How can we tell if someone is not preaching the true gospel?
The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the CORINTHIANS – Chapter 11
1 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me!
2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
3 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. – 2 Corinthians 11:1-3
Back to the thought life. Will we be led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Christ. That is a powerful thought. Satan wants to lead us away from our Heavenly Father. He wants us to have devotion to anything but God. How people give their lives to their work, their sports club, their desires but we are called to a pure and sincere devotion to Christ. As we see in God’s ideal for a marriage: an exclusive relationship, so Christ wants our exclusive devotion not because He needs it but because He knows that is what is best for us and that is what we were created for, a relationship with Him. Our thought life is such a battlefield. We are so easily distracted, while we pray, while we read the bible, while we listen to a message, distractions com in so easily. We can spend most of a day without even thinking about God. It is so easy to become busy in our mind that the Word of God becomes swamped with unprofitable thoughts. David said:
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. – Psalm 1:1-2
To meditate day and night plants us by the river of life. But out of our untaimed heart……
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. – Matthew 15:19
But praise God He has given us a new heart:
19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,
20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. – Ezekiel 11:19-20
Excellent advice from Joshua:
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. – Joshua 1:8
4 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.
5 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. – 2 Corinthians 11:4-6
The Corinthian church lacked discernment. They listened to any preacher who came along despite what they said. At that time orators, people able to give “polished” speeches, were admired (like our politicians today) but Paul did not use that technique. Some preached another gospel, some appeared to be “super-apostles”. The Corinthians were impressed by credentials. But they despised Paul because of his voice and his appearance. But that was the same for Jesus. He was called as demon possessed and a drunkard (Luke 11:15, Luke 11:34). As Isaiah puts it:
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. – Isaiah 53:2-3
Jesus had no beauty that we should desire him. We need spiritual discernment. We should not judge by outward appearances but by faith:
for we walk by faith, not by sight. – 2 Corinthians 5:7
What is of the enemy and what is of God? What is of the flesh and what is of the Spirit? What is of the world and what is of the Kingdom of Heaven? The word of God gives us discernment. As we considered in the last section – meditating on it day and night. Spiritual knowledge is gained through meditating on the word of God. Wisdom is precious:
For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; – Proverbs 2:6
Let’s take to heart the words of Solomon:
7 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?
8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you.
9 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. – 2 Corinthians 11:7-9
Paul is explaining that he did not take any wages from the church at Corinth. Other churches were supporting him. Even when he had a need the church at Macedonia met the need. As we considered before that Corinth was a rich town. Built on the sea trade they were a well off society. And as so often is the case some were a not as generous as they could be. Paul suggests that he “robbed” other churches which seems a bit of an exaggeration. But we know that teachers at that time used sarcasm and hyperbole to make their point stand out. The cultural expectation was that a good speaker would receive a payment, a reward, for their services and a person who did not receive wages was a poor, unappreciated speaker. Paul was not looking for reward. Paul had learned to be content:
11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:11-13.
Our church is blessed, as churches in the US support people who work with us. We benefit from others generosity. We should not be a burden to people. As we pour out our lives as a living sacrifice Christ will supply all our needs.
19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. – Philippians 4:19-20
So that all will be done to His glory.
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! – 2 Corinthians 11:10-11
Paul was a man of love. He knew the love of God and was captivated by it, controlled by the love of God:
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; – 2 Corinthians 5:14
The truth of Christ was in Paul and compelled him to love with out expecting reward. He declares his love for the church at Corinth. Paul wanted the church to grow in love knowledge and discernment so that they would become mature in Christ and be able to stand against the false teachings of Satan brought to them in the disguise of “super apostles” who had “secret knowledge” to impart. The cult of Gnosticism was very prevalent in Greek society where people would advance in philosophical thinking and spirituality by gaining secret knowledge. Paul was preaching openly and did not bring knowledge that would make people superior. No, he preached Christ crucified and the need to crucify the flesh.
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. – Galatians 5:24
He did not boast in the flesh but in the risen Christ:
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. – Galatians 6:14
This is our relationship with the words – we are in it but not of it:
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. – John 15:19
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. – 2 Corinthians 11:12-15
False apostles, deceitful workmen, apostles of Christ, false prophets, angels of light, servants of righteousness – what a confusing world. It is back to the issue of discernment. Being led by the Spirit of wisdom into all truth. Who do you believe. Well in simplicity – Christ. He is the only one we can believe in. He is the truth:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6
and no one can get to the Father except through Jesus. He is our advocate, our redeemer, the one and only who is seated at the right hand of the Father, the one who has saved us and is ever making intercession for us:
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. – Hebrews 7:25
What ever false prophets or angels of light have to say nothing can compare to the love that we find in Christ Jesus, who gave up everything, humbled himself to become a man and showed us just how much the Father, Son and Holy Spirit really love us.
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 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! – 2 Corinthians 11:16-19
Oh Paul – they call you foolish, you agree, and are pleased to be called a fool for Christ sake:
We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. – 1 Corinthians 4:10
In the first of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians in the Bible Paul is sarcastic to the Corinthian church calling them “strong”, here he is sarcastic again calling them “wise” yet they were neither strong nor wise. They lacked discernment and godly wisdom. They entertained “fools”. The NLT puts it well:
After all, you think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools! – 2 Corinthians 11:19 (NLT)
The Greek word used here for fool is aphrōn meaning without reason or intelligence. When Jesus said:
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. – Matthew 5:22
the word translated fool is mōros meaning dull, stupid, absurd and is used for the man building on sand, the foolish virgins and the foolish plans of God that are wiser than the wisest human plans. Paul berates then for not using reason and their intelligence that’s a God given gift to protect them, if they would only use it to meditate on the word of God day and night. Wise people do not listen to fools.
Paul will go on to list experiences he had that underline his apostleship. He is not boasting in the flesh but boasting in what the Lord has done through him as we will see over the next couple of sections.
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. – 2 Corinthians 11:20-21
It is quite possible they the “super apostles” were preaching a message of legalism. Paul says that the church put up with being made slaves or being abused. Is that spiritual? Jesus did say turn the other cheek:
But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. – Matthew 5:39
but the context Jesus was speaking about was showing mercy and compassion rather than revenge. In the Corinthian’s case they were being forced by a law or by regulation, which brings death. But Paul taught that walking in the Spirit brings life. Paul then says sarcastically that he is to “weak” to abuse others so it is true he is guilty as charged. He does not preach an authoritarian message of obedience to legalistic regulations. He preaches Christ crucified, the wisdom and power of God:
23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:23-24
To many that will appear weak but that is ok. God revealed His power through the weakness and humility of His Son.
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. – 2 Corinthians 12:10
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, in cold and exposure. – 2 Corinthians 11:22-27
Well here it is – the list of suffering Paul experienced for the sake of the gospel of Christ. There is no doubt that Paul identified with the cross:
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. – Matthew 16:24
And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. – Matthew 10:38
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. – 1 Corinthians 1:17
Paul was determined to take up his cross daily. Paul was a minister in the true sense of the word which means a servant. He is believed to have traveled more that any other person of his time to take the gospel to the world. Although Acts is a great historical record it is not a complete record. There are 18 journeys of Paul recorded, yet only one of the three shipwrecks mentioned here is recorded in Acts. However the significance of that wreck was the evangelising of Malta. Earlier we considered that Paul could have been feeling quite down when he wrote this letter. This list evidences how much he experienced for the sake of the gospel and yet he is dealing with a church that is rich, that listened to false teachers, that lacks discernment and wisdom and mistrusts the very person who “fathered” the church. Only natural to feel grieved in his spirit even though he knows the joy of the Lord as his strength. Paul knew that the power of the gospel was in the cross of Jesus Christ. Without the power of the cross and the resurrection there would be no salvation, no hope, no redemption, no eternal destiny. The “super apostles” were preaching another gospel and this would have made Paul angry and frustrated. This was Paul’s response:
7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. – Galatians 1:7-8
Accursed means to have no chance of redemption, to be doomed to destruction. That is one heavy curse. But Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”- – Galatians 3:13
He took our punishment. He became cursed that we might be freed from the curse. He loved us so much, and love never fails.
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?
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. – 2 Corinthians 11:28-33
And on top of all those trials and tribulations Paul had the daily concern of being the overseer of the churches he had planted. What a large flock to pastor. He was concerned for the weak because if they were weak Paul was also made weak. If one part of the body hurts the whole body is affected. If one person was made to fall Paul had a godly jealousy to help them be restored. The life of hardship and stress he lives as a whole was his infirmity. But he counted it all joy to suffer for the sake of Christ. As James said:
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4
Paul was steadfast. He stood against the evil one. He stood his ground for Christ. He was not lying, he knew how to be abased and how to abound. He was helped to escape when being chased and many had witnessed the life he led. He was not making up His credentials. Next he is going to tell of another experience that sustained him through his trials.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers