Why bother? Why keep contending for them? There were many other churches that would have benefited from his time and attention. Many other groups of believers who had not taken to these “super-apostles” who were proclaiming another Jesus and a different gospel. Even at their best, the problems within this fellowship were many and complex. So why did Paul bother? Why write another letter? Why contend for this flaky flock? Short answer: divine jealousy.
I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 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.
(2Corinthians 11:1-3 ESV)
Paul, as a faithful steward of the ministry given him, had brought the two together. Jesus, meet the Corinthians . . . you in Corinth, may I introduce you to Jesus. A matchmaker of sorts, commissioned by the Father to help provide a bride for His Son, Paul bad been there from the beginning. And for Paul, while the salvation of souls was of eternal importance, the bringing together of a Bridegroom and His bride was his driving passion.
“I promised you as a pure bride to one husband–Christ” (NLT). Why are you even entertaining others? Give your head a shake! I am boiling in that you have eyes for someone else? I am so zealous that you would know “a sincere and pure devotion in Christ” that I am making every effort to encourage you . . . to rebuke you . . . to persuade you to return to your first love. I am jealous. In fact, I feel a divine jealousy for you.
And it’s that word, divine, that stands out this morning. Paul wasn’t upset because it impacted his numbers or the reputation of the effectiveness of his ministry or follow-up. But Paul’s jealousy was a theos jealousy. His burning and zeal was Spirit-induced . . . reflecting the heart of the Son . . . motivated solely for the glory of the Father.
Paul’s persistence in urging the body at Corinth to be faithful to Jesus was but an echo of Jesus’ plea, “Be faithful to Me!”
Our God is a jealous God . . . He says so Himself (Ex. 20:5, 34:14; Deut. 4:24, 5:9, 6:15). The Father is jealous for His people . . . the Son is jealous for His bride . . . the Spirit is jealous for those He has sealed. And fueling divine jealousy is the anticipation of a “pure virgin” being presented to Christ.
Not that she can clean herself up and make herself pure. Not that she can, of herself, regain the innocence lost. But that, through “a sincere and pure devotion,” she might faithfully cling to the One who “loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).
That’s why Paul bothered. That’s why he contended. That’s why he bared his heart and soul before them, pleading with them to be faithful. Because he had in mind a wedding day.
And that’s why grace abounds from heaven’s throne. Why the Father patiently waits while Christ is formed in us. Why the Spirit tirelessly works within us. Why the Son endlessly intercedes for us. Because of a wedding day. A day when, to one Husband, the church is presented as a chaste bride. Marked by a purity and righteous not of our own making but imputed to us through the finished work of the cross. Not decked out in a wedding dress of own design, but robed in garments of righteousness of His making. Not that we might look good . . . but that He might be exalted.
Divine jealousy. Might that be our jealousy, as well.
All because of grace. All for His glory.