Bible Study

Avoid Sin for Their Sake

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we’ll be looking at the tenth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. In this chapter, Paul reveals the true reasons why we continue to avoid sin, though we are saved.

Reading: I Corinthians 10

Before we begin this reading, it’s useful to know a bit about the history of Israel, particularly that laid out in the book of Exodus. Many of the references made here are only truly significant in that context.

Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

When the children of Israel were led out of Egypt, they all passed through the Red Sea together, and they were all guided by the Lord, who appeared as a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.

And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

In this shared experience, they were all baptised in the same faith and bound to the larger family of Israel.

And did all eat the same spiritual meat;

All those who wandered in the desert were fed of manna and quail.

And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

All those who were there drank of the water which was brought from the rock which Moses struck. Here we begin to understand the metaphor – all of us are baptised into the same gospel, partakers of the same scripture, and recipients of the living water which will not run dry (that is, Christ).

But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

Though they had seen all these miracles, and they were all children of Israel, still there was sin and human weakness. Man will not be truly free of these curses until the final day, when we are given perfect form and brought to be with God forever.

Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

We know that there were idols made in the desert. Many grumbled about Moses’s leadership, despite the signs that were given to support him. These issues are listed to remind us of our plight – we may be redeemed, but we are not yet perfected.

Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

When the golden calf was built in the desert, Moses punished the people by forcing them to drink water tainted with ground gold. When they committed great fornication, the very earth devoured those sinners. This is the example we have – sin and be punished.

Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.

Many lost faith, and were punished for their sinful ways by poisonous serpents. In this case, we know that the Lord provided a way of salvation – if you looked upon the staff which Moses carried, you would live, though you would still suffer the pain.

10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

Even Miriam, Moses’s sister, began to grumble about him. The Lord punished them all mightily, though at Moses’s urging he ultimately restored Miriam.

11 Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

Guard yourself against sin and complacency. When you think yourself holy, you are likely to give in to a number of temptations whose punishments are grave.

13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

Remember that the Lord was compassionate to the children of Israel. When they complained about the manna, he gave them quail (after punishing their grumbling). When they built the idol, they were not immediately struck down, but they were disciplined. When they grumbled, they were punished by snakes, but still there was a method of salvation.

So it is today. God does not place temptations in our path, but he allows us to be tempted. Even so, he always gives us a way to resist and/or be redeemed when we fail.

14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.

15 I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.

These are teachings which make sense to the wise, who are able to see the patterns and embrace truth. Paul gives us reasons, so that we may judge the truth of his words and find them good.

16 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?

“Communion” literally refers to the establishment and enjoyment of community. We are bound together in our communion of the body and the blood, which we share. This is why many denominations have given communion often – it both binds us together and celebrates our union with Christ.

17 For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

18 Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?

All those who eat of the food of the altar (that is, the priests) are bound in communion with God under the old covenant. We are bound with Christ in the new covenant which he has given to us.

19 What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?

20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.

While we are bound with each other in the communion of Christ, we may yet be bound with others under their deities. We know that the devils which the others worship are powerless against the Lord whom we serve, but it is still best to be with our own than with others.

21 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.

22 Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?

Recall that ours is a jealous God, who seeks our eternal and complete worship and loyalty. It is best that we act in accordance with this truth.

23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

Though all of our sins are covered under the blood of Christ, not all things are good for us to do. It is of little value for us to make greater company with pagans and atheists than with those who belong to Christ – it has been said that we are the sum of the five closest people to us.

In the same way, we should seek out that which is good and right and true. This preserves us against all else, for we are steeped in that which is right and good and useful for us.

24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.

Care more for others than for yourself. This principle edifies the whole community of believers.

25 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:

Take what you get. Better is stale bread from a fellow believer than the richest cuisine from fools and liars.

26 For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.

All things are made by our Lord, and all things belong to Him. He is sovereign over all things in this world, visible and invisible.

27 If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.

If you know that you commune with idolaters, you may eat, but ask not whether the food is consecrated to a false deity. Call it “plausible deniability”, if you wish.

28 But if any man say unto you, this is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof:

Honor God above all things. This includes food, drink, and all other things. It’s also best not to buy idols and fortune trinkets, for you know the origins thereof.

29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?

All this is less for our sake (because we know that there is no true danger to us from devils and idols) than it is for others. They will see your loyalty and earnestness, and wonder.

30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?

It’s a pity that we must be judged so, but it is true. We are ambassadors of our Lord, so we must act in ways that are not pleasant for His sake. Let them know how we love and serve our God, and wonder.

31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

This is a key verse that all should know and meditate upon.

32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:

33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

We are saved, but many are still not. We are redeemed, but many are still slaves to sin. We live, yet many are still dead.

Let us act in such a way that they wonder about the God we serve. Let them know that we worship a God who Lives and reigns. In this way, we profit others over ourselves, and many more may be granted the Glory.

 Let us Pray

Sovereign and Righteous is the Lord who reigns in the heavens. His might covers all the earth, and even the demons fear his name. Praise be to the Great God, who Lives.

Mighty Father, we know that we are to be ambassadors for you. Though we should do all things in accordance with your will, and we should do all things for your glory, we are yet trapped in a body of sin. Grant us the strength to overcome our weaknesses; show us the way out of all temptations and guide us down that path.

You are the God who is With Us. Jesus is the Prince of Peace and the King of Kings, so we know that we serve one with dominion over all things. Help us to continue in this faith which you have granted to us.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,

Amen

 

May the Lord go before you to lead you,

Behind you to encourage you,

Beside you to befriend you,

Beneath you to uphold you,

Above you to protect you,

And within you to inspire you.

Go in the peace and power of the Almighty God. Amen.

How the Apostles Live

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we’ll be looking at the ninth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth. In this chapter, Paul lays out the case for his Apostleship and the importance of self-sacrifice in our daily ministry.

Reading: I Corinthians 9

Am I am not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?

This is an interesting question which the scholars of the Church have considered for years: is Paul an apostle? Generally, we think of the Apostles as those who were a) called for a specific purpose of leadership and evangelism by Christ Himself, and b) actually met Christ.

Paul met Jesus at least once on the road to Damascus, when he was still the zealous Pharisee known as Saul, and he was a dedicated evangelist and leader of the early Church. Based on verses like this and the histories recorded in Acts, we think of Paul as the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Here, Paul reminds the church of Corinth about his status, so that they may not question by whose authority he preaches.

2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.

What is the greatest mark of the Apostles? Surely it is the brethren to whom the brought the Gospel and who remained steadfast in the Faith.

3 Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,

4 Have we not power to eat and to drink?

The Apostles broke bread with the brethren, and shared with them the story of the “Last Supper” (where our Lord Jesus Christ shared the cup of the New Testament with the Apostles).

5 Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

As Peter was an authority of the early Church (though not the Pope, as the Catholics preach), so was Paul.

6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?

More than half of the book of Acts records the miracles which Paul was given to work.

7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

In summary, Paul is reminding the Church at Corinth of how he “sowed churches” but did not profit from them nor demand anything of them but obedience to Christ.

8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?

Paul calls to the Scriptures to verify that what he preaches is not merely his teaching, but matches what is revealed in the Scriptures. It is not merely Paul who preaches, but the Word of God.

9 For it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?

10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.

While the oxen pull the plow or tread out the corn (that is, while work is being done), they will tire quickly if they are unable to feed or rest. In the same way, while Paul and the Apostles spread the Gospel and instruct the brethren, they must be able to sustain their lives.

11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

Is Paul demanding all the wealth of the Church? God forbid! Instead, he asks that they support their brethren while they toil in service of our Lord.

This is the basis by which we ask for donations for ministry, and the reason why it is incumbent on us to provide for our toiling brethren.

12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.

While the Apostles surely would merit great generosity (as they shared with those yet unbelieving the Gospel of Life), they do not demand great wealth for their “services”. This puts them in stark contrast to the likes of Joyce Meyer, the Hillsong church, and their ilk, who demand heavy payment and thus both restrict their messages and undermine the public impression of the Church.

13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?

14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

Since time immemorial, priests have partaken of the offerings. Much of the Levitical law describes the offerings that will be offered to God, and the portions which the priests would be permitted to take. In this way, their focus could remain on things of God.

15 But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.

16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!

If it were not for the Gospel, Paul would have nothing to show for his work. Indeed, the greatest value he received during his time as Apostle was fellowship with the expanding Church.

17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.

18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

The Good News that we have in Jesus Christ is for all men, regardless of wealth or status (for God is no respecter of persons). In that spirit, Paul preached the word freely and without expectation of any worldly gains. This is consistent with Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, which called for offerings to be given in secret and prayers to be offered humbly.

19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.

The Gospel grants us great freedom, for we need no longer worry about the Law which condemns our sins nor fear death and the world to come. Even so, Paul humbled himself as Christ humbled himself – to willingly become a servant.

20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;

He approaches the Jews as a Jew, in full willing submission to the Law which no longer binds him. This allows him to serve them more readily, that they might accept him and receive the teachings that he brings.

21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.

When he passes among the Gentiles, he does not keep Kosher, because they do not keep Kosher. He approaches them as a fellow Gentile, that he might be accepted and preach to them the good news of Christ.

22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

This is one of my favorite verses.

What’s the value of approaching atheists as though they both believed the Scriptures and understood the truths contained therein? Or what is the value of approaching Muslims with a BLT and a dog? They will repel you before you are able to share the truth with them.

Instead, approach them based on what they can already understand and receive, so that you might share with them the Truth.

This is one of the big reasons why I have read the Dao De Ching, the Sacred Havamal, and the Annalects of Confucius. If I can speak the Gospel using words and concepts that those around me can understand, then I can show them the greatness of our Lord.

23 And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.

24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

Mediocrity is not for the Church.

25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

People who master the guitar tend to apply great effort and focus toward the task, and as such learn a great deal about obtaining success. The same is true of those who study business, or art, or philosophy.

We obtain the same benefits, but we work to master something greater – an understanding and reliance on the Holy Spirit which is given us by Christ. The Donald Trumps and George Soros-es of the world will eventually die and lose access to what they have built, but we who are in Christ will gain everything. Thus, our determination should be even greater than theirs.

26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Godly living and wisdom is a struggle to obtain and a struggle to live out, but the value is immeasuable.

Let us Pray

I lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He who fed the children of Israel manna and quail in the desert, he who brought forth water from the rock. Great is the Lord who Provides.

Teach us, mighty Lord, how we might be as Paul, “all things to all people”. This teaching can be difficult for us, because we are often taught to act and thing and speak and live a specific way. Make us ready to speak to anyone about the hope that we have in Christ.

Further, Lord, we know that You care for the sparrows of the air and the fish of the sea. They do not wonder where each day’s meal will come from, yet we live with such questions and their associated fears. Make us to understand and embrace the provision that You will provide to us, so that we may live without fear in the love which You have for us.

We ask all these things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, our great high priest who has made intercession between us and You.

Amen

 

Go in God’s peace, brethren, meditating day and night on the Word of Truth which has been revealed to us.

Amen.

Protect the Weaker Brother

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today’s reading is taken from Paul’s first epistle to the Church at Corinth. In this eighth chapter, Paul addresses concerns about food offered up to idols, and how to deal with issues that might concern those struggling to understand the faith which we possess.

Reading: I Corinthians 8

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

How many of us make claim to some form of knowledge, and feel proud of our insight and wisdom? This pride, as with most pride, builds up the ego while providing little of value to others.

Charity – the application of knowledge to help others – serves us all better. Rather than being proud of ourselves and our great intellect, it is better to put that knowledge into use.

And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.

This reflects Socrates’s reflection on his own wisdom – he did not know much, but he was fully aware of what he did not know. According to the Oracle at Delphi, this made him the wisest man in all of Greece. Unfortunately, a cursory reading of Plato’s records suggests that Socrates let this supremacy go to his head at times.

But if any man love God, the same is known of him.

Surely it is better to be known as a God-fearing man, who does good and shuns evil, than a man who knows all things. The second is isolated on his mountain of knowledge, while the first is both admired in this world and the next.

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 but 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.

What is an idol? We know that no spiritual creature can compare to the Lord, and we know also that many idols honor no spirit – they serve only to pacify the need for God in the minds and hearts of those who are yet dead.

Nothing sacrificed in the name of an idol can be tainted, because the idol possesses no power. Further, even if the sacrifice is in honor of a real spirit, that spirit cannot possibly surpass the might and glory of the One God, the Father. And if the sacrifice is in honor of some lord, that lord cannot compare the the Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, we need not consider such things when we receive food, shelter, or services.

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.

Not everyone is prepared to understand and receive that truth. This is particularly true of those young in faith – for they have lived long in the shadow of death, and fear its touch. As they grow, they are brought to the realization that the Life which is in Christ is beyond all powers of death and darkness.

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.

God doesn’t care if you eat food blessed by a Rabbi, a priest, a Cthulhu cultist, or no one. He doesn’t care if you receive charity from a fellow Christian or from a Pagan. His presence nullifies any perceived negative spiritual consequences of such matters.

But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.

It is best that we take consideration for the needs of our weaker brethren, as a big brother watches out for his younger siblings. As much as it depends on us, we should help each other to grow in the faith, not allow each other to wallow in confusion and doubt.

10 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;

11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?

This principle – that of preserving the brother from encountering that which might confuse him – is especially important in matters we have not yet considered.

Many books now exist speaking about guardian angels and communing with such spirits. We know that the angels which the Lord sends among us will be known, and their messages will be received, for that is their purpose among us. Further, when the Lord sends angels to protect us, we know that their tasks will be fulfilled in accordance with His will. The praise belongs to the Lord, with whom we may speak freely and without restraint, but these books teach prayers to the angels. It is imperative that we protect our brethren from such manipulative doctrines, which may well lead them astray.

I own several texts on witchcraft and wicca, and I was for a time a practitioner of such teachings. This was neither good nor correct, and for a long time I had to resist anything that had a connection to such pagan teachings. I was the weaker brother – it was important that I not even pray silently, so that I could be certain that I was not embracing a pagan trance.

And, while on the subject of prayer and meditation, these things are good and beneficial for the stronger brethren among us. However, if the weaker brother connects meditation to practices and teachings such as Hindu Yoga, we should refrain from talking about such things near him, so that he does not fall into bad teachings.

Suffice it to say, this principle applies to any number of things.

12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.

13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

It may seem a bit extreme, but Paul was willing to refrain from anything that might cause internal conflict among his brethren. If they were concerned about meat being blessed by a pagan ritual, Paul would eat no meat (which, I assume, he quite enjoyed otherwise).

Let us Pray

Mighty God, who is like you among the heavens? With a word, you lay the mountains low and cause the seas to stir. And, with a word, you calm the storms and heal the sick. Truly you are the One God, the Father Almighty.

And blessed is the Lord Jesus Christ, who being of one substance with the Father, took up the form of a servant, and humbled himself unto death upon the cross. To our Lord be all praise and glory, for his is the Name above all names.

As you sanctify us by the Word and the Holy Spirit, we come to understand many things that were formerly mysteries to us. However, we know that many of our brothers struggle, as the Spirit has yet to reveal these things to them. Teach us and guide us so that we may not cause any of our brothers to stumble – rather, help us to minister to their needs, so that they too might come to a fuller understanding of the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

We ask these things of you, the Father, by the blood of the Son which has redeemed us, and by the Holy Spirit who abides with us and teaches us all things.

Amen.

 

May the Lord preserve you in the Faith which you have received, and may you dwell in the richness of his presence now and forever.

Amen.

On Sex (Yeah, that should grab their attention)

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today’s reading is from Paul’s first letter to the Church of Corinth. In this seventh chapter, Paul speaks at length about celibacy, marriage, and why some people should do one and some the other.

Reading: I Corinthians 7

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

On its face, this would seem to contradict what God said in Genesis – that woman was made to “complete” man (literally: a helper suitable for man), and that we are to fill the earth and subdue it.

However, it is not necessary that every man should be married to a woman, nor every woman to a man, in order to fulfill these commandments. For some men (in particular), a higher calling supplants the physical urge to be with a woman. Paul appears to have been one of these men.

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

Paul has already laid out the case against fornication. Because we have physical urges (natural, and placed there by God) to lay with members of the opposite sex, it is much preferable for each man to marry one woman, and each woman marry one man.

In this marriage, the man must be good to his wife, and the wife good to her husband. After all, the Scriptures say that “the man cleaves unto his wife, and the two become one flesh.” As it is unnatural to purposely injure our own flesh, so too must we act toward our partners.

The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

In this way, power is distributed between the husband and wife. She belongs to him, and he belongs to her. This is a balance, and beneficial for them and their offspring.

Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

Generally speaking, the reason you got married in the first place was to “become one flesh.” Paul instructs married couples to have regular intercourse, so that (for example) a blue-balled man has no reason to go after some hot young harlot.

But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.

For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.

Paul is drawn to the cause of ministry to such an extent that he is largely without the desire for a wife. This gives him great fulfillment, such that he would wish it on everyone he knows.

But, not everyone is given to such a focused cause. In fact, relatively few are.

I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I.

But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

Here is the heart of the teaching. One does not have to marry if one is not drawn to do so; this leaves them time and resources to pursue other quests. But, if one is drawn in by the desires of the flesh, it is better to marry than fornicate.

10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:

11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

Divorce defeats the purpose of marriage. Two become one flesh, then go on to become one flesh with others. This is, fundamentally, no different from fornication.

However, in the event that the two do become divorced, they defeat the problems associated with fornication by eschewing sexual relationships with any but their original spouse.

It is interesting to note that, even in this time, divorce was apparantly primarily initiated by the woman. We see that the majority of all divorces in the Western world are caused when a “wife departs from her husband” – is this so common and ancient?

12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.

13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.

14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

This teaching is of Paul, and not necessarily of the Lord. However, because of the Spirit that dwells in Paul, it is good to adopt such teachings.

There are thousands of stories of a believing woman bearing witness to the salvation of her husband. The author of the famous hymn, “Amazing Grace”, is one such instance. So, too, have many believing men born witness to the salvation of their wives. God is good, and He has caused many such things to occur.

15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

17 But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

Jesus spoke about being unequally yoked with the nonbeliever. It is a great strain on the Christian mind to know that one’s partner is, at least at present, on a path toward hellfire. We all pray for the salvation of those nonbelievers for whom we care so dearly, but it may not come to pass.

For the Lord alone is sovereign. He draws some sinners to repentance, and He allows some others to continue in their sin. We can do nothing to force salvation on anyone.

This is why Paul teaches the Christians to allow the non-believers to walk away. If God draws them, they will return in His time.

18 Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.

19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.

This is a copy of the teaching handed down by the Apostles in the book of Acts. The Jewish Christians were tormenting the Gentile Christians, claiming that they had to become circumcised in order to truly belong to the Kingdom of God. The Apostles rebuked this teaching, and Paul echoes that rebuke here.

It matters little to the Lord whether we are circumcised or not. The same can be said for marriage, so long as we do not engage in sin.

21 Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.

22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.

23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.

There is no difference in the Lord between slave and free. A Christian man who believes, despite his bondage in this world, is as much a Christian as the freeman.

However, because we have been “bought” by Christ’s death, we are to be His servants. This is a correct response to such generosity.

24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.

25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.

26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.

27 Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

Virginity is good. Lack of virginity is not bad.

Of course, if one engages in fornication in order to lose one’s virginity, that carries the problems of fornication. And if the non-virgin does not engage in sex, that is not a problem, either.

The Bible is largely silent on this issue (except in the case of Mary, because it is a miracle for a virgin to birth a son).

28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

Marriage comes with problems. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a fool or a liar.

29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;

30 And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;

31 And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

Life on this earth is very brief, especially for the Christian in a land that despises Christ. These matters are concerns of the present life, which lasts only a few years, while the Christian is more deeply concerned with the Life to Come. Therefore, Paul has little interest in continuing this discussion much further.

32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.

Anyone who has been around a man before and after marriage can attest to the truth of this statement. A wife restricts the amount of time and resources one can expend in service of the Lord, by virtue of her own needs – this is a natural consequence of such contracts.

34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

Some use this teaching to argue against marriage altogether. However, not everyone is given to the cause of the Lord – if a woman wishes to bear children (and a great majority does), let her marry and bear children with her husband.

35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

36 But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.

Here, Paul is speaking about marrying a woman who has passed the age of her greatest beauty and child-bearing potential. You don’t “take her from the Lord” if you marry her at this age – she’s unlikely to change much over the course of such a marriage.

Personally, I don’t see why a man should do such a thing in the modern age, but that’s me. If a woman expends her youth and child-bearing years working, I see little reason to marry her, because the greatest values of marriage (children) are no longer possible. But I am young, and could yet be wrong.

37 Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.

Here Paul celebrates the will of the celibate-by-choice. There is no great value in involuntary celibacy, where a man desires to be with a woman but is unable to find even a partner for fornication, but the celibate-by-choice has great self-control and will, and is able to do great things with his time and resources.

38 So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.

39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.

40 But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.

This same teaching of celibacy for men is good for women, and for much the same reasons. If a woman is content in abstaining from sex and marriage, it is good to remain in such a state.

Let us Pray

Blessed be the Lord our God, who has done marvelous things. Let us praise him in our words and our works, so that the world might see our good deeds and praise our Father in Heaven.

Father, these teachings are difficult for us. We are a people given to all manner of foolishness – we heed not wisdom, nor understand it when we see it. Give us understanding, Lord, so that we may show our love for you by doing as you direct.

We thank you that you have covered over our multitude of sins. Truly You are the Just and Merciful Lord, who has great compassion for us.

In the name of the Heavenly Father, our Lord Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit who abides with us:

Amen

 

May the Lord bless you and keep you

May he make His face to shine upon you

And be gracious unto you

May the Lord look upon you with favor

And give you his peace.

Amen.

Judgment on the Vilest Fornicators

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we’re going to look at the fifth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. This was a church wracked with sin, and Paul has some very interesting advice for the church. This chapter is one of the sources from which we get the concept of “excommunication”.

Reading: I Corinthians 5

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.

Even at this time, when Corinth was known for its obsession with sex and adultery (“Corinthian” was an insult not unlike “whore” or “slut”), there were things generally considered taboo. These acts were not yet named, because they were considered so vile that names were unnecessary.

Unfortunately, we live in a time where such things are not only named, but celebrated. This is abhorrent.

2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

Look at that – the early church had its share of deviants and “entryists”, too. They managed to convince themselves that such acts as are considered vile even by the unsaved Gentiles are good, right, and praiseworthy. That is invariably the mark of a sinful people.

3 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,

4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,

5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

This is a hard teaching.

By whose authority does Paul call for the Corinthians to excommunicate (that is, cut off from the church) this fornicator? He passes judgment within the church, on the authority of Jesus Christ, through the Spirit.

Why does he pass this judgment? Because the sinner is not merely unrepentant, but celebrates his sin. In so doing, he has spread his sin among his brethren, causing them to share in his celebration of depravity and ill vice.

What is this judgment? Paul calls for the believers to remove the celebrating sinner from their midst. This protects the church from absorbing his acceptance of sin, and through social pressure perhaps the sinner might come to repent. This is the reason for the “shaming” that our culture abhors.

6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

7 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:

8 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.

It takes very little yeast to cause an entire loaf of bread to rise. As it works its way into the bread, the entire bread becomes “contaminated”. If you’re trying to make flatbread and use even a little yeast, it will cease to be flatbread.

This same is true of organizations, as we are seeing more and more in the US. Not only is the church corrupted with teachers preaching the “prosperity doctrine”, contemporary teachings (not derived from scripture), and all forms of pagan mystical practices, but other organizations are being corrupted by “entryists”. GitHub is hemorrhaging money on social causes that have demonstrated no value. Wikipedia has allowed itself to become as partisan a political entity as the DNC.

Let this be a warning: do not suffer the wicked to thrive in your midst, for they will corrupt you and your children.

This is why the Catholic church in particular has such waning attendance: centuries of corruption have produced an entity that drives many toward “atheism”. It is also why so many leave the church in their youth.

9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

Jim Rohn popularized a saying: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” As social creatures, we are driven to adapt and conform with those around us. However, we are called to “be not conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2). In order to do so, we must make preference to be with those who are of the Lord.

Generally, this saying is powerful for everyone – if you want to be like Joe, you should spend more time with Joe. If you want to be like Trump, spend time with Trump (or someone similar – not everyone can hang with Trump). So, too, if you wish to be like Christ, spend time with Christ.

12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?

13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

The Church must moderate its own, but it has no business moderating those without the church. This is a reasonable teaching – what business does California have telling Texas what it can and cannot do? Or what business does Saudi Arabia have telling Britain how its citizens should live?

Let God pass the final judgment on those who are not among the brethren. Instead, in this day of salvation, pray for them and seek their redemption.

Let us Pray

Lord, you are truly the One God. We thank you that you are with us, you who are sovereign over all things.

Help us to receive the hard teachings, Lord. We live in a world of sin and depravity, which has sought to spread its leaven through the Church. Give us the strength and wisdom to expel the wicked from our congregation, so that we may continue to serve You in a world of sin.

Bring all to repentance and salvation, in accordance with your will,

Amen.

 

May the Lord make every path straight before you, and preserve you in the Word. Amen.

The Apostles, Lowest Among the Believers?

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today’s reading comes from the fourth chapter of the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In this chapter, Paul speaks of the role of the Apostles among the brethren; much of what he says can equally apply to any leader in the church.

Reading: I Corinthians 4

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.

The Greek word for “stewardship” is “oikonomia”, from which we get the word “economy”. The word literally means “management of the house”, but it describes the management of any resources or materials for yourself and your kin.

We are stewards of the mysteries of God, meaning that he has entrusted these things to us for management. It is our job to know them, distribute them, and preserve them from the ravages of time and poor interpretation.

Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

Indeed, who would entrust their accounts to the likes of Bernie Madoff, knowing that he is a criminal who mismanaged the accounts of thousands. So, too, must we be faithful to our God who has entrusted these things to us.

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.

For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

Most non-Christians are aware of the verse from Matthew 7: “Judge not…”. However, they know neither the context for that command nor the meaning of judgement in the Church.

Do you care more about what your coworkers think of you or what your bosses think? If your bosses love you, you are safe from punishment and guaranteed better work, but if they hate you your employment is at risk. So it is with the judgement of man and that of God.

We pass no sentence on people, saying, “You will never be saved, and you will die in your sins and be consigned to hell.” Even the Apostle Paul was once a Jewish Zealot responsible for the persecution and execution of a number of Christians, but the Lord saw fit to redeem him. So it is that we must curse no man.

This does not mean that we are to hold our tongues on matters of Sin. The man who says, “The law says you must not …” does not condemn anyone, for he has no power to pass sentence. For example, if you were driving and someone said, “You’re going 15 over, and I see cops”, is he a judge passing sentence upon you? No – they have shown great love for you by correcting your behavior before it was too late.

And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

We tend to get a bit full of ourselves, and we tend to venerate other men with traits that we admire. However, it is foolish to think of the likes of Joel Osteen or Robert Beisert as anything greater than man. This same is true of all “idols” – the Kardashians, Ronald Reagan, Bernie Sanders, “the government”, etc.

For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.

Paul is pointing out that the Lord gives rich blessings to all who believe, and these gifts are not the result of our labors. It is within every Christian in whom the Spirit dwells to be a priest, under the Great High Priest (that is, Christ). We look to religious authorities with such awe, often unaware that that same Spirit is with us.

Therefore, let us not act as though the Apostles, Priests, or Saints are more than mere men. Praise instead the God who has given them those teachings which we are made to receive.

And beware any man who says, “Acknowledge me, for I am doubly blessed in the Spirit.” When Peter healed the lame man in the temple, he commanded him to praise the Lord alone. When Paul survived the serpent’s bite, he commanded the people of Malta to worship the God who saved him.

For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.

Those whom the Lord has chosen as apostles are set out before the whole world as beacons of Christ. They travelled alone or in very small groups, poor and hungry. They were set out before the authorities and challenged. They were stoned and thrown out of towns.

11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;

12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:

13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

Jesus warned his disciples that those who reviled Him would come to revile His children. They killed him, and they will kill us. They sought to punish and reprimand Him for speaking the Truth, and so they will do to us. They hated Him for acting in accordance with the Will of God, and not that of man. So, too, will they come for us.

Still, Jesus was good to those same people who hated Him. For we all were enemies of Christ, and now we sit at His table as Children of the Father.

14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.

15 For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

Fathers have a very special role. They are teachers, providers, instructors, sources of discipline and love, leaders, and defenders. Some of us are able to fill one of these roles, but few are able to be all these things to a congregation. For this reason, many congregations have a collection of leaders.

16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

17 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.

Timothy was Paul’s metaphorical firstborn. He sat at Paul’s feet for years, growing in wisdom and faith and the Holy Spirit. Though Paul may not be able to come to his children in hour of need or doubt, the presence of Timothy is not unlike that of his “father”.

18 Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.

19 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.

20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

21 What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?

Many in the church of Corinth were haughty, lording their status over others and passing a number of judgements against them. Paul knew this well, and so he sends to them this warning. If they did not correct their ways, then Paul would come to them in righteous anger, but if they repented he would come in love and restoration.

Let us Pray

Most merciful and Holy Father; Jesus Christ, the Son; and the Holy Spirit. We praise you, for the LORD our God is One God. Let us worship no others before You.

We thank you that you sent the Apostles among us, so that they could be both our brothers and our fathers. Thank you for the teachings of the Apostle Paul, who was sent among the Gentiles to explain the mysteries to us. And thank you that His words are passed down to us so clearly from the age of antiquity.

Grant us, as always, a greater knowledge of You and Your Word. Give us the gift of understanding, and grant us the ability to explain and teach, so that we may build up one another.

We ask these things in the name of the Lord who Saves, who is God With Us – our Lord, Jesus Christ…

Amen.

 

May the Lord bless you and keep you

May he make his face shine on you, and be gracious unto you

May he look upon you with favor

And give you his peace.

Go in peace, my brothers in Christ.

1 Corinthians 3 – Teaching and Preaching in the Flesh

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we’ll be covering the third chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth. In this chapter, Paul instructs the Church regarding teaching and those who teach.

Reading: I Corinthians 3

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.

We know that one of the marks of a baby’s development is the day it is weaned off of milk and onto true foods. However, before the child is ready to partake of the food of our tables, it is unwise to give him that food.

This is the analogy that Paul makes concerning his teachings to the Corinthians. They are not yet ready to receive the most valuable and beneficial of spiritual teachings, so Paul teaches them in words they can receive.

This is equally true of most Christians I have encountered in my time. They are as babies, unable to engage in proper study of the Scripture because they have not developed beyond the milk.

For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

This is one of the marks of this carnality – that we bicker and fight as the non-believers.

For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

It is not the work of the minister, missionary, or any other Christian that brings about repentance. We have no power or right to brag, because our work is merely a poor instrument by which the Lord operates in this world.

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

The Lord sends out His Spirit before us, to ready the people to receive teaching and minister amongst one another. We go out and do what the Lord commands, but he is both foreman and greatest laborer – he knows how the seed is sown, and how it grows, and when it must be harvested.

This is not to say that we do nothing, but our work is lesser than that of the Lord (and meaningless without His direction).

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

As Paul repeats, we are merely tools and structures that serve a purpose, but the Lord directs that purpose.

10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Paul was given the skills, words, and direction required to lay a solid foundation for the Church in Corinth. Every man who comes after by the direction of the Lord builds upon that foundation.

12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

This reminds us of the “parable of the talents”, in which several servants are given a measure of wealth to invest and grow for their master. The only servant who is despised is that who did not attempt to grow that initial investment, but merely hid it away.

So it is that we are to work, using those skills given us by God, to benefit the Kingdom. After this, when the Lord Jesus Christ returns on the Last Day, we will be given in measure to what we have worked.

14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Salvation is guaranteed us, by the Lord Jesus Christ and his sacrifice upon the cross. However, if we do ill work we shall receive ill punishment, and if we do good, good.

16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

Now the Apostle redirects his attention from the work of a man’s hands to the body that a man possesses. This body is house of the Spirit, so those blessed with the Holy Spirit are houses of the Spirit of the Lord Himself.

17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

Those who take ill care of their bodies (mutilators, gluttons, homosexuals, and others after this kind) are punished by nature, which is under the sustaining force of the Lord. As he directs, we suffer all manner of ailments and misfortunes (Gay Related Immuno-Deficiency, also known as AIDS, springs immediately to mind), often as punishment for our transgressions.

This is doubly true for those of us who are filled with the Holy Spirit, for we are to be in the world, but not of it.

18 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.

We notice that many of those praised for their intellects are foolish when it comes to the Scriptures. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and dozens of other “geniuses” have written a number of books demonstrating this fact.

19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

How can one attempt to outwit the Lord Most High? He is the source of all things we observe, both the physical and the laws that govern our reality.

Those who consider themselves wise are often blinded by their own hubris, and cannot perceive their own weaknesses.

21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are your’s;

22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are your’s;

23 And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

We have been granted an inheritance greater than all others in this world. In this world, we are given the Holy Spirit and wisdom from the Lord. In the world to come, we are given life eternal, in perfect flesh which experiences neither pain nor sorrow.

Praise be to the Lord who gives us all this.

Let us Pray

God Almighty, who is Lord over all of creation, we thank you that You are the Most Holy God. We thank you that you are the Only God, so that none of the pale imitations and vile creations of man can be said to rule over all.

Let these words fill our minds. Let us meditate upon them day and night, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we may receive all wisdom and knowledge from You.

We ask these things in the name of the Christ, Jesus, the Messiah who has come into the world for our salvation,

Amen.

 

May the Lord instruct you and teach you all things.

Amen.

I Corinthians – The Spirit of God Grants Understanding

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we’ll be looking at the second verse of Paul’s first letter to the church of Corinth. In this chapter, Paul speaks of the mysteries of the Lord, the reasons why these mysteries are nonsense to the world, and the Gift that is the Holy Spirit.

Reading: I Cornithians 2

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.

Paul was not an expressive or emotive preacher, using the power of emotional thrust to sway his people to follow his direction. Instead, Paul came speaking the plain truth of God to the people of Corinth.

2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

He did not necessarily forge tight brotherly bonds with them outside of their unity in Christ.

3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

However, he did dwell with them and share in their tribulations.

4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

He did all these things to avoid being “the preacher who pursuaded me to become a Christian”, but “the man who introduced me to God”. While these may seem very similar, the difference is that the man in the first instance is the one who did the pursuading, while it is God in the second instance.

6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

The wisdom of God may not make sense to those who dwell in the world (indeed, it almost certainly cannot make sense to them). While the teachings of the Bible may often parallel the wisdom literature found in the world (much of Proverbs is reflected in the literature of Taoism), the spiritual matters of God are nonsense to even the most wise in this world.

One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (indeed, one of the stated purposes for sending the Spirit among us) is to give us understanding (john 14:26). Because of this Spirit, the apostles suffered all manner of torture in the name of the Lord. Many of our brethren who are already asleep were tortured and executed in the name of this Spirit. If those who did such wrongs had this same Spirit and wisdom, they would have dropped their swords and praised the Lord Most High.

However, we were warned that as they came for Christ, so they would come for us (John 15:20).

9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

We can never overestimate the work of the Lord. He is wise above all things, and mighty in power. No man (prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit) had even the faintest glimmer of the majesty of the Lord and his Goodness toward his children.

For who could have foreseen that the Lord would come to save those who despised Him, through the suffering, death, and resurrection of His only begotten Son. Even Isaiah, who prophesied about these things, did not have a full understanding of the nature of the Messiah as both Mighty Lord and Humbled Sacrifice.

However, by the Spirit, all these things are made clear to us. Praise be to the Lord who has given us this wisdom previously unavailable even to kings and wise men.

11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

This calls back to the work of Aristotle, who discerned several spirits in existence in our world. He noticed the spirit of life, which gives life to all things that live, the spirit of the animal, which provides instincts and basic nature, and the spirit of man, which provides insights and reason.

While these spirits are all present even in fallen man, the Spirit of God is not present in those to whom the Lord has not given it. This Spirit grants us insight into God, even if only an imperfect insight hampered by our sinful flesh. Without this Spirit, it is not possible for the Word of God to become clear and understandable.

12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

That which is not physical cannot be understood in physical terms. We can attempt to describe them as such – the Papists use the physical nomenclature of Aristotle to describe the mystery of the Eucharist – but these terms are wholly inadequate.

However, when we speak of spiritual things to those who have appreciation of spiritual things (through the work of the Lord), we are able to both express and rejoice in those works of the Lord which are manifest in our lives.

Further, while much of Scripture is good and right for teaching us worldly matters, the mysteries of God are only revealed in the “words which the Holy Ghost teacheth”. To those who cannot hear the Word of God, these truths are forever out of reach.

14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.

16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.

The natural man lacks the Spirit of God, and so cannot understand the teachings therein. To the believer, doctrines of the Second Birth (through the baptism of the Holy Spirit) and the mystery of the Eucharist are both receivable and wonderful things. However, to those who are not among the brethren, these things are manifest foolishness. This same is true of many of the “hard sayings” of Jesus.

(For a much more excellent study on these hard sayings, read F.F. Bruce’s work)

However, we who have the Spirit have both the spirit of man and the Spirit of God. Thus, we are able to understand both the things of this world and the things not of this world.

Let us pray

Oh, mighty and sovereign Lord, we thank you that You are chief above all things, both Physical and Spiritual. We praise your name and give you thanks for all the works you have done.

We thank you most especially for the gift of the Holy Spirit, through which we are made to understand spiritual matters which are nonsense to the world. We thank you that this same Spirit gives us discernment to separate the foolishness of the world from the wisdom, and the spirituality of fools from the truth.

Guide us ever, Lord, and direct our paths so that we may give you praise at all times and in all places, in word and deed.

We pray all this by the urging of the Spirit, who gives us words and teaches us what to say. And we pray also in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the Prince of Peace who has become the perfect sacrifice on our behalf.

Amen.

 

May the Spirit dwell in you richly, and give you understanding of all things.

Amen.

I Corinthians – One Church

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we will begin studying the first of Paul’s letters to the church of Corinth. This was a city known for its wickedness and depravity (like Vegas on steroids), and the church struggled mightily to resist the world. Paul wrote to them in a spirit of encouragement, love, and instruction, so that they could stand against the wiles of the devil.

Reading: I Corinthians 1

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

2 Unto the church of God which is at 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:

3 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Again, Paul begins every letter with a blessing to the brethren.

4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;

5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:

7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the mark of the faithful. Paul encourages the brethren by reminding them of the Gifts of the Lord – for they are granted insights and wisdom, the testimony of Christ, and all spritual gifts.

Even in the darkest of places, where spiritual forces of wickedness reign supreme, the Light of Life shines bright. And He will raise us up on the last day.

9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

This reflects a dual message laid out clearly by John <confirm>. In his gospel, we find the lines “no one can come to me unless the father draws him” (as water is drawn from a well), and “no one comes to the father except through me”.

This means that the Father brings us to Christ, and Christ allows us to come to the Father. In all things and in all times, it is the work of the Lord.

10 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.

11 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.

As with the church of Ephesus (of which I have previously written), the church in Corinth suffered from disunity and lack of harmony. Already denominations had sprung up, apparently on the basis of who baptized you.

However, there is one Lord, and one Spirit. Surely we must all turn to the scriptures and reflect that same Lord in our messages. If we do this, are not all denominations essentially brethren?
(This is not to excuse any manner of heresy, for those who come in a different Spirit preaching a different Christ are not of the brethren.)

12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I am of Cephas; and I of Christ.

“I am Baptist. I am Lutheran. I am Presbyterian. I am Protestant.” Let us all read the scriptures and reflect thim in our teachings – in this way, we are all brethren.

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;

15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.

16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

Paul is happy not to be part of this contention that splits the church. For it is no honor to be the man who turned his brothers against one another.

17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

I have studied persuasion tactics and rhetoric. I am aware of the difference between dialectic and rhetoric, and I leverage that difference every day.

However, clever words are not necessary to drive the Spirit. If anything, charlatans and liars have done more to distract the brethren with these techniques than any pastor has done to unify them.

Therefore, if you have to choose between the plain Scriptures and clever rhetoric, stick with the plain truth.

18 For the preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

This is the great mystery that divides the believer from the unbeliever. To us, the power of Christ is manifest and clear, but to them it is the rambling of dangerous fools.

Without the Spirit, there is no way to cross from one side to the other, just as one cannot cross from death into life without the Spirit.

19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

In his study of philosophy, Aristotle came extremely close to an understanding of God’s logical necessity. However, despite his great insight and wisdom, he was unable to perceive the nature of God that we now understand. This same is true of many philosophers who lacked the Spirit.

In this age, we see the full manifestation of this truth. The modern philosophers have turned to nihilism, relativism, and other “wisdom” that denies the validity of wisdom. By rejecting the truths of Scripture (on which much of Western philosophical tradition hinges), they have produced foolishness.

22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after widsom:

And today, instead of signs and wisdom, we seek a blending of the two in what we term “science.”

The people of this age demand that they receive a sign which is compliant with the modern wisdom – a manifest impossiblity, as the modern wisdom rejects out of hand any such sign.

23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

Why a stumblingblock and foolishness? Because it is not for men to come to God.

24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

However, it is for God to bring men unto him. These are granted a Spirit which possesses true wisdom, and these see signs and wonders.

As an example, consider those biologists who adhere to the doctrines of Christ. These see the depth and mystery of biology, from the obscenely-intricate 3D code that is DNA to the mechanisms required to translate DNA into an organism.

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For God is supreme over all creation – what in creation can match Him?

26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty,

28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought the things that are:

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

One might reasonably fear that a strong man would not marvel and give glory to God should his strength be increased. The same is true of the naturally smart or wise. Moreover, we can consider that the techniques of persuasion which are so often employed by charlatans and con men, if applied to the mechanism of preaching, would be credited with persuasion rather than the Lord.

So it is that the Lord has made things which are ineffective (preaching, etc.) into the instruments with which he persuades and guides his children. These things which are “weak” and “foolish” are effective because (and only because) God has employed them.

30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sancrification, and redemption:

31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Let us Pray

Loving and Sovereign Lord, who has dominion over all things, both visible and invisible, we thank You that You are God.

We beseech you, in the spirit of unity and love which you have bestowed unto us, that we may be righteous in the face of a fallen and depraved world. We know that we are sinful creatures of the

flesh, and we are often swayed by the thinking of this world, but You are the Lord.

Give to us the wisdom and signs that only You provide, so that we may preach ever more boldly. For we know that You have commanded us to speak the truth in a world of lies.

Grant us peace, strength, and holiness through your Spirit, in the name of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen.

May you increase daily in the Spirit, and grow in favor with both God and Men.
Amen.

The Armor of God and the True War

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we’re finishing Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. Continue Reading…

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