Life-Study of 2 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 11:3 Paul says, “But I fear lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your thoughts should be corrupted from the singleness and the purity which is toward Christ.” Here the Apostle Paul indicates that the teachings of the Judaizers can be compared to the deceitful word spoken by the serpent to Eve in Genesis 3. In other words, Paul likens the activities of the Judaizers to the serpent’s work on Eve. From reading Genesis 3 we know that the serpent distracted Eve from the enjoyment of the tree of life. The way he turned her away from the enjoyment of the tree of life was to point her to another tree, to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which issues in death.
We have pointed out a number of times that the tree of life is simple. With this tree, there is just one element, and that element is life. The tree of life issues in life. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, on the contrary, is complicated and also complicating. With this tree, we have good, evil, knowledge, and death.
The Bible as a whole is a development of these two trees. The tree of life signifies God in Christ as the Spirit to be life to us. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil signifies Satan as death. Satan is the power of death. The tree of knowledge of good and evil signifying Satan as death includes knowledge, good, and evil. The serpent distracted Eve from the tree of life by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil with its complications. Because Eve was distracted and caught, she lost her singleness and purity toward God. The result was that Eve fell, and death came in through the fall. This is the story of how the serpent distracted Eve from God’s economy.
In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul applies to the Judaizers and the church in Corinth what the serpent did to Eve. I believe that, deep in his spirit, Paul realized that these two matters were actually one and that what was happening in Corinth was a repetition of what took place in the garden of Eden. Eve was a wife, and the church in Corinth was a pure virgin, betrothed to one husband, Christ. For this reason, in 11:2 Paul says, “For I am jealous over you with a jealousy of God; for I betrothed you to one husband, to present a pure virgin to Christ.” Furthermore, the wife in the garden of Eden was distracted by the subtle serpent. In Corinth the virgin was being distracted by Satan through the Judaizers. Elsewhere in this chapter, Paul associates the Judaizers with Satan. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transfiguring themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself transfigures himself into an angel of light” (vv. 13-14). Here Paul indicates that the Judaizers, the false apostles, are ministers of Satan. Verse 15 says, “Therefore it is no great thing if also his ministers transfigure themselves as ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” For the Judaizers to be ministers of Satan means that they do not minister Christ to others. Instead, what they minister is actually Satan.
Paul could discern that the Judaizers had another Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel. In verse 4 Paul says to the Corinthians, “For if indeed he who comes preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you did not receive, or a different gospel, which you did not accept, you bear well with him.” The Judaizers claimed to preach concerning Jesus. However, Paul discerned that they preached another Jesus, not the Lord Jesus preached by Paul. Moreover, they claimed that they had a spirit. Maybe they claimed that this spirit was the Holy Spirit. Paul also discerned that their spirit was not the Holy Spirit; the Judaizers had a different spirit. Furthermore, the Judaizers claimed that what they preached was the gospel. But Paul declared that their gospel was another gospel.
When the serpent came to Eve, he did not openly deny God’s word. Rather, the serpent said to the woman, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Gen. 3:1). Here we see that the serpent asked, “Hath God said?” This kind of question seems, on the one hand, to recognize what God has said. On the other hand, it undermines God’s word. By asking this question, the serpent injected poison into Eve to undermine God’s speaking.
It was difficult for the Corinthian believers to discern the difference between the Jesus preached by Paul and the one preached by the Judaizers. The name was the same. But there was still the need of discernment. The same was true concerning the gospel. Paul came to the Corinthians with the gospel. The Judaizers also claimed to preach the gospel. But Paul could discern that the gospel preached by the Judaizers was different from that preached by the apostles. It was not the same gospel preached by Paul.
In principle, our situation today is the same as that of the Corinthians. The terminology, the definitions, and the titles of various matters may be the same. But if we exercise the proper discernment, we shall realize that actually they are not the same.
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