"For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully." Paul shows us how Satan deceives us here--how believers are led away from Christ. He shows three foundational ways that the church can be led away from being devoted to Christ.
The first way he gives is one that "preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached." Now because we do not know much about these super apostles, we don’t know exactly what they were saying about Jesus or what they were holding up for "Jesus." There is a lot of speculation that goes on out there, but the main thing we see here is that this Jesus is not the one whom they have preached. Somehow, Jesus was being distorted. Whatever they were saying about Him was not what the apostles had taught about him. He was a different Jesus.
He also says they "receive a different spirit which you have not received." Now this spirit could possibly refer to a human attitude, say the spirit of peace. But I think it is more likely that the spirit here refers to the Holy Spirit, and what they are doing here is perverting this idea of the Spirit. They are looking for something other than the Holy Spirit of God.
They also receive "a different gospel which you have not accepted." This is what it all comes down to, isn’t it? Because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, apart from the gospel there is no salvation. There is no church. Yet they are hearing now a different gospel and this so important to Paul that he said in Galatians 1:8, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" Paul is including himself and even the angels in this condemnation! He is saying that they should be damned if we do not preach the true gospel because the gospel must remain pure.
Yet the last part of this verse is the worst, because after hearing about them having one that preaches another Jesus and receiving another spirit and receiving a different gospel we read "you bear this beautifully." The Corinthian church is allowing this deception to go on and they’re beginning to buy into it. This problem is growing and festering within this congregation and Paul can’t allow it.
I stop for a second and I think, "this Corinthian church is just horrible." I’m sure many of us have read through these letters numerous times and we see problem after problem after problem. This is a horrible situation! But what in the world does this have to do with us today? We’re not the Corinthian church. Last I knew, Pastor Todd wasn’t getting up here and preaching another gospel. But I really don’t think we’re that different.
Do we accept those who preach another Jesus? Most of you know I’m a former Mormon. A well-known Mormon scholar at Brigham Young University is named Robert Millet, and he’s recently written a book called A Different Jesus? In this book, he’s comparing the Latter-day Saints' understanding of Jesus with the evangelical (or the historic) Christian view of Jesus. And in this book Richard Mouw, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary—an evangelical Christian institution—writes at the end: “I think any open-minded Christian reader of this book will sense that Bob Millet is in fact trusting in the Jesus of the Bible for his salvation. That is certainly my sense” (183). Here’s a president of a Christian school saying the Jesus the Mormons worship is the Jesus of the Bible.
But we don’t have to go out to California for this problem. We can go to our local bookstore. How many of you have heard of Phillips, Craig, and Dean? Phillips, Craig, and Dean are all ordained ministers in a sect that explicitly denies the Trinity. And yet they continue to sell millions of albums because we love their worship music and their rendition of Gal 2:20 moves us. A different Jesus.
Well, what about a different spirit? I had a co-worker at Starbucks who at one point came up to me and wanted to talk to me about a conversation she had with another co-worker who was a young homosexual man. She had engaged this co-worker with some spiritual issues and the co-worker had eventually brought up the thorny issue of homosexuality. Now what she told me was, "Personally John, I can’t support that, I can’t get into that. But I knew of somebody I should suggest he go see." Then she said, "I suggested he go see a lesbian charismatic Catholic." And the reason he should go see a lesbian charismatic Catholic is because she knew this Catholic was filled with the Holy Spirit. I have to admit to you I don’t know very many lesbian charismatic Catholics. But if there is one thing I am pretty certain of, it is that the Holy Spirit of God is not in them. A different spirit.
Well, what about a different gospel? A book came out last year, Is The Reformation Over? In this book, two evangelical scholars, Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, say the following, "...on the substance of what is actually taught about God's saving work in the world, if not always on the exact terminology used to describe that saving work, many evangelicals and Catholics believe something close to the same thing. If it is true, as once was repeated frequently by Protestants conscious of their anchorage in Martin Luther or John Calvin that ... justification is the article on which the church stands or falls, then the Reformation is over" (232). What these scholars are saying is that evangelicals and Roman Catholics believe something so close together that the Reformation is over. We hold to the same gospel. We’re brothers and sisters in Christ, in spite of the fact that since the Council of Trent they have condemned justification by faith alone.
A different Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel. Brothers and sisters in Christ: we are the Corinthian church! And we need to hear these words of Paul today more than ever. We need to recognize the danger we are continually in. So this evening we began by Realizing our Dependence and we continue by Recognizing the Danger but there is one more step that Paul gives us.
posted at 11:30 AM