For such are false apostles, deceitful workers….
— 2 Corinthians 11:13
Today is the last Sparkling Gem on the subject of apostleship. I have sensed the need to cover this material because this topic is so rarely addressed. I pray that it has been a blessing to you and that it has caused you to deeply think about spiritual leadership — the need for it and the need to be careful about whom you choose to follow spiritually.
In Second Corinthians 11:13 and 14, Paul described the growing problem of false apostles. He said, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”
*[If you started reading this from your email, begin reading here.]
The phrase “false apostles” comes from the Greek word pseudapostolos, a compound of pseudes and apostolos. The word pseudes carries the idea of any type of falsehood. It can picture a person who projects a false image of himself, someone who deliberately walks in a pretense that is untrue, or someone who intentionally misrepresents facts or truths. In every instance where this word is used in the New Testament, it portrays someone who misrepresents who he is by what he does, by what he says, or by the lie or misrepresentation that he purports to be true. The second part of the word is apostolos — which, of course, is the word for an apostle. Therefore, the word pseudapostolos actually describes a pretend apostle or someone who intentionally represents himself to be an apostle even though he knows he is not.
Paul called these false apostles “deceitful workers.” The word “deceitful” comes from the Greek word dolios, which is derived from a root word used to describe bait that is put on a hook to catch fish. It conveys the idea of craftiness, cheating, cunning, dishonesty, fraud, guile, and trickery intended to entrap someone in an act of deception. Like a fisherman who carefully camouflages a hook with bait, these counterfeit apostles lured sincere believers closer and closer until those believers finally “took the bait.” And once the hook was in their victims’ mouths, the false apostles “pulled the hook” and took congregations, even entire groups of churches, captive.
Paul said these individuals were deceitful “workers.” This word “workers” is taken from the Greek word ergates, a word that denotes someone who actively works at what he is doing. This indicates that nothing was accidental about this act of deception and that these false apostles put forth great effort to impersonate real apostolic ministry.
Paul said these deceitful workers were so skilled at the art of deception that they were able to “transform” themselves into the apostles of Christ. The word translated “transform” in this verse is the Greek word metaschimatidzo, which means to disguise oneself, to deliberately change one’s outward appearance, or to masquerade in clothing that depicts a person as different than he really is. Paul was referring to individuals who intentionally attempted to pass themselves off as apostles, knowing full well that they were not. He was describing a blatant act of deception.
At that time, such a large number of people were professing to be apostles that the Ephesian church developed certain criteria — a paradigm or model — to determine who was and who was not an authentic New Testament apostle. The problem was serious in the Ephesian church, and that church was serious about correcting it. This prompted Jesus to tell the Ephesian believers, “…thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Revelation 2:2).
The word “tried” points to a thorough and serious investigation. It means to try, to examine, to inspect, to investigate, to scrutinize, or to put to the test. The leadership of the church wanted to guard the reputation of the true apostolic gift and protect the members of their congregation from pretenders who sought to lead them astray. This leadership was so serious about it that they developed a “test” to prove whether or not a person really had an apostolic calling. This should show how powerful the apostolic call is — for if the church at Ephesus was testing people to see if their call was real, it meant they felt a need to protect those who had a bona fide apostolic calling.
This last Sparkling Gem in this series is not intended to promote suspicion of leadership in the Church, but rather to encourage discernment. The apostolic call is so important to building up the local church that those who imitate this call for the sake of personal gain should not be tolerated in a congregation. And if a person has an authentic call, a test or a little scrutiny won’t hurt or diminish it. In fact, it will only prove that the call is genuine and authentic, which will then open the way for you to open your heart and receive the rich benefits of the apostolic anointing whenever it is present in your midst!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, help me trust those who are over me in the Lord to know how to test and try those who come to minister to our congregation. I trust my pastor and the leadership of our church. Nevertheless, I pray for You to guide them and to give them wisdom as they open the doors of our church to ministers who are new to us. I ask You, Lord, to heighten their spiritual discernment so that they can clearly distinguish when everything that glitters is not gold, and everything that looks spiritual is not necessarily of God. Help our overseers to have the wisdom of God in whom they invite to minister to our congregation.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that my pastor and the leadership team of our church are spiritually sensitive about those whom they invite to minister to our congregation. They are diligent to pray and seek the Lord; therefore, I can rest at peace that whomever may be invited to stand in our pulpit is anointed to impart something from Heaven that will strengthen and establish us to do the will of God from the heart. I am so thankful that this responsibility is not mine, but I pray for them. I declare that those who are called and equipped to exercise stewardship and give an account for my soul in the Lord walk in the wisdom and spiritual fortitude they need to make right choices for our congregation, so when they stand before You they can hear You say, “Well done!”
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Do you trust your pastor and spiritual leaders to make right choices concerning those whom they invite to minister in the pulpit of your church? If not, why don’t you trust them, and why are you attending that church if you don’t trust their spiritual oversight?
- Do you take responsibility for what you spiritually receive into your own heart, or do you just naïvely receive whatever is dished out for you to consume spiritually?
- Pastors do have a great responsibility to make sure a special speaker is spiritually right with God. Are your pastors careful about those whom they invite to minister in your church? If you are a pastor, are you doing what is necessary to be watchful over your flock in this way?