I will be preaching through 2 Corinthians in 2018 and this morning as I was working through 11:1-6, it struck me that churches that can hold multiple theologies in tension are not anything new. Paul needed to correct the Corinthian penchant for tolerating multiple Christ’s, spirits, and gospels. And sadly, he will state that they were really good at balancing contradictory truths. He will also correct them in a manner that is quite disarming.
Paul has been defending his apostleship as well as describing the true nature of boasting for those engaged in gospel ministry (10:1-18). He then asks the Corinthians to indulge him in a little foolishness, as he calls it (11:1).
In 11:2-4 Paul will act like a jealous uncle who has set up his niece with a great guy only to watch her demonstrate a wandering eye, even though she is betrothed! He notes such jealousy in verse 2:
“For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.”
It is almost as if he is saying, “Hey, I introduced you to Jesus! You are now engaged to him and await a great wedding and feast. I plan on being there! And as your guardian of sorts, my plan is to make sure you are ready for the day! As a matter of fact, I expect purity on the day! I have taken a great interest in you!”
Then in verse 3 he expresses his concern for them:
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
Our relationship with Christ is simple in many ways: we trust him and we obey him. We do this simply because we love him. It is false teaching that crepes in and pollutes such simple devotion, often, with either legalism or license. And this group of believers, like Eve, is a soft target. They are easily deceived by other voices and personalities.
And then in verse 4 Paul illustrates their weakness for teachings/teachers. He gives three examples:
- A different Jesus: “For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached”
- A different spirit: “or you receive a different spirit which you have not received”
- A different gospel: “or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.”
Paul says of the Corinthians ability to assimilate various teachings, “You bear this beautifully.” The verb bear (ἀνέχω) basically means “to bear with” or “to put up with,” and has the sense here of “to tolerate.” We Italians have an expression when confronted with any conflict that goes something like this: “Eh, whadiya gonna do?” Here, the Corinthian church looked at such competing doctrines and said, “Eh, it’s no big deal. There are many truths, many ways to God, different beliefs about Jesus and no one has all the answers so it’s ok to tolerate contradictory messages.” And Paul says that they tolerated contradictory messages “beautifully” or “well” (καλῶς). They were good at assimilating multiple, contradictory doctrines. It is stunning actually, and I myself have often been surprised at how easily some professing believers move in and out of various churches with competing theologies and never skip a beat.
Paul states that they were wrong on this issue. Good, solid, theology regarding Jesus and his gospel are greatly needed today and a church should not assimilate contradictory messages about Jesus or his gospel.
Fortunately, the passage itself (11:1-6) has an important, powerful, positive, overall message for the believer:
God desires that we be growing spiritually, loving God exclusively, and experiencing real heart change
That message is born out in all of 11:1-6, which perhaps may be an opportunity for another post.