Paul snidely labels those who are opposing him in the Corinthian church as the “super-apostles” (11:5). Images of Clark Kent with a Bible come to mind. He tells us a good deal about these people in today’s reading.
- They have been able to sway some of the church away from true doctrine (11:3)
- They may have been teaching significantly different things about Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the gospel (11:4)
- They clearly were well-educated, much more than Paul, especially in the area of rhetoric (11:6)
- Given that much of this book is about the collection Paul is taking up for the Christians in Judea and that Paul repeatedly has to defend his financial decisions, the super-apostles were likely accusing Paul of using the Corinthians for money (11:7-9)
- They are so flawed as to actually be “false” prophets (11:13a)
- They transform themselves, chameleon-like, to look pious and orthodox (11:13b)
- Paul calls them servants of Satan, implying they are a threat to spiritual purity, not simply other Christians with views different from Paul’s (11:15)
- They are destined for Hell (11:15)
- They regularly boasted about themselves (11:18)
- They are enslaving, insulting, and exploiting the Corinthians (11:20)
- They may be Jewish (11:22)
- They have not sacrificed as much as Paul for the sake of the gospel (11:23-29)
So who are these people? When you put it all together it makes a lot of sense that these super-apostles were the same Judaizers who followed Paul throughout the eastern Mediterranean undoing his grace-oriented Christianity with a re-binding of law on Christians. Their air of superiority had much to do with their ethnicity and training in the law.
For Paul these differences are more than surface differences of preference and style. The super-apostles had eviscerated the very gospel and in so doing they were not to be tolerated at all.