We begin in verse 1 by seeing the Foolishness of Paul: "I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness." Paul was dealing with a difficult situation here. He hated the idea of boasting and the idea that he would have to wow them with who he was and with his amazing abilities had no interest in him. He worried that it would take away from the cross of Christ. Yet this is the exact type of boasting that the super apostles were doing and wowing the people with. If he didn’t resort to their level, if he didn’t defend his apostleship by showing who he was and how God had gifted him, then the super apostles won and this church wouldn’t believe him anymore. But, by boasting, he leaves himself open to the charge of going against his convictions on this and even being called a hypocrite. In his first letter he said that he wouldn’t do this and just preach Christ and him crucified, but then he would now come and boast about himself.
What he does in this first verse is admit he’s going to stoop down to their level, but he’s going to call it what it really is: foolishness. It’s not a good thing to boast. He doesn’t want to do this and yet realizes he must. While he recognizes what matters is not him at all but the Christ whom he serves and who has called him, he must resort to this level of being a fool. He begins to do so later in this chapter, in verse 21. In the second half of this verse, we see how bad it has really gotten in the church of Corinth, "but indeed you are bearing with me". He is saying, "some of you already believe that I am a fool; you are already bearing with me in this." Here we see the dire situation in which Paul is writing: he has to speak like a fool and some already think he is.
But we move from verse 1 and seeing the Foolishness of Paul to seeing in verses 2 and 3 the Concern of Paul. Why does Paul want to defend his ministry? We see in verse 2, "For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy." He loved this church. He had poured himself into establishing this church, and spending time with this church, and serving this church. He was jealous. He cared immensely and deeply for this congregation. And this wasn’t some kind of sinful jealousy as we often think of us having. It’s a godly jealousy, because he loved this church.
We continue in verse two to see that Paul is the church’s spiritual father. "I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin." He uses this imagery of betrothing us to Christ. We don’t have much of this concept of being betrothed anymore. You can date somebody and you can even get married without your parents necessarily knowing. But that’s not the way things happened back then. If one was a father, he essentially arranged for his daughter who her spouse would be and gave his daughter to this person when she was of age. We still have a basic idea of this in wedding ceremonies today. The father walks down with his daughter and gives her to her husband. This is the imagery Paul uses here when he is talking about his relationship to the church. He is giving the bride of Christ to Christ. This is quite a lofty statement. In Hosea 2:18-23, God says that He Himself will betroth His people. So in the Old Testament something that God said He would do is in the New Testament something God’s representatives have done.
Paul as an apostle is acting on behalf of God to God’s people. We see this idea most clearly in Ephesians 2:20, when we see that the church is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone." You see, the reason the church exists is because of the apostles and prophets. It is through their message, it is through their teaching, that we exist. Apart from the apostles, we wouldn’t know the gospel, we wouldn’t believe in Christ, we wouldn’t have a church. Christ wouldn’t have a bride. The apostles are essential for the church, and we are dependent on them. When I think of this idea of betrothal, as a father with two beautiful daughters, I can think of nothing else than wanting to raise my daughters in such a way to where they will remain pure and prepared to where when they will have a spouse, I will be able to in good conscience hand them over to that husband. So it’s easy for me to think about this image and the Apostle Paul and how deeply and how much he loves the church.
While we have been betrothed, the wedding has not yet happened. This is the danger in verse 3, "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." Paul is worried, because in this time of betrothal we can be led astray from our devotion to Christ. The church can be lead astray by Satan. Paul points here to the very first couple—Adam and Eve. We see how Satan got in the way by tempting Eve and hence changing the relationship between husbands and wives for ever. But this points even more towards the damaged relationship between all of humanity and our Creator. We are now in rebellion against God. This is the kind of thing Satan has been doing ever since the Fall with us and our relationship to God. The Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 5:8 says, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." We get this idea of a hungry lion walking around looking for some prey to pounce on. And this is what we must recognize as a constant battle for the church. The gates of hell would like nothing more than to prevail against us. Paul is concerned.
We see here that the first step in being faithful to Christ is to realize our dependence on our spiritual fathers, our dependence on the apostles which are our foundation. Paul, here, is one of our main examples. But we must not only Realize our Dependence on the apostles, we must move to the second step.
posted at 10:45 AM