October 4, 2011

Wednesday after the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.77, 2 Sam. 24:10-25, 2 Cor. 11:16-33
Evening - Ps73, Mt. 8:1-13

Commentary
2 Corinthians11:16-33

According to Paul there are two groups of fools in Corinth. First is the group of false apostles. They are the ones who glory after the flesh, meaning to boast and put confidence in their own abilities to sway a crowd and motivate people, rather than in the Gospel and the Spirit of God (11:18). Second is the group that follows the false prophets. They are the people who are swayed by emotions and psychological tricks rather than the word of God. Thus Paul says of them, "ye suffer (allow yourselves to be influenced by) fools gladly (11:19). "You gladly allow fools to lead and abuse you," we might say in paraphrase. When, in verse 19, he calls the Corinthians wise he is making a point by stating the opposite, much as a politician might speak of his "worthy" opponent when he really thinks (and wants his hearers to think) the person is terribly unworthy. Since the Corinthians are so "wise" and Paul is so "foolish," Paul says, they should hear him out (11:16-18). They have let the real fools abuse them (11:20), they should at least hear the words of one who really cares about them and has suffered for their benefit.

Thus, Paul begins to tell of his service to Christ and the personal cost to him of bringing the Gospel to Corinth. Verses 22-29 tell of the cost to Paul. He equals the false apostles in their Hebrew origins (11:22). Verse 23 does not mean the false apostles are truly ministers of Christ, but even if they were their labours cannot begin to match those of Paul. Who among the false teachers has been beaten, imprisoned, stoned, shipwrecked, or lived in exhaustion, hunger, thirst, cold and inadequate clothing for the sake of the Gospel and the Corinthians? Have they not rather demanded ease and luxury for the service of leading the Church astray?

False apostles and their followers have called Paul foolish and weak, but Paul replies that he will not glory in his strength and wisdom; he will glory in his infirmities, his weaknesses. It is because he is weak that he knows the Corinthians have not been moved to believe in Christ by his eloquence, his magnetic personality, or the attractiveness of a false gospel. They have been moved by the word and Spirit of God. That is the meaning Paul is trying to get across to us.

I fear this truth has been largely lost in the pop religion of today. Many churches are simply personality cults, and most preaching has little or nothing to do with the real Gospel. False teachers abound, and people prefer them and their tricks to the simple preaching of Christ. God have mercy upon us.