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2 Corinthians 11:1–3

“I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since 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.”

Proverbs 26:4–5 stands as some of the most important guidance for dealing with fools—those who do not put the fear of the Lord first in their thinking—in all Scripture. These verses tell us that there are two different ways to answer a fool, and the way to follow depends on the fool who is being addressed. Sometimes it is right to answer a fool according to his folly, but at other times it is better not to answer him in such a way.

Sometimes it is wise to do a little bit of both to make a point to others, and that is what Paul will do in much of 2 Corinthians 11–12. The false teachers in Corinth have been boasting in the effectiveness of their work and criticizing Paul for his unrefined speech and physical unimpressiveness (ch. 10). To respond, Paul will adopt some of their foolishness, as we read in today’s passage (11:1). He is going to answer a fool according his folly in the sense that he will boast. Yet, at the same time he will not be answering a fool according to his folly, for the kinds of things that he will boast in are not things prized by the fools whom he must counter (see 11:16–12:10).

Why this two-pronged approach? The Apostle explains in 11:2–3 that he is responding as he is because he wants to present the Corinthian church as a “pure virgin” to Christ, but they are in danger of being deceived just as Eve was. Paul borrows from the ancient custom of betrothal, in which it was the father’s responsibility to ensure his daughter’s purity for the man to whom she was betrothed so that the marriage union could move forward. If the Corinthian church is deceived by the false teachers, then they will be going after a different Christ, invalidating the pledge of their final union with Jesus at the marriage supper of the Lamb (see Rev. 19:6–10). By responding to the false apostles as he does, Paul hopes to shock the Corinthians into seeing the folly of following the Apostle’s critics.

In this, Paul shows a “divine jealousy” for the Corinthians (2 Cor. 11:2). This is not the vice of jealousy but concern for God’s honor and glory. John Calvin comments, “There are two kinds of jealousy—the one springs from self love, and of a wicked and perverse nature, while the other is cherished by us on God’s account.” Such jealousy “is the only pious and right zeal, that has an eye to God, that he may not be defrauded of the honors that of right belong to him.”

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Jealousy is a virtue when it is rooted in a desire to protect and honor that which is good and honorable. Thus, we are jealous to protect our marriages, our homes, and our churches. Above all, we must be jealous for the glory of God, to guard and honor it in our thoughts, words, and deeds and in our corporate body, the church.

For Further Study
  • 1 Kings 19:10
  • Song of Solomon 8:6
  • Ezekiel 39:25
  • John 2:13–17

    The Importance of Gathering for Worship

    Putting Up with a Different Gospel

    Keep Reading The Theology of Christmas Hymns

    From the December 2021 Issue
    Dec 2021 Issue