1 Corinthians 1-16 - The Bible from 30,000 Feet - Skip Heitzig - Flight 1COR1
The Bible from 30,000 feet-- soaring through the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Turning your Bibles to the book of 1 Corinthians, also known as 1 Californians by some because there are certain similarities.
You know, I am a Californian. And that is a very populated state, nearly 40 million people. We have under 3 million here. It's not only populated, but there was always the idea that whatever happens on the west coast eventually makes its way east. Although on the east coast, they will dispute that.
Nonetheless, lots of trends happened in California that sort of swept through the country. It is not a bastion and the apotheosis of morality on the west coast. It's got a seedy side to it, more liberal and progressive in ideology. And so there are similarities between that state and the city that bears the name at the top of the letter, Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.
So as we study this book-- just again, a reminder, this is the Bible from 30,000 feet. We're soaring over it. I just have my New Testament here. I'm going to be poking my way through the 16 chapters that is called 1 Corinthians with you to give you sort of a layout of this.
Now, if you remember last week, we said that the book of Romans, which we studied, was written from Corinth. The book of 1 Corinthians was written from-- no, that's a trick question, actually. It was Ephesus. I just wanted to throw that out just to see if any of you knew that.
So, Paul was in Corinth for a while, as we're going to study tonight. He was also in Ephesus longer. And while he was in the city of Ephesus for, well, about three years, he had time not only to preach and to disciple but also to write letters. And one of the letters that was on his heart was a letter to the Church at Corinth.
Now, let me tell you a little bit about Corinth. And if you happen to have a Bible with maps at the back of your Bible, it's good to locate a map, especially the missionary journeys of Paul the Apostle, especially Paul's second missionary journey where they show you the route that he took.
And you will be able to see that he found his way to the European continent by way of Philippi. That's the first city he came to. And then he worked his way down toward Athens and then eventually to Corinth.
Now, if you're looking at that map, you'll notice something about the area of Greece. If you can find Athens and if you can spot Corinth as you're looking at that map-- on one side is the Adriatic Sea, the other side is the Mediterranean. If you can spot Greece, you'll notice that the upper part of Greece-- let's call that north Greece, sort of like North Carolina-- is separated from south Greece by a little neck of land. Do you see that little, tiny-- how it narrows? That's a little isthmus.
Do remember that word that you had to say when you were in school, and you can't do it 10 times really fast? Isthmus is a little neck of land that connects these two sections of Greece. That little neck of land is only about 10 miles long and about 3 and 1/2 miles wide. But to sail around that from one side to the other is 250 miles.
So back in the day when you were in a ship and you were navigating-- you were trading, you were buying and selling, or you're transporting people-- it would be a lot easier, would it not, if you could go across that little neck of land? 3 and 1/2 miles is a lot easier, conceptually, than 250 miles.
Not only is there a distance, but there is a considerable factor in terms of safety. It was dangerous. The old sailors back in that day used to have a saying because that peninsula, south Greece, called the Peloponnesian peninsula, or simply the Peloponnesus, whatever you'd like to call it.
But that peninsula, the Peloponnesian peninsula, at the very bottom tip is a place called Malaya, the Cape of Malaya. And there was a saying in ancient times that if you're going to sail around the Cape of Malaya, you'd better have a will filled out before you go. Because the crosswinds can be killer. The storms can be outrageous. Many a ship has sunk off the Cape of Malaya.
So because of that problem-- and because the trade routes would be great if you could just sail across the land, but you can't because there's a landmass there-- they tried to figure out a way to connect one side to the other side, 3 and 1/2 miles, by way of a canal.
They thought, if we could just dig out a river, a canal, to connect these two bodies of water together, we would have it made. Now, they were never able to do that. Alexander the Great thought about doing it. Julius Caesar thought about doing it. Caesar Nero, in AD 67, actually attempted it. None of them succeeded.
And it wasn't until the year 1893 that the Corinthian canal was completed. Today, you can sail right across in a little narrow strait, as they've carved those cliffs out. And you can go by sea from one side to the other, 3 and 1/2 miles-- a quick journey.
So what they did in those days is come up with something rather ingenious. They developed a cart with wheels where you could lift a ship up on top of the wheels and cart it by land 3 and 1/2 miles.
And it was important for them to do that because, again, if you're in business, if you want to make some bank, set up a shop in Corinth-- man, it is at the crossroads of north, and south, and east, and west. And now that they have a contraption to haul ships from east to west, all the better. Corinth was, therefore, a very wealthy city. And that's the city that Paul addresses.
Not only was it wealthy because of the trade routes. It was an entertainment capital-- in a good and a bad way. You've heard about the Corinthians. Most of you know they had a bad reputation. But let me tell you the good side first.
You've heard of the Olympic games. The second most popular games in the ancient world-- the first was the Olympics, it goes way back. But the second were called the Isthmian Games. They took place at Corinth. So if you were a competitive athlete, you want to hang around between north and south Greece, between Athens and Corinth. You're going to be doing paces, running your marathons. A lot of the athletic competition took place in and around Corinth.
But then there was that dark underbelly side of entertainment as well. For in Corinth-- and those of you who've been with us to the city of Corinth-- as you approach Corinth, as you approach it from the road and you go up on a little plateau, just to the back of it as you are entering it, you notice it continues to rise and there's a hill in the back.
That hill was called the acropolis, or the Acrocorinth, a rock jutting up out of the city of Corinth. And atop of that hill, the Acrocorinth or the acropolis, was a temple to the goddess of love, Aphrodite. 1,000 priestesses lived on top of that hill and, nightly, would come down into the city of Corinth to ply their trade. These prostitutes with the men of the city, the travelers of the city-- it didn't matter the gender. It was sex for sale to keep the temple of Aphrodite going.
Because of that and many other things, Corinth developed a dismal reputation. There were sayings like, not every man can afford a trip to Corinth, meaning you couldn't afford the prostitutes at the temple of Aphrodite.
There was even a word coined in the ancient world. And it is the Greek word [GREEK] I don't expect you to know that word or memorize that word. It's a hard word. [GREEK] means to play the Corinthian, or to live like a Corinthian. It meant if you were a debauched, amoral, or immoral person, you're a Corinthian. Whenever the Corinthians were played in the Greek plays onstage, they were always depicted as a drunk.
So this city had everything except a church. And this city, wouldn't you agree, desperately needed a church. But as much as it needed a church, and needed a witness, and needed to hear the gospel of Christ, I think you would agree in a city like that it would be difficult to live out your Christian faith with that kind of pressure in the ancient world-- very real, as much as in the modern world. Because of that reality, that church faced all sorts of struggles, as you can see by this first letter to the Corinthians.
Now, let's sort of retrace Paul's steps. Paul was in Troas. The Holy Spirit kept shutting doors for him. You remember the story in Acts 16.
And so in Troas, he gets a vision of a man from Macedonia saying, come over to Macedonia and help us. Most of our ancestors come from Europe. And so we are thankful today that Paul the Apostle heeded the call of God upon his life to go to the continent of Europe and be the first gospel witness there. It would be in Philippi. But then it would spread westward throughout all of Europe eventually.
So he goes from Troas over to the shores of Europe. Officially, that is the European continent. He goes to Neapolis. But the first city he goes to to really preach the gospel is the city of Philippi.
There's not a whole lot of success. A woman at the river named Lydia-- the Lord opens her heart to the things spoken by Paul. Paul gets thrown in jail. You know the story, the Philippian jail.
They're in chains. But at midnight because of an earthquake, they're singing praises to God. The Philippian jailer comes to know Christ. He and his whole family get baptized. So a church starts in Philippi.
Then he goes and works his way down from Philippi down to Thessalonica, from Thessalonica down to Berea, from Berea down to Athens. He preaches the gospel in Athens. Not a whole lot of fruit there, but a few people believed.
Then he goes to Corinth. He doesn't pass through Corinth. He spends the longest time that he spent in any city-- except for one, the longest stint was in Ephesus, three years. The second-longest time he spent in a city of any repute was in Corinth. He spent 18 months in that city. He spent 18 months cultivating disciples, sharing the gospel.
And I mentioned about the seedy background of that culture. I'm going to take you-- first, before we even look at some versus in chapter 1, go over to chapter 6 in your Bibles. And look at verse 9. Let's begin the book there.
He's writing to the church, 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 revivals, nor extortioners will inherit the Kingdom of God. And here's the phrase-- and such were some of you.
Man, that was you. I'm describing you guys, the church, at Corinth. That was your background. That's the city you live in. Such were some of you. But you were justified. Or you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the spirit of God.
So Paul goes to Corinth, lives with a couple who had the same profession as Paul, the same work profession-- that is, being a tent maker. So he lived with a couple named-- cute names, Aquila and his wife Priscilla. So their names rhymed. And I could just picture them as just this cute couple together. I have my own little picture in my mind.
He lives with this wonderful couple for a period of time. Then he moved from that setting into another house, all written about in the book of Acts. And from there, his ministry developed.
Now, 1 Corinthians alludes to-- this is all introductory-- another letter written previous to this that Paul wrote them. I just want you to see it because we're not going to be going back over it. So go over to chapter 5. You were just in chapter 6. Look at chapter 5.
Now, again, this is called 1 Corinthians, right? The first letter of Paul, it says, at the top of my Bible-- the first epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians. Actually, that's inaccurate. It is not the first. Because if you look at chapter 5 verse 9, he says, I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people.
So there was a letter prior to 1 Corinthians that he speaks of here. What that means is, 1 Corinthians is actually 2 Corinthians. And 2 Corinthians is actually 3 Corinthians.
But we don't have the first letter he mentions here. We only have this one. So we naturally call it 1 Corinthians and the other one 2 Corinthians. Do you follow?
Why did he write this letter? Why the second letter? Here's why. One of the church leaders or prominent people who were believers in Corinth, by the name of Chloe-- we don't know if that's a male or a female. It's an ancient name. It could be either/or.
Chloe writes to Paul and says, Paul, we've got problems here. There's divisions in the church that you started. There's people who are polarized around earthly leaders. And we have disunity that's eating away at the fabric of our church. We have a lot of weird questions about things you never talked about, weird doctrines developing.
And so she writes, or he writes, a letter to Paul with these issues, with these questions, and mentions several problems that are going on in the church of Corinth.
So 1 Corinthians is largely a corrective letter. It's a polemic. It is written to correct behavior, correct weird doctrine, and to get the church back on track.
So I have outlined 1 Corinthians by its problems. Now, here's why I like 1 Corinthians. I'm glad it's about problems. Because every single church I have ever seen has problems. And yet people are looking for the perfect church. And we always tell them, if you find one, please never join it. Because you will ruin it.
Churches are made of church people. And church people are saved, redeemed sinners. So we come with our own problems, do we not?
So it is really a book that really showcases the problems going on in the early church. And I love it because I hear this romantic sentiment so often by people-- we need to get back and be like the early church! And I say, be careful. Which early church do you mean, exactly? Because Corinth was an early church. Surely you don't want to be just like them.
So with that in mind, we have the problems. That I've outlined seven of them in this book. The first one, beginning in chapters 1 and 2, is congregational disunity. There were divisions, as we'll see early on in this book.
Now, remember-- unity among believers was high on the priority list of our savior, Jesus. He prayed a personal prayer to his father in John chapter 17. And when he was praying that long prayer, he said, Father, I do not pray for these disciples only, but also all those who will believe in me through their word. I pray that they may be one even as we are one, that the world may know that you sent me.
Jesus knew that unity was to be a top priority. It doesn't mean we'll agree on everything. But there's a wholesome way to express disagreement. And disagreement is different than dissension or contention.
And what was going on in the church at Corinth were dissensions and contentions, not just disagreements. So they're addressed. And if you go down to verse 10, you'll see where it is.
"Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of 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 has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you.
Now I say this. That each of you says, I am of Paul, or I am of Apollos, or I am of Cephas"-- that means the apostle Peter-- "or I am of Christ."
Paul asked them, is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
There were four leaders that the Corinthian Christians were kind of siding with in four different groups. One group said, oh, we just love Paul. He's the founder of our church. There's nobody like Paul. Man, he was a Jewish rabbi. He was a Pharisee but the Lord delivered him. He comes from a traditional background but he's free in Christ. And since he's the founder, man, we relate with Paul.
But the second pastor at Corinth was a guy mentioned here by the name of Apollos. Apollos came from Alexandria, Egypt, was saved in Ephesus, was sent down to Corinth by Paul. And he was very intelligent, very eloquent, very learned. His Greek-- some people believe that it was Apollos that wrote the Book of Hebrews. If that is the case, the Book of Hebrews is written, stylistically, in a Greek that is vastly different from the common Galilean Greek as like in the Gospel of John, and even the writings of Paul, even though Paul's are much headier and harder.
The Greek that is given to us in the Book of Hebrews is difficult, classic, erudite, educated. And many believe it was Apollos who wrote it. So there's people who go, oh man, I can relate to Apollos. He thinks. He's a thinking preacher.
The third group loved Peter. Peter's a blue collar worker, a fisherman, a man of working with his hands. And he's one of the original 12. You know, Paul is an apostle. But Peter's one of the original 12. He actually was with Jesus. Apollos wasn't, Paul wasn't. Peter was.
But then there was a fourth group. That was the worst group of snobs out of all of them. They were the kind who said, we don't identify with any earthly leader. We only follow Christ. You've heard that before.
We don't believe that earthly leaders are all that important. And so we're non-denominational. We just follow Jesus.
I find that these same groups, this same behavior, happens all the time even today. People rally around their favorite radio preacher. Well, you know, Dr. So-and-So or that preacher doesn't agree. He says this. So?
What does the Bible say? He may be right. He may be right. Why polarize over people? Did any of them die for you? Were you baptized in their name? That's the kind of questioning Paul asks.
Every now and then, I'll get very well-meaning but-- well, folks who love to identify with one of two big theological camps, Calvinism or Arminianism. Not Armenians, by the way-- Armenian is a people group. Arminian is a follower of Jacobus Arminius, who had a different theological take on scripture than John Calvin.
But they rally around either Arminianism or Calvinism. And you know, John Calvin-- who cares? They're both dead. I don't care what John Calvin said. I respect him. I've read him. I love reading him-- brilliant. I don't care much about him, though. He's dead. Or Arminius. He's dead. Jesus is alive.
So, I don't want to sound like a fourth group too much, but-- what's the remedy for that? The remedy for that kind of polarization is to realize who God uses. Go down to verse 26. "For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called."
There are some. There are a few, but not many. "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise"-- this is my life verse. "And God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame those things that are mighty and the base things of the world, and the things which are despised, God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are"-- and here's why. "That no flesh should glory in his presence."
God uses ordinary people with an extraordinary message to do his work. You don't have to be special. You just have to be faithful. God will give you gifts for whatever display he wants in the body of Christ as well as your witness in the world.
But if you look back to the kind of people Jesus picked, he didn't go say, OK, I've got to go to Athens and get the smartest philosopher. I have to go to Rome and get the mightiest general. He goes, that loud-mouthed fisherman named Peter, I'm going to bring him on. That guy named Judas, John, I'm going to get these fishermen, these Galileean peasants, that tax collector-- you guys want to join my team?
The foolish things of this world, those are the ones that are on his team. If you think about it, think, in one sense, of the disadvantage God is at. We're all he's got.
This is it. This is it. Saved people-- just look around. You see your calling brother-- not many mighty, not many-- this is all he's got. And he likes it that way. He's chosen it that way.
And do you know why that is? Well, think of a brilliant workman, or tradesman, or physician who is brilliant in what he or she can do but is confined to using very poor tools. It adds to the drama of the work that is done when somebody is confined to using poor tools but does an incredible job.
So for a surgeon to have a modern medical suite in Boston General or Mayo Clinic-- yeah, OK. I want a good job. I expect that.
But give a guy a Swiss army knife, and take him to the jungles of Africa, and have him perform the same surgery. If he could do it, he's brilliant.
A mechanic, if he has all the pneumatic tools-- well, give him a crescent wrench. My brother's a golf pro. I hate playing golf with him. I take a bag with all of the clubs. He walks out there barefoot on the course, takes a couple of irons, maybe three clubs in one hand, and walks out.
He's a PGA pro. So he just putts by turning the club backwards and beats everybody. So he's confined to less tools and he does an incredible job.
So this is all God has. And when God does his work, we don't go, wow, that guy's amazing! Because if you do, you got the wrong message. You should go, wow, God's amazing-- he used even him, even them, even her-- that no flesh could glory in his presence.
So that's the first section-- congregational disunity. I want to speed this up.
Also, in chapters 2 through 4, we now address the second problem, or Paul does, and that is spiritual immaturity.
As soon as you come to Christ, Jesus said a man must be born again. You're born again, right? You have a spiritual birth.
Now, I don't remember my birth. But when I was born, I was normal. I didn't stay that way. But I was born a normal baby, 7 and 1/2 pounds, right around there. It was a normal birth. And they said I was a normal child.
That's normal, to be born at seven and a half pounds. But if, 15 years later, I can't show much progress from babyhood, Houston, we have a problem.
So if I'm 15 years of age or 16 years of age and I come home to my parents and go, ma-ma, da-da, they're going to take me to a specialist. They're going to go, uh-oh.
So we are born again. It's a normal birth. It's by the spirit of God. But there needs to be a discipleship, a maturity. One of the saddest things is a Christian who has been a Christian for years, but you get talking to them and you realize, man, they have about as much depth as somebody who's been saved for a couple weeks or a few months. You want to grow.
So in this section, Paul talks about spiritual maturity and immaturity. And he mentions three classes of people. First of all is the unsaved person, or the natural man. Verse 13 of chapter 2-- "these things, we also speak not in words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches"-- comparing spiritual things with spiritual-- "but the natural man"-- that's the unsaved person, the person by nature. We are, by nature, the children of wrath, the unsaved person.
"The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God. For they are foolishness to him. Nor can we know them because they are spiritually discerned." The unbeliever is governed by the appetites of the flesh. That's all he or she knows.
And they don't get spiritual things. Have you had the frustration of witnessing to an unbeliever, and you're pulling out every argument? And finally, you get frustrated and you say, don't you see? Don't you get it?
And of course, the logical answer is, of course not. Could you expect a person who's blind to enjoy the sunset? Or a deaf person-- would you put a nice record on of Tchaikovsky or Beethoven and go, hey, do you like that? Like what? I lack the faculties to appreciate it. A natural person lacks the spiritual capacity to understand.
So that brings us to the second person. Verse 15, after the natural man, the supernatural man. That's the saved person. But he was spiritual, judges-- better translation, discerned-- all things, understands. He gets it. She gets it.
Yet he, himself, is rightly judged by no one. Nobody gets him or her. They don't understand this crazy-- why do you want to go to church so much? Why do you read that book so much? Why do you hang out with those people? They don't understand you.
For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. The third person after the natural and supernatural-- let's call him the unnatural man. That's the carnal Christian. "And I, brethren"-- he's speaking to believers-- "could not speak to as spiritual people--" You're not growing, "--but as to carnal. Two babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food. For until now, you were not able to receive it. And even now, you are still not able."
Oh, they're born again. They're saved. But they're stunted. It's a foreshortened growth. They're not maturing like they should. They don't know much. In fact, they can't digest much. You can give them the basic things of Christianity. But you go just a little bit deeper, and they go, oh, you lost me. And they don't even care to understand it.
I love evangelism. But if somebody were to ask me, Skip, what brings you the greatest joy? I would have to echo what John said in his little epistle. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth. I want them to grow.
And so Paul is addressing-- you can be saved. You can be unsaved. Or you can be saved but stunted. And that is the carnal Christian. So he deals with spiritual immaturity.
Now, chapters 5 and 6-- he deals with a problem very prevalent in Corinth, and that is sexual immorality. I told you a little bit about what was going on in the city over there in 1 California or Corinth. And so those problems made their way into the church. That's chapters 5 and 6.
Look at chapter 5 verse 1, how it begins. "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you." He's talking to the church.
You church folks, you Christian believers who gather together and worship the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, I hear-- I've heard-- it's been told to me that there's sexual immorality among you. "And such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles." Even pagans don't do this.
And that is-- it says that a man has his father's wife. Evidently, it's a case of incest where one of the church members is having a physical, sexual relationship with his stepmother. And verse 2 is key to understanding-- and you are puffed up and have not, rather, mourned that he who has done this deed might be taken away from you. That is, excommunicated.
"For I, indeed, as absent in the body but present in the spirit, have already judged, as though I were present, him who has so done this deed. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."
Paul hits it head-on. There's sexual immorality. Pagans don't do this. Cicero wrote that incest was strictly forbidden by Roman law. And Paul says-- I mean, this is so bad they don't do it. And it's going on in your midst. And you're puffed up. You're patting yourselves on the back because you're so tolerant.
Boy, we love-- we almost worship at the altar of tolerance. If you tolerate, oh, yeah, everybody's doing it. I'm very open-minded, I tolerate any kind of sin. That doesn't speak well of you.
Paul says, shame on you. You should kick this person out unless there's repentance. You should put him away from you. So he instructs them to do that. Go down to chapter 6 verse 18 where he sort of sums this notion up after writing extensively about it.
Flee-- run away from-- sexual immorality. "Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's."
This chapter and the next few chapters, he's going to talk about relationships-- if you're single or if you're married. So here's basically God's ideal. Stay pure until you're married. And then stay married until you're dead. That sort of sums it up. That just sums up the whole, in a nutshell, God's ideal of marital relationships. Stay pure until you're married. And then stay married until you're dead.
Now, I understand that ideal is not always reached. We live in a sinful world. You can't account for others in the relationship. You might have a spouse that says, I'm done with you. I don't want to work conflict out. I'm just bailing on the relationship. Or they commit adultery and they sever the marriage relationship. And so there is a freedom for remarriage. I understand that. Or the unbeliever departs. All that's spoken about here.
So we can't always bank on the ideal. Because we are married to imperfect people who also make choices like we do.
Having said that, the trend today-- I think you'll agree. You know this. This is axiomatic. As the years go on, our country gets looser, morally, than the previous generation, more tolerant of all types of behavior. You're told not to say anything about it, judge it, et cetera.
And the trend today is not to commit to a long-term relationship but rather test-drive that person. Take it out for a spin. Live together for a while. See if you're compatible sexually and intellectually, and if he can pick his socks up or not. And then just live together a while. Then you'll know if you can be married or not.
The problem with that is several-fold. But purely from a secular viewpoint, I was looking through several studies this week again, to make sure that it's still the case, but several studies bear out that people living together first before marriage are more apt to fail in their marriage than those who don't test-drive first but make a commitment first.
In fact, according to one article, studies show, based on 50 years of data, that couples who live together before marriage have a 50% greater chance of divorce than those who don't.
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, quote, felt a loss of personal freedom to exit out the back door, closed quote.
Furthermore-- same study-- 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.
Simply put, research shows that when you test-drive the vehicle first, you end up trading it in later. You don't stick with it. Whereas if you understand what this covenant is and you make a commitment, you're apt to stick with it, purely by statistics.
Now, chapter 7 takes us to the third problem addressed by Paul. And that is marital infidelity. He's going to speak to single people as well as married people. Go down to verse 8.
"But I say to the unmarried and to the widows it is good for them to remain even as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion."
And it's rare. But if-- some can do it. But if you can live your life without needing the distractions that will naturally come-- maybe that's too strong of a word-- the responsibilities that marriage will bring your way, if you can be content without needing that and you can serve the Lord as a single person, do that. Now, that's a gift.
One time, the disciples said to Jesus after hearing his teaching on divorce, well, maybe it's better for a man not to marry. And Jesus said, well, only those to whom it has been given can do that. And if you have that gift, don't let anybody pressure-- why aren't you married yet? Man, you're 25, you're 35, you're whatever age-- you should be married. No, maybe not.
Quit trying to play matchmaker and cupid. I know, it's fun. I've done it too. But it doesn't work out well.
OK. Here's the problem. And I'm going to sum this up. At the time Paul wrote this, the Roman Empire was seeing an increase in immorality. It was also seeing an increase in the divorce rate. It was seeing a large feminist movement at the time. You can read the records of women deciding to go into the arena and wrestle wild boars, and all sorts of stories about this feminist movement that started in Rome and was spreading around the world.
So the backlash of those trends in the church at Corinth was this. People were saying, well, maybe it's better to be celibate. Let's tell these people you can't get married. Or let's tell them you'll be more spiritual if you stay single.
Or let's tell believers who are married to unbelievers, man, dump your unbelieving spouse. You're unequally yoked. Just dump that unbeliever and marry somebody else who's a believer like you. That was the backlash. That was one of the problems that Paul addresses here in this section.
Now, I'll take you to chapter 8. Chapter 8 begins yet another problem in the early church of Corinth. And that is a problem with personal liberty.
In verse 8, he says, "now concerning things offered to idols: we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up." But love builds up, or edifies. "And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by God."
Chapters 8, 9, and 10 deal with issues of personal liberty. OK. Jesus set us free. He's given us liberty. Whoever the sun sets free is free, indeed.
But in Corinth, there were issues that people were dealing with that Jesus never really talked about. He never addressed, can you eat a burger if it comes from an animal that was killed, and was butchered, and cooked in a pagan temple? It's been sacrificed to an idol. But now they're selling the meat. You buy a Buddha burger or whatever, out on the street, a pagan burger. And you're out there with a little green chili on it to spice things up. And you're just-- oh, man, the best pagan burger in Corinth is right over there at that altar.
So Jesus never addressed that issue. So they bring this up to Paul. Can we do that?
So there are several issues in this section that we would call gray areas-- not black and white, sort of gray. So Paul is asked the questions. He addresses them. Just like today, we have certain issues that we have to apply biblical principles to because they're not written about even in the letters to Paul.
Can Christians go to a movie? They didn't have movies back then. What kind of music can a Christian listen to? What kind of freedoms do we have? Can a Christian dance?
I get asked that, can Christians dance? And my answer is, well, some can and some can't.
I'm one who can't. That's why I played in the bands in high school.
It's interesting, though, the things that divide us. So you've heard me quote Charles Haddon Spurgeon, yes, many times. Charles Spurgeon, a great preacher in the Victorian era in London, England.
Down the street from Spurgeon was another preacher by the name of JW Packer. They were brothers. He was a great preacher. They loved each other. They even exchanged pulpits on a couple of occasions.
However, Spurgeon believed JW Packer was worldly. Because he would go to the theater and see plays. He went to the theater, and that's un-spiritual.
What's funny about that is Spurgeon smoked cigars. He aw no problem with that at all. In fact, there's a funny story of DL Moody who came to meet Spurgeon, had heard about him, wanted to meet him, found him in London, knocked on the door. And Spurgeon answered the door with a big stogie.
You know, picture Winston Churchill. And Moody sees that. And he drops his jaw. He's shocked. This great, revered preacher smoking a cigar!
Now, DL Moody was quite a large guy, an XXL, a rotund fellow. He was large. And so he's standing on the step of Spurgeon's flat or house. Spurgeon opens the door to the parsonage. And he sees Spurgeon smoking a cigar. And he points at the cigars says, how can you, as a man of God, do that?
And Spurgeon smiled and pointed to the large belly of DL Moody and said, the same way that you, as a man of God, can do that. You don't see that as a sin. You see this as a sin.
So we get funny about worldly things, do we not? So Paul addresses some of these things in this book-- personal liberty in chapters 8, 9, and 10, and gives some really good guidance about that.
Verse 9 of chapter 8, he says, "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, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge, shall the weak brother perish for whom Christ died?"
Now, this is a reason I don't-- you'll never see me at a restaurant having a drink. I don't care if you have a drink, if you have a glass of wine or a beer, whatever you have. That's up to you. I won't do it.
If I'm out at a restaurant, or you see me at the bar hammering down a few beers or glasses of wine, and you go, um, honey, isn't that Pastor Skip?
But that's one thing. What if you had a parent who struggled with alcohol? Or what if you, yourself, has struggled with alcohol? And you see that. Now you're emboldened. Well, I can do that. No, you can't.
So we have liberty. But we have to be very careful how we exercise it. So I want to sort of see how that's summed up. Go to chapter 10 verse 23.
Now, this will answer for you-- here's some principles that govern gray areas in your life and what kind of personal liberty you can exercise. Verse 23, "all things are lawful for me but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me but not all things edify"-- or build up-- "so let no one seek his own but let each other's well-being. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience sake. For the earth is the Lord's and all its fullness."
You can do whatever you want. But there are limitations. And he outlines them here.
When people say, Skip, do you drink? I drink as much as I want. I don't want it. And why? What are the parameters?
Verse 23, "all things are lawful for me". I can do anything. "But not all things are helpful". Now, that's the test of utility. Can I use this activity? Is this going to expedite? That's the word. Will this expedite? Will this speed me along my spiritual growth route? Is it helpful? Is this something that's going to be helpful to me? Or is it just going to be a weight? If it's going to weigh me down, I don't need it. It's extra.
I'm an athlete. I'm running the race. I don't need extra stuff. Is this helpful? Is this going to expedite it or not? So it's the test of utility.
Second is the test of charity-- all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. OK. They don't build up. Somebody sees me doing it or hears that I do this a lot. Is that going to cause them to stumble? Am I going to have to explain that? Better to not do it for the sake of mutual edification.
There is a third test. But that's found a couple of chapters back in chapter 6 verse 12 where he says, all things are lawful for me but not all things are helpful. Here's the second part of that. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
That's the third test, the test of authority. So the first is utility, the second is charity, and the third is authority, to not be brought under the power of any. You know what I mean by that.
Do you become addicted to it? Do you have to do it? You can't live without it? Is it controlling you or are you controlling it? Is it kind of pushing you around? So now it really does become a weight. It's calling the shots. It's the authority. So that is sort of the summary filter of gray areas.
The sixth problem that he deals with is the problem of imbalanced community, chapters 11, 12, 13, and 14. So in chapter 11, he's going to deal all about gender, male and female, behavioral patterns in the public assembly of worship. What is OK to do given the city that they live in, Corinth? Given the culture they live in? Given the mores and all? He's going to give that kind of balance in chapter '11.
Also in chapter 11, the conduct of the Lord's Supper. They were trying to get there and eat all the food at the love feast before the Lord's table. And so they were selfish about getting together at their potlucks. Some say, you can't say potluck. You have to say pot faith. Potluck! I just want to do that if that ticks you off. I kind of want to do that. Because that's just stupid-- pot faith, whatever.
OK. So at the common meal, OK? People were getting there to hoard it for themselves and eat it for themselves. That goes against the concept of unity. It's the antithesis of unity, selfishness. So he writes about the Lord's Supper and behavior there.
Then in chapter 12, it's all about spiritual gifts, which is part of that same issue. So verse 1, chapter 12-- "concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant." Stop.
Every time in the New Testament Paul says, I'm going to tell you something because I don't want you to be ignorant about it, know that that is at the precise point most people are ignorant about it.
One of the most controversial points in the church has been-- for a long time, still is-- spiritual gifts. Many of us are ignorant about the proper use of spiritual gifts. I don't want you to be ignorant.
Another time Paul said that is in 1 Thessalonians 4. "Concerning the coming of the Lord, brothers, I don't want you to be ignorant." There's so much controversy about the coming of the Lord, the rapture of the church, the second coming, et cetera.
So when Paul writes that, it's because he knows these are points of conflict. And spiritual gifts is one of them.
There are two, basically, extreme views concerning spiritual gifts. I've talked about it at length. So I'll just touch on it. There are secessionists that simply believe gifts have ceased, hence the word cessation. They've ceased. They've stopped. They were for the early church. We don't need them anymore. The scripture's complete. Spiritual gifts are passe, old hat. They're not practiced anymore. That's one extreme.
The other extreme isn't sensationalism but sensationalism. There are some people who think if you're not speaking in tongues every service and seeing a miracle every day, and slapping somebody on the head and having them fall over and get healed from diseases they may or may not have-- if you don't see that all the time, the Holy Spirit is gone. He's not there, man. And so they just are in it for the sensational aspect of it.
The key word when it comes to spiritual gifts is balance. I believe all of the spiritual gifts are for today. I believe that. I believe all of them are for today. But I also believe in the balance that all things must be done decently and in order, a phrase that comes right out of Corinthians.
People ask me, are you a fundamentalist? Or are you a charismatic? And sometimes I say, I'm a fundamatic. And that'll bother some people. They go, well, you can't be. You have to be in this camp or this camp. Because I've read about both camps and you have to fit in one.
Well, I don't fit in either one of those. There's certain aspects of both that I think are good and others that are a little bit too narrow.
Anyway, verse 4. "There are diversities of gifts but the same spirit. There are differences of ministries but the same Lord. There are diversities of activities but it's the same God who works in all. But the manifestation of the spirit is given to each one for the profit of all."
Don't you love the fact that God loves variety? He didn't give the same gifts in the body of Christ. Wouldn't you hate the same gift-- this Christmas, what if everybody in your life gave you the same exact gift? T-shirts and underwear, socks and underwear-- thanks. That would be so boring, wouldn't it? Wouldn't you love a variety of gifts?
Just like there's variety of terrain. God loves variety. And God has made us different. And he has given us different gifts. And when we're all working together, it's awesome.
Chapter 15-- let's go over there. The seventh and final issue he deals with is the problem of doctrinal perplexity.
If you were to list the 10 greatest chapters in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15 has to be in it. It is the most complete, definition slash description slash explanation of Resurrection that exists in the Bible, both Jesus' Resurrection and our resurrection.
And so he writes in detail about that. Because though they believed in Jesus' physical Resurrection-- otherwise they couldn't be a Christian. You can't be a Christian unless you believe in the bodily Resurrection of Christ.
They believed that. They were having trouble with believing in their own future physical resurrection. And you say, why would they have a problem with that? Because they come from a Greek background. They believed in Greek dualism.
Among Greek ideology, the body, anything physical, was considered inferior and bad. And so why would you ever have a physical flesh resurrected?
So he talks about that, chapter 15 verse 12. "If Christ is preached, that he has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not risen. If Christ has not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is empty.
Yes, we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up-- if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ has not risen. And if Christ has not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!
Then also those who have fallen asleep"-- or died-- "in Christ have perished." Here's the summary verse of that. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most pitiable."
If there is no resurrection from the dead, then Jesus is still dead, number one. Number two, Jesus is a liar because he kept saying he's going to get killed but rise again from the dead.
Number three, your preaching is useless because it's based on the Resurrection from the dead. Number four, we're stupid to spend our life being beaten up and chased by people for this gospel message if all we do is live, and then die, and never see anything after this. We're just wasting our lives. So he just kind of goes through all those different arguments.
Verse 35-- I'll make this quick. "Some will say, 'how are the dead raised? And with what body do they come?"
Let me give you the short answer. The short answer-- your body, when it's resurrected, is going to be like Jesus' body when it was resurrected.
Think about what Jesus was able to do. He was able to, like, go through walls, show up at one place and then, like, immediately, miles away-- [WOOSHING SOUND]. You get teleported there to that next place. So you're going to have those same capacities.
I did an entire message called getting the body you always wanted. That's the name of the message-- getting the body you always wanted. And I go into depth and in detail in this chapter of what happens to your resurrected body when that happens.
Chapter 16 closes the book. It is the practical chapter. And what he's ending with is an offering. Paul is taking an offering. He is banking on the generosity of the Corinthian church, the wealthy church, to help support those in Jerusalem who are struggling.
Verse 1-- "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galitia, so you must do also: on the first day of the week, let each of you lay up something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, then they will go with me." OK?
A couple the things you'll notice real quick. They're meeting on the first day of the week. By this point, there's no Sabbath.
I know, I've heard people say, Sunday is the Christian Sabbath, right? Wrong. It's not the Christian Sabbath. Sabbath is Saturday. Sunday is the first day of the week. Christians stopped worshipping on the Sabbath and started worshipping on Sunday not because it's the mark of the beast, like the Seventh Day Adventist Church says we're guilty of doing. They did it because Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. They're celebrating the Resurrection every single week.
Now, if you're going, oh no, I come to Saturday night service! You're off the hook. You're off the hook based on Romans chapter 15, which says, one man esteems one day of the week over all the others. Another man esteems all the days alike. Let each be persuaded in his own mind.
Are you persuaded that you should go to Saturday night service to clear your schedule on Sunday? Good. Then you're persuaded in your own mind. That's good for you. Do it.
If you go, oh, no, I must do it on Sunday. OK. See you Sunday. I'm glad we have both.
So, the book ends-- verse 22. "If any one does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come!"
If you have the old version, it says, "if anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema"-- followed by the word maranatha. Anathema is a Greek word, maranatha an Aramaic word.
Anathema means cursed, pushed aside, rejected. Maranatha means "come Lord." The early church used to say to one another, maranatha. The Lord's coming-- maranatha. The Lord's coming.
It's a great word. We used to say it a lot in the early days of the Jesus movement. Maranatha-- we all knew what it meant. Now you know what it means. Let's use it. Maranatha-- the Lord is coming.
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen."
Notice how the book closes-- with love. Paul gives a polemic. Paul gives a corrective. Paul addresses issues. All of it's based on his love for them.
Thank you, Father, for your love for us. We have celebrated that in the Lord's Supper. We have celebrated your love as we've looked at this very crucial letter, very, very germane to our current situation in churches today, the book of 1 Corinthians.
I pray, Lord, that we would continue to glorify you as we grow in you. May we be not captivated by carnality. But may we grow as spiritual men and women, plugged in, abiding in Christ, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Let's all stand. Forgive me for stealing six more minutes of your time. Let's close in worship together.
We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. For more resources, visit CalvaryNM.church.
Thank you for joining us for this teaching from the Bible from 30,000 feet.