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"Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen.
Revelation 22:20

This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is both helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible often doesn't tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.


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Friday, November 27, 2015

1 Corinthians Lesson 01



Home Bible Study ©
Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
www.2Tim215.Net                                             

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4

1 Corinthians                                                                    Lesson 01

Some things are good but they’re not pleasant.

I chose this opening statement as a lead-in because I’m certain more than a few people out there read a portion of my Bible lesson last week but then stopped reading it because they were “offended” by it.   Others may have read the entire lesson but then “labeled” it harsh or too direct, while some others simply disagreed without taking the time to 
search the Scriptures to see if these things were true.”

Readership is off again this week, so this is how I know some people reacted unfavorably to my Bible session last week.  I say “again” because it happens frequently.  Ministers, pastors, and priests experience something similar re:  church attendance.  They’ll work diligently on a sermon or message and deliver it effectively on Sunday, only to watch people get up and walk out in the middle of it or they simply don’t come back because they didn’t agree with something they “heard” or thought they heard.  These folks then go from church to church until they find someone who’ll “speak” what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:1-4)… and they’re out there.  There are plenty of people behind the podium who are more interested in attendance figures then they are in “preaching” God’s Truths to the people – believe me. 

Last week I said the Truth needed to be heard whether people wanted to hear it or not and likened this fact to an operation to remove a cancerous growth, which can be a lifesaving procedure, and that’s good, but it's not pleasant for the patient.  180 degrees out from that example, some things are pleasant but not good.  Play is pleasant and enjoyable when we gather with friends for an afternoon of Frisbee or flag football and then follow that up with fellowship and a picnic.  But continual play, while shunning our responsibilities, is not good.

Truth is a rare commodity in this age.  In a world overflowing with opinions, lies, and deceit, the Truth is often overlooked or ignored outright.  Relative truth has become a fixation in our society and has become a friend of the religious and the spiritual as well.
Evidence and facts are our friends when we are pursuing Truth but they are the enemies of individuals who do not want to acknowledge them simply because they are not interested in “change.”  These folks react negatively by arguing or getting angry simply because they disagree when the “facts” are presented. 

Arguing about Truth doesn’t alter it or make it go away.  Those who refuse to acknowledge and respond to Truth eventually wind up making decisions based on incomplete and inaccurate information.  I'll use the nation of Israel as an example in Paul's day:  And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children (Matthew 27:25)! 

Our Apostle Paul wants every Believer to know they are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), the Holy Spirit lives within us; therefore a Believer’s life should be a changed life.  It’s true we’re forgiven no matter how many times we sin, but at the same time God’s Grace does not afford us the liberty to do whatever we want – to live a lifestyle that conflicts with His expressed will.  Every Believer should live a progressively more sanctified life as we gain more knowledge of our Lord.

The Apostle John had this to say:  I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in truth (3 John 1:4). 

And

  but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).


The problem doesn't lie in the proclaiming of the Truth 
but in those who do not choose to submit to it.

********

Paul’s Appeal to Unity

There are few things in this world that are good and pleasant, actually beneficial to us, and at the same time enjoyable experiences.  In the course of studying the book of Romans, our Apostle Paul has shown us that both of these qualities are found in unity in Jesus Christ, in brothers and sisters dwelling together in one accord.

According to New Testament teachings, unity in Christ Jesus is not only “good” and “pleasant” to us Believers, but even more important, it is good and pleasing to God.  On the night Jesus Christ was betrayed into the hands of lawless men, He prayed to His heavenly Father for the unity of those who would believe on Him in the future:  “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me (John 17:20-21).

If you knew this was your last night on earth, and you knelt and prayed a prayer to your heavenly Father, what would ask for?  While you’re pondering that, reflect back on the Lord’s request to His Father.  His focus wasn’t “inward” it was “outward.”  The unity of all Believers had to be the most important longing in His heart, otherwise He would not have prayed for it. 

When Paul wrote to the divided church in Corinth, a church beset by many ills and carnal weaknesses, the very same yoke lay heavy on his heart for his first inclination was to urge his brethren to unite:  Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10). 

One of the signs of apostasy (falling away from the Truth) in the church is the bickering and disunity among Believers.  Jesus said that the world would know that we were His disciples if you have love for one another (John 13:35).  In Colossians 3:14, Paul writes:  love is the perfect bond of unity.  Ephesians 4:5 Paul explains that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism (of the Holy Spirit) and by this he means to say all Believers are unified in Christ Jesus.  Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 1:12-13 that Jesus Christ is not divided.  Although Christ isn’t divided, His body of Believers certainly is.  Divisions in the church can be a healthy and necessary thing according to Paul’s teaching:  “For there must also be factions (dissension) among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you” (1 Corinthians 11:19).  But here again too much of a good thing isn’t good. 

It’s o.k. to have differences of opinion on non-essential matters.  In other words, let’s not get all worked up while majoring on the minor issues such as:  what we can eat and what we should not eat, how to dress for church, should I kneel when I pray or is it o.k. if I sit or stand, is it permissible to drink alcohol, and does it really matter what day of the week I choose to worship God?  On such issues we can agree to disagree, but when it comes to what God has clearly revealed to us in His Word, especially regarding one’s salvation in this Dispensation of Grace, there is no room for disagreement or discussion.  We accept all these teachings on faith and the very definition of faith is:  taking God at His Word or God said it; I believe it.  That’s that!    

Thus our Apostle Paul wrote to the divided church (ecclesia) in Corinth, Greece and 1 Corinthians 1:10 takes on special significance in our age, when the Church, even the true Church of born-again Believers, is caught up in the grip of disorganization and division, offering to the world a view that is anything but a united testimony to the Grace and Glory of God the Father, I am reminded:  God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints (1 Corinthians 14:33).

Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 1.

1 Corinthians 1

1: Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

2: To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified  in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours;

In verse one Paul identifies himself as the author of this letter and adds that he’s been called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the (expressed) will of God.  Why he mentions Sosthenes our brother, at the beginning of this letter no one knows for certain.  He may have been a leader in this church with some authority.    

Paul isn’t “boasting” with his opening statement and he’s not asserting his authority over this church in Corinth.  We know this because of what he said, “…an apostle…by the will of God.   I want you to see how this opening remark from Paul “fits” into the dispute he addresses in verses 11 thru 13, but also remember what we learned from the introductory lessons.  The vast majority of Believers in this church group had issues with Paul’s apostleship.  Because of these facts Paul wanted to establish from the get-go that God is first, last, and always in importance, or as I like to say, He is the Main thing!  One of the disputes within the Corinthian Church concerned whom to follow.  Paul says God chose me to serve Him.  Thus, his service is to God first and foremost; it’s not about “pleasing” himself or men.    

*By the way - one doesn’t “volunteer” to become an apostle of Jesus Christ; an individual is selected by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself or appointed by one of the apostles to replace an apostle who has died (Acts 1:12-26, 9). 

In verse two we note that these Corinthian Believers were a church of God, i.e. one of his called-out assemblies (Ecclesia in the Greek language), having been sanctified in Christ Jesus.  This is an old English word for “saintified,” for a saint is one who has been “set apart” as sacred; dedicated to God (Hagiazo – pronounced Hag-ee-ad’-zo in the Greek language) – see Ephesians 1:6. 

But were these church members holy in the true sense of the word?  Were they saints?  No, they were not.  They couldn’t divorce themselves from the sinful culture they grew up in and in which they continued to embrace.  They sinned continually and yet Paul calls them saints.  There is a very clear difference between your position before God the Father and your practice, between your standing and your present state.  In the eyes of God Believers are as righteous as Jesus Christ; however, we don’t act like it. 

They are called to be holy, called to be saints.  How can they be sanctified yet not holy?
How is that consistent with the idea that sanctification is the “work of a lifetime?”
1 Corinthians 6:11 says:  Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Our standing is defined as holiness; our behavior is defined as unholiness, if you will.  In other words, these Corinthians Believers had not made their “life” match their “position.”  They hadn’t lived up to who they were in Christ Jesus.

Many years ago Zenith Electronics had an ad jingle that went “the quality goes in before the name goes on.”  With God and Believers it’s just the opposite:  “the name goes on before the quality goes in.”  We are declared sanctified by the name of Jesus Christ.  It takes us a lifetime to become like God’s Son (Ephesians 5:1-5; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 3:1, 10:10-14).

Moving to the second-half of this verse, please note with the following words Paul emphasizes the close relationship (unity) of the Corinthian Church with other Believers everywhere and not just with one another, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours; reminding them that the Body of Christ is one complete family of Believers.
 
This family of Believers included Sosthenes (pronounced – Sos-the-nez); the Jewish gentleman who became the chief ruler of the synagogue at Corinth after Crispus was converted.  He led the Jews in ridiculing Paul and his teachings about Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected attempting to destroy him.  He and some of the other Jews took Paul before the Roman proconsul, but Gallio dismissed the charges against Paul and released him.  The “worked-up” mob was intent on beating on somebody, so after Paul was set free they attacked Sosthenes in front of the judgment seat (Acts 18:12-17).

Sosthenes like Paul is living proof that a person’s heart and life can change from being an ignorant antagonist to an evangelist after hearing the Gospel, acknowledging their sins, and believing.  We know from Acts 18:8 the former Jewish synagogue leader, Crispus, had been converted by Paul.  Perhaps he played a role in Sosthenes’ change of attitude but we know for certain only the Holy Spirit can open a person’s heart to respond to the things of God (Acts 16:14).

Let’s look at verse 3.

1 Corinthians 1

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

This is called an “opening benediction.”  The word benediction comes from the Latin bene meaning “good” and dicere meaning “say.”  In Scripture, a benediction referred to “good words” from God the Father or His representatives to His people as a blessing. 
You’ll find a benediction in every one of Paul’s letters signed by his name. 

Grace – Paul has changed the normal Greek letter opening term “greetings,” (Charein), to a uniquely Christian one which sounds similar, (Charis).

Peace – It’s possible as Grace reflected a typical Greek greeting the word Peace reflected the typical Hebrew greeting, shalom.  The term shalom is both a Hebrew greeting and farewell.  It implies not only the absence of problems, but the presence of goodness and well-being.  Paul may have borrowed this greeting from Numbers 6:25-26 where both Grace and Peace appear.  Theologically speaking, Grace always precedes Peace, but both are found ONLY in a faith relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ both corporately and individually.

True Grace and Peace only come from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace is the unmerited favor of God.  Peace is the absence of “spiritual” stress or anxiety:  “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.  (John 14:27; Philippians 4:4-7)

God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are linked together grammatically as One, i.e. one preposition, but two objects.  This is how the N.T. authors emphasize Jesus Christ’s deity (1 Thessalonians 1:1, 3:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:2, 1:12, 2:16). 

(To be continued)

[Published Weekly on Friday]


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Friday, November 20, 2015

Introduction to the Book of Corinthians (Part 2)



Home Bible Study ©
Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
www.2Tim215.Net                                             

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4

1 Corinthians                                                                          
Introduction to 1 Corinthians
(Part 2)

If you know anything about the value of real estate, you recognize the first three considerations are, “location, location, and then location.”  Corinth’s location helped make it a very important city for travelers and traders.  You see, it was extremely dangerous traveling around the southernmost part of Greece due to frequent storms. The inclement weather threatened lives and shipping.  Corinth, Greece is situated up on a plateau on a narrow strip of land called an isthmus which connects the southernmost part of Greece with the mainland.  Travelers and traders could avoid the dangers of sea travel by taking a shortcut across the Grecian isthmus. 

Corinth had two main ports; to the west on the Corinthian Gulf was Lechaion, which connected the city to its western colonies.  To the east lay the Saronic Gulf and the port of Kenchreai serving ships coming from Athens, Ionia, Cyprus, and the eastern Mediterranean.  Traders and travelers would disembark from their ships at one of these ports and have their personal baggage or their ship’s cargo carried across the isthmus (a distance of about 4 miles).  Once across, they would board ships on the opposite side and then continue their journey.  It was worth the effort and the expense to trek overland because not only was the other way more hazardous, it was also a much longer trip (about 250 miles).  To go the way of Corinth not only saved lives and valuable property it saved time… and people got a chance to “hang out” in the city of Corinth for a while.

As you might imagine, Corinth was a “hub” of commerce and trade and a regular “beehive” of activity with the constant flow of traders, travelers, and visitors from all over the Mediterranean.  On the high-side the city was famous for athletic events.  The well-known Isthmian Games were held there every two years.  These were the most famous athletic events in the Roman Empire apart from the Olympic Games.  On the low-side Corinth was well known for her sinful living.  The city had a great marketplace and in that locale there were many bars, inns, and taverns where people would spend their time and their money getting drunk and behaving badly.
 
Corinth was similar to Athens, Greece, in the respect that you could find the cults of the gods of Egypt, Rome, and Greece there.  The temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, stood atop the Acrocorinth and the citizens of the city honored her.  But her worship is better described by the word “lust.”  Her temple was filled with 1,000 wicked, lustful, women prostitutes.   Prominent and wealthy men visited her temple regularly and “paid” large sums of money to worship the goddess of “lust,” receiving sexual favors in return.  

The temple prostitutes’ duties weren’t restricted to the temple though.  In the evening they descended from the Acropolis and plied their trade upon the streets of Corinth to male citizens, sailors, and foreign travelers.  A familiar Greek proverb arose from this sexual activity, ‘It is not every man who can afford a journey to Corinth.’  The Bible’s response to this immoral activity is called fornication (1 Corinthians 5:1, 5:9-10, 6:9, 6:15-20, 7:2, 10:8).
 
Corinth became so morally corrupt that its very name became synonymous with debauchery and moral depravity.  The phrase “to corinthianize” was coined and came to represent gross immorality and drunken debauchery.  A good description of the pagan people of Corinth can be found at Romans 1:21-32.  Bear in mind, when Paul wrote the book of Romans, he was staying and preaching God’s Truths in Corinth…

Our Apostle Paul planted the church in Corinth, Greece on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1).  As usual he began his ministry in the Jewish synagogue, where he was assisted by two Jewish Believers, Aquila and Priscilla, with whom he lived for a while and who were fellow tradesmen (tentmakers).

After Silas and Timothy joined him, Paul preached even more intensely than before in the synagogue.  When most of the Jews resisted his message of the gospel, he left the synagogue, declaring, “Your blood be on your own heads!  I am clean.  From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”  But not before Crispus, a Jew, and the leader of the synagogue, his household, and many other Corinthians were converted (Acts 18:5-8).

Paul remained in Corinth for eighteen months teaching the word of God among them (Acts 18:11), but as is usually the case no matter what city or town Paul preached his Gospel in, the majority of the Jews opposed him.  In this instance some Jewish religious leaders brought him before a Roman tribunal claiming:  this man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law (of Moses)(Acts 18:13).  The proconsul Gallio dismissed the case judging the charges against Paul were strictly religious in nature and not “civil” (Acts 18:12-16).  

Unable to completely break away from the culture from whence it came, the Corinthian Church (or the Body of Christ) was exceptionally factional, i.e. a group that is a minority within a larger group and has interests or beliefs that are not always in harmony with the larger group.  For example, after Apollos had ministered amongst the Believers in Corinth for some time, a group of his admirers established a clique and had little to do with the rest of the church.  Another group developed a loyalty to Paul, while yet another claimed a special allegiance to Peter and still another to Jesus Christ alone.

A “fractured church” is a disorganized and disruptive unit which is not a good thing and certainly goes against the will of God who has called for self-sacrifice and unity within His church (Romans 12:1-5).  But this wasn’t the Corinthians biggest problem.  Their most serious problem was “worldliness” or the unwillingness on their part to divorce themselves from their selfish, immoral, and pagan ways or the sinful culture that surrounded them.  To say their spiritual life was anemic because of their “carnality” would be understating their predicament.  

Our Apostle Paul affirms their position in Christ Jesus with his opening remarks (1 Corinthians 1:2-9).  Therefore there’s no question in Paul’s mind that these are his brothers and sisters, redeemed by Christ, destined to spend eternity with Paul in heaven.  I want to make sure everyone understands this Truth.  According to Paul, these folks were Believers and not “fakers,” or “fence-sitters.”  They weren’t “almost” in Christ Jesus, or pretending to be, they were Believers in Christ Jesus!

Although these folks were saved and their eternal souls were bound for glory, it’s also true their eyes were not “fixed” on Jesus Christ; they weren’t “walking with the Lord daily.”  We know this is true because both of their feet remained firmly planted in the muck and mire of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 2:15).  In other words, they wouldn’t let go of the “toilet bowl.”  Paul described them in this way: …are you not fleshly (worldly – relating to physical pleasure), and are you not walking like mere men (those without knowledge of God’s free gift of Grace)? 

Why We Study The Book Of 1 Corinthians

*An earlier epistle was written by Paul to this young group of Believers in Corinth (date unknown) but it has never been located; it’s been lost to time (1 Corinthians 5:9). 

One Sunday morning, in the middle of his sermon, a pastor said, it’s difficult to preach without teaching Scripture, and it was equally as difficult to teach Scripture without preaching it!  I wonder if our Apostle Paul had the same problem… I wonder if that was his goal.

Anyway, that arrow of Truth pierced my heart because we stood on common ground - I understood what he was saying, in other words.  I’ve said something similar for years.  There’s a very fine line that separates a Bible teacher from a preacher, and I’ll occasionally blur that line when I cross over it either intentionally or unintentionally.

Occasionally my teaching comes across as preaching and that’s unavoidable because I’m sold-out for God.  This means I believe in the accuracy of Scripture, down to the last dot and tittle, and I am 100% committed to the ministry of teaching the Bible. 

I teach for many reasons:  indisputable Truth has become subjective, we’re living in an age where more and more people are turning their backs on God, many people have declared His Word “null and void,” and the persecution of Believers around the world, including the U.S.A., is increasing; Believers are being put to death in foreign countries for simply bearing Christ’s name.  Yet a faithful “few” dare to stand up and speak the Truth to an angry world, proclaiming God’s love and mercy to any and all who would accept His invitation to believe and be saved (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Speaking from experience I know some find fault with some of things I say in my lessons, even though they’re based on God’s Word and not my opinion.  People simply disagree with some of my comments or my entire lesson for that matter because they heard someone preach it differently or they read something different in an article or a magazine.  But one thing’s for certain; these folks didn’t bother to look in the book (Acts 17:10-12)!

Then there are those who simply read a few lines of my lesson and turn me off because they don’t “see” it that way.  Isn’t this the age of relativistic ideas?  These folks imagine themselves to be wiser than God.  But where do they get their wisdom?  Is it coming from the music and entertainment industry, CNN, Dr. Phil, Jerry Springer, MSNBC, NPR, The View, or SNL?  These programs and others like them are the vehicles that are shaping the values and views of this generation?  To be blunt they’ve chosen the wisdom of men over the wisdom of God, just like the Corinthians. 

With that said, the vast majority of people would rather surrender multiple hours per week staring at their television sets, playing video games, listening to modern music that degrades women, promotes premarital sex, a permissive lifestyle, and violence.  Yet the Creator God isn’t worthy of one minute of their time.

Just let me say this, where you spend your time and your money not only shows what’s important in your life but what’s shaping your life.

People need to hear God’s Truths whether they think they do or not.  I liken this to a patient who sees his doctor for a check-up and upon the return visit hears from his physician that he has lung cancer.  No one wants to hear “bad” news, especially if it contains the “C” word, but this individual needed to hear it and acknowledge it before the healing process could begin.  There’s absolutely no difference with an individual’s sin problem!  For this reason and so much more we study the Scriptures and not just this letter to the Believers in Corinth, which was written more than 1900 years ago.

Some say the letter to the Corinthians was written mainly to the Jews (the “Acts 28 theory”).   However Pastor J.C. O’Hair proved this teaching to be misleading when he thoroughly put it to the test of the Scriptures, rightly divided, so it is no longer as widely embraced.  If you’ll turn with me to 1 Corinthians 12:2 we’ll read Paul’s comment that provides proof that this church was overwhelmingly made up of Gentiles:  You know that when you were pagans (Gentiles), you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led (There’s no mention of Jews here). 

We understand that this letter was written primarily to Gentiles in the flesh and because of this it is vitally important to us Gentiles in the Dispensation of God’s Grace.  But there’s one more reason to believe this letter is especially applicable to our age and the faith-based issues we currently find ourselves dealing with as Believers. 

Permit me illustrate with this:  there’s no doubt in my mind that our Apostle Paul established more church groups during his three missionary journeys than the seven we can account for by his writings in the New Testament.  But since this is all we have to work with, that’s what we’ll do.  Picking from this list of 7 churches, which one is most like the church of today:  Colosse, Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, Philippi, Rome, or Thessalonica?

We just studied the book of Romans so let’s begin with it.  Is your answer the church in Rome?  Hardly, because Paul had this to say about them:  First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole (Roman) world (Romans 1:8).  Paul was speaking about their faith in his gospel (Romans 1:15-16, 2:16). 

Comparing the church in Rome to the churches of today, Paul’s clear and complete gospel of the Grace of God is pushed into the background (Romans 2:16), while the term “the gospel of the kingdom” and half a dozen other terms which are irrelevant, undispensational, and worldly are added to a message that is completely devoid of God’s Gospel and misleading.   Permit me to illustrate:  as a Sunday school teacher and a counselor at summer camp I was handed teaching material from the church leadership to use in my class setting that contained salvation messages such as, “Ask Jesus to come into your heart,” or “Ask Jesus to come into your life.”  I had many children respond to these so-called salvation messages over the years but it was in vain.  The Truth is these cutesy phrases aren’t in the Bible, they don’t contain a hint of Paul’s gospel, and they will not save anyone! 

I deeply regret having served in these churches and the harm I’ve done to these children to this day, but God used it for good and it served to change my life for the better.  I learned the Truth when I stopped putting my confidence in men and turned to the author of God’s Word.  I started studying the Bible on my own learning what it means to “rightly divide” the Scriptures…  If it were possible I would go door-to-door and beg each one of these children for forgiveness, and then sit with each one and review the only gospel that saves today and that is Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Then there was the time a preacher one morning taught on how to get rich, save money, invest, and pay off your credit cards, etc… but not for very long.  You see, worldly knowledge is not the gospel.  I wasn’t in church to receive worldly wisdom.  I can find that information on the internet.  Anything being taught in the churches that does not point to Jesus Christ, lead to Jesus Christ or reveal that belief in Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is all you need to be saved is neither biblical nor the gospel.    Gone are the days when a preacher can take “hold” of the Word of God and then take “hold” of a group of people!  We don’t need financial advisors on Sunday mornings; we need men like our Apostle Paul!

Not only has Paul’s gospel been pushed into the background by the churches today, the churches of today have all but ignored Paul and his apostleship.  As the present church of Rome chooses to follow Peter rather than Paul, the vast majority of Bible-believing Protestants spend most of their time discussing the history and prophecy of the Old Testament, the four gospels, and the first few books of Acts, then proclaiming the powerful message of grace committed to Paul and to us through his ministry.  The spoken words of Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry are given definite priority over the words of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ revealed to and through the Apostle Paul (Galatians 1:11; Ephesians 3:1-3; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 Corinthians 5:16). 

Are the churches of today like the church in Thessalonica?  Not so much. 
The persecutions the Thessalonians and Paul endured together produced an affectionate bond which only fellow sufferers can understand fully.  If you’ll take the time to read his letter to this church carefully, you’ll see that their relationship was so close, and so deeply did they respect his apostleship, that in his letters to them he does not address them as “an apostle of Jesus Christ,” but simply in the familiar as “Paul.”  I’ve witnessed a similar type bond between those who serve in the military.   It’s a special life-long bond between brothers and sisters in arms that won’t be broken because it’s been “battle-tested.”  However, I see no comparison between the Thessalonian church and the churches of today.  The church today is afraid to speak the name of Jesus Christ in fear of being rebuked or laughed at. 

How about the church at Philippi then?  This too misses the target.  This church was also born of persecution.  They had witnessed the clothes torn off of Paul and Silas, had witnessed their scourging and imprisonment.  They became “partakers” of his afflictions.  Of all the churches (that we know of) the church at Philippi showed the most concern for Paul, seeking him out again and again to make sure he was “cared for” (Philippians 4:10-19).  These Believers can be compared to the Believers at Thessalonica; however, the churches of today have given Paul no respect, let alone shown signs of affection, for all he has done in the name of Jesus Christ, and for the Body of Christ, especially through his writings which can enrich us spiritually, if people would choose to spend some time looking at them.

We’re running out of churches, so it has to be either the church at Ephesus or Colosse. Wrong again!  To these two churches Paul could write about “the mystery,” which is the very capstone of Divine revelation, while the churches of today can digest no more than the milk of the word.  In fact, few even know what the “mystery” is.  To be blatantly honest, based on my experience as a Bible teacher, few people even know what the gospel is.  Most professing Christians are shallow and superficial in their knowledge of God’s Word and their general ignorance of God’s Truths is appalling.    

Maybe you’re thinking it has to be the church at Galatia then?  Wrong again.  For these Believers, although misled by the Judaizers, sought to please God by “adding” or doing things more than He asked of them; they were adding the law (circumcision) to His free gift of grace. 

Only one church out of seven remains my friends and that’s the church at Corinth.
Here we find the similarities striking!  Like the church of today, the Corinthian Believers were superficial in their perception of the truth, and unbelievably permissive in their moral conduct.  Paul had spent 18 months explaining God’s Truths to them, but in all that time they never advanced beyond being “babes in Christ.”  He refers to them as “brethren,” but he also refers to them as “fleshly” in nature – that is to say they are still motivated by the thinking of their flesh or carnal in nature.  Adding to that, they despised Paul’s authority as an apostle. 

We’ll learn more about these three things as we study this letter but it is basically in these three respects that they resemble the churches of our day.


[Published weekly on Friday]

 
(To be continued)


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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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