NOTES II Corinthians
11:1-15 (click here for
The depth of Paul's feelings of betrayal and grief become more obvious as he continues writing this letter. Chapter 11 follows his discussion of boundaries in which he points out that he has never invaded another person's arena of work or evangelism in an effort to win loyalty and influence for himself. The false teachers in Corinth, he stresses, have taken advantage of the Corinthians' hearts softened by the gospel and have seduced them into loyalty to themselves, convincing the Corinthian Christians that Paul is untrustworthy and hypocritical. Paul, who sees himeslf as the Corinthians' spiritual father, now asks them to examine the false teachings these false apostles have subtly introduced.
Paul unabashedly claims to be jealous for the Corinthians "with a godly jealousy." (v.2) He desperately wants their hearts to remain loyal to Jesus, unmoved from the pure gospel. He prommised them to Christ as their husband, he reminds them, "so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him." (v. 2) The clear implication is that by followed the false teachers, they are losing their spiritual purity. They are being deceived, and whether consciously or not, they are adulterating the pure gospel in their lives with false teachings and requirements.
Paul has a right to promise them as a bride to Christ; he considers them his children. (2 Corinthians 6:13) His preaching to them resulted in their being born again, and Paul feels responsible for them in the way a father feels responsible for his own offspring. Earlier in this same letter Paul wrote, "Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel." (2 Cor. 4:15)
By using the metaphor of marriage as he writes to the Corinthians, Paul is using an image that oringinated in the Old Testament but developed more fully in the new. This imagery emphasizes the severity of the betrayal and the eternal implications of the Corinthians' following after seductive deceivers.
The Bride and the Bridegroom
Hosea's life with an adulterous wife prophetically demonstrated Israel's unfaithfulness and God's faithfulness. Hosea's experience also presaged the New Testament metaphor of marriage between Christ and his people, the church. This metaphor is pursued in the New Testament to make the point that the oneness which Christ experiences with the church through the indwelling Holy Spirit is an exclusive intimacy. The chruch, Christ's bride, must be committed to eternal loyalty to Jesus as he is to the church. There is no room for Christ's followers to toy with other gods, other philosophies of redemption, other works to achieve holiness. The pure gospel of Christ is the truth the church must embrace, and Christ himself is the Chirst-follower's lover, protecter, nurturer, and constant companion. To be flattered or seduced into accepting attention and false promises from a mere mortal who calls the bride away from her pure devotion to the Bridegroom is to commit spiritual adultery.
God spoke to Israel in Hosea, foretelling that he would ultimately claim his wandering people for himself in an eternal intimacy. Moreover, this prophecy hints at the fact that the gentiles would also be admitted into this marriage covenant with God. " 'In that day,' declares the Lord, 'You will call me "my husband"; you will no longer call me "my master."I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknolwedge the Lord.I will show my love to the one I called "not my loved one." I will say to those called "Not my people," "You are my people"; and they will say, "You are my God." ' " (Hosea 3:16, 19-20, 23)
Jesus introduced himself as the Bridegroom when John's disciples came to him asking, " 'How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?' Jesus answered, 'How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the briedgroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.' " (Matthew 9:14-15)
Paul explains how Christ-followers came to belong to Jesus the bridegroom. In Romans 7:2-4 he reminds his readers that a woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive. She is released from her vows, however, if her husband dies. "So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God."
Before Jesus died, we all were bound to the demands and the curse of the law. When Jesus died and rose again, however, he broke that curse and took upon himself the penalty of sin. Now, instead of being "belonging" to the law and its requirements, we belong to Jesus when we accept what he did. We move from facing inevitable death to inheriting eternal life. We are bound eternally and intimately to Jesus. We are married to Him; he is our Bridegroom, and we are his cherished bride forever.
In 1 Corinthians Paul becomes explicit in his portrayal of the church as one with Christ. In his instructions against immorality he emphasizes the depth of the betrayal when a Christ-follower has sexual relations outside of marriage. "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!" (1 Corinthians 6:15)
When a Christ-follower is sexually immoral, one's sin is not merely against oneself or one's spouse. Immorality in a Christian is literally a sin against one's bond of oneness with Christ. We defile Christ's body-our flesh which houses His Spirit-by uniting it with another without a covenant of marriage. In a Christ-follower, sexual transgressions are not "bad" just because the acts are performed illegally or selfishly. Immorality in a Christ-follower is a betrayal of our status as the bride of Christ. Immorality betrays the faithfulness of our Bridegroom who bought us with his blood and exalted us with his worthiness so we can be his beloved bride.
In his letter to the Ephesians Paul again emphasizes the connection between marriage and the union of the church with Christ. In chapter 5:24-25 Paul explains that the church's attitude of submission to Jesus should be the model of a wife's submission to her husband. Similarly, Christ's love for the church that drove Him to give "himself up for her to make her holy" is the model after which a husband should pattern his relationship with his wife. The church's marriage to Jesus is the reality which is to shape our human marriages, and our understanding of marriage on earth is intended to help us understand our relationship with Jesus.
Revelation describes the ultimate consummation of our marriage to Christ. "Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Revelation 19:7-8)
Revelation 21:2-3 also describes the final union of the bride and Christ. "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God."
A Christ-follower's relationship with Jesus is one of deep personal intimacy comparable to the union of marriage. When Paul calls the Corinthians away from following the false apostles by telling them he has promised them a a virgin bride to Christ, he is mourning not only that they have ignored him and his desires for them, but he is mourning that they are apparently willing to give up their purity, their spritual virginity, in exchange for the titillation of human flattery and compromised committment to Jesus and his pure gospel. They are defiling their commitment to him and spurning his completed work on their behalf and his faithfulness to them. When a Christ-follower embraces spiritual compromise and works, that person is unfaithful to his or her betrothal to Christ.
A Pure vs. A Defiled Bride
Paul's reminder to the Corinthians that they were to be a pure virgin, not a defiled bride, deserves a closer look. Since spiritual purity is essential, we need to know what spiritual virginity looks like as well as what constitutes spiritual impurity. In the next two verses of this chapter Paul further explains his fears for the Corinthians. He warns them not to be deceived and led astray from their "pure devotion to Christ." (v. 3) He is concerned because in their present vulnerable state, they are willing to embrace a Jesus who is different from the one Paul preached to them. He fears they are accepting a "different spirit" and a "different gospel".
The essence of spiritual impurity is embracing a false concept of Jesus and of salvation. This deception can occur by various means. It can be the obvious means of literally deciding to reject Jesus and worship false gods. (see Hosea 2:16-17) It can happen by nursing grudges and refusing to give up anger toward someone. Nursing anger and resentment poisons our souls and gives Satan a foothold in our spirits through which he can steal our joy in the Lord and destroy our faith and trust. (Ephesians 4:26-27) Spiritual deception can also occur by means of refusing to live by the Spirit, gratifying instead our sinful natures which are in conflict with the Holy Spirit who seals us. (Galatians 5:16-18) We can be deceived into giving up our freedom in Christ by allowing ourselves to live in bondage to the law, practicing external ceremonies and observances proclaimed to be necessary for righteousness. (Gal. 5:1; 16-18) Paul also warned against being taken captive by "hollow and deceptive philosophy" which depend on "human traditions" and the "basic principles of the world." (Colossian 2:6-8)
A pure bride, however, will be washed and cleasned, having no stain or wrinkle and will be holy and blameless because of Jesus's blood cleansing her. (Eph. 5:26-27) This bride will also live by the Spirit instead of giving in to the desires of the sinful nature. She will live by the Spirit, not by the law. (Gal. 5:16-18) A pure bride will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindess, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal 5:22-23) She will live rooted firmly in Christ, built up in him, strengthened in the faith, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-8) She will clothe herself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience and will bear with others, forgiving grievances; and she will wear the virtue of love. (Col. 3:12-14)
Guard Against Evil
Paul is direct in stating his fears for the Corinthians' spiritual condition. He doesn't excuse their embracing the false teachers by saying they didn't know any better because they were deceived. He holds them responsible for their wandering away, and he is clear about the source of deception. He compares their defection to Eve being deceived by the serpent, and he tells the Corinthians that he fears they will lose their "pure devotion to Christ."
Deception is not innocent. In 1 Timothy 2:14 Paul clearly states that Eve was deceived and became a sinner. Her deceiver was Satan, the serpent, whose guilt Revelation 12:9 clearly states. This verse calls Satan "that ancient serpent" who "leads the world astray." Peopele tend to view deception as the fault of the deceiver, and indeed, the deceiver is guilty. The deceived, however, also bears some responsibility. When we accept Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit who gives to us the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16) God expects us to test and evaluate the information we hear, comparing it to the scripture and to what we know is true. Eve, for example, knew clearly that God had warned her not to eat the fruit. She didn't fully understand the consequences of eating, but she knew death would result. She chose, instead, to buy the serpent's convincing deception because it appeared logical. Satan deceived and manipulated her, but she chose to act on an argument presented by a being she did not know or trust as she knew and trusted God. Her deception resulted in her becoming a sinner.
The Corinthians likewise accepted the arguments of smooth-talking teachers who breezed into town and took advantage of the Corinthians' newly-awakened love for Jesus. They did not know these teachers as they knew Paul. Paul had lived with them for 18 months, participating in their lives and teaching them the pure gospel. They had all experienced the new birth and had watched their own lives change. They loved Paul, and they knew Paul loved them. Yet when Paul left, they were willing to believe the clever but deceptive talk of the false apostles who slandered Paul and perverted the gospel. The Corinthians did not stand firmly on what they knew to be true both about Paul and about salvation. They chose to accept the deception.
Deception is sin because it is a product of Satan. When people choose to believe a lie, when they choose not to know or embrace the truth, they are buying into Satan's logic. Even if people are deceived "innocently", as in the case of children who are taught a false gospel, that untruth bears sin in their lives. A person who is deceived may be "less" guilty than the one perpetrating the deception, but he or she is still guilty before God because of the sin the deception yields in his or her life.
When God reveals that we have been deceived about something, our obedient response to him is to repent and to allow him to heal us with his truth and his love. Satan is always the author of deception, and he is always behind any perversion of the gospel. We as Christ-followers are called to be viligant and to test prayerfully everything we hear against the Bible. We are also called to have integrity and to respond with trust when Jesus asks us to leave our false understanding behind and to walk in the light.
With some frustration Paul write to the Corinthians, "For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough." (v. 4)
Verse 22 of this chapter strongly suggests that the false teachers in Corinth were Jews, and their particular heresy was probably the notion that Gentiles had to adopt Jewish rituals and ceremonies to qualify to become part of the church and part of God's people. As similar situation occurred in Antioch. "Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: 'Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.' This brought Paul annd Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them." (Acts 15:1-2) As a result of this conflict, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to have the problem settled. While they were there, "some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up nad said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." (v. 5)
The result of the apostles' meeting to discuss this question was that the Gentiles were not required to observe any Jewish laws at all. The only requirements for Gentile converts was that they were to eat no blood, no food sacrificed to idols, no meat from strangled animals, and they were to abstain from sexual immorality. (Acts 15:29)
Paul also chastised the Galatians for falling prey to the Judaizers. "Now that you know God-or rather ar known by God-how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?You are observing special daysn and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you." (Galatians 4:9-11)
He continued in Galatians 5:4-6, "You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alientated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."
The Corinthians, too, it seems, were being drawn into law-keeping. They were disregarding the complete, finished work of Jesus and believing that their piety would help them to be holy. They were taking back from Jesus the control and responsibility for their own righteousness. The Jesus they were accepting was a Jesus who was only part of a formula for salvation. They believed they needed him, but they also believed they needed their own good works to prove their readiness for eternal life. The Jesus they were accepting was an impotent Jesus who could not save them in spite of their sins; he saved them as long as they performed the rituals the false teachers promoted.
The force behind the Corinthians' acceptance of another Jesus was "another spirit." Paul remonstrates with the Corinthians that they are putting up with receiving a spirit different from the one they had received. The Spirit they had received was the Spirit of the Lord, and it had brought freedom from bondage to sin and to themselves. (see 2 Cor. 3:17) Anyone who threatened the people's freedom with criticism or with legal or cermonial requirements, as happened in Galatia (see Galatians 2:4-5), was operating under a "different spirit" from the Spirit of God.
The Spirit they had received gave them freedom from ritual laws such as clean and unclean foods and food offerings and brought righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (see Romans 14:17) It gave them love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) The Spirit of God which the Corinthians had received would do in them "immeasurably more than [they could] ask or imagine, according to His power at work in [them]." (Ephesians 3:20) Tangibly, the Spirit they had received would produce in them good works, growth in the knowledge of God, and spiritual strength yielding endurance, patience, and joyful thanks for their inheritance of the "kingdom of light." (Colossians 1:10-12)
The Spirit the Corinthians had received transformed their lives and gave them freedom from bondage to their own self-centeredness and from the demonic oppression inherent in their old pagan religion. The Spirit they received gave them light and life and hope. In this letter, however, Paul tells the Corinthians that they are accepting "another spirit". There lives began to reflect the fact that the love, joy, and peace that had been the Spirit's fruit in their lives was becoming eclipsed by distractions.
A "different spirit" would produce results opposite from God Spirit. Contrary to God's Spirit, who gives his followers a certainty of being God's son, a deceptive spirit will produce fear and hold one in bondage to fear. (Romans 8:15) It will also persecute those who are free in Christ. (Galatians 4:29) God's Spirit gives his people spiritual insight and understanding that makes plain what God has given them. A deceptive spirit builds up human wisdom and blinds people to God's truth. (1 Corinthians 2:11-13) A false spirit is suspicious and lacks boundaries, using deception to misrepresent people and to slur their reputations. (Galatians 2:4-5) "Another spirit" will also work to lead people back into legalism and works religion. It will deceive people who have already accepted Jesus into observing apparently pious rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!" (Colossians 2:20) Such rules, though, are based on "human commands and teachings", and although they appear to be wise exercises of self-discipline, they actually have no value in "restraining sensual indulgence." (Colossians 2:21-23)
In their acceptance of the false apostles' slander of Paul and self-centered grab for control, the Corinthians were allowing a spirit of deception and bondage shape their lives. They were surrendering their freedom for slavery to the false teachers' seduction. They were flattered and impressed by the infiltrators' oratory and personal power and were persuaded to retake control over themselves instead of surrendering themselves moment-by-moment to Jesus.
In short, the Corinthians were accepting "a different gospel". Paul warned many of the first churches against a perverted gospel. He wrote to the Roman Christians, "Watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them." (Romans 16:17) He further said that such people were not serving God but rather "their own appetites" and were deceiving "the minds of naive people". (Romans 16:18-19)
Paul had also alerted Timothy to defend the Ephesian church against people who were teaching false doctrines, myths, and genealogies. "These promote controversies rather than God's work-which is by faith," Paul wrote. (1 Timothy 1:3-4) Later in the same letter Paul states bluntly that anyone teaching false doctrines who "does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Chist and to godly teaching" is "conceited and understands nothing." Such a person "has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain." (1 Timothy 6:3-5)
A "different gospel" is anything added to Jesus. Whenever a requirement of any kind, regardless of how pious or productive it seems to be, is presented as a component of being saved, that requirement comprises a false gospel. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus alone. He saves us in our sins. (Ephesians 2:4-5) The clean-up of our lives happens after we are saved, not before. Honoring days or food laws or behavior strictures is not part of salvation, and anyone who says these things are part of the package necessary to qualify us for heaven is preaching a different gospel.
Paul now allows some sarcasm to creep into his defense of his ministry. He calls the infiltrators "super apostles" when in fact they are not true apostles at all. They are arrogant and puffed up, and Paul is emphasizing the craziness of their boasting by stating that he is not inferior to them. He acknolwedges that they are trained orators, unlike himself, but he says he does "have knowledge". The knowledge Paul has is different from the false teachers' knowledge. Theirs is worldly knowledge, but Paul has the knowledge of the cross of Christ. The knowledge of the true gospel is foolishness to the worldly, but to believers it is the power of God. Worldly wisdom and intelligence will be frustrated and will ultimately disappear, but the personal knowledge of God will survive and grow. (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-19)
The knowledge Paul has was hidden from the world until after Jesus rose from the dead and sent the Holy Spirit to establish the church. This knowledge is still a mystery to those who refuse to put their faith in Jesus. It is the mystery of Christ, and it was hidden from all previous generations. This mystery includes the reality that gentiles are heirs with Israel; they are members of one body and share together in the promise of Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 3:4-6) This knowledge is the mystery of God's will that "all things on heaven and earth" will be brought together under one head, Jesus Christ. (Eph. 1:9-10) This knowledge is the knowledge of Jesus Christ which, by the sovereign command of God, was prophecied by the prophets and has now been revealed so all nations will believe and obey him. (Romans 16:25-27)
Paul further explained the knowledge he has in his letter to the Colossians. The mystery "kept hidden through the ages" is that Christ is now in us and is "the hope of glory". Further, this mystery includes the fact that the God chose to reveal this miracle to the Gentiles who were formerly believed to be excluded from God's special blessing. (Colossians 1:26-27) Understanding this mystery of Christ brings recognition that in him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2-3) The mystery of Christ, the knowledge of spiritual truth, is the "mystery of godliness." (1 Timothy 3:16)
As Paul defends himself against the false claims of the Corinthian imposters, he states that although he may not be flashy and trained in oratory, he has knowledge. His knowledge is the life-changing experience of having the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16) Paul knows Jesus, and he knows the reality of the new birth and of the church. He has experienced the power of the gospel in his life, and he has been changed by the forgiveness and love of Jesus. Paul's knowledge is the knowledge of spiritual truth. This truth has changed Paul, and he no longer lives for his own power or profit. He sees reality as being bigger than himself or those to whom he ministers. He sees the eternal implications of accepting another gospel, another spirit, or a different Jesus, and his whole life is committed to defending the truth and to protecting those he has led to Christ.
Never A Burden
Apparently the Corinthians had been demeaning Paul's work because he had not accepted financial support from them when he worked among them. He asks them in verse 7, "Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?" No doubt in sharp contrast to the false teachers who lived among the Corinthians, Paul had lived with them for 18 months and had not burdened them with his personal needs. In fact, he continues, when he needed something, "the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so." (v. 9)
Paul's reminder to the Corinthians about the Macedonian's support of him adds emphasis to his earlier reminder to prepare their collection for the needy saints. In chapter 8:1-5 Paul had referred to the Macedonians' generosity even in their extreme poverty. Now Paul reminds them that the Macedonians' willing giving not only benefits the needy saints in Jerusalem, but it had benefitted even them. While Paul lived among them, preaching the gospel and establishing the Corinthians in the truth of Jesus, the Macedonians had supplied his personal needs. Paul believed that the gsopel should not have any strings of obligation attached to it. No one should ever feel that he had purchased salvation or had manipulated the teacher who discipled him. The impoverished Macedonians, particularly the church at Philippi, (see Philippians 4:15-16) had been faithful to support Paul as he travelled, preaching the gospel, and now he reminds the Corinthians that the Macedonians' generosity had enable him to minister to them with complete unselfishness.
This commitment to preaching the gospel with no financial demands on those hearing the word established a framework for the support of missions in the modern church. Missionaries often raise support from believers who have money to share in order to be able to work among people who need to hear the gospel. No one hearing the good news and receiving Jesus should ever feel that his moeny somehow assured him of privilege in God's kingdom.
Paul's commitment to keeping clean his relationships with those he served stood in stark contrast with the false apostles in Corinth. Because Paul was willing to serve with no payment or support from those who received his ministry, the false teachers were cast in a doubtful light. They were eager for profit, and they apparently gladly accepted whatever gifts the people offered them. Paul's refusal to accept support from them made his motives stand in graphic relief against the imposters'.
Servants of Satan
After exposing the nature of the false teachers' message and their greedy motives barely hidden behind a masquerade of service, Paul clearly calls those teachers what they are: servants of Satan. (v. 14-15) The presence of evil hidden behind false piety, however, should not have been a surprise. Scripture abounds with warnings for God's people to avoid such people.
"Watch out for false prophets," Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount. "They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. By their fruit you wiill recognize them." (Matthew 7:15-17) Later in his ministry Jesus said again, "For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect-if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time." (Matthew 24:24) The fruit of the Corinthian false apostles was beginning to become obvious. Many of the Corinthians were seduced by the persuasive words of the teachers into blindness to their true natures, but Paul was committed to ripping the blinders off their spiritual eyes.
Through the prophet Jeremiah God had warned Israel against false prophets. "Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord." (Jeremiah 23:16) These false prophets were like the teachers of a "different gospel" among the early churches. Paul also warned Titus, his young protégé who was eventually going to go to Corinth to help the Corinthians finish their collection, that there were many "rebellious people" who were mere talkers and deceivers. These people had to be silenced because they were ruining whole households with their false teachings-all for the sake of "dishonest gain". (Titus 1:10)
Peter also warned the early Christians against false teachers. He reminded them that there were false prophets among the Jews just as there would be false teachers in the church. These false teachers would secretly introduce destructive heresies, even to the point of denying the sovereignty of the Lord. (2 Peter 2:1)
The apostle John instructed Christ-followers to test the spirits to see if they're from God. Many false prophets, he warned, have gone into the world. (1 John 4:1) In his messages to the seven churches, Jesus commended Ephesus for testing the false prophets and finding them false. (Revelation 2:2) God actually commends his people for having the discernment to question plausible-sounding teachers and for proving them false if they are.
As Christ-followers we must be vigilant about what we embrace as truth. It is our personal obligation to test what we hear by searching the scriptures, and it is our duty to resist forming bonds of loyalty with people who preach "another gospel", "another Jesus", and "another spirit". Earlier in this letter to the Corinthians Paul urged them not to be "unequally yoked with unbelievers." After all, he asks them, what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? (2 Corinthians 6:14)
When he wrote to the Ephesians, Paul was forceful in his instructions to stay disconnected from wickedness. "You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord," he said. "Have nothing to do with fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." (see Ephesians 5:8-14) False teaching is empowered by "another spirit". It is not from God; that fact leaves only one other option for false teachings' origins. They come from Satan.
John also was clear in his insistence that Christ-followers match their walk with their talk. "If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth," he wrote. (see 1 John 1:5-7) We are not living by the truth if we allow persuasive rhetoric to convince us that anything other than the gospel of Jesus Christ is necessary for our salvation. We are not living by the truth if we accept new teachings without studying the word of God to discover whether or not it says what we've heard.
The final destiny of people who teach "another gospel" in the name of Jesus is destruction. James warned against aspiring to teach for selfish or casual reasons. "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers," he wrote in James 3:1, "because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." Jesus warned that people who arrogantly teach from an insincere heart "will be punished most severly." (Luke 20:46-47, see also Matthew 23:1-33)
Jesus said the Son of Man will come and reward each person according to what he's done. (Matthew 16:26-27) Paul warned that many who profess to be Christ-followers "live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction." (Philippians 3:18-19) Peter issued a dire warning aginst those who "mouth empty, boastful words." They appeal to the lusts of people's sinful natures, and they "entice" those who have just tasted the gospel and are "escaping from those who live in error." "Blackest darkness is reserved for them," Peter declares. (2 Peter 2:17-19) Jude also warned against people within the body of Christ who function from greed and rebellion, arrogantly asserting themselves in opposition to the truth and freedom of the gospel. Such people are "blemishes at your love feasts," he said. Instead of bearing fruit, they are barren and uprooted, "twice dead," and "blackest darkness has been reserved" for them. (Jude 12-13)
Many of us have been rescued by the call of Jesus waking us up from our thrall to another spirit which held us in bondage to blind obedience to another gospel that offered us another Jesus than the one presented in the Bible. Jesus has chosen us to his pure bride, and he has stripped away the veil that blinded us to the truth of his finished work. His call to us is a call to be vigilant against future deception. Just as the Corinthians, a church rich in spiritual gifts, were being seduced away from the pure gospel of Jesus, we also are vulnerable to deception.
Just as a recovered alcoholic is forever vulnerable to re-enslavement if he rationalizes that he can drink casually, so we who were in bondage to another gospel can be deceived again. We may never be tempted to return to the false religion which we left, but we can be deceived by teachings or experiences or even by a critical or arrogant spirit standing in opposition to the simple truth of freedom in Christ. We can find oursleves focusing on the falsehoods we have left, grasping for spiritual experiences which had been denied in the past, succumbing to the charisma of a preacher or evangelist whose teachings we absorb instead of reading the word ourselves, or being charmed by books or ideas which lead our focus away from Jesus. Anything which fills our minds and hearts with something other than Jesus can deceive us and lead us astray.
Even good things such as spiritual gifts or service for Christ can become "another gospel". Any teaching or practice which becomes more central in our lives than the reality of Jesus and his love for us, his sovereignty and lordship over us, his forgiveness and cleasning and eternal claim on our souls-anything can compromise our discernment and our walk with Jesus. In order to be the pure bride of Christ, we must be willing to submit every idea, every teaching we hear to the scrutiny of scripture and offer it to God, asking for his mind and discernment to instruct us as we study.
A "different gospel" is inseparable from a "different spirit" and also from a "different Jesus." Anything which seduces us away from a central relationship with Jesus and the security of salvation by grace through faith in him is a perversion which can only come from Satan. False teachers and teachings today are no less sinister than they were in Paul's day. People who cast doubt on God's word are servants of Satan. Any teaching which requires behaviors or rituals or signs as proof of salvation is a different gospel from a different spirit, and it also teaches a different Jesus. Jesus clearly taught us his Father's will, and he completed our salvation at Calvary and on Resurrection Morning. Any requirement besides faith in Jesus is suggesting that Jesus is not all-sufficient and sovereign. Such teachings subtly say Jesus is important, but he alone is not enough; he not sovereignly able to complete everything necessary for our salvation. Such teachings are heresy, and they will destroy us.
God is calling you to surrender everything to him-your mind, your heart, your attraction to persuasive teachers or attractive teachings which were not part of the pure gospel which called you out of deception into truth. There is only one gospel, one Father, one Son, and one Spirit. Anything else is a deception, and God asks you to be willing to see the truth. Jesus is all you need; let him be your all-in-all. Give to him your fear, your control, your discontent, and allow him to fill you with his presence and his love and to be the center of your life and the core of love in your heart.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Copyright (c) 2003 Graphics Studio, Redlands,
CA USA. All rights reserved. Posted January 19, 2003.