This article is addressed to those believers who want to know how to evaluate teachers, pastors, prophets and apostles and to find out if they are genuine or false.  It is also addressed to those ministers who want to have a way to judge what they are doing and saying to stay in line with God’s calling.

2 Corinthians 10:8 – 13:11 sets forth the basic principles and is simply summed up in chapter 11, verse 20.  The situation at Corinth was that there were ministers who were boasting of their teachings and pulling down the people, not only causing division but causing confusion to the believers and leading them astray.

Paul begins by stating that the authority he has is for their edification.  This is the central theme of these three chapters.

2 Corinthians 10:8: (NIV)
For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it.

He goes on to explain what was happening.  Others were boasting of themselves and comparing themselves to other ministers to the other minister’s detriment.

2 Corinthians 10:12: (NIV)
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.  When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.

Paul sums up the passage about boasting with the quote from Jeremiah 9:24, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”  The following is the quote in full from Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 9:23-24:
Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
But let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness, in the earth:  for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.
It follows that boasting is not outlawed completely, but everyone should be boasting in the Lord.  There is nothing that a man has, neither wisdom, might or riches that compares to God.
2 Corinthians 10:18:
For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
The commendation and comparison comes from the Lord and it is possible to determine if someone is boasting in the Lord or in himself or herself.  There are criteria to enable a believer to do this determination.  Both a minister’s wrong practice and the corresponding opposite (what should be done) are discussed in these chapters in II Corinthians.
The criteria are set forth in II Corinthians 11:20.  There are 5 things stated here to evaluate.  Each of the phrases in Aramaic are introduced by “and to him” to separate each point.  That is the figure of speech, anadiplosis, “like-beginnings,” and the figure sets off and emphasizes each phrase.  Here are the five phrases from the Aramaic translation.  “You adhere…”
1)       to him who enslaves you
2)       and to him who devours you
3)       and to him who takes from you
4)       and to him who exalts himself over you
5)       and to him who strikes you on your face.
The Amplified Bible has a great explanation of the phrases.  We will examine each phrase one by one and then show how God explains what TO do in this section also.
1)       “A man assumes control of your soul and makes slaves of you.”
Any minister who has to be in control of things you do or say is suspected here.  That doesn’t mean we never follow our ministers.  Of course not!  But if the choice is no longer your own in any category, from voluntary contributions to what you speak, you are no longer free to serve the Lord first.  Endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit is definitely an important concept in the Church.  But it is not unity at all cost.  Disagreement can be a very healthy thing.  Especially if a minister is trying to force his will on the believer and thus putting him in bondage.

What is the opposite of this type of man?  “He who wants to be chief of all, should be servant of all” was Jesus’ teaching to his disciples.  It still applies today.  Paul uses himself as an example and explains the things that he has been through to serve the believers in 11:23-28.  He took on himself the CARE of all the churches.  That kind of caring requires the minister to be a servant and to not enslave others.

2)       “devours [your substance, spends your money]”

Any minister requiring you to give all your money, assets and goods to the church or especially to the minister is described here.  There certainly are many verses to show that believers should give to ministers that help them, but it is never to be ALL they have, so they have nothing left.  If you are feeling “eaten up” and have nothing more to give, check this point.  The opposite is that the minister is to be the one to give.  His whole life should be a gift to the church, and his actions should exemplify the principles of sowing abundantly.  These principles were just discussed in II Corinthians 8 and 9 and they culminate in great thanksgiving being given to God for his grace poured out (II Corinthians 9:8-11).

3)       “preys on you, deceives you, takes advantage of you”

This criterion sounds similar to #2, but it is even deeper.  This describes where someone actually TAKES from you without your permission.  He lies in wait for an opportunity and takes from the weakest in a flock, just like a wolf or lion.  Perhaps in today’s language we would say that a person “was being used.”  An example would be when a believer has obvious talents, for example in music, and those talents are exploited for copyrighting the person’s music for monetary gain for the minister and the credit and profit not given to the person.  The believer should have the choice if he wants to give in using his talents in any way.

The contrast to this type of minister is set forth in II Corinthians 12:14:  “I do not seek yours, but you, for children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.”  The minister should be storing up spiritual treasures to give because of love, not exploiting the abilities of others.  There is no deceit involved when the purposes of the minister are to lead the believers to be more Christ-like in all they do.  Their whole lives become a fountain of life for the believers to drink from.  In verse 12 of that same chapter, again Paul uses himself as a good example.  He says that he performed “the signs of an apostle among you in all patience, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.”  When the minister is making available spiritual treasures, people are healed, miracles happen and there is rejoicing for the victories over the enemy!

4)       “is arrogant, puts on airs, exalts himself over you, and is talking about making himself better than you”

This criterion goes back to the boasting.  Any minister who is boasting of himself and all of his accomplishments should be given a wide berth.  What should a minister boast in?  In 2 Corinthians 12:9,10 Paul says that “I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me… for when I am weak, then am I strong.”  The main point here is that God’s grace is sufficient and HIS strength can come into play when we are weak.  The Amplified Bible translation of verse 9a is “my strength and power are made perfect [fulfilled and completed] and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness.”  The strength and power of Christ are exactly opposite to our weakness and infirmity.  How this works could be diagrammed as follows:

MAN                                      CHRIST                                                SHOWN

Weakness                              Strength                                 Made perfect

Infirmity                                Power                                     Made effective

5)       “strikes you in the face”

This criterion is an oriental idiom that means to cause shame.  This is the last criterion to use to judge false ministers.  A true minister will take the shame on himself and magnify the people.  Paul explains this in 2 Corinthians 13:3-7.

2 Corinthians 13:7:
Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates.

Paul’s conclusion of these matters repeats the beginning statement that he wrote these things “according to the power or authority which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction.”  So we have come full circle around from II Corinthians 10:8.

Smith Wigglesworth was a great example of a minister who consistently minimized his own works and magnified God’s.  Neither did he boast of his accomplishments.  At one point in his life he was sick with extremely painful kidney stones for six years.  He traveled extensively through those years and held great revivals in England, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and even America.  Only his closest associates knew of the physical struggle and pain he was going through.  He’s compassion for others only intensified as his ministry continued.[1] When he did boast, it was of his infirmity and weakness.  His whole life was given to make available God’s healing and deliverance to the churches.  He finally was healed and his request to God was for fifteen more years to minister.  God answered his prayer to the week.

Boasting in the Lord means to be exactly opposite the criteria discussed in 2 Corinthians 11:20.  A loving minister will be a servant and not desire to be the chief of all, will exemplify giving and the grace of God.  He will lay down his life to provide the spiritual treasures that people need and endeavor to provide the spiritual answers for people to have victory over Satan.  If he boasts, it is of his own weakness, so God’s strength can be seen even clearer.  He is willing to take any shame or rebuff on himself, so that others may be spared.  “Let him that glorieth, glory in the Lord!”

[1] Hibbert, Albert, Smith Wigglesworth, The Secret of His Power, p. 104-105.