2Co 11:21-24 “I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. 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 labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.”
As we look into these verses we must remember that Paul has told the Corinthians that he is going to speak foolishly. In verse 20, he spoke about the Corinthians allowing men to bring them into bondage and devour them. This was something that Paul had insisted he did not do. His love for them through Christ prohibited him from taking any advantage of them.
Paul uses his “foolish” speaking to contrast his life of service to Christ and His church with that of the false teachers. He begins by confessing that he was too “weak” to take advantage of them as others were trying to do. Speaking foolishly, he said that perhaps he should be ashamed (concerning reproach) for such weakness. At least, this was the manner in which the false teachers were trying to pain Paul.
Then Paul begins to reason with them concerning the facts of his life as it pertained to his zeal for the gospel of Jesus Christ. He stills professes this to be foolish speaking, for certainly Paul did not feel that he was asked to do more that the gospel was worth. He begins to declare to us that he could make the same claims as those that sought to bring bondage and confusion to the church. He then proceeds to provide proof that he is at least their equal in every manner.
We find the scripture indicating that there were brethren who came from Jerusalem trying to find fault with the grace of Christ that was shown to the Gentiles. They wanted them to be under the same law and bondage that they had grown up under. They continued to hold a superior attitude and expected to be listened to because they were Hebrews of the linage of Abraham. The old covenant had been left in their hands, and they behaved as though they thought this should be true of the new covenant.
Paul reasoning here is simple. He told the Corinthians that these people had nothing on him because they were Hebrews: Paul was a Hebrew too. Their boast that they should be listened to because they were Israelites held no merit: Paul was an Israelite too. Their claim to the linage of Abraham was moot as it regarded Paul’s standing: he was of the linage of Abraham too.
These first arguments were all matters of the flesh. They were all these things because of their natural birth. Now Paul begins to set forth a separation from these false teachers based on his faith and obedience to the calling of God. Paul declares that he exceed all of these false teachers as a minster of Christ. Where they have come preaching bondage, Paul has preached the liberty that is in Christ.
Paul goes on to declare that he has labored more in the gospel than these false teachers. He has been beaten more times than he can count. Paul was often in prison for his determination to know only Christ and Him crucified. His live was under constant threat, and he had been lashed with a whip with 39 stripes on five different occasions.
As followers of Jesus, we must guard against being over-awed by flashy claims. We should not easily fall to the outward appearance. Instead, we need to always look for the proof of a life of service to God’s people without resort to pride of linage. We should never be ashamed of anything we have suffered for His name’s sake.
May God make us able, like Paul, to point to the path of our life and bid those around us “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).”