Join us as we study through 2 Corinthians verse by verse. Our discussion questions, teaching points, and applications can help you or your small group get the most out of this book as you grow in understanding and obedience.

2 Corinthians 11:1-15 Inductive Bible Study Guide With Questions – Beware Of the “Super-Apostles”

Outline:

I. Paul’s jealousy for the Corinthians (1-2)
II. False “super-apostles” attempted to deceive the Corinthians (3-6)
III. Paul’s sacrifices for the Corinthians (7-12)
IV. Satan and his servants are masters in deceit (13-15)

I. Paul’s jealousy for the Corinthians (1-2)

Discussion Questions

  • What “foolishness” did Paul find it necessary to engage in?
  • Why did he feel forced to keep establishing his credentials with the Corinthians?
  • When is jealousy the the right behavior?
  • Why did Paul feel jealous toward the Corinthians? And what action did this spark?

Cross-References

Exodus 34:14 – For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 4:24 – For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Exodus 20:5 – You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.

Teaching Points

1. Bear with me in a little foolishness – In the latter part of chapter 10, Paul talks about the folly of boasting and self-condemnation. As a general rule, commending oneself is not good. Most of the time people do this, they are motivated by pride.

But Paul believed it was necessary to establish his apostolic credentials for the sake of the credibility of the the gospel message he preached. So the “foolishness” he mentioned here was Paul’s self-condemnation. It did indeed seem foolish to draw attention to himself while at the same time condemning boasting.

We would do well to remember that the heart is most important. And Paul’s motives were pure.

2. Divine jealousy –

Reflect: Is jealousy good or bad? Why?

Like boasting, jealousy generally has a negative connotation. People are often jealous of the things others have, whether material goods, worldly success, or even their spouse.

James describes this jealousy.

James 3:14-15 – But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

Worldly jealousy is “bitter” and “selfish.” It often grows as a result of sinful comparing (2 Corinthians 10:12). James says that it is “demonic.” It causes people to lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery, and murder.

In short, sinful jealousy is wrongly desiring something that does not belong to you.

In contrast, there is a “divine” or “righteous” jealousy. This type of jealousy is justified. Many verses describe God Himself as jealous for His people. God is jealous when His people go to serve idols. He wants them to give Him their devotion. One reason is that when they do, it is best for them.

Take for example a married man. If his wife is unfaithful and he responds, “it doesn’t matter, I don’t care,” what will you think of this man? His apathetic and uncaring spirit is sin. A righteous man would desire for his wife to be faithful because that is healthy and honors God. So a man should be jealous when his wife inappropriately gives something of herself to others that should be only for the husband. And a wife should feel the same righteous jealousy toward her husband.

In a similar manner, Paul was jealous for the Corinthians. He desired that they would have a healthy relationship with God. But the false teachers had interjected themselves into the situation in order to steal away the Corinthians, effectively ripping them from their marriage to Christ.

Paul didn’t just say, “I don’t care.” He cared! It hurt him when he saw them turning from the Lord to the world. He was jealous! And that jealousy was motivated by a heart of love.

Application: Care! God wants us to have a zeal to see His people following after Him. When you care for people in the deep way that Paul did, it will motivate you to pray for them, share with them, encourage them, and even correct them when necessary.

II. False “super-apostles” attempted to deceive the Corinthians (3-6)

Discussion Questions

  • What concern did Paul have for the Corinthians?
  • What methods do enemies of Christ use to mislead His people?
  • How can believers protect themselves from deception?
  • How did the Corinthians react to the false teaching? How should they have reacted?
  • Who are the “super-apostles” Paul mentions? Why does he call them this?
  • What do we learn from verse 6 about what is really important to look for in a Bible teacher or pastor?
  • What kind of things do many focus on in regards to speakers?

Cross-References

Psalm 101:7 – No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes.

Romans 16:18 – For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

Ephesians 5:6 – Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

2 Timothy 3:13 – While evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Teaching Points

1. Paul was concerned that they would be deceived – Here again we see a glimpse of Paul’s heart. He was zealous to see them grow! But he was worried that deceivers would draw their thoughts astray.

2. Cunning deceptions – See the methods used by the enemy. He practices “cunning.” The attacks, temptations, and false teachings are well thought out. They are carefully designed to get past defenses and target weaknesses.

When a wise general takes his army to lay siege to a castle, he first performs reconnaissance. After studying the situation, he comes up with a battle plan. It might involved digging tunnels, decoys, a stealth attack, camouflage, or any number of other methods. Whatever method he uses, it is carefully designed to get past the enemy’s defenses.

Satan is cunning. His attacks are well-refined over millennia of trial, error, and adjustment.

Reflect: How can you build up better defenses to make sure that you aren’t swayed by deceptions?

3. Another Jesus, a different gospel… – Paul was disappointed that the Corinthians so “readily” accepted teachings which were so different than what they had heard.

Reflect: When you hear/read a teaching that seems a bit strange, what should you do?

Of course there is only one Jesus, one gospel, one truth. On the other hand, there are countless lies. Real currency is uniform, but there are vast numbers of different counterfeits. The closer you become acquainted with the truth, the easier it will be to see through deceptions.

Application: Believers should focus on studying the truth in God’s word rather than learning about every cult on the planet. Learning the Bible won’t happen in a day. It needs a lot of time and commitment. It is a long term process. Keep reading and studying. Over time, your defense system will grow stronger and stronger.

4. Super-apostles – Paul sarcastically refers to these false teachers as “super-apostles.” Indeed to hear them talk, you might think they were super-apostles. Skilled in the art of self-commendation, their high view of themselves was unparalleled.

But Paul saw through their lofty words. He was not “inferior” to them at all. Perhaps they were better at making smooth speeches (don’t false teachers always seem to be gifted speakers?). In the things that mattered, he was not less than them. He was a real apostle and they were fakes.

III. Paul’s sacrifices for the Corinthians (7-12)

Discussion Questions

  • What was Paul’s ministry model like toward the Corinthians?
  • Why did he emphasize that here?
  • How can a Christian worker discern when to accept money and when not to?
  • What principles may guide this decision?

Cross-References

Acts 18:1-3 – After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.

Philippians 4:19- And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Teaching Points

1. Paul’s ministry method toward the Corinthians – Here Paul again spends some time to defend himself against the attacks of the false teachers. He reminds the Corinthians that he preached the gospel to them “free of charge.” Clearly Paul did not accept financial support from the church at Corinth.

Instead he “robbed other churches…in order to serve” them. The words he uses here are very strong. In case there is any confusion, Paul did not actually steal the money! These churches gave willingly. The hyperbole helps him drive the point home in a way that they wouldn’t forget. Paul did take money from other churches which he used to support himself while preaching to the Corinthians. He did not want to “burden anyone.”

Reflect: Why did Paul do this and what can we learn from it?

Different people (and churches) are at different stages. The Corinthian church was immature as evidenced by their ease in readily succumbing to false teaching. Just as older brothers or sisters may make sacrifices to help their younger siblings along, so the more mature churches did for the Corinthian church.

Paul went above and beyond to keep an entirely clear conscience toward the Corinthians. There was absolutely nothing to support the attacks of the false teachers against him and he wanted to make that abundantly clear.

Application: One lesson for us is that believers are in different stages of their walks with God. And we need to be understanding of that. With more maturity, comes more responsibility. So treat other believers with this in mind.

IV. Satan and his servants are masters in deceit (13-15)

Discussion Questions

  • What is the mode of operation for false apostles?
  • What tactics do they use?
  • Why is deceit such an effective strategy?
  • What can you learn about Satan from this passage?
  • If Satan is the most evil being in the universe, then why does he appear as an angel of light?
  • Knowing that Satan is a master of deception, how can believers guard themselves?
  • How can you train yourself to be more discerning?
  • Share an example of a time when you were either deceived or almost deceived. What did you learn?
  • What will happen to Satan and his servants?

Cross-References

Ephesians 6:12 – For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 Peter 5:8 – Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

John 8:12 – Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Teaching Points

1. False apostles, deceitful workmen – Paul called these people what they were. A shepherd doesn’t look at a wolf in the flock and say, “Oh, look. There is a soft, furry creature exercising his muscles in the flock.” He says, “A wolf is eating a sheep!”

In some churches people are far too tolerant of false teaching.

Ezekiel 33:7 – Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.

The flock needs watchmen. We should be watchmen. Our eyes should be open and our minds should be discerning. If false teachers come in, then call them out.

2. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light – Satan doesn’t come into the church and announce himself, “I am Satan. Worship me now.” No one would listen. That method would not even work on most unbelievers. Even they would realize worshiping Satan is no good.

No, Satan’s methods are much more advanced than that. He is subtle, sneaky, cunning, and deceptive. Satan wants you to think that he has your best interests at heart. He wants you to think that his ideas are glorious and will set you free, bringing you true happiness.

So he adapts his attacks to different targets. When attacking the church, one of his favorite methods is camouflage. His servants will blend in, pretending to be servants of God. After gaining trust or opportunities, then they will spread their insidious teachings. These will sound good. They will be packaged with words like: tolerance, unity, freedom, happiness, etc. Big promises will be made. Basically he is the master salesmen. But he and his servants are peddling a lie. The “product” they have to offer is inferior.

Suggested Read: We are not peddlers of God’s word.

At the very first temptation, Satan tried to convince Eve that God was withholding something good from her. If she would only be bold enough to try it, she would find true contentment and become like God. It sounded nice. It was a lie! Satan came to her pretending to be light. And that is when his attacks are most effective.

Reflect: How can we make sure we see through this rouse and see Satan and his promises for what they are?

3. His servants disguise themselves as servants of righteousness – Like father, like son. Satan’s spiritual children (the false teachers) behave like he does. They pretend to be serving God, but are motivated by their own selfish desires (2 Peter 2:10-22).

2 Corinthians 11:15b – Their end will correspond to their deeds.

Such people will be judged. Now it is our duty to expose and oppose them.

Application: What can you do this weak to prepare yourself or others to stand firm against deception.

2 Corinthians 11:16-33

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