Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: You will remember from our study last week that Paul
spoke (2 Corinthians 10:3-4) about waging war with divine weapons
instead of the weapons of the world. This week we find Paul
defending himself from attack and giving the Corinthians advice on
how to remain true to God.  Let's dive in and see what we can
learn!

I. THE BRIDE'S AGENT

     A. Read 2 Corinthians 11:1-5. Have you ever heard an elderly
     person say, "Please put up with my foolishness?"  What was
     generally the topic? (Talking about the "old days" or showing
     devotion towards you.)

          1. Paul says please put up with my foolishness. What
          foolishness is he talking about? Is it defending himself
          and bragging about himself? (See 2 Corinthians 11:5)

          2. Do you recall last week that Paul told the Corinthians
          (2 Corinthians 10:12) to beware of those who commended
          themselves and who compared themselves with themselves?

          3. Is Paul doing exactly what he told them was wrong?  Is
          that why he calls this "a little of my foolishness" --
          that he is doing exactly what he told them was wrong with
          his opponents? (Some commentators think so, but I think
          he is primarily referring to his "jealousy" as his
          "foolishness.")

     B. Let's see if we can work this out. Let me read v.2 again.
     What kind of mental picture does Paul paint in verse 2? What
     kind of story comes to mind? (A wedding.)

          1. Is Paul the groom?

          2. What is he? (He looks like the agent of the bride.
          Barclay, in his "The Letters to the Corinthians," page
          246 (Westminster Press, rev. ed.), reports that in a
          Jewish wedding two people called "the friends of the
          bridegroom" would act as the representative of the bride
          and the representative of the groom. Their chief duty was
          to guarantee the chastity of the bride.  This seems to be
          the role Paul is playing here.)

               a. Would it be reasonable for the "friend of the
               bridegroom" to be jealous in the context I just
               described?

                    (1) Why? How?

                    (2) What interest does he have here? (If the
                    bride's agent says "I have this wonderful
                    bride who is pure and will marry you," then
                    the agent's reputation is at stake.  If the
                    agent is close to the groom, then it becomes
                    even more important that the wedding take
                    place and the bride remain pure.)

     C. In verse 3 Paul paints another mental picture. What is
     that? (The temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden.)

          1. What elements of that temptation apply here?  In what
          way is it similar to the situation at Corinth? (Eve was
          not married to God, but God often refers to His people as
          His "bride." (Revelation 19:7; Isaiah 62:5)  Satan's
          effort in Eden was to alienate the loyalty and affection
          of Eve towards God.)

               a. What if you had promised God that you would
               "watch over" Eve and make sure she did not get into
               trouble.  If you tried to convince her not to talk
               to Satan, could that reasonably be called "godly
               jealousy?" (See 2 Cor. 11:2)

          2. Do you remember Satan's approach towards Eve in Eden?
          (Genesis 3:1-6)  What parallels do you see with the
          people who are trying to alienate the Corinthians?
          (Satan's approach was an appeal to the pride of Eve (Gen.
          3:5 -- "you will be like God"). Remember last week Paul
          complained that these opponents used the "weapons of the
          world?"  We decided in our discussion last week that
          those weapons include pride, arrogance, power, beauty,
          wealth: all superficial measures of importance.)

II. NEW DOCTRINES

     A. What does Paul suggest in verse 4 to the Corinthians (and
     us) is the only safe course for us to take? (Avoid those who
     preach a new Jesus, new Spirit or new gospel.)

          1. Is it a criticism that the Corinthians "put up [with
          the new doctrines] easily enough?

          2. What should be our approach to "new doctrine?"

               a. Should we listen to it?

               b. Should we avoid it?

               c. If new doctrines are "off-limits," would these
               Corinthians ever have been converted by Paul? How
               about you? How did you become a Christian?  A
               member of the church? Did you listen to "new
               doctrine?"

                    (1) Is the key to this found in the phrase "you
                    put up with it easily enough?" Should we
                    resist new doctrine? (The NIV seems to tone
                    down Paul's phrase. It seems this phrase could
                    also be translated in part "sustain
                    beautifully." The NAS translates this "bear
                    this beautifully." It appears that the
                    Corinthians are not just "putting up with" the
                    new doctrines, they are "sustaining them
                    beautifully!" This is not exactly what you
                    want the "faithful" to be doing with false
                    doctrine!)

     B. Let's read on by re-reading verse 5 and then verse 6.
     Remember we debated whether Paul was being sarcastic when he
     quoted those who "put down" or denigrated his speaking
     ability?  What do you think now?  Was he really not that good
     a speaker? (Now I believe that he was not a terrific speaker.)

          1. What makes up for his lack of speaking ability? (His
          knowledge.)

          2. Surely the "super-apostles" must have knowledge too.
          Probably, they had more knowledge in the area of how to
          speak! What kind of knowledge is Paul talking about?
          (Paul clearly taught the Corinthians that Jesus appeared
          to him just like He did to the other apostles. (1
          Corinthians 9:1; 15:3-8) His "knowledge" is that he has
          seen Jesus.)

          3. In "testing" doctrine, is it important to judge the
          knowledge of the teacher? (Yes! A Christian has to say
          that the Bible forms the basis against which every
          teaching must be tested.  If every person who claims to
          have a message from God becomes the standard for our
          faith -- then we have no standard. Every teaching has to
          be tested against the Bible.  If it does not measure up,
          it should be rejected and not "sustained beautifully" in
          the church.)

III. JUDGING PAUL

     A. Read 2 Corinthians 11:7-9. It seems that Paul's opponents
     attack him for working for free for the Corinthians.  The only
     modern parallel I can think of is the charge of "dumping" made
     by the automotive industry and organized labor. For example,
     Chrysler charged that Toyota was "dumping" it mini-van in the
     United States; ie., charging the U.S. consumers less than it
     cost Toyota to build the mini-van.

          1. As a U.S. consumer, do you see this as a problem?

          2. How could this attack by Paul's opponents possibly
          help them or hurt him?  Paul is working for free, how
          terrible! Why would Paul think he should defend against
          this attack? (There are three possible reasons.  First,
          our lesson points out it was common to have "patrons,"
          wealthy individuals, who would "sponsor" you.  This
          linked the prestige of the wealthy person with the person
          being supported. Paul failed to attract the support of a
          patron, which may have been a basis to say his work was
          "second-rate." Second, is the "class-bias" issue.  Do you
          want your spiritual leaders to be "common," blue-collar
          workers (tentmakers)? Last, we do not always properly
          appreciate what we get for free. Sometimes we feel the
          need to pay.)

               a. Do you understand the logical basis for these
               attacks?

               b. Do you agree with them?

               c. What do you think about Paul's defense (v.8) that
               he "robbed other churches" to be able to help the
               Corinthians for free?

                    (1) What if he was "robbing" the Macedonia
                    church, a church which he earlier (2
                    Corinthians 8:1-2) admitted was suffering
                    "extreme trial" and "extreme poverty?" (This
                    is a sort of "reverse-snobbery" argument. A
                    patron did not support him out of his great
                    riches.  Instead, people who could barely
                    afford it supported him because they believed
                    in his work.)

     B. Let's skip a few verses now and read 2 Corinthians 11:12-
     15. Do you think Satan uses a "sinful" or "righteous" mask for
     most of his work?

          1. Why?

          2. It has always been my practice to assume that
          individuals who claim to work under the banner of Jesus,
          and who claim to advance His kingdom, are sincere
          Christians even if I do not agree with all of their
          theology or practices.  What do you think about my
          practice?  Should I change it based on these verses?

          3. My practice has been based on the conversation between
          Jesus and the Pharisees which is recorded in Matthew
          12:22-32. Jesus had healed a demon-possessed man and the
          Pharisees attributed this healing to the power of Satan.
          Jesus not only argued that it was illogical to believe
          that Satan would work against himself, Jesus also said
          that to attribute the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan
          (v.31 "blasphemy against the Spirit") was the
          unpardonable sin!

               a. Now do you agree with my practice?

               b. Am I understandably "gun-shy" in attacking those
               who claim to be fellow Christians?

               c. How do we reconcile Jesus' statements with Paul's
               statement to the Corinthians that Satan would
               logically appear as an "angel of light?"

 
     C. Read 2 Corinthians 11:21-33. What is your immediate
     reaction from my reading of this?

          1. Why do you think Paul recited all of this suffering?

          2. Does his recitation of the hardships that he has
          suffered prove that he is more of a servant of Christ
          than the "super-apostles?" (2 Corinthians 11:23)

               a. If so, why does he say that he is "out of his
               mind" to make this recitation? (A good parallel is
               the subject of faith vs. works in salvation.  If we
               focussed on our works, someone might wrongly be
               lead to believe that we earned salvation.  Paul
               does not think that "bragging" about his trials
               "earns" him a superior status.  However, as a
               practical matter, if someone has a long list of
               works we can be pretty sure that person's heart
               (faith) is in the right place.  So it is with Paul.
               From a practical point of view, we are forced to
               conclude that Paul had a real relationship with his
               Lord, otherwise he would never have gone through
               all of these hardships. However, none of these
               hardships "earned" him spiritual status.)

               b. As we look at our life, can we say that we have
               given up something or suffered something because of
               our relationship to Christ?

IV. NEXT WEEK: "Strength for Ministry:" study 2 Corinthians 12:1-
13:14! p;        b. As we look at our life, can we say that we have
               given up something or suffered something because of
               our relationship to Christ?

IV. NEXT WEEK: "Strength for Ministry:" study 2 Corinthians 12:1-
13:14!