The Eighth in a Series of Sermons on Select Passages from 2 Corinthians
It is not a matter of if, but when. False teachers will come. They have already come. It was evitable. If we know our Bibles, this should be no surprise to us that this happens. The introduction of false doctrine is just one of the areas where Satan seeks to undermine the cause of Christ. Because we tend to idealize the apostolic era, it is hard for us to believe that false teachers established a significant foothold in a church recently established through the efforts of an apostle, who most of the members of this church knew personally, who had taught them the truths of the Christian faith, and who remained in frequent contact with them through visits, letters, and various emissaries. But it actually happened in Corinth and we can read about it in the New Testament. Paul minces no words whatsoever when he explains to the Corinthians why such a thing has happened. His words to the Corinthians should serve as a warning to us about the inevitability of false apostles and false gospels in our midst.
As we continue our series on select passages in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, we come to chapters 10-11 and Paul’s discussion of those men undermining his ministry and the truth of the gospel, men whom Paul identifies as false apostles, or even as “super-apostles.” There is a long history behind Paul’s comments recorded in these chapters, and we have spent a fair bit of time discussing Paul’s relationship to the church in Corinth throughout our study of 1 and 2 Corinthians.
The issues can be summarized as follows. Most people in the Corinthian church were new Christians in a city dominated by paganism. After helping to establish the church in Corinth and spending some significant time in their midst, Paul left the area to fulfill his missionary calling. He was in Ephesus (across the Aegean Sea) when he got word from Chloe’s family about all the troubles which arose in the Corinthian church after he left. Paul had also received a letter from the Corinthians asking him a number of questions about things he had taught them. Paul’s response is the letter we know as First Corinthians. But even with precise instructions from an apostle in hand, things in Corinth went from bad to worse.
So, Paul sent Timothy to Corinth. But Timothy brought back to Paul news about a serious issue which had arisen in the church after Paul’s departure. A group of men claiming to have apostolic authority were now openly challenging Paul’s authority in the church. They complained about Paul’s preaching–he was boring and not skilled in the flowery Greek rhetorical style which first-century audiences loved so much. Furthermore, these men were arguing that Paul was weak and unimpressive in person–the result of the hardship of travel, and the effects on his body from the beatings and persecutions Paul had endured on a number of occasions. So, Paul made what he describes as a “difficult journey” to Corinth, and then followed up by sending what is known as the “harsh letter”–a letter which is now lost to us. All this was done to respond to the issues arising in the Corinthian church after Paul’s departure.
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