This issue of “simplicity” has been a matter that has been employed countless of times. If you had a nickel for every time one used this issue in a conversation we all would be rich. I am not saying there isn’t a context for this, for Paul uses it in 2 Corinthians 11:4; however, often times it is pulled out as a “crutch”. If someone doesn’t understand something they will say it is wrong and say something to the effect, “doesn’t that take away from “the simplicity that is in Christ?”” Yet, Paul uses this expression in a specific context and actually describes “the simplicity that is in Christ”. This doesn’t mean the expression is always employed improperly; however, important nonetheless to get a general understanding for now what Paul is referring to.
Simplicity by definition is: 1) Singleness; the state of being unmixed or uncompounded; 2) The state of being not complex, or of consisting of few parts; 3) Artlessness of mind; freedom from a propensity to cunning or stratagem; 4) Plainness; freedom from subtilty or abstruseness.
2 Corinthians 11:3-4
(3) 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.
(4) For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
There are three basic components to the “simplicity that is in Christ”. These three basic components are usually not what is in mind when someone employs this expression, let alone one or two of them. These three components are “Jesus”, “spirit”, “gospel”. When Paul “preached” Jesus, and the Corinthians “received” the spirit, and “accepted” the gospel they had the fundamental components that make up “the simplicity that is in Christ”. This “simplicity” (not to be confused with how we think of simplicity) “consists of few parts” and provide for a “freedom from propensity to cunning or stratagem”, “freedom from subtilty or abstruseness”. As we learn about Jesus, the spirit of God, and Paul’s gospel, specifically found in Romans we gain a freedom from the subtilty of our own thinking about ourselves, about the world, about the Adversary, about how to live unto God, etc. It is this “simplicity” that is had by someone understanding and believing “Jesus”, “the spirit”, and “the gospel” as per Romans that the Corinthians possessed that Paul has in mind. It is this “simplicity that is (where?) in Christ” that they were being beguiled of. This is a “simplicity that is in Christ” not in our own intellect.
Paul does not speak of “simplicity” in the sense of something being confusing to the individual, for if that is the case the verses above our subject to the believer and what they deem to be confusing or not, complicated or not. Confusing and complicated are different than complex, which things in Paul’s epistles do get complex. Complexity, may take more time and study to understand, but doesn’t mean these complexities are inherently confusing or complicated. Needless to say, “simplicity” denotes uncompounded, not complex, consisting of few parts and that is exactly what the book of Romans does, especially in light of the three basic components that he provides (Jesus, spirit, gospel). The Romans doctrine is the “establishing” of the saints, it is foundation material (Romans 1:11). In fact, before Paul ends the epistle to the Romans he warns them about what we read in 2 Corinthians. Paul says in Romans 16:17-18, Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ (Jesus), but their own belly; and by good words (another spirit) and fair speeches deceive (beguile & corrupt) the hearts of the simple.” As you come out of Romans you are considered “simple” in relation to the “establishing” doctrine, the foundation doctrine, that isn’t “complex” and only consists of a few parts. Paul now is warning them that their understanding as they “learned” in Romans is the means by which to identify others that are causing “divisions and offences”. Another Jesus, another spirit, another gospel are changes, alternations, subtractions, essentially “divisions and offences” from the way they “learned” these things (Jesus, spirit, gospel) from Paul in the epistle. These “deceive” the “simple”. Paul is echoing his Romans warning to the Corinthians of not being beguiled from “the simplicity that is in Christ” that they posses that identifies them as “simple” in Christ.
The tragedy of all this is that today most Christians do not even understand what Paul means when he says “Jesus”, “spirit”, and “gospel” the way in which he delivered it per Romans doctrine. In other words, the Adversary doesn’t even have to “beguile” those saints because they don’t possess, as far as their understanding goes, “the simplicity that is in Christ”. We ought not use this expression so freely, as many do, to justify that a certain individual based upon what they teach takes away from “the simplicity that is in Christ”. If we don’t know what “the simplicity that is in Christ” we are found wanting, not only for a lack of understanding these matters, but therefore for our inability to employ the expression. Should we use the expression when we don’t even know what it indicates or means? Do you know what Paul is speaking of in connection with “Jesus”, “spirit”, and “gospel” as per his introduction of them in Romans?
Josh Strelecki, Pastor-Teacher