September 20, 2020 Engaged to Christ

Engaged to Christ

Our scripture reading this morning is 2 Corinthians 11:1-4.

 

In the previous chapter, Paul was defending his ministry. He will continue this defense, including his apostleship, in this chapter and the next. Even though he had brought to their attention the self-praise of the opposers, he now must engage in some himself. But it is not for his own sake, but for the sake of the Corinthian believers for whom he cares. Because he must write about his own credentials, he calls it “foolishness.” It is not actually foolishness because everything he writes is true. But, it will appear to be so.

 

He feels a divine jealousy for them. Jealousy can be a sin or it can be a virtue. When it is selfishly motivated it is wrong (e.g., simply desiring more attention or more possessions). When it is motivated by what is best for another it is right (e.g., it is best for us to love Christ above all other things).

 

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.[1]

 

Paul betrothed the Corinthians to Christ. He did this when he presented the gospel to them and they accepted it. A betrothal, of course, is akin to our modern engagement. When a person repents of their sin and believes in Christ, they become engaged to Christ. Paul was disturbed because he desired that the Corinthians remain pure for Christ.

 

There is going to be a wedding one day. We, as the betrothed ones, must keep ourselves pure for Christ. Are you keeping yourself pure?

 

There was a prince of a European kingdom in the Middle Ages. His father, the king, was aged and it wouldn’t be long before the prince would receive the throne. He was a good prince. Not only was he of high moral character but he had proven himself in battle to be a brave man and a defender of the kingdom. He had a great deal of charisma and was considered by all to be handsome.

The prince had met two young ladies over the course of time. Lady Arabelle was the daughter of a Duke whom he had met at the king’s banquet. He had gotten to know her and found her to be both a charming, warm, and humble young lady. He had also met Monica, a commoner, at a festival in the kingdom where he had won an archery contest. She was his main competitor. It was odd enough that a woman was competing in archery, but she was an excellent archer and he narrowly won. Afterwards, they spoke and he found her to be delightful and graceful. As he came to know her, he found himself attracted to her.

The prince grew weary of being alone and thought it was time for him to find a wife and more fully prepare himself to be king. But he knew not who to choose. He was seemingly attracted equally to both Arabelle and Monica. He spent more time with each, but this did not help him to choose. He found both virtuous and a pleasure to be with.

Monica was having the same problem. There was a young man whom she had known since childhood, Rupert the carpet salesman, that was seeking her hand in marriage. She was attracted to him and thought that he might be the one before she had met the prince.

The prince had finally decided and, at a festivity to which Monica was invited, he proposed to her. She gladly and joyously accepted. It was like a dream come true. She loved the prince and looked forward to the glorious wedding day. In the meantime, Rupert learned about the betrothal and asked Monica if he could speak with her. They went on a long walk in the forest and he told her of his great love for her. She knew he liked her but she didn’t know how strong his feelings for her were. They kissed. They embraced. And then he seduced her.

She knew she had done something terribly wrong. Not only was it against the law of God and the mores of society, but she had been unfaithful to the prince. She wrestled with her conscience. Should she tell him or not? She realized that she had to tell him for, if she did not, he would find out on their wedding day.

When she told him he not only did the right thing, but the only thing he could have done as the standard bearer of the kingdom. He called off the betrothal.

Monica married Rupert. They were not happy. She always had deep regrets for casting away the prince whom she loved and who would have showered her with blessings. Rupert sold his carpets which brought in little income and they lived in poverty.

The prince married Arabelle. He found her to be everything he had hoped for in a wife. They loved one another and lived happily ever after. In the course of time, the prince became king and Arabelle the queen.

How had Monica squandered such a blessed opportunity? It is because she had not remained pure. Purity is not only the calling of God before marriage, but it has been the expectation and standard in every society that has upheld God’s law as their guiding principle, from Europe through most of its history to America until recent times. Sexual purity is written on our consciences. Even nations and cultures with little biblical influence hold this standard of purity. For example, both Japan and China expect their brides to remain pure before marriage and it is considered a dishonor if it is not so.

We have become betrothed to Christ. Now we must remain pure for him. Earlier in this letter you will remember that Paul wrote this:

 

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. [2]

 

You may also remember that a person’s face becomes unveiled when they turn their hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ. That is, when they turn from sin and submit to His Lordship. When a person does this they are able to see the glory of the Lord. Paul, in 3:18, is mainly referring to the moral glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Before a person is regenerated by the Spirit of God, the moral glory of the Triune God frightens them. People are running from God until the Spirit begins to work upon their hearts. Once a person is born again, they love the glory of God because they know their own sins have been forgiven and they seek to be more like the one they love.

 

In verse 18 Paul wrote that we are being transformed “from one degree of glory to another.” Everyone who has been born from above has a measure of glory already. You may not think so. You may think that you are so bad off that you have no glory at all. But Paul says otherwise.

 

  • If you belong to Christ, then your sins are forgiven.
  • If you belong to Christ, then you are already in his invisible kingdom.
  • If you belong to Christ, then you have the righteousness of Christ applied to you already.
  • If you belong to Christ, your desire is to please him, even if you fail often.

 

Since all these things are true, you have a measure of glory already. Your measure of glory may be small. So, the Lord is going to take you from the small measure you have to a greater measure of glory.

 

Paul is speaking of the moral glory of the Lord. Here in chapter 11, when the apostle presents the church “as a pure virgin,” the purity is first moral. We must keep ourselves sexually pure. We must be pure in all our conduct. This means we speak the truth. This means that we do not gossip. This means that we live reflecting the glorious life of our Lord.

 

We live this way by the Spirit. That is how the apostle ended 3:18 – “For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

 

We remain pure by the indwelling Spirit!

 

But the Lord has also called us to live in purity of doctrine. Some Christians get uncomfortable when the subject of doctrine comes up. This is because they know that Christians often argue about doctrine and will sometimes divide over doctrine. Indeed, division is a sin. But the solution to division is not to avoid doctrine. The solution is to not allow doctrines to divide us. That is, we are charitable towards one another by remaining in spirit and not walking in the flesh. (I do not refer to the essential[3] doctrines, such as the gospel itself, the virgin birth, and the divine inspiration of Scripture, among others; but to non-essential doctrines which includes most things that Christians squabble over.)

 

In fact, this is Paul’s primary thought with respect to being purely devoted to Christ:

 

But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.[4]

 

In these two verses we see four matters that can lead us astray from a sincere and pure devotion to our Bridegroom. These four things are:

 

  • A deception by the serpent, the devil.
  • A different Jesus.
  • A different spirit.
  • A different gospel.

 

I tell you, nothing has changed in 2000 years! These same four snares defile the Bride of Christ now just as they did in the first century. Three of these four snares are doctrinal. Paul thought doctrine was important.

 

How did the serpent deceive Eve? He tempted her to question God’s word!

 

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” [5]

 

The first words spoken to a human by Satan were, “Did God actually say?” The devil tempted Eve to question three things: what God said, the truth of what he said, and why God said it. Notice he twisted what God had actually said. There was only one tree in the garden that God had forbidden, not “any tree.” Then, even though God had said that the first couple would die if they ate of the tree, the serpent said they would not die in verse 4. He directly contravened God’s word. Lastly, he impugned God’s motive for giving the command in verse 5.

 

Eve fell into the devil’s temptation. She doubted God’s word. This is the same strategy that he continues to use, even against God’s own people. He will cause some to misconstrue what God has said. If that doesn’t work, he will cause some to doubt the truth of what God has said. Finally, he will cause some to question God’s motive for giving a command. Don’t fall for it!

 

Make sure you understand what is actually being said by a biblical author. Second, know that Scripture is inspired and infallible. Jesus believed them to be. He said, “the Scripture cannot be broken (Matthew 10:35).” Third, know that all of God’s commands are for our good, our happiness, and our contentment.

 

Knowing the divine inspiration of Scripture is a doctrine.

 

Paul said that the Judaizers had preached another Jesus. The Jesus that the Judaizers preached was the Messiah but he was not God manifest in the flesh. The Judaizers had a very defective view of who Jesus was. There are some today who, similarly, do not believe that Jesus is divine. The Jehovah Witnesses teach that he is only an angel, a created being. They have another Jesus. The cult known as Igelsio Ni Cristo, originating in the Philippines, teach that Jesus was only a man. They have another Jesus. Mormons teach that Jesus is the brother of Satan. The Mormons have another Jesus.

 

Knowing that Jesus is the divine and eternal Son of God is a doctrine.

 

Paul said that the Corinthians had been listening to a different gospel. What was the gospel that the Judaizers were bringing? It was a mixture of faith and works. The Judaizers were infesting many churches in the apostolic era. In Galatians, Paul calls this gospel a distorted gospel and a contrary gospel and he calls those who promote it false brothers. He even curses them! Here, in Corinthians 11, he calls it a false gospel. Any gospel that says you must have faith and some of your own goodness is a false gospel.

 

yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. [6]

 

A person is saved simply by trusting in Christ. Your good works are nothing but filthy rags before the eyes of God (Isaiah 64:6). Why? Because you are a filthy rag! I am a filthy rag. And what comes out of a filthy rag is just another filthy rag.

 

There are two great errors that a person can make regarding the gospel. One is to think that our good works have something to do with God accepting us. The other is that our good deeds do not reveal true faith. Anyone who thinks that our obedience to the Lord is optional after coming to faith is deceived. Genuine faith always results in a changed life that desires to obey the Lord. But, never put the cart before the horse. The reason that we fulfill the law of God after conversion is because we are empowered to do so by the Spirit.

 

When a person does not care what the Lord says about a matter, in other words, when they knowingly do not obey the Lord, then they give evidence that they have not been born again (I John 3:6-9).

 

Both errors abound in our day just as they did in Paul’s day. The mixture of faith and works is the gospel promoted by Roman Catholicism. It is also promoted by the Church of Christ. (Because the so-called Restoration Movement – “Churches of Christ” and “Christian Churches” – stress the autonomy of local congregations, you will find many that do teach the grace of God correctly. But probably most place works before salvation.)

 

Sadly, there are large segments of evangelicalism that still teach an easy-believism gospel. Or, forgiveness-only gospel. All you have to do is agree to some facts about Jesus and you are saved. That is also a false gospel.

 

See then, that the gospel that we believe has doctrinal content.

 

Lastly, there was a different spirit that the Judaizers exhibited. This different spirit is not doctrinal. Rather it is a matter of life. The spirit that comes with the true gospel brings the enjoyment of God. The spirit that comes with a false gospel brings oppression. It is a spirit of slavery (Gal. 2:4).

 

Brothers and sisters, we have become engaged to Christ! We must keep ourselves pure! We must keep our lives pure. We must remain chaste for our Bridegroom. We must keep ourselves untouched by the cunning seeds of doubt sown by the serpent, even today, regarding God’s word. We hold to the teaching of the apostles. That is:

 

  • we do not doubt God’s word as Eve did.
  • We reject a different Jesus.
  • We reject a different gospel.
  • And, we enjoy the Lord with a fresh spirit.

 

You are engaged! Will you be like Monica and fail in your sincere and pure devotion to your Groom? Or, will you be like Arabelle and find your deepest longing for the One you love to be fulfilled one day? Will you rule and reign with the Prince as Arabelle did? Let us keep ourselves pure by the Spirit we possess!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 11:2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 3:18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] That is to say, essential for salvation.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 11:3–4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 3:1). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ga 2:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.