Over the past two days I’ve read through 2 Corinthians 10-13 several times. When I read scripture, I’m always asking God in my heart, “What do You want me to see in this? What do You want me to learn – about You, about my faith, about how to live this life according to Your ways?” Sometimes it’s really clear as a certain truth will jump out to me immediately. Other times, like in these four chapters, it takes a bit of time to think through what God is saying to me.
Scripture is amazing, you know. If I read a passage at ten different times in my life, it will speak to me in ten different ways. The same, inerrant core truth remains, but it will apply in different ways depending on what is going on in my life. That’s because God’s Word is living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). It’s not a dry, dusty book of fables and myths and fantastic stories. It’s the living Word of God, who speaks through it by His Holy Spirit personally to each of us.
In these chapters, Paul is kind of on a bit of a rant. He’s gracious, but stern. He’s humble, but confident in the call of God on his life. He’s upset that the Corinthian believers are being led astray by the glitz and glam of popular teachers who are in reality wolves in sheep’s clothing, posing as representatives of God. When Paul comes to town, he doesn’t make a splashy, impressive appearance. He doesn’t have an entourage or marketing team with slick advertising and catchy sermon titles. He doesn’t charge a fee for his services that indicates what he thinks his time is worth. He isn’t branded. He’s not even a great orator. He’s slightly sarcastic and tends to use run-on sentences.
What is he, however, is passionate about the pure gospel and the true teachings of Jesus Christ. He’s a better writer than speaker (oh, I can so identify with him!). The church in Corinth has been dismissing his strong letters urging them to live righteously and put away sin because his physical presence is much milder. Paul is deeply concerned they will be led astray to a false gospel, swayed by the “cultural relevance” that is masquerading as truth.
2 Corinthians 11:2-4 – For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.
These were Paul’s children in the Lord. Their salvation had come at great cost to him, as his life was continually in danger, both from those who hated the gospel he preached, and the spiritual warfare waged against him by Satan to stop the word of God from spreading. Now, deceived by men who were proclaiming a different gospel, they were in danger of falling away, and Paul was righteously and protectively very upset about it.
Paul tells them that if he comes again and finds them wandering into sin and away from the truth, they will not see the meek and humble preacher who first led them to the Lord. Instead, he will come in boldness and righteous zeal. He will not hesitate to call out those who are distorting the gospel.
I love Paul’s passion. Shouldn’t we be just as concerned when so-called “Christian” teachers and preachers proclaim deceptive lies in the name of Christ? Not far from where we live, a “church” posts signs that “We Love You,” teaching an inclusive tolerance and acceptance of lifestyles that God calls an abomination. This is not truth – this is a deception that will lead people to hell. Every day, people seeking something to fill the empty places in their souls buy books and read blogs and listen to podcasts that teach a “different” gospel, one that does not require repentance of sin. This kind of teaching, that God is love and would never condemn sin, completely obliterates the message of the cross and the work Jesus accomplished for our salvation. Today’s modern church spends a lot of time trying to figure out how to make Jesus attractive to this culture. If Jesus is attractive to the wicked, ungodly culture around us, have we presented the real Jesus?
I don’t think Paul was mad at the believers; he feared for their spiritual well-being – for their eternal destiny and their maturity as Christ-followers. He knew how important it is to know the truth, and he also was well aware of Satan’s deceptive schemes – schemes that are designed only to kill, steal, and destroy us.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 – For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.
Did you know that widespread, prevalent, and accepted apostasy in the church – a falling away from the truth – is a clear indication of the last days before Jesus returns? Satan wants nothing more than to “blur the lines” so that the message of salvation can’t be seen or heard. May we inherit a bit of Paul’s passion in our defense of the gospel and stand firm on the truth. May we be concerned when our brothers and sisters buy into false teaching, and instead, hold fast to the inerrant Word of God, firm in the faith, and devoted to Jesus alone.