SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 10 October 2021
Sermon Text: 2 Corinthians 11:1-6
I. “A different gospel”
II. A readily acceptance of a different gospel
III. The deception of a different gospel
IV. Recovering “a sincere and pure devotion to Christ”
Let me sum up today’s passage in a few words and that is this: ‘Please, my dear, come back to your senses!’ As if a father who had betrothed his daughter to her husband-to-be would do, Paul the Apostle urges the Corinthian Christians to wake up from their wrongs and come back to senses, and be once again faithful to their dear Lord Jesus and His gospel.
Saying this in today’s passage, the Apostle Paul seems to be extremely alarmed, anxious and distressed. In v. 1., he says this: “I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me!” Saying ‘a little foolishness’ and ‘bear with him,’ he means that he’s going to ‘play’ with them a bit, speaking to them as if they were a child or daughter of his. He’s saying, ‘You know I’ve betrothed you to your husband and you’re married; then, how come you go out with someone who is not your husband?’ He continues and says that those Corinthian Christians have almost, if not thoroughly, forgotten about their married status as well as their duty toward their husband. That’s what he means when he says in v. 3, “I am afraid that … your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
The point is that churches in our generation are exactly in this position of those believers in Corinth to whom the apostle says, “I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness”! That’s because we’ve also gone astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. In a word, we – Christians of the 21st century – have gone out with strangers rather than remaining faithful to our one and only husband, Jesus Christ.
Continuing from last Lord’s Day, the theme we’ll consider today is ‘faith and devotion.’ Together with you, I want to think about our faith. I want to ponder our devotion to Christ our Lord. Then, how we can be faithful again to Jesus, and have a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
I. “A DIFFERENT GOSPEL”
So, let’s begin with whom the modern Christians and churches go out, being unfaithful to our one and only husband, the Lord Jesus. This is what the apostle means in v. 4 by such terms as ‘another Jesus,’ ‘a different spirit’ and ‘a different gospel.’
First of all, we have gone out with ‘another Jesus.’ This ‘Jesus’ is a different Jesus from the One the Bible, the Word of God, reveals and testifies. A Jesus whose origin is not from God the Father is ‘another Jesus’; a Jesus whose nature is not of God, but of man is ‘another Jesus,’ whose life and ministry are not of the only Saviour of the world is ‘another Jesus.’ Jehovah’s witnesses talk about a Jesus who is not God but a man created by God, and that Jesus is ‘another Jesus.’ Mormons say that Jesus was and is a god among many gods, and surely they’re talking about ‘another Jesus.’
But, surprisingly and unfortunately, there are Christians who talk about and believe in ‘another Jesus.’ As they claim, their Jesus loves people and saves them, not asking sinners to repent of their sins. Surely, that Jesus is ‘another’ or ‘different’ Jesus whereas the Jesus of the Bible began His earthly ministry by preaching the very message He had received from His Father, saying, as recorded in Mk. 1:15, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel”! The Saviour of the Bible saves through forgiveness of sin and faith, not through faith that does not require repentance – which is a superficial faith, after all.
Likewise, if anyone says that the Holy Spirit allows him any specific sins, such as homosexuality or theft or arbitrary interpretation of God’s word, just to name a few, he is talking about a ‘different spirit’ than the Holy Spirit of the Bible. If anyone understands the Holy Spirit like the way the famous Star Wars movie fans recite and say, ‘May the force be with you,’ that person is after ‘a different spirit’ than the Holy Spirit who is the third Person in the Godhead.
Yet, again, it is truly sad that many Christians misunderstand who God the Holy Spirit is and, either consciously or unconsciously, go after ‘a different spirit.’ Some Christians consider the Holy Spirit as a kind of a ‘genie of the lamp.’ They seek the Holy Spirit to grant them special gifts like wealth, fame or health; some others seek from the Holy Spirit a special power to perform various kinds of miracles. It is true that many believers often doubt the presence of the Holy Spirit in and with them, but as they grow in faith, they understand and realise more and more that the Spirit of God indwells them always, never leaving them alone. But, if anyone disagrees the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit with believers or disbelieves the Holy Spirit’s work of guiding and carrying believers all the way to eternal glory, that person is not with the Holy Spirit of the Bible, but with ‘a different spirit.’
What about ‘a different gospel’? A ‘different’ gospel is of salvation by works. Saying, ‘a sinner can earn his/her way to heaven by doing good works and accumulating merits’ is a different gospel. Also, claiming that one’s salvation is guaranteed by ‘being a member of a group of God’s special blessing’ is a ‘different’ gospel. The true gospel of Jesus Christ that we’ve heard and received declares that salvation is by Christ alone, through faith alone and by grace alone. Any message that does not agree with this is a different and false gospel.
II. A READILY ACCEPTANCE OF A DIFFERENT GOSPEL
Explaining this to the Corinthian Christians, the Apostle Paul is shocked and stunned by their attitude toward a different gospel, a false message delivered by false teachers. They not only listened to them, but also accepted them! Listen to the apostle in v. 4, “you put up with it readily enough”! Willingly and gladly they accepted another Jesus, a different gospel, a different spirit, and that shocked the apostle.
In fact, this is not the only place we perceive the apostle’s frustration. The churches in the region of Galatia did the same. In Gal. 1:6, Paul speaks, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting [God] who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.” We read about a similar case from 1 Tim. 1:3 – there, Paul urges Timothy regarding the Ephesian church and says this, “As I urged you …, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.” In a word, even in the time of the apostles, Christians and churches opened their ears to false teachings, or ‘heresies’ in another word. So, with the Spirit of God and in the name of Jesus Christ who has purchased them with His blood, the apostle is upset and angry toward Christians and churches who have willingly accepted false messages!
The same has taken place within the churches of the 21st century. I say this to you, not to discourage you, but to help you open your spiritual eyes wide, and see and know the current address of churches. If you and I are not awake but remain in spiritual slumber, we’d surely be one of many churches who follow the way of churches in Corinth as well in Galatia.
Then, why do people readily accept a different gospel? What are the causes? I think of two possible reasons. Firstly, some Christians have never learned or not fully learned what the true gospel of Jesus is about from the beginning. Maybe because of the church they began did not teach the true biblical gospel, being not keen on teaching the truth of Jesus’ salvation. Maybe because their churches teach a different gospel, they have no choice but hear a false one.
Whereas this first possibility would be an extreme case, the other cause is widespread – that is, many Christians are not really interested in remaining in the message of the true gospel, let alone deepening their knowledge on Jesus and His teaching. If one doesn’t grow in faith, if one is not watchful, the prowling and roaring lion – the devil – waits to deceive him/her with his lie.
III. THE DECEPTION OF A DIFFERENT GOSPEL
How is one deceived? How does the devil cheat any believer with his lie? The apostle answers to this question in v. 3 of our text passage, saying this: “as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning.” From what happened with our first parents in the garden of Eden, we have the answer for how the devil deceives any Christian. The devil does not have any interest in the unbelievers because they’re already under his lie. But his eyes are fixed on believers and followers of Jesus, waiting for his chance.
With what happened in the garden, we’re informed, by the mercy and grace of God, of the way the devil deceives. It’s in three steps. Firstly, ‘questioning God’s word.’ The devil helps people to raise their eyebrows and question God’s word. In the garden, he helped Eve to do this, saying, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Of course, God had said they should not eat of the fruit of a specific tree in the garden. Asking this question, the serpent was within the boundary of God’s word. But he twisted God’s word so that Eve could see it differently.
Questioning itself is not at all wrong – if you’re curious to know God’s will from His word, that’s a good and right thing. However, if questioning God’s word is to measure it with any man’s own measure or to judge it with one’s own standard, that is absolutely wrong and sinful. Such is the seed of the devil’s deception sown in man’s heart.
Out of many examples, one is this that some people question and say, ‘Does God actually know everything?’ Their question is not to know who God is, but to measure Him with their own intelligence, and judge Him with their own standards. Likewise, many other questions have been asked – ranging from Genesis to Revelation – ‘Did God actually create the whole things in 6 literal days? Did God actually deliver Israel through drying the waters of the Red Sea? Was Jesus actually born of the virgin Mary? Was He actually existent in a fleshly body? Is salvation actually by faith alone?’ and so on and on and on.
Immediately, the devil pushes those who question God’s word to the next step, that is, ‘denying God’s word.’ The serpent said to Eve in the garden, “You will not surely die” which was exactly the opposite of God’s word, “You shall surely die.” So, we hear from all directions that people say, pointing out various parts of God’s word, ‘No, this is not right; that is not true.’
Then, the ultimate final step comes, that is, ‘substituting God’s word.’ Once questioned, then, denied, people readily substitute God’s word and say, ‘No, God created the world in millions or billions of years, yet, He simply and figuratively said 6 days; No, Israel did not walk through the Red Sea, but a reed sea or swamp; Yes, unlike Paul’s time, in this day and age, women can teach and exercise authority over men in church; yes, salvation is not only by faith alone, but also by faith and works; no, God did not elect only some to salvation, but will save all people disregarding their disbelief’; etc, etc.
In this way, God’s word has been questioned, denied and substituted! In other words, many have been deceived by the ancient serpent who did trick our common parents, Adam and Eve! Today’s Christians and churches face the exact same deception, and such is, according to the apostle’s term, a different gospel of another Jesus, of a different spirit.
IV. RECOVERING “A SINCERE AND PURE DEVOTION TO CHRIST”
My fellow members of Christ’s church, we cannot be deceived by the devil and readily accept a false Christ, a false doctrine. We cannot do that because God called us through the blood of our Lord Jesus as 1 Thess. 4:7 testifies, saying, “God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.” In today’s text passage, we hear the same message from this expression, “a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
A betrothed bride is the picture that clearly and perfectly portrays who we are and for what we’re called. We ought to be sincere to Jesus; we ought to remain pure before our Groom; our eyes should always be on Him alone and our hearts should always be joyful because of Him alone. If the bride isn’t faithful to her groom, what else, after all, would be there other than mourning and sorrow and tears and gnashing of teeth?
Paul employs here a picture of a father and his betrothed daughter, and the father sees a big trouble of his daughter. So, biting his nails and groaning for his beloved, he urges his daughter to come back to her senses, and be once again faithful to her love. This is, in fact, what Jesus does in His Spirit for His church and all in her! He urges us to recover our ‘sincere and pure devotion to Christ.’ Not only remaining, but also growing in our sincerity and purity to Jesus Christ is the guaranteed blessing of God, being happy in Jesus. So, let us recover our first love for our Lord Jesus and fix our eyes on Him only.
How do we do this? Leave from our own ideas, notions or theories; leave the opinions or views or ways of this world; and go back to God’s word and listen to the voice of our Heavenly Father and His only Son, our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ. Follow the teaching of the Holy Spirit and thankfully follow His guidance. This is the only way and it is the blessed way! ***