2 Corinthians 2:17 Bible Study – We Are Not Peddlers Of God’s Word

2 Corinthians 2:17 – For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

In this verse we are reminded of the importance of how we represent God’s word. Paul says that we are not “peddlers of God’s word.”

A peddler is someone who is trying to sell things, often an inferior product. The word used in Greek here is “kaphleuw.” It means a “huckster,” someone seeks after sordid gain by selling something. Because the product itself was not high quality, the salesmen has to resort to tricks. Witty salesmen could still sell such products through conning their buyers. Here are some ways they might peddle their goods:

  • Outright lying
  • Grandiose claims
  • Deceptive advertising
  • Fake reviews (perhaps people in the crowd who claimed to have used the product, but were plants)
  • Flashy shows
  • Pressure or intimidation
  • False promises (money back guaranteed, but then skip town)

We have probably all been approached by salesman offering the latest and greatest. Though they speak with sweet words, sometimes they deceive. They are motivated by selfish ambition and care not for the well-being of their customers. Once our family bought an item from a store which was having a sale. In big letters they promised “satisfaction guaranteed.” But we were not satisfied and tried to return the item. The salesman would not give us our money back. When asked what the guarantee was for he said, “if you are not satisfied we will guarantee you are not satisfied.”
False teachers of the gospel are like this. They make big and bold promises, but they care not whom they hurt. They are motivated by selfish desires for fame, wealth, and position.

2 Peter 2:17 – These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.

In 2 Peter it says that false teachers are “springs without waters” and “mists driven by a storm.” For people living in that time, water was a precious commodity. They couldn’t just turn on the tap and have water available in their home. They couldn’t just turn on the sprinklers and have water immediately available for their crops. They had to find water or wait for it to rain. Springs and wells were very valuable. Imagine a person going to get water from a spring, but there is no water there. This could be devastating. Imagine a farmer waiting for rain. He sees clouds coming and he starts hoping for rain, but then realizes it is only mist and fog, which contain no water for his crops.
Peter says false teachers are like this. Today we might say they are like a mirage in the desert. They make a promise, “Get water here,” but they can’t fulfill it. It is in stark contrast to Jesus who offered Living Water and said “He who drinks from Me will never thirst.” False teachers claim to have such water, but they don’t.

Paul reminds his listeners that they are evangelists of the true gospel and not peddlers. They need not and should not resort to tricks to get people to accept the gospel.

True preachers are commissioned by God in the sight of God and speak in Christ. The “product” we are “selling” is of the highest quality. We have the real thing. It is truth. As Paul says in Romans 1:16, it is the “power of God.” Therefore there is no need for deceit or exaggeration in order to get people to accept the gospel. Methods like that actually serve to cheapen the perceived value (nothing can actually cheapen the gospel) of what Christ offers.

Take for example the miracles of Jesus. He did not put on a show. He did not wave around a wand. There were no flashing lights. The miracle was performed almost as a side note to Jesus’ message. They were the real thing. Therefore they needed no embellishment or enhancement.

Simon the sorcerer (magician) in Acts 8 was astounded at the real power of God. He had been faking it all this time. So he wanted to purchase the gifts of the Holy Spirit with money and Peter rebuked him.

His hope was to make money. And that is the same motivation of these peddlers. Some of these peddlers had infiltrated the Corinthian church. They were selling cheap imitations of the gospel, which had been mixed with corrupting doctrines. With clever deceptions, they attempted to trick people and gain followers. But unlike Paul, they were not operating with sincerity. Their real motivation was selfish. Most likely they hoped for money or power.

What is the lesson for us here?

Do not resort to your own clever arguments in trying to convince people to believe in Jesus. Trust that it is the power of God. Preach it knowing that you are commissioned by God. The gospel is true. You are on the winning team. That knowledge can give you boldness as you share.
Many churches these days try to attract people by things other than the gospel. In a sermon Paul Washer described seeing a big sign outside of a church which said, “Fun.” He said he would have ripped this sign down if it was at his church. The sign on the church should say in big letters, “Jesus,” not “fun.”

When churches water down the gospel to try to attract people, they are not attracting people to God’s truth or power, but to a cheap and powerless imitation. Lights and stages and parties and pizza and bowling and loud music are not the point. These things will not change lives. The gospel of Jesus will.

We should preach the gospel clearly. We should be ready to defend it. But we should not trust in our logical prowess, smooth speech, or slick presentations to change hearts.

Don’t try to make the gospel easier to accept or more palatable for the current generation. Your job is not to make them accept it. That is God’s job. Your job is to share it faithfully and accurately. And if you compromise the gospel to win people, when you win them it will not be winning them to Christ.

Preach the gospel boldly, truthfully, and accurately. That means sin, repentance, and Jesus should be front and center. Rely on the Holy Spirit to convince the listener of the truth of the gospel message.

Trust the ancient words of Isaiah the prophet.

Isaiah 55:10-11 – “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;  it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

God’s word is powerful. He will use it to accomplish His full desire. We are therefore called to be sincere. We are commissioned by Him. Share the clear, simple truth of the gospel. Pray. And trust God to water the seed.

Do not peddle the word of God.

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