Religious Hypocrites And Pagan
In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen.
- 2 Corinthians 11:26
In Perils by Mine Own Countrymen
Now for the third time in this chapter, the apostle Paul uses the word "perils" (from the Greek word kindunos, meaning extremely dangerous). The phrase "mine own countrymen" comes from the Greek word genos. The word genos is where we get the word "genes."
This word would only be used to denote someone with whom one shares a common ancestry. Paul is referring to the Jewish people who constantly opposed him everywhere he went. They opposed him in Salamis (Acts 13:8), Antioch Pisidia (Acts 13:45,50), Iconium (Acts 14:2), Lystra (Acts 14:19), Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-9), Berea (Acts 17:13), Corinth (Acts 18:12-16), and so on.
Paul tells us that what he faced from his own natural kinsmen was extremely dangerous. They persecuted and hunted him down everywhere he went. They were the primary tools Satan used to pester Paul. Angry, unbelieving Jews were the thorn in Paul's flesh that he later wrote about in Second Corinthians 12:7. These were the messengers of Satan who were sent to constantly buffet him.
But in spite of the endless persecution of these religious Jews, the apostle Paul pressed onward toward the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. He wasn't going to let any group of angry religious people keep him from doing what he was assigned to do. This particular impasse wouldn't stop him any more than the others had.
Let's pray that we never demonstrate the nasty attitude so many have paraded before the world in the name of religion. We must never forget that Jesus died for people - even for the religious leaders who hated Him and demanded His death. Like Jesus, we must make it our aim to walk in the love of God just as Jesus did.
If you are being harassed by religious people who don't understand your stance of faith, don't get too upset with them. They are operating in the same spirit of religion that has operated since the beginning of time. The devil wants to use them to upset you, steal your joy, make you angry, and get you into the flesh. However, you don't have to let the enemy get the best of you. Just make the decision to walk in love and to respond to them in the spirit of Jesus.
In Perils by the Heathen
The religious leaders weren't the only ones the apostle Paul had to face. He tells us that he was also "in perils by the heathen" (2 Corinthians 11:26).
The apostle Paul uses the word "perils" for a fourth time in this chapter. Again, it is the word kindunos, denoting something that is extremely dangerous. The word "heathen" is actually the Greek word ethnos. It specifically refers to Gentiles or to anyone not Jewish.
The Gentile world was a strange and curious world. It was filled with wild religious beliefs, customs, and a pagan culture opposed and adverse to the knowledge of a righteous and holy God. The religion of the Gentile world promoted the grossest, most depraved, and most perverted sort of sexuality. Thousands of different gods were worshiped in pagan temples, each with its own particular style of worship. Most of these religious orders involved the use of wine and drugs to induce the worshiper into wild, mindless debauchery as a part of his or her act of "worship" to the gods.
These religions were filled with demons. As the wine, drugs, music, drum-beating, and sexual perversion of temple worship intoxicated those participating in the pagan ceremony, demonic activity became stronger and stronger in the temple. During a moment of such intensity, things could have easily gotten out of control.
At such moments, an act of aggression against Gospel preachers could have freely occurred. This environment was extremely dangerous, especially to Paul and his team as they confronted the powers of darkness and commanded these idol worshipers to repent.
The travels of the apostle Paul took him to some of the world's most pagan and demonic cities. In fact, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus are listed among some of the most pagan, demonic cities in the history of mankind! Yet these cities were the places where the Holy Spirit led Paul. They were also where he experienced his most successful periods of ministry.
Going where it is safe and secure is not always what God wants us to do. The Gospel must be taken into every country, every city, and every village in the world. If we go only where it's comfortable and safe, none of us will ever go very far from where we live right now. Thank God for those who went before us and who pushed the powers of darkness out of the way so we can now know the glorious light of the Gospel!
Paul faced extremely dangerous situations in both the Jewish and Gentile world, but it didn't stop him from going where God had called him. No danger was so terrifying that he couldn't conquer it with the power of God. Paul, whom history says was small in stature, was so mighty in the Spirit that he challenged and pushed his way through some of the most wicked, spiritually dark conditions known to man to do exactly what God had asked him to do.
When you allow God to infuse you with His power, you will also become a mighty force for God. The question is, will you determine to take the power and the love of God into every place He leads you to go so others can hear the Good News?