Monthly Archives: August 2015

Pain of the Gospel

Our reading in 2 Corinthians 1-3 has a definite theme to it.  Today we in the realm of the church and Christianity deal with two different aspects of the Gospel. One is as we live out the Gospel in our world publicly, we become attacked and ridiculed like Jesus and the Apostles were in their day. Scripture holds that we will suffer for righteousness sake, and Jesus, himself told us “if they have persecuted me, they will persecute you. Then in addition, Jesus tells us that in the world we will have persecution, but to take heart for He has overcome the world.  Secondly, is the philosophy that In Christ there is only joy, peace, happiness, blessings and good towards us.  One could identify this as the “health and wealth” thought, but I think it goes much deeper than this. I hold to a first option, that as we live out the faith in us and become more conformed to the image of Jesus, that the world [churches included] will be against us. The fight is not personally against us  – but against the witness of Christ that comes out of our obedient life.  The second option resonates with “Jewish” philosophy of “blessings are a result of a right life, and troubles are a result of sin.” This thought played out in the book of Job and is still be applied today.

This applies to what Paul is trying to convey to the church at Corinth. He already has a tenuous relationship with them because of his former letters.  Paul addressed several issues of behavior in the church that was unacceptable. Paul indicates that he wrote addressing the issues with heavy tears.  He wanted to come to them, but knew that his presence was [at that time] more of a hindrance than a help to the church. Paul tries to give the church a close up look at what ministry is all about. Pastors and missionaries struggle more with the church than they do the lost/unredeemed. The Corinthian church was carnal, they felt they were superior to Paul, and were offended that he would attempt to correct them and their obvious sins.

In the 1st chapter, Paul uses the word “Comfort” ten times. He also uses the word “affliction” or similar word nine times. The message is that redeemed people, living an obedient life will have troubles [James 1:2-4], but those experiences are not only for the working of righteousness and sanctification in the person, but for an example and lesson to be used for others. As the believer experiences trials and tribulations, it becomes effectual in the work in and out of the Gospel. Our struggle is we don’t want to have trials and tribulations in our lives – we have been preached and taught that “if” we will just live the Christian life, they all our worries and problems will disappear. This is a false message! Countless times in the bible we find where God allowed difficulties to occur in righteous people for the purifying of the person and the proclamation of the Gospel.

This is not to say that we should go around moping because we have troubles – in fact, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for such behavior. A word of caution for all of us. If we are suffering because of things we have done wrong – there is no testimony out of our hardships. [1 Peter 3:16-17]

Paul was hurting because the Corinthian church was hurting.  In chapter 2, he addresses the stern position of tolerated sin found in 1 Cor. 5; there is no apology for his words, but a “brokenness” for the church.  In the suffering Paul experienced, he is trying to get them to understand that he was willing to go through the struggles and pain for their benefit. In a very kind way, Paul attests to his calling and apostleship again to them.  Paul brings an Old Testament illustration at the end of the chapter by using the “sweet aroma” analogy. Sweet aroma was a result of the burnt sacrifices on the altar before God. While it was death to the sacrifice, it was Glory to the Father. So in the “sacrifice” of doing ministry, it was a foul smell to unbelievers, but a sweet aroma to those that believed.

In Chapter three, Paul uses beautiful language to convey the difference between the glory of Moses with the Law, and the glory of the Spirit of God in the believer. While the glory on Moses’ face was temporary, the glory displayed through the believer by the Holy Spirit was sustained. Paul says you are our letter, no longer stone tablets, but real people, living out a real, authentic indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit was “glowing” through them to the eyes of others, the Glory of God was manifested.  Pressing this a  bit more, think of Stephen when he was stoned, and the radiant glory Paul and others saw as Stephen was dying.

So it is clear that as we live [die daily] out our faith before the world, we will be misunderstood, persecuted and experience troubles. This should be expected, for it happened to Jesus our Lord and all those who lived out their faith before men. Our challenge – will we be willing to allow the Glory of God to “glow” through us in testimony of the Gospel?

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conversations, conduct and communion

1 Corinthians 10-14, Paul gets to a very important part of his “admonition letter” to the Corinthian church. Being carnal as they were, they had distorted much of the “communal practices.”  Paul addresses their conduct with each other, inside and out of the congregation. Since the Corinthians were so bent on “Giftedness” they developed an attitude of superiority of gifts between each other. The normal path for most Christian importance is the “squeaky wheel gets the grease” or as in this case the loudest voice gets the most notice. Paul uses the example of rebellion in the life of Israel as a nation to remind the church not to fall into the trap of thinking that they were more important than the God the served. The church displayed arrogance and stubbornness towards righteousness and holiness. Churches today are more about the individualism of the Gospel instead of the Corporate Church mission. Many times the topic of the Lord’s Supper is thought of only in chapter 11, but Paul speaks to the ordinance in Chapter 10 – of how the Church in a communal way celebrated together the Eucharist. As Paul indicated that there were division and cliques in the church, it became evident in how they looked at spiritual gifts and rated the public gifts as superior, while other more private gifts were looked upon as inferior. The church also took a stance on people of wealth and prominence over the poor and lower class. Churches today do the same thing, giving precedence to the prestigious according to man than the godliness of the lowly. Churches want the money and the prominence over those that are seen as the undesirables. This prejudice shows up in how the observed the “agape or love feast”  – those of stature were having a “questionable” banquet before the Lord’s Supper with a predetermined guest list. After a riotous type of meal, they church would come together, some being drunk from the previous feast, now tried to appear holy by affiliating with others in the church. Paul exposes the nature of the Lord’s Supper as mockery and hypocrisy because only at the Lord’s Supper table did some members have any association with those seen as inferior.

The conduct of the church was deplorable allowing open sin and idolatry to govern the day. The women of the church must have been very vocal, to the point of disruption, for Paul tells them to “shut up” and talk to your husbands at home. The issue of tongues and gifts of the Spirit are topics that dominate these chapters. There is even today question about whether the Spirit Gifts are cessation [current for today or only for the time of the Apostles]  or not. The question of tongues today finds great controversy or whether Paul is talking about languages or ecstatic utterance. I understand that Paul is talking about both. In public though Paul lays down specific guidelines for the display of “Tongues.” the tongues gift had developed into a “spiritual elitism” among those that exercised the gift. Paul however, brings back the argument that tongues are for the edification of the Church and the Lord. If a unsaved person is in the midst, they would be overcome by confusion at the erratic display of tongues. Paul talks of this issue both in Chapter 12 and 14. It is interesting that he bridges the topic with the “love chapter” – I show you a better way. In chapter 12, Paul addresses the priority of the “body” to function. It isn’t those parts that are always on display publicly that are most important, but the hidden parts [behind the scenes] doing the work. Something that is paramount for believers, the Holy Spirit is the gift giver, men should not seek gifts, but accept the position that  the Spirit has placed us in the body. Christian conduct is not a “holiness ladder” to climb. In other words, people don’t necessarily go from new christian to teacher to deacon to preacher. God has His ministry for each of us.

The correction in Lord Supper observance, ties directly into the “gifts” controversy. The point Paul states in Chapter 14 – for times he says “for edification” [3, 4, 12, and 26]. In America I think we have fallen into the “spiritual individualism” syndrome as well. We adopt a philosophy that we are the most important thing – our individual needs out weigh the needs of the congregation. This is so wrong. Jesus died for the Church – we must find our roots back to the original intent of the Church.  The Church as the Bride of Christ, must show itself to be chaste, pure, without spot or blemish before the world and the Father. John 13:34-35 is repeated, by this all men will know that you are my disciples – in the love that you have one for another. The Corinthian church had forgotten that they were the church with a mission, the church with its various and different parts was and is the organism that Jesus will use to bring the lost to salvation and glory to the Father.  This is a message every church needs to practice today. We can’t be prejudice to others, especially in the Church. We are His Church, He is the designer, our willingness to accept people unlike us will be the testimony in the community – people all people need to know that the Church is a “safe place” where they can cast their burdens and baggage down, without ridicule or judgment.

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Body Sins and Liberties

This blog entry covers 1 Corinthians 5-9. I briefly mentioned the gross sin of the son sleeping with his step mother and how the church was boasting about it, without correcting the immorality. The allowance of such a sin in the midst of the church is no different from the church today allowing couples living together [members] going unchecked. It is amazing to me how that members will be all up in arms about “other people’s” sins, but when that same sin occurs in their own families, it is accepted because they don’t “want to lose their child.” Wrong is wrong, unchecked sin is cause for the discipline of God upon the church and the person [Joshua 6-7].

In chapter 6, Paul clarifies that we cannot go to court with other believers. Matthew 18 is the biblical method for solving internal problems with each other. When we go to the courts of the world to settle our disputes, the name of Jesus is ridiculed. There are a couple of things that I have found that believers should not do with each other – don’t lend money to each other, don’t sell things to each other and don’t go into business with each other. I have heard of so many situations where what started out as a good venture, turned bad when the two parties started fighting – usually over one or the other getting more/doing less than the other.

Paul begins to describe various bodily sins that should not be found among believers.[6:9-11] Bodily sins have an adverse affect on the person as well as the church. No one sins unto himself. When we commit bodily sins, we sin against ourselves and seek our own pleasure at the expense of immorality. Our bodies are not our own. God created us with a specific design, not for self-pleasure, but pleasure for others [in the right context]. Paul brings the temple practice of prostitutes to mind when he talks about joining ones body to a prostitute. There is no relationship with a prostitute, other than self-gratification for a price. The Corinthians had come out of that environment, why would they think they could re-engage it without repercussions? Key verse – 6:19 – our body belongs to the Lord. To live with a sensual mandate is to live for ones on pleasure. Today we find that homosexuals are trying to relate marriage to love and self-satisfaction. Marriage is not about self, but about the other person. Also for procreation, I know that sounds dumb, but Adam and Eve were to reproduce and fill the land. Same-sex relationships do not reproduce. I think it is absurd that same-sex couples are allowed to adopt children and raise them in such an unnatural environment. Man and woman reproduce together; couples that cannot reproduce on their own should not have the benefit of someone else’s ability. Artificial insemination/surrogates for the purpose of having a child without heterosexual marriage should not be allowed. However, this world has defended and given rights to the absurd desires of changing what God made good, into gross immorality.

There are duties for men and women, the body of the man is for the woman and the woman’s body for the man. The bible is clear that husband and wife relationship is the only proper relationship for the expression of sex. Paul also realizes that if a man or woman doesn’t marry, that problems of passion will develop. A person should marry rather than burn for passion.  Paul continues to reveal the bodily sins that are committed, this should resonate with the Corinthian Church and the immorality they have been delivered from. If one is single they should live as single, if one is married, they should serve the Lord as if they were single. I have found in my own life that there becomes a strain between serving the Lord and marriage. After one is married, often the attention of the wife takes the precedent in the man’s life.

In regard to liberty; believers have liberty in Christ. However, Paul makes sure that the liberty is not used as a stumbling block to a younger believer. I have had people tell me it was okay for them to drink or whatever, and if a brother or sister had a problem with it, then they would just have to get over it. This speaks of the arrogance of self-gratification again. Even though we have liberty, as Jesus said, if anyone causes one of my little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a mill stone around their neck and thrown into the deep-sea. Our ability to have freedom is not found in our right to do, but also in our desire not to do, for the sake of another. Chapter 9, Paul speaks of self-control and how that he became all things to all men, that he might win some. The greater good is for the Gospel to be lived and preached. This carnal church was all about itself, rather than being a witness to others. Yes there are still churches today who want to do things their way, regardless of who it might offend. Therein lies the problem, churches do not exist for themselves, but for the work of the Lord.

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Arrogant, Apostasy and Authority

Beginning in 1 Corinthians, the church at Corinth is much like the churches of today. The culture of the church was too much like the community. It was considered an insult to be called “a Corinthian” because of the gross immorality that dominated the people. Corinth was second only to Ephesus in Temple worship. The temple worship consisted of temple prostitutes, both male and female. The truth be known, Paul had more problems with the Corinthians than any other church.  Paul spent most of his time correcting the church and its practices. They were his nemesis church – they constantly were “carnal” in respect to all the teaching of God. They had divisions among themselves, one boasting of Paul, another Apollos and yet another Peter. Factions cause great struggle with the unity in a congregation.

Paul is responding to a letter [previously] written to him about various topics. One can tell the topic change by the word “Now” to indicate a new topic. In the two books to the Corinthian people, there could be as many as four different letters. Some scholars see the four letters combined in the two we have today. As with a carnal church, there are many “childish” opinions. Children or young believers are too immature to understand the deep things of God.  As in most of Paul’s letters they are written to challenge and admonition the church to correct their behaviors or beliefs. [except maybe the Prison letters]

Arrogance is the first problem with the believers at Corinth. [4:6; 4:18 and 5:2] The believers were puffed up with themselves – primarily from their thought of being superior through the “spiritual gifts” they displayed. [Tongues in particular]

Paul tries to correct any attitude of arrogance by letting them know that God uses the “foolish things” of the world, so that He alone will glory.  Paul describes for us three men of the world, [2:14-3:6] the natural man -unsaved; the spiritual man – saved and the carnal man – living like the world. Paul lets them know they are carnal because of the actions and attitudes they display, but also because they are still drinking milk. It is very easy for a baby Christian to become offended, just as a child that doesn’t get their way starts screaming and throwing temper tantrums. The problem with the Corinthian Christians and many Christians today is the point that they think they are better than everyone else. This arrogance will even be projected to the Apostle Paul, in that they will challenge him and his ministry.

The attitude of arrogance drifts to an apostasy type of living. If the believer thinks more of himself than he should, he will think he is above the “law.”  Here is a problem even today, how much should a believer be involved in the world? The question arises because if there is not a balance between living for the Lord in an immoral society, the church will take on many of the customs and practices of the world. In America, I believe this is taking place. To be friends with the world, is to be enemies with God. Too much is being done today in hopes of drawing a crowd of people. Nickels and noses are used to measure success of a church ministry. This is the wrong measurement. How many disciples are we making of believers and how effective is the church in sharing the Gospel to the world; these are the true measurements to be made.

Paul tries to correct the Corinthian church about the lawsuits and such that members were doing to each other. John 13:34-35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, in that you have love one for another.” Something the Corinthian Church had missed! The divisions were no different from how we today make distinctions from each other. The apostasy reached epic proportions – Chapter 5, the immorality of a son sleeping with his step mother. How stupid can you get, what was worse is they were glorying in the fact. The influence of the old life was still evident in their walk [or no walk] with the Lord.

The Corinthian church though high of themselves even to the point that they viewed Paul with contempt. He had to defend his apostleship [more in 2 Corinthians].  In his defense, he illustrates how that his life was filled with conflict and struggles for their sakes. However, they see this as a sign of his weakness. More will be addressed in future blogs about Paul and the relationship with the immature Corinthian church. I can remember a time in my distant past where, I thought I knew all the answers to the faith. That I had arrived spiritually and superior to others. Man was I dumb – I didn’t even know all the questions. pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall!

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