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Conflicting Spirits of Jealousy

Wednesday Bible Study

2 Corinthians 11:1-12:21

Jim Davis

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 church.

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.

Matthew 15:1-2
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 selfish interest.

Matthew 15:3-7
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.

Matthew 15:7-9
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.

Matthew 15:10-14
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 than Paul.

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. (NIV)

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 the face"(v.20).

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.

Exodus 20:4-6
"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. (NIV)

Jeremiah 2:1-3
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." (NIV)

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 Christ.

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. (NIV)

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. (NIV)

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)

Conclusion:

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 pure.

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.

James 4:4-6
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)

 

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