Today’s selected reading continues in and concludes the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. More specifically today’s passage begins with the first verse of the first chapter and continues through to the fourth verse of the second chapter. “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia: Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:1-2).
“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comfortethh us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of your trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will ye deliver us; ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf” (2 Corinthians 1:3-11).
“For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward. For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end; as also ye have acknowledge us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the days of the Lord Jesus. And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit; and to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judaea. When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? Or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay? But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and TImotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of. God by us. Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:12-22).
“Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth. Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand” (2 Corinthians 1:23-24).
“But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness. For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me? And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you” (2 Corinthians 2:1-4).
When you come to the sixteenth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will find this epistle drawing to a close. If you have taken the time to read the words and language found and presented within this epistle you will find the apostle Paul seeking to exhort, rebuke and correct this congregation. This particular congregation together with the saints which were present among them were a direct result of the labor which the apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy, Aquila, Priscilla and others devoted themselves to over an eighteen month period of time. Upon turning and directing your attention to the words which are found in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the account and narrative of the apostle Paul’s time and tenure there in the midst of Corinth. The beloved physician Luke writes and records how after departing from Athens where he sent for Timothy and Silas the apostle Paul came unto Corinth where he would meet Aquila and his wife Priscilla. It is absolutely necessary for us to recognize and understand the account of the tenure of the apostle Paul in the city of Corinth as it was written in the New Testament book of Acts for it helps us to understand that which the apostle Paul would write in this first epistle which was written from Philippi by Stephanas, Fornunatus, Achaicus and Timotheus.
If you want to truly understand the words and language that is found within this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints there is a great need to turn and direct your attention to the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts. It is in the New Testament book of Acts where we are presented with the powerful narrative describing the apostle Paul coming unto Corinth absent Timothy and Silas who were at that time still in Thessalonica. The apostle Paul would come unto Corinth and as his custom was would enter into the synagogue of the Jews where he would contend for the understanding that Jesus came in the flesh and was both the Christ and Lord. The apostle Paul would argue and contend from the Law and the prophets that Jesus must needs suffer in the flesh and be crucified according to Scripture that it might be fulfilled what the living God spoke through His servants. Moreover the apostle Paul would argue and contend that after Jesus was crucified in the place of the skull He would be buried in a borrowed tomb where His lifeless body would lie and remain until the first day of the week. On the first day of the week, however, the very Spirit of the living God would raise Jesus from death to life again according to the Scripture. On the first day of the week there was a great earthquake at the tomb and the stone was rolled away as an angel sat atop the stone. Each of the four gospel narratives describes the suffering, the death, the burial and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and this was the very heart and foundation of the gospel the apostles and the early church—including the apostle Paul—preached after the ascension of the Lord Jesus unto the right hand of the Father which was in heaven.
I am convinced that although we are now at the sixteenth and final chapter of this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints there is a great need for us to turn our attention once more to the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts . We must needs recognize and understand the history surrounding the time the apostle Paul spent in the midst of the city of Corinth for after his departure he would eventually receive report concerning the saints who remained behind within this city—both Jews and Gentiles. The apostle Paul was compelled to write this particular epistle unto the Corinthian saints because he had received report from the house of Chloe concerning certain things which were taking place among them in their midst. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for this epistle was not written to those who did not know the truth nor those who had not heard the gospel preached unto them. The apostle Paul had spent eighteen months laboring intensively among them teaching and preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and proclaiming the suffering, the death, the burial and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is I would dare say that the apostle Paul did more than simply preach concerning the suffering, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and would have also taught the very words of Christ which He had spoken while He walked among men as the Word made flesh. Scripture makes it very clear the apostle Paul would argue and contend that Jesus was both Christ and Lord and that he was pressed in the spirit when Timothy and Silas arrived in Corinth after coming from Thessalonica. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts beginning to read with and from the first verse:
“After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; and found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (Because that Claudius had commanded all jews to depart from Rome) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers. And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and TImotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:1-11).
“And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat, saying, This fellow persusadeth men to worship God contrary to the law. And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O y Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: but if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters. And he drove them from the judgment seat. Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things” (Acts 18:12-17).
Please pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for what we find here brings us face to face with the time the apostle Paul spent in the city of Corinth. Luke writes and records how after Paul had taught and preached in Athens he departed from that place and came unto Corinth. There in Corinth he found a certain Jew—Aquila—together with his wife Priscilla who had come from Italy because of a command Claudius had made that all Jews must depart from Rome. There in Corinth the apostle Paul would reason in the synagogue every sabbath and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks as was his custom in every city, town and village he came to. In all reality the apostle Paul was indeed walking in and following the same footsteps of the Lord Jesus Christ who would also enter into the synagogue each sabbath. Time and time again Jesus would enter into the synagogue on the sabbath day and would teach and preach and he would do so in such places as Capernaum, Nazareth and other places during those days. The apostle Paul was walking in the same footsteps as his Lord had done and would enter into the synagogue each sabbath reasoning together with both the Jews and the Greeks. IN each and every city, town and village the apostle Paul came unto he would argue, contend and reason together with the Jews and Greeks from the Scriptures concerning the suffering, the death, the burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. What we find here in this passage of Scripture, however, is that when Silas and Timothy arrived the apostle Paul be pressed in the spirit and would testify to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. This is something we must not miss nor lose sight of for throughout the ministry entrusted unto the apostle Paul you will find him arguing and contending with the Jews that Jesus was indeed the very Christ and the Messiah. Time and time again, however, the Jews would resist and reject the declaration that Jesus was indeed the Christ and the Messiah—something we find here in Corinth as well.
What I so love about the words which are found in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is that the Lord Jesus would not permit the apostle Paul to depart from the city of Corinth. Whereas while he was in Thessalonica and Berea the disciples and brethren would send the apostle Paul forth from their midst because of the opposition and insurrection of the Jews the Lord Jesus Christ would not allow the apostle Paul to depart from Corinth. In fact the Lord Jesus would appear unto the apostle Paul in the night by a vision and would exhort him to be not afraid but to speak and hold not his peace for He was with him. Moreover the Lord Jesus would also declare that no man would set on him to hurt him for He had much people in that city. As a direct result of hearing and receiving the word of the Lord directly from the mouth of the Lord Jesus the apostle Paul would continue in Corinth for a period of eighteen months teaching the word of God among them. It would be during and over this eighteenth month period of time the apostle Paul would continue laboring among them as he, Silas, Timothy, Aquila, Priscilla and others would establish a church in the midst of the city. It was indeed true there would be a synagogue unto and for the Jews here in Corinth it must also be understood that a church and body of believers would be established in the midst of the city as well. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the establishment of a church here in the midst of Corinth—despite the fact that the Jews not only opposed themselves but also blasphemed. Moreover a church was able to be established here in the midst of the city of Corinth despite an insurrection that was made by the Jews who with one accord raised themselves up against the apostle Paul and brought him to the judgment seat.
As you come to the first chapter of this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will find him beginning and opening it with the customary greeting standard in his epistles. The apostle Paul would begin and open this first epistle with his name and then describing how he was called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God. Immediately after this the apostle Paul would describe a brother who was present with him at the time of the writing of this epsitle—namely Sosthenes. The apostle Paul goes on to describe how this epistle was written unto the church of God which was at Corinth and would further declare how this epistle was written unto those who were sanctified in Christ Jesus and were called to be saints with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ the Lord. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of when reading the words presented in this epistle for the apostle Paul wasn’t writing to heathen nor was he writing to Gentiles who did not know nor had not heard the truth. In fact if you continue reading the words the apostle Paul wrote in this epistle you will find him describing his preaching among them in the midst of the city of Corinth. Beginning with the fourth verse of this chapter the apostle Paul describes how he thanked his God always on their behalf for the grace of God which was given unto them by Jesus Christ that in every thing they were enriched by him in all utterance and in all knowledge. Moreover the apostle Paul goes on to write how his testimony of Christ was confirmed in them so that they came behind in no gift as they waited for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul also goes on to describe how this Jesus who is Christ and Lord would confirm them unto the end that they might be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore the apostle Paul declares how God is faithful by whom they were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
If you continue reading the words which are found within this epistle you will come to the second chapter where the apostle Paul writes and speaks of the gospel he preached while among them. The apostle Paul wrote and declared how when he came unto them he did not come with excellency of speech or of wisdom declaring unto them the testimony of God. Moreover the apostle Paul would go on to describe how he determined not to know any thing among them save Jesus Christ and him crucified. In addition to this the apostle Paul described how he was with them in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling and his speech and his preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. This was all done so their faith would not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. This is something we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in this first epistle written by the apostle Paul for those to whom the apostle was writing weren’t those who did not know nor had not heard the truth. The apostle Paul makes it perfectly clear that whilst he was present among them he preached and declared the truth of the gospel—and not only the truth of the gospel but also Jesus Christ and him crucified. Make no mistake about it—while the apostle Paul was present among the Corinthians he labored among them teaching and preaching the truth concerning Jesus being Christ and His being crucified. What’s more is that with this I would also contend the apostle Paul would call them to a new and different standard of living in response to to the suffering, the death, the burial and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
With all of this being said it is absolutely necessary for us to recognize that although the apostle Paul was writing to believers who had heard and received the word and gospel of Jesus of Nazareth the apostle Paul could not write to not could he address them as spiritual. If you take the time to read the words which are found within this particular epistle you will find there were a number of issues facing this congregation of believers within the city of Corinth. In all reality this epistle demonstrates and reveals how although this church was gifted and even enriched in all knowledge and utterance they were carnal in nature. Pause for a moment and consider just how absolutely incredible this truly is for it reveals something about churches which are present among us within our own generation, culture and society. If there is one thing the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints reveals it’s that a church can be enriched with all knowledge and with all utterance and still be carnal in practice. Moreover a church can come behind in and lack no spiritual gift and yet still be carnal in practice, in actions and behaviors. This is something which warrants strong consideration when thinking about the words and language found within this epistle for within it you will find the apostle Paul rebuking this congregation for their carnal practices and behaviors. What’s more is I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to words which our Lord Himself delivered and declared when delivering the Sermon on the Mount. It would be while delivering the Sermon on the Mount at the Mount of Beatitudes Jesus would issue some of the most sobering words ever recorded and found within the Scripture. Before showing you the carnal practice and behavior of the Corinthian saints I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to these words which were spoken by the Lord Jesus when delivering the famous Sermon on the Mount:
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devilsA? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:13-27).
Pay close attention to the words which are found within this passage of Scripture for Jesus emphatically declares that not everyone who says unto Him “Lord, Lord” will enter into the kingdom of heaven. What makes this even more striking is when you consider how Jesus goes on to declare that those who profess and declare “Lord, Lord” aren’t necessarily those who will enter into the kingdom of heaven but those who do the will of His Father which was in heaven. Having said this the Lord goes on to speak of those who would appear before Him in that great day and call Him Lord and proceed to call His attention to their prophesying in His name. There will be others who will come unto Him in that day and will call Him Lord and will speak of how they cast out devils in His name while there would be others who would call Him Lord and speak of the many wonderful works they did in His name. What we find Jesus declaring unto these individuals is truthfully sobering and alarming is Jesus will hear them call Him “Lord, Lord” and even their credentials and qualifications for entering into the kingdom of heaven and will profess unto them that He never knew them before commanding them to depart from them calling them those that work iniquity. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it brings us face to face with the fact that it is possible to be spiritually gifted—to prophesy and even to cast out devils—and yet in that last and great day hear the Lord Jesus speak unto you that He never knew you before commanding you to depart from Him because you were a worker of iniquity.
I sit here today thinking about the Corinthian congregation and I am brought face to face with the absolutely incredible truth that this was a congregation who heard the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus preached unto and among them. The Corinthian Jews and even the Corinthian Gentiles heard the word and gospel preached by the apostle Paul and heard him speak of the suffering, the death, the burial and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The Corinthian Jews and Gentiles heard the word of the gospel preached unto and among them and heard the words the apostle Paul preached concerning the kingdom of heaven and weren’t those who were ignorant of the truth. The apostle Paul emphatically declared unto them that his word and his speech were not with wise and enticing words and eloquent speech but in the demonstration of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul made it abundantly clear that when he was among them he faithfully delivered and preached the word and gospel of Jesus as he would deliver unto them the statutes, the precepts and the commandments of the kingdom of heaven. Undoubtedly the apostle Paul would indeed deliver unto them the words of the Lord Jesus which he received from Him in the wilderness as well from what He declared and spoke while He was among us as the Word made flesh which dwelt among us. The apostle Paul would indeed declare unto the Corinthian saints that which he received of the Lord Jesus—something that was expressed in the eleventh chapter of this epistle. There is not a doubt in my mind that what the apostle Paul taught and preached unto them that which He had received directly from the Lord Jesus during that time he journeyed into the Arabian desert and wilderness to get alone in the presence of and with the Lord Jesus.
What I find absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to when reading the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints is the fact that those to whom the apostle Paul was writing were such who knew and had heard the truth. Those to whom this epistle was written were those who heard the truth of the gospel as the apostle Paul taught and preached among them for a full year and a half. Pause and consider how many sabbaths there would have been over a year and a half period of time and how often the apostle Paul might have taught and preached in their synagogues. For a year and a half the apostle Paul taught and preached among them the doctrines and principles of the kingdom of heaven and would teach them that which the Lord Jesus had revealed unto them. What we find, however, is that in spite of the apostle Paul laboring among them for a year and a half teaching and preaching the gospel of the kingdom of heaven he could not write to or address them as spiritual but as carnal. The Corinthian congregation might very well have been a gifted congregation that was also enriched in all wisdom and utterance and yet they were a carnal congregation that allowed certain elements to creep in among them thus requiring the apostle Paul to pen this epistle unto them. The apostle Paul would receive a report from the house of Chloe concerning that which was present among this congregation and those who were called to be the saints of God and he was compelled by the Holy Spirit to address the reports which were brought to his attention. This is something we might need to carefully consider when seeking to understand this epistle for the apostle Paul was writing unto those who had allowed themselves to be overcome by that which had caused chaos and confusion among them. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in this epistle beginning with the first chapter and the various issues which plagued this particular congregation:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 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 Ed? 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 Stephans: 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 strive, 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?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, the Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or of the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:16-23).
“I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have yet not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” (1 Corinthians 4:14-21).
“It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such ofrnication as is not so mu h 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 as 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 5:1-8).
“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 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 rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. 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 revivers, 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 6:1-11).
“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, and will also raise up us by his own power. 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 6:12-20).
“Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God by one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every. Man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; and through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Corinthians 8:1-13).
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What say I then? That the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols. Is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they’d sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” (1 Corinthians 10:16-22).
“Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not the better, but for the worse. For the 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 cups 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).
Each of these passages must be read as part of a whole picture within the epistle as the apostle Paul wrote this letter to exhort, correct and even rebuke the Corinthian saints. The Corinthian saints had allowed division, contention and strife to enter in among them and had even allowed the party and sectarian spirit to enter in among them thus further causing divisions. Moreover the Corinthian saints were puffed up—not only in their knowledge and utterance but also in spite of fornication being present among them. There was fornication present among them—such as was not named even among the Gentiles—and rather than weep and mourn over such iniquity and immorality among them they were instead puffed up. As if this weren’t enough they would bring each other unto the court of the Gentiles when they were wronged by another brother or sister. Instead of heeding to the words which our Lord spoke unto His disciples which are recorded in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew as well as the words which our Lord spoke in the Sermon on the Mount they chose to allow themselves to be offended and to take their brother or sister to court rather than to be wrong, offended or defrauded. On top of all of this they were abusing the Lord’s table and the Lord’s supper as they would gather together while some would become drunk while others would engorge themselves with food thus leaving others to go hungry among them. This all serves as a powerful backdrop and foundation for the epistle written by the apostle Paul as he deliberately and intentionally sought to correct them and to help them make the necessary changes fit for those who were and had been called to be the saints of God. The apostle Paul wrote this epistle to call these dear saints into a renewed commitment to holiness and purity in the sight and presence of the living God for they themselves were the temple of the living God and the temple of the Holy Spirit.
When you come to the sixteenth and final chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul writing and speaking concerning the collection of the saints which he had given order to the churches of Galatia. The apostle Paul would conclude this particular epistle with a further demonstration of ministry unto and for the spiritual body of Christ. Whereas the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of this epistle deal specifically with the ministry of the body as pertaining to spiritual gifts, prophecy, tongues and the like the sixteenth chapter the apostle Paul takes the ministry unto the body to a different level as he would write of the ministry unto the saints. What makes the words found in this final chapter so incredibly unique and powerful when you take the time to consider it is when you read how the apostle Paul spoke of the house of Stephanas—the firstfruits of Achaia—and how they “addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” Pause for a moment and consider how absolutely incredible those words truly are for I can’t help but wonder how many men and women among us in the house of the Lord can be described as having addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints. There is something truly captivating about the words which are found here in this passage of Scripture for within it we are brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding those who make it their ambition, their purpose and their objective to give themselves to the ministry of the saints. When the apostle Paul writes of the house of Stephanas addicting themselves to the ministry of the saints he is speaking of those who had committed themselves to live selflessly and sacrificially as they gave themselves fully and completely to the body of Christ. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for there is something to be said about this house of Stephanas who had addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.
I sit here today thinking about the words presented in this passage of Scripture and how incredibly crucial but also how difficult it is to fully commit oneself to the ministry of the saints. The apostle Paul would indeed spend time writing and speaking of the body of Christ within this passage of Scripture and would describe how the body was one under the Lord with many members. The apostle Paul would describe how the living God had placed each member of the body in their own place as he desired and as He willed. What we must needs understand concerning this is that we have not only been called to find our place within the spiritual body of Christ and we have not only been called to be joined together to other members of that body but we have also been called to the ministry of the saints. The apostle Paul would write in various epistles calling the churches to look not unto their own interests but to look unto the interests of others. Perhaps one of the most fundamental principles of the early church was this esteeming others as better than oneself and giving oneself to the effectual ministry of the saints. The apostle Paul wrote concerning the house of Stephanas that they addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints and this is something quite powerful when you take the time to think about it. There is something truly captivating about the words and language found here in the final chapter of this epistle for within it we find the apostle Paul speaking of something we have all been called to—namely pursuing the ministry of the saints. IN fact I would dare say this was perhaps one of the greatest evidences of the presence of the spiritual body of Christ during the days of the early church as they would indeed give of themselves one to another and would look not unto their own interests but would look unto the interests of others.
In the second and fourth chapters of this New Testament book of Acts we find powerful language concerning the gathering and coming together of the spiritual body of Christ with its many members. In the second chapter we read of the early church growing in number by three thousand souls on the very first day of existence. The apostle Peter would preach on the day of Pentecost and would call on men to repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord and three thousand souls would be added unto those who were present in the upper room. What we continue to find within the New Testament book of Acts is the Lord adding to the church daily such as should be saved. In fact at one point the beloved physician Luke writes how the number of those who believed had swelled to upwards of five thousand and more would be added unto it on a daily basis. What makes this all the more striking when you take the time to think about it is that the spiritual body of Christ would be characterized by this communal living as they would give themselves wholly to the ministry of the spiritual body of Christ. The words which we find in the second and fourth chapters of this New Testament book of Acts is such which we must recognize and understand for each and every one of us has not only been called to find our place within the body and be joined together to other members of the body but we have also been called to be those who commit ourselves—even addict ourselves—to the ministry of the saints and the ministry of the body. Having said this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the second, fourth and even the eleventh chapters of the New Testament book of Acts concerning this ministry of the saints and this ministry unto the spiritual body of Christ:
“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:37-47).
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that are sold, and laid them down at the apostles; feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-37).
“And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:27-30).
We must needs pay attention to these three passages of Scripture for at the very heart of each of them is the undeniable giving of the saints to the effectual ministry of and unto the saints. It is impossible to read the words found in these passages of Scripture and not encounter the tremendous presence of the ministry of the saints unto one another. If there is one thing that described the spiritual body of Christ it was their deliberate and conscious awareness of each other and their willingness to give themselves to the ministry of the saints. It was more than simply giving themselves to the breaking of bread from house to house and communal living for the saints sold and gave all their possessions that the body might be strengthened, edified and its needs supplied. We know that the apostle Paul wrote that his God would supply all his needs according to the riches and glory that were in Christ Jesus, however, there is something to be said about those who are willing to give themselves to the ministry of the spiritual body of Christ. You cannot read the New Testament book of Acts without encountering and coming face to face with the wonderful reality of their being willing to give of themselves one to another that the body might be edified and built up. Perhaps one of the greatest characteristics of the spiritual body of Christ was the willingness of the members to live selfless and sacrificial lives. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it brings us face to face with what I am convinced was the single greatest work of and on the day of Pentecost. I have written before how there are many who believe the greatest work on the day of Pentecost was speaking with other tongues while others believe the greatest miracle of the day of Pentecost was three thousand souls being added to the number of those who believed—those who walked with and followed the Lord Jesus.
I firmly believe and am convinced that the single greatest work of the day of Pentecost was the taking of three thousand souls, joining them to the number of those who were in the upper room and uniting them together in one spirit and of one mind. Stop and think about what it would take to unite together even fifty members of the church which you gather together and/or are a part of. Think about what it would take to bring even fifty members of the body of Christ together in complete unity and fellowship with other and how incredibly difficult it truly is. There have been countless leaders, preachers and ministers who have attempted to bring about and produce this unity of the members of the body of Christ in church buildings across this nation and yet the truth of the matter is that this isn’t anything that can be wrought or brought about by any man. In order for the spiritual body of Christ to truly be united together and be of one mind, one spirit and one purpose there is a great need for the work of the Spirit. There is something to be said about the house of Stephanas and them addicting themselves to the ministry of the saints. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that we have indeed and have in fact been called to be those who give ourselves to the ministry of the saints. We have not been called to live our lives separated, isolated and alone from the other members of the spiritual body of Christ. We haven’t been called to focus our attention solely on ourselves and to look out for our own needs and our own interests. In fact this is precisely what the apostle Paul would write about in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints of Rome, as well as the second chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Philippi. Moreover this was also what the apostle Paul wrote about in the fourth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Ephesus.
As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to leave you with the words which the apostle Paul wrote in each of these epistles. I firmly believe the words which the apostle Paul wrote in each of these epistles must needs be carefully considered and examined for we as the saints of God have not been called to look out for our own interests. In fact I would dare say that we should spend our time looking for opportunities to minister unto the spiritual body of Christ and should look for ways whereby we can empty ourselves that we might not only be filled by the Holy Spirit but might also give of ourselves unto others. I believe our lives should be a healthy balance and mixture of emptying ourselves as we pour into others whilst at the same time being filled with and by the Spirit of the living God and the eternal nature of the Son of the living God. Each and every one of us should diligently strive to give of ourselves that the body might be edified and be strengthened in the power of the might of the living and eternal God. With this in mind I leave you with the following words which were written by the apostle Paul unto the Ephesian, Philippian and Roman saints:
“For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, or exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth with diligence; he that sheweth mercy with cheefulness. 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 the high things, but condescended 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 12:4-21).
“…And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelist, and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity f the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the statute of the fullness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compac ted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16).
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shin be as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:1-18).