The Holy Spirit Speaking Through Paul


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In numerous churches throughout the world today, there is never any detailed teaching on what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul in Romans 16:17-18, parts of 2 Corinthians, 1 Timothy 6:1-10 and Titus 1:10-11 to write about various teachers and false apostles who introduced many serious errors and compromising attitudes to sin in the early Church. In the Books of Jude and 2 Peter, the Holy Spirit led Jude and Peter to write about these same or similar types of false teachers and their effects on the Church.

Tragically among Evangelical, Charismatic and Pentecostal churches today, there are a small minority of leaders who have almost all the characteristics of those Paul, Peter and Jude wrote about so long ago. But also there are some other modern leaders who exhibit some of the attributes of these early false teachers.

The latter modern leaders are born-again of the Holy Spirit and many times preach and teach many Biblically sound doctrines. Many of them live generally godly lives. But they also teach some extremely serious unbiblical errors and sometimes encourage compromising attitudes towards sin. Some encourage such compromise knowingly. Others compromise unknowingly. Often they have questionable ungodly attitudes to money. I believe God is wanting to use His Words through Paul, Peter and Jude to call such leaders to repent of such attitudes.


The very impressive persuasive public speaking of the false teachers


In Romans 16:17-18, Paul warned us about teachers who taught contrary to the doctrines of the New Testament: “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 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.”

Paul here says such churchgoers did not serve Jesus Christ as Lord. These teachers caused divisions in the early Church through their false teachings and practices. Note in this verse in Greek, the word “doctrines” is a form of the “didache” which means “teaching, what is taught”. [1]

Paul also said these teachers “by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple”. In Greek, the expression “smooth words” is “chrestologia” which means “eloquent and attractive speech involving pleasing rhetorical devices” [2] or “smooth plausible speech”. [3] The word “rhetorical” means “having persuasive or impressive effects”. “Plausible” means “seemingly reasonable or having the appearance of being true”.

In other words, these teachers were excellent persuasive talkers whose teachings appeared to many to be true. This is even though many of their ideas were contrary to Biblical teaching. These teachers could make their false interpretations of Biblical verses seem to be true. They were able to give many convincing reasons for accepting their false teachings.

In Greek, the word “flattering” is a form of the word “eulogia” which means in the context of Romans 16:18 “a fine style of utterance, giving the appearance of reasonableness” [4] or “fine speaking, well chosen (but untrue) words, false eloquence or flattery”. [5] The word “eloquence” refers to the art of expressing ideas in flowing impressive charming language which persuade their listeners’ minds and stir their emotions.

Therefore, these false teachers were regarded as being wonderful preachers by many sincere but Biblically naïve churchgoers. These teachers knew how to inspire, motivate, stir and excite the emotions of many churchgoers. The latter probably wrongly thought they were experiencing the powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit at such times.

Note the New King James Version and the New American Standard Bible translate the form of “eulogia” used in Romans 16:18 as “flattering”. Louw and Nida say “eugogia” means “excessive praise”. [6] Therefore, it is possible these teachers were also masters at praising their audiences in order to gain more influence among them. I

It is good to encourage our listeners when we teach and preach (see 1 Thessalonians 3:2). But it is wrong to praise our listeners about how godly, spiritual and receptive to the Holy Spirit they are or what great worshippers they are in order to manipulate them into supporting our ministries.


They served their own desires


In Romans 16:18, Paul said these teachers did not serve the Lord Jesus but “their own appetites” (N.A.S.B.) or “their own body” (N.K.J.V.). They were serving their own desires or appetites for power, influence, success, money, prosperity and so on. The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery says, “The cravings of the belly are a picture of the life of the flesh (i.e. the self) which is in opposition to the life of the Spirit”. [7]


They taught false ideas and practices involving compromise with sin


Also note the word “offences” in the expression “those who causes divisions and offences” in Romans 16:17 is a form of the word “skandalon”. In the context of Romans 16:17, “skandalon” means “temptation to sin, enticement to false belief”. [8] Therefore these teachers were teaching false ideas and practices which involved compromising with various sins.

Louw and Nida (page 56) say “skandalon” referred also to a trap to catch animals. So these teachers were setting up traps of false beliefs and compromising attitudes to sins in which believers could be caught.


They deceived the hearts of unsuspecting naïve believers


In Romans 16:18, Paul said these teachers were able to “deceive the hearts of the simple”. In Greek, the word “simple” here is a form of the word “akakos” which means in this context “being unsuspecting or naïve with regards to possible deception”. [9] Therefore, in the time of the Apostles, false teachers who were attending church meetings were deceiving unsuspecting or innocent churchgoers.

This same thing has happened at other times throughout history, including recent decades. I have seen numerous good believers go off track by beginning to follow easy believism preachers and those who encourage compromising attitudes to sins.


Paul’s preaching was regarded as worthless and his writings a burden


2 Corinthians 10:10 and 11:6 reveal the Corinthian Christians did not find Paul’s public speaking to be of high quality. In 2 Corinthians 10:10, Paul said: “For his letters, they say, are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.”

The Corinthians criticised Paul’s letters as being too “weighty” and his public speaking as being “contemptible”. In Greek, the word “weighty” is a form of the word “barus” which means figuratively in this context “burdensome, difficult to fulfil of regulations (or) demands, severe” [10] or “authoritative, strict, stern, severe”. [11] Many or most of the Corinthian churchgoers did not like Paul’s emphasis on turning from known sin, strong warnings about having a casual attitude to known sin and his stress on church discipline. Paul’s stress on these things is seen in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, 5:1-13, 6:13-18, 10:1-13 and 11:17-32.

In the original Greek, the word “contemptible” in verse 10 above is a form of the word “exoutheneo” which means “to despise someone or something on the basis it is worthless or no value”. [12] In other words, many or most of the Corinthian Christians regarded the teaching and preaching of the great Apostle Paul as worthless or having no value.

In 2 Corinthians 11:6, Paul said: “Even though I am untrained in speech…” Here Paul revealed he was unskilled or untrained in public speaking when compared to the false apostles who had infiltrated the Corinthian Church. These false apostles were superb public speakers who had led many Corinthians into receiving a false version of the Gospel and a different Christ (see 2 Corinthians 11:4-5). In Greek, the word “untrained” above is “idiotes” which means “a person who has no acquired systematic information or expertise in some field or activity” [13] or “an amateur in contrast to an expert”. [14]

The Apostle Paul had founded the Corinthian Church (see Acts 18:1-17 and 1 Corinthians 3:6). Paul preached Christ, His death and His Lordship (see 1 Corinthians 1:2 and 2 Corinthians 4:5). Paul’s ministry among them was anointed by the Holy Spirit and His power. 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 says: “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 2 Corinthians 12:12 reveals mighty signs and wonders accompanied Paul’s apostolic ministry among the Corinthians: “Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.”

But despite Paul’s very sound Holy Spirit-anointed preaching and teaching and powerful apostolic ministry, many or most of the born-again Christians at the Corinthian Church regarded his preaching as having no value. Also they regarded his Biblical letter of 1 Corinthians as being too authoritative, strict, severe and containing regulations or demands which were difficult to fulfil.


Many Corinthians allowed the false teachers to take advantage of them


Compare their dreadful treatment of Paul with the way these same born-again Corinthian churchgoers treated the false apostles whom Paul mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11:2-21. In 2 Corinthians 11:4, Paul refers to these false apostles who preached a different gospel and another Jesus Christ and who encouraged them to receive a worldly spirit.

Paul also mentions these preachers in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: “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” and 11:20: “For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face.”

Here we see many of the Corinthian believers followed those who often exalted themselves and frequently promoted their own ministries. Many Corinthians were willing to submit to those who were trying to enslave them as their disciples.

Also in verse 20, Paul says many of the Corinthians allowed the false apostles to take from them. In Greek, the word “takes” in the expression “if one takes from you” is a form of the word “lambano”. Louw and Nida say that in 2 Corinthians 11:20, “lambano” means “to take advantage of someone by trickery or deception”. [15] The New American Standard Bible translates the form of “lambano” used in this verse as “takes advantage of you”.

Also note the word “devours” in the expression “if anyone devours you” is a form of the word “katesthio”. Louw and Nida say that in the context of 2 Corinthians 11:20, “katesthio” means figuratively “to take total advantage of someone”. [16] Bauer says in this verse, “katesthio” means “exploits, robs”. [17]

In Matthew 23:23, Jesus said the scribes and Pharisees were rightly very obedient to God about tithing. But as Jesus said in Matthew 23:5, many scribes and Pharisees also made sure other Jews knew how obedient the former were to God about tithing: “But all their works they do to be seen by men.”

Added to this, many scribes and Pharisees used God’s Word to deceive Jewish widows into giving them all their inheritance. In Matthew 23:14 in the Majority Greek Text used in the New King James Version, Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widow’s houses.”

In Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47, Jesus refers to many scribes devouring widow’s houses. In these three verses, the word “devour” is the same word in Greek as found in Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 11:20 about the false apostles who deceived most of the Church at Corinth into receiving a false “gospel” and a false “Christ” and into making these deceivers rich with money.

Luke 16:14 records that many Pharisees “were lovers of money”. So somehow they used the written Word of God and their positions as religious teachers of the Jews to make themselves wealthy. The false apostles at the Church at Corinth, many scribes and Pharisees and some modern preachers use similar methods to make themselves very rich by deceiving many gullible churchgoers.

In 2 Corinthians 11:7-15, Paul compares his ministry among the Corinthians to that of the false apostles. In verses 7-9, he stressed that he preached the Gospel to the Corinthians without asking them for any money offerings for his own ministry. [18] He closely connects this fact with what he said in verse 6 about him being “untrained” or an amateur in public speaking.

Among the Greeks during Paul’s time, philosophers who were professional public speakers would demand generous money offerings for sharing their so-called “wisdom” and “knowledge”. [19] At that time, if a speaker insisted on offering their services free of charge, the Greeks regarded this as a sign the speaker’s teachings were worthless. [20]

It is possible that the false apostles were saying the supposed superiority of their wisdom, “gospel” and public speaking to Paul’s was proven by the fact they could demand large offerings for their teaching while Paul shared his Gospel free of charge.


Greedy hucksters were in the “Top Ten” ministries at Corinth


In 2 Corinthians 2:17, Paul said, “for we are not, as so many, peddling the Word of God…” In Greek, the word “peddling” is a form of the word “kapeleuo” which means “to be a retailer, to peddle, to hucksterize [21] or “to engage in retail business, with the implication of deceptiveness and greedy motives”. [22]

Bauer [23] says that in 2 Corinthians 2:17 “kapeleuo” relates to being “a huckster”. A huckster is someone who bargains or haggles for money. Hucksters use many different types of tricks and clever schemes to extract as much money as possible from the people they encounter. Hucksters are also known as hagglers, hawkers or peddlers.

God wants His people to provide well for the real needs of His preachers (see 1 Timothy 5:18). But God does not approve of preachers retailing God’s blessings for money. Tragically too many preachers ask for offerings in ways which are little different from the tricky schemes professional hucksters use to sell their goods outside of market stalls or shops. These preachers give the Gospel of Christ a very bad name.

Paul’s comments in 2 Corinthians 2:17 about other preachers peddling the Word of God relates to his comments in 2 Corinthians 11:20 about the false apostles taking advantage of and devouring many of the Corinthians.

The Corinthian Church is famous for the wonderful manifestations and gifts of the Holy Spirit which occurred among its many members. The Corinthian Church was Charismatic and Pentecostal in many ways. But despite this, it had a large number of relatively very carnal and immature believers who were not able to receive the solid teachings of God’s Word (see 1 Corinthians 3:1-3). Many of these carnal believers were deceived into following the teachings and practices of greedy spiritual hucksters who peddled the Word of God. These covetous mercenaries were on the most popular preachers’ list at Corinth.

Note Paul said in 2 Corinthians 2:17 that he and Timothy did not peddle the Word of God. They were not religious hucksters who haggled continually with the listeners about giving offerings to them.

Read Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:1-18 and 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 to see the types of godly balanced attitudes Paul had to money and receiving offerings. Paul accepted material support from churches (see 2 Corinthians 11:8 and Philippians 4:15-18), but he also supported himself at times (see Acts 18:3, 20:34, 1 Thessalonians 2:9 and 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9). Also note he was meticulously honest about money (see 2 Corinthians 8:19-21).


False teachers influencing the early churches at Ephesus and Crete


A study of the Books of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus reveal that false teachers and their supporters had gained much influence in the churches of Ephesus and Crete. These false teachers:


·         taught a mixture of the Law of Moses, popular worldly philosophies and fables. 1 Timothy 1:6-7 records: “from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.” 1 Timothy 6:20-21 says: “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and vain babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge – by professing it, some have strayed concerning the faith.”

In 1 Timothy 1:4, 4:7, 2 Timothy 4:4 and Titus 1:14, Paul warned of following fables. In Greek, the word “fable” in these verses is “muthos” which means “a legendary story or account, normally about supernatural beings, events or cultural heroes, and in the New Testament always with an unfavourable connotation”. [24] These stories were often dramatic testimonies about supernatural beings like angels and about miraculous events which suggested things contrary to the teachings of the Scriptures.

Paul had a marvellous ministry of God-given miracles (see Acts 14:3, 14:8-12, 15:12, 16:16-18, 19:11-12, 20:6-12 and 2 Corinthians 12:12). But he did not like anyone using stories of angels and miracles to support false teachings and false gospels.

·         had little emphasis on sound Biblical doctrine when compared with Paul. In 1 Timothy 1:3, 1:10, 4:6, 4:13, 4:16, 5:17, 6:1, 6:3, 2 Timothy 3:10, 3:16, 4:2, 4:3, Titus 1:9, 2:1, 2:7 and 2:10, Paul stresses the crucial importance of sound doctrine. In 1 Timothy 4:1, he accuses his opponents of teaching “the doctrines of devils”.

·         had little emphasis on godly righteous behaviour or actions (see 1 Timothy 6:3-10, 2 Timothy 2:16-18 and 3:13). In Titus 1:16, Paul spoke of them: “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.”

In 1 Timothy 4:8, Paul emphasised the importance of believers living godly lives: “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” In 2 Timothy 2:19, Paul commanded: “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

In Titus 2:2-8, 2:11-14, 3:8 and 3:14, Paul stressed the importance of believers living godly, righteous pure lives and of doing good works. Titus 2:11-12 says: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”

·         were using their influence in the Churches at Ephesus and Crete to fulfil their greedy desire for money (see 1 Timothy 6:5 and Titus 1:10-11).


Greedy teachers saying godliness is primarily a get-rich-quick scheme


In 1 Timothy 6:3-10, Paul warned us to withdraw ourselves from those who preach false gospels and who say we should be godly in order to become very rich financially: “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

In Greek, the word “godliness” in verse 1 above is a form of the word “eusebeia” meaning “behaviour reflecting correct religious beliefs and attitudes”. [25] Vine says the expression “the doctrine which accords with godliness” means “that which is consistent with godliness, in contrast with false teaching”.

Also note the word “gain” in 1 Timothy 6:5 in Greek is a form of the word “porismos”. “Porismos” means “a means of gaining a profit or wealth”. [26] So Paul was opposing those who try to turn our relationship with Jesus Christ primarily into a get-super-rich-scheme.

In Titus 1:10-11, Paul warned of Jewish and Gentile teachers who were teaching false ideas for the sake of prospering themselves financially: “For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.”

Every preacher and believer has a certain lack of understanding of God’s Word. So all of us will be at present believing and/or teaching some things which are not totally Biblical. But this is different from teaching false gospels, serious major errors and turning godliness into primarily a get-rich-scheme.


Riches and wealth are not evil, but watch your attitudes


Job, Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and Hezekiah were prospered by God with great wealth. Riches and wealth are not evil in themselves. But the Bible contains many strong warnings about wrong attitudes to money and wealth. Here are some examples: Proverbs 15:27 says: “He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house…” In Luke 12:15, Jesus commanded: “…Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

1 Corinthians 6:10 and Ephesians 5:5 warn that greedy or covetous people will not inherit God’s kingdom. Ephesians 5:5 says: “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”

Hebrews 13:5 teaches: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have…” Proverbs 23:4 says: “Do not overwork to be rich…” Proverbs 28:20 warns: “A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.”

1 Timothy 6:17-19 says: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”


Those proud of their revelations are more open to deception


In 2 Corinthians 11:19, Paul said to the Corinthian believers: “For you put up with fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise.” Here Paul was saying that many of the Corinthians were gladly putting up with the ministries of false apostles. Satirically, Paul added that the Corinthians were doing this because they were so wise. Paul here does not mean that the Corinthians were actually wise. Instead he was saying the Corinthians proudly thought they were wise. They believed they were full of revelations and wisdom from God.

The same is happening today. Many who are spiritually immature and relatively carnal like the Corinthians gladly put up with some carnal humanistic ministries who masquerade as spiritual giants but who are constantly using God and His Word to promote themselves.



Bible Study Questions


1.         In Romans 16:17-18, Paul warned believers of false teachers influencing churchgoers. Explain what these verses say about these teachers.

2.         Who are “the simple” referred to in Romans 16:18?

3.         What does 2 Corinthians 10:10 reveal were the attitudes of many of the Corinthian churchgoers to Paul’s letters and his preaching and teaching?

4.         Explain what 2 Corinthians 11:6 means when Paul says: “Even though I am untrained in speech…”

5.         What does 2 Corinthians 11:20 teach about the relationship between the false apostles at Corinth and many of the Corinthian churchgoers?

6.         Explain what Paul meant when he said in 2 Corinthians 2:17: “for we are not, as so many, peddling the Word of God…”

7.         In the Books of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus, Paul wrote much about false teachers and their supporters who had gained much influence in the churches of Ephesus and Crete. List what Paul said about them.

8.         Explain what 1 Timothy 6:3-10 and Titus 1:10-11 reveal about the attitudes of false teachers in the Church to money.

9.         What does 2 Corinthians 11:19 teach us?


[1] Bauer, page 192.

[2] Louw and Nida, page 393.

[3] Bauer, page 886.

[4] Vine, page 222.

[5] Bauer, page 322.

[6] Louw and Nida, page 431.

[7] “Dictionary of Biblical Imagery”, I.V.P., Downers Grove, 1998, page 87.

[8] Bauer, page 753.

[9] Louw and Nida, page 370.

[10] Bauer, page 134.

[11] Perschbacher, page 67.

[12] Louw and Nida, page 763.

[13] Ibid, page 329.

[14] Bauer, page 370.

[15] Louw and Nida, page 758.

[16] Ibid, page 758.

[17] Bauer, page 422.

[18] Philippians 4:15-16 reveals that the Philippian Church  financially supported Paul after he left Macedonia. As Acts 16:9-18:17 shows, Paul went to minister in Athens and then Corinth after leaving the Macedonian city of Berea.

[19] Phillip Hughes, “The Second Epistle to the Corinthians”, W. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1962, page 383.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Vine, page 130.

[22] Louw and Nida, page 581.

[23] Bauer, page 403.

[24] Louw and Nida, page 390.

[25] Ibid, page 532.

[26] Ibid, page 580.

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