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2 Corinthians 10-11

November 18th, 2012 by Vic

2 Corinthians 10-11

“False teachers”

November 18, 2012


When I was in graduate school 40 years ago the trend in Seminaries was to teach classes in spiritual formation.  I took those classes.  The last 20 years have introduced ‘Lectio Divina’, praying the scriptures, contemplative meditation, contemplative spirituality, Christian mantras, emergent churches, ‘followers of Christ’ (in place of the word Christian), Christian mysticism.  We all want to grow in Christ.  Often we are too receptive to the new rather than the tried and true.


The Corinthian church was not much different.  Some self-appointed Jewish teachers had come to the church to show them some new popular ways to become more spiritual.  The church could become more Christlike if they would just follow their 10 step plan.  Christians could have a fantastic spiritual experience if they would just repeat some special word until their mind became neutral and receptive to more truth.


In these 2 chapters Paul reminds the church that God does not work that way.  God does not give you a fantastic experience so you can feel good.  God blesses you so you can be a blessing to others.  We have not been blessed so we can receive praise.  Jesus came to build the Church.  It is the church that brings praise and glory to God.  We are blessed to build up one another so together we bring praise to God and the world will see the love of God in us as we love one another.  Christlikeness is more a state of doing than a state of being.

Paul has said that the church is all about relationships.  Jesus came to reconcile us to God and we are to be ministers of reconciliation and build relationships with one another and God Himself.


Paul apparently had some fantastic spiritual experiences.  He did not set them up as a standard for every Christian.  Paul was educated at the world’s best university in Tarsus and studied under the best Jewish scholar of that day, but he doesn’t mention that nor set it up as a standard for every Christian or every pastor.  Listen to the heartbeat of Paul.  Do an attitude check.


10:1-6  Paul is responding to the sneers of critics who said he was ‘bold’ in his letters but ‘timid’ in person.  Some were insinuating that Paul was not a true apostle.  Bold could be translated haughty.  The word timid is also translated lowly or base.  Paul was not an impressive person.  We tend to listen to impressive people who look respectable.  The name Saul was a respectable name.  The name Paul could mean tiny or little.  God renamed him at his conversion.


Paul does not argue with them.  He knew he was just a sinner saved by grace.  As a Christian living in Christ he appeals to them in meekness and gentleness.  The word for meekness occurs in Matt 11:28.  Jesus described Himself as meek and lowly in heart.  This is the only self-description we have recorded of Jesus.  The word occurs 10 times in the NT.  It is listed with the fruit of the Spirit.  Meekness is the power and strength that is under control.  This is a righteous anger.  This is being angry at the right time.  It describes the man who is never angry because of personal wrong or insult.


The word ‘gentleness’ describes the man who is willing to forgo retaliation when threatened.  Barclay defines it as justice that is guided by love and not law.  There are times when strict and impartial justice is unjust.  The Greeks said this justice is better than justice.


Paul is kind of spanking the church because he loves them.  He appeals to them in love.  He is not angry at them.  He agrees with the critics that he is a humble follower and servant of the lowly Christ but will add that he has a God-given authority to correct them with boldness in his letters.


“I beg you” to notice that I do not live (according to the flesh) by the standards of this world (2).  He concedes that he is not a great orator or charismatic leader.  He walks “in the flesh” but does not demonstrate boldness like the world does (3).  He does not intend to be bold in the way that the world and his critics define boldness.


The weapons Christians use are not carnal or physical.  We are in a spiritual battle against satan.  We are strong in the Lord (Eph 6:10) but do not attack each other with words or weapons.  We put on the armor of God to fight satan not one another.  Our offensive weapons are the Word of truth and prayer, the sword of the Spirit.  These weapons have divine power to demolish satan’s strongholds in our lives.  These weapons demolish walls that have come between us and our brother.  We can cast out all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander, imaginations and addictions of every kind by the power of the Word and prayer.


Paul is saying his fight is not against his critics with flesh and blood, but against satan and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12).  Our weapons will demolish arguments, reasoning, and pretension that distort the Word of God.  We can also discipline ourselves and bring into captivity our thoughts.  Technology has given us access to many thoughts.  Technology is not the problem.  First put on the armor of God then turn off the internet.  Clean up your thoughts (5).


Like a good pastor, Paul assures them he is not going to discipline them for their disobedience until they are doing what they know they should already be doing.  The word for disobedience means literally to hear alongside, fail to hear, or refuse to hear.  After they reestablish their commitment to hear what he is really saying then additional teachings may be appropriate (6).


10:7-11  In this paragraph Paul addresses a problem we all have.  We judge a book by its cover.  We look only at the things that are seen and fail to see beyond the end of our nose.  The prophet Samuel made this mistake too.  The people of Israel wanted a king like other nations had.  They were not happy with Samuel’s leadership.  God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint David as the next king.  Samuel had a lot of respect.  When he arrived in Bethlehem the elders of the town got nervous.  He went to the family of Jesse looking for a tall, dark, and handsome young man (16:7).  God chose a cute little kid.  He was ‘ruddy’, a carrot top.


Goliath also misjudged David and heckled him with a little trash talk.  It was a fatal mistake.  It can be a horrible mistake for us to judge someone by external appearance.


The critics in Corinth were misjudging Paul.  They were saying he was not a real Christian.  If he was a Christian he would be there doing some of the dirty work not hiding out someplace writing bold letters.  They accused him of being sickly and unable to heal himself.  He replies, “God has given me authority to build you up not to build myself up or tear you down (8).”  Paul did not feel he was given authority to be a popular big shot who flaunted his credentials and power.  We was given authority to build the church.  He has been called to build up the body of Christ to the glory of God.


10:12-18  The critics were measuring Paul by their credentials.  Paul says only the self-made man can measure himself by himself.  Paul is a God-made man.  He will measure himself with the measure of faith God has given him.  He is who he is in God’s eyes—nothing more and nothing less.  Only a fool would measure himself by himself or other people in the church (12).  Paul is not going to compare himself with others.  He is a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Paul was accused of being boastful, but he will not boast beyond what God has done and is doing through him.  It is God who assigned him the field in Corinth.  He preached the gospel in obedience and God is building His church in Corinth.  God gave him his assignment and sphere of ministry according to His purpose.  It was not Paul’s idea.  He is not claiming special rights.


He does not lay claim to all the good the other Corinthians had done in their ministry.  He does not want to take credit for what other leaders have done in their ministry.  He only hopes the Lord will allow Him to expand his ministry to the west.  Then he will be able boast in how God is working in his continued ministry (16).


The point is we can only boast in the Lord.  It is no longer me living, but Christ in me.  Jesus is on the throne today.  He is building His church.  Everyone who hears the call of God and obeys is a wise man (Matt 7:26).  You are who you are in God’s eyes.  My ministry is measured by my relationships and ministry to others, not my educational credentials, talents, or committee assignment.  God’s approval is what counts (18).


11:1-6  The critics were claiming to be super wise.  So Paul asks the church to put up with his foolishness for a little bit.  He compares himself to a groomsman or a father figure who is acting as a best man or an escort and is jealous to present a pure bride to the groom.  The bride owes exclusive loyalty to the groom.  Paul’s fear was that the church may be deceived as Eve was.  These outsiders who have come into the church may turn you away from your true allegiance (3).


Here’s how you can spot a false teacher.  If someone preaches a different Jesus, a different spirit, or a different gospel than what you heard when you became Christian, he is a false teacher.  Mormons believe Jesus was a man and not God.  Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus was the archangel, Michael.  John the disciple says Jesus is God and was resurrected from the dead (2 John).  The true gospel is the power of God unto salvation for those who believe.  What the critics are teaching is of the flesh (5:16) and their power is self-centered and visible.  The other Jesus that they proclaim is a miracle working Jesus on display rather than the patient, loving, crucified and risen Lord.  The other spirit is the spirit of ecstasy and emotional highs.  The other gospel is the prosperity gospel.  The true teacher is the one who teaches the real Jesus and lives what he teaches.


11:7-12  Paul had refused to accept any support from the Corinthians whatsoever.  The Greeks felt that teachers should make money from their teaching.  Tent makers should make money by making tents.  For a teacher to work with his hands was beneath his dignity.  The false teachers were accusing Paul of not being a true teacher because he was really a tent maker.


But he did receive money for his teaching.  The poor churches in Macedonia supported him and met his needs while he was ministering in Corinth.  Paul never asked for money from the church where he was currently ministering.  He did not want to be a burden in any way (9).  Maybe he set up this principle so that traveling teachers and preachers could not fleece churches.  It’s a good way to eliminate false teachers (12).  Don’t pay them.


11:13-15  These people are bogus apostles; not sent ones.  No one sent them.  Their message and their lifestyle are a little off center.  They are false apostles, deceitful workmen, servants of satan.  What you see is not what you get.  That should not surprise us.  Satan himself can masquerade as a messenger of light.  He can appear clean and pure.  So be alert.  Look closely at their message and behavior.  Don’t be too quickly impressed by superficial attractiveness.


Notice Paul does not name his critics.  He does not attack them directly.  He does not threaten them or call a curse down on them.  He just says their fate will correspond to what they have done.


11:16-20  A fool in Roman society was the person who had lost the correct measure of himself and the world around him.  He had lost touch with reality.  Socrates was often called a fool.  Paul says, “Don’t take me for a fool.  But let me be foolish for a bit and boast a little (16).”  It is foolish to boast because in my boasting the gospel is never proclaimed clearly.  Jesus never did any boasting (17).


The Corinthians were known for their tolerance.  Ironically they even put up with false apostles who were enslaving them, exploiting them, laying hands on them, lording it over them and insulting them.   They were in danger of losing their freedom in Christ (20).


11:21-33  Since many others are boasting about externals, Paul will do some boasting too even though he knows it is foolish and does not promote the gospel.  They claim to be Hebrews by nationality and speak the Hebrew language.  Paul says he can match that claim.  They claim to be Israelites with a special claim to God’s covenant.  Paul can match that.  They claim to be from the seed of Abraham with Messiah connections.  Paul can match that.  They claim to be servants of Christ.  Paul asserts superiority as a servant of Christ.  Up to this point Paul claimed equality, but now he claims superiority.  He will not let them wear this title.  This is his title because…


I have worked much harder.  I have been in prison more often.  I have suffered more beatings than I can count.  I have been at death’s door frequently.  I have received 39 lashes from the Jews 5 times.  I have been beaten with rods by the Romans 3 times.  I have been stoned once.  I have been ship wrecked 3 times.  I spent a night and day in the sea.  During my travels I have faced dangers from floods, robbers, Jewish bounty hunters, Gentiles, city leaders, uninhabited areas, pirates at sea, and false brothers.


Only as a servant of Christ did he endure these hardships, not as a common tourist.  He suffered these things because he was a Christian.  In addition to these hardships he has also known sleeplessness, hunger and thirst, lack of clothing and cold.  He also carries with him the concern for all the churches.  He grieves the poor and weak.  It tears him up inwardly when a Christian falls back into sin (29).  This is the climax of the list.  Paul is concerned for his friends in Corinth.  That is his greatest suffering and pain.


So if he is forced to boast, he will boast in his weakness.  An example of his weakness is his basket story.  He never forgot the day he was lowered in a basket.  He was a new Christian and was rejected by the Jews who knew his credentials.  He had to run and hide.  He had used his best arguments and logic to convince his friends that Jesus was the Messiah.  His best arguments only made people mad.  It was extremely humbling for him to be rejected and have to run away as a fugitive.  In his weakness God has made him strong.


He’s telling the Corinthians he went through hardships to plant their church.  He loves them.  He is concerned about them.  Beware of teachers who have the wrong motives.  They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.  The test for true apostles is their record of suffering, service, and concern for others salvation.

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