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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 HBS and thank you, one and all, for being here today.
We finished our study of 2 Corinthians 10 last week where Paul Describes Himself.
This week we begin our study of chapter 11 where Paul Defends His Apostleship.
As we continue studying chapters 10-13 we’re going to realize this section of 2 Corinthians is entirely different from the previous portion of the letter because Paul is defending himself and his apostleship against the attacks from some of the Believers in Corinth and the false apostles from Jerusalem. Paul goes on the offensive because the Jewish intruders were discrediting the gospel by preaching another Jesus (11:3-4).
Who’s Really Behind All These Attacks Against Paul in Corinth?
When we become ill to the point of being bedridden, we’re unable to see the virus at work within us causing the problem. However we know the road to recovery begins by taking the necessary measures to overcome it, only then will our bodies experience wellness. In like manner, the Believer’s in Corinth weren’t able to see the evil force causing the problems within their church. That’s because, the greatest trick Satan ever played on mankind was getting them to believe he does not exist. Consequently, these attacks against Paul and his ministry was actually Satan attempting to gain a victory in Corinth. He meant to knock Paul down, and then out of the spiritual battle to win souls for God, and to halt the expansion of Christ’s one, church. He employs one tried and true practice for doing this. He denies the Word of Truth or the authority of scripture, always. (Genesis 3:1-7; 2 Corinthians 2:11, 11:12-14; 1Timothy 4:1-3)
Do we see this happening today? That would be Yes! Today the Bible remains a bestseller, yet it remains the most un-read book of all time! More and more we’re finding Christians in this nation agreeing the Bible is behind the times; it’s out-of-step with the modern family’s agenda, meaning: they have issues with it, so they’re going their own way and church leaders are helping them (Matthew 7:13-14; 2 Timothy 4:1-4).
Please open your Bible at 2 Corinthians 11. We’re going to start with verses 1-6.
2 Corinthians 11
I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things (v1-6).
I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness - in last week’s lesson, Paul made it clear to his antagonists physical comparisons are foolish. Perhaps this is why this comment is here: bear with me in a little foolishness; a sarcastic lampoon, in the Sophist’s rhetorical style of that day. For the good of the gospel and this church Paul had to defend himself. Boasting wasn’t Paul’s forte; he would prefer not to go there, as this verse and others affirm (11:17 – 11:21).
But indeed you are bearing with (hearing) me – Paul gives this church three reasons why they should listen to him in 2 Corinthians 11:2, 4, 5.
For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; – here, in subtle fashion, Paul introduces us to two types of jealousy. There’s sinful jealousy, a.k.a. the green-eyed monster we all become familiar with as children while playing a game of dodge ball or tag in our backyard or while sitting around a table playing a board game such as Monopoly, Scrabble, or Yahtzee with family and friends. Any one of these may have started out as a “friendly game,” but in our humanness jealousy becomes the issue that spoils the activity, causing emotions to surface and tempers to flare, if we’re being honest with one another. When you reached puberty and started to date, you soon learned that jealousy refuses to tolerate a rival and it’s the frequent cause of a broken heart. Husbands and wives recognize jealousy is the cause of many shattered dreams and broken marriages.
The other type of jealousy which Paul speaks of here is a godly jealousy. In a nutshell, this means God is jealous for those whom He loves and takes positive steps to help them (John 3:16; Romans 8:28-31). In this instance, Paul’s saying he shared God’s jealousy for other Believers (Philippians 1:6-8).
When the Corinthians began to “fall for” the subtle perversion of the gospel being propagated by Satan’s servants who had infiltrated their church, Paul wrote: “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin (v11:2).
If you’ve been with us for awhile, then you’re aware this book teaches us and we have established the fact that God’s one church is the Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18, 24) and that Believers become members of His body through baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). How is it most of Christendom teaches the Church is the bride of Christ? The above passage is one of the verses they use to support this argument. The other passage is (Ephesians 5:22-23).
Read out of context, verse 11:2 may appear to support such an idea, but the verses (11:3-6) that follow correct that wandering belief. Paul instructs the Corinthians to remain faithful to Christ and to his gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Paul had to defend his gospel constantly from both unbelievers and Believers. Paul admits he wasn’t the best speaker on the circuit. But in terms of knowledge, he was far ahead of anyone else; he was God’s apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13). Paul’s comment: “present you as a pure virgin” was to illustrate his desire for holy living for these Believers, not to teach the Church at Corinth they are Christ’s bride – any more than Paul taught that he was their mother (See Galatians 4:19).
According to the O.T. Wife and bride are terms and titles that belong to Israel not the Church. Our title is “the Body of Christ.” Let’s be sure we are “rightly dividing” this book and then remember as the Body of Christ, we are of the Bridegroom, not the bride. If you cannot tell the Bridegroom from the bride at a marriage, it is going to be a confusing wedding ceremony. But please note God is not the author of confusion (Corinthians 14:33). He wants us to know who we are in Christ Jesus, where we fit in His plan, and what promises belong to us.
Let’s move on to verse 3.
2 Corinthians 11
3: But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness - here Paul takes these Believers back to the account of the woman’s temptation in Genesis 3 (1 Timothy 2:14). Satan deceitfully led her away from the LORD God in cunningly devised steps which ultimately brought her to the point of self-assertiveness and independence from God, which brings our Apostle Paul to state:
your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ – Paul’s still alluding to the woman’s fall from grace in Genesis 3 and he means to say it’s possible for Believers to be deceived, manipulated, and ultimately defeated by the forces of evil (1 Corinthians 15:33). Bottom line: The saints in Corinth didn’t trust Paul’s apostolic authority evidenced by the fact they thought and acted in worldly ways – not having the mind of Christ.
They didn’t appreciate or care for Paul’s appearance and simplicity in speech for instance. This was an important point because Paul’s apparent weakness was shared by Jesus Christ who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:6-8). So, you see, it wasn’t only the apostolic credentials of Paul that were under attack; the very nature of Christ was being attacked and we know who was behind this; don’t we.
For if (any) one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact in every way we have made this evident to you in all things.
In case you unaware, Paul made a similar statement elsewhere. Let’s all turn to Galatians 1:6-8: I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him (God) who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!
What’s Paul point? He’s saying these false apostles were not building on the foundation he laid of Jesus Christ dying for the sins of all mankind, being buried, and then rising from the grave on the third day according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 15:1-4). They came preaching a different gospel; they came preaching another Jesus.
This book does not give us information about this different gospel, i.e. its content, but it doesn’t really matter what their message was. All that matters is these false apostles preached a false gospel to God’s people, which they received openly (v4)!
Verse 4 is one of the most scrutinized verses in chapters 10-13 largely due to Paul’s identifying the Corinthian intruders and their false teaching. After close examination though, there are few clues as to what “another Jesus” or a “different gospel” really mean. Therefore, it’s difficult to say for sure what Paul meant by these terms. What we can take away from this is these false apostles were not disagreeing over some minor doctrinal matter, but over the person and work of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11).
After reading the remainder of this letter, it becomes pretty clear these false apostles were the Judaizers, as in the book of Galatians, who came to Corinth claiming the support of the Jerusalem church, and carrying letters of reference from the same. I say this because of Paul’s remark in 11:22: Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Paul asserts time and time again in this letter he possessed the proper credentials as God’s apostle, but he didn’t have one letter of recommendation from Jerusalem and this was one of the problems he faced.
Let’s go to verse 5.
2 Corinthians 11
5: For I consider (think) myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles.
As I always point out to the group, it’s just as important to know what this book does not say as it is to know what this book says. Too many people are quick to call Paul a false apostle and a braggart. The reason for this should be rather obvious; discredit Paul and you discredit his gospel (Romans 2:16) – the only gospel in effect that saves people today. Can you guess who is behind this activity? Let’s all say it together… Satan! The same tactic he used in the Garden of Eden and in Corinth is being used today – Lies/deception. I find it remarkable that mankind hasn’t learned a lesson yet.
However, in verse 5, Paul isn’t saying he’s superior to these other apostles, as some people would have you believe, he merely said, “I don’t believe I’m inferior to them.” If you’re paying attention, it was the false apostles who considered themselves to be “super-apostles,” i.e. eminent, as compared to Paul. No one but Paul uses this sarcastic term in the N.T. We know he’s referring to these intruders because later in this letter he refers to these folks as deceitful workers (11:13) and servants of Satan (11:15).
In verses 6-12, Paul deals with two specific areas of supposed weakness that his rivals chose to attack: his speaking ability and his lack of financial support.
But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things – Paul freely admits his public speaking skills were deficient, after all he wasn’t a professionally trained speaker, and he certainly wasn’t Apollos, a gifted speaker (Acts 18:24). But he followed that comment up with this statement: “Yet I am not so in knowledge,” meaning he is not ignorant but skilled in the knowledge of the Church Age Doctrines he teaches. Put another way, Paul knows what he’s talking about because he received it, first-hand from the Lord and not from men (Galatians 1:15-20), whereas his opposition does not.
In fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things – Paul’s saying you know all there is to know about me; I’ve hidden nothing from you. The thought Paul is expressing to these folks is this, “You’ve had ample opportunity to become acquainted with my manner of speech and my knowledge. Must we dwell on this subject?”
From 1 Corinthians 2:1a, it is clear the Greeks placed a great deal of importance on an individual’s oratorical skill. In this respect they are not much different than many church-goers today who place too much emphasis on the entertainment aspect of the church service and this includes the sermon. Paul wasn’t trying to please people or meet people’s standards; he was concerned with faithfully preaching the gospel in order to save some. Therefore, his knowledge more than compensated for any perceived lack of speaking skill (v6). The word knowledge means those truths associated with proclaiming the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:17), which is often missing in many church services today.
Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge? I robbed other churches by taking wages from them to serve you.
The word Paul used for sin in the Greek language is Hamartia (pronounced: ham-ar-tee’-ah), Noun, Feminine, Strong’s Greek #266, meaning: missing the mark, a fault, failure. He uses it in a non-moral sense of “did I make a mistake or misjudgment?”
This is another one of Paul’s questions to the Corinthians which expects a “No” answer. Today, the expected answer might very well be the proverbial “Duh.” This is also another example of Paul’s sarcasm and it’s related to the ongoing controversy of his not accepting financial support from this church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 9:3-18).
The exaltation of the Corinthians was made possible through Paul’s own lowering or humbling of himself. When he first arrived in Corinth, just prior to the Isthmian games (Acts 18:2-3), he went to work as a tentmaker to support himself so he could effectively preach Christ crucified, buried, and raised from the dead in the synagogue. He did not ask for or accept funds from the Corinthians. This was not unusual for Paul; he never accepted financial support from the churches he currently ministered to.
The idea that Paul lowered himself by working with his hands was not his own. It was the suggestion of his critics at Corinth. The majority of Greek society, especially the social elite, frowned on the idea of an educated man performing manual labor; they considered it undignified. In our society today the social differences between blue-collar laborers and white-collar workers reflects the same prejudice.
At some point he did receive funds from the Macedonian churches and he was able to stop building tents and give his full attention to evangelism (Acts 18:5). His only reason for accepting these funds he said is so he could serve the Corinthians. In verse 8 Paul said: I robbed other churches by taking wages from them to serve you. Paul does not mean he took money from the churches of Macedonia, especially at Philippi (Philemon 4:15-16), which seems to have contributed liberally to Paul’s ministry, illegally or by force as the word would normally suggest. Here Paul means to say he accepted their money but gave them nothing in return for it, “the laborer was worthy of his hire” (1 Corinthians 9:7-14). In Paul’s opinion, he did not follow this rule while serving the Corinthians.
Let’s go to verse 9:
2 Corinthians 11
9: and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; 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.
What’s Paul saying in verse 9? I underlined a couple of phrases that should get the discussion started in the right direction, and I’ll start with an illustration. Anyone who goes to work understands the burdens and the difficulties involved in attempting to make “ends meet.” Paul was a craftsman (tentmaker) and the life of a laborer working from sun up to sun down was difficult, even if you had an established business, i.e. people trusted you and your work. However, Paul traveled a lot. When he arrived in a city and set up his business, no one knew him or his work. Paul had to compete with others who were better off in that they were well known and had established a clientele.
I would think Paul previous comment: giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, such going hungry (v6:4-5) begins to make sense, especially when you consider what he said in verse 9: and when I was present with you (in Corinth) and was in need… Paul clearly was in need but he was determined not to be a burden to the Corinthians. 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.
He was so adamant about this policy of offering the gospel to both Jew and Greek at no cost that it took the form of an oath in verse 10: As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia.
Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! There isn’t any sarcasm expressed here only a true expression of genuine love from this man’s heart.
(To be continued)
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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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