Finally, we come to 2 Corinthians. I’m sure you were in doubt that it would ever happen again, but I am so grateful for your patience and the goodness of the Lord to allow us to complete our study of 2 Corinthians. We broke off nearly a year ago at the end of chapter 10, 2 Corinthians chapter 10, after months and months, actually a couple of years of studying this tremendous epistle, and we come back now to 2 Corinthians chapter 11.
I’m reminded of the experience of John Calvin when he was preaching in Geneva. John Calvin is known as a theologian, but the fact of the matter is John Calvin in the pulpit was an expositor of Scripture, and perhaps his greatest work is not Calvin’s institutes, which look at theology, but Calvin’s commentaries, which basically are commentaries written on all of Scripture with the exception of one book, the book of Revelation in the New Testament. But John Calvin, interestingly enough, was preaching through verse by verse by verse and was banished from the city of Geneva for many years.
And after his banishment was over and he came back, he picked up at exactly the verse where he’d left off when he was banished years before. So I stand in a great tradition as I pick this text back up at chapter 11. And I’m sure John Calvin faced somewhat of a problem in wanting to get you in to the context a little bit and not be caught up in too long of a review. But we’ll try to give you a brief review and get a running start as we come back to this epistle in chapter 11.
Among the most treasured words in any language is the word for loyalty. Its synonyms are equally noble virtues: faithfulness, allegiance, fidelity, wholeheartedness, and devotion. Throughout Scripture, God’s people are often called to be loyal to Him. In 1 Kings 8:61, Scripture says, “Let your heart be wholly devoted” - the New King James says “loyal” - “to the Lord your God.” You have a similar injunction in Isaiah 38:3. It was said of some kings in the Old Testament that they were loyal to God. Asa, for example, and Hezekiah. It was said of other kings that they were disloyal to God, such as Abijah and Amazia.
Loyalty is of great concern to God, loyalty to Him and to His truth and to His Kingdom and to His mission, His purpose. Perhaps no better illustration of loyalty is found in the Old Testament than the story of Solomon. Back into the Old Testament for just a moment, in 1 Chronicles chapter 28, we read in verse 9, “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind.” Now, here is instruction from David, the father, to Solomon his son. And he says, “Serve Him with a whole heart,” or “Serve Him with loyalty.” Be loyal to God, to His nature and His will and His purposes.
In chapter 29 of 1 Chronicles and verse 19, a prayer is given and the prayer is, “Give to my son, Solomon, a perfect heart” - or, if you will, “a loyal heart” - “to keep thy commandments, thy testimonies and thy statutes and to do them all.” David instructed his son to be loyal, David prayed that his son would be loyal, that he would have unwavering loyalty to God. In 1 Kings chapter 11, in verse 4, listen to what the text says. “It came about when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods and his heart was not loyal, was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God as the heart of David, his father, had been.” That is the sad story of disloyalty.
When Solomon ascended to the throne, his father exhorted him to be loyal. His father went before the Lord God Himself and prayed that his son would be loyal, and Solomon proved to be disloyal. As is evident, then, from Solomon’s life, the best intentions of loyalty can go awry and loyalty can be lost, and the heart can become disloyal and divided in its devotion and its allegiance. Double-mindedness, or duplicity, takes over with tragic results. And the story of Solomon’s life is tragic.
What does it mean to be loyalty - to be loyal to God? I mean, if we were to sum up loyalty to God, what would it be? Here’s what it would be. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. There is no better definition of loyalty to God than that. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength so that from every dimension of your being there is a consummate concern that God be honored. This is the first and great commandment and if you keep it, all the rest are superfluous. That is loyalty. And God expects no less than that you would love Him with all your soul - heart, soul, mind, and strength.
As the people of Israel so often and ultimately proved, disloyalty works its way into human behavior so easily and even against the best intentions. It is also true that the church of Jesus Christ has proven to be disloyal throughout the history of the church. And it didn’t take very long. All you have to do is read the epistles of Paul himself and read 2 Corinthians and find out how fast people become disloyal to the Lord. Read the rest of the epistles and you’ll note from time to time Paul’s concern about disloyalty to sound doctrine or disloyalty to the love of the Lord or disloyalty to the mission to which God had called His church.
Read Revelation 2 and 3 and find seven churches there, five of them manifesting severe disloyalty to the Lord. And track yourself through church history and see the immense disloyalty to God, to Christ, to salvation by grace through faith, to the Kingdom purposes. Church was corrupted throughout all the history of the church. Disloyalty is a dominating sin.
James warns that if a man becomes double-minded or disloyal or duplicitous or divided in his allegiance to God, he shouldn’t expect anything at all from God. Throughout the New Testament, there is a concern expressed toward disloyalty. Paul confronted - in one of the most notable illustrations of this, Paul confronted Peter’s disloyalty in Galatians chapter 2. Peter was demonstrating disloyalty to Christ and disloyalty to the gospel, disloyalty to grace, if you will, and Paul confronted the disloyalty of Peter. Peter confronted the disloyalty of the seductive influence of the false teachers and the disloyalty of the people who had been led astray by them in 2 Peter chapter 2.
James also warned of the unstable, unblessed, double-minded, and disloyal people who received nothing from God. And then John, used by the Spirit of God, warned the sinful churches I mentioned earlier in Asia Minor about their disloyalty to Christ and its severe consequences. But no one of the New Testament writers was more concerned about loyalty and faithfulness and devotion to Jesus Christ then was the apostle Paul. And nowhere was he more concerned about it than with regard to Corinth. And that gets us into the situation a little bit.
At the writing of this letter that we know as 2 Corinthians, the Corinthian church had manifested a severe disloyalty, a disloyalty to God, to Christ, to the gospel, and to the apostle Paul. They had fallen under the spell, the seductive spell of some false teachers who called themselves apostles. We refer to them both as false teachers and false apostles. They had defected.
The Corinthian church where Paul had spent some twenty months or twenty months plus ministering the Word of God, a church where he had poured so much of his life into, that had been so well taught and so well grounded, was so easily led astray into a mutiny and into a rebellion against Paul and against the Lord in following these false teachers that they could be classified as disloyal. He was concerned about their disloyalty to Christ. It wasn’t so much that they were disloyal to him, but their disloyalty to him was evidence of their disloyalty to what he preached and what did he preach but Christ and Him crucified and the true gospel.
It was heartbreaking for Paul to see this disloyalty of this church, which had so many other problems that were being resolved, problems identified in 1 Corinthians. He wrote about them there and they apparently responded well to the issues that were confronted in that letter. But now a disloyalty following so rapidly on the first sort of order of business which was sorting out all the various confusing things in that church. When all of that was straightened out, immediately they plunge into disloyalty and become seduced by false teachers, and Paul’s heart is broken, it is shattered, and he writes this entire epistle.
All 13 chapters are designed to get them back to a place of loyalty to him and to the gospel and to Christ which he preaches. All they know of Christ, they can’t know from personal experience. They’re a gentile community far away from Palestine. They had not experienced Jesus Christ. All that they know about Jesus Christ and why He came and who He was and what He did and the gospel that He established, they know because of the apostle Paul. And if they are cut off from him, they are cut off from the source of truth.
Their disloyalty to him, then, is a disloyalty to Christ, a disloyalty to the truth, a disloyalty that is a severe and serious matter. Throughout this letter, then, he is dealing with their disloyalty, and he does it by reaffirming his apostleship, his credibility, his character. Now, this is not something he likes to do. Self-defense is not popular to Paul, it’s something he would rather never do, but he has been forced into doing it because the issue is so serious. He greatly disliked defending himself.
The false teachers, however, had exalted themselves as if they were the true apostles as false teachers always do. The enemies of the Lord and the enemies of the church were eager to praise themselves and the Corinthians were impressed. The apostle Paul, on the other hand, was never prone to any self-defense; never prone to any self-commendation; never, ever prone to any self-exaltation. He just doesn’t like that at all.
Go back to chapter 10, verse 12. He says this, “We are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves.” We’re not like those false apostles who commend themselves and exalt themselves and build up themselves and compare themselves with me and say they’re so much better. I’m not bold to do that. I’m not like those people who measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves. Verse 13, “We will not boast beyond our measure.” I don’t ever want to say anything that isn’t exactly true. I don’t want to ever say anything beyond what God has actually done in me.
I will speak only in the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure. I will not go beyond that. I will not get into some kind of a debate about who is the best. Chapter 10 verse 17, “He who boasts, let him boast in the Lord. For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.”
Now, all of that just to tell you what the prior passage was saying. The prior passage is built on this idea that Paul does not want to commend himself. He is not going to get caught in some kind of a comparison with these false apostles who are comparing themselves to Paul and coming off superior in the eyes of the Corinthians. He will not get into a self-defense and self-commendation of himself that is nothing more than competition. In fact, it was a mark of his humility that he actually refused to engage in self-promotion. He refused to compare himself with others as the false apostles did.
He wouldn’t get into that debate. He wouldn’t say anything about himself except what was true of the work which God had given him to do and the work that God had done through him. That’s all he would speak of and he would give God all the credit. Self-commendation is meaningless, it is meaningless. “Let your praise be in another man’s mouth,” it says in the Old Testament. It is meaningless to commend yourself. It is not only meaningless, it is foolish. And Paul knew that the only true commendation would come from God. That’s why in 1 Corinthians, he dealt with this issue there as well.
In 1 Corinthians 4, he says, verse 3, “To me it’s a very small thing that I should be examined by you or by any human court.” And he says, “In fact, I do not even examine myself. My estimation and your estimation of me is irrelevant.” Verse 5, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts, and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”
The only person who can commend us is God. Frankly, as we learned from 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians, Paul felt a lot more comfortable depreciating himself. He was not eager at all, he was reluctant to speak commendingly of himself, but he was eager to speak in a depreciating way. First Corinthians 3:5, “What then is Apollos and what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed.” We’re nothing, he says, we’re just servants through whom you believed.
And then in chapter 4 of 1 Corinthians, the beginning, he says, the first two verses, “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ.” When you think of me, just think of a servant, and he uses the word hupēretēs, which was the word for a galley slave that rowed at the bottom. There were ships called triremes, they had three decks of rowing slaves, and the under-rower is what the literal meaning of the word is. The under-rower was the third-level galley slave who just pulled his oar. When you think about Paul, just think about the third-level galley slave pulling his oar.
In 2 Corinthians, we remember how he depreciates himself in chapter 4, verse 7. He says, “We have the treasure, the glorious treasure of the gospel of God and the face of Jesus Christ shining, we have this treasure in clay pots.” He saw himself as a clay pot. We talked about the fact that clay pots were used for family refuse and garbage. He saw himself as nothing but a clay pot and the surpassing greatness of the power was of God and not of him. In chapter 12 and verse 9 of 2 Corinthians, he said he would boast about his weaknesses - he would boast about his weaknesses.
In 1 Timothy chapter 1 and verse 15 he says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am chief, I am foremost.” To the Romans he writes in Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from the body of this death?” Paul was very comfortable in depreciating himself and terribly uncomfortable when he had to say anything in a commending manner regarding himself.
In spite of his reluctance, however, Paul had no choice. He had to defend himself for the sake of his message, not for the sake of his ego or his reputation or his income. The false apostles were not just seeking to destroy Paul’s reputation, they were not just seeking to destroy Paul’s influence, it really wasn’t a personal assault on Paul, they were seeking to undermine what he taught. Do you understand that? I have to keep that in mind even when I am attacked, that it isn’t really me they’re attacking. What they’re trying to do is undermine what I teach because they don’t believe it.
And so there are times when you don’t want to make a personal self-defense for the preservation of your own ego, but you do want to preserve the platform you have for the proclamation of the truth. False apostles, I say it again, were not trying to destroy Paul’s reputation just for doing that, they were trying to destroy Paul’s reputation so that they could assault and undermine the Christian faith he taught.
So on this occasion, as foolish as boasting was, he had to engage in some foolish boasting in the Lord because it was called for. And I think I do understand Paul’s struggle in a small way. Being falsely accused, falsely maligned can’t be taken personally, and you’ve got to be content to see yourself as a clay pot and not make an issue out of that and not get into ego protection and not lash back and attack back at the people that assault you. But what is not important is me. What is important is my message. And so one’s place as the servant of the Lord and the teacher of truth is valuable enough to be preserved, isn’t it?
So as distasteful as it was, it was necessary for Paul to defend himself as he does in this lengthy letter, not for pride or self-exaltation, not for salving a wounded ego, and not for personal prosperity at all. In fact, I think he would have been quite happy never to have written this letter. It’s not a letter that covers doctrinal issues. It doesn’t add anything doctrinally to the content of the New Testament. It wouldn’t change our statement of faith at all if 2 Corinthians hadn’t been written. He was forced to write it. He had been defending his integrity all through this letter because the gospel was at stake.
Now, when he comes into chapter 11, this defense gets more specific because here it is that he identifies the false apostles. He particularly addresses the comparison between himself and the false apostles, starting in chapter 11, verse 1, through chapter 12, verse 13. So this large section from 11:1 to 12:13 is going to be Paul taking on the false apostles.
What was at stake here? Why does he do this? In a word - give it to you real simple. In a word, what was at stake was loyalty. Loyalty. Allegiance, devotion, whole-heartedness, fidelity to Christ. His beloved people were being deceived and they were being seduced by unscrupulous false apostles and Paul is defending himself so that he can protect the truth which he preaches. It was all for their sakes, not his.
Go down to chapter 12, verse 19, and he says that. “All this time” - listen to this - you’ve been reading this whole letter, here we are at the last of the letter, a few verses from the end, “All this time you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you. Actually, it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ and all for your up-building, beloved.” That’s the point. It’s all for them so that they can be built up in the truth, not for me.
Paul, then, is calling them back to loyalty. And the reason he is in this self-defense mode and the reason he’s finally going to really tackle these false apostles head on here in chapters 11 and 12 is that he might preserve the loyalty of the Corinthian church. The first six verses, then, in this marvelous portion of Scripture, the first six verses deal with spiritual loyalty. Let me read them to you.
“I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness, but indeed you are bearing with me, for I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin, but I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” There is the issue of loyalty right there. “For if one comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit, which you have not received, or a different gospel, which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. But even if I am unskilled in speech yet I am not so in knowledge. In fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things.”
Now, the issue in this text is the issue of loyalty. And Paul defines loyalty in four aspects. This passage, by the way, is an expositional preacher’s dream. This passage is so marvelously outlined by the Holy Spirit who inspired Paul when he wrote it that all you have to do is go to the original text and the outline is there for you. Paul defines the issue of loyalty in four ways: loyalty to God, loyalty to Christ, loyalty to the gospel, and loyalty to truth. God, Christ, the gospel, and truth. Each of those four features of loyalty or aspects of loyalty are introduced in these six verses by the Greek conjunction gar, G-A-R, transliterated, which is the word “for.”
Look at verse 2, “For I am jealous for you.” Down the line in verse 2, “For I betrothed you.” Down in verse 4, “For if one comes and preaches.” Verse 5, “For I consider myself.” Each of those uses of the word “for,” or gar in the Greek, introduces the next in the four aspects of loyalty.
Verse 1 is basically the introductory verse. “I want you to bear with me in a little foolishness, but indeed you are bearing with me,” and here are the four reasons: for this reason, for this reason, for this reason, and for this reason. “For loyalty to God, for loyalty to Christ, for loyalty to the gospel, for loyalty to the truth.” Let’s look at verse 1 now that you understand the flow of the text. “I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness, but indeed you are bearing with me.”
Here he introduces this whole matter of discussing spiritual loyalty. “Would you please endure my self-defense a little longer? You’ve endured me up to now, you are bearing with me up to now, I admit it, this is a foolish thing, but do you remember Solomon encouraged people to answer fools according to their folly?” So Paul is doing just that here. It’s a little embarrassing, but the folly of the Corinthians demand a rather foolish response. It comes with some sarcasm, by the way. Paul is good at using sarcasm. “I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness,” is a bit sarcastic. He is forced to do what he resents.
It’s almost as if he’s taking on a role that is not really him but he’s been necessitated to do this by virtue of the folly of the Corinthians. It’s not quite a role because everything he says is true. He’s not acting because every word of Paul’s boasting is accurate and has been long verified, even in the presence of the Corinthians. He does soften the plea a little bit by affirming that they have previously responded to his confrontations, “Indeed you are bearing with me.” He notes that, they did respond well to the first Corinthian letter. They even responded well to what we call the severe letter, referred to back in chapter 2.
Remember that letter he wrote with tears and affliction and anguish of heart? They apparently responded to that. And they - that response is indicated in chapter 7, verses 5 to 9. You remember Titus finally met him and told him they had a good response. So he simply is acknowledging that. He’s saying I want you to bear with me in a little foolishness here, like you’ve done in the past. You responded to 1 Corinthians, you responded to the severe letter, you endured those confrontations, now hang in there, I want you to continue to bear with me as I engage myself in the foolishness of self-defense which is called for by your foolish mutiny, your foolish disloyalty.
Now, much of their disloyalty had, at least on the surface, been repented of because when Titus came back - Titus, you remember, visited them and took the severe letter - which is not in the New Testament, was written between 1 and 2 Corinthians. Titus took that letter, Titus returned and told Paul that they had repented and that they wanted to be restored to Paul. But Paul also knew that there were some burning embers of this mutiny that had just been hidden down under the surface a little bit, and Paul wrote 2 Corinthians to deal with any remaining vestiges of disloyalty to him.
He’s saying, then, I want you to tolerate this latest confrontation, I want you to tolerate this foolish boasting in the Lord which is demanded by your foolish disloyalty. And here are four reasons why I want you to tolerate it because what is at stake is your loyalty to God, your loyalty to Christ, your loyalty to the gospel, and your loyalty to the truth. I mean there’s a lot at stake.
I don’t think any preacher finds any particular joy in self-defense. You don’t just want to go around building yourself up while others are tearing you down. You don’t want to get caught up in some ego battle or some comparison, making yourself better than other people. But there is a real tension, and I can confess to that in my own life, a real tension between how do I not engage in self-promotion and at the same time defend my position as a teacher of truth so that people aren’t led astray?
Well, Paul was concerned about loyalty and he was concerned about their loyalty to him because that meant loyalty to the truth he taught. And the first issue is disloyalty to God. And it comes in verse 2. Starting with the word “for,” it just gives us four of the reasons, reason number one, “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.” This is a wonderful statement.
It’s not me that I’m worried about, it’s you that I’m worried about. I’m not concerned about my Christian experience, I’m not concerned about my relationship to the Lord, that’s as it should be. What I am concerned about is yours. I’m grieved that you might get seduced away from me and therefore you draw unto these false teachers, you’re going to wind up with error and iniquity and your own life is going to be a shambles. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.
What might appear to them as foolishness is extreme concern motivated by jealousy. He is jealous of the betrayal as a husband would feel for an unfaithful wife who pursued other lovers. It’s not selfish. He’s quick to add, “With a godly jealousy.” Literally, the jealousy of God. He’s saying I am jealous for God. You are being disloyal to God, that’s what he’s saying. This is a righteous indignation. This is a righteous jealousy. The Corinthian defection was disloyal to God.
This, by the way, is a major theme in the Old Testament, as you know, this whole issue of disloyalty to God. In Exodus chapter 20 and verse 5 it says, “The Lord is a jealous God.” Well, what is - what is that context? That’s the context of laying down the law that you shall have no other gods. Why? Because God is a jealous God. Deuteronomy 4:24 says, “The Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” And that is repeated in Deuteronomy 5:9 and 6:15. Deuteronomy 32:16, “They made Him jealous with strange gods.” Joshua 24:19, “He’s a holy God, He’s a jealous God.” Nahum 1:2 says essentially the same thing. Psalm 78:58, “They aroused His jealousy with their graven images.”
Paul was feeling the pain of God’s jealousy. Paul was feeling the pain of God’s own heart. It was like Psalm 69:9. Psalm 69:9, the psalmist said, “Zeal for your house has eaten me up.” It’s a great statement. What he meant was, “My passion for the worship of the true God in the true way is eating me up.” Why? Because the people aren’t doing it. Because the people are perverting it, polluting it, corrupting it. And he’s saying, “I’m so passionate that you would be rightly worshiped and honored that it’s eating me up.” And then he further defines his feeling as, “The reproaches that fall on you are fallen on me.”
In other words, when You’re dishonored, I feel the pain. Now, there is a person who is really in an intimate relationship with the living God. When you feel the pain of God’s dishonor, then you know what Psalm 69:9 means. Psalm 69:9 was Messianically fulfilled by the Lord Jesus in John chapter 2 when He went into the temple, in verse 17 He made a whip, you remember, and He cleaned the temple out. Why did He do this? “Because zeal for your house has eaten me up. The reproaches that fall on you are fallen on me.” Jesus said, “I cannot stand to see you so dishonored.”
Daniel, in Daniel chapter 9, fell on his face before God to pray one of the great prayers in all the pages of Scripture, a prayer which we have studied here. And in the prayer of Daniel chapter 9, you remember Daniel prays and prays and prays about his people and about the restoration of his nation. And at the end he says, “For your sake, for your sake, O Lord, because your glory is at stake, your name is at stake, your honor is at stake. O Lord, rise up. O Lord, heal, forgive. Lord, for your namesake, do it.”
Well, Paul was feeling the pain of God being dishonored. Over in chapter 11, verse 28, he says, “The daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches.” What does that mean? What do you mean, Paul, you have this concern? Well, verse 29, “Who is weak without my being weak? If somebody is weak in the church, then it weakens me, I feel sad and broken over it. And who gets led into sin without my intense concern?” That was the care of the churches, I mean he was all caught up in whatever dishonored God in the life of somebody else. Was heart-crushing to him.
He was feeling the pain of God being dishonored, and that was the care of the churches. It wasn’t fussing with administrative duties. Some people want to trivialize that verse. It wasn’t fooling around with things you don’t like to do. The intense care of the church was feeling the pain of God being dishonored. Paul was deeply concerned that the Corinthians not be disloyal to their God who was worthy of loyal, loving obedience. Who should have been loved with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. That’s the most serious issue in life. And he said, “I’m jealous for you because this is a matter that has to do with disloyalty to God Himself.” Which is not only heartbreaking and intolerable, but severe in its danger for our God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
The second issue of disloyalty is introduced by the second word “for,” verse 1, “For I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I’m afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” Secondly, he said, “I’m concerned about your disloyalty to Christ, I’m concerned about your disloyalty to Lord Jesus.” And he casts this matter of loyalty into an analogy, and it’s a very simple analogy.
You can see it, it’s the analogy of a betrothal to one husband, later to be presented as a pure virgin at the time of the wedding. And the concern is whether or not this betrothed, engaged virgin is disloyal to that pledge before the wedding takes place, that’s the imagery. The Jewish wedding ceremony fits this very well. Although there were a number of components in the whole operation of Jewish marriage, the main issues in Jewish marriage were betrothal and nuptial. And we sort of follow that today, we have an engagement, then a wedding, and that would be pretty much the parallel in the general sense.
Jewish ceremonies constituted the completion of the covenant. When the ceremony came, the covenant was completed, but the covenant was initiated at betrothal, or what we call the engagement period, and then the nuptial was the actual coming together. Generally, there was a year or so in between, maybe less than a year, and that year was generally a year of preparation in which an addition could be built on the house so that the bride could come and live with the bridegroom, or he would need to get all things in order and perhaps if he had to pay the father a dowry, there would be a necessity to accumulate that and make that gift.
And then there had to be an opportunity for the bride to prove her purity and prove her virginity and to prove her character and her loyalty and her faithfulness when there were none of the benefits of marriage but only the vow itself to sustain that period. Betrothal contracts in the Jewish plan were legally binding, they were morally binding, and they were spiritually binding. They could only be broken by divorce or death. If one broke the legal binding of a betrothal contract, it was punishable by death, even though the nuptial ceremony had not occurred and the consummation had not yet happened.
Unfaithfulness during that year between was considered adultery and punishable by divorce or death. Consequently, the issue of Joseph and Mary comes into that. You remember when Mary was with child, what were Joseph’s options? Divorce her or what? Kill her. Now, during that period, that between the betrothal and the nuptial, it was a specific responsibility of the father to see that his betrothed daughter remained sexually pure and faithful to her pledged husband. She wasn’t living with the husband, she was living with the father.
She was living under the care and protection of the father, and his desire and duty was to keep any other men from invading her life and to keep her pure so that he as a father could then present his virgin daughter to her betrothed husband at the time of the nuptial as a pure virgin.
We still have that, vestiges of that, in our ceremony. When the bride comes down the aisle, who brings her? Who brings the bride down the aisle? Her father. That was always the father’s responsibility, that was the tradition. And I think that was the God-ordained tradition. God had established the father to be the protector and the savior of his own home, the deliverer, the head.
Now, that’s the imagery Paul has here. He says, “When I came to Corinth and brought the gospel, I betrothed you to Christ. And you pledged your loyalty and your faithfulness to Jesus Christ and you pledged your obedience and you pledged your - your purity to Christ.” And now he said, “You’ve made this binding contract, this saving commitment, this saving pledge, and the marriage hasn’t happened yet, it’s in the future, you haven’t yet been received by the bridegroom into the bridegroom’s house, that hasn’t happened yet and my job is to keep you pure until that event.” You see?
That’s the picture here. He’s the father of the bride, as it were, at Corinth, whom he has engaged to Christ. He is their spiritual father, he says that in 1 Corinthians 4, he says you have many tutors and teachers, you have only one father in the Lord, and that’s me, I was your spiritual father. He is the one who really gave them life through the gospel. I betrothed you not only as a father did bring his daughter into the world but he gives her away to her husband, and Paul says I gave you to Christ, I was the father who gave you to Christ. And he says this: “I betrothed you to one husband.”
Isn’t that always God’s ideal? If you ever get into a discussion about polygamy, this is a good passage to use. This takes you right back to Genesis, one man, one woman for life. I betrothed you to one husband. That is critical. It affirms God’s intention for marriage - one. The whole analogy here is built on one, the whole analogy would break down if you could have multiple husbands, right? What he is saying is, I pledged you to the one and only husband, and I want to get you into his presence pure. He is the one. He, Paul, as their spiritual father had given them to Christ, the one and only husband, with the expectation of purity and loyal love until the union was consummated.
The church, then, is engaged to Christ and waiting for the marriage ceremony, waiting for the entry into the permanent intimate union, waiting to go to the house of the bridegroom, the house He has gone to prepare for us, John 14. Some day that presentation will take place - take place at the Rapture of the church when He gathers His bride and takes them to glory and we have the marriage supper of the Lamb. That presentation will extend all the way through the Kingdom, the Millennial Kingdom, and finally we will enter into the ultimate house of our great bridegroom, which is the new heaven and the new earth.
Paul’s concern is that the church be pure until then. And so he says, “I’m afraid, I’m afraid,” verse 3, “I’m afraid that you’re going to get seduced.” Humanly speaking, it would be a tragedy, wouldn’t it? I mean, it happens. It happens all the time. Some girl gets engaged to a guy and while he’s faithfully waiting for the time of their consummation, she’s seduced by somebody else. Tragic, but not nearly as tragic as the seduction of the bride of Christ, right? Paul says, “My job is to get you to the end, and if I’m discredited and I’m destroyed as to credibility and I can’t teach you and I can’t train you and I can’t show you the truth of God and you’re victimized by false teachers, you’re going to get corrupted, and I want to bring you into Christ’s presence as a pure virgin.” Loyalty to Christ is the issue.
Is that clock right? Wow. Well, I think I had your attention up to now. Probably a good time to quit. We’ll pick it up there next week.
Father, thank you for this truth, this word to us, this reminder of loyalty to you and loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ. O Father, forgive us for our disaffections. Forgive us for our disloyalties. Forgive us for not being a chaste and pure virgin, faithful, wholehearted, devoted, loyal to our loving bridegroom. It’s so sad, Lord, to look at your church and see it seduced by so much error, so much confusion, so much sin. Lord, may our church not be a part of that. It is our desire to bring this church into your presence as a chaste virgin pure - pure - preserved from seductive error, kept pure and faithful to the original commitment to Jesus Christ, not guilty of spiritual adultery.
What a dishonor to such a beloved bridegroom, to corrupt our devotion to Him. May it not be so. May it not be so. May it be that when the bridegroom comes for His bride, He might find her pure, might find us pure and faithful to Him, not sinless but not having gone after false gods, other lovers, not have been seduced by error and false teaching and licentiousness or legalism but loyal and faithful to our Savior and His truth. And we have much more, Lord, that we ask you to teach us as we go through this passage even next week. In Christ’s name. Amen.
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