Vol. 8, No. 3
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It is ever appropriate to caution one another against accepting corrupted teaching respecting Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul feared lest his relentless labors for Christ among the Corinthians would be wasted owing to someone corrupting fundamental teaching about Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2-4; Galatians 4:11). Other first century inspired writers shared the same alarm about false teachers corrupting teaching about Jesus Christ (2 Peter 2:1-2; 2 John 9-11). However, there is only one Jesus Christ by whom one's sins can be forgiven (Acts 4:12; 1 Corinthians 3:11; 1 Timothy 2:5).
The apostle Paul also feared lest someone would preach "another Gospel" (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6-9). This many years since Paul's ministry, literally thousands of different Jesus' and gospels are being proclaimed within the denominational world. Further, the secular world routinely attempts to makeover Jesus Christ into someone he was not, or to deny his historicity altogether. The secular world and many religious leaders as well also have taken ungodly liberties with the Gospel, too.
Paul exclaimed that the Corinthians were vulnerable to receiving another Jesus, another spirit and another Gospel. "Preach" means "to be a herald...to proclaim" (Vine's). A different Jesus, a different spirit and a different Gospel is proclaimed whenever men deviate from divine truth (for us, the New Testament). The danger respecting "another Jesus," "another spirit" and "another Gospel" is not confined to the first century, as we will note more carefully in a few moments.
The "another" relative to "another Jesus" is allos, whereas the "another" relative to "another spirit" and "another Gospel" is heteros. "Allos...denotes 'another of the same sort'; heteros...denotes 'another of a different sort'" (Vine's). The Corinthians were in danger of receiving another of the same kind Jesus--a counterfeit or substitute Messiah. Robertson remarks: "...any other 'Jesus' is a rival and so wrong. That would deny the identity" (Robertson's). "The English Revised Version (1885): 'another' Jesus, a 'different' Spirit. ...'Another' denies the 'identity;' 'a different' denies the 'similarity of nature'" (Vincent's). (See also ASV, NKJV.) The Corinthians were in danger of receiving another of a different kind spirit and Gospel--counterfeits bearing similarity to the genuine only in name.
Context always determines the sense in which "spirit" is used in Scripture. Barnes was of the opinion that the word "spirit" in this verse refers to the Holy Spirit (Barnes'). However, none of the standard English translations capitalized "spirit" in 2 Corinthians 11:4, indicating the translators believed there was no direct reference to the Holy Spirit in the verse.
This is not a reference to the Holy Spiritů The spirit that is received as a result of obeying the gospel is that frame of mind of the one who knows he is a child of God and can give expression to this knowledge by calling God "Father."... What, then, was the different spirit which they received when they submitted to false teachers? It was a spirit of faction, jealousy, and deception that characterizes the children of the devil. (Applebury)
First John 4:6 introduces the concept of "the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error," which may well be the sense in which the word "spirit" is used in 2 Corinthians 11:4.
The word "accepted" here means "to accept, by a deliberate and ready reception of what is offered" (Vine's). The same fervor with which the Thessalonians embraced the true Gospel, the Corinthians were likely to adopt a false gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Paul noted that doctrinal error taught in the first century would "overthrow the faith of some" (2 Timothy 2:18).
The words "bear with" mean "put up with" (Biblesoft's). Aware that a contrast exists between the real Jesus, the genuine spirit and the certified Gospel, the Corinthians were susceptible to 'putting up with' variations from these truths as though it were inconsequential or made little difference. Paul and other first century inspired writers adamantly affirmed that the slightest variations from divine truth was monumental to the affecting the eternal disposition of souls, or "concerning faith have made shipwreck" (1 Timothy 1:19; 2 John 9-11). "Too often we in the church do not look at problems within the church close enough and we sometimes 'gladly tolerate' them until it is too late" (Martin).
Religious people in any age, including today, likewise are vulnerable to receiving another Jesus, another spirit and another Gospel. The significance of variations from divine truth were lost on the Corinthians because of the subtlety with which errors were interjected. With "good words and fair speeches," false teachers deceive the hearts of the "innocent" (Rom. 16:17-18 ASV), "na´ve people" (NIV) or the "unsuspecting" (NASV). "Deceitful workers" represent themselves to be what they are not (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Subtly, false teachers "delude...with persusasiveness of speech" (Colossians 2:4 ASV). "False prophets" "exploit...with deceptive words" (2 Peter 2:3 NKJV). False teachers "speak great swelling words of emptiness" (2 Peter 2:18 NKJV) or "great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage" (Jude 16 NKJV). The church today is no less susceptible to corruption from true Christianity through subtle means (from without and within the church).
Espoused (a bride) to Christ, the church at Corinth was at risk of spiritual adultery (2 Corinthians 11:2). The imagery of God's people being married to him appears throughout the Old Testament (Isaiah 54:5; 62:4-5; Hos. 2:19-20). God's Old Testament people had often committed spiritual adultery (Ezekiel 16:15-16). The New Testament, likewise, uses the imagery of God's people being married to God (Matthew 9:15; Romans 7:4; Revelation 21:9). So, the church in any age, including today, can be as an adulterous wife to our Lord.
Some ancient examples strengthen our understanding of the potential today for embracing a "another Jesus," "another spirit" and "another gospel." "Gnosticism...denied the humanity of Christ, even to the extent of denying the reality of His human body" (New Unger's); see Colossians 2:18; 1 Timothy 6:20-21 ASV, NKJV; 1 John 2:22-23; 2 John 7. Another early error regarding Jesus Christ was Ebionism, which acknowledged the humanity of Jesus Christ but denied his divinity. "Ebionism, or the doctrine of the Ebionites, a Jewish sect that existed even in the time of the apostles. This error arose from mistaken Jewish preconceptions concerning the Messiah and consisted in the denial of the divine nature of Christ" (New Unger's). One characteristic of Ebionism appears prominently today in the form of the false doctrine of premillennialism (Zechariah 6:13; Hebrews 7:12-14; 8:4). "Another feature of Ebionism...is their...view--the personal reign of Our Lord for 1,000 years as the Jewish Messiah" (ISBE).
Some contemporary examples strengthen our understanding of the potential today for embracing a "another Jesus," "another spirit" and "another gospel." The Mormon Church with its Book of Mormon (supposedly "another testament of Jesus Christ") is a good example of preaching "another gospel": "...Mormons have 'another Jesus' (2 Cor. 11:4), and are not familiar with the Bible's message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, even though they use his name all the time" (Hearn). Ecumenical, across denominational lines, movements, such as the Promise Keepers, Billy Graham crusades, etc. give Jesus Christ a makeover before presenting him to their audiences.
Do the Promise Keepers really expect us to fellowship Catholics, Muslims, and Mormons (and other religious groups) when they teach such egregious error? The apostle Paul expressed his concern that the Corinthians might accept someone who came and preached "another Jesus" (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). He was concerned about doctrine. It is typical for those with an ecumenical agenda to verbally claim that sound doctrine is precious to them, but when it comes to their actual practice, they are much more elastic than commitment to sound doctrine will allow. (Clarke)
The Jehovah's' Witnesses are a prime example of a religious group making drastic (salvation issue) changes to Jesus Christ. "The New World Translation of Holy Scripture robs Jesus Christ of His Eternality. They preach another Jesus Christ-not the Christ of the Bible" (Taylor).
Every deviation from New Testament Christianity (the only kind), which manifests itself in different doctrines and different churches (denominationalism), is the embodiment today of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:4.
This shows that men may acknowledge many of the leading truths of the Christian religion, yet so pervert the teachings as to make it another gospel. ...Many now do as these false teachers did--acknowledge Jesus and the Spirit, and the gospel from God, yet change and pervert the teaching. They are placed by Paul as he did these early teachers, in company with the serpent in Eden deceiving Eve. (Lipscomb)
John the Baptist once sent some of his disciples to Jesus to enquire if he ought to look for another Jesus; however, the miracles of Jesus proved that he was the one and only of whom the Old Testament prophesied (Matthew 11:2-6; John 20:30-31). No one should dare preach "another Jesus," "another spirit" or "another gospel," though many have and yet do (1 Timothy 1:3-7; 4:1-3; 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:16-18; 4:3).
Jesus Christ, God incarnate, died upon the cross, and only Jesus Christ is a suitable sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:26). No other Jesus can take away one's sins (Acts 4:12; Mark 16:16). No other Jesus can take away the sins of erring Christians (Hebrews 10:26; Acts 8:22).
Applebury, T.R. Studies in Second Corinthians. CD-ROM. Joplin: College P, 1966.
Barnes' Notes. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1997.
Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, 1994.
Clarke, B.J. "A Closer Look at Promise Keepers." CD-ROM. Power (1988): 7-79.
Hearn, W.L. "Mormonism." Grace Abounding. Winford Claiborne, ed. CD-ROM. Henderson: Freed-Hardeman College, 1987. 179-185.
Lipscomb, David. A Commentary on The New Testament Epistles: Second Corinthians and Galatians. Edited with additional notes by J. W. Shepherd. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1989. CD-ROM. Austin: Wordsearch, 2005.
Martin, F.H. (Buddy). "Immature Christianity-The Multiplying Ministries." Love for God and his Word. Winford Claiborne, ed. CD-ROM. Henderson: Freed-Hardeman College, 1988. 214-236.
Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville: Broadman, 1985. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft & Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, 1997.
Taylor, Robert R., Jr. "Version Violations: Additions and Subtractions from the Word." The Book of Deuteronomy: The Love of God and Man's Response. Curtis A. Cates, ed. CD-ROM. Memphis: Memphis School of Preaching, 1988. 417-456.
Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1997.
Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words. CD-ROM. Nashville: Nelson, 1985.