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Paul and the False Apostles February 11, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 2 Corinthians 11:1-15.

Summary: Paul begins by stating that he knows that the Corinthians will allow him to engage in some self-vindication. Indeed, the Corinthians should bear with him, since he is jealous for them with a jealousy that God possesses, as he is the author of their marriage to Christ; he desires to present them to Christ as a glorious church at His second coming. Yet he fears that just as Satan seduced Eve, their minds might be corrupted and turned from their undivided devotion to Christ. The Corinthians should also bear with him since they bear with false teachers who

  • present someone other than Jesus as “the One” who can deliver them from sin
  • attempt to prove this by asserting that they have received a spirit other than the Holy Spirit.

In addition, the Corinthians should bear with Paul since he is on par with the chief apostles. Although he does not speak Greek as a native speaker, he possesses the Gospel; indeed, they are fully aware that he is a genuine apostle. He then asks if his opponents discredit his apostleship by focusing on his renunciation of the support that the Corinthians owed him – which was done for their good. In fact, he received his rightful stipend from the Macedonians so that he could minister to the Corinthians. When he was in Corinth, he was not torpid against anyone, as the Macedonians added to his income as a tentmaker; moreover, he is determined to continue this course of action. By the veracity of Christ in him, he declares that nobody in southern Greece will hinder his boasting in this regard. This does not stem from a lack of love for them; God knows his heart for them.

Paul then notes that he wants to prevent his opponents from being able to charge him with preaching the Gospel for profit; he wants them to join him in preaching without the desire for financial gain. This stems from the fact that his opponents are:

  • those who falsely claim to be apostles
  • workmen who use trickery
  • those who falsely claim to be servants of Christ.

This should be no surprise, as Satan presents himself as a bright and pure angel. Paul concludes by inferring that the false teachers – who actually promote Satan’s kingdom – will pretend to advocate God’s truth; yet God will judge their works.

Thoughts: In verse 5, we see that Paul knew that he was on par with the chief apostles. Hodge offers some helpful thoughts on this point:

In no one respect had he fallen short or was he left behind by the chief apostles; neither in gifts, nor in labors, nor in success had any of them been more highly favored, nor more clearly authenticated as the messengers of Christ…Therefore, the argument that the Reformers derived from this passage against the primacy of Peter is perfectly legitimate. Paul was Peter’s equal in every respect and so far from being under his authority that he not only refused to follow his example, but reproved him to his face (Galatians 2:11).

This raises the following questions concerning the nature of Paul’s relationship with the other apostles, especially Peter, James and John. Was Paul constantly reminded of the supposed supremacy of the other apostles, and if so, did he carry out his apostolic duties with a chip on his shoulder? How often did Paul see the other apostles in the course of his missionary travels? The Bible records some of Paul’s encounters with the other apostles, especially his above-mentioned conflict with Peter in Galatians 2; I am definitely eager to interview the apostles about their earthly interactions when I get to heaven.

In verse 9, we see that although Paul had difficulty supporting himself as a tentmaker, several believers from Macedonia came to Corinth to supply what he was lacking. We know from 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 that the Macedonian believers were impoverished, as they had suffered from the ravages of war for generations on end. Now I wonder if Paul wrote letters to the Macedonian churches that have been lost to the sands of time. It would be interesting to learn of the existence – and contents – of “The Epistle of Paul to the Macedonians.” Based on what we know of the Macedonian church, my conjecture is that this hypothetical letter would have been rather positive, as Paul would have praised them for their generosity in spite of their poverty. It is likely, though, that the Macedonian church would have been beset by sinfulness and temptations, so rebukes and corrections would probably have appeared in such a letter. It should be reiterated, though, that the Bible – as it stands – is a sufficient revelation of God; thus, this hypothetical letter would mainly be interesting from a historical standpoint.

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