If ever there was anyone who suffered for the sake of the Lord, it was Paul. In this section he recounts any number of personal, physical and spiritual attacks on his person, many of which could have easily killed him.
But they didn’t. The Lord protected him through all of these persecutions and lifted Paul up to do the work to which he had been called. A person might wonder why he had to go through this litany of suffering, but Paul understood what was happening. Paul knew he had to suffer for Christ, and he was prepared to do so.
This was perhaps the greatest sacrifice anyone could make for the sake of the Lord. He had a work to do and he did it in spite of the suffering. Which raises an important question. Are you prepared to suffer for Christ and your walk with Jesus?
One of the worst things that can happen to a person, especially a Christian, is to brought into slavery. I am not talking about the kind of slavery we are familiar with, which is physical slavery where people are captured, sold and held in chains to do the bidding of others.
No. My concern and the concern Paul raises in this section is about Christians in spiritual slavery. This is far worse than physical slavery because most Christians don’t even know they have been captured. They don’t realise they are in spiritual bondage, and too often it is the church itself which puts them into bondage and forces them to stay there.
This should not be so because Jesus came and died so that the slavery of the spirit and the bondages of sin could and would be broken. And yet many Christians today are still trapped in those same bonds and have no idea how to break free as Jesus planned.
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.
There is a battle raging that has been going on since the very beginnings of the church, as we can see from these words written by Paul.
5 I think that I am not in the least inferior to these superlative apostles. 6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not in knowledge; in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.
Human nature is such that people tend to listen to those who are great orators or who have the most letters after their names. The orator is often persuasive and charismatic, and they are able to charm people to their point of view. Whereas, the scholarly and academics persuade from the position of being learned in some topic or other.
But this does not mean they are doing good or are promoting the truth. Adolf Hitler was a brilliant orator who wooed the whole world…before he set the world at war. And a great many scholars have been wrong as they followed and taught false teachings.
But in the church it is different and worse when these things collide. And this was Paul’s concern.
I travel a lot each year, often going into distant cities as well as the remote towns and communities of outback Australia.
In my travels I have often visited churches and listened to the messages being preached in those churches. Some of these have been small country churches with just a handful of people, while others have been the large mega-churches with congregations in the thousands.
As I have listened to the messages preached from these various platforms, I have been often joyfully surprised at what I have heard. But at times I have left the churches stunned at the deceptive lies in messages preached and sick to the stomach at the damage being done to those who are receiving these messages.
This is the thrust of Paul’s words today where he too was horrified at how easily people in his time accepted a different gospel, a different Jesus and a different spirit than what is taught in the truth. And they submit to these lies and accept them readily. It was happening then, and I would go so far as to say it is worse today. Continue reading “A Different Gospel”