Much of the broader context in 2 Corinthians involves an attempt on Paul’s part to discredit false teachers in the midst of the Corinthian Christians and to remind them of his own credibility. In 2 Cor 11:2-6 Paul continues his warning regarding the false teachers only this time he turns up the heat.
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. – 2 Cor 11:2-4
The relationship we have with God is similar to the relationship between a husband and a wife. There is a commitment to faithfulness. Just as marriage is a concrete declaration that there will never be anyone else, so our relationship with God comes at the exclusion of all other options. There can be no one else in the picture but God. Choosing another Jesus, or spirit, or gospel is rejecting God. That is spiritual adultery. All sin is spiritual adultery. Spiritual adultery begins with an acceptance of alternatives and a rejection of God. Once you rationalize yourself into accepting a different or modified lord then you no longer have any room left in your heart and life for the real deal. That is why gnosticism was such a threat to the early church. Their modification and manipulation of who Jesus opened the door for them to get into all sorts of inappropriate behaviors.
The prophet Hosea is the best example of how to understand sin as spiritual adultery. He was told to go and marry a prostitute and have children with her (1:2-3). Some of the children that are born during their marriage are Hosea’s and others are not (1:8-9). Even though Hosea is so good to her she leaves him over and over. Again and again Hosea seeks her out and buys her back from her lovers. He pays for what was already his possession! Hosea is faithful to her. Even though she chases after so many other lovers he takes her back.
When you read Hosea you cannot help but experience his anguish and distress. You cannot help but feel the godly jealousy that he has for the one who is his sole possession who gives her time, attention, and even herself to others who don’t even care about her like he does. It is outright disgusting and embarrassing. But the reality is and what God wanted Israel and us to see is that the anguish Hosea experienced is a mirror image of the anguish God goes through with us! You and me. Not some scantily dressed lady of the night walking the corner. Us! Even wearing our Sunday best we can be guilty of these same offenses. When we live one way the other 167 hours of the week but smile, sing, take the Lord’s Supper and maybe even compliment the preacher on a well delivered sermon for one hour a week and call that a relationship with God. It is outright disgusting. If God doesn’t have you the rest of the week then you are cheating on God. Adultery! Sin is adultery. Probably no one reading this would say it is fine to cheat on their spouse and yet many cheat on God all the time. Do we have a higher standard with our spouse than we do with our God? Just as it would break a faithful spouse’s heart, it breaks God’s heart. And it should break our hearts as well. How often do we fail to be remorseful for the sins we commit? That is like coming home to your spouse after a week out with your lover asking for forgiveness but really feeling no sorrow or shame for what you did. That would be despicable in a marriage. So how is that okay with God?
My prayer is that sin cuts us like it should, that is humbles us and shames us. I pray that we quit our adulterous ways and seek the Lord. He is the only one who can renew our relationship and that comes at a great price – the blood of his son. Finally, listen to these words about the God of reconciliation who is willing to do so much for us to turn our hearts back to him, Hosea 2:14-23.
2:14 – “Therefore, I am going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.”
- Why the wilderness? Because it is a place with limited resources where we will have to turn back to God for our sustenance. We hate our wilderness experiences because it seems like we are barren. We must realize that God can use these to draw us closer to him and rely on him more.
2:15 – “There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor (Valley of Trouble) a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.”
- A return to God comes with a return to the benefits of a relationship with him. The point is that the people thought they could gain all this for themselves apart from God (Hosea 2:8-9) but they always came up empty.
- The Valley of Achor was the place Achan was stoned in Joshua 7. It was the place the people learned the importance of following the Lord and brought the people to a renewed commitment to follow God on his terms. Following God is serious business.
- Lastly, God remembers that honeymoon period in the wilderness. A honeymoon that didn’t last very long. He remembers their loyalty and willingness to follow the Lord. He remembers their choice of him over Egypt. Eventually the honeymoon period ended and the people turned from the Lord. Yet he still remembers that time when the relationship was what it was supposed to be – pure. He longs for that day again as Paul describes our being presented to God as a pure virgin.
2:16-17 – “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master’ (literally – my Ba’al). I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked.”
- Here God uses a play on words – you will no longer call me master (baal) but husband. The relationship will finally be seen for what it was meant to be. Additionally, God will remove from their lips the thoughts of the competing interests (idolatry/spiritual adultery) and they will know the Lord. To know the Lord is to reject all else.
2:18-20 – “In that day I will make a covenant for them…I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love (hesed) and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.”
- As we see throughout this passage and to the end of the chapter (2:23) it all starts with God.
- I am going to allure her…
- I will give her…
- I will remove…
- I will make a covenant…
- I will abolish…
- I will betroth…
- I will betroth…
- I will betroth… (any significance to three times?)
- I will respond…
- I will respond…
- I will plant her…
- I will show my love to the one I called, “Not my loved one.” (the name of one of Hosea’s children and a great reversal).
- I will say to those called, “Not my people,” “You are my people” and they will say, “You are my God.”
- And how do we respond? Acknowledge the Lord. How are we to acknowledge him? We are to acknowledge him as our loving husband who sanctifies us and cleanses us and clothes our nakedness and shame.
We are not called to be faithful to a tyrant or an ogre of a God. We are called to be faithful to the one who has been 100% faithful to us. Chasing anything else over him is adultery. Let us set our commitment firmly on the Lord. Remember how faithful he has been and what he has been willing to go through to bring you near to him. Why chase after anything else?
Usually people commit physical adultery citing the excuse that their needs were not being met. We have a spiritual spouse who promises to meet every single one of our needs and follows through.
Good post, Matt
Good point Neva. If God made us and knows us perfectly then he knows exactly what we need. The alternatives want to use us for what they need.
I’m going to have to read that post again. It’s mid-afternoon and I’m feeling a bit groggy to go over so many words! 🙂
A while back I posted on Hosea, taking a different direction:
Again, I’ll read your post again to make sure I get it.
Thanks for the link. I will have a look.
good topic. i like the blog