|Messages By Ovid Need|
I Corinthians 1 - 1:1
We have been in 1 Cor. for some time, mainly ch. 13. Lord willing, we will return to that passage next week.
We mentioned last week about Paul's introduction to this letter. Even though it was written to the most worldly church in the NT, he opens this letter talking about them as though they were the most Godly.
In this saw a couple of things.
1. Only God can see the heart.
2. The Holy Spirit calls people by what they profess to be. These people were called saints, even though their actions were not saint-like.
3. They were considered saints according to their character, not according to their actions. Then Paul threatens them with many dire consequences if they don't start living their profession.
Then we pointed out that if the inner man, or inner being of an individual enjoys worldliness and sin, this is a very good sign that they are not saved. But if the inner man cries out with Paul, O wretched man that I am (Rom. 7:24), this is a good sign that they are saved.
If one finds inner enjoyment in the things that displease God, this shows that they have not the Spirit of God.
That was a short introduction to this Book which I felt was needed. It should encourage us. As we fall from what God wants us to be, our assurance of His love is the Spirit's cry within our heart, O wretched man that I am.
As I study the Scriptures, I will use the writings of others to direct my attention. I usually check with at least three others, and some times 5 or 6, as I move on into the study. As I did this here, I was impressed with a point made in this first verse.
V. 1. Paul opens this letter as he opens all of this letters (except Hebrews, if he wrote it), in his usual manner. He identifies himself as Paul. This was his new name given to him after his conversion. His name had been Saul. This new name indicated his change in calling, personality, character, goal in life, and love after his conversion.
This is a good place to make a point.
Personality can be, and many times must be, changed. Personality is changeable. "PERSONALITY is the sum total of what we are at any given moment." (Jay Adams, Competent to Counsel, pg. 250.) It could also be identified as the way we respond in any given situation. By nature, the unsaved man will respond sinfully. By nature the saved man will desire to respond sinfully. But the redeemed individual knows that there is now a third factor involved in the trying situation and the individual's sinful nature.
In other words:
The first factor in the trying situation.
The second is the fallen nature that is present in every descendant of Adam.
The third factor is the Holy Spirit.
He is not just a conveniences to have around, but He is the very power of the living God which places in the child of God the personality of God. He is the One Who forms Christ and Christ's personality in the people of God. They have been changed at conversion, which is to be just what it says, conversion; conversion from the old to the new, as Paul was.
Romans 8:28, 29. Clearly, one of the chief works of the Holy Spirit in the individual is to change the personality of God's people, from a sinful personality into the personality of Christ.
Bad habits and personality traits are developed over a period of time, as we respond to situations is an unbiblical manner. Bad habits are changeable factors. A person may, and many times, must leave his bad habits behind him. And with them, his bad personality traits. This is done by forming new response patterns to the situations which arise. Instead of responding as the old sinful nature demands, we respond as the new nature requires of us and has been explained to us in the Word of God.
Through the power of the indwelling Spirit of God, and the instructions of the word of God, new personality patterns can be established; patterns of patience, courtesy, consideration, and so on. New patterns and habits can be established if one is willing to obey God and work at it.
Now, our personality traits can be changed. The personality would be different from our gifts and abilities which have been given to us by the Lord.
Romans 12:6-8 gives to us the list of the spiritual gifts which the Lord gives to His people to do His work with. Chapter 11 comes before 12, and there is an important point made in 11:29. That point is that the gifts which God gives to his people are without repentance. Thy cannot be changed.
This does not mean that we cannot misuse them and have them removed by the Lord, or us removed by the Lord. This does mean that we cannot chose what gifts we want, and we cannot choose the calling of God that we want. These are given to us as a gift from God and totally according to His will and plan for our lives.
In other words, the ability which we have cannot be exchanged to God for another one more pleasing to us. The calling of pastor, teacher, evangelist, or as giver, mercy-shower, exhorter, etc, cannot be exchanged to Him for another. Eph. 1:1-12 tells us that these gifts and abilities are given to whom He will for the purpose according to His will and plan. They cannot be exchanged.
But our personality traits which are contrary to the principles of the revealed word of God, not only can be changed, but must be brought into conformity to those principles.
Can it be done? Of course! This was done in Saul's life, was it not?
Now, going on in v. 1:
Paul identifies himself, then makes a point of his authority to write this book. His authority was his call from the Lord Jesus Christ to be an apostle. He was not a self-appointed Apostle in a self-made office, but an office appointed to him by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Apostle of Jesus Christ.. Literally, a messenger, and then a missionary, or one sent to preach the gospel. He claims for himself divine, infallible authority for what he is doing and is about to say.
Through the will of God.. Because of what Paul was going to say, he makes a point that he is acting, not under his own authority and abilities, but under the authority and abilities given to him by Jesus Christ Himself.
Romans 9:16 Here Paul tells us that this office was not of his choosing, nor of his own will. Therefore, he did not choose this authority to write this letter and say what he is about to say. It was thrust upon him, even over his own objection.
V. 2, The point that caught my attention as I was going through this first verse is, Called (to be) saints.. We must hold to the same doctrine concerning the calling of God as what Paul does. We were not looking for Him, nor had any desire to come to Him when He 'found us.'
Every person is called. Of course, not every person is called to the same place in the body of Christ, but according to His good pleasure. As we mentioned above, this is Ephesians chapter 1.
I like what Parker says here: "There are no loose stones in God's quarry; every one is marked for a place: why should the stone that is marked for the base complain that it was not marked for the pinnacle? Why should the stone marked for the pinnacle complain that it always catches the high winds, and the first snow that falls coldly upon it? whereas it ought to have been hidden in the earth, where it would have been saved from many inconveniences and from all exposures. There is one Builder: let him put us where he pleases."
1 Cor. 3:7-15. Paul points out to these people that their is only one builder (God) and one building (the kingdom of God).
This is good. This is not talking only about the place in the body of Christ, or the church as we would think of it, such as Romans 12. This is referring to the talents and abilities given to us by God to make our living with. The Kingdom of God is everywhere and includes all the kingdoms of men and their activities. When men rebel against His Kingdom, judgment is sure.
God has given every person an unique ability to be used in His kingdom work, and every thing is His kingdom work. Art is part of His kingdom work. Math, science, architecture, medicine, sales, labor, factory work, agriculture, construction, every sphere of life which we can name which requires human activity is part of His kingdom work. Not just 'spreading the gospel,' but applying His word to everything.
Working in the Lord's service is not restricted to 'church work,' but includes selling insurance, running a bank, working on a road crew or in a steel mill. People work for the glory of God. God prospers them in what ever activity they have been given their abilities in. They are then to support the activities of the Kingdom of God, spreading the gospel (teaching salvation, baptizing the new converts and teaching them the total of God's word and its application so the Lord can bless them also), and financing all their needs as required by the law of God. This is His Kingdom Work.
"There are no lose stones in God's quarry.."
I am reminded of the quarry pits down around Bedford and Bloomington Indiana. The stones are mined with a purpose, and that purpose is not to sit around the edge of the quarry and urge the workers on. They are not carved to sit on the sideline as an example of the skill of the carver, but to be placed into service. They are mined, and if fit, they are numbered, shaped and placed into service. In fact, as you drive past the pits down there, you will see many large stones sitting on the side of abandon pits. Evidently these are stones which were mined out of the quarry and found unfit for further service. There is nothing sadder as you drive by than to see those stones sitting there all alone with weeds and grass growing all around them.
Following the illustration on. The ones which are found fit and go on to be placed into service, in that service they are chipped, cracked and sometimes even broken. If they had remained at the pit, this would not have happened, but they would not have been any good to man or God.
The application is beautiful.
Isaiah 51:1 Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. And the cross reference in my Bible is Mat. 6:33.
God digged us from the pit. He hewed us from the rock for one purpose only, to take our place in the kingdom of God and work. How many Christians are just like those abandon stones. They were digged out of the pit, refused to be used of the Master so they have been abandon to weeds and decay.
But we have been numbered in His ledger, we are in the process of being carved for His use, in the place where He would have us to be. He is the Master builder, placing us where it pleases Him.
Many times God's people think that He digged them from the pit, carved them beautifully, then means for them to sit around the edge and look pretty. No! He digged them out, carved them into a beautiful shape to be placed into hard service. That service may result in chipped, cracked and even broken pieces, so bad that they must be replaced.
BUT IT IS BETTER TO HAVE BEEN PLACED INTO SERVICE FOR THE KING AND BE BROKEN IN THAT SERVICE AND HAVE TO BE REPLACED, THAN NEVER TO HAVE BEEN PLACED INTO SERVICE AT ALL!
"There are no loose stones in God's quarry; everyone is marked for a place..." Have we found our place? Do we want to find our place? It is so much easier to sit on the side of the pit, but only discarded stones which are not fit for use, sit there. We have been given an agility, we are to use it to support the work of the kingdom of God. And the word of God explains the many different facets of that work, the family, church, occupation, education and so on.
We could have been left in the pit!!!
On one manner or another, he makes this point of his authority in all of his books. Although in Galatians 1:1 he does this even stronger. Probably the reason that Paul emphasized this calling of God upon the individual, which is done solely according to God's purpose, is because of the way that the Lord called him. Paul was not looking for the Lord, yet the Lord called him. We have already mentioned Ephesians 1 on this point.
And this must hold true to every office and officer in the church. The office must be ordered by the Head of the Church in His word and its responsibilities defined. Then it must be filled by the person appointed by the same Lord. Anything else will reduce the Church to little more than a business, with positions and elected officers to fill those positions. The name which these organizations go by is Not-For-Profit organizations.
Paul had a purpose in emphasizing his call by the Lord Jesus Christ, the founder of the Church, to an office ordered by the same Lord, the office of an Apostle. The purpose is evident in this book as it is in Galatians.
There are three reasons for Paul emphasizing his authority at the opening of all of his letters; his authority as a divinely appointed Apostle, appointed by the Founder of the Church.
1. The false teachers who rose up in these churches as soon as Paul was out of sight, would be trying to undermine his authority to write these letters of instruction.
(Acts 20:28-35. Paul warns the elders of the Church at Ephesus that after his departing shall grievous wolves enter in among them. In Galatians 1:6, Paul marveled that they were so soon removed from him that called them into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.)
USE??? My heart is heavy this morning over this very point. I could go down the list of pastors that I know and have known that I can think of, who have stood for righteousness, godliness and the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ in their churches.
This has struck me as strange over the years, but I never really put it together in a pattern. A call by Bro. W.A. Park Friday brought it home to me.
As I think back, these ministries come to my mind.
First is the church in La. where we were for 7 years. The pastor had spent 8 or 9 years building and training the people in the faith. This was before the incorporation became an issue. But he took a stand against debt and was working toward paying off the church debt. He was making good progress.
After he left, the people were easily led back into so called, 'deficit financing.'
The second one I am reminded of is Bro. Riker when he was in Zionsville. He stood for right and righteousness in the community. He refused the incorporation, understanding fully the implications of it. He understood that it placed the church under the authority of the state.
After he left, the new pastor destroyed the testimony which Bro. Riker had built up over the years. The church soon entered into the ungodly relationship with the state and further departed from all the teaching which he had invested.
The third one that I can think of is Bro. Weaver's old church. He also took a strong stand in these many areas, and taught his people well.
After he left to go into evangelism and they got their new pastor, it wasn't but just a few months until this new man had them back into everything that Bro. Weaver had stood so hard against.
The fourth one that I know of is an evangelist named John Lewis. Some here know of him, and they would know what kind of a stand he took in his church.
After he left to go into evangelism, his old church did the same. They got in their new man, and he took them right down the road to compromise.
The fifth one that I know of is W.A. Park. He had written me a couple of weeks ago. In his letter he had mentioned that he had resigned his church to go into full-time missionary work in Mexico, and wanted to know if we could print a news letter for him. He also mentioned that after he left, the church compromised every thing he had taught them, and he now needed a state-side 'sending church.'
I wrote back asking what had happened. He called Friday and I asked him what happened. He told me that while he was pastoring, a few months ago, he felt that the Lord wanted him to go into full time missionary and church planting work down into Mexico.
I ask him what had happened in the Church. He told me that after he had resigned he had retained a close tie with his church long enough to get in a man who he felt would carry on what he had started.
It seems that the man (a Puerto Rican) had convinced every one of his sincerity and dedication. Then when he got in as pastor, a disgruntled church member wasted no time getting to him. This church member convinced him to let someone who had been removed from the church for causing problems, back in. When this man was allowed back, he persuaded the pastor that he should be licensed by the state and that the church should pay all the taxes which the state desired. Property, SS, the whole works.
He then put the pastor onto contact with a third man who was a man of means. This man paid all of the taxes assessed by the state, to the tune of $7,000.00. Thus was undone all the work which Bro. Park had taught over the years.
When he went into Mexico as a missionary, he had fully expected what had been his church to be his sending state-side sending Church. Now, of course, it cannot be.
Now, all of that to say this.
Paul knew that as soon as he was out of sight, these churches, even the one at Ephesus, would depart quickly from the faith. Therefore, he reminds them that he is a divinely appointed apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the head of the Church. (Remember, he even sent Timothy to some of them to call them back to the faith.)
This has been the sad but common trait every since. When the man who has stood firm on the authority of the word of God and of the Lord over His church passes off the scene, the people of the Church soon forget all that he taught. Why is it so easy? I think that Paul identifies the problem in Acts. They are wolves in sheep's clothing.
The problem was so prevalent and devastating that Peter warned of it in his second Book, chapter 2. The half brother of Christ, Jude, also warned of it, v. 4.
This is a sad reminder of how venerable people are to corrupt doctrine, and the importance of faithful teachers of the word of God.
Now, the second reason for Paul emphasizing his authority at the opening of all of his letters; his authority as a divinely appointed Apostle, appointed by the Founder of the Church.
2. He is going to name names and expose false teachers and their teachings in these books. This is especially true in the sense of these teachers presenting a false plan of salvation and their denial of the very basic principles of the Christian faith. These were Jewish teachers who made it a point to undermine the doctrine of justification by faith, plus nothing and minus nothing. It was hard for them to give up their false confidence in the law of Moses for salvation through the work of Christ.
Then the third. The going would become very difficult in the service of the Lord. Paul went all the way to a violent death for the cause of Christ. His (and our) calling and election had better be sure, or the confidence to stand fast in the Lord will not be present.
When the office is man-made, and the holder is man-appointed, it will not take much to force one to compromise or quit in the face of persecution.
Although this office of Apostle is gone, the principle is the same. The servants of Christ, pastors, teachers, deacons, had better be there because the Lord God called them and really gave them no choice. Most of the calling today is like D.L. Moody's. Moody had an ability to gather people to himself and saw this as his calling to preach the gospel.
(The next point, and it doesn't look like I am going to get to the place I wanted to get to.)
Sos-the-nes.. It was a common practice of the Apostle to mention another person in his greeting or closing of a letter. Sosthenes would be a 'nobody' in the worlds eyes, yet the great Apostle here identifies him as a brother. Two points:
First, it is the 'nobodies' in the world's eyes, it is the ones acting behind the scenes which support the ones who are the 'somebodies' in the public. Without people like Sosthenes who are willing to be a 'nobody' for the cause of the Lord, who are willing to work quietly, if no more than to be an encouragement and run errands, there would be no Pauls.
Second, I think it is worth noting that very seldom did Paul travel alone. Ecc. 4:9-12, which would be primarily talking of our spouse, but would include others. Paul usually had someone with him. This shows us the need to do the same. Two united together in a common goal for good and God, have more strength than one.
Deut. 32:30. When it seems that the enemy is overwhelming, our best bet is to get someone to join with us.
Mt. 18:20 the Lord Himself promised that where two or more are gathered together in His name, there is He in the midst of them.
Deut. 19:5; Mt. 18:15, 16 (2 Cor. 13:1) gives us the importance of two witnesses.
Two people are far more important than we would think. Two united together will stand better and have more strength to pursue the enemies of God.
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