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2 Corinthians 11:10–13

“What I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do” (v. 12).

False teachers throughout history have attempted to gain a hearing for themselves by claiming to work according to the same call and terms as the true servants of God. Muhammad, the founder of Islam, for example, claimed to be a prophet in the line of other prophets such as Moses. Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith, asserted that he was an apostle just like the biblical Apostles.

Such claims are not limited to the postbiblical era, for as we see in today’s passage, the false teachers who troubled the first-century Corinthian church professed to work “on the same terms” as the Apostle Paul (2 Cor. 11:12). In other words, they claimed to hold the true Apostolic office. Such claims confused the Corinthian church, leading many of its members to pay heed to false teachers’ error. Thus, Paul had to show how he differed from them to convince the Corinthians that the arguments of these teachers could not be sustained.

The false teachers’ claims to be on the same level as Paul and other true Apostles were inconsistent with their attacks on the Apostle for his unsophisticated speech, unimpressive appearance, supposed lack of ministry effectiveness, and failure to accept financial support from the Corinthians (10:1–11:10). Apparently, that inconsistency did not bother them. Paul, however, made the most of this inconsistency to reveal that they could not be true Apostles. He notes in 2 Corinthians 11:10–12 that he would continue to turn down support from the church in Corinth so that he could continue to boast in his not being bound to them financially. Paul’s thinking seems to be that if he were to start accepting support from Corinth, the false teachers would have a stronger claim to being true Apostles of Jesus because they, too, were receiving funds from at least some of the believers in Corinth. He did not want to give them any ground for claiming similarity to him and the other true Apostles lest the Corinthians be deceived by their ministry. So, he rejected the Corinthians’ gifts.

Again we see Paul’s pastoral concern for the Corinthians. Surely, life would have been easier for him in at least some ways if he were to accept even a little support from the church in Corinth. But in that particular context, doing so meant the Corinthian church might have a harder time distinguishing between true Apostles and false apostles. Paul preferred to carry on without support from the Corinthians so that they could see that the false teachers were really false apostles (vv. 12–13).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

It is not always easy to tell the difference between false teachers and true teachers. Thus, let us pray that God will give us discerning hearts so that we might not be deceived. Even the most studied of us can be tricked, so let us pray regularly that the Lord will help us distinguish between truth and falsehood and even between truths and half-truths.

For Further Study
  • Proverbs 17:4
  • Hosea 14:9
  • Romans 12:2
  • Ephesians 5:10

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From the December 2021 Issue
Dec 2021 Issue