“Cunning” means “craftiness, treachery, duplicity, trickery or cleverness” that suggests a false and presumptuous self-evaluation”. This comes with a readiness to do anything to accomplish selfish ends. Paul was setting himself apart from this kind of behavior in ministry because there were those who stooped to these ungodly means to become popular and gain a following. This misrepresents Christ and the gospel by making themselves the center, not the Lord Jesus.
This was not all Paul fought against. There were some who “tamper with God’s word” or “adulterate, handle deceitfully, and cause to falsify” the Word of God. He did not take lightly how God’s Word (Scripture) is handled. Earlier Paul said, “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word” (2 Corinthians 2:17). He was referring to those who made a profit by trickery as you would a trade, from their preaching and teaching. One of the worst ways this type of false teaching takes place by some, is by taking verses out of their context to make the verse say what their corrupt minds want them to say. This sort of teaching has divided churches, and in some cases, caused them to become cults.
It is no wonder Paul told Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). In this statement, Paul is speaking to you and me. You do not need to be a preacher, pastor, or elder for this exhortation to fit. It applies to all of us. If you are in a church where Paul’s standard is not being followed, humbly confront the falsehood through repentance so the church will become the pure Bride of Christ.