Study Guide

Corinthians Arrogance

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Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness," and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile." (NRSV 1 Corinthians 3:18-20)

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. (KJV 1 Corinthians 3:18-20)

You think you're so smart, don't you? Well, Paul says, get down off your high horse, Mr. and Ms. Know-It-All, because God has got a shocker for you. It's the meek that are gonna inherit the earth. Surprise, surprise.

Who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift? Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Quite apart from us you have become kings! Indeed, I wish that you had become kings, so that we might be kings with you! (NRSV 1 Corinthians 4:7-8)

For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. (KJV 1 Corinthians 4:7-8)

Who knew there was sarcasm in the Bible? Apparently the Corinthians keep bragging about how awesome and holy they are. They have so many amazing gifts that they're like kings! *Cough* Not.

Indeed, I would rather die than [receive financial support from the congregation]—no one will deprive me of my ground for boasting! If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. (NRSV 1 Corinthians 9:15-17)

For it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. (KJV 1 Corinthians 9:15-17)

Paul could be taking a salary for his work for Christ, but then he'd be obligated to do it—and who wants to turn Jesus into a boring desk job? Instead, he gets to walk around bragging about how he serves God for free. Is this circular logic, or does Paul get a bye?

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of [the other apostles]—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (NRSV 1 Corinthians 15:10)

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (KJV 1 Corinthians 15:10)

Yup, Paul is the hardest working apostle out there… but also the most humble. He's careful to qualify his praise of himself. It wasn't his hard work; it was God working through him. Bragging about yourself is a no-no. But, bragging about God? Totally okay.

I often boast about you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with consolation; I am overjoyed in all our affliction. (NRSV 2 Corinthians 7:4)

Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation. (KJV 2 Corinthians 7:4)

Yet another thing it is okay to boast about—other Christians. Paul is rather the proud papa when it comes to his little flock in Corinth. Check out our "Symbols" section for more on Paul as a dad.

We do not boast beyond limits, that is, in the labors of others; but our hope is that, as your faith increases, our sphere of action among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may proclaim the good news in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in someone else's sphere of action. "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." For it is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends. (NRSV 2 Corinthians 10:15-18)

Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand. But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth. (KJV 2 Corinthians 10:15-18)

This one is a stab against the false apostles. They've been walking around in Corinth, claiming Paul's good work as their own. The horror! Of course, Paul and company would never do anything like this.

And what I do I will also continue to do, in order to deny an opportunity to those who want an opportunity to be recognized as our equals in what they boast about. For such boasters are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. (NRSV 2 Corinthians 11:12-13)

But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. (KJV 2 Corinthians 11:12-13)

The fact that the false apostles brag about themselves constantly is even more proof that they are not really following God. Check and mate. At least according to Paul.

I repeat, let no one think that I am a fool; but if you do, then accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. What I am saying in regard to this boastful confidence, I am saying not with the Lord's authority, but as a fool; since many boast according to human standards, I will also boast. For you gladly put up with fools, being wise yourselves! […] But whatever anyone dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. (NRSV 2 Corinthians 11:16-19, 21)

I say again, let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise […] Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. (KJV 2 Corinthians 11:16-19, 21)

Yes, Paul hates talking about himself more than anything, but he's been backed into a corner here. He has to defend his reputation from attacks by the false apostles. But he realizes that he's going against everything he's always said and making himself sound pretty stupid in the process. What do you think: is he just making up excuses or is he actually put in a situation where he needs to break out the arrogance?

Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman—I am a better one: with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. (NRSV 2 Corinthians 11:23)

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. (KJV 2 Corinthians 11:23)

Here's where the real bragging comes into play. These false apostles claim to have suffered for the gospel. Ha! Paul will see their suffering and raise them five beatings.

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they do not show good sense. (NRSV 2 Corinthians 10:12)

We dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. (KJV 2 Corinthians 10:12)

Again, the false apostles love to try to outdo each other (along with Paul). Apparently they think the guy with the most power wins? Paul sees things exactly the opposite way.

It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows—was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. (NRSV 2 Corinthians 12:1-5)

It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. (KJV 2 Corinthians 12:1-5)

Paul hates boasting so much that he has to talk about his own experience in third person. So, this "friend" saw a vision of Paradise, did he? Does your "friend" have anything else interesting to tell us?

I have been a fool! You forced me to it. Indeed you should have been the ones commending me, for I am not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. (NRSV 2 Corinthians 12:11)

I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. (KJV 2 Corinthians 12:11)

Talk about an emotional roller coaster. Paul is stupid! But, that's other people's fault! He's not inferior! But he's nothing! What exactly is going on here?

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