Well, if it comes down to a life-game of Top Trumps, Paul declares that he will beat anyone! Top Jew? Paul has all the credentials! Most persecuted Christian believer? Paul will beat anyone alive with what he has been through! These opponents of his-obviously Jewish- have really got under his skin, but it is not so much his desire to defend himself for his own sake that is motivating Paul, but for the sake of the Gospel. The men opposing him claimed to have a Gospel and an authority way beyond his and are reducing the Corinthians to abject slavery, re-establishing all the Jewish rules and regulations as part of the way of freedom, stripping them of their money and lording it over these new believers. The Corinthian believers had been so enthralled by these leaders that they had come to see the insolence of the Jewish teachers as a guarantee of their apostolic authority! Paul came in love, gentleness and peace and they rejected him!
When we read through the catalogue of all that Paul had endured for the sake of the Gospel, the main thing which is brought home is how little we know about him. When he wrote this letter, he was in Ephesus which means that we have reached only as far as Acts 19. What we are forced to conclude from the fact that less than a quarter of what Paul declares he suffered is actually recorded in the book of Acts is that this book merely skims the surface of what Paul did. Inevitably, we only have a few stories out of many in that book and maybe what the apostles did could be stated in a paraphrase of that verse in the Gospel of John: ''Jesus (the apostles) also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written''.
Let's briefly look at three items Paul mentions:
1. ''Three times I have been beaten with rods'', Paul declares. This was a Roman punishment and should never have been done to Paul who was a Roman citizen.
2. ''Five times I received the forty stripes less one'', Paul states. This was a Jewish punishment and it was not intended to kill, thus the 'merciful' provision through making it 39 stripes.
3. Again and again Paul speaks of the dangers of his travels. Yes, the Pax Romana had brought a relative safety to travelling and many people moved large distances for the first time. Yet there was still danger from robbers and shipwreck. If you have ten minutes, read the amazing description of one shipwreck Paul faced in Acts chapter 27.