If I were to sum up a theme in these readings, it would be a warning about false teachings.
You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed. (2 Corinthians 11:4, NLT)
What of the false teacher? What is deceit’s disguise?
14 But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15, NLT)
A deceiver knows how to disguise and hide. Some disguised themselves as apostles of Christ. That’s tricky. Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. We are told this for a reason. Bad intentions can sport good appearances.
But what of truth? Shouldn’t truth have an easy road? After all, it is right and pure. If Paul’s story is any example of trying to bring truth to light, that road is far from comfortable. For example, he:
- worked harder
- was put in prison more often
- was whipped times without number
- faced death again and again
- 5 different times the Jewish leaders gave him 39 lashes
- 3 times he was beaten with rods
- he was stoned
- 3 times he was shipwrecked
- he spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea
- he traveled on many long journeys
- he faced danger from rivers
- he faced danger from from robbers
- he faced danger from his own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles
- he faced danger in the cities, and in the deserts, and on the seas
- he faced danger from men who claimed to be believers but were not
- he worked hard and long
- he endured many sleepless nights
- he was hungry and thirsty
- he often went without food
- he shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep him warm (from 2 Corinthians 11:23b-27, NLT)
I read the account again, and this time, I imagine standing next to him. Working. Whipped. Shipwrecked. Facing danger–again and again. Exhausted. Hungry. Thirsty. Cold. And when I read it again, I look into the eyes of other prisoners, assailants holding whips and rocks, intimidating authorities, forceful robbers, a shunning community, even the ones who claimed to be believers. Paul’s not telling a passing story of what he did over the weekend. He’s telling a story of how he faced the extreme pressure to abandon the truth and abolish his faith.
I am ever more grateful for these words in my hands. Grateful for all the people who came before me, speaking and preserving truth, so that I could know Jesus and live. I will never know all that it cost them. But I know if they hadn’t persevered, my ignorance would have cost me my life.