gospel Jesus must be dead, that human sacrifice must be made so that we may receive our justification through a ritual of sacramental blood. (II Corinthians 4:10-12; 5:14-15; RSV..."always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.")
And if it has not been mentioned before, this is the hope and desire of the pagan religions that surrounded Paul and his world. To realize and share in the death of their god, will bring them their share of his immortality when that god has risen.
Now it is Paul who has written on "faith without works" being sufficient to justify us. Our faith is sufficient for us to be redeemed, so if good works do not serve for our salvation, by the same argument, bad works can not serve to condemn us! You cannot have one without the other in a dualistic plane of existence, yet Paul contradicts himself.
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body." (II Corinthians 5:10; RSV)
In explanation, the theologians have no choice but to be explicit.
"At that time each one will receive a judgment based on and in accordance with what he has done in the body." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 332)
It is no wonder that the entire Corinthian congregation rebelled. This student is amazed that the others did not stand shaking their heads in confusion at the morbid hypocrisy and discrepancies that came from Paul. Earlier, Paul said that Jesus was born like any other man, therefore he came into the world in sin, subject to the Law.
One thing is certain, Paul had no concept of the virgin birth nor would he have accepted the tradition. The Immaculate Conception would have been heresy to one steeped in his own religious theories, especially where a woman was concerned.
Paul had no knowledge of the historical birth and life of Jesus, but is forced to postulate concerning his appearance in the world. It is no wonder that the disciples, who knew the living Christ and his family, his brothers and sisters, and his mother, Mary, were intent on stopping Paul's outrageous teachings.
"God 'sent forth his Son', a man born like other men, and, being a Jew, subject to the law (cf. Phil. 2:6,7)." (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 977: 853h; Ref: Galatians 4:4)
But now, Paul says, "For our sake he made him to sin who knew no sin..." (II Corinthians 5:21; RSV)
Paul's theology is so complex that even he is constantly tripped up by it, yet the church today has accepted it right down to the last exclamation mark. Of all that is practiced as sacrament in the church today, of the dogma that dictates to our religious practices, all of it comes from the mind of Saul of Tarsus. On these vacillating theories we dare to set the foundation of our faith and to justify the horrors that it has caused to be committed through the centuries.
Paul goes on to convince the Corinthians to refrain from existing with unbelievers, to be separate from them, not to associate with them. There is obviously to be no outreach from within the congregation to those outside. Is this Paul's task alone, and that of his 'select' organization? This is not stated, but how could they possibly witness to unbelievers if they are restrained from having anything to do with them?
It would have been a different story if Paul had acted on Jesus' instructions to, "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel..." (Matthew 10:5-6; RSV)
Jesus never relaxed his command concerning the Gentiles. But once this had been accomplished by Paul, he tells the congregation not to deal with unbelievers (do what I say, not what I do). His 'apostleship' has grown so powerful that he completely disregards Jesus' instructions, and in the same breath denies Jesus' command to, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations." which the church today constantly mouths as its prime duty. (Matthew 28:19)
In trying to persuade these people to do his bidding, Paul uses the Old Testament again, but this time he combines six separate sets of verses, which are unrelated, as though they were one. And they were delivered to the Jews originally and not to any Christian group, nor did they ever have any such sect in mind. Once again, Paul uses God's Word to his own purpose.
II Corinthians 6:16-18, are made up of, Leviticus 26:11-12; Ezekial 37:27; Isaiah 52:11 and Ezekekial 20:34. Verse 18; is a combination of, II Samuel 7:8, 14; and Isaiah43:6. See: (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 354)
At this point, Paul again denies that he has done anything dishonest. To illustrate this we must inject remarks between scripture references and they will be in italics to avoid confusion.
"We have wronged no one..." The Congregational leader though he had not been one of the dissenters? The abasement of Peter in public? John Mark? Ananias? Barnabas in taking credit for his work? And women in general, to note just a few examples. Those he left behind on several occasions when he had started trouble, and then left them to face the music for outrages he had committed. (II Corinthians 7:2; RSV)
"We have corrupted no one..." Those who were taught by Paul to ignore the Law of God on the basis of his teachings and his actions! Those he led into worshiping on the basis of a theology, conceived in his own mind, that made the Lord God secondary and the offering of a human sacrifice, primary.
"We have taken advantage of no one." He constantly threatened in his letters to send his emissaries to see that 'they were obedient,' and on many occasions did send his select staff to check on their conduct, and to oversee their activities. He sent Titus, and later admits that a mysterious 'brother' went with him, to silence the Corinthians. It reeks of the use of intimidation and fear. (II Corinthians 2:11; RSV)
As if it were not enough for us to make these few points, Paul opens the door wide enough to prove that our suspicions are correct.
"...so our boasting before Titus has proved true. And his heart goes out all the more to you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, and the fear and trembling with which you received him." (II Corinthians 7:14-15; RSV)
Do the hammer blows fall on deaf ears? "the obedience of you all", "the fear and trembling..." And Paul's modern day supporters reckon this reaction as, "they received him with a fear that was due to a guilty conscience." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 362-363)
From what has already been disclosed, with the evidence we have in hand so far, this student would not infer that their consciences were guilty, but that they were bullied by Titus and his associates into submitting before the strength of Paul's threats.
Now the fact that Paul has been victorious over this congregation, enables him to bring us the offering of the Macedonian church as an example as to what is expected of the Corinthians. No ifs-ands-or-buts.
"Now as you excel in everything-in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in your love for us-see that you exceed in this gracious work also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine." (II Corinthians 8:7-8; RSV)
Paul has control, Paul is obviously mistrusting and vengeful. Having threatened the Corinthians, Paul uses another congregation as a slap in the face, and then says it is not a command? Yet they are to prove their loyalty and love? If they are Christ's, they need prove nothing to Paul. The more Paul writes, the more his church appears to be a series of cults in captivity. But you must decide for yourselves.
Paul uses the Church in Macedonia at Thessalonica, Philippi and Beroea, as an example.. These congregations were in abject poverty, yet they gave generously from what they did not have. It was Titus' job to make sure that the congregation at Corinth contributed in the same manner. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 971: 847k)
Giving to the plenty out of nothing, joyfully? If one were to read between the lines, it might sound as though Paul bankrupted the church at Macedonia of what little it had. And if he sent Titus, with 'a friend' or friends as it turns out, we are given a bit more light into the truth of this also.
And then, at last, Paul writes the truth for all to see. Titus is to go, and that with him, "...we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel, and not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us... As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker in your service; and as for our brethren, they are messengers (apostles) of the churches, the glory of Christ. So give proof, before the churches, of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.." (II Corinthians 8:16-23; RSV)
Titus is tactfully mentioned. But he is not alone, "...two others are going with him, both unnamed in the present text (but were their names erased at some early stage?)." (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 972: 847m)
Not one, not two, but several assistants are to accompany him on this journey. Brethren, plus the brother, plus, Titus means 'several'. The plot thickens, for the names remain unknown to this day, but why the secrecy? Would they have been indicted at a later date due to their activities within the body of the church?
For now, this student cannot but take these words as a threat, and it is impossible to know what fear and trepidation the Corinthian people must have felt. Paul's strong arm had also grown very long. What may seem as innocent bantering concerning this enormous collection of money from the several congregations, also bears close scrutiny. Paul's continuing suspicion and 'threats' concerning this congregation goes on. He speaks of their earlier enthusiasm having been announced to other congregations, and then the hammer falls.
"...and your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending the brethren so that our boasting about you may not prove vain in this case, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be; lest if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we be humiliated.... So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren to go on to you before me, and arrange in advance for this gift you have promised, so that it may be ready not as an exaction but as a willing gift." (II Corinthians 9:2-5; RSV)
What Paul sent, was a gang. This student does not need an interpreter, a theologian, or an attorney, to point out extortion when it is thrown up in his face!
To extort: to wrench out; to twist; to obtain from a person by force or undue or illegal power or ingenuity.
Extortion: The act or practice of extorting esp. money or other property; the offense committed by an official engaging in such practice. (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary; G. & C. Merriam Company: Page 406 )
God may love a cheerful giver, as Paul ministers the word, but somehow the meaning is lost on this unhappy congregation. They have been 'strong-armed', 'muscled', into obedience, humiliated, and threatened, but now they are to be cheerful givers? This student believes that the biblical account of Paul's rise to power leaves much to be desired, especially since all we have is his own word. Fortunately, he talked (wrote) too much.
"Under the test of this service, you will glorify God by your obedience in acknowledging the gospel of Christ..." (II Corinthians 9:13; RSV)
This line attests to the fact that Paul would not be overruled or disobeyed. Unwittingly, he also sets up the means of the medieval church to commit every atrocity of which it has been found guilty.
As the remainder of his writing shows us, Paul uses his mastery of words to conciliate the Corinthians, and ends by using open threats.
"...I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold to you when I am away! I beg you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of acting in worldly fashion... We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience..." (II Corinthians 10:1-6; RSV)
This student, a layman at law, would dearly love to prosecute this case. Even though Paul attempts to use 'wordy' confusion to cover his actual intent, his ego is such that he must boast of his use of authority and power. He thereby exposes the guilt of his actions..
A church, even in Paul's day was joined at one's own will, it was not compulsive, nor need it be permanent. But Paul, once again, must protect his authority and to hold sway over this congregation as he has others.
"For if some one comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough. I think that I am not in the least inferior to these superlative apostles." (II Corinthians 11:4-5; RSV)
There is no question that Paul is talking about the, Disciples! He is still fighting to maintain his self-appointed 'commission' of apostle, and we can in no way deter from the position that those he is comparing himself to are, The Twelve. He speaks against a gospel they might preach, he speaks against the Spirit that they might give, and they teach a Jesus that they beheld in life, worked with, cried with, slaved with, and knew joy with. Paul would deny all that.
But then Paul admits that one of the accusations made against him is true!
"Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not in knowledge..." (II Corinthians 11:6; RSV)
One by one, every charge made against him is proven by his own words!
Since the next lines of his letter have to do with 'false apostles', and we have no idea who he might be referring to, little comment is better than much. We would hope that he is not speaking of the Twelve, as he contends that they are, "...false prophets, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ." (II Corinthians 11:13; RSV) (Well, of course he is speaking of the Disciples.)
However, we may inquire as to where Paul got the knowledge for his next statement! Where in the Bible is this statement verified? It would appear that as he does quite often, Paul makes use of scripture that is not there.
"And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." (II Corinthians 11:14; RSV)
Was Paul also ignorant of Lucifer's creation? Was he ignorant of that one's authority and power? And he studied at the feet of Gameleil? (Ezekial 28:1-8; Isaiah 14:12-15)
And if Paul is not self-centered, an egomaniac, then what he writes in the next of his letter is a lie! Even though he uses the guise of writing as a fool, for the congregations benefit, what he says he is deadly serious about.
"Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one... with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death." (II Corinthians 11:22-23; RSV)
All this is said in 'foolishness', 'talking like a mad man,' yet he means every word of it, and his other letters prove it, for he has made the same claims before. He is absolute in his own sacrifice and how much greater it is than those of Jesus' Disciples. And no matter what he speaks of, or how he speaks about his trials and tribulations, it is always in the first person. Even when his speech is as Allegory, "...I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago... whether in the body or out of... this man was caught up into Paradise..." (II Corinthians 12:2-3; RSV)
And he considers his 'thorn in the flesh' a, "...messenger of Satan." (II Corinthians 12;7; RSV)
Where is the vision at Damascus? Where is the healing of Ananias? Where is this work of God in him? Now it is Satan. Paul says too much about his eyes for us to assume anything else was his problem, but why from Satan? He claims that his sight was taken because of the vision, and was healed after the 'vision.' It is obvious that he was not! So it would not have been of Satan, unless the vision was of Satan. Having made no explanation for this failing before, Paul now gives us an excuse as to why he was not healed, when he said he had been.
"Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (II Corinthians 12:8-9; RSV)
Then how is it of Satan? It will have to do because that is all he will give us. It is as good as anything else he might have said, except years ago when he should have admitted that he had not been healed. But immediately, he is back attacking the Disciples again.
"For I am not at all inferior to these superlative apostles, even though I am nothing. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you in all patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works." (II Corinthians 12:11-12; RSV)
This is the first time that we have heard anything about exorcisms, healings, miraculous feedings, or the raising of the dead, in Paul's ministry. It is the first indication that a power over the natural world, i.e., storms, water, had been exhibited in Paul's ministry. Where are they exclaimed in his letters? Certainly these were the powers that the Twelve exhibited after being given the Spirit by the living Christ, and at Pentecost.
"And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity." (Matthew 10:1; RSV) (Acts 2:5-13; 38)
In ending his letter, Paul could have healed many wounds by kind words and soothing promises, but this was not the nature of the man. Instead, he begins, not by denying the allegations against him, but by laughing at this congregation. In effect he is saying, 'Hey, you may know it, but you can't prove it. And if you can prove it, there is nothing you can do about it.''
"This is the third time I am coming to you. Any charge must be sustained by the evidence of two or three witnesses. I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them- since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me." (II Corinthians 13;1-3; RSV)
Actually he says that Christ is speaking, 'through him,' which is what this student understands from this statement. More important, it is part of a threat, a threat that comes very close to suggesting an act of violent when face to face with them.
"I write this while I am away from you, in order that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority which the Lord has given me..." (II Corinthians 13:10; RSV)
As for the conclusion of this letter, we allow Jesus to speak for himself.
"He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matthew 23:11-12; RSV)
"If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all." (Mark 9:35; RSV)
"... for he who is least among you all is the one who is great." (Luke 9: 48; RSV)