Paul feels he has to boast
1None whatever — and yet bear with me a little my brethren. Endure a little foolish boasting on my part. 2-4The spirit of our profession is forbearance and gentleness. Then bear with me a little, as if I too were numbered amongst those of the world who approve themselves. Are you not only too ready to bear with it and to give ear and endure, when others recount their wonderful demonstrations and marks of apostleship, and listen to them even when it is another Jesus they preach, a different spirit which you are receiving, and not the same gospel that I gave you — do you not still bear with them, and even rather enjoy the catalogues they give you of their sufferings, and adventures, of their visions and revelations, all in proof of the doctrine they bring? Then listen also to me, bear also with me awhile, for I am jealous over you, moved towards you, as it were, with the divine jealousy. I betrothed you to one husband, presenting you to the Christ as unsullied and virgin in the faith, and now I fear lest the reasonings of the Serpent intervene and take captive your minds as they did Eve's, and adulterate your purity and your simple hold on the Christ. Let me then recommend myself awhile, 5and show myself not a whit behind even the most unmistakeable “apostle” of them all. 6Even though my speech be not remarkable, my knowledge is above question, and you all of you know all about me, I have kept nothing back.
The reason why he preached without pay
7But the very things which I did specially for your sake they wrest to their own point of view, and bring against me — that you never paid me a salary, never kept me out of your funds, 8-11that I preached the gospel in independence, as a free gift, that I humbled myself, and would not be paid anything for my services, but rather was helped by other churches in Asia, and laid no burden upon you? Was this sin in me? 12I did it, because they do the same, and because I knew that if I did differently, they would turn that against me. 13For these men are false apostles, their work is not honest, they transform themselves indeed into apostles of the Christ. 14But remember that Satan himself can appear as an angel of light, 15and his servants, be sure, will do the same; if they can remain hidden, they will be in the guise of servants of this new perfection. Beware of them, and listen to my defence. Not one of them can say that any of the grounds I have for your confidence and trust is false or untrue.
He boasts in self-defence
My boasting none can refute, no one in Achaia can gainsay it. 16-18Call me then foolish, if I boast, but hear me for once whilst I enumerate my own deeds in the apostleship and like them boast of my extreme spirituality and the privileges and powers conferred on me by God. I speak as a fool, and not according to the Lord. Yet hear me. 19Gentleness and forbearance, recollect, are a mark of your profession. 20And therefore you are gentle, you do not retaliate, when men make prisoners of you, when they make you feed and support them, when they take every advantage of you, and even are openly insolent and overbearing towards you. If they have done this, the dishonour is mine too, if I have been weak in my behaviour. But I will be “weak” no longer. If others boast, I will boast too. 21And if others are bold, then I will outface them, and override them, and meet them on their own ground — yet in all this not as a wise man, but as a fool. Yes, I allow it, as a fool, therefore imitate me not, but continue in your habitual forbearance towards the foolishness of the world, whilst I display my own error by grappling with these traitors on their own ground. 22Are they Israelites? So am I! Are they genuine Hebrews? So am I! Are they Abraham's true and chosen seed? So am I! And are they servants of the Christ? I too am his servant in a more abundant and unquestionable manner.
He boasts that his martyrdom exceeds theirs
23And as to those remarkable evidences they show of all the persecutions and cruelties they have endured according to the scriptures in the service of the suffering Messiah, I too bring forward the catalogue of my afflictions, and boldly claim a more excessive degree of martyrdom than they, more labours than they (I speak as a fool), more imprisonments, more blows, more hair-breadth escapes than they. 24Have I not been five times scourged by the Jews? That is more often than any of them. 25Have I not been thrice scourged by the Romans? Yes, and I have been stoned once, shipwrecked thrice, passed twenty-four hours in the open sea at the mercy of the waves. 26-28I have journeyed far afield, and the dangers I might enumerate would far out-distance the adventures they have suffered. In the field or the city, by land or by sea, by river or in the haunts of brigands I have run countless risks, and at the hands of my own nation, or amongst foreign nations and cities, at the hands of false brethren too and traitors, I have passed through grave trials. Oh I have been an apostle above measure! What signs of martyrdom and crucifixion that they produce can I not parallel from my own experience, and indeed outmatch and vanquish altogether — in watchings, hunger, thirst, fasting, cold and nakedness; not to mention this daily anxiety for all the churches. 29For where they are weak, I too become weak; and where traps and pitfalls, snares and stumbling-blocks are placed in their way, so unquestionably I myself, Paul, must burn with indignation and shame. 30Let me boast in that, let me cry myself up on the score of that weakness alone! 31Before God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed for evermore, I do not lie. 32-33At Damascus they let me down from the city wall in a basket when the Governor was clamouring for my arrest and capture, and so the tale of my adventures continues. I will boast if they boast. It seems that I must say something to my own credit, something to offset their own credentials, and magnify my own office and person as a spiritual leader.