Friday, April 22, 2016

2 Corinthians 11:22-33

22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 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. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? 30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. 31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.

Vs. 22 "Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I." 

Apparently some of the false apostles, (likely taking note that all the Apostles of Christ had a Jewish pedigree) began using their own Jewish pedigrees to establish themselves over the Corinthians. Now the Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthians that just as these had a Jewish pedigree so did he. Yet neither the Apostle Paul, nor any of the Other Apostles called by Christ ever claimed these things as having any bearing on whether or not one was called as an Apostle of Christ or indeed granted an inheritance with God through Christ. Indeed the Apostle Paul in order to refute all such things as qualifying anyone, or revealing anything about anyone, completely renounced his own Jewish pedigree, along with all of his own good works and or righteousness through the Law, as having any effect on bringing him into salvation with God through the Lord Jesus Christ (see Philippians 3:2-11). Instead Paul stood firmly on the solid ground of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead as the only thing that first brought him into a personal and eternally redeemed relationship with God through Christ, and then by the Holy Spirit, Paul was chosen and equipped by Him for Christs service as an Apostle to the Gentiles (see Acts 9:1-25; 13:1-2; 26:1-23; Rom 11:13). None of which can be said to be true of any of the false apostles, prophets and teachers, then or now. And so whatever external things the Corinthians were looking at, and being captivated with about the the false apostles, they really needed to get a truly Godly perspective, and some holy discernment before they anymore received and submitted too such individuals based solely on what they were according to the flesh. For whatever anyone is according to flesh reveals nothing about what they are according to the Spirit, or if even they have the Spirit, and thus if they are a child of God, and just how they have been Spirit equipped by God for Christ's service. 

Vs. 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."

Seeing how the Corinthians received the false apostles based on their boasting in themselves in all their achievements, the Apostle Paul will also boast, but not in himself, nor even in his true Divine service and Holy Spirit power, but rather only in all that the Lord had brought him through. For in no way was the Apostle Paul a "self-made man" whose confidence and boast originated in himself and what he could do, or he himself had done. No, the Apostle Paul did not stand on his own strengths and abilities, rather Paul only stood by the awesome power of the Lord who continually and faithfully upheld him and delivered him from so many severe and extreme situations, circumstances, and people, that in no way could Paul or anyone else ever claim this as being anything but the Good hand of the Lord upon him, who was watching over him, so that He could work through him, His Will both for him, and the church, He was establishing and ministering too, through him. Therefore if the Corinthians judged the false apostles as being ministers of Christ, based solely on their pedigrees, or their boasting in their own achievements, and whatever else was known of them according to the flesh, how much more should they judge the Apostle Paul as a true minister of Christ, who not only first brought the Gospel to them, and through whom the Lord was ministering to them. But what was true of Paul when it came to his enduring hardships and tribulations and persecutions for the Gospels sake was not true of any of themTherefore Paul says that he will now speak as a fool, because he has been forced to declare all that he wilfully endures for the Gospel and their sake. Therefore in light of the Corinthians receiving the false apostles based on the externals. Paul now lays forth his own resume of just what proves he was an Apostle of Christ. For in contrast to the false apostles whose lives and ministries were only marked by their pursuing their own ease and gain. The Apostle Paul says of his ministry and service for Christ that it was one marked by his enduring many hardships for Christ (consider Acts 14:21-22). And so to give them evidence of this to them, Paul begins laying forth a catalogue of all kinds of hardships he had endured and was enduring for both them and it. Now looking at these individually, Paul's statement "in labors more abundant" should not be narrowed down to just his own labors in and for the Gospel, for though these were the focus of everything he did, Paul was somewhat unique in that he was pretty much a self supporting Apostle. And so unlike the other Apostles who were all initially located in and around Jerusalem, and whose ministries were primarily rooted in the prayer and the Word of God (see Acts 6:1-4). Paul's ministry by God's will and design was one centered in evangelism, of taking the Gospel to regions and peoples it had never been told (Acts 13:46-48). And so this required Paul be self-supporting, since to receive aid from anyone could take months. As well the early church and the believers within it, were enduring their own hardships, poverty, and persecutions, and in no way was Paul going to add to their burdens by requesting ongoing support from them. Finally the urgency of the Gospel required that Paul be both mobile and self supporting, if the momentum God planted at Jerusalem was going to continue on elsewhere (Acts 18:1-4). And so though Paul sometimes received support from the assemblies he later established, or that he helped to establish in the faith, Paul always refrained from making any demands on anyone as an Apostle of Christ (see 1 Cor 9:1-18, vs. 11-12). 
Which again is not something that can be said of the false apostles who only use the Gospel as a means to an easy life for themselves. Now since Paul was not preaching for how it benefited him, but rather how it would truly profits us all who receive and believe the truth. Neither than was Paul preaching because this made him to be well liked and received by either his Jewish countrymen, or the unbelieving Gentiles (consider Acts 13:44-51; 14:1-7). For as Paul says in his ministering the Gospel he was "in stripes above measure"; stripes meaning being whipped or flogged for merely preaching the Gospel. Later the Apostle Paul will state that five times he received the full sentence of 40 lashes minus one from the Jews, who only terribly misused the law to do this to him (vs. 24), something that is not unique to them. Thus Paul bore in his body the scars of believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and being faithful to Him (see Gal. 6:17). Now along with suffering such things, (which neither made Paul bitter, nor made him recant), Paul also says he was "in prisons more frequently." Though some of the false apostles may have been rounded up and placed in chains with the true brethren for a time, it is extremely doubtful after going through such an experience that they ever again went back to ministering the Gospel as apostles. In contrast the Apostle Paul never lost his faith or his calling when he was placed in chains (see Acts 16:16-40). Now it's hard to calculate just how much time Paul spent in custody, but it can be unequivocally stated that Paul's later years were largely spent in custody, and yet instead of hindering the Apostle's great Gospel work as one might suppose, it became just another means through which the Lord Jesus forwarded the Gospel and ministered His word to us all. For it was while in custody that Paul had much time to contemplate and consider the many wonders and mysteries of the Gospel, which the Lord has now brought forth and preserved for us all through Paul's writing ministry in his Epistles. Thus whatever negative things God allows in our lives, these must not be wasted by us, but we must squeeze out of them the most good that we can, while we can. 
"In death's often." Paul's statement here is not hyperbole, for Paul's journeys for the Gospel often brought him into some very perilous places, situations, and even people (see 2 Cor 11:26). In fact we know Paul was literally once thought dead by the brethren when he was stoned by an angry mob outside of Lystra (see Acts 14:8-28). Not too mention what also happened to him at Jerusalem (Acts 21:26-23:35). And so just as the Lord Jesus Christ had to face death in His bringing His Glorious Gospel to light and life (see Luke 4:16-29, vs. 28-29; Luke 22:52-53), so like Christ, the Apostle Paul was no stranger to having to face death; whether by angry mobs, or by robbers, or by authorities, or by being in perilous places and having to face perilous circumstances. Paul endured such things in order to take the Gospel to regions where the Gospel had not been preached, or where it was currently being ministered. For whatever is true of the Lord Jesus Christ and His experiences on earth will also become true, in varying degrees and in various ways, also of ourselves (consider John 15:18-25). 

Vs. 24 "From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one." 

Previously the Apostle' Paul's stated that he was "in stripes above measure." Here Paul gives evidence of just what that meant, saying that five times from the Jews he received forty stripes minus one. It is clear then that the unbelieving Jewish authorities were most zealous in not not only their opposition to the Gospel, but also in their persecuting those Jews who "converted" to it from them. Now God, in the Law permitted a sentence of 40 lashes for serious offenses not deserving of death (see Deut. 25:3). The fact that five times the Jews misused and wrongly applied this severe sentence from the Law on the Apostle Paul, and for severe crimes and such, but only because Paul was a faithfully preaching Christ, indicates just how much the darkness can overtake anyone who rejects the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God (John 12:35-36). Now we know that there is a time, that seems not that far off, when the Israel of God will go into a national repentance for what they have done, and will whole heartily embrace their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And so let no one think that God is done with His people for what they have done to Christ and His own, there will be time when they will all mourn for Him as for an only Son (see Zechariah 12:10-14). 

Vs. 25 "Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep"

If being whipped five times at the hands of the Jews was not evidence enough of Paul's committed to Christ. The Apostle Paul also says that three times he was beaten with rods, one such incident occurred in Philippi (see Acts 16:22). Now unlike being whipped or flogged which left permanent scars, being beaten with rods (though no less severe in the pain one experienced) caused deep and long lasting bruising, which if inflicted on the legs would leave one incapacitated, often for an extended period of time. "once I was stoned",  the stoning which Paul endured and miraculously survived was again at Lystra (see Acts 14:8-28). "Three times I was shipwrecked". We know of the ship wreck that occurred while Paul was on his journey to Rome (see Acts 27), but there were three others as well which occurred before this then yet future incident that Paul mentions here. "A night and a day I have been in the deep." The reference here is to having to tread water in the open sea after suffering a ship wreck. And yet through it all the Apostle Paul neither lost his faith in Christ, nor his zeal for the Gospel, for as the Apostle Paul will boldly say to Timothy, "the Lord delivered me out of them all" (see 2 Timothy 3:10-13). And so what is being stated here in all of these things is not the endurance of a man in his own strength, or his own ability or resolve to endure, but rather what is being stated here is the power of God In Christ sustaining the Apostle Paul, without which it would have been impossible for him to endure and survive these things on his own. Now it is that very same power that kept Paul, which also keeps and sustains everyone one of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, even as we face daily an ever increasing, and at times, seemingly overwhelming opposition for holding fast to the truth, and not submitting ourselves to the lies, and father of them in this world. 

Vs. 26-27 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—

"In journeys often," Paul's ministry and life was one marked by many travels, whether on land or on the sea by ship, the Apostle Paul's life was one marked by his many travels which the Lord had appointed for him. Now if journeys to foreign lands marked the Apostle's ministry and service for Christ so did one other aspect, and that was his being in perils. Eight times Paul will state that his life as an Apostle of Christ was marked by being in perils. Now these are not just threats and such hurled his way by his detractors, but these were Paul having to face some very real life threatening persons, situations, and circumstances, in all kinds of places. "In perils of waters," Paul already mentioned some of his perils in the sea, here is he is referring to those inland bodies of water that he had to travel down or go through (like lakes or raging river crossings and such) in order to get to his next destination. "In perils of robbers," in ancient times "roadways" were often prime targets for bands of robbers who would land upon unsuspecting and lightly armed or defended travelers. The Apostle on more than one occasion had to face such things. "In perils of my own countrymen," Even a causal reading of the Book of Acts quickly reveals just how zealous the Jews who did not believe were in their opposition to the Gospel, and specifically their opposition to the Apostle Paul (consider Acts 13:49-52; 14:1-7; 17:13; 21:26-26:32), and yet the Apostle Paul's heartfelt desire was for them all to come into a saving knowledge of God through Christ (Rom. 10:1). "In perils of the Gentiles", it wasn't just the unbelieving Jews who opposed Paul's preaching the Gospel, but the unbelieving Gentiles as well. "In perils in the city," (consider 2 Tim. 3:11). "In perils in the wilderness," whether in the city amongst the multitudes, or in the wilderness amongst the wild beasts, the Apostle Paul knew that trials, tribulations, great troubles awaited him, and yet none of those things kept him from fulfilling his ministry and Christ's purposes for his life (Acts 20:22-24). 
In perils in the sea, after being delivered from the mobs at Jerusalem and an assignation plot there on his life by the same, the Apostle was sent to stand trial in Rome. Now it was on that journey there that we have recorded for us in the Book of Acts one of Paul's "perils in sea" (see Acts 27-28). "In perils among false brethren," If there is a greater peril for any true believer to go through I do not know of one. And yet we all will at some point have our faith and beliefs challenged by them, and still somehow by God's amazing grace, love, and life given us all who believe in Him, we will carry on with Christ in spite of them. Now verse twenty seven marks a transition from passing through perils to enduring personal hardships. "In weariness and toil," the Apostle Paul unlike the false apostles who often have an aversion to work, labored night and day to provide for himself so that he could continue on in the work, and not burden the already impoverished brethren. As well Paul did so so as to set a Godly example to all brethren everywhere as to what is good and right and sound in the sight of our Lord and Savior (1 Thess. 2:9; 2 Thess 3:8-10). "In sleeplessness often", if being well rested, well fed, and well clothed marked the false Apostles, the Apostle Paul was certainly not any of those things, because sleeplessness and deep need often marked his own life as a servant of Lord, as he will now state. "In hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—" The Apostle Paul was no stranger to having to endure all kinds of deprivations for the Gospels sake and ours. Now these things have not been stated to shame anyone, or make anyone think that they must go and do likewise in order to follow Christ, (though we all must enter the Kingdom of God by many tribulations, just as the Lord appoints for each one of us, see Acts 14:22), they were only stated here by the Apostle Paul to bring an end to his detractors calling his faith in and service for Christ into question. And so for us we can draw from his many experiences encouragement to carry on with Christ even when the narrow road likewise gets difficult for us. 

Vs. 28 "besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches." 

If all of those things weren't evidence enough of Paul's love for Christ, and his being an Apostle of Christ, who was empowering and enabling him to carry on as His Apostle during these things, then there were all the daily needs and circumstances and situations which the Apostle Paul faced, while carrying in his heart and on his shoulders, a deep concern for all the churches. For the assemblies of the Lord were still in their infancy and naivety, and the Apostle Paul understood all to well that he was battling not just for his own survival, but theirs. 

Vs. 29 "Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?

The Apostle Paul's concern for all the churches was not just one which only considered the assemblies as a whole, but not the individuals within. No the Apostle Paul's concern was for all the individual believers within them. And so peoples plights often weighed heavily on Paul as their circumstances and situations became known to him. Thus if someone was weak, then Paul too felt their weakness, and was empathizing with them. Or if someone was made to stumble, then Paul felt a holy and just indignation. And so here the Apostle Paul not only reflects the heart of the Lord Jesus towards all His people, but also what is to be the heart of us all (see 1 Cor. 12:26).

Vs. 30 "If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity."

The Apostle having laid forth his resume of his service as an Apostle Christ does not want to boast in it, or have anyone else boast in it. Indeed the Apostle did not boast in anything that was of himself, instead Paul's boast was only in his infirmity. That is what made him "weak" in the sight of men, was what made him strong by the hand of the Lord (see 2 Cor 12:10).

Vs. 31-33 31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.

The Apostle Paul having presented to us the many types of hardships and troubles that he endured as an Apostle of Christ, now gives us one specific example which occurred at the beginning of his ministry and new life In Christ. The reason for doing so is that Paul's person and reputation had been so undermined by his detractors, that all that Paul had previously stated having gone through might be dismissed by them as Paul exaggerating or even lying. And so the Apostle Paul now unequivocally states, "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying."  Thus the Apostle Paul now retells a very intense situation that might have ended his ministry before it ever even got off the ground. It took place in Damascus sometime after Paul's salvation on the Damascus road, where Paul (then Saul) the former persecutor of the church, after his personal encounter with the Lord after he recovered soon began to publicly preach and declare the very Gospel he once so vehemently opposed. And so it was that the Apostle Paul's preaching was so effective in bringing others to Christ (and thus was likely viewed as a threat by both the ruling Romans, and the Jewish hierarchy which collaborated with them) that the very governor of the region, placed the whole city under guard in the hopes of seizing Paul, and ending his doing so. Nonetheless Paul managed to escape after some brethren hid him in a basket, and let him down from a window in the wall, and so Paul escape from their hands and began what would become an epic journey and new life, full of such occurrences, as he faithfully followed Christ (see Acts 9:1-25). All which begs the question have you yourself received the Lord Jesus Christ and are you faithfully following Him? Because to seek to save ones life is only to lose it, but to lose ones life for Christ's sake and Gospels is to keep it for eternity (Matt 10:39; Luke 9:24-26; 17:33; John 12:25). And no doubt if asked if he would do it all again, lost it all again, the Apostle Paul would say, (as would I), yes I would. So rather than trying to hold onto what will not last, nor satisfy, first receive eternal life by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and then begin your own journey with Christ, and in the end write your own eternal memoirs about all the epic journeys that Lord took you on, and delivered you through. 

Scripture Quotation
The New King James Version. (1982). Nashville: Thomas Nelson

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