“…are they ministers of Christ?”
Scripture tells us there are two churches – one that is genuine and another that is false. Outwardly there is little to differentiate them, just as wheat and tares look alike whilst they grow. The genuine is rooted in Christ and God’s word, but the other is rooted in Satan and lies. Often, those lies are subtle and hardly noticed. However, with Paul, I ask “Are they ministers of Christ?” No, they are not.
Just before I sat down to write this lesson I received a very long email from a charismatic preacher. As part of his rebuke of me, he told me of his coming visit to India where, he claims, there are a quarter million folk ‘saved’ through the preaching of an ex-Hindu.
But, the ex-Hindu says he actually saw Jesus face-to-face, and was told by ‘Jesus’ he would do this and that. He was also told that a couple would visit him to teach him, and he was given a vision of what they looked like. Indeed, he was visited by a couple, who wore the same clothes as he saw in his vision. After being ‘taught’ he started a church and now has a lot more, with huge numbers.
The preacher who contacted me is convinced this is all of God and bases his belief on another belief, that God will bring huge revival to the world. I had to respond that I reject the whole ministry of the ex-Hindu, just on the basis given to me in the email. I did so because we are told in scripture that no man will see Jesus until He appears at His Second Coming. Not even Paul actually saw Jesus on the road to Damascus.
So, if Jesus will not be seen by anyone until He finally returns, it means that the ex-Hindu was deceived by Satan. And if that is the case – which it must be – then his whole ‘ministry’ is founded on a lie and is false. I do not care how many thousands follow him or appear to be saved – his ministry is false! I also pointed out that such a ministry would use Arminian gospel preaching, which is heretical, and that there will be no great revival before the end comes.
The preacher, who is known for his work, is therefore deceived, as is his ex-Hindu host. Bear in mind, too, that Hindu’s see ‘God’ in many paths, including Christianity. So, it is not beyond possibility that his ‘vision’ was simply a variation on his Hindu beliefs. God does not waiver His own commands and teachings. If He tells us Jesus will not be seen until the end of time, then no matter how glorious it seems, any ministry based on ‘seeing’ Jesus must, by definition, be false. It also means the thousands ‘saved’ by the man’s teaching are not saved at all.
Satan can be transformed into an angel of light… but, can he mimic the gospel? Yes, of course he can! That is how we have the most persuasive false ‘gospel’ of all – Arminianism; a ‘gospel’ preached by charismatics worldwide, as well as by countless Catholics, reformationists, and others. Those who preach this lie are “transformed as ministers of righteousness” who will appear to be the ‘real thing’ to most people. They will even live ‘holy’ lives (except for those caught out in sinful or sexually immoral situations!) and say things that are straight from scripture. That is how they deceive so many, including themselves.
As a teacher I come across huge numbers who are deceived and I have to reject the bulk of what they say… ”Let no man think me a fool”! In return they throw out pages of retort, anecdotal evidences that mean zero. In their anger they return to their lies, comforted by big numbers or by fellow believers in falsity. God help them all, for they will discover, too late, that the ‘Jesus’ reportedly ‘seen’ by so many self-appointed preachers, was none other than Satan or one of his demonic minions.
In this series of studies one of my tasks is to expose the deceptions taught by charismatics. Remember that deception only works because it appears to be the real thing. A forger could not pass off a bank note if it looked nothing like the real thing! Satan could not deceive so many Christians and non-Christians into thinking his offerings were genuine, if he did not employ a layer of truth. By accepting the little bits of truth, followers also accept the numerous lies attached to them.
Paul speaks of being “in perils among false brethren”. I have personally met thousands of false brethren and know how dangerous they can be. I must say I would prefer (if forced to make such a choice) to be amongst outright sinners, to being amongst false brethren. This is because false brethren think they already have the truth, so their minds and hearts are closed to God and to true teachers. They denounce and wickedly treat the preachers of truth. Watch those around you who claim to be of God! Listen to what they say, very carefully, for deception often comes riding on the back of truth, like a leech. Do not accept falsity just because it is attached to truth, not even from Reformed preachers. Lies are lies, regardless of who their users are.
“Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.
For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
Paul is very concerned, because, as this part of his letter shows, the Corinthians are being plagued by false teachers. Sadly, those affected often do not know they have a plague upon them, because everything seems to be alright. That is why Paul takes time to explain. We have the same situation today.
“Would to God” is one word in the Greek, ophelon. This word is a past tense of opheilo. It is also in the first person singular. Thus, Paul is expressing a personal regret that he was unable to advise the Corinthians about something that had already happened. It means false teachers were already at work in Corinth. It is true that in any place false teachers abound, even in our day, the degree of their falsity varies, from plain and obvious lies to subtle shades of truth that blend into lies. Paul is here referring to the latter.
My own approach to this matter is thus: any one of us can subscribe to an error. We may even teach it to others. If, after being shown the error, we repent and never teach it again, then I can accept the situation. But, I cannot accept the man who teaches error even after being shown the truth. This is because his adherence to error is a sign of something far deeper and worse – the willingness to reject God’s word and to promote a lie. The first man makes a mistake, but the second man pursues deception willingly. The first may be welcomed back into the fold, but the second must be cast out, before he affects everyone else and corrupts their minds.
I am feeling a little reckless, says Paul, so please stay with me as I explain things to you. He tells the Corinthians that he covets them fervently, zeloo, and wants them to know only what is good. That is what he is striving after with a burning zealousness, zeo, which, he says, is godly. He is zealous because it was he who ‘espoused’ them to Christ; he had given them to Christ in holy marriage, harmozo, and so they are joined as one with Christ, harmos, as a ‘chaste virgin’, hagnos, sacred and pure from carnality, and so are hagos – holy things or saints. And, being ‘virgins’, parthenos, they are free from idolatry and all uncleanness.
Paul is telling them that once they were saved, they were freed* from the sin and evil they once knew, and which separated them from God. His Son, Christ, could not be joined with those who were dual-minded or who enjoyed their sin; they had to be pure and chaste and have minds and hearts toward holiness. It is a sad fact that modern Christians think nothing of entering into a spiritually adulterous relationship with things God cannot accept. Their theology is one of mixing good with bad, truth with lies. Their lives are existential, having regard only for their momentary pleasures and current favoured thoughts. The virgin, by contrast, has eyes only for her groom and does not deal in dual relationships. (*This does not mean we are sinless; it means that sin no longer controls us).
So, he tells his readers he is afraid, phobeo, for their spiritual welfare. The serpent (ophis – Satan, or an animal used by him to deceive) beguiled or deceived, exapatao, Adam and Eve. He managed to do so by using “subtilty”, panourgia… craftiness, cunning and false wisdom - a skill he has in abundance. If Satan could deceive even the first couple, who were without sin, how easy is it for him to deceive those who are conceived in sin and live out sin every day of their lives! Paul is afraid Satan will likewise be just as treacherous with the Corinthians, whose salvation is still fresh.
Paul does not want their minds to be corrupted, phtheiro; defiled or destroyed by Satan. Rather, he wants them to retain the “simplicity that is in Christ”. This simplicity is haplotes, the liberty and mental honesty that does not include selfish desires, but includes generosity of spirit. Freedom in Christ is refreshing and essential for all Christians, yet few reflect its reality in their everyday lives. As soon as we give over our entire lives to Christ, He gives us ‘freedom’ in abundance, which consists of holiness and sheer love for God and for others. This is very ‘simple’, haplous, and without the tortuous thinking usually used by men.
When we live holy lives we then possess true liberty and a singleness of mind that shows our intention to live only for Christ. Without this freedom we remain willingly shackled to the ‘old man’ who weighs us down like a great sack filled with sin strapped to our backs.
The simplicity, haplous, that we have by being joined to Christ and not to other men, is a straightforward relationship with Him, just like the one Adam enjoyed before he sinned. In such a relationship (‘Christianity’) we just talk to Him and He talks with us. We hear what He says and we do it, then He gives us His blessings. Simple. But the world can be forgiven for thinking Christianity is complex, with the growing number of rules and regulations issued by religious men. One has only to think of the humanly-devised complex web called ‘Dispensationalism’ to see how human minds can ruin simplicity in Christ! Or, think of the stern and rigid system called ‘Roman Catholicism’. Or, just listen to the spiritualised texts used by so many reformed men (‘reformationists’) to confuse and ruin a direct relationship with God.
There are a huge number of things that can potentially corrupt and destroy this ‘simplicity in Christ’ and make Christian life miserable and unproductive. When we replace a direct relationship with Christ with an indirect human theory of scripture, we enter into bondage and do not enjoy the freshness and joy that we have when we talk directly with Christ.
As a teacher, Paul aimed to tell the Corinthians what God says, so that they follow God and not men. This is the aim of every true, called, teacher. (Sadly, most ‘teachers’ have no such calling).
“For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest of apostles.
But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been thoroughly made manifest among you in all things.
Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely.”
Paul warns his readers to beware of those who come preaching another gospel. Note that, like others, they preach, kerusso, and so appear to have the same authority as called men of God. This is why I myself warn Christians that false teachers regularly stand in their pulpits. They preach the same words as genuine preachers, but their aim and results are not scriptural.
These men preach ‘another’, allos, Jesus, Iesous. The real Iesous is the Son of God, our Saviour. Therefore, if someone preaches allos Iesous, another Jesus, he must be preaching falsity. Elsewhere in scripture we are clearly taught that ‘another’ gospel is no gospel at all, but is a lie cursed by God. Paul is, then, saying that ‘another gospel’ is false, a lie. It follows that if a gospel is a lie, then it cannot save. Many today have been deceived by this lie.
This is why there can be no compromise with false preachers, and why Arminianism cannot be tolerated in any form or in any degree. The real Gospel teaches that Christ died for those who are predestinated. The false gospel teaches that men may choose to be saved, regardless of predestination. That is, they control God. Any Arminian preaching must of necessity be cast out and rejected, publicly if required. The reason is given by Paul – a false gospel destroys.
Paul says those who preach this false gospel do not preach what they, the apostles, preached. So it is a lie. A false gospel leads to having a false spirit. ‘Spirit’ here is pneuma, which can refer to a number of things, ranging from the Spirit of God to the human spirit, and even to an evil spirit. In the same way, the ‘spirit’ can be either good or evil, from God or from Satan. That is why we must be very careful and must not allow even the smallest error to taint our thinking or hearts. A single bad apple can destroy a whole barrel of apples. A single small error can destroy a whole truth in the hearts and minds of men.
There is no warrant for Christians to ‘live and let live’. We have no freedom to allow the tiniest of errors to settle amongst us. Sin and error is black. As saints we wear white garments that show the smallest hint of blackness… and God cannot allow the blackness of sin to enter His presence. To Him, sin is sin, black is black. If a space pilot misses the orbit that will take him safely back to earth, he misses the orbit. There is no such thing as being ‘close’ – he is either in orbit or he is not.
The same can be said about sin and holiness. Sin is to ‘miss the mark’. We either hit the mark, or we miss it. There are no degrees of missing… a miss is a miss! Thus, sin is sin, whether we think the sin is small or great. To God it is all great and worthy of death and hell. That is why we must repent of ‘small’ and ‘great’ sins equally fervently and never allow ‘small’ sins to go unchallenged.
The Corinthians were not saved by a false gospel, says Paul. They received the truth and were saved through hearing that truth. Anything that opposes or replaces the truth must be a lie and should be avoided at all costs, or the lie will lead to ruined spiritual lives. The Corinthians had to endure (’bear with’ – anechomai) these false preachers, but they did not have to obey their teachings.
I reckon, says Paul, that I was not a ‘whit behind the very chiefest (lian - great) apostles’. There is a difference between pride and a matter of fact. Paul’s claim was not one of pride but one of fact. He reckoned he was ‘not a whit’, medeis, or nothing less than, the chiefest apostles, such as Peter, James, and the others. He did not ‘come behind’ them, hustereo – fall short or fail to meet their standards. Far from being a poor substitute for the original apostles, he was their equal in every way, including calling, knowledge and outcome. Being taught personally by Jesus Christ ensured that.
Paul was not boasting he was ‘great’. He was saying he had what the great apostles had – a calling from Jesus personally, and so he was equipped likewise. He says his speech or way of taking may be ‘rude’, idiotes, but his knowledge was equal to that of any of the great apostles. The word ‘idiotes’ is antithetical. That is, it is used as an ‘opposite’.
Thus, the original apostles could speak fluently and their speech was marvellous to hear, but, by comparison, Paul’s speaking was weak, ignorant and rough. His speech was the antithesis of the others. Paul was a learned man, a theologian known amongst Hebrews as highly skilled in Jewish letters. But, as a Christian, his learning and status were as nothing, and he deferred to the other apostles as being better in their speech.
However, Paul was their equal in his knowledge, gnosis, of Christian things. All Christians are given knowledge. But, some are given an in-depth knowledge as a gift from God for the teaching of others. It was this depth of knowledge Paul was referring to. This was not merely an addition to His knowledge of Hebraic religion, for all his Hebrew religion was as nothing in the Christian realm.
Many Christians who attend a Bible college think erroneously that their new academic learning is somehow superior or more extensive than the knowledge gained by an ‘ordinary’ Christian. This is not necessarily the case. If his knowledge is only from books or others, then it will be of no value. True knowledge, as given to Paul, is divine in origin. It uses scripture as a basis but adds to it with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Who gives insights not available to others. This is what sets Christian teachers apart from non-teachers and it is why they must be treasured by their fellow Christians. They are not ‘better’ – they are just chosen to have a particular gift and office.
After identifying himself as a teacher called by God and equal in spiritual status to the original apostles, Paul then again refers to ‘we’ – himself and the other apostles. He says they have all been ‘throughly’ (pas – all) been ‘made manifest’, phaneroo, shown to be, from God in everything they said and did.
His claim is that they were from God in ‘all things’, pas. When a man is truly called by God, it is to be assumed his whole teaching and way of life will be correct in every detail. Yes, he will make mistakes, but that is not the issue. God calls a man to preach and teach and gives him everything necessary to live out that life.
It is therefore wrong of others to denigrate such a man or to make out he is worthless in this or that area of life or teaching. When such a man speaks from God he must be heeded, as one bringing the very words of God to light. To reject what he says is to reject what God says. If he speaks as a man, then we may reject his words. But, when he speaks from God, we must listen. This is the sense of the text.
Was I wrong, asks Paul, to abase, tapeinoo, humble myself and appear to be lower than others, in order to exalt you in Corinth? Was it a sin (offence – hamartia) to do so? Paul gladly lowered himself so that the Corinthians could be honoured. What did he mean?
“I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do your service.
And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.”
He meant that (verse 8) he “robbed other churches” so that he could preach to the Corinthians freely. This was not Paul’s usual style. Wherever he went he worked for his living and paid his own way. Though entitled by God to take an income for his preaching, he ‘doubled up’ by preaching as well as working with his hands. Unlike so many preachers, who only had to do their spiritual work, Paul had to do both, thus also doubling his efforts and workload. Others had their ‘free time’, but he had to work and preach/teach.
This is highly pressured, as I know. As one who presently works for a living (2003) and also teaches, my Sundays are ‘working days’ as are my other ‘days off’. My entire Sunday is filled with study for the day’s meeting, and my other days off are working days for the ministry. Thus, life becomes unrelenting in its workload but, as Paul says, he does it so that others may be honoured and can grow.
Paul says he ‘robbed’, sulao, other churches. That is, he ‘stripped’, sullo, them of their money. He did not steal their money. Nor did he gain it by deception. Nor did he take it for his own use. Paul only means that he resorted to taking an income from them so he could pass it on to the Corinthians and others. With this money, he was able to live in Corinth and preach freely, without taking money from them. Probably, because they were monied themselves, they only saw work as a means of earning money. Previously, Paul stated that he refused their money so they could not accuse him of preaching for the sake of money alone. In other places, though, Paul accepted food, shelter and money for his upkeep.
Whilst in Corinth, the Christians from Macedonia kept him in clothing, food and shelter. Therefore, the Corinthians could never complain his intentions were mercenary. In my own earlier preaching I never accepted the money usually given to visiting preachers, even when I was unemployed. In a small way I wanted the givers to realise that a man called to preach is not there to gain cash. Maybe this ‘lesson’ was not really understood, but I was compelled to do it.
“As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia.
Wherefore? Because I love you not? God knoweth.
But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we,
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”
So long as Christ’s truth remains in Paul, he will continue to tell others in Greece of this form of sacrifice. Why? Partly to honour the Macedonians who gave so freely of the little they had. Also, to show Paul’s love for the Corinthians. He wanted to serve notice to all false preachers that his own calling was genuine.
It is a fact that some false preachers will preach for no monetary gain. But, their gain is in status, or power, or some other form of self-satisfaction. Paul wanted to stop the mouths of all who preached falsely. He wanted to ‘cut off’, ekkopto, or completely remove, any ‘occasion’, aphorme – something used to attack someone with. Onlookers are more than ready to attack a man called by God. They will use any pretext or actual thing to do so. In this case, earning money from preaching. Paul did not take any money, so their arguments were destroyed. But, as Paul intimates, false preachers do take money.
This has been so throughout the ages. Look at how Roman Catholic priests roamed the world taking money for indulgences, and how their superiors poached huge sums for their own use and to maintain their lavish lifestyles. See how Anglican priests used to buy ‘livings’, giving them a steady income for life and parsonages of substance. And watch modern day preachers who insist on as large a ‘stipend’ as they can get, including money, house and all expenses… in particular see the earnings of charismatic leaders!
Paul says such men ought to glory in simply preaching alone and not in what they can gain from their listeners. So, he set out to put them to shame, and succeeded. Those who preached in order to gain something were ‘false apostles, deceitful workers’. In the Greek there is a special word for ‘false apostles’ – pseudapostolos. Such a man falsely claims to come from God.
Today, there are many pseudapostolos, but few of them are obvious. The vast majority of pastors in ordinary ‘sound’ churches are not called of God. They enter a Bible college and ‘look’ for a ministry!! They even advertise for ‘first pastorates’, and churches also advertise for ‘first pastors’. This can be for only one reason – they are cheaper to employ! And Christians who look for ‘first pastorates’ are openly telling us that (a) They can make mistakes without too much rebuke and (b) they will move on to richer pickings when they have made all their mistakes and have gained a brief reputation.
In reality a man is called to be a pastor within his existing church, because his gifts have been recognised. The congregation as a whole will admit that this man has been given the office by God and so they merely acknowledge it and accept it. They do not ‘employ’ him and do not offer an ‘attractive package’! And the congregation are not looking elsewhere for a pastor, because one is ‘home grown’ by God, or is at least well known to all the congregation, possibly by living nearby. This means pastors of many churches are pseudapostolos, even if their intentions are honourable. They do not mean to be false, but they are.
A ‘false apostle’ is automatically a ‘deceitful worker’, as the word pseudo tells us. To be deceitful, dolios, is to be crafty, dolos, to be a decoy, dello. That is, not to be the real thing. They ‘transform’ themselves into righteous apostles. That is, they metaschematizo… change into something else. Not actually, but only in resemblance. So, they seem to be genuine to those they encounter. As Paul implies, they are workers who spend time and energy at their self-given tasks. Some of them were plainly and obviously heretics, but the others looked like the genuine apostles. The difference was that they were never called in the first place. They simply set themselves up as preachers and teachers and after a short while that was what everyone else perceived them to be. I would repeat that most of our modern ‘pastors’ are of this type. They are genuine Christians, but they are not genuine pastors.
We should not wonder at any of this, says Paul, because even Satan can appear to be good and honest and a worker of holy things. He, too, can transform himself into an ‘angel of light’, or, an envoy from God of heavenly substance and aim. So it is relatively easy for him to send forth false teachers and preachers. It is no great thing, he says, for ordinary men to transform into apostles of righteousness, even when they are not.
However, he warns, God will reward them according to their falsity. Unsaved men will end up in hell, regardless of the ‘good’ they did as preachers. Saved men who assume their role of teacher or preacher without being called will just lose out on the crowns of honour awarded by God in Heaven, after their falsity has been exposed on the day of judgement.
“I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.
That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.
Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also.
For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing yourselves are wise.
For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face”.
Paul now uses another word for ‘fool’ – aphron stupid, acting rashly, unintelligent. I am not stupid or rash he says, but if that is the way you think of me, so be it. I am speaking as a man now, he says, not from God, so indulge me a little. I, too, will praise myself as others do. Will that satisfy you? After all, he continues, you seem to put up happily and staunchly with stupid people (the false preachers), being so intelligent yourselves!
This kind of talk would be sarcasm but for one thing – Paul’s intention is not to make the Corinthians look silly, but to make them stop sharply to reflect on what they are doing, so that they can return to holiness.
After all, when men enslave you, katadouloo, he says, you put up with it firmly and without argument. If they devour, katesthio, you, he adds, you put up with it. That is, if men take what they have by force, waste their riches, or take everything from others. If men put themselves high above you and expect to be treated with respect, you do it without question. Or, even when they hit you in the face you accept it!
“I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.
Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I.
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
Thrice I was beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;”
This, says Paul is a matter of dishonour (reproach; atimia). The Corinthians are being told that they put up with so many ignoble and unholy things, to their shame and disgrace. How many things do we do and put up with from others, that are not godly? A great number!
I say these things, says Paul, because we have not been weak but bold. Yet we have been ignored in favour of the godless men you have put up with. Tell me – are these false preachers Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendents of Abraham? So am I. In all ways, then, these false teachers are of the same national stock.
But – are they of the same spiritual stock? Are they ministers of Christ? Obviously not, for Paul has already said they are not. If they claim to be of Christ, then I am moreso! Do they do works? Then I do far more! Have they suffered beatings and hardship? I have had much more! Have they been put in prison more times than me? I do not think so! Have they been closer to death? Hardly! Why, he adds, on five occasions I was beaten with forty lashes (39 in one case) by Jews. I was beaten three times with rods and stoned once. I was shipwrecked and in the sea for a day and a night.
I have travelled long and hard, and had my life put in danger by sea and robbers, and even been put in danger by my own countrymen. Heathen have attacked me in cities, in the deserts, and on the sea. And I have been put in danger by being amongst false Christians (pseudadelphos – professing to be a Christian but devoid of salvation. It can also refer to Christians who have slipped back into a life of sin and ignorance).
In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?
If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.
In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:
And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.”
Paul keeps on repeating what he has gone through, not as a kind of boast, but as a qualification for his task and ministry. False preachers rarely put up with what Paul went through! He knew sheer exhaustion and pain. He watched often, was sleepless, agrupnia, because he was keeping watch for villains or because he was unable to sleep because of his surroundings. He was often without food and drink, so he fasted involuntarily quite a lot. And because of lack of money he was often cold and gumnotes – without clothing.
Not only have I had to put up with all these outward things, but I also have the inner compulsion to care for the churches, every single day. Do some claim to be weak, astheno, feeble and sick? I am also. Who has been sinned against? So have I been purged.
If I have to praise, I will praise God for my ills and feebleness, says Paul. Thus, he praises God for those things that remind him of his own weakness and human flaws… not something that is familiar to false preachers! God knows I am not lying, he says.
When I was in Damascus, the governor (whose king was Aretas), wanted desperately to apprehend me and put me in prison. (Aretas, ‘graver’, was the Arab father-in-law of Herod Antipas, and made war against him, destroying his army). But, I was, says Paul, able to escape by being let down the walls in a basket. And so Paul continues to defend his position, and to remind those who were saved by his preaching, that they ought never listen to false teachers, but to remain faithful to the Lord and to those whose only aim is to build them up in Christ.
If your pastor or teacher does not build you up in Christ, then he is not your pastor or teacher! If he does not fulfil his purpose, then it means he is either slipping into sin, or has never been chosen by God for his office, and is not gifted for it either. Too many modern Christians accept what is deficient and even wrong, rather than expect to have sound teachers. Thus, they encourage falsity and bad doctrine, to their shame and to the dishonouring of the Lord.
© June 2003 (Revised February 2017)