Thursday, 10 December 2015
For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face. 2 Corinthians 11:20
Paul had just mentioned that the Corinthians were “wise” because they “put up with fools.” To show them their level of wisdom, he ironically shows them their dullness. His words here are reflective of the attitude of the Pharisees towards those around them in Israel, a concept with which Paul was eminently familiar, having come from their ranks.
First he says to them that “you put up with it if one brings you into bondage.” This is what the Lord said the Pharisees did to the Israelites –
“For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” Matthew 24:4
They brought them into bondage, as if they were oxen required to carry their heavy burdens of legalism. The false teachers were there at Corinth, doing exactly the same thing. They were adding to the simplicity of the gospel. Paul continues with, “…if one devours you.” Jesus told the Pharisees they were doing just this –
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.” Matthew 24:14
In their greed for power and money, the supposedly pious class of Pharisees devoured those around them, robbing from them even the homes they lived in. The false teachers were no different. They came in with piety and consumed like lions. Continuing on, he says, “…if one takes from you.” Jesus noted the same trait among the Pharisees –
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.” Matthew 23:25
The Pharisees extorted from those around them in order to feed their own self-indulgence. The false apostles were obviously doing the same thing to the Corinthians. Titus had been there and had certainly reported to Paul all that he saw going on. Adding on to the charges against them, he next says, “…if one exalts himself.” Jesus noted the same trait in the Pharisees –
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:27, 28
The Pharisees exalted themselves in outward beauty and in outward righteousness. But it was a mere facade. The same was true with the false apostles who came to Corinth. They looked marvelous, but they were full of corruption. To finish the verse, Paul says, “…if one strikes you on the face.” This is exactly what Jesus’ accusers did in Luke 22:64 and what happened to Paul in Acts 23:2. Likewise, the false apostles came in and had wielded such strong authority over the Corinthians that they had either literally or figuratively done the same to them.
Life application: Legalism always leads to the demeaning of those who are brought into its strong hold. Knowing your Bible is the only way to avoid being trapped by its heavy bonds.
Heavenly Father, I pray for those who are caught up in the bonds of legalism. “Don’t touch! Don’t taste! Don’t do this! You must do that!” Lord, if people would just learn the truth of Your word, they wouldn’t be caught up in such bondage. Help us to understand the freedoms as well as the expectations which come as followers of You. Help us to stand on what is right in accordance with Your word, and Your word alone. Amen.