Until recently, I didn’t know much about tumors. I didn’t know much about cancer. But all of that changed a few months ago. Jennifer, my wife, started having some fairly serious pain. As would be expected, we started seeing the doctor. During this time they began running various tests and came up with different theories. Finally, after a couple of months, we consulted with a surgeon. The surgeon confirmed that there was some kind of mass in her intestine, but she couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on. What the surgeon did know was that the mass wasn’t supposed to be there. She told us that we had to get it out. Then we could figure out what it was and decide what to do next. As a result, last month my wife went through surgery and had the mass removed. It turned out to be a tumor, even though we’re still trying to figure out exactly what it was. Through all of this time, the mass continued to cause her pain and problems until it was finally removed.
There was something very similar happening in our passage tonight. Of course, they weren’t dealing with physical tumors in their body. But the body of Christ in this church was experiencing a kind of tumor. It was experiencing something that was hurting and harming this body of believers. The Corinthian church was dealing with a growing problem, one that could threaten its health and even its life. If you will, please turn with me to 2 Corinthians 11:1-6.
While you’re turning here, I want to bring us up to speed on what was going on. Paul had written this letter to the church of Corinth. Corinth was a major city. You could compare it to a New York, Los Angeles, or Las Vegas of its day. It was very well known, very well renowned, very diverse, and very sinful. But Paul, on his second missionary journey, was able through the proclamation of the gospel to set up a church there, to do a church plant. As this church grew over time, he spent a lot of time with it, helping it to develop. This church was tremendously blessed by God, getting many different blessings.
But Paul, after completing some work there, moved on in his ministry and started working in Ephesus. It was here that he started receiving reports of problems in the church in Corinth. In response to these issues and problems, Paul wrote letters to them. We have two of these letters in our Bible, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and there’s probably at least two more letters that we don’t have in the Bible which Paul wrote to this church. Paul's purpose was to address various issues and problems that have arisen since visiting them. And the main problem he is dealing with in our text tonight is those he refers to as the super apostles. We don’t really have a firm grasp of who these super apostles are. He uses this term in a rather negative way. We do know that these super apostles were apparently great speakers and could wow people with their ability to speak. They would actually get people to spend money just to hear them and what they had to say. We also know that they started causing problems for the apostle Paul. They began having this church question the apostle Paul, questioning the one who helped found their church.
In response to them, Paul wound up in the difficult situation of having to defend his ministry, of having to defend his apostleship. He had to uphold that he was called of God in opposition to these people. But they had become so involved in the church that they were considered by some, and even many, to have more truth and more knowledge than Paul. We begin this evening by reading the first six verses of his defense in 2 Corinthians 11:1-6:
I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things. (NASB)
We see that the church in Corinth was in trouble. Paul was writing to them so their course could be corrected and they could get back on the path of growing in the Lord, of staying faithful to Christ. What does he tell them in this passage that they need to do? The church needs to hold fast to the apostles’ teaching. And the same is true for us today. We must hold fast to the apostles’ teaching. Paul gives us three steps here to fulfill this responsibility.
posted at 1:30 PM