I Feel a Divine Jealousy for You
2 Corinthians 11:1–15 – 2 Corinthians: A Testimony to Suffering in the Power of God
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 18, 2019 (am)
2 … I feel a divine jealousy for you…. That is our title this morning. It’s talking about Paul’s zeal for the spiritual well-being of the church in Corinth that God used him to start. We could also have titled this message, Insights on Spiritual Warfare, because that is where we’re headed. Paul makes poignant and comfortable, repeated reference in this passage to the work of the enemy in the church. And the schemes he spotlights are very much still in use today. We need to hear this message; our life depends on it! Let’s ask three simple questions.
What Is Going On Here?
Paul lets them know right from the start of this paragraph that he’s going to do something unusual. He’s going to be foolish on purpose! (1) He’s just instructed them to boast only in the Lord (10:18), and now he’s going to do otherwise for a short while. And he’s letting them know in advance that it will be foolishness. But he’s going to do it anyway. He’s going to boast according to the flesh (18 [16-18]). But we won’t get to that until next week (21b-29). In today’s passage he’s just explaining why that’s necessary, why he’s going to do it.
Bottom line, he’s really concerned for them (2). They seem vulnerable to looking away from truth (3), for pretty flimsy reasons (4). And there’s a lot at stake! Paul is using strong images to communicate that. He’s talking about them as though they’re collectively a bride who is engaged to Christ (2). Paul himself is assuming the role of the bride’s father who, passionately, [jealously] (2) keeps her safe and pure and chaste until her wedding day. But now this Corinthian bride is beginning to listen to the sweet talk of other guys (cf. 4). And worse; she’s actually more like Eve in the garden being wooed by the cunning [deceit] of the serpent (3). She’s hearing [satanic] [deception]! (cf.14-15) These false apostles aren’t just harmless guys whose doctrine is a little off but whose intentions are basically good. They’re deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ (13), reenacting [Satan’s deceit].
This unrepentant minority in Corinth is [accepting] a different gospel! (4) The false apostles are [proclaiming] another Jesus and their followers are [receiving] a different spirit! (4) Paul has proven to the Corinthians by his ministry among them that he’s brought them the genuine gospel (6). There’s nothing in his ministry that would suggest he’s any less than those he calls super-apostles (5), probably meaning the original eleven but referring to them in the way the false apostles (13) did (Harris 520-521; he can’t be referring to the false apostles; he says in v.12 that there’s no comparison between their work and his). But this minority group isn’t holding on to Paul’s gospel, God’s gospel (7). They’re undiscerning. They don’t feel the rub. They don’t grasp the fact that they’re being unfaithful to Christ, their Groom. So, Paul needs to bring it up to them, to see whether they truly love their Betrothed or whether they’ve already given in to the deceitful schemes of their enemy. That’s what’s going on here.
What Does Paul Intend to Do About It?
He answers that question pretty clearly himself. He’s going to keep on doing just what he’s been doing, and he’s doing that with a purpose: 12 … what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. What is he saying? Mainly, Paul is referring to the fact that he doesn’t receive money for his work in Corinth like they do. We mentioned last week that this is part of what the false apostles pointed out to undercut Paul’s authority. He knows he’s not on the level of the other apostles because he doesn’t even take money for his teaching!
And that’s the sticking point here. That is why Paul writes: 7 … did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? Have I so offended you by working for free that, even though the gospel I preached has changed your lives, you’re still going to listen to others because they charge you for it, even though their gospel doesn’t get any results? Regardless, Paul is going to continue on with this practice precisely because it does distinguish his work from theirs; and it proves that they minister on different terms. He accepted money from other churches (7). The [Macedonians] even supplemented his tentmaking income while he was working there in Corinth (9, cf. Act.18:3).
But nothing was going to change his practice of not receiving money from the Corinthian church: 10 … this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! He’s not just rejecting the Corinthians’ expression of love and support. He’s just not going to allow his gospel work to be confused with that of the false apostles. He was intentionally working to undermine… their boasted mission (12). He wanted their [satanic deceit] to crumble to its foundations.
Bottom line, these false apostles and their discrediting accusations were not going to change anything Paul was doing in Corinth. The differences between him and them were evident. He was determined to draw their attention to them. And, in next week’s text, he’s going to engage in a bit of boasting to remind these Corinthians that, even if the contest were according to the flesh, he’d still win!
What Difference Does This Make to Us? Three Things
First, Paul was making a point in Corinth by not receiving money there; he wasn’t setting a ministry precedent. He’s the one who taught Timothy that the elders who rule well [are] considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching (1Ti.5:17), which yields the principle that the laborer deserves his wages (1Ti.5:18). Paul’s point here in Corinth was to stand apart from the practices of the false apostles at any cost.
Second, faithfulness to Christ in a religiously pluralistic setting is like faithfulness to marriage vows. We saw that again and again in the OT, how Israel’s idolatry, her willingness to engage with the gods of other nations, was called spiritual adultery—cheating on Yahweh, her faithful Husband. The same is true with Christ and the church in the NT. We may not think of it that way, but we need to!
Third, the press of this age to water down the gospel—or the authority of Jesus’ teaching or the Word of God—is nothing less than a scheme of Satan. It’s the same work he did with Eve in the garden. It’s the same work he did through the false apostles in Corinth. And he’s still doing that same work today. Whenever we encounter preachers or people or teachings that question the power of the apostolic gospel to change lives, or the effectiveness of Jesus’ finished work on the cross as the exclusive means for reconciling us to God, or the truth and authority of God’s revealed Word as a faithful guide for life and thought, then we’re encountering the work of Satan.
We talked last Sunday about how there is increasing pressure in our day to redefine God as one Who endorses our desires for same-sex marriage or fluid gender or moral autonomy regarding how we use our bodies.
We talked about how these are good examples of arguments and lofty [opinions] that can be raised up against the knowledge of God and therefore need to be destroyed by the [divinely empowered] weapons of spiritual warfare as we seek to take every thought captive to obey Christ (10:4-5).
We talked about how important it is for us to labor hard against any tendency to redefine God or the gospel according to the pressures of the present day, and how the power to do this does not come from within us but from God Himself through Christ, through the true gospel.
Today we add that these arguments and lofty [opinions] do not just [rise] up against the knowledge of God (10:5) on their own, but they are actually the intentional work of Satan to subvert God, the gospel, and the church. They echo the [deceiving] of Eve (3) down through all the intervening ages since she lived in the Garden of Eden.
And we discover that we ourselves are still vulnerable to the very same deception today that Paul was concerned was beginning to take root in Corinth two millennia ago.
We do not wrestle against flesh and blood (Eph.6:12). The game we’re playing at here is far more serious, even sinister, than we may have imagined. We don’t need to be worried by that, but we do need to be warned by it. If we’re being swayed by the arguments and lofty [opinions] that are constantly being raised up against the knowledge of God (10:5) in our age—that are ceaselessly chipping away at the mortar of our faith, and incessantly hammering at its foundations—then we’re surely in the process of surrendering to the schemes of Satan, just like the Corinthians were.
And if that’s the case, then we’re living in a double tragedy. First, we’re trusting in a christ who is unable to save us. If the Jesus we profess is another Jesus (4) than the eternal Son of God Who was born in the stable in Bethlehem, Who died on the cross in Jerusalem, and Who rose again in victory over sin and death, then we’re trusting in a Jesus who is incapable of reconciling us to God—he lacks the essential qualifications of the true Jesus.
And second, we’re proclaiming a christ who cannot deliver. If we’re sharing a Jesus who increasingly approves of people’s sin rather than cleansing and freeing them from it, then we’re sharing a savior who cannot deliver them out of their bondage, who gives them no true hope of freedom from sin and the fullness of life the true Jesus offers.
If we give up on God’s gospel (7), the only gospel that can save, just because this world increasingly wants to reject it, or selected portions of it, in the name of personal liberty, then we’re forsaking the only truth that’s pure and powerful enough to resolve the situation we’re in, and to deliver all of us even from the clutches of [Satan’s] own [deceptions]. But the true Jesus has actually provided all of this for us. As Paul has written: 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!Satan and his servants will get just what they deserve (15). Praise God that, in Christ, we can get what we don’t deserve! We’ve celebrated that today in the ordinance of baptism.Let’s come now to the Lord’s Table with thanksgiving to and for the One Who provides it for us.