Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul which was written unto the Corinthian saints. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the fifth and sixth chapters of this epistle. “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. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:1-2).
“For 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. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 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. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 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: 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” (1 Corinthians 5:3-8).
“I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 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. 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. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not yet judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).
“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not. Know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? NO, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not yet rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren” (1 Corinthians 6:1-8).
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord,a nd will also raise up us by his own power” (1 Corinthians 6:12-14).
“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? Know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:15-20).
When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find another purpose for the writing of this epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. If you read the previous chapters of this first epistle you will find the apostle Paul writing unto the Corinthian saints because of a report that was brought to his attention from the house of Chloe. In the opening chapter of this New Testament book you will find the apostle Paul writing unto the Corinthians and addressing the division which was present among them in their body of believers. You cannot read the opening chapter of this epistle and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the apostle Paul needing to write this epistle unto the Corinthian congregation to address those things which were brought to his attention—this which were crippling and paralyzing the church. Although the Corinthian congregation was enriched in all knowledge and in all utterance and although they came behind in no gift they were a congregation that was deeply divided amongst themselves. It is in the opening chapter of this epistle you encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the Corinthian saints and how they were a congregation of believers who had allowed divisions to take place among them as perhaps brother was divided against brother and sister was divided against sister. What makes the epistle written unto the Corinthians so incredibly powerful is that it did deal with external threats to the congregation of believers but rather that which was present among them in their midst.
The more I think about and consider this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that this church was one which struggled and contended—not with external threats of false teachers, false prophets, false apostles and false brethren but rather within itself with its own members. Would it shock and surprise you if I told you that sometimes the single greatest threat to a congregation and body of believers is not that which comes forth from outside of it but that which is present within it? You will recall when the apostle Paul called the Ephesian elders unto himself as he was preparing to make his journey unto the city of Jerusalem that he warned them of the days ahead after his departure. The apostle Paul knew that the Ephesian saints would see his face no more and as such he deliberately and intentionally sought to warn them of the dangers and snares which would be manifested among them in their midst. It is in the twentieth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find the following words which were spoken by the apostle Paul unto the Ephesian elders upon his farewell address to them on the shores of a certain beach:
“Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: And how I kept back noting that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not kowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased. Not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these things have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye out to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:18-35).
Please pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within this final farewell speech the apostle Paul declared unto the Ephesian elders that of their own selves there would be men who would arise and who would speak perverse things to draw away disciples after them. Of course we know and understand the apostle Paul also declared unto the Ephesian elders that there would grievous wolves who would enter in among them from the outside who would not spare the flock, however, the apostle Paul made it perfectly clear to them that there would be some from their own selves who would rise up among them speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to perhaps one of the greatest truths when we think and speak about congregations of believers and churches which are present in this generation. There would be those who would like to think—perhaps even speak of and declare—that the only dangers and threats to a congregation of believers comes from outside the congregation and body itself. There are those who would want to cause you to believe that the only danger(s) to ever face and confront a body of believers is that which comes from outside the body itself rather than within it.
I am sitting here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints and I am brought face to face with the powerful truth that this was a church which did not face dangers from without as much as they did dangers from within. This is actually quite remarkable and astonishing when you think about and consider it for there are many who would think that the greatest dangers to our existence comes from without ourselves while not even realizing and acknowledging the fact that more often than not the greatest dangers come from within. Even concerning the Roman Empire which was one of the most powerful and strongest empires in the history of mankind we must needs recognize that perhaps the single greatest danger to its existence and that which ultimately caused its collapse was not that which came from without but rather than which came from and was present within. It is believed that the great fire which broke out in the midst of the city of Rome—although Nero blamed the Christians for starting the fire in the midst of the city—was in fact ignited and set ablaze by Nero himself as a context and pretext for persecution of the Christians in the midst of the city and empire. Moreover when we think and speak about our own nation in which we are living we must needs recognize that more often than not the single greatest threat to its national and international existence comes not from external threats, dangers and forces but from those within. We do know that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor back during World War II and we know that alleged terrorists ignited a terrorist attack on American soil when they flew two planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. We know there was a plane which was flown into the Pentagon and that a fourth plane—United 93—would have been flown into the White House were it not for the bravery of men and women aboard that flight who took control of the plane and caused it to go down in the fields of Pennsylvania.
The greater the time is I focus on this particular truth the greater I am reminded of how there are men and women among us in the church who would like to blame everything on the devil. There are and there have been those who feel that absolutely everything that is wrong in the world and everything that is wrong in their own lives is a direct result of the devil himself. There are those among us who believe that the devil is solely responsible for all the evil which is present within their lives and that it is the devil who makes them do those things which they perhaps don’t desire to do. There have been countless men and women throughout the history of mankind who have blamed the enemy and adversary for the evils they have committed as well as for the iniquity, transgression and sin they have committed in the sight of the Lord. Truth be told, however, is that more often than not it was not and it is not the devil who is responsible for the evils which are experienced within our lives and which are committed by us. Oh dear reader would it surprise you to consider the fact that more often than not the single greatest source for the evil(s) within your life is not necessarily the devil but rather sin and the sin nature itself? Would it surprise you hear and consider the fact that more often than not it was not the devil who made you do anything and although there is a very real enemy who walk about as a raging lion seeking whom he may devour the real culprit are the sinful desires and lusts of our own flesh? To help illustrate this all the more I find it all the more necessary and imperative to call and draw your attention to the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the sixth, seventh and eighth chapters of the epistle written unto the saints of Rome as well as the words which James wrote in the first and fourth chapters of his own epistle:
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:1-14).
“What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But. Now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:15-23).
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful” (Romans 7:7-13).
“For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: For what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me: but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:14-25).
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through t he flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin: but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:1-11).
“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall died: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:12-15).
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: For God cannot be tempted with evil, neither rempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:13-15).
“From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye doubled minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:1-10).
It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and understand the words which are found within each of these passages of Scripture for within each of them we are brought face to face with one of the greatest truths which many of us seem to forget and ignore. Upon reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the fact that perhaps the single greatest threat to our existence comes not from without ourselves but rather from within. While it is indeed true that both James and the apostle Peter speak of Satan as an enemy which seeks to devour and while it is indeed true that both instruct and encourage us to resist the devil that he might flee from us we must also understand and recognize that there are times when the greatest threat to our existence is within ourselves. We know and understand the apostle Paul spoke of the weapons of our warfare not being carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds and that although we walk after the flesh we do not war after the flesh. We know the apostle Paul emphatically declared that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against spiritual wickedness in high places, against rulers of darkness of this present age and the like. We also know the apostle Paul encouraged us to stand firm taking upon ourselves the full armor of God—the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the sword of the Spirit, the shield of faith, the belt of truth and the shoes of the gospel of peace. With this being said, however, we must also recognize and understand that there are times within our lives when the greatest danger and threat to our existence comes not from without but from within.
The more I read the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints—specifically the first, third, fifth and sixth chapters—the more I am brought face to face that this was a congregation which did not face dangers and threats from without but rather from within. If there is one thing we must needs recognize concerning the Corinthian congregation it’s that the greatest dangers to its existence came not from without but rather from within from among its own members. You cannot read this first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous dangers it faced from division, from contentions, from strife, from envyings, and the like. It is impossible to read the words which are found in this epistle and not come face to face with the incredible reality that it was a congregation which experienced a massive amount of danger(s) and snare(s) from within it among its own members. This first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints is such that perfectly and powerfully describes a church and congregation that wrestled and contended within itself among its own members. What’s more is that when you come to the eleventh chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul writing concerning another danger which was present among them in their midst.
I am absolutely and completely convinced there is a great need to pay attention and give heed to the words which are found in certain chapters of this epistle for within these chapters we encounter and come face to face with the dangers and snares this congregation faced. In all reality it might very well be said that this congregation and body of believers was at war with and within itself. In his epistle unto the saints of God which were scattered James wrote of that which caused wars and fighting among the saints and it is absolutely necessary we recognize the Corinthian congregation was not merely a church that was divided but was a church at war with and a church at war within itself. Although the apostle Paul did in fact declare that we wrestle not against flesh and blood we must needs recognize and understand that it is possible that we can not only be divided within ourselves but can also be at war within and among ourselves. There is a great need for us to recognize and understand that although we do not wrestle against flesh and blood it is possible for us to be at war, to be at odds and even to contend and wrestle with each other. If there is one thing we must needs understand when reading and considering the words which are found in the epistle written by James it’s that this epistle wasn’t written to heathen nor was it written unto Gentiles. We would like to think that the epistle written by James was somehow written unto heathen and those who were not saints of God and disciples of Christ. The truth of the matter, however, is that this simply is not the case. The epistle written by the hand of James was written unto the saints of God and how among the saints of God there were wars and fighting which took place among them in their midst.
In order to truly understand the first epistle written by the hand of the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints it is absolutely necessary to recognize and understand that it was a church that was not merely divided amongst itself but was also a church that was at war with itself. It is absolutely impossible to read this first epistle and not encounter and come face to face with the incredible truth that the Corinthian congregation was a church that warred, struggled, contended, fought and engaged in battle and conflict with itself. You cannot read the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints of Corinth and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that this was a church that was essentially at war with itself as the members thereof were at odds with and against each other. We dare not, we must not and ought not miss and lose sight of this for to do so would be to not only miss the incredible significance and importance of what is found in this passage of Scripture but also what is present within our own churches and congregations. It is indeed true that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood and it is indeed true that we do in fact wrestle against principalities, against spiritual wickedness in high places and against rulers of darkness in this present age, however, we must needs understand that it is entirely and altogether possible for men and women—even in the body of Christ—to be at odds with each other. It is indeed possible for men and women to be at war with and at odds against others within the very church and body of believers itself.
It is at this juncture I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the first, the third, the fifth, the sixth and the eleventh chapter of this first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. That which you will find within this epistle calls and draws our attention to the incredible truth surrounding the Corinthian congregation and how it was a church that was not only at odds and war with itself but was also a church and congregation which experienced its greatest source of conflict and struggle from within itself. The first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints is such that cannot be read or understood without and apart from this particular truth at the very forefront of our understanding when reading it. There is not a doubt in my mind that one cannot truly understand the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints without and apart from recognizing the awesome and powerful truth surrounding this congregation and how deeply divided it was within itself. The greatest dangers facing the Corinthian congregation came not from without itself and from among its members but rather from within. The greatest dangers, conflicts and struggles the Corinthian congregation faced came not from without among the heathen and even from the Romans. We would like to think that the greatest threats to the church and to the body of believers comes from without and yet I am convinced to give ourselves to this erroneous belief is to be entirely and altogether deceived concerning the dangers which are ever present within our own members. Oh it is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following passages of Scripture found within this first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 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. 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. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other” (1 Corinthians 1:10-16).
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 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. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal. Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:1-9).
“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. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. 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, IN the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 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. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leavetneth the whole lump? 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. 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” (1 Corinthians 5:1-8).
“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye untworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life? IF then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren” (1 Corinthians 6:1-8).
“Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: This is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come” (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).
If you take the time to read the words which are found in these passages of Scripture you will find an incredibly powerful picture emerge concerning the Corinthian congregation—namely, that the Corinthian congregation was such that faced dangers and perils from within. While it might very well be true that there were dangers from without which threatened to enter in and perhaps overtake this congregation this first epistle seems to suggest that the Corinthian congregation wrestled and contended with conflicts and struggles within itself. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely awesome and powerful truth that this congregation was such that wrestled within and among itself as directly opposed to wrestling and struggling with those elements which were outside its members. The more I read this particular epistle the more I am brought face to face with the truth surrounding the Corinthian congregation and how it was a church that was not only deeply divided with and within itself but it was also a church and congregation that was at war with and against itself. You cannot read the words found in this epistle and not encounter and come face to face with the incredible truth that the Corinthian congregation was such that experience infighting amongst its own members and that it was a church that was at constantly at war within itself. Although the words “war” and “fighting” were not used in this particular epistle we can nonetheless deduce that this was a church and congregation that was at war and conflict with itself. There is absolutely no mistaking this incredibly powerful truth when reading this epistle for scattered throughout this epistle are words and language that help illustrate and demonstrate the tremendous truth that the Corinthian congregation was such that wrestled and contended with itself.
In all reality I would dare say the Corinthian congregation was a church that is perhaps a wonderful and powerful picture of us ourselves as living beings within and upon the earth. It is quite unique and astounding that it is within this epistle the apostle Paul writes and speaks of the body of Christ being one and yet being comprised and made up of many members. It is in the twelfth chapter of this particular epistle we find the apostle Paul seeking to illustrate and demonstrate unto the Corinthian saints that the body of Christ is one body under one Lord and of one Spirit and yet made up of many members. With this being said I feel it is absolutely necessary to pay close attention to the concept of one body being made up of many members for with this reality of the body being made up of many members it is also possible that those members be at war with and against themselves. The words which we find in this particular epistle call and draw our attention to the absolutely incredible and tremendous truth surrounding the epistle and how it is such that highlights and underscores the reality that we ourselves are one body in the flesh which is made up of many members. Although you and I are one single body which is made up of many members we must needs recognize and understand that it is possible that the members of our body can in fact be at war with and against themselves. Despite the fact we would like to think that this simply is not the case there is a great and present need within ourselves to recognize that although we are indeed one body we are one body made up of many members. Not only this but it is possible for certain of those members to lead us into sin—such examples being our mouths and tongues, are eyes, our ears, our hands and even our feet. Scripture makes it perfectly and abundantly clear that each of these members and elements within our physical bodies can indeed and can in fact lead us into sin and transgression before and against the living and eternal God.
I find it absolutely remarkable when reading the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth that it was indeed an epistle that demonstrated the tremendous truth that churches which are made up of individual members can in fact be divided with and against itself. What’s more is that it is entirely and altogether possible for churches to be at war and conflict with and against itself as members allow themselves to be divided amongst themselves. We dare not and must not miss and ignore this absolutely incredible and undeniable truth for I am convinced that by doing so we might very well allow ourselves to become deceived and blinded to the dangers which are present among us—not only within the body of Christ but also within our own members. When writing this particular epistle the apostle Paul brought us face to face with the conflicts, the struggles and the wars which were present in the midst of the Corinthian congregation. The apostle Paul wrote this first epistle and called the members therein to confront that which was present amongst themselves in their own members which was destroying, crippling and paralyzing them. With this being said we must needs understand that although this church was indeed a church made up of the saints of God who were called to be such and were sanctified in the sight and presence of the living God they were indeed a carnal church. What’s more is that if you read the words which are found in the third chapter of this epistle you will find that this church was not only a carnal church but it was also a spiritually immature church—one the apostle Paul could not address as spiritual nor even mature but as babes in Christ.
There is a tremendous need to read the words which are found in this particular epistle for if we are to truly understand the Corinthian congregation we must recognize and understand that it is a church that was indeed carnal and immature. Carnality and immaturity had indeed crippled and paralyzed this congregation and warranted the apostle Paul sending a letter and epistle unto them correcting the dangers, the conflicts, the struggles and the wars which were present among them in their midst. In fact it is in the first, the third and even the eleventh chapter of this epistle we find powerful examples of the members of this congregation being at war with each other—not only in that there were divisions present among them but also in that there was strife and contention surrounding and at the Lord’s table. Not only this but when you read the sixth chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul rebuking the Corinthian church concerning their carnality toward their own brother. It is in the sixth chapter of this epistle the apostle Paul rebukes the Corinthian congregation for taking brother to court over some perceived, alleged or assumed wrong—and not only taking brother to court but also taking brother to court among the Gentiles. You cannot read the words which are found in the sixth chapter of this first epistle and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the apostle Paul and his writing unto the Corinthian congregation. The apostle Paul emphatically and powerfully acknowledged that the Corinthian congregation was such that allowed itself to be divided within itself and allowed fighting among its members for within the epistle the apostle Paul spoke of their being unwilling to take and accept wrong. Oh in all reality many within this congregation felt a sense of entitlement within themselves and a powerful and palpable sense of justification if they were wronged by another. If there were any among the saints of God in the Corinthian congregation who felt as though they were wrong—rather than choosing to take and accept wrong they instead took their brother to court seeking to accuse, judge and condemn them.
If there is one thing that makes this particular epistle so incredibly intriguing and captivating it’s when you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the sixth chapter. It is in the sixth chapter of this particular epistle we find the apostle Paul calling and drawing the attention of this church and its members to the powerful and undeniable truth that they were such who chose not to accept and to take wrong within and among themselves. The words and language the apostle Paul uses in this particular epistle is such that rebukes and indicts this congregation for their own sense of self-entitlement in that they were those who would and could not accept wrong and suffer offense and that which was committed against them. Despite the fact the Lord Jesus encouraged, admonished and instructed His disciples and followers to be those who were willing to accept wrongdoing and offense committed against them the Corinthian congregation were such that not only felt entirely and altogether entitled among themselves but also felt perfectly justified in taking brother to court before the Gentiles. Essentially that which we find in this particular epistle is a powerful picture of the Corinthian saints being so at odds and war with itself that whenever one felt wronged, offended, slighted, wounded or harmed by another—whether actual or alleged—they would seek to bring that individual to court. What’s. more is that there were those present in this congregation who sought restitution and reparations from those whom they perceived wronged and offended them and in order to experience and encounter that within themselves and among their members they would seek to take brother to court that they might accuse and judge them.
Oh it is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. The words and language we find in the fifth chapter of this gospel narrative is the famous Sermon on the Mount and within this sermon we find Jesus providing us with means to not only deliver ourselves from offense but also deliver ourselves from this sense of self-entitlement that would seek to bring us into the place where we allow ourselves to be consumed with fighting and wars with and against our brothers. In all reality I would dare say the words we find in the fifth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is an incredibly powerful picture of an invitation given unto us as the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and how to deliver ourselves from the prison of offense, how to deliver ourselves from the trap of self-entitlement and how to prevent wars, fighting, envying, divisions and strife among us. If there is one thing the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the epistle written unto the Corinthian saints reveals it’s not only that they were such who weren’t willing to take and accept wrong but they were also those who seemed quite content in allowing division, fights and quarrels to be present among them. What’s more is that the sixth chapter of this epistle seems to indicate those present in the midst of the Corinthian congregation were such that felt entirely and perfectly justified in going to court—and not only going to court but also going to war—with their own brother(s) and sister(s). It is absolutely impossible to read the words found in this particular epistle and not come face to face with the truth that this congregation was such that had allowed its members to feel a sense of entitlement within themselves and so much so that if any of them were wronged or perhaps even felt wronged they would take their brother to court. Rather than taking and accepting actual or alleged wrongdoing against them they would allow themselves to be divided and estranged from their brother and felt perfectly justified in going to war with and against them—even in the court of law.
Consider if you will the following words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew for in this famous Sermon on the Mount we find Jesus not only instructing us how to deliver ourselves from this sense of self-entitlement but also how to deliver ourselves from the need and desire to be divided and estranged from our brother(s) and sister(s). What’s more is this passage seems to indicate and provide a powerful and clear picture as to how we deliver ourselves from the prison of bitterness and offense and the need we feel to go to war with and against our brother(s) and/or sister(s)—yea, even taking them to court over actual and alleged wrong:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow thee turn not thou away” (Matthew 5:38-42).
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
Consider also the following words which our Lord Jesus spoke earlier on in this same Sermon on the Mount unto His disciples and followers:
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
Or what about the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome in the twelfth chapter beginning to read with and from the ninth verse:
“Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21).
As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw our attention to the words which are found in the fifth and sixth chapters of this New Testament epistle for within them we find the apostle Paul addressing fornication in the midst of the church as well as further division. It is indeed true in the first and third chapter of this epistle we read of division, strife and envying being present and manifested in the midst of the church, however, in the sixth chapter we find this division taking on an entirely different level when brother took brother to court—not only to avenge themselves of perceived wrong committed against them but also to pass judgment upon and against them. It’s truly astonishing when reading the words which are found in the fifth and sixth chapters of this epistle how the apostle Paul addressed two dangers and conflicts which were present in the midst of this congregation—namely, fornication in the life of one of its members as well as division, conflict and wars which were manifested in the judicial system. Not only this but within the fifth chapter you will find that those in the Corinthian congregation neither wept nor mourned over the fornication and evil that was present among them in their midst but were instead puffed up over it. As it weren’t bad enough there was fornication present in the midst of the congregation we must also recognize and understand that there were none among the saints in this congregation who mourned and wept in anguish, in sorrow and travail over the iniquity that was found among them in their midst. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in this epistle it’s not only the present reality of conflict and struggle among us but also the incredible need within our hearts and spirits to be those who are moved with anguish, sorrow and travail over iniquity when it is found to be present and manifested among us in our midst.
I sit here today considering the words which are found in this particular epistle and I am brought face to face with the incredible truth that is found in the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints and how it was a church which experienced its greatest dangers, troubles, struggles and conflicts from within. From division to strife, from envying to fornication, from wrongs to evils, from bitterness to offense, from accusation to judgment, and even defiling and polluting the Lord’s table this congregation was such that experienced its greatest conflicts and struggles within. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and realize when reading the words found in this epistle it’s that we must be acutely and keenly aware of the dangers, the snares, the traps, the pitfalls, the conflicts, the battles, the wars, the division and the fighting that can indeed take place within us among our members. There can be absolutely no denying and no mistaking the incredible truth that there are indeed times within our lives when the greatest danger and threat comes not from those powers which are without but from within. Please note this not only applies to us as individual members of the body of Christ as we wrestle and struggle with the flesh, with the sin nature and with sin itself but also within the body of Christ itself. There is a great and powerful need within and among us to be very much aware of the conflicts and struggles which exist among us and that we are ready, willing and able to confront and address them that they might not have place, influence and destruction among us.