Disloyalty to God
For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; (11:2a)
The thought of the Corinthians’ being seduced into error by the false apostles was heartbreaking to Paul. Thus, what may have seemed to the Corinthians to be boasting on his part was actually extreme concern, prompted by godly jealousy (literally, “the jealousy of God”). Paul’s jealousy on God’s behalf manifested itself in righteous indignation at the possibility of the Corinthians’ defection.
God’s jealousy for His holy name and for His people is a major Old Testament theme. In Exodus 20:5 God said, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” Exodus 34:14 reveals that one of God’s names is “Jealous.” Deuteronomy 4:24 describes the Lord as “a consuming fire, a jealous God” (cf. Deut. 5:9; 6:15; Josh. 24:19; Nah. 1:2), while Deuteronomy 32:16 and 21 reveal that His holy jealousy is provoked when His people worship idols (cf. Ps. 78:58; 1 Cor. 10:22). In Ezekiel 39:25 God declares, “I shall be jealous for My holy name.”
Like David, who wrote in Psalm 69:9, “Zeal for [God’s] house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach [Him] have fallen on me” (cf. John 2:17), Paul felt pain when God was dishonored. That pain produced a “daily pressure on [him] of concern for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28), particularly for those believers who were weak and led into sin (11:29). He was especially concerned that the Corinthians offer God the loyal, loving obedience in which He rejoices and of which He is worthy (cf. Deut. 6:5; 10:12; 11:1, 13, 22; 19:9; 30:16; Josh. 22:5; 23:11; Ps. 31:23; Matt. 22:37).
Disloyalty to Christ
for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. (11:2b–3)
Paul expressed his concern over the Corinthians’ disloyalty to Christ by using the analogy of betrothal and marriage. As is the case today, the main elements of a Jewish wedding were the betrothal (engagement) and the actual ceremony. The betrothal period usually lasted about a year (though sometimes couples were betrothed as young children). The betrothed couple, though not allowed to consummate the union physically, was legally regarded as husband and wife; the betrothal could be broken only by death or divorce, and unfaithfulness during that time was considered adultery (cf. Matt. 1:18–19). The betrothal period culminated in the ceremony, marking the completion of the covenant.
During the betrothal period, it was the father’s responsibility to ensure that his daughter remained faithful to her pledged husband. He would then present her to him at the wedding ceremony as a pure virgin.
When Paul preached the gospel to them, he betrothed the Corinthians to one husband. At salvation, they pledged their loyalty to Christ, and Paul wanted to make sure they remained faithful. As their spiritual father (1 Cor. 4:15), Paul was determined to present them as a pure virgin to Christ. Having been engaged to Him at salvation, the Corinthians (like all church-age believers) will be presented to Christ at the Rapture (cf. John 14:1–3) and have their marriage supper during the millennial kingdom (Rev. 19:7–9). Paul’s overriding concern was that the church remain pure for her Bridegroom (cf. Eph. 5:25–27).
The phrase I am afraid expresses the heart of Paul’s concern, both in this passage and in the entire epistle. His defense of his integrity and his ministry, his appeals for the Corinthians’ loyalty, and his confrontation of the false teachers all were motivated by fear. The apostle’s concern was justified, because the Corinthians had demonstrated an alarming susceptibility to being seduced, welcoming those who preached another Jesus and a different gospel (2 Cor. 11:4).
It is every pastor’s fear that some of his sheep might go astray. As noted above, it was Paul’s zeal for their purity that caused the “daily pressure on [him] of concern for all the churches” (11:28). A heartbreaking theme throughout history is the disloyalty of many who claimed to be followers of Jesus Christ. Countless churches that name the name of Christ have been seduced by “deceitful spirits” teaching “doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1) and become disloyal to Him.
Satan’s deception of God’s people began in the Garden of Eden when the serpent (Satan; Rev. 12:9; 20:2) deceived Eve. She did not intend to rebel against God, but as Paul wrote to Timothy, “the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Tim. 2:13). Eve thought that the information she received from Satan was correct and acted on it. In Genesis 3:1 Satan began by asking her, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” God had, as Satan knew, clearly said just that. His question was intended to cast doubt on God’s command. Having planted the seed of doubt in Eve’s mind, Satan then proceeded to openly deny the truth of God’s word, brazenly declaring to her, “You surely shall not die!” (3:4). Finally, he offered a lie in its place: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:5). Eve wanted God’s best, so Satan’s counsel seemed perfect. After all, what could be better than being like God? Having thus been thoroughly deceived, Eve ate the forbidden fruit, as did Adam—even though he was not deceived (1 Tim. 2:14). The catastrophic result was that the human race was plunged into sin (Rom. 5:12–19; 1 Cor. 15:21–22). Ever since Satan deceived Eve, false teachers, following his pattern, have portrayed the truth as error and then offered error as the truth.
Paul feared that Satan’s emissaries, using the same craftiness (cf. 2 Cor. 11:13–15) by which their evil master deceived Eve, would lead the Corinthians’ minds (the Greek word could also be translated “thoughts”) astray, thus corrupting or ruining them (the Greek term also has those connotations). Lack of discernment is a major problem for the church (cf. Eph. 4:14), because the spiritual battle is an ideological one (see the discussion of 10:3–5 in chapter 25 of this volume). The church’s willingness to tolerate error in the name of unity, coupled with a lack of biblical and doctrinal knowledge, has crippled its ability to discern. As a result, it is too often easy prey for the ravenous, savage wolves of whom both Jesus and Paul warned (Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29), who wound it and sap its power and testimony.
The essence of the Christian life is simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. To the Philippians Paul wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21; cf. Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:4). To not love Him supremely as Savior and Lord is an act of disloyalty. The danger false teachers pose is that they shift the focus off Jesus Christ and onto rituals, ceremonies, good works, miracles, emotional experiences, psychology, entertainment, political and social causes, and anything else that will distract people.
Loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ is nonnegotiable in the Christian life—so much so that Scripture declares, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed” (1 Cor. 16:22).
2. For I am jealous. Mark why it is that he acts the fool, for jealousy hurries a man as it were headlong. “Do not demand that I should show the equable temper of a man that is at ease, and not excited by any emotion, for that vehemence of jealousy, with which I am inflamed towards you, does not suffer me to be at ease.” As, however, there are two kinds of jealousy—the one springing from self-love, and of a wicked and perverse nature, while the other is cherished by us on God’s account,3 he intimates of what sort his zeal is. For many are zealous—for themselves, not for God. That, on the other hand, is the only pious and right zeal, that has an eye to God, that he may not be defrauded of the honours that of right belong to him.
For I have united you to one man. That his zeal was of such a nature, he proves from the design of his preaching, for its tendency was to join them to Christ in marriage, and retain them in connection with him. Here, however, he gives us in his own person a lively picture of a good minister; for One alone is the Bridegroom of the Church—the Son of God. All ministers are the friends of the Bridegroom, as the Baptist declares respecting himself. (John 3:29.) Hence all ought to be concerned, that the fidelity of this sacred marriage remain unimpaired and inviolable. This they cannot do, unless they are actuated by the dispositions of the Bridegroom, so that every one of them may be as much concerned for the purity of the Church, as a husband is for the chastity of his wife. Away then with coldness and indolence in this matter, for one that is cold will never be qualified for this office. Let them, however, in the mean time, take care, not to pursue their own interest rather than that of Christ, that they may not intrude themselves into his place, lest while they give themselves out as his paranymphs, they turn out to be in reality adulterers, by alluring the bride to love themselves.
To present you as a chaste virgin. We are married to Christ, on no other condition than that we bring virginity as our dowry, and preserve it entire, so as to be free from all corruption. Hence it is the duty of ministers of the gospel to purify our souls, that they may be chaste virgins to Christ; otherwise they accomplish nothing. Now we may understand it as meaning, that they individually present themselves as chaste virgins to Christ, or that the minister presents the whole of the people, and brings them forward into Christ’s presence. I approve rather of the second interpretation. Hence I have given a different rendering from Erasmus.
2 With a jealousy that sprang from God and was like God’s own jealousy for his people (e.g., Hos 2:19–20; 4:12; 6:4; 11:8), Paul was jealous for his converts’ undivided loyalty to Christ in the interval between their conversion (= betrothal to Christ) and their glorification (= presentation to Christ). He pictures himself as the father of the bride (cf. 1 Co 4:15; 2 Co 12:14), whose ultimate purpose in betrothing “the church of God in Corinth” (1:1) to her heavenly bridegroom, Jesus Christ, was to present her as a virgin to her husband at his appearance (cf. 4:14; Eph 5:27; 1 Jn 3:2–3).
Human jealousy is a vice, but to share divine jealousy is a virtue. It is the motive and object of the jealousy that is all-important. There is a place for a spiritual father’s passionate concern for the exclusive and pure devotion to Christ of his spiritual children, and also a place for anger at potential violators of that purity (11:29).
2 The word “For” (untranslated by the NIV) is dominant in v. 2, appearing in both of its unequal sentences, providing the link between Paul’s three ideas in vv. 1b-2: “You do bear with … me. For I am jealous for you … for I betrothed you … to Christ.”16 These ideas are given in reverse order of ministry sequence of his relationship with them. First, he joined them to Christ; second, therefore, he cares about their fidelity to Christ; third, they do, ironically speaking, “bear with”—barely tolerate—him.
Critical to this verse and the next is the apostle’s portrayal of his ministry by the metaphor of betrothal, a practice alien to modern Western culture.18 It is, in all probability, a paternal image whereby a father pledges a daughter in marriage to a prospective husband, taking responsibility for her virginal fidelity to her betrothed in the period between the betrothal and the marriage. The apostle’s pride in his people “on the day of the Lord Jesus” (1:14) is consistent with the marriage imagery used here whereby a father would finally present his betrothed daughter with pride to her husband on the long-awaited wedding day.
By this elaborate metaphor Paul neatly describes the eschatological nature of apostolic evangelism. As the result of evangelism (1:19) a church (“a betrothed”) comes into being, related by “faith” (cf. 5:7) to her physically absent “husband”-to-be, whom she will not see until his appearing, when the marriage is consummated. In the meantime the father-betrother is responsible for the virginal purity of the betrothed until he “presents” her “as a pure virgin”21 to her “one husband.” How outrageous, therefore, that outsiders should come to Corinth and sully their purity, preaching “another Jesus” (v. 4).
Contrary to the practice of much evangelism where the greater effort tends to be concentrated on and limited to proclamation-response, Paul as an apostle operates within a distinct eschatological framework, regarding himself as responsible for the fidelity of the church to her Lord in the period between proclamation and consummation. The ongoing fidelity of the church in prospect of the end time is his concern. But what of the congregation already founded? It is to be inferred from this verse that the pastor of a congregation evangelized beforehand by others enters into the eschatological sweep of the “ministry” (diakonia) of the new covenant, confirming and constantly repeating the gospel by which the church was created, as well as exhorting the believers to remain focused on Christ, as Paul does here with the Corinthians (see, e.g., Col 2:6–7).
Appropriate to this view of his diakonia, Paul declares at the outset, “I am jealous for you with a godly [RSV, “divine”] jealousy.” This sentiment should not be confused with the petty possessiveness that mars human relationships. His words—which could also be rendered “I am zealous for you with God’s own zeal”—reflect an important theme in the (LXX) OT. Yahweh, Israel’s covenantal God, in zeal for his holy name, binds his people to him in a relationship that excludes the worship of other gods (LXX Exod 20:5; 34:14; Deut 4:24; 6:15). The theme of “zeal” also reflects God’s covenantal care for his people (LXX Isa 9:6; 37:32; 63:15–16). The inter-testamental tradition looked back on individuals like Phinehas and Elijah, who took violent action against idolatry and apostasy, as having acted in zeal for their God. Inspired by zeal for Yahweh, the pre-Christian Saul of Tarsus, as a persecutor of the church, stood in the same tradition (Gal 1:13–14; Phil 3:6; Acts 22:3–4). The Christian Paul’s zeal, however, is a converted zeal, free of the violence that characterized his pre-converted days and zealots before him, a zeal now driven by love (see on 5:14).
The Corinthians are not yet in outright apostasy, though there are dangerous possibilities in that regard (see v. 4). Since he is the initiator of the betrothal, it is his responsibility to safeguard the rights of the divine husband, Christ. The apostle bears the responsibility to ensure that the betrothed is kept faithful to the One she will marry, not diverted nor seduced by an interloper to “another” husband. Let the Corinthians and the would-be seducers understand that the apostle has “betrothed” this bride-to-be to “one husband,” to “present” the Corinthians “as a pure virgin” to Christ. The one Christ, as preached by the apostle, was, and is to remain, the focus of ministry and of faith.
11:2 / The reason (gar, untranslated niv) that Paul asks the Corinthians’ forbearance is that he is jealous for them. The term jealousy, or rather “zeal,” is drawn from the character of Yahweh as the sole husband of Israel (cf. Hos. 1–3; Ezek. 16; Isa. 50:1–2; 54:1–8; 62:5), which is spoken of, correspondingly, as his bride (cf. Isa. 49:18).
Mark 2:19 refers to the Messiah as a bridegroom, and Ephesians 5:22–33 applies this image to the relationship between Christ and the church. Just as Phinehas, the ot prototypical zealot (Num. 25:1–13; cf. Ps. 106:28–31; Sir. 45:23–24; 1 Macc. 2:26, 54), was eager to keep Israel pure from foreign influences, especially intermarriage, which would subvert its devotion to the one true God, so also Paul was zealous to keep the church a pure virgin until the Parousia, when Christ will receive the church for himself.
2. For I am jealous—The justification of his self-commendations lies in his zealous care lest they should fall from Christ, to whom he, as “the friend of the Bridegroom” (Jn 3:29), has espoused them; in order to lead them back from the false apostles to Christ, he is obliged to boast as an apostle of Christ, in a way which, but for the motive, would be “folly.”
godly jealousy—literally, “jealousy of God” (compare 2 Co 1:12, “godly sincerity,” literally, “sincerity of God”). “If I am immoderate, I am immoderate to God” [Bengel]. A jealousy which has God’s honor at heart (1 Ki 19:10).
I … espoused you—Paul uses a Greek term applied properly to the bridegroom, just as he ascribes to himself “jealousy,” a feeling properly belonging to the husband; so entirely does he identify himself with Christ.
present you as a chaste virgin to Christ—at His coming, when the heavenly marriage shall take place (Mt 25:6; Rev 19:7, 9). What Paul here says he desires to do, namely, “present” the Church as “a chaste virgin” to Christ, Christ Himself is said to do in the fuller sense. Whatever ministers do effectively, is really done by Christ (Eph 5:27–32). The espousals are going on now. He does not say “chaste virgins”; for not individual members, but the whole body of believers conjointly constitute the Bride.
Ver. 2.—For. This gives the reason why they bore with him. It was due to a reciprocity of affection. I am jealous over you. The word implies both jealousy and zeal (ch. 7:7; 9:2). With a godly jealousy; literally, with a jealousy of God. My jealousy is not the poor earthly vice (Numb. 5:14; Ecclus. 9:1), but a heavenly zeal of love. For I have espoused you; rather, for I betrothed you; at your conversion. I acted as the paranymph, or “bridegroom’s friend” (John 3:29), in bringing you to Christ, the Bridegroom. The metaphor is found alike in the Old and New Testaments (Isa. 54:5; Ezek. 23; Hos. 2:19; Eph. 5:25–27). To one husband (Jer. 3:1; Ezek. 16:15). Our Lord used an analogous metaphor in the parable of the king’s wedding feast, the virgins, etc. That I may present you. The same word as in ch. 4:14. The conversion of the Church was its betrothal to Christ, brought about by St. Paul as the paranymph; and, in the same capacity, at the final marriage feast, he would present their Church as a pure bride to Christ at his coming (Rev. 19:7–9).
2 ζηλῶ γὰρ ὑμᾶς θεοῦ ζήλῳ, “for I am jealous for you, with a jealousy God inspires [in me].” A Pauline pastoral aside, this sentence points to what underlies Paul’s concern for this church as for all the churches (11:28); γάρ, “for,” gives the link. He is consumed with ζήλος, “jealousy” or “zeal,” a term drawn from the character of Yahweh as the sole husband of Israel (Isa 50:1–2; 54:1–8; 62:5; Ezek 16; Hos 1–3), who is spoken of, correspondingly, as his bride. The marriage image is persistent throughout both Testaments. Batey points out that the description of Christ as the bridegroom is often wrongly sentimentalized. One of its main emphases is the assertion of his lordship over the bride, the church.220
ἡρμοσάμην γὰρ ὑμᾶς ἑνὶ ἀνδρὶ παρθένον ἁγνὴν παραστῆσαι τῷ Χριστῷ, “because I have promised you in marriage to a single husband, even Christ, to present you to him an undefiled virgin.” Paul’s role in this partnership between Christ and his bride is one of φίλος τοῦ νυμφίου, “friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29; Heb. šôšĕbîn, “groomsman,” who acted as best man or escort; see Comment on 6:18 and earlier). As such, he is greatly interested in siding with Christ’s desire to have a pure bride, a virgo intacta (παρθένον ἁγνήν), and he expresses his feelings by a recourse to the OT imagery where Yahweh is said to be a “jealous God” (Exod 20:5), which is another side to his love. “All love involves jealousy, if its exclusive claim is set aside”; and Paul shares this attitude as a mark of his love for the Corinthians (see 6:14–7:4, a pledge to be renewed at 12:15). If this is the ruling idea in Paul’s verb ἡρμοσάμην, “I betrothed,” then it seems we should give extra weight to ἑνί, “one,” with ἀνδρί, “husband,” i.e., “one husband,” as much as to “pure virgin.” So ἑνὶ ἀνδρί, “single husband,” implies that the church is united to Christ and to no other alongside or in place of him. To desert him is to forsake the true Pauline gospel—as v 4 makes apparent—for “another Jesus,” a rival spouse.
The presentation (the verb παρίστημι, “offer, render,” looks on to the Parousia, as in 4:14) of the churchly bride to her future husband is also part of Paul’s task as an apostle, whether as a father figure (1 Cor 4:15; see Comment on 6:12; 7:4) or more probably as an escort. But Paul’s hopes are none too sanguine for the reason given in v 3.
On Paul’s role as betrothing the Corinthians as the bride of Christ [11:2], Harris classifies four sets of interpretation: (1) the friend of the groom or the groomsman, (2) the friend of the bride, (3) the father’s agent, and (4) the father of the bride.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 354–356). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Vol. 2, pp. 339–340). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Harris, M. J. (2008). 2 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 520). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Barnett, P. (1997). The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (pp. 498–500). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Scott, J. M. (2011). 2 Corinthians (p. 204). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 316). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). 2 Corinthians (pp. 262–263). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
 Martin, R. P. (2014). 2 Corinthians. (R. P. Martin, L. A. Losie, & P. H. Davids, Eds.) (Second Edition, Vol. 40, pp. 517–518). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.