2 Corinthians 11:23
“Are they ministers of Christ? —I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.”
Part of the reason for writing this letter, was Paul’s authority as an apostle was being challenged. When he came to Corinth, Paul chose not to receive a salary from the Corinthian church, instead he worked with his hands, and received support from the churches in Macedonia. He also chose not to use his great intellect or skills as an orator to persuade the people, but resolved to emphasize the simplicity of Christ, and relied upon the work of the Holy Spirit. As a result, after his departure, many ridiculed him and his teaching, calling his authority into question. Rather than responding to the criticism by referring to the seminary degree, the books he had written, or churches he started, Paul reminds them of the difficulties he faced in order to bring the Gospel to a lost world. This passage was admittedly difficult for the Apostle to write. He was not one who derived pleasure from boasting of his own accomplishments. As difficult as it may have been, I am glad he wrote it. For it reveals the hardships he was willing to endure for others to come to Christ.
“. . . In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.”
Notice the short list of Paul’s experiences: labors, stripes, prisons and death. In addition, he speaks in great length of perils and shipwrecks. To sum up, Paul was willing to endure great opposition in order to see others come to saving faith in Christ. Not every time Paul shared Christ was he met with beating, prison or threats of death. Albeit, even during those times, he was willing to invest the Gospel in the ears of others. He speaks of the difficulty of travel. The Jewish people were not known for being seafaring. In fact, it could be said of many, that they hated ocean travel. Paul was willing to set aside his fear of travel to bring Christ to others. He traveled to difficult places. He speaks of “peril”. This peril was due to the fact that not every road he took, or destination at which he arrived, was safe. Yet, he pressed on to bring Christ to a dying world.
Whether he faced threats, beatings or prison, Paul was willing to open His mouth to invite others to Christ. What are you willing to endure to see others come to Christ? Rather than living in the realm of theory, take a few moments to look back over the last few months and ask “What have I endured to invite others to Christ?” Perhaps today is the day to step out and take some risks for the Kingdom.
Questions for 2 Corinthians 11
1. In verse 2, Paul says that he has a godly “jealousy” for the Corinthians. This word means zeal, passion, or fervency. What is Paul’s ultimate desire for the Corinthians? Do you have anyone that you feel this way about?
2. The Corinthians had some false, puffed-up teachers among them. Paul wanted to protect them and so reminds them that the gospel is simple: God loves us; Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins, and sent his Spirit so that we could walk in newness of life. Are you clear on the simple truths of Christ? Make sure that these as you walk with God that these simple foundations are never replaced by seemingly “deeper” truths.
3. Read verses 5-12. Paul sought to preach the gospel free of charge to the Corinthians, being supported by other churches. He did this for three reasons, found in verses 9, 11, and 12. What were they?
4. Every one of the New Testament authors warned of false teachers. What do verses 13-15 teach us about false teachers? If this is the case, how can we keep from being deceived?
5. Paul loves to talk about and honor Jesus; he does not like to talk about himself. However, in order to point out the differences between himself and the false teachers that were preying upon the Corinthian church, he takes some time to “boast” about his resume’ of service to God through the rest of the chapter. James 3:13 states a principle concerning being a teacher in the church of God. Write this principle in your own words as you consider the following:
a. In verse 22 and 23, how is Paul equal to the false teachers? In what ways is he greater than them?
b. Read verses 24-27. Make a list of all the things that Paul went through for the sake of the gospel
c. Read verse 28. Besides all of the outward things that he went through, Paul crowns the list with the inward weight that he carries of concern for the churches. He loves the churches he has planted like they are his children. Is there anyone that you feel a responsibility for spiritually speaking?