(2 Corinthians 11:7-15)
We are warned many times in the Bible about false teachers, false prophets, and here Paul also warns about false apostles.
Paul’s concern is that there were people going around the churches, supposedly preaching and teaching the word, but ho were in actual fact seeking their own ends. They were looking for personal glory, personal gain ad the adulation of the people rather than advancing the faith of the gospel.
In his concerns, Paul is worried that the people would be captured by these false apostles and be led astray and away from the truth of the gospel into false teachings that may appear to have the look and feel of righteousness, but are of no value in checking the indulgences of the flesh. And those same conditions exist in the church still today.
What Is An Apostle
First we should look at what an apostle is and the work of an apostle.
To be an apostle is to be “one who is sent.” That is probably the simplest and most literal way to describe what an apostle is. They are people who are sent out by the Lord to do the work of preaching and teaching the word of God. They are typically not new converts as they need to be well versed in the scripture and stable in their walk with Christ. In the early church they were often sent out to reach new people and to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the known world at that time.
Paul and Barnabas were excellent examples of the roles of an apostle. We see in Acts 13 how they were first appointed by the Lord and in the Holy Spirit, and were sent out to do the work to which the Lord had called them.
1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyre’ne, Man’a-en a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:1-3)
Here is a perfect description of the appointment and role of an Apostle. They are people caled by the Lord and through the Holy Spirit are set apart and sent out to preach and teach the words of the gospel.
So how does this differ from false apostles?
There is a tremendous opportunity in the church for doing good as the church is filled with people who are in need of help in one way or another. And in the church many people are seeking to find the better life that is promised for those who believe.
However, the devil knows there is this vulnerability among the people of the church and so he brings his workers among the people of God for the purpose of exploiting the vulnerable and wreaking destruction among the people of the Lord. His plans are not for good but for evil and his desires are to destroy the church and take people away from Christ.
You find evidence of this all over the church, and as one who travels frequently, meeting Christians in many places and many churches, I can testify that there are many people who have been hurt by the church…and this should not be so. The church should be a place of sanctuary where people can come together in safety and security, away from the problems and hassles of this world, and not have to fear that they will be harmed.
How is this possible then? It happens because there are false teachers, false prophets and false apostles among the people of the church who are teaching lies that bring Christians into bondage and crush them with guilt, condemnation and shame. And they do these things for the purpose of seeking power over the people and seeking their own gain.
Such men (and women) are false apostles and false teachers, teaching the precepts of men, not the truth of the New Covenant that leads to joy, peace and life in Jesus Christ.
And we are warned in this section of scripture today about such people as Paul says,
7 Did I commit a sin in abasing myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel without cost to you? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in want, I did not burden any one, for my needs were supplied by the brethren who came from Macedo’nia. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boast of mine shall not be silenced in the regions of Acha’ia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12 And what I do 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. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11:7-15)
Identifying False Apostles
So how do we identify those who are false apostles today? They are certainly among the church today just as they were two thousand years ago, for the work of the devil has not weakened but has grown over the millenia as the gospel of Jesus Christ has spread to all mankind.
The first clues come in this section above. Any person in ministry who is preaching or teaching a message that will bring people into bondage, put them again under sin and condemnation and who seeks to have power over the people is a false apostle. Any person in ministry seeking personal gain from the church, beyond the basic needs of a living is a false apostle.
If you read my last post, and I recommend that you do, you will see a second criteria that should be considered in identifying false apostles.
We see that Paul and Barnabas were selected and appointed by the Holy Spirit to go out and do the work of apostles. We see also that the twelve who were selected to become the first apostles were selected by Jesus himself, and Jesus as the Son of God IS God (Note: In Hebrews 1:8-9 that the Father calls the Son “God” on two occasions. So it is not improper to speak of the Son as God).
However, as you will note in my last post, in the modern church, the appointment of ministers in many churches is being done by men and not by God. Many of the churches today have their own bible schools, colleges and universities where people go and study under other men to receive diplomas, certificates and degrees in divinity and theology, before they are permitted to preach and teach in their relevant churches. They are appointed by men and not by God. And if you do not have the appropriate certification then you are not permitted to preach or teach in that church.
They make distinctions between the people of the church such that those with certificates are the “clergy” while those without are the “laity.”
This is not how the original church under Jesus Christ was set up. There was no such distinction for in Christ we are all equal, and those who have ministries are no better than those who do not. In fact those with ministries are called to be servants and not to lord it over the congregations.
Consider also what Paul said about this situation.
1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men; 3 and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:1-6)
What is a certificate from a bible college or theological university but a certificate of recommendation? That is exactly what they are. And Paul states categorically here that he did not need such things to prove he was an apostle because his competence to preach and teach the word did come through receiving any certification. His ministry and competence to teach and preach was received from God, through the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who teaches, through men appointed by God to do the true ministry of teaching. This was the point of my last post.
I am not saying that all people who have gone to one form of bible school or university are false apostles. Many who go to such places do so because they feel the call of the Lord upon them to serve in ministry. But my concern with such colleges and schools is that it is not God who is appointing people to teach. It is men. And these colleges are not necessarily teaching the truth of the gospel, but rather teach their own brand of religion that in some cases may have no support in the gospel and the New Covenant.
You only need to look at the poor quality of teaching, the lies, the half-truths, and the destruction of the power of the gospel in the churches today to realise that there are problems in the teaching institutions that are certifying people into ministry. They are creating false apostles who will continue to spread the false word that has been implanted, often hundreds of years ago, and have accepted lies as truth, which they continue to spread in the church today. And such work does not help the people find the path of freedom.
The church today is in dire straits and there is no way it can be brought back from the precipice without the direct intervention of the Lord. Those who wish to find the truth can do so and will find it if they seek diligently in the word for themselves. They can find it and be taught by God as discussed in my last post, but it will be a hard task for anyone who is still under the ministry of any false apostle and churches that teach false messages.
Weigh what is said against the scripture and pray about it. Ask the Lord to show you the truth and seek it with all your heart. The gospel of Jesus Christ brings freedom. That was the point of the gospel: to set man free. Any ministry that teaches bondage of any form, whether under law, under sin or under condemnation is false. They have missed the mark concerning the truth of the gospel…and there are many churches and ministers who teach such false teachings.
I take comfort knowing that the Lord can teach His people and will carry them through so that they will see the truth. As Paul said,
But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let every one who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19)
And we see also right at the end of these times where the great false religion exists that is called Babylon in the book of Revelation, that God will call His people out of that false church run by false apostles in the employ of the devil himself.
4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; 5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. (Revelation 18:4-5)
So it is possible to find the truth and to be part of the people of God, even under the worst of ministries of these false apostles. But to find the truth will require diligence and searching on the part of the individual. So be aware. False apostles abound, teaching what is not part of the truth. It is the responsibility of every Christians to seek, search and sift the words spoken in order to find the truth of Jesus Christ and not fall prey to false teachings and false apostles.
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