Bible evangewomanblogspotcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

2 Corinthians 11:12-15

12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s refusal to take money from a church he was planting. He took money only from churches that he had established. Those donations went towards his upkeep and to the new church.

John MacArthur sums up those verses — 7 through 11 — and today’s as follows (emphases mine):

In the passage in which we are now involved, verses 7 through 15 of 2 Corinthians chapter 11, Paul is doing what is very necessary. He is contrasting true apostles with false apostles. He is contrasting himself as the true man of God, spokesman for the Lord with the false apostles and false teachers who had come into Corinth claiming to be apostles of Christ and messengers of God who were not. And the contrast that he makes is built around three areas, or three categories: humility, truth and love. Those are the three marks of a true apostle, a true prophet, a true teacher, a true preacher.

This applies to today’s true clergy:

Humility, truth and love will mark their lives. They will be humble in the sense that they will be self-effacing. They will be sacrificial. They are marked by truth in they are void of deception. And it is truth that they live for not only in what they say, but in their own personal lives. It will be truth not only from them, but truth in them. And they will be marked by love. That is to say they will be far more concerned with others than they are themselves, and they will be willing and eager to spend themselves for the sake of others, because that’s the character of love; it gives sacrificially.

True teachers – just mark it out – look at their life. Do you see manifest evidence of humility? Do you see manifest truth and manifest love? Those are the things that mark them. Really there couldn’t be a better summation of the character of true apostles and true teachers than those three virtues.

Paul lays it on the line in these four verses.

First, he says that he will continue conducting his ministry in the way he always has done; this is to undermine the false teachers who claim to be doing the same work as he (verse 12).

He wanted to make sure that his ministry provided a sharp contrast to theirs, particularly when it came to money, which he refused to accept from the Corinthians when he was establishing their church.

MacArthur says that the false teachers hoped Paul would start taking money from the Corinthians as they were doing to bring him down to their level:

… it was the objective of Paul’s rivals to be elevated to the level of a true apostle as many people thought Paul was; and he really was. They wanted to be up on the level of those who thought Paul was an apostle; they wanted to be considered equal with Paul.

And how were they going to be able to be considered equal with Paul among those who believed that Paul was a true apostle? How could they succeed in being considered equal with Paul if Paul wasn’t taking any money? If Paul took money, then they could claim that, “Well, we just operate the way Paul does. We’re on the same level he’s on.”

Paul goes on to call ‘such men’ what they truly are: ‘false apostles’ who are ‘disguising themselves as apostles of Christ’ (verse 13).

Paul does not name them, but MacArthur surmises that everyone in Corinth knew who they were:

The church in Corinth knew exactly who he was talking about. They knew their names. They knew their names, and they knew their addresses. They knew everything there was to know about them.

Paul writes bluntly because the truth of the Gospel is at stake:

Now some have criticized Paul for using rather potent language here. We would agree as to the potency of the language. If those guys were sitting near the front of the church when this letter was read, it would appear to be extremely potent to them, I’m quite confident, and everybody else listening; for it was. Paul is not tolerant. He is not even pleasant when the truth is at stake.

When it is a matter of the honor of God, the honor of Christ, the truth of the gospel and Scripture, this is a time for potency in language; this is not a time to equivocate. So he pulls no punches. He says, “They’re false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.”

… Paul says such men are false apostles, pseudapostolos. Paul probably coined the word. They claimed to be equal to Paul … In fact, he says at the end of verse 13, “They disguise themselves as if they’re apostles of Jesus Christ.” They’re claiming to be equal with Paul, and Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, and Philip, and the rest

I mean, that’s the whole game. They come in. They do whatever their lust and desires tell them to do. They’re driven by their own passions to fulfill their own desires at the expense of people. They are false apostles. But they always make these grandiose claims. They always make these high claims to be spokesmen for God, because then you can’t question them without somehow being accused of questioning God.

Paul says that such deception isn’t anything to wonder about, given that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (verse 14).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

And no marvel (says the apostle); hypocrisy is a thing not to be much wondered at in this world, especially when we consider the great influence Satan has upon the minds of many, who rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience. As he can turn himself into any shape, and put on almost any form, and look sometimes like an angel of light, in order to promote his kingdom of darkness, so he will teach his ministers and instruments to do the same.

Satan is not going to present himself to us as he really is. He will appear through others as appealing, even ingratiating, in order to seduce us into error and sin. He disguised himself as a serpent when he encountered Eve and got her to question God’s command not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. He worked on her. He persuaded her that she misunderstood God’s command. And so she ate the fruit.

Paul tells the Corinthians it is no surprise that Satan’s servants disguise themselves as servants of righteousness but warns that their end will result in God’s judgement (verse 15):

Their end will correspond to their deeds.

MacArthur says:

Satan is most effective in the church when he comes not as an open enemy, but as a false friend. He’s most effective against the church not when he attacks the church, but when he joins the church; not when he attacks the pulpit, but when he stands in it

Bottom line: they’re not getting away with it, right?

You often ask the question, you know, “Well, Lord, why don’t You stop this stuff? Why can’t You bring the church to truth? Why do we have to deal” – they won’t get away with it. God just has a different time table than you and I, right? It’s going to happen. And the destiny of the false teachers will be consistent with their deceptive deeds.

There are several references to false prophets in the Bible, including the Old Testament.

MacArthur tells us what to look for in these deceivers:

If you were to go back to Jeremiah 5:31 you would see that false teachers are characterized by authoritarianism. They tend to be domineering, dominating, over-bearing personalities, always right. And if you don’t agree with them, you are really in some serious trouble. You will receive their curse.

They are authoritarian. They don’t want to be questioned. They are right. They come from God. They have the final word. That’s typical of false teachers, and that’s a manifestation of their pride. Whereas the true teacher is always humbling himself under the Word of God, and seeing himself as merely a servant of that truth.

Secondly, if you study the Bible you will find that false teachers are identified as to their pride by presumption. They tend to be presumptuous as well as self-willed. Peter writes about it as well. They tread into sacred things, just blissfully making havoc out of truth and things like that for their own ends.

Thirdly, according to Isaiah 29:16, they’re idolatrous. That is to say they want to be worshiped. They want to be set up as little gods and have everybody bowing down to them. They want to be the big hero. They love their name in lights.

So you see the pride of the false teachers in their authoritarianism, their presumption, their idolatry. You also see it in their greed. And, perhaps, that’s the dominating thing as you look at false teachers through the Scripture is that they’re doing what they’re doing to get rich, to extract out of people the things of life so that they can ingratiate themselves …

Just look when you’re assessing whether someone is a true or a false teacher. Do you see humility or do you see pride? Do you see a person sacrificing his life to give away the truth with only regard for service to others; or do you see one who is building an empire, building an estate, becoming rich, one who is parading his authority, one who is always right, one who demands that we bow before him, one who wants almost to be worshiped and adored? Those are the questions.

Imagine if Paul were with us today, preaching and planting churches. He would be less popular than even Donald Trump, that is certain. Imagine the left-wing media excoriating him day after day. Imagine the scathing words about him on social media.

MacArthur puts it this way:

Critics today even in the “Christian church,” quote-unquote, don’t like people who are potent like Paul. Paul would have a hard time today, because there’s a little, very little conviction and an awful lot of tolerance. But may I suggest to you that the truth is always intolerable to those who are distinguished by error. You just need to know that. The people who make the biggest fuss about the truth are the people who have the most to lose, right? And what do you have to lose when the truth invades? Your precious, protected error.

May we always strive to seek and understand the truth, no matter how unpalatable it seems in our era.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 11:16-21