23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.
Paul’s rivals asserted themselves to be “ministers of Christ,” but they were frauds. Just because they laid profession to the title of a minister does not mean they held title to the claim. The apostle’s opponents maintained that they had great service to the Lord. The apostle now compared his service to Christ with that of his rivals.
23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool
Paul asked if the Judaizers were ministers of Christ. Rather than speaking about their ministry, he told of his own, which was a far more significant and sacrificial ministry than theirs. Usually, he would not boast of his ministry, but he had to do it as a “fool” because of the danger they posed to the church.
—I am more:
The apostle had far more outstanding credentials and indications of his ministry than the false apostles. From this statement, he delineated how his ministry was more exceptional than the Judaizers’ because he faced extraordinary ministry hardships.
in labors more abundant,
“Labors” conveys the idea of work to the point of exhaustion (cf. Ac 20:34–35; 1 Co 4:12; 1 Th 2:9; 2 Th 3:8). Paul was a tentmaker or leatherworker.
in stripes above measure,
The book of Acts mentions only one beating in Philippi (Ac 16:22). After he wrote 2 Corinthians, Paul went to prison at Philippi (Ac 16:23-40). He could not count the number of times people beat him.
in prisons more frequently,
Paul was a prisoner frequently in Philippi, Jerusalem, Caesarea, and in Rome twice. The book of Acts records one imprisonment (Ac 16:23-40) up to the composition of 2 Corinthians. The detentions of Jerusalem, Caesarea, and Rome took place after writing.
in deaths often.
Acts also mentions one of Paul’s brushes with death (Ac 14:19). His sufferings went beyond what is recorded in Scripture, except for the more general references in 2 Corinthians. Either in intensity or scope, the false apostles did not match Paul’s sufferings in service to his Lord.
Some ministries are man centered rather than God centered.
At times, Christian leaders are compelled to defend their credentials. This is especially true when false doctrine threatens the church. There are times when we must make a case with our critics by not appealing to our accomplishments. It would be better to show them how God met us in suffering. Jesus warned believers that they would suffer persecution (Ac 9:15-16; 2 Ti 3:12).