For the glory of God, for the sake of the gospel, for the good of the church at Corinth and to expose the false prophets for what they were, Paul continues to vindicate himself and to defend his ministry and his message of justification by faith (Rom. 3:28). They said that he was weak and contemptible, that his speech was rude and they urged the people to reject Paul and follow them. So Paul was forced to expose them (vs.12-15) and defend himself (vs.16-18).
(Vs. 22.) "Are they Hebrews? So am I." Evidently these false preachers were Jews who sought to bring into this Gentile church their traditions and impose on the Corinthians the ceremonies and requirements of the law (Col. 2:16, 17; Gal. 3:1-3; 5:1-6; Rom. 10:4). They boasted that they should be heard because they were Hebrews, descendants from Jacob (Israelites) and sons of Abraham (John 8:33). Paul declared that his credentials in this regard matched theirs (Phil. 3:3-7).
(Vs. 23.) "Are they ministers of Christ?" Paul might have denied that they were true ministers of Christ, since they did not preach Christ, they put down the true apostle to the Gentiles and they sought their own things, not the things of Christ nor the good of the church. This a minister sent by Christ would not do! But Paul chose not to do battle with them on this point (by pointing out their inconsistencies and errors) but rather to show in himself the spirit, sufferings, motives and dedication to Christ and the church which are characteristic of a genuine apostle and preacher. He regretted having to commend himself ("I speak as a fool"), feeling that it would be misunderstood (vs. 16; Prov. 27:1,2), but there was a reason for it - to stop the mouths of these vain boasters. He was more than a minister of the gospel; he was an apostle who laboured more and suffered more then even the other eleven apostles. Therefore, he was far superior to these who found fault with him.
1. "In labours more abundant." He travelled more, preached and wrote more, established more churches and even worked with his own hands. He was a tireless evangelist.
2. "In stripes above measure." He suffered more for the gospel (being beaten, whipped and unmercifully afflicted) than any other.
3. "In prisons more frequent." Who spent more time in prison for the sake of the gospel than Paul? Certainly not these false apostles!
4. "In deaths oft." He was always in danger of death. The afflictions, evils and dangers to which he was constantly exposed threatened death (2 Cor. 1:8.10).
(Vs. 24-27.) In proof of his love for Christ, his dedication to the gospel of God's glory and grace and the fact that God had counted him faithful in the ministry of the Word, the apostle reveals some of the things he had suffered for the testimony of God. Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles and for that reason was hated of the Jews and among the Gentiles he also met with great persecution. Five times he was whipped by the Jews (Deut. 25:1-3); three times he was beaten with rods (Acts16:19-23); once he was stoned (Acts 14:19); three times he suffered shipwreck (we read of only one - Acts 27:18-44). "A night and a day I have been in the deep" may refer (as some say) to a dungeon, but most likely it refers to being adrift on the sea after a shipwreck. If he journeyed by land or by sea, he was always in danger, for it seemed that everyone wanted to silence his voice. Satan used every means, from bandits to false brethren in the church, to add to the toil and hardship of Paul. He suffered hunger, thirst, cold, exposure and lack of clothing. When we are tempted to complain of our lot in life, it would do well for us to review these verses and consider how little we have suffered for what we believe (Heb. 12:4).
(Vs. 28.) Besides those afflictions and trials which were brought upon his flesh and body (his outward man) by people who had no relation to Christ or to the church (1 Cor. 5:12, 13), the apostle was burdened in heart and mind with the care of all the churches. He was not an ordinary pastor with the responsibility of preaching to and overseeing one church, but he was the Lord's apostle in these earliest days of the conversion of pagan Gentiles, who had to be taught the ways of Christ, and the conversion of traditional, legalistic Jews, who had to be taught that Christ was the fulfilment and the end of the Mosaic law. Not having the completed New Testament as their rule and guide, all of these early churches looked to Paul and the inspired apostles for guidance, instruction and correction.
(Vs. 29.) "Who is weak that I do not feel his weakness?" There was not a weak believer struggling with problems of foods, days, inner conflicts, or temptation, with whom Paul did not sympathize (Rom. 12:15). There was not an offended believer, hurt and wounded by what he did or said or by the words and actions of someone else, that did not cause Paul pain and grief until the cause of the offence was removed. This oneness with, and compassion and sympathy for, members of the body of Christ are not only the minister's responsibility, but should be the feeling of all believers (1 Cor. 12:25,26).
(Vs. 30-31.) What Paul says in those verses is that if he must commend himself and if it becomes necessary for him to prove his apostleship and the integrity of his ministry, he will do so, not by pointing to his unusual gifts, such as the different languages he spoke, miracles he had performed, churches he had established, or the great numbers of people who had been saved by his gospel, but he chose to glory in the things he had suffered for his faithfulness to the gospel and to glory in his genuine love and concern for the people of God. He calls on God as his witness that he speaks the truth (Rom. 1:9; 9:1-3).
(Vs. 32-33) He mentions one incident in the past in which he was in great danger, but God delivered him. This was his first great difficulty and the rest of his life was more of the same (Acts 9:21-25).