Wednesday, 16 December 2015
…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; 2 Corinthians 11:26
Paul’s list of his many trials for the sake of the gospel continues to grow in this verse. He says, “…in journeys often.” This would be the trials of his many journeys, particularly the chance of getting waylaid on the trip, such as happened to the man in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. It would also have included the other many hardships associated with traveling by foot or on an animal.
Continuing on, he says, “…in perils of waters.” The word for “waters” is potamos. It means specifically “rivers.” Thus, it carries the idea of a current, brook, or stream (as drinkable). You can get a hint of our modern word “potable” from this then. These inland rivers and streams needed to be forded in one way or another if no bridge was available. It was at times hazardous, but Paul continued on, passing over them for the sake of Christ.
His next words, “…in perils of my own countrymen,” literally permeate the book of Acts. Everywhere Paul went, he faced threats of death from them, he faced their anger, and he faced their accusations. They had a deep-seated enmity towards him because of his teachings on Christ and because of his doing so to the Gentiles, both of which they rejected as ungodly. But this hatred wasn’t just confined to his Jewish brothers. Instead, he was also “in perils of the Gentiles.”
As it has been throughout Christian history, many Gentiles have rejected the message of Christ and thus they reject the messengers of Christ. The book of Acts, again, is replete with the perils that Paul faced among the Gentiles. And these many perils were not just isolated to one particular place. He next notes that he faced “perils in the city.”
The residents of cities had animosities towards Paul and his message, just as they do today. City folk lack the intimacy with nature that those outside the city feel. Thus they cut themselves off, in part, from God’s general revelation of Himself through the beauty which surrounds us in nature. They often become apathetic to the things of God and even hostile to them. This has remained true throughout the ages. Paul faced such apathy and was in peril because of it.
But he also faced “perils in the wilderness.” In the wilderness were more than just wild animals and harsh living. In the wilderness is often lawlessness, like the Old West in the US where people lived by their own code of morality and judgment. For Paul to present the gospel there would mean many perils, from man and from beast. And yet he was willing to go even into the remote places to share this wonderful message.
But there was more. He also states that he faced “perils in the sea.” Some of these have already been noted by him in the preceding verse. But he may be referring to other perils of the sea. Simply witnessing to sailors might bring him into trouble. Sailors often follow their own gods which they believe will protect them from other gods who intend to do them harm. To tell sailors that what they have always believed is false would be a good way of getting tossed into the deep or being used as fish bait. Whatever Paul is referring to, he was willing to face it for the exalted name of Jesus.
He finishes up this verse with, “in perils among false brethren.” The word here is pseudadelphos. It means a false brother or a “pretend Christian.” It is only used here and in Galatians 2:4. This is certainly a jab at the false apostles that he has been speaking about, but it is also inclusive of anyone who would claim to be a Christian in order to benefit from it, even though they had no true love of Christ. The Judaizers of Galatians wanted to rob people away from the faith. Others could profit monetarily off of Christ. The list could go on and on as to the reason why someone would claim to be a Christian, but who was really a deceiver. Paul faced up to such people and was in peril because of them.
Life application: It should be true that every step we take is one devoted to the message of Christ. If that message is one which upsets the world around us, then we may face perils because of it. Let us search our hearts and determine if we truly are willing to face difficulties for standing on the faith which we have professed.
Lord Jesus, those who truly bear Your name are confident that You are the One and only path to reconciliation with God. We can also be confident that this message is becoming more and more unpopular in the world today. Even our leaders have become openly hostile to this truth. Should we face difficulties or even have our lives threatened because of Your name, give us the strength and the presence of mind to not waffle in our convictions, but to stand firmly on Your exalted name. Let there be no fear in our hearts as we honor You with our lives. Amen.