According to a University of Michigan survey, overall customer satisfaction with air travel continued to decline in 2007. Travelers cited lost or damaged luggage, long delays or flight cancellations, and unhelpful airline personnel among their major grievances. For many frequent flyers, travel has become more difficult and less pleasant. Even with all these hassles, modern travelers can barely imagine what Paul endured in his day.
Travel in the ancient world was difficult and dangerous, so many people never traveled. This makes Paul’s extensive travels all the more remarkable. Yet traveling was only one hardship that Paul willingly endured for the gospel.
We noted yesterday that, out of love for the Corinthians, Paul answered their false accusations. Today we see that Paul also countered the arrogant boasting of his opponents with some “foolish boasting” of his own. By doing so, he exposed their true foolishness. The Corinthians willingly endured quite a bit from these “fools,” including enslaving and degrading treatment. Paul uses irony (v. 21) to show that a true apostle would never exploit them.
Apparently these false apostles boasted in their Jewish heritage. Philippians 3:3–6 indicates that Paul’s Jewish heritage was impeccable. These “super-apostles” also boasted about what they had suffered for Christ. They picked the wrong opponent, because Paul could “out boast” every one of them. For example, the Jewish punishment of “forty lashes minus one” could kill a person. The fact that Paul survived this five times revealed both his love for his own people and God’s sustaining power for his body. Despite numerous tangible hardships, nothing compared with the pressing concern that he felt for all the churches. If the Corinthian church is an indication, Paul must have paid a high price in this regard.
Finally, Paul referenced the humiliating way that he fled Damascus soon after his conversion. Although he wanted to crush Christianity, he was humbled by the risen Lord.