Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.(2 Tim. 3:12-13)
There will always be a battle until Jesus returns. This chapter breaks my heart. Not only for what happened in the church at Corinth but the same patterns have continued wreaking havoc (temporarily) in the church. Why do false teachers (here false apostles) gain so much ground in the church? How are they allowed to twist and deceive the church into believing wrong things about the gospel and about Paul’s apostleship? We are easily deceived and fears often control us.
The fact that Paul must defend himself says much about what is going on in this section. Obviously and thankfully, the church must have mentioned what “they” had said about Paul. Take note: For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” (2 Cor. 10:10). I’m so thankful for this being exposed. So many cases like this NEVER get exposed and the troublemakers just continue their erosive, slow destruction.
Leaders often stand alone. There is no one to defend them. I’m not saying leaders should be allowed to do things contrary to God’s Word but in the cases that I am aware of it’s more about preferences and selfishness than about what God has said in His word. These people sneak around in the shadows sowing discord in the hearts of others. They build their case and support secretly while the leader either unknowingly continues about his business or is weeping in his office not knowing how he will get through the next hour.
Paul’s defense is necessary because no one else is defending him and they should have: “I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing” (2 Cor. 12:11). What’s at stake? Think. Ask yourself. Is it merely about Paul’s character? Is he simply trying to save face? Do you really think Paul is making this whole thing about himself? Me…me…me…me…me. Is that what’s going on?
Leaders are expendable. The community often wins when it should not have. Do you know what was at stake in his defense? THE GOSPEL! When someone or some group discredited Paul’s apostleship do you think that’s all they were destroying? C.K. Barrett said this about this passage, “It is the nature of the apostolic gospel, and the apostolic authority behind it, that are at stake.” David Garland adds this, “Paul defends his reputation, but it is more to save the community from fools and a false gospel than to save his reputation.”
Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.(2 Cor. 12:19)
Silence often kills. I wish I had the confidence and courage of Paul. I weep as I write from shame of silence and pain that it caused and the continuation of the wolves among the sheep.
I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.(Acts 20:29-31)
I, along with many pastors and leaders, have found comfort in this: “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth” (2 Tim. 4:17). Those who sometimes see what’s going on choose not to say anything because the loss of one pastor seems easier than the loss of many. The community bonds are hard to overcome and fear of “what if” kills our courage.
But Jesus is worth the battle and the pain. Keep fighting the good fight of faith. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends (2 Cor. 10:17-18).