Wow, so the question for today’s study is 1 Corinthians, chapters 3-5. How similar those days were to modern day Kansas City. Apathy to Carnality, and indifference to Immorality.
This has been a rather interesting couple of chapters for me, and I totally get how these two meet up. Basically the church in Corinth went from Apathy to Carnality, and you really have to wonder if we are going from indifference to immorality. With that said, following are some points I have come across and thought I would share.
- Paul continues his thought on spirituality and he shows that they are not spiritual. One result of the divisions was carnality and stunted spiritual growth (3:1-2). (3:1) “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ.” Ouch… we know that these people are part of the family of God since Paul calls them brethren…but that is part of the problem. Though they have the Holy Spirit (unlike the natural man of 1 Corinthians 2:14) they are not behaving like spiritual people, but like carnal – that is, fleshly-people, like immature Christians (babes in Christ). They are, to some extent, are thinking and acting according to the flesh, not the Spirit.
- Paul has spoken to us about three categories of men. There is the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14), who is patterned after Adam and rejects the things of the Spirit. There is the spiritual man (1 Corinthians 2:15), who knows the things of God. And there is the carnal man who knows the things of God, yet in some significant ways is still characterized by the flesh. Which one are you? I worry that I am all too often the 3rd man – the carnal man. Lessons like this help me correct that.
- One of the main problems the Corinthians had was the fact that they were attraction to spiritual “junk food,” based on man’s wisdom and eloquence. They were so “filled” with this junk food that they were not able to receive the spiritual solid food Paul wanted to give them. Think about how real that is today…In fact, it really is a sobering thought that many, many people who believe they are serving God, are doing it in an unworthy manner or with unworthy “materials” and will come to find in eternity that they have, in reality, done nothing for the Lord. Again, studies like this are so badly needed right now. I don’t want to be surprised due to my earthly wisdom and pride!
- Many people today evaluate a pastor or a minister on unbiblical standards. They judge him on the basis of his humor, or entertainment value, his appearance, or his skill at marketing and sales. But this is to think beyond what is written in the sense Paul means it here. I have seen this throughout my lifetime. I have even been guilty of it. I wish this church would do x, this minister do y. If they did, it would satisfy z. Am I expecting the church to fulfil my personal, worldly needs, or my spiritual needs? I think there are times I settle for an entertaining sermon with a good band, than the alternative that feeds my soul. I am not saying that the entertaining sermon cannot do that, we need to be careful.
- I also think that the church needs to be careful. It might be worth adding that the church today is heavy with this same attitude of the Corinthian Christians. They were concerned about the image of worldly success and power, and many of them despised Paul and the other apostles because they did not display that image. Today, there is no shortage of ministers who want to display the image of worldly success and power, and no shortage of Christians who will value that in their minister.
- Now think about the church and how we look at our ministers. Would we have hired Paul today? After all, look at Paul’s resume: he bounced from church to church, he was run out of many towns, he was accused of starting riots, he was rarely supported by the ministry, he was arrested and imprisoned several times. On the surface, it would be hard to imagine, but we need to look deeper – don’t we…Our problem is we often want a middle road; a little popularity, a little reputation, but still the anointing of God. We want the power without the cost. God help us to choose Paul’s way!
- Now take it a step further. Paul told the Corinthian Christians to imitate him. Can you imagine their response… our response? He was regarded as a fool, as weak, as dishonored; he was hungry and thirsty and poorly clothed, he was homeless and beaten; he worked hard to support himself with manual labor – not merely through the salary he pulled from the church.
- Paul is not only shocked by the immoral conduct of this individual member of the church, he is also appalled by the attitude of the church itself: “you are arrogant!” (verse 2) They were tolerating and basically condoning this immoral conduct and lifestyle. Instead of being arrogant, the church should have been that of grief! “Should you not rather be grieved…?” the whole purpose of God was being ignored and even defied! And note that his isn’t only on the leaders, but the church as a whole. It is everyone’s responsibility to maintain the purity of Christ’s church. How often do we turn to the church leaders and ask that they “take care” of a problem for us, and if they don’t we turn a blind eye to the problem saying “we tried” or “we told so and so”.
- The offender was to be delivered to Satan. That is to say, the protective covering of God’s grace was removed from the man (this was done by removing his name from the covenant community of the church), allowing him to be exposed to the attacks of the devil in an unprotected state. Up to this point there has been no repentance in the man’s life, thus he is now being given over to the course of life he has adamantly chosen to pursue and is being allowed to face the consequences of his choice. The offender was being delivered unto Satan “for the destruction of his sinful nature:”
- Remember that Corinth was a city notorious for sexual immorality, and the pagan religions did not value sexual purity. It wasn’t hard for a Corinthian to think you could be religious, yet still act any way you pleased when it came to sex. Greek culture could matter-of-factly say: “Mistresses we keep for the sake of pleasure, concubines for the daily care of the body, but wives to bear us legitimate children.” Look how close that mirrors today’s society. People say they are religious, but they are just not sure they are “fully Christian.” They want to live their own way of life, and also say they believe that God created this world. But, in the same breathe, they will also add that they feel that their good deeds will outweigh their bad ones in the end. In other words – works are more important.
- More than anything, the Corinthian Christians were probably allowing this in the name of “tolerance.” Oops… three is that word we hear a lot today… tolerance. They probably were saying to themselves, “Look how loving we are. We are accepting this brother just as he is. Look how open-minded we are!” We should never underestimate what people will allow in the name of “open-mindedness.” In particular, and as an example, I see this with my daughter. She will see something that she knows is wrong, but will say just this. I love them no matter what. But I try to say, if you know they are wrong, is it really love if you let them continue to do it?
- The church is not a group of ‘religious policemen’ out to catch a criminal/sinner. Rather, we are a group of equally brokenhearted and sinning brothers and sisters seeking to restore and the stumbling member of the family. I cannot tell you the number of times God reminds me how imperfect I am. It is in those moments I can have enough compassion to help another brother or sister through his/her storm.
- Nearing the end of this chapter, Paul is reminding/warning the Corinth Christian that they cannot continue in Christian fellowship with a notorious sinner who calls himself a Christian. As noted above, it is part of our responsibility to help bring them back around, but we should stop seeking advice from them. We should not ask for spiritual guidance from them. Not until they repent.
- And finally Paul is pointing out that we are too busy judging those outside of the church (which is God’s job only) and are neglecting purity within the church.
Very interest study for me.
More to come!