Dealing with Another Gospel
Paul continues to defend his doctrines in the eleventh chapter of his letter. He was confident that his gospel came by revelation from God and that he understood it correctly. Thus, he did not want the Corinthian believers to stray from that truth. 2 Cor. 11:1-3 says,
1 I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. 2 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. 3 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.
Paul calls his jealousy “a little foolishness,” as if he were slightly embarrassed over this conflict. Yet he had reason to be “jealous,” because he was passionate for the church. Paul had given birth to the Corinthian church a few years earlier, at which time he, as a kind of father of the bride (1 Cor. 4:15), had “betrothed” the church to Christ. Hence, he had the right to be protective, even as a doting father who might seem a bit foolish to others.
Obviously, Paul was speaking metaphorically, or spiritually. So also, when he refers to the serpent’s deception of Eve in the garden, he was not saying that Eve had had sexual relations with the serpent (as some have asserted). Paul’s concern was that “your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” The issue was about knowing the truth of the gospel and thus remaining pure during the time of their betrothal to Christ.
Betrothal and Marriage
We often speak of “the bride of Christ” without understanding the distinction between betrothal and marriage. In Hebrew culture, when a young woman was betrothed to be married, she was already considered to be her future husband’s wife by promise, though not by experience. Hence, it is not wrong to view the church today as being married to Christ, but we ought to keep in mind that until the Husband comes to claim His bride, she is really only betrothed. The consummation of the marriage has not yet taken place, at least not in the historic sense.
So in verse 2 Paul speaks of presenting the church in marriage to Christ as a future event. He repeats this in Eph. 5:27,
27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.
Although the church as a whole has yet to be married to Christ, we as individuals are already married to Christ. Viewing it on the individual level, the marriage was consummated when we had our Passover experience of faith, for then we presented our bodies to Him, as a woman to her new husband, and Christ was begotten in our hearts.
Our time of Pentecost then became the opportunity for this holy seed to grow and mature. So John says “His seed abides in him” (1 John 3:9), and Paul refers to this spiritual embryo in Col. 1:27 as “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” This “seed” is not Jesus Christ; it is a son of God (the Father) and a son of man (your earthly body as the mother). That seed has two parents. Further, as we have explained elsewhere, we are admonished to change our identity and identify legally with this Spirit-begotten son, so that we might be called the sons of God.
The purpose of our Pentecostal experience is to bring this embryonic son of God to maturity in preparation for full birth. The birth of the son makes him visible to the world at the feast of Tabernacles. He is born on the first day of Tabernacles, presented to the Father on the eighth day of the feast, and then returns on the same day to be a “manifested” son of God—that is, manifested to the world.
When the second set of feast days are fulfilled, culminating with Tabernacles, the individual overcomers are united in a single body, and so both levels (individual and corporate) are birthed at the same time. The many-membered body, the collective son (body of Christ) is presented to God as well as each individual part of that overall body.
Meanwhile, we must view this theme on two levels and not limit our understanding to either the individual or to the body of Christ as a whole. Both have their place and are important. By another word picture, Paul speaks of individual believers as being “a temple of God” (1 Cor. 3:16), but in Eph. 2:21 individuals are “being fitted together… into a holy temple in the Lord.” The temple of God, then, is both individual and corporate.
So too, we must view each individual as a bride of Christ who has been impregnated with a son of God, but yet see the bride as a collective body made up of many individuals.
Deception Brings Impurity
Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 11:3 that he was concerned that the church might become impure or defiled by the serpent’s lie. He continues in 2 Cor. 11:4,
4 For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received [lambano, “take, appropriate, embrace”], or a different gospel which you have not accepted [dechomai, “to take by the hand”], you bear this beautifully.
Here the serpent is compared to false apostles who deceive others with “another Jesus,” “a different spirit,” and “a different gospel.” Such lies defile the bride of Christ. Paul’s main concern was probably for the apostles of Christian Judaism who were advocating an Old Covenant definition of the New Covenant. The outward sign of this false gospel was the idea that Greek converts had to be circumcised physically in order to enter into a covenant relationship with God.
There are many false gospels, but they all seem to have one common feature. They teach that salvation depends upon the will of man and the purity of his intentions. This is the main feature of the Old Covenant as seen in Israel’s vow in Exodus 19:8, where their salvation and the blessing of God was based upon their vow to God. On the other hand, the gospel (“good news”) is based upon God’s vow, oath, or promise to us. He alone has the power to fulfill His good intentions.
That is what makes it truly “good news.” Any other so-called gospel is really bad news couched as a message of good news, for anything that is based upon the will of man will ultimately fail in some way, regardless of one’s good intentions and level of self-discipline.
“Another Jesus” is defined as a good teacher, a prophet, or apostle, but not as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world or who pays the penalty for sin by His death on the cross.
“A different spirit” is a spirit other than the Holy Spirit of God. John bears witness of Paul’s words when he writes in 1 John 4:1-3,
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
If one is begotten by a spirit other than the Holy Spirit, the resulting embryo is not a son of God by biblical definition. Hence, one should be careful which spirit one embraces. When Eve embraced a different spirit, she placed her faith in “a different gospel,” spawning death.
The True Gospel
Paul again expressed his confidence that the Corinthian church as a whole had placed their faith in the right Spirit and had embraced the true gospel. He says so clearly, ending with “you bear this beautifully.” Their actions in responding to Paul’s first letter proved that they had embraced the gospel (and the Jesus) that Paul preached.
The “Jesus” being preached by the Judaizers in the church was a very human messiah, perhaps a perfect man, but not the incarnation of Yahweh in the earth. They did not believe the prophecy in Exodus 15:2, repeated in Isaiah 12:2, 3, where we read that “Yahweh has become my Yeshua” and that “This is my God” and “my father’s God.” Yet Jesus treated Isaiah 12:3 as a prophecy about Himself in John 7:37, 38.
Judaism either denies the concept of sonship altogether or redefines the sons of God in biological or racial terms. Christian Jews (or messianic Jews) tend to believe that Jesus’ conception was supernatural but not an incarnation of the God of heaven. Hence, they often retain the Jewish hatred or suspicion toward the apostle Paul.
They also find difficulty with John, who wrote in 1 John 5:20,
20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
John calls Jesus “the true God.” Jews, and even some messianic Jews, have difficulty with this statement.
The Judaistic belief system, denying Jesus’ role as an earthly manifestation of Yahweh, did not recognize how heaven is coming to earth through the principles of marriage and sonship. In the big picture, God’s plan is to institute a marriage between heaven and earth to produce sons in His image. Such a marriage must be fruitful and must produce sons, the offspring of heaven and earth.
By contrast, Christian Judaism in Paul’s day maintained a degree of separation between heaven and earth, which, if true, would have prevented the consummation of the marriage. Later, the church adopted the Greek dualistic view, believing that history would end in a great divorce between heaven and earth or between heaven and “hell.”
This other “gospel” taught the eternal co-existence between good and evil, each in its own (separate) realm. By contrast, the Bible teaches the eradication of evil, leaving only the (good) Kingdom. There will not be two kingdoms, one for God in heaven and one for Satan in hell. God will be all in all, Paul says. The divine plan has all things being reconciled, restored, and put under the feet of Christ.
Hence, God wins, heaven and earth will come into unity, and the cosmic marriage will be consummated. This is the true gospel that Paul learned by revelation when God revealed to him the meaning of the New Covenant.