Saturday, May 19, 2018

180520 Paul’s Message

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
In writing to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul moves beyond his opening statements. He began the letter by identifying himself as one who was called by God’s will to be an Apostle. He tells us that he is writing to the saints in every place. He has given thanks for the Corinthians. Then he turns to the first of many problems. The Corinthian church was split into several cliques. One of those cliques actually claims to be following Paul himself. Now he begins to help them understand the scope of his message.
The church in Corinth was primarily a working class, or a slave, congregation. The city was an important part of the commercial life of the Roman Empire. The culture of the city was corrupt and ungodly. The city was filled with sexual immorality and religious diversity. There were many questions involving spiritual gifts, marriage, and socializing with idolaters. There was a serious theological problem surrounding the resurrection.
As we read the two letters to Corinth we soon realize that…
The Corinthians, mostly, were not upper-class. Let’s look back to 1 Corinthians 1:26. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.
Paul reminds them that when they received the gospel there were not many who were of the intellectual upper crust. There were very few people who would be recognized as being important in their community. The church was not made up of people who were influential in society. We need to be reminded that God can use the everyday Joe or Jane as effectively as he can use the wealthy and worldly important people such as rock stars, athletes, and wealthy business people.
In fact, it was God who did the choosing of these people. Whether they were intellectual giants are illiterate workmen, rich and powerful or poor people struggling to live. We need to remember…
Whatever they were was God’s choice. Let’s read on 1 Corinthians 1:27-29. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
God did not watch the development of the church in Corinth and when it finally came together make a decision as to how it would be organized. Instead, God chose — let me emphasize God CHOSE — what was foolish in the world to shame the wise. “What was foolish” represents people not foolish ideas. God passed over the intellectual and the upper class to choose — again I say CHOOSE — the simple people of the world. He chose the weak and disenfranchised. In Corinth, the foolish, the weak, the low and despised was not just the working class. That list also included bond servants and slaves. He did all this with a purpose in mind. Never should a person be able to boast of being one of God’s people. God chooses whom he chooses not whom we chose! He would take the low and despised in the world in order to show that class and wealth are not as important as most people think.
Now, I am not opposed to wealthy people. In fact, I would like to be one. I am just now learning how to do that as I come to the end of my life. At least the last quarter to third of my life.
What they had was God’s gift. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 1:30-31. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Please take note! This passage begins with “because of him” we are in Christ Jesus! Not because of us or our goodness. The Bible says, “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5).
God does the saving by his own choice and not ours. We should be eternally grateful if there’s any possibility that God chose us! Now I’m not trying to discourage you or make you feel doubt in your salvation. I do encourage you to examine yourselves and see if you are in the faith or not. The Bible records Jesus’ words, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:22-23). This is a frightening passage of Scripture and should cause us to read God’s word with a prayerful attitude so we may know with certainty that we are born again.
God himself, because of the work of Jesus on the cross, and that of the Holy Spirit in our lives brings us into a saving relationship. We are not saved because we are good enough to be saved. Jesus did not come to find good people and bring them into the kingdom. The Bible tells us that he came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10). Jesus said, “For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13). Paul reminds us that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Timothy 1:15b). Paul is not saying that he is continuing in sin while living out his life serving Christ. He is saying that he set the standard for chief of sinners. He stood there and watched while the Pharisees stoned Stephen to death. He persecuted the church by arresting people who followed Christ. He imprisoned them and even caused many to be put to death! Let me give you a modern example of what Paul was saying when he said I am the foremost of sinners. He is saying that he set the mark! In the same manner that a young athlete might set a record — such as the high jump or the broad jump — and the school would put up a sign proclaiming him to be the best in his category. And as the years went by that would remain the record until someone broke it. Paul did not believe that anyone had broken his record of being “Chief of Sinners”.
Paul’s message was not of human strength. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 2:2-5. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
When Paul came to Corinth, you can read the record in Acts chapter 18, he came there determined to focus on the message of the crucified Christ! He did not come in his own strength! In fact, he came to Corinth in weakness, fear, and much trembling. He had just confronted the members of the Areopagus in Athens. Before that he had been arrested beaten and imprisoned in Philippi; gone on to Thessalonica where he had to be escorted out of town to keep from being beaten. And then to Berea where once again he found himself being challenged by Judaizers who followed him from place to place. He knew that the message based on human wisdom would fail to produce godly results. So he came guided by the Holy Spirit who demonstrated God’s choosing of Paul as his apostle.
Paul did not want the Corinthian Christians to have a faith based on the wisdom of men but instead to have a faith based on the power of God.
He imparted God’s wisdom. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 2:6-7. Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.
Paul came to Corinth in weakness, fear, and much trembling. Paul did not come to share the wisdom of the age. He certainly did not want to communicate this so-called wisdom that had failed throughout history. In verse seven I believe the King James Bible has the better translation. “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:”
What the English Standard Version calls “a secret and hidden wisdom of God” is better understood (in my opinion) as a mystery.
Exactly what happens to the believer at salvation is really mysterious. We know that somehow we were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1) and have been made alive to God. In a real sense, we have experienced being “born again”. This is something very hard to understand. When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus he referred to the wind blowing wherever it wishes and even though we hear it and see its effects we do not know where it came from or where it’s going. Then Jesus compares the process of the wind to the movement of the Spirit in the life of the person who believes in Jesus Christ. The mystery of the gospel is that the second person of the Trinity could somehow be united with a human body, come to earth, live a perfect life, take our sins into his own body and die on the cross to deliver us from sin and to give us eternal life. In most of our considerations, we give the devil way too much credit. The mystery of the gospel was…
Wisdom that is unknown to evil spiritual forces. Let’s read on 1 Corinthians 2:8. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
“The rulers of this age” are not men or women. “The rulers of this age” are spiritual forces dominating the world scene in the background. The Bible tells us that Daniel was in prayer seeking to know what the visions he was seeing meant. He faithfully prayed for three weeks and couldn’t get an answer. As he was struggling in prayer he felt a hand touching him. That hand belonged to an angel that had been sent to give him the answer. The angel told him that he was greatly loved and his words had been heard. He had not gotten an answer because the prince of the kingdom of Persia fought against the angel until the Archangel Michael came to defeat the Persian angel and give Daniel the answer to his prayer (Daniel 10:10-14). Clearly the ruling forces surrounding Daniel were not men they were angels. I hope I don’t go too far when I say that when Paul referred to the rulers of this age he was talking about spiritual forces in high places.
The Bible tells us that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). If those forces of evil had understood what was going to happen when they crucified Jesus they would’ve made every effort to stop it.
There is a very memorable scene in the movie, The Passion of the Christ, it is very near the end when the image representing Satan understood that the crucified Christ was then the resurrected Christ. He was now defeated! Again the Bible says “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). The result of his death and resurrection set mankind free from the fear of death. We need to remember that…
God’s gifts are beyond our comprehension. Let’s continue reading in 1 Corinthians 2:9. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—
I have a vivid imagination and yet God’s word tells me that no one has seen, or heard, or imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. God’s gifts are beyond our grasp. In this passage, Paul brings forth the prophecy of Isaiah found in 64:4. We will never ever work this all out in our human reasoning.
In order to understand we need to listen. We don’t turn to other men…
Our teacher is the Holy Spirit. Let’s continue reading in 1 Corinthians 2:14. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
No matter how much we struggle we will never understand our Father in heaven. His ways are far beyond ours. In order to truly understand we must be taught by God himself. So we will turn to the words of Jesus found in John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Here Jesus promises that when he goes away the Holy Spirit would come in to teach us all things. We know that a visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit came on the church on the day of Pentecost. This was a revelation to the Apostles and to all of those who observed.
In order to give us an understanding…
We have been given the mind of Christ. Let’s look at Ephesians 1:7-10. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
God is not stingy! He lavishes his grace upon us making known the mystery of his will! God has a perfect plan and it is now working in the world we live in.
I have often been amazed at the uniformity of belief around the world. It matters very little where a person comes from or what the culture is like, once they become Christian. This common communion speaks volumes. God has arranged the gospel in such a way that it can be understood in the jungles of South America as well as in the modern metropolitan areas of the world. All have sinned and come short of the glory to God! “All” means everyone. You and I along with the billions of people on earth are all in need of the gospel. Because the wages of sin is death. It is absolutely essential that everyone proclaim Jesus as Lord! Have you done that? Today could be your day for coming into the kingdom.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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