In our last post The Second Coming of Christ, we listened in as the apostle Paul explained that ‘second coming’ in his written letters while he was in the city of Corinth – letters he sent to the church in Thessalonica, now known as the Bible books 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
Paul then journeys back to the first Gentile church in Antioch, accompanied by two disciples: Aquila and his wife Priscilla. Along his journey, Paul spends a few days in the city of Ephesus, (a Hellenist city located in modern-day Turkey, and the second largest city / outpost of the Roman empire.)
He leaves Aquila and Priscilla there to minister, and he proceeds to Antioch where he is commissioned again by the church to undertake what is referred to as his ‘third missionary journey.’ His journey required that he re-visit all of the churches that he had previously founded. After Paul completed that task, he returned to the city of Ephesus, and God moved through him mightily:
God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out. Acts 19:11 NASB
Having witnessed these miracles, seven Jewish brothers (without having any faith in Jesus) tried to drive evil spirits out of a man so that they could be glorified. However, they were taken aback when one of the evil spirits addressed them:
And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” Acts 19:15 NKJV
Immediately after, the demon-possessed man overpowered the brothers and word concerning this event spread everywhere – bringing greater glory to the true authenticity of Jesus’ ministry through Paul.
Paul spent three months in Ephesus, trying to bring the gospel message to the Jews, but they would not accept it. So he turned his efforts solely to the Gentiles, and remained in the city for three more years. (52 – 55 A.D.) The Bible tells us again of God’s work through Paul:
So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. Acts 19:20 ESV
(During this time, the apostle Mark writes the first gospel of Jesus Christ, while Paul simultaneously writes a letter to the church he had planted in the city of Corinth. (It’s amazing to see the breadth and depth of revelation that Christ gave Paul before any of His gospels were written.)
God never teaches confusion, but His human creations can be extremely adept at it. Egos and self-aggrandizers of certain of the Corinthians within the church had thrown it into complete disarray. There were subgroups among the laity, and each of them claimed that the leader within their group was superior to the other group leaders. The church was also incorporating pagan practices within the worship services – even including temple prostitution. The city of Corinth was also a Roman colony; so there was a proliferation of idol worship there as well.
When Paul received reports of these behaviors, he sent them a letter to lead them back into godly ways. (Unfortunately, this letter is lost to history.) Paul followed up by sending his disciple Timothy. After Paul received a report that the church in Corinth had misconstrued his instructions, he sent them a second letter, which we now know as the Bible book of 1 Corinthians.
It is a strong letter of ‘loving corrections.’ Paul begins by reminding them of how they had been fully equipped by God, through him, to be able to lead a holy life:
I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Cor. 1:4 – 9. NASB
Next, Paul addresses the degradation of the unity of the church:
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 1 Cor. 1:10 NJKV
What I mean is that each of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephus,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 1 Cor. 1:12, 13. ESV
‘Cephus’ was another name for the apostle Peter. Apollos was a highly skilled Christian orator, (a skill that Paul would say he did not share). What Paul is hammering home here, is that it is the message, the word of God, that is important, not the messenger – who certainly does not deserve to take any of God’s glory away from Him and have it slathered upon them. (It is my personal belief that it is this very practice that has given birth to all of the denominations that splinter the church today.)
Our focus belongs on God, and on His redemptive work through Christ Jesus, and on the Holy Spirit – exactly as He describes it in His word; and that includes witnessing that word with the same exactitude:
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Cor. 1:17, 18. NKJV
You know when you have God in your heart, through Christ Jesus, (not through something man has done or thought) because that is when the Holy Spirit will open your eyes, and the Bible will come alive for you:
Where is the wise man (the philosopher)? Where is the scribe (the scholar)? Where is the investigator (the logician, the debater) of this present time and age? Has not God shown up the nonsense and folly of this world’s wisdom? 1 Cor. 1:20 AMP
…no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are right in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption – that is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” 1 Cor. 1:29 – 31. NKJV (see also Ps. 115:1 & Pr. 25:27.)
So we see that the messenger is to remain humble; and Paul leads by example:
I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 1 Cor. 2:3 – 5. NKJV
Paul then describes what the God-powered delivery of His word looks like:
However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Cor. 2:6 – 8. NKJV
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” – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 1 Cor. 2:9 – 12. ESV
So it is by embracing our spirit, which is connected to God’s Spirit, that the revelation of His word is given to us. Yet, why does the majority of the world refuse to see this? Paul tells us:
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.
But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Cor. 2:15, 16. NKJV
Unbelievers don’t get it, because they deny their spiritual side, and thus they cannot connect to the Spirit of God or to His Son.
Paul then emphasizes the ultimate importance of recognizing that only God can give us spiritual understanding – regardless of who the messenger is, that he sends it through:
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 1 Cor. 3:5 – 7. ESV
According to the grace which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 3:10, 11. NKJV
So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God. 1 Cor. 3:21 – 23. NASB
At this juncture, Paul changes his ‘correction narrative’ to another matter; and we’ll take it up next time…
Good night and God bless.