1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
When the Apostle Paul set out to write 2 Corinthians chapters 11 to 13, he set out to accomplish the greatest mission of all: to prove how the gospel of Jesus Christ worked in his life. This is the greatest accomplishment that any man can accomplish this side of heaven: proving the gospel of Jesus at work in him. Let us not forget the gospel that Paul preached.
“But we preach Christ crucified…” (1 Cor. 1:23)
Simple and clear. Paul did not preach any other gospel. Paul did not try to bring up any ‘smart’ doctrines or anything to show how clever or intelligent he was. Nor did he try to show how ‘powerful’ he was. Paul wanted to show the power of Christ.
Any other gospel other than the gospel of the cross will produce false ministers of the gospel – the kind of fellows that we talked of in Part 1 – who in turn will turn out unproven Christians under their watch. Paul therefore set out to prove that the gospel of Jesus Christ was at work in his life. He gave the example of his own life as proof that the true gospel of Jesus Christ was working in him.
So how did the gospel work in Paul?
The gospel worked through Paul through weakness!! Hallelujah to that! The gospel worked through Paul allowing himself to become weak. The gospel brought in Paul a broken man. Paul would gladly boast of nothing of himself except his weaknesses.
“… of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.” (2 Cor. 12:5)
The “infirmities” Paul talks about are his sufferings for the sake of the gospel. The sufferings for the sake of the gospel are the mark of a true servant of Jesus Christ.
This is according to God’s will, for Jesus says in Revelation3:19:
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten”.
Paul rejoiced in the rebuke and chastening of the Lord! It was his only joy. That’s so different from us.
Paul lays out his sufferings in 2 Cor. 12:23-33.
“… in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft… 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness… 32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: 33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.”
An apostle let down through a window in a basket!
Paul was hounded and pounded. And here Paul lays down the challenge: “If anyone wants to boast in the Lord, let him boast as I have boasted – in his sufferings for the gospel!” This was proof that Paul was a minister of Jesus Christ.
That seems incredible enough, but what is even more important was the reason for Paul’s sufferings. In Colossians 1:24 Paul talks about the reason he endured his sufferings:
“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church”.
This life – laid down on the altar of sacrifice – produced the kind of person that God could use, one that could do the whole will of God. Such an one would love Christ’s church as Christ Himself loved it. Such was the man, Paul. He loved Christ church as Christ Himself loved her and gave himself for her.
In 2 Cor. 12:9, Paul writes:
“… Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
What “power” is Paul talking of here. Is it the power to lord it over God’s people?
No, on the contrary, it is the power to give of his life for God’s people sacrificially. The power to do all he could so that others could be built up in the Spirit. The power to lay down one’s life.
With such a man God was well pleased. Need we wonder, then, why Paul was given the mandate to preach the gospel throughout the known world and to single-handedly write half the entire New Testament?