Archive for the ‘Corinth’ Tag

Agreeing   Leave a comment

This is a series on 1Corinthians, which has been the subject of personal Bible study around our house of late because of a friend who has a perverted view of Christianity.

Image result for image of corinthian divisionsThe first nine verses of 1 Corinthians 1 introduced Paul’s letter. Here is our treatment of that and here is a little bit of the history of Corinth.

Paul wrote from Ephesus to the believers at Corinth, but also to believers everywhere and at all time. He thanked God for the salvation of the Christians at Corinth before he launched into correcting their errors. Their problem was not that they did not know God, but that they were not listening to God’s direction and choosing to allow their culture to affect their beliefs rather than the other way around.

The lessons Paul had for the saints of his day are applicable to our own lives in the 21 century. The conflicts which existed then are still very much with us today. We have conflict and strife in the churches, our homes, and at work. The gospel strikes at the heart of interpersonal conflicts, then and now.

A Biblical Challenge Regarding Corinthian Conflicts
(1:10-12)

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose. For members of Chloe’s household have made it clear to me, my brothers and sisters, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each of you is saying, “I am with Paul,” or “I am with Apollos,” or “I am with Cephas,” or “I am with Christ.”

Paul did not begin his correction of the Corinthian church with the problem of divisions but with a positive exhortation to maintain Christian unity. Paul’s call to unity in verse 10 sets the standard. Paul was not exhorting the saints to “all agree” on every subject. Remember, this letter was not written in English. This is a translation of ancient Greek. English does not have the same nuance as Paul’s language, so yes, you do need to dig into the language to understand what Paul meant. When we get to Chapters 8-10, which deal with matters of conscience, Paul clearly expected Christians to disagree on matters of conscience. He did not expect Christians to be in total agreement because our gifts influence our perspective and our viewpoint.

The textual critics claim the literal reading of this verse is “to speak the same thing.” This is quite different from agreeing on everything. When Christians have different convictions, they are not to publicly dispute with one another over them (Romans 14:1). When disagreements on non-fundamental areas of Christian doctrine arise, we are not supposed to air those disagreements before non-Christians and we really ought to be more circumspect about arguing over non-fundamental areas of doctrine.

Although the Greek word for ‘divisions’ (schismata) is that from which we derive the English word ‘schism,’ it does not in fact mean that, at least not in the sense of a ‘party’ or ‘faction.’ The word properly means ‘tear/rent’ (cf. Mark 2:21) or the ‘plowing’ of a field. The best illustration of the present usage is found in the Gospel of John (7:40-43; 9:16; 10:19-21), where various groups are said to have divided opinions about Jesus, meaning they were arguing with one another as to his significance. Thus Paul does not refer to distinctly formed groups of ‘parties’ here, but to divided opinions over their various leaders, which according to v. 11 and 3:3 have developed into jealousy and quarrels. Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary, F. F. Bruce, General Editor, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987 [reprint, 1993]), p. 54.

Paul also wrote that the Christians in Corinth were to be made complete “in the same mind” and “in the same judgment.” For Paul, maturity was not just an individual matter but a corporate growth. Maturity is the process of the mending relationships that takes place through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Maturity and unity are inseparable. Those who are truly growing in Christ are those who are both growing up and growing together:

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Having the “same mind” refers to the more general “disposition” or “way of thinking” of the Christian. To have “the same mind” is to have the same outlook or perspective. To have “the same judgment” is to agree as to a particular decision, to agree on a particular issue.

There are examples in other parts of the Bible. When the apostles and the rest of the 120 saints gathered in the upper room (Acts 1:12-14), they were all like-minded. They were one in spirit and in focus. And when they (rightly or wrongly) selected Matthias as the replacement for Judas, they came to the “same judgment.” They reached a particular decision with unity. The same kind of decision-making process can be seen in Acts 6:1-6 and 15:1-35. It wasn’t that they didn’t have disagreements that required debate, but that they came to an agreement that was acceptable to the whole and then stopped arguing about it.

If we were speaking in musical terms, Paul was not calling for the church to sing in unison—everyone singing the same note at the same time. Instead, he urged the entire church to sing in harmony. In a full voice choir, the many voices might sing different notes or the same notes in different keys and sometimes the bass or soprano section might sing something that sounds quite different from what the rest of the choir is singing. Yet all work to create a harmonious whole, a song that is beautiful. This is what Christian unity is about, being in harmony with one another even as we sometimes emphasize different parts of scripture or even do not wholly agree on secondary matters. Unfortunately, the Corinthian saints were not living up to the standard Paul set for them. There were quarrels and divisions in the church and Chloe’s people had told him of it. By the way, you might notice that Chloe’s people did not ignore what was going on and say “It’s none of our business”. They reported their concerns to Paul.

Paul wasn’t just concerned that the Corinthians were divided on which human to follow. There was also a group that were very proud of following Christ. Why would that be an issue? Because those who were “of Christ” did not need Paul, Apollos, or Cephas. They didn’t need an apostle. Today, some would insist they don’t even need the Bible. They can discern Christ’s mind by themselves without any outside help from others. These autonomous folks are the most frightening group of all because anyone seeking to correct them is considered “infidel”. These folks were saying, in essence, that we can’t know the mind of Christ if we don’t agree with those who believe themselves to have special insight from Christ. Paul agreed that these folks were the ones who most needed correction.

Paul’s Correction for Corinthian Conflicts
(1:13-17)

Paul’s rebuke and rebuttal to the Corinthian sin begins at verse 13 of chapter 1 and continues on through chapter 4, but in this lesson, we’re going to focus on just four verses of Chapter 1:

Is Christ divided? Paul wasn’t crucified for you, was he? Or were you in fact baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name! (I also baptized the household of Stephanus. Otherwise, I do not remember whether I baptized anyone else.For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – and not with clever speech, so that the cross of Christ would not become useless.

Related imagePaul told the Corinthians, and by extension, Christians living in the 21st century, that there is no middle ground. You either are a follower of Christ or of men.

Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Paul went right to the core question:

Salvation is the work of Christ or it is a work of men. It cannot be both. All four of the groups mentioned by Paul in verse 12 were man-centered. The fourth group was a little more subtle about it, but all of these individuals took pride in themselves, based upon their perceived allegiance. Paul made a clear and unmistakable point:

Our salvation is totally about Christ’s work.

Man-centered believers need to be reminded of the gospel and recall that their salvation is Christ-centered. Christ has not been divided, so how can His body, the church, be divided? It was not Paul, Apollos, or Cephas, or any other mere human who died on the cross of Calvary. It was Christ Whose shed blood cleansed us from all sin.

Baptism is merely a symbol testifying to this fact. All of the Corinthian saints were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. They were not baptized in the name of any man. Salvation is through Christ alone, and not through mere people, even if they were apostles.

I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, that no man should say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void.

Baptism is a very prominent theme in these verses. Paul mentioned it six times. Some took pride in the person who baptized them, hinting that they looked down on others who were not baptized by as great a celebrity as their baptizer. Paul let the air out of their name-dropping balloons by telling them that baptism is not a celebrity affair. In fact, compared to preaching of the gospel, baptizing was a low priority for him. Do they take pride in the one who baptized them? Paul was glad he had not made baptizing a priority, because that meant they couldn’t claim his special seal of approval.

Paul viewed preaching the gospel as a much higher priority than baptizing new converts. Paul saw salvation as something which occurs independently of baptism. Baptism is important in that it is the believer’s public identification with Jesus Christ, but it is not the means of one’s salvation. It’s merely the outward manifestation of salvation. Paul rejected the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. People are saved by believing the gospel, and it was Paul’s priority to preach it. Baptism took second place to preaching in Paul’s life and ministry.

Jesus applied the same priority to proclaiming the gospel over working miracles in Mark 1:29-38.

This is why Brad and I can be involved in ministries like the Community Food Bank, the Rescue Mission and Prison Fellowship. There are denominational and theological differences among the groups that work in these interdominational groups, but we make it clear that proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ is our primary goal in these ministries. Secondary practices and doctrines, while important, can prevent us from working together in unity, so we set those aside for the higher priority.

Corinth in History   Leave a comment

Image result for image of corinthSecular history verifies and clarifies the impression of the city of Corinth offered by Luke (Acts) and Paul (1 and 2 Corinthians). Politically, Corinth was the capital city of the Roman province of Achaia, a territory including nearly all of Greece, which is why Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, was in Corinth and heard the charge against Paul. Geographically, Corinth was so strategically located its prosperity was almost assured. It was situated on a plateau overlooking the Isthmus of Corinth, two miles from the Gulf. Nearby Acrocorinth, a 1900-foot mountain, acted as a citadel for the city, a fortress so secure it was never taken by force until the invention of gunpowder. It contained an inexhaustible water supply in the fountain of Peirene. A temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, sat on the summit of Acrocorinth. At the base of the citadel stood the temple of Melicertes, the patron of seafarers.

Located on an isthmus, Corinth became a crossroads for both land and sea trade. Located between two large bodies of water and two land areas, Corinth was virtually surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. Were it not for the isthmus on which Corinth was founded, the southern part of Greece would be an island in the Mediterranean Sea. Goods exchanged between the north and south would normally be shipped by land through Corinth.

Much of the sea trade of the Mediterranean from east to west also passed through Corinth. To the west of Corinth was the port city of Lechaeum on the Gulf of Corinth. On her east was the port of Cenchrae on the Saronic Gulf. These acted as ports of call for ships. Travel across the isthmus and through Corinth was generally considered safer than the 200-mile voyage around Cape Malea, the most dangerous cape in the Mediterranean.

To avoid the distance and danger of the journey around the Cape of Malea (now called Cape Matapan), goods would be unloaded at one port, transported across the four-mile strip of land (through Corinth), and reloaded on the other side. Smaller ships were actually transported with their cargo over the isthmus by means of rollers. Consequently, the isthmus was named the Diolkos, “the place of dragging across.” Nero had planned a canal to join the Aegean and Ionian seas, and he even began construction in A.D. 66. The three and one-half mile canal was finished in 1893.

So Corinth became a great commercial center. Luxuries from all over the world were available and so were the vices of the world. These evils did not all have to be imported, however. The temple of Aphrodite had 1,000 cult prostitutes who sold themselves in the name of religion. The Greeks of the day used the verb “corinthianize” to describe an act of immorality. “Corinthian girl” was a synonym for prostitute.

Estimates of the population of Corinth range from 100,000 to 600,000 and it was a very diverse city with an ancient history and a vibrant present. The site had been inhabited since the 4th millennium BC. Alexander made Corinth the center of a new Hellenic League as he prepared for war with Persia. In 146 B.C., the city was destroyed by Roman soldiers because it led the Greek resistance to Roman rule. All the males of the city were exterminated, and the women and children were sold as slaves. The city was rebuilt by Julius Caesar 100 years later, and eventually became the capital of the province of Achaia. Many of those who settled in Corinth were not Greeks. Roman soldiers retired there after receiving their freedom and Roman citizenship in addition to grants of land. A variety of nationalities settled in Corinth, enticed by the prospects of economic prosperity. A good number of the immigrants were Jews.

… this mongrel and heterogeneous population of Greek adventurers and Roman bourgeois, with a tainting infusion of Phoenicians; this mass of Jews, ex-soldiers, philosophers, merchants, sailors, freedmen, slaves, trades-people, hucksters and agents of every form of vice … without aristocracy, without traditions and without well-established citizens. William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), p. 2.

Posted January 29, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Church at Corinth   Leave a comment

Yeah, we came back to it!

Why?

Because Corinth was a troubled church that used its God-given blessings for the wrong reasons and therefore needed discipline. Paul’s two (actually three)  letters to this church deal with many issues that exist in the churches today if we will just look beyond the 2000-year-old trappings and see that it is essentially the same.

Chapter 4 of 1 Corinthians talks about a moral cancer that was eating away at the church there. A brother in Christ was fornicating with his father’s wife and even the community around the church was shocked. The church itself was proud of being so open minded and accepting of human foibles.

Yeah — just like welcoming and affirming churches today, but I’ve already argued that many churches that are not welcoming and affirming have as deep an issue with other varieties of sexual sin and with other kinds of less scandalous sin.

I am not picking and choosing sins here. We need to get over the idea that God accepts some sins as less and others are greater. He doesn’t. We will answer for all of them.

Whatever the Corinthian Christians privately thought of their church member’s behavior, they were publicly accepting of it and proud of their affirming attitude. Paul dealt with both their attitude and the sexual sin harshly. Asserting his apostolic authority, he rendered judgment on the matter. Unless the church at Corinth wanted him to come there and discipline the church as a whole, they must discipline the individual sinner. The brother in Christ was guilty of adultery. Therefore, by the authority of Christ (Matthew 18:20) the church was to assemble and remedy the problem.

It’s important to note that the woman is never mentioned for church discipline. I think we can presume that she was not a Christian and so was not subject to church judgment or discipline. The offending brother in Christ, however, was to be “delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.”

What does that phrase mean?

  1. It is not capital punishment for church heretics, as practiced by historic Catholicism and early Protestantism. The early Christian church did not practice such. There’s no historical evidence that they did.
  2. It was not physical death, as many commentators allege. The historical evidence again says not.
  3. It was designed to “save” the spirit of the person (v. 5b), (which necessitates a living person, by the way).
  4. The procedure was the equivalent of “putting away the wicked” person, and withdrawing one’s fellowship from the individual (1 Corinthians 4:9-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6).
  5. The ultimate goal was that the fornicator might “destroy” his ungodly “fleshly” urge, and reclaim a life of purity. See also 1 Timothy 1:20.

Paul was very insistent upon the actions of the church in this regard. The church must desist in its pride and “glorying” (v. 2) and get serious about morality before the entire congregation became infected, just as leaven permeates dough. In the Old Testament, Passover required the purging of all leaven from the entire house. Christ is our passover, Christians, and we must rid ourselves of malice and wickedness, and pursue the unleavened bread (figuratively speaking) of sincerity and truth.

Paul had written previously to the church at Corinth. Although the letter was not preserved, Paul refers to it. He had admonished the Corinthian Christians to “have no company with fornicators.” He specifically mentions he had not meant to include pagan fornicators as Christians cannot avoid all associations with the world. While we are to have no fellowship with the world’s sinful practices (Ephesians 5:11; 1 Peter 4:4), we are not to isolate ourselves as hermits or monks. Instead, our “light” and “salt” must be allowed to influence others (Matthew 5:13-16).

Paul was discussing renegade church members and here the matter was altogether different. After formal disciplinary action, the faithful Christian is “not to keep company” with:

  • fornicators (those engaged in illicit sexual intercourse),
  • the covetous (brothers obsessed with materialism, either to obtain or retain),
  • idolaters (those who place “things” or “persons” above God),
  • revilers (verbal abusers),
  • drunkards (people who become intoxicated on alcohol or, I suspect, recreational drugs), and
  • extortioners (those who take from others by force or inordinate pressure).

These are specific actions worthy of radical “surgery” (verses 9-11). While we are not licensed to discipline the world (God will handle that), Christians have the moral responsibility to check outrageous sinfulness in the church (verses 12-13a). The unrepentant sinning Christian is to be expelled from church fellowship (v. 13b). Looking at that list, it appears there may be a lot of church members who are subject to church discipline.

In his second letter to the Corinthian church (written perhaps 6 months to a year after the first letter), Paul appears to discuss the disciplinary case addressed in 1 Corinthians 5 (refer to  2 Corinthians 2:5-11). His comments reveal that the greater part of the church had yielded to his previous instruction, and the fornicating brother had been disfellowshipped. The withdrawal had been effective in that the rogue brother had abandoned his sinful activity. From Paul’s statement in verse 6 we know:

  1. The punishment of fellowship withdrawal was inflicted.
  2. While some (a minority) refused to honor it, the majority did.
  3. After a forceful and sustained isolation of the offender, sufficient to produce a convincing result, the apostle urges the Corinthian saints to “forgive” and “comfort” the penitent brother, that sorrow over his sin might not “swallow him up” in grief, and prevent his continued fidelity.

Sustained and stubborn rebellion generally cannot be cured quickly. In a disciplinary action the church must be “tough,” and let the offender feel the full measure of the consequence of his or her sin. When it becomes apparent that the offender truly has changed, in contrast to a quick, “I’m sorry” that hasn’t been evidenced by fruit (Matthew 3:7; Jonah 3:10), he or she should be warmly embraced and encouraged in faithfulness.

There are very few churches that actually do this anymore. In fact, I can only think of the Amish and the Mennonites as practicing this form of discipline in an ordered and recognized way. Yes, they have some who leave and never return, but they also have a great many who return, repentant. An older lady in our church who was raised a Mennonite tells me that the beauty of this system is that when you repent, the church never brings it up again.

And, yeah, we’re going to discuss it.

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