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"as deceivers, and yet true"

If I am reading this passage correctly, it is describing believers in a series of comparisons, first how the world sees us and then how we should actually be. Is this correct?

3 Answers 3

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The context of 2 Cor 6:4-8 gives the context which explains everything about the hardships faced by Christ's followers:

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and calamities; in beatings, imprisonments, and riots; in labor, sleepless nights, and hunger; in purity, knowledge, patience, and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, slander and praise

Paul then goes on to list (in V8-10) a series of dichotomies about the Christian life which I will expand slightly:

  • viewed as imposters [by the world], yet genuine [before God];
  • as unknown [by the world], yet well-known [by God];
  • dying [in this earthly life], and yet we live on [ie, by eternal life];
  • punished [by the world, yet not killed [ie, miraculously preserved in many cases];
  • sorrowful [because of hardships], yet always rejoicing [in the salvation granted by God];
  • poor [in earthly goods], yet making many rich [in heavenly riches of salvation];
  • having nothing [by this worlds's standards], and yet possessing everything [ie, the heavenly home that awaits.]

The first of these is the OP's question and sets the pattern for what remains of the other contrasts between this life in this world and the life to come in the next world.

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The passage explains the context.

...in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in difficulties, 5in beatings, in imprisonments, in mob attacks, in labors, in sleeplessness...

The church is under duress as "as servants of God"

Believers are regarded as being many things by the world, one is that they deceive because the things they speak of and believe, are seen as nonsense and regarded as foolishness and lies.

Or course true followers of God and His son do not speak lies - what they have is "true".

Paul goes on to reinforce the dichotomy - comparing the way the world sees with what actually is. He is also contrasting the physical/worldly riches with true spiritual riches.

...as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things. v10

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The word, "as" (ὡς) sets up comparisons. Here, in this context, it sets up false scenarios/comparisons. In English, we'd say, "as if." The lexicon, BDAG has this useful entry:

c. w. focus on what is objectively false or erroneous ἐπιστολὴ ὡς δἰ ἡμῶν a letter (falsely) alleged to be from us 2 Th 2:2a (Diod. S. 33, 5, 5 ἔπεμψαν ὡς παρὰ τῶν πρεσβευτῶν ἐπιστολήν they sent a letter which purported to come from the emissaries; Diog. L. 10:3 falsified ἐπιστολαὶ ὡς Ἐπικούρου; Just., A, II, 5, 5 ὡς ἀπ̓ αὐτοῦ σπορᾷ γενομένους υἱούς). τοὺς λογιζομένους ἡμᾶς ὡς κατὰ σάρκα περιπατοῦντας 2 Cor 10:2 (s. also aγ above). Cp. 11:17; 13:7. Israel wishes to become righteous οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως ἀλλ̓ ὡς ἐξ ἔργων not through faith but through deeds (the latter way being objectively wrong) Ro 9:32 (Rdm.2 26f). ὡς ἐκ παραδόσεως ἀγράφου εἰς αὐτὸν ἥκοντα (other matters he recounts) as having reached him through unwritten tradition (Eus. about Papias) Papias (2:11).

(BDAG, s.v. “ὡς,” 1105.)

Also, in context it's important we understand two details:

  1. The "we" in these verses is not believers, strictly speaking. It's servants of God's word (cf. 2Cor 6:4-13). While some of these same traits also apply to believers generically, Paul is emphasizing preachers (ministers of God's word) as the primary focus.
  2. The focus is not what Christians "should actually be." Instead, it's a little more emphatic than that. It's what these "servants of God" actually already were.

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