The word of the day is “false.” Ours is an age of lies and deception. But we aren’t the only society in which falsehoods suppress the truth. In today’s reading of 2 Corinthians 11:5-21, we note how seriously St. Paul takes the false teachers who are misleading the congregation in Corinth. The apostle is so concerned—and incensed—that he is willing to defend himself on the low level of his adversaries. Our reading today teaches us to rededicate ourselves to the truth of the Gospel and represent that truth by speaking, acting, and living.
In today’s passage, Paul begins his diatribe against those who are pretending to be apostles. He writes, “For I consider that I am not at all inferior to the most eminent apostles” (vs. 5). Then he adds that he is going to “boast a little” (vs. 16). That boasting will not be “according to the Lord” (vs. 17). He will speak “foolishly” in the same manner as his opponents.
Straying From the Path of Truth Leads into a Thicket of Confusion
We learn in this passage that St. Paul’s primary concern was that the Corinthians were being misled by lies and deceptions. Why was that a critical problem? The apostle writes, “You put up with fools gladly… for you put up with it if one brings you bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself if one strikes you on the face” (vs. 20). In other words, if the truth sets us free, lies take us captive. Deceits catch us and swallow us up in their world of make-believe. Falsehoods honor dishonesty and despise honesty. In short, the truth is a straight path. Those who forsake it get lost in a thicket of confusion.
The New Testament constantly urges vigilance against false prophets who “will arise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (vs. 24). From the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ to the visions of St. John in Revelation (e.g., vs. 10:13), the warnings are urgent and consistent. The flock of the Church must watch out for the wolves of deception in their midst. The case of the apostasy at Corinth reveals the havoc that these false “disguises of Satan” can wreck (vs. 13).
A primary role of the Orthodox Church is to guard the true faith against false prophets, teachings, and practices. To be Orthodox is to be committed to the truth: the truth of the Gospel, the Holy Trinity, the scriptures, and the Holy Tradition, etc. The witness of the saints and martyrs, the confession of the Creed, and the testimony of the church fathers all serve to protect the faithful from error.
Commitment to the Truth Means Representing It In One Says and Does
Yet, in so far as we are committed to the truth in matters of faith, our dedication should extend to all our speech and conduct (Ephesians 4:23 and 6:14). The commandments charge that we should not “bear false witness” (Exodus 20: 16). Moreover, the Lord Jesus taught that the prohibition against “swearing falsely” covers all oaths. He says, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’ for whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). How can we who are committed to the truth live and represent the truth in these times of wholesale deceitfulness?