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Posts Tagged ‘false teachers’

confront

In 2 Corinthians chapter 10, Paul brought to light the spiritual nature of all the conflict happening in the Corinthian Church in an effort to point to the solution.  The solution he gave was the divine power of God to destroy strongholds, in other words, our spiritual weapons.  He began to defend himself in the face of much slander and personal attacks.

In chapters 11 and 12, we find Paul dealing with specific reasons why he personally was being maligned and the truth of what was going on in this corrupt church.  He begins seeking to unmask the dark realities by stating facts and asking questions that point to the truth of who he had been to them and who he was.  He calls it foolish because he is humble.  Humble men don’t usually go around listing their qualifications, but here we find that sometimes just that is necessary for the sake of the gospel.

Paul fears that the Corinthians were being deceived to believe in a different Jesus and a different gospel.  He is showing the foolishness of their willingness to accept false brothers and false teaching but not him and his truth!  His argument is that they would put up with falsehood and not say a word in opposition or correction.  They were embracing these false men as brothers while at the very same time refusing to accept and embrace Paul.  Against Paul, they railed.  Why?

The accusation made against Paul was that he did not speak right.  Unskilled speech.  He looks wrong.  Frivolous, differing preferences was all they could come up with against Paul.

If you want to avoid the truth someone is telling, personal attacks are all you have.

Paul answers those dumb objections and reasons to refuse him saying: “Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things. “ 2 Corinthians 11:6

In verses 7-11 Paul states the facts that he had taken nothing from them and that he had given much to them.  He had gotten his needs met elsewhere and found a way to meet their needs without asking for payment.  He assures them that he was not going to be quiet about what he was about to say.  He knows they are going to claim that he is saying it because he does not love them so he puts that accusation to rest from the get-go.  He professes his great, enduring, long-suffering love and offers the proof as the fact that he preached to them for free, always.  He preached out of love and without asking for any return save their souls.  He wanted them to be saved and that was his only motivation.  Others wanted pay and position for what he did for them for free out of love.

Paul makes it clear that he is going to keep doing exactly what he had been doing in order to prove the false claims of the false followers who were maligning him false.

He says, these men boast of being servants of Christ!  Even if they truly were or are, so am I!  Why, then do you so despise and abuse me?  That is a question that begs an answer.  Christ’s ministers do not abuse and malign one another no matter how different they are.  Like mama said, it takes all kinds.  There is room for all in Christ.

So these guys are seeking to divide and Paul is seeking to unify – even though the opposite is being said of him and of them.

“I repeat, let no one think me foolish.  But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little.” 2 Corinthians 11:16

He’s like, “Hey! you let other fools come in here and talk all the nonsense they want.  Can I have a turn?!”

“He gives a good reason why they should suffer him to boast a little; namely, because they suffered others to do so who had less reason…Or these words, ‘You suffer fools gladly, seeing you yourselves are wise,’ may be ironical, and then the meaning is this: ‘Notwithstanding all your wisdom, you willingly suffer yourselves to be brought into bondage under the Jewish yoke, or suffer others to tyrannize over you; nay, to devour you, or make a prey of you, and take of you hire for their own advantage, and to exalt themselves above you, and lord it over you; nay, even to smite you on the face, or impose upon you to your very faces, upbraiding you while they reproach me, as if you had been very weak in showing regard to me.’  Seeing this was the case, that the Corinthians, or some among them, could so easily bear all this from the false apostles, it was reasonable for the apostle to desire, and expect, they should bear with what might seem to them an indiscretion in him, seeking the circumstances of the case were such as made it needful that whereinsoever any were bold he should be bold also.” ~Matthew Henry

Paul goes on to say exactly who he is beginning in verse 21.  They say they come from Abraham?  So do I!  They say serve Christ?  So do I!  They say they suffered for the gospel?  So have I!  Even more so no doubt!  Consider the facts, friends.

“He chiefly insists upon this, that he had been an extraordinary sufferer for Christ.  Note, When the apostle would prove himself an extraordinary minister, he proves that he had been an extraordinary sufferer.” Matthew Henry

Paul had suffered greatly for the Lord and no one could deny him that boast.  There was not a weak or scandalized Christian alive whom Paul could not sympathize with.

In chapter 12, Paul goes on to share of his visitations from God.  One would think with such great visions and revelations he would have been focusing constantly and speaking always of these things, but no.  Paul is humble and only speaks of them for their betterment in this case.  He speaks more so of his suffering so that the power of Christ may rest upon him.  (2 Corinthians 12:9)  From this we glean that speaking of our own weaknesses candidly causes the power of Christ to rest upon us.

Lastly, he states his concern.  He’s like, “Hey!  I’m not inferior to these boasting “apostles.”  God gave signs and wonders and works through me even though I am nothing.  Yet you fail to trust and love me while loving those who deceive you and malign both me and the gospel.  Listen to his plea of love toward them:

“Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit. 17 Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?” 2 Corinthians 12:14-18

I can hear his desperation saying, “I love you!!!  I don’t want your money!  But because of my generosity you distrust me?  Because I love you so much you love me less that those who do seek to rule and deceive and take from you?”

“He blames them for what was faulty in them; namely, that they had not stood up in his defense as they ought to have done, and so made it more needful for him to insist so much on his own vindication.  They in manner compelled him to commend himself…Note, it is a debt we owe to good men to stand up in defense of their reputation; and we are under special obligations to those we have received benefit by, especially spiritual benefit, to own them as instruments in God’s hand of good to us, and to vindicate them when they are calumniated by others…so far he was from seeking praise from men, though he tells them their duty to vindicate his reputation – so far was he from applauding himself, when he was forced to insist upon his own necessary self-defense.” Matthew Henry

Paul indicts them on the charge that they should have been sticking up for him.  For the truth he was teaching.  But they were not.  He makes it clear that he is not defending himself, rather trying to teach them for their own good and for the edification of the whole body.  He is begging them to listen.

 

 

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Philippians chapter 3 begins with the word “finally.”  Finally, to sum up all he has just instructed his beloved church from his jail cell, Paul risks redundancy for the sake of emphasis.  His uniform plea is this, “Rejoice in the Lord.”

Rejoice in the Lord, not the religious works and ways others are so violently demanding from you.

Paul goes on with some repeated warnings and exhortations meant to deter false confidences gained by submission to false teachers who were infiltrating the church.  He magnifies the sole source of true confidence as Christ alone.  He insists that this is the only real reason to rejoice.  The life we live here on earth is shifting, unsafe, unjust, and unpredictable.  Though it may temporarily boost our assurance in self, mere religious piety and adherence to strict, overbearing teachers only hinders our assurance of faith.  Why?  Because we fail.

 It seems that the best way he knows to convey these truths is by telling them what does not offer confidence in the eternal – the stumbling blocks for many a pious person, if you will.

His warning begins with a call to vigilance concerning false teachers who were demanding physical acts as rites of passage into the faith.  Apparently the church in Philippi was oppressed by Judaizers and the like who would insist upon circumcision and other obediences to the Old Testament law before recognizing one into the faith.

Paul debunks these heresies by referring to “the circumcision” as those who simply “worship by the Spirit of God, glory in Christ, and put no confidence in the flesh.”  He taught that membership within the body of Christ was not related to fleshly acts of religious show in the least.  He cites his own weighty past profile and refers to his prestigious religious resume, in its entirety, as dung.

All he’d worked for to be recognized as a leader in the religious community.  Dung.  All he’d sacrificed to obtain power and position among the most learned Jews of his day.  Dung.  Everything he had fought with blood, sweat, tears, and study to prove that he was a pedigree person of piety.  Dung.  His point?  A righteousness that a man can obtain in self-reliance and self-sufficiency – a righteousness that he, if anyone at all, would most certainly be worthy of receiving, is not a righteousness that God accepts.  We need a righteousness that comes from God and depends on faith.  We need a righteousness that comes from God and depends on faith.  (Philippians 3:9)  With that, any other “righteousness” is not only useless and unnecessary, but contemptible to those who have been graciously given the former.  These things compete with Christ for our obedience and service which makes them repulsive.  It’s like inheriting a fortune and then being told by the bankrupt what you must do to get rich.  Absurd.

Why did Paul renounce his debonair distinctions?  Verses 9-11 tell us.

To gain Christ.  The only thing saved by works of the law is pride.  God opposes the proud.  We must throw off pride’s vices if we are sincere about obtaining a real relationship with Jesus Christ.

To be found in Him.  We cannot be found in Christ when we are lost in self-promoting works.

To have a real righteousness.  Works righteousness blocks the gate to real righteousness because it demands impossible human perfection.  Because only Christ was perfectly righteous, to project any righteousness apart from him requires pretense and falsifying our identity in place of confessing our sin and trusting in God.

To depend on faith.  Depending on self is the foolish, godless product of works righteousness.  If we cannot depend on self, we must depend on our faith in Jesus Christ.

To know Him and the power of His resurrection.  We do not feel a need to know Christ or rely on his salvation if we believe we are self-sufficient.  Therefore, we cannot know Him if we are self-reliant.

To share his sufferings and become like him in his death.  Esteemed law keepers of the world do not look, act, or get treated like Christ.  His children, on the other hand, look, act, and are treated just like he was.

To attain resurrection from the dead.  Because this is only possible when we recognize our desperate need of Christ alone – not religion alone.  Not religion plus Christ.  Christ alone.

Paul makes it crystal clear for the Philippians and for us.  Joy in all circumstances is only possible when Christ is the only card we’re playing.  When we bank on him, our righteousness and salvation is secure.  Therefore, rejoice in the Lord.  Again I say, rejoice!

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Paul had written to the Galatians concerning the law.  He sought to debunk the falseness of legalism as well as harsh, erring teachers whose elitism was excluding certain believers from the body of Christ.  He does so by placing faith up on display and it’s object (Christ) over all legal obligations.  He reasons that works cannot save and that there is no superiority between brothers in Christ – all are one in him.  In other words, there are no “better” Christians or “lesser” Christians as these elitists and arrogant teachers were proposing.  Every believer is on level ground at the cross (Galatians 3:26-29) and therefore no one has a right to exclude another based upon legal obligations.

 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. ~Galatians 4:1-7

In chapter 4, Paul goes on to compare the Old Testament believers as underage children of a king.  He reasons that children and slaves do not differ until the child becomes mature, and that in Christ believers are now mature, adopted sons.  The indisputable proof of our sonship and inclusion is found not in external obligations or internal bloodlines, but by the seal of the Holy Spirit which gives us the right to cry out to God as our very own Father.

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. ~John 1:11

Christ’s own people did not receive him.  Neither did they receive his followers.  They chose instead to continue in slavery and attempt to bind God’s true children to that same life-sucking slavery.  

Paul will not stand for this kind of gospel truncation because it is a damnable heresy.  He chooses instead, like Christ, to identify with those who were despised and rejected and assure them that they indeed have been given the right to become the very children of God.

The presence of the Holy Spirit in us bears witness to us by prompting our hearts to cry out to our heavenly daddy whenever the law or its tyrannical masters seek to condemn or exclude us on any legal basis. Christianity is not a matter of legality, but of faith.  Legalists obey the law in the sight of men because it makes them feel superior to everyone else.  Faithful children obey the Lawmaker when no one even sees or knows because he is our Daddy.   

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9RqVRBtjM4

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After laying a foundation for justification by faith, Paul jumps into full swing regarding the errors his counterparts had made in believing otherwise.  I call this Paul’s “Don’t Be Stupid” speech.

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? ~Galatians 3:1-6

In a day wherein Jesus was calling men to lay down their lives as he so willingly, humbly, and publicly did, some self-indulgent leaders were propagating just the opposite.

“Be like us!” they demanded with a heavy hand and a hard heart.  But what, truly, were they like?

Remember Paul when he was Saul?  Yeah.  They were men who loved violence.  They loved to stand by watching and approving of explicit brutality between men.  Think Jesus; Stephen.  They also loved position and authority coupled with blatant unconcern and disinterest in those they sought only to use, abuse, dominate, and rule over.  Simply put, you wouldn’t catch these guys visiting the sick or calling the downtrodden, unless, of course, it somehow benefited them.

 Little wonder why Paul indicts those who would fall for their manipulative schemes as “foolish” and “bewitched.”  One would have to be under a kind of evil delusion or deadly deception to exalt the very men whose skewed views sought to shame them with petty power plays and unaccepted principles.  Their system was nothing but a sepulcher full of godless religion; a ghetto of gangster glorification; a graveyard of worldly gain built upon greed.

Therefore, Paul was not name-calling the Galatians in his reproof.  He did, however have a serious need to draw their attention to what he was about to say.  He was merely raising his voice via parchment and pen in an effort to convey the extreme severity of the message to follow.

That message was this: Religious works are not the prerequisite of salvation – faith is.  He asks the Galatians a few no-brainers to get them there.  Notice, while his opponents were questioning and casting doubt upon these peoples’ faith and calling, Paul does just the opposite.  He appeals to their consciences by reminding them of the many evidences they had of the gift of true faith in their hearts.

Paul’s like, “Hey guys!  Aren’t you the ones who saw Jesus die on the cross?  Didn’t you receive his Holy Spirit when you believed in his resurrection?  Haven’t you suffered and endured much hardship for his sake – because you believed for better?  Were these things a result of your own law-keeping?  Do you really think you can add to what God has so completely done for you?  Do you know how absurd that is?  You’d have to be an utter fool to let some unspiritual guru come along and tell you it’s not about faith; that you do not belong to God.  You are righteous because you believe, not because you worked well enough to earn his love.  You are his.  You are justified.  You are my brothers and sisters.  Don’t you ever doubt it because of what some guys with britches too big for their own bad theology say.  In fact, you are the very sons of Abraham if you possess faith.”

Paul takes an Old Testament promise and prophesy written exclusively to the Jews and applies it directly to the New Testament Gentile believers.  Now that’s some serious inclusion if I’ve ever seen it.   When it comes to biblical interpretation, it doesn’t get much clearer than that.  So much for the Jewish pride parade.  Surprise, guys!  God has a vast people in mind for election.  Contrary to popular belief, it ain’t just for the elite religious athletes who happen to be born with the better bloodline.  

Therefore, Paul exhorts the Gentiles to repent of their Jewish-rule-keeper-instilled doubt and deception.  He wants them to learn to rejoice in their freely-given faith.  He shows them that they are indeed qualified to be the blessed children of God himself.

That’s a far cry from forcing flawless performance and denying integrated inclusion to those with different associations and unorthodox backgrounds isn’t it?  I can admire a man who loves his learners enough to remind them who they really are.  I guess Jesus isn’t into elitism or exclusivity when it comes to his grace.  Everyone is equally welcome at his table.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPa9TrFGHAQ

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Paul elaborates further on his opening statements in Galatians 1 and 2.  He wants his hearers to understand who he is, where he came from, and why his accusers are bogus.  He gives ample reason why they can be assured that he is trustworthy.  Paul gives a detailed account of his travels and experiences both with God and the church.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus…(In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) ~Galatians 1:10-17, 20

Why would Paul so adamantly state that he was not lying?  Apparently there were more than a few who were spreading misleading information regarding he and his reputation.  So much so that he felt he had to vehemently declare his own innocence in the face of those he cared so dearly for.  But as he defends himself, he insists that he has only one opinion in mind – God’s.  Ironic, huh?  A man defending himself for the sake of the truth he is teaching and the God he is serving.  While his accusers may charge his defense self-righteous,  2000+ years of study has proven otherwise.  

Paul defends himself and restates his motives because he recognizes the great potential for men to misunderstand, misrepresent, and malign him because of them.  Let’s face it, when you’re working for God, people don’t always understand.  He wants his brothers and sisters to recognize that, too.  So, he reminds them who he is working to please and where his authority comes from.  Paul wasn’t flaunting Pharisaic degrees given by rabbis.  He wasn’t pointing to his strict upbringing or his noble birth.  Never once do we see Paul boasting about his worldly accolades – even though we are certain he had more than most.  But, no.  When Paul pointed to his qualification, he pointed to God alone.  When he pointed to his past, he pointed only to his own failure.  (Galatians 1:12-14)

Little wonder why Paul’s emphasis is stayed upon the sufficiency and supernatural calling of Christ alone.  (Galatians 1:15-17)  No doubt this is why these false teachings and bogus accusations are so concerning to him.  He knows the mission of these men is not just to discredit and discount him.  Their mission is to discredit the true gospel and replace it with a false one.  Can someone say cult?  Yikes.

So Paul regards not anything of his own making or doing.  He relies not upon himself or any worldly credentials.  Yet, he proves that he has everything.  Paul had what the religious authorities of his day did not.  He had the mighty hand of God Almighty laid strong upon his very life. (Galatians 1:15-24)  No one could miss that, unless, of course, they needed to.

Yes, these men who claimed to be the authorities needed to discredit Paul.  They wanted people to disbelieve him.  His true doctrine did not fit with their destructive practices.  From self-promoting, self-made rituals to regulatory impositions upon other people, they wanted to stay right where they’d always been – in charge.

Why would the Christians follow, though?  Why would they allow these guys to enforce their man-made rules?  Why would they mix works with faith as a prerequisite to salvation?  Why would they mix the law with the gospel?  Didn’t they know better?  What was the motivation for such unpleasant penance?  And why was it so important for them to make sure they followed these guys?  

Well, not surprisingly, they did it for the same reason men and women today do just the opposite: persecution.

Today, most religious authorities do not persecute for lack of ritual observation (although a few still would have us all working for salvation, abstaining from marriage and meat, and wearing what’s most out of style.)  But, no.  Now, the most destructive heresies come as a result of what many claim to be a “lack of tolerance.”  Oh, yes.  This is our cultural creed.  Where the Jews’ cultural creed was don’t eat, don’t associate, don’t include, and don’t dare forget your fast and sacrifice (even though Jesus finished all that) or else we’ll ostracize you, ours is don’t judge, don’t discern, don’t debate, don’t question – even if – you guessed it – heresies are prevalent within the church (because, well, Jesus wouldn’t want anyone spitting hairs over things like sin or exposing it for goodness sake…and if you do, we’ll ostracize you.)  

Both errors result from missing the imperative balance between law and grace.  Love brings law and grace together for the good of all, not self-interest.  

We must recognize our time and refer to Paul and Jesus who both rightly refused to bow to the bosses with the biggest britches.  We’ve simply got someone else to please.  Fight on, Christian soldiers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mG78M7g9wRo

 

 

 

 

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