Speaking the Truth Lovingly2 Corinthians 11:1-15Theme: Courageous compassion.This week’s lessons teach us how to confront sin in a caring way. LessonThe title of this week’s lessons, “Speaking the Truth Lovingly,” actually comes from Ephesians 4:15, where Paul writes about speaking the truth in love as part of building up the church. And yet, it is an appropriate title for 2 Corinthians 11:1-15 because here we have an example of Paul actually doing it himself.We think that speaking the truth in love means telling it as it is, hitting the person between the eyes. When the person receives truth in that way, the proper response is supposed to be, “Well, thanks, I needed that.” This matter of telling the truth lovingly is not easy. On the one hand, we tend to be cruel. We see ourselves as reformers or prophets. We want to tell other people what they are doing wrong. And we do. But, we do it in a harsh way, a way that hurts and leaves wounds. Or on the other hand, we are so conscious of the harm we can do that we say nothing. We pull back, and say, “It doesn’t really matter. I will let it go,” and we fail to be the helpful influence we should be with our brothers and sisters.
The Apostle Paul avoids both of those extremes. Here in this chapter, we have an illustration of how he goes about it. He was confronted with a very bad situation in the church. There were false prophets who were leading the Christians away from the Lord and away from righteousness. They had already gotten into all kinds of trouble, as we saw in our study of 1 Corinthians. But the battle was not over yet, and Paul wanted to reclaim them. He wanted to speak the truth and he wanted to expose these false leaders for what they really were. And yet as we read this, we sense here, and elsewhere in this letter, the great sensitivity with which he goes about it. In these verses, there are three parties described. There are the Christians at Corinth, there are the false apostles, and there is Paul himself, and as he speaks about all three, he speaks truth lovingly.
First of all, there are the false prophets. Paul calls them “super apostles.” The term is put in quotes in our Bibles, and rightly so, because that is probably what they were saying about themselves. It is not that Paul thought they were super apostles or even apostles. Later on, near the end, he calls them “false apostles.” They were saying they were super apostles, so Paul throws the word back and begins to talk about who they actually are and what they are teaching.Notice how he exposes it in verse 4: “For if someone comes to you” – he is doing it in the abstract, as if it were a hypothetical case. But of course it is not; it is a very real case – “and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.” These teachers who have come to Corinth were preaching a different Jesus, and a different spirit, and a different gospel. This is a very serious matter. It is worth looking at that because it is precisely the situation we have in the church today.
When faced with the need to confront, what are the two wrong approaches to avoid?
What were the false apostles doing that upset Paul?
Further StudyHow do you offer correction to the people in your life? Read the following Proverbs to get a biblical perspective on how to approach them: Proverbs 10:11, 32; 11:12; 12:16, 18-19; 13:3, 14, 18; 15:1, 32; 16:13, 21, 24; 24:28-29; 25:9-12, 15; 27:5-6; 29:20.