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2 Corinthians 11:7-12; The Offense of Cultural Sensitivity

11/01_2 Corinthians 11:7-12; The Offense of Cultural Sensitivity; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201101_2cor11_7-12.mp3

2 Corinthians 11:1 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. 5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

The Corinthians are enamored by false apostles selling a false gospel which cannot save, empowered by a different spirit, inviting them to follow another Jesus, a Jesus that promises power, prestige, position, but doesn’t require his followers to follow him by taking up their cross.

The false apostles attempted to undermine Paul’s authority in Corinth by pointing to his ‘contemptible speech’ (10:10). Paul answers maybe he doesn’t measure up to their standards of rhetorical style, but his substance is sound, by an open statement of the truth he has made the simple good news message of Christ crucified known to them.

Here in verses 7-12 he answers another objection;

2 Corinthians 11:7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do.

Paul is being criticized for not accepting money from them. Imagine that! In collecting money for the saints in Jerusalem, they suspect him of stealing. But in refusing payment for serving them, they object that his teaching must not be worth anything, or he must not love them. They are attempting to put him in a lose-lose corner.

The Sin of Christ-Likeness

Paul answers with a question. Was it a sin for me to humble myself? Paul had already addressed these issues in 1 Corinthians 9. There he argued that it is the right of a minister of the gospel to make his living by preaching the gospel (1Cor.9:14). He had the right to receive financial support from them for his ministry to them, but he did not make use of that right.

Here he asks, was it sinful for me to humble myself and forego my right as a minister? He wanted to put no stumbling block in the way of the gospel (1Cor.9:12). The culture of Corinth estimated the worth of a teacher by how much they charged, which put the best teachers out of reach of the poor. And those who did support the teacher financially became patrons who expected the allegiance of the teacher in return. Paul would not sell out in this way and become obligated to a few wealthy patrons, and he refused to withhold the gospel from the poor. As he said in 1 Corinthians 9:19, while remaining ‘free from all, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win more of them.’

Paul humbled himself by not making use of his right to financial support as a minister. He humbled himself in order to lift them up. He humbled himself so that he would be free to proclaim the gospel of God freely to all. He humbled himself so that in a city with no gospel presence, a church could be established in the grace of God. He was willing to go without, so that they could receive the gift of eternal life. He was willing to sacrifice, to suffer, to work with his own hands, so that the gospel would be seen as all of grace, a costly gift freely given to those who can’t earn it and don’t deserve it.

Paul humbled himself because that’s what Jesus did. Jesus, having all the rights of being himself fully God,

Philippians 2:7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

They criticized Paul for not receiving payment from them. He asks, did I commit a sin by humbling myself? Is it a sin to follow Jesus? Was it a sin for Jesus to humble himself in order to save us? Jesus came ‘not to be served but to serve’ (Mk.10:45). Paul once again brings them back to the central message of this letter; that authentic ministry is ministry that follows in the footsteps of Jesus. Authentic ministry is cross-shaped ministry. He clearly exposes the false teachers for calling evil good and good evil. Is Christ-likeness a sin?

Plundering Churches

Paul goes on to confront them with the harsh truth.

2 Corinthians 11:8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.

If they didn’t know it before, he tells them now that he did accept support from other churches. In fact he calls it ‘plunder,’ stripping armor from the corpses of a defeated enemy. He uses graphic imagery to startle them with the costly realities of gospel ministry. Calvin saw this as ‘every thing that Paul took from the Churches that he had gained to Christ was, in a manner, the spoils of his victories, …what they contributed gratuitously was, in a manner, due by right of spiritual warfare.’ [Calvin, p.347]

Acts 18 tells us that he arrived alone in Corinth, and soon met Aquila and Priscilla, and worked with them in the menial trade of tentmaking to support himself while he preached each Sabbath, until his co-workers Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia with support to free him to spend more time proclaiming Jesus.

He has already championed the churches of Macedonia who out of their extreme poverty overflowed in abundant single-hearted devotion and gave beyond their ability (2Cor.8:1-3) to the relief of the saints.

Now he lets them know that these impoverished and persecuted churches gave support to him while he was serving in the relatively affluent city of Corinth.

To one of these afflicted Macedonian churches, in the city of Philippi, he writes of their ‘partnership in the gospel from the first day until now’ (Phil.1:5). He writes:

Philippians 4:15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.

This was a slap in the face to Corinth. Paul considered it less a risk to the gospel to plunder the poverty-stricken churches of Macedonia than to accept support from the affluent Corinthians.

Partnering to Pay the Gospel Forward

When Paul entered a new region, he refused support to prevent them thinking that they were paying a fee for the gospel. After a church was established, he allowed them to then partner with him in advancing the gospel on to the next area. In chapter 8 He is encouraging the Corinthians to participate in the relief of the poor Jerusalem saints, and it seems from 2 Corinthians 10:15-16 that he was willing for the Corinthians to partner with him in advancing the gospel to regions beyond them (cf. Rom.15:24, 28; 1Cor.16:5-6; 2Cor.1:15-16).

The Truth of Christ In Me

But he was insistent that he will not change his practice with them. He kept himself from being a burden to them, and he will continue to keep himself from ever burdening them.

As we learned from the Macedonians in chapter 8, when one truly understands and receives God’s grace, giving is no longer a burden but a delight. Their abundance of joy overflowed in a wealth of single-hearted devotion, and they gave beyond their means, ‘begging us earnestly for the grace of taking part in the fellowship of the saints’ (2Cor.8:2-4).

Paul here takes an oath before God.

2 Corinthians 11:9 …So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia.

This is an oath formula; Paul promised them he would enter into foolish boasting. Here he boasts that he has not and will not be a burden to them. He connects this boast of not being a burden to the truth of Christ in him. There may be more to this than a simple oath; ‘I swear by the truth of Christ.’ The truth of Christ is in Paul not merely in word, but also in deed. As he said back in chapter 8,

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Paul proclaimed the truth of Christ. But he also lived the truth of Christ. The truth of Christ lived in him. He lived among them ‘as poor, yet making many rich’ (2Cor.6:10)

He humbled himself ‘so that you might be exalted,’ preaching ‘God’s gospel to you free of charge’ (2Cor.11:7). This is not just a ministry tactic. This is Paul walking in the gospel, living out the gospel. His person, his method, his every decision was being shaped by the cross of Christ. The truth of Christ, quite literally, is in him.

Paul’s Love

Paul addresses their other accusation, that he refuses their money because he doesn’t love them. Financially investing in an individual creates a close bond, and they feel that Paul is holding them at arms length, not allowing them to get that close. From Paul’s perspective, receiving wages would oblige him to them and he would be relinquishing his freedom to offer the gospel free of charge to all.

2 Corinthians 11:11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

He doesn’t even answer this charge, but appeals to God. God knows! He has already answered it. He humbled himself to lift them up. He labored with his own hands to relieve them of the burden of providing for his needs. He plundered other churches to show them that the costly gift of grace truly comes without charge. All this was evidence of his love for them.

Paul is being offensive here, insistent on refusing their payment and plundering poor churches in order to serve them, humiliating them by making them the recipients of charity from poorer saints. But his goal is not to tear them down but to build them up. He humbles them in order to show them what grace really is, to teach them that they must be humble enough to receive something they can’t pay for and don’t deserve. Even in this offense toward them, he is preaching the gospel to them. He is showing them that he loves them enough to tear down their ‘lofty opinions of themselves that are raised up against the knowledge of God’ (2Cor.10:5,8). Paul offends them, but it is a loving offense.

Cutting the Ground from the False Apostles

Paul again affirms that he will not adjust his course of action with them. It seems that they were applying pressure to get him to cave and accept their payments. But he is resolute. Here in verse 12 he gives his reason.

2 Corinthians 11:12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do.

The pressure is coming ultimately from the false apostles. They want Paul to receive payment from the Corinthians so that they can claim to be no different than him. He refuses to take the bait. He is accusing them of peddling the word of God for money (2Cor.2:17). Paul here pulls the veil back from the false apostles. They are pressuring Paul to accept payment to justify their own money-grubbing. If Paul persists in refusing compensation, the false teachers will be unable to say that they operate on the same basis as he does, unless they are willing also to refuse payment, which is the whole reason they are there. His refusal is effectively cutting the ground out from under them.

Cultural Sensitivity

Paul is a culturally sensitive missionary. He is keenly aware of the cultural norms and nuances in the different places where he ministers. And he is aware of how the gospel will be perceived through these cultural lenses, so he is wisely strategic in the way he engages with the culture. But Paul will not adapt his message to suit the culture; in fact Paul is willing to offend the cultural sensibilities of the Corinthians for the sake of the gospel. When the truth of the gospel is at stake, he ‘would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting’ (1Cor.9:15).

He is willing to make a public scene and ‘oppose Peter to his face,’ because his ‘conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel’ (Gal.2:11,14).

Paul is culturally sensitive, not so that he can slip in unnoticed and make no waves, but so that he can make the right waves, gospel waves that crash in the face of cultures of merit that say ‘you get what you pay for’ and ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’. He plants his feet firmly and demonstrates that the gospel cannot be bought. The gospel is a treasure that is infinitely costly, but God gives it freely to those who don’t deserve it, to those who will humble themselves to receive.

In a culture that treasures popularity and prosperity and pleasure, who says it is a sin to surrender your rights or lay down your life for others, Paul shows us what it means to follow Jesus, who bids us take up our cross, lose our life for his sake and the gospel’s, so we can truly find it (Mt.16:24-25).

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Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

November 1, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 11:5-6; Style vs. Simplicity

10/25_2 Corinthians 11:5-6; Style vs. Simplicity; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201025_2cor11_5-6.mp3

2 Corinthians 11:1 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. 5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

A Different Jesus, Spirit, Gospel

Paul rebuked the Corinthians for bearing with another Jesus being proclaimed, a different spirit being received, a different gospel being accepted. They ought not put up with the foolishness the false teachers are foisting on them. As Carson puts it,

“Of course in one sense they preached the same Jesus: they too doubtless believed he was the promised Messiah, that he performed miracles and preached the kingdom of God, that he died, rose from the grave, and ascended to the Father’s right hand. Yet as soon as Jesus Christ is not the sole basis for our salvation, as soon as our acceptability before God depends on something more than his sacrifice on the cross, we have denied the sufficiency of his person and work. At that point the Jesus being preached is no longer the biblical Jesus, but an unreal product of human imagination, a relatively powerless figure who cannot effectively save his people from their sins unless they supplement his work with something of their own merit.” [D.A.Carson, Triumphalism to Maturity, p.88]

The Corinthians were in danger of embracing another Jesus and a different gospel that cannot save. The Corinthians were being lured away from the historic biblical Jesus. The Jesus the of the false apostles was triumphant wonder working Jesus, not the Jesus who suffered and died for our sins and rose again. The spirit they promoted was a spirit who gives supernatural experiences, not the Spirit who produces love and holiness and humility; the gospel they preached was a gospel that promised power, prosperity, and present blessings, not the gospel that secures forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the all-holy God through the once for all sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

Personality Attack

The false apostles were undermining Paul’s message by attacking him personally. From their perspective, he lacked the proper credentials. He was not a strong leader. He failed to follow through with his plans. He didn’t come with letters of commendation. He didn’t measure up to their standards of public speaking. He quotes their criticism in chapter 10;

2 Corinthians 10:10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”

He seems formidable when he writes from a safe distance, but in person he’s really just pathetic. He doesn’t have a commanding presence, and his speech is contemptible. These are masters of spin, twisting everything they can to make Paul look bad and fall out of favor with the church he planted. They have denigrated church leadership into a popularity contest, personality preference, and beauty pageant.

Last and Least of the Apostles

So Paul responds with biting irony

2 Corinthians 11:5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

Today I want to pull on some threads of words and phrases to see where they appear and how they are woven throughout the tapestry of this letter, to see how Paul develops these themes and points us to Christ.

The word ‘apostle’ means one who is sent out, one commissioned with delegated authority. An apostle in the official sense was one of the twelve, one who was an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry and resurrection. Paul said back in 1 Corinthians 9

1 Corinthians 9:1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

And in 1 Corinthians 15, he reminds them of the gospel, that Christ died for our sins and was raised, and that he appeared,

1 Corinthians 15:7 …then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. …

Paul considers himself last and least of all the apostles.

Super-Apostles

Here he labels those who come proclaiming a different Jesus as ‘super-apostles’. This is the super-favorite intensifying prefix of the apostle Paul. In chapter 1 he says we were super-beyond our strength burdened. In chapter 3 he talks about the super-surpassing glory of the new covenant. In chapter 4 he says the super-surpassing power belongs to God, not to us. He says our affliction is preparing an eternal weight of glory that is super-beyond what is super-beyond. In chapter 7 he says his is super-overflowing with joy. In chapter 9 he points them to the super-surpassing grace of God. In chapter 10 he says he isn’t hyper-extending himself as if he didn’t reach all the way to them, but he does hope to hyper-extend himself into lands beyond them. In chapter 11 he boasts of his super-beyond beatings, and in chapter 12 because of his super-beyond revelations, he was given a thorn in his flesh to keep him from becoming super-conceited.

Here and in 12:11 Paul caricatures those who proclaim another Jesus as ‘super-apostles.’ In verse 13 he calls them ‘false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.’ and in verse 14 he calls them servants of Satan. He calls the super-apostles because they paint themselves as better than Paul. They are super-apostles, in an ironic sense, because they have gone far beyond what an apostle of Christ is commissioned to do, preaching another Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel. They have gone beyond the bounds of legitimate apostles, who are slaves of Christ, expected to be faithful to Christ. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4

1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.

The apostles testified to Christ not only by word, but also by their sufferings. The super-apostles have moved far beyond the bounds of what a faithful apostle was sent to do.

How To Count Like the Apostle

2 Corinthians 11:5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles.

Paul says that he is not lacking when counts himself against the super-apostles. This word ‘consider’ is one that Paul has used frequently in this letter. It means to count, consider, conclude, to take inventory and reckon; use logic to think about something from a particular perspective. He said in chapter 10 that he counts on showing boldness to those who count him as walking according to his own fleshly desires. He says that they are looking at appearances. Consider that we belong to Christ as much as anyone. Consider or count on it that what we say by letter, we will put into action when we are present. In chapter 12 he does not want anyone to count or consider him as more than what they have seen evidence of in him. All the way back in chapter 3, he shares the way he counts.

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim [or count, consider] anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant…

He doesn’t count or consider anything as having its source in him. Here he shares with them how he counts. He counts himself as not lacking anything in comparison with the super-apostles.

Incompetent Speaking

2 Corinthians 11:6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

He is accused that his speech is contemptible, of being unskilled in speaking. The Greek word here is ἰδιώτης. It refers to someone who does not have specialized training in a particular field. This is ironic, because Paul was educated, in contrast to the rest of the genuine apostles, who according to Acts 4:13 were ‘uneducated, common men.’ According to Peter, Paul writes some things that are hard to understand which ignorant people twist. Have you read Paul? In this letter, he is employing his rhetorical skill to cut the feet out from under the false apostles.

Making It Plain

2 Corinthians 11:5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

Paul says even if, as his enemies argue, he is an incompetent speaker, he is not unskilled in knowledge. He has made this apparent in all things and in every way. This word making apparent, making plain, revealing or manifesting is a word we have seen several times in this letter. In chapter 7 he wrote as he did to reveal to them their own earnestness for him. In chapter 5, we must all be revealed before the judgment seat of Christ, and what we are is revealed to God and he hopes it is revealed to them as well. In chapter 4 the life of Jesus is revealed in his body. In chapter 3, it is revealed that they are Paul’s recommendation letter from Christ. In chapter 2 the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ is revealed through the genuine apostles.

It should be revealed and apparent to them in all things and in every way that Paul is not incompetent in knowledge.

The Knowledge of Christ

It is through Paul that the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ is revealed, made plain, made apparent always and everywhere. Paul has this ministry by the mercy of God.

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Paul openly and plainly proclaims the truth.

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Paul is not into self-promotion; he lifts up Jesus Christ as Lord. He is a slave; a cracked clay pot, and the treasure of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ the Lord shines out through every fracture.

Skilled Speech and the Foolishness of the Cross

Paul’s ‘unskilled speaking,’ they ought to remember from 1 Corinthians, is not a lack of ability, but a conscious choice. Paul chose to communicate the gospel simply, plainly, without pandering to their taste for eloquent oratory.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

His apostolic calling, his commission from Christ demanded that he preach the gospel in the power of the Spirit of God. They may have considered his preaching style foolish, but

1 Corinthians 1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

If you consider my style unskilled, Paul says, it reveals more about you than it does about me.

1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Paul said:

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul refused manipulative preaching tactics. He renounced disgraceful underhanded ways of working an audience. He willingly chose the path of unskilled speaking so that God would get all the glory. But he is not unskilled in knowledge. He says:

1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

God hid his spiritual wisdom in plain sight and in plain language, so that those who are humbled by God’s Spirit can see it, but those who think much of themselves toss it aside as beneath them.

The gospel is not hard, but it is hard to swallow. You are a sinner. You deserve death. But Jesus took your place and died the death you deserve. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He died to bring us near to God, to reconcile us so that we can now enjoy a relationship with our risen Lord.

Application / Use

What do we do with this? First, humble yourself to receive it. Don’t make it complex when it is simple. Don’t add anything to it. The gospel is a gift to be received freely, and many are too proud to receive it.

The gospel is a gift, but there’s enough to go around. We can’t keep it to ourselves. Know Christ and make him known. We need to spread the word. When we do, keep it simple. Simply and plainly proclaim the truth about Jesus and the cross, and pray that God’s Spirit would open blind eyes to humbly and freely receive.

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Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

November 1, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment