Summary: God's grace is sufficient for our every trial & affliction. Trials are an integral & authenticating aspect of our ministry. Let us journey for a while through the life of Paul as he authenticates to us that he is a true servant of Christ.
2 CORINTHIANS 11: 22-27 [GAINING PERSPECTIVE Series]
WALK A MILE IN MY SHOES
[Philippians 3: 4-11]
Do you serve Christ so that all will go well with you here and now? Has all been easy for you in your service of Christ? Ease in Zion was certainly not the Apostle Paul's experience. Experience after experience of difficulty was encountered by the apostle, but he learned to count the testing of his faith as a joy. How? Because through it all he experienced the strengthening closeness and the comfort of the Master he served (l:4-8).
Have you encountered difficulty in serving Christ? Are you encountering difficulty in ministering for Christ? If so count it as proof of your calling and proof that you are fulfilling your calling. If you will open your heart you will experience the same love Paul experienced poured out in your heart by the Holy Spirit and you will serve Him despite all the difficulties and anguishes you encounter.
God would have us learn that the grace of God is sufficient for our every trial and affliction. Trials are an integral and authenticating aspect of our ministry (CIT). Let us journey for a while through the life of Paul as he authenticates to us that he is a true servant of Christ.
I. EXTERNAL QUALIFICATION, 22-23.
II. INCREDIBLE DIFFICULTIES, 24-27.
Paul begins a list of his many credentials with his ethnicity and religious heritage in verse 22. “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.
If one wishes to discuss personal qualifications, Paul will advance his own. He does this comparing of external qualifications because the false apostles thought it to be a matter of great important. His response of “so am I” to each of the proposed credentials that make a "superior apostle" places him right along side them. The three designations used here belong to the chosen people, and were thought of as privileges of their birth right.
From a human viewpoint Paul’s credentials were impeccable. “Are they Hebrews?” Meaning of Hebrew nationality or language. Are they Israelites? Meaning tracing their lineage through one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Paul traced his lineage through the tribe of Benjamin (Phil. 3:5). “Are they descendants of Abraham?” Meaning of the seed of Abraham and heirs of a special relationship. Paul's response recorded in Philippians 3:4- 6 expresses his heritage. As one of Abraham’s descendants he was circumcised on the eighth day (Gen. 17:9-14). [More importantly to Paul is that he was Abraham’s descendant by faith (Rom. 4:16).] Paul was in the main stream of God's age old purposes for the whole of mankind through the chosen people of Israel (Rom. 9:4-5).
Paul though did not like to boast that he was of the promised raced that had long awaited the Messiah (5:16). For he now recognized no man according to the flesh. Though he did not renounce his heritage, Paul no longer relied on external associations because he placed no confidence in the flesh.
Paul knew that Jesus is the unique seed of Abraham in whom alone the Abrahamic Covenant may be appropriated (Gal. 3:16, 3 :7-10: 26-28). Jesus alone was the heir of the promise, the One in whom all nations should be blessed (Gen.12).
Starting in verse 23 Paul begins to detail some of the cost of his commitment to Christ. “Are they servants of Christ? I speak as if insane, I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.”
Paul asks if they are servants or ministers of Christ? He is not conceding their claims are true for he has already stated that they are of Satan not Christ (11:13, 15). He is simply accepting their pretense for the sake of argument. He wants to show that they know nothing of the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. These deceivers skin is far to precious to them to experience any suffering for Christ. They may claim superiority in the matter of lineage but where ministry is concerned his experience is far beyond their awareness. Let's look at what Paul states is his authentication as a minister of Christ.
That this boasting is “insane” indicates that boasting is not part of his usual behavior, but he felt it necessary to remind his readers that ministry for Christ can be substantiated with deeds. Discipleship cannot be purchased at bargain prices (Lk 9:23). The cost exacted of the Apostle Paul is measured by the tabulation which follows. This high cost demonstrates the depth of his commitment by delineating the sufferings and trials he endured because of it.
This recounting [for a third time] his trials and suffering also removes the triumphism or dominion model of gospel ministry and Christian maturity being flaunted by the false apostles. True believers follow the model of the Suffering Servant Jesus for ministry and maturity. God is shown to be strong in our weaknesses and sufferings. These false apostles might have had a hard journey to reach Corinth but they knew nothing of the toils, imprisonments and beatings of Paul.