Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. — 2 Corinthians 11:23
A man in our Portland congregation often told how he promised God early in his Christian walk that, if it were at all possible, he would never leave a church service without spending time at the altar of prayer. “I’ve kept that promise,” he would say. “God has given me the gift of tears for my fellow man. I have a love for the souls of men. I have no greater joy than to kneel across the altar and help pray a sinner through to salvation!”
This brother was not boasting. In fact, his love for souls and his desire to spend time in prayer were evidence of his commitment to God, and were actually part of the “credentials” that qualified him for a place of service on the foreign mission field. He had no formal training in the ministry, no doctorate in theology, no expertise in a foreign language, or training in international missions. However, he did have a burden of prayer and a willingness to expend his time, money, and effort in winning souls for God. Long before he went to the mission field, he and his wife entertained hundreds of merchant mariners in their home. He was involved in Sunday school work and participated in open-air meetings. While his credentials would have looked unimpressive on a résumé, he made himself available to God and did what he could. God gave Harold Barrett the spiritual qualifications and the commission from Heaven, and He used him.
“God gave us the privilege of laboring in His harvest field [in Korea] for more than twenty years,” the veteran missionary would say in later years. “I remember years ago when we were about to go to Korea, one dear saint of God told me, ‘If you win one soul for the Kingdom of God, it will be worth everything.’ Thank God, there was not just one soul, but there have been hundreds. Today we have seven Apostolic Faith churches in Korea and many, many souls who are rejoicing in the victorious Gospel that was brought to them.”
In today’s text, Paul was “proving” to the church at Corinth that his was a true ministry. His authority had been challenged, and the Corinthians’ pure and simple devotion to Christ was being threatened by this attack and by false teachings. Paul was pointing out that his trials were his résumé — his sufferings were what validated his apostolic authority. The false teachers could make no such claims.
Today, what credentials do you have that “prove” your testimony? Do your actions, words, and responses to trials validate your Christian witness? Let us ask God to help us have a spiritual résumé that cannot be disputed!
In an attempt to elevate themselves, certain members of the Corinthian church had resorted to discrediting Paul, while boasting of their own spiritual qualifications. In today’s text, Paul boldly rejected the idea that he was inferior to these false apostles who claimed divine authority as God’s servants, but whose claims were bogus. He intentionally mimicked them by providing details of his own résumé, which was far superior in the Gospel. Paul referred to these “imitation” apostles as fools (verse 19). In verse 16, Paul told the Corinthians not to think of him as a fool, but if it took boasting of himself to prove his apostolic authority, then he was willing to become as though he were a fool and present his own indisputable credentials.
In verses 22-33, Paul told of the sufferings and persecution he had endured as a follower of Christ. This was a contrast to the boasting of those who were disrupting the Corinthian church. Those false teachers boasted of worldly things, whereas Paul presented a list of hardships he had endured. He covered everything from being beaten and shipwrecked, to having the burden of caring for the churches throughout the world. He even mentioned the time he had to be let down outside the city wall in a basket in order to escape the governor of that city. By speaking of his trials and the hardships he had gone through, Paul was able to give proof to these people of the true character of his apostleship. He, not they, showed the true marks of a servant of Christ: his sufferings. The love this Church leader had for his people was demonstrated by what he was willing to go through to keep them faithful to the true Gospel.
Verse 20 seems to indicate that these new, self-appointed leaders at Corinth were preaching and practicing very strict ideas. Paul appears to have found this strange, considering that he did not practice or preach these traditions.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
IV. The authority of the Apostle
B. The boast of the Apostle
2. The boast of his experiences (11:16-33)
The trials and afflictions we endure for the Gospel build our character, witness to our faith, and equip us to work for the Lord.