There was a happy ending, but there were 6-7 years of a rocky relationship between Paul and the Corinthian church. And much of time, Paul was not there. Either because of missions or because he wasn’t welcome. You can see how false apostles could easily turn the Corinthians against Paul. Not only does he not receive a salary from church, he is asking the church there to help meet the needs of brothers and sisters at another church, the church in Jerusalem. You can almost hear the attributing of false motives to Paul. Paul, that guy acts like he doesn’t want your money, but it’s all a ploy because he wants to steal a bigger percentage and use it for another “church” or for “missions.”
And Paul is not even man enough to show up himself. He sends Titus to collect the money. How do we know that this money is going to be used at Jerusalem or for missions. How do we know that Paul is not pocketing the money.
You could see these Judaizers picking out people from the congregation who were very steeped in their Jewish culture and who were not fully on board with Paul, the missionary to the Gentiles. Are we so sure God spoke to him? I mean, I wasn’t there. There were no witnesses. Why would God abandon his chosen people of Israel and bring a message of salvation to those who don’t deserve it? We need to remember the old covenant, Moses, the 10 commandments, Mt. Sinai, circumcision, the various feasts of the Old Testament. I’m not sure about this Paul guy.
We don’t even have an opportunity to get to know him. He’s never around. He says he loves us, but how can you love someone when you’re never around. Paul says he is delayed because of “suffering” or “missions” but there is no Iphone app or GPS to track him so who knows? You see how things could spiral out of control rather quickly when Paul is not there to defend himself. Into this mess, Paul writes 2 Corinthians.
I’ve organized the next 8 sermons through 2 Corinthians under the heading: “Eight Important Teachings for Christian Life.” For the pastor, these are 8 key things that need to be preached. For the congregation, these are 8 things to keep in mind always. 8 important teachings for Christian life. Keep these 8 teachings in mind and you will be more discerning when it comes to false teachers, and with God’s help, you will be victorious over sin and be equipped to thrive spiritually. Those are some lofty goals. I pray that God in his grace would help us get there.
Teaching #1: Repentance and the Reality of Spiritual Battle
Teaching #2: New Covenant
Teaching #3: The Gospel of Christ
Teaching #4: Eternity
Teaching #5: The New Creation and the Ministry of Reconciliation
Teaching #6: The Kingdom and Proper Stewardship
Teaching #7: Suffering and Grace
Teaching #8: Maturity and Unity
In this Pastoral Epistle par excellence, Paul writes about these 8 teachings. Remember the overarching goal. 2 Cor 11–Paul’s pastoral heart for the Corinthian is to present every believer entrusted under his care to Christ as a pure virgin. Loving Jesus and none other. Having no besetting sins. Having no competing pursuits. Having no idols. Having only a pure, unadulterated love for Jesus. The local church and the institution of marriage are two tools in God’s hands to chip away the jagged edges of our character and break the bonds of sin so that we will be the kind of pure, spotless bride that Jesus expects.
Before we get into Teaching #1–Repentance and the Reality of Spiritual Battle–we need to define what an apostle and who qualifies to be an apostle? And related to this, are there modern day apostles and what is our role today as pastors and teachers and ministers?
Some use the word “apostle” in a broad sense today to mean someone with an apostolic giftedness. Paul never wanted to preach Christ where Christ had already been preached. He never want to build up a pre-existing ministry. He wanted to go where there was no ministry. He wanted to start fresh. So modern day church planters, you could argue, have to have an apostolic gifting. To start new works. To create something out of nothing. To raise homegrown leaders and send them out.
I qualify as a church planter, but please, don’t ever call me Apostle Ray. Why? Because I don’t believe there are apostles today like there was an Apostle Paul or an Apostle Peter. These were special, hand picked eyewitnesses of Jesus while he ministered on earth. Apostle Paul was an exception in the sense that he wasn’t one of the 12 disciples, but Christ appeared to him in a vision on the road to Damascus. I believe Paul was the last apostle. He and the rest of the New Testament apostles received the full revelation–the gospel of Jesus, which begins the New Testament, and it ends with Apostle John’s final vision in Revelation about the Second Coming of Jesus and the end of the world.
That’s it. There is no more new revelation. God still speaks today. God still gives dreams and visions and prophecies to his people today. But, there will be nothing new. Everything that originates from God will point back to something in Scripture.
The authority comes from the Word of God. Therefore, my role, every Christian leader’s role is to preach what is in this book. It’s not my stories, not my testimonies, not my personality which gives me authority. My authority comes from God as I faithfully preach what is in the Word of God. Paul is unique in that his very personal letter to the Corinthian church became the authoritative Word of God. If you take even the most spiritual giant of our generation and suppose he writes a very powerful letter to a Christian friend or he might write a commentary about some spiritual truth, but no matter how spiritual they are, not a single word from their mouth or their pen will ever rise to the level of Scripture. Nothing they can ever say would ever become authoritative for all believers for all generations. There have been no apostles since the close of the canon in Scripture. Therefore, my role as a preacher is simple. I just need to be faithful to the text.
You should never hear a teaching from someone that is special revelation, or something unique to their exclusive group. If God is one and there is one body, then what I say should have been said by countless other faithful preachers of the Word today and throughout the centuries. Because we have the same God and we have the same Word of God. Nothing has changed for a couple of millenium.
Be careful of those who claim to be apostles or claim to have special revelation from God and you cannot trace what their saying back to the Word of God.
The false apostles had spread all kinds of mistrust against Paul. Trust is such a fragile thing. Trust takes years to build, but it can crumble in an instant. Once mistrust enters, it doesn’t matter how godly or anointed a person is, you won’t be hear a thing he or she says. As soon as a tiny trace of mistrust enters, the walls up go, the defenses are up, your guards is up and you don’t hear 99 good things, and instead, you get stuck on the 1 thing that in your head that confirms why you mistrust in the first place.
So Paul has to defend his apostleship over and against the opposition and the mistrust that is being spread by false apostles that had infiltrated Corinth. Now that you see the context, it makes sense why Paul has to spend so much of this letter defending himself as an apostle commended and approved by God. 2 Cor 1:1 – the first verse begins,
2 Cor 1
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will…
Corinthians, you might doubt me, but let me remind you, I am an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. In other chapters like ch 10, Paul makes the point, anyone can commend himself. Anyone can commend himself when comparing with another person. Anyone can show a letter of recommendation from a respected leader, but these are not evidence that one is approved by God.
Read 1 Cor 3:1-3.
2 Cor 3
1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, recognized and read by everyone. 3 It is clear that you are Christ’s letter, produced by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God—not on stone tablets but on tablets that are hearts of flesh.
The fact that the Corinthians were born again spiritually through Paul’s ministry is proof #1 that Paul is the real deal. Not only that, 2 Cor 6:4-10–
2 Cor 6
4 But as God’s ministers, we commend ourselves in everything: by great endurance, by afflictions, by hardship, by difficulties, 5 by beatings, by imprisonments, by riots, by labors, by sleepless nights, by times of hunger, 6 by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, 7 by the message of truth, by the power of God; through weapons of righteousness on the right hand and the left, 8 through glory and dishonor, through slander and good report; as deceivers yet true; 9 as unknown yet recognized; as dying and look—we live; as being disciplined yet not killed; 10 as grieving yet always rejoicing; as poor yet enriching many; as having nothing yet possessing everything.
Beside the genuine conversions, Paul points to his suffering. He uses the same logic in 2 Cor 11:16-29.
2 Cor 11
16 I repeat: No one should consider me a fool. But if you do, at least accept me as a fool, so I too may boast a little. 17 What I say in this matter of boasting, I don’t speak as the Lord would, but foolishly. 18 Since many boast in an unspiritual way, I will also boast. 19 For you, being so wise, gladly put up with fools! 20 In fact, you put up with it if someone enslaves you, if someone devours you, if someone captures you, if someone dominates you, or if someone hits you in the face. 21 I say this to our shame: We have been weak. But in whatever anyone dares to boast—I am talking foolishly—I also dare: 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 servants of Christ? I’m talking like a madman—I’m a better one: with far more labors, many more imprisonments, far worse beatings, near death many times. 24 Five times I received 39 lashes from Jews. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods by the Romans. Once I was stoned by my enemies. Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day in the open sea. 26 On frequent journeys, I faced dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the open country, dangers on the sea, and dangers among false brothers; 27 labor and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and lacking clothing. 28 Not to mention other things, there is the daily pressure on me: my care for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?
His point is, why would anyone endure such suffering unless he or she were living for the approval of God. You would not suffer if you want approval from men. False apostles don’t want to suffer. In fact, they make people under them suffer. They enslave, they devour, they capture, they dominate, I guess in Corinth, they even hit people in the face. There is freedom in Christ. People under a godly leader should experience freedom. Not bondage. We are saved in order to be freed from sin. Not to be bound by legalistic rules and regulations. Some churches make you want to be unborn again, if that were possible. Because the yoke and burden of religious is often worse than godless, secular hedonism.