14 Feb 2010

1 Corinthians: Immorality and Behavior

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I have pieced together an email discussion concerning First and Second Corinthians, especially in view of the section about the immoral man in 1 Corinthians 5. Some of the discussion overlaps and even jumps around quite a bit. I hope you can follow it well enough.

So I started going through the scriptures, and I felt good in Romans, but in I and II Corinthians I got completely hung up. I started really getting confused with the idea that Paul can talk about freedom and identity, and yet he would then go on and say things that seemed to contradict. I had (and still have) A LOT of questions regarding the guy in I Cor. 5, the stuff in I Cor. 10, or in II Cor. where Paul appeals for them to “be reconciled,”…I thought they were??? Are they not now??? And then I went on to Galatians, and again, I felt good throughout most of the book, but then Gal. 4:17, or 4:10-11 where Paul wonders if he had labored over them in vain, or in verse 19, where he said that he is working for Christ to be formed in them…again, is he not now, because of their actions? And then in Galatians 5, and again in Ephesians (the book I am currently in), when Paul writes the sin lists, he tells them and warns them that those who do these things will not inherit the kingdom of God. TB, 2/14/2010

Hello Tim B
What is often misunderstood about the scriptures is that we are not bound to a book, no matter how full of Christ it may be. In saying that, I don’t suggest there is no real way of seeing the writings in view of Christ, for they were written in view of the life of Christ in us. It’s just that we’re trying to homogenize every letter in a simple to understand treatise on freedom.

Now, you and I might feel better about Romans because of our background in the doctrinal approach to the Bible. More of it is a clear statement of the truth apart from the mess of day to day living, which is understandable, as Paul had not lived among the Roman believers as he had with the Corinthian believers. What Paul wrote to the Corinthians was so connected to his own involvement in their lives for an extended stay that he was able to zero in on the very things that caused their confusion regarding freedom in Christ.

As an example, a man I know gets caught up in a similar pettiness. I’ve had to confront him on numerous occasions. Guess what the bulk of our conversations consist of? If you guessed his behavior, you are correct. While this might appear as a contradiction, I suggest that it is a necessity. You see, while he is telling me about his latest problem, it becomes clear that his thoughts all consist of and revolve around fleshly perceptions. From past experience, I already know that I cannot speak anything of Christ to him (other than a simple nod to the truth) until he is given the space to reveal the insanity he is currently caught up in. So, I listen. And then little by little, I begin to question him based upon the specifics he is determined to justify himself by.

Now, if you were to listen in on numerous parts of our conversations, including things I’ve said to him, I dare say you might wonder why I was dealing with his sin issues, rather than simply encouraging him in Christ with the truth of the gospel. However, if you followed the whole conversation, including the breaking point where he hears the sound of his own insanity, you might instead wonder how such a miraculous switch could occur. Each time we’ve had a confrontation, I’ve witnessed a man filled with insane reasoning simply drop it all mid-course and express a heart full of joy and life.

You see, he knows the truth, but he is so surrounded by the reasoning of legality of those who seem to be his only chance of fellowship. I imagine the connection between Paul and the Corinthians was of a similar nature. You see, he knew them and they knew him. Paul had to deal with them in view of the many among them who didn’t think too highly of him and his message of Christ. Never lose sight of the single-mindedness of the man who stated his determination in this way:

For I determined to nothing among you except Christ, and him crucified 1 Corinthians 2:2

And should you ever think that he strayed from his course, let this assure you that he did not:

Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 2 Corinthians 5:16

While we often assume that Paul must have somewhat veered off his original determination, he wrote what he did in the way he did all for the purpose of shaking them from their insane perceptions. He had to address them like this because they were not able to receive what he wanted to tell them because they were too much in the sway of fleshly persuasion.

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

He tackled specific issues with them because those things all connected with the fleshly mindset by which the Corinthians were viewing themselves in comparison with each other. Such is the case with the adulterous man in 1 Corinthians 5. I am convinced that Paul was fully aware of the part this man played in the insanity that caused these believers to imagine that his fleshly activities somehow expressed their freedom.

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. And you have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from your midst. 1 Corinthians 5:1-2

What possible reason could have stirred up arrogance among the believers regarding this situation? And what if this whole ordeal, as addressed by Paul, focused not upon the man in question, but rather on the cause of the arrogance?

Though I used to wish that the Corinthian letters could have sounded more like the expose of Christ as presented to the Romans, I slowly began to understand Paul’s determination of Christ that ties the whole thing together. If Paul had simply written a letter similar to what he wrote to the Romans, it would not have connected to their specific needs.

And isn’t this what a letter is supposed to do? When you connect the two Corinthian letters together, you get a much fuller picture that reveals Paul’s heart in writing so harshly to his beloved brothers. Well, enough for this letter, as I’ve been at it off and on since this morning. :) Maybe you can let me know how it sits with you so far. Jim Minker

In the example you used of your friend, are you saying that in your dealings with him, because he was so blinded by the flesh, you would focus in on the issues of the flesh to illuminate how foolish they were, like when Paul would say, “Let me indulge in a little foolishness?” TB, 2/20/2010

Very much so. And was it not to the Corinthians that Paul said that very thing? For it is in those very things that the person in question is imaging that he is somehow being righteous or stalwart in the faith. Should it be surprising that viewing Christ according to the flesh would not cross boundaries so that the one caught up in it would somehow feel righteous in applying his harsh and biased judgments?

After all, once the line is crossed into the realm of the flesh where comparisons abound, we should expect to hear a lot of irrationality that somehow seems “Christian” to the one spouting it. It used to confound me to witness a person jump from one unrelated thing to another, but I have come to realize that the actual connection revolves around comparison, which is all according to appearances and perceptions. Once I understood that Christ was not the actual basis of judgment in the person’s eyes it became obvious how it fit together.

As for his justification, was he trying to justify the behavior, like the Corinthians were? TB

Oh for certain. Now, keep in mind that at times he would make sure he worded it in such a way as to suggest he wasn’t trying to justify his behavior. But he was. Sometimes, justifying one’s behavior doesn’t even make a mention of said behavior, for it is often a harsh assessment of another’s behavior. Consider how Paul commented in Romans 2:

Therefore you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. And do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment upon those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:1-4

See how he asks about their assumption of escaping the judgment of God based on passing the judgment of God upon others, even though they do the same. That is a simple principle of the fleshly mind. When you hear another who often brings up another’s shortcomings, listen carefully. You might just hear this principle running amok.

If the other person is the bad guy in the story, who do we suppose the good guy really is. And it makes no difference how Biblical it sounds. After all, isn’t that exactly what the scribes and Pharisees did? Actually, I’ve become very suspicious when Bible verses are thrown around, as I have learned how easily the logic of man hides behind it all.

I would love to know more about what you meant by that “miraculous switch.” My hunch is (perhaps I am wrong), but it seems Paul seems to use warnings in scripture regarding behavior for the purpose of shaking Christians out of their moral laxness (if they are in that position of wanting to justify their behavior.

Not that Paul thinks a Christian can lose their salvation, but that a true Christian, one born again, will sense the urgency in their Spirit, and they will likely repent (knowing that they are participating in behavior that will send unbelievers to hell). If the Christian doesn’t repent, then perhaps through church discipline, they are put in a position for God to lovingly discipline them to bring them back. If they are not truly born again, then they will persist in their sin, and eventually fall away from anything to do with Christ, as they were not really saved anyway.

What do you think about this? Am I on the right track? Is that what you mean when you were saying you were talking to your friend about his behavior (as he was trying to justify himself)? TB

Don’t equate the justifying of one’s behavior with moral laxness. After all, some very rigid people have been considered lax compared to another’s system of behavior. I hear the justification of one’s behavior more often in the context of law and self-righteousness.

Some of the things Paul addressed with the Corinthians might be considered lax, but most had to do with their fleshly assessments of life and of each other. There was much that seemed to be wisdom among them, at least according to each other. In a religious context, they had their levels of comparison, so that some were considered very spiritual. Regarding the immoral man in 1 Corinthians 5, we may assume that the whole matter could be described as moral laxness, but I think we then miss the significance by which some were puffed up by it.

The Corinthian religious and moral structure was built upon their goddess, Aphrodite and her temple, which has been said to house 1000 temple prostitutes. That seems to have been connected to their spiritual service of worship.

I have to wonder how this might have played into the situation among the believers Paul addressed, so that it could have influenced the insanity that fueled their arrogance. It was certainly not as simple as that I-don’t-care attitude we may assume, for this situation gave a whole group of folks reason to feel they were above others.

Remember, they saw themselves in competition with one another. They were striving amongst themselves to appear more spiritual, which might indicate that the extreme sexual immorality of the man in question may have given them a reason to believe it improved their standing among the community.

Paul did not choose this situation simply to comment on sexual looseness among them, he chose it because it was somehow central to their competitive insanity. I suspect that the identities of the man’s father as well as his father’s wife may have played a big part in their arrogance.

After all, which immoral people in our own society catch the real attention of the news? Rarely do common folks rate much, but let a celebrity, a high-profile religious figure or a politician be caught with his or her pants down and the public starts in with its defenses or accusations. I have little doubt that the Corinthian situation was of similar significance in its own viewpoint.

Realize that Paul was not judging the man as much as he was forcing the community to recognize the insanity they were caught up in. The aftermath of that situation, as revealed in the second letter, definitely centers in on the whole group way more than on the man.

But yes, when I talk to my friend in view of his behavior, I am looking to stimulate his new mind to see his actions accordingly. The behavior merely reveals the insanity. And by listening through his accounts, I can hear him declare so clearly how his legal sense of right and wrong has twisted his perceptions. I will ask him questions by posing his own statements so that he can see the obvious logic of the flesh that has been driving him in his assumptions and subsequent actions.

Here’s some dialoging from the rest of the e-mail, where you wrote: - “For I determined to nothing among you except Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2) - “And should you ever think that he strayed from his course, let this assure you that he did not:” - “Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.” (2 Corinthians 5:16)

So their problem was obviously judging, looking, and evaluating everything according to the flesh. Paul was wanting them to look not through the eyes of the flesh as they judge him, as they judge each other culturally, socially, ethnically, as they look at the gospel, etc. He wants them to see truth for what it is.

Does that sound right? The warnings in Corinthians seem to be what I talked about earlier, i.e. that Paul is wanting them to judge whether or not they are born again. Born again people will not keep acting like they are acting (boldly and without a change of heart). So it may be (and it is highly likely) that those who are judging from the flesh, are doing so because they are still in the flesh. They have not been converted. They are using misperceptions of grace to justify their fleshly behavior. Am I heading in the right direction here? TB

Yes, I think you are heading in the right direction. :) Just keep in mind that those who are born of God get themselves confused when they listen to the lies because they are worded in a grace format. This is what needs to be challenged. And in this way, consider how often the apostles warned against smooth sounding words and arguments. Words can indeed express the truth of Christ, but they cannot make it true by their logic or persuasiveness.

In I Corinthians 10, is he using the illustration of the Israelites in the wilderness to convey the concept that not all Christians are truly Christians, just as all Jews were not authentically serving God from the heart? When he says, “Let he who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall,” is that referring to the Christian or the non Christian? If non Christian, then would that mean being judged by God, because they are in the church as a poser? Or if a Christian, would that mean, falling into temptation (because he goes on to talk about temptation in the very next verse? Or both? TB

Yes, I see that illustration as exposing the false assumption found in a physical belonging to a group. After all, it could easily be assumed that God sees things as man seeing things. With Israel, as it came out of Egypt, went through the sea, ate the same spiritual food (heaven-sent manna), drank the same water that came out of the rock (which was Christ), that all were of faith.
How, in our wildest imaginations, might we recognize that every single one of those Israelites that God brought out, except for two, were not believing ones? The same sense is found in the letter to the Hebrews. The same is written of in Romans, where Paul said that not all Israel was Israel. Among those in Christ, many have come in as posers. I just read an article recently that explained how one could write articles, using the proper lingo, that could be published in Christian magazines.

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

This scripture also makes me wonder about the fact that for those who are Christians who are justifying their behavior, Paul says that they were “not yet able” to receive it, i.e. they had not gone through enough life process with Paul teachings and circumstances that God strategically aligned in their life to move forward. They needed this experience with Paul in order to grow. Of course God knew that. And for some who persisted, God disciplined even further (i.e. in the example of those who were weak, sick, and dying because they were judging each other socially by the world’s standards and not by the Spirit).

Of course this discipline (for believers) is done out of love, not in reference to their salvation, and it is strategically given for the purpose of bringing about the realization of their identity and the holiness that they are destined to. Correct me here if I am wrong. TB

I wouldn’t say that they hadn’t had enough experience with Paul in order to grow, for they had more time with him than any other group (at least, from what the record of his stay indicates). God does indeed discipline us according to that which is good, though it may not seem so at the time.

Also, you said… - “When you connect the two Corinthian letters together, you get a much fuller picture that reveals Paul’s heart in writing so harshly to his beloved brothers.” That reminds me of that summary like passage in 2 Cor. where Paul says in 2 Cor. 7:8-13 (Again, feel free to dialogue with me here, and let me know if you think I am on the right track or not). 8 “For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it–[for] I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while– 9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to [the point of] repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to [the will of] God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.”

This is exactly the process of sanctification that God was using to bring them to a fuller understanding of their identity. God used the occasion of their misunderstanding of the gospel, so this letter would eventually be written, and through that (not only do we have this teaching preserved), but they also (the ones who were saved) were convicted by the Spirit within them, and they came to their senses and realized that there is no justification for sinful behavior. They needed total and complete reliance on Christ, and they needed to stop looking at life through their fleshly identity, and start seeing themselves and living through the reality of their new identity. TB

Yes! This definitely considers the message in view of both letters Paul wrote to them! :)

10 For the sorrow that is according to [the will of] God produces a repentance without regret, [leading] to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.

He that began a good work in them will see to it that it gets completed. God’s work was working in them accomplishing for them the very thing that he demands from them, holiness. Wherever they fall short, God’s grace is there. This naturally leads to salvation (in the ultimate sense), but also salvation in the ongoing sanctifying sense. I am not sure what Paul means by that last phrase, “In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.” —unless Paul is thinking in terms of how, when we are born again, our sins are not accounted against us, and we are not held guilty for our sins. Those who did not repent, showed that they were “guilty in the matter,” because they were truly guilty. Those who repented showed that they committed the act, but they were actually saved, and it was only a matter of time through God’s working with them through the process, that they would eventually repent. Only Christians have a heart that wants to follow God’s will, not non believers (right?). TB

I believe it is the new heart, the real people they are that Paul speaks to and of. But even considering that, it seems that although they had been puffed up by the matter, it was not a thing of their doing. Paul, through the way he forced this thing to a head, uncovered what he knew to be in them, what he called their earnestness. I think they actually were innocent in the specific matter of the deeds of the immoral man of 1 Corinthians. The believers may have allowed their arrogance to keep them from mourning the situation, but I don’t think they had partaken of it.

12 So although I wrote to you, [it was] not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God. 13 For this reason we have been comforted.”

— Is Paul basically saying, “I wrote to you so you could come to see who you really are, so that their true Godly heart, might be manifested to them” — a heart that would have had earnestness for Paul and his teaching. Now through this process, they have “waken up” to their identity and see Paul for who he is (in reference to the Spirit, not the flesh). TB

I think you are really seeing the ministry of Paul in stimulating this awakening in the Corinthians. And how they saw Paul was surely all a part of it, especially since Paul did not rate very well according to the flesh. But they had known him from the beginning, and needed to be reminded what brought him to them in the first place, as well as what it was that he had been to them. :)

One final question, how does God see us if we are a Christian? Does he always look upon us with love (as he looks upon Christ), or does he get disappointed in us when we fail, persists in sinful behaviors (like porn), and do wrong things. If so, is he only happy with us again when we repent? There are a lot of scriptures that talk about pleasing God, and not pleasing God. I had wondered if in Christ, God always looks upon us with a loving gaze, but then why does Paul talk about us doing things to “please him?” And if we fail to do those things, have we not pleased him? If he is not pleased, how does he see us, and how does that work with our identity in Christ. TB

Consider this declaration as you wonder how God may think of us:

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:14-17

Do you suppose that God would have a problem fluctuating in his perception of us according to the flesh at times just because we might? Paul’s statements about pleasing him also need to be considered in context, not according to our assumptions that are based upon fleshly standards. Jim

It used to confound me to witness a person jump from one unrelated thing to another, but I have come to realize that the actual connection revolves around comparison, which is all according to appearances and perceptions. Once I understood that Christ was not the actual basis of judgment in the person’s eyes it became obvious how it fit together. Jim

Concerning this friend of yours, are you saying here that the usual disjointed “bible” arguments that a lot of people use in Christianity are merely the justifications of a mind judging from the flesh? As you stated, when Bible verses “are thrown around.” TB, 2/28/2010

They may be Biblical arguments or merely based upon a Biblical premise of judgment. But for sure, if you’ll listen beyond the words of the arguments, you will often hear something else going on. I’m not even suggesting that we need some special revelation from God to hear some secret message, for the arguments of the fleshly mind are obvious. We would hear them if we were not caught up in the bogus smoke screens and rabbit trails. Consider the encounter where Jesus talked about John the Baptizer:

And as these were going away, Jesus began to speak to the multitudes about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces. But why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER BEFORE YOUR FACE, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.’ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you care to accept it, he himself is Elijah, who was to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds. Matthew 11:7-19

Jesus asked to the people to simply recognize the obviousness of the situation regarding not only John but whoever God would send, including himself. We might look back and assume that it should have been obvious to them, but the truth is that we have been just as caught up in the very same misjudgment. After all, most who read this probably assume it’s about people who are unlike themselves. These people, just like ourselves, were tossed to and fro by the opinions of those who kept them from considering the obvious. Yes, it’s always the obvious, and not some hidden or secret understanding of Biblical things. Listen to his questions: What did you go out to see? Why did you go out? He wasn’t asking them to parse verbs or discuss doctrine, he simply asked them to remember what it was that drew them to the one God sent. After all, if they could not recognize the greatness of a man because of his crude and humble appearance, how could they ever understand the overwhelming greatness of that which is born of God? The violent men were the religious and even some political leaders who were trying to get a piece of the action, that is, these men were taking advantage of the situation for their own purposes. In doing so, they reinterpreted everything the people had witnessed for themselves. Jesus compared them to children trying to get others to play along with them. These men were masters of spin, for in the mind of the people the religious leaders disqualified one of God’s messengers because he did, and the other because he did not. Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds, also translated children. The wisdom of the flesh is validated by that which is born of the flesh. It may seem as if I’m belaboring this point, but it contains the crux of so much of what you’ve been asking. And in saying this, I’m not suggesting that I cannot help you get past some of the difficulty as you piece together an ancient letter that has been so forced where it doesn’t belong. For in the process, I want you to understand and differentiate the obviousness that is still being reinterpreted, despite the fact that the answer is usually sitting right in front of you. Even if you have difficulty harmonizing the seeming contradictions in the Corinthian letters for years to come, I desire that you recognize the spirit of truth that continually calls you to see the obvious. I desire for you to keep hearing those religious voices sound more and more like children who want you to play their game with them. I can tell you, it has revolutionized my whole perspective to catch a sense of the game everywhere I turn. After all, it’s not just Biblical or religious. It’s everywhere.

I want to make sure I am hearing you correct. To say what you said in other words, the “game” that you speak of is essentially worldly understanding, and that can be worldly understanding in the secular sense, and worldly understanding in the religious sense. For the religious sense, the Pharisees had devised all sorts fleshly standards and understandings that had more to do with serving their own sense of righteousness and pride than about humbling submitting and seeking God. With these “standards” that to be sure, looked very religious to outsiders (and to themselves!) they judged the people, they judged John, and they judged Jesus.

When Jesus came along, he didn’t fit any of the commonly accepted religious molds, and neither did John. I am sure the religious leaders gave all kinds of reasons why John could not be legit, maybe even “biblical” sounding arguments.

I see what you mean when Jesus says, “What did you go out to see?” He is wanting them to see the obvious. In other words, it is obvious based on everything that John has done and said that he is from God. And yes, if they don’t get that, then they surely won’t get Jesus.

So when you say, “It may seem as if I’m belaboring this point, but it contains the crux of so much of what you’ve been asking.” Are you saying that a bulk of my misunderstanding has to do with looking at scripture through the lens of fleshly standards, i.e. those that the Church of Christ erected for me, those that I erected for myself in my own self-condemning reading of scripture for years, etc.

I suspect that is the case for me. I have unlearned quite a bit, but my whole traditional background was efforts-driven theology. So when I read scripture, I still have those fleshly categories that are hindering me from seeing the “obvious.” Perhaps so, and perhaps through God’s grace, I will continue in this process of sanctification in discovering more of who I am. And as such, learn to see with eyes that truly see, and see more of the obvious. God bless you Jim. I am blessed to know you. In Him, Tim

You are indeed hearing me correctly. The structures of fleshly wisdom have clouded simplicity for us in so many ways. And it makes no difference if the wisdom comes through the so-called secular world or the religious world. It’s all the same game. Consider how as Paul was wrapping up Second Corinthians he wrote:

But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve in his craftiness, so your minds might be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3

The simplicity that is in Christ. What a wonderful reality to come blasting through the complexities that have been erected in the world!

You wrote: “In other words, it is obvious based on everything that John has done and said that he is from God. And yes, if they don’t get that, then they surely won’t get Jesus.”

Yes. Consider how the Pharisees had approached Jesus, questioning his authority (as recorded in John 5:17-47). He responded to them with simplicity as he spoke of that which testified to his authority. John bore him witness, his works bore witness, the Father bore testimony, the Scriptures testified of him, specifically Moses:

I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another shall come in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words? John 5:43-47

“How can you believe, when…”

In this, Jesus declares the game by which they played, for they received glory from one another, rather than that which is from God. It’s a no-brainer, but it eludes the natural mind. They claimed authority through Moses, but they twisted everything Moses had written to fit their perceptions. That’s one of the main reasons Jesus often quoted Moses’ words to the religious leaders. He didn’t have to come along and claim new teachings to make his points, he exposed their corruption through the words of the one who seemed to validate them.

Just as they did not really believe Moses, the same applies to many today who claim to stand upon the written word of God for their validation. We let arguments that sound so convincing from our religious leaders intimidate us in the same way the scribes and Pharisees meant to intimidate Jesus, Peter, Paul, etc. While most religious groups and denominations proclaim their belief in the authority of Scripture by way of a Statement of Faith, what if it has more to do with proclaiming their own authority rather than the Bible itself?

What if most are standing their ground on Biblical authority and inerrancy after the likeness of the Pharisees who, as it turned out, did not believe the writings they held to? After all, the Bible testifies that all revolves around Christ, and yet our contemporary Christian teachings merely fit him in among the abundance of Christian doctrines. Okay, you got me going. I’ll sign off. :) I’m really appreciating our exchange. Jim

A question though…How are we to judge? As Paul mentioned in I Cor. 5 we are not to judge those outside, but those inside the church. Keeping context, it seems to be that what he is talking about is that we are to judge based on Christ alone and whether one is living the life of Christ identity. The man in I Cor. 5 (whoever he is) was living a blatantly rebellious life. If he was a Christian (genuine), then he needed to be disciplined (so as to be to taught not to sin like that). If he wasn’t a Christian, then either way he needed to be put out of the church (In Paul’s mind, if he was genuine, then eventually he would come back through the discipline of God). Is this good logic or not? TB

He who who has ears to hear, let him hear. Make sure not to view this idea of not judging outsiders as some kind of a command or moral taboo, but rather as the recognition of futility. Those who have not passed from darkness into light simply live according to the principles of darkness, which are the elementary principles of the world.

I have a distinct impression that Paul considered this man an outsider since he made his judgment regarding him (which was a judgment toward the church) in putting him out. And I think you’re right in suggesting that Paul knew the experience would show otherwise regarding that man, or even perhaps he hoped the experience might bring him into the light.

I am still not clear on [your above comments about the immoral man]. So do you think the issue had more to do with the boasting in position than it did on the immorality? I had it taught to me that the issue was an over-realized eschatology” —that is, that the Corinthians (some of them) felt that they had already passed from death to life and that it did not matter what one did in the body (license to sin) and so they felt that they could pick the grossest of sins to “prove” how spiritual they were”—hence, the guy in question was doing something even the Gentiles don’t do (as Paul said), to make this point. Again, I suppose the real issue mistakenly understands Christianity as a totem pole religion where some are “higher” than others. What do you think? TB, 2/28/2010

I am not saying that the immorality was not a key factor in the Corinthians’ situation as addressed by Paul, for it surely played a significant role. However, it was one among other issues that affected how they recognized Christ among themselves. The oft-used license-to-sin explanation you learned probably left out the real stimulus behind the fleshly desire to push the boundaries in an effort to prove the depth of their freedom.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 1 Corinthians 15:56

You see, it is not having too much confidence in grace that stimulates believers to push the limits of their freedom, rather it is the law. After all, how did this group ever become so fractured, except by that which divides rather than unifies? And what would push a believer to even consider a need to prove his own spirituality above another? It is not the confidence that comes from full assurance in Christ, that’s for sure. This crucial element is almost always absent in license-to-sin teachings. However, the fact was that they HAD been ensnared in the insanity of comparison.

Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how shall the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory on account of the glory that surpasses it. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory. Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, 2 Corinthians 3:5-12

For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 2 Corinthians 4:5

You are looking at things as they are outwardly. If anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again within himself, that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. For even if I should boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I shall not be put to shame, for I do not wish to seem as if I would terrify you by my letters. For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive, and his speech contemptible.” Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when absent, such persons we are also in deed when present. For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. 2 Corinthians 10:7-12

Notice how Paul presented the difference between the ministry of life in the new covenant versus the ministry of death of the old in conjunction with the comparison factor. His statement “we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord” is pitted against the truth that those who preach law are, in fact, preaching themselves.

A comparing of standards and principles creates the competition Paul addressed all throughout his letter to the Corinthian group. The preaching of the ministry of death within the group established the basis upon which the Corinthians felt the need to bolster their own sense of spiritual superiority.

After all, a common confidence of full assurance in Christ by which each regarded the other as more important would diffuse any false need to become arrogant against the other. It is imperative to recognize how the preaching of law among the Corinthians by those who claimed spiritual superiority over Paul influenced everything related to how they came to view all things according to the flesh. And yes, the men who came to be highly respected among them definitely turned the gospel into a totem pole religion with divisions where each tried to gain the higher standing.

For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you. 1 Corinthians 11:18-19

Do you hear Paul connecting the dots for these Corinthian believers so that they might recognize the obviousness behind the divisions among them? However we understand the reasoning behind their toleration of immorality, it must include the influence of those who were regarded so highly among them. After all, according to Paul, those deemed important among them would never have found a place of respect had they not become so divided. It is no stretch to suggest that these same men had stirred up the divisions in order to gain a foothold in the first place.

But what I am doing, I will continue to do, that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds. 2 Corinthians 11:12-15

If ever it seemed that Paul only meant to say that these men were merely misguided believers, this should clear it up. He took it easy on the Corinthians from the beginning of the first letter, as he knew that any hope he had of salvaging their unity as a group was in the balances, but he slowly made his point more obvious as he continued.

The basis of the divisions among them came from those who disguised themselves as servants of righteousness in vying for the position that Paul occupied among them. The irony in trying to gain such a position is that Paul treated the people as more important than himself, and the simple act of trying to take it from him by setting themselves up as super-apostles (or most-eminent apostles) above Paul destroys the very relationship he had with the Corinthians.

There never was any such position as imagined by those men nor by those who were influenced by them. It’s just like the story of King Midas, who discovered that the gift of turning anything he touched into gold was actually a curse after he touched his daughter.

The Corinthians’ tolerance of the immoral man in 1 Corinthians 5 was one of the most striking symptoms of the fleshly divisions which were brought on by those who gloried in themselves by preaching the ministry of death, which is the preaching of law. Had they not been divided into factions with one group striving for prominence above the other, the situation would have never been tolerated. Consider the following:

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. 1 Corinthians 15:33-34

“For some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.”

Why shame? Because they had been so caught up in trying to impress each other that they let their one distinction, who is Christ, take back seat. The ones who had no knowledge of God were the very ones who were calling all the shots among them.

They stopped viewing themselves as the unleavened bread, and they gave in to the ministry of condemnation, and yes, some considered themselves more spiritual than the others because they were deceived into imagining that only the most free could tolerate such outrageous deeds among them. They probably chalked it up to their capacity to forgive and be gracious.

Had they been of sound mind they would not have been so blinded to fact that they were being played and taken advantage of, and they would have reacted toward the situation with a view of restoring him and those involved with him.

So there was a group in the church that was really promoting these fractions? How does Paul know he is speaking to their new heart? How does he know they are regenerate or not? Or does he know? Again, is he bringing in the judgment passages because he knows the Spirit will convict them on the inside and draw them to repentance? And again, that only happens in saved people right? TB

To those who have ears to hear. We can know that it is only the miraculous hearing of ears opened by the Spirit. The judgment passages are not meant to convict them of sin, but to convince them of life and righteousness. The Spirit is also able to break through and bring those out of death and into life. Jim

Ok, I think I finally have a clearer picture of the situation in Corinth. Seriously I feel like a dunce, because I had put so much confidence in my “education” that I thought I had Corinthians “down.” LOL. I had been focusing in on the man who was living the immoral lifestyle, as if it was all one big church, and that it was just a case of Christians misunderstanding grace.

I see what you are saying I think. So in other words, yes there was a problem with boasting about grace and living in immorality, but the underlying issue is law–i.e. again, building structures of judgement among themselves (what Jesus called the “lording it over” worldly system of thinking), so as to make some “more spiritual” than others, and more importantly, to replace Paul with their “authority.” They may have chalked it up to superior understanding of grace, or of being more spiritual, but all in all, it was just going to living by worldly principles of law–hence division as division is a natural outflow of law.

And I see what you mean where Paul probably doubted as to whether these people were even saved, because of the evidence of their actions. So when Paul talks about putting the man out for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit might be saved, is that Paul doubting that his spirit is currently saved? If it is, I have never thought of it that way before. What are your thoughts? And again, and I on point with what you have been saying? Thanks a lot, and I am loving this interchange. Blessings! Tim, 3/14/2010

A dunce, you say? Well, I sat in that same corner for years. LOL!! I think you are seeing things quite clearly now, for you are seeing Christ in all things, especially in regards to this letter. :)

…are to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 1 Corinthians 5:5 WEB

Regarding this verse, a few versions (notably the “literal” ones) translate it as “the spirit” rather than “his spirit”. Now I think that Paul realized that the whole experience could bring the man around to Christ, but I suspect he may possibly have been referring to the spirit of their unity.

After all, that is what he was fighting for among them from the beginning of the letter. Reading through the beginning of 2 Corinthians, I see that Paul did specifically address the man in question, asking them to forgive him, but the overwhelming sense of his heart was toward the fellowship as a whole: “for their comfort and salvation (or deliverance)”. Jim

My question is, right after he tells them to make the man leave, just a few verses later, he goes on to talk about judging. He tells them that he said, that they are not to judge those who are outsiders, but those who are insiders, any “so-called” brother who makes a profession of faith and acts like this guy.

So its not that they are not to make any judgement on outsiders (for he would be an outsider), but they are to judge among themselves (the matters about which they are going to law), and about things like this guy, whom Paul suspects is an outsider, posing as an insider, based on the way that his (and his associates) approach are based on law and not on putting others ahead of self etc. Sound right? Paul says to not even eat with such a person, because to do so would be to validate a very dangerous person in the life of the church. They are unleavened (Paul says), but this guy is apparently “leavened’ (an outsider?). TB, 3/14/2010

You’re definitely catching the flow of Paul’s meaning. Our Christian culture has been so inundated with a portion of a verse, “Judge not…”, that many believers hesitate to “judge with righteous judgment”.

Righteous judgment is all wrapped up in Christ and is not found by viewing anyone after the flesh. Those who do not believe are merely those who do not believe, so to recognize the simple difference of life and death is to judge rightly, for we know that life does not nor cannot come out of the flesh, but from Christ himself. Unbelievers, religiously inclined or not, who come among believers in a search for truth, forgiveness, purpose, or whatever else they recognize as needing, can be seen in simplicity.

However, those who desire to be regarded as highly esteemed among a gathering of believers (whose only hope, ironically, is found in Christ) is the very thing that erodes the cause of unity. All they can offer toward that desired esteem is a performance or law-based approach to life, which cannot help but show itself for what it is.

These so-called brothers, also dubbed false-brethren, need to be exposed rather than coddled or encouraged in their fleshly endeavors among the believers, but not exposed by means of witch-hunts. “By their fruits you shall know them” was spoken directly in reference to the religious leaders of the day, where Jesus told the people not to allow a teacher’s words to blind them to the obviousness of a life that was anything but godly.

Simply put, we need to stand upon Christ and his sufficiency in our lives and let those who put confidence in their flesh expose themselves. The hatred, envy, strife, divisive nature, disputes, sensual-based living, etc that is behind one’s beliefs cannot be hidden. If we have passed from death into life, we already know the failed premise deceivers hope to push upon us, and such deceivers are not to be welcomed in the role they play.

That which we are to judge among one another regards the confidence of the flesh that has crept back in that insists we follow along with its demands. When we see the same old fleshly works showing themselves, we know where they come from, and we can only deal with those caught in such a trap through love.

Tim, you wrote: “Paul says to not even eat with such a person, because to do so would be to validate a very dangerous person in the life of the church. They are unleavened (Paul says), but this guy is apparently “leavened’ (an outsider?).”

Yes, the very idea of validation was especially inherent in their mealtimes, as such guests were not only partaking of food but were probably also given free reign to spout their lies. I’m considering this reference in 1 John:

Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. 2 John 1:9-11 NAS77

I don’t think John meant to restrict their hospitality to believers, but rather he spoke of those who came around preaching something other than Christ. Those who let them into their houses were given the authority to deceive everyone within. This all fits with the philosophy, “Mi casa es su casa” or My house is your house.

I can only suspect that the situation in Corinth had a similar significance, in that it demanded that eating together was the validation of a true communion. It said, this person is a brother and is to be regarded as one who understands our life in Christ. Jim

Two comments you made I wanted to see if you could clarify.

1) “We see the same old fleshly works showing themselves, we know where they come from, and we can only deal with those caught in such a trap through love.” What would be the difference between this and the man that Paul wanted to put out? I guess if the man was not a Christian, that is one thing, and it is another if someone is a Christian and they fall back into a fleshly way of thinking (which is what these “unleavened” Corinthians had done). If the guy is a Christian, then I suppose it is a show of love to not let him cause problems in the church and let him feel the seriousness of his error. Like with Jesus in the “church discipline” passage, once everything has been tried, tell it to the church and if they do not listen, then treat then as though they are not saved (put them out). If they are truly saved, then through discipline and pressure from God, they will return. If they do not, then they were never truly born again in the first place. ???

2)”It said, this person is a brother and is to be regarded as one who understands our life in Christ.” Who are you talking about here?TB, 3/15/2010

Don’t forget that the situation with the man Paul wanted out was a special case. After all, if Paul was to apply this one situation across the board there probably could have been numerous individuals under consideration. Paul chose this one because it dealt with the whole group’s attitude toward the truth of Christ as preached by himself.

My point as to how to deal with fellow-believers is to not attempt to fix them through a legal process, as it will affect both us and them. We need to recognize that believers who are caught in a trespass have ensnared themselves through the breaking of a law, and to likewise understand that adding some extra rule (aka law) can only make matters worse. My statement is not referring to anyone in particular, but rather it speaks of a recognized validation of those they communed with over the dinner table.

I see Paul as having made his demands about not eating with any immoral “so-called brother” so that his fleshly teachings would not be given the recognition. On the other hand, he did not suggest they not eat with believers who were not going out of their way to spread their contaminated teachings.

See, it’s a matter of life. Those who think they have their act together, and yet are showing themselves as fleshly, are the ones Paul warns against. On the other hand, there are many who desire fellowship because they so much want to experience the freedom they see in other believers. Such folks are never to be turned away from our tables of fellowship. For even when they speak, it does not come from a desire to sway others to their teaching but will end up testifying of the freedom they so desperately desire or are coming to realize. Jim


I enjoyed this: “My statement is not referring to anyone in particular, but rather it speaks of a recognized validation of those they communed with over the dinner table. I see Paul as having made his demands about not eating with any immoral “so called brother” so that his fleshly teachings would not be given the recognition. On the other hand, he did not suggest they not eat with believers who were not going out of their way to spread their contaminated teachings. See, it’s a matter of life. Those who think they have their act together, and yet are showing themselves as fleshly, are the ones Paul warns against. On the other hand, there are many who desire fellowship because they so much want to experience the freedom they see in other believers. Such folks are never to be turned away from our tables of fellowship. For even when they speak, it does not come from a desire to sway others to their teaching but will end up testifying of the freedom they so desperately desire or are coming to realize.”-Jim I guess many of my own situations have been with those that aren’t so obvious either way. They are neither hot nor cold when it comes to “claims” but , rather just kind of “there”. I have many acquaintances and a few friends and relationships with people were I was forced to see them allot of the time.[lived with them too] Some had really shown that they were claiming to believe in “God” but, they just always fell back on self validation, comparing, judging, justifying and long periods of hypocrisy. Then they would go right back to believing “in God”. They always seem to be curious about the things I speak of but, they respond usually with something either off topic or if on topic, just kind of blurry and tied into fleshly concepts and wording. Other times they seem to understand but, then the next moment you can tell by there behaviors they just don’t? There has always been this not so subtle connotation of Christs unimportance I guess, without out right saying it. The moment you confront any of it gently or with a question, you get world war three. It is as if you get beat over the head for sensing the discrepancy? Has always left me saying huh? I have often wondered how to “deal” or “eat” with those people. It has caused me lot’s of pains over the years for many of those were the very people I trusted and were deeply hurt by.

1cor10…some verses seem to threaten punishment for the beleiver…please explain the reality that is resident in that chapter espacially verses 5-10


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