In Second Corinthians chapter eleven Paul employed Socratic irony in his defense of his apostleship and labors there. A modest interpretation of his point is “You Corinthians seem to be listening to the wrong folks, and want to discount my work amongst you; and you compare me to others who make a claim to apostleship though without any credentials. So I’ll offer up a rhetorical comparison of my works and history against their illegitimate boasts. And I’ll suggest that I am not less than an equal to the twelve apostles, and that I am in truth far above these posers; as I am the one who first taught you the gospel and brought you to Christ. Yet now you are leaning toward these impostors who do not truly care for your souls as I have, and who are false teachers.” He offered a list of his bona fides to remind them that he had been hand chosen of God, and of his sufferings for the cause of Christ. He also warned them about being taken in by false apostles.
“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you may well put up with it.” (NKJV)
The ESV reads similarly; “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.”
Paul didn’t list names here as he had with Hymenaeus and Philetus or Alexander the coppersmith. He may not have known who was doing what. And he did not whine about the possibility of being turned away from by some of the folks there. That would do no good. He didn’t weigh the old against the new. He simply stated his record and history to remind them how he had obtained his election, and how he had labored among them. Mainly he condemned any departure from what they had been taught from the beginning and from what had been confirmed directly to them with signs and wonders.
His concern as it was voiced is that they should maintain the principal things they had been taught by him; things that had been learned from those who truly had had their best interests at heart, and who also had the full sanction of heaven. They had been taught and established by Paul and his companions through years of service set right in front of their own eyes.
He warned them against becoming corrupted. When something is corrupted, its value decreases dramatically or is lost completely. If bread grows moldy, what good is it? If a computer program gets corrupted, it doesn’t work so well, if at all. Paul’s fear was that the assembly was beginning to put up with these false teachers with their new faces and new ideas, offering some touted lineage right alongside their digressions. If the Corinthians took to these things; that would result quickly in a non-functioning assembly whose light would be in danger of going out in that region. If the light goes out, only darkness remains.
He was not shuffling his rhetorical feet about something being taught by teachers inferior to an apostle but who were instructing the identical things he had taught; as some have suggested. And he is not speaking out of turn, or merely thumping his chest. He had been chosen by God Almighty and the Son of God for particular duties, and he had been fulfilling those in Corinth and everywhere else he had ventured. He was sounding an alarm.
If you clear the explanatory clauses from verse three, what remains is “But I fear… your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” The ESV reads “I am afraid… thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” It is a cry of concern and a warning against the impostors, these false apostles and false teachers introducing illegitimate and deceitful doctrines.
In his argument’s conclusion he stated, “But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself he is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” He would not be stopped in setting aright the things headed off in the wrong direction.
If a “different Jesus” is being taught, it is a corrupt doctrine and it will corrupt you.
If something comes from a “different” spirit (and both scripture and reason tell us that any “new spirit” could not and did not come from God, but must come from somewhere far south of God’s throne and authority): It is a corrupt spirit and it will corrupt you.
Lastly, if someone comes along teaching a different or a new gospel, some variation of the good news you already accepted, understand and know – that man is corrupt and his teaching is also a corruption of the truth.
So, if the word or the particulars of the good news are modified by anyone, in any form, by any authority, under any auspices, and something is added into it or taken from it, and no matter who they say they are or where they say they came from and who sent them, if it is not the apostle’s doctrine and it can’t be found in the word of God – it is corrupt and it will corrupt you.
There is no irony at all in this part. His intent was to note that he believed they might either wittingly or unwittingly put up with such people and with such things in his absence, if left without solid guidance. They would be walking away from sound doctrine and would start worshipping in vain, leaving off what they had clearly been taught.
The point for us now is that we too must avoid any form of corruption; as anything not previously given through the sanctioned and identified avenue of inspiration serves only to corrupt the simplicity and the purity of the Word of God; and such things should be rejected outright.
Now, with all this laid out clearly and in plain sight; how are we collectively and individually doing in the anti-corruption department?
Is the gospel that you believed in and which you obeyed theÂ genuine article, the one gospel delivered by the author of eternal salvation? Are you obedient to the uncomplicated, simple, and sincere pure instructions that have been offered “once for all time?” Do you follow the same form and practice as it was at the first given and taught? If not, why not? What (I wonder) will be the outcome for not having done so?
Are you doing something else – anything else? Perhaps you’re doing something altogether different from what is commanded and exampled in the scriptures?
The devil is indeed in the details.
Do you ignore some of the commands of Christ and the apostles, because somebody said that those things aren’t relevant today? Do you follow the teacher without scrutinizing what he says, without paying attention to where he stands doctrinally? Do you listen because the speaker says he is “a man of God” and has a wall full of credentials; or because he claims to speak with the Spirit of God? Do you believe in modern emanations and teachings of the Holy Spirit, or of any spirit, for that matter?
Like those in Corinth, have you been seduced into accepting such things? How does what you follow stack up against what the apostles told every single one of us to do, to follow, to watch out for, or what they told us each to avoid? Can you find a pattern in the scriptures for what God would have you to do? Or, do you follow after a new apostle, with a new spirit, and a new gospel, and not those found in God’s book?
How does it read to you?
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
“For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!”