1 Corinthians Part Two Dive
JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD
We are in the letter to the church in Corinth, and we learnt in the snapshot videos that this city was a large city with lots of idolatry and prostitution. The reputation of the Corinthians was unfortunately of a very low standard. So if I was writing a letter to this church, I’m not sure I would open it as Paul did. Look at what Paul calls the church in the second verse:
1C 1:2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people…
What a declaration over this church, called to be sanctified and holy–in other words, called to be different from the culture that they lived in! He is about to take this whole letter to rebuke them for sexual immorality and all sorts of mess, and yet he is saying to them from the beginning, “You are sanctified, and you are called to be a holy people.” This was a prophetic declaration for this church, “C’mon step up, you are called to be sanctified set apart declared to be holy”! Paul from the beginning is saying – "Church in Corinth don’t forget what you are, don’t forget who you are in, no matter what happens outside the walls you are called to be different, stand against the norm of your society and be set apart."
Last week, Dr Adam White took us on a journey through Corinth (how great was that!) So as we discover Corinth, you can hear Paul’s heart that in a city that wasn’t holy these people in Christ were holy, in a city that was not sanctified in Christ the church was sanctified. They just had to believe it themselves!
This declaration is over us today; we are called to be holy, set apart, in a society that is strongly leaning one way we are called to be different. Can I sound a little old for one second? When I look at my generation and what we faced and were tempted by it is really quite tame compared to what I see the generations facing today. With the increase in technology comes the increase in access. I only used my computer when I was young for video games, but now the computer is a door to a whole different world that I have neither experienced or imagined. Nudity was not something that we ever saw in magazines or on television now it is fashion, well if you believe the Kardashians!! Wearing the Emperor’s new clothes (just your underwear) is now a fashion statement on the red carpet. So how in a society that is going that way are we called to stand against the norm?
And we find the key in Corinthians. Imagine being in a city with 27 different temples, with prostitution used to honour the gods, sexual immorality normal and with the only food that you can eat socially attached to the local temples. So the meat you are eating has just been offered as a sacrifice to another god. How do I live like I should in this city? How do I maintain my Christian purity in a city that is anything but?
The letter to the Corinthians is quite strong on this point and actually, Paul addresses it in his Father like manner to correct and encourage the Corinthians to live above what their neighbours are doing. We first meet the normality of sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 5: 1 and when you first read it, it is quite confronting, you know one of those moments when you are reading the Bible, and you do that ‘double-take’ thing, like wait a second did I just read that right and you have to read it again.
1C 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud!
Now let me show you something first, Paul is not addressing the sexual immorality outside the church and judging them, he is saying “there is sexual immorality among you” he is addressing the people that are supposed to be the light in the darkness and they are darker than the pagans. That’s never good! And it keeps going they are not just worse they are super proud of this man. So how I hear you ask did they get to this point, how did they get to the point that this behaviour was not just accepted in the church but celebrated!
We find the key to their behaviour in 6:12 “I have the right to do anything” you say – but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” – but I will not be mastered by anything.' and again in 10:23 "I have the right to do anything,” you say – but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” – but not everything is constructive.'
This is a huge issue – they are abusing their freedom in Christ. Doing what they want, because they have the right to do anything. When you start pushing your own rights over the guidance of God, that is when warning bells should go off! Just because you can now in your freedom in Christ, doesn’t mean that you should. Actually for Paul it is really the opposite, the grace that was given you that you are saved by is not so you can keep obtaining grace in a life of sin but out of a humble heart, overtaken with gratitude and thankfulness for the grace that you have, that you live a life worthy of the gift that has been given to you. You live a life that honours God because he has given you the freedom to live. He makes it pretty clear in 15:33
1C 15:33-34 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Come back to your senses as you ought and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God – I say this to your shame.
In this letter, Paul gives us some keys on how to live a life of freedom and discipline in 9:19-27. 1 Corinthians is all about balancing freedom in Christ with boundaries in our Christian lives and in the Church. You are going to love this letter!
Today in our society and especially as Christians we need to take the warnings in Corinthians, just because it is easily accessible on the internet, just because we have forgiveness of our sins, and the free gift of grace in salvation, just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Use your freedom well TYB!