The situation in Corinth, as Paul wrote them this letter, was dire. There were those who were coming into the midst of the church and leading them astray – away from the gospel of God and towards a super-legalistic return to Judaism. This was, it seems, one of the major issues in the early church: persuasive speakers who insisted that in order to be part of God’s people, one had to do more than just believe in Christ; that one had to follow all of the laws and commandments of God in order to be a “true” Christians.
And this makes Paul jealous – with God’s own jealousy. That is: it makes God jealous too. God (and his servant Paul) love the Corinthians so much that any hint of infidelity on their part rouses jealousy. How often do I remember that God is jealous over me in just the same way?
The Corinthians, it seems, were lacking discernment when it came to listening to those who claimed to speak on behalf of God. They were happy, says Paul, to put up with whatever they were told – never mind if it was presenting a different Jesus, a different kind of Spirit or a different good news. How ridiculous to be willing to switch from the true gospel, the very SPirit of God and the best news ever for anything else!
One of the things that “won” the Corinthians, it seems, is that those spruiking these “fuller” or “better” ideas claimed to be apostles of God. As Paul says – hardly surprising they use this tactic: even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light – why wouldn’t his minions? And their image was impressive. Good talking skills, seemingly plenty of knowledge – possibly even a slick look and professional haircut. Oh – and they charged for their “gospel”. Isn’t it strange how we often assume that if we pay for something, it must be of better quality than something we are given for free?
Paul – he was different. Not the best of speakers in person (so he says) – and he refused to ever be a financial burden on the Corinthian church. These “super apostles” looked good. The sort of people who’d insist on the best hotel room, and a limo to drive them around. Paul? His “boasting” consists of how weak he is! No hotel rooms for him! – try being lowered from a window in a basket to escape the police!
As I read this all, I can’t help but see that there are still these so called “super apostles” in the world today. Those who claim to speak for Christ – and even have a huge following – but present a different gospel to the one presented in the Bible. Who present a different Spirit from the one we have been given. Who speak of a different Jesus.
Mormons, for example, speak of Jesus in a way that is totally inconsistent with the Biblical account – as do Jehovah’s witnesses. (I know, they’re not Christian churches – but don’t people so easily confuse them – after all, they speak about Jesus all the time….)
And then there are those in the church who either deny the Spirit is still active in the world today – or who insist that one has to have certain gifts of the Spirit to be a true Christian. False teachers!
And then there are those who preach a gospel which is similar to the true gospel – but with additions; like those who preach a prosperity doctrine. Joel Olsteen, Joyce Meyer and the like (And their gospel differs on more than just the issue of prosperity. See this article for more). Sure – they’ve got plenty of followers – but they’re still preaching a gospel that contradicts the one given us by Christ.
The question I’ve got to ask myself is… who do I want to be like? Like the “weakling” Paul – or like the super-apostles. For me – the weakling Paul every time. Because he’s like Christ – and he preaches Christ.
Lord, please give me discernment. Help me to follow you completely. Thank you that you are jealous over me. Please, by your Spirit, help me to stay true to you, that I will one day be presented to you pure and faultless. Thank you that because of your Spirit – and because of your Son – that is a promise I can cling to.