In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul is writing to Christians who are being led astray. The Corinthians had the gospel. But it seems that some other teachers were coming in with twists on the original. Some others were entering with a proclamation of the amazing, the mysterious, the charismatic. And the Corinthians were letting go of the simple gospel for what looked more exciting.
See Paul’s words to this group:
2 Corinthians 11:1-4 – 1 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 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.
First, see the surface. To turn from the simple gospel to embrace a mystical, exciting, new gospel, that is turning away from Christ. It is like Eve being led astray by the serpent. It is accepting falsehood instead of truth. It is choosing death over life. It is a really bad personal choice.
But don’t miss the metaphor. Paul opens by pointing out that he betrothed the Corinthians like a bride to Christ. These people, collectively, are a part of the bride of Jesus. This is a marriage metaphor. Thus, keeping the metaphor, these people are like a bride turning from their husband for something they find more exciting in a moment of selfish folly.
Do you get the emotional gut punch here? These people, by turning from the gospel of Christ, are similar to an adulterous spouse. Paul, inspired by God, is grabbing what I would say is perhaps the biggest emotional sledgehammer he can and using it to show us the absolute horror of what it is to turn from the true gospel for something else. Whether you have experienced the pain of a cheating spouse or not, can you at least imagine? Can you imagine the utter betrayal you would feel? That feeling, that wrongness, that evil, amped up to infinity because you are turning from the holy God who saved you, that is the image of what it is to have the gospel, and then to walk from it for something else that excites you more for a moment.
The metaphor in this passage is convicting and powerful. The point is simple. There is a human temptation to think that there is something more, something better, something more exciting than the gospel. But when we experience that temptation, it is a lie. It is a lie like the devil told Eve when he helped her believe that there was a great life to be had once she understood evil. It is a lie like the lie that adultery will lead a person to an exciting life that will never fade and never be found out. Believing that we need something more than the gospel of Jesus is a destructive lie that all Christians must guard themselves against. To think that we need something more than Jesus, something more than Scripture, something more than the means of growth that the Lord has given us in his word, that is foolish and dangerous. But it can be very tempting. We want something that will jump us up to a higher level and an easier life. We want the spectacle of new, ultra-dramatic experience. But chasing an experience is not following Christ.
Eve was tempted away from the perfect garden experience to look for something new. A wayward husband or wife buys into a lie that the forbidden affair will somehow be a thrill that never stops. And sometimes people connected to the church are drawn away from rock solid truth by similar lies, lies that promise a new way, an easier way, a more spectacular way. But in truth, we do ourselves damage, great damage, when we let go of the word of God, the simple gospel, and the life of the local church.