2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 43
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|“The Danger of Spiritual Deception – Part 3. When it comes to people who are supposed to be teaching God’s Word, I’m very sorry to say that in Christianity what some people call it today, we have the good, the bad, and the ugly.|
The Bad and the Ugly (2 Cor 11:12-15)
“The Danger of Spiritual Deception – Part 3,” “The Bad and the Ugly.” That’s what I want to entitle message. There’s one of those low budget, shoot-‘em-up western movies that came out about 20 some years ago and it was called, “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.” For some reason when I was studying this that title just kept coming back in my mind out of nowhere. I think what it was, it was the contrast in the title: “The Good,” and then contrasting with that “The Bad and the Ugly.”
You see, when it comes to people who are supposed to be teaching God’s Word, I’m very sorry to say that in Christianity what some people call it today, we have the good, the bad, and the ugly. We’ve seen the good. We’ve seen the apostle Paul and we’ve looked at his heart and we’ve looked at his humility and what a beautiful thing God has done in his life. But today we’re going to see the other side of the coin: the bad and the ugly.
Contextually Paul, at the risk of inviting some more criticism to himself, chooses to do something interesting. He chooses to use his own life as an example to contrast what’s going on with the false teachers in Corinth. You see, Paul detested ever talking about himself and about his own credentials. This was uncomfortable for him. He told us, and we know this is his heart, that only the people that God commends or approves, it doesn’t matter what man commends or not, it’s who God commends. And so this was very uncomfortable for him. But for the sake of the people of Corinth, the believers, who were being subjected to this false teaching, he crosses the line that he’s drawn for himself and he uses his own life to contrast the dangerous false teachers that are there.
In verse 8-12 we have seen that he’s made a huge decision not to take even a dime from the church of Corinth or any of the churches of Achaia for his livelihood. He’s not going to take any support from them at all. And I want to make sure you understand this. Jesus, as well as Paul, championed the fact that those who teach the Word of God should be taken care of financially. Not as a payment for preaching or teaching, but as support for their livelihood because they spend most of their time in study and in preparation. In fact, Paul even says in Galatians to give them double honor.
But God gave discernment to Paul beyond what Paul could have come up with. Paul discerned in his spirit that the church of Corinth, the rich church of Corinth, had a huge problem when it came to money, and so therefore he chose not to take anything from them. The problem was even made more serious by the false teachers. And by the way, remember the false teachers charged for the people to come and hear them say what they said.
Evidently these false teachers had even accused Paul of robbing the church when it came to this offering for the poor that he was taking up for the poor saints in Jerusalem. He wasn’t just taking it up in Corinth. He was taking it up in many areas. Perhaps this explains as we’ve sort of hinted at and looked at before, why Paul didn’t go and take up the offering himself. He sent Titus and some of the other brethren as a little group to go and take the offering up. All Paul was going to do was come by, pick it up, and take it to Jerusalem.
Well, verse 12 says, “But what I am doing, I will continue to do.” And what he’s saying and referring to here is Paul is going to continue to refuse to take any money from the church of Corinth, and actually, from any of the churches in Achaia. Achaia, remember, is in the southern part of Greece. By doing this, what he’s doing is he’s cutting off the opportunity of his critics. By doing this he keeps the false teachers from using money as a ploy and to criticize him with that. He says in verse 12, “But what I am doing, I will continue to do, that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting.”
And the word “opportunity” grabbed my attention, because it’s not the normal word for “opportunity” or season. It’s the word aphorme, and the word means “a rushing to do something, a rushing into something.” If Paul took any money for himself, if he would have chosen to do this from the church of Corinth, these false teachers would have rushed with a vengeance into this, using this as a criticism against him. And he said he wasn’t going to give them that opportunity. These false apostles were opportunists and were looking for anything to make Paul look bad and themselves to look good. This would have played right into their hands had he done this. You see, these people were apostle wannabes. He says, “to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting.”
Well, like I said, Paul represents the good and they represent the bad and the ugly. Let’s look at these bad and ugly false teachers and see some things about them, and you’ll see at the end of the message why we need to be hearing this. It’s not the comfortable passage, but when you’re preaching through a book you don’t skip the next three verses. You have to preach through them. So let’s look at it and see what God wants us to understand.
We need to understand the motive of the false teachers
First of all, we need to understand their motive. Now we’re looking at the bad and the ugly. We’re looking at the false teachers. He says in verse 13, “For such men are false apostles.” Now you have to understand an apostle. An apostle in Paul’s day, we don’t have them like that today, but only in his day, was a God-appointed man and was in authority over the churches God assigned to him. But the key word to these false apostles is authority, power.
These false teachers wanted to be recognized as apostles. Why? Because they wanted the authority, power, over the churches there. So they set out to deceive the believer through false doctrine and ultimately to steal away their trust in the apostle Paul and what he’d told them. In effect, if we could put it in a summary, they sought to lead the people away from the truth of God’s Word. That’s what Paul was teaching them and that’s what they were actually trying to do.
These false teachers were not simply deceived teachers. Now, we need to understand this. They were intentionally deceptive teachers. They knew good and well what they were doing from day one. Now let me explain the difference in a deceived teacher and a deceptive teacher. You see, one who is simply ignorant or deceived, if he’s a true believer—these people were not believers—but if he’s a believer and a true believer, as a true teacher, if he’s ignorant or deceived about something, he will always welcome correction. He’ll welcome it only when it comes from the Word and he may wrestle with it but he’ll welcome it. God’s Word rules his life.
An example of that is the second pastor of the church of Corinth had to have his doctrine corrected. His name was Apollos. In Acts 18: 24-26, just listen and it’ll describe itself. “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”
So there were some places he didn’t it all together and they helped straighten him out and he became the second pastor of the church of Corinth. So we’re not talking about a person who can be deceived in a particular area or ignorant in a particular area, a learner who is willing to change if somebody corrects him in the Word of God. That’s a deceived teacher. We’re talking about a deceptive teacher.
These deceptive teachers, like I said, knew what they were doing. They were lost as they could be; they didn’t know Christ. They intentionally lied to the Corinthians in order to degrade Paul and really to consolidate power within the Corinthian church. They wanted control; they wanted the power. There is no level that a false teacher will not stoop to in order to be in control and we need to learn this. Verse 13 again, “For such men are false apostles.” Now the words “false apostles” are one word in the Greek, which is the word pseudoapostolos. It comes from the word pseudo, which means “false,” and the word pseudomai, which means “a lie.” You see where they’re coming from.
The word pseudoapostolos is a word that describes these men. Now these false apostles are sent out to deceive with a false message which will ultimately ruin people’s lives. That’s their whole assignment. They know what they’re doing, they know what they’re tearing down, and they know what they’re trying to do. Now in contrast, if you put a true Christian, the good, up next to the bad and ugly, a true Christian apostle like Paul was simply one who was sent out by Christ with the message of grace, the message of truth which sets people free. You see the two contrasts here. And we’ve got to learn to recognize deceptive teachers. We’ve got to because they’re still alive today, they’re in churches everywhere. You’ve got to understand some of these things about them.
We’ve just come back from Israel, and it’s so much on my mind. One of the common threads that wove itself throughout the whole trip for me on this my fifth time to be there was the thread of deception and the thread of idolatry. God’s people have been faced with it forever. When we were at Megiddo and we saw the high places that were where the pagan sacrifices were offered, when we were on Mt. Carmel where Elijah challenged the priests of Baal and we saw the high place there where the sacrifices were offered. The same in Laish, which was where the tribe of Dan disobeyed God, they didn’t take the property God had given to them and they took this little bitty area called Laish, renamed it Dan. They got sucked into idolatry. We saw the high places there and they lost their whole identity. They’re not even mentioned in the book of the Revelation.
The same thing in Jerusalem; you have to understand the Islamic threat that’s there. And every so many times a day these minarets are there with loudspeakers and they come on and blare out this false message. It’s just constantly in your face everywhere we went that was a common thread. Idolatry and deception and what we’ve got to understand is that you don’t have to go to Israel to see it. Hopefully you have to get outside of the walls of this church, but maybe not. There may be in this church people that are deceivers and you’ve got to learn that their whole motive is to lie and to teach a message that will only bring ruin in your life.
The lie and the liars are focused wherever they are and they’re out to seduce people’s minds and lead them away. They want to take control over the lives of people in God’s church. So their motive is to deceive, period. They’re false apostles; false meaning they’re liars, they’re deceivers and they have a message, they’re sent out with a false message and they’re everywhere. That’s the first thing I want you to see.
We need to understand the method of the false teachers
But building on top of that is their methods. You see, you’ve first of all got to realize that they’re there. But then we have to understand what their method is. Verse 13, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.” You see, these false teachers are deceitful in what they present, but I want you to make sure you underhand. They said “deceitful workers” there. They’re hard workers at what they do. They’re not lazy at all. The word “deceitful” in the phrase “deceitful workers” is the little Greek word dolios. It comes from the word dolos, which is the really key I want you to look at.
This word, if you’ll let it, will draw a picture for you to help you understand what Paul’s talking about here. Dolos is the word that over the years evolved in Greece to mean “fish bait.” Now we don’t translate the Scriptures with modern day meanings of the Greek words. That’s not what I’m saying. But this particular word begs for your attention. You’ve got to picture this: fish bait. If you or I were in Greece today and we wanted to go fishing, we go down to the store and we’d buy some deceit: dolos. That’s the word there: fish bait. When that bait is lowered into the water can’t you see it now, that water and here comes this big juicy worm coming down in the water. But you see, on the outside it looks good to that fish that’s going to come up and take it. But there’s something deceiving about it. On the inside there’s a hook. That’s what you’ve got to understand here. What’s on the outside is deceptive, but there’s a hook on the inside.
When our daughter was wanting to date, I said, “I need to warn you about something. There’s going to come a night when the moon is just right, the stars are going to be in your eyes and the stars are going to be in his eyes and he’s going to look at you and say, ‘I love you.’ And I said, don’t you dare believe that. You back up about 30 feet and make him describe to you and define for you what he means by love; because he may be on the outside saying what you want to hear, but he may be wanting something you don’t want to give. Because underneath that which sounds so good to you has a hook.”
You’ve got to understand this about a false teacher. What they say appeals to the flesh, but there’s a hook that you don’t see if you’re not discerning when you hear it. Welcome to the methods of a false teacher. He’ll woo you and wow you and make your flesh feel good, but like I said, underneath there’s a hook; there’s a price you don’t want to pay.
The word for “workers” there, “deceitful workers,” they’re false teachers, they’re false apostles, is the word ergates, and it’s not a lazy word. It means to toil, to work hard to the point of being weary. That’s what it means. You see, while the church of Jesus Christ goes to sleep wanting their flesh to be entertained, these false teachers are busy planting their false message into everything and everyone that’s around us. He says, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.”
You see, this message involves a disguise. Not only is the message veiled, but it’s a disguise. They come in differently, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. Now some translations translate this “they’re transformed themselves as apostles of Christ.” That can’t be; that’s a bad translation. Let me explain why. If you have a Japanese garden and you decide to change it into an Italian garden, all you have done is just change the appearance of what was already a garden. It was a garden before, it’s a garden now. It’s just a different type. But if you have an Italian garden and suddenly you want to change it into a ballpark, that’s a transformation into something that it never was. The word that Paul uses here is not a complete transformation but only a facelift to something that had remained the same. They were rotten to the core, they’d always been rotten to the core, they were deceitful, they were false, they just changed their appearance to make it look as if they were something else.
I don’t know if you remember Dr. W.A. Criswell, First Baptist Church of Dallas. Well, he preached at one of the big Southern Baptist Convention meetings years ago and there was a real controversy going on in the Southern Baptists, just like every denomination has faced, about the inerrancy of God’s Word, the liberal versus the conservative movements. And he was in the pastor’s conference. And if you know anything about Dr. Criswell, you’re not going to tell him what he’s going to preach on. They said, “Dr. Criswell, you’re the first one up. You can be a peacemaker. Don’t say anything about the liberals and all that stuff. We know that bothers you, but please don’t say anything about them.” That’s like talking to a wall. Dr. Criswell got up that night, I was there, and it starts off this way, everybody knew where he was going: he said, “A skunk by any other name is still a skunk and it smells just the same.” First words that came out. What he was saying was you might change its outward appearance, but it’s still a skunk.
That’s exactly the word that Paul uses here. He’s not using “transformed.” They’re not something new. They’re trying to present themselves as what they really were not, what they had never been. These were deceivers from the get-go. So you’ve got to keep that in your mind.
Now their ultimate example, they have a great example for all deception, comes in verse 14. “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” Now, Paul has brought Satan up earlier. He calls him the serpent in 11:3. The “master of disguise,” the master of being able to make the flesh feel good while at the same time having that hook within his message. And verse 3 he says, “But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” So now he brings him up again as the master deceiver. And that’s the example for these false teachers. They know that he was able to do it with Eve; they’re going to be able to do it with God’s people that are unaware.
Do you remember when Joshua was deceived by the Gibeonites? Remember they came with old clothes and they came with old wineskins and they said, “We’re not from Canaan, we’re from another land and we would like for you to covenant with us and to protect us.” Joshua did not consult God. How many times have we all got to go back and say, “What was I doing?” And he entered into a covenant with these people that were just a few miles down the road and they were trying to conquer. And as a result of it, being honorable, and any covenant you make before God stands, that he and all of Israel had to suffer for years and years to come.
You see, this is what I’m trying to say. Jesus warns us about these people. Jesus warns us that the adversary, the devil, has his servants everywhere and he’s the greatest example of what deception is all about. In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus said, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” And Paul’s trying to say the same thing. “Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
You know, the thought hits me from time to time over the years, will we as a church ever learn? Will we ever learn? These false teachers that Paul warns about are everywhere. And I want to promise you they don’t wear a nametag that says, “Hi, I’m a false teacher.” They wear a disguise; they don’t come on that way. They’re out to deceive you by baiting you with a message that appeals to your flesh. But the price tag is that every deceptive teaching has that hook underneath that will bring ruin into your life. It sounds so good; but it brings about ruin.
So what do we know about them so far? What about the bad and the ugly? First of all, their motive is to deceive you. That’s what they’re out to do. They know that. And they’re good at it and they work hard at it. But secondly, their method is by disguise. They don’t wear nametags identifying themselves. There’s a discernment, and if people don’t know God’s Word, rarely are they able to discern when they’re not hearing it.
We need to understand the master of the false teachers
Thirdly is their master. Who is the one sending out these false apostles with this false message? Well, in verses 14-15 again, “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds.” Now Paul identifies them as servants of Satan himself. Those are the ones doing his bidding on this earth. And now we see the disguise that they wear: a servant of righteousness. That’s the way they want you to think about them. So they know all the right words, they know all the right phrases, they know all the buttons to push, and you have to be very careful to make sure you’re hearing from God when these people are around.
The word “servant” is the word diakonos, which means just that: to serve. They come on as just that: a servant, a minister. But they’re everything but servants of righteousness. They’re very dangerous people. In Jude we learn some of the things that these people do. They sneak in quietly, these servants of righteousness. They twist the message of grace, this wonderful, free message of grace that we seek to preach. They twist it and make is a message of license. In other word, you’re under grace: you can just do whatever you want to do. Jude 4, “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long before hand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
“Licentiousness” there is the word that means “license.” Listen, I was in a conference down in California and a guy got up and he said, “Listen man, we’re under grace; just do whatever you want to do this week. If you don’t want to come to the meetings, just stay in your room, get you a good bottle of wine and just enjoy yourself. Man, you’re under grace.” I thought to myself, “Dear God, that has nothing to do with grace.” But these people will take the message of grace, twist it to make it sound right.
I want to make sure you understand: grace is never the license to do as you please; grace is the power to do as you should. It’s Christ living in you. As you learn to obey and to walk by faith, it’s Christ then doing through you what you couldn’t do before. And 2 Peter, he talks about these so called servants of righteousness. He doesn’t use those words but it’s the same thing Paul is talking about. How they traffic their message. How it is that they slip this message in when people aren’t looking. You have to understand that a false teacher knows what he’s doing. And he knows that truth to get you interested and then he’ll put his error right beside it and then when you’re not looking he’ll pick up the error and nobody knows the difference.
It says in 2 Peter 2:1, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly”—they don’t do this with a nametag and a banner—“introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
And the words “false words” there is the word plastos. It’s the word we get “plastic” from, and they’ll emotionally charge your flesh, they’ll get you so emotional you’ll think you’re worshipping and then when your flesh is all charged they will take it just like you do with plastic, you heat it and then you take words that you think you know the definition to but they twist it and make it mean something else and that’s the way they begin to ease that false message into the church of Jesus Christ. These are evil, fleshly-minded, deceivers and they’re out to pervert the message of God’s grace; the message of the gospel.
But remember that what Paul’s dealing with here is not really to show who the false teachers are as much as the scary thing is the believers in Corinth were listening to them. That’s the problem. Not only were they listening to them, they were paying for their upkeep. Now that’s part of the problem right there: When God’s people don’t have the discernment between the two.
Well, let me comfort you. Boy, this is a tough message, I know. I didn’t write 2 Corinthians, and I can’t skip these verses. It is a tough message. But I think it’s one we need to understand. Let me give you some comfort. You can mark these words, write them wherever you want to write them: they will never get away with what they’ve done. In fact, you don’t mess with God’s truth and you don’t mess with God’s people. The last part of verse 15 says, “whose end shall be according to their deeds.”
The word “end” is the word telos, which means the final end, judgment. You see, we may never witness their judgment here on this earth. We may see them prosper; we may see them do all kinds of things. Where’s the righteousness of God in all of this? But one day when they stand before Him it will be brought out. At the end, the final end, when they face judgment. Peter said their judgment from long ago is not idle and their destruction is not asleep. Don’t you think for one second they’re going to ever get away with it. They will not get away with it.
The bad and the ugly; their motive is to deceive you and me. Their method is by using disguise. And their master is none other than the devil himself. The bad and the ugly. So I think now that you begin to understand the good, Paul; and the bad and the ugly.
You say, “I appreciate this and know you’re teaching through the book and I understand all that, but this really doesn’t bother me. It’s really not my problem. I’m not going to be deceived and I’m in the Word and I’m okay. So let’s just move on to something else.” Well, before you think that let me read you a little story that was sent to me this week that nails it.
A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package. What food this might contain, the mouse wondered. He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap. Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning: there’s a mousetrap in the house. There’s a mousetrap in the house. The chicken clucked and scratched and raised her head and said, “Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you but it’s of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it.” The mouse turned to the pig and told him, “There’s a mousetrap in the house.” The pig sympathized but said, “I’m so very sorry Mr. Mouse. There’s nothing I can do about it, but pray. Be assured of my prayers.”
The mouse turned to the cow and said, “There’s a mousetrap in the house.” The cow said, “Wow, Mr. Mouse. I’m sorry for you, but it’s no skin off my nose.” So the mouse returned to his house, head down and dejected to face the farmer’s mousetrap alone. That very night a sound was heard throughout the house. Like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmer’s wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness she did not see that it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. The snake bit the farmer’s wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital and she returned home with fever. Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup. So the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup’s main ingredient.
But his wife’s sickness continued. Friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer had to butcher the pig. The farmer’s wife did not get well. In fact, she died. So many people came to her funeral the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough food for all of them. The mouse looked upon it from his crack in the wall with great sadness. He tried to warn them.
So the next time you hear about deception being in the church, remember when one is deceived, we’re all at risk. What affects one ends up affecting us all. It’s all our problem, folks.
There’s the good: there is the good. That’s Paul, that’s the true teacher of God’s Word. We’ve seen his heart, we’ve seen his humility. But there is the bad and there is the ugly, and we cannot walk around as if they’re not there. We need to recognize it and to cut the cancer out of the body so that God’s truth can be the foundation on which we stand: Jesus being the living foundation, His Word being the essence of what holds us up. And that’s verses 12-15. To be honest with you, I wish it was a different passage. Wish we could laugh more and have more fun. But that’s just the way it is: that’s what we need to face. Deception is everywhere.
Let me ask you a question before we close. Who are you listening to? What are you listening to? What are you reading? Have you checked out to see whether or not it’s true and matches with the Word of God? Be real careful. They don’t have a nametag that says, “Hello, I’m a deceiver and I’m out to ruin your life.” They come on as people who make your flesh feel so much better. Look out, look out.