Paul and the Suffering Servant

Like Philippians 3, in 2 Corinthians 11:23–33 Paul boasts about his ministry. Since this letter is written in the mid-50s, the list refers to Paul’s early ministry. But Paul does not list his accomplishments quite the way we would expect them.

First, Paul claims to be a servant of Christ (v. 23a) and then proves it by listing his hard work and suffering on account of Christ Jesus. In fact, he claims to be a “better servant” because he has suffered! The opponents claim to be servants of Jesus and Paul does not deny the claim. Be the word “servant” and “slave” are identical in Greek. For someone to claim to be a “servant” in English has a different feel than claiming to be a “slave.”

Second, Paul says he has worked harder, been in prison more, been beaten countless times and has been near death many times. Paul uses a series of adverbs (περισσοτέρως twice, ὑπερβαλλόντως once, and πολλάκις once) to overemphasize his difficult life as a servant of Christ. These were not one-time problems he endured for a short time. This is the constant state of his life since he began his ministry!

Third, Paul has already suffered many times for the name of Jesus. “Five time lashed 40 less one” is a reference to Jewish punishment. The Greek says, “I received the forty less one,” which is a clear reference to a lashing. Josephus uses the phrase twice in describing the Mosaic Law (Ant. 4:238. 248). This punishment came from the Jews—it was an attempt from synagogues to bring Paul back in line with his heritage. The maximum punishment in the law was 40 lashes (Deut 25:3).

What is significant is Paul received this penalty five times!  Early in his ministry Paul may have been expelled from the synagogue for teaching that Jesus was the Messiah, and certainly if he taught God-fearing Gentiles they could be fully save without keeping the Law. In Acts 7, Stephen is lynched for teaching Jesus had replaced the Temple, although he did not go as far as Paul with respect to the Gentiles and the Law.

In addition to these beatings, Paul says he was “three times beaten with rods.” This is a reference to Roman punishment. The Greek (ῥαβδίζω) refers only to beating someone with rods, the Latin term fustigatio was distinct from catigatio, lashing, and verberatio, flogging with chains (BDAG). Paul received this treatment in Acts 16:22 for creating a “public disturbance” even though he was a Roman citizen.

Finally, Paul says he was “once stoned and left for dead.” This refers to Lystra (Acts 14:19). Stoning was a typical way for a Jewish group to execute someone. In Acts 7 Paul himself participates in the stoning of Stephen and he is about to be stoned in Acts 21:30 when he is falsely accused of bringing a Gentile into the Temple courts.

I suggest this list of suffering indicates Paul continued to reach out to the Jews in the synagogues early in his career. Acts indicates he never really stopped going to the synagogues to reach the “Jew first.” But he was also bringing the Gospel into the Greco-Roman world in such a way that he was thought to be a threat. In Acts 17:6 the leaders of Thessalonica claim Paul was “turning the world upside down.”

So Paul was Jesus’ slave who suffered greatly to bring the Gospel to both Jews and Gentiles. How does this level of suffering for Jesus function as a kind of “missionary strategy”? From a modern perspective, being arrested for rabble-rousing might be seen as counter-productive to evangelism. How might Paul’s suffering for Jesus be a model for Christians today?

 

39 thoughts on “Paul and the Suffering Servant

    • As an messenger of God we are meant to do things that people would normally think of as unorthodox. Although, it may seem to many that Paul was stepping out of line and this lead to his arrest and the start of his suffering. When someone decides to follow God suffering usually follows them and it is not too far behind. The reason behind this is because, the enemy always tries to distract people from God’s mission for them and from the anointing He places on His children’s lives. If we look in the Bible even Jesus was tempted by the enemy. Jesus also dealt with a lot of suffering during his ministry. So, if God himself was challenged and underwent hardship then who are we to not deal with problems as well. Paul is a role model to us all who also decide to declare God as our one true God and Savior. If he can continue to fight for the gospel to be shared then we can follow his lead and do the same. Just as Paul followed in Jesus’s footsteps without faltering then we can do the same. There is no escaping spiritual warfare, but the best way to combat this when it occurs is by constantly seeking God and staying in His will.

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  1. When you ask the question “how does this level of suffering for Jesus function as a kind of missionary strategy?” it comes to my mind that we should be prepared to suffer extensively if it comes down to it. We see Paul suffered many different beatings and trials for the name of Christ, and I feel like this is an example to us to be willing to do the same. Now, I’m not completely saying that we should all go looking for the level of suffering, but more that if it came to that extreme we, as Christ followers, would willing go through it for the name of Christ. As a strategy, I think it also shows how truly faithful Paul was to Christ. Most people would not go through that amount of suffering if they did not fully believe in it.

    I think this is a model for us today because we do not know what the future holds for us. Some of us may be sent to the dangerous overseas mission fields, and others may deal with ridicule where they are. No matter what, every servant of Christ will suffer in their own way, in my opinion. This is a model for us because it shows us that our faith needs to remain strong. It needs to stay consistent even through the trails and sufferings that we experience.

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    • It seems as if Paul was a very strong individual. He did not let anyone tell him what to believe in and had a very strong faith for himself. But he also had a strong faight for his beliefs as well. But he wanted more of his people to realize that it is okay to stand up for what you believe in. Paul took severe punishment for doing so. But that showed his true heart to his testimate of living. If you do not stand up for yourself it is hard to survive. As far as the missionary strategy, Paul was able to share his beliefs with others despite being hurt for it. He was a true leader to do so. I think that with all of the struggling that Paul went through he paved a way for Christians today to stand up for what they believe in. Paul knew that he had God with him through everyday and that boosted him even more. I think that it is important to not forget who is in your corner and who believes in you because you may need to fall back on them one day.

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  2. Paul suffering for Jesus to this level and writing about it often and telling those who he is writing to about the suffering he has experienced in the different places he has gone functions as a “missionary strategy” in a way due to the fact that he can then talk about the suffering that he knows future Christians will experience and the suffering they could experience in that time. It also works as a strategy to talk about growth and how He is stronger as the stoning in Acts 14 he talks about. Also he spends time talking about how to be a suffering servant for Christ and how to fully serve Him there will be suffering. This works as a missionary strategy essentially to show what those he is writing to will be getting into. He can use his own experiences to relate to others and to help them understand what it means to truly serve Christ. Paul’s suffering for Jesus can be a model for Christians today in the sense that Paul is explaining how the suffering has made him stronger. Paul writes in Romans 5:3-5 “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Paul talks about how the suffering produces strength and that is something that we can hold onto in modern Christianity. Paul talks about how the suffering he went through made him better and that is something we can hold onto. As he writes in Romans suffering makes people stronger and that is an example we can use as modern Christians in our own evangelism to others and as we experience suffering and trials in our lives we can use the attitude that Paul had to remind us that our suffering can make us stronger as he writes and implies in many other letters that he writes.

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  3. Roth Smith:

    “So Paul was Jesus’ slave who suffered greatly to bring the Gospel to both Jews and Gentiles” (Long, Paul and the Suffering Servant). The intense levels of suffering that Paul went through for Jesus’ sake can be thought of as a type of missionary strategy. Now, it is logical to think that Paul did not necessarily seek out or create suffering just for suffering’s sake. However, he did suffer many hardships and beatings for the truth he was preaching about Jesus. I think that those sufferings gave Paul another avenue in which to give God the honour and glory for His grace that is made perfect in his [Paul’s] weakness. “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 1 Cor. 12:9-10. I think that God used the sufferings in Paul’s life to be testimonies to His grace and truth. Paul was able to use his experiences in his sufferings to challenge and encourage people in the Church.

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  4. I wanted to point out how it is extremely interesting the connotation of both the words slave and servant in the English language. According to the dictionary definition a slave is “a person who is the property of and wholly subject to another; a bond servant” while a servant is “a person employed by another, especially to perform domestic duties”. Both sound slightly similar, but have completely different bindings. A servant sounds more like someone who has a choice in the matter of labor while a slave does not and is held against their will. So when it comes to Paul and his pursuit of Christ it is safe to say that Paul was both a servant and a slave to christ. Paul was willing to go through everything for Christ and preach about it. This functions as a huge missionary journey because it goes to show how strong Paul’s faith is. That he will go through any suffering for the sake of Christ and his mission. I think Paul tell his hardships not to only explain what he is going through but also the life that he choose and how these earthy riches aren’t worth anything compared to heaven. Paul being at the top, a Roman citizen, a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin and a very well educated Jew he was probably high up in society and had everything (earthly comfort) taken care for him. Yet he decided to turn his back on that life and follow God where he suffers all the time 2 Corinthians 11:23-33. Paul also goes on to reach out to the people that no matter what your station we must boasts in our weaknesses “God triumphs amid human weakness, embodying the principle of Christ’s crucifixion” (Hafemann, 2238).

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  5. How does this level of suffering for Jesus function as a kind of “missionary strategy”?
    As Christ’s missionaries, we constantly enter battle fields where the persecution of others causes us suffering. Doctor Long’s blog post mainly focused on Paul’s physical suffering. Today there are still many missionaries who are victims of physical suffering as a result of their faith; more commonly, we as Christ’s missionaries experience suffering from emotional and verbal abuse. We suffer everyday for Jesus every time someone mocks us for praying, when our friends and family pressure us into ungodly behaviors, or when our public schools and are jobs silence our testimonies because they are faith based. When Jesus told us to “take up His cross daily” (Luke 9:23, NASB), He was commanding us to follow His even when facing the sufferings of the world persecuting us. When we suffer for Jesus we are choosing to stand up for Him even when it is easier not to. This suffering is a testament to our faith in Him, which can be use as a missionary strategy. As nonbelievers obverse our dedication to our faith even through suffering, they can know that what we are living for is something worth suffering for, our Lord and Savior.
    -Chloé P.

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  6. Though Paul’s suffering for Jesus is an obvious portrayal of his dedication to persevering, my initial thoughts on how his suffering could have affected Christians today, were not as positive as others’ viewpoints. Pain typically causes individuals to do one of two things: give up or start fighting. I see Paul’s sufferings in the same way. Many individuals could hear of the pain Paul experienced and be encouraged—ready to follow his lead and start fighting for what trials may come their way. Others, on the other hand, may read Paul’s story and be completely discouraged—knowing that they have not and probably cannot tolerate what he went through. Acts, which states “…We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God…” could shut those already discouraged individuals down even more—making them feel like they will not go to Heaven until they suffer (Acts 14:22).

    While I do not have any eloquent answers, I end up with one underlying thought in my mind. As Christians, we must be utterly careful to not base truth off of our feelings. Whether we are encouraged by Paul’s suffering or completely disheartened, the truth of God’s plan unveiling in the end, will never become less true.

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  7. It’s unfortunate that in the instance of reading Paul’s list of endurance at first-glimpse, I can see why a certain man would say that Paul throws a pity-party for himself constantly. However, when we recall that Jesus DID say Christians would be persecuted, we can understand that Paul is trying to orchestrate a point.

    We don’t normally count sufferings as “ministry experience”, more the witnessing of suffering of others. Perhaps this is why he lists his “accomplishments in a way we don’t expect” — is suffering an accomplishment if we’re just enduring the trials of life? And, as Paul shows us, some people have it more ravenous than others when it comes to spreading ministry and having to go through the trials of ministering to a world outside of Christ. Someone may want to do Prison Ministry, but they usually don’t want to be doing ministry… while in prison.

    I connect whenever Paul talks about his suffering to when Jesus says that Christians will be persecuted for following him. Sure, it’s not something a lot of the apostles boast about — but through the bible, we have such a clearer look at Paul and his life, and this is one of the many ways he communicates to us (and the people he originally wrote to).
    But what do I know, I’m just a Jew on the internet.

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  8. This is a very thought-provoking post on Paul and his suffering. As this post lays out, Paul suffered some pretty extreme suffering. He went through some physical pain and suffering that seems a bit incomprehensible in today’s 21st century. You claim that Paul “boasts” about his ministry in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33; I agree with that take, but this caught my attention that Paul was “boasting” about his ministry which can be compared to a religious work or religious act. Obviously, the nature of ministry is incredibly significant and incredibly great, but a staple of Paul’s ministry is that faith trumps religious doings. He touches on this in Galatians 3 and in other areas in his writings and letters.

    Moreover, this level of suffering for Jesus serves as a “missionary strategy” in a meaningful way. This branches from the fact that the people that Paul is ministering to are able to witness and hear about this suffering that he went through. This is important because his suffering for Jesus reflects that Jesus holds extreme priority in his life. Paul would not go through this extreme suffering that is discussed above if he does not feel that Jesus is “worth it” or “deserves that.” Therefore, his peers are able to witness this or hear about this and see that he practices this faith in Jesus that he preaches, and that Jesus truly is a main priority in the life of the apostle.

    I think Paul’s willingness to suffer and his suffering that he experienced represents a model to Christians that our lives and our health, happiness, status, etc. should never take God’s place in our lives. The ancient theologian, Augustine, thought that pride was the original sin of human beings and that pride took the place of God in our lives. Paul’s suffering models to Christians that our lives should never put anything before God. Christ Jesus experienced the ultimate suffering on the cross, and because of Him and His love, Christians should always be willing to lay down and surrender their bodies, and everything else, to the Lord. That is how I believe that Paul’s suffering serves as a model today.

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  9. After reading this article and knowing about the tough times Paul had as a servant is sad. This level of suffering for Jesus function is kind of a mission strategy to me I think it is because everyone has and goes through rough times in life and some worse than others. It is always how you come back stronger from that situation. Help others get through rough times there is God to talk to, prayer and family to get through tough times.

    Paul’s suffering for Jesus is a model for Christians today because after all the lashes he took he still looked to God even when he was in pain he had faith to get through his situation with God. Today some people do not see it that way like for example something that has come up before like living in this world bad things happen some people might question that like how can God have created this world with bad things happening in them like shootings and stuff like that and so on. Somewhere else where this is seen is like a family death on how quickly someone can be taken from you when things like that happen people tend to question if there really is a God. In those stages of grief it makes sense because your hurting but just having faith and trusting God. He makes a plan for all of us. Everything happens for a reason whether we know what it is or not.

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  10. Paul’s suffering serves as a kind of “missionary strategy” because his suffering was a way of spreading the gospel. Being that missionary work is all about spreading the word to others, Paul did that through his sufferings. This is because by being beaten (2 Corinthians 11:25), going to prison (Acts 16:16-40), etc. more and more people started to hear about Jesus and the new Christian faith. It could also serve as a “missionary strategy” because it was Paul’s way of showing he was following the Bible (John 16:33). Also, it showed individuals how much Paul believed in the new Christian faith because if many individuals had to go through what Paul endured they would have given up. However, he kept pressing on, proving he believed in everything he was claiming by carrying his work throughout the Eastern Mediterranean to the Gentiles and helping communities by shaping them to be like Christ (Longnecker, pg. 38-39).

    Paul’s suffering for Jesus could be a model for Christians today, especially in the United States, because it shows us that living for Christ is not supposed to be sunshine and rainbows all the time. Yes, living for Jesus will be the best decision of your life, but it is also meant to be hard because we are in a constant battle with the devil. It is important to remember verses such as 2 Timothy 3:12 “In fact, everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Jesus Christ will be persecuted.” As Christians, we can look to Paul and see that believing in Jesus will be hard and difficult, but one hundred percent worth it.

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  11. It is amazing to see the perseverance and fearlessness of Paul as he travels sharing the gospel after he is tortured and continues to be tortured. Paul had such a deep confirmation of his calling that he knew that this torture he was going through had to take place in order to advance the Gospel. In Philippians he assures the church that being imprisoned was part of his mission. Being in jail was just a new group of people for him to peach to. In Philippians 1:21 He states, “to live is Christ, to die is gain”. Paul has been through so much that he is ready to see Jesus, but he knows that he will preach the message of Christ no matter how people respond.

    This type of suffering also proves to onlookers that our God is real. We should not be afraid of being tortured or killed as we know our assurance in heaven, and we need to be willing to die if even just one more person comes to know the true God.

    For the missionary today, I think Paul is a great example. Not everyone who Paul preached to rejected his words and beat him. Many graciously accepted the gospel and were transformed. As evangelists, or missionaries, our job is to preach the gospel. Maybe God has called certain people to certain areas that there is more of a chance of getting killed or imprisoned for preaching, but he does not say there is any people group or any place that we are not supposed to preach to. God is in control of how people respond, and we can have assurance just as Paul did that God would bless his life as long as he lived to honor Him.

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    • This is such a refreshing post. It is crazy to think that sometimes we do pick and choose who to evangelize. We often put people in this” they look like they need God” bubble in contrast to the “they already have God” bubble. I agree with you that it is the Holy Spirit who works within us, and Paul did his work by honoring God through his suffering and preaching the gospel. You mentioned also that we should be willing to die for the sake of God. Although as Christians we need to be at that point in our relationships that we would give up everything, I cannot truthfully say I am there. In Paul’s case, he suffered for Christ. For those who have families, you are not only suffering but also asking that your kids suffer when you are gone. Having said that, I do not believe that all Christians will be martyrs for the faith (Rom 12: 6-8). If we all have different gifts, then not everyone’s death will create evangelism (sounds wrong but seems to be the case). But since we don’t know, how do we prepare for the possibility?

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  12. Paul’s ministry truly exemplifies what being born again means. Although here we focus solely on him being on the receiving side of suffering, we cannot ignore that before his experience with Jesus, he was on the giving side of suffering and persecution. To me, this makes it so much more meaningful that his “boasting” is the same as the punishment he used against believers. According to the ESV Study Bible, “Paul boasts at great length in his weakness as the appropriate way to glorify God’s grace and power in one’s life” (ESV 2237). I believe that God glorifies Himself more in our weakness especially when we come out the other side when others expected you to fall. They cannot deny that you had help from a being higher than yourself.
    How does this level of suffering for Jesus function as a kind of “missionary strategy”?
    People are tired of getting false information. This is why being real and authentic are things that people crave to experience. When someone truly believes in something that has changed their lives, they will stand fast to the truth no matter what. The fact that Paul received the “40 minus one” punishment five times and still holds on to what he believes tells others that the story is real. (I may be wrong but I believe that 40 was when people died so they were torturing him by stopping at 39). Nobody will suffer that much for a lie. Nobody will make up stories and suffer to the point of death before admitting falsehood.
    How might Paul’s suffering for Jesus be a model for Christians today
    One of the biggest takeaways from Paul is that suffering will happen as a follower of Christ. We are not exempt from pain like many people preach. As Christians, we have heard and repeating the phrase, “God is with you in your suffering”, and yet often, in the midst of our suffering, we fail to see Christ in our pain. Paul not only stands firm in his faith but also glorifies God. Most of us have not had to physically suffer as Paul did, but we do suffer in different ways. The model still stands to stand firm in our faith so that in our weakness, we can glorify God.

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    • Great post Hazel, you bring up two points that I had not even thought of. The first one being that it is obvious that God was with him when Paul was suffering. Paul took more pain and suffering than many can live through. After this suffering, Paul was not quick to blame God for his suffering and make it seem like God could not help him, instead he continued to teach people about Jesus. A lesson that I took from this is that we are going to have struggles in life, and areas where we wonder if God is with us, and this is an opportunity for us to be positive about who Jesus is in the hard times. When people are able to see someone so on fire for the Lord when they are amidst a hard time, it can be a large impact for someone who does not know Jesus. The second was how Paul would not have suffered that much for a lie. With Paul receiving 40 minus one 5 times, he would have been at a braking point, and for people to see that he was still fully following God, people are able to see how real God must be. If Paul had not went through the suffering that he did, I can see how not as many people would have become followers. I used this example in my original post, but I can see this compared to the sports world. It is much easier to believe someone’s workout works when you see them sweating and working hard and results over someone who you have never seen sweat and work hard. People believed Paul because they knew he suffered greatly for the god he spoke about, which in their eyes makes the god worth learning about. I think this all ties back to what you said in your post about people being drawn to authenticity. To add to that I think the truth spreads quickly. Paul speaking the truth made waves to other places he was not able to travel. Longenecker and Still 2014, p40 says “the gospel that he preached and modeled was able to travel to places he was unable to go”. When we stir up a fire inside of people, do not expect them to sit quiet and enjoy it for themselves, but watch as the truth spreads further and further.

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  13. As I read through this blog it reminds me of the mentality of persevering. Persevering through the good and the bad. We have a choice in how we overcome the circumstances we find ourselves in. For example, as I mentioned in my previous blog post regarding Hurricane Dorian and its impact in the Bahamas and East Coast. The Bahamas specifically are experiencing complete devastation. This hurricane has knocked them down, but they have the power to choose what they do next. This reminds me of Paul and his journey because he suffered and then chose to keep pushing on because of his dedication to the Lord. Acts 14:19-20 discusses when Paul was in Lystra and was stoned. The Jews stoned him and dragged him out of the city, but the next day he arose and pushed on to Derbe. This is just one example of the hardship Paul went through and the chose he made to continue to do ministry. Paul’s suffering for Jesus is a remarkable example for Christians today.
    Christians today can study the word of God and use it for their good. Use it to be a light in the darkness. Christians are fully equipped as Paul was, by Jesus Christ, to persevere through the good and the bad times. Paul’s drive to spread the word of God was the calling on His life. Each hardship forms our story and allows us to apply it to ministry. As can the Bahamians that were put through the adversity of a hurricane that left them feeling sad and in pain. Paul’s experience as he suffered through ministry and the suffering of those impacted by Hurricane Dorian remind me of the suffering Jesus did for us all on the cross. Jesus is the greatest example for mankind. The story in Matthew 26-28, Jesus death and resurrection, reminds us that Jesus was man and He suffered just as we suffer. He chose to persevere just as Paul did. Christians today can serve and do ministry without fear. We can step out in boldness to a lost and dying world because the Holy Spirit lives in us. “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2).

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    • How does this look to those that don’t understand Jesus? Paul gives an amazing example of how to work through trials. We live in a world that needs hope. The hope that if i get out of bed today what will my day look like? Where do they find that hope? If people think they find their strength from themselves then they will fail every time. They won’t have the kind of strength that Paul shows in going back at it again and again.
      We will see this with the Bahamas as well and that they will rebuild. There is a chance that another hurricane will come through at a later date, but does that mean that they just stand by and wait? No, they get up they rebuild and lean on one another and hopefully find God through the process. The point is that every day has something new that can come at us and it’s all about where to find the strength to take it on. The strength that Paul uses is strength that we can’t find on our own. People believe by seeing, so let’s show the world the same strength and determination that Paul shows when times get tough.

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  14. This level of suffering is something that very few, if any would even think of going through. I don’t even know if I could go through this kind of pain like Paul did throughout his ministry. In all of our own ways we are going through something in our faith journey. It may not be to the extreme of what Paul went through, but we do have that thing in our life to keep us leaning into God for strength. I think that Paul shows us how we are to stay humble and keep on keeping on even when things get tough. Paul refers to this humbleness as a “thorn” in his flesh. (2 Corinthians 12:7).
    This thorn in each of our side is something that helps us not to lose the big picture of living for Jesus. We live in a world now that when something gets tough we make an excuse and go the easier direction. Paul got the 40 lashings a set of 5 different times for the things that he was doing, but yet he kept going back. We need to stay strong in our faith on those tough days, even when we have been praying for weeks, months, or even years. God knows what is best for us and we just need to trust him like Paul does through so many trials.
    God never said that this walk we are on would be all rainbows and butterflies. God has shown us time and time again through his word and with the many people in it that just because we claim to know him doesn’t mean life will give us what we want. People that don’t understand why it is that we follow Jesus will start to ask questions. These questions will start when they see that we are going through similar struggle like they are, but our attitudes are different because we find our hope in Jesus. Through suffering Paul shows the importance of the gospel and that means that we are able to do the same.

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  15. How does this level of suffering for Jesus function as a “missionary strategy”?
    Although I am sure Paul did not want to go through all of the pain and suffering that he did, it may have worked to his advantage in spreading the gospel. The fact that he was willing to go through everything he went through, and he still went city to city preaching the gospel must have been so impactful for the people he ministered to. Paul’s suffering and perseverance shows that he truly believed what he was preaching, and he believed it so much that he wanted the rest of the world to believe it as well – if he didn’t, why would he have gone through that much pain? Because of the world that those Paul ministered to were living in, a world full many different gods and idols that people didn’t really have a true allegiance to, they may have noticed that there was something different about this absolute faith that Paul had, which may have given them some sort of desire for the same faith.
    How might Paul’s suffering for Jesus be a model for Christian’s today?
    Paul went through a great deal of suffering for the gospel, and we also should be prepared to go through suffering in order to spread the gospel. However, in today’s world there are very few people who find themselves in situations where they must face this kind of suffering. Instead, we often find ourselves facing different trials that may hinder us from spreading the gospel; such as financial problems, health issues, and even the internal problems that we face day-to-day. While we may not be going through the same suffering that Paul went through, we can look to his example to find encouragement as we work to spread the gospel.

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    • Good posting Natalie. I agree that it the Lord may not have evey one of his saints go through the tremendous type of trials that the Apostle Paul did. Nevertheless, we can be encouraged and strengthened by his example for the types of trials that are more common to us today, such as family strife, health conditions, etc. Paul faced his trials with courage, determination, and most importantly, an unwavering and dedicated walk with the the Lord. “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given us” (Romans 5:3-5).

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  16. Paul boasting about his suffering concerned me at first. I would love to hear that Paul was a humble servant of God, glorifying Jesus in everything he does. After reading through the whole blog post, I see that this boasting from Paul was a way for him to encourage others and show the level of commitment it takes to follow Jesus.
    My initial thought was that I wish Paul was a humble man who directed everything he suffered through to God. This made me think that if this was early in Paul’s ministry, the mid-50s, I could see how Paul would still have pharisee tendencies, although I don’t know what Paul’s personality would be. Now I see how Paul was using his suffering as an encouragement.
    Paul’s suffering was an example of how much he loved Jesus and how he was devoted to serving Jesus. There was such an urgency for Jesus, that it was all worth suffering for the kingdom. What Paul did sounds outrageous to Christians today. To be beaten for something you believe in. It is rare for Christians to be persecuted like Paul was. As Christians, we don’t sacrifice enough for what we believe in. We might not have the chances that Paul had, but we can do what it takes to spread the gospel.

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    • I agree that today, we don’t suffer or sacrifice enough for our faith. It is hard for us to even comprehend how or why someone would go through that much pain and suffering, because Christianity is so easy for us, especially in America. As a result of this, I feel as though we may be lacking in our faith. People today can change their minds so fast – one day they may be an atheist, and the next they decide that they believe in God – simply because it benefits them for whatever situation they may find themselves in. This means that many people who claim to be Christians do not have truly authentic faith, as Paul did. While I am very glad that I live in a country where I am free to believe in God and where I have no fear of persecution, perhaps if there was more fear of being persecuted, if there was more to lose if you were a Christian, people would have a more authentic faith. If there was a fear of being persecuted, people would not just convert as a “safety net” for when they die – perhaps, they would truly try to understand the importance of knowing Christ and there might be more people who have a truly authentic faith.

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  17. I think a lot of Christians in today’s society in America can fall into the easy christian life, going to church on Sunday, sponsoring a Compassion child, praying before bed and calling it good. This is no where near suffering, and living in America makes it pretty easy to be a Christian. So how can we suffer for Jesus in America?
    In my life I have witnessed an extreme amount of hate on social media/the internet, and about half that hate comes from people who claim to be Christians. Hate towards the LGBTQ+ community, the Hispanic community, and towards black people (and other races). As Christian’s I think we need to be doing more for these communities, standing up for them against these so called Christians, and suffering for them and defending them out of a loving place. This would not require as much of a physical suffering (although it could) like Paul endured, but an emotional suffering, taking hate from “Christians” who will seek to destroy the love you are putting out, and you might even suffer hate from those you are trying to defend. If there are Christians who are willing to stand up for these communities as a servant to Christ, their actions in my eyes would be, in a way, like Paul’s suffering.

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  18. Paul is very brave and heroic for what he did to bring the Gospel to the Jews and gentiles. This level of functioning I would assume was a very good way to spread the Gospel to others in his time. It’s not the most ideal way to suffer as much as he did, but because of his sufferings and how much he loved Jesus I would assume his message is even stronger. I personally admire someone who goes through a lot of pain for something they love. I believe this was a very good way of am missionary type strategy to spread the gospel to the best of his abilities serving God.
    This was a very different time and Paul did what he felt was the best way to serve God. Although we can’t relate to that type of suffering for Jesus and I hope no one has to there are still very good lessons we can take from it. One of the things we can learn is to remain persistent through our faith even during the hard times of our lives. These hard times in our lives could be the loss of a loved one or losing your job. Galatians 6:9 says “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” This verse is reminder to persevere because we will be rewarded. We should remain loyal to our faith and spread the Gospel with people. In today’s world you may be ridiculed or made fun of but keep with it because that’s what God wants you to do. When you feel weak you can go to God for strength. I think Paul is a very good example of how not to give up from a missionary strategy. Remaining faithful is a great way to show people how much your religion means to you and may make people understand wand want to know more.

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  19. I believe that the suffering that Paul endured has more power than what we realize on the surface. Oddly enough, I instantly thought of the comparison in sports. When I see someone putting in a lot of blood sweat and tears into a sport, I am much more likely to talk to that person about learning what they are doing as a workout than someone who I have never seen sweat. This applies to Paul as well, Paul wasn’t someone just telling people that living a life for Jesus isn’t going to be easy, but he lived through the suffering. Paul tells us that this suffering has not only helped him in his ministry, but others as well. In Philippians 1:12-14, Paul tells us that the suffering has helped advance his ministry, and helped others gain confidence to speak boldly about the gospel. That being said we need to apply this to our own lives. By this I mean we need to not be shy about the suffering we do for Christ. I’ve viewed it as if we suffered, we should not share it as it might scare people from wanting to know Jesus, but Paul proves that is not the case. A key takeaway that I see when learning about Paul’s ministry is that we need to be bold and fearless when ministering. I agree that “rabble rousing” would not be viewed as a very productive of evangelizing. I know some people think that Christians are viewed as violent, such as the crusades, and “rabble rousing” would only feed that idea. This idea I do not believe to be what we should be learning from Paul’s ministry. Yes, Paul helped stir up trouble, but he payed a price for it. Paul teaches us to work peacefully, but that doesn’t mean we need to sit back and not stir anything up. It might not be a good idea to start a riot anytime soon, but we cannot be afraid to step on peoples toes and make them uncomfortable. Doing this is going to bring trouble, as it did for Paul at a higher level, but this is what we are preparing for. According to Longenecker and Still 2014, p28, “He would have used formal means and informal means o effect the obliteration of Jesus groups”. I believe this means Paul did not always want to resort to violence to get things done but knew what he wanted the result to be and was willing to do whatever it took to get there. This courage and passion are what we need to have when living out a ministry for God.

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    • Good post Caleb. I really liked the part about how you compared the suffering to sports and how sweat and hard work is relatable for you, because that makes perfect sense to me. This post you made really clear on how to relate it from Paul’s ministry to the lessons we can take from it today and apply it to our own ministry and life. I think when someone does not know Jesus or God it means a lot to see the hard work they put into something they love. That is something I respect in people and want to learn more of is when someone works hard with a passion. Like Paul we face times where we need to be courageous. It may not be on the same magnitude that Paul had to suffer but we all face our own insecurities and troubles. In times where we feel weak, we should look to God for strength to carry on. Including God on your message will make it that much stronger. You mentioned about being fearless when evangelizing and I think it is important to know we get the courage from God. I like that you say we will have troubles and problems being so strong in your religion, but that’s what it takes when living a ministry for God with whatever you do in your life. This was a really good example and lesson to take from Paul on how to interpret it from a modern perspective of a mission strategy.

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  20. Paul’s life is a testimony to his love and faithfulness to the Lord. Despite enduring tremendous hardships, including stoning, beatings, shipwreck, hunger, imprisonments, and so on, he stayed the course in his mission to evangelize and spread the good news of Jesus Christ to anyone who would have ears to hear it. Paul’s devotion to God in his work as a missionary is in stark contrast to the lives of modern day Christians, who are much more like the rich young ruler than the missionary Paul of the New Testament. How many of us are unwilling to give up even the smallest of comforts to instead suffer for Christ’s name? Paul could have used his favored status of being both a Roman citizen, as well as a Pharisee, to his gain, but chose to instead deny himself. “Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the law, a pharisee” (Philippians 3:5). Suffering for the sake of Jesus Christ comes with a important promise however, one that we must always remember when we are tempted to not take a stand for the gospel: Mathew 10:33: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my father who is in heaven”. Our earthly human lives are the only opportunity we are given by God to witness and bring others to saving faith. Once we are called home, we do not have another chance to do so. Paul made the most of his life, as well as made the best of every possible chance to serve God through his actions. Let us follow Paul’s example, as he himself followed the example of Jesus. 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ”.

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  21. I think it is clear to see that God will use people such as Paul, who are probably the least expected to be used by God. Paul persecuted the Church and participated in the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. Acts 9 is where the conversion of Paul began and his life belonged to serve Christ since that moment. The transformation of Paul’s life to being against Christ from being for Christ had given him a different purpose in life. Instead of Paul killing Christians and making them suffer for what they believed in, he too empathized with those who suffered for the sake of the Gospel. In Acts 9, Luke records, 15″But the Lord said to him, “go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and children of Israel.” 16″For I will show him how much he must suffer for my names sake” (Acts 9:15-16, ESV). Here, Luke recorded that Paul would suffer for Christ’s sake and he did in 2 cor. 11, Acts 14, Acts 16, etc. Paul had to travel to many places within the Mediterranean to proclaim Christ’s word with encouragement and challenge. “Paul had to leave those places more so, because of hostility against Him” (TTP, p.39).

    How might Paul’s suffering for Jesus be a model for Christians today? To answer P. Long’s question:I think, through Paul’s suffering he models boldness from Christ to advocate the truth by taking it and sending it to places, models endurance to fight the good fight of faith in Christ, and models a burden (desire) for people to hear the word and is willing to give up his life for it like Jesus gave up His life for everyone.

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  22. This level of suffering shows that the Apostle Paul knew exactly who he was believing in. He would not die for something he did not truly believe to his core, especially with the certainty of his eternity and his Savior. In Philippians 1:21, Paul boldly proclaims, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (ESV). He will do anything for Christ, even to the point of death, because that is the example Christ himself showed on the cross. This kind of missionary strategy is very noteworthy because the faith and trust in Jesus Christ is clear inside and outside of Paul. It shows both believers and unbelievers the extent of his heart for the Gospel. Seeing someone die for what they believe is convincing in itself that there must be something special about who or what they are believing in. People may call him crazy, but curiosity will stir up inside of them as they wonder what he has, that they do not.
    For today’s time, as someone who lives in America, it is hard because we really do not have to fear persecution to the point of death. We have freedom of speech and religion, but that does not mean we will not be persecuted by words, harassment or judgement. In Acts 14, we read that Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city. The next day, when he preached, there were multiple people that came to Christ and many committed to the works of the Lord (ESV). Paul did not get discouraged and decide to quit and walk away, for he knew his own testimony and the Holy Spirit inside of him would continue to work on behalf of the Kingdom if he continued in obedience. He will then continue and persevere through trials and transform the people he comes in contact with.
    As for Christians today, we cannot grow weary and turn away from the battle and lives at stake. Just as Paul and Barnabas were sent by the Holy Spirit, so are we (Acts 13). It is important we see that Paul does not do his ministry with a fixed itinerary, but that he operates with elasticity for whatever the Lord wants to do through him, and whatever the Spirit was prompting him to do (Longenecker, pg. 39). This is exactly how we should model operate in our different ministries and spheres.

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  23. As this post highlights, Paul went through great trials and persecution just to spread the gospel and to show Jesus to others. Time and time again, Paul was willing to go and minister to others. This mentality functioned as his “missionary strategy”. He was willing to share Christ even when he knew he would be persecuted for it. The commitment that he had to his Lord was evident to everyone that he came in contact with. He faced his trials with confidence and an unwavering faith. Paul was “all in” when it to sharing the Gospel and sharing the love of Christ with others. He did not care what the cost would be or what would happen to him. I think this example of faith is something that we can all learn from. Paul knew that God was with him through all his persecution and I think that is something that can be easily forgotten today. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God will not let us be tested beyond our strength. I believe that is something Paul believed in and clung to during his trials.

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    • Great work Preston! One thing that caught my eye while you were explaining your thoughts of the blog was the idea of commitment. Commitment is a powerful word in which I think suites the situation of Paul very well. By Paul exemplifying that he was a committed individual in carrying out God’s great works I believe it ultimately showed how far Paul would go in order to succeed. Therefore, the idea of being committed to something infers that one may not be willing to give up no matter the circumstances or situations that may arise.

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  24. The life of Saul, who was later named Paul, is one that would take a deeper level of study to really understand what a faithful born again Christian looks like. First imagine if the “Life of Paul” came out in theaters the trailer, it would attract not just Christians, but non-Christians looking for a thriller. Paul’s life contained more adventure than most of anyone in the modern era could have experienced. Take his early life for example he was a scholar who knew different languages and was born in Rome, and was a tent maker. A tent maker for the Roman Empire, in pay, would be the equivalent to manufacturing vehicles for the modern day military. In his later years Paul went through a couple different punishments and problems, seeing that he received the “forty less one” lashing five times (2 Corinthians 11:24 NIV). As I kept reading, “25 three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,”. This could be a start of a great biography.
    Looking at reality Paul, his Roman name who was originally named Saul his Jewish name, believed that he was doing God’s work for killing the Jews. From the perspective of “everything happens for a reason” maybe, not even close, but it is obvious that killing is wrong and God does not call us to kill people for sinning. He was confused on what mercy and grace meant. Paul went to different churches sharing his testimony with them. Paul’s life is better understood when you look at his life a whole. He was a murder who claimed to be doing God’s work, but was misled. God used the worst of us to be an example of a faithful born again Christian. Jesus even said, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3. Paul’s testimony is a great example of that.

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  25. I think that Paul gives us a great example of what it looks like to suffer in the name of Jesus. As you mentioned, he explained the necessity of being willing to face persecution to spread the gospel message. Not only does Paul show us what it’s like to face persecution, but Jesus discusses it in the gospels on many accounts. Matthew 5:11-12 says, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” While reading through the New Testament there are many passages that discuss persecution and the importance (and inevitability) of suffering for Christ (1 Peter 4:12-14; John 15:18-20; Matthew 10:22). The concept of suffering can be difficult especially in a modern USA culture, and to a certain degree I feel guilty reading through these passages.

    I was born and raised in a Christian community, Christian family, Christian church, and have always attended a Christian school. For the majority of my life I have been surrounded by people with similar beliefs and worldviews. I feel like I have rarely been persecuted or suffered on account of my faith. If I really think about it, I would probably get more “persecution” from the people around me if I rejected the Christian faith. It leaves me wondering, am I not radical enough with my faith or is that just an aspect of living in a free country? Jesus tells the disciples in John 15, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” Does that mean if I’m not receiving persecution for my faith would that mean I’m doing something wrong?

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  26. After reading and examining some of the things discussed throughout this blog it really squeezes your mind about the idea of suffering. In numerous instances as we go through life we typically aren’t willing to go that extra mile to get things done or to withstand things. Paul gives us a very insightful look at what it means to withstand things. He exemplifies the vivid idea of what it may take to please God as a follower of Christ. Reading through this blog it showed some of the things he had to endure. As some of the things he went through were very harsh it was quite a “missionary strategy” because of the extent he went to spread the word of God. He was focused on his task at hand and that was to spread the word to as many people as possible no matter the obstacles and bumps that may come in the road. Even if those obstacles and bumps caused him to beat and treated cruelly. Paul really gave us insight as Christians about the distinct idea of perseverance through his pain and suffering. As Christians we ought to do whatever it takes to please God and follow his teachings. Therefore, Paul was willing to endure a great deal of hardship as long as it meant more grace leading to more gratitude and leading to more glory for God (2 Corinthians 4:15). This message that Paul provides us through his vivid example has aided in how we need to see things in the modern age as followers of Christ. Furthermore, as Christians today we often need to reflect on the suffering’s of Paul and how we need to try to mimic his mindset for Christ. No, not saying we should go out and get beat in order to feel as if we endured what Paul did but to have his strength, courage, and perseverance that he had. Often times in this today’s society we might let little things such as social media or materialistic things break us down or get in the way of are relationship with Christ and what He expects of us. Therefore, we must be able to withstand some of these wordly things in order to please God just as Paul did. We may look a certain way on the outside or even feel as if we are weak on the outside, but our soul in being strengthened by the power of God as we do to please Him (2 Corinthians 4:16). So we must keep pressing on and not becoming weary in our distinct works of God.

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    • You have stated some powerful thoughts that I can get behind. I agree that Paul with stood a great amount of suffering in the name of Christ. Paul is an amazing example of what it means to follow Christ, no matter the cost, all the way to the end. I agree that many of the church members in first world countries do not suffer in the same way Paul did. I agree that Christians need to take time to contemplate the suffering of the apostles and the early church. Maybe even google “whipping victims” and looking at the photos and thinking about how many times Paul was whipped, almost near death, etc. Paul most likely suffered great injuries from these things, possibly broken bones, internal bleeding, being one huge bruise after being stoned. Paul continued to preach, even though he suffered through all of these injuries with NO MODERN MEDICINE. Paul had to feel 100% of the pain, as there was no Tylenol in the ancient world. Taking all of this in mind, the modern church should praise God while weeping that they do not have to suffer like this. They should willingly take the comments on social media or the children in school laughing and pointing at them, excluding them from parities where there is alcohol, drugs and nothing good happens. Just as you have said, we need to take this all into mind and be thankful that God is allowing us to suffer for his name, as our trials will be rewarded in heaven as James has stated (I know this is a Paul class PLong, but this verse is too good to not be shared. Also, I believe that James and Paul were buddies at some point, so it could be Paul inspired…) “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

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  27. I think Paul’s ministry strategy of suffering for Jesus as a missionary strategy is, though not the ideal for anyone, is a great testimony to the legitimacy of Paul’s believes. Multiple times throughout scripture we learn we are to be a light to the earth around us (Acts 13:47, Eph. 5:8, Mat. 5:16). Paul’s testimony of suffering even more multiples the legitimacy of his light. Mainly because, in our logic and I am assuming also in Greco-Roman logic as well, why would a man take such extreme beatings and suffering if he did not truly believe what He was preaching. P. Long makes quite clear the multiple times Paul receives being beaten with robs, put into prison, stoned, and been plotted against because of the message of the Gospel. Because of this, Paul’s message comes across to non-believers strongly because if Paul did not believe what he himself was sharing, he would not take such treatment. Paul’s suffering serves as an example to us today in mainly two ways. The first being that Paul is a great example to us Christians today of finding peace, strength, and joy in all situations, even beatings. Though most western Christ followers will not experience such extreme forms of suffering, though believers in other parts of the world may and do, we can still use Paul as an example for us. Paul clearly states in Romans 5:3-5 that we ought to rejoice in suffering and James also touches upon this same concept in James 1:2-4. And though for us Christ followers today it may be things such as finances, mental health, family, stress, career, etc. issues we still need to rejoice in all things, for we have been given the ultimate gift of relationship and salvation through Jesus Christ! Secondly, Paul models to us vulnerability with his story, suffering, and how Jesus has worked in his life. Think if Paul were crippled by the fear of what the gentiles or Jews would think of him if he shared his story or the gospel. Instead, Paul was boldly honest, sharing all of how Jesus has worked in his life, even the vastly ugly parts. We as Christ followers today need to model ourselves after Paul in the way of willingness to share our testimonies without hesitation. We need to find our strength and identity in Jesus so much so that we no longer care what others might think of us, being a light to all people, telling all people of how Jesus has worked in our lives.

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  28. The fact that Paul withstood such a great amount of suffering for his faith gave him what some children would refer to as “street credibility” or “street cred”. The fact that Paul was suffering for the message he was sharing showed that Paul was “putting his money where his mouth is” as kids say. The amazing part about Paul’s life is that he went from the Pharisee who delivered the “forty minus one” to a man who was willing to die for the beliefs he once killed for (Longenecker). In modern terms, people wish to have someone put themselves on the line for what they believe in. There are many deceivers, false beliefs, and as the kids say, “phonies”, in the world today. Audiences are willing to push people to the edge to ensure that they are telling the truth, as most people would not die for a lie. The lashing of the Jews was intended to bring people back to God in the same way. Most people are not willing to be tortured for a lie, and lashing could cause repentance for a Jew, much like spanking a child. The fact that Paul suffered so much for the Gospel showed the power of the message he was sharing and caused the churches to trust in what Paul was telling them. Many members of the modern church suffer the same type of lashings today as Paul did two thousand years ago. Members of the modern persecuted church can take Paul’s example into mind and know that their trials and even martyrdom is a testimony, example and light for others to take courage in and follow.

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