“Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? I speak as a fool I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths often” (II-Corinthians 11:22-23).
It is a shame in today’s age of global mass communications and information how often men and women who dedicate their lives to kingdom work find themselves defending their culture, citizenship and heritage, as well as, their status. I am not saying that it is unjustified or unreasonable to question either, only that it is shameful that it happens so often. You would think that 2,000-years after the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ the world would be able to look upon any Christian and easily distinguish who is and who is not of God—Jehovah. I wish it was that simple.
The shameful nature of this situation is not that the non-believing world is posing the challenge to the authenticity of believers, but would be believers are challenging believers. We have been taught through the Gospel to exhort, rebuke and reprove when, where and whom it is necessary. The question is when you find yourself on the receiving end of an
inquisition can you defend yourself? Can you prove yourself as a missionary-saint fulfilling your commission?
The Apostle Paul speaking to the church at Corinth finds himself having to deal with this issue. In Paul’s time, culture, citizenship and heritage was not to be taken lightly. Toss in religious conviction and you have the recipe for a volatile situation. Paul uses this opportunity to show himself as a Hebrew, Israelite and descendant of Abraham.
However, Paul leaves his audience hanging with the question; Are they ministers of Christ? Having received his commission Paul is fully persuaded of his place by divine appointment, but ask of his accusers/questioners are you sure your teachers are who they represent themselves to be? I know who I am and by what authority I am able to speak to
you, I have earned the right. Have they?
“Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, and night and a day I have been in the deep” (II-Corinthians 11:24-25). My people, the Jews have beaten me with the whip five times, with a rod or cane three times and an angry mob stoned me and left me for dead. As if that was not painful enough, I spent a day and a night lost at sea shipwrecked, why? Because I preach the Gospel of Jesus Our Christ to Jews and Gentiles, fulfilling my commission to preach it to the uttermost parts of the earth.
Things have not changed after 2,000-years. Christians who have taken the great
commission as their life’s work, at home and abroad, stay at risk. The faces, names and places may have changed but the contempt, hatred and total disdain is ever-present. The dangers are found in the same places today with the only difference being it is growing more virulent every day. “In journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watching often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in cold and nakedness” (II-Corinthians 11:26-27).
Salvation is a free! However, sanctification comes with a price you have to “earn your
stripes.” You pay with affliction, humility and you put your life on the line. The life of Jesus is the best example of how, if we are to follow him in this life and into eternity, we must be willing and ready to suffer as he suffered. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a heavenly treasure worthy of every moment of physical pain humanity and our adversary the Devil will inflict upon the saints of God. Jesus did not give up or give in, he gave all.
Paul is telling us as he spoke to the people of Corinth you do not know what I have been through but I will not give up or give in, I am willing to receive more and give all for Christ’s sake and you must be willing to do the same. Physical suffering is only one aspect of carrying out the great commission there is the emotional and mental anguish also to contend with: “Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?” (II-Corinthians 11:28-29).
Moreover, the total of the things I endure go beyond my body and are not mine alone. When the church body of Jesus Christ suffers I suffer, when you are weak I am weak, when you are offended I am offended. Simply put, I feel your pain and mine, yet I bear it for a just cause, the Gospel of Christ Jesus. The things I do are not done for money, power or prestige; “If I must need glory I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not” (II-Corinthians 11:30-31).
Paul is saying if I am to lift myself up it will be in speaking the truth of my past and present in the grace of God the Father. Positively, His grace is sufficient for me my strength is made perfect in weakness. Should I glory I would rather glory in mine own infirmities. Why? So that the power of Christ may rest upon me, I have no reason to lie. No test equals no testimony and I have a testimony for the believers and those who believe not.
“In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me, and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands” (II-Corinthians 11:32-33). God will deliver me from the hands of mine enemy and as Job said “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” This willingness to trust God is what gives us the strength and courage to face those who would rob us of our joy and glory in Christ Jesus. We may be assaulted and assailed by our fellow countrymen, false brethren and heathens yet we must persevere.
“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (II-Timothy 1:12). In due time while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, all of us. For this reason they who are God’s are not ashamed of the pain or suffering inflicted upon us for His name sake. With every lash, every stinging word and vile accusation we lift our heads and carry the message of the cross as a badge of honor. In Jesus we have been redeemed by his blood, we are healed and forgiven of our sins according to the riches of God’s grace.
Every day presents a new opportunity to step out, step up and boldly receive whatever this world offers because we know that there is a heavenly reward in Christ Jesus that exceeds the treasures of this world. “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death” (Philippians 1:20).
For this reason, therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. Jesus never said following him would be easy, he said it would be worth it. “In this world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Grady Norman Greene, Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Our Christ
- Satan: Why He Hates The Preaching Of The Gospel! (soulrefuge.org)