II CORINTHIANS 11: 1-2
Though I am persuaded that the term “the bride of Christ” belongs to God’s program with Israel, it is puzzling when Paul in II Corinthians 11:2 says, “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”
I agree with you in recognizing that the bride of Christ is not a designation given to us today, God’s “new creation” the church the body of Christ in this dispensation of grace. The designation clearly belongs to Israel in God’s program with His nation, and in particular pertains to the living-union-relationship that He will establish with them when He brings His residence to this earth and joins it to the land He gave to Israel. Hence, as John describes in Revelation 21:9-10, “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” is “that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” What John sees is the culmination of God’s program with Israel. He sees the living-union-relationship of the marriage of God Himself to them in their land, which has been the declared and prophesied issue with them, their land, and Him since the foundation of the world.
We in this dispensation of grace also possess a living-union-relationship with God as the members of the body of Christ. God, in accordance with the genius of His wisdom, has provided for the existence of two kinds of living-union-relationships with Himself. Marriage is one, and being members of a body is the other. Israel possesses the marriage living-union-relationship, while we being the body of Christ naturally possess the body member living-union-relationship. The two kinds of living-union-relationships provide for God to have two distinct entities in such a relationship with Himself. And, of course, the genius of God’s wisdom in doing this is that it provides Him with the two distinct entities needed for the reconciliation of both the earthly realm and heavenly realm back to Himself from Satan’s usurpation. Israel in their living-union-relationship with God is His means for the reconciliation of the earthly realm, and we the church the body of Christ in our special living-union-relationship with God are His means for the reconciliation of the heavenly places.
Naturally enough, it’s when Christians fail to “rightly divide the word of truth” in accordance with God’s two distinct programs that confusion arises and Israel’s living-union-relationship with God is thought to be ours today, etc. However, even when a Christian does recognize the distinctiveness and differences between God’s two programs, sometimes Paul’s use of marriage, or marriage-type terminology with us today causes a bit of consternation, as in II Corinthians 11:2. Yet that doesn’t need to be the case. This is because the things associated with the marriage relationship can be used to illustrate and define a number of matters like love, self-sacrifice, righteous jealousy, and the like. And this is just what Paul does when he uses it with us in this dispensation.
The issue in II Corinthians 11:2 is an illustrative analogy of espousal so that the Corinthians can understand why Paul is so upset over what is happening in Corinth and why he is being so protective of them with regards to some “very chiefest apostles” who have enamored the Corinthians and swept them off their feet. In chapter 10 Paul just began addressing in particular the issue of the ‘love-spell’ that these “very chiefest apostles” had cast upon a number of the Corinthians. In so doing he set forth how that he dare not make himself of their number or get into a beauty-type contest with them by comparing himself with them, etc. Instead, he would simply set before them the Lord’s own commendation of himself as their rightful apostle, and “revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” after they had the opportunity to respond to what he says.
Having said this, Paul knew that these bedazzled Corinthians would misinterpret his motives. He knew that they would not perceive his genuine “godly jealousy” as the motive behind his actions. Rather, they would accuse him of simply operating on sour grapes, so to speak. They already thought of him as if he “walked according to the flesh” and so they would naturally think that he was just fleshly jealous of these apostles who were much better than him in so many impressive ways. Therefore knowing this, Paul begins chapter 11 with an appeal for them to “bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.” He knows they think he is a fool for speaking as he has already in chapter 10, and now he beseeches them to bear with him as he tries to explain his motives to them in a way that they can understand. He, as he declares in the opening of verse 2, is “jealous over them with godly jealousy.” He isn’t walking after the flesh like they think. Instead he has the very same jealousy over them as God Himself has, and this is something they need to understand if they are ever going to respond properly to him as they need to. Therefore, the context from at least back into chapter 10 is the key to understanding and appreciating what Paul is now going to say in the rest of verse 2.
Notice that Paul’s illustrative analogy begins with the word “for.” Hence, it is an amplification upon the declaration he has just made about being “jealous over you with godly jealousy.” Once again, he knows that the ones he is particularly addressing here in chapters 10-12 do not understand his genuine love for them. They do not understand his reasons for being upset with their disapproval of him. They do not understand his motives behind dealing with them as he has done, etc, etc. He knows that they think he “walks after the flesh”; that he is insincere; has ulterior motives; operates on a hidden agenda; and is just plain fleshly jealous over these much more impressive and entertaining “very chiefest apostles.” Once again, Paul knows all of this and is taking it into account as he deals with them.
Paul is jealous, as he says. But not of “the very chiefest apostles.” That truly would be fleshly jealousy. Instead, as he says to them, “I am jealous over you with godly jealousy.” And once again, this is completely different and is righteous, being the very righteous jealousy that God Himself possesses and operates upon. However, Paul knows that these Corinthians are not going to pick up on this right away. They didn’t have any frame of reference for this kind of jealousy, (anymore than Israel did when God first declared it of Himself to them.) So Paul provides for them to have a measure of understanding and appreciation for his “godly jealousy” over them by giving them an illustrative analogy of what it is like. And he does this by referring to a righteous jealousy that they could easily understand and relate to – i.e. the kind that an espoused husband would have to his virgin. Just as an espoused husband would not want his virgin seduced by anyone, and would possess a righteous jealousy over her in the face of any such seductions, so is it with Paul. Even in their carnality these Corinthians could understand this. And this is the kind of righteous jealousy that Paul had for them.
Therefore, he wasn’t walking after the flesh at all. His jealousy wasn’t sour grapes. Instead, they were being seduced by a seducer and did not even know it. Their spiritual chastity was being violated by the allurements of a seducer, and they needed to realize this and preserve their chastity. And this is what he goes on to declare to them in no uncertain terms in verses 3ff. If they would “bear with” Paul as he deals with them on this, then they would come to realize the righteousness of his motives, the sincerity of his love for them, along with both the power and correctness of his “godly jealousy” over them.
– K.R. Blades