Monday, July 28, 2014

2 Corinthians 11: Poaching the Lost Sheep



2 Cor 11:1-6 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

2 Cor 11:16-30 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not with the Lord's authority but as a fool. Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that! But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.  Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

Paul expresses disappointment here with the Corinthian believers because they were so easily deceived by "super-apostles" who were poaching the Corinthian church to gain followers. Unlike Paul who was not an impressive speaker, these "super-apostles" were eloquent and preach another Jesus, another "spirit" and another gospel: "I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things" (2 Cor 11:5-6). These super-apostles were leading the Corinthian believers astray with their amazing new interpretations of Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Gospel. Paul declares that he might not be as impressive as these "super-apostles" but he is not lacking in knowledge.

Unfortunately, even in today's churches, there are Christians who are easily awed by preachers who preach an "upgraded" version of Jesus and the Gospel which departed significantly from the Gospels. And because these Christians are not diligent in their study of Scriptures, they swallow these "new" teachings uncritically. No wonder Paul is jealous over the Corinthian church:
  • 2 Corinthians 11:2-4 I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
These "super-apostles" did not have to work to save these Corinthian believers from paganism. The Corinthian church was the fruit of Paul's labour among them, for which he sacrificed and suffered much. The "super-apostles" simply came and drew these people away with their upgraded version 2.0 Jesus & Gospel which sounded so new and so refreshing--and less demanding. It was unlike Paul's version 1.0 Jesus and Gospel which was so much more severe and demanding. In short, these super-apostles were sheep-poaching. The Corinthian believers were easy prey to their newer version 2.0 Jesus, Spirit and Gospel.

So, Paul resorted to "boasting" about his credentials as true servants of Christ. Instead of recounting his successes in building churches all over Asia minor, Paul boasted about his sufferings in Christ: 
  • 2 Cor 11:23-30 I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
What Paul is saying is that these "super-apostles" did not have to put up with the sufferings he went through to win converts for Christ--they simply came in and poach believers who were fruit of his labour with their new Jesus, Spirit and Gospel. And they build an "instant" church out of the fruit of others' churches' labour of sacrifice and suffering.

If only pastors seek to grow their churches by poaching Satan's congregations of unbelievers, there would have been a greater growth in God's Kingdom. As it now stands, one church's growth is often another church's decline. Satan is laughing. His captives are safe from Christian poaching. 

May God open pastors' eyes to see Satan's fields that are already ripe for harvest. We should grow our churches by poaching from Satan's flocks. There are many held in captivity under Satan's rule that only the Gospel of Jesus can set them free. 

Let's refocused our church growth strategies on how to reach the lost sheep, not the saved sheep in other churches.

Father, deliver us from the competitive spirit of church growth to focus on bringing in the harvest of lost souls. Amen.

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