False Apostles.

Even as you are singing, “Come let us worship”, it is actually I that am calling you to come. Yes I have taken the initiative from the very beginning, from the moment I crafted you together in your mother’s womb – through the whole path of your life, your relationships and eventually welcoming you into a relationship with Me . “Come” is still My invitation to you – you have to do nothing except stand up and follow Me – all you have to do is set aside all those other loves you have in your life and focus your eyes and your heart and desire on Me. So yes – come, call all together to follow me and worship together. That is what gives Me the greatest pleasure.

On to chapter 11 of 2 Corinthians. Paul opens the chapter with an affirmation of his love for the Corinthians and I love the way he uses the marriage picture to symbolize the church’s relationship with Christ, vs 2. Then as he is going to take the ones whom he calls false apostles on, he first lays down the ground rule ie the basic gospel message in vs 4. “Jesus Christ and Him crucified”. He has been affirming this gospel message from the very beginning of the first letter and does not hesitate to lay it down again here as a sort of gauntlet to the false apostles. “Here measure yourselves and your message against this”.

Then Paul takes on these people who have been attacking him. We can only surmise what they were exactly saying from what Paul says, but it seems something like this:

Paul was not an accomplished speaker. This would have been the measure of the many Greek debaters of themselves who loved to speak and debate about every sort of philosophy. They often would do this in the market places.

He needed to work to feed himself. The fact that he was not being paid by the church showed them that he was inferior.

All his suffering and hardship showed them that he had no supernatural power, which would have set him apart, in their eyes as a real apostle.

From Paul’s reply we can pick up the following characteristics of the false apostles:

They were claiming to be super (hyper-) apostles. vs 5. Paul takes up the theme of boasting which obviously points to the way they were presenting themselves. Their “gospel” message placed them in the center, not Jesus.

,They claimed a superior ability to speak in public and carry on the public debates. vs 6

They did not need to work to support themselves.

Paul depicts them as “masquerading as angels of the light” vs 13. This is a very serious and practical charge, because that is exactly how Satan does his work in the church. He plants people in the church who are charming and friendly and yet carry out Satan’s plans to destroy the church from the inside.

From vs 16 Paul replies to these accusations of boasting, taking on his most sarcastic tone. Even calling himself “a fool”, as he boasts of his weakness. This reply goes on into chapter 12 as he reels off all his “qualifications” to be able to boast about. Maybe we will look at this next week, while today we ponder on what we have just read in the first half of ch 11.

So as we read all this about false apostles, how is Jesus speaking to us now in 2023 from this. Especially since most of us are not in that sort of position in the church. Well, I think that it is very important that every Christian has the responsibility of weighing the teachers and teaching they are receiving. Not being taken in by outside appearances or for that matter academic qualifications. Whole swathes of the church today are being side-tracked by false teachers and false teaching and the pew members simply accepting what is told them without thinking it through. The basis of one’s assessment of any leader or teacher is, does he preach Christ and Him crucified? Is this the main mission of the church you attend?

We need to be aware of the many wiles of Satan as he seeks to divide and undermine God’s church. It is only through the vigilance of each member that these plans are thwarted.

In addition to this we are again reminded of what went into the production of the scriptures that we can so easily take for granted. It should also bolster our trust and belief in the words on the bible’s pages which lead us into the very presence of God Himself and His Son Jesus.

May God bless you all till next week.

Apostolic Authority.

High and lifted up – the Darling of Heaven crucified – worthy is the Lamb that was slain.

“Even as I was slain I was taken into the very presence of the Father to be glorified – but I first had to experience the searing pain of being separated from Him. As I have soared into the glory of the Father – I am the only one who actually deserves this honour – but because you have trusted in Me and are therefore in Me – I take you up into the presence of the Father with Me, so that you too can appreciate the glory of His presence. A glory which is impossible to describe in human terms and only will be truly appreciated when you enter into it. So come – my invitation to you is to come – just as you are – without preparation – I will prepare you, I will give you My worth so that you can come with Me. Be excited and filled with expectation.”

As we come now to 2 Corinthians ch 10, we start a new section. Up till now Paul has dealt with the past and the present. Now he looks forward to the future – his expected visit to them again, in person. Seeking to find the true thread of Paul’s thoughts as he pours out many words, I have tried to distill the main theme which he is presenting to these people.

Just let us remind ourselves what we have seen up to now. Paul is dealing here with two lots of people in the Church at Corinth. He is facing a small recalcitrant group who are criticizing him and more or less rejecting his authority. The basis for their rejection is the fact that he has suffered much and had many serious set-backs. On top of that he seems to have been unimpressive in appearance and perhaps did not even speak that clearly. According to them this outward appearance and negative experience, disqualified him from being a true apostle who should be seen as a victor all the time, demonstrating the power which would prove that he is a true apostle..

At the same time he had to keep in mind the many folk who were truly saved in the church and who needed him to encourage them.

His answer to them then in this section is that his apostolic ministry is from the Lord. Not something he has taken upon himself. They should not judge him by his appearance but by the spiritual content of the message that he is bringing to them. It is important to him that he sets this up before he visits them so that he can accomplish the purpose of his visit more effectively.

Ch 10 has three sections and can be summarized as follows:

Verses 1-6; Paul may appear weak and afraid to be bold – yet he confronts those who are against him with some powerful language. He makes the point that their problem is a spiritual problem – revealed in their disobedience. The hint is that there are spiritual forces at work behind this disobedience. The important point is that he has God’s authority to overrule the spiritual forces that are behind their actions. Note – the spiritual weapons are from God Himself.

Verses 7-11; The Corinthians are challenged not to assess Paul on his appearance but on the fact that he has received his authority from God. Paul’s apostolic claim is thus that the ministry he has is a ministry given him by God Himself. This is extremely important, because this reflects on the very scriptures we read and believe are from God Himself, because of this authority He gave Paul. Reflecting back on ch 3:1-3 – the proof of the veracity of his authority is the change in the lives of those who have responded to the gospel message.

Verses 12 – 17; The Corinthians had obviously been boasting in their ministry. Paul compares his ministry as coming from the Lord Himself and warns them that it is not boasting that shows how good their ministry had been but a growth in faith. This would be reflected in making it possible to preach the gospel in regions further on.

Reflecting on this chapter to hear what Jesus was saying to me, I was struck with the continuous insistence by Paul of the fact hat His ministry is from the Lord. It is so easy to start taking any success or failure in one’s ministry as coming from our own ability or failure. It is so important that our message be the message from the Lord and the response that comes is to the Lord’s message, not our ability. This is important in all our interactions with other people, both Christian and non-Christian.

This has also been a timely reminder again of the fact that we need to see the scriptures as from the Lord Himself and therefore the authority in the scripture is from God through the writing of Paul and he other writers who have been included in the canon of scripture.

I also need to see any criticism levelled against me comes from spiritual forces who operate behind the faces of those who voice them and are actually aimed at God Himself and actually not me personally.

Friends, this letter has many of Paul’s words, not always easy to follow the gist of his argument and it has become clear to me that is why it is the least read letter of his. However as part of the canon of scripture we should try and hear what Jesus is saying to us even in these difficult passages. Next week we will look at the next passage which deals with the false apostles of the time. However there are plenty of them around now and we need to be aware of how they operate. God bless you as you read on.

Grace Abounding.

“Oh the deep deep love of Jesus “ – I am overwhelmed by the words of this song I have been listening to which highlights Jesus’ love for me – for us.

“Love – A word which conjures up mystical, almost ethereal emotions and ideas. It brings forth the picture of beauty, loveliness, light, warmth. At the same time it can also be a fixed point in times of ugliness and despair. It can be a shining light of hope against the darkness of unfaithfulness and desertion. That is why My love is so different. It is not ethereal – it is real – demonstrated by My supreme act on the cross which I undertook solely for the benefit of mankind, for you and all others who would receive it. It is fixed and sure and if I could have done that – how much more will I do all else for you that love requires and offers. It is very real and calls for only one response – your love for Me in return, demonstrated by your action of following Me as you deny yourself”

As we come now again to Corinthians ch 9, we get to the heart of the teaching on giving. For many Christians, their giving is just a matter of “tithing”. There is nothing wrong with that, however that is not the New Testament teaching on giving. That is an Old Testament requirement, almost like a tax. In the New Testament giving is an act of worship. An act which reflects our relationship with God and understanding of His generosity towards us.

The first part of Ch 9 continues with Paul’s motivation to the Corinthians to give, using the Macedonians, almost to create a sort of competition or jealousy.

The real teaching comes from v 6 -15. Just a few observations that struck me. I wonder what you saw in these vv as you read them.

The first word which struck me was the word “grace” which is repeated twice (vv 8, 14). From that I gather that our giving is commensurate with our understanding the grace of God. As I have reflected on God’s grace I realize how difficult it is to really understand and appreciate the fulness of His grace and what it really means. He has given and given to us. He has given forgiveness to us at great expense to Himself. To us who absolutely did not and never will deserve it. The God of all creation coming in human form and dying for us. As well as that He has given us everything we need to live our lives in grateful thanks to Him.

As we understand that through God’s intervention it will show in our response. That is what v 8 is really saying. It will show in our being prepared to sow generously. It will show in the cheerfulness and joy in giving. Another translation of the word “cheerful” in vs 7 is “hilarious”. That should characterize our giving. A joy which reflects our understanding of God’s grace. Against that background you give what you have decided in your heart not because of a law of compulsion to give a tenth. Don’t know how much to give? Well start with a tenth.

Paul goes on to describe the spiritual concept and benefits of sowing generously. The last part of vs 8 reminds us that giving is just part of the lives of those who have been transformed by God’s love. It is part of “every good work” which every Christian shows.

The vs he quotes from psalm 112 follows one in the psalm which says that good will come to those who lend (give) generously and is part if the description of a man under God’s blessing. (Psalm 112:5)

Then (back in Corinthians) from vs 10 onwards Paul shows how our sowing ( giving) brings a harvest. The harvest is not one of wealth in financial terms. The harvest is one of righteousness. Yet at the same time God promises that no matter how much you give He will always continue to supply all your needs.

This whole attitude of generosity becomes a great part of your witness to the reality of your relationship with God and will result in people recognizing God’s work in us overflowing in thankfulness.

So summarizing some of these main points, our giving is a reflection of a God who is continually giving to us and should bring a response as part of our Christian life of giving with great joy that which we decide, with God’s help to give. This whole attitude and action results in the most genuine witness that we can have to the reality of Jesus and His love. It should never be a legal requirement to somehow satisfy God that we are on the right path. It should also not be focused on what we will get in return. This is a teaching in the Prosperity churches.

Let us just focus on God’s love and grace in this coming week and let the rest flow from that. God bless you all.


“Without the blood where would I be, without Your love where would I be?” It seems as I ponder those words, that the whole of our relationship is initiated by You and at Your invitation.

“ You are right – from the moment of creation where I created to make a home for the pinnacle of my creation – who would become a kingdom of priests for Me – it was My initiative. I have reached out so that you would seek Me, I have sought the lost sheep, I have been the Father waiting with open arms for the lost son to return. I took the initiative at the cross to demonstrate My love to you and all creation. All I ask is for you and the rest of My chosen ones to respond and turn to me – recognize My love and seek Me – to make that your priority in your life – if you do that all the rest will fall into place.”

After a long introduction in 2 Corinthians, from ch 8 we now come to the main body of the letter. We will hear what Paul has on his heart to share with these people whom he has made such an issue of reaching out to. It seems the main thing is about a collection which he has been organized. Is that all, many would ask?

We first need to stand back and answer the question, why the big fuss about a simple collection? We need to transport ourselves back to that time. There was a need, a huge need. The Christians in Jerusalem were being persecuted and were suffering extreme poverty. There was no telephone, internet or easy way of communication. All communication had to happen by personal messenger. Travel was slow and awkward and often took months. Paul had obviously made it his purpose to try and relieve this poverty while he was on his apostolic trips and had tasked people, Titus and others, to be involved in this collection.

He first starts off by praising the Macedonian church to them, holding them up as an example of generosity. Where the people of Macedonia had given “even beyond their ability”. He holds this up as a sign of God’s grace vs 1. He then urges the Corinthians to follow suit by praising them for the other signs of God’s grace – faith, knowledge, complete earnestness and in their love for Paul and co. (vs7). Then in vs 8 he gives the motivation for them to respond.

Now let us stop here and look at this whole question of giving and generosity in general.

When true regeneration takes place in an individual a number of things happen. As God’s grace comes to bear, the person starts to become other people centred, rather than self-centred, which is the default state of the unbeliever. The true trigger that precipitates our regeneration is the realization of God’s generosity, His infinite love and grace towards one. This is really the basis of the gospel. The realization of the fact that God has reached out to us first. That He has bestowed gift upon gift onto us. As this realization takes hold of us we become aware that He seeks to reach others through the love He has shared with us. One of those things we are to share is His generosity. Both in time, love and in more concrete ways like giving financially.

I have often said that one of the surest signs that a person has been genuinely converted is that their wallet also becomes converted. However, as we all know, these positive changes in the new believer are often moderated by the draw to return to our previous lost state. So not everyone is equally changed in various respects and we therefore need to be reminded and encouraged in the path we should go.

This is what Paul is doing with the Corinthians, as he uses various methods to persuade them.

Firstly he holds up the example of the Macedonian Christians. He then reminds the readers of the fact that when we become Christians we first of all give ourselves to God and flowing from that obviously is the fact that we also give all we have to God. (vs 5). He then reminds them of all the other signs of change they have shown (vs 7) and urges them to add to that the grace of giving.

He then points out the true aim of the Christian church is to have equality among all the believers v 13 ff.

Having done all this he shares the practical arrangements he has made through Titus to fetch the collection and finally ends the chapter with the appeal “Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it”8:24

So what do I make of this? What do I hear Jesus saying? I have been convinced for most of my life as a Christian of the importance of this teaching on generosity. However there have often been times, I must admit that I felt rather reluctant to give what I felt the Lord was expecting of me. In retrospect, however the Lord has always more than come up with His promise that He will provide all I need. At times this has happened almost miraculously. So my testimony is, as hard as it is to give that last cent, like the widow’s mite, if that is what you believe the Lord is calling you to do He will never leave you stranded.

Te story on generosity goes on in Corinthians so let us explore further next week. Meanwhile have a blessed week in the Lord.