2 CORINTHIANS XI. 2, 3.
“For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so poor minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
The faithful apostle’s jealousy was excited in regard to the saints at Corinth, but not with an unjustifiable apprehension of being himself abased in their estimation, but with a godly jealousy. The word is most frequently used in common parlance in a bad sense, as signifying an unreasonable suspicious lack of confidence, cherished without proper grounds; but the anxious solicitude of the apostle was excited lest they of whom he was jealous should suffer from the alluring devices of the old means using serpent who beguiled Eve, and prevailed on her to transgress the command of God. There is indeed a godly jealousy which God approves, out of which he speaks, saying, “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.” – Ex. xx. 5. And as he spake by Moses to the children of Israel, “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” – Exodus xxxiv. 14. And again, “For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” – Deut. iv. 24; v. 9; vi. 15; Joshua xxiv. 19. A godly jealousy, then, is that which is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and free from the pollution of carnality. Although Paul was himself, in the flesh, subject to the passions which are common to others in their fleshly nature, yet as an inspired apostle of the Lord Jesus his jealousy over his brethren was a godly jealousy. He was jealous for the supreme glory of God, and for the most sacred spiritual interests of the cause and people of God, watching with the most untiring vigilance, and faithfully warning them to beware of every seductive spirit and hurtful snare by which their fidelity to Christ might be exposed to danger.
At the very time of writing this letter of admonition, the enemies of the truth were causing disorders in the church, and from the manner of his writing we infer that false apostles and false doctrines and disorderly preachers had been admitted among them, and were drawing them away from the simplicity that is in Christ, to whom alone their allegiance was due, and thus tending to an adulterous departure from their fidelity to Christ their espoused Husband, and an unhallowed alliance with “another Jesus.” For, says he, “I have espoused you to one husband.” The sacredness of the espousal of the church at Corinth applies with equal force to all the churches throughout all time; and with what diligent fidelity should the saints in all ages remember that they are by the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship espoused to but one husband, and that any and every departure from him, and alliance religiously with any other lover, is an abomination which God abhors. But the old serpent, which we are told is the devil and Satan, who beguiled Eve, is constantly watching to beguile unstable souls, and with the plausible insinuation that love is so amiable that you may lavish even your conjugal affections on anything and everything that is presented in the guise of religion, and that you should extend your religious devotion to teachers and doctrines, to institutions and religious societies which the head and husband of the church has given no authority for. Among the artful means employed by the old serpent to beguile the betrothed bride, the Lamb’s wife, is the suggestion that the children of the kingdom may be greatly multiplied by new alliances; and as it is designed to call them all by the name of the Lord, he will not be dishonored, displeased or jealous if we form alliance with the nations which are around about us, especially those of our neighbors who say they have a mind to work for Jesus.
The Corinthians seem to have become enamored by the false teachers which had been allowed to come in among them; and while judging from outward appearances, how soon Paul’s personal appearance became weak, and his speech contemptible to them. And is it not so even now? As soon as false apostles, who transform themselves as ministers of righteousness, are admitted, with their theological plumage of the schools of men, and with the excellency of speech which man’s wisdom teaches, the apostles fall into the background in the estimation of those who are beguiled by them, and are considered quite behind the times. Tauntingly they deride the chaste bride of Christ, saying she must soon become extinct, waiting for the Lord to bring in his sons and daughters, while they can multiply their converts by means within their own power. But theirs are children of the bond-woman, who can never be heirs with the children of the Jerusalem which is above, and is free, who is the mother of all who, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
The favor with which false apostles and deceitful workers were received by the church, and the baneful influence they had gained over the unstable members, excited in Paul a godly jealousy lest they should be diverted from the simplicity that is in Christ, for well he knew that “evil communications corrupt good manners;” and the adulterous tendency of the errors into which they were being led called loudly for severe reproof. Not because he loved them not, but because he did love them, and desired to reclaim and solemnly remind them of their sacred espousal to Christ as their one husband, and their obligation to him to the exclusion of all others in that relation. In his official character, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, he had solemnized their espousal to Christ, as their one and only spiritual husband and Lord, as a chaste virgin, who, renouncing all other lovers, were in their espousal to him and “by one Spirit they were all baptized into one body,” (1 Cor. xii. 13) and “had put on Christ.” – Gal. iii. 26. Any alliance, therefore, with any other than Christ is infidelity to him. To call on any other for spiritual protection, support or comfort, is to dishonor, deny and forsake him. God has said in prophecy to the Gentile church, “Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes.” “For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called.” – Isa. liv. 2, 5. How great and marvelous is that grace with God has bestowed on his redeemed people in Christ Jesus, in calling them by his Spirit from the power of darkness into his marvelous light, and in betrothing them to himself forever in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies, and in faithfulness, and in causing them to know the Lord. – Hosea ii. 19, 20. In this most sacred union with God and the Lamb, the bride, the Lamb’s wife, is brought under the most sacred obligation to love, honor and obey him. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it might be holy and without blemish.” “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” – Eph. v. 22-27, 30, 32.
In view, then, of the great love wherewith God has loved us, even when we were dead in sins, and the sacredness of our marriage relations to Christ, should we not devote our body and spirit a living sacrifice, holy (consecrated and set apart) and acceptable to him, which is our reasonable service, and
“Let every act of worship be
Like our espousal, Lord, to thee;
Like the dear hour when from above
We first received thy pledge of love.”
The qualifying term, godly jealousy, implies the existence of another kind of jealousy which is not godly, and which should be studiously avoided. A jealousy inspired by the fear of the Lord, and a sacred regard for his honor and glory, and for the steadfastness of all the saints in the faith and order of the gospel, is such as the apostle was moved by, and which be denominates godly, in distinction from a perverse, fault finding, suspicious, evil surmising disposition to make a brother an offender for a word, and to magnify the faults of others in order to exalt one’s self. The prophet Elijah on one occasion said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts.” He was not jealous for himself, fearing that some one would excel him; but his jealousy was excited by the abominable idolatry of Israel. “For,” said he, “the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” – 1 Kings xix. 10. A godly jealousy will not only awaken in the saints fearful trembling when false apostles invade the church and beguile unstable souls, when iniquity prevails, and the love of saints grows cold, when the laws and institutions of Christ are neglected, and a lusting after the applause and honors and treasures of the world and of anti-christ causes many to turn away their ears from the truth, and to be turned to fables; but it makes those who possess it very jealous of themselves, lest they should be actuated by some selfish principle or fleshly aspiration, for they have no confidence in the flesh. A godly jealousy is always associated with deep humility in the people of God; while ungodly jealousy generally is coupled with a selfish desire for self-exaltation, and a deplorable inflation of pride and self-esteem. May we be preserved from all ungodliness and worldly lustings, and may the grace of God which bringeth salvation teach us to live soberly and righteously and godly in the present world, and in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.
A godly jealousy, as exemplified in this record of Paul, will lead the watchmen of Zion, and the faithful servants of the Lord Jesus, to beware of men who come to them in sheep’s clothing, while inwardly they are ravening wolves. The espoused husband of the church has warned his bride to beware of them, and he has given them an infallible sign by which they shall be known. By their fruits ye shall know them. They may put on all the external appearance of zeal for the cause, with solemn protestation against error, and seem able to discern motes in the eyes of others, but still be like those whom Paul encountered at Corinth and in Galatia, bewitching the saints, and causing disorders and divisions among the children of God. By their fruits ye shall know them. Try them on their back track, examine what they have been doing in all their former intercourse among the churches of the saints, and you will not have occasion to retrospect them far before you will discover marks of havoc which they have made, in breaking up the harmony of the saints and scattering the flock of Christ. To scrutinize them closely, and learn what have generally been their fruits, will expose their true history. As Paul the aged, who had given such unmistakable demonstration of his calling and apostleship by what he had suffered in defending the truth, in feeding the flock of God, and in espousing them to their one husband, in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft, of the Jews five times he received forty stripes save one, thrice beaten with rods, once stoned, thrice shipwrecked, a night and a day in the deep, in journeying often, in perils of waters, of robbers, of his own countrymen, by the heathen, in the city, in the wilderness, in the sea, and among false brethren, in weariness and painfulness, in watchings, fastings, in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, besides those things that are without of daily recurrence, the care of all the churches; yet with all these evidences of his apostleship he had to encounter those false apostles, who transformed themselves into the apostles of Christ, and by transformation imposed themselves upon the churches as ministers of righteousness, and by them traduced, and made to appear even in the estimation of his brethren as weak, and his speech contemptible.
When we consider what the holy apostles and primitive ministers of the gospel endured, and, above all, what contradiction of sinners against himself the dear Redeemer endured, and read that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse,” is it surprising that those who would at this day live godly in Christ Jesus suffer persecution? But who can so well afford to suffer persecution, and to have their names cast out as evil? If we be sustained by that grace which enabled the apostle to say, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God,” (Acts xx. 24,) then can we in truth say,
“let but his grace my heart renew,
Let sinners gaze and hate me too:
The word that saves us does engage
A sure defense from all their rage.”
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Signs of the Times
Volume 48, No. 18
September 15, 1880