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bible-wornThe 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 12:19-21

19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved. 20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

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Last week’s post concluded Paul’s self-defence against the accusations of the false teachers who had inveigled themselves with the Corinthians.

His letter then turns towards the spiritual state of the Corinthians.

He says that he has been doing much more than defending himself; in fact, he has been speaking in Christ in the sight of God for their edification (verse 19).

Matthew Henry’s commentary tells us (emphases mine):

This was his great aim and design, to do good, to lay the foundation well, and then with care and diligence to build the superstructure.

John MacArthur has more on this verse, noting the sarcasm here, tempered by calling the Corinthians ‘beloved’:

Verse 19 – why then are you giving this all to us? – end of verse, “It is all for your” – what? What’s the word? – “upbuilding, beloved. At the same time that he was seeking to reverence God, at the same time that he knew who his judge was and that he was seeking to please God and God alone, he also sought the spiritual well-being of the Corinthian church. And here’s the point; if he w[ere] discredited, they wouldn’t listen to him. If they didn’t listen to him, they wouldn’t hear the Word of God. If they didn’t hear the Word of God, they wouldn’t grow, bottom line. Their sanctification was dependent on listening to him.

He wanted to convince them that he was the true spokesman of God not so they could sit in judgment on his life, but so they could listen to his teaching. “It was all for your upbuilding; it’s all for your edification. You’re not my judge, but you are my spiritual responsibility. You’re not going to sit in judgment on my life, but you are going to sit under my teaching. And only if you trust in me as the true apostle of Jesus Christ are you going to hear what I say and believe it and therefore grow. “

He calls them beloved tenderly here. He’s been sarcastic, and I think putting in the word “beloved” sort of balances it off a little. “You’re not my judge, but all that I’m teaching, all that I’m trying to accomplish here ultimately benefits you, because when you hear the truth, you’re built up in the truth.”

MacArthur explains the transition of subject matter from the false teachers to the Corinthians themselves:

So, in 12:19 and 13:10, he speaks of his commitment to building up the church. And in between those two verses is the final section on how that is done. This is a very, very instructive portion of Scripture. It is at the end of the epistle; that doesn’t lessen its importance. In fact, if anything, it heightens it. He has reached a kind of crescendo here, and he gives us a summary of what is involved in the building up of the saints which is the passion of his life.

He fears that when he finally sees them again they might not find him in a good mood if he finds them reverting to the sins he warned against in 1 Corinthians: quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder (verse 20).

Henry says that Paul did not want to be harsh on the congregation unless he found good reason for so doing:

He would not shrink from his duty for fear of displeasing them, though he was so careful to make himself easy to them.

Paul ends the chapter by saying that he fears God might humble — humiliate — him before the Corinthians for their stubborn sin and that he will grieve for the souls of the many who had not repented of their impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality (verse 21).

Henry offers these observations. ‘Professors’ here means those who profess their faith:

Note, (1.) The falls and miscarriages of professors cannot but be a humbling consideration to a good minister; and God sometimes takes this way to humble those who might be under temptation to be lifted up: I fear lest my God will humble me among you. (2.) We have reason to bewail those who sin and do not repent, to bewail many that have sinned, and have not repented, 2 Corinthians 12:21; 2 Corinthians 12:21. If these have not, as yet, grace to mourn and lament their own case, their case is the more lamentable; and those who love God, and love them, should mourn for them.

MacArthur looks at some of the words in the original Greek manuscript:

Now, look at Paul’s concern, verse 20, “For I am afraid.” He says the same thing at the beginning of verse 21, “I am afraid.” What is he saying here? He has some fears. The word is phobeō, from which we get the English word “phobia.” It’s not talking about a superficial thing; it’s talking about a deep-seated fear, a deep-seated anxiety

Such a fear, by the way, was reasonable because the last time he went he found that. It was reasonable because since that last time, false teachers had gained the ascendency, and many of the Corinthians had followed their lies, and you don’t follow error without attendant sin; iniquity follows error. Theological error is followed by behavioral iniquity.

So, he realizes that there is great potential for sin to be in that church, because they have false teachers there who are leading them astray. And he’s afraid that when he goes there, he’s going to find that is present – sin and no repentance, as he notes in verse 21 …

Strife, for example, he already spoke to them about in 1 Corinthians 1:11. It means rivalry, discord, debates – literally battles. And then the word “jealousy” – zēlos – envyings. He confronted that in 1 Corinthians 3:3. And then angry tempers – thumos. “Outbursts” is the word, fits, sudden explosions of anger, out of control hostility. He addressed that in 1 Corinthians 6:1 and following. And then disputes – eritheia – factious attitudes, divisiveness, partisanship. He addressed that in 1 Corinthians 1:11.

And then slanders, which is open, loud-mouthed criticism, public insults, public vilification. He spoke of that in 1 Corinthians 5:11 and 6:10. And by the way, that’s an onomatopoetic word katalaleō – la-da-la-da-la. “Gossip” is another word used here. That, too, he had to address in an indirect way in 1 Corinthians 11:18. Gossip is quiet whispers of criticism. That’s a word in the Greek that’s even hard to pronounce – psithurismos. It’s like, psss-shh-shh-shh-shh – another onomatopoetic word. Whispers of criticism. “Arrogance,” that’s another word that is sort of onomatopoetic. It starts out with a P-H-U (blowing sound), hot air, puffed up, overblown. He referred to that in 1 Corinthians 4 and 5 and 8. And then he closes with disturbances, disorder, tumults, anarchy. They may have been trying to exercise congregational rule, where everybody does what’s right in his own eyes.

And 1 Corinthians 11:20 and following, 1 Corinthians 14:26 and following deal with that. Every one of these sins had been dealt with in 1 Corinthians. They were a part of pagan culture; they got dragged into the church, and Paul’s afraid he’s going to come there and find they’ve all sort of come back again. Because if people are following error, they inevitably are going to follow sinful behavior. And these are the things he fears he’ll find.

Familiar sins. They were part of the habit patterns of these people before they came to Christ.

MacArthur explains Paul’s priorities as a minister in Christ. Sanctification of the flock was his — and should be any pastor’s — ultimate goal:

If you are concerned for the sanctification of the Church, which you must be, because that’s what you’re called to do, if you’ve been given for the upbuilding of the saints, and you’re committed to that, there are six things you must be consumed with. One is repentance, two is discipline, three is authority, four is authenticity, five is obedience, and six is perfection. And those are the six features that Paul works through down to verse 10 of chapter 13.

The pastor is concerned that his people become like Christ. Paul the apostle was concerned that his people became like Christ. And it was that concern that literally consumed his heart and his mind. It moved his emotions, and it moved his will.

His concern for them had very little to do with their physical well-being; it had very little to do with their health, very little to do with their wealth or prosperity, very little, if anything, to do with their success, very little to do with their comfort, very little to do with their personal satisfaction or the fulfillment of their desires and goals. That was not an issue for Paul.

The faithful pastor’s concern was for the sanctification of his people. He was concerned for their spiritual well-being. And I daresay it is fairly common that most churches and most Christians in them become preoccupied with the physical concerns of the church and much less preoccupied, if at all, with those which have to do with personal sanctification

Of course he’s concerned to be a part of times of suffering, and times of pain, and times of illness, and times of loss, and times of difficulty in the matters of physical life, but only insofar, really, as they touch the spiritual dimension, because that’s where the real concern lies.

2 Corinthians 13 closes the book. Next week’s verses are about the necessity of repentance in gaining eternal life in Christ.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 13:1-4

Bible GenevaThe 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 12:14-18

14 Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit. 17 Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s further justification of his conduct in ministry, contrasting himself with the false teachers — ‘super-apostles’ — who were attacking his character.

He says that he plans to visit the Corinthians for a third time and says that, as a parent would, he does not seek their money but them for their own sakes, out of love (verse 14).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says (emphases mine):

He spared their purses, and did not covet their money: I seek not yours but you. He sought not to enrich himself, but to save their souls: he did not desire to make a property of them to himself, but to gain them over to Christ, whose servant he was.

Paul says that he will give whatever he has of himself to save their souls; as such, he asks whether he should be loved any less for his efforts (verse 15). To be sure, the Corinthians were not loving or appreciating Paul nearly as much as they should have done. In fact, the super-apostles were turning them against the true Apostle.

Henry interprets this verse as follows:

2. He would gladly spend and be spent for them (2 Corinthians 12:15; 2 Corinthians 12:15); that is, he was willing to take pains and to suffer loss for their good. He would spend his time, his parts, his strength, his interest, his all, to do them service; nay, so spend as to be spent, and be like a candle, which consumes itself to give light to others. 3. He did not abate in his love to them, notwithstanding their unkindness and ingratitude to him; and therefore was contented and glad to take pains with them, though the more abundantly he loved them the less he was loved, 2 Corinthians 12:15; 2 Corinthians 12:15. This is applicable to other relations: if others be wanting in their duty to us it does not follow therefore that we may neglect our duty to them.

Paul then says that he never took money from them to build up their church — something the false teachers were doing — yet, somehow the Corinthians believed the accusations that Paul was crafty and deceiving them (verse 16).

Paul asks if he or anyone he sent in his place took advantage of the Corinthians (verse 17).

Henry says:

If it should be objected by any that though he did not himself burden them, yet, being crafty, he caught them with guile, that is, he sent those among them who pillaged them, and afterwards he shared with them in the profit: “This was not so,” says the apostle; “I did not make a gain of you myself, nor by any of those whom I sent; nor did Titus, nor any others–We walked by the same spirit and in the same steps.” They all agreed in this matter to do them all the good they could, without being burdensome to them, to promote the gospel among them and make it as easy to them as possible.

Paul says that he urged Titus to go to the Corinthians and sent another godly man to accompany him; Paul asks the congregation if Titus took advantage of them or if he and his companion did not act in the same spirit as Paul (verse 18).

John MacArthur tells us:

Paul looked for some outside person, outside his own little group of friends, who was appointed by the churches so there would be no question about collusion here

Paul says, “I’ve covered those bases. You know the facts. You know I never took anything from you; you know Titus never defrauded you, and you know he came with a brother widely known and famous among the entire church for his preaching. And you now there was another brother sent as appointed by the churches as well. And you know we did all this so no suspicion could be grounded in any reality whatsoever.”

Titus went to teach the Corinthians but also to begin collecting for the poor church in Jerusalem:

Titus went, beginning the collection. A year later, 1 Corinthians was written, encouraging them to keep the collection going. Titus went back after 1 Corinthians, brought the severe letter, encouraged them to keep it going. He goes back with this letter, and he’s there again for the third time. They knew Titus, and they knew the men that were with him. And they were all trustworthy. More lies by the false teachers, more deception, more untruth, more assault.

Paul says in verse 18, “Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit and walk I the same steps?” Was there any difference in any of us? Weren’t we all the same? Didn’t we all treat you exactly the same? We were beyond legitimate accusation. We were beyond any justified suspicion. You know there was no deceit in our ministry. There was no cunning craftiness; there was only honesty; there was only integrity. Beloved, this is characteristic of a true man of God.

Poor Paul. He must have been exhausted having to defend himself to such an extent when he was so careful to be above reproach in everything he did. Everything he did, he did for Christ.

Paul’s self-defence continues next week.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 12:19-21

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

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

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

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

2 Corinthians 12:1, 11-13

Paul’s Visions and His Thorn

12 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.

Concern for the Corinthian Church

11 I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. 12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. 13 For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s preference for boasting of his weakness in order to demonstrate that God was working through him to preach the Good News; Paul gave a concrete example of persecution in Damascus.

From 2 Corinthians 10 to 2 Corinthians 13, Paul defends himself against the vile accusations, of which there were many, that the false teachers in that church were making against him.

He begins in this chapter by saying that he will go on boasting, though it serves little purpose, this time about the visions and revelations of the Lord (verse 1).

John MacArthur explains that Paul says they are unhelpful to the Corinthians because they could lead to self-aggrandising and because they cannot be verified. What Paul wants his converts to do is to focus on the Word of God (emphases mine below):

He just hates to do this, “Boasting is necessary” – he says again – “I have to do this, though it’s not helpful; it’s not helpful, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.”

Now, let me stop you right there; let me tell you something. Paul said, “I’ve had visions, and I’ve had revelations, and I know these false apostles haven’t. But you know something, folks? I’m only talking about these things because you’ve made it necessary for me to do this, but it’s not helpful.”

Boy, I’ll tell you, somebody ought to get a grip on that verse. “Visions and revelations of the Lord, which really happened to me, are not helpful for me to talk about.” That’s what that “not profitable” means. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” – 2 Timothy 3:16 – “and is profitable.”

“But talking about visions and revelations is not profitable. It’s not profitable to me to talk about them. I have had them. It is not profitable for me to talk about them because they tend to build my pride. They become temptations to pride.” It’s not profitable for me to talk about them to you, because they can’t help you, because they were personal visions and revelations given to me. They can’t help the Church either.

That’s why, when Paul left Ephesus in Acts 20, he commended them not to visions and revelations, but to the word of his grace which is able to build you up. Right? This is what builds you up.

He says, “Look, you have forced me to talk about visions and revelations. It is not helpful. It is not helpful.” In fact, the word means useless. “It is useless.” It’s useless. Why? It just messes with my pride. It was personal for me; it was personal for me; it has no bearing on you. It was personal for me; it has no bearing on you. What has a bearing on you is the Word of God.

Paul then describes ‘a man in Christ’ who sees the ‘third heaven’, i.e. paradise. That man was Paul himself.

Matthew Henry’s commentary tells us this about the third heaven:

It was certainly a very extraordinary honour done him: in some sense he was caught up into the third heaven, the heaven of the blessed, above the aërial heaven, in which the fowls fly, above the starry heaven, which is adorned with those glorious orbs: it was into the third heaven, where God most eminently manifests his glory. We are not capable of knowing all, nor is it fit we should know very much, of the particulars of that glorious place and state; it is our duty and interest to give diligence to make sure to ourselves a mansion there; and, if that be cleared up to us, then we should long to be removed thither, to abide there for ever. This third heaven is called paradise (2 Corinthians 12:4; 2 Corinthians 12:4), in allusion to the earthly paradise out of which Adam was driven for his transgression; it is called the paradise of God (Revelation 2:7), signifying to us that by Christ we are restored to all the joys and honours we lost by sin, yea, to much better.

These verses are in the Lectionary. As such, they will not be discussed in detail in this post, however, note that Paul humbly speaks of himself in the third person. After this revelation, Satan then torments Paul, whether physically or spiritually with ‘a thorn’. Our Lord responds by saying that His grace is sufficient, His power made perfect in Paul’s weakness:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,[a] a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

MacArthur says that Paul never spoke or wrote of this experience until now, having been compelled to do so:

Such extrabiblical experience is not helpful to him or anybody else at this point. At the time it happened, God meant it for him. It’s unnecessary to supplement the teaching of the Word. By the way, the only revelation we need, in addition to Scripture, is the revelation of Jesus Christ at His second coming. That’s the only revelation we need.

And nonetheless, for the sake of his argument here, this is what he says, “I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.” Now, all visions that he actually had would include a revelation, but not all revelations would be in the form of a vision. So, he had visions and revelations. And I don’t want to go through all of them, but you can read Acts 9; Acts 13, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 27, and it refers to visions and revelations. And he had numerous ones

But he says, “Let me give you the – let me give you the supreme of all the visions. And he had seen the Lord on the Damascus Road, and he had seen the Lord come to him when he was in jail. And some incredible things, when he was in Jerusalem – and some incredible things were going to happen to that man – visions and revelations.

But here’s the one he chooses, verse 2. By the way, he received his gospel by revelation, not in a vision form, but by revelation. So, God had directly spoken to him. God had given him visions and given him direct revelations. But he says, in verse 2, “Let me pick the best one. I know a man” – and there again is his humility. Most people would say, “I went to heaven, folks. I went to heaven.” He speaks in the third person, though. He says, “I know a man in Christ” – that’s a Christian who is in Christ – “I know a Christian who fourteen years ago” – what? Do you want to know something? He’s just breaking 14 years of silence. Since he went to heaven, he had never mentioned it for 14 years. It’s not helpful. It’s useless. What good is it for me to say to you, “I went to heaven?” That doesn’t help me; that just feeds my pride. That doesn’t help you; it just makes you feel like you got left out. Well, it doesn’t help anybody.

Paul says that the Corinthians have forced him to become a fool by revealing this episode, adding that they should have been defending him to the false teachers; he refers to them sarcastically as ‘super-apostles’ when they are nothing of the sort, and says he is ‘nothing’ (verse 11).

Paul means that he lacks their verve and panache which have seduced the Corinthians. Yet, Paul was the true Apostle who planted their church and instilled pure teaching among them.

MacArthur analyses this verse as follows:

This whole idea of having to defend himself is a kind of folly to him. Only fools brag. Bragging is characteristic of fools. And he’s been forced to have to speak about his superiority, and he really doesn’t like it. He would rather speak about his failures and his weaknesses and his suffering and all of that; he’s comfortable doing that. He’s comfortable talking about himself as a nothing and a nobody and a cracked pot, an earthen vessel, nothing more than that. He is a former blasphemer, a persecutor and injurious, a killer of Christians. He is a chief of sinners, and he’s content to talk about that, because then he can put the power of God on display. But he really does not like to talk about his superiority as an apostle.

And so, there’s a kind of foolishness in having to do it, but he’s been forced to it. Verse 11, “I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me.” In chapter 11, verse 1, verse 16, verse 17, verse 21; chapter 12, verse 6 – and here again, for about the fifth or sixth time, he – it’s the sixth time, I guess – he says, “It’s foolish to do this, but you have forced me to do it. I really don’t have a choice; for the sake of preserving the gospel and the truth, and honoring Christ, and keeping you away from destructive error, you have forced me into this. You’ve compelled me to do it.”

The seriousness of what was at stake is indicated in chapter 11, verse 3, “I am afraid lest, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” – I’m afraid Satan’s going to deceive you like he did Eve and lead you away from Christ into error, and that is what is at stake, and that is why, of necessity, I’ve had to do this foolish boasting.

And then he indicts them a little, in the middle of the verse, “I should” – “Actually” – he says – “in truth I should have been commended by you” – you ought to be the one rising to my defense. It didn’t happen.

Paul reminds the Corinthians that he is the true Apostle, the one who performed signs, wonders and mighty works with utmost patience (verse 12).

He mentions these because they witnessed them. More importantly, they showed the power of God at work through Paul, the self-described ‘nobody’.

MacArthur tells us why we should ignore evangelists who claim to be doing the same things today. It is not possible:

Now we’re talking about what was visible, what was repeatable, what did occur and was very clearly the power of God at work. They saw miracles. They saw things that caused them to be astonished and were signs pointing to Paul as a true apostle. Now, this is a very important verse. There are people going all across the country, all across the world, claiming to do signs, wonders, and miracles, are there not? They’ve been around for years and years. They set up tents in cities, and they do their basic gimmick there. They have churches; they get today – the big tent today is television. They set up their programs on television; they fill statements, bring in cameras, and ply their craft and their art there. They claim to be the workers of signs and wonders and miracles. This is everywhere today. And this is confusing to many people, not only Christian people but non-Christian people are equally confused by it. And while it may draw huge crowds because it plays on people’s desperation, and it plays on doubt, looking for proof, and it plays on people’s fascination with the supernatural and with the miraculous, and the excitement, and all that’s there, and the emotional highs.

Christ gave His Apostles — Paul included — the power to heal and to work miracles to the glory of God.

MacArthur explains the marks of a true Apostle:

How do you – how do you identify an apostle? Well, an apostle had to have seen the risen Christ. Is that not true? Acts chapter 1 makes it very clear that someone who’s going to be chosen to fill the position of Judas, who of course was a suicide – had committed suicide after his terrible betrayal of Christ, somebody was going to be permitted to take his place in the Twelve, and it turned out to be Matthiashad to have been an eyewitness of the resurrection, had to have been an eyewitness of the resurrection, had to have had a direct call from the Lord Jesus Christ, be appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, which was done by a miraculous, superintending of the casting of lots by which Matthias was selected by the Lord Himself. The apostle Paul saw the Lord on the Damascus Road and several other times and was personally called out of darkness into light and called to be an apostle by Christ Himself.

So, we could say one of the signs of an apostle was that he had seen the risen Christ and been directly and personally called by Christ to this office. There are a number of other remarkable characteristics and elements of apostleship. The apostles were also marked out – they had the benchmark of a plenary knowledgeplenary means a comprehensive or whole knowledge – complete knowledge – they had a plenary knowledge of the gospel derived by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.

The 12 apostles didn’t read the gospel from anybody that had written it down. They got it directly from Jesus Christ. He explained to them why He came. He explained to them that He had to die. He explained to them that He would rise again. He explained to the that He would go to heaven. He explained to them that He would return and establish His kingdom on the earth. Jesus explained it all to them with His own lips during His time on earth, including His post-resurrection 40 days, when He filled in all the remaining teaching about the kingdom.

And so it was with the apostle Paul, that he tells the Galatians He received His gospel from no man, but from the Lord Jesus directly. Remember after his conversion he was taken out in the desert? And he was given the message of Jesus Christ and the clarity of the gospel directly in a three-year period at that time from the Lord. It was characteristic of an apostle to have had a plenary, complete knowledge of the gospel derived by immediate revelation from Jesus Christ. And that was true of the apostle Paul.

It was also characteristic of apostles that they were inspired to write down revelation. They were inspired by God to write down revelation. And that inspiration was the Holy Spirit rendering that apostle infallible in the communication of that revelation.

When John wrote his Gospel, and when he wrote his epistles, and when he wrote Revelation, he wrote it infallibly. When Peter wrote his epistles, he wrote them infallibly. And even the associates of the apostles – like Mark, who wrote the Gospel of Mark – wrote it infallibly. When Matthew wrote Matthew, it was infallible. When Luke, the associate of Paul, wrote his Gospel, it was infallibly superintended. So, the writers were either apostles or those very intimately linked to the apostles, and they were superintended by God as to infallibility when they received this revelation.

It is also true that there were external protections placed upon the life of the apostle during ministry. And Paul certainly could give testimony to that as the Lord protected him and looked over him and delivered him from many, many things that could have taken his life.

Another sign of an apostle was utter and absolute fidelity to the truth of God and conformity to the authenticated standard of truth. The “apostles’ doctrine” would be the term used in the book of Acts for it. The apostles were true to that doctrine delivered to them.

Another mark of an apostle benchmark authenticating insignia of an apostle was success in preaching the gospel. They were empowered to successfully preach the gospel. So, we could say that when you look at the life of Paul, you would see all of that: someone who had seen the risen Christ; someone who had been directly called into this apostleship by Christ; one who had directly received his revelation of the knowledge of the gospel from Jesus Himself; one who had been protected to become supernaturally infallible, as it were, when he was the instrument of writing Scripture; one who had been protected from death and delivered from all kinds of difficulty in the ongoing care of his ministry; one who was faithful to the truth as it was laid down, the standard of faith through the apostles; and one who was successful in his preaching ministry; and certainly, in Paul’s case, to the founding of many, many churches. That’s the big picture.

But what Paul really wants us to focus on is narrowing that down. Back to verse 12, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance. I went – I persevered in all of my ministry, but particularly by signs and wonders and miracles” – what he really wants you to look at is the signs and wonders and powers, the word being dunamis again – “as credentials.” He’s referring specifically to the supernatural deeds done through him. How could they question this? Because he says, “They were performed” – in verse 12 – “among you. You were there; you saw them.”

Now, what was this miracle power that the apostles had? Well, all you have to do is go back to chapter 10 of Matthew, and it tells you right there. When Jesus called the apostles, the Twelve, and then later Paul, He gave them authority over unclean spirits to cast them out. He gave them miracle powers, supernatural power over Satan’s kingdom of demons. And they could cast demons out. They had power over the kingdom of darkness. Secondly, to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Bottom line, healing power with no limitations. None. They could heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. And their healing was always the same: immediate, complete, instantaneous healing. So, they had power over the kingdom of darkness, and they could cast demons out. They could cast them out of anybody. In fact, ever demon casting that occurred in the New Testament record of the gospels by the apostles, demons were cast out of non-believers. Non-believers. There wasn’t some Christian formula going on or some Christian exorcism. They were just commanded to come out of unbelievers because the apostles had power over demons. And, of course, they had power over sickness as well.

Now, the apostle Paul also had this same power, and he demonstrated it in Corinth. If you go back to Acts 18, where it tells about the founding of the Corinthian church, none of the miracles are recorded there. It doesn’t tell us about any of the miracles because the main emphasis, of course, of the text was to discuss the founding of the church and the preaching of the truth, to which the miracles pointed, but the miracles are not discussed there.

Paul, still rankling at the fact that the Corinthians were not defending his reputation, asks how they were less favoured than the other congregations he had put together except that he did not demand any money off them; he sarcastically asks them to forgive him that wrong (verse 13).

The false teachers criticised Paul for not asking for money, something they were doing.

One would think that the Corinthians would have been only too happy not to have been asked for money. Personally, I would have been delighted. That would have signified that Paul was the real deal, teaching, preaching and healing because he loved the Lord so much that he wanted people to come to faith at no obligation.

MacArthur says:

In other words, he says, “Look, you saw the miracles, the signs, the wonders, the mighty miracles that were done there. So how is it that you can buy into the lie that you had an inferior ministry from a sub-apostle? You weren’t cheated. All the churches that Paul founded were founded with God’s truth and God’s power.”

Then he turns the corner. He says, “The only thing that you didn’t get was a bill,” – verse 13 – “except that I myself didn’t become a burden to you. I just didn’t charge you; that’s the only thing you didn’t get. You got all the power; you got the signs, the wonders, the miracles; you got the truth. I came and I preached the true gospel to you. The only thing you didn’t get was a bill.” Paul had determined from the start not to burden the Corinthians with paying his support and the support of those who traveled with him.

Perhaps it was a poor church to start with. Perhaps he wanted – and I think this is more primary – he wanted to avoid the stigma that was attached to false teachers who were all in it for the money, and got as much money out of everybody as they could. And Paul knew he could be easily lumped with all the rest of the false teachers if he operated the way they operated. And even though he, according to 1 Corinthians 9:13 to 15, had told the Corinthians in his first letter that he had a right to be supported if he preached the gospel, and that every soldier fights because he’s paid, and every farmer expects to take in the crop, and so should every preacher expect support – he made that clear – even though he had a right to that, he had disdained that right, because he didn’t want to make the gospel chargeable, he did not want to be subject to any unjust criticism, and he didn’t want to get lumped in with the false teachers.

I hope that John MacArthur’s signs of a true Apostle make it clear that, despite what televangelists and even seminary professors say, there is no miraculous healing going on today.

It is probably a good idea not to frequent the average Christian bookshop for that very reason. It is likely to have a number of best-sellers about miraculous healing and reasons why it should continue. Stay away from these snake-oil salesmen. Focus on the Bible instead.

In the next instalment, Paul discusses his plan to return to Corinth.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 12:14-18

Bible ourhomewithgodcomThe 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 11:30-33

30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.

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My last post discussed Paul’s description of his brutal persecution in his ministry for Christ. He concluded by saying that he was also consumed with anxiety for the well being of the churches he had planted and the congregants.

Paul is boasting, something he finds distasteful. However, he has to do it in order to contrast his godliness and authenticity with the venal, devilish false teachers who had inveigled themselves with the Corinthian congregation.

He says that, if he has to boast, he will do so by talking of his weaknesses (verse 30).

He says that God the Father knows that he is not lying (verse 31), something the false teachers said he had done.

Paul describes God more fully.

John MacArthur explains why (emphases mine):

… what he is saying is, “I’m going to call on God, the true and living God who is identified repeatedly in the New Testament as the God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus.”

In other words, worshipping God is not enough. You are not worshipping the true God. You don’t know the true God unless you have identified Him as the God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus.

Of this verse, Matthew Henry says:

It is a great comfort to a good man that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is an omniscient God, knows the truth of all he says, and knows all he does and all he suffers for his sake.

Paul mentions another episode of persecution, one that took place early in his ministry in Damascus.

He says that the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city in order to seize him (verse 32), but someone lowered him in a basket through a window in the wall, enabling his escape (verse 33).

The story is in Acts 9. Paul — still Saul at that point — had only regained his eyesight and his strength after his conversion when he began preaching. This episode in Damascus did not occur straightaway but some time after his conversion:

Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

Saul Escapes from Damascus

23 When many days had passed, the Jews[a] plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall,[b] lowering him in a basket.

The man who had been responsible for persecuting Christians in Jerusalem — including the death of St Stephen, the first martyr — experienced his own persecution shortly after his conversion. Persecution would be part of Paul’s life up to his own martyrdom in Rome.

MacArthur has more on this Damascene episode, which Paul recounts in more detail in Galatians 1:

The Lord, after he converted him, took him and sent him into Arabia – Nabatean, Arabia it used to be called. He sent him into Nabatean, Arabia, south of Damascus, somewhere between the Red Sea and the Euphrates River – in the modern era world, that area. He sent him into Nabatean, Arabia for three years. He didn’t have an seminary education, didn’t have any formal training, didn’t have anybody with him. God sent him down there, and the Lord Himself gave him his message. You remember he says that to the Galatians, “I didn’t get my gospel from any man. No man gave me this gospel. The Lord set me apart, took me down, and for three years he’s down in Arabia, and he’s preaching the gospel all over Arabia.

After three years, he comes back to Damascus. And when he gets back to Damascus, according to the ninth chapter of Acts, he starts to preach Christ. And the Jews, who have a synagogue in Damascus, are furious, because he’s preaching Christ as the Messiah, as the Savior, as the King of Israel. And so, they’re plotting his death.

Now, in Damascus there’s a colony of Arabs, who’ve migrated up from Nabatean, Arabia, and they live in Damascus. Damascus would be the main city in that part of the world. And I’ve been in Damascus; it’s an incredible place with an incredible history. It was the further eastern most extension of the Roman Empire as well, and it was a very formidable place.

So, Nabatean Arabians had migrated up. In fact, there were so many of them there that the colony was large enough to have a governor. And it says in verse 32, “In Damascus the ethnarch” – that’s the governor, and he would have been the guy assigned to govern this Arab colony in Damascus, he was under Aretas the king. Aretas is … a title rather than a name; Aretas is like Pharaoh or Caesar. It’s the title of the king of Nabatean, Arabia.

So, the king of Nabatean, Arabia, a man called Aretas, appointed some governor to kind of lead the colony of Arabs up there and rule over them. Well, what happened was Paul’s ministry down in Arabia had irritated the Arabians and the normal hostility and persecution that arises against the gospel arose there, and it migrated up into Damascus. And so, the Arabians somehow joined with the Jews. On the one hand, in Acts 9, you got the Jews plotting to kill him, and now you’ve got the Arabians involved.

Aretas had assigned this ethnarch, and is job – the Jews had given him the job – “to guard the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me.”

The word was out, “Paul’s in town; we’re going to get him.” The Jews wanted him dead, and the Arabs wanted to cooperate in the process. The Arabs were given the responsibility to guard the gates so that if he tried to get out of the city, they would seize him, and he would be executed.

Now, he had just gotten launched into the ministry, and already he’s got the Jewish and Gentile world after him. This was just the beginning of how it would be throughout his life, until one day he laid his head on the block in Rome, and a Roman executioner chopped it off, and he entered the presence of the Lord. From the beginning of his ministry to the end, this is all he ever knew.

This is how Paul was able to escape:

The wall of Damascus was very wide – wide enough to drive a chariot on. And homes were built up on the top of the wall, and some of them hung over the edge and had some windows, which would just be an opening, where some wooden doors could be opened or closed. And they figured out a scheme. They would get Paul up into one of those homes on the wall, and they would put him in a basket.

The word for basket here – sarganē – is a rope basket, not just a reed basket or straw basket, but a rope basket. You’d take rope and just wrap it into a basket form and somehow tie it all together. They’d have to be pretty strong to hold a full-size man.

Today, Paul would have been considered too confrontational:

And anybody in their right mind today, who sat him down, in our contemporary Christian environment, would have said, “You know, Paul, you really need to change your method; you’re just infuriating the whole world. I mean there’s got to be a soft sell here that you could develop. There’s got to be some subtleties, Paul. Everything can’t be blatant.” I mean he wouldn’t have known even what you were talking about

Pastors used to be much more Pauline, although that was so last century. I only ever heard one fire and brimstone sermon in my life. I was 12 or 13 at the time. An elderly Irish priest gave it. He was a retired pastor, stepping in for ours one weekend. He wore the traditional pre-Vatican II alb which had about six inches of lace at the bottom and at the ends of the sleeves. I will remember him for the rest of my life.

Perhaps we need more Pauline preaching today. My dad really enjoyed the Irish priest’s sermon and said he could have listened to him for hours. It reminded him of his childhood.

Build it and they will come. We’d stop calling new churchgoers ‘seekers’, because so many would come to church that a full house, so to speak, would become the norm once again. We would no longer have to think of those people as being in a special category.

We can but pray for such a happy eventuality.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 12:1, 11-13

Bible and crossThe 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 11:22-29

22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food,[a] in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s humble boasting, which he needed to do in order to defend his godly character against the accusations of the false teachers in Corinth. Paul also took issue with the fact that the Corinthians fell into a spiritual and psychological enslavement from their teaching.

He now compares and contrasts himself with the false teachers.

Evidently, they were Jews, because he asks if they were Hebrews and Israelites, answering that he was also a Hebrew and an Israelite (verse 22).

John MacArthur explains the distinction between those two terms (emphases mine):

he starts with his equality. Verse 22 then puts him on an equal footing with them in terms of heritage. Look at it: “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.”

It may well have been, by the way, that the false apostles were questioning this. It may well have been that they had spread some lies about Paul not having the right racial credentials. In fact, they may have said that since he was born in Tarsus he really didn’t fit. All the original twelve apostles were Jews, therefore they were all Israelites, they were descendants from Jacob. They were all children of Abraham, because, of course, Jacob came from Abraham. So they were all descendants of Abraham, they were all Israelites. And they were all Hebrews. That is to say they were of the nationality of the Hebrews, and they spoke the language which is called Hebrew.

So they would be classified then as Jews and Palestinian Jews, as opposed to Greek Jews that spoke Greek or something else. They were all true Jews, Palestinian Jews. And with the exception of Judas, by the way, they were all Galileans. They all came from the northern part of Palestine known as Galilee, which was the more rural part, being north of the great metropolis of Jerusalem.

So all the apostles were Jews, all of them were Palestinian Jews; and with the exception of Judas who was certainly disqualified as an apostle, all of them were Galilean Jews. Any one then claiming to be an apostle would have to show that he was a Jew, and that he was a true Jew, a Palestinian Jew. The false apostles may have been accusing Paul of not fitting the qualifications of being an apostle because he was born in Tarsus, which is a Gentile city, and therefore indicating he did not belong. Tarsus, by the way, was in Cilicia, which is along the northern part of the Mediterranean where modern Turkey exists today. It’s outside Palestine, and therefore they may have been accusing him of being an intruder into the apostolic realm since he didn’t have a birthright credential.

Well, Paul wants to answer that. It is right, true apostles are ethnically pure, Aramaic and Hebrew-speaking Jews of Palestine rather than Greek-speaking Jews of the dispersion. But Paul is going to answer that question, and here’s how he does it. “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.” It’s really three ways of saying the same thing, although we could break it up a little bit.

Hebrews sort of refers to the Jewish people ethnically and linguistically. They are the Hebrew people who basically are associated with the Hebrew language. The root of that is probably from Eber. In the genealogy of Genesis 11, verses 15 to 17, as you go through the genealogy of the Jewish people, there is a person there by the name of Eber of whom Abraham is a descendant. Eber probably is the one who contributed Hebrew, which was the name given first to Abraham in Genesis 14:13. So it probably goes back to the fact that he was a descendant from Eber.

Foreigners used it of the Jews; they called them Hebrews, descendants of Eber. And the Jews also used it of themselves; you’ll find that in Genesis 40, and Genesis 43. Both the Jews used it, and others used it of them as well. They accepted it as a moniker which stuck.

Paul, born in Tarsus, however, was still a Hebrew in every sense. In Philippians 3:5 he calls himself “a Hebrew of Hebrews,” which means when it came to nationality and it came to ethnicity and it came to linguistics, he was every bit a Hebrew. He knew Aramaic, he lived his whole [formative] life in Palestine, and he followed all the Hebrew traditions to the very letter, fastidious to the max, even being a Pharisee. This apparently was an issue in his life, because he mentions it in Acts 22 and verse 3, “I am a Jew.” He was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect it says. “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city,” – meaning Jerusalem – “educated under Gamaliel,” – who was the premier teacher of the Jewish law of his day – “strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you are all today.” So he says, “Look,: – he has been teaching in Hebrew – “I am a Jew. I was born outside of Palestine, but I’ve been brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, educated strictly as a Pharisee according to the law, zealous for God,” et cetera …

So, obviously, he was born in Cilicia. But very early, very early as a very young child came to Jerusalem

And then he says, “Are they Israelites?” That refers, perhaps, to their descent from Jacob, which speaks of their social life, their religious life; and he followed that as well. He was in every sense an Israelite. He was faithful to the society, to the religion of the Jews.

And then he says, “Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.” He was here referring to his covenant identification. Socially, religiously, covenantally, linguistically, nationally, ethnically; every way you cut it, he was equal to them. He was within the Jewish culture, following all the Israelite habits of society and religion. He was a part of the theocratic kingdom, he took his identity with God’s chosen people in the promised land that God had pledged to Abraham, and he was enjoying the covenant privileges and the covenant promises and blessings of God promised to Abraham in Genesis chapter 12. So in every area – ethnicity, language, religion, society, theology, covenant promise – he says, “I am equal. I am equal.” That’s his whole point here in that verse where he says, “I the same,” or, “So am I,” in the English.

In the next five verses, Paul explains why he is superior to the false teachers.

He asks whether they are servants of Christ and says he is a better one, having laboured harder and endured brutal forms of physical persecution (verse 23).

MacArthur reminds us that this is what Jesus prophesied to the Twelve:

Jesus made it very clear to the apostles that there was going to be a life of suffering. They were going to be before courts and judges and trials and kings, incarcerations and beatings. They were going to suffer immensely; they were going to be hated, and resisted, and resented. And that is the nature of the issue of ministry, because what you’re doing in ministry is you’re taking the truth into the midst of lies, you’re taking the message of God into the kingdom of darkness run by Satan, and that creates a hostile reaction.

Paul says he speaks as if he were insane.

MacArthur explains:

No false apostle is a true servant of Christ, this is just for the sake of argument. There’s a bit of sarcasm in it. And he can’t just leave it at that, he has to add, “I speak as if insane.” What an insanity to even suggest this for the sake of argument. “But are they servants of Christ? I far more. It’s insane to even think of it.”

By the way, the word “insane” is a stronger word than the word “fool.” The word “fool” used in verse 17 and used again in verse 21, fool or foolishness, aphrōn, aphrosunē comes from phroneō which means “to think.” The word for “insane” is paraphroneō, which literally means “to be beside yourself,” para meaning “to be beside” or “alongside,” “to be beside your mind.” The word phroneō, “to think” or “referring to the mind,” “To be out of your mind,” that’s where it comes from, or “to be beside yourself,” which is another way of saying, “You’re insane.” Paul says, “I’m a madman to even suggest that they’re servants of Christ; but for the sake of argument I have to say it. And I more so.”

He then discusses his persecutions.

He says he was flogged five times by the Jews, with 39 lashes each time (verse 24).

Those floggings took place in synagogues.

MacArthur describes how the master of the synagogue carried it out according to the Mishnah:

The victim would put his two hands wide, and they would be attached to pillars or posts on either side, so they’d be stretched like this. The chest and back would be bared to the waist. Behind the man would be a large stone on the ground, elevating the master of the synagogue who would inflict the blows, so that he had leverage and could reach clear across the shoulders so that he could whip the chest as well, and he would be able to keep his footing on that stone. An instrument of a thick strap of cowhide split into three six-inch strands and then thickened somehow was used in this whipping. One-third of the blows had to be delivered on the chest, and two-thirds of the blows on the back and the shoulders. And it was required by the Mishnah that the master use one hand – and this was his trade, so he was good at it – use one hand and hit every one of the hits with all his might.

And the Mishnah provided that if the victim died, the scourger bore no guilt. Forty was the limit of blows to create these welts and sometimes cuts on the body. But the traditional way of the Jews was to stop at thirty-nine in case they might have muffed up on the count. They didn’t want to break the law in their fastidiousness, so they stopped at thirty-nine. Fastidious about the law, they were busy beating the prophets this way, according to Matthew chapter 23, verse 34, Jesus said, “You beat the prophets like this.”

They beat all the wrong people; and here they are beating the apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul himself. All those permanent welts and scars all over his body that he got from those – what would it be? – a hundred and ninety-five lashes, leaving scars all over his body, were what he was meaning in Galatians 6:17 when he said, “I bear in my body the marks of Jesus Christ.” They would all be trophies of his devotion to Jesus Christ. If anybody asked him if he was sold out to Christ, he’d just take off his tunic; that would be enough.

Paul goes on to describe his other ordeals: beatings with rods, a stoning, three shipwrecks and 24 hours of floating adrift at sea (verse 25).

MacArthur gives us more information:

In verse 25, he says, “I was beaten with rods three times.” This is what the Romans did; they got these flexible sticks, rough sticks, flexible sticks, and they just bound them all together and they used it as a whip – like a whip, but it would inflict a blow for each stick that touched the skin. That’s what happened to him in Acts 16 at the Philippian jail. Verse 22 says he was beaten with rods. That’s what they did to him there. That was one of the three times. And you’re talking about five times he had been lashed, three times he had been beaten with rods, and this is before he wrote 2 Corinthians; and he still has more ministry after that. This is just up to this point.

And he adds also in verse 25, “Once I was stoned.” That was at Lystra – you can read about it in Acts 14:19 – he was stoned. They were so made at him for preaching the gospel; and this wasn’t a Jewish anger, this was a Gentile environment. They took him out of the city and they stoned him. What they would do in stoning a person was drop him off of an edge like this, down below, and then they would just get on top and just smash down large boulders to crush him.

And it says in Acts 14:19, that they supposed he was dead, they surmised he was dead. He probably was not dead, because the verb “supposing” usually in the New Testament means “to surmise something that is not true.” And if he was dead, then he would have had to be raised from the dead, because he got up and went on preaching, as you know. And resurrection wouldn’t be minimized. No resurrection in the book of Acts is presented ambiguously …

So all we can say was, he was stoned, but didn’t die; and he was left for dead. They literally tried to crush his life out. Came within, perhaps, a few breaths of dying under the bloody crushing, but he survived.

Then he says, “Three times I was shipwrecked.” Now the best we can add them up – take my word for it – probably took about twenty voyages, about nine of them before he wrote 2 Corinthians, and nine or ten of them afterwards. We know the ones that he took before 2 Corinthians; they’re recorded in the book of Acts chapter 9, 11, 13; chapter 14, 16, 17, and 18. You see he’s going here and there in these ships. And out of those nine voyages, and maybe some others that he took, he had three shipwrecks. Shipwrecks were very common in those days. And he had those shipwrecks.

By the way, that does not include the shipwreck in Acts 27 which was much later in his life, and a number of other, probably at least nine or ten more journeys by ship that he took after he wrote 2 Corinthians which would add up to the twenty. Just in the first half of that he had had three shipwrecks. So, you know, there’s about a thirty-three-and-a-third percent you get on a ship you’re going to have a shipwreck. I mean, that’s pretty bad odds.

But the man had to go where he had to go, because he was under mandate from God. And one of those shipwrecks, he says, “I spent a night and a day in the deep.” What does he mean? He means that for twenty-four hours he was hanging on to a piece of wreckage in the middle of the sea before he was rescued. Acts doesn’t tell us about that. In fact, it doesn’t tell us about a lot of things; this is just a summation. It’s just a brief summation of what the man went through.

Paul then discusses the continual dangers he had encountered, dangers from people as well as the natural environment (verse 26).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that, wherever he was, danger was present:

… he was exposed to perils of all sorts. If he journeyed by land, or voyaged by sea, he was in perils of robbers, or enemies of some sort; the Jews, his own countrymen, sought to kill him, or do him a mischief; the heathen, to whom he was sent, were not more kind to him, for among them he was in peril. If he was in the city, or in the wilderness, still he was in peril. He was in peril not only among avowed enemies, but among those also who called themselves brethren, but were false brethren, 2 Corinthians 11:26; 2 Corinthians 11:26.

Paul then writes about his lack of basic necessities: sleep, food, drink and clothing (verse 27).

MacArthur says:

The reason he stayed up all night is because he had to work. All-day ministry, all-day preaching, and then he had to work all night in order to support himself. He had to work all night to earn his living and the living of all who traveled with him. They were sleepless nights because they were nights of labor. In fact, sometimes he even preached all night

He also found it difficult even working all night, preaching, traveling, staying out of danger. He found it difficult to make enough to sustain himself. So he says in verse 27, “In spite of all of his work, in spite of many sleepless nights of labor, he had experienced hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. There were times when he didn’t have enough to eat, he didn’t have enough to drink, he didn’t have enough to keep him warm, and he didn’t even have a place to stay. Inadequate food. That even happened when he was at Corinth. He mentions it chapter 11, verse 9, “When I was present with you and in need, I didn’t even tell you about it.”

When he says “often without food,” he’s not talking about spiritual fasting … So, this is not some kind of spiritual fast; this is a man who just doesn’t have enough money or a place to purchase food.

And he’s cold. The end of his life in 2 Timothy 4:13, he tells Timothy to go find Crispus and get his coat and bring it to him. How did Crispus get it? Well, he probably needed it, and so he left it with him. But he needs his coat. It’s not like he has a wardrobe. He’s here, and his coat’s there; and it’s the only coat he has. “Please, could you bring it? I’m cold.” It was eking out a bare existence. Frankly, this is enough to embarrass us today who suffer so little for the ministry and the gospel. We might hide our faces in shame. But note this: when you’re looking at the purest and truest apostle, he’s going to be measured by his power against the kingdom of darkness, and that’s going to be demonstrated by the level of persecution and suffering a man endures.

Then Paul says that, apart from all the other things — hardships that he won’t even go into, probably because there were so many — he was anxious about all the churches he had planted (verse 28).

Henry says that such anxiety consumed him, which was why he mentioned it last:

He mentions this last, as if this lay the heaviest upon him, and as if he could better bear all the persecutions of his enemies than the scandals that were to be found in the churches he had the oversight of.

Continuing on that thought, Paul says that he suffers along with members of his congregations, sharing in their weakness and suffering (verse 29).

Henry says:

There was not a weak Christian with whom he did not sympathize, nor any one scandalized, but he was affected therewith.

Of Paul, Henry concludes:

See what little reason we have to be in love with the pomp and plenty of this world, when this blessed apostle, one of the best of men that ever lived, excepting Jesus Christ, felt so much hardship in it. Nor was he ashamed of all this, but, on the contrary, it was what he accounted his honour; and therefore, much against the grain as it was with him to glory Note, Sufferings for righteousness’ sake will, the most of any thing, redound to our honour.

Of persecution, MacArthur says:

This man got exactly what he should have expected to get from the world around him, just exactly what His Savior got, His Lord got, right? And that was the mark of his true apostleship. You say you’re a servant of Jesus Christ; show me your scars, show me the hostility, show me the rejection, show me the alienation, show me what it’s meant in your family. You took a stand for a spiritual scriptural principle even in the Christian family and your family didn’t like it; that’s a scar. You proclaimed Jesus Christ in an unbelieving environment and you suffered for it. Maybe you didn’t get a promotion. Maybe you got alienated. Maybe you didn’t get the grade you should have gotten in a class because you wrote a paper that advocated what the Bible teaches about a certain issue, not what the professor things. That’s a scar.

These are more civil times, I suppose, in some way; although they’re fast becoming rather uncivilized, it appears. We may all be finding that out in the next quarter of a century, or less. But Paul says, “I’m an apostle, far more than you, and here are my scars to prove it.” You cannot live a life uncompromisingly confronting the kingdom of darkness and not have some scars to show. And those are your badge of authenticity.

There is much to digest in this reading. Persecution is still with us, alive and well.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 11:30-33

Bible ourhomewithgodcomThe 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 11:16-21

Paul’s Sufferings as an Apostle

16 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would[a] but as a fool. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. 19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that.

————————————————————————————————–

Last week’s post discussed Paul’s no-holds-barred words about the false teachers inveigling themselves with the congregation in Corinth.

Paul called them servants of Satan disguising themselves as servants of righteousness.

In this week’s passage, we do not find out about Paul’s sufferings as an Apostle. Those will follow next week.

Before he goes into his sufferings, he feels forced to boast that he never took spiritual or monetary advantage of the Corinthians.

As students of the Bible know, it is not good to boast. It is not something taught in Scripture. In fact, Scripture condemns boastfulness and pride, counselling us to practice humility instead.

This is why Paul says that no one should consider him to be foolish in that regard but says that, if people do consider him a fool, then they should allow him to boast a little (verse 16).

John MacArthur explains that Paul must boast of himself to the Corinthians to protect his reputation (emphases mine):

Paul has been forced to boast. By that I mean he’s been forced to defend his apostleship. He has been forced not to overstate the case, but to speak the truth. He has been forced to identify himself as a true apostle and to give his credentials. He’s been forced to do that, because false apostles have come to Corinth and told the people that he was a fraud, a liar, and a charlatan. And the people have, in some measure, believed the false apostles.

False teachers, liars, false prophets, false apostles all attempt to destroy the truth; and in order to destroy the truth, you have to discredit the truth teachers. And so they came into Corinth and then attempted to destroy Paul’s credibility. As a result, he has to defend himself. In fact, he has to defend himself against their specific accusations. He has to take them on.

He really regrets having to boast because it is not something that the Lord would do; only a carnal man would do so (verse 17).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

He would not have them think that boasting of ourselves, or glorying in what we have, is a thing commanded by the Lord in general unto Christians, nor yet that this is always necessary in our own vindication; though it may be lawfully used, because not contrary to the Lord, when, strictly speaking, it is not after the Lord. It is the duty and practice of Christians, in obedience to the command and example of the Lord, rather to humble and abase themselves; yet prudence must direct in what circumstances it is needful to do that which we may do lawfully, even speak of what God has wrought for us, and in us, and by us too.

MacArthur tells us:

He wanted to be like Christ, that was the passion of his life. And he had no model of Christ ever doing this. There is no example of Christ ever boasting. It was Christ who said He was meek and lowly. He had referred, as I noted earlier, back in chapter 10 verse 1 to the meekness of Christ. Even when He was being ridiculed, persecuted, executed, there was never any self-defensive boast.

This bothers Paul. He doesn’t like boasting in the first place, because it is foolish. He doesn’t like it in the second place, because he has no model from Christ to follow. All Christ ever did when He was falsely accused was take it in silence. And it bothers him that he has to do this. It’s not the example of Christ that he’s following. This is what crushed him; it’s the example of his enemies. They have dictated what he has to do, not Christ, and that is hard for him.

Paul says that, since many — e.g. the false teachers — boast according to the flesh, so will he (verse 18).

MacArthur explains that Paul means the false teachers are boasting of their achievements:

The many were the false teachers, were hucksters and conmen. Here he says, “The many are forcing me to this folly. It’s not something that Christ gave me a pattern for, I’m having to follow their lead.”

His reluctance is understandable. Their boast was according to the flesh. What does that mean? Just according to their human achievements. They weren’t boasting about what God had done for them. They were not boasting about what God had done in them. They were not boasting about what God had done through them. Why? Because He hadn’t done anything.

They weren’t believers. They had a different Jesus – back to verse 4 – they had a different spirit than the Holy Spirit, and they had a different gospel. They didn’t even know God; God wasn’t even operating in their lives. All they had were fleshly boasts. They could only boast about their personal achievements and their personal privileges, motivated by their corrupt desires and by Satan who was their father. Paul hates the fact that such have forced him into this necessity.

Paul then has a go at the Corinthians, once more employing sarcasm by saying that they put up with fools — the false teachers — because they are so wise (verse 19).

Henry says:

these words, You suffer fools gladly, seeing you yourselves are wise (2 Corinthians 11:19; 2 Corinthians 11:19), may be ironical

This is MacArthur’s take:

this is directed right at the Corinthians in the most strong terms possible: sarcasm. Sarcasm is the strongest force that language can bear. It’s the strongest force of ridicule. It’s, “Well, aren’t you something?” and when you mean by that the very opposite. Sarcasm is saying the opposite of what is true for effect. That is a cutting use of language, sarcasm: irony, biting. And that’s what Paul uses in verse 19. It’s a very good form of language if you want to get across a point.

It’s not new to Paul. Back in 1 Corinthians, he was questioning their wisdom, he really was. First Corinthians chapter 3, verse 18, “If any man among you thinks that he is wise,” – and there were some in there, and they thought they were real smart – “then let him become foolish, that he might really become wise.” The Corinthians really thought – they were sort of spiritual smart alecks. They thought they were real smart, and Paul had to confront that. Chapter 6: “You’re so wise” – he says – “you’re going to sue each other. Isn’t there one among you wise enough to decide these things, since you’re so wise?”

Paul goes further, saying that they will put up with people — false teachers — who enslave them, who devour them monetarily, who take advantage of them, who put on airs or actually strike them in the face (verse 20).

Henry adds the following only to make the verse clearer for us:

“… upbraiding you while they reproach me, as if you had been very weak in showing regard to me

MacArthur elaborates on that verse and discusses physical assault, which was common in the ancient world:

it’s typical of all false teachers, all cultic leaders, that they wind up exercising a control over people that turns people into slaves. They manipulate them to serve their ends and their motives. “You’ve let those false apostles enslave you, that’s how smart you are; and then you’ve let them exploit you. He means that when he says, “if he devours you.” It’s used in Luke 20:47, “For the Pharisees devouring widows houses,” which means they went to the widows and took their money.

Not only do they manipulate you and get you completely under their control, but they take away your money and your possessions. They’re like parasites. False apostles, false preachers, cult leaders, whatever they are, they’re like leeches who suck the life out of their victims. Have you noticed all the prosperity preachers get rich? All the cult leaders become rich at the expense of their followers.

Thirdly, “You’ve been entrapped.” That’s what “if he takes advantage of you” means. “Now you’re caught like a suckerfish who buys the bait and is caught, like an animal who comes to the trap and sticks his nose in there to get the bait and is caught. You’ve been baited by what appears to look good only to be caught in their trap, and now you’re just meat for them. You’ve been dominated.”

It says, “If he exalts himself, you bear it.” What does that mean? Well, that simply speaks of the domination aspect of false teachers. They are controlling. They exercise abusive authority. They lord it over people, as it’s mentioned in 1 Peter 5:3. Matthew 20, verse 25, a good verse to look up: “The Gentiles dominate you.” Gentile leadership is a leadership of domination. “You’re so smart you’ve allowed these false teachers to come in, enslave you, exploit you, and trap you, and dominate you, and then lastly, humiliate you. If he hits you in the face, you take it.”

You know, in the ancient world, this was common, probably more common than it is today when we have the kind a of little more cultured society in some respects, or at least a fear of litigation. But in ancient times people punched people. In 1 Kings 22, you have an illustration of it, you can look it up some time. Zedekiah was a false prophet, he was the spokesman for false prophets. And Zedekiah came face-to-face with Micaiah, who was the true prophet of God, and in response to Micaiah’s message, Zedekiah hauled off and it him in the mouth, struck him in the face for his perceived insolence in claiming to speak for God. He was struck in the face by a false prophet.

False prophets can get very, very angry. I had one say on television about me, that if he had his way, he’d get his Holy Ghost machine gun and blow my brains out.

Paul employs sarcasm in the first part of verse 21, saying he was too weak to do that to the Corinthians, meaning he was too strong in character and godliness. He adds that, in his foolishness, he will boast of that weakness.

MacArthur says:

Here’s the last verse in his disclaimer, more biting sarcasm: “To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison.” This is so sarcastic; he means the opposite. Paul could have told the Corinthians, “You ought to be ashamed, folks. You really ought to be ashamed. You ought to be ashamed for disgracing yourselves. You ought to be ashamed for your stupidity in gladly receiving those lying false apostles. You ought to take another look and realize how stupid you are for getting yourself enslaved, exploited and trapped, dominated and humiliated.”

But instead, he makes the point stronger by sarcasm, and says, “I ought to be ashamed for being so weak. I am just so weak, as evidenced by the fact that I didn’t do that. I’m so weak, I didn’t come in and I didn’t enslave you. I didn’t entrap you. I didn’t manipulate you. I didn’t intimidate you. I didn’t abuse you. I didn’t take advantage of you. I didn’t exploit you. I didn’t humiliate you. I didn’t do any of that. I’m just so weak.

“Boy, I should have known. I should have known true apostles are strong, they abuse people. I guess I should have known how true apostles act: they exploit, they enslave, they entrap, they dominate, they humiliate. I guess I just didn’t know how an apostle should really act. I guess I’m just ashamed that I’m so weak by comparison. If greed, abuse, tyranny, exploitation, manipulation, and humiliation are the marks of a true apostle, then I’m a failure, I’m a fake.” I think they probably got the message.

MacArthur summarises the meaning of these verses for us:

In conclusion, just a comment or two. The key to understanding this lesson today is to understand how much Paul hated pride, how much he hated to boast even when it was about the truth. He didn’t even want to say what was true about him, for fear it that it might somehow bring honor to him rather than his Lord. He is frightened even to say what God has done, for fear that it somehow might intrude on his commitment to humility. And he teaches us so powerfully that never is a person more humble than when they are forced to boast and can do it humbly. That’s exactly what he will do.

And for those who are humble, the promises of Scripture again: you will be heard by God when you pray, delivered by God when in trouble, have the privilege of enjoying the presence of God, be honored by God, live a long and prosperous life, be the object of God’s special attention and personal care, be lifted up and exalted by God, be the greatest in His kingdom, receive the grace of God, inherit the earth and eternal glory; and you will be like Christ.

What a wonderful thought on which to end, especially during Advent, a time of repentance.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 11:22-29

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

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

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

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

2 Corinthians 11:12-15

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

—————————————————————————————–

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

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

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

This applies to today’s true clergy:

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

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

Paul lays it on the line in these four verses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

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

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

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

Their end will correspond to their deeds.

MacArthur says:

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

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

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

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

MacArthur tells us what to look for in these deceivers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MacArthur puts it this way:

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

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

Next time — 2 Corinthians 11:16-21

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

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

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.

——————————————————————————————————————-

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

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