CHRISTIANS AND UNDESIRABLE EXPERIENCES
I want to begin this evening with a reading from 2 Corinthians 11:16-33.
Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if you do,
receive me even as foolish, so
that I also may boast a little. What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but
as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. Since many boast according to the
flesh, I will boast also. For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly. For you
tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of
you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face. To my shame I must say that
we have been weak by comparison. But in whatever respect anyone else is bold--I
speak in foolishness--I am just as bold myself. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they
Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 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. Five times I received from the
Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three
times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on
frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my
countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness,
dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship,
through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and
exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern
for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without
my intense concern? If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.
The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not
lying. In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the
Damascenes in order to seize me, and I was let down in a basket through a window in
the wall, and so escaped his hands.
This evening, I want us to do two things. First, I want us to focus on Paul's
obvious frustration in this scripture. Second, I want to call something to your attention.
- Let's begin with the context of this reading.
- What Paul did in sharing salvation in Jesus Christ with people who were not
Jews was very unpopular with many Jewish people which definitely included a
number of Jewish Christians.
- Other letters that Paul wrote provide us insights into tactics his Jewish
Christian opponents used in an attempt to destroy his work and influence.
- The book of Galatians is such a letter.
- First, Paul evangelized the area and began congregations in many of the
- Second, Paul left the area.
- Third, some Jewish Christian teachers (known as Judaizing teachers)
visited the congregations Paul started.
- To paraphrase, they basically said, "Let us tell you what Paul failed to
- "You should trust us instead of Paul because we come from the first
congregation, the mother church in Jerusalem."
- "We represent the 12 apostles, and Paul was not even part of the 12."
- Fourth, Paul was astounded at how quickly these gentile Christians left
the gospel (good news) of grace in Christ for the message these new
- Fifth, the new comers were so convincing and so effective that they forced
Paul to defend his credentials as a missionary for Jesus Christ.
- If you read Galatians 1, the situation I just called to your attention is
- The same type of thing had happened among the converts at Corinth.
- The standard attack seemed to be this:
- Discredit Paul as Jesus Christ's messenger.
- Discredit Paul's message as inadequate.
- Replace Paul's teachings with their teachings.
- The conflict between Paul and these other Jewish Christians is evident in
2 Corinthians 10, 11.
- Some common attempts to discredit Paul (of which Paul is aware) are seen in
- "He is a great writer, but he is quite unimpressive in person."
- "He is a horrible speaker."
- Paul did not deny the attacks on his person; instead he discussed motives.
- People were so impacted by physical appearance and physical ability (like
we are!) that such attacks forced Paul to resort to their reasoning to counter
- He challenged Corinthian Christians to think as they evaluated the
- He made it quite evident that his "measuring stick" was distinctly different
from his opponents "measuring stick".
- In the NAS (New American Standard) translation which I commonly use, a word
is used that we do not often use in the way Paul did.
- The word is "boasting".
- To us, it is a negative word with little or no positive use--it has the "flavor" of
- Paul likely used sarcasm as he basically said, "Allow me to use the approach
and the reasoning my opponents use."
- He did not say this because it was his typical way of reasoning, but because
it was the way his opponents argued which influenced the Corinthian
- Even if I was an unskilled speaker, was I wrong to refuse to make my
message about me? (11:7)
- Was I wrong not to charge you anything for my work among you?
- Was I wrong to be motivated by love for you? (11:8)
- Should it not be evident that those who serve Satan's purposes are as
deceitful as Satan is? You dare not go only on the basis of appearance!
Let's focus on the reading at the first of this lesson.
- Paul, using sarcasm several times, basically said, "Allow me to reason like my
- "I know, because you have such wisdom, you will allow me to do this"
- "You let those who abuse you say what they want."
- "Certainly you will let me talk to you like they talk to you" (sarcasm).
- First, I have all the basic credentials they do. I measure up to their
- I am a devout Jew just like they are.
- I am from the nation of Israel just like they are.
- Abraham is my forefather also.
- I serve Christ just as they claim to.
- Second, let me share some additional credentials I have and let you
determine if they measure up to my credentials.
- I have worked harder than they work.
- I have been to prison for Christ more than they.
- Take note of my countless beatings!
- Take note of the fact of the number of times I faced death!
- Take note of the fact that five times the Jews whipped me with 39 lashes!
- Take note of the fact that I was three times beaten with rods!
- Take note of the fact I was stoned once!
- Take note of the fact I have been in three shipwrecks!
- Then consider my many journeys, my trips up rivers, and the dangers I
faced with robbers, with irate Jews, with irate gentiles, with city life, with
wilderness experiences, with the sea, and with false brethren.
- Consider my hardships: sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, starvation, cold,
- On top of those things is the pressure of my constant concern for the
congregations I started.
- I know what it is like to share weakness with the weak, and to be
concerned about Christians who sin.
- If my opponents force me to boast, then I will boast about all the things
that declare my weakness.
- You Corinthians know that what I am saying about my experiences is the
This is the thing I want to call to your attention.
- Does not Paul's life sound like fun? Are not those the experiences you would
- Would you not love it if belonging to Christ meant you worked so hard?
- Would you not like to go to prison for Christ so many times?
- Would you not like to face death so many ways?
- Would you not like to be publicly humiliated by enduring pain in so may
- Would you not like to live in circumstances in which you had more people
who wished to harm you than you had friends?
- Would you not like to be as physically deprived as Paul voluntarily was?
- Would you not enjoy knowing the stresses on so many other congregations?
- One of the things that frequently distresses me about expressions of believing in
Christ in this culture is the "health and wealth" gospel declared by so many.
- Many believe that if a person places his or her faith in Jesus Christ, all of life
is going to be okay.
- Okay means no suffering, no pain, no want, and a very pleasant physical
- Do I believe in the power of prayer? Certainly!
- Do I believe in God's blessings? Certainly!
- I also understand we have Savior because an innocent man was willing to
die in devotion to God's will.
- I also know Jesus who was made the Christ by God said in Matthew 16:24
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his
cross and follow Me."
- He also said in Matthew 10:38:
And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not
worthy of Me.
- How does that all fit together?
- I do not know!
- The God who far exceeds our imagination fits it together!
- In some way it is involved in this enormous conflict between good and
- In some way it involves Satan's attacks on those who dare belong to God!
Never, never be deceived! We are Christians because we trust the God of
resurrection! We do not follow Jesus Christ because of the temporary rewards of this
life. We follow Jesus Christ to receive the eternal rewards after this life!
We seek the eternal, not the temporary!
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 4 September 2005
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