Letters to a Troubled Church: 1 and 2 Corinthians
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What do you do about it? It is most interesting that Paul was an apostle, with all the authority of an apostle, but he absolutely refused to make up any rules along this line. This is because the weak, immature Christian always wants somebody to put him under law, but if you put a Christian under law, then he is no longer under grace!
And Paul knows that Christians must learn to deal with what he calls "the law of liberty. And no urge or desire, or tendency is wrong in itself -- we are at liberty in these things. But with this law, he links two other laws. One he calls the "law of love;" that is the law that says, "I may be free to do it, but if I am really putting a stumbling block in somebody else's path, I won't do it" -- that is the law of love.
The limitation is imposed not by my conscience, but by another's conscience. The other is the "law of expediency;" that is, everything is legal, is lawful, but not everything is helpful. There are a lot of things I could do, and many directions I could go, as a Christian, but if I spend all my time doing all the things I am free to do, I no longer have any time to do the things which I am called to do, and therefore, it is not always helpful.
These things can be a waste of time and drag us back, even though they are not wrong in themselves.
That is what Hebrews calls the "weights;" as the writer says, " Then, they wrote also about women -- women were a problem in the church at Corinth, too. I did not mean anything bad by that! But they were, because they were involved with a very difficult problem about hats. Now this had peculiar local overtones about it -- if a woman was seen bare-headed in Corinth, she was immediately identified as a prostitute, one of the temple priestess, and that is why Paul writes to these people in Corinth and says, "You ladies, when you come to church, put a hat on; it is a sign that you are a Christian woman subject to your husband.
Now in practice that applied to Corinth; in principle the principle applies all the time , Christian women are to be in subjection to their husbands -- as you see all through the Scriptures -- in every way, as an indication and a sign that the church is in subjection to its Lord. The Christian woman fulfills her ministry to her Lord in being subject to her husband, and all this is involved in this problem of headship which the apostle defines as equality, cooperation, and yet, submission. Then the third problem concerned the Lord's table; there were certain ones who were eating this in a mechanical, perfunctory way, not seeing any meaning of having any insight into what they were doing, and so the apostle had to show them that everything the Christian does must be done realistically and with a recognition that it is done as unto the Lord.
Now in chapter twelve through the rest of the book, he is dealing with the great spiritualities, the correction to these carnalities. You do not correct these things by just trying to straighten yourself out. How do you correct them?
Well first, by a recognition of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in your life. That is why chapter twelve begins with that very word. Now concerning spiritualities[it is translated "spiritual gifts" here, but it is actually one word], brethren, I do not want you to be uninformed. Why not? Well, because this is what makes life work, and he goes on to explain that it is the presence of the Spirit that makes Christ real to us, and the gifts of the Spirit that are designed to make the body function and reach out and perform its work of touching society on every side.
Here again, we have missed so much of the great richness of the provision of Christ for his church. We know so little about the gifts of the Spirit. What is your gift -- do you know? And are you using it? Are you putting it to work? The body functions by the exercise of its gift, and every Christian has a gift -- at least one -- and there are different gifts; we do not all have the same. God has sent different gifts within the body, and we all function as these gifts are put to work; therefore, this is a beautiful chapter -- showing us that we must not despise another because of a different gift.
Think of that -- the head is Christ himself, and yet we are all members one of another, and so, as the body of Christ, we fulfill our functions -- both in the church to the body itself and to the world -- through the exercise of spiritual gifts in the power of the Holy Spirit. And the proof that we have learned the secret will be as set forth in chapter thirteen. You know what that is -- love -- the manifestation of love. This is a wonderful chapter, because it sets forth for us the value of love, the portrait of love, and the power of love.
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Then in chapter fourteen, Paul takes up another problem that was causing confusion in the church -- the misuse of one of the gifts, the gift of tongues, and the presence of the false gift of tongues that was at work in that church as it is in our society today. In the correction for these abuses, he tries to focus the whole weight of this section on the importance of the gift of prophecy.
Letters to a Troubled Church
It is always amazing to me how many read this chapter and entirely miss the apostle's point. The whole purpose of the chapter is that we start talking about the gift of prophecy and emphasizing it, and urging it upon others, and encouraging those who have it to exercise it.
But you hardly ever hear anything about that: it is all tongues, is it not? Yet Paul was trying to play down the gift of tongues, and play up the gift of prophecy. Now, the gift of prophecy is simply the ability to explain and expound the Scriptures, to speak comfort and edification, and encouragement from the Scriptures. That brings us to chapter fifteen with its great emphasis on the resurrection. What would any of these things be worth if we did not have a living Christ to make them real?
The resurrection is the great pivot for the whole of the Christian faith -- everything comes back to that. If Jesus Christ was not raised from the dead, then, as the apostle says in this chapter, we are hopeless, and not only that, we are the most to be pitied of all people -- we are nuts, we are fools, we ought to be locked up somewhere, if Christ be not raised from the dead.
But what a triumphant paean of proof and praise is in this chapter concerning the resurrection. Paul closes it with what is his whole point. Everything in this whole letter comes right down to this one verse verse 58 :. Therefore,[because of all he has said up to this point] my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. Chapter sixteen is just a postscript in which he catches up certain little things that the church needed to know, very important to us, but then he comes back to this theme again:.
Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong, Let all that you do be done in love. Our Father, we thank you that we who live also in a sex-saturated society, given over to the love of wisdom and intellectualism, have in Jesus Christ, in the word of the cross, everything that it takes to meet the pressures that come upon us in this day; there is no reason for failure.
And so, Lord, we pray that we may learn more about these great themes, and discover the exciting fascination of everyday living on this level and in these terms, thus discovering the adventure that you intended life to be. We ask in Christ's name, Amen. For permission to use this content, please review RayStedman.
Subject to permissions policy, all rights reserved. Ray uses Paul's epistles to the church in Corinth to guide you through such difficult matters as atheism, divorce, Christlike love versus worldy love, the roles of men and women, and other "gray" areas that confront you in today's world. Visit the Bookstore. We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
Your browser does not support the audio element. First, he calls them "saints," he says, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.. If you never remember anything else of First Corinthians, at least remember this verse, because everything in this letter is built around it: God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Then, beginning with chapter seven, Paul turns to the questions they had written to him, Now concerning the matters about which you wrote. Everything in this whole letter comes right down to this one verse verse 58 : Therefore,[because of all he has said up to this point] my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. This three-fold structure aids our understanding of the historical reconstruction of the events associated with the letter.go site
Corinth - A Troubled Church : Christian Courier
PAST A. Itinerary: Asia in Weakness A brief review of these events is provided here, but more detailed reconstructions may be found in critical commentaries. Eerdmans, , ; Beasley-Murray, ; and Corley, Paul arrived in Corinth for the first time on his second missionary journey where he met Priscilla and Aquila Acts in A. He remained in Corinth for eighteen months During this time, Paul was brought to trial before Gallio by a group of angry Jews From an inscription found at Delphi we learn that Gallio was proconsul for one year beginning in July, A.
After a brief journey to Caesarea, Jerusalem, and Antioch, he returned to Ephesus for an extended three-year ministry beginning in summer A. Paul mentioned a letter in 1 Cor. Most probably this letter was lost  Some scholars hold that 2 Cor.
Eerdmans, , Later, a delegation from the church brought Paul a series of questions for his consideration. Most likely the delegation carried the letter Corinthians B back to the church, but Timothy was also sent to Corinth by Paul to deliver instruction Acts ; 1 Cor.
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Paul planned to remain in Ephesus until Pentecost of A. Timothy must have returned to Paul bearing disparaging news that his letter Corinthians B had not had its intended effect. New troubles had come upon them from outside. The Corinthians had allowed a group of false apostles into their midst, forcing Paul to deal directly with the intruders. The result was a change of itinerary. Since the context in 1 Thessalonians is sexual perversion, Denney links the context of 2 Cor. Hughes, 63, , concurs, adding that this interpretation is the traditional ancient view.
Furnish opposes this view and presents a detailed argument against equating the men of these two passages. He would no doubt have been accused of vascillation.