Themes in 2 Corinthians (03) Suffering in Christ (2 Corinthians 11-12)

Date: 7/8/2018
More audio from All Saints Church
Type: Sunday Sermon
Topic: Suffering
Organization: All Saints
Price: FREE

Roadmap of 2 Corinthians
1. Paul’s Defense of His Apostolic Ministry (1-7)
2. Paul’s Call for a Collection for the Poor in Jerusalem (8-9)
3. Paul’s Vindication of His Apostolic Authority (10-13)

2 Corinthians 11:13ff - For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.)2 Corinthians 11-12 (selected) - [regarding the “super-apostles,” 12:11] Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23 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. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 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. 26 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; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? 30 If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. . . . 7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me — to keep me from exalting myself! … 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (12 The signs that characterize the true Apostle have been done among you, accompanied by unwearied fortitude, and by tokens and marvels and displays of power, Weymouth).

The Themes of this Apostolic Text - There is so much in 2 Corinthians: “The Epistle also contains the classic discussions of the theology of Christian suffering (1:3-11; 4:7-18; 6:3-10; 12:1-10), the role of a minister of the new covenant (2:14-17; 4:1-5; 5:16-21; 11:28, 29, 12:14, 15), the relation between the old and new covenants (3:7-18), the theology of death and resurrection (4:7-5:10), and the principles and practice of Christian stewardship (2Cor 8-9)” (Murray J. Harris, EBC). Paul’s apostolic ministry with all the griefs and glories shines through the book. It was written to a church founded in an incredibly idolatrous city which boasted of new wealth and ill-gotten gain. “A temple for Aphrodite stood on the highest point of Acrocorinth . . . Strabo tells us that so wealthy was the cult of Aphrodite that it boasted a thousand courtesans [temple prostitutes] dedicated to the goddess” (Kruse, Tyndale). Remember the full humanity of the Bible: some of the richest theology comes through pages written to this divisive congregation.

The Theme of Apostolic Tribulation - Chapter 11-12 demonstrates some of the suffering of Paul. It is a surprising fact to accept: 2 Corinthians was written in the fall of 56 AD (Harris). Therefore, after this list of troubles, Paul experienced much more which we can read about in Acts 20-28 and 2 Timothy. In fact there is an entire category of biblical literature called, “The Prison Letters” which includes Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, not counting 2 Timothy. After he wrote this letter, he went to Jerusalem, was a victim of a riot, was condemned before the Sanhedrin, tried by Felix, Festus, and Herod Agrippa (over years), was delivered from another shipwreck, and after some profitable time of ministry (Acts 28), he was detained in the subterranean Mamertime Prison, and ultimately beheaded by Nero (circa 66 AD, so says 1 Clement and Ignatius). So despite the whole list of his hardships in 2 Cor 12, he had another ten years of tribulation before dying by beheading in the Roman Coliseum.  After beheading, his body was thrown to the animals and gladiators. Remember that union with Christ means identification in His suffering: every person suffers, but only in Christ does it add up to the “eternal weight of glory.”

The Purpose of Apostolic Tribulation - God revealed His glory to Paul (e.g., in the “third heaven” or highest heaven), then gave him a role as an ambassador (12:3-4). But he was permitted to receive a Satanic “thorn/stake in his flesh” despite thes

Gregg Strawbridge Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more