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1 Corinthians #8 – The Single Adult Christian and Sexuality


Up to this point, Paul had been dealing with the sins reported to be known in the Corinthian congregation. Now he takes up the questions about which they had written to him.

Some liberal critics have accused Paul of being against both marriage and women. These accusations are not true, of course.

Nor is it true that in 1 Corinthians 7:6, 10, 12, and 25 Paul is disclaiming divine inspiration for what he wrote. Rather, he is referring to what Jesus taught when He was on earth (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12; Luke 16:18).

Paul had to answer some questions that Jesus never discussed; but when a question arose that the Lord had dealt with, Paul referred to His words. Instead of disclaiming inspiration, Paul claimed that what he wrote was equal in authority to what Christ taught.

Christians Married to Christians (1 Cor. 7:1-11)

Apparently one of the questions the church asked was, “Is celibacy [remaining unmarried] more spiritual than marriage?” Paul replied that it is good for a man or a woman to have the gift of celibacy, but the celibate state is not better than marriage, nor is it the best state for everybody. Dr. Kenneth Wuest translates Paul’s reply, “It is perfectly proper, honorable, morally befitting for a man to live in strict celibacy.”

1 First Corinthians 7:6 makes it clear that celibacy is permitted, but it is not commanded; and 1 Corinthians 7:7 informs us that not everybody has the gift of remaining celibate. This ties in with our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 19:10-12, where “eunuchs” refers to those who abstain from marriage. “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18) is generally true for most people; but some have been called to a life of singleness for one reason or another.

One purpose for marriage is “to avoid fornication.” First Corinthians 7:2 makes it clear that God does not approve either of polygamy or homosexual “marriages.” One man married to one woman has been God’s pattern from the first. However, the husband and wife must not abuse the privilege of sexual love that is a normal part of marriage.

The wife’s body belongs to the husband, and the husband’s body to the wife; and each must be considerate of the other. Sexual love is a beautiful tool to build with, not a weapon to fight with. To refuse each other is to commit robbery (see 1 Thes. 4:6) and to invite Satan to tempt the partners to seek their satisfaction elsewhere.

As in all things, the spiritual must govern the physical; for our bodies are God’s temples. The husband and wife may abstain in order to devote their full interest to prayer and fasting (1 Cor. 7:5); but they must not use this as an excuse for prolonged separation. Paul is encouraging Christian partners to be “in tune” with each other in matters both spiritual and physical.

In 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, Paul applied the principle stated in 1 Corinthians 7:1 to single believers and widows: If you cannot control yourself, then marry.

The Responsibilities of Marriage Partners (7:2-6)

Because of fornication it is better for every man to have a wife.”

Sexual drive is God given; but must be fulfilled within the bounds of marriage. Love is something which is expressed by seeking the best for another even when the emotional enthusiasm has diminished.

Paul’s inspired judgment is that man has the right of choice in the question of marriage.

Obligations in marriage.

Sexual intercourse in marriage is not just permitted; it is commanded. The husband and wife belong to each other. Deprive not one another except by mutual consent. Could relate to temporary separation during a time of religious involvement. Without the consent, separation should not take place. Agreement based on a time of prayer. Such prayer was not commanded.

Generally thought of during specific needs and times.

The necessity is there to come back together to avoid Satan’s temptation which is ever present. The idea of separation between husband and wife is a concession, not a command.

 Paul’s Personal Example (7:7-8)

Paul possessed self control with regard to sexual desires. He credited his self control in sexual desire to a gift from God. Paul wished everyone possessed that gift as he did 1 Corinthians 7:9. 

Better to marry than to burn.”

“Burn” – Has to do with present sexual feelings or desire. Does not mean burn in torment. Paul stresses the need for marriage as the means of controlling sexual desires. Marriage should be exercised before sex; not as a result of having sexual encounters. Sexual desire is God given and therefore, not impure if placed in the context of marriage (Hebrews 13:4). In spite of the distress, marriage is better than being overtaken by temptation.

All covenants with God have a visible sign.

Sex is the Marriage Covenant’s Visible Sign

And sex is a sign of the marriage covenant between a man and a woman and God. Sex is a visible sign that makes visible the invisible reality of the union of the two people. The sign of the marriage covenant is sex.

According to the Bible, every other woman in the world a man relates to as a sister or a mother, but only one does he relate to as a wife. The sign between you and that only other person who you relate to as your spouse is sex.

It is designed to be a sign of permanence, safety, security, faithfulness.

Implicit in having sex is the promise of faithfulness. Sex communicates to the other person’s heart and to God the father: “I am touching you because I promise never to leave you nor forsake you. The exchange of our most intimate gifts communicates permanence. That is why sex belongs in marriage.

In this context, we are able to see why sex as a single adult is so damaging. When you have sex with someone as a single adult you are doing two things:

1) you are making permanent promises to the other person’s soul while you have temporary intentions. This creates confusion, anxiety, and insecurity.

2) Sex as a single adult makes a mockery out of the covenant between a man and a woman before the Lord and brings you into a state of spiritual disconnection. It doesn’t matter how brief the hookup or how strictly physical it is, sex outside of marriage leaves devastation emotional and spiritual devastation in its wake.

1 Corinthians 6:18: Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.

The way we typically see things is as commitment increases so does physical intimacy. We basically earn the right to be more intimate as we stay with the person longer. If you haven’t been allowed to have a kiss after three dates then you might get a little upset because you have the right to have a kiss. That’s what dating people do. “We are dating, come on. I’m going to go find someone else.”

However, what the Bible indicates is that if there are only two types of relationships, those you relate to as brothers/sisters/fathers/mothers or husbands/wives, then there are only two levels of sexual intimacy. No sexual intimacy or total sexual intimacy. Please don’t tune this out because it’s some preacher guy who is out of touch. There is no middle ground. No “friends with benefits”. No “hook-up buddies”. No dating and doing everything but intercourse. Because sex includes more than the act of intercourse.

I am not trying to draw a new set of rules for you. I am trying to get you to think about your sexuality in a new way. The way you relate to the opposite sex. Relating sexually as if you were married to that person you are dating brings incredible relational, emotional, physical, and spiritual confusion.

And you are setting yourself up for failure.

Sex as not a birthright or a mile-marker needed after so many days in a relationship. The damage from sex as a single adult comes not because you don’t have the right person, but because it is in the wrong context. The truth

is that the only place where sex is going to be satisfying to your soul is when it is the visible sign of the invisible covenant you have made with that one person of the opposite sex. It is the way we demonstrate our commitment to the covenant to that one person for the rest of our lives.

Managing your Sexuality as a Single Adult

So how does a single person resist the temptation? Sometimes the sex drive seems almost overwhelming especially for those single adults who are single again after being in a marriage relationship where they enjoyed sex in its rightful context.

Here are some practical steps to managing your sexuality as a single adult:

Do not seek sexual satisfaction through touching or being touched by another person, even if you stop short of sexual intercourse.

A lot of single adults will draw a line at not having intercourse but will do everything else. They call it messing around. For married people, “messing around” is the onramp onto the freeway.

Single adults consistently operate in this realm of “messing around” doing everything but the final act and then they wonder why they cannot manage their sexuality.

Do not seek sexual gratification through self stimulation.

Self stimulation does not solve sexual pressure. Many Christians believe that it is a healthy way to deal with their sexual desires. But it is not. Not only can self gratification become habitual, but it produces guilt, is accompanied by lust, and, most importantly, contradicts the God-given design of sexuality.

The sexual act is not designed to be done alone for selfish gratification. Sex is created for relationship with the opposite sex in a marriage covenant. When you gratify yourself, you are training yourself to not need another person physically, emotionally, and mentally, to satisfy yourself. It is pseudo sex.

The more you train yourself to satisfy yourself physically before marriage, the more likely you are to satisfy yourself physically after you are married. Because it’s not really about sex. It is about our lazy, self-centered desire, to satisfy ourselves rather than give ourselves to and for another person. The answer to your pent up  sexual desires is not gratifying yourself, but resisting temptationResist and avoid sexual stimulation.

James 4:6a-7 6 But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil  desires…7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

It is a no-brainer that pornography is destructive and works against you in your quest to be sexually pure. But the real test is what you do with the more common sources of sexual stimulation. R-rated movies, Men’s Health magazine, the newspaper, television, music videos.

In our society you cannot escape sexual stimulation, but you can refuse to seek it. And you can avoid it often when you see it coming. This will tell you whether you are enslaved or free. Can we say no to our bodies that want us to keep looking?

This becomes easier the more we focus on Christ and pure things. There is no better way to overcome a bad desire than to push it out with a new one. It is in prayer that we summon the divine help to produce in us that new desire for God. Fill your mind in God’s Word.

There is nothing that renews the mind like regular meditation on the Scriptures.

Embrace Christian Community

Hebrews 10:24: Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.

The struggle to resist temptation and manage your sexuality must be done in with the help of others seeking the same goals. For some of you the odds are not in your favor of having a lot of success with this because you are surrounded by people who do not believe the same things as you. Every conversation and outing is focused on sex and hooking up. Christian community gives you strength and support. Others will join to help you get to where you want to go instead of trying to rip you off course. You can pray for each other and hold each other accountable.

Make Spiritual Compatibly the Highest Requirement for Romantic Relationships

2 Corinthians 6:14 (Holman Christian Standard Bible): Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and  awlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?

The Bible clearly teaches that it is not appropriate for Christians to be in a relationship where an unbeliever has control over their life. This is especially true for dating relationships. It is hard enough to stay sexually pure as a dating couple when you are both spiritually aligned  with Christ as the center of the relationship. But when the  people is not in agreement and one is trying to remain sexually pure and the other does not have the same goal, guess which one will eventually win? You must make spiritual compatibility your highest priority.

Don’t get Desperate.

Desperate people make poor choices. Desperation begins when faith in God’s future and the enjoyment of the present disappears. When you believe that it will never happen unless you begin to take steps to make it happen yourself because you are just sick and tired of waiting.

When you get desperate you make mistakes. You will make compromises you never intended, date people you should never have dated, marry someone that is not a good fit.

As a single adult, the Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 7 that it is a special time in life where you can pour yourself into ministry and serving others more than at any other time in life. It is a time to live for God boldly, to grow close to him and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Do not become desperate. Desperate people make desperate decisions and pay drastic consequences.

Conclusion

Many want that sexual experience because we believe that that is the pinnacle of feeling loved by someone as a human. But we can learn to replace that with the love that can only be found in the total abandonment to Jesus then we can begin to be loved completely by him and him  alone.

There is going to come a day that even though you are  in a great marriage that there are areas that your spouse can never satisfy.

Inside the covenant of marriage sex is like a great meal, satisfying and nourishing. Outside of marriage it is more like candy. It might give you a short rush, but is full of empty calories with no nourishment. And a steady diet of it will make you sick. It will make you sick in your relationships with the opposite sex and it will make you sick in your relationship with God. Jesus has given us a choice. Now what are you going to do with it?

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2017 in 1 Corinthians, Sermon

 

1 Corinthians #9 – The Limits of Christian Liberty 1 Cor. 8:1-13


After answering their questions about marriage, Paul turned to one of the most controversial subjects in the letter he received from the Corinthian church: “Can Christians eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols?”

Many behaviors are not commanded, commended, or forbidden in Scripture. They are neither black nor white, but gray. Such issues in one age or area may not be the same as those in other times or places; but every age and every place has had to deal with the gray areas of Christian living.

The first major council of the church, reported in Acts 15, was called primarily to deal with such issues. Some Jewish believers were insisting that all male Gentile converts be circumcised (v. 1) and others were afraid to socialize with believing Gentiles, especially over a meal, for fear they would break Jewish dietary laws. These issues were ‘real’ for that time when Christianity for both Jewish and Gentile believers was involved.

The apostles were represented and the council decided that Gentiles need not be circumcised (v. 19) but that believers “abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood” (v. 20). By following those policies they would “do well” (v. 29).

The practices mentioned were not in themselves sinful, but the council advised the churches to abstain from them in order not to needlessly offend Jewish brothers who had strong convictions about them.

Two common extremes are often followed in regard to doubtful things. One is legalism; the other is license.

Legalism believes that every act, every habit, every type of behavior is either black or white. Legalists live by rules rather than by the Spirit. They classify everything as either good or bad, whether the Bible mentions it or not. They develop exhaustive lists of do’s and don’ts. Doing the things on the good list and avoiding the things on the bad list is their idea of spirituality, no matter what the inner person is like.

Their lives are law controlled, not Spirit controlled. But refraining from doing things is not spirituality; walking in the Spirit is spirituality. Legalism stifles liberty, stifles conscience, stifles the Word, and stifles the Holy Spirit.

License is the opposite extreme. It is like legalism in that it too has no gray areas—but neither does it have much black. Almost everything is white; everything is acceptable as long as it is not strictly forbidden in Scripture. Such advocates believe that Christian freedom is virtually absolute and unqualified.

As long as your own conscience is free you can do as you please. That seems to have been the philosophy of the group Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 8. They probably agreed with him that believers should “maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Acts 24:16). Beyond that, however, they wanted no restrictions.

But Paul teaches that it can also be wrong to offend the consciences of fellow believers when they are less mature (“weak”) and when what we are doing is not necessary in our service to the Lord.

In preparation for giving the principle, Paul responds to three reasons some of the Corinthians gave for feeling completely free to act as they pleased in regard to practices not specifically forbidden by God.

The reasons were: (1) We know we all have knowledge; (2) We know that an idol is nothing; and (3) We know that food is not an issue with God.

The apostle agrees that each reason is basically valid, but then goes on to show how none of those reasons should be applied to practices that might cause someone else to stumble spiritually.

There were two sources of meat in this ancient world: the regular market (where the prices were higher) and the local temples (where meat from the sacrifices was always available).

Idol offerings were divided into three parts. One part was burned on an altar as the sacrifice proper. The second part was given as payment to the priests who served at the temple, and the remaining part was kept by the offerer. Because of the large number of offerings, the priests were not able to eat all of their portion, and they sold in the marketplace what they did not need. That meat was highly valued because it was cleansed of evil spirits, and was thus the meat served at feasts and to guests.

The eating of meat offered to idols therefore had the same two associations for Christians, especially for those who had grown up in that religious atmosphere. The meat was associated with pagan gods and goddesses, having been part of an offering to them, and it was associated with the superstition that it had once been contaminated by evil spirits.

Some sensitive Gentile believers refused to buy such meat because it brought back memories of their previous pagan lives or because those who saw them buy it might think they had reverted to paganism. Also many believers, both Gentile and Jewish, were reluctant to eat at the homes of pagan Gentiles—and even of some Christian Gentiles—because they were afraid of being served that meat. Such food could only be doubly unclean according to Jewish dietary law—from which many Jewish Christians found it hard to separate themselves.

On the other hand, some Christians were not bothered. To them, meat was meat. They knew pagan deities did not really exist and that evil spirits did not contaminate food. They were mature, well-grounded in God’s truth, and their consciences were clear in the matter. That group gave Paul the three reasons for freely exercising their liberty.

The strong members of the church realized that idols could not contaminate food, so they saved money by purchasing the cheaper meat available from the temples. Furthermore, if unconverted friends invited them to a feast at which sacrificial meat was served, the strong Christians attended it whether at the temple or in the home.

All of this offended the weaker Christians. Many of them had been saved out of pagan idolatry and they could not understand why their fellow believers would want to have anything to do with meat sacrificed to idols. (In Rom. 14-15, the weak Christians had problems over diets and holy days, but it was the same basic issue.)

In the present passage he uses a simple argument. He says that in Corinth there were men who all their lives, up until now, had believed in the heathen gods; and these men could not quite rid themselves of a lingering belief that an idol really was something, although it was a false something. Whenever they ate meat offered to idols, they had qualms of conscience. They could not help it; instinctively they felt that it was wrong.

So Paul argues that if you say that there is absolutely no harm in eating meat offered to idols you are really hurting and bewildering the conscience of these souls. His final argument is that, even if a thing is harmless for you, when it hurts someone else, it must be a consideration and given up, for a Christian must never do anything which causes his brother to stumble.

Nothing ought to be judged solely from the point of view of knowledge; everything ought to be judged from the point of view of love. The argument of the advanced Corinthians was that they knew better than to regard an idol as anything; their knowledge had taken them far past that.

There is always a certain danger in knowledge. It tends to make a man arrogant and feel superior and look down unsympathetically on the man who is not as far advanced as himself. Knowledge which does that is not true knowledge. But the consciousness of intellectual superiority is a dangerous thing. Our conduct should always be guided not by the thought of our own superior knowledge, but by sympathetic and considerate love for our fellow man. And it may well be that for his sake we must refrain from doing and saying certain otherwise legitimate things.

This leads to the greatest truth of all. No man has any right to indulge in a pleasure or to demand a liberty which may be the ruination of someone else. He may have the strength of mind and will to keep that pleasure in its proper place; that course of action may be safe enough for him; but he has not only himself to think about, he must think of the weaker brother. An indulgence which may be the ruin of someone else is not a pleasure but a sin.

So far, it is the strong Christians who are ahead. Why, then, are the weak Christians upset with them when their position is so logical? Because you don’t always solve every problem with logic.

The little child who is afraid of the dark will not be assured by arguments, especially if the adult (or older brother) adopts a superior attitude. Knowledge can be a weapon to fight with or a tool to build with, depending on how it is used. If it “puffs up” then it cannot “build up [edify].”

Paul’s responses to the reasons were directed to that group of more mature believers. But his responses centered on the other group. He told the mature believers not to focus on their liberty but on the spiritual welfare of those who were less mature. He was saying, “Don’t look at your freedom; look at their need. Your own freedom should be limited by your love for fellow believers. If you love them as God calls you to love, you will not use your liberty in any way that will offend, confuse, or weaken their faith.”

Among the many spiritual problems of the Corinthian Christians was arrogance, a word Paul uses six times in relation to them. They were proud and self-satisfied. They had knowledge without love. As they are reminded several chapters later, a person who has all sorts of abilities and virtues but has no love is “nothing,” and “love does not brag and is not arrogant”(1 Cor. 13:1-4).

Division in the church may be caused by problems of behavior as well as problems of doctrine. When some believers insist on exercising their liberty without regard for the feelings and standards of fellow believers, the church is weakened and frequently divided.

Love is the key to behavior. Knowing what is not forbidden is not enough. When we “do not merely look out for [our] own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4), we are on the road to mature, loving Christian behavior.

Love sets the limits of Christian liberty.

You cannot force-feed immature believers and transform them into giants. Knowledge must be mixed with love; otherwise, the saints will end up with “big heads” instead of enlarged hearts. A famous preacher used to say, “Some Christians grow; others just swell.”

Conscience (vv. 7-13). The word conscience simply means “to know with,” and it is used thirty-two times in the New Testament. Conscience is that internal court where our actions are judged and are either approved or condemned (Rom. 2:14-15). Conscience is not the law;, it bears witness, to God’s moral law. But the important thing is this: conscience depends on knowledge. The more spiritual knowledge we know and act on, the stronger the conscience will become.

Some Christians have weak consciences because they have been saved only a short time and have not had opportunity to grow. Like little babes in the home, they must be guarded carefully.

Other saints have weak consciences because they will not grow. They ignore their Bibles and Christian fellowship and remain in a state of infancy.

Some believers remain weak because they are afraid of freedom They are like a child old enough to go to school, who is afraid to leave home and must be taken to school each day.

The conscience of a weak Christian is easily defiled (1 Cor. 8:7), wounded (1 Cor. 8:12), and offended (1 Cor. 8:13). For this reason, the stronger saints must defer to the weaker saints and do nothing that would harm them.

It is important to note that the stronger believer defers to the weaker believer in love only that he might help him to mature. He does not “pamper” him; he seeks to edify him, to help him grow. Otherwise, both will become weak.

It is also true that some fall into the category of being “willfully weak.” What does that mean? It is that person(s) who has had plenty of teaching and time to know God’s will in a matter…and they choose to use the “weak argument” to get their way or hold back a congregation. This person also keeps the congregation “weak” when they refuse to grow up!

The voice of a Christian’s conscience is the instrument of the Holy Spirit. If a believer’s conscience is weak it is because he is spiritually weak and immature, not because the leading of his conscience is weak. Conscience is God’s doorkeeper to keep us out of places where we could be harmed. As we mature, conscience allows us to go more places and to do more things because we will have more spiritual strength and better spiritual judgment.

A small child is not allowed to play with sharp tools, to go into the street, or to go where there are dangerous machines or electrical appliances. The restrictions are gradually removed as he grows older and learns for himself what is dangerous and what is not.

In deciding about whether or not to participate in any behavior that is doubtful, the following principles make a good checklist to follow.

Excess. Is the activity or habit necessary, or is it merely an extra that is not really important? Is it only an encumbrance that we should willingly give up (Heb. 12:1)?

Expediency. “All things are lawful for me,” Paul says, “but not all things are profitable,” or expedient (1 Cor. 6:12). Is what I want to do helpful and useful, or only desirable?

Emulation. “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). If we are doing what Christ would do, our action should not only be permissible but also good and right.

Example. Are we setting the right example for others, especially for weaker brothers and sisters? If we emulate Christ, others will be able to emulate us, to follow our example.

Evangelism. Is my testimony going to be helped or hindered? Will unbelievers be drawn to Christ or turned away from Him by what I am doing?

Edification. Will I be built up and matured in Christ; will I become spiritually stronger? “All things are lawful, but not all things edify” (1 Cor. 10:23).

Exaltation. Will the Lord be lifted up and glorified in what I do? God’s glory and exaltation should be the supreme purpose behind everything we do.

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

 

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2017 in 1 Corinthians, Sermon

 

1 Corinthians #7 – Christian Liberty and Sexual Freedom 1 Cor. 6:12-20


As we begin, we should remember that prostitution in Corinth was a “religious act of worship.”

Corinth took pride in the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, which had 1,000 cult prostitutes. In the name of religion, men can indulge their fleshly appetites. The Greeks have a proverb about the city of Corinth, which tells us much of its moral decay: “It is not every man who can afford a journey to Corinth.”[1]

Those who are worldly wise use the verb “to corinthianize” to describe an act of immorality. “Corinthian girl” was a synonym for a prostitute.[2] For a Corinthian saint, concluding that whatever is legal is also moral leaves him a great deal of latitude. There isn’t much he can’t do under this definition of morality.

Freedom in Christ was a truth Paul never tired of emphasizing. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.… For you were called to freedom, brethren” (Gal. 5:1, 13).

The Corinthian church had been taught this truth many times while Paul was among them, but they were using it as a theological excuse for sin. They ignored the truth, “only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal. 5:13), which he surely had also taught them.

The use of any Christian liberty should be subject to the following questions:

(1) Does this practice contribute to my own spiritual growth and maturity?

(2) Does this practice contribute to the growth and maturity of fellow-believers?

(3) Does this practice further the gospel?

(4) Does this practice glorify God?

     The Corinthians had perverted this truth to justify their sinning. They possibly used the same argument that Paul anticipated when he was explaining grace to the Roman church: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” (Rom. 6:1). They pretended to have theological justification for living as they wanted.

They may have had a philosophical argument for their sin as well, perhaps implied in 6:13, “Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food.”

Much Greek philosophy considered everything physical, including the body, to be basically evil and therefore of no value. What was done with or to the body did not matter. Food was food, the stomach was the stomach, and sex was sex. Sex was just a biological function like eating, to be used just as food was used, to satisfy their appetites. The argument sounds remarkably modern.

Like many people today, the Corinthian Christians rationalized their sinful thinking and habits. They were clever at coming up with seemingly good reasons for doing wrong things. They also lived in a society that was notoriously immoral, a society that, in the temple prostitution and other ways, actually glorified promiscuous sex.

To have sexual relations with a prostitute was so common in Corinth that the practice came to be called “Corinthianizing.” Many believers had formerly been involved in such immorality, and it was hard for them to break with the old ways and easy to fall back into them. Just as it was hard for them to give up their love of human wisdom, their worldliness, their pride, their divisive spirit, and their love for suing, it was also hard for them to give up their sexual immorality.

The Law of Expediency (v. 12)

  1. All things are lawful.”
  2. Must be considered in context.
  3. 1 Corinthians 9:21 – We are always under law to God and Christ.
  4. 1 Corinthians 10:23 – All things are lawful, but not everything edifies.
  5. Paul is discussing those things which are morally neutral.
  1. All things are not expedient. Three considerations regarding expediency.
  2. It must be lawful – Command, example or necessary inference.
  3. It must be edifying or that which builds up.
  4. It must not be enslaving.
  1. Things which are morally indifferent.
  2. Eating meat.
  3. Eating meat offered to an idol; but stay away from the idol temple because of one’s influence.

In 6:12-20 Paul shows three of the evils of sexual sin: it is harmful to everyone involved; it gains control over those who indulge in it; and it perverts God’s purpose for the body.

Sexual Sin Harms

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything (NASB).

“Everything is permissible, for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything (NIV).

“I am free to do anything,” you say. Yes, but not everything is for my good (New English Bible).

“For me there are no forbidden things”; maybe, but not everything does good (New Jerusalem Bible).

In this passage Paul is up against a whole series of problems. It ends with the summons, “Glorify God with your body.” This is Paul’s battle cry here.

The Greeks always looked down on the body. There was a proverbial saying, “The body is a tomb.” Epictetus said, “I am a poor soul shackled to a corpse.” The important thing was the soul, the spirit of a man; the body was a thing that did not matter. That produced one of two attitudes. Either it issued in the most rigorous asceticism in which everything was done to subject and humiliate the desires and instincts of the body. Or—and in Corinth it was this second outlook which was prevalent—it was taken to mean that, since the body was of no importance, you could do what you liked with it; you could let it sate its appetites. What complicated this was the doctrine of Christian freedom which Paul preached. If the Christian man is the freest of all men, then is he not free to do what he likes, especially with this completely unimportant body of his?

The particular type of sin Paul has in mind here (vv. 13-20) is sexual sin. No sin that a person commits has more built-in pitfalls, problems, and destructiveness than sexual sin. It has broken more marriages, shattered more homes, caused more heartache and disease, and destroyed more lives than alcohol and drugs combined. It causes lying, stealing, cheating, and killing, as well as bitterness, hatred, slander, gossip, and unforgivingness.

The dangers and harm of sexual sin are nowhere presented more vividly and forcefully than in Proverbs. “The lips of an adulteress drip honey, and smoother than oil is her speech” (Prov. 5:3).

The basic truth applies to a prostitute or to any other woman who tries to seduce a man. It also applies to a man who tries to seduce a woman. The point is that sexual allurement is extremely enticing and powerful. It seems nice, enjoyable, and good. It promises nothing but pleasure and satisfaction. But what it ends up giving “is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, her steps lay hold of Sheol. She does not ponder the path of life; her ways are unstable, she does not know it” (vv. 4-6).

The first characteristic of sexual sin is deceit. It never delivers what it promises. It offers great satisfaction but gives great disappointment. It claims to be real living but is really the way to death. Illicit sexual relationships are always “unstable.” Nothing binds those involved except the temporary and impersonal gratification of physical impulses.

Another tragedy of sexual sin is that often those involved do “not know it” is unstable, do not realize perhaps for a long time that their relationship cannot be lasting. Thus they fall deeper and deeper into the pit of their doomed relationship, which makes the dissolution all the more devastating and painful.

Those who consider all sex to be basically evil, however, are as far from the truth as those who consider all sex to be basically good and permissible. God is not against sex. He created and blessed it. When used exclusively within marriage, as the Lord intends, sex is beautiful, satisfying, and stabilizing. “Let your fountain he blessed,” Scripture says, “and rejoice in the wife of your youth.… exhilarated always with her love” (Prov. 5:18-19).

The Bible’s advice for avoiding sexual involvement outside marriage is simple: stay as far away as possible from the persons and places likely to get you in trouble. “Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Prov. 5:8).

When we unavoidably get caught in such a situation, the only sensible thing to do is to get away from it as quickly as we can. Passion is not rational or sensible, and sexually dangerous situations should be avoided or fled, not debated.

Involvement in illicit sex leads to loss of health, loss of possessions, and loss of honor and respect. Every person who continues in such sins does not necessarily suffer all of those losses, but those are the types of loss that persistent sexual sin produces. The sex indulger will come to discover that he has lost his “years to the cruel one,” that his “hard-earned goods” have gone “to the house of an alien,” and that he will “groan” in his latter years and find his “flesh and [his] body are consumed” (Prov. 5:9-11). The “stolen water” of sexual relations outside of marriage “is sweet; and bread eaten in secret is pleasant”; but “the dead are there” (Prov. 9:17-18). Sexual sin is a “no win” situation. It is never profitable and always harmful.

Sexual Sin Controls

“Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything.

Paul was free in the grace of Christ to do as he pleased, but he refused to allow himself to be mastered by anything or anyone but Christ. He would not become enslaved to any habit or custom and certainly not to any sin. “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).

No sin is more enslaving than sexual sin. The more it is indulged, the more it controls the indulger. Often it begins with small indiscretions, which lead to greater ones and finally to flagrant vice. The progression of sin is reflected in Psalm 1: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers” (v. 1). When we willingly associate with sin, we will soon come to tolerate it and then to practice it. Like all other sins that are not resisted, sins of sex will grow and eventually they will corrupt and destroy not only the persons directly involved but many innocent persons besides.

The Corinthians were no strangers to sins of sex, and unfortunately many believers there had gone back to them. In the name of Christian freedom they had become controlled by their own fleshly desires.

Paul wrote the Thessalonians, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thess. 4:3-5). The context argues that “vessel” is here a synonym for body rather than for wife, as many interpreters hold. Every believer is to rightly possess, rightly control, his own body. If we are living in the Spirit, we “are putting to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13).

It is not as easy to be in control of ourselves as we sometimes think. Many people are deceived in thinking they are perfectly in control of their thoughts and actions, simply because they always do what they want. The fact, however, is that their desires and passions are telling them what to do, and they are going along. They are not masters of their desires, but are willing slaves. Their flesh is controlling their minds.

Paul himself testifies that he had to “buffet [his] body and make it [his] slave, lest possibly, after [he had] preached to others, [he himself] should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). Buffet (hupōpiazō) means literally, “to give a black eye, or to beat the face black and blue.” To keep his body from enslaving him, he had to enslave his body. Otherwise he could become disqualified, not for salvation but for holy living and useful service to God.

Sexual Sin Perverts

Paul’s teaching in our text is but an abbreviated version of what he has taught in Romans 6. The Christian dare not feel free to “live in sin,” because he or she has “died to sin” when joined by faith to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Dying to sin is symbolized in Christian baptism. By going under the water, we proclaim in a symbolic way that we died in Christ, and were buried. By coming forth from the water, we proclaim that we have been raised from the dead, in Christ, now enabled to live an entirely new life. To continue to live in sin is to deny everything we believed when we were saved, and everything we symbolically proclaim when we were baptized.

Sexual sin not only harms and controls but also perverts. It especially perverts God’s plan and purpose for the bodies of His people. A Christian’s body is for the Lord; it is a member of Christ; and it is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The Body Is for the Lord

13  “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”–but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14  By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

Food and the stomach were created by God for each other. Their relationship is purely biological. It is likely the Corinthians were using this truth as an analogy to justify sexual immorality. The Greek text says literally, “The foods the belly, the belly the foods.” Perhaps this was popular proverb meant to celebrate the idea that “Sex is no different from eating: the stomach was made for food, and the body was made for sex.” But Paul stops them short. “It is true that food and the stomach were made for each other,” he is saying, “but it is also true that that relationship is purely temporal.” One day, when their purpose has been fulfilled, God will do away with both of them. That biological process has no place in the eternal state.

Not so with the body itself. The bodies of believers are designed by God for much more than biological functions. The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body. Paul had a better proverb in mind with that statement. The body is to be the instrument of the Lord, for His use and glory.

Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. Our bodies are designed not only to serve in this life but in the life to come. They will be changed bodies, resurrected bodies, glorified bodies, heavenly bodies—but they will still he our own bodies.

The stomach and food have only a horizontal, temporal relationship. At death the relationship ceases. But our bodies are far more than biological. For believers they also have a spiritual, vertical relationship. They belong to God and they will forever endure with God. That is why Paul says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:20-21). We need to take serious care of this body because it will rise in glory to be the instrument that carries our eternally glorious and pure spirit throughout eternity.

The Body Is a Member of Christ

15  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16  Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17  But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18  Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.

Paul referred to the Creation account (Gen. 2:24) to explain the seriousness of sexual sin. When a man and woman join their bodies, the entire personality is involved. There is a much deeper experience, a “oneness” that brings with it deep and lasting consequences. Paul warned that sexual sin is the most serious sin a person can commit against his body, for it involves the whole person (1 Cor. 6:18). Sex is not just a part of the body. Being “male” and “female” involves the total person. Therefore, sexual experience affects the total personality.

Paul’s next point follows logically. For a Christian to commit sexual immorality is to make the members of Christ… members of a harlot. It is to use a part of Christ’s own body in an act of fornication or adultery. The idea is incomprehensible to Paul, as it should be to every believer. May it never be!

Sexual relations involve a union; the man and woman become one flesh. This indicates that the most essential meaning of the phrase one flesh (see Gen. 2:24; etc.) is sexual union. God takes sexual sin seriously because it corrupts and shatters spiritual relationships, both human and divine.

Christ’s people are one spirit with Him. That statement is filled with profound meaning and wondrous implications. But for his purpose here, Paul uses it to show that a Christian who commits sexual immorality involves his Lord. All sex outside of marriage is sin, but when it is committed by believers it is especially reprehensible, because it profanes Jesus Christ, with whom the believer is one (cf. John 14:18-23; 15:4, 7; 17:20-23). Since we are one with Christ, and the sex sinner is one with his partner, Christ is placed in an unthinkable position in Paul’s reasoning. Christ is not personally tainted with the sin, any more than the sunbeam that shines on a garbage dump is polluted. But His reputation is dirtied because of the association.

Paul’s counsel regarding sexual sin is the same as Solomon’s in the book of Proverbs: Flee immorality. The present imperative of the Greek indicates the idea is to flee continually and to keep fleeing until the danger is past. When we are in danger of such immorality, we should not argue or debate or explain, and we certainly should not try to rationalize. We are not to consider it a spiritual challenge to be met but a spiritual trap to be escaped. We should get away as fast as we can.

Paul does not elucidate on what he means by Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. I believe he is saying that, although sexual sin is not necessarily the worst sin, it is the most unique in its character. It rises from within the body bent on personal gratification. It drives like no other impute and when fulfilled affects the body like no other sin. It has a way of internally destroying a person that no other sin has. Because sexual intimacy is the deepest uniting of two persons, its misuse corrupts on the deepest human level. That is not a psychological analysis but a divinely revealed fact. Sexual immorality is far more destructive than alcohol, far more destructive than drugs, far more destructive than crime.

The Body Is a Temple of the Holy Spirit

19  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

God the Father created our bodies; God the Son redeemed them and made them part of His body; and God the Spirit indwells our bodies and makes them the very temple of God. How can we defile God’s temple by using our bodies for immorality?

As Christians our bodies are not our own. Paul puts sting into this verse by framing it as a sarcastic question. They are the Lord’s, members of Christ, and temples of the Holy Spirit, who has been given by God to indwell us. So Paul calls for sexual purity not only because of the way sexual sin affects the body, but because the body it affects is not even the believer’s own. Understanding the reality of the phrase the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God should give us as much commitment to purity as any knowledge of divine truth could.

To commit sexual sin in a church auditorium, disgusting as that would be, would be no worse than committing the sin anywhere else. Offense is made within God’s sanctuary wherever and whenever sexual immorality is committed by believers. Every act of fornication, every act of adultery by Christians, is committed in God’s sanctuary: their own bodies. “For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:16). The fact that Christians are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit is indicated in passages such as John 7:38-39; 20:22; Acts 1:8; Romans 8:9; and 1 Corinthians 12:3. The fact that God sent the Holy Spirit is clear from John 14:16-17; 15:26; and Acts 2:17, 33, 38.

We no longer belong to ourselves because we have been bought with a price. We were not “redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from [our] futile way of life inherited from [our] forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

Christians’ bodies are God’s temple, and a temple is for worship. Our bodies, therefore, have one supreme purpose: to glorify God. This is a call to live so as to bring honor to the person of God, who alone is worthy of our obedience and adoration.

A very popular word today used even in Christian circles is the psychological word, “addiction.” Virtually every malady known to man is described as an “addiction.” Men and women, under the bondage of sexual immorality are said to have a “sexual addiction.” Alcoholism is spoken of as an addiction, one for which the individual under bondage is hardly seen to be responsible (after all, it was genetically predestined). Food is an addiction. And now, co-dependency is an addiction. Where will these addictions end? I think I know. They end with a new Master, Jesus Christ. We can serve but one master. When that Master is our Lord Jesus Christ, all other “masters” must be set aside.

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[1] William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), p. 3.

[2] D. H. Madvig, “Corinth,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, rev. ed., Geoffrey W. Bromiley, General Editor (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), vol. I, p. 773.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2017 in 1 Corinthians, Sermon

 

1 Corinthians #5 Church Discipline: Taking Sin Seriously — 1 Cor. 5:1-13


In the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul introduces a shameful problem in the church. The Corinthians proudly attach themselves to certain leaders, whose teaching seems to disclose a “wisdom” not known or taught by other teachers, and certainly not by Paul or his fellow-apostles. These cliques and factions are undermining the unity of the church and are a denial of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Chapter 5 is not actually about the immorality of one church member, as much as it is about the pride and passivity of the entire church in response to this sinner.

The church at Corinth was not only a divided church, but it was also a disgraced church. There was sin in the assembly and everybody knew about it.  But the church was slow to do anything about it.

No church is perfect, but human imperfection must never be an excuse for sin. Just as parents must discipline their children in love, so local churches must exercise discipline over the members of the assembly. Church discipline is not a group of “pious policemen” out to catch a criminal. Rather, it is a group of brokenhearted brothers and sisters seeking to restore an erring member of the family.

The first things the Corinthians needed to see was the need for discipline. Because they apparently had rationalized or minimized the immorality in their midst, they saw no need for discipline. Paul presented to the church three important considerations.

Consider the church: “What will this sin do to the church?” is certainly an important consideration. Christians are “called to be saints” (1 Cor. 1:2), and this means holy living to the glory of God. If a Christian loves his church, he will not stand by and permit sin to weaken it and perhaps ruin its testimony.

How should we respond? Paul gave three specific instructions for the church to follow.

Mourn over the sin (vv. 1-2). It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. 2  And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?

This is the word used for mourning over the dead, which is perhaps the deepest and most painful kind of personal sorrow possible. Instead of mourning, the people at Corinth were puffed up. They were boasting of the fact that their church was so “open-minded” that even fornicators could be members in good standing!

The sin in question was a form of incest: a professed Christian (and a member of the church) was living with his stepmother in a permanent alliance. While Paul is distressed by the sin of this one man, he is even more disturbed by the sinful response of the church. They have “become arrogant,” and at the same time, are virtually doing nothing to correct this matter. Paul is distressed by the arrogance of the saints at Corinth.

Pride is the result of turning from the truth. Pride keeps one from seeing the truth. The Corinthians maintain an attitude of pride when the situation should produce mourning.

Paul shamed the church by saying, “Even the unsaved Gentiles don’t practice this kind of sin!”

In this therapeutic age when the church is often looked upon more as a “support group” than a “holy temple,” church members refuse to discipline members and continue to embrace sinning saints, even when it is clear they have no intention of repenting of their sins, and even when they publicly persist in their sinful ways. If this is the case in Corinth, they would love the expression of our day, “unconditional acceptance.”

An easy-going attitude to sin is always dangerous. It has been said that our one security against sin lies in our being shocked at it. Carlyle said that men must see the infinite beauty of holiness and the infinite damnability of sin. When we cease to take a serious view of sin we are in a perilous position. It is not a question of being critical and condemnatory; it is a question of being wounded and shocked. It was sin that crucified Jesus Christ; it was to free men from sin that he died. No Christian man can take an easy-going view of it.

Christians are not to tolerate sin within the church any more than they are to tolerate it within their own lives. “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints.… And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Eph. 5:3, 11).

Judge the sin (vv. 3-5). Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. 4  When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5  hand this man over to Satan, so that the fleshly nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

While Christians are not to judge one another’s motives (Matt. 7:1-5) or ministries (1 Cor. 4:5), we are certainly expected to be honest about each other’s conduct.

Paul wants to be absolutely clear that the arrogance of the Corinthians is not good. Why not? Because it is destructive. We surely know it is harmful to the man living in sin. But now Paul seeks to show us how destructive failing to deal with sin is to the church.

Paul described here an official church meeting at which the offender was dealt with according to divine instructions. Public sin must be publicly judged and condemned. The sin was not to be “swept under the rug”; for, after all, it was known far and wide even among the unsaved who were outside the church.

The church was to gather together and expel the offender. Note the strong words that Paul used to instruct them: “taken away from among you” (1 Cor. 5:2), “deliver such an one unto Satan” (1 Cor. 5:5), “purge out” (1 Cor. 5:7), and “put away” (1 Cor. 5:13). Paul did not suggest that they handle the offender gently.

This was to be done by the authority of Jesus Christ—in His name—and not simply on the authority of the local church. Church membership is a serious thing and must not be treated carelessly or lightly.

To put the professed believer out of their fellowship, to excommunicate him, would be to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. Satan is the ruler of this world, and turning a believer over to Satan, therefore, thrusts the believer back into the world on his own, apart from the care and support of Christian fellowship. That person has forfeited his right to participation in the church of Jesus Christ, which He intends to keep pure at all costs. The word deliver (paradidōmi) is a strong term indicating the judicial act of sentencing, of handing over for punishment. The sentence passed on a sinning believer is to be given to Satan.

Purge the sin (vv. 6-13). Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? 7  Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

8  Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

 9  I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– 10  not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11  But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. 12  What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13  God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”

Paul turns his readers to imagery of leaven, and the way a little bit of leaven can change the whole lump of dough in which it is found. The sinner whom the Corinthians embrace and fail to put out of the church is likened to a little leaven placed in a lump of dough. If left there for long, it changes the whole batch of dough.

By removing this man from their midst, the church at Corinth not only seeks the sinner’s restoration, they also promote their own purity.

The image here is that of the Passover supper (Ex. 12). Jesus is the Lamb of God who shed His blood to deliver us from sin (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:18-25). The Jews in Egypt were delivered from death by the application of the blood of the lamb. Following the application of the blood, the Jewish families ate the Passover supper. One of the requirements was that no yeast (leaven) be found anywhere in their dwellings. Even the bread at the feast was to be unleavened.

Leaven is a picture of sin. It is small but powerful; it works secretly; it “puffs up” the dough; it spreads. The sinning church member in Corinth was like a piece of yeast: he was defiling the entire loaf of bread (the congregation). It was like a cancer in the body that needed to be removed by drastic surgery.

The church must purge itself of “old leaven.” However, the church must not judge and condemn those who are outside the faith. That judgment is future, and God will take care of it. In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, Paul emphasized once again the importance of separation from the world. Christians are not to be isolated, but separated. We cannot avoid contact with sinners, but we can avoid contamination by sinners.

Paul does not mean for the Corinthians to try to keep the church out of the world, but to keep the world out of the church. He means that those who profess to be saved must live like one who is saved. A person should not be embraced as a believer whose profession and practice are in contradiction.

If a professed Christian is guilty of the sins named here, the church must deal with him. Individual members are not to “company” with him (1 Cor. 5:9—”get mixed up with, associate intimately”). They are not to eat with him, which could refer to private hospitality or more likely the public observance of the Lord’s Supper (see 1 Cor. 11:23-34).

Church discipline is not easy or popular, but it is important. If it is done properly, God can use it to convict and restore an erring believer. Second Corinthians 2:1-11 indicates that this man did repent and was restored to fellowship.

Conclusion

Whatever happened to sin? Years ago, a secular psychiatrist, Dr. Karl Menninger, wrote a book entitled, Whatever Became of Sin. Even this man realized that evils have become too “psychologized,” and that a simple diagnosis of “sin” is needed. I can imagine the kinds of diagnosis we would have today for the malady of this Corinthian man, living with his father’s wife.

For Paul, the diagnosis is simple, and so is the prescription. The problem is the sin of immorality, and the prescription is to remove him from the church. When the Bible is the standard for conduct, and it is viewed and used for defining sin and righteousness, the diagnosis of this man’s problem is not that difficult.

Whatever has happened to church discipline? I have seen very little of it. Even when such discipline is taken, all too many church members are tempted to second-guess the church and to privately continue to fellowship with the one under discipline. This is a most serious matter, for if I understand the Scriptures correctly, to do so is to become a partner with that person in the sin.

Church discipline is one of those very clear duties of the church and of the individual Christian. Why, then, is it not practiced more often? These verses suggest that arrogance or pride can be one cause.

I would also suggest that these days fear may now be a cause for not taking disciplinary action. We may be afraid to take a stand against sin because we are afraid of rejection. We may be afraid of appearing to be narrow and unloving. We may be unwilling to lose the friendship and the fellowship of those we love. Some church leaders are afraid of being sued for taking disciplinary action against a church member. It can and does happen. I suspect that it will happen more and more in the coming days.

Sinful men and women should not and cannot be comfortable in the presence of a holy God, save through the cleansing of their sins by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Men and women cannot come to faith without first becoming uncomfortable about their sin and God’s judgment. That is what being saved is all about—being saved from the wrath of God upon sinners.

God takes sin seriously. That is why the cross of Calvary was necessary. God took our sin so seriously that He sent His Son to die in our place, to suffer the punishment for our sins.

The good news of the gospel is that while God takes our sin seriously, and while our sin must be judged, He has judged our sins in Christ. To enter into this forgiveness, all we need do is to receive the gift of salvation which God offers to us by faith in His Son. Believe that Christ is the Savior and be willing to repent of the sin and confess that you want Christ to be both Savior and Lord. And be immersed in water so you wins can be forgiven.

When we see how seriously God has taken our sins, we see how serious we must be about sin as well.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2017 in 1 Corinthians

 

1 Corinthians #4 God Gives the Increase – 1 Corinthians 3


The church is a family and the goal is maturity (1 Cor. 3:1-4).

1  Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Christ. 2  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3  You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4  For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?

Why—when we have God’s own Spirit within us, the mind of Christ, and the power of God—could it be so difficult to do what is right, to do what our Lord wants us to do?

There are two reasons: the world and the flesh. The first is outside us, the second is inside us. They are Satan’s supreme instruments in tempting believers and keeping them from faithfulness and victory

The church has often thought of worldliness only in terms of bad habits. But worldliness is much deeper than bad habits; it is an orientation, a way of thinking and believing. Basically it is buying the world’s philosophies, buying human wisdom.

It is looking to the world—to human leaders, to influential and popular people, to neighbors, associates, and fellow students—for our standards, attitudes, and meaning. Worldliness is accepting the world’s definitions, the world’s measuring sticks, the world’s goals

The world and the flesh are closely related. They are used by the same power, Satan, and they serve the same purpose, evil. They complement each other and are often hard to distinguish. But it is not necessary to precisely distinguish between them, because both of them are spiritual enemies, and both must be fought with the same weapons—God’s Word and God’s Spirit.

Paul already explained that there are two kinds of people in the world—natural (unsaved) and spiritual (saved). But now he explained that there are two kinds of saved people: mature and immature (carnal). A Christian matures by allowing the Spirit to teach him and direct him by feeding on the Word. The immature Christian lives for the things of the flesh (carnal means “flesh”) and has less interest in the things of the Spirit. Of course, some believers are immature because they have been saved only a short time, but that is not what Paul is discussing here.

Paul was the “spiritual father” who brought this family into being (1 Cor. 4:15). During the eighteen months he ministered in Corinth, Paul had tried to feed his spiritual children and, help them mature in the faith. Just as in a human family, everybody helps the new baby grow and mature, so in the family of God we must encourage spiritual maturity

A Christian is not habitually characterized by sin; it no longer represents his basic nature. But he is still able to sin, and his sin is just as sinful as the sin of an unbeliever. Sin is sin. When a Christian sins, he is being practically unspiritual, living on the same practical level as an unbeliever. Consequently Paul is compelled to speak to the Corinthian believers much as if they were unbelievers.

Perhaps somewhat to soften the rebuke, he also compares them to babes in Christ. It was far from a compliment, but it did recognize that they truly belonged to Christ.

What are the marks of maturity? For one thing, you can tell the mature person by his diet. As children grow, they learn to eat different food. They graduate (to use Paul’s words) from milk to meat.

What is the difference? The usual answer is that “milk” represents the easy things in the Word, while “meat” represents the hard doctrines.

The Word of God is our spiritual food: milk (1 Peter 2:2). bread (Matt. 4:4), meat (Heb. 5:11-14), and even honey (Ps. 119:103). Just as the physical man needs a balanced diet if his body is to be healthy, so the inner man needs a balanced diet of spiritual food. The baby begins with milk, but as he grows and his teeth develop, he needs solid food.

It is not difficult to determine a believer’s spiritual maturity, or immaturity, if you discover what kind of “diet” he enjoys.

There is another way to determine maturity: the mature Christian practices love and seeks to get along with others. Children like to disagree and fuss. And children like to identify with heroes, whether sports heroes or Hollywood heroes.

Because self-centeredness is at the heart of fleshly behavior, jealousy and strife are always found in an immature congregation. Jealousy is the attitude, and strife is the action that results from it. One is the inner emotional condition, the other the outward expression of selfishness.

Jealousy and strife are not the least of the symptoms of fleshly living. Those sins are more destructive than many Christians seem to think. They are far from being petty sins, because, among other things, they cause division in the church, Christ’s body, for whom He gave His life. They are among the surest marks of fallen humanness, just as unity is one of the surest marks of divine transformation.

Jealousy is a severe form of selfishness, begrudging someone else what we wish were ours. And selfishness is one of the most obvious characteristics of babyhood. An infant’s life is almost totally self-centered and selfish. Its whole concern is with its own comfort, hunger, attention, sleep. It is typical of a young child to be self-centered, but it should not be typical of an adult, especially a Christian adult. It is spiritually infantile to be jealous of and to cause strife among fellow believers, and it betrays a fleshly perspective.

The cure for division is turning away from self and setting our eyes on the one God whom we all glorify. When our attention is focused on our Lord, as it always should be, there will be no time and no occasion for division. When our attention is on Him it cannot be on ourselves or on human leaders or human factions.

Apollos and Paul were simply the servants through whom you believed. They were the instruments, not the source, of salvation.

The church is a field and the goal is quantify (1 Cor. 3:5-9a). What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8  The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9  For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Paul goes on to show the essential folly of this party spirit with its glorification of human leaders. In a garden one man may plant a seed and another may water it; but neither can claim to have made the seed grow. That belongs to God and to God alone.

“Planted” and “watered” – Single action, completed in the past.

“God gave the increase.” “Gave” – Perfect tense which denotes continuing action on the part of the Lord.

The man who plants and the man who waters are on one level; neither can claim any precedence over the other; they are but servants working together for the one Master—God. God uses human instruments to bring to men the message of his truth and love.

Paul will have more to say about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14, but this should be said now: A mature Christian uses his gifts as tools to build with, while an immature believer uses gifts as toys to play with or trophies to boast about. Many of the members of the Corinthian church enjoyed “showing off’ their gifts, but they were not interested in serving one another and edifying the church.

What is the ministry all about? It involves loving, feeding, and disciplining God’s family so that His children mature in the faith and become more like Jesus Christ.

The Temple—Quality (1 Corinthians 3:9b-23 (NIV)

…God’s building. 10  By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12  If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13  his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. 16  Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 17  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. 18  Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. 19  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20  and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21  So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, 22  whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future–all are yours, 23  and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

The usual explanation of this passage is that it describes the building of the Christian life. We all build on Christ, but some people use good materials while others use poor materials. The kind of material you use determines the kind of reward you will get.

God is concerned that we build with quality. The church does not belong to the preacher or to the congregation. It is God’s church. “Ye are God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9). If we are going to build the local church the way God wants it built, we must meet certain conditions.

First, we must build on the right foundation (vv. 10-11). That foundation is Jesus Christ. When Paul came to Corinth, he determined to preach only Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:1-2). He laid the only foundation that would last.

The foundation is laid by the proclaiming of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The foundation is the most important part of the building, because it determines the size, shape, and strength of the superstructure. A ministry may seem to be successful for a time, but if it is not founded on Christ, it will eventually collapse and disappear.

Second, we must build with the right materials (vv. 12-17). Paul described two opposite kinds of materials, as the chart reveals.

Gold, Silver, Precious Stones Wood, Hay, Stubble
Permanent Passing, temporary
Beautiful Ordinary, even ugly
Valuable Cheap
Hard to obtain Easy to obtain

What did Paul want to symbolize by his choice of materials? He is not talking about people, because Christians are the “living stones” that make up God’s temple (1 Peter 2:5). I personally believe Paul is referring to the doctrines of the Word of God. In each section of this chapter, the Word is symbolized in a way that fits the image of the church Paul used. The Word is food for the family, seed for the field, and materials for the temple.

THE LOCAL BODY – THE HOLY OF HOLIES (3:16-17). Divine Judgment Promised. Warning about destroying the church through disunity.

  1. “Sanctuary or temple” – Word used in the Old Testament when referring to the Holy of Holies.
  2. God indwells the church, because He indwells each member of the church.
  3. Destruction of the temple was taking place by the Corinthians having divisions in the church (boasting in men).
  4. The consequences of destroying the Temple of God (verse 17) – him will God destroy. They were destroying the church through their carnality and glorying in men.

NOTE: The warning is clear: Do not attempt to harm “God’s temple.” To avoid this sin, realize three truths: (1) corporately they were the Temple of God; (2) the Spirit of God lives in their congregation; (3) they were holy.

Third, we must build according to the right plan (vv. 18-20).

The world depends on promotion, prestige, and the influence of money and important people. The church depends on prayer, the power of the Spirit, humility, sacrifice, and service.

1 Corinthians 3:19 warns that man’s wisdom will only trap him (a quotation from Job 5:13); and 1 Corinthians 3:20 warns that man’s wisdom only leads to vanity and futility (a quotation from Ps. 94:11). Though the church must be identified with the needs of the world, it must not imitate the wisdom of the world.

Dangerous Practices – Pride In Men. There will be no divisions if each person places Christ at the center of their lives.

  1. Negative: Let no man deceive himself that he is wise (v. 18a). The word “deceive” means “one caught up in complete or total deception.”
  2. Positive: Let him become a fool in order to be wise (v. 18b). Reject the “wisdom” of men that you may accept the “foolishness” of God, which is the cross.
  3. No possession in human leaders (v. 21a). The Corinthian believers did not belong to Paul, Apollos, or Cephas.
  4. They, in fact belong to the Christians as God had sent them to bring instruction.
  5. Everything is possessed in Christ (v. 21b-23). All things belong to us through God. The world belongs to Christians that we might glorify God. Death belongs to Christians that we might anticipate its coming (Philippians 1:21).

Finally, we must build with the right motive (vv. 21-23). That motive is the glory of God.

Paul closed this appeal by pointing out that each believer possesses all things in Christ. Each one of God’s servants belongs to each believer. No member of the church should say, “I belong to Paul!” or “I like Peter!” because each servant belongs to each member equally.

“All are yours”—the world, life, death, things present, things to come! How rich we are in Christ! If all things belong to all believers, then why should there be competition and rivalry?

“Ye are Christ’s”—this balances things. I have all things in Jesus Christ, but I must not become careless or use my freedom unwisely.

“All things are yours”—that is Christian liberty. “And ye are Christ’s”—that is Christian responsibility. We need both if we are to build a church that will not turn to ashes when the fire falls.

In this passage Paul is surely speaking from personal experience. He was of necessity a foundation layer and was forever on the move. True, he stayed for eighteen months in Corinth (Ac 18:11) and for three years in Ephesus (Ac 20:31); but in Thessalonica he can have stayed less than a month, and that was far more typical.

Wherever he went, he laid the same foundation. That was the proclamation of the facts about and the offer of Jesus Christ. It was his tremendous function to introduce men to Jesus Christ because it is in him, and in him alone, that a man can find three things.

(a) He finds forgiveness for past sins. He finds himself in a new relationship to God and suddenly discovers that he is his friend and not his enemy. He discovers that God is like Jesus; where once he saw hatred he now sees love, and where once he saw infinite remoteness he now sees tender intimacy.

(b) He finds strength for the present. Through the presence and help of Jesus he finds courage to cope with life, for he is now no longer an isolated unit fighting a lonely battle with an adverse universe. He lives a life in which nothing can separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus his Lord. He walks life’s ways and fights its battles with Christ.

(c) He finds hope for the future. He no longer lives in a world in which he is afraid to look forward but in one where God is in control and working together all things for good. He lives in a world where death is no longer the end, but only the prelude to greater glory. Without the foundation of Christ a man can have none of these things.

But on this foundation of Christ others built. Paul is not here thinking of the building up of wrong things, but the building up of inadequate things. A man may present to his fellow men a version of Christianity which is weak and watered down; a one-sided thing which has stressed some things too much and others too little, and in which things have got out of balance; a warped thing in which even the greatest matters have emerged distorted.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2017 in 1 Corinthians

 

1 Corinthians #3 True Wisdom -1 Corinthians 2:1-16


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When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3  I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5  so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

Simple and Straightforward. Paul came not with excellence of speech or wisdom, but with the testimony of God. Wisdom refers to man’s wisdom. Paul preached one message: Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

It is worth noting that Paul had come to Corinth from Athens. It was at Athens that, for the only time in his life, as far as we know, he had attempted to reduce Christianity to philosophic terms. There, on Mars’ Hill, he had met the philosophers and had tried to speak in their own language (Ac 17:22-31); and it was there that he had one of his very few failures.

Some suggest that Paul seemed to say to himself, “Never again! From henceforth I will tell the story of Jesus in utter simplicity. I will never again try to wrap it up in human categories. I will know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him upon his Cross.”

I disagree! It is not unusual to find out ‘where people are’ in their understandings and then seek to ‘teach them’ to a different place.

Not With Superiority of Speech. Paul preached the simple gospel in simple terms. The gospel is: the salvation God has provided for man through the death of Christ on the cross. The death of Christ is in the past, but the effect is ongoing even to today.

The Source of Paul’s Message. Paul explains that the message came not from him, but from God. Paul admits that he came with fear and trembling, so they had no reason to glory in him. The message was a demonstration of what the Spirit of God had taught him.

Here we have to be careful to understand. It was not fear for his own safety; still less was it that he was ashamed of the gospel that he was preaching. It was what has been called “the trembling anxiety to perform a duty.”

The very phrase which he uses here of himself Paul also uses of the way in which conscientious slaves should serve and obey their masters. (Eph 6:5). It is not the man who approaches a great task without a tremor who does it really well.

The really effective preacher is he whose heart beats faster while he waits to speak. The man who has no nervousness, no tension, in any task, may give an efficient performance; but it is the man who has this trembling anxiety who can produce an effect which artistry alone can never achieve.

The message was not a demonstration of the wisdom of man, but of the power of God.  Paul did not rely on any type of trick with regard to the gospel, but simply let the facts speak for themselves.

Paul’s approach in Corinth.

  • His method (v. 1) – Did not use human rhetoric (eloquence).
  • His message (v. 2) – Simple, clear and frank presentation of both the person of Christ and His redemptive work.
  • His manner (v. 3) – In weakness, in fear, in trembling.
  • His means (v. 4) – Not in persuasive words of wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit of power.
  • His motive (v. 5) – So that your faith may be not in the wisdom of man but in the power of God.

No one can argue against the proof of a changed life. It is our weakness that too often we have tried to talk men into Christianity instead of, in our own lives, showing them Christ.

Paul’s actions in Corinth were purposeful, not accidental or haphazard. It was not that Paul was ignorant or uneducated, nor was it that Paul only knew about Christ and Christ crucified (verse 2). Paul determined that this was all he would know while ministering in Corinth (or anywhere else). He chose to limit his knowledge to those truths which would save men from their sins and transfer them from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.

God’s Wisdom and the Wisdom of This Age (2:6-9)

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7  No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8  None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9  However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”–

The wisdom which Paul proclaimed was not of this world; for it was worldly wisdom which caused Christ to be crucified.

  1. Mature – Those who have reached a certain goal in their lives; for they have honestly accepted and obeyed the message of Christ.
  2. The immature reject the message of Christ; preferring the wisdom of man.

The Nature of God’s Wisdom. We speak God’s wisdom in a mystery.”

Salvation was purchased by the Son, but it was planned by the Father. Those who talk about “the simple Gospel” are both right and wrong. Yes, the message of the Gospel is simple enough for an illiterate pagan to understand, believe, and be saved. But it is also so profound that the most brilliant theologian cannot fathom its depths.

“Mystery” – That which would not have been known if it had not been revealed. Before God created anything, He thought about and planned our eternal destiny through His Son (Ephesians 3:3-5).

The Rejection of God’s Wisdom. Rulers of this age were motivated by worldly wisdom. Paul refers back to the Jewish leaders. If they had based their wisdom solely on God’s word, they would have accepted Christ as the Messiah.

The idea did not originate with man, but with God. The idea originated with God before the foundation of the world. God reveal them through the Holy Spirit, who searches the deep things of God.

Let’s notice the characteristics of this wisdom.

This wisdom comes from God, not man (v. 7). This wisdom tells the mature saint about the vast eternal plan that God has for His people and His creation. The wisest of the “princes of this world [age]” could not invent or discover this marvelous wisdom that Paul shared from God.

This wisdom is hidden from the unsaved world (v. 8).

Who are “the princes of this world [age]” that Paul mentions? Certainly the men who were in charge of government when Jesus was on earth did not know who He was (Acts 3:17; 4:25-28). When Jesus on the cross prayed “Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), He was echoing this truth. Their ignorance did not excuse their sin, of course, because every evidence had been given by the Lord and they should have believed But there is another possibility.

Judaism, under the rule of the chief priests, in an uneasy relationship with Herod Antipas, ‘the king of the Jews’, played their part by keeping the local people on side with Rome’s decision.

The satanic forces, including Satan himself, did not understand God’s great eternal plan! They could understand from the Old Testament Scriptures that the Son of God would be born and die, but they could not grasp the full significance of the cross because these truths were hidden by God. In fact, it is now, through the church, that these truths are being revealed to the principalities and powers (Eph. 3:10).

Satan thought that Calvary was God’s great defeat; but it turned out to be God’s greatest victory and Satan’s defeat! (Col. 2:15) From the time of our Lord’s birth into this world, Satan had tried to kill Him, because Satan did not fully understand the vast results of Christ’s death and resurrection. Had the demonic rulers known, they would not have “engineered” the death of Christ. (Of course, all of this was part of God’s eternal plan. It was God who was in control, not Satan.)

This verse is a quotation (with adaptation) from Isaiah 64:4. The immediate context relates it to Israel in captivity, awaiting God’s deliverance. The nation had sinned and had been sent to Babylon for chastening. They cried out to God that He would come down to deliver them, and He did answer their prayer after seventy years of their exile. God had plans for His people and they did not have to be afraid (Jer. 29:11).

Paul applied this principle to the church. Our future is secure in Jesus Christ no matter what our circumstances may be. In fact, God’s plans for His own are so wonderful that our minds cannot begin to conceive of them or comprehend them! God has ordained this for our glory. It is glory all the way from earth to heaven!

For those who love God, every day is a good day…God will use it for good or cause all things to work out for good. It may not look like a good day, or feel like it; but when God is working His plan, we can be sure of the best. It is when we fail to trust Him or obey Him, when our love for Him grows cold, that life takes on a somber hue. If we walk in God’s wisdom, we will enjoy His blessings.

How God’s Wisdom Is Revealed (2:10-13)

“…but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11  For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12  We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13  This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.

Paul shared deep things:

  • Things that are for the “mature” (teliois).
  • Things that are not “from” the pagans or the
  • Things that are “of” God.
  • Things that are a “mystery” and have been “hidden.”
  • Things which manifest the eternal plan of God.
  • Things that cannot be “discovered” by men.
  • Things prepared by God only “for those who love Him.”

The Holy Spirit and Revelation. The Holy Spirit brought these things into view.

“Deep things of God” – The very core of God’s mind. Includes God’s redemptive plan. The Spirit revealed the entire plan of redemption and so we cannot expect additional revelation from God on the subject. These are just some of the ‘deep things of God.

God revealed them through the Holy Spirit. This has always been the work of the Holy Spirit.

  • The Old Testament writers wrote and spoke by Him (2 Peter 1:21; 1 Peter 1:11).
  • The prophets spoke by the Spirit (cf. Micah 3:8).
  • Jesus also spoke by the Spirit (Luke 4:18-19; Acts 10:38).
  • His apostles and prophets did the same (John 16:12-14; 1 Peter 1:12).

2 Peter 1:20-21 (NIV)  Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21  For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17  so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Who really knows the thought of a man except the man himself; by the same token who knows the mind of God except the Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit understands the mind of God. Therefore it became the Holy Spirit’s function to reveal that thought process to men such as Paul, who delivered it to man through the spoken and written word.

Promises Made By Jesus Regarding Inspiration

  1. Matthew 10:19 – The apostles were promised that whatever words they needed would be given to them by God.
  2. Luke 12:11-12 – The Holy Spirit will teach the apostles how and what they were to say.
  3. John 16:12-15 – The Holy Spirit will remind the apostles of all that Jesus taught and will guide them into all truth.

NECESSITY OF SPIRITUAL RECEPTION OF GOD’S WISDOM (2:14-16)

The Natural Man (v. 14). Unspiritual one who does not welcome openly and freely the things (ideas taught by the apostles in verse 13) of the Spirit.

They are foolishness to him. He cannot know them because they are spiritually examined. He views life physically.

The word accept (NIV), in verse 14 means to receive as a guest, to welcome one openly and freely.

The Spiritual Man (v. 15). “One who is governed and filled by the Spirit of God.” (Thayer p. 523)

  1. His identity – spiritual.
  2. His ability – judges all things.
  3. His immunity – judged by not man.
  4. His secret – possesses mind of Christ (cf. Philippians 2:5ff).

Spiritual Understanding Prohibits Glorying In Men.

If the church understood the spiritual message of the redemptive nature of the cross, they could not glory in the men who brought the message and thereby cause division.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2017 in 1 Corinthians

 

1 Corinthians #2 The Cross of Christ Has No Status to the Lost – 1 Corinthians 1:18-25


true-spirituality18  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19  For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20  Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

21  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

22  Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23  but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24  but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25  For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

What would you think if a woman came to work wearing earrings stamped with an image of the mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima?

What would you think of a church building adorned with a wall painting of the mass graves at Auschwitz, Germany?

Both visions are grotesque. They are not only intrinsically abhorrent, but they are shocking because of powerful cultural associations.

The same sort of shocked horror was associated with cross and crucifixion in the first century. Apart from the emperor’s explicit sanction, no Roman citizen could be put to death by this means….it was illegal to do such. Crucifixion was reserved for slaves, aliens, and barbarians. Crucifixion was not only a horrible death; it was a shameful death.

Many thought it was not something to be talked about in polite company, any more than we today would discuss over dinner the gas chamber or the electric chair.

Yet today, crosses adorn our buildings and letterheads, shine from lapels, and dangle from our ears—and no one is scandalized. It is this cultural distance from the first century that makes it so hard for us to feel the compelling irony of 1 Corinthians 1:18: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

To say the same thing in a different way: the cross of Christ has no status to the lost.

The key word in this paragraph is wisdom; it is used eight times. The key idea that Paul expressed is that we dare not mix man’s wisdom with God’s revealed message.

Fascinated by the rhetoric of learned scholars of their day, the Corinthians were sometimes more impressed by form and show than by content and truth. They loved literally, “wisdom of word,” (1:17) the wit and eloquence that neatly packaged more than one school of thought in first-century Greece.

God was pleased to save those who believe “through the foolishness of what was preached” (1:21). It is the content of what is preached that Paul here emphasizes, not the act of preaching.

In verses 18-25, Paul reminds the church that those who are status seekers will never gain recognition and status from the unbelieving world. The gospel does not appeal to human pride; it cannot even co-exist with it. The gospel informs us that there is only one thing to do with pride—crucify it.

Simply  to make  the  announcement, to  tell the  story  of Jesus and  his cross, was to invite people to mock.

I have struggle most of the week to know how to best present and explain the closing verses of this chapter. It finally hit me Friday that the best way is to look at Acts 17:16-21. These verses present exactly what Paul is addressing in Corinth.

16  While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.

17  So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.

18  A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

19  Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?

20  You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.”

 21  (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

So when  he announced it, when  he stood  up in the synagogue or the market-place or the debating-chamber, he didn’t use clever words  to  trick  people into thinking  they believed it because  they  enjoyed  his speaking style. Now, writing  this letter, looking back on his initial announcement, he can for a moment spin  some  good  sentences  together,  to  tease  them into seeing the point. But he didn’t do that when making  the original  proclamation. The  cross  had  to  do  its  own  work. Simply telling the story released a power  of quite  a different sort  from  any power  that  human  speech  could  have: God’s power, beside which all human power looks weak; God’s wisdom, beside which all human  learning looks like folly.

Paul  says it the  other  way round,  to  make  the  point  with stunning rhetorical effect: God’s folly is wiser than  humans, and  God’s weakness  is stronger  than  humans!  Of course, it’s very easy for humans, when they believe the gospel, to turn  it into a way of inflating  their own  personal  or political  power, or showing  off how clever they are. But to do so is to under­ mine the very point of the message. The Christian  good news is all about  God dying on a rubbish-heap at the wrong  end of the  Empire. It’s all about  God babbling  nonsense  to a room full  of philosophers.  It’s all about  the true  God confronting the world of posturing, power and prestige, and overthrowing it  in  order  to set up his own kingdom, a kingdom  in which the weak and the  foolish  find themselves just as welcome  as the strong  and the wise, if not more so. Think  back to Jesus himself, and the people he befriended, and ask yourselfwhether Paul is not being utterly loyal to his master.

In other  words, as he says in Romans  1.1 6, the gospel, the royal  announcement that  Jesus  is  Lord,  because  God  has raised  him  from  the  dead,  is ‘God’s  power  for  salvation  to those who believe’. When this announcement is made, people discover   to  their   astonishment  that   things   change.  Lives change.  Human  hearts  change. Situations  change. New communities come into being, consisting of people grasped by the message, believing it’s true  despite  everything,  falling in love with  the  God they find to be alive in this  Jesus, giving Jesus their supreme  loyalty. That  is the evidence Paul has in mind.

‘To us who are being saved, it is God’s power.’ That is as true in  the  twenty-first century  as it was in  the  first – however much  people today, exactly as in Paul’s day, defend their  own power and prestige by declaring that it’s all folly.

The “word of the cross,” that is, the gospel, is not a status symbol to unbelievers; it is an offense. For those of us who “are being saved,” the gospel is the power of God. For the unbeliever, the cross is a shame; for the Christian, the cross is glorious.

The Message of the Cross, by God’s Determination, Divides the Human Race Absolutely (1:18–21)

He is contrasting ‘the wisdom  of the world’  with ‘the  wisdom  of God’. His basic claim is that  the message about  the Messiah and his cross carries a power of quite a different sort to the power of human  rhetoric, with its showy style designed to entertain the ear and so gain an undeserved hearing  for  a merely human  message.

The  point  is that  when  Paul came into  a pagan  city that prided  itself on its intellectual and cultural  life, and stood  up to speak about  Jesus of Nazareth,  who had been crucified  by the Romans  but  raised  from the dead by God, and  who  was now  the  Lord  of the  world,  summoning people to faithful obedience, he knew what people would think. This was, and is, the  craziest  message  anybody could  imagine.  This  wasn’t  a smart new philosophy;  it was madness. It wasn’t an appeal to high  culture.  It was  news  of  an  executed  criminal  from   a despised race.

The ancient world deployed various polarities for describing humanity: Romans and barbarians, Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free.

Paul sets forth the only polarity that is of ultimate importance: he distinguishes between those who are perishing and those who are being saved. The dividing line between these two groups is the message of the cross: “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1:18).

Both to the cultured Greek and to the pious Jew the story that Christianity had to tell sounded like folly. Paul begins by making use of quotations from Isaiah (Isa 29:14; Isa 33:18) to show how mere human wisdom is bound to fail.

Isaiah 29:14: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

He cites the undeniable fact that for all its wisdom the world had never found God and was still blindly seeking him. That very search was designed by God to show men their own helplessness and so to prepare the way for the acceptance of him who is the one true way:

What then was this Christian message? If we study the four great sermons in the Book of Acts (Ac 2:14-39; Ac 3:12-26; Ac 4:8-12; Ac 10:36-43) we find that there are certain constant elements in the Christian preaching.

  • There is the claim that the great promised time of God has come.
  • There is a summary of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
  • There is a claim that all this was the fulfilment of prophecy.
  • There is the assertion that Jesus will come again.
  • There is an urgent invitation to men to repent and receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.

In other words, the message of the cross is nothing other than God’s way of doing what he said he would do: by the cross, God sets aside and shatters all human pretensions to strength and wisdom.

But to this God says, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Human folly and human wisdom are equally unable to achieve what God has accomplished in the cross. The gospel is not simply good advice, nor is it good news about God’s power. The gospel is God’s power to those who believe. The place where God has supremely destroyed all human arrogance and pretension is the cross.

Paul drives the point home with three stinging rhetorical questions:

“Where is the wise man?” (1:20). In first-century Corinth, “wisdom” was not understood to be practical skill in living under the fear of the Lord (as it frequently is in Proverbs), nor was it perceived to be some combination of intuition, insight, and people smarts (as it frequently is today in the West).

Rather, wisdom was a public philosophy, a well-articulated world-view that made sense of life and ordered the choices, values, and priorities of those who adopted it.  The “wise man,” then, was someone who adopted and defended one of the many competing public world-views….they claimed to be able to “make sense” out of life and death and the universe.

An organizing system, a coherent world-view, conveys a sense of power. If you can explain life, you remain in control of it. The Greeks were renowned for their pursuit of coherent systems of thought that ordered their world. In short, they pursued “wisdom.”

“Where is the scholar?” (1:20). What Paul has in mind is the use of the term among Greek-speaking Jews: the grammateus was the “scribe,” the expert in the law of God, the person knowledgeable in biblical heritage and in all the tradition that flowed from it. Thus, in his first two rhetorical questions Paul anticipates both the Greeks who look for wisdom and the Jews who seek miraculous signs (1:22).

Paul’s point here, then, is that theologians, biblical experts, ethicists, and the ancient equivalent of ecclesiastics fared no better than the “wise man.” None of them had developed a system where the cross stands at the very center; none of them had anticipated “good news” from God that would make much of the odious death of the long-awaited Messiah.

“Where is the philosopher of this age?” (1:20). The word rendered “philosopher” might more literally be translated “debater” or “orator.” But in Greek culture rhetoric was so highly regarded that the best public philosophers were almost inevitably gifted and trained rhetoricians.

The plain fact of the matter is that in the cross God has “made foolish the wisdom of the world” (1:20). Paul does not merely mean that God made the world’s wisdom appear to be foolish. What he says is far stronger: God has made foolish the wisdom of the world. He has reduced the vaunted wisdom of the world to folly. He has pricked its pretensions and established its foolishness.

How has God done this? In the first place, Paul says, the utter bankruptcy of all the world’s efforts to know God was part of God’s wise design. It was “in the wisdom of God” that “the world through its wisdom did not know him” (1:21). Not only did the wise and the scholars and the philosophers fail to understand, God in his all-wise providence actually worked it out that way.

He determines that the message of the cross, the content of what is preached, should save “those who believe.”

This is breathtaking. God has not arranged things so that the foolishness of the gospel saves those who have IQs in excess of 130. Where would that leave the rest of us? Nor does the foolishness of what is preached transform the young, the beautiful, the extroverts, the educated, the wealthy, the healthy, the upright. Where would that leave the old, the ugly, the introverts, the illiterate, the poor, the sick, the perverse?

These people are saved by him, not because he chooses those who boast some superior trait or insight, not because he loves people who judge themselves to be wise, but because he has determined to rescue those who believe him. By his grace, they trust him, they rely on him, they abandon themselves to him. He is their center, their rock, their hope, their anchor, their confidence. And thus God quietly and effectively banishes the wisdom of our culture as utter folly.

Paul stresses a second element in the message of the cross: The Message of the Cross Proves That God’s Folly Has Outsmarted Human Wisdom; His Weakness Has Overpowered Human Strength (1:22–25).

Paul now divides those who are perishing into two groups. God’s wisdom is revealed primarily in the cross of Jesus Christ, but not everybody sees this. Paul pointed out that there are three different attitudes toward the cross.

Some stumble at the cross (v. 23a). This was the attitude of the Jews, because their emphasis is on miraculous signs and the cross appears to be weakness. Jewish history is filled with miraculous events, from the Exodus out of Egypt to the days of Elijah and Elisha. When Jesus was ministering on earth, the Jewish leaders repeatedly asked Him to perform a sign from heaven; but He refused.

The Jewish nation did not understand their own sacred Scriptures. They looked for a Messiah who would come like a mighty conqueror and defeat all their enemies. He would then set up His kingdom and return the glory to Israel.

At the same time, their scribes noticed in the Old Testament that the Messiah would suffer and die. Passages like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 pointed toward a different kind of Messiah, and the scholars could not reconcile these two seemingly contradictory prophetic images. They did not understand that their Messiah had to suffer and die before He could enter into His glory.

To them it was incredible that one who had ended life upon a cross could possibly be God’s Chosen One. They pointed to their own law which unmistakably said, “He that is hanged is accursed by God.” (Deut 21:23).

The Jew sought for signs. When the golden age of God came he looked for startling happenings. This very time during which Paul was writing produced a crop of false Messiahs, and all of them had beguiled the people into accepting them by the promise of wonders.

  • In A.D. 45 a man called Theudas had emerged. He had persuaded thousands of the people to abandon their homes and follow him out to the Jordan, by promising that, at his word of command, the Jordan would divide and he would lead them across on dry land.
  • In A.D. 54 a man from Egypt arrived in Jerusalem, claiming to be the Prophet. He persuaded thirty thousand people to follow him out to the Mount of Olives by promising that at his word of command the walls of Jerusalem would fall down. That was the kind of thing that the Jews were looking for.

Historically, of course, this is what happened to Jesus on more than one occasion. When “some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you,’” he replied, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!” (Matt. 12:38–39). They were openly testing him by demanding a sign (Matt. 16:1).

Even those who out of sheer desperation asked Jesus for miraculous help could at first be gently rebuffed, with words such as these, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders . . . you will never believe” (John 4:48).

In some cases, such as the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus’ miraculous power was attractive to the crowd simply because of what it gave them (John 6:26).

But one might well ask why Jesus should object. After all, he performed many miracles. Why should he object when someone asked him for one? Did not such requests simply give him an opportunity to display yet one more powerful work?

These questions miss the point. There is a kind of longing for a display of Jesus’ power that is entirely godly, submissive, perhaps even desperate. There is another kind that puts the person making the request into the driver’s seat. Some want to see Jesus perform a sign so that they can evaluate him, assess his claims, test his credentials.

As long as people are assessing him, they are in the superior position, the position of judge. As long as they are checking out his credentials, they are forgetting that God is the one who will weigh them. As long as they are demanding signs, Jesus is nothing more than a clever performer.

At one level, of course, he accommodates himself to our unbelief by performing miracles that ought to elicit faith (John 10:38). But at another level, he cannot possibly reduce himself to nothing more than a powerful genie who performs spectacular tricks on command. Thus the demand for signs becomes the prototype of every condition human beings raise as a barrier to being open to God. I will devote myself to this God if he heals my child. I will follow this Jesus if I can maintain my independence. I will happily become a Christian if God proves himself to me. I will turn from my sin and read the Bible if my marriage gets sorted out to my satisfaction. I will acknowledge Jesus as Lord if he performs the kind of miracle, on demand, that removes all doubt.

In every case, I am assessing him; he is not assessing me. I am not coming to him on his terms; rather, I am stipulating terms that he must accept if he wants the privilege of my company.

“Greeks [i.e., Gentiles] look for wisdom”(1:22) . Some laugh at the cross (v. 23b). This was the response of the Greeks. To them, the cross was foolishness. The Greeks emphasized wisdom; we still study the profound writings of the Greek philosophers. But they saw no wisdom in the cross, for they looked at the cross from a human point of view. Had they seen it from God’s viewpoint, they would have discerned the wisdom of God’s great plan of salvation.

To the Greek idea the first characteristic of God was apatheia. That word means more than apathy; it means total inability to feel. The Greeks argued that if God can feel joy or sorrow or anger or grief it means that some man has for that moment influenced God and is therefore greater than he. So, they went on to argue, it follows that God must be incapable of all feeling so that none may ever affect him. A God who suffered was to the Greeks a contradiction in terms.

They went further. Plutarch declared that it was an insult to God to involve him in human affairs. God of necessity was utterly detached. The very idea of incarnation, of God becoming a man, was revolting to the Greek mind.

Augustine, who was a very great scholar long before he became a Christian, could say that in the Greek philosophers he found a parallel to almost all the teaching of Christianity; but one thing, he said, he never found, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  

To the thinking Greek the incarnation was a total impossibility. To people who thought like that it was incredible that one who had suffered as Jesus had suffered could possibly be the Son of God.

The Greek sought wisdom. It came to mean a man with a clever mind and cunning tongue, a mental acrobat, a man who with glittering and persuasive rhetoric could make the worse appear the better reason. It meant a man who would spend endless hours discussing hair-splitting trifles, a man who had no real interest in solutions but who simply gloried in the stimulus of “the mental hike.”

In both “Jews” and “Greeks,” there is profound self-centeredness. God is not taken on trust. Both the demand for signs and the pursuit of “wisdom,” and all the countless offspring they have spawned, treat God as if we have the right to approve him, to examine his credentials. This is the most reprehensible wickedness, the most appalling insolence, the most horrific mark of our deep rebellion and lostness.

The cross, then, is dismissed and derided by everyone. But still, Paul insists, “we preach Christ crucified” (1:23). The message of the cross may be nonsense to those who are perishing, “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1:23), “but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1:24).

Those Whom God Has Saved Have No Status Either (1:26-31)

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NIV) Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, 29  so that no one may boast before him. 30  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31  Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

The world is full of ‘somebodies’ and ‘nobodies’,  and it does neither  of them any good. That’s  not the way God intended it to  be. Every human   being,  man,  woman,  child,  and  even unborn child, bears the image and  likeness of God, and  has neither more nor less dignity because some other people have heard  of them, look up to them, or think  they’re  special. But in most parts  of the world, at most  periods  of history – and, as the story shows, often enough  in the church  itself – people feel  that  it’s better  to  be ‘somebody’. The  cult  of fame  has reached  monstrous proportions in recent days, to the absurd point  where  many  people are now famous  for being famous. We know their names, we recognize their faces, but can’t remember whether  they are footballers, film stars  or fashion models.

The Corinthian saints were status seekers. Paul wanted them to see how foolish this was in the light of divine wisdom and power and how inconsistent status-seeking is with the gospel. First, Paul challenges his readers to take a good look around the church to note who was not present among them. This he did in verses 18-25. Glaringly absent in the church are those people who hold positions of status in the secular world, in accordance with secular values. The church is not made up of wise men, scribes, and debaters (verse 20).

Now, in verses 26-31, Paul wants the Corinthians to give thought to who is present in the church. “Look at yourselves,” Paul challenges the Corinthians. Granting the possibility of a few exceptions, Paul reminds the Corinthians of the rule. By and large, the church is not composed of the wise, the mighty, or the noble, when judged by fleshly (unbelieving) standards (verse 26).

Instead, God has chosen to save the foolish, the weak, the base and despised, the “nobodies.”

Following the principle set down in verse 19, Paul explains why God selected the undesirables of this world for salvation. God has purposed to nullify the wisdom of the wise and to humble the proud. He has chosen to do so by employing means and people that the world rejects as weak and foolish and worthless.

God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise, the weak things of this world to shame the strong, the base and despised things to humble that which is highly esteemed (verses 27-28).

God has not done this because the weak and foolish are any better than the powerful and the proud. He has set aside the highly regarded and employed those things which are disdained so that all the glory might come to Himself and not to mere men. This is the concluding point Paul makes in verses 29-31.

If God were to achieve His purposes through the worldly wise and powerful, we would be inclined to give the praise and glory to the men He has used rather than to God.

This world believes the “shakers and the movers” are the ones who make things happen. Even the church seeks to evangelize and train those whom the world regards as “most likely to succeed.” But God chooses the opposite, those whom we expect to fail (or, more accurately, those we already deem to be failures), so that when His wisdom and power are evident, there are no wise and powerful men to take their bows before men. Instead, men must bow before God, giving all the glory to Him. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Corinth,  as a proud  Roman  city, was exactly  the  sort  of place where people would look up to the ‘somebodies’,  and do their best to join them. Then, as now, there were the obvious routes to fame: political power, and royal or noble birth. And, as we’ve seen (though this doesn’t hold for all cultures), Corinth paid special attention to people who could speak well, public rhetoricians, lawyers and the like. The wise, the powerful, the noble: these were the ‘somebodies’ in Corinth.

And Paul reminds  his readers  that  most  of them  were, on the  same  scale, ‘nobodies’. When  he first came  to  town  and announced the gospel of King Jesus as Lord, and they believed it, most of them weren’t among the ‘wise’ whom society looked up  to. Most  of them  didn’t have any social power  (though

Erastus, the city treasurer, is mentioned as a Corinthian Christian  in Romans  16.23 ). Most of them didn’t come from well-known, ‘noble’ families.

‘But God . . . ‘ Those are some of Paul’s favourite words. He often describes a human  situation or problem  and then takes delight  in showing  that  God has stepped  in and  done  something  to change  it drastically. They were ‘nobodies’,  but  God has  made  them  ‘somebodies’.   Not  the  sort  of ‘somebodies’ the world  would  recognize  as such, but  the  only sort  that mattered.

And what is important in this paragraph is the fact that  God has taken the initiative in it all. The Christian  gospel is a matter of  grace  from  start  to  finish.  God  chose  these Corinthian  ‘nobodies’  (verses  27,  28);  God  ‘called’   them through Paul’s  announcement of the  crucified  Jesus as Lord (verse 26; the word  ‘call’ is Paul’s regular  word  for  what  we sometimes  call ‘conversion’);  God gave them  the status  in his eyes that  the  Messiah himself has  (verse 30). They are who they are, as he says in a rather shorthand way, ‘from God in the Messiah’ (verse 30). This is the same sequence  (chosen, called, justified) as Paul sketches in the famous  summary in Romans 8.29-30, though there  he extends  the sequence backwards to God’s original plan and forwards to ultimate glorification  as well.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2017 in 1 Corinthians

 
 
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