Paul seems a little aggravated in this portion of his letter. He is trying to exhort the Corinthians once again about listening to false prophets and teachers. He is asking rhetorical questions about their authority and why they choose to listen to these strangers instead of him.
16 Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, so that I also may boast a little. 17 What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. 19 For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly. 20 For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face. 21 To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison. But in whatever respect anyone else is bold—I speak in foolishness—I am just as bold myself. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so;
I know I cut off verse 23, but there is a reason for it (which will be evident in the following post). While reading this, I was thinking of Paul’s explanation of becoming “everything to everyone” so that he could further the cause of the gospel even more; yet in this sense, he is using it sarcastically to prove his point. Why are we so eager to have our ears tickled? I read this and realize that I too fall into the trap of following or listening to someone who is merely a good speaker and uses it to gain more followers for themselves instead of teaching the truth. What happens when we allow this, though?
…anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face. We read this and scoff, as if we would be so foolish, yet we are! We read the latest book, watch the trending video, or even pay good money just to see someone stand up and speak…for what, to feel good about ourselves? Paul asks the Corinthians here what it is about people like this that suddenly qualifies them as authority in the word of God. It isn’t anything they possess, rather our own foolishness. We are so foolish in following whatever the wind blows by. I have the imagery of trying to catch a feather or leaf blowing in the wind. Would you chase it right off a cliff because you are so entranced and committed to catching it? For what ends are we chasing something (someone) so trivial and in an overall sense, worthless?
This is why it is so important for us to continue in our bibles. If you are reading a book supported by scripture, look up the verse and study its true meaning. If a teacher is throwing around one-liner bible verses just to build up the façade of their spiritual authority, look up the verse and study its true meaning. If you hear a song that sings of a supposed truth of God, look up the verse and study its true meaning. If I say something that seems incongruent with scriptures, look up the verse and study its true meaning. Everything else outside of the scriptures could be absolutely contrary to what they say because we are all human and nobody has yet to memorize and completely understand what the scriptures say.