These days it is rare to find a couple heading for marriage who will be virgins on their wedding day. It is rare for a father to present a virgin bride in white to the husband for a joyous union. That’s sad because that’s how marriage was designed by God to be, and wonderful it is too! Thankfully there is grace and cleansing in the Gospel for us. Betrothal was a father’s pledge of his daughter in marriage to her prospective husband. He would take responsibility for her virginal fidelity in the period of betrothal. It goes without saying the godly husband would pursue similar sexual purity.
In this passage Paul uses that elaborate metaphor for his relationship with the church he founded in Corinth and shows us what “eschatological apostolic evangelism” looks like.
- Paul proclaimed the Gospel to them to gather new believers into the church, 1:19.
- Paul is the father of the church who will present the bride (the church in Corinth) to the husband (Jesus) pure and blameless. He is taking responsibility for her virginal purity. Hence the sharp dealing with the young man sleeping with his step-mum, casting him out and then asking them to welcome him back in after repentance.
It’s now outrageous that others, super-apostles, are coming in with ‘another Jesus’, and ‘another Gospel’. Paul is indignant!
Our evangelistic efforts probably celebrate (and that all too infrequently) too early. We focus on proclamation/response. So and so got saved. Paul is concerned that his evangelism bears lasting fruit – he wants to see them discipled, growing; holy, pure and blameless at Christ’s return. Hence his divine jealousy, v.2. He doesn’t want them deceived, v.3, following another Jesus, v.4 or a different gospel, v.4.
Paul uses the term super-apostle with such irony – they are better speakers, in a culture where Greek rhetoric is prized. They seem to have better knowledge and they charge for the privilege. These super-apostles are false apostles – pedlars, deceitful, greedy and disguising themselves as full of light. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
We need to think how we celebrate conversions – so and so got saved gets a cheer, but how long does that decision last? I tend to celebrate baptism now, as it is a sign of the fruit of repentance. I know we need to get better at early discipleship too! I’d love to see us all, with many hundreds more, presented pure and blameless when Christ returns.