If you were to take a moment to brag about your accomplishments, what would you say?
In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul brags about his resume, but he doesn’t say the things you might think. He says he did more time in prison than any other apostle. He got beat up more often. He lived in constant anxiety for his friends’ welfare. He survived capital punishment. He almost died in a shipwreck—three times! He goes on.
Paul’s message is that these things that might make you think less of him are the very things that God used to display his power in him.
This week, we will continue our series on Paul’s letters by looking at 2 Corinthians. Confession: I find 2 Corinthians to be the most difficult of Paul’s letters to read and understand. Personal messages about previous conversations make the argument difficult to track for those who weren’t present for the events being discussed.
But there are many things that are clear in 2 Corinthians! Paul clearly loved the Corinthians, they had had a falling out, and some self-proclaimed “super apostles” were trying to destroy Paul’s reputation in the church. Paul was gathering financial resources to help the poor in Judea, and he wanted to make sure that the Corinthians were still committed to giving what they had pledged.
Nestled into Paul’s personal defense in 2 Corinthians, we see a robust theology of suffering and the mission of God. Paul agrees with the “super apostles” that he is weak, but he disagrees that this weakness makes him unfit as an apostle. On the contrary, Paul insists that his weakness puts the power of God fully on display. Just as Jesus (though he was rich) became poor for our sake so that we might become rich, so also God has sent us into the world in weakness so that others might be reconciled to God.