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Apostolic Follies

Apostolic Follies

Words of Faith 12-18-17

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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2 Corinthians 11

   [16] I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. [17] In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. [18] Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast.


         The Corinthians were slow to absorb the truth that divine standards differ radically from those of the world. How God evaluates a person or ministry is all that really matters. There are matters that God values supremely that are counted as foolishness by the world. The cross of Christ is the greatest example. The wisdom of God is foolishness to the world.

         But the Corinthians had persisted in looking at things from a worldly point of view. As a result, Paul was willing to accommodate himself to their perspective in the hope of convincing them of the big truth, that God's approval and accreditation should be seen not against the backdrop of human greatness... but human weakness.

         What the Corinthians were failing to see is that the marks of an apostle are the marks of Christ, including weakness and suffering. In the passage ahead Paul will recount his frailties and with poignant irony saying in essence, "These are the credentials of an apostle.” But was this the correct way to answer such issues?

         Proverbs 26:5 advises-- "Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes." Paul took this approach as he answered the foolish Corinthians according to their folly. He had previously asked them to "put up with" a bit of foolishness and he now resumed this approach. He did so not by choice but by necessity because they had tolerated and welcomed the false apostles.

       The Corinthians received those false teachers because of their external qualifications and self-aggrandizement. This is like valuing a gem on the basis of its size rather than its quality. Paul enter into this "contest of folly" in order to win the Corinthians.

       The word fool here is translated from aphron, meaning "ignorant"-- not moros, which means "stupid." Paul was not saying that the Corinthians were stupid. But they were ignorant of the basic truth that the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world. Paul was not boasting in a haughty way but in an effort to affirm his claim as an apostle. In his boasting he was not talking as the Lord would, as the Lord never defended Himself in this way. He was lowering himself to the level of their dialogue in order to point out its futility.

       So what do we gain from this?

         Paul is about to enter into a series of arguments where the irony borders on sarcasm. We might ask: Is this the best way to approach a conflict or argument in the Body of Christ? All we can say for sure is that this type of argument cannot be ruled out. Apparently, Paul deemed this to be the best "last ditch" strategy to reach some of the people he loved very much. He was certainly walking in the Spirit. If he did not love them with the love of Christ he might have simply given up on them.

         Do irony and sarcasm have a place in our Christian dialogue? Perhaps. In the same way that Paul used such tools sparingly and as a last resort. Paul's letters are in no way filled with sarcasm. Just the opposite. Paul's writings to the churches are filled with compassion and deep tenderness. But apparently, he felt pushed to the limit in this situation and was willing to try just about anything, even ironic folly.

         Irony and even sarcasm can be literary tools in skits and dramas that help us to see a truth, but great care should be taken when walking in this realm. Sarcasm can be terribly hurtful and is generally an awful way to communicate personally. Sarcasm should never be used to wound a brother or sister. The Bible has much to say about such sharp-tongued criticism covered with uneasy laughter.

         The most important thing to see here is the heart of Paul. He did not want any to fall away or be led astray by those who were masquerading as apostles. He held these believers in his heart passionately and was willing to use any means necessary to convince them of the truth.


         Lord, give me a passionate love for those You have saved and those You are saving. Give me patience and mercy for those are difficult to work with. Give me the wisdom to know precisely how to reach those who do not know You or who have become distracted from Your call. In Jesus' Name.