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1 Corinthians: Epistle to the 21st Century

The first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians is a very, very important letter for us because it so thoroughly captures the problems that we face as moderns living in this modern age. The reason is, of course, that Corinth was the most American city in the New Testament -- it was a resort city, the capital of pleasure in the Roman Empire.If you remember your geography you know it was located on the Peloponnesian peninsula, and the conditions under which the Corinthians lived were very much like the conditions under which we live, or to put that the other way, the conditions under which we live today are Corinthian conditions. Corinth was a beautiful city, a lovely city of palms and beautiful buildings, the center of pleasure for the whole empire, and it was devoted to two things -- the pursuit of pleasure (largely passion), and of wisdom. It was a Greek city, and its inhabitants loved to philosophize, and they were given to what Paul calls, "the wisdom of words."

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Carnal and Spiritual Christians (1 Corinthians 3:1-9)

The church at Corinth was full of problems, factions, divisions and splits largely because its members loved the wisdom of men. They were proud of their eloquent ability to explore and explain many fascinating subjects, although no one was being changed much by all this display of erudition and knowledge. And because, as always happens, human wisdom reflects various viewpoints, they had split and divided and they were full of boastings and glorying in the leadership of various men. As we have seen, Paul has spoken plainly and bluntly to them. He showed them the infinite difference between the wisdom of men and that secret and hidden wisdom of God which has been revealed to us by the Spirit.

23 Sep 2018

Rank #1

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How to Destroy a Church (1 Corinthians 3:16-23)

One of the most popular hymns of all time about the church is the well known Onward, Christian Soldiers, Marching As To War. The second verse is a great description, biblically, of the church:

21 Sep 2018

Rank #2

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The Wrong Way to Right Wrongs (1 Corinthians 6:1-11)

The Apostle Paul is dealing with the problem of lawsuits among brethren in this passage from First Corinthians 6. Just last week, I picked up a current issue of a Christian magazine and read a report concerning two Christian organizations that are both involved in smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. They are now suing each other before the courts in libel actions for damages. As I read the article I could not help but wonder if they had spent any time reading the Bibles they smuggle, because here in this passage Paul very clearly says that kind of thing among believers is very definitely wrong.

17 Sep 2018

Rank #3

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Scandal in the Church (1 Corinthians 5:1-13)

One of the growing problems the church is facing today is what to do about the frightening increase in sexual immorality among Christians. I do not think a week goes by but we hear reports of churches struggling in this area. We hear of Christian leaders who have forsaken their wives, run off with the secretary, fallen into homosexuality, or are facing some kind of a moral crisis in their churches. Many are properly concerned about this, and wondering why this should be.

18 Sep 2018

Rank #4

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What is Headship? (1 Corinthians 11:2-16)

Chapter eleven of First Corinthians has become a great battlefield of the 20th century. It is a very complex chapter that deals with the question, "Are Women Fully Human? or Are They Only Humans, j.g. (Junior Grade)?" This passage will deal with the question of male headship and female subjection, and other issues of today. It used to be that the focus of the chapter was on the question, "Should Women Wear Hats in Church?" but looking over this congregation, I can see that is a long past issue. It has now become a question, not so much of women wearing hats in church, but of whether they are going to wear the pants at home! We shall face these issues that are a part of the swirl of controversy that has escalated into the Feminist Movement of our day. The apostle introduces this with these words in Chapter 11, Verse 2:

8 Sep 2018

Rank #5

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Sex in Marriage (1 Corinthians 7:1-9)

When we come to the seventh chapter of First Corinthians we plunge right into a very explicit and forthright passage dealing with sex in marriage. Some people are squeamish about hearing this subject taught and preached on a Sunday morning, but the very fact that the Word of God, in all its purity and wholesomeness, treats a subject like this ought to correct that kind of undue scrupulosity among us. It should teach us that this is a subject that is very much worthwhile examining together. Besides, it is a passage of crucial significance for our day.

15 Sep 2018

Rank #6

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What's behind Your Influence? (1 Corinthians 8:1-13)

In the eighth chapter of First Corinthians we come to the second question these Corinthians had asked the Apostle Paul in the letter they wrote to him. It has to do with a problem that is very common in our Christian lives today: "How much should I let other people's views control my actions?" That is, "Must I limit my liberty by the narrower, more restricted views of other Christians?"

12 Sep 2018

Rank #7

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What are Bodies For? (1 Corinthians 6:12-20)

Corinth was a city given over to the worship of sex. A thousand priestesses from the temple of Aphrodite that stood on the little hill behind the ancient city would come down into the streets at night and ply their trade. Sexual promiscuity, therefore, was accepted and highly regarded in that culture, as it is pretty much the same today here in California. When the Apostle Paul had come into the city, and had begun to teach and preach about Jesus, a church had started there, and he had taught it what it ought to know about life, truth, and reality. As a consequence of that teaching, the Christian church in Corinth began to challenge head-on this whole sexual looseness of the city.

16 Sep 2018

Rank #8

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God's Teacher (1 Corinthians 2:10-13)

I think one of the things that must have deeply impressed everyone who heard Jesus himself teach was the fact that he spoke with such authority about things that other people knew nothing about. Remember how in the Gospels he seems to read the thoughts of other people's minds. He answers questions before they are even asked. He accurately identifies the motives that move people to speak or act, and, even more than this, he speaks of unseen things with familiarity, as though he had seen them himself. He describes what God is like, and the nature of angels. He describes what happens after death. He predicts future events with pinpoint accuracy. At the close of his ministry, as he was about to leave his disciples, they were filled with foreboding and despair not only because of the loss of his presence, but because of the loss of his wisdom and power. In the Upper Room Discourse he said to them, "I will not leave you orphans; I will not leave you alone. If I go away I will send another Comforter to you and he will guide you into all the truth. He will take of the things of mine and show them unto you, and he will say to you the things that I have not been able to say," (John 14:16-18 KJV). Remember that he said, "I have many things to say to you but you are not able to bear them yet. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth," (John 16:13 KJV).

25 Sep 2018

Rank #9

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The Mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:14-16)

Last week my wife and I were privileged to be in Portland, Oregon, for the inauguration of young Joe Aldrich to succeed his father, Dr. Willard Aldrich, as President of Multnomah School of the Bible. We enjoyed very much the opportunity to be there, and to participate in what was a very moving experience. In a luncheon held on Friday for the delegates who came in from the various parts of the country, Dr. Joe Aldrich gave a response to their greetings in a very modest and unassuming way, and one of the things he said stuck in my mind. He said: "The main thing is to see that the main thing remains the main thing."

24 Sep 2018

Rank #10

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God's Builders (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)

Several weeks ago I was down in Austin, Texas, where I was privileged to dedicate a new building for the Grace Community Church there. It was an exciting time as we gathered to set this new building aside for God's purposes, and yet I tried to seize the occasion to point out what they well knew, that a church is not a building, and buildings do not really represent the church as such.

22 Sep 2018

Rank #11

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The Spirit's Point (1 Corinthians 12:1-6)

In Chapter 12 of First Corinthians we are beginning a new and major division in this letter. Perhaps it would be helpful if I just briefly give you once again a quick survey of this letter (which is also addressed "to the Californians"), and we will remind ourselves of what it has covered. This is an easy letter to remember because its divisions are really only four-fold, so there are just four things to remember:

6 Sep 2018

Rank #12

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Disqualified! (1 Corinthians 9:24 -10:13)

Yesterday a young Christian with whom I was working said to me, "I do not like to be told that I cannot do something that I enjoy doing because it is going to offend the conscience of someone else. That sounds like legalism to me." I agreed, because I do not like to be told that either. I do not like to stop doing something that I enjoy doing because it offends someone else, or because it is a stumbling block to them. But I realize that the thing in me that does not like that is what the Scriptures call my "flesh." I do not like to deny myself anything; I like to do what I feel like doing.

10 Sep 2018

Rank #13

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The Focused Life (1 Corinthians 10:14 - 11:1)

In my judgment one of the most dramatic words that Jesus ever said to his disciples was, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves," (Matthew 10:16).Coming from Montana, where there are a lot of sheep, I must say I have never heard of a sheepherder who did that. But this Shepherd does, and, of course, this immediately raises the question, "How are sheep going to survive under those circumstances?" The answer to that question will be set before us in the passage that the Apostle Paul is dealing with in First Corinthians 10, to which we come this morning.

9 Sep 2018

Rank #14

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Alone but Not Lonely (1 Corinthians 7:25-40)

In this section of First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul has already discussed the place of sex in marriage and the right and wrong of divorce. Now, beginning with Verse 25 of Chapter 7, we come to a section addressed to the unmarried that sets forth both the advantages and the pressures of single life: Verses 26-35 set forth three advantages of singleness; and then Verses 36-40 give us the pressures of single life. Paul begins with an explanatory word that looks over the whole subject. Verse 25:

13 Sep 2018

Rank #15