If Paul was boasting of his apostleship, he could have said quite rightly, "Look at all the churches I have founded. Look at all the people who have come to Christ through my ministry. Look at all the difficulties I went through to plant the banner of Christ in foreign soil." But he did not say that. Instead he pointed out that he was in prison more frequently and flogged more severely. He was exposed to death again and again. He was beaten. He was misused. He was stoned. He was shipwrecked. These are all things we would think of negatively. And yet, these are things Paul endured for the sake of the glory of proclaiming Jesus Christ, his Lord.

The Lord, when he first called Paul and gave him instructions in Damascus shortly after his conversion, had said, "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name" (Acts 9:16). In 2 Cor. 11:28, Paul adds, "Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches." In addition to the physical pressures, he endured what we would call mental pressures or psychological pressures as well.

It is helpful for us, perhaps, to divide Paul’s experiences into categories. I see a number of them. He speaks first of his ancestry. These false apostles had come to Corinth and boasted that they were Jews, true Israelites, members of the covenant people, children of Abraham. But Paul defended himself by writing, "What anyone else dares to boast about - I am speaking as a fool - I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I" (2 Cor. 11:21-22). When he begins to talk of his apostleship, he mentions his ancestry first of all.

If Paul could have had what he really desired, he would have gladly let all the criticism slide by. But in this particular case he could not because of two things. First of all, he was concerned for the Corinthians. This was not just a matter of someone in a remote place saying something about Paul that would not do any damage anyway. This was being said by false apostles who had infiltrated the church at Corinth and who were taking the Corinthian believers into slavery to their false gospel. We know that because of the way Paul speaks in verses 19 and 20.

People like to defend themselves when they are under attack. Some people are often under attack, probably because they deserve it, so they get used to that and they like the role. But generally speaking, self-defense is a very unpleasant thing. It certainly is for Christians. The Bible tells us that vengeance belongs to God. Certainly it is in the spirit of that principle that Christians, even when they are most severely attacked, hold back and allow God in his own way, to defend them.