A Current Bible Study:

I Corinthians Chapters 5-6

        In this section of this letter to the Church at Corinth, Paul's amateur status bears fruit. The tentmaker is free to speak out on controversial issues that could destroy the livelihood of a professional pastor. Paul puts nothing ahead of the truth and, though firm, he speaks with true love. God delivers a strong message to us through the Apostle. . .
Verses 1: "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife."

. . . Do you see where He is going? That's right. He's going to address the "s" word: S E L F I S H N E S S. Did you think I was going to say sex? Well, sex isn't the real problem here in Corinth. And it isn't the real problem in our day either, friend. But selfishness is. It's a dirty word, and it's much more. It can kill.
    Blatant selfishness is so antichrist that Paul commands them to cut off the offenders from the church group.  I guess we would say to kick them out. How long would Paul survive as a leader in your church group, today? The Corinthians definitely resisted. Paul might have seemed "unenlightened" or unforgiving to them. Paul calls their holier-than-thou bluff:
Verse 2: "And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you."

    I believe that this was not a case of incest, but more likely, someone had had a sexual affair with their step-mother. In any case Paul goes on to say that the church group must come together and "officially" turn this one out of the body of believers and "unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh." It is a scourge of our day that folks in and out of the church associate Satan with sex. Sex is an invention of our Holy God. It is one of His gifts to mankind. And like food and other natural phenomena, it serves a function in this physical universe. Reasonable people would admit that sex is pleasurable. The credit for that pleasure goes to God, not the devil. Sex only becomes the devil's delight when it is mixed with selfishness. Satan delights in the misery and chaos that result. If only Christians could get the word out today that we are not against sex. It is selfishness that is dirty to us and our God.
     This man had sex with a woman whom he wanted, but by God's laws was not entitled to have. This revealed in him a deep selfishness that Paul said would ruin the church if they didn't take action against the man. It wasn't sex that caused this problem, but the selfishness that the sex revealed. There are OTHER WAYS that this kind of lethal selfishness can manifest itself:
Verses 9-13: "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, OR WITH THE COVETOUS, OR EXTORTIONERS, OR WITH IDOLATERS; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, OR A RAILER, OR A DRUNKARD, or an extortioner; with such a one no not to eat."

    Oh, beloved, we can't duck these issues today if the church is to stay healthy and reach out in the name of Jesus to even one lost soul. Let's continue on into Chapter 6 of this courageous and beautiful letter:
Verse 1: "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?"

     The Church at Corinth was being foolish about selfishness in another way. They were suing each other in the secular court of their day. Who was ever going to want to join this Church? They said they had the power and wisdom of God, but as soon as someone thought they were being cheated out of some income, they turned to the world for help. Nothing makes a Christian as ineffective and weak as selfishness. Paul tells them (I think in satiric jest) to find the lowest Christian in the Church and let them judge the matter. Shouldn't they be able to trust God's Spirit in that lowest person, if they believed that each one in the Church is filled with the Spirit? Better yet, Paul says, just suffer the loss so as not to hinder the Church's real mission of reaching lost people. Just because someone is spiritually lost that doesn't mean that they are stupid. They will not be attracted by selfishness and foolishness. There is plenty of that out in the world already. They don't need to come to us for that. Our way (Christ's Way) must be clearly demonstrated as different, as SELF-LESS. That's what first attracted me, how about you?
     And yet it is always tempting, especially in a religious setting, to try and throw a cloak of respectability over our own selfishness. To that Paul offers this stark reminder:
Verses 9-10: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."

This is what I meant earlier when I said that selfishness can kill. If you don't inherit the eternal kingdom, you inherit hell. But there is a fine line here. We are not called to pay for our own sins or to live under the law. The Old Testament showed that man is too weak to obey God's law. If you can't acknowledge this about yourself, take a deeper look, friend. We all need a Savior to fulfill the law for us. To pay for our selfishness and thereby make us clean. But how does this work out in real life? Are we free of the law? Listen to Paul:
Verse 12: "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any."

This is not mumbo-jumbo. We really are free from laws. Christ has made us totally free. We need to obey because we are in love with God and experiencing His love for us. We seek the righteous way out of love for the Righteous One. We do not earn our way by obedience to the law. Is there anything wrong with the laws of God? No. They are as true and as righteous as their Author. But our covenant with Christ acknowledges that we, on our own, cannot begin to fulfill the law. By the way, God has never changed. Listen, from the ten commandments, how consistent His message to mankind has been:
Exodus Chapter 20: Verse 17: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's."

The Lord has always known the horrors that unbridled selfishness brings upon a people.
     Paul isn't done yet:
Verse 13a: "Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them."

Food, sex, all that is coveted on this earth, it's all temporal. God has spiritual treasures that surpass all these things. No matter who you are or where you are right now you CAN grasp these eternal gifts and begin focusing on them. They can all be presented in one unified statement: Jesus loves you.
Verse 13b: "Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body."

     God's sexual rules are not really strange or especially strict. They are consistent and practical, making perfect common sense when fully understood.  Loving marriage is the Lord's only allowable setting for sex because it fosters a protected environment for the innocent children that may result. Fornication is not prohibited because of any pleasure it may bring, but because of the eventual pain it directly and indirectly brings to others, and to the fornicators. The devil's campaign to separate sex, marriage, and raising kids is a cruel deception. The sad results of following Satan and selfishness in this area are documented throughout a suffering society today. God permits us to be sexual, but we MUST consider others, including the born and the unborn, for God loves all them as much as He loves us. We are TOTALLY FREE to relate sexually to our spouse in love. And, somewhat mysteriously, the marriage bond (heightened by sexual pleasure and true love on this earth) is presented as a picture of the true believer's (the Church's) eternal bond with Christ. These are deep waters, friend, I can do no more at this point than quote the Word of God:
Verses 15-20: "Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to a harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

That price was paid on Calvary. Do you realize how loved you are today? What more can He do? Will you return His love?

May Jesus Christ richly bless you-JKD 9/30/00


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