Speaking the Truth Lovingly2 Corinthians 11:1-15Theme: Courageous compassion.This week’s lessons teach us how to confront sin in a caring way. LessonWatch out, though, if somebody says, “God told me…,” and it is not based on Scripture. And above all if they say, “God has a special word for you in this age,” watch out, because even if that were true, you would have no way of knowing it to be true unless you tested it by the Word of God.
Of course, this is precisely what the Reformers always said: that when God speaks, he speaks through the Spirit and the Word operating in conjunction. You cannot understand the Bible apart from the Spirit. It is foolishness to you because it is spiritually discerned. Conversely, if you are depending upon some subjective movement of the Spirit, you have no basis on which to correct what is essentially a subjective impression. The two always go together. Paul said that these super apostles came to the Corinthians with that wrong kind of teaching. They claimed they had new revelation, different from what God was giving through the apostles. He pointed out that it was wrong, and, therefore, those speaking that way were false apostles and deceitful workmen.
Thirdly, Paul speaks of a different gospel. Even though he does not spell out exactly how it was different, we can suspect what it was. The false teachers were probably Gnostics. If they preached a different Jesus, it was probably a gnostic Jesus. In other words, there was no real incarnation; rather, the Spirit of Christ simply came upon the earthly Jesus and then left him again before the crucifixion.
So if they were talking about a different spirit, it was probably a gnostic spirit – that is, they were teaching that proclaimed salvation comes through knowledge rather than by what Jesus did. If they were speaking of a different gospel, it was probably a gospel divorced from Christ’s work. They may have said, as the legalizers did in Galatia, that it was possible to be saved by Christ as long as, in addition, one also kept all the Jewish laws. That is the same thing as salvation by works, something Paul strongly condemned.
It may also have been a gnostic kind of teaching that taught, “You are saved by what you know so it does not matter what you do,” as if you can belong to Christ and not be led by the Spirit of Christ. That is a false gospel. Paul was distressed because people like that had come preaching all those false truths. And that makes them false apostles – deceitful workmen masquerading as apostles of Christ. You may think that Paul’s judgment on those teachers does not sound very loving. But it was loving, because it was the truth spoken out of love for the benefit of those who were being deceived by it.
In 2 Corinthians 11:2 Paul wrote about their relationship with Christ and his own connection to that. He wrote, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” Here Paul was reminding the Corinthian believers that they were engaged to Jesus in the Semitic Old Testament where the engagement was the equivalent of the marriage. The marriage had not taken place yet. They were to look forward to the marriage Supper of the Lamb, just as we are. Yet they who had come to Christ in faith were already his.
Paul goes on to express concern that the Corinthians were being seduced away from their first husband: “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” Those words Paul uses are gentle. He does not say, “You adulterous church!” Rather, he points out the impending danger he fears for them.
When we think of the temptation of Eve by Satan, we realize that the danger Paul saw as confronting the church in Corinth also confronts us today. When Satan first came to Eve, he tempted her by casting doubt on the goodness, or the benevolence, of God. He said, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’ ” (Gen. 3:1). Satan knew perfectly well that God had only forbidden their eating of one tree. Yet he implied that if God was a good God he would not have denied them anything – even the fruit from one tree. That is the way Satan comes seducing Christians today.
What are some key words and phrases that will help you spot false theology?
What two things are inseparable?
What did the Gnostic spirit claim was true of salvation?
Why was Paul’s judgment on the false teachers really an example of speaking the truth in love?
PrayerAre you tempted to doubt God’s goodness in any area of your life? If so, ask God to show you his goodness in any areas of doubt.