From sermon preached at Calvary Baptist Church Sunday morning, February 22, 2009
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3
This verse contains one of the most beautiful and eloquent phrases in scripture: the simplicity that is in Christ.
I studied and savored this phrase last week. Let me share some of what I learned. I’ve divided the following into three sections (word definitions, context, commentaries) in order to help you understand how I arrived at my interpretation of this phrase.
Simplicity means “singleness.” It means to be whole or undivided. Paul used it in Ephesians 6:5 when he challenged servants to obey their masters and do their master’s will “in singleness of heart.” He said servants should have no divided loyalty and no hidden agenda. He used it in Romans 12 and also in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 where he talks about giving, encouraging people who give to do it “with simplicity,” that is, sincerely, without a selfish motive, and openly and generously. “Simplicity” is the quality of being single-minded, whole-hearted, undivided and without dual loyalty or hidden agenda.
Then Paul said, “that is in Christ.” The Greek preposition translated “in” is eis; it means unto, toward. He is not talking about a simplicity that belongs to Christ. He is talking about a simplicity toward Christ or with respect to Jesus Christ.
So, this simplicity that is in Christ or that we have toward Christ involves a condition of being single or sincere and whole and undivided and without an ulterior motive or a hidden agenda, a simplicity toward, with respect to Jesus Christ.
Is he talking about simple, childlike faith in Christ for salvation? We know that is how we are saved, by simply believing in and trusting like a child would do, simply, in the finished work of Jesus Christ for our salvation. He could be including that. Is he talking about faith alone in Christ alone? It is possible that he is including this important principle. But I think what he says goes further. I think what he is describing goes much deeper than that.
Notice the illustration that Paul used in verse 2, 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. He was calling himself the “father of the bride.” He was saying that he was like the father of a young woman who is a virgin and who is betrothed. She has been promised formally and legally to a man and she is awaiting and preparing for the marriage ceremony, the consummation of the relationship, and the life that she will spend together with him. It is normal and right for her to be single-minded about her betrothed bridegroom, her husband-to-be. She should be wholehearted and fully devoted to “one husband” (v. 2). There should be no other suitor. She should never entertain or give the impression that she is open to someone else coming into her life and stealing her heart from that one man. There should be no seducer who has a chance to steal her away or even raise a doubt in anyone’s mind about her loyalty and her devotion to her husband-to-be. She should be totally and exclusively devoted to her future husband. So, Paul is emphasizing here total, exclusive loyalty and devotion.
Here is how some writers have described the meaning of this phrase, “the simplicity that is in Christ.” One calls it “single-minded faithfulness to Christ” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary). Another identifies it as, “exclusive devotion to Christ” (Walvoord & Zuck). Another says that it is “freedom from duplicity toward Christ” (F. F. Bruce). And, here is my favorite, by Alan Redpath from his commentary on 2 Corinthians called Blessings Out of Buffetings: “It is a faith that is exclusively resting in and centered upon Jesus Christ alone and a love that is clear from every competing affection.”
The word definitions, the context, and how other students of the Word interpret this beautiful, profound phrase have helped me arrive at this conclusion: “The simplicity that is in Christ” equals faith in Christ alone and love for Christ above all. Paul said, “Here is what I want for you, what I am concerned about for you, what I am on guard to protect in your lives – your faith in Christ alone and your love for Christ above all. It should be absolute; it should be supreme; it should be unconditional; it should be unquestionable.
Paul’s use of the analogy of betrothal and marriage shows that we as believers should reject any interest, any advance by another suitor or seducer. We should remain steadfast and faithful to our bridegroom, Jesus Christ, as we wait for Him to come and as we anticipate the ceremony, the consummation, and being united to Him, as the Bride of Christ with our Bridegroom, to be with Him forever.
There was a threat, influences and people who were stealing the Corinthian Christians’ hearts and minds away from all that Paul had taught them and the truth about Jesus Christ. Paul fulfilled the responsibility of an authentic Christian minister as he confronted that threat. He was aggressive, forceful, and did not hold back. He confronted the competition.
Outline of Sunday AM Sermon
Confronting the Competition
2 Corinthians 11:1-4
There are several dynamics at work in a person who is willing to confront the competition, to guard his or another’s faith in Christ alone and love for Christ above all.
- Experience the Force of Jealousy (1-3)
- Recognize the Importance of Purity (2)
- Identify the Place of Vulnerability (3-4)