We are in Jerusalem the center for so much of the New Testament in the Bible. Let's get this background on the book we are approaching in this flight segment.
Paul invested a great deal in the church of Corinth; residents of this area were known for their carnal ways, and our flight over Corinthians will reveal where sins abounds grace is multiplied.
Let's open our Bibles, to the Book of First Californians -- I mean 1 Corinthians. You know there are some similarities if you think about it.
California is a fashion forward kind of a trendy place. What happens there tends to march its way through the rest of the country, it's a commercial center, people think of it as an athletic place, but there's this seedy side to it as well. When you think of California, you don't think of the bastion of morality. We think of a lot of immorality that has started there. The porn industry as largely 90 percent of it is concentrated there.
Well, Corinth sort of fits that description, and I want to just tell you a little bit about where it was situated and why it became this way. If you had a map, and I know you probably do in the back of your Bible, there's the mainland of Greece called in Paul's time Achaia, but let's just think of it is Greece, there's the mainland and that's where Athens is. And if you go down there's this huge area, that's a peninsula called Peloponnesian Peninsula. Say that 10 times really fast Peloponnesian Peninsula, 10 times I'm just kidding.
So it narrows down to a small little neck called an isthmus remember that in school an isthmus it's about three-and-a-half miles wide. And so all of the traffic from north to south would have to squeeze in this tiny little three-mile bottleneck, this isthmus and then this wide area of land called Southern Achaia or that peninsula.
If you wanted to go from east to west, you had to sail around that huge peninsula; it was 200 miles, it was not an easy journey, it was very dangerous. In fact, that little cape at the bottom, the Cape of Maleia was where a lot of winds and currents were, and ships were overturned and so there was a saying couple of thousand years ago, "Whoever wants to sail around the Cape of Maleia, let him first make out his will, because it was so dangerous."
So they developed a system, instead of making a ship go around this 200 mile body of land, they thought what would happen if we lifted the boat out of the water, put it on rollers and moved it just three-and-a-half miles. Now, you think about it, would you rather go 200 miles by ship or 3 miles by land? Well, the answer is easy, you go by land.
So they actually developed a roadway wide enough to put these contractions with rollers on them, hoist the boats out of the water and move it from one shore three-and-a-half miles to the other shore by land, because of that Corinth situated right in the middle of the cross roads north to south and now east to west because if you would take your ship out of the water on land, you would go right through Corinth. It was at the bullseye, it was at the cross roads.
So all of the traffic, all of the trade traffic, all of the knowledge and ideas from north to south and from east to west ended up in Corinth, because of that reason it was a great commercial city, had a lot of money coming in and out of it. Had a lot of ideas, it was the fashion forward industry, trends were set in Corinth, but it also had a seemy underside.
It was a place because of its population and because of its prosperity, had not only a lot of luxury, but a lot of immorality because people would gather there, and take advantage of what was going on in Corinth. Now, what was going on in Corinth? As you saw on this little video clip, just behind the city is a hill called the Acrocorinth. And atop that hill, if you are standing in Corinth today you can see it right in front of you, was the temple to Aphrodite, and a 1000, they called them priestesses of the temple; they were professional prostitutes. They would come down every evening and take the men of the city, or the travelers, the ship men and the seafarers, and they would ply their trade on them. And so it became known as a very debauched, immoral city.
In fact, in the Greek plays when anyone played the role of a Corinthian, he was always a drunk in the Greek plays. There was even a phrase that was coined, korinthiasesthai, which meant to play the Corinthian to act like a Corinthian which was a drunk or an immoral person. And because of the prostitution being so heavy in that city, there was a saying among the men, not everyone can afford a trip to Corinth. And that's a place where God did a great work. In fact Paul spent a year-and-a-half in Corinth, 18 months.
Now, there is a hint of this, in First Corinthians chapter 6, I'm going to read it to you, you can turn to it if you can find it quickly verse 9, he says, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." Why such an extensive list? The next verse tells you. And such were some of you, that's your background Corinth. But you are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the spirit of God.
Now that Paul get to Corinth, and why did he spend so long a time there? Well, if you remember in the book of Acts, Paul is traveling on a second missionary journey from the east moving toward the west. And he gets to a road block.
The Bible says, "He went through the area of Bithynia and through the area of Galatia and the Holy Spirit forbade him to preach the word of the Lord in Asia. So he went to Mysia and the Holy Spirit closed the door there. So he ends up in a place called Troas, he sees a vision of a man from Macedonia who said "Come over to Macedonia and help us!"
So he goes over the Macedonia ends up and in Philippi, after Philippi goes down to Thessalonica, after Thessalonica goes down to Berea ,after Berea, he goes to Athens, so far so good. Gets into a lot of trouble, but the word of the Lord is spreading in all places except in Athens. There he shares the Gospel, the philosophers were present, he is not really well received; at least the scripture indicates that, and so he goes 45 miles to the south-west to the place of Corinth. And he's probably thinking. Why am I going here, I'm not going to stay here long, because nothing really is going to happen?
But while he's there the Lord speaks to him in a vision saying, Paul, "Don't be afraid, don't hold your peace, speak, nobody is going to harm you, for I have many people in this city." He is speaking prophetically; God wanted to do a work with people in Corinth. So he stayed and while he stayed he did what he always did.
He went first of all to the synagogue of the Jews. Things got heated up, he got kick out of the synagogue and he ended up in a private home. But in that private home, the seeds of a great work were beginning. People started receiving the message and being converted and loving one another, and Crispus and Gaius and Stephanus, people who are mentioned in this book come to know the Lord and Paul baptizes them, and so a work begins.
Now, First Corinthians; I'm going to throw a little snag in this for you, is actually Second Corinthians, and Second Corinthians is actually Third Corinthians. You go, oh that's heresy. How can you say that? Simply because in First Corinthians he refers to a letter that he wrote to them already, and he says in chapter 5, verse 9, "I have written to you in my letter, not to associate with sexually immoral people." And then he explains what I meant by that was this, not the sexually immoral people of this world but people who call themselves believers and are sexually immoral. So Paul had written that already.
Now, he clarifies it in the second letter and then there will be Second Corinthians which is probably Third Corinthians. We don't have that first letter. Some think it's wrapped up into First and Second Corinthians. The ones that we have or the ones with the Holy Spirit wanted to have in the text, it could have been just a simple note that he wrote to them before. And now here is the full-fledged letter.
So what's this book all about? Well, there's a family in Corinth called Chloe's household. We don't know whole lot about her or them and they are telling Paul, the problems that are going on in Corinth, and so he hears about it. Like there's divisions in the church, and there's immorality among the believers, and there's divorce that is rampant, and there's this whole issue of personal liberty, I can do anything I want, I'm free and Christ.
Then there's the problem of public worship; the use of spiritual gifts in the church in a wrong manner, in a non-edifying manner. Then there's doctornal problems about the resurrection and essentially the whole book of First Corinthians, though there is some doctrine in it, it's not really a doctornal book, it's a practical book, on how to solve problems within the church. In fact, I did a Sunday Morning series some years back using 1 Corinthians called "Solving Problems within the Church," and Paul goes from one problem to another problem, to another problem.
The whole book is Paul writing about problems that were already inexistent in this new church. Doesn't that encourage you? I hope it does. I hope it actually encourages you to hear that, because if you ever think oh! The New Testament church was like the perfect church, and I hear people say, "We got to get back to the New Testament church." Hey! Corinth was the first century church. It was an early church, it wasn't perfect. And you read every single church in the New Testament had some flaws, had some problems. I take that to be a comforting truth.
You've heard it before, you'll never find a perfect church, if you do, don't join it, you'll spoil it because the church the body of Christ is filled with us, people; saved sinners all with our issues.
Chapters 1 and 2 is the first problem. And I'm not going to give you all the little verse divisions, but I'm just going to sort of sum it up by chapters. Chapter 1 and 2 deals with the problem of disunity. Disunity, already even though Paul had spent 18 months there, by the time he left and wrote this letter and he wrote it from Ephesus. There was a problem with people siding with different teachers that were in that assembly, or had been in that assembly. They were not in unity.
Now, if you know anything about the prayers of Jesus you know that high on His list is that he prayed for the unity of his future church. In John chapter 17, "The shadow of the Cross was falling upon Him and yet He's thinking of the church, that He's come to established. And so He prays and He says, "Father, I don't just pray for these, [that is these disciples] but I pray for all of those who will believe in me because of their word." That's us; that's the future church he's writing about.
And here's, here's His prayer request, "that they maybe one as You Father are in Me and I in You, that they maybe one in Us that the world may know that You have sent Me." So he wanted and prayed for unity and Paul writes about it. Here is something that wasn't being achieved in Corinth.
So in chapter 1 verse 10, "I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it is been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you." This is more than a disagreement. This is a contention or a dissension; it's, it's dividing the church already.
Now, this I say or now I say this, that each of you says, "I'm of Paul," or "I'm of Apollos," or "I'm of Cephas," or "I'm of Christ." Four people are mentioned, four great leaders. None of whom created the problem. None of whom rallied and said, "Hey! Come over here, let's start our own little group, let's divide from the others, and let's start a superior, elite click. They didn't do that, but the people started rallying themselves around four teachers.
Some said, "I'm of Paul." Now, Paul was the founder of the church. He's a guy that started it, his labor, his sweat, and he was a contemporary preacher. He preached the grace of Jesus Christ, he obviously took a break from Judaism, showed that Jesus fulfilled scripture but just by his very message, he was a little more cutting edge being willing to break from Jewish tradition, and a lot of people love that maverick spirit about him.
Others said, "I'm of Apollos," now, Apollos was the second pastor who came to Corinth after Paul left. The Bible says in Acts chapter 18, he was eloquent in scripture, he was an educated man, he had a golden tongue and a way of expressing truth and there was a group of people who thought, I like that Apollos, you know Paul, he's cool. But he's just sort of too in your face. When Apollos speaks, I'm warmed, because he just let's a roll off his tongue. A third group said "I'm of Cephas," that would he Peter. Now there's no record of Peter coming but they gravitated toward the teaching of Peter. And here's my thinking,"Peter was, he was a fisherman, he was a little more earthy, he was blue collar, he was one of us. You know bumbling; fumbling Peter. I like that guy. They identified with him.
There was a forth group; they were the worst of all. They were the elitist. They said something like this, "Well I don't need to follow any human leader, I'm of Christ." Sounds really cool right, real spiritual, but just snobs they were. They were like the non-denominational denomination. We don't follow any leader, we follow just Jesus Christ. Now what happened in Corinth still happens today. People rally around their favorite radio teacher and everything in life is measured by. "Do you agree with this person, who taught teachers this? Well so and so on radio teaches that." So what does Bible say? Not only that but we're a non-denominational church. We can become prideful in our non-denominationalism and that's dangerous.
You're saying, I really don't want to attach myself to anything or anyone because, what, you're special. I mean, we're all people we're called to gather to something but that detachment; I do fear that, that has been the call of many parachurch organization. I've heard it before; something like this, "Well the church hasn't done its job in this area, so God raise us up to do that job." Great! Now integrated in to the church and help the church do that. And every parachurch organization, I believe should work itself out of the job. It's success is when the local body of Christ takes up the mantle and does the work. That seemed to be Paul's philosophy anyway. Well one of the cures for that disunity, go down to verse 26. One of the cures is this, let's look inside God's tool box. Let's look at the kind of people that God historically has chosen and even in Corinth, "For you see, your calling brethren, there's not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble who are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of this world, to put to shame the wise and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things that are mighty and the base things of the world and the things that are despised God has chosen and the things which are not to bring the nothing, the things that are." And here's why. "That no flesh should glory in His presence." Here's the principle. God uses common men with an uncommon message, I mean men generically. Men, mankind, men and women, common men and women with the uncommon message of the Gospel, to do His work.
Look at the 12 apostles, who would want to hire them in any corporate setting today? You've got a bunch fishermen, you've got a bunch of Galilean hicks, you've got a tax collector, you've got a zealot, who hate each other, they want to kill each other all the time. They're always arguing. Jesus chose them and get this, He choose them after a night of prayer. He really made the right choice; this was God's preference to choose the common, the foolish not the high, not the mighty, so you get the point of Paul. Let's not divide because all of us are simple vessels used by God, the foolish things of this world. Now here's, here's another truth I want you to walk away with. God Almighty in Heaven, who is all powerful can do anything, has chosen to limit Himself to using imperfect human beings; to pastor, churches, to evangelize, to exhort, to do the work of the ministry. Imperfect flawed, and in my view, the imperfection adds to the mystery. It doesn't take away from it, adds to the mystery because when you see a flawed vessel and you see God mightily using that vessel. God's glory is more obvious, right? That no flesh it says would glory in His presence. The analogy I always referred to is you put a doctor in a modern operating room suite with all of the latest gadgets, for that doctor to perform a successful operation, well, you would, you would expect that. In fact if they didn't you probably sue. At least most people in our culture seem to do that. But you take that same doctor out of a modern operating room, put him in a jungle, and give him a swiss army knife or her a Swiss army knife for them to do the same operation with limited tools, yarn and a Swiss army knife, if they could pull that off, that attests to them being amazing even greater.
So the glory shines when the instruments are limited, but no flesh would glory in His presence. So Paul says, "Knock it off!" We're a bunch of flawed instruments, the God has chosen. Chapters two, three and four tackle the second problem in the book, its called immaturity. Or I'll give it another title stunted, spiritual, growth. Now, I was born normal. Notice I said I'm referring past tense; I was born relatively the normal size, maybe on the low end of normal; just around seven pounds. I didn't stay seven pounds as you can see. Can you imagine, if at say age 15, I hadn't progressed much. If at age 15, I were to go to my parents and go, "Dadda." It wouldn't sound cute anymore like it did at age one. When I first said, "Dadda, Momma." Everybody got so stoked. They took pictures, they remembered the time where they were; was that cool, but when you 15 years later don't have any growth beyond that, it's not exciting any more. It's really sad. And so it is with those who are born again, it's great to see spiritual, life happen, love evangelism. But a pastor and a teacher loves to see growth and when Paul didn't see growth in a Corinthian church, no maturity, stunted growth, it broke his heart.
Chapter 2 verse 13; "These things we also speak not in words which man's wisdom teaches, which the Holy Spirit teaches comparing spiritual things with spiritual." Now, in the next few verses, you're going to be introduced to three people; the natural man, the supernatural man and the unnatural man; three types of people.
Verse 14: "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, they're foolishness to him, nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned." This is the unbeliever; he doesn't care about the things of the spirit, he's not interested. You tell him, "I don't want to hear it." Could care less, this is the natural man, the Greek word psychikos, soulish, governed by his only fleshly appetites and desires. That's how he or she lives. Just what I want, when I want, it's all about my pleasure, my appetites. I feel the air drive, the water drive, the food drive, the sex drive. It's all about fulfillment, self pleasure. That's the natural person. Here's the thing about the natural man or the natural person. They can be smart, well-dressed, charming and even religious and unsaved. Who were all of that stuff still be governed by the flesh, the appetites of the flesh. And so you're witnessing to them and you're going, you're thinking, "Can't you see this, don't, don't you get it?" No they can't. It's like asking a blind man, "Can't you see that sunset?" Or somebody deaf "Isn't that a great concert?" They lack the facilities to appreciate it. So it is with the unregenerate, the natural man or woman. They don't care about the things of the spirit, its foolishness; he cannot know them because they're spiritually discerned.
Let's look at the second type of person, "But he who is spiritual, [this is the super natural man or woman], judges all things that he himself is rightly judged by no one, for who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ." This is the spiritual man or let's call it the super natural. The Greek word is Pneumatikos, inclined toward the things of the spirit, loving God, loving spiritual truth, loving Jesus Christ, loving the Bible, loving fellowship, loving church. Now, when a person goes from natural to supernatural, you can see it. It's pretty evident change. It's pretty dramatic. I remember the things when this happened in my life that I used to crave, there were certain areas that I still had to fight and still do. There was just a lot of stuff that I just really had no desire to do anymore. They lost their punch to me, they lost their attraction and there were certain things that I swore, I would never do or be like those born-again Christians, I would tell my friends, never going to do that, ever. It's not attractive to me, I don't like them carrying their Bibles and giving the one-way sign and smiling all the time and saying, praise the Lord.
Isn't it amazing what salvation can do? You move from natural to supernatural and you start having an appetite for new things all of a sudden, and notice it says, "He judges all things." It means he discerns it. He, he penetrates beyond the visible fleshly veil and we would say, in our modern vernacular, he gets it. He understands it, he's enlightened now and he or she realizes how blind they were.
When you go from natural to supernatural or spiritual, you write songs like John Newton did, "Amazing Grace," how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I'm found. I was blind but now I see. Let's look at the third one, chapter 3, verse 1, "And I brethren could not speak to you as spiritual people but as to [here's the third] carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not solid food, for until now you were not able to receive it and even now, you are still not able."
Now it is the unnatural. Let me describe that. The Greek word is sarkikas. Those are the words here, psychikos, pneumatikos and the third one, sarkikas, sarks means the flesh. Here's a person who is in between the flesh and the spirit; it's unnatural. The fleshly nature that we have all had and still have, and the spiritual nature that comes with the new birth is pulling and pulling and this person hasn't really landed. He's between two kingdoms, between the flesh and the spirit.
Notice, these are Christians because he says, "And I brethren," he calls them brothers in Christ, they're brethren. So, they're born-again, and they're just not living spiritually inclined lives. Notice what he calls them, your babes in Christ. You've been born-again but your growth is stunted. Here you are, you're just like, you should grow up. You're still saying at 15 years of age, dada and that's sad. He, he sees the unnaturalness of it.
This type of person has enough of the spirit to be saved but enough of the world to be miserable while being saved. They're fence-sitters; they're not really full on for the Holy Spirit, full on for Christ, or even full on as a pagan for the world, they're in between losing the battle as they go. Now, as I said, I love to see evangelism, I love when people come to Christ, but if you were to say Skip, what is your greatest joy? I don't know that I would say when a person walks forward to receive Christ. So, that ranks up there pretty high.
I would go with what the apostle John, who was also a pastor said, "I have no greater joy than to know that my children are walking in the truth." To see somebody go from being born-again to maturity is the payoff because the mantle is passed and they become pastors and they become evangelists and they become lay leaders and they lead their families in godliness and in truth.
Now, what are the characteristics of this unnatural person or what he calls carnal is their diet, what they eat. He says, "I fed you with milk and not with solid food, for you weren't able to receive it." The Corinthians, a lot of them are still on baby food, which is basic stuff, easily digestible doctrines. You move into anything other than just the basics of it, it's like, Oh dude, you lost me. You know they just want to be exhorted, encouraged, have a pep rally but never really go into the meat of the word, in the solid truths of it.
You can tell them by their diet, you can also tell them by their activity. Verse 4, on where it talks about their division, "I'm of Paul, I'm of Apollos." Paul says, "You're carnal?" Because your activity, you're not well fed and so your activity is you're very divisive. Let's look at the third problem mentioned in First Corinthians. The first is disunity, the second is immaturity, the third problem addressed in chapter 5 and 6 is the problem of impurity, impurity. Now, you can understand that, right? Corinth was the Las Vegas of the ancient world and it was debauch and what happens in Corinth stays in Corinth and that is what the Corinthians thought.
It was a very sexually permissive city and look at verse 1. You want to see how bad it was in the church. Chapter 5, verse 1, "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles, [here it is], that a man has his father's wife!" It is a case of a certain kind of incest where there is a man who is going to the church assembly, living with his stepmother, cohabiting with her, having relationships with her.
And Paul says, you know what, pagans don't even do that, and you know what, in his day, he was right. There was a Roman law, Cicero said, the great orator and historian Cicero said, "It is illegal for any Roman citizen to engage in this kind of activity." And it was punishable, by sometimes death. So, you see what Paul is saying? Look at heathens won't even do this and you guys in the church are tolerating it and it is funny how the whole issue of tolerance is like the virtue above all other virtues.
If you ask people that what is the most important virtue today? You'll have 90 plus percent say, tolerance. In other words, let anyone do whatever they want; anytime they want because it's really up to you, it is the whole Pythagoras idea, man is the measure of all things, that's Ancient Greece and we can't judge them. So, Paul says, you know what, I'm not even in Corinth, I'm in Ephesians in chapter 5 and 6 and I've already judged them, kick them out of the church, now, get them out. A little leaven will leaven the whole lump. Church discipline must be enacted. They were tolerating it.
So, verse 2; "And you are puffed up, [you're proud about this] and you have not rather mourned that he who has done this deed might be taken away from you." And then look at chapter 6, verse 18, sort of a summary verse that he says to them, "Flee, [run away from], sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits, [porneia is the word], sexual immorality." Porneia is any kind of illicit sexual behavior. Adultery, sex before marriage, homosexuality, bestiality, any thing that is illicit outside of what God ordained is under the category Biblically speaking of porneia and is translated here by two English words, sexual immorality, it says, run away from it. "He who commits sexual immortality sins against his own body."
So, that was a real problem in Corinth and here's a book. It is 2000 years old, city of Corinth really don't exist anymore. You go over there and you go, how could this document have anything to do with us today? Boy, it is contemporary, isn't it? Because I find this to be a problem even today within the church; people are fuzzy when it comes to moral issues, even though the Bible is clear and basically, here's the Biblical mandate that would take us into chapter 5, 6, and 7. Here it is.
It's going to be so out of context for this culture. Stay pure until you're married and stay married until you're dead. That's, that's basically the Biblical mandate, stay pure till you're married, stay married till you're dead. Now I realize there are certain circumstances that mitigate against that ideal and it's not always possible. You might have a spouse that commits adultery and the marriage is broken up and so you're left without that spouse, without that relationship. Spouse could leave another one like an unbelieving spouse could leave the believing spouse.
But the real trend today, that is worrisome and is rampant, really rampant is cohabitation, is living together before marriage. It's the, I don't want to really commit yet because I don't know but I want to test drive the model. I want to kick the tires. I want to drive the car around a little bit and then maybe see if that's the one for me. Whereas the Biblical mandate is you make a commitment before God and you make a commitment to each other and that commitment, by God's grace, will carry you through.
You see all that is so old-fashioned. Skip, people have been living together for years and it works, really? Well, it says, here I'm going to read to you what two sociologists said in a recent study quote, "People living together first before marriage are more apt to fail in their marriage than couples who move in together after they have said their vows." An article that I found said quote, "Study show based on 50 years of data, that couples who live together before marriage have a 50 percent greater chance of divorce than those who don't." I wonder if that accounts for the high divorce rate today.
"Those who cohabit also have less satisfying and more unstable marriages." Why? "The researchers have found that those who had lived together later regretted having violated their moral standards and felt a loss of personal freedom to exit out the back door. Furthermore, and in keeping with the theme of marital bonding, they have stolen a level of intimacy that is not warranted at that point, nor has it been validated by the degree of commitment to one another."
I found that an interesting phrase, they've stolen a level of intimacy that should be afforded after the commitment, 50 percent greater chance of not having a relationship to last. So, when Paul writes these problems and deals with the immorality, he's doing it because he loves the Corinthians. He knows what God's standards are and he wants their lives to be fulfilling and so he gives, sound counsel.
Chapter 5 and 6; now, chapter 7 is the fourth problem he attacks. It's the problem with marital fidelity and he addresses here both single and married and sort of a long and complicated set of directives but look at chapter 7, verse 8, "I say to the unmarried and to the widows, it's good for them if they remain even as I." He's single. "But if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion." Now, here's what Paul is saying.
We live in a day and age where there's a lot of persecution, a lot of instability in the Roman government. We don't know the future of this thing; lot of our brethren already are being killed. So, if you get married, your freedoms are going to be curtailed. There's going to be a lot of pain if you get arrested or you get killed, so if you can, stay like I am, but if you can't, I understand, God has made us that way and we have a longing to be together and even to be fulfilled sexually, God invented that too. So, it is better to marry and be together than to burn with lust or passion.
Chapters 8 through 10 is the fifth problem he attacks and that is the problem with personal liberty. Now, let me explain and I think you will get why this is contemporary; the problem with personal liberty. There are certain; we can just call them gray areas really, they're not really black, they're not really white, but there are certain gray areas where we have to take principles and bring them to bear so that we know what we're supposed to do.
Okay, so we know for example, that we're not under human law anymore, human regulations anymore and that we have been set free and we have a freedom in Christ and we live under grace, it's a whole different paradigm than the Old Testament law under Judaism. It doesn't mean it is immoral however, in fact, it is very moral but it is a very different motivation. But what do you do with a hamburger that has been cooked at a pagan temple? Now, I'm contemporizing a problem that has actually happened in Corinth.
They would offer animals in pagan temples around Corinth. The meat that they couldn't eat themselves, they would sell in the marketplace with or without the information of what the animal was up to before it was killed and sold, like it could have been offered in a pagan temple. And so what Paul says is look, "When it comes to eating with brothers and sisters in Christ, don't throw up the flag of, I can do anything I want and eat anything I want and drink anything I want, because I am a Christian, I have liberty."
Paul says, you do whatever you want at home. You want to eat meat sacrificed to an idol, that barbecue beef, that was bought at the Temple of Apollo, great, you do it at home, but don't do it in the assembly or in the love feast because people with weak consciouses are going to get offended. There is a law of love that is at stake and at issue here.
I just want to talk briefly a little about gray issues, gray areas. It's obvious that we're confronted today with certain problems Paul was not. Is it okay to go to movies? And if so, which movies? And then how far do you take it and when do you stop? Would you allow yourself to see or hear? What about listening to music? You know Paul didn't have radio stations or CDs or MP3 players back then. He may have walked by and heard some music; I don't know what he did with that. But we're confronted with different things and we each will develop certain standards of right and wrong that must be, if we're healthy, governed by certain Biblical principles, what is right and what is wrong.
Now, sometimes it get sticky; it's fascinating; 100 years ago, there was a guy, you have heard me quote him, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, he fellowshipped with another preacher in London called J. W. Packer. They spoke in each other's pulpits, they loved each other, until Spurgeon found out that Packer went to the theater and was entertained by the plays of the world and he deemed him as carnal and unspiritual. He had no fellowship with him after that, which is really interesting because Spurgeon was an avid cigar smoker, saw nothing wrong with smoking cigars but saw something wrong with going to the theater.
Okay here is another story back then; Charles Spurgeon and Dwight L. Moody. Dwight L. Moody couldn't wait to meet Charles Spurgeon, he lived in Chicago, took a boat all the way to London to see Spurgeon, knocked on the door. Spurgeon opened the door, the big stogy, and Dwight L. Moody, his face dropped. He didn't know this. He couldn't believe that a man of God, a preacher would smoke a cigar because in Chicago, in America, that was like so uncool and unholy.
Well, Moody was a little bit, let's say rotund, overweight, he was a fat man. So he knocked on the door and he looked at Charles Spurgeon smoking a cigar and Moody said, "How can you as a man of God do that?" And Spurgeon walked over to him and patted his belly and said, "The same way that you as a man of God can do that." Ain't that interesting? Moody would say, smoking is wrong, but gluttony, nothing wrong with that. And so we have culturally established what is sometimes worldly and spiritual and that has to fall under a Biblical set of principles as well as the highest principle, which is love.
So look at chapter 8, couple of verses together, and then chapter 10. Chapter 8, verse 9, "But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple." You get the point, you have knowledge, you know an idol is fake it's not a real god, they don't really exist. There's only one true God who cares at the animal sacrifice. I have the knowledge that it's just a piece of meat that looks really good right now to eat. And he says, "if you have knowledge you are eating in an idol's temple will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat the things offered to idols?"
Verse 11, "And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?" Now, go to chapter 10, and here's the principles to go by, verse 23 and 24; "All thing are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but not all things edify." And please understand the principle, I'm free in Christ, I have knowledge of what is right and wrong and meat sacrificed to idols, whatever, but there are limitations to my liberty. First limitation, let's call it utility, the second one, let's call it charity. Look at the first one, utility. All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful or beneficial or you would translate it, not everything I might choose will help me reach my goal quicker. That's the idea of it, expedient or helpful or beneficial. It's not going to speed me along in making progress toward my goal.
Okay, let's say, I want to go from here to New York. I can walk or get on my bicycle, because that's going to be more helpful for me to get there quicker, that's my goal, or I can take a car or I take an airplane. The airplane is more beneficial or helpful. Its expedient gets me toward the goal. So when you say, can I do this, can I do that? Ask, ask, ask yourself this. Do I have the freedom to smoke, to drink, to whatever? Is this going to help me reach my goal as a believer in being like Christ and becoming more like Christ and glorifying His name and spreading the Gospel? That's something to keep as one of the filters, one of the mile-markers.
The second one is charity, look at it. All things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. If I do this, is it going to hurt others, is it going to tear others down? Let's just as an example say that I have the liberty to drink alcohol which by the way I don't. But let's just say, I can do whatever I want, I'm a Christian. So let's say, I go to the local bar, sit at the bar, pull up a cold one or two or three. I'm sitting there and you walk in, and you see Pastor Skip having a cold one. I tell you what a lot are going to think, they can go, Uh! I don't know what to think about that.
So it's not worth me having the liberty if I know that that's going to be a reaction. So my choice is to say, I never want to touch this stuff. Somebody asked me, Skip, he asked me about drinking. Tell me about drinking an alcohol, what about you? I said, I drink all that I want, but I don't want to drink any of it because of the law of love, because of the law of charity. It's not going to speed me along in my goal, it could hinder others, it could stumble other believers.
Let's take another example, a young couple and they decided to live together and we bring them in the counseling office and we say, you guys shouldn't live together. We're, we're not doing anything wrong; it's just for economic reasons. Okay, I understand economy is down, lot of times that happens. However the Bible also says to avoid the appearance of evil and just the fact that you pull into the same driveway and you're not married and you're together has the appearance of evil and can stumble others who see that. Well, you don't understand the economy, don't you think God is big enough to handle you if you decide to take a step of faith to honor Him and to honor His people, I do. I think when you step out in obedience God honors it, so there's a lot of gray areas meat sacrificed to idol, movies, music, whatever, you could apply these two principles to it. Utility, charity, has it speed me along in my goal and does it harm others or help them?
Number 6 in our list is the problem in the worship community, the problem in the worship community is the sixth problem Paul writes about, and that's from chapters 11 through 14; 11, 12, 13 and 14. Okay so, chapter 11. Gender issues, male and female issues, what's appropriate in the assembly, covering up the veil that used in worship that was symbolic 2000 years ago? What's appropriate in public worship? Also in chapter 11, misbehavior at the Lord Supper; 2000 years ago when they had communion it was what we would called a potluck, it was a love feast, people would bring food together. Well, there were some people in the church who would get their early and eat all the good stuff and get drunk, so by the time it was communion time they were like, hey brother, God bless you, they were just like it was off the charts, weird.
Paul rebukes and corrects that. Chapter 12, 13, and 14 is the proper use of spiritual gifts in the public assembly mitigated by the law of love. So notice that chapter 12 talks about spiritual gifts, then there's the chapter 13 which is the love chapter and then chapter 14, the use of prophecy and tongues in the public assembly. So love dictates the proper usage of gifts in the public assembly. Let me just say about this, we don't have time to get into it, we have by the way spent 25 to 30 weeks on just the gifts of the spirit in depth. So we have that material for you.
The key word when it comes to this is balance, balance. I personally believe in the exercise of all of the gifts of the spirit, I don't believe that a few of them are for 2000 years ago but they dropped off. I believe all of the gifts continue in perpetuity for today, but they are to be done decently in an order. And I find there are two extremes, and I'll just tell you from experience. The Pentecostals think that I'm way too conservative, and the Baptists thinks I'm way too Pentecostal. And so are you charismatic? Are you fundamentalist?
I would like to say, I'm fundamatic, how is that? I believe in them but I don't believe in the way they're misused by a lot of assemblies who say they believe in them and the law of love isn't present and it really adds to distract and to divide. I'm not a secessionist, I'm not a sensationalist and so because we are shot at by both sides, I think that is a good place to be, right in the middle. And Paul talks about using them but not abusing them and how they are to be regulated by the leadership. So in chapter 12, verse 4, "There are diversities of gifts with the same Spirit; differences of ministries but the same Lord, diversities of activities but it's the same God who works all in all, but the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all."
I love this about God, He loves variety. Look around at what He made. You look that side, it's flat in Albuquerque. You look that side, there are big mountains. You look on that side, it's kind of brown, you look on that side it's really green. You drive far enough, it gets wet, there's ocean. You drive another direction, its get thick forest, God loves variety; same in the body of Christ. Not everybody in the church has the same gift. How boring we would all be if we thought exactly alike and acted exactly alike and didn't have the freedom to exercise the variety of spiritual manifestation.
Now the seventh and final problem, this is the end of it now, in First Corinthians, the seventh problem he addresses is, problem with doctrinal clarity, and that's chapter 15 and 16; problems with doctrinal clarity.
If I were to make a list of the ten greatest chapters in the Bible, First Corinthians chapter 15 would have to be in that list. It's one of the greatest chapters in all of the Bible. Its theme is the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the future resurrection of all believers; it's what sets Christianity apart. There's three great credentials that Jesus has that sets Him as a world religious leader apart from all others. That is His impact upon world history, number one.
Number two, fulfill prophecy, and number three the bodily resurrection from the dead, okay.
In Corinth, these Christians had no problem believing the resurrection of Jesus. They had a problem believing in their own resurrection. How is that going to work like what are we going to look like and a lot of the questions we have had in the last series that we did.
So look down at verse 12, chapter 15, "Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you there is no resurrection from the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen."
Let's think about that. If there's no resurrection, then what? Number one, if there's no resurrection, number one, Jesus is still dead. He's dead. We're just talking about what a dead guy said 2000 years ago period.
Number two if there is no resurrection from the dead, Jesus is a liar because He kept telling His disciples, "Hey by the way, they're going to kill Me in Jerusalem and on the third day, I'm going to rise from the dead." He said He would get up again.
Number three, if there's no resurrection from the dead, then preaching the Gospels was utterly ridiculous because the heart of the Gospel is the resurrection, Jesus conquered death. It's the heart of it.
Look at verse 14, "If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty, and your faith is also empty." And number four, and we see a couple of verses. If there's no resurrection, there's no forgiveness of our sins. "For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. If Christ is not risen then your faith is futile and you are still in your sins!"
You know why it says that? Because a dead savior is no savior at all. A dead savior don't do any good. Only one who died for sins conquering death and sin by resurrection can offer any hope. So there's no forgiveness, there's no atonement. Also if there's no resurrection, then, then death ends it all, there's no hope for the future. Verse 18, "Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished."
Now I want you to think about this. When Paul wrote this, there were already a significant number of martyrs, people who suffered, were imprisoned, beaten, and died for their faith in Jesus Christ. Well, let's say there is no resurrection from the dead, well then all those people are dead and gone, never going to see him again, you'll never be reacquainted with them ever again, it's all hopeless. He sums it up, verse 19, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable." There's no resurrection; then Christianity is a big joke, and, and we're all stupid to believe it, and it's just a pipe-dream, it's a mirage, it's a fool's paradise and all the things the world accuses us of is true if there's no resurrection from the dead. And that's why I'm happy to say that the resurrection of Christ is one of the most attested to and provable series of evidences that exist today from ancient antiquity. It's relatively simple to show even the most ardent unbeliever that Jesus rose from the death which gives us hope for the resurrection. And here's the alternative, verse 20, He's alive, "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep."
Remember firstfruits, it was the first installment every year that Jews had the festival of firstfruits and they would take a little sample of the harvest and they would offer it to the Lord. Now you know what the firstfruits meant? There's more to follow. It is just the beginning of it, but there is a whole crop to be harvested out there, this is just the firstfruits. Jesus rising from the dead is proof that there's more to follow. Your body and my body will get up again. That's, that's what he talks about here.
Verse 35, "Someone will say, how were the dead raised up? With what body did they come back?" I'll give the quick answer to that. Our body is going to be like Jesus' body. His resurrection body and our resurrection body will share many similarities. We did a series on that, we will move on, chapter 16, closes it off.
Let me tell you what this chapter is about. It's just, he's ending the letter. It's an interesting way to end the letter though. He's taking up a collection. He's passing the hat. Yeah, Paul the Apostle, the great apostle did speak about money and did see the necessity of giving financially to the Lord's work and he was giving to the Lord's work in Jerusalem, the place where he started. There were suffering at that point and he wanted that work to go on and he wanted those workers to be supported. So he took up an offering among the Gentile churches.
So in verse 1, chapter 16, "Concerning the collection for the saints, I have given orders to the churches in Galatia, so you must do also, on the first day of the week, [that's resurrection day, that's where the church meets on Sunday and not the Sabbath] let each one of you lay something aside storing up as he may prosper that there be no collections when I come." It is true, you can tell a lot about a person by examining their checkbook.
If you look at the entries in a person's checkbook, you can see the value system of an individual. Even Jesus said, "Where a man's treasure is there his heart will be also." Martin Luther used to say, "There's three conversions necessary; the conversion of the heart, conversion of the mind and conversion of the pocket-book." And he said, "I found that the third one is the most difficult conversion of all."
Well, Paul was making sure the Corinthians were well-converted and some of their funds would be taken to Jerusalem.
Verse 22, "If any one does not love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed: Oh Lord come." There's two words I want to point out. The word 'accursed' and the words after that, "Oh Lord, come." The word accursed is a Greek word, anathema, anathema; it's a very, very strong word; it means to devote to destruction and then the words after that, "Oh, Lord come," is a single word, it's an Aramaic word Maranatha.
So whoever doesn't love the Lord Anathema Maranatha is how the text reads. Maranatha is the Lord is coming soon or oh, Lord come soon.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with You, may the love or my love be with You in Christ Jesus. Amen!
So this is what I want you to walk away with, with this last couple of verses.
Paul wrote some strong words to this church. He solved or helped correct some of these problems that were going on. There were some strong instruction and exhortation, rebuke but all with the heart of love that he could present, as he wrote to the Galatians every man, perfect, mature, in Christ.
Just as John said, "I have no greater joy than to see my children walking truth, I have to say that was a pastor, it's one of the things I notice about this church, you walk in truth, you take it in, it changes you; you move ahead, you serve and you glorify him."
Heavenly Father, in Corinth a culture not unlike our own; in Corinth were the possibilities for making choices, for prosperity, for moral laxity in a way that much of the ancient world did not afford.
Our culture is becoming very Corinthian like, very permissive, and it's so easy in being surrounded by a culture whose value system is so abjectly antithetical to your word, it's very easy just to say, when everybody does it this way so I want to fit in instead of daring to be different. And just as Paul said, "Such worse some of you, I pray that these things mentioned that have marked our past lives would be left in the past, and you change us, transform us by the renewing of our mind. In Jesus' name, Amen!