1 Cor.1:10 “Perfectly joined together” (Kartartidzo)
Even a casual reading of this first letter of Paul in our Authorized Version would indicate that his major concern for this church is the division caused by a number of issues. As prone to problems as our churches are today, it is doubtful that any are more afflicted than that established in the wicked city of Corinth five years earlier when he labored among them for a year and a half (Acts 18:8-11).
In spite of the conditions found here it is instructive to note that nowhere is it even remotely suggested that anyone should think of leaving to start another church. Instead, the recipients of this letter were admonished from the start to work towards unity.
The Greek word, kartartidzo, is such an interesting one that it is worth inserting into our text just to capture attention. A comparison of its use here with two other passages shed abundant light on its meaning. Here the sense suggests a medical concept of body parts being knit together (Col.2:2), though this is a different Greek word and worthy of study. Being “perfectly joined together”....in love is not such a bad idea.
Galations 6:1 is the second place where our word occurs. Here it is translated “restore” and indicates both occasion and attitude.
Finally, we have a great pictorial illustration in the use of the word in Matt.4:21. The word is “mend” and refers to the idea of keeping the fishing nets whole.
Lots of fish are probably lost through holes in the church’s net caused by contentious individualism and flawed “judgement”.
1 Cor.2:2 To Know Christ and Him Crucified
This statement is the equivalent of Gal.2:20 being put into daily practice. Having died with Christ and Christ now in charge of Paul’s body, the very expression of his ministry at Corinth would be Christ’s out-living. Instead of a dynamic presence among them there stood a humble, broken man. Instead of swelling words of man’s wisdom to impress these Greeks, there came forth from his lips, the language of the Spirit. We speak not here of that gift of tongues which Paul had used on occasion but the use of a tongue every preacher should possess, a tongue on fire with a zeal that consumed him delivering words of love.
What a blessed experience it must have been to sit at the feet of this great apostle, this one who formally persecuted the church. With trembling lips he had spoken to them the simple gospel of the cross (1:17), his bodily presence seemed weak among them but the effect had been profound. There in the house of Justus (Acts 18:6) these Gentile dogs, these idol worshipers, these immoral Corinthians were seized by his words and were transformed from adulterers and drunkards into sons of the living God! See 1 Cor.6:9&10.
Now, these spiritual sons he had fathered (4:15) were turning against him, were denying his apostleship and had become followers of men. How sad he must have felt as he received news of recent developments from the believers who met at the house of Chloe. It is these divisions and disorders that he seeks to address in this powerful epistle.
1 Cor.3:3 Followers of Men--Walk as Men
First we need to clarify who the Corinthians were following. It was not Paul or Apollos or Cephas (Peter) as seemingly indicated by Paul’s use of these names. Chapter four and verse six tells us that he used these names to emphasize that they were not to follow men, even men with big names.
It would seem that some of these men they were following were the “false apostles” “deceitful workers” and supposed “angels of light” that were spoken of in 11 Cor.11:13-15. As such, these were the ones that were building on the foundation that Paul had laid (v.10). It was not, as often taught, the individual believers that were building upon this foundation by their works gold, silver, hay or stubble. The analogy may be acceptable, but the context seems to teach that Paul was warning about these teachers that had followed him and had developed personality cults.
When christians follow men who follow Christ there cannot help but be unity. Paul calls these Corinthians carnal and decries their strife and division. It was evident to him that the works of these leaders would be burned up for they had defiled the temple, the church. The problems in this assembly were probably due to the errors of false teachers. In the remainder of the letter and in the next, we will see his warnings about these leaders and the defense of his apostleship.
It is easy to be led astray when we walk as men, for men have no light. But if not “as men” then how? 1 John 2:6 has the answer. What do you suppose it is?
1 Cor.4:6 “Puffed Up”
These false leaders in their worldly wise ways had sought to reduce Paul to the level of a fool in the eyes of the Corinthians (v.10), reviling and defaming him. (See 2 Cor.11:16 also 10:2&10 to see what some made him out to be).
In being “puffed up,” they had not only lost their respect for the one who had “begotten them through the gospel.” but were also at each others’ throats (v.6). Like the Laodiceans, they thought they were rich (Rev.3:17), they thought they were in control, but did not know they too were poor, blind and naked. If they could only reign over the world, the flesh and the devil, Paul would feel as though he reigned with them, but as it was he could only warn them and invoke his own example (vss.9-13). Follow me, he beseeches them, for he knew that his ways were “ways which be in Christ.” If you love Him and each other you will not be “puffed up” (1 Cor.13:14).
Paul warns that if they do not straighten out in response to his letter, he will come with a rod. One can imagine that this rod would have a sharp pin in the end that would quickly prick these inflated Christians and let the air out. As an apostle, he “fixed the wagons” of Hymenaeus and Alexander and we can only imagine in what way he could exercise his authority in Corinth if he had to. Apparently the letter did the trick! See 2 Cor.7:6-11.
1 Cor.5:12 “Without---Within”
By the use of these two words Paul defines local church membership. All of those “within” are members and are subject to the discipline of being placed “without.” A list of some kind would have to be maintained by the local assembly in order to carry this out. How one achieved membership is not revealed but in that day probably it was composed of those who had been baptized. How it is done today is obviously to be established by the leadership and membership of each church.
If God would not interfere with the responsibilities of a local church to judge such sin as being tolerated by the Corinthians, He certainly would expect the church to develop its own methods of policing its ranks starting with some form of membership roll.
The admonition given here by the apostle is clear. Such a person as described in verse one could not under any circumstance be allowed to stay “within.” As long as he was so allowed, just so long would the loaf be leavened. The Lord treats the church as a unit like Israel under Joshua which He said, had sinned when actually only one man, Achan, had done so (Joshua 7:11).
Putting this man “outside” may have been the equivalent of delivering “such an one unto Satan.” As long as he stayed “within” he was protected like a man in one of the cities of refuge. God’s judgement (v.3) probably is simply letting Satan get at him.
Some of these things certainly aren’t clear to us, but one thing is abundantly clear, the church is not to allow such a condition to exist and if it does, it is to its own detriment!
Let us pray that our church and sister churches labor to be clear in these matters. Pastors and other officers must lead.
1 Cor.6:15 “......members of Christ.....?”
This verse is perhaps a difficult one for pastors to handle, but one that has tremendous implications. To call the christian body the very “members of Christ” in such a scenario drives home the reality of the truth of the indwelling Christ. There can be no doubt left in anyone’s mind that views this scripture as the Word of God, that our bodies are indeed the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit and that having been purchased with the price of the precious blood of our Lord Jesus (v.20) and having become the very residence of God’s life, we are, therefore, “not our own”.
How God views the one who, as this verse says, is joined to a partner out of wedlock, even a harlot, is quite difficult to imagine. Does this mean that those who have been promiscuous prior to marriage should nor marry and if they do, are adulterers? In a town like Corinth that would probably include a large number, and of course Paul says that these new believers have come from a sordid background (vss.9-11).
If a believer were to marry such a one who, in youth had been promiscuous are they really married in God’s eyes? Following up this thought, if a divorce should occur, would it actually be a divorce in His eyes if He did not see them married, or rather saw them as living in adultery?
Paul does say here that the illicit relationship has produced a oneness and applies the “one flesh” concept (Gen.2:24, Matt.19:5) to the situation. How does this play out when compared with Eph.5:29&30?
Things to chew on today.
1 Cor.7:20 Abide in Your Calling
To be content is a great virtue. Today we seem obsessed with the lust of going somewhere new, seeing and doing something different. Our forefathers often stayed where they were born. We think we haven’t lived until we’ve seen all the world we can afford. People wander from place to place and church to church seeking something better.
If the Lord leads us to make changes that’s one thing, but too often we are apt to take our discontent for His leading. If we are not happy in our present circumstances it is highly unlikely that a change of scenery will improve our frame of mind. So often pastors think their work is done because the going gets rough. “Burn out” is usually an excuse for failure to be accepting of our lot and living a life of rest.
Paul in this chapter calls on believers to “abide” where they are. When he applies this to the slave, we see that even the most extreme circumstances ought not necessarily be reason enough to call for a change. If the Christian slave can see himself as the Lord’s free man, I think there are few working conditions that excuse a change of job. I have seen men leave their church and their area because they couldn’t adjust to job conditions. We often allow this but criticize a pastor for moving every five years. What makes the one okay but the other not?
I like the following thought taken from a wall plaque. It has been an inspiration to me. “Don’t move when things get tough. As long as you have one friend, stay and build. Grow roots. People and pressures shift, but the soil is about the same everywhere. If you can’t make what you believe in where you are, it is doubtful that you ever will, no matter where you are.”
Paul Baker of Baylor Univ.,1958
1 Cor.8:1 “Knowledge Puffeth Up...”
I believe it can be truthfully said that schools have ruined more men than they have helped when it comes to the gospel ministry. It seems that the longer one stays in school the further he gets from being a useful servant of God. If you (or someone you know) are the exception, that only “proves the rule” as they say. Knowledge puffeth up. The Corinthians were nearly led away from the truth by those who knew more than Paul about this subject among others. He sought to “know” Jesus Christ and Him crucified (2:2). Do you think my opening statement to be quite radical? Is it more so than Paul’s when he says “if any man thinketh that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know?” In other words, it is a fair axiom to put it this way: the more we know, the less we really know. Therefore, if education is not accompanied by great humility, a man loses ground by having it.
So much of the real work of God in their world has been done by those whose education has consisted mainly of knowing the Book. Remember, the apostles were termed “ignorant and unlearned.” In the Great Awakening of the 1740's here in New England most of the preaching was done by men who had no ministerial training. Once the movement was underway and New Light churches were becoming Baptist, there came to be a great desire on the part of the Baptist leadership to have a school where ministers could be trained. Brown University was their first school, followed later in Maine by Colby College. In fact most of the “Ivy League” colleges were started to train men for the gospel ministry. These schools have made such progress in various fields of education that they would be the last choice today for such.
What is wrong with being trained in the local church by a dedicated successful pastor? That’s how it was done by Jonathan Edwards who kept young men in his home and trained them.
1 Cor.9:13 Examined by Whom?
You can win, but usually not in the eyes of your critics. They will condemn you no matter what you do. If you eat meat offered to idols you are wrong in the eyes of some who are weak (Rom.14:2), if you don’t eat you must not be very strong, for only the weak are troubled by such silly nonsense as thinking the meat is contaminated (8:4). If you get married you are criticized by the celibates (2 Tim.4), if you don’t you are not normal and you certainly cannot counsel those who do. If, as a pastor, you forbear working you are lazy but if you choose to work you are not trusting God to meet your needs.
In this chapter Paul defends the concept of a paid clergy and once this passage was necessary for there were those churches that really seemed to pray, “Lord, you keep the pastor humble and we’ll keep him poor.” Yet in spite of this strong argument about oxen, etc., he gloried in not living “off” the ministry.
In these chapters where he defends his apostleship in answer to those who examined him, Paul sets forth some excellent principles and these we must apply to ourselves. Have a servant’s heart (v.19), do all to the glory of God (10:31), beware of giving offense (8:13) and run to obtain the prize (v.24). Other verses on this are: Phil.3:14 and 2 Tim.4:8.
None of us want to end up as a cracked pot (castaway).
1 Cor. 10:18 “Partakers”
The illustration of the priests eating the sacrifices is used here by Paul to emphasize what is happening when we eat the bread at the Lord’s supper. First, we need to understand that the eating of certain parts of the sacrifice was not primarily to satisfy their hunger, but rather spoke of identification. Those who ate were partakers of (the benefits of) the altar and what it represented. Of course, ultimately it represented the sacrifice of the cross. They, as priests, represented the nation. All of this is made abundantly clear by Paul in this wonderful text.
Now, don’t miss the point. It is true that we are partakers of the benefit of His sacrificial death which we are celebrating at the table, but that thought is covered by the cup representing His blood. Clearly Paul says “we” are the bread not Christ. The emphasis here is one of unity. The “many” are “one” because they partake of the one loaf. We identify with it (the Church which is His body) by eating as Israel identified with the altar by eating. So then, we are “members one of another”(Rom.12:5). In this same context Paul, in chapter ten, says (v.27) “now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular”. Here the thought of communion is just being introduced but he is dealing with the subject of division (11:18), as expected from the beginning (1:10).
It would seem imperative that there be only one loaf (perhaps matzo cracker) on the communion table if this thought is to be illustrated. This might limit the size of a church???
1 Cor.11:25 “......the new testament in my blood..”
If, as it seems clear from chapter ten, the bread represents the church as the Body of Christ, perhaps it would be helpful to think now of the cup. There is no question but that it represents the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. What is significant is the fact that what was once forbidden is now mandated. The reason being, that Israel could be a partaker of the benefit of the altar, and what it represented, by eating the sacrifice (Christ), but the blood of the sacrifice was specifically denied them (Lev.17:14). Israel was positionally “accepted in the beloved” (Eph.1:6) as we are, but until after Calvary our Beloved Lord was not experientially ( the Puritans said “experimentally”) available until the Holy Spirit made His dramatic entrance (Pentecost). What is the “New Covenant” in His blood but the fact of His life made available for us to drink (12:13)?
The Lord’s Supper is primarily disciplinary (check it out) and to eat and drink unworthily is to ignore the reality that we are testifying to oneness with other members of the body while we are treating them with disdain (v.21) as we eat bread with them, and we deny the power of the blood if we do not live in the experience of Christ’s overcoming life. There is no room for failure when He indwells- only examination, confession and then proclamation. This do in remembrance of Him until He comes!
Every child of God should be expected at the Lord’s Supper in his local church and if he is not there the reason should be known by the leadership. To absent oneself unnecessarily is the equivalent of partaking unworthily and subjects one to the judgement of vs.29-32. Hardness of heart may be judgement unawares, a spiritually weakening cancer. (1 Kings 8:38)
1 Cor.12:12 “....so also is Christ.”
One of the strongest principles guiding the Biblical expositor is the importance of context. A former teacher used to say, if you are looking for a key, you will probably find it near the door. To really get the most out of a text in this epistle we must first discover the purpose for its being written. In this case the author is dealing with problems stemming from division sown in the church by false teachers. This chapter and chapter 10 are like bookends for chapter eleven in both which the clear teaching about the body of Christ refers to the church and, of course, primarily to the local assembly at Corinth. Based on this, we could say that the bread on the communion table represented the mystical body of Christ not the physical.
Now, in this chapter we have a passage (vs.12-27) where the word “body” appears in thirteen verses, all referring to the mystical body of Christ by use of a figure. Verse 12 says, “the body is one.” Verse 25 admonishes against schism and the passage ends with the statement, “now ye are the body of Christ,” etc. We got to be such as v.13 tells us by being “all baptized into one body.”
It is not difficult to see from this that not to recognize this fact when partaking of communion is to eat and drink “unworthily” (11:29). Some things are so simple that we are apt to miss them! This seems to have been missed by the theologians for centuries.
Compare 10:16&17 with 12:12 and then check out 11:18. Thematically and contextually there can be no doubt that when Paul said they were not discerning (distinguishing) the Lord’s body, when Christ was all around them, He spoke of the local church.
What is our attitude toward our brethren at the table?
1 Cor. 13:8 Love Never Fails
Introduced by 12:8 Paul speaks of a far better way of thinking (Gr.) More important than the gifts over which they were squabbling, more important than a dynamic faith or a vow of poverty or even martyrdom, is the subject he now pursues. It is no accident that the so-called “love chapter” occurs here for Paul is still dealing with the subject of unity and in the body the members are to have the same care for one another. If one member suffers....etc (12:26). This is the way of love. What a good exercise would the reading of this chapter be while sitting together at the Lord’s table. “Let a man examination himself and so let him eat...” (11:28). No better examination than this. Am I longsuffering toward all of these, my brethren, envious of any? Am I a braggart or filled with pride? And so on through the list.
Since love cannot be driven off course (never fails) it must it be the constant set of our sail on the stormy sea of this life which is Christ-like-ness, by the power of His indwelling, toward all the brethren in our assembly. If not, we have failed and , as such, eat and drink unworthily not seeing the whole picture. Our Lord Jesus says “show forth my death” and we do this by dealing with the sins that divide. We must see these sins, confess them, reckon ourselves dead to them and yield anew to Him.
1 Cor. 14:22 Sign Gifts
When as students at Bible School, traveling home for vacation, we stopped at the Roberts’ home to drop off their daughter. Conversation somehow got around to the subject of tongues and Pastor Roberts told us an interesting story. He and a missionary from Africa were in a service where a brother spoke in tongues. The missionary recognized the language and told brother Roberts that the man was blaspheming God. That it might be established by the mouths of two witnesses, a third person who also knew the language being spoken, attended a later meeting where the episode was repeated. The two who knew the language stood and rebuked the brother who thought he was worshiping God but was actually blaspheming Him.
This example helped me to see, as a young student, that demons may often be using tongue-speaking to attack our Lord. This certainly would have underscored the need for an interpretation and may explain the meaning of 12:3.
Very interestingly and much supportive of the preceding view, is a book published in Belfast, Maine in 1884 entitled Demonology or Spiritualism Ancient and Modern (page 148). In it Mayor E.F.Hanson writes exposing tongues as the work of demons. This predates modern Pentecostalism. I am thankful to have this rare book in my library.
1 Cor. 15:45 “...the last Adam”
Charles Wesley was wrong when, in his famous Christmas carol “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” he wrote “second Adam from above reinstate us in thy love...” Our Lord Jesus Christ was not revealed in Scripture as “second Adam” but rather as “the last Adam” and “the second Man”(v.47).
Is there any difference? Abundantly so! Our Lord was the last Adam in the sense that when the Father dealt the death blow to His Son, He was crushing Adam once and for all. The flesh was destroyed and positionally we were set free from its power. As the Second Man in His resurrection He fulfilled the type of Adam as the head of the human race and became the new Head of a new race, the family of God.
In God’s eternal plan, He intended for us to share His life (Gen.2:7); bear his Image and wear His crown (Gen.1:26). In verse 49 here in this chapter we note that when we came into this world we were cursed with the image and likeness of the fallen Adam (Gen.5:3), but having been born again, we shall have that new image stamped upon us. Even now, as we grow in grace, we are being changed into His image by the work of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor.3:18). This is the renewing work Titus speaks of that follows regeneration (3:5).
Lord, make me into your image and likeness.
1 Cor. 16:6 All Winter?
What kind of response the saints at Corinth had when told that Paul might come and spend all winter with them, we may only surmise. Some surely might be quite “shook up”. Those whose ego was apparently inflated might not exactly appreciate the pricking Paul’s presence might precipitate (4:18). Surely some who were reading this letter might reflect remorsefully on his reference to the rod. Someone from the church in Chloe’s home (1:11) has indicated that there were those who had been quite critical of God’s apostle. Were they named? He had called them carnal (3:3) castigating them for their divisions. Those who had not been in favor of dealing with the problem of immorality might expect him to have words with them, wouldn’t you think? Those who were guilty of defrauding the brethren (6:8) would certainly hesitate to face their father in the faith. To put it bluntly, this was certainly not good news for at least a few.
On the other hand, the possibility of a lengthy visit from their beloved progenitor (4:15) must have delighted the brethren who worshiped in the homes of Chloe and Stephanus. What experiences they would share, what times of fellowship!. They could not get enough of it--and to have him all winter! “He must stay with us,” “no we want him at our home”. “As he wants, we will all work together to see that he gets off in the spring”(v.6). They could hardly wait to exchange that holy kiss.
That much fuss over the coming of a servant, what about the Master?