Paul’s Boasting (Part 2)
2 Cor 11: 16-33
Here, Paul returns to his “foolish boasting” that he was forced to after discussing the issues about financial support and exposing his enemies as emissaries of Satan.
I. The Foolishness of Boasting (2 Cor. 11:16-22)
A. “I say again, let no man think me a fool…” (2 Cor. 11:16): Since some of the Corinthians in following his enemies’ lead was comparing him to the false apostles, he decided to answer fools according to their folly. There may be times when he is impelled to mention his sufferings and sorrows and peculiar privileges to magnify the mercy and grace of God shown toward him that the claims of enemies may be silenced and that the name of Christ may be glorified.
B. By establishing himself and his ministry as genuinely from God, the Corinthians can easily discern and reject the false gospel f his enemies. Paul was defending the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
C. “That which I speak… not after the Lord” (2 Cor. 11:17-18): He is acknowledging that his boasting is not after the Lord. In a desperate situation where the false apostles made their boasting according to the flesh, he was forced to boast not for self-glorification but to counter the false doctrine threatening the Corinthian church.
D. “For ye suffer fools gladly… “(2 Cor. 11:19): It is a part of their superior “wisdom” to tolerate fools (1 Cor. 4:10). This is the most sarcastic words written by Paul. “You won’t tolerate my love and service,” Paul tells them, “but you tolerate tyranny, extortion, craftiness, arrogance, violence, and insult” (Plummer).
E. “If a man smite you on the face” (verse 20): This is the climax of insult. It may refer to an actual case of violence.
F. “I speak as concerning reproach…” (2 Cor. 11:21): “Intense irony!” “They more than tolerate those who trample on them while they criticize as ‘weak’ one who shows them great consideration” (Plummer). After these prolonged explanations Paul “changes his tone from irony to direct and masterful assertion” (Bernard).
G. “I am bold also”: Real courage. He next states grounds that he might have for boasting.
H. “Are they Hebrews? so am I…” (2 Cor. 11:22): “So am I” is his triumphant refrain with each challenge. Were they of pure “Hebrew” stock? So was Paul, “of the tribe of Benjamin” (Phil. 3:5).
I. “Israelites”: He was of the seed of Jacob, and the heir to the promises to Israel.
J. “The seed of Abraham”: Paul was not only of the fleshly, but also of the spiritual seed of Abraham.
Illustration: Prove Yourself
In Aesop’s fables a traveler was entertaining some men in a tavern with an account of the wonders he had done abroad. “I was once at Rhodes,” said he, “and the people of Rhodes, you know, are famous for jumping. Well, I completed a jump there that no other man could equal within a yard. That’s a fact, and if we were there I could bring you ten men who would prove it.” “What need is there to go to Rhodes for witnesses?” asked one of his hearers. “Just imagine you are there now and
show us your leap.” Thus Paul intimated to the Corinthians, “I don’t have to come to listen to your words. You can prove the quality of your life by what you do, and I’ll know it from where I am.”
Illustrations of Bible Truths.
II. Summary of Paul’s Sufferings (2 Cor. 11:23-30).
A. “Are they ministers of Christ? So am I…” (2 Cor. 11:23): Such open boasting is out of accord with Paul’s spirit and habit. He claims superiority now to these “super apostles.”
B. Summary of Paul’s career as an apostle:
1. “In labors more abundant”: Read again his missionary journeys as Luke records them.
2. “In stripes above measure”: See verses 24, 25.
3. “In prisons more frequent”: Clement of Rome says that Paul was imprisoned seven times. We know of Philippi, Jerusalem, Caesarea, and twice in Rome. Philippi was the only one before 2 Corinthians was written. Had he been in prison in Ephesus? Some think so.
4. “In deaths oft”: Often he was in peril of death. See 1 Cor. 15:30-32; 2 Cor. 1:9; 4:11,
5. “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.” (2 Cor. 11:24) “Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed” (Deut. 25:3). It is said that if the executioner exceeded the stripes allowed by the law, the executioner himself would be scourged. Only thirty-nine were inflicted for fear of a miscount!
6. “Thrice was I beaten with rods” (2 Cor. 11:25): This was Roman (Gentile) punishment. It was forbidden to Roman citizens by the Lex Porcia, but Paul endured it in Philippi (Acts 16:23, 37), the only one of the three named in Acts.
7. “Once was I stoned.” At Lystra (Acts 14:5-19).
8. “Thrice I suffered shipwreck…” These wrecks were in addition to the one suffered on his way to Rome (Acts 27:15-44).
9. “A night and a day I have been in the deep.” Probably floating on the wreckage. The memory of it survives like a nightmare.
10. “In journeyings often…” (2 Cor. 11:26) In this connection Paul mentions eight different kinds of danger which his journeys involved. “In perils of waters… robbers… mine own countrymen… the heathen
11. …city… wilderness… sea… among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (verse 27).
12. These are all pictures. Paul was giving the Corinthians his apostolic credentials, the credentials of his authority, the proof, in comparison with others. These show the authority of his teaching, the authority of the truth, the authority of that simplicity and purity, to which they were called, when he betrothed them to Christ, espoused them to Christ, to one husband. All these are his credentials.
13. “Besides those things that are without… the care of all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28): Paul’s physical sufferings and labors were not all. These were constant care and anxiety for the churches. The ‘episcopos’ is an overseer. All the churches he had planted, and the churches others had planted were his anxious concern day by day. Perhaps this was the same anxiety that he had concerning the Corinthians, fear lest they should be corrupted from the simplicity and purity that is in Christ.
14. “Who is weak, and I am not weak?” (2 Cor. 11:29) Paul’s sympathy for the churches was so great that if they suffered he suffered with them! Paul had the shepherd heart. When a brother “is offended” or stumbles, Paul is set on fire with grief.
15. “If I must need glory… “ (2 Cor. 11:30): If he is compelled to boast, Paul’s boast will be of his own infirmities and sufferings for Christ, such as he has just narrated.
Illustration 2: He Becomes the Light in the Darkness
Patricia St. John, who has been described as an ordinary woman with an extraordinary faith, poured out her life ministering to people in the neediest places on our planet. She was in Sudan when war refugees flooded that country. They had suffered terribly and had lost everything, yet those among them who were Christians still gave thanks to God.
Patricia said that she stood one night in a crowded little Sudanese church listening to those uprooted believers singing joyfully. Suddenly a life-changing insight burned its way into her mind. “We would have changed their circumstances,” she said, “but we would not have changed them.” She realized that God “does not always lift people out of the situation. He Himself comes into the situation. . . He does not pluck them out of the darkness. He becomes the light in the darkness.”
Our Daily Bread, August 19, 1997
III. Glorifying in Infirmities (2 Cor. 11:31-33).
A. “The God and Father… knoweth that I lie not” (2 Cor. 11:31): The list seems so absurd and foolish that Paul takes solemn oath about (2 Cor. 1:23). God knows every word is true!
B. “In Damascus the governor under Aretas…” (2 Cor. 11:32): Damascus was founded some 2200 years before Christ by Uz, a grandson of Shem (Josephus, Ant, I, vi, 4). “The world began at Damascus, and the world will end there” was the boast of this ancient and modern focal point between the Christian and the Mohammedan world.
C. During New Testament days Damascus was an important center ruled by Arabia and Aretas, fourth of the name, King of the Nabatheans at Petra (II Mace. 5:8). There is an absence of Roman coins in Damascus from 34-62 A. D. Plummer suggests that Caligula to mark his dislike for Antipas gave Damascus to Aretas, the father-in-law of Herod Antipas. Herod incurred the hatred of Aretas by sending his daughter back to her father and by taking Herodias for a wife.
D. “Kept the city… with a garrison”: It was war times. “The Jews took counsel to kill him” (Acts 9:24). There is no conflict as they cooperated with the guard set by Aretas at their request.
E. “And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall…” (2 Cor. 11:33) Houses in this Oriental walled city are built against the walls with windows looking out over them. From such a window Paul was let down and thus escaped his enemies. “This was a humiliating experience for Paul in this oldest city of the world whither he had started as a conqueror over the despised Christians.”
Illustration 3: “Abide With Me”
This beloved hymn of comfort and trust was written by a pastor who was sickly and unwell most of the time. He pastored a seashore church in England among the rough sailors and uncultured villagers. And this made outsiders often wonder. But they loved him and he loved the work.
However, health finally left him and the doctor advised him to retreat to sunny southern Europe, and he prepared to sail,
The last Sunday before leaving, although he had no strength to stand up and preach, yet he forced himself and preached among his weeping people. That evening, by the light of the evening sun, he wrote these words:
Abide with me, Fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me!
He sailed, but died abroad within that year.
Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times.
Paul has to boast again so that he can conclusively say that his ministry is genuinely from God. That way the Corinthians can easily know and reject the false gospel of his enemies. In serving the Lord, he suffered many things including almost losing his life. Will you be willing to suffer for Christ also?