2 Corinthians 11A (1-15)
Remember, Paul, in the larger context of this letter here, is speaking to believers. This is important, because he is discussing salvation in a way that is largely ignored in Christendom, and seems poorly understood by all except the faithful, and that is sanctification, the act of God imparting His holiness to us through His work and our cooperation.
We should contrast this with justification, the act of God declaring us righteous in the first place. This is why Christ died in our place according to the Gospel. He became human, he lived for between 33 and 34 years as a human, in perfect obedience to God under the Law of Moses, and then deliberately and knowingly gave up that life as a perfect substitutionary sacrifice for us vicariously on the cross. All those big words are chosen and precise in their definition, but the basically mean that Christ died for OUR sins as a substitute (vicariously), atoning for them (propitiation), with God then declaring us righteous in Christ (expiation), which pronounces us as faultless before God (justification). This is a sole work of our triune God, as opposed to sanctification, which God allows His new creations in Christ to learn to CHOOSE to do His will, and instead of simply imputing His righteousness (giving us the righteousness of another, Christ) monergistically (alone by Himself), He imparts His righteousness to our changed natures by teaching us to choose His will and live according to His Word. This is defined as sanctification, the process whereby He makes us holy, and it is said to by synergistic, that is we are allowed by God to participate in the act by our choices, that will move out into our works. However, it is still mostly His work – and none of what we do to become holy is worth two cents if we have not been born again, or saved, or converted, or justified, or redeemed, or regenerated – whatever term you want to choose for justification.
Paul is speaking of sanctification here to believers, and when justification does come up (as it does in 4:15, for example), it is mentioned as happening as a result of Christians that have said yes to sanctification and are choosing to live as God commands. If you read carefully, Paul is using this kind of sanctification as evidence of justification before God and all of His gifts to men, including His own Apostleship. Here is where my review of ground we have already covered begins.
Paul, you will recall, was put out to the extreme, I think to the point where it began to distract him in His service to Christ. After his second visit to Corinth, he was so saddened and deflated that he simply quietly returned to Ephesus. In Ephesus, he wrote the “angry” letter that he sent and then wished he hadn’t. He began to be distracted here, I think – you know, that gnawing thing in your mind and gut that just makes you crazy to know what happened? I wasn’t there, but Paul was one of us – human – and it seems reasonable that he would have human responses.
He was becoming so distracted, he left Ephesus and set out for Troas, where Titus was after his own trip to Corinth. It is entirely reasonable that Paul was after news of what happened with that letter that might have been like a hand grenade in the wrong setting. He didn’t find Titus, so he went looking for him in Macedonia, eventually finding him, and receiving a blessed report that at least a majority of the people there were with Paul and not the false teachers that were calling themselves “super apostles” and attacking Paul’s character.
So what is the first thing Paul chose to confront these “super apostles” with? The idea of suffering, and how that suffering perfects the believer. We talked about how the false teachers were essentially trying to use the gospel as a means of gain, and that’s never good. Paul, on the other hand, would not allow the Corinthians to support him while he was there. We talked about how Paul had gone through real life-threatening trials for the sake of the gospel. Were any of these false apostles ever stoned for preaching his message? Not ever. Paul was. Were any ever beaten with rods for speaking publicly about Christ? No, but Paul was, and he was even given 39 lashes on three different occasions. (One more stoke is a death sentence, if you didn’t know.) Had any of them ever been shipwrecked and lost at sea? Paul was, for a day and a night, for the sake of the work of Jesus on earth. No, beloved, suffering perfects us – if we will cooperate with God and let it.
What we saw was Paul talking about how the Lord had led him in real triumph – but it wasn’t Paul’s triumph, it was Christ’s. He speaks greatly here of his own motives in writing that angry letter, and what that meant to the work, his own state of mind, and the effect it had on the Corinthians. It is a sort of apology in our modern sense, but also an explanation of why he wrote it.
In Chapter 3, we studied the actual connection between the Old and New Testaments, or Covenants. Paul compared them directly. This is a particularly crucial area of study, because if you get the Covenants confused, or worse ignore the one that has gone before, you end up with some really whacked-out ideas on things like tithing, resisting sin, like that. We saw that we live in a new and spiritual reality (more of the now/coming, present/future kingdom stuff we’ve been talking about on and off since we studied Ephesians), and that it is a reality that needs to be intentionally chosen to live in by act of will on our parts. Walking in the Spirit requires that we chooses to set aside all those old acts of the flesh (sins) that will kill us, and instead choose life, being renewed in our minds, and transformed in our characters into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Chapter 4, we saw a need to let God do the work and for us to submit and either cooperate or get out of His way. In his contrasting of the righteous versus the unrighteous, we saw that we can fit into both categories, and in fact that those category differences, the contradictions in our character, not only perfectly describer humanity, but actually give glory to God as we allow Him to work in our lives. We talked about the cost of following God like this, and we saw that it was in fact everything we have and are. Christ exchanged His life for ours. We are no longer our own, and we must live like that matters, by focusing on the unseen, spiritual reality we now find ourselves in. We have not arrived, and we will not arrive until Jesus comes for us personally.
In Chapter 5, we got a look at what our behaviour as servants of God Most High should be, as we looked at the reasoning of Paul and how he was motivated to behave in his own walk and service of Christ the King. I know that this letter to Corinth was Paul’s justification of his ministry to Christ, but the best way I have found to read it is to make personal application, as if I were called to do what Paul was called to do in terms of the gospel. I know I’m not Paul, I’m not an apostle (Capital or Lowercase A), I’m not a prophet or the son of a prophet, I’m MAYBE an evangelist, but we are all supposed to be that, and I’m barely a pastor and teacher. I understand that–but did not Paul say we are to be imitators of him as he was an imitator of Christ? He did, back in 1 Corinthians 11:1 (Also 4:6).
With that foundation, Chapter 6 shows us (starting in 5:21) the GOSPEL! Paul does make some contrasts and comparisons as to how the servant of God should conduct his life, but the main thrust I saw in this chapter is the gospel, and our specific response to it. Paul explains that WE are sons and daughters of the living God! As such, we should be responding to the gospel, whether we are already believers or not. After all, the answer to all questions and issues is the risen Lord Jesus Christ, and there really is no other. I’m not saying that to be arrogant so I can feel good about myself. Truthfully, it would make me miserable if any of you ended up in eternal suffering and it was my fault. The time, according to Paul, and according to the Holy Spirit in me, is NOW.
In Chapter 7, Paul is going to get what I used to call in high school [unintelligible] years ago, “Under the Hood.” What we saw was what drives the sanctification of God’s people, given that NOW is the time for salvation, be your need justification or sanctification, and everyone needs both if we are to one day see God. We see this best with Corinth because it was the one church from NT days that just had problems with the influence of the world around them leaking into the church. Remember when we studied 1 Corinthians? The world around them had turned the name of the city into a verb: to Corinthianize–to completely debase or debauch a person, place, or occasion. Scripture is clear that WE need to be Holy, just as our Father in Heaven is holy. Hebrews 12:14 tells us that this holiness is something to be pursued actively and why: “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” That holiness is the evidence to the world that Christ actually keeps His Word and that His sacrifice was sufficient for the sins of all those who will ever believe in Him. That holiness is only found via the Holy Spirit in Christ, and that is what drives the whole thing for the believer.
In Chapter 8, we see the gracious giving spirit that is to characterize all who wish to be in the work of God. In fact, Paul encourages all to abound in that work, specifically of sharing what you have within and even beyond your own ability. Because it is God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit living inside of the believer that is the engine for all of this, we should not be surprised that it is a spirit of generosity and liberality that is displayed by our gracious God through us no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. Ask James Coates and Tim Stephens what that means, the bit about “whatever circumstances.” James Coates has been imprisoned for being a godly pastor. Tim Stephens was imprisoned just because Alberta Health Services and their provincial government want to be able to tell everyone what to wear, where to stand, and what you can and cannot do. And Ontario isn’t much better with one church being fined over $10M! Yes, that’s $10M. You didn’t mishear. Yet, we are to respond to this with an attitude of graciousness and generosity, just like the Lord Jesus did.
In Chapter 9, we can see how that graciousness and generosity will pay dividends to the servants of God who will be willing and faithful to do it. This is NOT saying that if we give, that our “seed giving” will result in a “bigger harvest!” That’s what wolves will tell you to take your money under false pretenses. We will speak directly about that when we get to those verses. So hang in there, Ger has most definitely NOT gone prosperity gospel. Instead, we learn that you should do things because it is what you want, not because someone (including you) coerces you into it via threat or guilt. The lord loves a CHEERFUL giver.
In chapter 10, we saw that it isn’t our own opinion or commendation of ourselves that matters. In fact, our own opinion of ourselves is often (most often, VERY most often) skewed because we cannot make spiritual evaluation of ourselves unless we have been made by Christ to be born again to that new and living hope. It is only His opinion, and His commendation that is worth anything at all. In fact, I remember closing with a message that I do not work for YOU. I work for Him, in the hope that someday, I will be able to hear those wonderful words, “well done” directly from His lips. I haven’t been a good servant to this point, but I am certainly going to attempt to make up for lost time.
This evening, we are in the first half of chapter 11, because there is a LOT of material to cover in each verse, and this chapter has morn than 30 verses. I know I’ve done that before, but I don’t feel like that is fair to you or to the text. So here we are. I broke the passage down like this:
KV3: Do Not Be Led Astray from the Simplicity of Christ
But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
1-6: What narrative are YOU giving ear to?
7-11: Do I sin in making the Gospel no cost to YOU?
12-15: As is the master, so are his servants…
One of my pet peeves is so-called “men of the cloth” trying to complicate the gospel. It is usually done under the guise of bringing groups together for the gospel, through movements like ecumenicism. I once heard a past pastor in a congregation I was a part of explain aboriginal Canadian religion (not strict animism, but kind of like that), and then tell everyone that Manitou was the same God we worshipped. As I struggled to pick my jaw off of the floor (as a man that is himself about a quarter Mohawk that actually understands the religion, and as an actual follower of Christ who knows the difference), I heard the man equate Christianity with Aboriginal spiritual practices, which are NOTHING like Christianity. All of the aboriginals in Canada have a religion that requires the sacrifice of something precious to earn the favour of the spirits, in much the same way as other continents (plural) have held in the past. In those religions, one must be virtuous and true to the path to find favour and enlightenment. That’s the short version. The rites and ceremonies are complicated, and one must study for many years to be a shaman or a medicine man (or woman) and know how to interpret the will of the spirits.
Christianity by comparison is brain-dead simple. We are all broken sinners that violate God’s standards. Nothing we can do is good enough to clear that debt from our accounts. We are under the Wrath of God in truth, with no real hope of ever getting away from it. And God, in His eternal and infinite wisdom, had a plan that started before He created us, according to Romans 8:29-30. About 2000 years or so ago now, God became human. The second person of this triune God (yes, that’s complicated and impossible to explain perfectly, but not the point of this) was implanted in the womb of a virgin girl named Miriam (the Hebrew equivalent of Mary) before she ever knew a man. That divine embryo was born about 9 months later, and was a male, so no one can claim a simple biological phenomenon (called parthenogenesis, a simple form of asexual reproduction that does not require fertilization of the female zygote by the male one–the catch is that those offspring will ALWAYS be female). That little Boy grew into a Man, who was fully human, just like we are…and yet did not have sin, because He had no earthly father. At the right time, He willingly and knowingly gave up His own life and suffered the wrath of God in our place, all to pay the price for all of our sins and clear our accounts with God. Divine problem required divine solution. Because He had no sin in Himself, death could not hold Him in the grave, and He rose from the grave on the third day, and about 40 days later, after being seen by over 500 people, ascended up into heaven visibly in front of witnesses. Among those witnesses were 12 men that we call “the Apostles,” whose word we now study. These men did not make up cleverly concocted nonsense to make people feel better about themselves. They were eyewitnesses to the events of those 3 and a half years that the Son f God, or rather God the Son was among us, and they have explained what happened by inspiration of the third person of that Triune God known as the Holy Spirit. Uncomplicated, simple, easy to understand the story, if not some of the concepts introduced by the story.
We call that the gospel. That is an Elizabethan English word that simply means “good news.” And that good news, that Jesus Christ died in our place and rose again to save all those that would put their trust in Him, is the power of God that results in salvation to all those who will believe, without further complications. Beloved, you don’t need to be a theologian, or even a 5-point Calvinist (if such a thing exists) to be a Christian–you just need to believe Him! Nothing complicates that–until you start to introduce the “isms.” Arianism, that Jesus was not the eternal begotten Son of God; Modalism, God is not three persons, but three expressions, or modes of the same God; Antinomianism, there is no longer a law of God that we need to follow; you get the idea…and there are a whole lot of these “isms” that wait to complicate the life of those that would follow Jesus.
Beloved, this is all nonsense. We need to KISS–“keep it simple, saint!” There is nothing that is complicated for the believer in Christ. He says, we do what He says, and it all works out in the end, after we go through those trials that He has specifically designed to test and better our character as we cooperate with Him in our walks with Him. So let’s get into this.
KV3: Do Not Be Led Astray from the Simplicity of Christ
But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
Now, you might get the impression that as simple as Christ and the gospel actually are, that this is anything but easy, and you would be right. As humans, we have a natural blind spot, so to speak, to our spiritual enemies, and they lie like sidewalks. It is a guarantee that you need to spend some time thinking about what is said in a sermon, in a bible study–even this bible study–because none of us as humans are infallible. We need to discern what is true and what is not, and thankfully Paul in this chapter gives us some criteria by which we can investigate. It is refreshing, at least to me, how straightforward they are.
1-6: What narrative are YOU giving ear to?
For those that don’t hang around with my friends and I, a narrative is the story you are listening to. We all hear one. There are differences in even the same story, because we are different people, and as such have different perspectives. Yes, there is a difference between point of view and perspective, even though they are often used interchangeably. A point of view is really a first person vantage point from WHERE you observe the world. A perspective connotes at least the WAY you view things. Can they be the same? Well, they should be, but often are not. Hey, I’m just quoting stuff I read online that I can’t remember the location of here, but we all have both.
Each of us has a personal point of view, because we are different people. And yet, in this audience, at least among the regulars, our perspectives are similar, because we are believers in Jesus Christ. We view things in the same way, through the same lenses, if you will. Paul will touch on these things and more in this section of text tonight. We will try to extract meaning and application for all of us as we go. Let’s get into the text.
1: I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me.
- Now, Paul has just wrapped up his statement about how self-commendation is a symptom of self-deception among other things. But he is about to pick up that language himself, so I think he is introducing his next set of statements with one of his own that sounds to our modern ears something like, “Okay, you want to listen to that stuff, let’s go ahead and do that foolish talk. Bear with me while we do that. Oh, I see you already are.”
2: For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.
- The word “jealous” here is the Greek zeloo, meaning to have feelings of warmth for or against something. The phrase “strongly desire” would be synonymous here. Here, Paul is saying that this strong desire was divine in nature, a “godly” jealousy. The Greek phrase is Theou zelō, literally “godly jealousy.” Why is that?
- Well, Paul, it seems, like all servants of Christ who are active in evangelism (and we all should be), he has taken on a bit of the role of the heavenly matchmaker! He is metaphorically stating that he has “fitted” or “joined” the Corinthians to Christ, and the metaphorical language of the marriage relationship is widely used throughout the New Testament. We are in fact called the Bride of Christ in a number of places, notably Revelation 19, where the bride had made herself ready with garments white and clean, the righteous acts of the saints, but that’s the topic for another study. Paul’s point, is that he presented us to Christ as a pure [Gk., hagnos] virgin. That word hagnos you might recognize as similar to the word hagion, holy. It is, but with a shade of meaning. It means immaculate, perfect, without blemish here, or if you like, chaste, whereas hagios means to be free from any mixture of evil or defilement. Paul has presented us to Christ through the gospel, and he has presented the believers in Corinth as pure and chaste in their commitment to Christ.
3: But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
- That first phrase in Greek is a single word, phobomai, meaning “I am afraid.” What is Paul afraid of? That you will be deceived and led away by the enemy from the simple, pure devotion to your husband, Christ. And he uses a VERY specific example of what he means, and WE are going to look at it!
- Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1)
- Now, we all know the story, and I don’t know about you, but I think I’ve known this from before the age of 5–and my parents were NOT strong Christians. Anything but, in fact! I’m not sure my dad ever received Christ, and my mom…well, on the night I was saved, I got home after work, and as you can imagine, I was really jazzed about it, and I wanted to share this fantastic news with her! Her very first words when I just blurted out, “Mom, I was saved this evening!” were, “Don’t preach to me.” Interestingly, she knew what the terms I used meant in hindsight. My dad actually forbid me to speak of these things with my sisters. And if you know me, you know that didn’t happen.
- My point here is that our enemy, that serpent of old, a spiritual being of GREAT wisdom, knowledge, and power, DOES NOT LIKE US. In fact, it’s fair to say he hates us, because I think God told him that we were going to be eventually taking over his job, but that’s not part of the text. We have the same enemy today that Eve (and Adam) had in the garden. I guess there really is nothing new under the sun.
- It is the design of that enemy to ruin our faith, and if he cannot stop us from coming to faith (he can’t), he will do his worst to complicate it so that we will have a difficult time following Christ, and either not do it (I was there for a number of years, and that number is embarrassingly high) or do it ineffectively because of the complicated “isms” that we mentioned earlier.
- Through his statement, Paul is explaining that we have a need to remain in Christ, and in real purity and simpleness, follow what He told us. Anything but that gets into one of those dangerous “isms.” It can happen quickly, too.
4: For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.
- To me, this is a telling and frightening statement right after that “like the serpent deceived Eve” verse. That’s a pretty being deal to preach another Jesus. Paul says in another place that that brings upon the preacher AND the one who receives it the strongest possible curse available in the Greek language–anathema. Let’s look at that. Galatians 1:8-9: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” That word “accursed” is that Greek word anathema, which has been transliterated into modern English for us. This is what my bible software dictionary says about this word: “A thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, and if an animal, to be slain; therefore a person or thing doomed to destruction–(A) a curse, (B) a man accursed, devoted to the direst of woes.” Did you catch that? “WITHOUT HOPE OF BEING REDEEMED.” Um…not good. Not good at all.
- Yet here is Paul saying, Oh, let that damned man come along and preach to you that different Jesus, speaking through a spirit that is not the Holy Spirit, giving you a different gospel than the one that Paul and the brothers gave you–and THAT you receive. Another gospel–which is not a gospel at all–that you affirm. Beloved, those men that preach that different gospel…Paul said under inspiration of the Holy Spirit that they are DAMNED. TO HELL. FOR ETERNITY. WITH NO HOPE OF REDEMPTION. So why are you listening to THAT narrative is the question that forms in my mind.
5: For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles.
- And Paul is very sure of himself, too. Look how he says it. He points out that he is in no way inferior to the other apostles. Think about this for a moment. There were 12 other guys that could actually claim the title of capital-A Apostle, Including Peter, John, Andrew, James, Matthew, Matthias, Simon the Zealot, like that. They had med the risen Christ PERSONNALLY. So had Paul. Don’t believe me? Read Acts 9, that’s Paul’s conversion story. He was as much an apostle as any of the others, chosen by Christ and assigned that task. And the other Apostles knew it and Him! Peter even said that Paul’s writings were part of the Scriptures!
- Now–we arrive at somewhat of a point. Today, you hear a lot of talk about the New Apostolic Reformation. Compare that with Paul and the other capital-A Apostles. Seems a little shady, and they way they will try to chintz out of arguing the point is to define the word “apostle.” “After all, it means a messenger on a mission for Christ…” Or at least that’s what they will say. But Paul Himself tells us the qualifications of the capital-A apostles, and you might remember this from our study of 1 Corinthians. In 9:1, Paul says, “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?” He had seen the risen Christ Himself with his own eyes. NONE of these guys, from Che Ahn to Bill Johnson can say that, not really. They may be messengers with a mission, but I don’t think they are Christ’s messengers, and they aren’t on Christ’s mission. Christ’s mission was to make disciples of all the nations, teaching them to do whatsoever the Lord commanded us. These guys seem to be wanting to teach their own cockamamie ideas having to do with the personal ability to perform healings, make people rich, raising the dead, conveying the gift of babble (not actual languages), and spouting their own vain imaginations into the air as word salad. It’s AWFUL. And they tell you that in 2000, the Lord re-initiated this NEW bunch of these false teachers as Apostles with a capital A? Uh–just how stupid and gullible do you think we all are? And they had the NERVE to call it a REFORMATION! Beloved, we KNOW what the word “reformed” actually means as regards our faith, and it has nothing to do with their gobbledygook.
- Paul would have called these fellows “super apostles,” no? Makes you chuckle just a bit, and then weep over their lost souls if they don’t repent and believe the real risen Christ and quickly. Paul was NOT an inferior apostle.
- Just for the record, this is another thing that may have been addressed in that “angry letter” that Paul wrote that sparked this letter. These jackanapes had said he was an inferior apostle. I kind of know how that is…I have personally been called, and I quote, “…a dangerous man that will hurt a lot of people” by an individual who like to think of himself as a Christian. We aren’t so sure, but we do keep sharing Christ with him.
6: But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things.
- Another one of the accusations that these so-called “super apostles” levelled at Paul is that he was unskilled in speech, a reference to the practice of rhetoric and debate. I find that laughable in the light of Acts 17, in his speech at the Areopagus on Mars Hill. But, hey, they said it! I think Paul is doing a little creative leg-tugging here. Oh, okay, I must not be very skilled in speech. It must have been just luck in Athens. Or Lystra. Or Derbe. Or Macedonia. Or Ephesus. Or Troas. Or Antioch. Or Damascus. Yeah, must have got lucky in all of those places and more.
- I wonder if Paul had a wry smile at some of this. Did it not occur to these morons that a guy that could write a letter like Paul wrote could actually also be that in person? I know, we looked at that last week. But it’s true. And what is more, Paul had already made that evident to the believers in Corinth.
Beloved, Paul knew that the Corinthian believers had been being fed a false narrative. He knew the kind of person that would do that, and he knew his audience in Corinth. He gave them the straight-up truth instead of carefully crafted deception from the serpent’s lips. He set the record straight–but not without drawing some fire, as we will see in the next thought unit.
7-11: Do I sin in making the Gospel no cost to YOU?
The fire that Paul drew was not from the rank-and-file saint in Corinth, either, I think it was from these false teachers and their supporters (we call those false brothers or false converts). These people even mocked Paul because he took no pay from Corinth. Wait–isn’t the labourer worthy of his hire? Yes, He is, and Paul is going to explain the relationship he had with Corinth in this paragraph.
7: Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge?
- In a typical Pauline rhetorical twist, Paul asks the question: Did I sin by not taking money from you? And the answer to a rhetorical question is either answered by the question itself, or is so obvious that no answer is required, so the answer here is, “OF COURSE NOT!”
- Paul, being the humble man that he was, was actually practicing what he preached on just about every topic that has come up in Corinth–he was putting the interests and betterment of the Corinthians before himself and his own interests. In this case, he had not relied on (or in fact had not even taken any) financial compensation from Corinth. According to his rivals the false teachers, this was another sign that Paul was an inferior product and preacher. But as it turns out, that isn’t what Paul was there for…he wanted to benefit the Corinthians at no cost to them.
- You know I was speaking with another pastor friend of mine last night. We were speaking specifically about the subject of pastors being paid, and we both recognized that not all of us are. We talked about the various models of paying a pastor, but the main point of the conversation is that God’s people deserve a man that will be there on Sunday with a decent sermon that he’s had the time to prepare, and he has the energy to prepare the sermon and deliver it weekly. It isn’t often that a church (even with denominational support) can afford to pay a pastor a whole lot of money. Sadly, without direct intervention of the Lord, congregations get the pastor they pay for. Paul wasn’t like that.
8: I robbed other churches by taking wages from them to serve you;
- One thing I am certain of here–Paul was speaking figuratively, he was not actually robbing churches. But these other gatherings, notably Philippi, but also Ephesus and others, all contributed to meeting Paul’s expenses while he was in Corinth. These were willing contributions, not robberies. So why would Paul put it that way?
- I think it was to help the Corinthians see, among other things, that they were not in the work alone, and that other people in other places also valued the work God was doing in Corinth. It may also have been to stir them up in that financial gift to the saints in Jerusalem that we spoke of in earlier studies in this letter. Paul’s point remained the same–there is no free lunch. SOMEBODY always has to pay the expenses. And no matter what you think, God allowed that for their benefit, and ours. Or we wouldn’t be there this evening.
9: and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so.
- Now HERE is a personal example to me, and why you don’t often hear me ask for financial aid. Paul was there. He was in Corinth. He HAD NEED. Now, I don’t think the phrase “I am in need” has changed much since Paul used it here. One of the translations that renders this word is “destitute.” It is this same Greek word that is used in Heb. 11:37. Let’s read that for context, because it’s important, and shows how off-base these false teachers, then and now, actually are. I will begin in verse 32 for the correct context: “And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.” For the record, that’s through verse 40. But did you catch that? DESTITUTE! My understanding is that the word means the same thing as it did then–FLAT BROKE. God is telling us that the amount of money you have does not matter. He will still care for His people, and He will still fill them with joy even though they weep from the needs they have. I have to say that it ticks me off to know end when I hear that old soft shoe because the person doing the dance has needs. Health issues like heart attacks aside, Paul told the Colossians that if a man will not work (note the act of the will here), then he should not eat. And to put in a word for your pastor, that’s work. Sometimes very hard and draining work. You really should be paying that guy. [chuckle]
- But my point here is that Paul had needs, and rather than beg for money, he got off of his own duff, got himself cleaned up, and went out and got a job to support himself in the ministry. That’s what a bivocational pastor does. He figures out a way that he can take care of himself and his family so that he can do the work of the pastorate. Paul was a bivocational minister, beloved! He knew the pressures of the double duty that we do, and he bore it gladly. He is a real example to me.
- Why did he so gladly bear it? He did it so that he would not be a burden on the Corinthian believers, who to be fair, had more than enough to deal with in all of the worldly and loose culture around them, trying to get into the church, and apparently take over the church. Sounds very much like the way things are currently, does it not. That isn’t a question.
10: As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia.
- Think about what Paul is saying here. Paul is saying that not only has he spoken the truth, but that no one can stop him from telling that truth, even if they tell him he’s just bragging. You can say I’m bragging, but you cannot stop me from telling the truth, and not just the truth, but the truth with Christ as my witness, who can see into the hearts of men and determine what is a lie even when they convince themselves otherwise. What a strong statement!
11: Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!
- Paul’s detractors would likely have made the accusations that Paul was not telling them the truth. I’ve heard men say this, all Gnostic-like…”Only WE have the truth about [fill in the blank].” Whenever I hear that phrase, I tend to think first that these individuals have no truth concerning whatever was in that blank you filled in. It’s like how you can spot a false conservative. They will say something like, “I’m as conservative as they come, but…” The rest of the statement is irrelevant, because it will be followed by liberal talking points that are usually the exact opposite of what the Scriptures say.
- Paul, knowing this, says something in response. “What do you mean, ‘I don’t love you?’ You know that isn’t true…and more importantly, the one that I serve, the Lord Jesus Christ, the one that put that love for you there in the first place, knows it isn’t true.”
- I was once accused of being a “dangerous man that was going to hurt a lot of people” within my own hearing. After the initial second or so of shock at hearing that, I smirked and prayed in my own mind, “Lord, you know that isn’t true.” I just got in the way of him doing whatever he wanted against the wishes of the saints involved. And it was their wedding vow renewals, beloved. The other man was upset that they had asked me to perform the ceremony and not him. When you get in the way of someone with an agenda, you can just know the backbiting will ensue. And when I revealed that particular statement to the congregation (anonymous and cleaned up from context), they actually laughed out loud. And the man was sitting there to hear it. You who know of whom I speak need to remain silent. There are things afoot you do not know of that will deal with that ultimately. I know I have my defenders, and I don’t want them hopping the fence to avenge me, I prefer God to do that, and He will. He already has, and I don’t think he’s done yet. Not saying more.
Beloved, we NEVER sin when we act in the interests of the other involved. Paul didn’t when he took on a job to support himself in ministry rather than ask the saints there, who probably would have helped. I did not sin in my lack of response to the initial backbiting statement meant to make one of best friends question my intentions and abilities, nor did I sin when I anonymously shared that incident with the congregation to demonstrate his error to him privately in public. Beloved, it is never a sin to put the spiritual needs of another before even your own physical needs. Google this name: Lottie Moon. Or just ask my wife. That beloved lady literally starved herself to death because she put the welfare of starving Chinese people before her own needs. Was that irresponsible? Well, I don’t know if I could do that, but she did get to meet the Lord Jesus sooner. Or how about Robert Murray McCheyne? He died about 2 months before his 30th birthday–but he lived his life flat out for Christ after his salvation. I still use his bible reading plan, as long as at least one other attendee here this evening! And I have heard countless other stories from other people who have used it and how it has helped propel them forward in their walks with Christ. So to answer the question I posed at the beginning of this thought unit, NO. Paul did NOT sin by making the gospel to be of no cost to Corinth. Nor do we at BereanNation.com err when we say we do not charge for exposition of the word of God.
12-15: As is the master, so are his servants…
You see, there is a principle to demonstrate here, and Paul is about to explain it. As is the master of the servants, so go the servants. If the servants have an ambitious master, it will be reflected in the activity and attitudes of his true servants. If the master is lazy, the servants will be undisciplined. If the master is fastidious, his servants will be anal-retentive. You get the idea. We, as followers of Christ, are meant to reflect that–because Christ is who He is, we are supposed to be at least becoming more like Him, which admittedly takes time. But eventually, the Scripture promises, we will be like Him. It says as much in 1 John 3:2 which says, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” We are to be working on that now, but when He does return, we WILL be like Him and yet still be ourselves, which to me speaks of character, but take it how you like.
Let’s see what Paul says.
12: But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting.
- I don’t know how you grew up, and I know Paul couldn’t conceive things in the terms that we do, but I think Paul is saying in ancient terms what I think of like this: “Look, I know these guys want to feel important, and what they see as my absence and weakness, they see as an opportunity to hijack the church for their own reasons and purposes. Before they can do that, I’ma let the air outta their tires.”
13: For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.
- The word in Greek here that Paul uses for all of you “glossa-philes” out there is pseudapostolis. Literally “false apostles.” They were fakes, and we should note some of their characteristics, because it can help us to spot other modern false teachers. We will try to do so as we go. The first thing we covered already, but I will restate for your edification: the way they identify themselves. “Paul? Oh, he’s a subordinate and inferior apostle. We’re super-apostles.” They will always, if you listen long enough, and usually it isn’t that long you need to listen, exalt themselves above your legitimate leadership. This should be no surprise. Let’s look at their master’s opinion of himself in Isaiah 14. The passage (14:12-15) reads:
“How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!
“But you said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
“Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol,
To the recesses of the pit.”
- I include the last verse (15) as God’s response to the enemy’s opinion of himself. Theologically, I once heard the great theologian Donald Barnhouse refer in his book, The Invisible War, as the Five “I Wills.” These five points of pride are his sin that caused him to be cast out of heaven. Each one is more outrageous than the last. It isn’t my purpose to exegete this passage here, but every believer should know these so we can self-guard against them in ourselves. Maybe we can look at them sometime in the future. Fodder for more sermon series.
- False teachers have a sort of Gnostic quality. We have the special knowledge that you need to get to your next level. Yes, that meaningless drivel is really their chosen terminology. But only the initiated acolytes of our order (they have numerous ways of saying this) can receive this knowledge. To join the order, make your cheques payable to… You get the idea.
- These individuals (and they aren’t just men anymore) are decietful workers. The modern vernacular is “they’re playing for the other team.” These people are disguising themselves as so-called faithful Christians! All just to deceive you! They write books and have conferences and call themselves world-class bible teachers! Yes, they say this about themselves! Or hire shills to do so for them, called “publicists.” All in (they think) the name of living a comfortable lifestyle. In reality, they are being lied to by the father of lies himself, who for the moment is cackling with glee.
14: No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
- And here is where Paul gives us a look at that hidden reality that if you don’t know about, you do now. I used to have a teacher in Grade 6 named Don. He was actually a friend of my dad’s. My Dad was in the shop when Don lost his finger to the metal trimmer. It turns out that this man had a spiritual hunger. Don’t we all, right? Well, his (and his wife’s) were more pronounced than most. I don’t know if he had rejected Christianity anywhere here, but it isn’t relevant. He was a spiritual seeker everywhere but at the fountain of living water it seems, for a lot of years. I met him many years after grade 6, after we had apparently BOTH been saved by Christ. He told us of a night when he and his wife were actually praying about investigating the false religion of Mormonism (see, one of those complicated isms). Yes, actually asking the living God for real about whether they should consider this. They had no clue at that time, I can understand. And then he AND his wife saw a glorious vision of a beautiful male angel telling them to follow the teachings of Joseph Smith (Mormonism’s founder). I mean, I wasn’t there, and I’ve never to my knowledge seen a celestial being like that. But they became Mormons for a half-decade or more. Beloved, we know today that Mormonism is a false religion, even given its good morality. Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. We need to have the Holy Spirit to help us know the difference. It’s called discernment, and it is one of his gifts, listed in 1 Corinthians 12.
15: Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.
- Paul here to me reminds me of Iago the parrot from that animated classic Aladdin. “Why am I not surprised? I think I’m gonna have a heart attack and die of not surprised!” And neither should we be surprised or outraged at the people that do the strangest things while they are babes nursing in the arms of the evil one, like it says in 1 John 5:19. “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” The picture that John is painting here is a horrible one to me personally. In Greek, the language carries with it the idea of a sleeping infant in the arms of its wetnurse. Beloved, that’s where all of those people that anger and irritate us to no end are. They are but babies asleep in the arms of the evil one. Some wetnurse.
- Now, these false teachers were in some ways like that, but we also have reason to believe that some of them were the awakened servants of the evil one directly, bought and paid for with the false promises he makes. I don’t know what they are, but I can imagine, because I am human like Paul was–fame, fortune, comfort, companionship, or whatever–and for things such as these, men will go back to sleep as they feed on the fake nourishment provided by their father.
- Make no mistake–if they stay there, that is if the Lord does not awaken them somehow (that’s us, the somehow) to their grave spiritual danger–then these will perish, and suffer endless torment in hell forever. Is that where you want your friend to go? Your brother or sister? Your parents? Anyone at all? I certainly don’t. Live the gospel, I agree, and also speak the gospel. At every opportunity, whether it is convenient for you or not, as per Paul at the end of HIS life. Otherwise–you know what happens. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’m okay with that.
Neither should you be.
It should come as no surprise that a servant is like his master. We are supposed to be like our master, and we can simply expect the world and all those that adhere to it to be like their master. Beloved, this is why we need to be good people, as our Lord was good. And it is why we need to tell people how they can also become good people like our Lord. I’m not a good man. I never have been. What you see in me is Christ. I died on June 18, 1985. Someone else was born in my place. Jesus did that in me, and He can and will do it in you if you ask him to forgive your sinning against Him. Do that now. Let me know after, because I have some helps I can send you–and like Paul–at no cost to you.
That’s what I saw in the chapter.