“Words taught by the Spirit” (1Cor.2:13)
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“For we are not, as so many, peddling (AV: corrupting) (watering down) the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ” (2Cor.2:17 NKJV).
CORRUPTION, INTEGRITY, WARNINGS
As I was reading the Word of God, my attention was drawn by the verse, “For we are not, as so many, peddling (AV: corrupting) (watering down) the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.” (2Cor.2:17 NKJV). Then, I said to myself: If, in the days of the apostles, there were “so many” who falsified the Word of God, much more now, “… in the latter times”, during which “… many false prophets will rise up and deceive many” (Mt.24: 11; Mrk.13:22) and “… some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons”! (1Tim.4:1)
The word “to falsify” or “to adulterate” corresponds to the Greek word καπηλεύειν (to pronounce: “kapilévin”) which means falsification that a wine merchant or an innkeeper makes for purposes of dishonest profit. This verse refers, without any doubt, to Judaizers as well as to false teachers who mixed human philosophy, morals or traditions with the pure word of the Bible truth. Consequently, this word means, in its context, “to corrupt” and is applied to those who adulterate or corrupt the Word of God in some way in the interest of profit or opportunity or ambition.
The problem of falsification of the Word of God by certain workers is not a phenomenon of nowadays. There were false prophets in the Old Testament! Let us mention, as examples, what certain true prophets, Jesus Christ and his apostles said:
- Jeremiah spoke about false prophets who made the crowds deviate by dreams that they were telling and by stealing God’s words, every one from his neighbor (Jer.23: 30); also, they spoke their own words and made them as words of God. They were people that God had not, in reality, sent or commanded… That is why they could not profit the people at all (Jer.23:25-32). Jeremiah also said that in spite of the falseness of the leaders who cheated the crowds, who misled them and who dominated them, the crowds were taking pleasure in that. What could one make at the end? (5:31). Consequently, the “people” had also their own responsibility! (See also: Zec.1:3-4; 7:9-14; Mic.3:5, 8; Eze.13, etc.)
- Jesus Christ said: “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Mt.24:24)
- Paul, did he prophesy in vain when he said that there would come a time when men would not endure sound doctrine, but they would have itching ears to hear pleasant things and that they would heap up for themselves teachers according to their own desires…? (2Tim.4:3-4). Why? Because certain teachers and many people would have lost the good conscience and they would have made shipwreck of their faith (1Tim.1:19). The Word of God warned us that these people would multiply “in latter times”, departing from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons by the hypocrisy of false teachers… teaching for the sake of dishonest gain (1Tim.4:1-3 and Tit.1:11) or “… For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom.16:18). This is why he exhorted believers that they should no longer be children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting (Eph.4:14). And he prophesied that evil men and impostors would grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (2Tim.3:13);
- Peter prophesied that – as in the past, there were false prophets – there would also be false teachers among us, who would secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction and that many would follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed because by covetousness they would exploit us with deceptive words! (2Pet.2:1-3)
- John, did he not write in the same spirit that we should not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God (1John 4:1)? In his book of Revelation he speaks on several occasions about false doctrines: of Balak, Nicolaitans and Jezebel (Rev.2:14-15, 20);
- Jude, in his epistle, warned that certain ungodly men would creep in unnoticed, who would turn the grace of our God into lewdness and would deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 1:4).
Nowadays, the problem of the Judaizers is, in reality, non-existent, but it has taken other forms: a mixture, on the one hand, with philosophy, sociology, psychology and interpretation of the Word of God according to their desires; on the other hand, with the mundane tendency “to modernize” the Word of God to make it more attractive to the crowds! For this purpose, they use modern technology, psychology of mass and ‘miraculous gifts’. In this manner, Satan aimed and aims at corrupting the Gospel. In certain cases, the Christian ministry is exerted by the power of the flesh and not by the power of God, because, like Nadab and Abihu, certain preachers try to reach out to people with a foreign fire, not divinely kindled (Lev.10:1-2). Sociology, psychology, human reflections, emotional healings, soft speech, peace at all costs without sincere reconciliation, evangelization modernized by methods accompanied by… a lot of decibels… attract people in mass, but can they really save souls? They speak on the necessity of reconciliation for the prosperity of the church, of the family, etc., but they do not make the first step to that end…
The false teachers or prophets, nowadays, can falsify the Word of God:
- By doctrinal errors
Certain people can falsify the Word of God by ‘disguises’ in order to adapt it to men of carnal spirits. In this manner, the impiety is not easily detected since the false teachers seek people’s applause or because they seek a better post or because they are greedy for money (1Tim.3:8). The word adulterate or camouflage expresses well this falsification of the sacred Word of God.
- By advertising campaigns concerning miraculous spectacles
Certain modern “religious people” try to attract the crowds, either in the churches or in rallies of evangelization, by advertising campaigns of healers, hunters of demons, famous musicians, famous speakers, etc., by touching the sentimental cords of people… They try to instill faith and to create spiritual revivals by such methods. Moreover, many are the itinerant missionaries who try to lead people to believe in Christ by telling marvelous miracles which occur in Africa or in Latin America or elsewhere. They do not try to bring people to God and to the salvation of their souls by the Word of God, by repentance and faith in Christ, but by impressive miracles! The remission of sins does not come through miracles, but through the repentance and faith in the sacrifice of Jesus (Mrk.1:4; Act.2:38): “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Act.3:19). This is the reason why we have weak and stumbling Christians because they are not converted and are not consolidated by the Word of God, by repentance and faith. Jesus said: “… If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31 and John 5:47). All these “spectacles” are accompanied by a rain of “clapping”, “amen”, and “hallelujahs”! I wish that all these were true miracles leading to salvation! I am neither against miracles nor against miraculous gifts. I am simply against “Christian charlatans” and people who pretend to have miraculous gifts. Such people are well received by people who are unaware of the Bible or who are not quite versed in Bible truths… Emphasis should be laid on the Word of God by which healing, deliverance and salvation can take place at any moment, in the name of Jesus. The salvation of lost souls should be the target!
Did our Lord Jesus-Christ or His apostles apply methods of healing or advertising campaigns similar to those which modern evangelists/healers apply? Let us read the Bible carefully and let us compare! Moreover, let us not forget that Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light and his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness (2Cor.11:14-15). Indeed, Satan can make miracles up to a certain point (Ex.ch.7 and 8) and he is also able to inspire the doubt even in relation to true miracles and to attribute them to other factors…
- By erroneous traditions which cancel basic Bible truths
The large churches or official denominations, actually, have lost their way because of their traditions which make them deviate from the purity and the simplicity of the salutary Christocentric Gospel! And even the churches or denominations, which have retained the good elements of a healthy Bible teaching, have created new traditions of a spiritual and/or administrative nature via their own constitutions… and they have become, in reality, heretical because of certain doctrines and interpretations!!! By their old or new traditions, they make the commandments of God of no effect. They honor God with their lips, but their heart is far from Him. And in vain they worship Him, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. If the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch (Mt.15:6-14).
- By the setting the accent only on certain Biblical truths
Certain churches claim that they preach all the truths which are included in the Gospel. It would be a marvelous thing, if it were true and if it were not about a euphemism! Certain churches put the emphasis on good works, others on the importance of the faith and others with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, etc. When the emphasis, for example, is put on good works, then the importance of faith and of the grace of God is minimized! When the emphasis is put on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and not on His fruit, on worship, on halleluiahs, on “miraculous healings” etc., there is something wrong! Preaching must, on the one hand, tackle sin boldly, draw the attention of listeners to the eternal consequences of sin, call people to repentance and, on the other hand, proclaim the mercy, forgiveness, the grace and the love of God. Only the grace of God can save, but the grace of God saves only the sinners who have admitted their guilt, who have repented, who have confessed their sins, who have understood the importance of the Cross of Jesus and who have made the irrevocable decision to put their life in conformity with the will of God.
- By false hopes, consolations and security
There are churches in which the words “Hell”, “eternal judgment”, “eternal ruin” etc., which Jesus and the apostles often used, have not been heard for decades! The Church of God does not need “soft” speakers who have never wounded the feelings of anybody, who have never irritated somebody, but who seldom wake up a believer and seldom save an unbeliever! Spiritual leaders should not give to their listeners, false hope, consolation and safety. How useful would it be if those who preach remembered the preaching and the life of the true prophets of God, of Jesus and of the apostles! Any interpretation of the grace of God which relieves the sinner of his responsibility for repentance and change of life is not of God and is not in conformity with the revealed truth. God will not do for man, what man must do!
How regrettable it is that when John 3:16 is used, it is to present only the love of God and to comfort people! Nothing is mentioned about eternal perdition and, in general, about the consequences of incredulity!!! “… He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him”! (John 3:36). It has to do with a false exposition of the Word of God! How sad it is to see workers of God, on Sunday morning, when the Church is usually full of believers and unbelievers or sympathizers, not to include five minutes, properly built-in in their messages, to explain HOW man can be saved, OF WHAT he is saved and make a call to repentance and to the faith in the Gospel of God’s grace! (Mrk.1:15). Yes, how sad it is not to give to the audience warnings concerning the consequences of disobedience and of sin in general! (Lu.13:3, 5). Sermons which do not contain warnings concerning the consequences of disobedience to the commandments of God can be compared with blank cartridges. If the worker is not animated of an enthusiastic zeal so that people do not perish, and that they are won to Christ, he has lost the zeal and sooner or later he will hear, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place––unless you repent” (Rev.2:5).
Moreover, there are preachers who speak like the false prophets that Jeremiah the prophet accuses: “They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace” (Jer.6:14; 8:11). If they really wanted to save souls for eternity and edify really the believers, they would do what Paul did: “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God……… I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” Paul does not say “to comfort” or “to encourage” but warn with tears! (Act.20:27-31, 27). Why with tears? Moreover, they always speak with optimism for the future, for imminent revivals etc., and they prophesy for full rooms to crack and that ‘all is well’! They systematically avoid mentioning why there were no revivals during the previous years!!! For some of them “faith” is equal to autosuggestion!
The majority of sermons nowadays has the character either of courses of ethics or of encouragement and of comfort of believers – and even of unbelievers – who are facing difficulties of any kind (of health, money, work, disease etc.) or of exhortation for a richer life, spiritually speaking or for a more active, more dedicated life and nearer to the heart of God. To comfort and to exhort are completely commendable things! But, what is going to happen if believers or unbelievers do not obey the requirements of the Word of God? ONE DOES NOT HEAR WARNINGS ANYMORE! Many preachers are on the mount Gerizim, to pronounce blessings to the people; not very many are those who are held on the mount Ebal, to pronounce also ‘curses’ to unrepentant ones!!! (Dt.27:12-13). Or, certain Christian preachers who love to preach on topics of the Old Testament preach like Jewish Rabbis! The name of Jesus Christ is not even mentioned! Nothing as for the way in which sinners can be saved!!!
We realize that whereas God sent prophets among the children of Israel to bring them to Him, they did not listen to the warnings that they were receiving (2Chr.24:19). The same thing was reproduced when Jesus Christ came! In almost all His teachings, there were warnings for all those who would disobey God’s commandments: “I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). And what should we say about the apostles? Let us read carefully their writings and we will easily see, right from the beginning, that they speak about two things, in an unambiguous way: First, that all those who disobey will have undesirable repercussions on their spiritual development and second, they will harvest the consequences of their disobedience to the life beyond the tomb… The apostle Peter, in his two epistles, felt obliged as long as he was in his “tent”, to keep contemporary Christians awake by his warnings (2Pet.1:13 and 2Pet.3:1).
The apostle Paul, however, spoke “… but as of sincerity (e.g. honesty, purity and simplicity), but as from God (sent by Him and acting by His order), we speak in the sight of God (as if His eyes were always on him) in Christ (in the name and in Christ’s service)”. In other words, Paul was seeking to exhibit the simple truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He did not walk in craftiness and did not handle the Word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth, he commended himself to every man’s conscience in the sight of God (2Cor.4:2). All his being was imprint by the fear of God! The fear of God is the source of any virtue… The honest man is he who has given his heart to God completely and does not behave as certain employees who work as much as not to be fired. It was not, therefore, in vain that Paul had written, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2Cor.11:13-15). For this reason, Paul wrote to Timothy, that honest young man of God, by exhorting him to be diligent to present himself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth and to shun profane and idle babblings (2Tim.2:15-16). Also, he was telling Titus: “in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility” (Tit.2:7). He also said: “For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you” (2Cor.1:12).
We should never forget what one person of integrity, completely committed to God, can achieve! Let us remember Paul, Esther, Nehemiah, etc. Someone said that “integrity is the foundation of leadership. You only lead people if they trust you. If you lose people’s trust, you’ve lost it all… Titus 2:6 tells us that a leader must be blameless”. That verse is talking about integrity, which is the very first qualification of a leader. Ephesians 5:3 (NIV) warns us, “But among you there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality or any impurity or greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” A man of integrity is committed to honoring Jesus Christ through obedience to God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. He is committed to keeping his promises and biblical values. He is committed to influencing his world by being obedient to the Greatest Commandment of loving God with all his being and loving his neighbor as himself as well as the Great Commission of reaching out the world (Mt.28:19-20).
Since always, God has asked us to serve Him in sincerity and in truth (Jos.24:14), to celebrate Him with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1Cor.5:8) and that we may be sincere and without offense (Php.1:10). That means that “integrity” is a synonym or rather equal to “honesty” and is expressed by faithfulness. The man of God speaks always the truth in his heart (Ps.15:2 and 51:6a). Consequently, the integrity is indispensable for the Christian life.
Paul, in his life of each day, showed his integrity, his honesty and his purity! We can have proof of his integrity when we read, for example, the way in which he wanted to transfer the money that the church of Corinth had entrusted to him for the poor of Jerusalem (2Cor.8:19-20) or how he behaved: “… in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God:……… by purity,… by sincere love,… as deceivers, and yet true…” (2Cor.6:3-10). Moreover, he worked with his own hands in order not to require anything from others but, on the contrary, present the gospel of Christ without charge, that he may not abuse his authority in the gospel (1Cor.9:18).
WARNINGS / CONSEQUENCES
With regard to the consequences, there are two kinds: consequences during our life and consequences after death. In the Old Testament, we have several cases of crises through which the people of Israel passed because of their rebellion and their sins. The Lord “was obliged” to make them pass through captivity for their good (Jer.24:5) and gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands (Neh.9:30). With regard to the life after death, let us mention two verses: “… he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:35-36) and “For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Gal.6:8).
Conclusion: “He who despises the word will be destroyed, but he who fears the commandment will be rewarded” (Pr.13:13 and Dt.18:18-19). He/she who does not study the Bible and does not obey it sooner or later will lose his/her way. “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (Jas.4:17)
Dear friends! Let us be sincere! Let us be honest! Let us be attentive to the reproofs of correction because they constitute “the way of life” (Pr.6:23). If we love the truth of God and we subject ourselves, with all our heart to His truth, we will ourselves be saved and we will become useful instruments in the hands of God to save others. Christ, who was delivered up because of our offenses and was raised because of our justification will be glorified. It is very useful to remember what Ezekiel the prophet tells us in his book concerning our responsibility to warn the unjust and the just ones of the danger that they risk when they do not obey God’s warnings (Eze.3:17-21 and 33:3-9). When a brother or the leader of our church warns us, it is not to humiliate us but to do us good! (1Cor.4:14). Man may humiliate his neighbor. Truth never! Truth sets free, does good and lifts man up! Paul wrote: “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col.1:28).
Oh, Lord, help me, to always respond to your requirements and to become a true imitator of Paul as he was an imitator of Christ… (1Cor.11:1)