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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Welcome to our informal Bible study called HBS.
Last week we learned that Paul accepted financial assistance from the Believers in Macedonia and Achaia and he referred to this as robbing other churches by taking wages from them to serve the Corinthian saints (2 Corinthians 11:8). The reason Paul accepted their money, even though they had little to spare, and they received nothing in exchange for their gift, was so he didn’t have to accept any money from the Corinthians.
It was Paul’s guiding principle not to accept financial support from the church at which he was currently ministering. Once he moved on, he accepted their offerings. The Corinthian church was the one exception; he continued to refuse financial assistance from them even after he left there (1 Corinthians 9:11-12; 2 Corinthians 11:9). Paul calls this refusal to accept support from Corinth his boast, which is really an oath (11:10).
Please open your Bible at 2 Corinthians 11:12.
2 Corinthians 11
12: But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting.
Here Paul’s talking about continuing to preach the gospel free of charge as he’s done before and labor with his hands to support himself that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting.
2 Corinthians is the follow-up letter to Paul’s sorrowful/stern letter that brought about repentance (a change of heart and mind) in some of the Believers in Corinth. But it fell short of being a “home run,” if you’ll permit the expression, because it failed to convict every single Believer of their sinful rebellion against God and in turn these same folks did not renew their commitment to Christ. Then after Paul left, Jewish intruders from Jerusalem came preaching another Jesus and a different gospel (11:4). With Paul away, up in Philippi most likely, they had full access to the Corinthians hearts, minds, and their money.
Therefore, it was the Corinthian’s perception of the truth that concerned Paul, which prompted him to “cut off their opportunity.” The phrase “cut off opportunity” means to cut the ground from under.” Today someone might say, “Pull the rug out from under;” they essentially mean the same thing. Paul means to say he intends to give these false apostles no opportunity to accuse him of desiring to obtain riches from preaching the gospel. Since the false apostles received wages from the Corinthian church regularly, they desired to be able to say they followed Paul’s example. In truth, these Jewish intruders sought any plausible occasion to accuse Paul of misconduct to ruin his reputation and to discredit his ministry.
To be regarded just as we are - the false apostles didn’t just consider themselves Paul’s equal, they considered themselves his superior in all things related to the ministry.
Let’s go to verses 13-15.
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.
A preacher in God’s service must respond to personal attacks that’s a given! But Paul had bigger fish to fry, as they say today. Defending the gospel required Paul’s immediate attention. There’s no doubt this is the chief reason he refused to concede an inch of ground to these Jewish intruders: For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. The language here is extremely harsh and intentionally so. These men were masquerading as apostles, as servants of righteousness, and attacking the very Person of Jesus Christ with their false doctrine.
How does Paul know they are false apostles? That’s simple; their methods reveal them to be deceitful workers. The word false in the Greek language is Pseudos (pronounced: psyoo’-dos), Noun, Neuter, Strong’s Greek #5579, meaning: a lie, an untruth. Although they pretended to be Christ’s delegates, i.e. an apostle (Apostello = “to send forth”) the fact is they were not.
The adjective deceitful (Dolios in the Greek language – dol’-ee-os), Strong’s Greek #1386, means: treacherous, deceitful, and fraudulent; advertising the bait and concealing the hook! I’m reminded of a used car salesman I encountered some time ago… I mentioned a minute ago that these false apostles had access to the Corinthian’s “money;” now we’re going to see what Paul meant by that.
These Jewish intruders from Jerusalem claimed apostolic authority and all the rights associated with the office. One of these is financial support. They practiced dishonesty in trying to “catch” the Corinthian Believers for their own deceitful purpose and to further their reputations. Therefore their misrepresentation of their missionary activity was deliberate and for impure motives. The openly claimed to be serving Christ, when in fact they served no one but themselves and at the Corinthian’s expense (11:20).
In this way they are like wolves in sheep’s clothing, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ (Matthew 7; Acts 20:29; 2 Peter 2:1-22; Jude 1:3:16). Their behavior doesn’t surprise Paul, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. This is an obvious biblical truth, but no one but Paul states it so clearly. Even as Satan appears as an angel of light, false apostles within the church may have the credentials, they may dress well, they may be good looking, and they may speak eloquently, adding a bit of truth here and there to their untruths. However Paul wants these Corinthian Believers (and us) to know it is foolish to rely on outward appearances alone (1 Samuel 16:7).
Jesus Christ identified Satan as the father of lies and yet his major deception against mankind is masquerading as truth (See Genesis 3). Evil always tries to counterfeit the good; this is why every plausible lie has some element of truth added to it. For example when the antichrist arrives on the scene in the future, mimicking good, seemingly having the answers to all of mankind’s problems, in actuality he comes masquerading as the counterfeit christ, evil incarnate, and in truth he proves once again he is mankind’s #1 problem (Daniel 9:27).
Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds (v15) – Paul uses the word righteousness often in his writings, but not in the sense he uses it here. Here it means, “goodness” or “integrity” as in Matthew 6:1a: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them…
Whose end will be according to their deeds – Paul may be trying to draw their attention to Proverbs 24:12 with this comment: If you say, “See, we did not know this,” Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not know render to man according to his work?
However, let us not overlook the fact it is also the basic truth of scripture in this dispensation, which Paul revealed to all Believers: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body; according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Let’s move on to verse 16.
2 Corinthians 11
16: Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, so that I also may boast a little.
Again I say – Paul refers to what he said in 2 Corinthians 11:1, boasting in oneself is foolish, but the current circumstances compel me to do so.
Let no one think me foolish – But don’t think me a fool for doing so. Despite what Paul’s many critics say he was not comfortable with personal boasting (2 Corinthians 1:17). Paul boasted because the false apostles forced him to use their methods against them in order to be heard, a little. Paul then adds a bit of sarcasm at the end of this verse.
17: What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting.
Remember Paul summed up Jesus’ life and attitude in 2 Corinthians 10:1, i.e. by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, but when it came to boasting or human comparisons, Paul freely admits there is no precedent in Jesus: I am not saying as the Lord would.
18: Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also.
The false apostles had attacked Paul and the gospel by comparing his heritage and spiritual giftedness with theirs (2 Corinthians 11:8). Paul was greatly distressed by the fact that this church had listened to them and had been swayed by their arguments, which were primarily untruths. Therefore he decided to use their own tactics against them for the sole purpose of restoring this church’s confidence in his leadership and in his gospel.
19: For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly.
I don’t believe you need me to point out the sarcasm in this verse… everything these false teachers accused Paul of the false apostles practiced themselves and the Believers in Corinth fell for their teachings, hook, line, and sinker.
Let’s not be too critical of the Corinthians, folks. Far too many churches today are repeating their mistakes and walking in their footsteps, gladly. Case in point: my wife recently received a phone call from a friend who lives in the Midwest. This person just left their church after arguing with the substitute pastor over some recently announced changes in their doctrine. She suggested he come in for counseling… He declined the invitation. He said he had his Bible to go by and that was good enough for him. He was certain there would be “no changes” made to it…
And church leaders wonder why people are leaving their churches in droves. Wake up America. Bottom line: these new “rules” are congregation driven, meaning the people are demanding that their church re-write or dismiss certain “tired, out-dated church doctrine. Essentially, these folks believe you can continue in your sin and force the church to accept both you and your sin. That goes for any sin.
Let’s not be afraid to call this what it is. The activity isn't new. It’s been going on for centuries. This is nothing more than an attack on the authority of God’s Word and a failure on behalf of the leaders of this church (and others) to stand for the truth. It’s Satan #1 weapon against God. This book clearly says we are to welcome the adulterer, the homosexual, the thief, etc. for we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). But are we to congratulate them for being a sinner and wish them well? No (Romans 1:32).
Let’s go to verse 20 where Paul uses five terms to describe how the false apostles were taking advantage of the saints in Corinth.
20: For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face.
For you tolerate (See 2 Corinthians 11:4) it if anyone enslaves you – the word enslave in the Greek language is Katadouloo (pronounced: kat-ad-oo-lo’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #2615, meaning: to bring into bondage. This word is only used here and in Galatians 2:4 where Paul refers to the Judaizers who sought to enslave the Galatian churches to the rules and regulations of the Mosaic Law or to become a Jew in the full sense of the word, in order to be saved. But here, the false apostle’s doctrine, i.e. the rules and rituals they preached at Corinth for salvation is uncertain. On this scripture is silent.
If anyone devours you - Katesthio in the Greek language (pronounced: kat-es-thee’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #2719, was commonly used of animals of prey, meaning to “eat up.” In using it, Paul means to say these false apostles set out to utterly devour, or eat up the Corinthians finances. I overheard my parents using the expression, “They intend to eat us out of house and home…” on far too many occasions while discussing family finances. I didn’t know who “they” were but I understood what my parent’s meant. Someone was trying to get at their money, leaving them little or nothing.
If anyone takes advantage of you (the church) – the word advantage in the Greek is Lambano, (pronounced: lam-ban’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #2983, and it means to catch; to take unaware through the use of alluring bait. Paul means to say the church is being swayed by untruths or tricked by the false apostles.
If anyone exalts himself – the Greek word for exalts is Epairo (pronounced: ep-ahee’-ro), Verb, Strong’s Greek #1869, meaning to hold or lift up. Paul’s saying these individuals had an inflated image of themselves and of their accomplishments. They didn’t need to seek praise from other’s; their boasting clearly demonstrated they were willing to do this themselves.
Hits you in the face – the Greek word for Hits is Dero (pronounced: der’-o) Verb, meaning to flay, flog, scourge. According to this book, it usually refers to a physical beating (Matthew 21:35, Mark 12:3; Luke 12:47; John 18:23; Acts 5:40, 16:37, 22:19). However, Paul probably meant it figuratively to denote insulting behavior or a domineering style of leadership.
Place your bookmark here and please remember to read ahead.
We’ll finish up chapter 11 next week.
(To be continued)
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