5 “Are they [his opponents] ministers of Christ? I reply like a madman, I am more outstandingly one: in labors more plentifully, in prisons more plentifully, in blows to an excess, in near-deaths often.
‘More Plentiful Labors and Imprisonments’
7. (a) What work is meant by Paul’s ‘more plentiful labors’? (b) According to the apostle’s words to the “older men” of the Ephesus congregation, how did he carry on his ministry? (c) What spurred Paul on in vigorous labors for the good news and Kingdom interests?
7 In labors more plentifully: As a proclaimer of the “good news,” Paul “worked much harder” than his opponents. (2 Corinthians 11:23, Today’s English Version) He, of course, had engaged in the preaching work for a longer time and often in very difficult territory. For instance, in Ephesus, where the pagan goddess Artemis was worshiped and Paul was the victim of mob action, his efforts in the ministry and in behalf of fellow believers were very strenuous, sometimes even heartrending. But fine spiritual fruitage resulted. Later, he could appropriately say to the “older men” of the Ephesus congregation: “I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house. But I thoroughly bore witness both to Jews and to Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20:17, 20, 21, 31; 19:1-41) So, then, before these men who were now elders had become Christians, the apostle Paul had taught them the basic truths of Christianity in the “house to house” preaching activity. It was the operation of Jehovah’s Word and holy spirit on Paul’s heart that spurred him on to labor vigorously in spreading the good news and promoting Kingdom interests. (Isaiah 61:1, 2; Romans 10:8-10) In such vigorous activity the apostle set 20th-century Christians an excellent example.
8. (a) Why could Paul say he had been “in prisons more plentifully” than the “superfine apostles”? (b) Doubtless, in what did Paul and Silas find comfort while imprisoned at Philippi, and what did they do when freed by an earthquake? (c) What encouragement can be drawn from Paul’s prison experiences at Philippi?
8 In prisons more plentifully: Clement of Rome, writing toward the end of the first century C.E., says that Paul had been imprisoned on seven occasions. Before the writing of Second Corinthians he had already been in prison more often than the “superfine apostles.” The record in Acts tells of one such imprisonment—in the Macedonian city of Philippi. Obviously Paul and Silas were happy to suffer “for righteousness’ sake,” for while imprisoned there they prayed to God and praised him with song. They found comfort in reflecting on the Scriptures as well as in the realization that God heard their prayers and was answering them. (Psalm 65:2; 119:52) When freed by an earthquake, they did not make a fast getaway, but, rather, “spoke the word of Jehovah to [the jailer] together with all those in his house.” The result? Why, the jailer and his household became Christians! (Acts 16:16-40) Truly, this account encourages imprisoned witnesses of Jehovah today to accept persecution with godly joy, to be prayerful, to meditate on God’s Word and to speak about it boldly!—Acts 4:29-31.
Undaunted by Beatings and Near-Deaths
9. What is indicated by the words “blows to an excess”?
9 In blows to an excess: Paul had been beaten excessively. It is also stated that he was often “at death’s door.” (2Co 11 Verse 23, The Twentieth Century New Testament) This may indicate that during certain beatings the blows were so severe that he was practically beaten to death.
10. (a) How had Paul experienced “near-deaths often”? (b) What apparently sustained the apostle when “at death’s door”?
10 In near-deaths often: This would not necessarily pertain only to certain beatings. Earlier in the same letter Paul had said: “Always we endure everywhere in our body the death-dealing treatment given to Jesus.” (2 Corinthians 4:10, 11) The apostle had been in life-threatening peril or even deathly pain at Damascus, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, Thessalonica and Beroea. (Acts 9:23-25; 13:49-51; 14:1-6, 19, 20; 17:1, 5-9, 13, 14) In fact, he may have been exposed to the death-dealing dangers of the Roman games, in view of his reference to ‘fighting wild beasts at Ephesus.’ (1 Corinthians 15:32; compare Acts 19:23-41; 2 Corinthians 1:8-11.) Having his life imperiled so often, the apostle could certainly say: “Daily I face death.” (1 Corinthians 15:31) Undoubtedly, the help of Jehovah’s holy spirit and Paul’s faith in God’s precious promises sustained the apostle when he was often “at death’s door.”—2 Corinthians 1:20-22.