The “Fool’s Speech”: Looks Can Be Deceiving

Jeff Garrison
Mayberry and Bluemont Churches
October 22, 2023
2 Corinthians 11:1-15

Sermon recorded at Bluemont on Friday, October 20, 2023

At the beginning of worship: 

What does Satan look like? 

I don’t recommend dressing like Satan at a Halloween party. There’s no reason to give him any more publicity. But if you do, how would you dress? You would probably have horns, dark red clothes, a long-pointed tail, while holding a pitchfork? That seems to be the general depiction of the evil one since probably the Middle Ages. I suggest it’s a dangerous portrayal. 

Somewhere in C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letter, there is a piece about how, if we think of Satan and his minions in a grotesque manner, the demons’ job of deceiving us is easy. If evil appeared gross, it would be easy to recognize; there would be little temptation to follow it. Instead, we’d be repulsed. 

Perhaps Hollywood gets it right in horror flicks. Think about when a character seems perfectly normal and civilized. You trust the character. You may sympathize with his or her struggles. But then, they peel off a face and turn into a horrible monster. You know, the type of scene where you nearly jump out of your seat? After all, you have trusted the character and were deceived. 

Evil is seldom scary as we’ll see today in my sermon. And the grotesque, whom we strive to avoid, may be good yet unfortunate in their looks. Looks can deceive us.  

Before the reading of the Scripture:

Last week, I talked about how it appears Paul received some new information before sitting back down and resuming his letter to the Corinthians. As we move into the 11th Chapter of 2ndCorinthians, we learn what is bothering Paul. Last Sunday, I spoke about some of the things we learned about Paul in the 10thChapter. He wasn’t exactly an example of bodily strength and had issues with speaking. In this chapter, we discover Paul has a sense of humor and can be quite sarcastic. He’s my kind of guy!

Chapter 11 and 12 consist of what some have labeled, Paul’s “fool speech.”[1] He makes fun of himself, playfully calling himself a fool many times in these two chapters. Lovers sometimes can be foolish, and Paul loves the Corinthians. But Paul isn’t playing around. He deals with some serious issues facing the Corinthian Church. Listen

Read 2 Corinthians 11:1-15

In Paul’s absence, it appears another set of missionaries have come to Corinth and deceived the faithful. They teach another Jesus, another Spirit, and another gospel. We don’t know just what they taught, but perhaps they focused on Jesus’ life and teaching while avoiding the cross and the resurrection. By doing so, they could still hold strong to their Jewish heritage. After all, Jesus was a Jew. 

Repeatedly, in his ministry, Jesus insisted that his ministry was first focused on the Jews.[2] It’s only after his resurrection, that he sends the disciples out to the end of the world.[3] Hearing of these false teachers, Paul with wit and humor, goes on the attack. 

Paul loves the Corinthians. In the first section of this reading, he envisions himself as a matchmaker. At this time, the fathers often arranged the marriage for their daughters. Paul sees himself in this manner. He wants to be there on the final day of history when Christ returns as the bridegroom. Think of a father proud of his daughter, presenting her in marriage. That’s Paul’s hope, to present the Corinthians to Christ.

We might think it strange to consider a church as a virgin bride, but such sexualized metaphors appear throughout scripture. In the Old Testament, Israel is the bride to God.[4] And in the New Testament, this world ends with a wedding as the church is the bride of Christ.[5]

Paul recalls Eve in the Garden of Eden to show how the Corinthians have been deceived by these “super-apostles” (as he calls them). Again, as we did last week, we see that Paul has some security issues. He knows he’s not an eloquent orator. But he also knows what’s important about Jesus and that’s what he’s proclaimed to Corinth. So, if these super smooth talkers sell a different Jesus, Paul wants the Corinthians not to be lured away by the glitter and shine. They should stick to the tried and true. 

But let’s go back to the image of Paul as a father of a bride. What if his daughter ran off with another man. In the ancient world, the father would be hurt. This is Paul’s fear. Have the Corinthians run off with another “Jesus”? 

And how about us? Is there another Jesus we look for? Do we create our own Jesus in our likeness instead of the accepting and following the Jesus revealed to us in Scripture, the Jesus who died for our sins and was resurrected on the third day? 

Paul’s second attack involves payment for his teaching. We can assume from the second half of this passage, verses 7 to 11, that those “super apostles” who speak so eloquently, were paid. You know, what we pay for we often value more. But it’s a lesson that’s hard to learn. 

When I was a pastor in Utah, we were doing mid-week dinners and Bible Study in the evening. People complained about potlucks because they didn’t have time after work to prepare something. So, we tried it with the church providing a simple meal. We still didn’t get as many as we thought. There was a professor of economics in the church, who suggested we charge a simple fee for the meal because when something is free, it isn’t valued. We started charging a buck a burger, or a buck for slice of pizza, or whatever it was we were serving. Amazingly, we more than doubled our attendance. Paying for something implies value.

For some reason, however, Paul didn’t accept any payment from the Corinthians. We learn in this passage that he was being supported by those in Macedonia. We also know that he worked in a tentmaking business with Aquila and Priscilla while in Corinth.[6]  We don’t really know why, for not only did Paul receive support from Macedonia, in other places he is clear that workers need to be paid.[7]

Big Jim Folsom was a governor of Alabama in the 1940s and 50s. Wherever he held rallies he would pass the hat. One day, an aide asked him why he kept raising money as he had more campaign contributions than he could possibly spend. He told his aide, that if someone threw in a dime or quarter for his campaign, he had the vote, and that when the next guy came into town, they wouldn’t listen since they already committed to him.[8]

It appears the Corinthians, who paid to hear these “so called super apostles,” valued them more because of the cost! Paul suggests that he hasn’t charged the Corinthians because of his love for them. Ministry, first and foremost, is about love. 

In the third section of our reading, which begins with verse 12, Paul pulls out the big guns. These “so-called super apostles” want to be recognized as Paul’s equals. Paul will have nothing to do with validating their ministry. Had they been accepted as equals, with their fancy words, they could lure the Corinthian Church away from Christ. Paul now hits them with charges of being a false apostle, a deceitful worker, disguising themselves as an apostle of the true Christ. Paul then reminds the Corinthians how Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light. 

Following Christ isn’t always easy. Paul reminds us that there are those who teach things not in Scripture. Such things may not even be wrong. This is especially true if those false apostles in Corinth were teaching the message of Jesus’ life, while ignoring the resurrection. We need to know about Jesus’ life and teachings, but Paul insists that our hope, our salvation, is not in Jesus’ life on earth. If it was, we would have to work for our salvation. Our hope, our salvation, is in Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

While the teachings of Jesus are good, we find our hope in the exalted Jesus. “Jesus died for us, Jesus rose from the grave for us, Jesus ascended into heaven for us, and Jesus will come again” we proclaim. Paul’s message is that we should only place our trust in the one who will rule for all eternity. Amen. 

[1] Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 494-496.

[2] See Matthew 15:24-28, Mark 7:27-28, and John 4:19-26. 

[3] Matthew 28:16-20, Acts 1:8. 

[4] See Hosea 1-3, Ezekiel 16 and 23, Isaiah 50:1 and 54:1-6, Psalm 45, and Song of Solomon. Ernest Best, Second Corinthians: Interpretation, A Biblical Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: JKP, 1987), 101. 

[5] Revelation 21:2

[6] Acts 18:3. 

[7] 1 Corinthians 9:3-7, 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9. 

[8] This story was told by Ron Carroll when he was the Scout Executive for the Cape Fear Council. 

photo of the sun setting through the trees
Sunset one evening this past week.

9 Replies to “The “Fool’s Speech”: Looks Can Be Deceiving”

  1. I was reminded of that quote that The Armchair Squid shared when I was reading your blog, Jeff. Enjoyed reading your latest sermon and I hope all is well in your part of the world.

  2. One of the greatest lines from one of the greatest movies (Usual Suspects)…

    “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

    Haven’t been by in a while and I apologize for that. I hope you’re doing well.

    1. No problem. Good to see you here again. For some reason, I haven’t been able to comment on your posts (I’m having that problem on several blogs. I can only comment on some via anonymous posts, but yours doesn’t allow it).

  3. I thought I left a comment here this morning, but it seems to have disappeared. I said I was fascinated by the idea that free things weren’t valued. That point seems to have been proven when you charged a nominal fee for your meals and doubled your attendance.

  4. That’s a very interesting thought about not valuing things as much that are free. Clearly it proved true with your meals.

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