July 2, 2015 · by emmock · in Uncategorized · Leave a comment ·Edit
Today the blog continues its examination of St. Paul’s Corinthian correspondence. Previous material on this topic and on Genesis and Mark, can be accessed from my archive. Biblical references can be placed after emmock.com as can particular topics eg. emmock.com John 3:16; or emmock.com obedience. The daily headlines are reminders of the world we live in:
NOTE: I have begun a new blog which can be found at xtremejesus.co but at present only google chrome will access it. Other search engines may also find it. I am still trying to sort this out. If you have a solution please let me know. It is a more political blog which explores the radicalism of Jesus.
2 Corinthians 11
11 1-6 I wish you could put up with a little of my foolishness—please try! My jealousy over you is the right sort of jealousy, for in my eyes you are like a virgin bride whom I am presenting to your true husband, Christ himself. I am afraid that your minds may be seduced from a single-hearted devotion to him by the same subtle means that the serpent used towards Eve. For apparently you cheerfully accept a man who comes to you preaching a different Jesus from the one we told you about, and you readily receive a spirit and a Gospel quite different from the ones you originally accepted. Yet I cannot believe I am in the least inferior to these top-of-the-range emissaries of yours. Perhaps I am not a polished speaker, but I do know what I am talking about, and both what I am and what I say is pretty familiar to you.
7-10 Perhaps I made a mistake in cheapening myself (though I did it to help you) by preaching the Gospel without a fee? As a matter of fact I was only able to do this by “robbing” other churches, for it was what they paid me that made it possible to minister to you free of charge. Even when I was with you and very hard up, I did not bother any of you. It was the brothers who came from Macedonia who brought me all that I needed. Yes, I kept myself from being a burden to you then, and so I intend to do in the future. By the truth of Christ within me, no one shall stop my being proud of this independence through all Achaia!
11-15 Does this mean that I do not love you? God knows it doesn’t, but I am determined to maintain this boast, so as to cut the ground from under the feet of those who profess to be God’s emissaries on the same terms as I am. God’s emissaries? They are counterfeits of the real thing, dishonest practitioners, “God’s emissaries” only by their own appointment. Nor do their tactics surprise me when I consider how Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is only to be expected that his agents shall have the appearance of ministers of righteousness—but they will get their deserts one dany.
This makes painful reading. We feel that the great missionary ought not to lower himself to this kind of argument but we are mistaken if we think it’s petty; no, he’s fighting for his life as the man who has fathered the Corinthian assembly. Paul held a charismatic view of office within the messianic assemblies. Believers were for him equal in status and differed only in the gifts they put to use in the assemblies. So here he is arguing for recognition of his own gifts as one of the original emissaries of Jesus Messiah.
Firstly he wants the assembly to recognise that their favoured emissaries are announcing a different Messiah and a different Spirit; the differences are not trivial but fundamental. He does not discuss these different teachings, he simply warns that however seductive they may be, they lead them away from their Messiah- Husband. He wants them to know that it is not an intellectual question but a question of their love for Jesus. He refers scathingly to their seducers as “top-of-the-range” in comparison with his rough and ready self.
Secondly he asks if he failed in his love for them by not demanding, as these emissaries have done, a fee to meet his living expenses. It was Paul’s habit to minimise his reliance on a new converts by his own skill as a leather worker, or in this case, by funds given by an established assembly. We can see Paul’s wisdom in this matter, although Jesus had allowed emissaries to be dependent on those who received them. Paul valued his independence as a preacher of the gospel. But we can also see how this might be interpreted as a lack of affection for the Corinthians. Paul insists that the free offering of the gospel is part of his distinctive charism. He warns the Corinthians that they are favouring counterfeits over the real thing.
We cannot adjudicate on this matter, as we have no independent information about the other emissaries or their message. All we know is that Paul saw it as wrong and them as deceptive..It’s possible but unlikely that so early in the history of the church, there were people who saw preaching the gospel as a means of soft living. It’s more likely that they were sincere believers whose presentation of Jesus was very different from Paul’s. We may think that he was a bit hard on them, but we can see that he is judging these emissaries by their effect on the assembly, the cliques, the elevation of knowledge over love, the carelessness with regard to sexual behaviour. He thinks he knows what sort of stuff this is, and may have been right. By their fruits you shall know them.
From this we can see that for Paul there were clear marks of the true gospel of Jesus. Spiritual experiences might occur but the story of Jesus, and in particular his death on the execution stake, was central to the good news. Christian faith is not identical to one kind, nor compatible with every kind of spiritual experience. It has to tell the story of the executed Messiah.