Today: [2 Corinthians 11:] The Pedigree of an Apostle. In Corinth, the validity and authenticity of Paul’s calling are brought into question. He answers his detractors with a recitation of his apostolic credentials. What about your own life or the church you attend? Would your pastor? Would you accept an apostolic ministry if God sent one into your life? How would you know it as authentic? This chapter gives us some insight into this question.
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[2Co 11:1-15 KJV] 1 Would to God ye could bear with me a little in [my] folly: and indeed bear with me. 2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present [you as] a chaste virgin to Christ. 3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or [if] ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with [him]. 5 For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles. 6 But though [I be] rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things. 7 Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? 8 I robbed other churches, taking wages [of them], to do you service. 9 And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all [things] I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and [so] will I keep [myself]. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia. 11 Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth. 12 But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. 13 For such [are] false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore [it is] no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
In chapter 11 Paul passionately defends his calling and his love for the Corinthians. In his concern for those who have displaced the affection of the people for him, he declares that he is jealous over the people with godly jealousy. He speaks of espousing them to Christ in hopes that they would be in effect a “chaste virgin to the Lord.” What is this referring to? The Corinthians remember were very taken up with various ministries that had come in to do nothing other than take advantage of them. Paul sees the problem as the Corinthians looking to man for what they should be looking to the Lord for – which constitutes in Paul’s view spiritual adultery. Remember Paul’s gospel mentioned in Col. 1:27 was to declare “Christ in you” as the dependency of the believer – not Christ in another man or even in the infrastructure of the Christian church. Paul expresses great concern that the Corinthians had been beguiled (def. seduced) away from what he calls the “simplicity that is in Christ.”
The word “simplicity” in v. 3 is the same word Jesus used in Matt. 6:22-24:
[Mat 6:22-24 KJV] 22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great [is] that darkness! 24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other…
If you study that word closely, it means “the absence of distinction.” When Satan tempted Adam and Eve, the temptation was not just that they would become like God because they were already like God. The temptation was that they would be like God INDEPENDENT of God. How was this to happen? By listening to and obeying a voice other than God, specifically the serpent. What Paul considers spiritual seduction is listening to a voice from a minister or other influence that fosters a sense of dependency and need on something or someone other than Christ on the inside of you. This is what Paul calls in v. 4 “another Jesus” which is a very chilling prospect.
Paul goes on in v.5-12 in mock apology for not presenting himself with the flair and egotism of other so-called apostles. He surmises that he must have committed an offense in appearing base among them, but it was for the purpose that they might be exalted in Christ. He also repents of not accepting monetary support from them in the beginning because he now feels (v. 8) that this constitutes robbery of other churches who did support him while the Corinthians despite being an affluent people declined to open their purses in appreciation for his ministry. He admits of speaking very harshly to them to the point that some might have thought he didn’t love them to which he asks the question and answers it saying “God knows” that he loved them deeply but is acting in such a manner so as to cut off once and for all those who would defame him among them.
In v. 13 Paul calls out false apostles who claimed to be sent ones of God but were, in fact, deceitful workers – transforming themselves or fashioning themselves self-made apostles. This practice of self-invention Paul insists is a reflection of the character of these men who are following in the footsteps of Satan himself who makes himself to appear to be something he isn’t whose end shall be the same as these deceitful workers.
[2 Co 11:16-33 KJV]
16 I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. 17 That which I speak, I speak [it] not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. 18 Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. 19 For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye [yourselves] are wise. 20 For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour [you], if a man take [of you], if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. 21 I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. 22 Are they Hebrews? so [am] I. Are they Israelites? so [am] I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so [am] I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool ) I [am] more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty [stripes] save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 [In] journeyings often, [in] perils of waters, [in] perils of robbers, [in] perils by [mine own] countrymen, [in] perils by the heathen, [in] perils in the city, [in] perils in the wilderness, [in] perils in the sea, [in] perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? 30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. 31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. 32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: 33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.
Since the false apostles and deceitful workers among the Corinthians were trying to exclude Paul from among the people, Paul begins to recite his own apostolic pedigree in what he calls a “confidence of boasting.” Seeing that the Corinthians glory in the fleshly character of these men Paul in jest joins in with them seeing they suffer fools gladly, he likewise will play the fool. What does he indicate is the character of a foolish ministry? Those who bring the people into bondage, who speak harshly to them, reproaching them not as a father but as prating brutalizers claiming they are just “telling it like it is …”
In his mind “speaking as a fool” Paul asks if these ministers are of Christ, then he is more so. In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, beaten and left for dead more than once. Of the Jews (v. 24) Paul received 39 stripes – the most severe punishment short of death. He was stoned three times, shipwrecked, in many perils in his journeyings. He suffered from exhaustion and hunger. He continued to serve even though lacking adequate food and clothing and many things as well as the daily care and concern in his heart for all the churches he was a part in founding. What is the point Paul is making? If he is going to glory it will be in the toll the life he has chosen has taken on him because it reflects his love for the people and his commitment to Christ.
What about today? We have two extremes regarding apostolic ministry. The church either rejects the idea of apostles altogether, or you have men and women who present themselves as apostles without the characteristic of apostolic ministry as defined in the gospel. Many certainly may have apostolic tendencies, but at best they are baby apostles. They do not have a full testimony of apostolic power and track record, but they nonetheless expect apostolic deference from the people. Is all of this just an intellectual exercise? Remember the words of 1 Cor. 12:28:
[1Co 12:28 KJV] 28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
If we do not have that which God set first in the church, then the church is in deep trouble. As a whole, even evangelical leaders and ministers who are convinced they are on the cutting edge of what God is doing in the earth – yet choose to pan and marginalize what God says comes first. Pastors don’t come first. Children don’t come first. Souls do not come first.
Apostles come first. Then prophets, etc. This tells us where the miracles are – “after that” the verse says “miracles, gifts of healing, etc.” If the group or church you are a part of does not have a recognized unmistakable apostolic office connected with it then that is a church with a foundation other than the one that Christ laid. Paul made this entirely clear in Eph. 2:20:
[Eph 2:20 KJV] 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner [stone];
What can we learn from this verse? That the church’s connection to Christ and that of the individual believer is inclusive of apostles and prophets – the very ministry that even the allegedly most spiritual groups among us reject and set aside as not necessary. The question we might ask then is would you personally or your church be advantaged to have one such as the man portrayed in the Corinthian letters as part of your life? The answer to that is a measure regarding just how reflective your faith or that of your church or group is to the church that Jesus actually laid the foundation for 2000 years ago.
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