Remembering My Creator: Vol. 3, No 2, March 2013

Theme: Thoughts from the New

Testament Epistles

 

In This Issue:

  • “Factions Exalting Men Are Wrong Because …” (1st Corinthians 1 – 4) by Warren Berkley
  • “Report of Sexual Immorality & Legal Wrangling” (1st Corinthians 5:1 – 6:20) by David Deuster
  • “Three Issues from a Corinthian Letter” (1st Corinthians 7:1 – 11:1) by Hannah & Sarah Crawford
  • “The Futility of Faith if the Dead Are Not Raised” (1st Corinthians 15:1-58) by Sean Cavender

 

 

 

 

“Factions Exalting Men Are Wrong Because …” (1st Corinthians 1 – 4)

By

Warren E. Berkley

 

The first problem Paul addressed in First Corinthians was – Factions Exalting Men. In the first four chapters of the letter, Paul hauls out this ugly mess and demonstrates how wrong it is. There were rival factions, of human origin, exalting their favorite men. And from this we ought to learn that whenever people profess the name of Christ over their religious practices, but follow men, and honor the names of men (openly or by stealth), there is sin. Legitimate militancy in sincerely upholding the truth is one thing, but factions exalting men must be defeated.

 

Factions are wrong – because Christ isn’t divided (1:13). The body of Christ is not something that has been or can be cut in pieces and parceled out to human leaders! This is why it isn’t appropriate to speak of “Paul’s body of Christ,” or “Simon Peter’s body of Christ.” Christ is one; His body is one (Eph. 4:4), and this is an argument against the fragmentation and promotion of parties by men. All such division and rivalry is wrong. {Note – scripturally administered discipline is right (1 Cor. 5); marking to avoid is right (Rom. 16:17,18); but the kind of fragmentation rebuked in 1 Corinthians 1 cannot be justified.}

 

Factions are wrong – because we are not saved by the name of Paul or any other man (1:13b-16). When you are baptized, it is not the authority of some man that you are submitting to. And, when you are baptized, it is not allegiance to man that is called for, but allegiance to Christ. Well, if you were baptized into the name of Christ (not any man), and your baptism reflected your agreement to recognize allegiance to Him (not any man), this is another reason why human factions should not exists.

 

Factions are wrong – because they detract from the gospel (1:17). The primary thrust and priority of Paul’s work was to preach the gospel. His job was not to go out and baptize people into allegiance to some man. And, his job wasn’t just to go out and immerse people. His primary work was to preach the gospel of Christ; and he was to do this “not in wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ be made of no effect.” In the preaching of the gospel, the emphasis or attention should never be on the man doing the speaking (or writing); attention must be paid to the Christ and His message. Human factions detract from the pure and holy gospel, and direct attention to men.

 

Factions are wrong – because human wisdom is not compatible with the cross (1:18-31). The preaching of the cross, with a mixture of human wisdom, is a perversion (see Gal. 1:6-12). Yet, when men create human factions through human personality, charm or false doctrine, that blending in of human wisdom is not compatible with the divine message.

 

Factions are wrong – because revelation from God has come, through the Spirit-inspired apostles (1 Cor. 2). The apostles – in their preaching and writing – were imparting truth from the mind of God. We are privileged to have that message on the pages of the New Testament. Why, therefore, would anyone desire to promote human factions, when we have access to divine truth, that saves, instructs and unites us?

 

Factions are wrong – because their origin is carnal (1 Cor. 3:1-4). One problem in Corinth was, the dangerous esteem they had toward men; the misplaced loyalty they had toward certain individuals, and the resulting factions. I would maintain, this was a symptom of an underlying problem – they were carnal! “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?” To be carnal is to be dominated by something other than the spiritual reign of Christ in your heart; it is to be ruled by the flesh, by immature desires. In our efforts to militantly uphold the truth of the gospel, we must constantly watch out for the creeping carnal spirit. We must pray for wisdom, check our motives and strive for objectivity, justice and balance.

 

Factions are wrong – because men only function as servants, who must build with care (1 Cor. 3:5-8; 4:1,2). In Corinth, there was a wrong concept of man, and the role of men in God’s plan. One thing we need to get back to and stress is: Who are these men (who preach, teach and write)? What is their legitimate function? How should we regard them? Certainly, from our perspective, we must distinguish between the inspired men of the first century, through whom the gospel was given; and the uninspired teachers and preachers today. But there’s more to be said: Whether we are talking about the inspired men, like Paul, Apollos and Cephas, or the uninspired teachers, preachers and writers of today, still – they function as servants, who are accountable for their conduct. Those of us who preach, teach and write – are ministers and servants, not masters or lords. We need to hear what Paul is saying (if I may paraphrase): “We are not Saviors; we are not gods … we are only ministers by whom you have believed, as the Lord gave to each one; our function is to serve; to deliver a message from God, to impart truth that all of us are accountable to. Do not attach yourselves to us … attach yourself to the Lord!”

 

Brethren & Friends! There is a place for legitimate, properly motivated militancy in upholding the truth of the gospel. But there is no place for the promotion of

factions of carnal origin which exalt men and human wisdom. “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

 

(From Expository Files 1.2; February, 1994 – Reprinted by Permission)

 

 

 

“Report of Sexual Immorality & Legal Wrangling” (1st Corinthians 5:1 – 6:20)

By

David Deuster

In the fifth and sixth chapters of 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul further shows how the actions at Corinth are inconsistent with the unity that salvation in Christ produces. As a result of their carnality, there is sexual immorality reported amongst them and brother is going to law against brother over matters of personal liberty. Such things ought not to be so named amongst those who were “washed, sanctified and justified.” The purpose of the apostle is to not only offer corrective instruction concerning these matters, but also is to expose the attitude that has led to these particular issues. In doing so, Paul admonishes the Corinthians to be “joined together” and “of the same mind and in the same judgment.”

Settling Issues Arising Over Immorality

Discipline is foundational. It is as old as the Garden of Eden. No one can become a Christian without discipline and likewise, no one can remain a Christian without discipline (Matthew 28:18-20). Sadly, there exists the extremist attitudes of loving tolerance and of self-righteous ‘witch hunting,’ both which cause a variety of emotional misunderstanding towards this topic. However, love and discipline cannot properly exist without one another. Discipline is proper, but only when it is motivated by love.

Not all discipline requires withdrawing fellowship. The withdrawal of fellowship is corrective discipline and is to be the final resort in spiritual matters. Discipline exists primarily in the form of instructive discipline that is preventive in its nature. Teaching is discipline and, when faithfully administered by a church that is zealous for the building up of its members to maturity, will help to prevent the necessity of severing fellowship.

In the particular case cited at Corinth, the adultery was just a symptom of the real problem – the arrogant attitude that had allowed for such a one to exist in the local fellowship. Failing to purge out the leaven, i.e., the continued influence of this mindset, would result in the whole lump being affected. Simply removing the adulterer from their fellowship would not fix the problem. There needed to first be a purging of the carnal attitude (v 7, “malice and wickedness”) that allowed this gross immorality to continue in fellowship. When the elements of love and discipline are missing, the structure is flawed and will suffer as a result. Developing a tolerant attitude toward sin and ‘looking in the other direction’ does as much good as ignoring a terminal disease and hoping that it will go away. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to purge out the leaven of their tolerant attitude toward the sinner in order that the whole church might remain pure (1 Corinthians 5:7-9). By developing the right mindset, that of the spiritual man, the Corinthians would be prepared to faithfully execute the task of administering corrective discipline to the man who had his father’s wife.

Why would the church need to exercise such action? The immediate purpose of delivering the impenitent disciple unto Satan is for the “destruction of the flesh.” Flesh refers to the works of the flesh that the unruly disciple continues to involve themselves with (1 Corinthians 5:5; 6:9-10). Notice in 1 Corinthians 5 how the apostle describes this “delivery.” First, that he “might be taken away from you” (5:2) so that you“Not company with” (5:9) and thus “put away from yourselves that wicked person” (5:13). It must be understood that this action and declaration does not make one a child of the devil, rather it is their actions that have already done that (John 8:44). In 2 Thessalonians 3:14, Paul expresses the reason for “having no company” is to the end that “he may be ashamed.” Vine defines this as meaning, “to turn upon himself and so produce a feeling of shame, a wholesome shame which involves a change of conduct.” This is the greater purpose in mind when it comes to the discipline and that is the saving of the soul in the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:5).

The action of church discipline causes others to examine their own lives. If members knew to expect discipline when sin is allowed to rule their lives, very little corrective discipline would be necessary. We need to develop the faith and moral courage to stand against sin in the church as adamantly as we have when we preach and teach baptism for the remission of sins. As with all of God’s instructions, preaching, practicing and applying God’s word will produce fear in the hearts of all who are desirous of doing his will (Acts 5:11; 1 Timothy 5:20).

Settling Issues Arising Over Liberties

1 Corinthians 6:1-8 does not introduce a new subject but continues the argument presented in chapter five, concerning the judgements that the local church can and should make. Paul sets forth a principle in dealing with the jurisdiction of the authority of the local church. That authority does not extend to those outside of the church; therefore there is a clear limitation of the local church’s authority. Paul is simply asking, who is to judge upon these quarrels, the righteous or the unrighteous?

It is important to recognize that Paul is not contending it is wrong for a Christian to take legal action against another Christian in a civil court of law. Common sense teaches us that some disputes among brethren should be settled by the church. Just as civil courts are not qualified to judge doctrinal and disciplinary matters which may arise in the church (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:12,13; 6:1-8), there are disputes which may arise among brethren which the church would not be qualified to decide, i.e., divorce suits, alimony, custody of children, recovery of financial loss as a result of fraud, etc. God’s appointed instrument for civil justice is the civil government. Government is authorized to be God’s “avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (Rom 13:4) Using the courts in the manner God ordained them would not be sinful.

Just as the refusal to disfellowship the adulterer in chapter 5, the problem Paul addresses in chapter 6 results from an improper attitude towards disagreements with a brother, specifically with respect to the exercise of liberties. Thus, the sinful practice which the apostle seeks to correct is viewing those disagreements as so offensive as to seek judgment and retribution before the world. Therefore, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 is not intended as a universal prohibition against the Christian utilizing civil government but instead addresses internal problems among brethren within the local church. The governments of the world have no standing in church affairs and the crossing of the two would only be perpetrated by the carnal man, an issue that certainly was present at Corinth.

Two reasons are given for not allowing the unrighteous judges to settle disputes between brethren: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” and “Do you not know that we shall judge angels?” The spiritual man who is to “judge the world” is able to do so because of his ability to decide between right and wrong in life’s endeavors. He judges the world daily through righteous living. In contrast, the carnal man seeks to turn over the “maters of this life” to the courts, taking those who have no standing in the church and exalting them to the position of judges. The carnal man sought to go out into the world to get what he couldn’t get, by reason and truth, from his brother. The spiritual man would not seek “his rights” at the expense of God and his brethren. He understands and applies the principles of justice and brotherly love. When there is an issue between he and his brother, the spiritual man acts in accordance with the teaching of Jesus. “…whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” (Matthew 5:22-24).

Paul exposes the carnal man’s motives and the practice of that day. The abuses of civil authority in Corinth were sinfully driven by a carnal mind and were no different than the immoral sins of the society around them.

Being Joined Together is the Product of Righteousness

Chapter 6 concludes with a final rebuke towards the carnality. Only the child of God knows what true spiritual freedom is. Paul reminds the Corinthians that while he has the right (as do all Christians) to exercise his liberties he will not become a slave to his liberties. It is not enough for the child of God to merely control his desires, he must prioritize and change his desires to be consistent with his life as a Christian (1 Corinthians 6:11). In order to illustrate this point on liberties, Paul uses the concept of fornication. Liberties are actions that in and of themselves are not sinful, likewise the sexual act in and of itself is not sinful. However, when we become slaves to the sex act, fulfilling this “good” thing in a sinful way, then that which is meant for our good becomes our sin. As a result we violate our bodies and we violate the will of God. Those things which will affect us in a positive way eternally we must devote ourselves to. Those things which will affect us negatively we must “flee” (vs. 18). The body is meant for eternity, however the present appetites of the body are not, therefore we must not give undue consideration to those appetites, especially not the extent that we are willing to harm our brother.

The bodies we live in, while suited for living in this life, are intended for eternal life and to be joined with Christ. Fornication, more so than any other sin we might commit violates the very purpose for which we were given these bodies. The application to the use of liberties is seen in the local church or local “body” as a picture of unity being “joined together” (1 Corinthians 6:17; cf Acts 9:26). We cannot be joined together in serving Christ, be united in thought and action if we are “mastered” by the exercise of our liberties, and certainly not if so concerned with them that we are willing to abuse our brethren to achieve what we feel we deserve.

“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 6:19-20).

 

 

“Three Issues from a Corinthian Letter” (1st Corinthians 7:1 – 11:1)

By

Hannah & Sarah Crawford

The first of the 3 issues addressed by Paul in 1 Cor. 7 is marriage and the guidelines pertaining to it. In this chapter, we are instructed to have only one spouse (vs. 2) regardless of other cultures beliefs or traditions concerning polygamy. Also, we notice here that Paul states, “But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (vs. 9). Many of the youths in the church today feel the need to be married and sometimes rush into it. It is good, whether the person (male/female) is married or not, as long as their focus is on the Lord. The problem comes when one or both of the spouses turn away from God because of marriage. This is why it is better to marry a Christian who has a firm belief in God, so as not to be led astray by a worldly spouse for it is easier to pull someone down than lift someone up. However, Paul instructs us that if a spouse is unbelieving then stay with them so that they may be edified through your example (vs. 12-16). If, however, the unbelieving spouse chooses to leave then let them leave. Some Christians married to unbelievers focus so much on staying with their spouse for the sole purpose of converting them that they will sometimes steer away from the church and God so as to keep their spouse from leaving. If anything, a Christian, no matter their circumstances, should keep God as their first priority (vs. 32-35). By marrying an unbeliever or a Christian who does not follow God’s word, we lose that “undistracted devotion to the Lord”. However, being united to a spouse that has God listed as their biggest priority will edify the other spouse to continue their devotion to God.

 

In chapters 8 and 9 we learn about the liberties we do and don’t have as Christians and what our responsibilities are to fellow brethren as well as nonbelievers. These liberties can be divided into two subcategories: being a stumbling block and reaping what we sow. We will start with how to avoid being a stumbling block to our brothers and sisters and also to those who may be studying the Bible but have not chosen to devote their life to God yet. Many perspectives produced by society tell us to focus on ourselves and to do what we want to (Rom. 1:20-25, 28-32). This view of selfishness does nothing to help the individual or those around them draw closer to God. Instead, it pushes true believers and those seeking the truth further away when Christians participate in selfishness. Verse 1 of chapter 8 tells us, “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies”. We can’t edify others through love if we are too busy loving ourselves (see I Thess. 5:11-18, Rom. 14:19, and Heb. 10:24-25).

 

The use of our liberties determines what’s in our hearts and where our focus is in life. Paul explains in chapter 9 through the use of various examples that what we reap is what we’ll sow. Some Christians today have not applied themselves as much they could to edify others and spread God’s word. Showing up to church every Sunday and on Wednesday nights can be a big encouragement to those who may not be frequent comers, but if that’s all we do then have we really used the gifts God’s given us? We shouldn’t run the race with the hopes of just finishing or getting by, but we should give everything we’ve got so that we might win the prize (Heb. 12:1-2, 2 Tim. 2:1-7). If we work daily to grow as Christians and help others grow by utilizing our talents then think how much stronger the church will become and the influence it will have on nonbelievers. If a visitor comes to services and notices that we are just going through the motions of being a Christian then how are they encouraged? As far as they can tell, who we’re worshipping isn’t important enough for us to give our best. God gave His best by sending His Son to die a horrible death because of our sins and shortcomings. At the least, God deserves our full passion and focus on living according to His laws. It’s just like the story of the ten talents. The man who buried his talent and gave back to his master what was given to him didn’t receive any reward (Matt. 25:14-30 and Lk. 19:12-27). Just as God has given us abilities of our own, we must use them or we will not receive a reward (and it won’t matter how many services we’ve sat through).

 

The last issue we see in these passages is in chapter 10 where Paul preaches to the people that we can’t worship God and demons (vs. 21). The demons refer to the worldly pleasures we partake in. When we sin we are choosing to be of the world instead of being servants after God’s will. Sure we all sin, but what do we do once we realize it. Do we keep going on with our life as if nothing happened or do we change a part of our life to ensure that we don’t fall into that same temptation again? We must be constantly vigilant for devil “walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8).

 

“If There Be No Resurrection”

By

Sean P. Cavender

 

The apostle Paul addresses the nature of the bodily resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. The principle of the resurrection from the dead is fundamental to the faith of the child of God. Our hope and confidence is founded upon the resurrection of Christ, and our future bodily resurrection. Concerning the resurrection, it is something that is declared affirmatively in the gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The Scriptures attest to the fact of the resurrection, therefore it is something that we must believe and accept. If we deny the resurrection then we deny the gospel.

 

Some in Corinth were denying the resurrection saying, “there is no resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:11). Paul deliberately shows the consequences of such a teaching. He reduces this falsehood to an absurdity, proving the principle of a resurrection is essential to Christianity.

 

First, if there is no resurrection, then Christ is not raised (1 Corinthians 15:13). Christ’s resurrection is essential to our common salvation in Christ (1 Peter 3:21). We were all baptized into Christ’s death and raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3,4). If Christ is not raised then salvation in Christ is meaningless, thus rendering useless the act of water baptism. This is the reason for Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:29.

 

Secondly, preaching the gospel is vanity, thus faith is useless (1 Corinthians 15:14). The goal in preaching the gospel is that people may hear the gospel and come to faith (Romans 10:17). If the gospel is built upon the truthfulness of the resurrection of Christ, and it did not happen, then what is the point of preaching a lie? What is the point in believing that lie and confessing faith in Christ, if there is no resurrection from the dead? Ultimately, if your faith is in vain then you remain in your sins (1 Corinthians 15:17; Ephesians 2:8).

 

Thirdly, if the dead are not raised then the apostles’ testimony of Christ’s resurrection make God a liar (1 Corinthians 15:15). If the proposition is true, the apostles are false witnesses of God, and the gospel they preach ought to be rejected since they claim God did something that He really did not do. The apostles were strong in their statements concerning God’s raising Christ from the dead (Acts 4:10-12). If the dead are not raised, then Christ was not raised by the power of God, and the gospel makes God a liar. Therefore, if the dead are not raised, and yet people believe the gospel and trust in God’s power to save, then they are to be pitied for believing a lie (1 Corinthians 15:19).

 

The conclusion to denying the resurrection is that once we die, we remain in the grave. The grave continues to hold power and strength over us. Therefore, if the dead are not raised “let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). Denying the bodily resurrection denies us the salvation in Christ, the truthfulness of the gospel, and the assurance of God’s power. It renders meaningless the belief in eternity. So why be concerned about living to please God? If there is no resurrection, enjoy life now because there will be no consequences later.

 

Throughout the remainder of the chapter, Paul presents the assurance of the bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:35-53). He concludes with the assurance that the corruptible will be changed to be incorruptible, so that we may live in eternity (1 Corinthians 15:54). Since the resurrection is true, then the blessedness of the teaching is “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54-56). The grave is rendered useless, not our faith. There is victory in overcoming death, and that victory has been given to us through Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). The grand conclusion to the doctrine of the bodily resurrection is this: continue working, persevere for the sake of the Lord. We do not have to “eat and drink for tomorrow we die”; we have the hope for everlasting life. We have the assurance through our resurrection that we are the sons of God, and we will be changed. Do not give up hope. Do not let others corrupt you. Those who deny the resurrection of the dead have not remained steadfast, nor do they abound in the work of the Lord. They have made their work and labor in vain. However, do not give up hope. Remain confident and continue to work for the Lord because your reward will be great.