2Corinthians 11 and 12
Apostle Paul was faced with discouraging challenges in the Church at Corinth, caused by false teachers. He formed the Church but false teachers (within the body of Christ) from the Jewish community invaded the Church with what looked like the doctrinal truth.
Alas, the Church gave in to these false teachers and departed from Paul; they walked away from the true doctrines of the Apostle. Paul, in his frustration, wrote letters to them and declared he couldn’t relate to them as spiritual but carnal believers.
Questions that would arise on anyone’s mind would be, “How was that possible (the church going after the false teachers)? How did the false teachers infiltrate the Church? What was the content of their “doctrine”?” This was the same scenario painted when Satan distracted Eve in the Garden of Eden.
In Paul’s conclusion, the false Apostles got the attention of the Church through foolishness.
In this context, foolishness was the style the false teachers used to get the attention of the church; boasting in the external, their skills, what they had acquired, their smooth words, lineage, their looks, money, achievements, personal development, to mention a few…These false teachers had boasted in all these things to the Apostle’s demerit but Paul was busy preaching and teaching the Good News.
The Apostle didn’t seem to be getting through to this Church. To get this Church to see the truth, he decided to get their attention by the same foolishness the false teachers used. Now, he didn’t want to get into the same foolishness, but the Corinthians’ acceptance of the false teachers’ claim forced Paul to set forth his own apostolic credentials. This was a display of Godly jealousy because Apostle Paul didn’t want the Church to depart from God, who he had betrothed them to.
The Church said things like Paul was not eloquent, he was not qualified and had so many external disadvantages (money, physical looks, contemptible speech, bad eyes – Paul was not good to look at). In our world today, we will conclude that God did not call Paul because he didn’t have the necessary paraphernalia that the world believes to be the blessings of God.
In sarcasm, Paul made the church understand that “In nothing was he behind those who are in surpassing degree apostles”. He acknowledged his lack of training in the rhetorical skills so prized in the Greek culture. Paul was a preacher of the Gospel, not a professional orator. Whatever deficiencies Paul may have had as an orator, he had none in terms of his knowledge of the Gospel, which he received from God.
The Apostle tears off the mask by saying the men that came preaching another gospel were false teachers, deceitful workers, pretending to be Christ’s Apostles, explaining to the Church that, even Satan can take the shape of an angel of light, based on his character and ways of coming in under a false guise. He also mentions the fact that it should not be strange to us that people doing Satan’s work can appear as Ministers of Righteousness knowing that the sorest and painful wound of the church are not found without but from the agents of Satan within.
This Church put up gladly with false teachers who brought them into bondage, devoured them, took from them, exalted themselves and accepted anyone who struck them in the face.
The Apostle started with the external challenges before moving into the spiritual. One would have expected the Apostle to boast or glory in the same external things the false teachers were boasting about.
Were the false teachers Hebrews, Paul was too. Were the false teachers Israelites, he was too.
Were the false teachers of the seed of Abraham, he was too. Were the false teachers ministers of Christ, Paul was more. In LABOURS, Paul had more abundant. In STRIPES, he had more, above measure. In PRISON, he had visited more frequently. In DEATHS he had many, more than the false teachers.
From the Jews, Paul received FIVE times, forty stripes minus one (39). Three times he was beaten with rods. He was stoned. Three times he was shipwrecked. A night and a day he had been in the deep. In journeys often, in perils of water. In perils of robbers, in perils of his own countrymen. In perils of the Gentiles, in peril of the city, wilderness and sea. In perils among false brethren. In weariness and in toil, in sleeplessness often. In hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness.
To continue in his boasting, Paul moved from the external and delved into the internal and spiritual experiences he had. He spoke about the supernatural things revealed to the human spirit, knowing that there was nothing to be gained in the foolishness of boasting. He began to describe how he was caught up in the third heavens, beyond the air we breathe, beyond the sun, sky and stars, to paradise where God occupies and heard unspeakable words that he could not utter.
One would be amazed that one so favored had ground for boasting, but of himself personally he would not boast or glory except in his infirmities or weakness. He could declare things truthfully that would show that his boast was not empty or vain. His infirmities, unparalleled distress, insults in necessities, distress and persecution brought him a sense of helplessness but God strengthened him above all these.
For all these did the Corinthian Church commend the false teachers based on all they could see externally but never commended Paul, although Paul demonstrated his Apostleship in signs, wonders and mighty deeds.
The Corinthian church reminds me of today’s Church where emphasis is on the external, technique oriented and consumer driven. Instead of being Ambassadors, Heralds, Reporters and Witnesses, our present day Pastors have become Entrepreneurs, Managers, Coaches, Therapists, Marketing Gurus and Communication specialists. They participate in the foolishness in the Church just as the false apostles in the Corinthian Church, boasting about external things, like the size of their Churches and Church members, how much they have, the number of private jets they have and end up concocting and fabricating spiritual experiences in order to get human commendations.
There are many false teachers in the body of Christ today and one way to recognize them is to learn from the example of the Corinthian church and what the false teachers were teaching. Teachings of false teachers and their smooth talk put the searchlight on us instead of Jesus.
Paul’s desire is for the Church to be strong in heart, united in love, settled in understanding, walking in accordance to the words of Christ and overflowing with gratitude. In Christ are hidden all treasures and mysteries revealed. These treasures and mysteries are revealed through the gospel and those in Christ know them. At the heart of understanding we need to have a settled conviction about the deity and sufficiency of Christ.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ.
Paul said this because he had to warn the Church against anyone who would lead them astray by specious arguments and persuasive rhetoric’s or pomposities.
Beware of false teachers.