2 Corinthians, Lesson 17: True Apostles versus False Apostles

True or False (610x351)Dealing with the false teachers who have inserted themselves at Corinth, with approval of some of the congregation, Paul and Timothy said that those teachers used their own standard of measure to assess themselves, not “the Rule” (ho kanon; 2 Corinthians 10:13, 15; “influence, ESV). 

Although we don’t know what that “rule” was, we find out what it contained because Paul and Timothy go one to expound on that. To bring out some of the content of “the Rule,” Paul and Timothy use plenty of irony, using the literal meaning of a word to signify the opposite.


The Jesus, the Spirit, and the Gospel that Paul and Timothy Have Brought to Corinth

Read 2 Corinthians 11:1-2

  • In vs. 1, in what sense does Paul use “foolishness”?


“I feel a divine jealousy”: In English, “jealous” comes with baggage, which is not in Paul’s usage of zalos. Also, Paul doesn’t use the word “feel.” He, instead says, “I am zealous for you with the zeal of God.”

  • What is Paul’s state of being in relation to the Corinthian congregation?


Excursus: The Church as Ever Virgin until the Day of Christ’s Return

Paul here is tapping into Jewish marriage practices. Back then, betrothal was so serious that it took a divorce to break off a betrothal, unlike our marriage engagements. Also, if a betrothed woman had sex with someone else, it was considered adultery (Deuteronomy 22:13-15). (That’s why Matthew tells us that Joseph planned to “divorce” Mary to break off the betrothal when he found out she was pregnant.)

Once a man and woman were betrothed, the woman’s father had the legal responsibility to safeguard her virginity until she and the man married (Sirach 42:9-10), which normally took place a year later. Understanding these steps toward marriage, Paul refers to himself as the spiritual father of the Corinthians (here, but also in 2 Corinthians 6:13 and 12:14-15).

In establishing the Corinthian congregation, Paul betrothed that congregation to Christ as their “husband.” Now, Paul as the father, is to protect the Corinthians from other suitors so he can present them “as a pure virgin to Christ.” The consummation of this marriage will take place when the risen Lord returns in glory.

Paul then paints a picture of the Church as ever virgin, awaiting her Bridegroom and the fulfillment of salvation on the Last Day. Paul also spoke of this to the Ephesians:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her, so that he himself would make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of the water in the word, so that he would present her to himself as a glorious Church, having no stain or wrinkle or any such thing, but so that she is holy and unblemished. [Ephesians 5:25-27]

Jesus also spoke of Himself as the Church’s bridegroom (Mark 2:19-20). And through a parable, Jesus taught that His Church is to be faithful to their betrothal to Him as they await the “wedding feast” that will be celebrated when He returns in glory (Matthew 25:1-13).

And the New-Testament Scriptures reach its climax in a song of victory: “Alleluia! The Lord our God, the Almighty, is reigning. Let us rejoice, be glad, and give him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:6-7).


Read 2 Corinthians 11:3

Moses’ account of humanity’s fall into sin simply refers to the perpetrator who tempted Eve as “the serpent.” It’s not until the Old Testament Apocrypha book of Wisdom where the serpent is specifically named as “the devil” (Wisdom 2:24). (Remember that God had not yet given the Apostle John his vision. In Revelation 12:9, John identified the ancient serpent, as “the Devil [liar] and Satan [Adversary], the deceiver of the whole world.”) Here, Paul simply identifies the serpent as “Satan.”

  • As the serpent Satan deceived Eve during the fall into sin (Genesis 3:1-6), how can the Corinthian congregation be deceived and commit “spiritual adultery” against Christ?


  • Extrapolating from the imagery that Paul uses, what is the pastor’s role in keeping the congregation as “ever virgin”?


Read 2 Corinthians 11:4


Lesson 17, 2 corinthians 11.4, Repetition to Make a Point


  • How did Corinthian Christians receive another Jesus, spirit [or Spirit], and Gospel than what Paul and Timothy brought to them, “according to the Rule” (2 Corinthians 10:15-16)?


  • Thus, what are three parts of “the Rule”?


“another Gospel” and “the Rule”: Paul blessed the Galatian congregation with peace and mercy, “as many as walk according to the rule [ho kanon]” (Galatians 6:16). Earlier in that letter, he wrote:

Even if we [Paul and the brother pastors with him] or a messenger from heaven should bring to you a gospel other than what we have brought to you [according to the Rule], he is [imperative] cursed! As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone preaches to you a gospel contrary to what you received [according to the Rule], he is [imperative] cursed!


Why Paul is Superior to the So-Called “Super-Apostles”

Read 2 Corinthians 11:5-6

  • What does Paul concede that the false teachers/preachers at Corinth had accused him of?


“unskilled”: Greek, idiotas. The Jewish historian, Josephus, used idiotas to refer to Moses (Antiquities, 2.271), whose speaking skills were such that God allowed him to use his brother, Aaron, to speak on his behalf.

  • Why then is Paul not “inferior to these super-apostles”?


Read 2 Corinthians 11:7-9

“robbed”: Paul uses an old Greek verb from the time of Homer, which described soldiers looting and profiting from their military exploits. Soldiers would take the weapons of captured or fallen enemies, desecrate the bodies of the fallen, and pillage captured cities and towns. Such actions were associated with sulao, the verb “rob.” Paul is being both ironic and hyperbolic.

  • What did Paul receive from other congregations that he did not receive from Corinth?


  • How does he leverage that to contrast himself with the “super-apostles”? 


Read 2 Corinthians 11:10-11

  • The super-apostles had boasted in themselves. With the “truth of Christ” in him, in whom will Paul not stop boasting? (see 2 Corinthians 10:17)


  • Why is Paul so stubborn in this matter?


What Paul Resolves to Continue to Do

Read 2 Corinthians 11:12

Last week, we learned that Paul said that these “super-apostles” were not authorized to do what they were doing, for they measured themselves against themselves, not according “the Rule.” Contrary to “the Rule,” they were not properly appointed (Acts 14:23, 1 Tim 5:22, Titus 1:5) and sent (Romans 10:15), nor had God, through His Church, commended or approved them (2 Corinthians 10:18). 

That in itself was enough. But Paul didn’t stop there. He said they were theologically dangerous, for they brought “another Jesus,” “another Spirit,” and “another Gospel.”  

Because of those two reasons—not properly authorized according to “the Rule” and false teaching—Paul now says what he will continue to do.

  • What is the claim of these “super-apostles”?


  • What does Paul plan on continuing to do regarding these “super-apostles”?


Read 2 Corinthians 11:13

In the Church, being sent by the proper authority is a big deal. Jesus sent His Apostles (John 20:23). Without that sending, they were not authorized to do what Jesus had told them to do. Paul said that preachers of the Word have to be sent (Romans 10:15) and commissioned by God (2 Corinthians 2:17). In the New-Covenant Church, this was originally done through the Apostles, and then later by the pastors whom they had sent (1 Tim 5:22, Titus 1:5). (In other words, there are no self-sent, “self-called” pastors in the Church.)

  • What made these “super-apostles” false? (2 Corinthians 10:12, 15)


“deceitful”: Greek, dolios. The adjective for the noun “fish bait.”

  • What made these workmen deceitful? (2 Corinthians 11:4, 12)


  • How were they disguising themselves as legitimate? (2 Corinthians 3:1)


Excursus: The “False Apostles”

We know little about these “false apostles.” Here is what we do know. They:

  1. were ethnically Jewish (11:22);
  2. brought letters of recommendation for themselves, which they used to sanction what they were doing (3:1);
  3. preached a different gospel (11:4);
  4. accepted financial support for their services (2:17);
  5. took advantage of the Corinthians (11:20), which is next week’s lesson;
  6. were outsiders who came to Corinth during Paul’s absence (10:13-18); and,
  7. were severely critical of Paul (6:8; 10:2, 10).

These false apostles were likely like the Judaizers in Galatia, who required Christians to be circumcised and embrace the ritual law of the Old Covenant.


False Pastors in the Church

  • How does Satan disguise himself?


  • What do false pastors in the Church look like?


Outwardly, these “super-apostles” looked good (2 Corinthians 5:12). But despite appearances, they had acted deceitfully and falsified God’s Word (2 Corinthians 4:2).

  • Why will their “end” correspond to “their deeds”? (In other words, if they bring a different Jesus and a different Spirit, what is the result?)


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