Exposition of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Firmly accept your new identity in Christ

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Since he has raised the issue of the world’s ways penetrating the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 6:1-8), Paul negatively describes the future awaiting wrongdoers, those whose behavior matches that of the world (1 Cor. 6:9): they will not inherit the kingdom of God. After describing the types of wrongdoers he is talking about (1 Cor. 6:9b-10), Paul then tries to restore the Corinthian believers to a proper understanding of their identity in Christ (1 Cor. 6:11).

It is easy to overlook Paul’s command: Do not be deceived (1 Cor. 6:9). History and experience amply demonstrate that Christians have taken too casual an attitude toward sin in their own lives. This is especially tragic since God has given us the Holy Spirit, who enables us to refuse sins overtures (Rom. 6:1-14).

Paul presents a list of ten practices, five of which are sexual and five of which are not (1 Cor. 6:9b-10). Kenneth Bailey reminds us, “Idolatrous worship in Corinth involved sacred prostitution with the priestesses of Aphrodite/Venus, and thus idolatry in Corinth involved fornication.”[1] Still, if you are counting the list as translated by the NIV, you may come up with only four sinful practices in 1 Cor. 6:9. However, the phrase translated as “nor men who have sex with men” actually includes two Greek nouns. Ben Witherington explains, “The two terms refer respectively, then, to the leading and following partners in a homosexual [encounter].”[2] In other words, either role is unacceptable to God.

The five sexual sins are not said to be any more repugnant to God than the five non-sexual sins listed in 1 Cor. 6:10. All ten are part of the problems in Corinth and are discussed in different parts of the letter.

In 1 Cor. 6:11, a heavy emphasis lies on the first verb translated “were.” It is a common Greek verb whose form refers to continuous action in past time. What time is that? The remainder of the sentence makes it plain that the time of such behavior was prior to making a commitment of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul looks back on their conversion and probably puts the verb “washed” first for literary reasons; they have been washed clean of the ten sins listed above.

Far too many Christians look upon their conversion to Christ as being related solely to avoidance of eternal punishment; perhaps they add to that an expectation of heaven. But such a conception leaves out all the time between trusting Christ and going to heaven. Gordon Fee tells us, “For Paul there is to be the closest possible relationship between the experience of grace and ones behavior that evidences that experience of grace.”[3] The Holy Spirit transforms us to live for Christ until he comes!

Paul’s closing emphasis on Christian identity in verse 11 has an implicit command: Therefore, live out this new life in Christ and stop being like the wicked.[4]

Copyright 2013 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Kenneth E. Bailey, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 2011) 178.

[2] Ben Witherington III, Conflict & Community in Corinth (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995) 166.

[3] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 248.

[4] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 245.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, Misunderstanding life in the Spirit

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

1 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? 5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Paul seriously disagrees with his Corinthian audience about their identity. Certainly they are Christ-followers as shown when he addresses them as brothers and sisters (1 Cor. 3:1). They think of themselves as people who live by the Spirit while he says that they are worldly — mere infants in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1). That is a big difference indeed!

The statement I gave you milk, not solid food (1 Cor. 3:2) has generally been misunderstood to mean that Paul was talking about an elementary grasp of the gospel (milk) and a deeper grasp of doctrine (solid food). To the contrary, Gordon Fee says: For Paul the gospel of the crucified one is both milk and solid food. As milk it is the good news of salvation; as solid food it is understanding that the entire Christian life is predicated on the same reality [i.e., Christ crucified].[1]

While the Corinthians thought themselves ready for more than milk, Paul says they were not ready when he was with them and still have not become ready (1 Cor. 3:2). The proof is that there is jealousy and quarreling among you. What Paul means by worldly is explained by the phrase acting like mere humans (1 Cor. 3:3), which means people who lack the Holy Spirit.

The factions are wearing masks of spirituality in that one claims to follow Paul and another to follow Apollos (1 Cor. 3:4). The evident folly of that behavior is that neither Paul nor Apollos are leaders; they are servants given their respective roles by Christ (1 Cor. 3:5). Some in Corinth have believed, but Paul only claims to have planted the seed and Apollos merely watered it (1 Cor. 3:6). It is, however, God who has been making it grow — a Greek imperfect verb indicating continuous action in past time.

Rather than placing their attention on two supposed leaders, the Corinthian believers should focus on God who sent the two servants (1 Cor. 3:5-7). Note that while the one planting and the one watering had a common purpose, they will be individually rewarded according to their own labor (1 Cor. 2:8) by the master.

Pauls metaphors overturn the Corinthians viewpoint. In Roman culture it was fashionable to be a client of a powerful leader who could pull you up to a higher place. But Paul says that he and Apollos are only servants, and field hands at that! Paul calls them co-workers in Gods service (1 Cor. 3:9).

The Corinthian believers thought themselves in a position to choose among powerful leaders, but Paul says, You are Gods field, Gods building (1 Cor. 3:9). David Garland says, The images convey that the Corinthians are still a work in progress.[2] After all, its hard for a turnip to boast.

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987)125.

[2] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003)113.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 We believe so that we might understand

1 Corinthians 2:14-16

14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Not everyone has the wisdom of God, and, in verses 14-16, Paul explains who has it and who does not. The main group who does not is identified by a two-word phrase in Greek that is translated by the NIV as “the person without the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:14). Older translations sometimes say “the natural man” (KJV, NASB, and ESV has natural person). The NET Bible and HCSB forthrightly say “the unbeliever.” An unbeliever does not have the Spirit of God dwelling within (Rom. 8:9) and is thus a natural man. Since Paul is stressing the Holy Spirit throughout this section, the NIV has nailed the meaning here.

Paul says three things about the person without the Spirit: they do not accept the things that come from the Spirit; they consider such things foolishness.; they cannot understand such things without the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14). This has profound implications for evangelism. We often think wrongly that unbelievers do not understand biblical truth and for that reason they do not believe. So, we try to clarify the biblical truth for them but make little progress. Ben Witherington describes the real problem:

The non-Christian, using his or her natural faculties, is not able to understand or judge spiritual matters (v. 14). They appear to be foolishness. This is a general principle, and probably Paul would say that the only way the non-believer understands enough to accept the gospel in the first place before receiving the Spirit is that the Spirit has already been working unnoticed.[1]

Perhaps a better approach would be to persuade those who need salvation to open their lives to seek God. In Athens, Paul said, “God did this [created the world] so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:23). Only those willing to seek the Lord will find him.

The only way for an unbeliever to grasp the truth God has revealed is to start with Christ crucified. When they commit themselves by faith to Jesus Christ, they receive the Holy Spirit and then can understand spiritual things previously beyond their grasp (“the person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things,” 1 Cor. 2:15).

The person who does not have the Spirit cannot make accurate judgments about those who have the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:15). Gordon Fee says, “Those whose lives are invaded by the Spirit of God can discern all things, including those without the Spirit; but the inverse is not possible.”[2] The answer to the question in 1 Cor. 2:16 is that the Holy Spirit knows the mind of the Lord. Those who belong to Christ have the Spirit and really know Christ.[3] Garland explains that to have the mind of Christ requires putting to death selfish ambitions, humbling oneself, and giving oneself for others.[4]

Fee points out that 1 Cor. 2:14-16 has often been abused in the church by some who consider themselves to be so full of the Spirit as to be beyond correction or counsel from others. It has been hijacked by various deeper life or second blessing movements who regularly make a special revelation from the Spirit their final court of appeal.[5] Such actions miss the point and divert attention from the central message of Christ crucified.

Fee powerfully concludes: “The gift of the Spirit does not lead to special status among believers; rather, it leads to special status [in relation to] the world. But it should always do so in terms of the centrality of the message of our crucified/risen Savior.”[6]

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Ben Witherington III, Conflict & Community in Corinth (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995) 128.

[2] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 118.

[3] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 101.

[4] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 102.

[5] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 120.

[6] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 120.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 2:10b-13, The Spirit enables us to know God

1 Corinthians 2:10b-13

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.

If, as Paul has asserted, human wisdom cannot know God and his wisdom, how can the gap be bridged? Paul’s clear answer is the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10b). This is explained using a Greek philosophic principle of like is only known by like, meaning here that only God can know God (1 Cor. 2:11). Therefore, God must take his knowledge of himself and make it known to us.[1] He did this by sending the Holy Spirit to live within every Christian.

Of course, God also revealed himself through the incarnation, the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, as well as through what is revealed in the Bible. But the focus here is that God has given us his Spirit to aid our understanding of all these sources of spiritual knowledge.

Every Christian receives the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:12), not least so that we can understand what God has done for us in Christ crucified (what God has freely given us). The source of this Spirit is not the world because the Spirit is from God. God wants us to understand him and intends that we do so, so he has arranged to make it possible.

For God to do this for us is another act of grace or kindness that is hidden within the language “what God has freely given us” (1 Cor. 2:12). This is the Greek verb charizomai, which has the same root as the noun for grace. One Greek reference says: “The verb . . . is used primarily in connection with the decisive, gracious gift of God. Rom. 8:32 speaks of the all-embracing gift of God in giving his Son (cf. John 3:16).”[2] The verb can also mean “to forgive.”

In verse 13, Paul returns to his idea in 1 Cor. 2:4, that his preaching to the Corinthians had been a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. He was explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words (1 Cor. 2:13). So, his message came from God.

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 110.

[2] New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Verlyn Verbrugge, Ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 603.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, The power is always from God

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Not only did Paul stick to the crucifixion of Christ as the message during his time in Corinth (1 Cor. 2:2), but he also reminds them that fancy rhetoric and human philosophy played no part in his presentation of the testimony about God (1 Cor. 2:1). Paul is not expressing anti-intellectualism here; he is running toward, and not away from, the message that is “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:23): Christ crucified.

Verse 3 is difficult, but it probably means that Paul was all-in with his counter-cultural approach to speak the message without the strength and boldness of a cultured orator.[1] One indication that this explanation is correct is that verse 4 says that in different words. The marvelous result of this modest method is that any result — such as those who trusted in Christ through the message — could only be attributed to the power of the Holy Spirit. By eliminating the negative clause, Paul says, “My message and preaching [came] . . . with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Cor. 2:4). As a result, no one in Corinth could ever say that Paul used persuasion or rhetorical tricks to bring people to Christ. The many new Christians could only be a result of God’s power.

How could Paul speak of the Spirit’s power? In Acts 18:7-8, we learn that when Paul finished his preaching in the synagogue, the synagogue leader and his entire household trusted in Jesus as their Messiah and were baptized. Not long afterward, the Lord — meaning Jesus — spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10).

When the Holy Spirit is at work, the simple message of Jesus crucified is all you need.

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 85.