On to 2 Cor 11:22-33
v22: in this verse Paul begins to give his credentials.
- Hebrews…Israelites…seed of Abraham: There were those who dared to elevate themselves within the congregations by saying that they were all of these things (things that Gentiles could not say, and which could have led to them feeling inferior – Paul would have been sensitive to this and would not normally have spoken about himself in this way).
v23: Ministers (servants) of Messiah: These people also dared to give titles to themselves.
- I speak as a fool: Paul is now going to speak in a way that we could say was beyond himself. This was NOT the way that Paul normally spoke and nor was it the way that he normally behaved. However, he is allowing himself to speak in this way as he feels that it is critical for people to know his commitment to his call as an apostle.
- Labours more abundant: Paul knew what it was to work or toil hard – he toiled harder than most people.
- In stripes: Being beaten. Suffering.
- Above measure: In a surpassing manner. He was beaten abundantly.
- In prisons more frequently: Paul spent a great deal of time in different prisons.
- In deaths: Paul is speaking here about being exposed, often, to things that threatened his life.
v24: Jews: Judeans. A term referring to the Jewish leadership based in Jerusalem and not to the Jewish nation as a whole. Many Jewish people supported Paul and his ministry. These Judeans, however, were those who were committed to the traditions of the elders rather than to the law of Moses.
- I received 40 stripes minus one: Paul is speaking here about being punished for speaking the truth – primarily concerning the identity, work and resurrection of Messiah.
v25: A night and a day I have been in the deep: Paul was shipwrecked and lost at sea for 24 hours.
v26: Perils: Dangers. In this verse there is a constant theme: Suffering. When Paul was not suffering, he was in danger. This was all because of his commitment to his call of being an apostle. Paul is not boasting about things that he has accomplished. He is boasting about his suffering.
- My own countrymen: Referring to fellow Jews.
- The wilderness: In the desert.
- False brethren: False brothers. They claimed to be believers but were not.
v27: Weariness and toil: This is a common theme for Paul. He engaged in faithful activity that often left him exhausted.
- Sleeplessness: There were probably a variety of reasons that caused Paul to be unable to sleep (service, dangers, hunger, thirst, etc).
- Fastings: There were numerous and different occasions or reasons why Paul would not have eaten or have been unable to eat. It is taught in Judaism that one who fasts faithfully, consistently and frequently is one who is committed to the will of G-d.
- Cold…nakedness: Paul suffered because he was faithful in his call to be an apostle. He did not receive honour or riches from this call. He did not endure all of this for personal reward, but because of his commitment to Kingdom truth and the gospel going forth into all nations.
v28: This preceding list that Paul has quickly rattled off for us gives us a glimpse into what Paul was enduring physically or externally. This verse gives us a glimpse of what was going on in Paul’s thoughts and heart – internally.
- Daily: Every day.
- My deep concern for all the churches: Daily Paul cared for the congregations he was with, but daily he was also caring for those congregations that were far away. He wrote letters to them, advised and counselled them. He was constantly concerned about the well being of the churches.
v29: Made to stumble: This is a word that has to do with someone living in a scandalous manner. Someone has stumbled – they’ve not walked on the clear pathway of justice, truth, holiness or sanctification. We all stumble at times. Our passions and desires (our carnal natures) work within us to produce the sin that causes us to stumble. Paul, like all human beings, also burned with these fleshly desires. We all have temptation, but that does not mean that we have to give in to temptation.
v30: If I must boast: If it was necessary to boast in order to defend his apostleship, Paul was willing to do it.
- I will boast in…my infirmity: Paul was only willing to boast about his weaknesses – not about his accomplishments. It is through our weaknesses that G-d can provide what we lack and still receive the glory due to Him (2 Cor 12:9).
v31: THE G-d: The only supreme authority and Judge
- Father: A provider. He was able to supply what Paul lacked, so that Paul was able to overcome.
- The L-rd Messiah Yeshua: He is the One who we submit to.
- Blessed forever: Paul received the blessed activity of G-d in his life and it was this activity that enabled him to overcome all these sufferings and dangers.
v32: Paul gives another example of a danger or a threat that he faced and how G-d moved in this circumstance to save him.
- Governor: A governor serves under a king and has the responsibility to guard or to oversee the administration of the city that they were placed over. This governor, Aretas, saw Paul as a threat to the city of Damascus.
- Apprehend: Arrest.
v33: Paul endured much. It was through Paul’s weakness that G-d was magnified, that G-d ministered, that G-d moved. All of this confirmed that Paul was indeed an apostle. Suffering for our faith should be a natural experience for a committed believer. The more we want to walk in obedience the greater the opposition is going to be. However, it is when we are aware of our human frailty, our weakness, that we can truly turn to G-d for His help. When G-d moves, supplies our needs and delivers us from our enemies it confirms that we are His servants. Paul saw G-d’s movement and working in his life as confirmation of his call to be an apostle – an apostle not less than or inferior to any other apostle. Paul was not operating out of pride. He wanted to affirm that G-d was at work in his ministry and in his apostleship so that those in Corinth (as well as in other places) would recognise and submit to Paul’s leadership – not for his own profit or what he could get out of it, but for their wellbeing and for the sake of Messiah.