In this chapter Paul continues to expose the false teachers in the churches who sought to lessen his influence and who were preaching another gospel. He calls them false apostles, deceitful workers and ministers of Satan. In denouncing these false apostles, he feels it necessary to defend his apostleship and his ministry among the Corinthians and to call their attention to his dedication to the gospel of Christ and his own sufferings in the service of Christ.
(Vs. 1.) Matthew Henry wrote, "As much against the grain as it is with a proud man to acknowledge his infirmities, so much is it against the grain with a humble man to speak in his own praise." What Paul here calls "my folly" is his effort to speak in his own defence and his own commendation. This is foolishness unless a man has a good reason. Paul knew that he had a good reason, which was to preserve these believers from being corrupted by false preachers who had crept in among them. He knew that he was the Lord's messenger to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15, 16), and he knew the tragic results if these men were successful in discrediting him, so he begs them to bear with him as he speaks of himself and the ministry God has given him.
(Vs. 2.) Jealousy is a feeling within a person which demands exclusive loyalty and resents a rival or competitor for the affections or attention. Paul's jealousy toward the Corinthians was not so much on his account nor with a selfish motive, for he called it a "Godly jealousy". He was instrumental in bringing them to Christ, to believe on him and to he joined with him in union as a husband and wife are one (Eph. 5:23-25). He desired to present them to Christ, and only to Christ, as a chaste virgin comes to her husband, single in their love to him, sincere and upright in their worship of him and faithful, not having their minds and hearts distracted in any way from him by these false teachers of law and self-righteousness (Gal. 6:12-14).
(Vs. 3.) This godly jealousy in Paul was a mixture of love and fear. He loved them, deeply desired their eternal good and feared lest they should be corrupted by these deceivers. Satan used the serpent to seduce Eve from her obedience to God (Gen. 3:1-6). He was crafty, skilful and deceptive, as are those men who do his bidding under the guise of righteousness (vs. 13-15). Believers are complete in Christ, who, of God, is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. Satan's one goal is to corrupt the mind and turn the heart away from this singleness or simplicity of Christ. It matters not to him if it be law, morality, tradition, ceremony, or whatever (good or bad), just so as there is a rival for Christ's pre-eminance and his sufficiency. Christ plus anything in redemption is not the gospel of God's glory and grace (Col. 2:9, 10) but is another gospel (Gal. 1:6, 7). The foundation of great Reformation was the Scriptures alone, grace alone and Christ alone. Nothing needs to, or should he added to these (Rom. 5:1, 2; 2 Cor. 5:21). In Christ believers are perfectly justified and righteous before the Father.
(Vs. 4.) Some interpret this to mean that "If some particular preacher comes to you preaching another Jesus, another spirit, or another gospel which is more for the glory of God and the comfort of believers than the Christ, the Spirit, and the gospel which Paul preached, you might well follow and honour him." I cannot imagine Paul even supposing such a ridiculous thing, since there is one Lord, one Spirit and one gospel. But Paul was troubled became he knew that these false apostles were preaching another Jesus, another spirit and another gospel, which was a mixture of works and grace and of law and faith, and he was greatly concerned lest the people hear these men and be persuaded by them to turn from the simplicity of Christ (1 Tim. 2:5; Eph. 4:4-6). How prone the flesh is to listen to the wrong voice and reject the true messenger? (John 5:43.)
(Vs. 5.) "You would do well to bear with me, for I am not one degree inferior to those who were apostles before me (2 Cor. 12:11), such as Peter, James and John." This he says in answer to those who questioned his apostleship, since he was not with the original twelve (Gal. 1:17; Rom. 11:13), and also to show how foolish the Corinthians were to prefer these false preachers before him.
(Vs. 6.) The apostle Paul was intelligent, highly educated, skilful and at home among kings or common people (Acts 22:3; 26:24). However, he did not in his public ministry use philosophy, human wisdom, flowery words and oratory, but spoke in the plain, popular style of the common people to whom he ministered (1 Cor. 2:1-5). Though I seem to some to be simple in my speech (2 Cor. 10:10), yet I am well taught in the knowledge of Christ and his Word" (Gal. 1:11, 12). Too often flowery words and sermons are used to cover a deficiency in the knowledge of Christ. Even our blessed Lord spoke to the people in parables, stories and illustrations which they understood in their heads, if not in their hearts. "God has been pleased to own my ministry among you," he declared, "and clearly reveal to you, by your own conversion and growth in grace, that he sent me, and my gospel is his gospel."
(Vs. 7, 8.) It seems that some in this church highly valued the false apostles, who compromised the gospel, flaunted themselves in pride and authority and made merchandise of the people, and they treated with contempt this true servant of Christ, who had freely and humbly preached the gospel to them. He asks, "Where did I offend you? Was it because I came to you in fear and trembling, without pride and arrogance, using a popular tongue suited to the common people, working with my own hands as a tent-maker, that I might not be a burden to you? Rather than being offended, you ought to be grateful. I took wages of other churches and accepted more than their share of my support to preach to you" (1 Cor. 9:13-15). What fools we are to judge things spiritual by outward appearance and claims of men! (2 Cor. 10:7, 18.)