The Sufferings of Paul
June 17th, 1956 @ 10:50 AM
2 Corinthians 11:16-33
THE SUFFERINGS OF PAUL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 11:16-33
6-17-56 10:50 a.m.
You’re listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message. As it has been announced in the reminder and in our programs, the sermon this morning, having come to the eleventh chapter of the second Corinthian letter, the sermon announced for this morning was Preaching Another Jesus which is the text in Second Corinthians 11:4. Then the sermon announced for tonight was The Price He Paid which is Second Corinthians 11:16 to the end of the chapter.
And I am going to turn them around: the sermon that was announced for tonight, I’m going to preach this morning. And the sermon announced for this morning, Preaching Another Jesus, is going to be delivered tonight.
So we come to the last part of the second Corinthian letter for the message of this hour. Starting at the sixteenth verse, Paul writes:
I say again, "Let no man think me foolish; if otherwise, yet as a foolish one receive me, that I may boast myself a little.
That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.
Seeing many that glory after the flesh, I will glory also.
For you suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise –
For you suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.
I speak as concerning reproach, as though we have been weak. Howbeit, whereinsoever as any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.
Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I.
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a foolish one) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
Thrice was I beaten with Roman rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren:
In weariness and in painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
Beside those things which are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all of the churches.
Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?
If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.
In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:
And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.
[2 Corinthians 11:16-33]
That’s a strange thing, but it’s an obvious thing after you see what brought it to light in the pen of Paul. Paul had many, many enemies – bitter enemies – enemies who would stoop to the lowest of misrepresentation of all kinds – of falsifications, innuendo, flagrant lying [2 Corinthians 10:1-2, 10-11]. They did it in order to undermine the great truth of the gospel that Paul was delivering, and the best way that they thought to stab the truth of the gospel message of Paul was to discredit Paul himself [2 Corinthians 11:1-15].
Now, in the church at Corinth, there was a faction – a group – that did all they could to discredit the apostle before the people, and they themselves said, "We represent the real gospel. We preach the real truth. And the men we are following are Peter and John who are the real apostles. But this man Paul, he’s a pseudo-apostle. He’s a false apostle. He’s an emissary who sent himself. God never sent him. He’s a low schemer. In all that he does, he contrives for his personal merit and advancement."
Then they boasted, of course, of themselves. They gloried in themselves. And as they sought to exalt themselves, they sought at the same time to deface Paul. Consequently, Paul was forced to defend himself in order to defend the message that he preached. So, in doing it, he starts off saying:
I am a foolish man to speak thus; I do not do it by personal choice.
My glorying is not after the Lord but is foolish in this confidence of boasting. But seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also.
For you seem to like fools. You seem to be enamored of men who praise themselves and exalt themselves, seeing you are so wise.
All right, if a man brings you into bondage, if he devours you, if he takes of you, if he exalts you, if he smites you, you like him.
[2 Corinthians 11:16-20]
So he says, "I will speak after the flesh," and he did it in order to positionize himself – not that he would choose to do it but in order to credit himself as a true messenger of Christ [2 Corinthians 11:12].
Now, I say, that’s a strange thing for Paul. It’s not strange for some men. Some men, when you get around them, all they talk about is themselves; and everything they turn, they turn for the advancement of themselves. They’re that kind of people. They think of themselves, and they always want to present themselves. And they do not realize it, but they hurt themselves in doing it. But I say, Paul was not like that. He was not given to that. Paul was a most humble man.
I don’t know about his humility before he became a Christian, but I do know that when God struck him down on the Damascus road and, blinded, he was led by the hand into the city of the Damascenes [Acts 9:3-8], I do know that after that, he was a broken and humble man. After all, God seems unable to use a man when he is full of himself, when he’s boastful and proud and lifted up [James 4:6].
God seems to be able to use a man only when he’s cut down, when he’s cast down, when he’s in the dust, when he’s broken in two. Joseph, before he was on the throne by the Pharaoh [Genesis 41:38-44], Joseph was first in the pit – cast and sold by his own brothers [Genesis 37:18-28]. Moses, before he was called of God to lead His people out of bondage [Exodus 3:10], Moses, first, was a shepherd on the backside of the desert [Exodus 3:1]. Daniel was a slave taken into captivity by the Babylonian army before he was the president of the councils [Daniel 1:1-20, 2:48-].
God seems to be unable to use a man when he’s proud and lifted up [Proverbs 29:23]. God seems able only to use us when we’re broken in two, when we’re cast down, when we’re in the dust [1 Peter 5:5]. So I say, the apostle Paul, however he might have been before the Damascus experience, but after that, he was humbled; and as the days multiplied and he grew older, he became more humble and more humble.
For example, when he wrote the first Corinthian letter, he speaks of himself as the least of the apostles in the fifteenth chapter of the First Corinthian letter [1 Corinthians 15:9]. About, oh, six or seven years after that, he wrote the letter to the Ephesians, and in the third chapter of the Book of Ephesians [Ephesians 3:8], he refers to himself as the least of all the saints. And then just before he died, he wrote to Timothy, and in the [first] letter of Timothy, he says: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" [1 Timothy 1:15].
As he grew older, he seemed to grow more humble. But in that humility and in that debasing and in the feeling of himself as nothing – "I am the least of all, an apostle that is not worthy to be an apostle" [1 Corinthians 15:9] – yet, when he is forced to boast, he can do it incomparably and do it rightly with reason.
In his labors and in his ministry, far above all others, did God bless the fruit of his hands. And in his own life: "Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites, chosen of God? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? So am I" [2 Corinthians 11:22-23].
For example, forced to do that many times, over here in the third chapter of Philippians, he says:
I could have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
He was – he was a great man in his own right.
Could I parenthesize here to say that you’ll find that true in all of the ages – that some, not all, but some of the most brilliant, and able, and gifted, and capable of men through all of these Christian ages have been devout followers of the Lord? There will be a Mozart [Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791] and a Handel [George Frideric Handel, 1685-1759] in music – devout Christians. There will be a Raphael [Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, 1483-1520] and a Reynolds [Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1723-1792] – great painters, great Christians. There will be a Michelangelo [Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, 1475-1564] and a Christopher Wren [Sir Christopher Michael Wren 1632-1723] – great architects, sculptors – great Christians. There will be an Alexis Carrel [1873-1944] and a Harvey [William Harvey, 1578 – 1657] – men of medicine but devoted to Christ. There will be a Washington [George Washington, 1732-1799] and a Gladstone [William Ewart Gladstone, 1809-1898], men of great statesmanship but followers of the Lamb. There will be a Blackstone [Sir William Blackstone, 1723-1780] and a Marshall [John Marshall, 1755-1835] – men who are gigantic in the law, but they are also humble servants of Jesus.
All through these ages, I say, you have some of your greatest, mightiest men who are given to Christ. And in that group of brilliant, able, capable, trained men, you will find none greater than the apostle Paul.
For example, if you ever make a trip to the Mediterranean, you’ll want to go see the city of Athens. I wonder why. I’ll tell you what you’ll do. Almost all of us, when we go to the city of Athens, will want to stand on Mars Hill where Paul preached an incomparable sermon to the court of the Areopagus, to the highest supreme court of the Greek people [Acts 17:16-34].
Now, as you stand there on Mars Hill following the footsteps of that humble and unknown Jewish emissary of Christ, why, look around you, look around you. Everywhere you look – to the right, to the left, to the front, to the back, there, there, and there, and everywhere – there will be great monuments and places and topographies and geographical sites that call to mind the greatest men who ever lived: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Pericles, Miltiades, Euripides, Aristophanes, Sophocles, Phidias, Praxiteles, Thucydides, Herodotus. In how many incomparable categories do you find those greatest men of the Greek nation?
Yet when you go to Athens – incidentally, this will be where Socrates was imprisoned; and incidentally, there’s the porch of Zeno, the Stoic; and incidentally, this is where Epicurus taught; and incidentally, this is the place where Plato taught – incidentally. But the great main thing will be this is the place where Paul, the preacher of Christ, stood and addressed the court of the Areopagus.
Now, I say, I repeat, he was a great man and a brilliant man and a trained man [Acts 22:3]. The Holy Spirit has an affinity, young men, for the trained, educated mind. Moses was learned in all of the arts and sciences of the Egyptians [Acts 7:22], and God called him to be the great lawgiver of His people [Exodus 19:1-20:20]. And Paul was a university student in Tarsus, and grew up at the feet of Gamaliel in Jerusalem, and was a trained rabbi of the law [Acts 22:3; Philippians 3:4-6]. In of all of these things, I say, he had cause to boast and to be proud, and he mentions them.
But there’s something unusual about the glorying of Paul, and it is this: when he speaks of his right to boast and of his right to glory, he hardly refers to those things. He’ll do it in a sentence – just that sentence today: "Hebrews? So am I. Israelites? So am I. Seed of Abraham? So am I" [2 Corinthians 11:22].
Then he begins to speak of the categories in which he has a right to boast. And what are they? Those categories pertain to his suffering, to the price that he paid:
Five times received I thirty-nine stripes.
Thrice beaten with rods, once stoned, [thrice] shipwrecked, floundered in the water for a day and a night;
In journeyings often, perils of waters, perils of robbers, perils of mine country, perils of heathen, perils in the city and the wilderness . . .
In weariness and painful, watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings, in cold and in nakedness.
[2 Corinthians 11:24-27]
When Paul boasts, he boasts about his sufferings: the sorrows, and the pains, and the afflictions, and the cold, and the nakedness by which his life was daily surrounded and burdened [2 Corinthians 12:9-10]. That is his glory.
Now, as I began to think of that, there came to my heart the message concerning it that I preach this morning which is Paul’s attitude toward his sufferings – toward the heartaches and the burdens and the tragedies that daily afflicted his life. All right, here’s the first one: Paul’s attitude about his sufferings – how he took them, how he looked upon them.
First was this. In the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Acts, he’s in Jerusalem. He is recounting his conversion [Acts 22:1-16]. And in Jerusalem, he is standing there after his conversion, and he’s come back from Damascus into the city, and he wants to stay there, and he wants to die there. He wants to be martyred there. And the Lord appears to him in a vision [Acts 22:17] and says:
"Make haste, get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning [Me]."
And I said, "Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on Thee:
"And when the blood of Thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting, eudokeō, well pleased, most well pleased with his death. And I kept the raiment of them that slew him."
But God said unto me, "Depart, depart: for I have sent thee far hence unto the Gentiles."
"And I will show you how great things you must suffer for My name’s sake."
All right, here’s the first one – Paul’s attitude toward his sorrows and his sufferings and the afflictions that God in His providence pressed upon him – Paul says:
In this city and in this place, I witnessed the martyrdom of the first Christian who suffered death for Christ [Acts 7:54-8:1]. And I rejoiced in it. I supervised it. At my feet, the witnesses laid down their garments when they slew him. And Lord, where Stephen died and like Stephen died, I too want to die. Lord, let me die where Stephen died.
That thing of the martyrdom of Stephen was used of God in the providence of God to change the life of the Apostle. Both of them were Hellenistic Jews, reared outside, trained outside, educated outside Palestine – at least in their youth, in the formative period of their life. They were Greek-speaking Jews. And in that synagogue of Cilicia, you would find Paul there. Stephen was there. And Stephen spoke with such power that Paul could, by no means, withstand the zeal and the fervor and the glory by which Stephen spake [Acts 6:8-10]. Well, how do you get rid of a man like that? Kill him! Stone him! [Acts 6:11-14, 7:54, 57-59]
And they arose in a fury; and in a tempest, they dragged him out. Capital punishment had been taken away from the Jewish people, and this was a mob violence. They seized him, dragged him out, and stoned him to death [Acts 7:54, 57-58].
But Stephen, in that turmoil and in that furor and in that tempest and in that bloodshed, Stephen was quiet, full of the Holy Ghost [Acts 7:55], looked up steadfastly into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And he said, "Look, I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God" [Acts 7:56].
All of these commentators from John Chrysostom [3-407 CE] on down through the centuries, all remark on that: Jesus standing [Acts 7:55]. Everywhere else in the Bible, He is seated on the right hand of God [Colossians 3:1]. But when His martyr died, He stood up to receive Stephanos. His name means "a crown" – Stephanos, "crown," Stephen. He stood up that He might give His first martyr the crown of life – the reward of martyrdom. And Saul, standing there, looked upon all that [Acts 7:58, 8:1]. And they stoned Stephen as he bowed deep to the ground and prayed for his murderers, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" [Acts 7:60]. And crying with a last voice, "Lord, receive my spirit," he fell asleep [Acts 7:59-60]. He fell asleep.
Why, Saul looked upon that – this Christian deacon, this layman, Stephen – and in the midst of the turmoil and the furor and the blood and the violence and the death, perfectly at peace and a quiet and calm in his heart and fell asleep. I could just – it brings to my mind the still waters, the green pastures [Psalm 23:2]. Like a storm on the ocean and you say the whole world is moved, underneath, the great depths of the sea absolutely untouched. Stephen: absolutely unmoved and fell asleep [Acts 7:60] – fell asleep.
That’s where you get the word for cemetery, koimeterion, sleeping place. When you put it in English: cemetery, koimeterion, "sleeping place." It was a graveyard. It was a graveyard to the Romans, to the Greeks, to all of the ages. The Roman would say, "Cry at the bier of a loved one, ‘Farewell, farewell, eternally; forever, farewell.’" And they burned their dead and placed their ashes away.
Not the Christian. He never burned his dead. That’s a heathen practice. I don’t care what anybody says, it is a heathen practice. It’s a pagan practice. The Christian carefully preserved the body as carefully as opportunity allowed, even digging those vast, endless catacombs in order carefully to lay the body of the beloved away. And they called it a koimeterion which is a Greek for "sleeping place." You turn it in English, I say, it’s "cemetery." "He fell asleep; he fell asleep" [Acts 7:60].
There’s something about that falling asleep that brings to heart the harbinger of a resurrection. "He fell asleep. He fell asleep" [Acts 7:60]. And the life and the arguments and the ministry and the sermons and the truth God gave to Stephen had a strange and unusual resurrection. You don’t slay a man like Stephen or kill the message of a man like Stephen – just like the Lord Jesus. Bury Jesus? Bury the Lord? Why, the angel came by and pushed the stone away, and in contempt, sat upon it [Matthew 28:2]. Bury Jesus? Bury forever a man like Stephen? I say, he had an early resurrection.
The mantle fell upon the shoulders of the young persecutor, Saul of Tarsus. And God laid His hand upon Paul, Saul, and raised him up and sent him out. And if you’ll read God’s Word carefully, you’ll find in the first sermon that Paul preached [Acts 9:20], he preached almost the identical sermon that Stephen preached [Acts 7:2-53].
And all through these epistles – and I wrote some of them out for you but haven’t time to mention them – you’ll find Paul using these same phrases and the identical words that Stephen used when he preached his sermon. That was the first attitude of Paul about his sufferings: "Stephen. I supervised his death. I presided over that stoning, the fury, and I was well pleased to see him die. And Lord, I want to die where Stephen died." And when the Lord interdicted it, "Then, Lord, to carry out that great message that Stephen preached, the message of the Son of God." That was his first attitude.
All right, the second attitude, hastily. You’ll find over here in the letter to the Colossians, in the twenty-fourth verse in the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he says:
You who now whereof I Paul [was] made a minister
You 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:
Whereof I am made a minister, according to this possession of God, which is given to me . . . to fulfil the Word of the Lord.
Now, he says an unusual thing there. He says: "Rejoicing in my sufferings . . . who fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh" [Colossians 1:24]. What Paul says is this unusual thing. When we come to it – and I hope God will help me prepare a whole message on that verse – Paul says that the afflictions that he has and that he’s bearing is fulfilling, is filling up, is completing, the afflictions of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He does not mean by that that the atoning death of Christ was not sufficient for the washing away of our sins [Hebrews 10:14; 1 John 2:2], but he does mean by that that the followers of Christ have also an affliction, a suffering, a cross to bear [Luke 9:23], and that if the body of Christ, the church, is to be made strong and is to grow and is to have virility and power in it, then His followers must be willing to follow their Lord in the afflictions that He bore [John 15:20-21]. We also are called upon to sacrifice and to suffer [1 Peter 2:18-21].
And God blessed the missionary in Argentina. If they do it all, a work that will build up the church of God and of Christ, in Argentina, they shall know what it means "to fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ" [Colossians 1:24].
Christ did not do all the suffering for the church and for the people. We also are called upon to suffer and to sacrifice. We have a part also in that ministry. Paul says: "What I am doing in the afflictions of my life, I am filling up that which is lacking in the afflictions of Christ for the church, the building up of the household of faith" [Colossians 1:24].
Now, the last, and I hastily come to it. Paul’s attitude towards his afflictions, toward his sufferings, the third one lies in a description of Paul as he was beat and the blood ran down his back, and he was placed in the inner dungeon and his feet fast in stocks and in chains [Acts 16:22-24].
All right, what about us? Have we been beat and the blood drying on our backs without attention, without ministry, without healing – just the blood coagulating where it ran down your back – and placed deep down in a foul, dirty dungeon and our feet made fast in the stocks? What would we do? Well, here’s what I see us doing at least. Why we complain: "O, Lord, what a lot I have! What sorrows, what miseries, what agonies, what troubles! O Lord, what I have!"
And then we’re all alike. All of us are alike. When we meet tragedy and hurt and sorrow, we complain. We just do. Like the children of Israel going to the wilderness, they murmured, and they murmured, and they murmured [Exodus 16:2; Numbers 14:2]. That’s the way we are. That’s the way we are.
Well, how did he do? "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them" [Acts 16:25].
My soul, no wonder they heard them! Whoever heard of any man in the earth when he’s beat and when he’s in the dungeon and when his feet are in stocks, giving up everything in the world – giving up family, giving up prestige, giving up honor, giving up worldly advancement, giving up friends, giving up everything, denied all things, he himself cast out almost before men as dung, and then, on top of that, beat, put in prison and his feet in stocks; and how does he take it? Why, in the middle of the night, praying and praising God and singing songs unto the Lord [Acts 16:25].
Tis so sweet
To trust in Jesus.
[from ‘"Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus," by Louisa M.R. Stead, 1882]
With the blood running down his back:
O, happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!
[from "Oh, Happy Day, That Fixed My Choice," by Phillip Doddridge, 1755]
With the blood coagulating on his back and his feet in the stocks, down there in a dungeon, singing praises to God [Acts 16:25]. Blessed be the name of the Lord!
Oh, when I get to thinking these thoughts and reading these things, I come to the conclusion, "Lord, I don’t think I’ve been saved. I’m not a Christian. I’m not a Christian." Any little old thing and I’ll complain and fuss and find fault and think, "God’s hard on me and Providence is unkind to me;" and I take it disgracefully.
That’s what it is to be a Christian:
"Simon Peter, you say you love Me.
"When you were young, you girded yourself –
you dressed yourself –
and walked with us wherever you wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not."
This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God.
That is, he should die by the outstretched hands. That is, he should die by crucifixion. And Jesus calls that a glorifying God: "This spake He of the death by which he should glorify God" [John 21:19]. Jesus says, "You glorify Me by crucifixion, by agony and suffering and tears and death – glorify God."
You know, the Lord has some strange things here in this Book about that. Satan came to the Lord God one time and said, "You say that man down there is the best man in all this world? That’s what You say – heard You say it. It’s written in the Bible. You said, ‘That man’s the best man in all the world that man Job’" [Job 1:1, 4-5].
Satan said to God, "Why, no wonder. No wonder. He gets paid a dividend to be good. Look at him. He’s wealthy and he’s got seven sons and three daughters, and he’s affluent and increased and got everything [Job 1:2-3]. No wonder he praises God. Look at him. Got everything in the world. You’ve hedged him around. He lives in an ivory castle. He’s got the world. No wonder!" [Job 1:8-11]
And the Lord said: "Well, you think he serves Me for what he gets out of it? All right, try him. Take everything he has away, and I say he will still bless My name" [Job 1:12]
And Satan said, "All right. I’ll just show You." And Satan went down there and took everything Job had – everything he had, everything that he had [Job 1:13-19]. And old Job sat in the dust and in the ashes and he said: "The Lord gave it to me. The Lord took it away from me. Blessed be the name of the Lord" [Job 1:20-21]
And Satan went back up there to God, and God said, "Looky there! See! What did I tell you? Look at him! Look how afflicted he is, but he still praises My name. Isn’t that what I told you?" [Job 2:3]
And Satan said, "Well, yeah, but You know, he still has his health and his friends. You know, skin for skin, a man give everything he has for himself. You just let me touch his body, and he will curse You to Your face" [Job 2:4-5].
That’s what Satan said to God. And God said, "All right, you go down there and touch his body. Only, spare his life. You are not to kill him, but you can touch his body. You can afflict him" [Job 2:6].
Satan went down there and took Job, and from the top of his head to the sole of his feet, he covered him with boils. And with afflictions and with illness and sickness, he struck Job [Job 2:7-8]. Job sat in the ash heap, and it felt good when the dogs came and licked his sores.
Job looked upon himself, a mass of corruption from the top of his head to the sole of his foot and in agony every minute of the day and of the night, and Job said: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" [Job 13:15]. God said, "Isn’t that what I told you? Isn’t that what I said?"
That’s the way you glorify God. When I come to see you and everything is fine and everything is well and you are affluent and prospered, everything is beautiful. Why, no wonder you can sing. Sing? Why, certainly! The sky is fair and the sun shining and you have health and strength and everything, and you sing. Why, sure you can sing.
What I want to do, let me knock at your door. "This is the pastor." A great affliction is come, and great sorrow has come, and death has come, and disappointment and despair and heartache – the ocean has overwhelmed you. Maybe you’re not able to walk or get out of bed, and it’s that way on. Then I want to see you sing. Then I want to look at you as you praise God. Can you? Can you? That’s what it is to be a Christian.
Let me say this, then I absolutely will close. In that passage of the Scripture that you just read, you read:
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; so there will be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are all passed away.
That’s heaven. That’s heaven. Now you look at this. What would it be to see heaven where God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, but you’ve never cried? What would that mean to you? Where there shall be no more death, but you’ve never sorrowed at an open grave – what would that mean to you? Neither sorrow nor crying, but you’ve never stayed awake in the very middle of the night, in the wee morning hours, and your pillow wet with your tears that you couldn’t hold back. Neither sorrow nor crying, neither any more pain, but you’ve never languished in agony. What would that mean to you?
Brethren, Paul is right when he said: "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" [Romans 8:18]. It’s the suffering that makes the glory. And again and again, listen to him: "For our light affliction is but for a moment and worketh for us a far more eternal and exceeding weight of glory" [2 Corinthians 4:17]. Our sufferings worketh for us that "exceeding weight of glory." That’s how Paul looked upon the afflictions of his life.
Oh, may God help us as we grow up in His faith and in His grace, finding through tears, and death, and age, and illness, and disappointments the full measure of the presence and glory of God, in the name of Him who suffered for us, who gave His life in death, that we might live!
Now we sing our song; and while we sing it, while we sing it, somebody, somebody you, give your heart to Christ and come into the fellowship of the church. While we make appeal, while we sing this song, anywhere – in the great balcony around, in the press of the lower floor – anywhere, anywhere, as God shall say, as the Lord shall open the door, while we make appeal, anywhere, somebody you, trusting Jesus as his Savior, putting your hand in God’s hand, giving your life to Christ, avowing your faith before the Lord – as the Lord shall say, you come and stand by me while we stand and while we sing.
THE SUFFERINGS OF PAUL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 11:16-33
A. Why Paul was forced to do the foolish thing of boasting
1. His gospel was attacked through his own apostolic authority
2. Forced to defend himself in order to defend the message that he preached
B. Strange for Paul to boast – actually the most humble of men(1 Corinthians 15:9, Ephesians 3:8, 1 Timothy 1:15)
C. Where forced to boast, he could (2 Corinthians 11:22, Philippians 3:4-6)
1. A great man in his own right
2. True in all the ages – some of the most brilliant and capable of men have been devout followers of Christ
D. His boasting takes an unusual turn – his sufferings (2 Corinthians 11:23-33)
1. His attitude toward his sufferings
II. Atonement for the death of Stephen(Acts 9:16, 22:18-21)
A. The fury of the mob – and Paul’s being well pleased in it
B. The violence no terror for Stephen(Acts 7:55-56)
1. Jesus standing to receive him
C. Stephen "fell asleep" – kometerion, "sleeping place"
1. Harbinger of the resurrection
D. An earlier resurrection in store for the truth he preached – mantle fell upon Saul/Paul
III. Filling up the afflictions of Christ(Colossians 1:24-25)
A. Paul says the afflictions he has and is "bearing" are completing the afflictions of the Lord Jesus
1. He means that the followers of Christ also have a cross to bear
IV. Rejoicing in the opportunity to suffer for His name’s sake
A. When we meet tragedy, sorrow, we complain
1. Paul rejoiced (Acts 16:25)
B. We doubt our salvation, accuse God of being hard on us
1. Paul would glorify God in his death (John 21:17-19)
C. The greater reward in glory(Revelation 21:4, 2 Corinthians 4:17)