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I Corinthians 1-5 Listen
These Corinthians had some problems - big problems
Paul deals with some Christian-living issues in his writings to the Corinthians that he doesn't address to any of the other churches to whom he wrote. These people, made up predominantly of Gentiles, brought a lot of pagan culture into the church. After all, the city of Corinth where they lived was the home of the Temple of Aphrodite. In Greek mythology, Aphrodite is the goddess of love, beauty and sexual rapture. Our English word Aphrodisiac comes from this mythological character. Because Corinth was home of two separate converging shipping ports, a lot of commerce passed through the city. Thus, it was always full of sailors looking for a "good time." And the temple did not disappoint them. Temple-sponsored prostitution was provided for all the visitors and residents alike. It was commonplace there - so much so, that in the minds of the residents, abuse of alcohol, sexual promiscuity and brawling represented normal conduct. In I Corinthians, Paul deals with issues of sinful practice within the church itself that go way beyond what Christians today can even imagine. It's a gross understatement to simply make the observation that this was a very spiritually-troubled church.
It is generally believed that I Corinthians was written by Paul while on his third missionary journey from Ephesus in 55/56 A.D.
1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
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 theirs and ours:
3 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
We find Paul's greeting to the church in verses 1-3. You will notice that Paul is careful to note his calling as an Apostle. We'll see him defend that calling in I Corinthians 9 (see notes). Incidentally, in verse 1, Sosthenes is probably the former ruler of the synagogue in Acts 18:1-17 (see notes) where Paul preached at Corinth. It would appear that Sosthenes received Christ and became a disciple.
The relationship of "sanctified" and "saints"
The Greek verb for "sanctify" is "hagiadzo," which means "to consecrate, to dedicate to God." With the same root, the Greek adjective for "saint" is "hagios" - the result of having been sanctified. Therefore, Believers are those who have been dedicated to God, and thus are called "saints." Referring to a Believer as a "saint" only speaks to the salvation covenant established between God and that Believer, a permanent relationship. Technically speaking, it is scripturally incorrect to use the term "saint" in any other context.
Paul establishes some basic principles regarding salvation in verse 2. You will note that the church (Greek: ekklesia - called out assembly) at Corinth is made up of people who:
Believers are those who have been "sanctified in Christ Jesus" at the time of their salvation experience and thus are "called to be saints" because they "call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord." The local assembly is to be comprised of those who have established themselves as "saints" through trusting Jesus Christ as their savior. To see a list of words used in conjunction with a Believer's salvation experience (including "grace"), click here.
In verse 3, Paul extends his standard greeting expressing his desire that they experience grace and peace from God in their walk as Believers. Then he gets right down to business with comments packed full of meaning - perhaps even double meanings. In verse 4 he commends them for the grace of God, but he's obviously talking about more than just saving grace here as is evidenced in verse 5 which starts with a Greek conjunction ("hoti") indicating that his comments through verse 7 are offshoots of the "grace" in verse 4. As a result, these Corinthians "come behind in no gift" (verse 7), which becomes part of the problem he deals with in I Corinthians 12-13 (see notes) and 14 (see notes), the excessive practices (with spiritual gifts) observed in their corporate worship services. In verses 8-9, Paul prepares them for the comments of rebuke that will follow, assuring them that he is not questioning the authenticity of their salvation experience and is emphasizing God's ability to preserve them in Jesus Christ. With that said, now it's time to begin addressing the problems within the church.
Outside of his mention here in I Corinthians, almost all of what we know about Apollos is found in Acts 18:24-19:1.
Acts 18:24 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
Acts 18:25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
Acts 18:26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
Acts 18:27 And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace:
Acts 18:28 For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
Acts 19:1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
He was with Paul at Ephesus when he wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians; and Paul makes a positive reference to him in Titus 3:13.
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.
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.
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.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
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.
Paul gets right to one of the big problems in the church there, contention. Being a much-desired travel spot, the Corinthian Christians had been exposed to several teachers presenting Christ. They had developed little pockets of loyalties to people like Cephas (Peter), Paul and Apollos. Add that to their list of contentious issues...sort of like sports fans today argue over who's the best among their favorite players. Paul here is not discouraging baptism; he's just thankful that he, personally, did not add to this division by baptizing people in this church himself. I'm confident he left that to the local pastor instead. Paul served in the capacity of an apostle, not as the pastor of the churches he visited.
Incidentally, Crispus was likely the head of the Corinthian synagogue (Acts 18:8, see notes) and Gaius was likely the one mentioned as Pauls host in Romans 16:23. These are the only two at Corinth personally baptized by Paul himself with the exception of "the household of Stephanas." Many think that Stephanas was the Corinthian jailer of Acts 16:25-40 (see notes).
Some have used these comments by Paul to formulate an opinion that water baptism is not that significant for a Believer. That's simply not so. While water baptism does not make a person more saved, Paul treats it with great significance for the new Christian in Romans 6:1-14 (see notes).
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.
19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
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?
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.
22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
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;
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:
29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
The discussion for the balance of this chapter is framed by verse 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." The "preaching of the cross" is a term Paul used to describe the message of the Gospel - the saving power of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (as defined in I Corinthians 15:1-4, see notes). Corinth was a big Greek city. Greeks considered themselves very sophisticated...and smart. Greek culture was considered by them to be a cut above the culture of other societies. That being the case, their intellectual heroes were Greeks, and they had a tendency to count inferior anything not Greek with regard to religion (well, anything actually). That's why Paul deals extensively with this issue in these verses.
In verse 19, while describing those who hold a disdain for the Gospel message, Paul quotes Isaiah 29:14 (see notes), a passage demonstrating that in the midst of the siege on Jerusalem in 701 B.C., the people still rejected God's Word...along with their wise and prudent men (verse 20). Nonetheless, verse 21 declares that, even so, the preaching of the gospel message is still the power that brings salvation. That example serves as the object of his subsequent comments regarding so-called "wise" men and "wisdom." Verse 22 summarizes the problem, "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:" Paul adds in verse 23 that this message of the cross rubs the Messiah-rejecting Jews the wrong way and seems simplistically foolish to those who embrace their Greek culture. Nevertheless, it's still the message that saves from sin. Yup, that just about sums it up. In verses 26-28 we see that these sophisticates had a disdain for the very principles upon which our faith is built, their attitudes being reflected in verses 27-28. These people may mock the preaching of the gospel of Christ and redemption on the cross for its lack of sophistication (in the minds of the Greeks), but it's the power of God they mock. Despite their attitude regarding the Gospel of Jesus Christ, none of them will find solace in their so-call "wisdom" when they are judged at the white throne judgment (see notes on Revelation 20:11-15).
Paul explains in these verses that secular wisdom is at odds with God's wisdom - so much so, that our so-called intellectuals of today still mock the things of God. But where does real wisdom come from? Verse 30 says, "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:" In other words, as Believers, we are "made" wise and righteous in Christ. Truth is truth, so just bring on the mockery; we can take it!
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.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
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:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Verses 1-5 may not seem particularly significant to the casual reader, but I have adopted them as the definitive way in which I conduct my preaching ministry. In essence, here is what Paul is saying: "The power of God is in the Word of God." For the first several years of my preaching ministry I ignored the admonition of my Homiletics professor, Dr. Steve Euler, who encouraged us to stick to expository preaching. When I finally came around to capturing the essence of what Paul is declaring in these five verses, I realized that Paul is saying: Skip the fancy oratory; just tell them what God has said in HIS WORD! Since coming to that realization, I have adopted a practice of ceasing from my efforts to prepare a fancy oratory (which I wasn't very good at anyway), and I just try to stick to telling the congregation the truths I have discovered in the passage I've been studying the preceding week - expository preaching. If you've heard me preach, you know that I quote I Corinthians 2:4-5 at the beginning of each message. I want to remind myself and the congregation that the power of God is in the Word of God; it's not to be found in fancy or stirring oratory. Fancy, dynamic oratory may stir the emotions, but it's the substance of the message that will strengthen Believers for the long haul.
You will notice that Paul focuses on what he knew - the clear message of life in Christ. He made no attempt to compete in knowledge or wisdom on other fronts - just the preaching of Christ. It is worth taking note once again the value of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Had Jesus died a natural death, he would have had no power to save anyone. Paul's clear presentation of that fact is seen in his formal definition of the Gospel to be found in I Corinthians 15:1-4, see notes).
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:
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
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.
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
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.
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.
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.
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.
15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
The wisdom of the world is contrary to God's wisdom, a point that Paul began dealing with all the way back in 1:18 (see above). The world has always been bent on disproving and discounting God. Just look back at Noah's era and later the tower of Babel - no use for God. Why is that? Rebels don't like boundaries. They eliminate (at least in their minds) the boundaries by explaining away He who makes the boundaries. In verse 6 Paul identifies the group who will understand his message - the "perfect" (Greek: "teleios" means "mature" or "complete"). The Greek word for "mystery" in verse 7 is "musterion." As you can see, "mystery" is a near transliteration of the Greek word which literally means, "that which cannot be known by the natural mind." In other words, these spiritual concepts can only be digested by a spiritually mature mind.
So, don't ever hold out hope that the secular mind will ever draw the conclusion in his style of wisdom that God is the center of the universe; it just won't happen. In verse 9, Paul quotes from Isaiah 64:4 (see notes), "For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him." That verse draws attention to the totally unexpected grace God bestows on those who love him.
"Wisdom" is translated from the Greek word "sophia." We get our word "sophomore" from this Greek word, defined by the The American Heritage Dictionary, "...probably influenced by Greek sophos, wise, and moros, stupid." Therefore a sophomore is a wise stupid person. Yeah...I believe that just about describes it. The world has devised its own system of wise thinking, but our wisdom comes from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When we are filled, and thus controlled by the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of God when it comes to...well...everything. It's a great mind to have! The world doesn't get it according to verse 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." Lost people (those with a "natural" mind) don't like our thinking processes...and don't want to. We see the world through spiritual eyes given to us by the Holy Spirit, and they see the world from the perspective of the established world order. That's what verse 13 means when it indicates that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit helps us in our thinking process by "comparing spiritual things with spiritual." Our wisdom arises from the "spiritual" precepts found in God's Word. Where did their world order come from? II Corinthians 4:3-4 (see notes) says, "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." The "god of this world" in that passage is Satan himself." Quite on the contrary, however, Paul frames the contrast when he says of Believers in verse 16, "But we have the mind of Christ."
1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
This church at Corinth was a bickering church. They struggled about everything. As we saw in chapter 1, they even divided over who they followed with regard to spiritual leaders, again mentioned here in verse 4 regarding Apollos (see above). Paul calls these Corinthians "carnal" rather than "spiritual" in verse 1. Now here's a very important concept of scripture: Spirit-led Believers do not bicker; they are always unified. It is impossible that the Holy Spirit indwelling me will ever cause me to struggle with another Believer who is also led by the Holy Spirit. So, why do Christians (like those in Corinth) struggle with each other? It is ALWAYS because one or more are not being led by the Holy Spirit.
It only takes one to cause division...and his spiritual classification in that state is that of a "carnal" Believer. Now, let's not go overboard here. We're talking contentious behavior in this discussion. I do have opinions about things. My favorite colors are blue and red (I'm a Crayola 8 kind of guy); the one who picked out the color scheme for our church had a strong partiality for green. Do people in churches actually divide and contend over color schemes used as they decorate their churches? Yup...every day! How can something that trivial cause friction and division in a church? Answer: no leadership of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives each Believer perspective; it keeps the main thing the main thing in our lives. The Holy Spirit helps us identify the real enemy - Satan! The Holy Spirit inside helps us defer to others on our trivial preferences. Paul said in Philippians 2:3-4 (see notes), "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." This is fulfilled naturally in Spirit-led Believers. We may have preferences different from other Believers, but we never allow them to become points of contention. By the way, the Holy Spirit will always lead us to contend with Satan. When Satan attacks, we're there!
These contentious Believers are spiritually immature - thus the reference to "milk" nourishment in verse 2. The analogy is clear. Kids don't understand the big picture and therefore make immature decisions that may result in harm...because they lack wisdom. Likewise, immature Believers who assert themselves on spiritual issues will many times come to the incorrect judgment on issues. Why? It's because of their frame of reference - their paradigm, just as those Paul refers to in chapter 2 who have the "wisdom of the world," but not the wisdom of God. When others, who weigh situations based upon spiritual principles (I Corinthians 2:13, see above), disagree with them, they become contentious. Spiritual decision making does not make sense to a carnal Believer.
There's another point worth mentioning in this passage of scripture. Many Christians today tend to think that a so-called Believer who displays carnal-looking actions in his/her life is doing so because of not being truly saved. Many have incorrectly concluded that all saved people look and act like saved people all the time. Verse 1 is clear: these people (those in the Corinthian church) are regarded by Paul to be Christians (he calls them "brethren"), and yet they are carnal. You must understand, life is tough for a carnal Christian. I've always considered this carnal state in one's Christian life to be transitional - not permanent. Carnal living for the Believer is hampered by such passages as I Corinthians 11:27-34 (see notes) and Hebrews 12:3-17 (see notes). Click on these passage links to read the notes on each regarding the chastisement of disobedient Believers. Here's the deal: God does not overlook rebellion in the Believer.
As Paul discusses the various aspects of ministering - Paul having planted and Apollos (see "Apollos" notes above) having watered at Corinth, he transitions into the importance of each role by linking it to rewards for each; he illustrates his point with the construction of a building in verse 9 and fully develops his analogy in verses 10-15.
10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Though speaking specifically about the various aspects of labor shared by Apollos and himself, Paul compares the Christian life to a building - a building metaphor. Christ is the foundation, and we build upon that foundation with our life-long actions - just as he and Apollos had done. Spiritually-based actions add to the foundation gold, silver and precious stone; carnally-based actions...wood, hay and stubble. After the rapture (I Thessalonians 4:13-18, see notes; I Corinthians 15:51-54, see notes), all Believers will appear before the judgment seat of Christ (II Corinthians 5:10, see notes). That's where the fire of verse 13 takes place. Only spiritually-based actions will endure the fire. Subsequently, rewards will be presented to Believers based upon the enduring spiritually-based actions. Believers characterized by carnal actions will be stripped down to the foundation of Christ (verse 11) with which they started their Christian lives - that's right, no rewards for them, but clearly salvation for these is understood according to verse 15 when it says, "but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." It is true that sometimes "saved" refers to physical salvation and sometimes spiritual salvation. The Greek word "sozo" must be understood in the context of the passage where it is found. In this spiritual setting, the meaning of "saved" is indisputably a reference to eternal life. This understanding is vital in light of the "carnal" Believers Paul began discussing in verse 1. Understand this: Carnal Believers are Believers nonetheless. If that bothers you, go back and read I Corinthians 11:27-34 (see notes) and Hebrews 12:3-17 (see notes) again.
Lesson: the spirit-led life is productive; the carnal nature of man, when allowed to manifest itself, is divisive and non productive.
In fact, there are six separate judgments of mankind seen in scripture. The judgment seat of Christ seen here is just one of the six. Click here to see an overview of all six judgments of God.
16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;
22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;
23 And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.
Verse 16 says we are the housing for the Holy Spirit. This concept contrasts with that of the Old Testament where God's dwelling place was inside the Tabernacle and later Solomon's Temple (see article entitled "The Shekinah Glory").Yes, today God no longer inhabits a man-made structure, but rather is inside every Believer. Think about it - you're like a mobile sanctuary walking around with God inside. Paul intentionally emphasizes the importance in these verses of displaying ourselves as houses of God...with all the appropriate attention to godliness in our actions. And finally...when you bicker with another mobile house of God, you're just manifesting that you're not allowing God to control your mobile sanctuary. CAN'T WE JUST ALL GET ALONG? Yes! We can...when we are all led by God's Holy Spirit.
Verse 17 is quite sobering, "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." We're once again back to the discussion of chastisement for disobedient Believers according to the guidelines of I Corinthians 11:27-34 (see notes) and Hebrews 12:3-17 (see notes). Paul wants to make certain that those who fit the description of "carnal" (verse 1, see above) understand that there is a price to pay - a physical destruction. Look at context here: If the "body" is physical in verse 16 (and it is), then verse 17 references physical destruction for disobedient Believers (those who defile their visible testimony). For those who spend their time worrying that disobedient professing Christians are getting away with something, worry no more; they aren't. God knows who they are and has it all under control.
Let's tie this discussion up now. What about these "carnal" but "wise in this world" Believers of verse 18. They have no edge with God; their worldly wisdom is futile. Paul then takes us back to the issue that began this discussion by referring to the issue of divisions regarding mentors in verses 22-23. It doesn't matter who your spiritual mentor was, we are to be unified in Jesus Christ through the indwelling leadership of the Holy Spirit - no room for carnality or worldly wisdom.
Incidentally, Paul quotes Job 5:13 (see notes) in verse 19, "He taketh the wise in their own craftiness." That's a true statement by Eliphaz in his speech to Job; his speech was otherwise riddled with misunderstandings about God's dealings with man, but that statement is, nonetheless, true.
Paul adds to the discussion of mentors (I Corinthians 4)
1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.
4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
6 And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.
7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
8 Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.
9 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.
10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.
11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;
12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.
15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.
17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.
18 Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.
19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.
20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
21 What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?
Yes, Paul is still talking about his issue of division over spiritual mentors that he began in chapter 3 (see above). From this chapter, it would appear that there were those in the church at Corinth who expressed a good bit of disdain for Paul...apparently in favor toward Apollos or Peter (Cephas). Paul says in verse 3 that their negative appraisal of him is no big deal ("a very small thing"); he acquires his worth from God (verse 4). He goes on to tell them that they would be better served to let God do the evaluation of worth. So...by what authority does Paul correct these Corinthians? He deals with that in this chapter.
Note the references to his own ministry among the Corinthians that Paul emphasizes:
Effective ministry is everything to Paul's motivation as an Apostle of Christ. Why should they "defame" (verse 13) Paul? He is the spiritual father (verse 15) of many of them. In other words, he led them to Christ through the Gospel. Also, he has considered his life worthless except to preach the Gospel; he has sacrificed everything for this mission. One more thing: Through extreme hardship, Paul lives his life in such a way that he serves as an example to be followed with respect to living the Christian life.
Many preachers/teachers have used verse 2 as a verse on giving money to the church. That's not really what it is. Verse 2 has nothing to do with money in its direct application. The Greek word for "stewards" (oikonomos) here is literally a word that refers to someone who is in charge of the affairs of a household. In those days, it was typically a slave entrusted with household affairs...and in charge of the other household slaves. He was responsible for everything that went right and everything that went wrong. Paul describes himself as a steward of the Gospel. He must spread it and teach it properly; it's been entrusted to him just like the steward of a household.
What we are in Christ is received by grace - God's free gift to Believers. Paul points this out to the high-minded Corinthians in verses 7 and 8 by using some sarcastic irony. Some of these Corinthians apparently thought they were special in the church apart from the grace of Christ. So here's the lesson. Everything you are spiritually that makes a difference is given to you by God; so stop bragging about it! Paul continues with the irony in verse 10 with the suggestions that these conceited Corinthians were the "wise, strong and honorable" ones instead of Paul himself.
Then Paul deals with the pride of the Corinthians. He notes that their pride exceeds that claimed by any of the Apostles of Christ. So what's up with that? Answer: The Corinthians had unmerited pride.
Paul calls upon them to become humble before God. He invokes the fact in verses 15 and 16 that he is their spiritual father, and fathers serve as examples to their children. Here's a contradiction to the old unscriptural idiom, "Don't do as I do; do as I say!" Let's face it - you and I both have a responsibility to live lives before God that are acceptable examples to others. Like it or not, you will be emulated by others.
Oh...one more thing. Apparently some had taken it as a personal insult that Paul had sent Timothy to them instead of coming himself (verses 17-18). Let's face it; some of the "carnal" Believers at Corinth were just stirring up trouble. Regarding his future visit to the Corinthians, his desire is to have these matters of contention straightened out before his arrival so that he can come "in the spirit of meekness" rather than to chastise them (verse 21). You gotta love verse 20, "For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power." It's not what you say, but rather who's backing you up?
1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.
2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.
3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,
4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
Here's the situation at the church there in Corinth. They had a man in their church who was having sexual relations with his father's wife. It does not say his mother, so we assume it must have been his step mother. Literally, the Greek phraseology reads, "a certain woman [wife] of his father to have." Remember what I said in the introduction about the moral state of the city of Corinth; they were waaaaaay depraved! This depravity had affected the mindset of the people in the church there. Paul even goes so far in verse 2 as to identify their motivation for taking no action when he says that they "are puffed up" (Greek: phusioo - conceited). In other words, there was no expression of sorrow on the part of the congregation that this was taking place within their local assembly because they were conceited (proud) of their openmindedness. What's worse, even Gentiles had no tolerance for this kind of conduct according to verse 1. And as far as the Jewish Believers go, take note of Deuteronomy 22:30 (see notes), "A man shall not take his fathers wife, nor discover his fathers skirt."
Now understand this from verses 3-4: Even though Paul is not at Corinth and probably does not understand the circumstances around the personalities involved, he still proclaims that the solution is plain. That's important inasmuch as there are those that would suggest in churches today that the context of the activity might yield a different opinion. NO! Sin is sin; all Paul needs to know about the circumstances are reported in verse 1. More investigation is not necessary to make a declarative judgment.
Paul's instructions to them can be found in verse 5, "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." What does that mean? It's clear what it means when we look at the explanation given in verse 9, "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators." Then we see from verse 13 exactly what is meant, "Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person." It's clear: Put him out of the church. But wait! There's more! Not only do they put him out of the church, but they agree not to have fellowship with him at all - even outside the church. Look at verse 11, "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat."
A distinction is made here in verses 9-10. Paul says that you can't shun everyone involved in sin, but you must shun those calling themselves Believers who are involved in this kind of depraved conduct. The reason? It's done so that they will be shamed for their abominable conduct. Paul explains in this chapter that we have no control over judging the lost, but we must not tolerate open rebellion against God within our fellowship. Paul's reference to leaven in verses 6-8 is a picture of sin (leaven equals sin here). On the eve of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, anything that contained leaven was eliminated from the house of observant Jews. Likewise, Paul compares the sin of this man to leaven. If you don't get rid of leaven, it spreads. Likewise, if you don't eliminate open rebellion against God from your fellowship, it spreads also.
Yup! Harsh words for a harsh situation. "Where's the love!" you might ask. The love is shown by demonstrating to this person his need to repent of his actions and rejoin the fellowship of Believers pursuing victorious Christian living. In light of this passage, can there really be any question about how to properly handle the issues of immorality prevalent in many of today's churches?
Now the question may arise concerning the scope of these verses. Verses 12-13 make it clear that the church at Corinth has no authority to judge them "that are without" i.e. those who are not part of the local assembly there. The responsibility of the church is to make certain such offenders are not counted as part of the local assembly. So, what about fellowship with such professing Christians who are not part of one's local assembly? The admonition of verse 11 had been previously communicated to the folks at Corinth when Paul speaks generally, "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator [Greek: pornos], or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." Hmmm...does that mandate only apply to those under formal church discipline? The wording of verse 11 indicates that it is a previously-stated general declaration that just happens to apply in this particular situation.
Paul makes a similar statement in Ephesians 5:11 (see notes) where he says, "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." The list of unacceptable conduct in that passage includes "fornication" (Greek: porneia - sexual misconduct), the same Greek root as "pornos" (fornicator) in I Corinthians 5:11. In the Ephesians 5 passage, there is no context of local church discipline. There it is a general statement that Believers are not to hang with those who practice this type of conduct; they should "reprove" (rebuke) them instead. In other words, I Corinthians 5:11 and Ephesians 5:11 stand on their own as appropriate to be applied to all of those who practice morally-disgusting conduct, but especially toward those who profess to be Christians. Finally, pay close attention to the motivation for shunning these sinning Believers - to shame them for their conduct for the purpose of causing them to want to restore fellowship with God and their fellow Believers.
To draw an example of this Biblical concept from the Old Testament, consider the ministry of Jeremiah. Because his fellow Jews in Jerusalem had rejected the counsel of God through his prophesying, God told Jeremiah to have no fellowship with these people because of their persistent wickedness. God even told Jeremiah not to attend their funerals in Jeremiah 16 (see notes). Nobody anguished more than Jeremiah over this God-mandated alienation from his own people, but God had dictated it, and Jeremiah complied. To take it one step further, God instructed Jeremiah to refrain from praying for their prosperity; only pray for their repentance toward God (Jeremiah 14, see notes).
In conclusion, Paul begins a rebuke of these Corinthians in verses 12-13 for having not been willing to "judge" this man within their own congregation. This discussion transitions into the issue of I Corinthians 6 (see notes) - their apparent practice of taking one another to civil court rather than taking problems between Believers before a local church council.