A Leader’s Godly Jealousy

ii corinthians jars of clay
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A Leader's Godly Jealousy
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A Leader’s Godly Jealousy

II Corinthians 11:1-6

              Jealousy is a powerful emotion or passion. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 27:4, “Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” Think about that. Anger and fury are violent emotions that often lead to bodily harm, but Solomon says jealousy is worse.

              Just what is jealousy? Often, we use it as a synonym for envy. But they’re not the same. Envy usually has to do with something we want that someone else has. It could be their wealth, something they own, a skill they possess, a relationship they enjoy, or maybe even their physical attractiveness. Envy and covetousness are closely related.

              On the other hand, jealousy has more to do with us trying to protect what is ours. Cain was jealous of Abel because God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s. Leah and Rachel were jealous of each other and of Jacob’s affection and attention. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of their father’s special love for their younger brother. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were jealous of the crowds that thronged around Him. In each case, the jealous ones saw their opponents as trying to take from them what was, in their minds, rightfully theirs.

              Normally, when we hear the word jealousy, we immediately have a negative reaction to it. And rightly so. But did you know that jealousy can also be a good thing? Interestingly enough, it is in the Bible that we find this word used in a positive sense.

              In a variety of Old Testament Scriptures, we see the jealousy of God for the hearts of His people. In Deuteronomy 5:9 God states his reason why He prohibited the children of Israel from making any image to worship. He said “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…?

              And why was God jealous? The central meaning of the Hebrew word, quana [quinna],relates to jealousy in the context of marriage. Because marriage causes two people to become one flesh, adultery is a severing of the body – a form of murder. That’s why, in the Old Testament, the penalty for adultery was death. God depicts Himself as Israel’s husband, so idolatry is spiritual adultery and merits death. God was jealous in His love for His people, and He judged them harshly when they left him for other lovers. And yet, through all their unfaithfulness, He still loved them. This is amply illustrated in the book of Hosea.  

              But God loved the children of Israel perfectly and He desired their love in return. His love for them wasn’t based on their goodness or greatness; instead, it was based on His love for them and the promises He had sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God wanted them to be a people uniquely His, just as a husband or wife wants their spouse to be uniquely theirs. It is a special relationship to be shared with no others.

              In the text for our consideration, Second Corinthians 11:1 to 6, we will see the positive usage of this word. So, listen carefully as I read the text, and then we will discuss it under the title, “A Leader’s Godly Jealousy.”

            This text shows us the necessary RESPONSES of a godly leader when his people are being lured into unfaithfulness.

The First RESPONSE (of a leader’s godly jealousy) is,

            He Defends the Purity of His Motives

            In chapter ten, after a lengthy discussion on giving, Paul resumed the defense of his apostolic ministry. It’s not something he’s comfortable with but he feels forced into it by his critics. We must read between the lines somewhat to discover exactly what his detractors were accusing him of. It is important for us to understand that Paul isn’t defending himself for his own sake, but for the sake of the pure Gospel of Christ.

            Paul opens the chapter by begging his readers to indulge him a little in his foolishness. What foolishness? The foolishness is his word for boasting, actually a recitation of the facts, in order to vindicate his apostolic authority to those at Corinth.  

              The primary motivation for Paul’s ministry in Corinth wasn’t his ego. It wasn’t his desire for the praise of men or earthly fame. It wasn’t to protect his reputation. His motivating desire was to present the Corinthian church to Christ as an undefiled virgin. So he says, “I am jealous for you with a jealousy God inspires [in me].” This is the positive meaning of jealousy I talked about in my opening comments. It includes the idea of being zealous, to have a warmth of feeling toward someone. Paul had a deep and fervent love for Christ and for the church at Corinth.

              He uses imagery, common in the Jewish practice of that time, of the friend of the bridegroom. He shares the bridegroom’s jealousy for the purity of the bride. Today, it may be a father guarding the purity of his daughter. When John the Baptist was being questioned about who he was he said, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore, this joy of mine is fulfilled.” Paul was taking that role. Unlike his accusers, he wasn’t in Corinth to steal the bride but to protect her and to help her remain pure and faithful to her bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ.

              Further, Paul says “I have espoused you, or betrothed, or promised you to one husband.” In a sense, Paul was the matchmaker, he was the one who had brought the Corinthians and Christ together. The word espoused or promised is harmodzo, a fitting together. It is used in Greek classic literature of a carpenter’s work. It is also used for arranging music or tuning an instrument, or fitting clothing or armor. It describes something well-planned and well-fitted.

              Later, in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for herto make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” That was Paul’s motivation for his godly jealousy over the church at Corinth, a pure and radiant bride for Christ!  

              This is an important point for all who are in positions of spiritual leadership today. Our primary motive for ministry must NOT be the desire to protect our position or our reputation or anything else. Instead, our primary motivation must be to present the church as a holy and blameless bride to the Lord Jesus! That is what we will give an account for.

              That will only be successful if we pay careful attention to this next response.  

The Next RESPONSE (of a leader’s godly jealousy) is,

            He Defends the Purity of His Message

              Paul was deeply concerned about this rival teacher in Corinth who was preaching another Jesus which Paul hadn’t preached. He was promoting another spirit other than the Holy Spirit of God. He was proclaiming a different gospel than the one Paul embraced.

              In verse 4, in the KJV, the translators use the word other 3 times. The NKJV uses other for the first occasion, and different, for the final two. This may not seem like a big deal to us, but there are two different words used in the original text. They are allos and heteros. Let me explain because this is important to our understanding of this text.  

              When Paul spoke of another Jesus [allos], it wasn’t necessarily a different kind of Jesus, just another one, an addition. But any claim of another denies the uniqueness of Jesus’ identity. There can only be ONE true Jesus.

              Then, Paul mentions another Spirit and another gospel. Here, the word is heteros. This word is different from allos in that it signifies something of a different kind. Heteros denies the similarity of the nature of the Spirit and the similarity of the nature of the Gospel.

              This prominent teacher in Corinth was teaching about a Spirit and a gospel that were qualitatively different, different in kind than the Spirit and Gospel Paul preached. In Acts 4:12, in Peter’s address to the Sanhedrin, he proclaims Jesus as the chief cornerstone and says, “Nor is there salvation in any other [allos] (we could say, another), for there is no other [heteros](kind of) name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

            In verse 3, Paul expresses his fear that the Corinthians would be completely deceived just as Mother Eve had been deceived by the craftiness of the serpent. This deception would be introduced through their thought processes. Their thought processes would be impacted by the false teaching that was being promoted. Paul was concerned that their spiritual perception would become clouded, and they would be led astray from the simplicity they had in Christ.

            Remember, there were two main sources of false teaching in Corinth. The Judaizers were the most well-known. They embraced Christ but also demanded adherence to some parts of the Mosaic Law. The other group was the Docetists. They were largely influenced by Greek philosophy and denied the humanity of Jesus as well as His bodily resurrection. Both of these groups rejected the simplicity of the Gospel.

            Deception and false teaching are rampant in our world today. Anyone with a smartphone can promote their twisted interpretations of Scripture on a plethora of media platforms; YouTube, TikTok, Spotify, etc., etc. Teachers with a lot of charisma, good storytellers, and those who claim special revelation directly from God all vie for the hearts and minds of viewers and listeners.

            The apostle Peter, writing about the end of the age, mentioned these kinds of false teachers. “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” They twist not just the difficult parts, but ALL the Scriptures!

            Godly leaders must jealously guard those under their spiritual care by defending the purity of their message. It is Christ, and Christ alone, who saves and keeps us. We must remind our people of the truth in I Thessalonians 5:12 and 13. “And we urge you, brethren, to know those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.” You know very little, if anything, about the teacher you watch or listen to online. Be careful, check things out!

The Final RESPONSE (of a leader’s godly jealousy) is,

            He Defends the Purity of His Ministry

            In the opening verse of this text, Paul asked the Believers in Corinth to tolerate his foolish boasting about his ministry. In verse 5, he sarcastically reminds them that he is not inferior in any way to the “greatest apostles.” He isn’t referring to the genuine apostles, but to the false apostles who had so much influence in Corinth.

            Paul is indignant that those whom he had brought to Christ would compare him in a disparaging way with other supposed super-apostles. I don’t see any self-assertion or self-promotion in Paul’s words, just grief at the evil consequences of his detractors. With an utter sense of distaste, Paul is forced to speak the simple truth. No one else had been as zealous or energetic in the proclamation of the Gospel. And he was appointed directly by God and Jesus to be the apostle to the Gentiles.

            Paul admits that he doesn’t have the rhetorical skills of a man like Apollos. He was, in the eyes of his critics, rude (idiotes) and unlearned in speech. His discourse didn’t follow the rules of art or craft. But whatever Paul may have supposedly lacked in speaking ability, he more than made up for with conviction and emotion. These resulted from his intimate acquaintance with Christ Himself. Paul knew the things of Christ from personal experience and he willingly and selflessly made those things plain to whoever would listen. He had freely and fully opened his heart and his life to the church in Corinth. He hid nothing and held nothing back from them.

            If you’re a leader, then you probably know what it’s like to be attacked by others. It goes with the territory. You may also know what it’s like to be disrespected, to be compared unfavorably with some nationally known teacher or media personality. In those cases, your calling from the Lord as well as your own record of integrity and faithfulness should be the basis for your defense.

            If you’re a leader, I urge you to follow these responses when you see your people being lured into unfaithfulness. Don’t shrink back from defending the purity of your motives, your message, and your ministry. But don’t do it with pride and arrogance, do it with humility and modesty. Make sure your people know you have their best interests in mind.

            If you’re not a leader, try to imagine what it’s like to fill that role. Think about how you talk about your leaders to others. Think about the weight of responsibility they carry, remembering the words of Hebrews 13:17. “Obey those who [lead] you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

            May God grant you and me the grace we need to be faithful to Him in these last days!

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