6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: Rather than throwing in the towel, Paul stood firm and refused to get out of the way. He answered backbiting with get-in-your face answers.

Standing Firm and Refusing to Get Out of the Way

(2 Corinthians 11:21-12:10)

1. Sometimes antiquated methods still work!

2. Police in Kansas City, Mo., are searching for a man who robbed a Church's Chicken restaurant armed with a samurai sword.

Police said a light-skinned, black male entered the restaurant Tuesday night armed with the sword and demanded cash from the register. [UPI]

3. In relational, social, and church conflicts, things have changed even less. Human nature and human tactics remain the same.

4. The truth is, we are all weak, and we have all sinned and failed. It is therefore not difficult for fault-finders with an agenda to exploit a fault. Consider this:

1. John Mark deserted Paul

2. Timothy had stomach problems, probably from stress

3. Martha worried to much

4. Peter was impetuous and gave into peer pressure

Paul’s attackers picky-pickyed him. They made ridiculous charges against him. They hoped at least one would stick. It had nothing to do with truth or fairness.

Last time, I shared 2 charges

I. Paul Was a Poor Speaker

II. Paul Was a Crook

Main Idea: Rather than throwing in the towel, Paul stood firm and refused to get out of the way. He answered backbiting with get-in-your face answers.

III. Charge Three: Paul Is Not SINCERE (11:21-33)

A. “He is not as JEWISH as we are” (21-22)

1. In early church, to be Jewish gave one an edge (a form of Judaism)

2. False teachers: the more Jewish credentials, the more credibility

B. “He does not have a SERVANT’S spirit” (23-33)

1. Paul proves his sincerity by his track record

• Marked man

• Wall crown

Ben Witherington III writes, “Cicero…provides rules on how to win the goodwill of an audience when one is under attack by an opponent who has at least in part swayed the audience….” Cicero wrote:

We shall win goodwill for ourselves if we refer to our own acts and services without arrogance, if we weaken the effect of charges that have been brought or of some suspicion of less honorable dealing that has been cast on us, if we dilate on the misfortunes that have come to us or the difficulties that we still face, and if we use prayers and entreaties with a humble and submissive spirit. [Ben Witherington III, Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians, Eerdmans, 1995, pp. 432-435]

2. Fortunately, many false teachers are not that smart

• Jude tells us that even Michael the Archangel respected Satan’s authority. Paul says accusations against elders must have 2 or 3 witnesses.

• “devil” means slander, when we slander authorities we are devilish

• Man looks on the outward appearance, God the heart (motives)

Application: God measures success in faithfulness to and practice of his Word. Don’t throw in the towel because others are criticizing you. Get in their face if you must.

IV. Charge Four: God Has Not Given Paul REVELATIONS or Visions (12:1-10)

Other teachers –who agree with them or have moved them – are superior.

A. A trip to the THIRD heaven (1-3)

Acts 14:19-20 is a time many suggest this happened: “But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.”

• He knew his body didn’t disappear or he would have been told

• If this were a typical “out of body” experience, he would know it

• He did not look back from the ceiling and see his body

• Explain 3 and 7 heavens

B. Revelation that has to be kept SECRET (4)

1. Paul’s opponents probably spoke of all kinds of visions

2. Paul teases them: he has had greater, but is mum about them

3. Like Daniel 12:9, these words are “shut up and sealed”

4. Like his regulation of tongues: because he spoke in tongues more than any of the Corinthians, he had credibility to suggest their control (I Cor. 14:18)

C. Paul needed a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him HUMBLE (5-7)

1. Probably an eye disease, based upon Galatians 4:13 and 6:11

2. Prayed three times, as Jesus did in Gethsemane

3. God’s grace provided strength

4. Witherington ties this to the Shekinah descending

D. Even Paul’s SUFFERING teaches those who will learn from him (8-10)

1. It is not always God’s will to heal us

2. Sometimes our ailments keep us from going astray

3. Many Jews believed that their suffering helped atone for Israel’s sins; Paul implies that suffering does not atone sin but can prevent some sins

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