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Bible read me 1The 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 11:7-11

Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s grief on God’s behalf that the Corinthians had given their pulpit over to false teachers.

He thinks that it was because he was not charging them money to hear him preach, which is what the false teachers were doing (verse 7).

Because Paul did not ask for money from the Corinthians, the false teachers said this was because his preaching was worthless.

John MacArthur notes the sarcasm in that verse (emphases mine):

there’s irony there and there’s sarcasm there. He’s saying, “Have I committed some sin by breaking the Greek cultural pattern? Have I committed some iniquity by not following the norm that a teacher’s worth is determined by his fee? You know why I didn’t take any money.” He had worked, by the way, the whole time he was there – nearly two years – he had worked as a tent maker, or literally, a leather worker, tents being made out of hide.

According to Acts 18:3, while he was there he worked as a tent maker, he worked as a leather worker, and he worked to pay his own way while he ministered. He did the same with the Ephesians, in Acts 20:34: “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me.” He was so skilled at his trade, he was so good at it, he could not only make a living for himself, but everybody who traveled with him, and he did it. And there, he established a pattern of work, and there, he relieved a burden, being he didn’t want to be a burden on the people, and he distinguished himself from the popular sophists, and philosophers, and false teachers.

Note that Paul says he humbled himself in order that the Corinthians could be exalted. That means he lived on tent making and gifts from the established churches so that he could lift the converts of Corinth out of sin and show them the light of Christ.

MacArthur elaborates:

“Did I commit a sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted?” They had been exalted; what does he mean by that, exalted? Lifted up.

Lifted up out of the darkness to the light; lifted up out of sin to righteousness; lifted out of hell to heaven; lifted from Satan to God; lifted from death to life. He said, “Did I commit some sin in humbling myself to lift you up?” “Was that a sin? This free preaching elevated you from damnation to glory; had I committed a sin in doing that?” Well, he makes it such a sarcastic statement because it’s so foolish. They know better than that. Paul had lived in a measure of material poverty; that’s right. He had lived in a measure of material poverty, so his hearers could become rich.

By humbling himself for his converts’ exaltation, Paul was imitating Christ:

He had followed the pattern of Jesus, in 8:9 of this same letter, chapter 8, verse 9 – Jesus, who was “rich, but for your sakes became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” Paul could have been very wealthy. He was an astute man. He was a brilliant mind. He was a highly-trained man. He was, obviously, a very skilled craftsman. He could have done very well for himself. But he put that all aside, and operated, really, from hand to mouth, working to earn his daily food. Not only his, but everybody who traveled with him. He became poor, that he might make others rich; and in that he was like his Lord.

He goes on to say that he ‘robbed’ other churches to help support him in order that he could serve the then-new church in Corinth (verse 8).

MacArthur explains the use of the word:

he says, “I robbed” – that’s interesting that he uses that word, ’cause it’s a strong word, and it’s a word used in a military context, to plunder or to pillage. It’s used in classical Greek of – of stripping the armor off a dead soldier. It’s a word for plundering.

Now, you say, “What is – what is Paul saying that for? Why would he choose a word like that? Why would he say ‘I plundered and pillaged other churches?’” Well, not because he actually robbed them, not because he pillaged them, but – but because in his mind – he was such a humble man. In his mind, he looked at these churches which were already poor, and they sent him gifts to support him, which even made them poorer. It was like a plundering, in his mind. These churches were very poor, and they gave to him generously, and thus furthered impoverished themselves, as if they had been plundered by some invader.

Specifically, he has in mind here the churches in Macedonia. You know, Greek – Greece is divided into two parts – the northern part, Macedonia, the southern part, Achaia – with a little isthmus in the middle. He is now in the southern part, Achaia, on the western shore where Corinth is, but he’s been up in Macedonia, where Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea are the cities the churches have been established in. And you remember, in chapter 8 – go back to chapter 8 – that the churches of Macedonia are mentioned in verse 1; that would be Philippi, Berea, Thessalonica.

The churches of Macedonia – verse 2 – were in a great ordeal of affliction, and were characterized by deep poverty. Macedonia was very, very poor, and the churches were very, very poor. But in the middle of their affliction, in the middle of their deep poverty, verse 2 says, “they overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.” And verse 3 says, they gave “beyond their ability.” We know that the church at Philippi sent him gifts, because he refers to them in Philippians, chapter 4, verses 10 to 18. In fact, they sent him a gift that was so significant that he can say, “I have received everything in full and have an abundance” – Philippians 4:18.

Paul’s pattern of ministry involved donations from churches he established to go towards his planting a new church. He did not ask for money from the new churches.

MacArthur says it is a pattern which remains today in good churches:

It is still, I think, wise in new ministries to follow that pattern. When workers go out, and men go out to found a church, plant a church, among unbelievers, winning unbelievers to Christ, and building a church, I think it’s wise for them to be supported by already-established churches, so that the folks they’re trying to reach don’t have to pay their support. When people go to the mission field, or places where Christ is not named, to establish churches in other cultures, they are usually supported by their home churches, aren’t they?

Even when national pastors go out to found and plant churches in places where there are no churches, they will be supported by a home church. That’s – that’s a pretty solid pattern throughout the history of Christian mission and church-planting, and I think it’s a wise one. It was in the course of Paul’s second missionary journey that he visited Corinth, and founded the church there, around 52 A.D. And there he lived, and worked with his friend Aquila in the craft of leather work, so that he would be free to preach the gospel and never have to take any money for it

People in the established churches were so grateful to and so fond of Paul that they used to gather collections to send to him to further his ministry in a new area:

Wherever he went to start a church, he did the work, and he charged them nothing. And later on, when he left, out of love, they would send gifts, which he would receive.

Paul says that even when he was truly in need in Corinth, the Macedonian churches helped him. He never asked the Corinthians for material support at that time and would ‘burden’ them by doing so in future (verse 9).

It would appear he had not previously told the Corinthians about the time he was in dire straits in their city.

MacArthur has more on that time of need, possibly driven by having spent more time teaching them than working or because there was a lack of available work:

in verse 9, for the first time he tells them something about his exigency, something about his need. “And when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone.” Wow, this is the first they’ve heard of that. “When I was present with you, when I was there, I was in need.” And what does he mean? “I didn’t have food. I didn’t have the necessities of life.”

He had been working at his trade – from Acts 18, I told you, we know that. But his – his ministry was getting more and more intensive, and maybe the demands of that ministry were curtailing the time that he had for work, and maybe work had run out and his resources were depleted. Whatever it was, he was in a dire situation. He says, “Even when I was in need, I was not a burden to anyone.” That word burden means dead weight. It literally means to cause numbing by pressing against. “I was not dead weight to you, even when I” – they didn’t even know about his need; he didn’t even tell them about it.

Then, verse 9: “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.” Some brethren came down from Philippi, and, most likely, down from Thessalonica, and they brought some money, they brought some gifts. They arrived at exactly the time of Paul’s need. They arrived when the situation was acute. And even in that extremity, he said, “I didn’t ask anything out of you.” He wanted to give no occasion to anyone to accuse him of greed. And by the way, the occasion of that coming of those brethren is indicated, in Acts 18:5, as the occasion when Timothy and Silas came, “and they fully supplied my need.”

Paul said that he would not take anything from the Corinthians in future because he did not want to feed into the slander from the false teachers:

I think there were probably some of the Corinthians who thought, “I wish he’d take something, we love him so much.” But he wouldn’t give those false teachers any opportunity or any satisfaction, and he didn’t want them to have any opportunity to accuse him of greed.

He was so determined to keep preaching because the truth of Christ was in him and nothing or no one was going to stop his righteous boasting in Achaia, the region where Corinth was located (verse 10).

MacArthur says that there were other believers or other churches in that region:

… in the southern region of Achaia, he indicates here in the regions of Achaia, which would lead us to believe that there was more than the church at Corinth established in Achaia. And we do know from Romans 16:1 that there was also a church at Cenchrea, and Phoebe you remember was a servant of that church. So there were other churches there; we don’t know how many, at least that one. But back in 2 Corinthians 1:1 … it says, “To all the saints who are throughout Achaia.” Now this indicates to us that there were Christians all around Achaia, all through that area. The Gospel had gone, people had been converted, and church, at least those two churches, were planted and there were believers in a lot of other areas. It also indicates to us that the influence of the false apostles was probably stretching all around Achaia also, and he didn’t want them to find anything in his life that they could use against him. And mercenary motives would’ve been something they would’ve used. And so he is very careful to say, “I’m not changing this policy anywhere throughout the regions of Achaia,” indicating that their influence had spread through Achaia, that at least one other church existed in Cenchrea and perhaps more than that. Paul was true to his convictions.

MacArthur says that the ‘boasting’ involved Paul’s resolve not to change his policy of financial help:

the true apostle of Christ, the true preacher is marked by truth, not just humility but truth. Verse 10, and here again, this is by way of implication: “As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine,” – what he means by this boasting is this affirmation that I will not receive any money from you. “This boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia.” Paul says, “I’m not changing anything. I don’t care what you say, I’m not changing anything with regard to my policy.” But he starts it out with this statement, “As the truth of Christ is in me.” My what a statement, my what a statement. I suppose there are a lot of preachers who could say, “The truth of Christ is in my mouth.” There were a lot of preachers who could say, “The truth of Christ is in my head.” What Paul means to say when he says, “The truth of Christ is in me,” is that he operates from the inside out with absolute integrity. Literally the Greek says, “by virtue of the truth Christ has placed in me.” It wasn’t just that he proclaimed truth, he lived it. It was his driving motive. He was devoted to the truth not just in his voice, not just in his mind, but in his heart. That’s what integrity is, folks. And a lot of people know the truth in their head, talk the truth in their mouth and don’t have the truth in their heart and it shows up. Paul was a man who had the truth on the inside and it started on the inside and it came from the inside out. It was his mission in life to proclaim the truth of Christ, but it was his life to live it.

Verse 11 is sad and plaintive. Paul asks two questions: why he will not change his policy of ministry and is it not because he loves the new Christians in Corinth. He then affirms his love, ‘God knows I do!’

MacArthur expands on what Paul was saying:

He has only one court of appeal in verse 11. Because I don’t love you – he’s left with nothing but this: “God knows. I have nowhere to turn. God knows.” I mean you ultimately rest in that when you’re falsely accused. When the false teachers come against you as they would against Paul or any other true teacher and say, “Well he doesn’t really love you. He’s unloving. He’s not a loving person,” which is a common criticism you get today of true teachers. Because they’re definite, because they’re clear, because they’re doctrinal, because they sort out truth from error, they’re deemed as unloving. How do you answer that question? Paul had nowhere else to go. He just said, “God knows. God knows” … There’s something kind of sad about that, isn’t there? I mean it’s like you don’t have enough information, all I can say is, “God knows.” And that’s the highest court, God knows. What more can I say? God knows my heart.

MacArthur says that, so often, when a good church is established, false teachers come in to ruin it with error, if not heresy. It happened to churches in the New Testament, e.g. Ephesus, and it happens today:

Now basically what you have here in this sort of synopsis of life in the church, this sort of sampler on teaching regarding the church, is very simple pastoral role laid out. You learn sound doctrine. You become astute in sound doctrine. You cover the plan of God from front to back, and then you take that into the church and you guard your own life against the subtleties of Satan and against sin and all of that that’s gonna corrupt you. And then you guard the flock because as soon as you begin your ministry, you can be certain that from the outside and from the inside the lies will begin. They’ll come in every way imaginable. People will come into the church to seduce people and draw away disciples after themselves. They’ll do it through books and in our day they’ll do it through tapes and radio and television; in every possible conceivable means they will do it.

It is up to each of us to stay doctrinally true — and part of that involves resisting sin, because sin weakens our spiritual state:

The only hope for protection is that God will fulfill his promise to care for his church and that his church would grow strong in the Word. The Word is able to build you up. It’s able to bring you all the way to the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Now there you have simply a summation of ministry. Ministry is teaching a foundation of doctrine so that people know the truth so that they can withstand the error and the lie. That’s the way it is in the Christian experience. We have to live in this world and we have to be impervious as it were to the subtleties and the nuances and the deceptions of Satan in order that we can preserve and proclaim the truth. That’s what ministry is. And the pastor is a proclaimer and teacher of truth and a guardian, and part of the role of teaching and leading is of course disseminating truth so we understand the whole counsel of God. And the other part is teaching people discernment so that they can be protected so that the truth can be guarded, so their lives can be guarded in order that they might be effective in the evangelistic enterprise, which is the reason we’re here.

the absence of discernment is simply a result of an ignorance about Scripture, ignorance about doctrine. If you don’t understand the Bible, you can’t have discernment, because discernment is simply the application of biblical knowledge. And if you don’t have discernment, what you’ll have is immaturity. And where you have immaturity, you have gullibility … And the only way we can be discerning is to understand Scripture. If we’re discerning, then that means we’re applying Scripture to the seductions of the enemy and we’re understanding what they really are. But where you don’t have discernment you have immaturity. Where you have immaturity, you have gullibility. Where you have gullibility, you have effective seduction and you have tragedy in the lives of people. Such was the case in Corinth, and you know that.

That’s exactly what Satan was doing in Corinth. He sent in false teachers. They brought a bunch of lies. They started to seduce the Corinthian believers. Some of them bought into the seduction and they started down a path demonstrating gullibility even after they had been taught for three years by Paul, or for two years by Paul; in Corinth, it was nearly two years. Even after all of that exposure to the counsel of God, they were still a church that had children, spiritual children in it. Some had come to Christ later on and hadn’t really gotten that foundation solidly laid down, and they were no doubt the immature ones who were a part of that affection. It’s also true that someone could be around the church for a long time but if they’re sinful in their life they never really do take in the Word of God even though they hear it with their ears, and they too remain immature and gullible.

Paul’s discourse continues with a mention of Satan. More on that next week.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 11:12-15

The First Sunday of Advent is November 28, 2021.

Readings for Year C — the new liturgical year — can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 21:25-36

21:25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

21:26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

21:27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.

21:28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

21:29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees;

21:30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.

21:31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

21:32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.

21:33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

21:34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly,

21:35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.

21:36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

We had a similar passage about the Second Coming two weeks ago, on the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity: Mark 13:1-8.

This Sunday’s is Luke’s version of Christ’s prophecy.

As with Mark’s (and Matthew’s) version, Luke’s preceding verses had to do with the destruction of the temple and the end of the Jewish sacrificial system, which occurred at the hands of the Romans in AD 70.

With regard to His second coming, Jesus tells us that the universe will give us signs as will the earth, where the movement of the seas will create distress across the nations (verse 25).

Jesus goes on to say that people will ‘faint with fear and foreboding’ as ‘the powers of the heavens will be shaken’ (verse 26).

John MacArthur says:

The staging is given in verses 25 and 26. Sun and moon and stars…what happens to them in that period of time? They go out. The sun goes out therefore the moon goes out. The stars go out as well, blackness covers the universe. At the same time the seas begin to roar, the waves turn into a tumult and we see the powers of the heavens being shaken. This is all final staging and parallels the Old Testament prophets and the book of Revelation.

Now that brings us to the third word and where we pick up the text this morning. The third word is shock…shock. There’s only one possible response to this unimaginable chaos, verse 25, “And upon the earth dismay among nations in perplexity.” Verse 26, “Men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world.”

And again I remind you, this is how history ends. This is the real story of the end of the earth and the universe as we know it. This is the first step in the beginning of the eternal state …

The confusion comes because people can’t do anything about it. There is absolute chaos. There’s no way to solve this. You’ve got a third of the oceans destroyed, a third of the fresh water destroyed. You’ve got mountains exploding. You’ve got heavenly bodies crashing and careening into the earth. You’ve got the skies going dark. You have horrible storms, hundred-pound hailstones and other things described in the book of Revelation. And the confusion comes because they can’t sort it out.

They can’t even react to it because it’s coming in such rapid-fire succession. There’s reason to believe that the trumpet judgments come in months and then the final judgments described in Revelation, the bowl judgments come in weeks and days…rapid-fire succession. Shock is so great that we are told that men are fainting from fear. And fainting is a rather benign way to translate another rare word used no where else in the New Testament, aposuche(?). What that word means is to breathe out or to expire. That’s another word for to die. People will be scared to death. People will be scared to death. People all over the world will die of terror because of what is happening and because what is happening they know will lead to further horrors. As they watch everything turn into chaos, they understand the implications. It’s not just what’s going on in the moment, it’s what all this means in the immediate future. That is to say the terror comes from the immediate and the terror is compounded by the total absence of any hope of relief. You might be able to mitigate your anxiety if you thought there would be an end but there will be nor can there be…there will be no end nor can there be any end. The chaos is too great.

This is not, by the way, hyperbole. This is lethal emotional trauma causing rapid pulse, low blood pressure and cardiac collapse. Rapid-pulse, low blood pressure, cardiac collapse, scared to death. This is not something the disciples wouldn’t have heard about before. This is shocking coming from Jesus and yet this is what Isaiah said. Listen to Isaiah 13:8, “All hands will fall limp, every man’s heart will melt. They will be terrified. Pains and anguish will take hold of them. They will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look at one another in astonishment, their faces aflame.” Listen again to the Revelation chapter 6, as we read familiar words. “The kings of the earth, the great men, verse 15, the commanders, the rich, the strong, every slave, every free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb for the great day of their wrath has come and who is able to stand?’” They want to die. Some will be scared to death. Others will be scared but cannot or do not die, they will wish to be buried alive just to escape what’s next.

In the ninth chapter of the Revelation and verse 6, “In those days men will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die and death flees from them.” In the sixteenth chapter of Revelation and verse 8, “The fourth angel pours out the rapid-fire judgments called bowl judgments and the sun scorches men with fire. They’re scorched with fierce heat and they blaspheme the name of God who has the power over these plagues that didn’t repent so as to give Him glory. Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, his kingdom became darkened. They gnawed their tongues because of pain and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores and didn’t repent of their deeds.” The chapter ends in verse 21 with a statement, “The plagues were extremely severe.”

The eighteenth chapter gives us a description of the disintegration of life at that final hour, in those final weeks, in those final days. The eighteenth chapter of Revelation, we can pick it up in verse 8. Plagues will come pestilence, mourning, famine, fire, the Lord God is bringing judgment. The symbol here is Babylon, Babylon is the unifying term to describe the final world coalition of religion and government, the final world system. And it’s going to be wiped out. The kings of the earth who committed acts of immorality live sensuously with this system will weak and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning. Standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment saying, “Woe, woe, the great Babylon, the strong city, in one hour your judgment has come.” Again indicating to us how rapid-fire the final judgments will be.

The merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, again symbolizing the whole economy of the earth in this one symbol of Babylon. Nobody buys their cargoes anymore, cargos of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls, fine linen, purple silk, scarlet, the clothing industry, the jewel industry, every kind of citron, wood and every article of ivory, every article made from costly wood and bronze and iron and marble, the construction industry as well, cinnamon, spice, incense, perfume, frankincense, wine, olive oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle, sheep, cargos of horses, chariots, slaves, transportation industry, food industry, everything goes…the fruit you long for has gone from you, all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you. Men will no longer find them. The merchants of these things who became rich from her will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning, saying, “Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen, purple, scarlet, adorned with gold, precious stones and pearls in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste.” Again indicating the suddenness of this destruction.

Matthew Henry’s commentary acknowledges that some Bible scholars believe this refers only to the destruction of the temple, but, like MacArthur, he says this pertains to the eventual end of the world and the terror that unbelievers will experience:

… our Saviour makes use of these figurative expressions because at the end of time they shall be literally accomplished, when the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll, and all their powers not only shaken, but broken, and the earth and all the works that are therein shall be burnt up, 2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12. As that day was all terror and destruction to the unbelieving Jews, so the great day will be to all unbelievers.

Jesus says that, at the appointed time, people will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ of great power and glory (verse 27). The quote comes from a verse in the Book of Daniel.

His appearance, MacArthur says, is the final sign:

… here is THE sign, verse 27, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” That is THE sign, the final sign, the sign is the Son of Man.

Listen to Matthew 24:30, the parallel account. The words of our Lord, “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky.” The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, they’ll already be emotional basket cases, to put it mildly. They will now launch into a final mourning as they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. THE sign of THE Son of Man, that is a subjective genitive, the sign which is the Son of Man.

It is not another sign that points to the Son of Man, it is the sign which is the Son of Man. Now remember, the whole world will be pitch dark. As Joel puts it, the sun will go dark and the moon will not give its light. The stars will fall. Heaven rolls up like a scroll. It’s pitch blackness. And out of that blackness, the whole world sees the Son of Man coming. This is the moment to which all redemptive history moves. This is its glorious culmination, when the once humiliated Christ returns as the eternally exalted Christ. He came once to die. He comes now to kill. He came once to build His church. He comes again to establish His glorious Kingdom.

Henry ties the Second Coming back to the temple so that we might better understand that its destruction presages the return of Christ:

The destruction of Jerusalem was in a particular manner an act of Christ’s judgment, the judgment committed to the Son of man; his religion could never be thoroughly established but by the destruction of the temple, and the abolishing of the Levitical priesthood and economy, after which even the converted Jews, and many of the Gentiles too, were still hankering, till they were destroyed; so that it might justly be looked upon as a coming of the Son of man, in power and great glory, yet not visibly, but in the clouds; for in executing such judgments as these clouds and darkness are round about him. Now this was, 1. An evidence of the first coming of the Messiah; so some understand it. Then the unbelieving Jews shall be confined, when it is too late, that Jesus was the Messiah; those that would not see him coming in the power of his grace to save them shall be made to see him coming in the power of his wrath to destroy them; those that would not have him to reign over them shall have him to triumph over them. 2. It was an earnest of his second coming. Then in the terrors of that day they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud, and all the terrors of the last day.

Jesus says that, when believers see these alarming signs, they can stand up and raise their heads because their redemption is near (verse 28).

MacArthur says:

A word to the saints in verse 28. These are the folks that will be alive at the time and will have believed in Christ. “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up, lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near,” engizo, about to start.

Then Jesus gives the disciples a parable about the fig tree and other trees (verse 29), saying that when they sprout leaves, everyone knows that summer is near (verse 30).

Similarly, when these dramatic signs take place, we can be sure that the kingdom of God is near (verse 31).

MacArthur says that analogies involving fig trees are common in the Bible. They were the easiest ways to get a point across:

both in the Old Testament and in the teaching of the Lord, the fig tree served a purpose as an illustration. It is designed to help people understand. In fact, in Matthew 24:32, where the parallel text in Matthew’s record is, he says Jesus also said, “Now learn this parable of the fig tree.” The point is: This is for your learning – manthanō – this is so you can understand. And the reason I press that point is because it seems to me that people turn these parables into very complex things when they are the most simple, especially when you have such a simple parable as this.

It was also apposite as Jesus taught His disciples this lesson about the temple and His later return in the middle of His Passion, which we commemorate during Holy Week. It was Passover week, therefore, springtime.

MacArthur explains the deeper meaning of summer, which involves fruit and harvest, therefore, blessings for some and judgement for others:

When you see the signs – leaves – you know summer’s near. And with summer comes fruit and harvest.

By the way, harvest is always, in the Old Testament, a symbol of judgment as well as blessing. So, you have a simple analogy.

MacArthur says the disciples who would witness the destruction of the temple were symbolic of the people who would witness the end of the world:

The disciples are only symbolic of those people. They are only representative of that future group of people. “You,” meaning you believers, who are alive when you see these things happen. What the Lord is saying is: It’s going to come very fast.

You remember He told a parable about a man who went on a long journey? We’re living in the long journey. We’re living in the long time, two thousand years now. But once those signs start – once they start – you can be sure that when you see these things happen, the Kingdom of God is near …

Jesus emphasises — ‘Truly I tell you’ — that the present generation will not pass away until all those things have taken place (verse 32).

This is a confusing verse, because some of the things that Jesus prophesies here did not take place when the Romans destroyed the temple.

MacArthur says that Jesus means whoever is alive at the time and sees the prophesied events take place, whether about the temple or His coming again in glory:

Let me tell you how simple this is. Verse 32, “Truly I say to you, this generation.” What generation? “The generation that sees these things happen will not die until it’s all taken place.” Whoever is among the you who sees these things happen can know this, it’s going to happen soon in your lifetime, and if you see the beginning, you’re going to be there for the end.

If you see Jerusalem surrounded, if you’re alive and you see Jerusalem surrounded and you see the changes and the devastating changes in the universe, you see those signs, you will see the Son of Man. Such a simple thing. If you see the leaves, you know summer is near. If you see the signs, you know Christ is near; He’s at the door.

And our Lord is simply saying, “You asked Me a question. You asked Me, what do we look for? What are the signs?” And I’m telling you this, that generation alive that sees these things will see the Son of Man return. Our Lord is answering the question

If you’re alive and you see the signs and you survive through that and you’re not martyred – and we’re talking about believers here; believers who are alive and looking and waiting for the coming of Christ – if you’re alive when all that starts, you’re going to be there when He returns and you’re going to go into His Kingdom. That’s all it means.

If this is looking for an antecedent, the obvious antecedent is you in verse 31 – you, you. It is this generation – the you that sees these things – that will see it all take place.

Jesus makes it clear that heaven and earth will pass away, but His words will not; they will endure forever (verse 33).

MacArthur explains:

You were saved through the living and abiding word and you will be brought to glory through that same living, abiding word. Whatever God says is absolutely the way it is, whether He speaks of salvation, or sanctification, or glorification. And we look forward to the unfolding of this.

Then Jesus gives stern warnings about our behaviour. We must not be weighed down by the concerns of this life to the extent that we become despondent and drunk as a result, lest His return catch us by surprise (verse 34), like a trap (verse 35). In our era, I would also include getting out of one’s mind on drugs in that warning.

We do not want to be out of our minds when the time comes for us to meet our Lord.

Henry says:

See here, 1. What our danger is: that the day of death and judgment should come upon us unawares, when we do not expect it, and are not prepared for it,–lest, when we are called to meet our Lord, that be found the furthest thing from our thoughts which ought always to be laid nearest our hearts, lest it come upon us as a snare; for so it will come upon the most of men, who dwell upon the earth, and mind earthly things only, and have no converse with heaven; to them it will be as a snare. See Ecclesiastes 9:12. It will be a terror and a destruction to them; it will put them into an inexpressible fright, and hold them fast for a doom yet more frightful.

Jesus calls upon us to be ‘alert at all times’ — ‘watching’, in some translations — and praying that we are strong enough to escape these terrible events and be able to stand before Him one day (verse 36).

Henry says:

Watch therefore, and pray always. Watching and praying must go together, Nehemiah 4:9. Those that would escape the wrath to come, and make sure of the joys to come, must watch and pray, and must do so always, must make it the constant business of their lives, (1.) To keep a guard upon themselves. “Watch against sin, watch to every duty, and to the improvement of every opportunity of doing good. Be awake, and keep awake, in expectation of your Lord’s coming, that you may be in a right frame to receive him, and bid him welcome.” (2.) To keep up their communion with God: “Pray always; be always in an habitual disposition to that duty; keep up stated times for it; abound in it; pray upon all occasions.” Those shall be accounted worthy to live a life of praise in the other world that live a life of prayer in this world.

MacArthur says:

He will come. He will come. We don’t know when He will come. And so, we live in perpetual vigilance, a vigilant anticipation, never letting that out of our minds. He could come at any moment…He could come at any time…He could come at any day. This needs to be kept before the church at all times. This is one of the gifts that our Lord wants from us. When He comes…Oh, we expected You, we expected You. We’ve been waiting, we’re ready.

This might seem to some as an odd reading in Advent, a time which, for us, is full of preparation for Christmas, including happy social engagements.

Yet, Advent readings begin by calling us to account, to repent, so that we might better appreciate Christ’s deigning to come to the world as an infant and living a fully human — yet fully divine — life among us.

Bible read me 2The 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 11:1-6

Paul and the False Apostles

11 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 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. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s dislike of boasting unless it be boasting in the Lord.

The last four chapters of 2 Corinthians are about the false teachers in Corinth who are defaming Paul and filling the congregation with bad doctrine. Most of the controversy had ended already, but it wasn’t entirely over, and Paul wanted the Corinthians to stamp it out fully before he returned.

Paul has to defend himself and do what he dislikes most: boast about himself.

He asks the Corinthians to bear with him in ‘a little foolishness’, i.e. personal boasting (verse 1).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says it was entirely justifiable and necessary (emphases mine):

In his case it was necessary; yet, seeing others might apprehend it to be folly in him, he desires them to bear with it. Note, As much against the grain as it is with a proud man to acknowledge his infirmities, so much is it against the grain with a humble man to speak in his own praise. It is no pleasure to a good man to speak well of himself, yet in some cases it is lawful, namely, when it is for the advantage of others, or for our own necessary vindication; as thus it was here.

John MacArthur says that Paul wants to hammer down on their disloyalty:

He’s saying, then, I want you to tolerate this latest confrontation, I want you to tolerate this foolish boasting in the Lord which is demanded by your foolish disloyalty. And here are four reasons why I want you to tolerate it because what is at stake is your loyalty to God, your loyalty to Christ, your loyalty to the gospel, and your loyalty to the truth. I mean there’s a lot at stake.

He uses the analogy of marriage to express his ‘divine jealousy’ — ‘godly jealousy’ in some translations — because he wanted to present them to Christ as being doctrinally pure, as a virgin would be on her wedding night (verse 2). He says ‘divine jealousy’ because he was jealous and fearful on God’s behalf. They were turning away from scriptural doctrine for another ‘Jesus’, the one promoted by the false teachers who had come from outside Corinth.

MacArthur expands on what Paul meant:

It’s not me that I’m worried about, it’s you that I’m worried about. I’m not concerned about my Christian experience, I’m not concerned about my relationship to the Lord, that’s as it should be. What I am concerned about is yours. I’m grieved that you might get seduced away from me and therefore you draw unto these false teachers, you’re going to wind up with error and iniquity and your own life is going to be a shambles. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.

What might appear to them as foolishness is extreme concern motivated by jealousy. He is jealous of the betrayal as a husband would feel for an unfaithful wife who pursued other lovers. It’s not selfish. He’s quick to add, “With a godly jealousy.” Literally, the jealousy of God. He’s saying I am jealous for God. You are being disloyal to God, that’s what he’s saying. This is a righteous indignation. This is a righteous jealousy. The Corinthian defection was disloyal to God.

This, by the way, is a major theme in the Old Testament, as you know, this whole issue of disloyalty to God. In Exodus chapter 20 and verse 5 it says, “The Lord is a jealous God.” Well, what is – what is that context? That’s the context of laying down the law that you shall have no other gods. Why? Because God is a jealous God. Deuteronomy 4:24 says, “The Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” And that is repeated in Deuteronomy 5:9 and 6:15. Deuteronomy 32:16, “They made Him jealous with strange gods.” Joshua 24:19, “He’s a holy God, He’s a jealous God.” Nahum 1:2 says essentially the same thing. Psalm 78:58, “They aroused His jealousy with their graven images.”

Paul was feeling the pain of God’s jealousy. Paul was feeling the pain of God’s own heart.

Paul says he fears the Corinthians will be led away from the truth in the same way as the serpent deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden (verse 3).

MacArthur explains how crafty the serpent — Satan — was with Eve:

Eve was deceived. Let me just tell you something. You all know the story of Adam and Eve, and the serpent in the garden, and all of that. I want you to understand clearly, I do not believe for a moment Eve believed she was sinning. I don’t believe she was overtly, purposely rebelling against God. She was deceived, and deception means she thought she was being given the right information, and that heretofore, she had had the wrong information. She thought she had been deceived, and now things were clarified; and that is always the approach of false teachers.

They come, and they cast the truth as error, and then offer error as the truth. That’s the way it always is. Let’s go back to Genesis 3, and see how Satan did that, in the prototypical illustration of deception. Genesis, chapter 3 – and obviously, we don’t have time to cover everything here – but there are some points that we need to make. “The serpent” – it says in verse 1 – “was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” The serpent now has a special identity because Satan, who is a spirit being, an angel, has taken up residence in this serpent, and can even speak through the serpent; and so, the serpent comes to the woman.

Finding the woman – because the woman is out from under the headship and protection of her husband, he finds her – isolates her, gets her alone, and in typical fashion, here is the model seduction; here is the model religious seduction. Here’s how it goes. “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” Now, God had said that; clearly, God had said, “Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. Clearly, God had said that; Satan knew God had said that. But he brings it up as if it were unclear.

And the first thing you want to do with the truth is to cast doubt on it, and that’s what all false teaching does. And Satan just says, “You don’t really mean that God said you can’t eat of something in the garden? I mean, you understand now, there’s nothing there but perfection; why does there have to be prohibition? Since there’s no such thing as wrong, how could anybody do it? Surely, you don’t understand what God meant. I mean, you must have missed that, Eve. I mean, God said you shouldn’t eat of some tree in the garden? You couldn’t have heard it right …

“The truth is – let me give you the truth; now – now that you realize you really haven’t understood God, let me tell you the real truth. God knows that in the day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Now, how do we understand this? I’ll tell you how we understand it from Satan’s side. This is right down Satan’s alley. Satan wants Eve. He wants Eve out of God’s hands. He wants to wrench Eve out of the hands of God; and he knows how. All you have to do is get her to take steps to be like God, and she’ll get thrown out of paradise.

How does he know that? That’s exactly what he did. He knows that very well, because when he wanted to exalt himself to be like God, he got thrown out of paradise; now, he wants her out of there, too. From her standpoint, she doesn’t understand the motivation of Satan. He is trying to rip a soul out of the hands of God; He’s trying to damn a soul. But from her viewpoint, it sounds like, “Oh, you mean if I do this, I’ll be like God?” This is the original Gnostic heresy. “I’ll have the elevated knowledge? I’ll have the super-knowledge? I’ll have the transcendent knowledge?

“I’ve been so confused. I thought I understood about that tree, and I thought I understood about the fact that we would die – even though I don’t know what prohibition means, and I don’t know what it means to disobey, and I don’t know what it means to die, because nothing around here dies. I – maybe I have misunderstood it, and now, you’re telling me, if I will do this, I can be like God?” My – if I said that to you as a Christian, “If you do this, you’ll be like God,” you’d say, “I want to do that, because the goal of my life is to be like Him, isn’t it?”

So – so from her standpoint, it sounded perfect, absolutely perfect; and that’s always the way. The false teacher comes, and says, “We’ll show you the true knowledge; we’ll lift you up; we’ll make you like God.” Like the Mormons say, “We’ll make you into gods. We’ll lift you right up, and you’ll forever and eternally rule your own planet, as the god of your own planet.” That’s always what the false teachers say. Well, the woman said, “I better check this tree out.” So, she “saw the tree was good for food, saw that it was delight to the eyes, and it was desirable to make her wise.”

Paul then says that the Corinthians, who had heard the truth about Jesus, put up readily enough with a false teacher, welcoming him to their pulpit (verse 4).

MacArthur says:

he says, “You bear this beautifully.” You took it, you gave him the pulpit, you accepted it. You have already shown an immense and deadly vulnerability. This, by the way, is a pastor’s heart. This is the attitude of true pastoral care.

He points out the use of the word ‘comes’ in that verse. It is the opposite of ‘sends’, as in God’s sending a true preacher:

He starts the sentence by saying “For if one comes and preaches” – and I just stop there long enough to say it could be translated since, because it’s really not hypothetical. One had come, and more than one had come. He’s not talking about a hypothetical situation, really; there was a real situation.

They had come. The false teachers had come. The false apostles had come. They had come on their own. And by the way, it’s important just to note, he says, “For since one comes” is in distinction from one being sent. He who comes is in direct contrast to he who is sent by God, namely an apostle like Paul. They had come on their own, and the Corinthians had given them the pulpit, accepting the preachers, who had come with their lies. They came, and they “preached another Jesus whom we have not preached.” It was not the Jesus Paul had preached.

False teachers always affirm Jesus, but they also always introduce error:

Here came these false teachers, subtle, but it was another Jesus. It always is. You can always tell error because of its Christology. They always corrupt who Christ is. Mormonism believes that Jesus is the spirit child of God, and so are all of us, so he’s one of us. He was – he came in the flesh, but he was a spirit child of God. We’re all spirit children of God, so we’re all creatures; he’s a creature, like us. That’s another Jesus. “That’s not the Jesus,” Paul says, “whom we preach.”

I don’t know what the false apostles said about Jesus; it doesn’t tell us. Really, Paul never does outline error for us; it’s not helpful. They came into the Corinthian church from the outside – just as Satan did into the garden of Eden, which was the paradise of God. And likely, they – they were Palestinian Jews, who allegedly sought to bring the Corinthians under the correct teaching, and they said they came from the Jerusalem church. They were, in a sense, Judaizers, seeking to impose Jewish customs on the believers; but – but different than Judaizers, because they made no issue out of circumcision, and they made no particular issue out of the usual legalism.

Actually, they encouraged – encouraged licentious liberties. They exalted rhetoric. They were heavy into oratory. They were charmed by Greek philosophy and culture. They claimed to be the apostles of Christ, and representatives of the Jerusalem church, and they said that Paul was a fraud. They identified somehow with Jesus – the name Jesus – but it was a different Jesus. We don’t know anything more about the particulars of their religion, and I’m glad Paul didn’t waste any time defining their defect. They had somehow invented another Jesus.

You have to listen so carefully, because Satan is so seductive. They talk about Jesus. They love Jesus. Jesus is the Savior. But it’s not the true Jesus. Secondly, he says, “If one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received.” Now, what Spirit had they received when they believed? The Holy Spirit; at the time a person believes, they receive the Holy Spirit. But the false apostles came with a different spirit.

Paul refers to the false teachers as ‘super-apostles’ — a bit of sarcasm — saying that he is not at all inferior to them (verse 5).

MacArthur discusses the wording:

This is what I call a minimalistic statement. He says, “I consider myself not in the least inferior.” I mean, he is so hesitant to say anything self-promoting, that he says the bare minimum. He’s saying – he’s not saying, “They’re equal to me,” but he’s saying, “I’m at least equal to them.” Again, you see his humility in this …

There he is, sarcastic again – the extra-super guys – “even though” – and here he goes, right back to it – “I’m a nobody.” He felt so comfortable referring to himself in the most base terms; and it was such a foreign thing for have to – for him to have to elevate himself. This is a remarkable man; a remarkable man.

He then says that, even if he is not the most gifted speaker, what he lacks in oratory he more than makes up for in knowledge and says he has made that clear to the Corinthians in all things (verse 6).

The false teachers were no doubt gifted speakers, and the Greeks loved oratory as well as physical presence.

MacArthur says:

The guy wasn’t attractive physically, and he couldn’t speak. Where is the impressive oratory? Where is the compelling rhetoric? Where is the knowledge of Greek philosophy? They were so used to that in their culture; they worshiped eloquence. I mean, they used to go down – you know, you read these stories about the Greek philosophers – they used to go down to the river, and fill their mouth with marbles, and learn how to articulate with all these little round stones in their mouths, teaching themselves how to articulate …

And the word unskilled – are you ready for this? It’s the Greek word idiōtēs; it’s the word for idiot in English. It has a contemptuous edge. “I know, I’m an idiot as an orator,” is what he’s saying. “I know that; rude and crude,” and they said amateurish, untrained, common, unrefined, and ordinary.

That’s what the word means, idiōtēs. He was no orator. He was clear. He was profound. But he didn’t have any of the oratorical finery. It – it was – to him, it wasn’t the technique, it was the truth, that was captivating, right? Only truth and clarity concerned Paul, and the simpler, the better.

Paul’s ministry ended on an unfortunate note, as MacArthur explains:

Churches to whom he had given so much of himself, and even more importantly, to whom he had given the gospel of Jesus Christ – churches where he had preached and evangelized, and where he had founded the church and ordained the elders – have slipped into periods of serious disloyalty, even before the pages of the New Testament are closed. We read the seven letters to the churches in the book of Revelation, and the first century is not even over yet, and five of the seven manifest serious, deep, endemic disloyalty that threatens their future existence.

By the time Paul came to the end of his life, after such a notable career as a preacher and teacher of the truth of God – at times early in his career, even a worker of miracles – it’s almost unbelievable to read the level of disloyalty that occurred at the end of his life. It should have been that as people got to know him better, and as the evidences of his power, and the expression of the Spirit of God through him, began to multiply as he founded church after church after church, and as he wrote letter after letter after letter.

And as the pattern of his godly example became more familiar to everybody in the known Christian world, you would have assumed that by the end of his life, there would be a tremendous crescendo of loyalty to the man, because of all that had gone before in such unflinching and unwavering devotion to Christ. But the sad fact is that when he went to pen the last letter he ever wrote, when he was a prisoner awaiting his imminent execution – that epistle being 2 Timothy – he says to Timothy, in chapter 1 of that epistle, and verse 15, “You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me.”

Disloyalty on such a widespread level that he says, “All that are in Asia have turned away from me.” He names Phygelus and Hermogenes as two illustrations. It’s almost unthinkable. It’s almost inconceivable that there would be such manifest disloyalty to Paul, and consequently to what he taught. At the end of that epistle, the last chapter he ever wrote, chapter 4, he says in verse 9, almost with a melancholy tone, “Make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, for having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”

One can only imagine the deep hurt and pain that Paul felt at the desertion of Demas. Nothing new, really. Verse 16 of the same chapter, “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me.” I suppose anybody in ministry has to be ready to face disloyalty. I don’t think Paul really felt it so profoundly because it just involved him, but because he understood the implications. Disloyalty to the apostle Paul was tantamount to disloyalty to the one whose ambassador he was.

Disloyalty to the apostle Paul, being ashamed of Paul, was being ashamed of Christ, for Paul was really lost in Christ. Paul, who said, “But for me to live is Christ.” Paul, who said, “I’m crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” Paul was almost indistinguishable from Christ. His words were not his words, they were Christ’s words. His demands were Christ’s demands. His character was Christ’s character coming through. It was he who said, “Be ye followers of me, as I am of Christ.” And a rejection of Paul, disloyalty to Paul, was a tacit disloyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that’s what was so heart-wrenching about it for him.

It wasn’t that he needed to accumulate fans; it was that that was betraying an evident defection from Christ. Sad. As we come to 2 Corinthians, we have to say that such a defection had begun in the Corinthian church. The Corinthian church had manifested signs of disloyalty; serious, deep disloyalty. And this disloyalty so greatly concerned Paul that he wrote this epistle, called 2 Corinthians. And he wrote the epistle to confront the disloyalty in this manner: to confront the disloyalty by affirming and defining, clearly and comprehensively, the integrity of his own ministry.

Returning to 2 Corinthians 11, Paul has much more to say to the Corinthians about himself and the false teachers.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 11:7-11

Reign of Christ, or Christ the King, Sunday is November 21, 2021.

Readings for Year B can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine below):

John 18:33-37

18:33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

18:34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”

18:35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?”

18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

18:37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

In the early hours of Friday morning, Pontius Pilate had been conferring with the chief priests just outside of the hall of judgement, or Praetorium. Praetor means governor or procurator. The chief priests did not enter the hall because they considered it Gentile territory, therefore, it was unclean. If they had entered, they would have been defiled and unable to partake of the Passover feast. That belief came about through rabbinical tradition and is not in Scripture.

Pilate then re-entered the hall of judgement, summoned Jesus and asked whether He was the King of the Jews (verse 33).

Both Matthew Henry and John MacArthur say that Pilate’s question was scornful and contemptuous.

Henry says:

… he was far from imagining that really he was so, or making a question of that. Some think Pilate asked this with an air of scorn and contempt: “What! art thou a king, who makest so mean a figure? Art thou the king of the Jews, by whom thou art thus hated and persecuted? Art thou king de jure–of right, while the emperor is only king de facto–in fact?”

MacArthur looks at the Greek text:

In fact, in the original language it’s like this: “You? Are You the King of the Jews, as if – this is absurd, this is ridicule, this is ridiculous. You’re the one everybody’s so worked up about?” He probably remembered back to the original day when He came into the city with all the hail hosannas. “You’re the one? It’s You? You’re no threat.” This is ridicule.

Jesus responded by asking Pilate whether he came up with that question on his own or if others — the Jews — had told him to ask it (verse 34).

MacArthur interprets our Lord’s response:

Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative or did others tell you about Me? Is this your charge, Pilate? I’m in your court. Are you actually charging Me with something? Is this your idea that I’m an insurrectionist, that I’m a threat to Caesar, that I’m a revolutionary, that I’m leading an attempt to overthrow Rome? Is this your idea or are you just an errand boy for those Jews?

If Jesus had brought about a temporal kingdom of Israel, the chief priests would have defended Him against Pilate. Henry explains:

If others tell it thee of me, to incense thee against me, thou oughtest to consider who they are, and upon what principles they go, and whether those who represent me as an enemy to Cæsar are not really such themselves, and therefore use this only as a pretence to cover their malice, for, if so, the matter ought to be well weighed by a judge that would do justice.” Nay, if Pilate had been as inquisitive as he ought to have been in this matter, he would have found that the true reason why the chief priests were outrageous against Jesus was because he did not set up a temporal kingdom in opposition to the Roman power; if he would have done this, and would have wrought miracles to bring the Jews out of the Roman bondage, as Moses did to bring them out of the Egyptian, they would have been so far from siding with the Romans against him that they would have made him their king, and have fought under him against the Romans; but, not answering this expectation of theirs, they charged that upon him of which they were themselves most notoriously guilty-disaffection to and design against the present government; and was such an information as this fit to be countenanced?

Pilate feigned ignorance, saying that he himself was not a Jew, that the chief priests handed Jesus over to him; he asked what Jesus had done (verse 36).

It is worth noting that Pilate and the Jews did not get on well. In fact, they had sent a few negative reports back to the emperor in Rome about him. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent but wanted to keep his job.

MacArthur says:

In chapter 19 … verse 12, the Jews said to Pilate, “If you release this man you’re no friend of Caesar. We’re going to tell him again.” Why does Pilate even release Jesus when he knows He’s innocent? Blackmail, blackmail. His previous mistakes and misjudgments made it impossible for him to defy the Jews and keep his job. He lost it anyway in 35 A.D., and historians tell us not long after that he killed himself. I guess he wanted to do the right thing as a judge in one sense, but he had no courage because he killed Jesus to keep his job. That was Pilate.

MacArthur tells us:

Pilate’s answer is, “I’m not a Jew, am I?” verse 35. “Are You kidding? I don’t carry their agenda. Your own nation and the chief priests to me; what have You done?”

Again, the culpability of the leaders of Israel for the execution of Jesus Christ is patently obvious: “I have nothing to do with You; You have nothing to do with me. Rome has nothing to do with You; You have nothing to do with Rome. You’re no threat. This isn’t an issue with Rome. You, You are some kind of a king? I don’t know anything about that, it’s Your own nation and Your own chief priests who delivered You to me. And once again, what have You done?”

There is no crime; he can’t find any; he can’t identify any. This is some kind of Jewish issue that has nothing to do with the military or politics. Pilate knew this for sure, that the Jews would welcome a real king who could gather an army to overthrow Rome; they would welcome that. He also knew that they wanted Jesus dead for envy, jealousy, so he says, “What have You done? There’s no accusation at all.”

Jesus says that His kingdom is not of this world and acknowledges that if it were, the Jews would be fighting to protect Him; He then repeats that His kingdom is not an earthly one (verse 36).

Pilate turns the question of kingship back on Jesus, who replies that it is he who says so; as for Himself, He came to this world to testify to the truth and that everyone who belongs to the truth listens to His voice (verse 37).

MacArthur elaborates on the meaning of that verse:

He came to testify to the truth. What truth? The truth of His kingdom, the truth of His nature, the truth of God, the truth of man, the truth of sin, the truth of salvation, the truth of heaven and hell; gospel truth, saving truth, to tell men the truth about God, about themselves, about life, about death, about eternity, about forgiveness.

The days of guessing are over. The days of half truths and lies, over. He said, “I am the truth.” John says, “If you obey Him, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Free from what? Free from the search for the truth.

He is the truth, and that statement at the end of verse 37 is so important. “Everyone, everyone – ” this is an exclusive statement. “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” There isn’t a person on the planet, and never has been, who knows the truth who rejects Christ. If you reject Christ you do not know the truth. He is the truth.

We live in an era when people’s idea of truth is extremely subjective and erroneous. However, believers can be assured that the truth they know endures forever:

If you’re not hearing the voice of Christ revealed on the pages of Holy Scripture you do not know the truth. I don’t know what you know, but you don’t know the truth. You may know the truth about certain temporal things, but you don’t know the truth that matters, and that’s the truth about eternal things. “Everyone, everyone, everyone who is of the truth hears My voice,” and when you begin to hear His voice, that’s the end of the search, you’ve been set free from the search.

It’s really wonderful to live in a cynical post-modern world where people have decided there is no truth, and to step up and say, “Yeah, there is, and we know the truth, we know the truth.” The truth is the Son of God living in incarnate, the Word of God inspired and inerrant, that’s the truth.

This Sunday closes the Church year.

Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. Readings for Year C will commence as we enter a new Church year.

Bible readingThe 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 10:13-18

13 But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. 15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. 17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one (I)whom the Lord commends.

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In last week’s reading, Paul began dismantling what the false teachers in Corinth said about him and reasserted his apostolic authority.

In today’s verses, he criticises the false teachers’ pride and boastfulness. These men were out to destroy the church in Corinth.

Paul wanted to leave the church in Corinth in a holy place and move to other places in order to plant more churches.

John MacArthur explains (emphases mine):

In 1 Corinthians, he’s fighting against the iniquity in the congregation. In 2 Corinthians, he’s fighting against the false teachers who’ve invaded from the outside. He has to stay long enough with that church to fight those battles. Once that church is strong, you move to the next place, leaving it in the hands of strong men. He is saying, then, look God not only called me to you but my dream and my vision and my goal is to get you strong so you can launch me to the next mission field. And spiritual chaos, at this point, hindered that advancement.

But when Corinth was firm and strong, then Paul could advance. I want to go further. I want to preach the gospel to the regions beyond. In Acts, I think it’s chapter 19, verse 21, a verse you might want to note with reference to this as a comparative Scripture, 19:21, “Now, after these things were finished, Paul purposed in his spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia saying, ‘After I’ve been there I must also see Rome.’” Rome was in his heart, that great immense city, that capital of the ancient world. He wanted to go there to preach the gospel and from there to be launched to Spain.

Paul says that, unlike the false teachers, he would not boast beyond his limits but only within those that God gave him (verse 13).

Matthew Henry’s commentary elaborates further:

His meaning is, either that he would not boast of more gifts or graces, or power and authority, than God had really bestowed on him; or, rather, that he would not act beyond his commission as to persons or things, nor go beyond the line prescribed to him, which he plainly intimates the false apostles did, while they boasted of other men’s labors. The apostle’s resolution was to keep within his own province, and that compass of ground which God had marked out for him. His commission as an apostle was to preach the gospel every where, especially among the Gentiles, and he was not confined to one place; yet he observed the directions of Providence, and the Holy Spirit, as to the particular places whither he went or where he did abide.

Paul says that he did not reach beyond his boundaries in going to Corinth and reminds the congregation that he was the first to preach the Gospel to them (verse 14).

MacArthur says that Paul wrote that to counter what the false teachers were saying, that he had overstepped his boundaries:

Now, obviously, Paul is reflecting on the fact that the false apostles had accused him of coming into territory he was not assigned to, coming into territory he had no right to, no authorization for. They were saying Corinth is our place, not Paul’s. And they needed to get rid of this usurper, Paul, and listen – the people need to listen to them, the false teachers. But Paul responds by saying, “We were the first to come, even as far as you in the gospel of Christ. I came first preaching the gospel. I was there first.” In 1 Corinthians 3, he put it this way, “I planted, Apollos watered.”

In 1 Corinthians 3:10, he put it this way, “I laid the foundation and others are building on it.” Paul says, “I’m not exaggerating my claims. We were first. We preached the gospel.” You can read Acts 16, you can read Acts 18, and it’ll tell you the story of when he came to Corinth and how he preached the gospel there and how the people believed and the church was founded. And he stayed twenty months or so. He had been God’s tool to evangelize Corinth. Listen now, the false teachers were parasites. They were terrorists. They were invaders. He was there first by God’s design with the truth.

Paul tells the Corinthians that he was not going to boast beyond his limits about what others had achieved, something the false teachers were doing. Paul says that his hope was for the Corinthians’ faith to be increased so that more converts could be made in the surrounding areas in Achaia — the province where Corinth was located (verses 15, 16).

Henry says:

He declares his success in observing this rule. His hope was that their faith was increased, and that others beyond them, even in the remoter parts of Achaia, would embrace the gospel also; and in all this he exceeded not his commission, nor acted in another man’s line.

MacArthur says that the first part of the verse is sarcastic:

… he says in verse 15, “Not boasting beyond our measure; that is, in other men’s labors,” dripping sarcasm there, “but with the hope that as your faith grows” – and at this particular point in time that wasn’t the case. They were definitely in the spiritual neutral zone. But the hope of Paul was that they would get strong in the faith, get mature, overcome the current issue, the wicked one who was assaulting them with unsound doctrine, and they would get back to sound doctrine, holy living, become stronger, the present crisis would end, the church would take a firm stand on apostolic doctrine, full obedience to Christ.

He says, “I want that to happen so that we shall be within our sphere enlarged even more by you.” What does he mean by that? Well, once you’re strong then I’m going to go even beyond you, I’m going to enlarge the field within the sphere that God has given to me. He is saying as you become stronger, I’m going to move beyond you. It’s a very, very good strategy.

Paul says that if anyone is going to boast, let him boast in the Lord (verse 17), meaning that He alone deserves credit for all good things.

Henry gives us a practical application of that verse:

If we are able to fix good rules for our conduct, or act by them, or have any good success in so doing, the praise and glory of all are owing unto God. Ministers in particular must be careful not to glory in their performances, but must give God the glory of their work, and the success thereof.

Paul ends the chapter by criticising the self-aggrandisement of the false teachers and says that true commendation comes only from the Lord Himself (verse 18).

Henry says:

Of all flattery, self-flattery is the worst, and self-applause is seldom any better than self-flattery and self-deceit. At the best, self-commendation is no praise, and it is oftentimes as foolish and vain as it is proud; therefore, instead of praising or commending ourselves, we should strive to approve ourselves to God, and his approbation will be our best commendation.

MacArthur points out that Paul was quoting Jeremiah 9:24:

False teachers seek their own glory, self-promotion, self-exaltation, fame, notoriety. Paul says if you’re going to boast, boast in the Lord. By the way, that’s a direct quote out of Jeremiah 9:24. Right out of Jeremiah 9:24. Paul often gives evidence of his familiarity with the Old Testament, his Jewish training coming through. Listen to what Jeremiah 9:23 and 24 says, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches.

“‘But let him who boasts, boast of this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.” And Paul reminds us all that if we’re going to boast, we boast in Him. And that takes us back to the definition I gave you at the beginning. Humility is the conviction that you are utterly and completely unworthy of the goodness, mercy, and grace of God and incapable of anything of value apart from that. Humility recognizes unworthiness and the worthiness of God alone. He who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.

Paul has much more to say about the false teachers, as he ramps up his criticism of their tactics.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 11:1-6

The Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity — the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost — is November 14, 2021.

Readings for Year B can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Mark 13:1-8

13:1 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!”

13:2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

13:3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately,

13:4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?”

13:5 Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray.

13:6 Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.

13:7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come.

13:8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Last week’s reading was about the venal, money-grubbing hypocrisy of the Jewish hierarchy at the temple.

This week’s reading picks up from that point, with one of the disciples remarking in awe about the temple’s magnificence (verse 1).

Matthew Henry’s commentary remarks on the dichotomy between the greed the disciple had just witnessed and the splendour of what was supposed to be a holy place:

How apt many of Christ’s own disciples are to idolize things that look great, and have been long looked upon as sacred. They had heard Christ complain of those who had made the temple a den of thieves; and yet, when he quitted it, for the wickedness that remained in it, they court him to be as much in love as they were with the stately structure and adorning of it.

Unimpressed with earthly splendour, Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple (verse 2), which took place in AD 70.

The temple was supposed to be indestructible, yet the Romans, unknowingly accomplishing God’s will, destroyed it. It was a judgement on the Jewish people for having rejected Jesus. With it ended the sacrificial system.

Those two verses complete the prophecy about the temple.

The next six verses — and, when one reads the full chapter, up to and including verse 13 — concern the millennia leading to Christ’s second coming.

John MacArthur summarises these 11 verses:

So, in between the first and second coming, life on this planet will be marked by relentless trouble.

Matthew and Luke’s Gospels also include this discourse from Jesus on the temple and the world.

This discourse, from whatever of the synoptic gospels one chooses, is important to know because it answers the question many agnostics and atheists have: ‘Why does God allow war and natural disasters?’

These terrible things are part of His divine plan. One day, when we are with Him in glory, we will come to understand it.

The disciples and Jesus were on their way back to Bethany for the night. They had been walking from the temple to the Mount of Olives, from which one had a magnificent view of the temple:

In the morning, when you came over the top of the Mount of Olives, you couldn’t even look at the building, because the morning sun reflected off the gold would blind one; in the evening, its glory was only slightly diminished – perhaps the most strikingly beautiful building in the ancient world.

The in-group of Apostles — Peter, James, John and Andrew (verse 3) — asked Jesus when the temple would be destroyed and what sign would there be just before the establishment of the messianic kingdom (verse 4).

MacArthur says:

their question is bigger than the destruction of the temple, because in Matthew 24:3, Matthew records that they asked about the coming of the end of the age; the coming of the end of the age, and the sign of the end of the age – and even the word coming means presence – parousia.

When will there be divine presence, the end of this age – the end of this age, if you will, of apostasy, and the fulfillment of all kingdom promise – how soon will it come? And they’re still asking this question 40 days after the resurrection, because in Acts chapter 1, after 40 days of being instructed by Jesus, they still ask the question, “Will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” They think maybe all it was going to be was 40 days of wars, rumors of wars, nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom, and earthquakes, famines, etc., etc.

Looking beyond the destruction of the temple, Jesus told them to be sure that no one led them astray (verse 5), because many would come in His name and deceive people with false prophecies (verse 6).

MacArthur gave his sermon on these verses in 2011, around the time that Harold Canning was taking the world by storm with his misguided prediction that the world was going to end that year:

If you want a name, stay away from Nostradamus, and the ilk that follow that particular genre. Don’t follow deceivers; there will be many. The latest in the moment in which we live is Harold Camping of Family Radio, who has now established another date for the coming of Christ – he already established one and that was wrong; now he’s at it again. False teachers, false prophets, false Christs will fill up the centuries, and they will make false prophecies about all kinds of things – do not be deceived, do not be misled.

How do you avoid being misled? By staying true to the Scripture. Now, these people who come along who want to convince you, some of them are even going to be so bold as to acknowledge themselves as Christ – verse 6: “Many will come in My name saying, ‘I am He,’ and mislead many.” There will be Christ figures; the bizarre kind – like Charles Manson and the People’s Temple leader, Jones – are simply illustrations of the myriad of these false Christs, these people who claim to be Jesus. They will continue to deceive; they will all have followers who will follow them, in many cases, to death.

Jesus told them not to be worried by wars and rumours of wars, because these must take place, long before the end of the world (verse 7).

MacArthur says:

Our Lord accurately foresaw the world would never know peace, never – never improve morally, never improve socially, never improve spiritually – that it would rather devolve and devolve and devolve into worse and worse condition.

Jesus said that nation would rise against nation but that there would also be earthquakes and famines, all of which are just the beginning of ‘birthpangs’ (verse 8).

MacArthur explains why Jesus used that word. Much worse will befall the world just before He returns again in glory:

It’s the nature of living in a cursed planet; it’s not yet the end. In fact, if you will look at the end of verse 8, it says they’re merely the beginning of birth pangs. That’s an analogy of a woman’s contractions – they are separated, they are mild, and they intensify and intensify and intensify to a great degree just before birth. What we’re seeing in human history is just the beginning, is just the mild contractions; wait till you see what’s going to happen just before the very end.

Two thousand years of these milder contractions will explode in the end

Henry counsels that the Lord will protect His own, provided they are not provoking these events:

The world shall be full of troubles, but be not ye troubled; without are fightings, within are fears, but fear not ye their fear.Note, The disciples of Christ, if it be not their own fault, may enjoy a holy security and serenity of mind, when all about them is in the greatest disorder.

MacArthur summarises the importance of these verses for us:

Let me just add a footnote here – this is another evidence of our Lord’s deity, because the things that He said would be true are, in fact, true. He predicted the destruction of the temple in verses 1 and 2, and it was destroyed in 70 A.D. He predicted that not one stone would be on another, and that’s exactly what happened in 70 A.D. and it’s never been rebuilt. He predicted the nature of life on a corrupt, cursed planet, and everything He said is true; and if you want to get all that He said, you put Matthew and Mark and Luke’s account together, and you get the full picture of what life is like on this planet.

All the things that He said would come to pass, have come to pass, and they are very familiar to all of us. We conclude from that – and this is an important thing to hear – the Bible always perfectly corresponds to reality. When the Bible says something will be a certain way, that is exactly how it will be; it will be what Scripture says it will be, both in general terms as well as in absolutely specific terms. You have a specific event in 70 A.D. that fulfills the words of our Lord and fulfills what the Scripture records.

And you have the very general description of time between the two comings of Christ that we obviously know is the way life really is, and in the future time of tribulation, the very specific things mentioned there concerning the abomination of desolation, and the end of that period, the sign in the sky of the return of Jesus Christ. It’ll all be exactly the way the Scripture says it will be because any examination of history and comparing history with what Scripture says always validates the Scripture.

Next Sunday — Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday — is the last in the Church calendar. Advent begins on the Sunday after that and, with it, a new liturgical year.

At the end of October 2021, London head teacher Katharine Birbalsingh said that children were born with Original Sin and had to be taught how to be good.

Katharine Birbalsingh founded the highly successful Michaela Community School in Wembley in north west London and was also recently appointed as a Government ‘levelling up’ adviser.

On October 29, The Times reported:

The row was started by a tweet to Birbalsingh which read: “We are all born ‘bad’, that is why it is so important to be morally educated and not just conditioned.”

Birbalsingh replied: “Exactly. Original Sin. Children need to be taught right from wrong and then habituated into choosing good over evil. That requires love and constant correction from all the adults in their lives over YEARS. Moral formation is a good thing.”

Absolutely. I am so glad that Birbalsingh ‘went there’, as it were.

As one would expect, Birbalsingh’s pointing out biblical truth did not go unnoticed. The Times included several quotes from the notional great and the good condemning what she said.

Everyone piled in, as an article by The Spectator‘s Theo Hobson pointed out (emphases mine):

This opinion immediately offended the great and the good, as if her point of view was equivalent to advocating the thumb-screw. An outgoing member of the social mobility commission, which Birbalsingh now chairs, accused her of ‘whipping up division’ and said he hoped it wouldn’t be a ‘sign of things to come’.

Another departing commissioner told the Times that, ‘I wouldn’t agree with those comments and I wouldn’t say her comments reflected at all any of the current commission’s views. I’ve always viewed young people in the best light and any negativity comes from the fact that they haven’t been nurtured or aren’t in the position to get the support they need.’

Others called her view ‘medieval’, a very dated accusation. This remains a strand of secular humanism, the idea that humanity is naturally good, and that people become corrupted by bad ideas as they grow up. This was the opinion of Neil Gray, an SNP MSP, who said her ‘original sin’ comment was ‘the opposite of my world view.’ He added: ‘Children are not born bad. Children are born good and I would suggest trauma, poverty… and negative influences of adults are what drive negative behaviour into adulthood. We must nurture and protect our children not stigmatise them from birth.’

Theo Hobson could even cite a real life example of Original Sin’s presence — in his own son who, at the age of six, was confused about slavery:

When my son was about six he heard something at school about slavery but was not quite clear what it was all about. So I spelled it out. I told him that a slave was someone that someone else owned and ordered around and probably mistreated. I waited for the proper response of moral horror to show on his innocent features. Instead he said, ‘Cool, I want one!’

Hobson concludes:

Many would agree with Birbalsingh that ‘moral formation’ is necessary for children, but reject her appeal to original sin. But I think she is quite right, and that the most rigorous moral idealism entails this concept.

What’s wrong with the vague orthodoxy that everyone is a mix of good and bad impulses, and that most of us manage to be good enough? It is not ambitious enough. The strange thing about original sin is that it sounds amazingly negative but is actually the most idealistic belief available. It says that normal moral decency is not good enough, it’s a compromise that makes us feel moral as long as we don’t break the law. In fact we are all morally inadequate, and even the keenest do-gooders have dodgy inclinations. This ‘bleak’ view of humanity is not bleak at all – it simply means that an ideal of perfect morality is on the table. We should, ideally, be morally ideal, perfectly loving, all the time. It is only in relation to this extreme ideal that ‘sin’, as a universal human condition, makes sense. They are two sides of the same coin.

So hats off to a headteacher capable of teaching us all a lesson.

Even the Stoics, pagans, believed that man was inherently bad. The most famous of them, Marcus Aurelius — yes, he did persecute Christians — wrote a book of his musings on Stoicism called Meditations. This is one of his quotes on mankind’s instinctive carnality:

Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law – and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.

That quote came as an answer in the comments to someone writing into The Guardian who was struggling with maintaining his (or her) optimism:

I’ve been an optimist my whole life, with a rugged dedication that even I can see is, at times, questionable. My optimism mainly rests on a belief in the inherent goodness of people and, in many ways, I haven’t been disappointed. But over the last few years I had to face the fact that most of my significant relationships have been abusive and, clearly, there’s a tonne of evidence of hatred, ruthless greed and intolerance everywhere at the moment.

These experiences have provoked something of an existential crisis in me. I still feel an optimistic outlook is, fundamentally, the only way to keep going – otherwise what’s the point? How can I find a comfortable and balanced place in my mind and heart to settle?

The Guardian‘s secular agony aunt responding to this enquiry advocated a good dose of hope and reflecting on the realm of possibility. Here is the excerpt:

The thing we need to keep going isn’t belief – it’s hope. And hope is a choice; hope doesn’t mind what has happened ‘til now, because hope lives in the thought the next moment might be different and better.

Hope isn’t as easily deterred by evidence that goodness sometimes falters, because hope isn’t about evidence. It’s about possibility. Staring into the possibility of other people’s badness makes us rooted to the spot, transfixed with the worst interpretations of what’s going on around us. Looking back into imagination and possibility gives us something else to focus on; it tears our eyes from the void. Don’t look for proof. Look for hope.

Believing in the doctrine of Original Sin is much easier and makes more sense more immediately.

We are in a constant battle against sin. None of us is good. Not one.

Only the Holy Trinity is inherently good and always will be.

God the Father sent His Son Jesus Christ to redeem the world — past, present and future — from sin. Jesus paid the price on the Cross in order to reconcile us to the Father, opening up the promise of eternal life forever.

Original Sin exists and always will. When even pagans realised that two millennia ago, why doesn’t everyone else?

Bible kevinroosecomThe 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 10:7-12

7 Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters. 10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” 11 Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present. 12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

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Last week’s post opened 2 Corinthians 10, the beginning of four chapters containing Paul’s defence of his ministry and his discourse against the false teachers in the church in Corinth.

We will find out more about these interlopers in the coming weeks, but John MacArthur gives us a summary of their casting aspersions on Paul as well as what they were teaching, something to appeal to every Corinthian in one way or another (emphases mine):

First of all, the purveyors of this error were from outside the church. In other words, it wasn’t members of the church, people in the church who had been instructed by the apostle Paul and who had come up understanding the faith as it was articulated by Paul and written by him. These were outsiders who were unknown to the congregation – unknown. That’s very important to the false teachers, obviously, because nobody knows the reality about their life, nobody knows the reality about their fruit, nobody knows the reality about their background. And everybody knows that all experts are from out of town.

So they were unknown and that covered a lot of ground because nobody knew anything about them and they could pass themselves off in any way they wanted. They claimed superior apostolic authority to Paul. That is, they claimed to be the true apostles of Christ’s. In fact, they deserved the terms of Paul who called them sarcastically “super apostles.” They claimed to be the primary ones, the priority ones, the premier apostles. They claimed a superior authority to Paul.

Further, they claimed to be true Jews who represented the religion of Jesus Christ. They claimed that Paul, obviously – obviously he was a Jew, but they claimed that he was not the true Jew who truly represented the true religion of the Messiah. Now, they preached, to borrow the terms of chapter 11 verse 4, another Jesus. They had another twist and slant on Jesus but they said this is the true Jews representing the true religion of the true Jesus. They taught elements of Jewish legalism. Maybe some of the Mosaic ceremonies, maybe circumcision, they were enamored by those externals.

They claimed to be Hebrews. They claimed to be Israelites. They claimed to be descendants of Abraham, as chapter 11, verse 22 indicates. And so they came with these claims, with some form of Judaism. But beyond that, they also mingled with it some mysticism, elements of Gnosticism, elements of a superior knowledge, a higher knowledge, a secret knowledge, which they held in an elevated way, transcending what people normally knew.

So they were outsiders claiming to be apostles with authority, claiming to be true Jews who truly represented the true religion of Jesus Christ. They mingled Jewish legalism with mysticism and Gnosticism, that’s forms of mystical elevated knowledge. And they also brought counterfeit letters of commendation. You remember back in chapter 3, they criticized Paul because he didn’t have any letters, he didn’t have any letters of commendation. They had forged some, whatever the appropriate forging would be, to get them the credibility they needed. They did. And so they came with their commendations.

Furthermore, they adopted the popular sophistry and rhetoric of the culture. They knew the Greeks were literally enamored with rhetoric, that they fell down in a dead faint, as it were, over great oratory. And so they adopted the popular philosophy, sophistry – that’s wisdom – and rhetoric of the culture, which made them very popular to the Greeks. Also, they were Libertines, that is they were antinomian in emphasis, they had little regard for purity – little regard for purity. They were literally committed to immorality and sensuality and apparently led some of the Corinthians to do the same, as chapter 12, verse 21, indicates.

And all of these things I’m telling you can be seen in various parts of this letter. So they were antinomian, libertine, and yet they had ceremonial Judaism, some mysticism mixed in, sophistry, rhetoric to move the people, and they were in it for the money.

Paul tells the Corinthians to look at what is before them, saying of the false teachers that if they say they are of Christ, so is Paul, using the ‘royal “we”‘ (verse 7).

MacArthur says that Paul is addressing not only the errant members of the congregation but also the false teachers:

in chapters 10 to 13, he addresses himself to the false apostles and their followers. He is speaking more directly here to the false teachers and those who followed them. Earlier, he had been addressing the church, now he fires directly at the false teachers and those who have joined their mutiny.

In so doing, in chapters 10 to 13, he forms a strong and unarguable defense of his apostleship so that the Corinthians will trust him. And all future people who question that can read this letter and know that this indeed is a man sent from the Lord Jesus Himself.

By telling them to look at what is before their eyes, Paul intends for them to look more deeply rather than superficially:

Let’s see how he begins in verse 7. “You’re looking at things as they are outwardly.” Now, that Greek phrase could be translated two different ways. The translators of the New American Standard have chosen to translate it as an indicative; that is to say, to translate it as a present fact, you are looking at things as they are outwardly. Your problem is you’re looking at things superficially. Your problem is you’re looking on the surface, it’s a fleshly point of view. Can’t you go a little deeper would be the meaning if it is indeed an indicative.

But it is more likely that the Greek here is an imperative, and an imperative means it is a command. And if it is a command, then you take the same Greek words and you would translate it this way: Look at what is obvious, look at what is right in front of your face, face the facts, look at the evidence, see the reality, see what is right before you, look what’s under your nose, that kind of thing. I would lean toward the fact that it is indeed an imperative for this reason if no other reason, the verb here blepete, a form of blepō, to see, or to look, blepete is often used by Paul and almost always when he uses it, he uses it as an imperative.

He does so in 1 Corinthians 8:9, 10:12, 10:18, 16:10. He does so in Galatians 5:15, Ephesians 5:15, Colossians 2:8, and Colossians 4:17. Most commonly, he uses it in an imperative sense. And so in that sense, it would be translated like this: Look at what is right there before you, look again at the evidence right in front of your nose. How can you go rushing after a false teacher? How can you join this mutiny against me? How can you believe that these are the true apostles of Christ and I’m a false apostle? Look at the facts. That’s what he’s saying.

Paul asserts that the false teacher in question here is only claiming he is of Christ; he has no apostolic track record, whereas the Apostle does:

… it says in verse 7, “If anyone is confident in himself.” It’s his own personal opinion. Oh, that’s weighty. It’s his own personal conviction, is it? It’s his own personal claim, is it? Yes, that’s all there was. There was just that. There was no record of churches built. There was no record of converts. There was no record of a Damascus Road experience. There was no record of personal communion with Jesus Christ. And no people to testify to the reality of that. There was no Ananias to talk about blindness and being healed of blindness and being sent to preach to the gentiles.

There was no Barnabas going around to say the power of Paul was evident in great miracles and proclamation of the truth. There were no believers here, there, and everywhere in churches who could speak to the validity of that claim. There was nothing but the claim. And so confidently and self-assertively, this guy stands up and says he is Christ’s and you ask him why and he says, “Because I said so.” Confident in himself, claiming for themselves.

Now, what does he mean here when he says that he is Christ’s? Well, first of all, he would mean that he’s a Christian, truly related to Christ. Secondly, it could also mean – and Paul doesn’t distinguish, so we have to take the widest possible look. It could also mean that he had a unique earthly relationship with Jesus Christ. It could also mean that he is Christ’s in the sense maybe that the Christ party, referred to in 1 Corinthians, said “I am of Christ.” He had some personal earthly relationship to Christ. Thirdly, it certainly meant that he had an apostolic commission from Christ.

And fourthly, it probably had a mystical Gnostic tone and meant that he had some elevated secret knowledge of the glorified Christ. We don’t know which of those, but my best guess is, since Paul doesn’t tell us, it’s probably a mix. He would say he’s a Christian, with a very unique and special relationship with Jesus Christ, having received a commission as a true apostle of Jesus Christ, and enjoying some elevated mystical secret knowledge about Christ.

The whole point of these false claims was to discredit Paul completely, adding in slander against him:

Whatever they were claiming for themselves, they were disclaiming for Paul. They were supplanting him, so that’s obvious. They were inferring that Paul, since they claimed he was a deceiver with a wicked, hidden life of secret shame, full of lust and sin, a man who preached lies and did it for money, they would be saying Paul’s not a Christian, Paul has no real personal earthly relationship with Jesus Christ, Paul has no commission or apostolic authority, and Paul certainly doesn’t have the elevated secret higher knowledge of the glorified Christ.

MacArthur points out that, for now, Paul is not denying this false teacher’s claim of being of Christ but asserts his own authority:

Now, Paul at this point does not deny their claim, he simply refers to it. “If anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ’s,” he doesn’t deny that. He doesn’t say, “Well, he’s not.” He will say that over in chapter 11, verses 13 to 15, he’ll say that very clearly. But for the sake of argument, he says, “If we’re just going to compare personal claims here, if we’re just going to compare personal claims, if anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again. Let him rethink this within himself, that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we.”

While in our times, referring to ourselves as the royal ‘we’ is not considered appropriate, MacArthur explains that Paul was too humble to use the pronoun ‘I’ too often:

he uses the editorial plural because he’s humble, doesn’t like to refer to himself as “I.” The only claim he’s making here is if we’re going to base this on personal conviction, and he says it’s his personal conviction that he is Christ’s, he’s certainly not going to be able to deny my personal conviction, if all we’re doing is comparing personal convictions.

Paul goes on to say that if he boasts of his own authority too much, he will not be ashamed of it because the Lord bestowed it upon him to edify the Corinthians, not destroy them, meaning their faith (verse 8).

MacArthur explains:

he’s saying if because of this debate and my need to defend myself, I have to say more about my authority than I care to say and more than I’ve already said because you keep asking, if this thing is still a problem and I am forced to say more, and say more, no matter what I say, I will never be put to shame for saying it. You want more about my authority, I’ll say more, and I never have to be ashamed of saying it. Why? Because I’ll never have to eat my words. I will never have to eat my words.

Paul’s claims for his authority were restrained by his humility. But if, for the sake of defending himself, he has to say more, he will say more. And no matter how much more he says, he’ll never go too far. It’ll never be just an empty boast, like the false apostles. It’ll never be just blowing hard. It’ll never just be swelling words, as Peter called them. If he has to say a lot more about his authority, he’ll never have to be ashamed because he has that authority. He’ll never have to be ashamed of his claims. And if they force him to a greater defense, he’ll never be ashamed of that defense.

Why? One great reason, verse 8, “Because the Lord had given him that authority for building you up.” No matter what I say, you have the evidence for it, it built you up. You want to know whether someone is a true messenger? Ask if they built a church. Ask if they built up the church, strengthened the church, made the church spiritually strong, sound, solid, mature, unified. I mean what did they need more than this? I mean they asked the question, “Is Paul the authoritative messenger from Christ?” Well, ask one question: Did he build – Did God use him to build the Corinthian church? True teachers build churches. They build lives.

The false teachers must have told the congregation that Paul was purposely terrifying them with his letters. Paul refutes that claim, saying that is not his intention (verse 9).

MacArthur gives us the Greek word that Paul uses:

Interesting verb, ekphobein. Phobeō is the Greek verb to fear, and we get from it phobia. Adding ek on the front intensifies it and it’s a good translation, “to terrify,” that’s what it means. There are some who would want to terrify people into submission, to rule them by fear. Paul says, “No, I do not wish to seem as if I would terrify you by my letters, that’s not my goal. Strong, yes, because I must confront sin.” He had to be firm, he was firm. And he could be as firm as anybody. And actually, they had responded to that firmness.

In verse 10, he repeats what he said in the chapter’s first verse, referring to another false claim from the interlopers:

I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—

Verse 10 also includes the false teachers’ comment about his humble physical appearance as manifesting weakness. From that, we can deduce that they were perhaps taller and better attired. Moreover, in their eyes, Paul probably lacked what we would call charisma.

MacArthur says:

The power of the truth came with force and conviction through his letters, and they were right about it, and they didn’t try to deny it because it was obvious. Hard to deny, so they didn’t. They’re subtle. But after that necessary concession to the greatness of his letters, look at what they said: “But his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.” This is a real dig against the apostle’s person. What do they mean by this when they say his personal presence is unimpressive? Are they talking about his looks? Are they saying he’s kind of homely or ugly? …

Obviously, they don’t think he’s an imposing figure physically. But that’s really not what the idea is. They may have – that may have been implied in it, that he wasn’t anything to look at, but what was beyond that was his presence they were talking about, his persona, his aura, his demeanor. He just lacked the kind of electricity and charisma and personal charm that commanded attention and commanded respect and drew people to him. He didn’t have that …

This is a cutting criticism, and it tells us a little bit about how they handled their leadership. What they intended to say was that he was weak and they were strong. He was indecisive and they were decisive. He was reluctant to take action, and they took action swiftly. He didn’t want to deal with issues, and they deal with issues. In other words, he doesn’t have the persona, he doesn’t have what it takes to take charge, to compel people’s allegiance. He can’t lead a noble movement. He doesn’t draw people to himself. He doesn’t demand their respect. They don’t follow his leadership. He doesn’t have what it takes to wield the sword of leadership with power and authority.

Paul refutes that attack by saying the false teacher concerned should know that the Apostle will do in person what he says he will do by letter; he is a man of his word (verse 11).

Paul ends this section by saying that he would not dare to compare himself with those choosing to praise themselves, saying that they are without understanding, meaning unwise (verse 12).

Matthew Henry explains:

He plainly intimates that they took a wrong method to commend themselves, in measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, which was not wise. They were pleased, and did pride themselves, in their own attainments, and never considered those who far exceeded them in gifts and graces, in power and authority; and this made them haughty and insolent. Note, If we would compare ourselves with others who excel us, this would be a good method to keep us humble; we should be pleased and thankful for what we have of gifts or graces, but never pride ourselves therein, as if there were none to be compared with us or that did excel us. The apostle would not be of the number of such vain men: let us resolve that we will not make ourselves of that number.

MacArthur summarises what constitutes a true man of God, one in Christ:

… really the summum bonum of the whole discussion is that the true man of God is known not only by his relation to Christ, his impact on the church, his compassion for people, his disdain for worldly methods, and his integrity, but by his humility – by his humility.

MacArthur also notes that Paul was willing to work within the limits that God set for him:

God had given him a specific call and commission to fulfill, and he was content to be there and to do that. He was called to preach the gospel in the gentile world in unreached regions and there to found churches and build leaders and that’s exactly what he did, and he was completely content to do it. In fact, he was overwhelmed at the privilege.

He didn’t need to be the Savior of the whole wide world or the pastor of the whole wide world. He didn’t need to be worldwide famous. He didn’t need to go beyond God’s plan. So he says we don’t boast beyond our measure. We don’t talk about things that haven’t happened that aren’t true. And we stay within the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure. That’s where we labor.

MacArthur notes that this was also what Jesus did in His ministry, never going beyond His Father’s will:

Jesus had no problem allowing the Father to limit His ministry. Let me tell you how it was limited. First of all, it was limited by God’s will. Jesus said in John 5 He came to do the Father’s will. That’s it, nothing more, nothing less. He came to do “not my own will but the Father’s will.” Not only did He come to do the Father’s will but He came to do the Father’s will in the Father’s time. Several times He says, “My hour is not yet come.” It’s another way to say the time isn’t right.

I only do the Father’s will, only in the Father’s time, and, thirdly, only to the Father’s people. He said, “I am not come but for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And even among the Jews it narrowed down and He said to the Jews, “I am not come for those that are well but those that are sick. I am only come to those among the Jews who know they’re sinners and are looking for a physician for the soul.” He came to do God’s will in God’s timing with God’s people and those among God’s people who saw their sin.

And He came also limited to God’s message. He never got involved in other issues. He preached always the Kingdom, always the Kingdom, the sphere of salvation, which sinners can enter through Jesus Christ and have their sins forgiven and the promise of eternal life. That was His message. Even after His resurrection, for forty days He spoke of things pertaining to the Kingdom.

He was limited to God’s will, God’s time, God’s people, God’s message. He was even limited to God’s plan, and God’s plan was that the gospel would go through the world, starting with Jesus and twelve men. He spent most of His life and most of His time with the twelve. One of them a traitor, reduced to eleven. God’s plan was a deep and abiding relationship built with eleven men who would turn the world upside down. That’s a very narrow approach. Limited to God’s will, God’s time, God’s people, God’s message, God’s plan, such precision is frightening to those who want no limits on the sphere of their influence.

Paul discusses those limits as he continues his discourse.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 10:13-18

The Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity — the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost — is November 7, 2021.

Readings for Year B can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Mark 12:38-44

12:38 As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces,

12:39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets!

12:40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

12:41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.

12:42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.

12:43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.

12:44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

We nearly pick up from where we left off last time. These are the intervening verses between last week’s reading and this week’s:

Whose Son Is the Christ?

35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
    until I put your enemies under your feet.”’

37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.

Our Lord cites Psalm 110:1 in verse 36:

The Lord says to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Members of the Sanhedrin were testing Jesus theologically. They failed every time. Yet, the onlookers listened to what Jesus had to say.

Matthew Henry elaborates:

Now this galled the scribes, to have their ignorance thus exposed, and, no doubt, incensed them more against Christ; but the common people heard him gladly, Mark 12:37; Mark 12:37. What he preached was surprising and affecting; and though it reflected upon the scribes, it was instructive to them, and they had never heard such preaching. Probably there was something more than ordinarily commanding and charming in his voice and way of delivery, which recommended him to the affections of the common people; for we do not find that any were wrought upon to believe in him, and to follow him, but he was to them as a lovely song of one that could play well on an instrument; as Ezekiel was to his hearers, Ezekiel 33:32. And perhaps some of these cried, Crucify him, as Herod heard John Baptist gladly, and yet cut off his head.

The events of Mark 12 took place on the Wednesday of Passion Week, two days before the Crucifixion.

Jesus was teaching in the temple. This was His last public teaching session.

He warned the people — ‘Beware’ — about the scribes, the religious lawyers, who enjoyed walking around in their long robes and being greeted with respect in the marketplaces (verse 38). They had the best seats in the synagogues and at banquets (verse 39).

Jesus went on to say that they devoured widow’s houses and, to look better in the eyes of the public, say long prayers. He passed judgement on them saying that their condemnation would be the greater (verse 40).

It is rather serendipitous that this reading comes after the first week of COP26, the synod of the secular religion of climate change. The parallels between the two are uncanny.

John MacArthur says that the people listening to Jesus were aware of the religious corruption but they could do nothing about it and they had been steeped in the system:

I’m convinced that when Jesus wiped out the corrupt businesses in the temple on Tuesday of that week, that many of the people were attracted to Him because of that, because they knew the corruption.

They knew they were paying ten times the price they should pay for a sacrificial animal. They knew they were – they were getting bilked in the exchange of coins when they brought their temple tax offering. They understood the charlatanism and the robbery that was going on there, and Jesus even said, “This is My Father’s house, it’s to be a house of prayer, you turned it into a robber’s den.” I don’t – I don’t think that drove the people away; I think that drew the people to it.

They could see some of the corruption of the system, even though they couldn’t extract themselves from it, and they were bound to it by lifelong commitments to what they had been taught.

MacArthur compares Mark’s account with Luke’s:

And now, as we approach our text, the people are listening; the end of verse 37 says, “The large crowd enjoyed listening to Him.” Luke 20 verse 45, the parallel passage, says, “All the people were listening”; all the people. And then it says, “He said to His disciples” – so around Him are the disciples.

But beyond them, that immediate group gathered around Him – the apostles and whatever assorted disciples were there – the whole crowd, the massive crowd in the temple, is listening to Him. By the way, when Luke says, “All the people were listening, but He said this to His disciples,” that’s a transition. That’s a transition, because after He says this, in verses 38 to 40, to everybody, from here on out, He speaks only to His disciples, as verse 43 indicates, “Calling His disciples to Him, He said” – so this is the final word to the crowds.

The rest is going to be for the disciples. The sad note here: not only have the leaders gone away for the moment in shame and silence, thwarted in their efforts, but the people have never moved from their superficial interest in Him to a real and genuine faith in Him, and so He is really through talking to them as well. These are, then, His last words publicly – His last words publicly, verses 38 to 44 – very strong words and very, very condemning words.

Henry says that there was nothing wrong in wearing a long robe, however, the scribes wore them with pride, as if to say they were closer to God, when nothing could be further from the truth:

1. They affect to appear very great; for they go in long clothing, with vestures down to their feet, and in those they walk about the streets, as princes, or judges, or gentlemen of the long robe. Their going in such clothing was not sinful, but their loving to go in it, priding themselves in it, valuing themselves on it, commanding respect by it, saying to their long clothes, as Saul to Samuel, Honour me now before this people, this was a product of pride. Christ would have his disciples go with their loins girt.

2. They affect to appear very good; for they pray, they make long prayers, as if they were very intimate with heaven, and had a deal of business there. They took care it should be known that they prayed, that they prayed long, which, some think, intimates that they prayed not for themselves only, but for others, and therein were very particular and very large; this they did for a pretence, that they might seem to love prayer, not only for God’s sake, whom hereby they pretended to glorify, but for their neighbour’s sake, whom hereby they pretended to be serviceable to.

3. They here aimed to advance themselves: they coveted applause, and were fond of it; they loved salutations in the marketplaces, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts; these pleased a vain fancy; to have these given them, they thought, expressed the value they had for them, who did know them, and gained them respect for those who did not.

As for receiving a greater condemnation, MacArthur explains why:

They are hypocrites – they may do it in different ways, but they are hypocrites, and they are destructive – so our Lord cautions and characterizes. Then He condemns – end of verse 40: “These will receive greater condemnation.” You know, there are people who think that if you’re religious, you’ll receive less condemnation. Sometimes you hear people say, “Well, I’m sure – I’m sure that I’m going to go to heaven, because I’m a very religious person.” Really. I think hell will be the hottest for religious people – especially religious false teachers, agents of Satan, who, sons of hell themselves, produce more sons of hell.

They will receive a greater condemnation, not a lesser condemnation; not because they were good, or moral, or religious, will they receive less judgment – they will receive more judgment. If you have the idea today that there’s good in all religions, and God loves all religions, and we need to find God in all religions, and find the good that is there – Jesus pronounces a greater condemnation on the religious leaders of Israel – who are monotheists, who believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the creator God of the Old Testament.

But because they had apostatized from the true religion and come to a self-righteous works system, and because they had rejected Him and the gospel, their hell would be hotter than everybody else. You don’t want to get too close to the truth, because if you’re too close to the truth, the potential for judgment is even greater. “How much greater judgment will the one feel” – Hebrews says – “who has trodden underfoot the Son of God and counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing?”

That’s the greatest of all judgment, to reject Christ; better you never know Him, hell will be less furious. The idea is clear: those who are in the wrong religion will receive the far-greater suffering, the far-greater damnation, because of that false religion, and because they reject the true gospel, the true Christ, as I just quoted from Hebrews 10. Don’t be fooled by them, don’t be drawn to them, be warned – they are dangerous, and they will be condemned.

The scribes were Pharisees and they handled all matters of law in what was a theocratic society.

Part of their work involved settling estates, which involved enriching themselves and the temple.

MacArthur explains why Jesus condemned them for their treatment of widows:

… the key thing to note right now in verse 40 would be, “They devour widows’ houses” – file that in your mind – “they devour widows’ houses” – that’s just awful. They’re supposed to be the shepherds of the sheep, and if there’s anybody that needs to be protected, who would it be? Widows; widows.

Pure religion – James says that you care for the widows and orphans; that’s an Old Testament command reiterated over and over and over in the Old Testament. I could take you to 25 or 30 Old Testament passages, starting in Exodus 22 and moving right on through Deuteronomy, all the way to Malachi chapter 3, and all in between, and show you how much the Old Testament has to say about the people of God having responsibility to those who are widows in their midst, to care for them.

What do these men do? They consumed them – that verb means to plunder them – it means literally to eat them up – how did they do that? Well, a little bit of historical study will provide an answer for that; there are records about how they did it – their own records, by the way. These false leaders would take support, ask money from widows for themselves – though that was forbidden. They would cheat widows out of their estate, while they were offering them legal protection.

In other words, a widow would have an estate, she would want to make sure that it was secure and safe, and so she would bring in a scribe to take care of the legal work to protect her estate, and while pretending to protect her estate, he would take it. They would mismanage the property of widows. They would abuse the hospitality of widows – living in their houses, taking up space in their houses, eating their food in a gluttonous fashion, making excessive demands, leeching off of them.

They would take money from older widows with deficient mental powers – as the older women lost the ability to reason and think what was going on, they would steal them blind. Then they would take the house of a widow in pledge for the debt that they were owed for their legal services; then when the widow died, they would own the house – nothing would be left if she had children. They demanded that the widows give to purchase blessing from God – as they demanded that from everybody in their system.

Jesus sat and watched the people contributing to the temple treasury; many of the rich put in vast sums of money (verse 41).

Then a widow came to give money to the temple, putting in two small, nearly worthless, copper coins (verse 42), or ‘mites’ in some translations.

MacArthur explains the system. The people had been taught that giving money to the temple purchased salvation:

Their whole system was built on the fact you had to bring your money to the temple – there were thirteen receptacles in the Court of the Women where you dropped your money; that’s how you purchase your salvation. The rabbi said with alms you purchase your redemption. The money went in there, it came out the bottom into the pockets of these religious leaders – the more money that was given, the richer they got – and the money needed to be given, because that’s how you bought your salvation, so people were literally pouring money into those places – those receptacles – to buy redemption.

Jesus called His disciples to Him and said emphatically — ‘Truly I tell you’ — that the poor widow gave more than everyone else contributing to the treasury (verse 43).

He said that the others contributed out of their abundance but that she gave away her last two coins, which was all she had to live on (verse 44).

I am dreading tomorrow’s sermon, because it will likely be about giving to your church until your coffers run dry.

MacArthur sees this entirely differently. He relates it to the corrupt system and says that Jesus condemned forcing a poor widow to give her last two coins, leaving her totally destitute and dependent on society:

No matter who you read on this – or what sermons you might hear on this – typically, people will say this is how we ought to give. We ought to give till it hurts, we ought to give sacrificially, we ought to give in a surrendered fashion. We ought to give so that we completely demonstrate trust in God, and that’s how this woman gave. There isn’t one word of support in this text for any of those perspectives; it doesn’t say anything about her attitude at all.

The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t even tell us that she was a believer; it doesn’t say that she knew the true God, that she believed in Christ; she is not a spiritual hero in the story. What is she in the story? I’ll tell you what she is, she’s a victim; she is a victim. A victim of what? She is a victim of the system. She is the ultimate victim of a system that “devours widows’ houses” – verse 40 – that’s the connection. This has nothing to do with Christian giving, unless you think Christian giving is, “Give everything you have; take a vow of poverty, go home and die.”

You think that’s Christian giving? Or maybe you would go to Plan B: “Give everything you have, take a vow of poverty, spend the rest of your life leeching on everybody else so you can survive.” Where in the Bible is it a Christian principle of giving to give everything you have and go home and die? That is not in the Bible, not at all – it makes no sense, and by the way, the people who gave other than the woman, there’s no judgment rendered on them – Jesus doesn’t condemn that. Why aren’t they the model?

Why don’t we say, “Isn’t it wonderful that rich people gave large sums?” That’s great, isn’t it? You wouldn’t argue that, would you? In fact, if you wanted a model of Christian giving, you’ve got to go with the rich who gave large sums, not the woman who gave everything and went home to die; that – God has never asked that. He doesn’t say that the rich gave too little, He doesn’t say the widow gave exactly the right amount, He doesn’t say the rich had too much left and the widow had the right amount left – none.

He doesn’t say the rich had a bad attitude when they gave a lot, and the woman had a good attitude when she gave everything – He doesn’t say anything about any motivations or any attitudes at all. Her outward action is simply an evidence of what that system did to widows. You want blessing of God, you give your money. She’s destitute; she’s got two cents left. She says to herself, “Either I take my two cents and buy my last meal, or I do what they tell me – send them the money, and God will bless me” – does that sound like a TV preacher to you?

That’s the system: send me your money. If you’re down to your last penny, send me your money, open the floodgates – God will bless you if you send me your money. It was a den of robbers, and they were stealing it from the worst, the lowest, the most destitute, the worst off. This isn’t to teach us about attitudes in giving or amounts in giving; this is to teach us about corrupt religion. Beware of the false shepherds, the false teachers who take the last coins out of the widow’s purse to fill their coffers, on the pretense that that kind of giving is the path to blessing; that’s the prosperity gospel.

There’s nothing in her about the Lord loved her, she was in the kingdom. There’s nothing here about, “Okay, you disciples, you need to follow her example, so take the bag with all the money we’ve got in there and go in there and give it.” That’s the last thing He would have told them. Why would you put your money in a robbers’ den? You wouldn’t commend that; she was a victim. There’s no invitation for the disciples to imitate what she did – empty their pockets, empty the little purse that they carried – would have been a perfect time to do that, right?

Jesus is going on the cross, this would be a great time to test your faith, dump it all in. No. This is not any place for the Lord to inject a lesson on giving. This isn’t about giving, this is about taking. This is all in a judgment context – judgment, verses 38 to 40, and judgment starting in chapter 13 – the whole section as He talks about what’s coming is judgment, judgment, judgment, judgment, judgment. The context all along is judgment, and certainly the rest of His message recorded in Matthew 23 is judgment, judgment, judgment, judgment.

And all those woes pronounced on the leaders are literally justified and validated by this one woman’s act. She is a poor, dear woman who is nothing but a son of hell, captive to a false religious system, dumping her last two coins into that system under the promise that somehow this is the path to blessing. She gave everything she had. Let’s look at the text a little more closely – that’s the overview – verse 41, He was seated there, opposite the treasury. The treasury was in the Court of the Women, it was called, and Jesus had taught there before, John 8 – that’s a great chapter to read what went on when He was teaching there on that occasion …

Relatively speaking, comparatively speaking, her gift was greater, right, ’cause it was a hundred percent. You know, that system can’t be more corrupt; it cannot be more corrupt – devouring widows like that. Scripture is full of commands, by the way, as I told you earlier, to care for the widows. False religion has no interest in that at all – they abuse widows – and they do it in the name of God, they do it in the name of Christ. This is a tragedy, and the Lord will not tolerate it

I hope that has put a different — and truer — perspective on this passage, universally misinterpreted for centuries, which is why I dread this Sunday’s sermon.

COP26? Oh, the hypocrisy of it all!

I watched the first hour of it on Monday, November 1 and nearly gagged but had to hear the actual speeches so that I would know exactly what the more prominent speakers actually said rather than read fake news regurgitations in the comment sections of the sites I read most frequently.

Air and limo travel: ‘for me but not for thee’

The G20 summit in Rome closed on Monday, then it was time for the leaders to jet off to Glasgow for COP20.

While COP26 was scheduled to take place last year and couldn’t go ahead because of the pandemic, it does seem as if these events, e.g. G20, could be better co-ordinated so that they took place in cities which are closer to each other.

But, you know, when it comes to our notional betters, no expense is spared. It’s okay for them to fly then ride in limos all over the place, but it’s not okay for us to go on a budget airline holiday with our family once a year:

In addition, Glaswegian women were made to walk down dark, unfamiliar thoroughfares while a COP26 VIP reception took place:

Let’s take a closer look at the double standard that we, the great unwashed, are experiencing.

Ed Miliband MP

Ed Miliband used to lead the Labour Party. He is now in the Shadow (Opposition) cabinet.

On Sunday, October 31, he went on Andrew Marr’s show on the BBC to object to Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s lowering of passenger air duty on internal flights in the UK.

In fact, Miliband told Marr that domestic flights should be stopped ‘as much as we possibly can’. However, in January 2020, Guido Fawkes revealed the MP’s own air travel habits:

Guido’s 2020 post said, in part (emphases mine below):

Last April, Guido reported on Ed Miliband’s hypocrisy of constantly windbagging about the ‘climate emergency’ despite wracking up 19,000 air miles from his flights abroad, pumping out tonnes of carbon dioxide …

Green Ed’s wracked up 12,000 air miles in 10 months – half the circumference of the globe. 

Miliband is one of the North London elite who represents a working class city in the North of England, Doncaster. As one would expect, Miliband is more interested in promoting himself than Doncaster. This is what one of his constituents had to say:

Ed wants Britons to take the train, but that is not always possible within the United Kingdom, which includes Northern Ireland — and various islands:

One wonders if Miliband finally bought an electric car, the type of vehicle he insists the rest of us should have:

Miliband has complained about our rising energy prices which will be increasing by 20% per annum in 2022. However, he was the one who started the ‘green tax’ on energy when he was the energy secretary during Labour’s last few years in power 10+ years ago:

Lorna Slater MSP

Another hypocrite is the Scottish Green MSP, deputy party leader Lorna Slater, originally from Canada.

She slammed G20 leaders for not going by train from Rome to Glasgow, which would have taken 28 hours:

However, Guido pointed out that, in 2019, Lorna Slater enjoyed a flight from Brussels to Sweden:

Couldn’t she have gone by train?

As Guido points out:

According to Lorna’s logic, Guido is outraged she didn’t set an example by taking the 36-hour train from Glasgow Central via Euston, London St Pancras, Amsterdam and Berlin to Stockholm Central.

Joe Biden

As is customary for the leader of the free world, an American president has to have a ginormous motorcade for security purposes.

Apparently, in Rome, Joe Biden had to have more vehicles than usual because the city has social distancing laws during the coronavirus crisis. As such, he had an 85-car motorcade. The Daily Mail has the story along with numerous photos:

Biden at the upcoming environmental summit plans to tout $550 billion in new environmental programs in his Build Back Better framework, which he unveiled before jetting to Rome on Air Force One (another gas guzzler).

Here’s the US motorcade leaving Edinburgh International Airport for Glasgow:

Here is his motorcade upon arrival in Glasgow:

Less hypocritical transport

Late last week and into the weekend, North West England and the South West of Scotland, including Glasgow, had a lot of heavy rain.

As a result, media reporters and other lesser beings found their trains from Euston to Glasgow Central cancelled:

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer reports from … Edinburgh

Incredibly, CNN’s veteran reporter, Wolf Blitzer, must have thought COP26 was taking place in Scotland’s capital:

How does that happen?

Boris’s opening speech

On Monday, as COP26 host, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was one of the first speakers welcoming everyone to the conference.

He laid out the purpose of this year’s conference, which is to determine exactly how the Paris Agreement will work in practice:

The Daily Mail has a good summary of what he said:

The Prime Minister compared the situation facing the globe to the climax of a James Bond film where the hero has to thwart plans to blow up the planet

But Mr Johnson said ‘this is not a movie’ and the ‘doomsday device is real’ as he urged his counterparts to do more to reduce harmful emissions. 

The premier said the longer countries wait to take action then ‘the higher the price when we are eventually forced by catastrophe to act’. 

He said the world has ‘long since run the clock down on climate change’ and there is now just ‘one minute to midnight’, with action required immediately to prevent a global disaster.   

The PM used his speech at the opening of the summit as a rallying cry to try to build momentum as he welcomed foreign leaders to Glasgow after securing only lukewarm climate commitments at the G20 summit in Rome over the weekend … 

Mr Johnson pledged in his lunchtime speech to put another billion pounds into green finance – as long as the UK economy performs as expected in the coming years.

The PM repeated he wants global leaders to unveil steps on ‘coal, cars, cash and trees’ – the things he believes will make the most different in limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees

Mr Johnson had set the tone as the G20 wrapped up last night by reading the riot act to his fellow world leaders, saying their promises on tackling climate change are starting to ‘sound hollow’.

The PM said there are ‘no compelling excuses for our procrastination’ on reducing harmful emissions and action already taken amounts to ‘drops in a rapidly warming ocean’.

Boris said that Glasgow was the site of the first steam engine, which James Watt invented. If I remember rightly from history class back in the mists of time, Britons called it the ‘doomsday machine’, because it was such a departure from anything anyone had known before.

In the event, it kicked off the Industrial Revolution which, despite its ‘dark satanic mills’ (William Blake), actually improved millions of people’s lives not only in Britain but, with time, around the world:

As such, it seemed strange for Boris to refer to it at COP26. Was he inferring that Watt’s steam engine was responsible for climate change?

Hmm. Look how GDP per capita has increased in England ever since the Industrial Revolution:

Tom Harwood of GB News nailed it, by pointing out how much Boris’s views have changed:

This is what Boris wrote for The Telegraph in 2015, when we had a warm December. His editorial ends with this:

Scientists look at the data. But everyone else just looks at the weather – and it is the weather, therefore, that makes the psychological difference to the debate. Look at the recent summit in Paris, which ended in a good agreement to cut CO2, in contrast to the debacle at Copenhagen six years ago. What was the real difference? It was the weather. Paris was ridiculously warm for December. Six years ago, Copenhagen saw the biggest snowfalls anyone could remember. “Global warming?” everyone asked.

It is fantastic news that the world has agreed to cut pollution and help people save money, but I am sure that those global leaders were driven by a primitive fear that the present ambient warm weather is somehow caused by humanity; and that fear – as far as I understand the science – is equally without foundation.

There may be all kinds of reasons why I was sweating at ping-pong – but they don’t include global warming.

Joe Biden and Boris — sleepy or just heads down?

The media are saying that Joe Biden fell asleep. It looks as if Boris did too.

Here are the photos and a video of Sleepy Joe:

The Queen’s video message

In a recorded video message sent to the conference, the Queen expressed her wishes for COP26.

The message was aired on Monday evening at the aforementioned VIP reception in the centre of Glasgow.

She asked the world’s leaders to rise above politics.

As ever, she had a photo on her desk that tied into the theme: a photo of Prince Philip surrounded by monarch butterflies.

The Mail‘s Robert Hardman reported:

Summoning the wisdom which comes with being the longest-serving head of state on the planet, the Queen distilled the monumental task facing this summit into just a few words.

‘For more than 70 years, I have been lucky to meet and to know many of the world’s great leaders,’ she said. 

‘And I have perhaps come to understand a little about what made them special. It has sometimes been observed that what leaders do for their people today is government and politics. But what they do for the people of tomorrow – that is statesmanship.’

This was, she told them, their chance to be ‘written in history books yet to be printed’. Big words from one who has already been written in to a few herself. But then the Monarch knows of what she speaks.

Though this was a speech she had wanted to make in person until her doctors decreed that it had to be delivered via video, it lost none of its punch. The poignancy of the setting only added to the power of her words.

There she was in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle, the same room in which delivered her historic address to a Covid-ravaged nation last year. At her side, was a favourite photo of the Duke of Edinburgh surrounded by butterflies during a 1988 visit to Mexico.

For years, she reminded us, she had watched him nurture a bright idea that turned in to a charity – the World Wildlife Fund – that, in turn, paved the way for so many of today’s environmental organisations. 

Between them, the couple had watched their eldest son and his eldest son embrace the same cause

‘I could not be more proud of them,’ she said. And what was that on her lapel? Her much-loved butterfly brooch … 

Another Mail article has more:

In her most personal speech to date, the monarch also paid tribute to Prince Philip and described how ‘the impact of the environment on human progress’ was a subject close to the heart of her ‘dear late husband’ – who in 1969 told a gathering: ‘If we fail to cope with this challenge, all the other problems will pale into insignificance.’  

The Queen’s stern intervention, which was displayed on screens during a VVIP reception at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum, came hours after the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged that India will target net-zero carbon emissions by 2070 – two decades later than the targets for the conference – disappointing many delegates. 

It also comes after Boris Johnson kicked off the climate change summit by exhorting world leaders to back up their talk on climate change with action – warning it was ‘one minute to midnight’.

A GB News panel thought that she had content and tone just right:

Archbishop of Canterbury apologises

The Anglican Communion is really into the impending doom and disaster of climate change.

To see that they are so wrapped up with the United Nations makes my skin crawl.

They sent a delegation to Glasgow:

Earlier on Monday, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave an interview to Radio 4’s Today show. Later on, he had to apologise for his remarks in which he compared coming deaths from climate change to the Third Reich:

Coronavirus hypocrisy

As ever, delegates were expected to wear masks, but as the Daily Mail‘s photos show, world leaders took theirs off and defied social distancing.

How nice for the great and the good!

As for everyone else, it was masks or no admittance:

Public not interested

Thankfully, the general public are not interested in COP26. They have actual pressing issues with which to deal:

Guido’s post says that a poll shows the British public are unwilling to shoulder the cost for any nonsense arising from COP26:

The lack of correlation between the BBC’s output and what people want to read, and what it suggests about the British public’s true feelings towards tackling climate change, seems to be backed up by a poll by Portland this morning. It found that while the public supports hypothetically punishing climate-damaging behaviour, or the government incentivising green behaviour, just 7% say “my family and me, and other families like me” should pay most of the cost. Just 36% are willing to pay more than £50 a month on top of existing bills to limit CO2 emissions.

I plan to feature more on climate change tomorrow.

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