(Vs. 9.) There are always those who are eager to charge the ministry or churches with covetousness, greed and "being in religion for what they can get out of it materially". When Paul ministered in Corinth for nearly two years, he deliberately took nothing from them in order to dispel any doubts concerning his one objective to preach the gospel for the glory of God and the salvation of sinners. He made tents for a living (Acts 18:1-3) and received help from the brethren in Macedonia. He had never been a burden to them and resolved never to be.
(Vs. 10-12.) Mature "believers are taught by the Spirit and the Word of God that those who study, preach and labour in the gospel are to live by the gospel and are to be supported comfortably by those to whom they minister (1 Cor. 9:11-14; Gal. 6:6). Paul was determined to take nothing from the Corinthians, but to labour at his own expense, as he did in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 2:5-9). He informed them of the reason for this conduct and the reason why he boasted openly of the fact that he preached without change to them. It was not because he did not love them, nor was unwilling to receive tokens of their love and friendship, but it was to avoid giving his enemies occasion to accuse him of preaching to enrich himself. This put the false apostles, whether rich or poor, on the spot. They claimed to be equal or superior to Paul, so, in the light of his willingness to be abased or to abound, to labour with his hands and to take nothing from men, let us see if they will work on the same terms that Paul worked - only for the glory of God and the eternal good of men.
(Vs. 13.) Unfortunately, there have always been and are now many "false apostles" (Matt. 7:15,16; 2 Peter 2:l-3; 1 John 4:1), who pretend to be sent of God, but are not. They are "deceitful workers", who not only lie about their call and serve themselves and not Christ, but they handle the Word of God deceitfully (2 Cor. 4:2). They never were apostles of Christ; they only pretend to be.
(Vs. 14.) This is no marvel nor strange thing; for Satan himself, in order to deceive men, appears as a messenger of light, truth and righteousness. Pretending friendship, he designs ruin; under a cloak of religion and morality, he promotes evil; under a show of partial truth, he introduces great error, idolatry and superstition. Too many people look for Satan only in bars, nightclubs and dens of open evil. This is more of his deception. He does his most effective work in the pulpit, in religion, promoting self-righteousness, tradition and substituting any hope other than Christ's righteousness and effectual sin-offering, which is the sinner's only hope (Heb. 10:14-18).
(Vs. 15.) Since Satan, in order to receive men, pretends to be what he is not, so those who are his ministers, who seek their own profit and not the glory of God or men's salvation, will pretend to be what they are not. They pretend to be ministers of righteousness, but if you examine carefully, you will find that the righteousness they preach is not the righteousness of Christ but the righteousness of law, human works and deeds of religion (Matt. 5:20; Rom. 3:19-23; 10:l-4). Their end will with their deeds, or their reward at last will be according to their works.
(Vs. 16, 17.) Referring back to what he said in verse 1, Paul expresses the hope that no man would think him to be unwise and guilty of foolishness in commending himself and his ministry to them and vindicating himself against the false apostles. If they did not think him to be a fool, then he asked them to bear with him in this folly; for he felt it necessary for the sake of the gospel and for the good of the church not to allow these insinuations against him to go unchallenged. He did not have a special command of God to defend or commend himself. God's servants are taught to be humble and to commit their ways unto the Lord, but Paul felt that the glory of God and the best interests of the church would be served by his speaking plainly about his credentials, even if some thought it to be foolish boasting.
(Vs. 18.) It is a fact that most men glory with respect to things external, such as their birth and families, their riches and possessions, their beauty and strength, or their education and influence. The apostle says, "I will gory also, not in these things, but in the grace of God in me and the power and gifts of God upon me" (Jer. 9:23,24; Phil. 3:4-9). Paul detested this sort of thing, for he kept saying, "I speak as a fool" (vs. 21, 23), but he felt it necessary to call attention to his integrity in the Word and put to silence these false preachers.
(Vs. 19, 20.) "Notwithstanding all of your so-called wisdom" (I Cor. 4:9, 10) (the Corinthians prided themselves on both their natural and spiritual wisdom), "you gladly bear with these false preachers, these proud boasters who bring you again under the bondage of the law and works, who exploit you, who take your money and possessions, who proudly exalt themselves over you and who belittle you like a slap in the face" (Gal. 2:4; 4:9). All of this was taken in good part by many so that they rejected Paul and came under the influence of these false preachers.
(Vs. 21.) Paul says, "I reply to the reproaches they bring against me, claiming that I am weak and contemptible, for indeed I am less than the least of all, the chief of sinners, but not in my doctrine or in the ministry I have among you, for where any man may be bold, I am bold! I speak foolishly as does anyone who speaks to his own praise, but I must tell you the truth that you may know God has sent me."