Summary: This sermon examines three key truths in avoiding false teachers.
THE FIGHT: The purity of the message and the church matter.
a. The purity of the message matters.
- This passage as a whole brings out the importance of believing the truth. It matters that the message is true.
- Many today say that it doesn’t matter when you believe as long as you are sincere. The Bible does not hold to that ludicrous idea. It’s essential that we sincerely believe that which is true.
b. The purity of the church matters.
- In v. 2, Paul shares his desire to present the church to Christ with purity.
- This immediately brings to mind the repeated Old Testament image of Israel as an unfaithful spouse in the “marriage” to God. He desired their sincere and faithful love and they proved incapable of that.
- The emphasis of this image is one of spiritual purity before Christ.
- The image of the bride of Christ is a rich one and worthy of its own sermon.
THE PROBLEM: Careless Christians can be easily deceived.
- v. 3 notes that from the beginning (literally, with Eve) there has been the opportunity to be led astray by temptation.
- v. 4 shares three ways that people allow themselves to be deceived.
- v. 5 uses the term “super-apostles.” This is not meant as a compliment. The false teachers were claiming authority exceeding Paul and the other apostles. Paul is mocking them here.
- Wandering off the path is not difficult to do. Careless believers can end up in trouble without even trying.
- This speaks to why we must be diligent to pursue all of the truth that we can get.
- Obviously there are countless ways to get off-track, but Paul does share some big ideas to keep us from going down the wrong path.
1. Truth is more important than flash.
- In the previous chapter, Paul shared the Corinthians’ accusation that he was a great writer of letters but a weak preacher. Here he says something interesting about that. He acknowledges that he is not a “trained speaker.” I don’t think he’s saying, “I’m a terrible speaker.” I take this more as saying, “Some of these super-apostles sure do know how to tickle your ears with their flashy sermons.”
- Of course, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with an engaging sermon, but a flashy presentation may hide flawed theology. Many Christians are so focused on how the preacher is saying it that they don’t pay attention to what he’s saying.
- More important is that what the preacher is saying is true. Or, as Paul puts it, he has “knowledge.” That is, what he says accurately conveys what Jesus taught.
- And then he notes that while his sermons might not have been flashy, his presentation of the truth was “clear to you in every way.” Unlike some of the super-apostles who delighted in speaking of mysteries that only they had insight into, Paul’s preaching made the truth clear.
2. Is this person more interested in what he can give you or get from you?
- In v. 7, Paul tells them that he willingly sacrificed in order to preach the gospel to them free of charge. He “lowered” himself to do this – that means that he was worthy of being paid but he didn’t demand what he was worth.
- v. 8 tells of the support that he received during that time from other churches in order to maintain his ministry among the Corinthians. The word “robbed” there isn’t to be taken literally, as though Paul stole from other churches. Rather, what he means is that there were other churches that were equally worth of help but he allowed his ministry with the Corinthians to be the focus during that time. Other churches sacrificed that the Corinthians might benefit.
- v. 9 further details the sacrifice.
- In v. 10 notes that he is proud of the sacrifice that he made for them.
- vv. 11-12 shares important idea that the sacrifice shows the love.
- When you add all this together, it raises the question of whether the person in more interested in what he can give you or get from you?
- The false teachers were taking from them. Paul had sacrificed for them. It spoke to their motive and their heart.
3. Evil often wins by twisting the truth just enough.
- Many think of good on one side and evil on the other with little mingling of the two. That’s not the way evil works, though. Usually it takes something good and twists it enough that there is appeal to it but it ultimately leads away from God.