Conflicting Spirits of Jealousy
Wednesday Bible Study
2 Corinthians 11:1-12:21
There were two conflicting spirits stirring in the church at Corinth.
There were those boasting about themselves and their accomplishments. Their
boasting was designed to fill their pockets. They were trying to see how
much they could get out of the church. Their boasting was motivated by
a Satanic’ jealousy that sought to manipulate others for their own profit.
Then there was Paul who was boasting of a godly jealousy, which was motivated
by the love of Christ. It was a spirit, which sought the benefit of those
within the church. Godly jealousy led him to spend and be spent for the
There was obvious rivalry in the church at Corinth. Faultfinding, petty
strife, and strained relationships were telltale signs. It was poisoning
and paralyzing the spiritual lives of believers. When the famous sculptor
Michelangelo and the painter Raphael were creating works of art to beautify
the Vatican, a bitter spirit of rivalry existed between them. Whenever
they met, they refused to speak to each other. Yet each was supposedly
doing his work for the glory of God. This was typical of what was going
on in Corinth.
Satan's Spirit of Jealousy
The spirit of Satan wants us to question the sincere devotion
of others. Paul speaks of godly jealousy. God is a jealous God,
but his jealousy is motivated in pure devotion for those he loves. We see
God's pure devotion in Eden. God made a perfect world and he was jealousy
guarding the purity of that world when he told Adam and Eve what they couldn't
eat. However, Satan comes along and says, "God knows when you eat of the
forbidden fruit, you will become like God. You will know good and evil."
Satan questioned God's word, he denied God's word and he substituted
it with his own lie.
Satan's spirit of jealousy seeks to lead us away from the purity and
simplicity of Christ. Satan desires to lead us away from a sincere pure
devotion to Christ just as he lead Eve away from her pure devotion to the
command of God in Eden. He leaves us thinking and feeling that we deserve
more or that we have been deprived.
Jealousy motivated by Satan is a powerful emotion that refuses
to tolerate a rival.
2 Corinthians 11:19-20
You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In
fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes
advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. (NIV)
We must be alert to those who desire to enslave us to their way
of thinking. Paul indicates that the Corinthians were willing to
"put up with anyone who enslaves" them.
Religious doctrines and traditions are often formulated to enslave us
to a way of thinking that denies the truth of God's word. Cults are formed
upon the principle of authoritarianism. They seek to instill suspicion
and paranoia as they seek to convince their followers that their way is
the only way.
The Pharisees exemplified this type of thinking. The Pharisee's
jealousy and rage over their traditions sought to enslave others to their
way of thinking. The Pharisees religion degenerated into a cult. They formed
their religious tradition out of the desires of their selfish hearts. It
resulted in being led away from the authority of God, as they became authoritarians.
They were very suspicious of anyone who violated their traditions.
hen some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus
from Jerusalem and asked, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of
the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!" (NIV)
We provoke God to jealousy when we become enslaved to human tradition.
Human tradition is often a disguise to nullify the authority of God for
Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God
for the sake of your tradition? For God said, 'Honor your father and mother'
and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But
you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you
might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,' he is
not to 'honor his father' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for
the sake of your tradition. (NIV)
Their tradition made them feel superior and it blinded them to the purity
of God's love. They had convinced themselves that they were right, but
their hearts were far from God. They were blinded by their own way of thinking.
You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about
you: "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far
from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught
by men.'" (NIV)
It sounded good; it looked great, but there was one problem—their hearts
were out of tune with God's love.
Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen and understand.
What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes
out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.'"
Then the disciples came to him and asked, "Do you know
that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?"
He replied, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not
planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides.
If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit." (NIV)
Likewise, there were those in Corinth questioning Paul's authority.
They claimed that Paul wasn't preaching the real Jesus. They seemed to
think that Jesus was a great teacher, but they seemed to dismiss his crucifixion.
They were preaching another Jesus. Whatever they were teaching about this
other Jesus made the Corinthians question Christ's authority.
2 Corinthians 11:4-6
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. But I do not think I am in the least inferior
to those "super-apostles." I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have
knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. (NIV)
False teachers with a lot of charm and charisma were leading the Corinthians
astray. Their delivery was persuasive and appealing. They wrapped their
deceitful message with impressive charm. Paul wanted them to check the
content of what was being said. Paul refuses to engage in the type of argumentation
that leads to comparing himself with them.
2 Corinthians 10:12-15
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with
some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves
and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however,
will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the
field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you. We are
not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come
to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither
do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. (NIV)
We are in trouble when fools can make us think we are wise.
Paul writes, "You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise!"
There were those in Corinth seeking to enslave believers to their
way of thinking. They were preaching their own version of Christianity.
They thought of themselves as super-apostles. The Corinthians listened
intently to what they said and they were convinced that they were wiser
This resulted in a divisive spirit. It usurped the rights of others.
It became possessive and intolerant. It sought to exclude others through
paranoia as it convinced others that their way was the only way. The results
are obvious as we read the following verses.
1 Corinthians 1:10-17
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no
divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are
quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul";
another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another,
"I follow Christ."
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you
baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any
of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized
into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond
that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send
me to baptize, but to preach the gospel-not with words of human wisdom,
lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (NIV)
Exploitation is also a tactic used by those motivated by Satan's
jealousy. Many in Corinth were using religion as a disguise to exploit
and manipulate believers to take advantage of them. Their greed drove their
need to manipulate.
2 Corinthians 11:7-15
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? I robbed other
churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I
was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for 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. As surely
as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop
this boasting of mine. Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!
And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from
under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the
things they boast about.
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading
as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as
an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade
as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
Teachers in the Greek world were expected to make money out of what
they taught. The culture of the times expected those listening to make
a contribution to the one doing the teaching. If you couldn't teach well
enough to get paid for it, your teaching wasn't worth anything. Paul's
refusal to take money from the Corinthians brought this accusation against
him. However, Paul's refusal to take money was to give weight to what he
said. He wanted them to know that he wasn't out for personal gain.
The selfish exploitation of false teachers becomes abusive. Paul
writes, "In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits
you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in
A selling technique is called the bait-and-switch method. A retailer
entices a person into his store by advertising a well-known product at
a very low price. When the buyer asks to purchase it, however, he is told
that it is out of stock. The proprietor then tries to sell him an inferior
line of merchandise, hoping to pocket a bigger profit. The brand name was
used to gain the customer's confidence and just to get him to put his foot
in the deceiver's door.
In a similar way, false teachers use Biblical words to capture interest
and gain a hearing. They talk about Christ, redemption, the cross, and
the resurrection without believing in their true meaning. These "trusted
terms" amount to nothing more than a come-on. The "seller" employs them
to advertise truths that, as far as he is concerned, are "out of stock."
When an interested person responds, he is confronted by beliefs and behavior
patterns that are completely contrary to God's Word.
False teachers usually diminish their need for accountability.
They become defensive when confronted, and they twist the scriptures to
fit their own lifestyles. They make it appear that all things are lawful
for them. Jim Jones and David Koresh expected sexual favors from their
followers. However, they were forbidding sexual activity of their followers.
2 Corinthians 12:21
I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble
me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier
and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which
they have indulged. (NIV)
These deceitful workers were seeking to convince the Corinthians that
they could have their cake and eat it too.
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
"Everything is permissible for me"-but not everything
is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"-but I will not be mastered
by anything. "Food for the stomach and the stomach for food"-but God will
destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for
the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from
the dead, and he will raise us also. 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! Do you not know that he who unites
himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The
two will become one flesh." But he who unites himself with the Lord is
one with him in spirit.
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits
are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in
you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought
at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (NIV)
God’s Spirit of Jealousy
Paul sees the church as the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22ff). The
church is the bride of Christ, which shall be presented to Christ when
Christ returns in judgment at the end of the world (Revelation 19:1-9).
Godly jealousy provokes Paul as he seeks to guard the purity of the church
at Corinth. His jealousy is not envy rather his jealousy is motivated out
of his concern for the welfare of others.
2 Corinthians 11:1-3
I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness;
but you are already doing that. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.
I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as
a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by
the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere
and pure devotion to Christ. (NIV)
True love is jealous over any rivalry that seeks to lead one away from
the pure love of another. It is motivated from purity of heart.
"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form
of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God,
am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to
the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love
to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.
The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Go and proclaim in
the hearing of Jerusalem:
"'I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride
you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown.
Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest; all who devoured
her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them,'" declares the LORD."
Envy often parades behind the facade of religious zeal. Miriam and Aaron
criticized their brother Moses for marrying an Ethiopian. But God's anger
revealed that it was actually jealousy that prompted their criticism. And
when the apostle Paul was in prison, some people were so envious of the
way God was using him that they preached Christ in order to add to the
apostle's distress. Paul’s motive for teaching the Corinthians was so that
he could present them as a pure virgin to Christ. It’s plain to see that
Paul’s motives were pure.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the
kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters
nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves
nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit
the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed,
you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
and by the Spirit of our God. (NIV)
"Such were some of you" but now Paul wishes to present them as a chaste
virgin to Christ. However, Paul sees the threat to the Corinthians. He
is afraid that Satan will lead them astray.
Those who love freedom seek to guard against whatever threatens
the freedom of others. Paul proved his love for the church by seeking
to protect it from false teachers. Paul's godly jealousy sought to keep
the Corinthians from going astray. He encouraged them to live for Christ.
Paul refused to commend himself as he preached the gospel rather he commended
Godly jealousy is a protective jealousy. Parent's jealousy over their
children seeks to protect them from what is harmful. This type of jealousy
forgets about itself. It is revealed through thoughtfulness for the other.
This is a powerful ceaseless motive straight from the heart of God.
2 Corinthians 5:11-21
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we
try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also
plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you
again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you
can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is
in the heart. If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if
we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ's love compels us,
because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves
but for him who died for them and was raised again.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of
view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore,
if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new
has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the
world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he
has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's
ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore
you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin
to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The false teachers sought to endear themselves to their listeners.
Paul was seeking to endear his listeners to Christ. Paul sought to reconcile
them to God through Christ. He wanted the Corinthians to see God reconciling
the world to himself through the message of the gospel.
False teachers emphasized their strengths endeavoring to persuade their
listeners to place their faith in their teachers. Paul emphasized his weakness
to persuade the Corinthians to place their faith in Christ. Paul's emphasis
was on the power of the risen Christ to overcome his weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:1-6
I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be
gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a
man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.
Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know-God knows.
And I know that this man-whether in the body or apart from the body I do
not know, but God knows- was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible
things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a
man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.
Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would
be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than
is warranted by what I do or say. (NIV)
False teachers sought to rationalize their sins in an effort to live
in sin. Paul faced his sin squarely through the grace of God. Paul rejoiced
in his weaknesses.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly
great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger
of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it
away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my
power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more
gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That
is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,
in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
False teachers forcefully squeeze money out of their listeners. Paul
refused to squeeze charity out of the Corinthians. Paul was like a parent
who was willing to spend and be spent for those he loved. He refused to
burden the church with his personal needs.
2 Corinthians 12:11-18
I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it.
I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior
to the "super-apostles," even though I am nothing. The things that mark
an apostle-signs, wonders and miracles-were done among you with great perseverance.
How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a
burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!
Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I
will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions
but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents,
but parents for their children. So I will very gladly spend for you everything
I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me
less? Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty fellow
that I am, I caught you by trickery! Did I exploit you through any of the
men I sent you? I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with
him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not act in the same spirit
and follow the same course? (NIV)
It is easy to lose our purity and devotion to Christ. Sometimes religion
gets too complicated. The Pharisees tradition had so many rules and regulations
that they lost sight of purity and devotion. When you see things getting
complicated in the church you may need to realize that we might be losing
our purity and devotion. There is simplicity about Christ. Karl Barth was
asked, "What is the greatest theological thought ever that has ever crossed
you mind?" The person expected a complicated answer, but instead he got
this answer, "Jesus loves me this I know." Paul’s motives were simple and
It is easy to lose our devotion and purity. We can become so involved
in certain aspects of Bible study that we lose sight of the simple teaching
of scripture. There are many Bible teachers in our colleges who have a
reputation for scholarship but whose personal lives have lost sight of
the purity and devotion of Christ. They know how to split the finest of
hairs, but they don't know Christ.
We can lose our devotion and purity through the pressures of daily living.
You can get so busy and so worried and so anxious about yourself that you
find yourself losing sight of Christ.
You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship
with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend
of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without
reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? (NIV)