Art Toombs Ministries

Online Bible Commentary

Our Badge of Honor
2 Corinthians 11:22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands. (NKJV)




 

On his third missionary journey, after ministering in Ephesus for two years and three months, the Apostle Paul left for Macedonia in May, AD 56. In Macedonia he visited churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. 

Paul was in Macedonia from June to November of A.D. 56. It was there that he wrote the letter of 2nd Corinthians, likely in September and October of A.D. 56. 

The church in Corinth had been beset by false teachers. These false teachers, Judaizers, were undermining Paul’s teachings and questioning his apostolic authority. 

The Judaizers wanted to add to the Gospel, to make it more complicated. What they wanted to add was the requirement to follow the Jewish practices and customs expressed in the Mosaic Law. 

The Corinthian church has now rejected the false teachers and returned to the teachings of Paul. However, Paul still has some concern about the issue of his apostolic authority and addresses it again in this letter. 

Paul began this letter by defending his apostolic authority. After moving on to other subjects, he now concludes this letter by returning to defend his apostolic authority in the last four chapters. 

In this passage, Paul continues to compare himself to the Judaizers. As much as he dislikes boasting, Paul finds that he must do “a little Boasting” (v.16) to offset the Judaizers who did a lot of boasting. 

The Judaizers boasted of being pure Hebrews, God’s chosen people. What they missed was that the Hebrews had rejected their Messiah, Jesus, and now God’s chosen people were all people, Jews and Gentiles alike. 

But in order to keep up with the Judaizers’ boasting Paul writes that he too is a pure Hebrew. He writes “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I.” (v. 22). 

Next, Paul writes that he is more of a servant of Christ than the Judaizers (v.23). Actually, the Judaizers were servants of Satan and not Christ, as Paul wrote previously in this chapter (v. 15). 

However, Paul here is comparing himself to the Judaizers’ claims and not to reality. In the middle of all of this Paul is declaring himself “out of my mind to talk like this” meaning he should not be boasting at all. 

The Apostle Paul did not possess a seminary degree, a certificate of ordination, published writings, or other credentials of ministers today. His credentials were his sufferings for Christ. 

So, next, he produces a litany of sufferings when he writes “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked” (vv. 23-27). 

Most of these sufferings are not listed in the Bible. We know of one imprisonment, in Philippi (Acts 16:23-24). We know that he was “beaten with rods” once, also in Philippi (Acts 16:22). He was “pelted with stones” in Lystra (Acts 14:19). The only shipwreck we know about occurred after this writing, on his voyage to Rome. We do not have knowledge of the other hardships of his journeys but we know they would have existed as he travelled cross country among hostile unbelievers and exposed to the elements. For the most part, Paul suffered in silence. 

Other sufferings Paul endured for Christ had to do with his burden for those whom he pastored. He writes “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn (vv. 28-29)? When his believers suffered, he also suffered. 

Again, Paul does not want to boast, but he writes “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (v. 30). He will boast of his weaknesses, which are made strong by Christ. 

Next, Paul writes “The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying” (v. 31). Here, Paul is referring to the truthfulness of, perhaps, his most humiliating suffering, perhaps the example of his weakness which made the biggest impression upon him. 

This suffering made a big impression upon Paul probably because it was his first suffering as a result of his preaching. He writes “In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me” (v. 32). King Aretas died in AD 40, and this must have happened close to that time. 

After preaching in Damascus Paul’s life was threatened by the unbelievers and the King. The gates were being watched in an effort to capture and arrest Paul as he left the city. But he “was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through” their hands (v. 33). He had to slip out of the city like a criminal instead of leaving with dignity through a city gate. 

Christ suffered for us in His life on earth. And so, as Christians, we will also suffer. Paul suffered greatly, because he served greatly. Do not resist suffering for the sake of Christ. It is merely earning our stripes. It is our badge of honor as Christians. We suffer here, but our rewards in Heaven far out weigh our sufferings on earth.