Distinguishing True Servants of God from Charlatans, part 1
Christianity as a whole—all those people and churches who claim to be Christian—is in a terrible state. Many people who claim to be Christians are not genuine Christians, and many churches that claim to be teaching the Gospel are not teaching the Gospel.
That’s true today, and it was true even in the early church. Very early on in Christian history, false teachers brought “damnable heresies” into the churches and led people astray. Much of this theological error was due to biblical ignorance and illiteracy. The church is gullible and susceptible to error because many have abandoned the truth.
G.K. Chesterton famously said that when people abandon the truth, they do not believe in nothing; they believe in anything. Neglecting the truth and believing in falsehood has led to divisions, sects, and cults. And this threat to the church is not primarily from the outside; it’s from the inside. The real dangers come from within the church, from teachers and preachers who claim to be teaching the truth, but teach error. The people who do the most damage to the church are those who claim to speak for Jesus but actually are servants of Satan.
The Bible repeatedly warns us against false teachers and their harmful influence within the church. Sadly, false teachers had infiltrated the church at Corinth while Paul was still ministering there. And the great tragedy is that the people of the church were tolerating them; they were allowing these false teachers to have authority and influence within the church, much to Paul’s dismay. The book of 2 Corinthians is largely Paul’s response to the false teachers in Corinth.
.7 “Did I commit a sin….” This seems to reflect an accusation or criticism against him. So he’s responding to these accusations.
Just like the church at Corinth was in danger of being seduced by these false teachers and being led away into error, so the church today is under the same threat. In fact, the modern threat is perhaps even worse than it was in the early church. Today there is much more falsehood influencing and infiltrating the church than ever before. In spite of the fact that we have more access to the Bible and to solid teaching than previous generations, many people still seem to be susceptible to false teaching and theological error. Many churches are turning away from the biblical truth. Immature, gullible, ignorant people lack discernment because they don’t know the truth. They then become susceptible to false teaching and false teachers. They, in turn, ruin the church.
In today’s passage, Paul distinguishes himself from the false teachers. He wants his readers to see the stark difference between a true apostle and the false apostles. He shows us what distinguishes true servants of God from charlatans.
Let’s begin by looking at some characteristics of a true servant of God. These qualities were true of Paul, and they should be true of anyone claiming to serve God. We should all aspire to develop these qualities. And we should expect these qualities in our spiritual leaders.