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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 11:27-29; Pastoral Pains

11/29_2 Corinthians 11:27-29; Pastoral Pains ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201129_2cor11_27-29.mp3

In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul engages in foolish boasting to parody the false apostles. He answers a fool according to his folly, so that their folly will be evident to all. He says this is boasting according to the flesh, not according to the Lord (11:17-18). But even as he launches into foolish boasting, he draws a contrast between himself and the false apostles, who were enslaving them, devouring, seizing, self-exalting, and striking them on the face (11:20). Paul says,

2 Corinthians 11:21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that! …

Paul is willing to embrace shame, to be thought of as weak, to lower himself in order to lift them up. He possesses the social, religious and ethnic status, and although he boasts in that here (11:22) in a mock parody of the false teachers, he considers it all worthless and a liability not an asset. He turns the attention away from status and on to service. He is showing them that weakness is the way.

2 Corinthians 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? —I am talking like a madman— I am a better one

And he begins to list his surpassing service record;

23 …in toils, abundantly; (ἐν κόποις περισσοτέρως, )

in prisons, abundantly; (ἐν φυλακαῖς περισσοτέρως, )

in wounds, surpassingly; (ἐν πληγαῖς ὑπερβαλλόντως,)

in deaths, frequently (ἐν θανάτοις πολλάκις· )

He goes on to get specific about some of his suffering;

24 5x forty lashes less one.

25 3x beaten with rods.

1x stoned.

3x shipwrecked;

24hrs. adrift at sea;

As a servant of Christ on mission, he has been commissioned by Christ to bring the gospel to the nations. This requires travel.

26 journeys frequent, (ὁδοιπορίαις πολλάκις, )

But travel in the ancient world is fraught with danger. He catalogs the different types of danger he faced; circumstantial travel dangers:

danger – rivers, (κινδύνοις ποταμῶν,) \

danger – robbers, (κινδύνοις λῃστῶν,) / —Travel Dangers

Each people group posed a threat:

danger from my own people, (κινδύνοις ἐκ γένους,) \

danger from Gentiles, (κινδύνοις ἐξ ἐθνῶν,) / —People Dangers

Each place he traveled posed its own threat:

danger in city, (κινδύνοις ἐν πόλει, ) \

danger in wilderness, (κινδύνοις ἐν ἐρημίᾳ,) |—Place Dangers

danger in sea, (κινδύνοις ἐν θαλάσσῃ,) /

And the climactic danger of all, what he considered the greatest threat not to his own person, but a threat to the very ministry that Jesus commissioned him to do:

danger from false brothers; (κινδύνοις ἐν ψευδαδέλφοις,) –Spiritual

This was meant to hit home with the Corinthians, who were guilty of extending hospitality to false teachers, listening to and supporting their proclamation of a false Jesus, a counterfeit spirit, a false gospel.

Physical and Emotional Cost of Ministry

In verse 27, he continues to catalog his hardships with another list, this time focusing on the toll his ministry took on him both physically and emotionally.

2 Corinthians 11:

27 toil and hardship, κόπῳ καὶ μόχθῳ, [v.23]

in sleeplessness frequently, ἐν ἀγρυπνίαις πολλάκις,

in hunger and thirst, ἐν λιμῷ καὶ δίψει,

in fastings, frequently, ἐν νηστείαις πολλάκις,

in cold and exposure. ἐν ψύχει καὶ γυμνότητι·

The first, third and fifth lines of this list are pairs joined by ‘and’; toil and hardship; hunger and thirst, cold and exposure. The second and fourth lines list something he faced often; sleeplessness frequently, fastings frequently.

Toil and Hardship

Toil and hardship; back in verse 23 he used the plural ‘toils;’ ‘In toils, abundantly.’ Now he uses the singular, paired with a synonym. Wearisome labor and painful toil. Both of these words end with the same letter in the original, so there is poetic rhythm to the ears. Paul uses these two words together also in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 and 2 Thessalonians 3:8, both in the context of working night and day in order to not be a burden to them.

Sleeplessness

This would fit in to what he says next, ‘sleeplessnesses often.’ Paul’s frequent sleeplessness could be attributed to multiple causes. In the Thessalonian letters, he claims to have worked night and day to support himself. He would preach and proclaim Christ whenever he had opportunity, and then he would stay up into the night to do manual labor to provide an income. And somewhere he made time to write his letters to the churches.

We know from Acts 16 we are told that ‘About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God’ and after the earthquake, they prevented the jailer’s suicide, and spent the rest of the night proclaiming the gospel and discipling him and his family. In Acts 20, in Troas, Paul preached until midnight, until Eutychus fell asleep, fell out of the window and died. Paul raised him up and went on preaching until daybreak, when he set out to walk the 20 miles to his next destination (about a day’s journey), while his co-workers sailed to meet him there. Doubtless the night and day adrift at sea after one of his many shipwrecks was not only exhausting and sleepless, but wet, cold and hungry. And we can only speculate as to his sleeplessness caused by his concern for the churches.

Hunger and Thirst

Paul often went without adequate food and water, due to the rigors of travel, the lack of funds, and the lack of hospitality. He writes to the Philippians (4:11-13) that he has learned to be content whether in plenty or in hunger, in abundance or in need.

Fastings

After hunger and thirst, he mentions ‘fastings,’ the word most often used of a voluntary abstinence from food as a religious practice. Although Jesus’ disciples didn’t fast while he was with them (Mt.9:14-15), he taught them, ‘…when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, …But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. (Mt.6:16-18).

Paul no doubt observed the religious fasts of the Jews, but this may be another poke at the false apostles, who prided themselves on their religious observances. Paul says ‘in fastings, often,’ referring more to his hunger in the face of ministry rigors just mentioned rather than his voluntary religious observances.

Cold and Nakedness

Paul moves down his list to the more and more basic of human needs, from wearisome labor, to going without sleep, to going without food and drink, to going without adequate warmth and clothing. Toward the end of his life Paul writes Timothy from prison (2Tim.4:13) asking for him to bring his coat, because he was cold. Being in danger from rivers and a 24 hour period clinging to wreckage in the open sea no doubt brought him close to hypothermia (cf.Acts 28:2). He likely suffered the humiliation of being publicly stripped naked to receive the beatings he referred to earlier.

Remember, Paul is boasting. But he is turning boasting upside down by boasting in his weakness, boasting in his shame.

Anxiety for All the Churches

He again climaxes this part of his list with what he considers his greatest hardship.

2 Corinthians 11:28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

Paul proclaimed Jesus and planted churches across Asia Minor and into Macedonia and Achaia. Paul preached the gospel in Damascus, Jerusalem, Salamis and Paphos on Cyprus, Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, and Perga (Acts 13-14). Back at Antioch in Syria, Paul had to go toe to toe with the Judaizers and even take a trip to Jerusalem (Acts 15) to settle the dispute over the pressure to put Gentile believers under Jewish law. He preached in Phillipi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, and throughout the regions of Galatia and Phrygia (Acts 16-18). If the church in Corinth was any indicator of the confrontation between the gospel and the culture, there was much to worry about. Paul wrote the Galatians because he was “astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (Gal.1:6). He wrote “I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.” (Gal.4:11).

Paul wrote the Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians 3:1 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this.

He was concerned that persecution would shake them from their faith.

1 Thessalonians 3:5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.

Paul wrote to them again because there was deception

2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

It seems there was a deceptive spirit, someone teaching, or a letter forged as coming from the apostle that was frightening them and shaking their faith.

In just his first letter to Corinth he had to confront them over such a wide range of issues ranging from divisions in the church, pride, celebrating sexual immorality, wronging and defrauding each other with lawsuits, confusion over marriage, participation in idolatry and demon worship, selfish abuse of the Lord’s Supper and spiritual gifts, to doubts and disbelief about the resurrection.

Now in his second letter they were questioning his character and authority, and tolerating abusive satanic leadership that proclaimed another Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel.

He warns the elders from Ephesus

Acts 20:29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert…

Threats of division and false doctrine both from without and from within.

2 Corinthians 11:28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

Anxiety; Jesus and Paul

We have to ask a question here. How does Paul’s anxiety over the churches fit with Jesus’ clear teaching prohibiting anxiety?

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? …27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? …31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

Notice, Jesus’ teaching forbids anxiety about one’s own life; self-preservation, food and drink and clothing. Paul was clearly not concerned about saving his own skin, boasting about his lack of sufficient food and clothing and constantly facing death for the sake of the gospel. In place of anxiety over one’s own life, Jesus commands us to:

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Paul’s anxiety over the churches is exactly that; seeking above his own life the advance of the kingdom of God and his righteousness among all the nations. Paul is daily carries the weight of his care for the Lord’s churches. How is Paul not crushed, not driven to despair under this weight?

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

He knows that he is weak, fragile, not sufficient. He knows that the surpassing power belongs to God alone. So he writes to the Philippians:

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Paul is weak, but he knows who is strong. Paul is willing to humble himself, ‘casting all his anxieties on God because God cares for him’ (1Pet.5:6-7). Paul is burdened, and he brings hat burden to the Lord.

Weakness and Stumbling

2 Corinthians 11:29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

Paul again self-identifies as weak, not strong. He is ready to forego his rights and stand with the weak. In the body, ‘if one member suffers, all suffer together’ (1Cor.12:26). Paul gladly embraces weakness in order to win the weak’ (1Cor.9:22). In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul warns:

1 Corinthians 8:9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

Paul gladly bears the burdens of the weak, and his passion is ignited when someone is made to stumble. This sounds like Jesus when he said:

Mark 9:42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin [stumble, lit. scandalized], it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

Carson (p.125) writes on this passage “…Paul burns when he sees righteousness in ruins and believers morally battered by the servants of Satan. How different are many of our reactions to the same phenomena today. It is regrettably easy to philosophize when such sin occurs, comment on the evil times in which we live, reflect that the brother or sister who fell into sin or heresy was never very strong or discerning anyway, and never to agonize in prayer for our fellow believer or inwardly burn because of their weakness and shame. The really consistent triumphalist may actually entertain feelings of superiority in that situation and rejoice that he is not as other men are.”

May the Lord work in us his heart for the lost, that we are willing not to be served but to serve, to lay down our lives (Mk.10:45) so that all may hear the gospel; that we would ‘endure anything for the sake of the elect’ (2Tim.2:10).

May the Lord work in us his heart for his straying sheep, that

Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

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Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

December 12, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment