Did Paul suffer more than we realize?
2 Timothy 3:12 – “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
1 Peter 4:16 – “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.”
Saul had caused the early Christians to suffer greatly
The first mention of Saul (his name before Christ changed it to Paul) in the Bible is in the role of a persecutor of Christianity.
Acts 7:57-58 – “Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”
Acts 8:1-4 – “Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church, which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.”
Acts 9:1-2 – “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”
Philippians 3:6 – “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church . . . “
1 Timothy 1:13 – “. . . I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man.”
Suffering would be a part of Paul’s Christian life
Christ personally chooses Paul to become an apostle to the Gentiles.
The Lord spoke to Ananias concerning Paul’s suffering Acts 9:15-16 – “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake’.”
Paul summarizes his sufferings as perplexed but not in despair.
2 Corinthians 4:7-18 – “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;”
Paul’s list of sufferings is in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28
2 Corinthians 11:23-28 – “. . . in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness…”
Even more sufferings for Paul
Unfortunately, we have come to believe that 2 Corinthians is a list of ALL the sufferings Paul endured in his ministry – in fact, it is only a partial listing.
Consider the following:
2 Corinthians is the fourth book Paul wrote. It was written from Macedonia in the autumn of 57 A.D. during his third missionary journey.
It is believed that Paul’s conversion occurred in 36 A.D. and his death in Rome in 68 A.D. That would indicate a ministry of some 32 years.
Since 2 Corinthians was written in 57 A.D. and recorded sufferings Paul had endured up to the time of the writing, the list would encompass the first 21 years of Paul’s 32-year ministry, but would not include the last 11 years of his life and work.
Thus, the list would not include:
1. The 4th and final year of the 3rd missionary journey.
2. Paul’s arrest and treatment in Jerusalem.
3. Paul’s two-year imprisonment in Jerusalem.
4. Paul’s perilous journey from Caesarea to Rome that included: Another shipwreck and snakebite
5. Paul’s first Roman imprisonment in Caesarea.
6. Paul’s “house arrest” imprisonment in Rome.
7. The three-to-four year period between the first and second Roman
8. Paul’s second Roman imprisonment which resulted in his execution.
Joy In Spite of Sufferings
Through it all, Paul’s faith continued to excel.
2 Corinthians 12:10 – “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 6:3-20 – “We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fasting; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”
Notice Paul’s summation of his life as a believer and apostle.
2 Timothy 4:6-8 – “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
Well done good and faithful servant!