Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 1 * BOOK 26
THE WISDOM OF GOD VS THE WISDOM OF MAN
In our last lesson we finished Paul’s letter to the Romans. Now we begin a study of Paul’s two letters to the Corinthian Church. Turn to II Timothy 3:16. This is an introduction to Corinthians.
II Timothy 3:16,17
“All scripture (Genesis through Revelation) is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect (brought to a place of maturity), throughly furnished unto all good works,”
Now turn to I Corinthians, so that you can see what I’m trying to bring out. Here in Chapter 1 we find this epistle of the Apostle Paul, and I’ve come across this statement that out of all the manuscripts in museums, libraries, and what have you, every one of them may have the New Testament in various order. In other words, it isn’t always in the order we are used to. It isn’t always Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts. Some of the other books are also out of order but this is what got my attention, “The epistles of Paul are always in the order that we have them in our Bible today.” Now that just shook me up. You know I’m always lifting Paul up somewhat over the rest of the writers, because I feel he is next to Christ Himself, as being the greatest human being that ever walked this planet. And I just think that this puts the frosting on the cake.
Whereas all these other New Testament books may be jumbled up in various places, Paul’s epistles are always in this order, and the amazing thing is, this is not the order in which they were written. In other words Romans was not the first letter that Paul wrote, but rather the Thessalonians were. There were several other letters that were written before Romans, so the order we have them in the New Testament is not the chronological order that they were written, but rather as the Holy Spirit saw fit to put them into our New Testament for their doctrinal sequence, and this is what should be studied first. Look at II Timothy again:
II Timothy 3:16
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,…”
So I think that Romans is indeed the Book that is profitable for doctrine, and the next word is profitable for “reproof” which Corinthians certainly is, and then the next word is profitable for “correction,” and that would apply to the Book of Galatians. And so it’s so beautifully laid out. For as long as I’ve been teaching I’ve always tried to help people understand that this Book is not just a bunch of Jewish myths, this is not just a bunch of stories that were concocted around a camp fire, but this book has been intrinsically put together by the work of the Holy Spirit. And so it is indeed right that we study Romans, the Book of doctrines. Now I’m not going to teach these other letters of Paul verse by verse as I did Romans. But nevertheless we’re going to look at them in the order that they are now in our New Testament and which we feel should be read in our study. So let’s look at the Corinthian letters as“reproofs.” Why a Book of reproofs? First turn to Chapters 7 and 8 of I Corinthians, and we’ll be looking at verse 1 of each chapter. This will give us the reason for Paul writing the Corinthian letters. Most people don’t catch what is being said.
I Corinthians 7:1
“Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me:…” What do you suppose they wrote? Questions. They had questions about things in the Corinthian Church, things they didn’t know how to handle. They wrote to Paul delineating these questions, which gave rise to this epistle. Another question they must have had comes up in Chapter 8 verse 1 (and here’s the other dilemma).
I Corinthians 8:1
“Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge….”
So what do you suppose they had also asked? What are we supposed to do with this meat that has been offered to idols? Can we eat it, or can’t we? And so that, too, prompted some of the things that will be covered in this letter to the Corinthian Church. Now again for sake of introduction – and you’ve heard me say it before – of all the churches that Paul and his helpers, Barnabas, Silas, and whoever, dealt with, none were as carnal and filled with problems as this Corinthian Church. Never lose sight of that because that makes such an impact on some of the things that Paul brings out in both Books of Corinthians. They were a Church that was beset with all kinds of problems. And that was why they had sent the letter asking Paul for help on these matters. They were a Church as we’ll see later in Chapter 5 that was beset with gross immorality. And again as you read the Corinthian letters always think: what was the setting? What were the circumstances?
Corinth was probably the most the most immoral, wicked, corrupt city in the Roman empire. Corinth was a double seaport, and if you have a map in the back of your Bible just look where Corinth is. It jutted out into the Mediterranean Sea, and so it was really two seaports. The one to the East that took care of the Eastern Mediterranean trade, and the Western side took care of the trade to Rome, and Spain, and the other end of the Mediterranean. Now you can just about imagine that a city for that day and time it was rather large, but certainly not what we call a huge city today, but nevertheless the city’s population was probably thirty to forty thousand. But it was a city that was just rampant with all of it’s commerce, and sailors from all parts of the world, but it was also rampant with pagan worship. There was a great temple dedicated to one of the Greek goddesses that sat above a promenade above the city of Corinth. And at the very height of Corinth this temple up on the hill to which they worshipped the Athenian goddess, had thousands of prostitutes who were operating as the goddesses of the temple. You have to realize that their whole society was programmed to this, and so it was just part and parcel of their religion to be involved in immoral practice with the prostitutes of the city.
And so into the very midst of the gross immorality, and this great activity of commerce and trade, comes this one lone man. And every time I think back over Paul’s travels and his journeys, and all of his problems, I am amazed that Christianity ever survived. And I have to sit back and wonder why God didn’t put the Gospel (Ref. I Corinthians 15:1-4) in the hands of angels, or at least in the hands of several hundred people. Why depend almost primarily on one man? It’s an amazing feat that physically he was downtrodden, beaten, he had physical problems, he was not a specimen of health, and yet in spite of all these things, the man persevered. He established churches every place he went, which brings us to Christianity as we know it today. So I think that’s enough of an introduction to the city of Corinth, and the Books of Corinthians. So now here comes Paul to that wicked city of Corinth with the Gospel of the Grace of God. You see, anything but Grace would have never succeeded, but it was only by Grace that God began to save these wicked Corinthians, but remember the spiritual life is a parallel with the physical. You do not get born into the family of God a full mature spiritual person. We all come into a salvation experience as “babes in Christ.”
I remember years and years ago reading about an evangelist (back when people traveled by train) who, when he would come into a city, could tell what houses had babies in them. Well how do you suppose he could tell? By the diapers hanging on the clothes line. There were no washers and dryers in those days, any more than there was air travel. Well it’s the same way with the spiritual. We all had to begin as babes in Christ, and, consequently, there are going to be failures. We know that no infant comes into this world trained to go to the bathroom, and it’s also the same with infant believers. We can’t expect them to all of a sudden be mature, and to have the same spiritual discoveries that we have had as “older” Christians.
So as you study Corinthians keep this in mind that these were folks saved out of abject paganism, idolatry and immorality, and there is going to be a time of nourishing, and growth. But only by the Grace of God. Now here’s the point I want to make: every last person that’s been saved by the Grace of God, at Salvation, experiences all of God’s Grace the moment they believed. But we have a long way to go in our growth, so what do we do? Peter puts it so applicably in his little epistle, “But grow where? In Grace?” No, we don’t grow into Grace. You don’t just begin to grow and finally appropriate the Grace of God. No, all of God’s Grace has been poured out on us the moment we believe, and from that position “In Grace we grow, and we grow, if we do as God intends.” But always remember that Grace is not Law, and so, since we’re under Grace and not under Law, nothing is forced upon us. That’s the beauty of Grace. Remember every individual is left with that free choice. There has never been the kind of freedom exercised as when you become a believer. That’s when you understand true freedom, and that, of course, is what Paul is constantly saying, “Be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage, don’t come under the heavy yoke of legalism, you’ve been set free from all that.” But as I’ve also said many times, “Grace is not license.” We are not given the freedom to live as we please simply because God has saved us by His Grace.
I Corinthians 1:1a
“Paul, called to be an apostle…”
That’s almost identical to the opening of his other letters. In other words the first thing that Paul had to establish to whomever he wrote was the authority that was connected to his apostleship. Soon we’re going to see that one of the big problems the Corinthians had was division because some said they followed Apollos, some followed what Peter said, and others were followers of Paul. And there were some (like what we hear so often today) saying, “Well I don’t care what Paul says, I’m going to do what Jesus said.” Well Paul was up against the same thing, but he had to establish the fact that now for believers in this age of Grace, he is the authority through whom God is speaking to the whole human race. So Paul is always defending that apostleship. And especially to the Jewish people because they thought he was a renegade to Judaism, he had turned on his background. And on top of that since he hadn’t had any experience with Jesus in His earthly ministry or with the Twelve disciples, then he must be an impostor. So always appreciate the fact that Paul never had any contact with the earthly ministry of Christ or His disciples, and, consequently, Paul receives all his revelations from the ascended Lord after the finished work of the Cross. That is what gives him his power.
I Corinthians 1:1
“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,”
Sosthenes was the fellow that was co-labouring with Paul so he puts his name in here as well. I stress that whatever portion of Scripture that you read, always determine to whom was it addressed? That doesn’t mean that if it was addressed to you then you can throw it aside, but it does have an impact on what it is saying, and how it is being said, because of to whom it is said. Here you see Paul is not writing to the Nation of Israel, as Isaiah or Daniel would, or the other Old Testament writers, or even as the Twelve as they were ministering to the Nation of Israel. But now Paul is addressing this epistle to the assembly. And I like the word assembly better than Church, because that’s what the Greek word `ecclesia’ really means – “a called out assembly.” The word `church’ is more or less a coined term I think, and is not really in the original Greek. So `assembly’ is far more explanatory as he says:
I Corinthians 1:2
“Unto the church of God which is a Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:”
So, in verse 2 he gives the graphic description of every believer. Everyone at Corinth, everyone in area around Corinth, but also right on down to us at this day and time. It is still the description of the overall assembly of believers who are called, saints, and who call upon the name of Jesus Christ. Now verse 3:
I Corinthians 1:3,4
“Grace be unto you (I think that must have been one of Paul’s favorite words. He’s always referring to the Grace of God), and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;”
And again, as I’ve emphasized for all the years we’ve been on television, very few Church people, professing Christians, comprehend the Grace of God. Most are under the impression that God is still demanding, that God is just up there being the rough Law-giver, and if we don’t succumb to His commands and His laws, then we’re in trouble. Well if that were the case, then that wouldn’t be Grace. The vilest sinner is still the object of God’s love and attention because of His Grace.
I Corinthians 1:4-6
“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:”
What kind of a congregation do we have here? A congregation of carnal people. These people are not spiritual giants, and we’re going to see that a little later in the Book. Now what does it mean to be a carnal Christian? Well, it’s the very opposite of a mature spiritual Christian. So here Paul has these people recently converted out of paganism, still having their hang-ups with their immoral practices (they didn’t think there was anything wrong with them because, after all, their families and their generations before them had been doing them). And so it was very hard to break from the past, but in spite of all their hang-ups and problems, where are these believers? In Grace. Now verse 7:
I Corinthians 1:7a
“So that ye come behind in no gift;”
In other words, all the gifts God was ready to give were just as available for these carnal Corinthians as for the more spiritual Philippians. Now that’s why the little letter to Philippi doesn’t have all the corrections and reproofs that Corinthians and Galatians have. They were the epitome, the joy of the Apostle Paul. And I think even the Thessalonians were that kind of people. But in Corinth, though beset with all these problems and hang-ups, God was still ready to pour out what was available to all spiritual types of people. Now in spite of all their carnality, and moral weaknesses, what does Paul say they’re waiting for?
I Corinthians 1:7b
“…waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:”
Now what does that tell you? That in spite of their weaknesses, and failures, and many time their gross sin, was the Lord going to forget about Corinth if He came? No. Now the next verse throws a curve at a lot of people. And this is for some a hard pill to swallow, but look what it says. It’s hard for me to comprehend it, but I have to come back and say, listen, this is what God’s Word says. Don’t forget this setting, we’ve got this carnal city with immoral practices still rampant in the Church, so let’s look at verse 8, and this is speaking of the Rapture of course.
I Corinthians 1:8
“Who shall also confirm (to be locked in) you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
To be blameless is beyond my comprehension. Here the Apostle Paul, by inspiration, is telling these carnal Corinthian believers that if The Lord should suddenly come, so far as God was concerned, they would be blameless. On what basis could God do that? The finished work of the Cross, the shed Blood of Christ. I always have to go back to Revelation Chapter 12 when these things come to mind. And I imagine old Satan was working double-time so far as the Corinthians were concerned. Revelation Chapter 12 again is a portion of Scripture that is hard for many to swallow, but it’s The Word of God, and we’re not going to walk around it or compromise it. And we notice that at the mid-point of the Tribulation there’s going to be a great war in Heaven. Satan and his angels are going to be fighting against Michael and the other angels. Finally, Satan and his angels are defeated and cast out:
“And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: (there are only 3 1/2 years left before Christ returns to set up His Kingdom when this takes place) for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.”
So what’s the Devil doing now? He is accusing them before God every time a believer sins. But what’s the comfort we can come back with? We find the answer to that in I John (but remember that this isn’t license to go ahead and do these things just because I know I have an Advocate). Old Satan is accusing us, and I’m sure he had a heyday with the Corinthian believers, but even Corinth had this as their backdrop.
I John 2:1
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” Now that’s our comfort, we have an Advocate Who proclaims that our sins our under the Blood.