2 Corinthians 11

Chapter eleven continues Paul’s defense of himself to the Corinthian believers. Many of them had been on the verge of rejecting him, but his previous letter brought them back a little. Now he wanted to stop their retreat once-and-for-all. This chapter contains some of the harshest words we have recorded from Paul’s hand toward believers or unbelievers (other examples include 1 Corinthians 3:1-3; 5:1-5; 11:17-18; Galatians 3:1-5; 5:12; Philippians 3:2; 1 Timothy 1:20). Reminiscent of a courtroom, at this point in his self-defense he presented four accusations against his prosecutors.

First, he accused the Corinthian believers of embracing anyone and anything except Paul and his message (2 Corinthians 11:1-4), including those who would abuse them (2 Corinthians 11:16-21). Second, he accused them of scorning him because of his gentle demeanor and graciousness (2 Corinthians 11:5-6). Third, he accused both the Corinthians and the false teachers of dismissing his service for Christ, including taking support from other churches instead of Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:7-9) and experiencing great suffering for his ministry (2 Corinthians 11:23-33). Fourth, he accused his critics of being agents of Satan who were working undercover, only pretending to be apostles of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:12-15).

Although this was harsh and even full of sarcasm and contempt for those against him, Paul made sure to show his love and concern for the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:1-3, 9-11). This was not as much an attack on them as it was their sinful actions and those who led them astray. However, even at this Paul still had the court’s attention, and he was not done yet.

2 Corinthians 3

Chapter three continues Paul’s defense of his apostolic ministry and authority in Corinth. It seems that one of the attacks his accusers used was that he had no credentials. Officially, that was true. However, Paul took the firm stance that, since he was commissioned by Jesus himself (Acts 9:15-16; Galatians 2:6-10), he did not “need letters of recommendation” either to or from the churches he started (2 Corinthians 3:1-3). On the contrary, the churches themselves and the stories of life change through Christ were all the credentials he needed to prove the authority and authenticity of his message. What could be better proof than the Corinthians themselves?

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Additionally, Paul needed nothing for his own benefit either, because God had both called him to that ministry and made him adequate to accomplish it (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

For the rest of the chapter, Paul used the example of Moses receiving the stones tablets with the Ten Commandments as an illustration of the difference between the old spiritual life under the Law and the new spiritual life under the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:7-18). Exodus 34:29-35 records that Moses’ face glowed after having seen God, but he wore a veil in the presence of the people when not relaying God’s message to them. Paul noted that this veil unintentionally became a barrier between them and God, much like the unbiblical clergy-laity divide in the Church. Rather than seeing it as a visible reminder that they could not approach God’s holiness, the people used it to elevate and exalt Moses.

On a spiritual level, the Jewish people still have a veil which they misunderstand, but it is the Law itself, the one that God gave through Moses. Paul was clear in Galatians 3:19-25 that the Law was a temporary guardian over Israel until Jesus came and that it did not have the power to give spiritual life, only point to death. Thus, in a sense, the Law actually kills those who trust in it for salvation (2 Corinthians 3:6), even though the Law itself was holy (Romans 7:7, 12). By clinging to the Law instead of turning to Christ, the Jewish people continue to “veil” their own eyes to the truth of God’s plan for them (2 Corinthians 3:15-16). Only the Spirit of God can produce the freedom they are looking for (2 Corinthians 3:17).

Jude

As is the case with James, the identification of Jude has caused much debate. Jude and Judas were popular names honoring the great tribal patriarch, Judah. However, because Jude called himself “THE BROTHER OF JAMES” (Jude 1), with no clarification of which James, it is best to see this as a reference to the most well-known James at that time, Jesus’ half-brother, the leader of the Jerusalem church. This would also make Jude Jesus’ half-brother. (The other two named in Matthew 13:55 were Joseph and Simon, also named after patriarchs.)

Although Jude’s letter was never officially rejected by the Early Church, some were hesitant to recognize it as inspired, primarily because of his references to other Scripture (2 Peter) and extra-biblical literature. His reliance on the book of 1 Enoch in Jude 14-15 and the reference to the body of Moses in Jude 9 has caused some to question its integrity. However, Paul quoted Greek poets, philosophers, and traditional sayings multiple times within his inspired letters, so this is not automatically cause for disqualification. In fact, except for the specific account in Jude 9, there is nothing in Jude that contradicts other Scripture or creates new doctrine. Ironically, it is instead a short, yet strong, reminder of our need to maintain doctrinal accuracy.

Jude had intended to write a longer letter on the doctrine of salvation, but the influx of false teachers in the church (Jude 4; likely the same ones Paul and Peter warned about earlier) caused him to set that aside for a quick memo on doctrinal integrity. Specifically, he wrote, believers must “CONTEND EARNESTLY FOR THE FAITH” (Jude 3). It is important that we do not simply “believe” or “uphold” the faith. We must fight for it, knowing that our opponents will certainly fight for their side. Jude seems to quote 2 Peter 2:1 when he referred to those “WHO DENY OUR ONLY MASTER AND LORD, JESUS CHRIST” (Jude 4).

Showing a penchant for cadence in his oratory, Jude created four lists to describe these false teachers. First, he compared their coming judgment to the plagues of Egypt, the angels of Genesis 6, and Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 5-7). Second, he compared their attitude toward God to Cain, Balaam, and Korah (Jude 11). Third, using visuals from nature, he compared their activity to dangerous reefs, waterless clouds, fruitless trees, wild waves, and wayward stars (Jude 12-13). Fourth, describing their spiritual state, he called them divisive, worldly, and devoid of the Spirit (Jude 19).

In contrast to this dangerous threat to local churches, Jude provided two lists for believers as well (Jude 17, 20-21 and Jude 22-23). First, regarding ourselves, we must: 1) remember this was prophesied; 2) pray in the Holy Spirit; 3) maintain ourselves in God’s love; and 4) anticipate Christ’s mercy. Second, regarding others, we must: 1) have mercy on those wavering in the truth; 2) rescue some from the fire; 3) have mercy on others, while paying attention to ourselves (see Galatians 6:1).

Jude’s final exhortation reminded his readers – and us – that succumbing to false teaching is not inevitable. Not only can God keep us from falling, but he can also cause us to stand, “REJOICING, WITHOUT BLEMISH BEFORE HIS GLORIOUS PRESENCE” (Jude 24) for eternity.