2 Corinthians 11:24-27

In 2 Corinthians 11:24-27 Paul continues to explain his resume to the Corinthian Christians. The false apostles who claimed superiority were parading around with their credentials, but they were paper only. Paul gives complete clarity to just how committed and dedicated he was to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.” The number forty was important in that it was the maximum beating that could be given. The Rabbis restricted the number of stripes you could give to 39 (forty stripes minus one). They did this not out of mercy, but they feared that there might be a miscount and forty stripes would be exceeded by accident.

Clarke describes what this was like. “The two hands of the criminal are bound to a post, and then the servant of the synagogue either pulls or tears off his clothes till he leaves his breast and shoulders bare.  A stone or block is placed behind him on which the servant stands; he holds in his hands a scourge made of leather, divided into four tails.  He who scourges lays one third on the criminal’s breast, another third on his right shoulder, and another on his left. The man who receives the punishment is neither sitting nor standing, but all the while stooping; and the man smites with all his strength, with one hand.” This punishment was not a simple beating, but severe in pain and how long it lasted. Paul had it done five times!

But Paul is far from done explaining just how much he has been pummeled as a minister of the Gospel. “Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned.” The Jews scourged people with forty lashes. The Romans used rods or wands to do their damage. Paul also recalls the attempt to stone him to death at Lystra where they left him for dead. So he endured plenty of physical pain for the sake of the Gospel. And if that wasn’t enough, he goes on. “Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea”. He was shipwrecked three times and spent 24 hours adrift in the sea. Paul traveled many miles for the sake of the Gospel and it wasn’t always smooth sailing!

And he goes on with even more sacrifice and suffering he has made. “…on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” What a resume!  Here’s the summary of what he endured:

  1. Five times received 40 lashes
  2. Three times beaten with rods
  3. Stoned and left for dead
  4. Three times shipwrecked
  5. A night and day adrift at sea
  6. Frequent journeys
  7. Danger crossing rivers
  8. Danger from robbers
  9. Danger from his own people
  10. Danger from the Gentiles
  11. Danger in the city
  12. Danger in the wilderness
  13. Danger at sea
  14. Danger from false brothers
  15. Toil and hardship
  16. Sleepless nights
  17. Hunger and thirst
  18. Going without food
  19. Cold and exposure

It wasn’t the mere fact of a hard life that made Paul a true minister of Christ.  Many people have hard lives, but are in no way servants of Jesus.  But for Paul, all these perils and hardships were things he freely chose, when he could have lived completely differently if he wanted to.  But he wanted to serve Jesus, and if these hardships were part of serving Jesus, he accepted them. That’s what being a minister of the Gospel is all about!

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