Paul Labels His Opponents "Servants of Satan" (11:13-15)

Meanwhile, there is an even greater danger. The fundamental reason Paul cannot concede any ground to his rivals is that he sees them as false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ (v. 13). The language is surprisingly harsh. The phrase "false apostle" does not occur anywhere else in Paul's letters. Some consequently think that it may have been coined in the heat of the argument between Paul and the Corinthian intruders (Furnish 1984:494). False (pseudos) refers to that which is untrue or bogus. Although the intruders claim to be Christ's delegates (apo + stello, "to send forth"), they in fact are not. How does Paul know? He can tell from their methods, which mark them as deceitful workmen. There is more at stake here than empty boasting and exaggerated claims. The noun ergates is used in the New Testament of the worker who is employed in Christ's service. The adjective dolios (only here in the New Testament) and the verb doliow are descriptive of someone who deals dishonestly or treacherously with others. The intruders' misrepresentation of their missionary activity is not the result of self-deception or careless exaggeration. It is quite deliberate and, for this reason, treacherous in intent. The treachery stems from impure motives. The intruders claim that their purpose in coming to Corinth is to serve Christ, when in reality all they care about is serving themselves—and at the Corinthians' expense (exploits . . . takes advantage of, 11:20). In this way they are like wolves in sheep's clothing, masquerading as apostles of Christ (v. 12).

Their behavior, Paul says, is not surprising, since Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light (v. 13). The genitive can denote material (that is, an angel made of light) or quality (a shining angel), but the latter is the predominant use in the New Testament. Angelic appearances are described as like lightning (Mt 28:3), gleaming (Lk 24:4) and shining (Lk 2:9). The Greek term translated masquerade means to "alter" or "change the outward appearance" of a person or thing. Satan dons the outward guise of an angel of light in an attempt to conceal his true being. Nothing is said in the Old Testament about such an ability. For this Paul is drawing on a Jewish legend similar to what is found in the Life of Adam and Eve 9:1 and in the Apocalypse of Moses 17:1-2. In the former passage Satan transforms himself into the brightness of angels and pretends to grieve with Eve, who sits weeping by the Tigris River; in the latter Satan comes to Eve in the form of an angel at the time when the angels are going up to worship God and tempts her to eat of the fruit of the tree.

If Satan finds it advantageous to masquerade as an angel of light, it is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness (v. 15). Paul's statement is sobering. Church leaders can seem genuine in appearance and profession and yet in actuality be Satan's minions. How one sees through the outward guise to the inner truth is not stated. But it is clear to Paul that the Corinthian intruders have disguised themselves in this fashion. The charge is a serious one. If the Corinthian intruders really are Satan's servants, then they are not merely Paul's opponents but also enemies of Christ. Paul said as much in the earlier part of this chapter, when he expressed his fear that the Corinthians were being seduced from their undivided commitment to Christ.

For the enemies of Christ only judgment waits: their end will be what their actions deserve (v. 15). The idea that all will have to give an account of themselves before God is thoroughly Jewish and one that Paul repeats elsewhere (for example, Rom 2:5-11; 1 Cor 3:10-15; 2 Cor 5:10; Gal 6:7-10). Many Jews believed that their deeds determined their ultimate destiny (Hahn 1978a:1149). For the Christian, however, judgment is defined in terms of rewards and punishments, not destiny or status (1 Cor 3:13-15; 2 Cor 5:10). Our labors may go up in a heap of smoke when subjected to divine scrutiny, but each of us individually will escape—albeit by the skin of our teeth ("as one escaping through the flames," 1 Cor 3:15). For the Corinthian intruders, however, Paul offers no such hope. Their works will determine their end. The term telos in this context denotes end result or ultimate fate (Schippers 1976:61). They have done Satan's work; to Satan's fate they will go (Martin 1986:353). What this fate will be Paul does not say. Elsewhere, though, he states that the enemies of the cross of Christ will face eternal destruction, shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power (Phil 3:19; 2 Thess 1:8-9).

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