October 3, 2011

Tuesday after the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 76, 2 Sam. 23:8-17, 2 Cor. 11:1-15
Evening - Ps. 72, Mt. 7:13

Commentary
2 Corinthians 11:1-15

Some at Corinth said Paul is a fool (2 Cor. 5:13). If so, he says in 11:1, "bear with me a little in my folly" for his desire is to present them "as a chaste virgin to Christ." In other words, what has been called "folly" is really concern for their spiritual well being. He has laboured for them with patience, unfaltering love, and tireless devotion. If that is foolishness, then let them bear with him a while longer. He is concerned that they will be the real fools and allow their minds to be corrupted from the simplicity of Christ (11:3). The false apostles taught a complex system of doctrines and deities that combined Christianity with Greek mystery religions. Paul taught the simple Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It is the very simplicity of the Gospel that often trips people up. "It can't be that simple," they think, but it is.

The apparent simplicity of the Gospel is one reason why the Corinthians followed the false apostles in the first place, and Paul still worries that they will follow another teacher, trust in another Jesus, receive another spirit, and believe another gospel (11:4). How easily people are led astray and how easily we are enticed by things that are unimportant. How cheaply we sell our souls for trifles; an engaging personality, a more attractive setting, an easier gospel, a style of music. How easily we are fooled into valuing the wrapping over the Gift.

If Paul was not the polished speaker the false apostles were, he was in no way inferior to the true Apostles, and his knowledge was far superior to that of the false apostles (11:5-6). He taught the true Gospel of Christ, they taught a false gospel. His purpose was to gather souls for Heaven. Their purpose was to gather mammon for themselves.

Paul's purpose was obviously not to make money. He reminds the Corinthians that he was "chargeable to no man" (11:9), meaning he did not accept money from them for preaching the Gospel. He supported himself, or received support from the Macedonian churches rather than accept money from the Corinthians. Having given so much to them, at no cost to themselves, Paul worries that he has harmed them. Having received the Gospel at no expense to themselves, do they now think of the Gospel and the Apostle of Christ as having no value? The false apostles sold their gospels at high prices. Did the Corinthians think they and their gospel were therefore of great value, while Paul and his were of little worth? It is not because the Gospel of Christ is cheap, nor because Paul has no right to receive payment for his services that he preached the Gospel freely. It is because he did not wish to burden the Corinthians, and that they may never be able to accuse him of selling Christ the way the false apostles sell their faith, that Paul accepted no money from the Corinthians (11:12).

Verse 13-15 show the deceitfulness of the false teachers. They transform themselves into an angel of light. They do not actually become angels of light; they take on the appearance of angels of light. They appear to be bearers of the Good News, but their gospel is false, and they are deceived and deceivers. Satan tries to appear to us as the minister of truth and freedom, though his words are the words of death. So we should not be surprised when his "ministers" appear to be helpful and their teachings seem so appealing (11:15).