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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

FALSE APOSTLES IN DISGUISE

2 Corinthians 11:12-15 But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

Paul begins this chapter of his letter to the church at Corinth with an apology (Vs. 1). It is shameful that he must speak boldly to them, in order to defend the apostolic calling he received from the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Yet he knew that he must do so, in order to counter the claims of false teachers that opposed him, that spoke evil against him, and were attempting, for their own covetous reasons, to lead the Christians at Corinth astray. He had espoused, that is, introduced and wedded them to Jesus Christ, and he did not want them to be led away from the Bridegroom (Vs. 2). He did not want them to be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ - to be beguiled by the evil spirit, as Eve was led astray by the serpent, Satan (Vs. 3). There is no other gospel, Holy Spirit, or Christ, other than that which he, Paul, had preached to them (Vs. 4). Although Paul considered himself to be lacking as an orator, he was, by the inspiration of Christ, through the Holy Spirit, filled with knowledge of God's plan of eternal salvation (Vss. 5-7). That no one could accuse him of preaching to the church at Corinth for physical wealth, Paul took nothing from them, to sustain himself, while he labored there for the cause of Christ (Vss. 8-9). And why? To prove that his love was truly for them and their eternal souls, rather than coveting their worldly wealth (Vss. 10-11).

This introduction brings us to the lesson text. Paul wasn't commanded to preach to them without their monetary support; it was his decision to do so, that I may cut off occasion for them which desire occasion. This statement can have a dual meaning, both of which Paul intended to clarify and speak against. He did not want these false teachers to use himself as an example for seeking financial support from the church at Corinth. If he had taken their support, false teachers would use this as reason for themselves to take support. The other thought is that Paul did not take their financial support because, in doing so, they could accuse him of preaching to enrich himself at their expense. This could be used by his enemies to destroy Paul's credibility, ruin his reputation, and gain, for themselves, a personal following. Like Paul, all faithful gospel preachers must keep themselves "spotless from the world" and give no occasion for the enemies of Christ to destroy their godly influence, by ruining their reputation.

The term "apostle," as used in verse eleven of the lesson text, is not meant to be taken as equal to the apostles, which Christ specifically chose to follow Him during His earthly ministry. Here, the word is used to describe a person that undertakes on their own, or is sent, on the specific mission of preaching the gospel message of Christ. Paul tells us, in this verse, that some are false apostles. They gain the confidence of their audiences by pretence - they are imposters, deceitfully disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. Through the discerning eye, this confidence game is played by most, if not all, false preachers today. It is easily heard and seen today in person, or via all forms of media. Audiences throughout the world are being deceived into believing numerous false preachers claiming to have "special" callings direct from the Heavenly Father to teach, or claiming to have a god-given ability perform signs, wonders, and miracles. But when tested and tried, are all proven to be a hoax. Such are false preachers - they arefalse apostles.

Jesus, in His all-knowing wisdom, prophesied this would take place. He said, for there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect (Matt. 24:24). We are also warned of this taking place in Revelations 13:13-14. And also, who, among us, can read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-9 without knowing, for certain, that false apostles, preachers, or teachers are conceived, encouraged, and led by the working of Satan? As the lesson text tells us, Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Satan is the master of disguise, and he teaches his followers the art of deceitful impersonation, which he has perfected. Indeed, false teachers must disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness in order to gain a following. As it was true at Corinth, so it is today: disguised false teachers are almost always successful in persuading a few, but even more successful when they originate their erring teaching from within the body of Christ.