2 Cor. 11:1I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 2 I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ…23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.
There is a parallel between the work that Christ did by humbling himself and being obedient to the point of death on a cross (Phil. 2:8) and those who are sent out by Jesus to do his bidding (Matt. 28:18-20). In Corinth there were “outstanding” (ὑπερλίαν) apostles who boasted of their great insight and wisdom. This is much different from the ministry of Paul. He was beaten excessively and poured himself out (Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6) for the sake of betrothing his congregations to the Lord. This is what Jesus did for his Church. Ephesians 5 tells us that Jesus loved her and gave himself up for her in order that (ἵνα) he might sanctify and cleanse her to present her on the Last Day holy and blameless.
The kind of shepherding that is required is not super-apostleship, but sacrifice. Just as Christ did not avert pain and suffering, but chose this road so his servants would do the same for the sake of his Bride.
This is why Paul can say that he is a “better one.” Not because he had excessive wisdom and insight, but because of the physical manifestations of his sacrifice for the sake of the Corinthians’ faith.