Childish or Childlike?-Part One

January 11, 2015 Preacher: Randy Smith Series: 2 Corinthians

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 11:1–6


Childish Or Childlike? - Part One

2 Corinthians 11:1-6
Sunday, January 11, 2015
Pastor Randy Smith


One among many things that's great about a parent is seeing life through the eyes of a child: The wonder, the purity, the amazement, the innocence, the zeal, the trust. I've been blessed with this privilege twice. Usually most people have to wait until they're grandparents to experience round number two. After raising three daughters, Julie and I received Shane and we get to see it all over again. The simple thrill when he sees the chocolate fountain at Golden Coral. The ability to make me a birthday card, but inability to wait until my birthday to present it. The confusion when he's exposed to even the smallest degree of evil in the world. The natural reflex to mention Jesus without shame, apology or reservation.

Twice in the Bible, God took advantage of this special heart of a child to teach two important spiritual lessons. In 1 Corinthians 14:20 we read, "In regard to evil be infants." And then in Matthew 18:3 our Lord said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."

We've been learning about all the problems in the Corinthian church. As Paul begins chapter 11 of 2 Corinthians, he's going to take the church back to this understandable principle. The church was acting like children in the wrong way. To remedy the problem he'll encourage them to act like children in the right way.

This message is entitled "Childish or Childlike?"

1. The Motivation

Last week we learned that the problem with the false teachers was not their boasting, but rather the content in which they boasted. We learned that God has established a measurement, a canon, a standard as to what He expects in us. When by His grace we attain to that measurement and other people take notice, we should boast in Him in order that He might receive glory for the work He's done and is doing in our lives. So as it pertains to boasting, the problem is not boasting in and of itself. There is unrighteous boasting when we draw attention to our self. That should be avoided. But there is righteous boasting when we draw attention to the Lord. That should be promoted.

So how about the subject of jealousy? Once again we are taught to believe that all jealousy is wrong. Many of us would affirm that using not only secular ethics, but also the Bible. Didn't Paul tell this Corinthian church in his first letter to them in the famous "love chapter" that "love is…not jealous" (1 Cor. 13:4). In that letter he also rebuked the church. "For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?" (1 Cor. 3:3). And his confidence of the church's repentance in this area didn't fare much better by the time he wrote 2 Corinthians. "For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish…that perhaps there will be strife [and] jealousy" (2 Cor. 12:20). If someone said you were a very jealous person, I'd be led to believe you wouldn't find the label very complimentary.

Yet here is what Paul says of himself verse 2 of chapter 11. He tells the church, "For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy." So is Paul in sin or is he speaking out of both sides of his mouth? Is this a contradiction in the Bible? Are there any other options?

God has wired each of us to be jealous. Like boasting, we often engage in the sinful side of jealousy - the resentment over another person's success. But also like boasting, there is a righteous jealousy that that brings honor to Christ. Since there is so much misunderstanding in this area and the false teachers were like hawks keenly observing Paul and seeking to swoop down on him for the slightest infraction, Paul made it clear in verse 2 that his "jealousy" was "a godly jealousy."

You see, when you look at Paul's intense situation with this church, it's very easy to see how Paul is provoked to react emotionally. God has created us this way and to not do so is unnatural. Jealousy is an unavoidable response. However, will it be sinful (also called unrighteous) jealousy? Will Paul be jealous because the false teachers are more popular than him or his reputation is being questioned or that he's not getting the appreciation that he deserves? Or will it be godly (also called righteous) jealousy? Will Paul be jealous that the church now being seduced by the error of the false teachers is being led away from Christ?

Repeatedly in Scripture we read about the jealousy of God. Obviously His jealousy is always righteous. Since we are created in His image, there is virtue when we are jealous for the things which invoke His jealousy. When we have a heart after God's own heart and are in the Spirit, we will experience a pain when God is dishonored. Unrighteous jealousy is about self being injured. Righteous jealous always centers itself on God's reputation being injured.

So let's pause for a moment. At this present time, what's making you jealous? What is really bothering you? Think about it? Is it someone who gets more attention than you? Is it someone who has wronged you? Is it someone who has more than you - whether it be money or looks or possession or ability or popularity or intelligence or opportunity or success? Is there any hint of jealousy in your heart along these lines? If so, you have some sinful jealousy that needs to go.

You see, this type of jealously is centered on self, rooted in pride and offensive to God. Jealousy is a warning light that you are not rejoicing in the success of others and loving those who have offended you. It's a warning light that you are not trusting in the providence of God for your own life. It's a warning light that there is too much self-worship and not enough Christ worship.

On the other hand, can you identify any aspects in your life where there is righteous jealousy? Are you jealous over backsliding believers in this church? Are you jealous over the legal and systematic termination of the unborn? Are you jealous over the defrauding of God's design for marriage? Are you jealous over unbelievers worshipping idols and not the true God? Are you jealous over divisiveness and "lovelessness" and unfaithfulness and jealousy within this church? Righteous jealousy is not because we don't love people. It's because we love God and His glory more than people, and when our hearts are on this trajectory only then will we will demonstrate the greatest and most righteous love possible for all people.

2. The Illustration

To now illustrate his "godly jealousy," Paul is going to provide two illustrations. As you flip over your note sheet we move to the second point. The first illustration comes from marriage.

From Marriage

In the second half of verse 2 we read, "For I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin." Let's examine the background of Paul's words in this verse.

The first thing that comes to my mind are the repeated Old Testament stories found in the prophets that spoke of God marrying the nation Israel. Implied in this divine marriage covenant was the understanding that the nation would remain pure and committed and loyal and devoted to God as her husband. Yet we know from the Scriptures that this was not the case. Israel forsook God's commandments. Israel doubted God's faithfulness. Israel plunged herself deep into idolatry with false gods. As you know, God compared this action of His bride to spiritual adultery. God was the faithful husband and Israel ran after other lovers.

In Hosea 2:19-20 we read, "I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD." Yet in Ezekiel 16:36 we read of Israel's "harlotries with [their] lovers and with all [their] detestable idols." And in Ezekiel 16:26 God says to Israel, "[You] multiplied your harlotry to make Me angry."

Israel was unfaithful to her covenant. God made a new marriage covenant with Israel whereby He said, "I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (Jer. 31:33). This theme is picked up by the New Testament writers regarding the church. Jesus Christ is our divine Husband and we as the church are His bride. Revelation 21:9 calls us the "wife of the Lamb." In the great chapter discussing marriage in Ephesians 5, we learn that all human marriage was created to show a copy of this divine marriage and is ultimately intended to demonstrate to the world the greatness of the marriage between Christ and the church.

For example, that's why God's rules regarding marriage are not arbitrary. Everything in human marriage is to be, Ephesians 5:25, "with reference to Christ and the church." That's why within marriage there are male and female roles - whereby the husband shows Christ and the wife shows the church. That's why God forbids divorce - because Jesus would never leave us nor would we desire to leave Him. That's why sex before marriage is wrong - because the joining of us and Christ only happened after a covenant was made. That's why marriage in God's economy is between one man and one woman - because Jesus didn't marry Himself nor did the church marry herself. That's why married children leave their parents to form a new union - because the union with Christ is to be dominating over all other relationships. That's why within marriage couples now become one flesh - because we are in Christ and He is in us. That's why adultery is wrong - because God would never cheat on us nor should we cheat on Him.

Let's keep building on this. In the life of the average Jew there were three steps in the marriage process. There was first the betrothal. This was a guarantee of marriage that could only be broken by death or divorce. Then there was the engagement. This lasted about a year where the couple kept themselves sexually pure. Then there was the actual wedding itself.

All three of these phases are seen in Christ's relationship with the church. The betrothal is our conversion to Christ. The engagement (in the Jewish sense) is our time with Christ on this earth. And the wedding itself is when Christ returns. Revelation 19, "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, 'Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'' And he said to me, 'These are true words of God'" (Rev. 19:7-9).

Back to the Jewish marriage procedure. In this process it was the father's responsibility to keep his daughter physically chaste and present her to her husband on the wedding day as a pure virgin. In 1 Corinthians 4:15, Paul considered himself like a father to those in this Corinthian church. You see where this is going? The church is in the engagement phase, no different than we are right now to be presented to Christ for the wedding ceremony. Just as the physical father had the responsibility to present a pure daughter to her husband, Paul saw it incumbent upon himself as their spiritual father to present a pure church to her husband when the divine wedding arrived.

That explains why Paul said in verse 2, "For I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin." Collectively this church was not maturing in righteousness. Moreover this church was not being prepared for a marriage to Christ when they were running around with other lovers playing harlotry with the idols set before them by the false teachers. Does this also help now to better explain Paul's "godly jealousy?"

From the Garden

In verse 3, as we still remain in point 2, Paul presents a second illustration. This time he uses one from the Garden when our original parents fell and first brought sin into the world.

Look at the beginning of verse 3. "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness." So Paul is setting up a comparison here between what happened in the Garden and what's presently happening in the Corinthian church.

So what happened in the Garden? The man and women were created without sin. They were living in paradise both in the land they were given and the relationship they enjoyed with God and each other. Only one prohibition. "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die" (Gen. 2:16-17).

Satan enters in the form of a serpent and begins his trade. His schemes are progressive and he advances as he is given further opportunity. He got the couple thinking he had their best interest in mind. He cast doubt on God's command. He openly denied God's goodness. He lied in his ability to bring greater joy. As Paul said in verse 3, Eve was deceived by his craftiness (cf. 1 Tim 2:14). She ate. She gave to her husband who failed to be the spiritual leader. He ate with her. Awful consequences were the result.

Likewise, Paul presented this Corinthian church as a pure virgin. She was like Eve. However Satan entered this church, this time in the form of false teachers as Paul will soon call them Satan's servants in verses 14 and 15. While disguised as "servants of righteousness" (verse 15), they are on a mission, aware or unaware, to deceive this church and bring awful consequences. As Paul told these guys back in 2:11, "[Be sure] so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes." What he did in the Garden, Paul was "afraid" he was doing in this Corinthian church.

A seduction was taking place. We'll get to the general in our third point, but specifically they were seduced in that their, second half of verse 3, "minds [were being] led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ."

This is interesting because Paul told this church in his first letter, "Brothers, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature" (1 Cor. 14:20). They obviously didn't learn the lesson because they followed neither of these directives both implied right here in verse 3.

The verse says their "minds" were being "led astray." Remember what we learned back in chapter 10 a few weeks ago? There is a spiritual war going on and the battleground is the mind. Spiritual warfare is not mystical. Spiritual warfare is "taking every though captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). When false thoughts enter our minds, we take them back to "the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God" (Eph. 6:17). As Paul said earlier, we should not be children in our thinking. This Corinthian church lacked total discernment. They accepted anything that Satan threw their way.

Guard your mind! Don't be a child in your thinking! Think biblically!

Yet they also missed the part when they should be children and that pertains to, verse 3, "the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." In other words, they got real good at doing church. From what I can infer from studying this church and their fascination with the culture and love for the showy display, it must have been some kind of spectacle going on over there in that church. I mean they had the smoke machines and laser lights. They had Sunday school classes on modern psychological breakthroughs and philosophical reasoning. Their preachers were all wearing $2,000 Armani suits, trained in the most polished rhetorical skills. The charismatic display resembled a three-ring circus. People speaking in tongues over one another, flailing on the floor and being slain in the spirit. To the Corinthians this is what it meant to be a high-end, mature, adult Christian.

And to that Paul says in verse 3, you've lost your "simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ."

C.S. Lewis summed up both aspects like this, "[Christ] wants a child's heart, but a grown-up's head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim."

Or as R.C. Sproul put it, "There is a vast difference, however, between childlike faith and childish faith. [Childlike faith calls the believer] to remain forever in a state of awe and trust of their heavenly Father, while a childish faith balks at learning the things of God in depth. It refuses the meat of the gospel while clinging to a diet of milk."

The call is not to be childish. Even Paul needed to tell this church to grow up in 1 Corinthians 3. The call is to be childlike. That no matter how much we mature in Christ, we never mature beyond a simple and pure devotion to Him. We don't move beyond that to higher things. We love Him and cherish Him and adore Him and trust Him just like we did the first day we received Him as our Savior. A deeper knowledge of Christ never replaces a childlike love for Christ, it should only enhance it!

The problem with this Corinthian church was that they lost their childlike faith for Christ. As John Piper said in his book "Desiring God," "But childlike wonder and awe have died. The scenery and poetry and music of the majesty of God have dried up like a forgotten peach at the back of the refrigerator" (p. 89). I hope that's not true for any of us here this morning!

I'm going to leave my third point for next week when I'll have more time to do it justice, but let me wrap things up when I first began.

The Beatitudes teach us that God desires fellowship with the humble, the poor in spirit, the gentle, the pure in heart, the ones that hunger and thirst for righteousness. These are the ones to whom He reveals Himself. It's not the worldly wise and Christian sophisticated and lifelong Christian taking confidence in his years in the church. It's the babes, the ones who adore Him as a small child does a parent. It's the ones who have simplified their approach to Him and have stripped away everything that competes with a pure and genuine heart. It's the ones that have refused to give into the temptations of skepticism and cynicism within the Christian life, the rationalization and the justification for sin, the preoccupation with worldly canons, comparisons and credentials. It's the ones who take Christ at His word, believe that word and desire deep down inside to follow that word wherever it might lead.

More in 2 Corinthians

March 8, 2015

Optimistic Admonitions

March 1, 2015

Severity In Weakness

February 22, 2015

Signs, Sacrifice, and Sorrow