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1st CORINTHIANS INTRODUCTION- Out of all of Paul’s letters, this one is ‘the most verified’ as being his. Of course we know this because Paul says so in the letter! But for all those intellectual higher critics, this helps. Corinth was a city of great influence and trade, many land and sea routes converged at Corinth and her port. The city was also known for her philosophers and ‘preachers of wisdom’ [Rhetoric]. They actually had a custom at Corinth in which you could ‘hire’ your own ‘preacher of wisdom’. These were the traveling teachers who made a living at speaking. This also might be why Paul specifically said ‘when I was with you I did not take money from you’. The custom of the traveling preachers was you could pay a one time honorarium for a single speech, or you could actually hire a regular speaker and have him ‘on salary’. Paul did not want the Corinthians to think that he was their hired preacher! How much influence this type of trade would have on the later development of the ‘hired clergy’ is unknown, but the similarities are striking. The famous 5th century bishop of Hippo, North Africa, Saint Augustine, made his living as one of these traveling teachers of philosophy before becoming a Christian. It’s believed that Paul wrote a 3rd letter to the church at Corinth, so what we know as 1st, 2nd Corinthians might actually be letters 2 and 3. I personally think Corinthians holds special value for the church today. The 21st century believer is being challenged on her Ecclesiology, the whole idea of what the church is. In Corinthians we see a specific picture of what the church is and on how she should meet. Paul will not address ‘the Pastor’ [there was none in the modern sense of the office] but he will speak directly to the brothers at Corinth and give them some heavy responsibilities to carry out [like committing a brother to satan for the destruction of his flesh! Ouch]. Paul went to Corinth on his 2nd missionary journey and spent 18 months with them [Acts 18] one of the longest stays at any church. Because of the pagan background of the city Paul will address specific issues related to believers and certain practices of idol worship. Eating meat offered to idols and stuff like that. Corinth also practiced a form of idolatry that included prostitution, so he will deal severely with the loose sexual morals of the people at Corinth. Well we have a lot to cover in the next few weeks, try and read Corinthians on your own as we plunge into this study, it will help a lot.
(943)1ST CORINTHIANS 1:1-17 Paul greets them as an apostle called by God, he affirms his authority and ‘fathering ability’ as coming from God. He tells them he thanks God all the time for the fruit that he sees in their lives, the thing that made Paul rejoice was the work God was doing in the communities he was establishing as an apostle. Today ministers have a tendency to ‘rejoice’ over the Christian enterprise that we oversee. Whether its’ how well the budget went this year and stuff like that. Paul’s joy wasn’t in the fact that God called him to some great personal ministry where he would find self fulfillment. His joy was in the actual growth and freedom that ‘his churches’ [communities of people] were experiencing. He also defines them as ‘those that call upon the name of the Lord like all the others’. Remember what we said when studying Romans chapter 10? One of the signs of the believer is ‘they call upon Jesus name’. They are believing communities of ‘Christ callers’. Not so much a one time evangelical altar call, but a lifestyle. Jesus said we are ‘a house of prayer’. A spiritual community/house who intercedes for all nations. It’s in our very DNA! Paul also commends them as being enriched by God in all ‘knowledge and utterance’ [speech]. It seems funny that he would say they were blessed and enriched in speech. Paul will give some of his strongest rebukes over speaking gifts [tongues, prophesy] to this community. Yet he does not approach it from the strong anti charismatic view. He doesn’t say ‘your speech is demonic’ he says it is enriched by God! We will deal with the gifts later on. Now for the first real rebuke. Paul says he has heard reports that there are divisions and strivings among them. They are already dividing up into various sects. Some follow Paul, others follow Cephas, some say ‘we are the true Christ followers’. Paul rebukes them sharply over these divisions, he does not want the early church to identify with individual personalities and gifts at the expense of true unity. Was this the early development of denominationalism? To a degree yes. But I also don’t think we should view the various Christian denominations as deceived or ‘lost’. The modern church has become what we are thru many struggles and difficulties over a 2 thousand year history. My personal view is we should strive for unity, not by trying to dissolve all the various ‘tribes’ that exist in Christ’s church, but by growing into a more mature view of all who name the name of Christ as being fellow believers who partake of a common grace. I applaud all the efforts being made by various Christian churches today to come to a greater outward unity [for example the Catholic and Orthodox dialogue] but I also believe as we see each other as fellow believers and learn to appreciate our different emphasis, that this approach can also lead to greater unity among believers today. Paul saw the beginnings of division in the early Corinthian community, he did his best to quell the coming storm.
(944)1ST CORINTHIANS 1:18-31 Paul declares the actual preaching of the Cross to be the power of God. The Jews sought for a sign [remember the sign of Jonas?] and the Greeks prided themselves in wisdom. Paul declares that Jesus IS the wisdom and power of God. In Christ is contained all the wisdom and power [signs] in the universe! Paul says God destroyed the wisdom of unregenerate man and that Gods foolishness is wiser than men’s greatest achievements apart from God. Wow, what an indictment on enlightenment philosophy. Man goes thru stages of learning and knowledge [renaissance, enlightenment. Industrial, scientific revolution] these are not bad achievements in and of themselves. Many of the greatest scientists and scientific discoveries were made by men of faith [Newton, Pascal, Faraday, etc] the problem arises when men think that sheer humanistic reasoning, apart from God, is the answer. Right now there is a movement [11-08] going on where some atheists bought ad space on the sides of buses that say ‘why believe in a god? Do good for goodness sake’. So they had both sides [Christian /Atheist] debate it. The simple fact is, sheer humanism cannot even define ‘what good is’. ‘Good’ becomes a matter of what serves me best at the time of my decision. Without God and special revelation [scripture-10 commandments] good can be defined by Hitler’s regime as exterminating one class of society for the benefit of the whole. Only Christian [or Deist, Jewish, Muslim] beliefs place special value and dignity on human life. It is a common misconception to think that all the enlightenment philosophers were atheists; this was not the case at all. Locke, Hume and others simply believed that thru human logic and reason people could arrive at a sort of naturalistic belief in God. This would form the basis of Deism, the system of belief in God but a rejection of classic Christian theology. Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers of our country were influenced by this style of belief. Now, getting back to the Greeks. Paul says ‘God destroyed the wisdom of this world’. What wisdom is Paul talking about? The enlightenment philosophers of the 18th century had nothing on the Greek philosophers going all the way back to a few centuries B.C. Plato, the Greek wrestler turned philosopher, had one of the most famous schools of Greek philosophy. At the entrance of the school the words were written ‘let none but geometers enter here’. Kind of strange. Geometry simply meant ‘form’ in this use. Most of the great theoretical physicists were also great mathematicians [Einstein]. The Greek philosophers were seeking a sort of ‘unified theory’ that would explain all other theories and bring all learning together under one intellectual ‘roof’. Sort of like Einstein’s last great obsession. The Greeks actually referred to this great unknown future ‘unifier’ as ‘the Logos’. Now, some atheists will use this truth to undercut the New Testament. They will take the common use of these words ‘The Logos’ and say that Johns writings [Gospel, letters] were simply stolen ideas from Greek philosophy. This is why believers need to have a better understanding of the inspiration of scripture. John’s writings were no doubt inspired, he of course calls Jesus the ‘Logos’ [word] of God. But he was simply saying to the Greek/Gnostic mind ‘look, you guys have been waiting for centuries for the one special ‘Word/Logos’ that would be the answer to all learning, I declare unto you that Jesus is this Logos’! So eventually you would have ‘the wisdom of the world’ [both Greek and enlightenment and all other types] falling short of the ultimate answer. They could only go so far in their journey for truth, and ultimately they either wind up at the foot of the Cross [the wisdom of God] or the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’. God said this ‘tree’ [sources of wisdom and knowledge apart from God] would ultimately lead to death if not submitted to ‘the tree of life’ [the Cross]. You would have some of the enlightenment philosophers eat from this tree all the way to the ‘death of God’ movement. Man in his wisdom would come to the conclusion that ‘God is dead’. If this is true, then the slaughter of millions of Jews is no moral dilemma. If God is dead then man is not created in his image, he is just this piece of flesh that you can dispose of at will. To all you intellectual types, it’s Okay to have a mind, but you must love God with it. If all your doing is feeding from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will surely die.
(945)1 CORINTHIANS 2- Paul tells them that when he came to them to declare Gods wisdom, that he did not do it with excellency of speech or with enticing words of men’s wisdom. What is he saying here? Remember, Corinth had the background of traveling philosophers of rhetoric who could ‘dazzle the average folk’. Sort of like the role science would come to play with modern man. All science is good, it’s when man in his arrogance begins to espouse or ‘twist’ things to his advantage that the problem arises. That’s when the arrogance of mans wisdom simply says to the average Joe ‘who do you think you are to question me! I am a man of wisdom’ Phooey! [I know it’s corny]. The fact is that natural man has always had the ability to deceive or come up with ‘evidence’ just in the nick of time. Did you know there was/is an entire cottage industry in ‘finding’ fossils to prove evolution is true? Do you really think men were above deception in the 1800’s? That they were above the temptation to come up with findings so their funding would not be cut off? Darwin wrote his famous book ‘the Origin of Species’ in 1851. Right after the book became popular there was a race among the archeologists to find the missing link. It just so happened that within a few short years they found it! [or something they thought fit]. It was also a ‘coincidence’ that some of the findings were discovered right before the grant/funding would run our for the researcher. Now, don’t you think the poor brother was tempted to fudge? Do you think that some of these findings, which later fell into the category of various bones simply being found in one location, were simply hyped for the benefit of the researchers to continue their work? You bet stuff like this happened. Some of the discoveries of skeletons that looked a little different were determined to be modern humans that simply suffered from various growth deficiencies. Scientists said this publicly! But this finding didn’t ‘fit’ all the excitement that was happening around the ‘new knowledge’ of Darwin. And the fact is that some of these early findings, with all of these obvious opportunities for fraud, stand today as the best evidence for evolution. After 150 years, these guys just happened to come up with the best evidence under these highly suspicious circumstances. But the average man, like the brothers living in Corinth, were simply dazzled by all the technical jargon. ‘Neanderthal man’ wow, that’s scientific brother! The name comes from a Christian whose name was ‘Neander’ and the famous discovery of the bones were in a field where he lived. Now that’s what I call the wisdom of man! So Paul lets the Corinthians know that his gospel isn’t some fabricated wisdom that has no basis in reality, he was preaching the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ! [chapter 15]. He does say this wisdom and truth of Jesus is ‘hidden wisdom that the princes of this world can’t grasp’. He teaches that only God himself can teach a person this true wisdom of the gospel. But when Paul says ‘hidden wisdom’ he is not talking about the Gnostic belief [early cult of Christianity] of ‘special wisdom that only an elite few have’. Paul is saying mans unregenerate nature cannot grasp the great riches of the gospel. God regenerates us and gives us freely of his Spirit so we can ‘know the things of the Spirit of God’. Make no mistake about it, in Christ there are tremendous sources of riches and wisdom. This wisdom is sound and sure, not like the wisdom of the philosophers. Their wisdom often times was based on sheer fantasy.
1Corinthians 1:1 Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
1Corinthians 1:2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s:
1Corinthians 1:3 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
1Corinthians 1:4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
1Corinthians 1:5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
1Corinthians 1:6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
1Corinthians 1:7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
1Corinthians 1:8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
1Corinthians 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
1Corinthians 1:11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
1Corinthians 1:12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
1Corinthians 1:13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
1Corinthians 1:14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
1Corinthians 1:15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
1Corinthians 1:16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
1Corinthians 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
1Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
1Corinthians 1:19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
1Corinthians 1:20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
1Corinthians 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
1Corinthians 1:22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
1Corinthians 1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
1Corinthians 1:24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
1Corinthians 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1Corinthians 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
1Corinthians 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
1Corinthians 1:28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
1Corinthians 1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
1Corinthians 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
1Corinthians 1:31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
1Corinthians 2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
1Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
1Corinthians 2:3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
1Corinthians 2:4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
1Corinthians 2:5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
1Corinthians 2:6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
1Corinthians 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
1Corinthians 2:8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
1Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
1Corinthians 2:10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
1Corinthians 2:11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
1Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
1Corinthians 2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
1Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
1Corinthians 2:15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
1Corinthians 2:16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
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