Thursday, 14 April 2016

The Battle For Spirituality: From The Epistle To The Corinthians

Now we are looking very closely at the epistles to the Corinthians in order to bring out the significant and the meaning of the battle revealed there. This church was planted in a city known as a place for pleasure seekers. This city provided a lot of indulgence for the natural man and it has succeeded in actively engaging the natural man. But despite the super-activeness of the natural man the cry of the spirit for freedom could still be heard. As a result Paul was able to meet hungry souls when he brought the Gospel of salvation to Corinth. A church was soon plant on the spiritual ground established through the Gospel that Paul preached and Paul left the city with the assurance of their spiritual stand. 
Surprisingly after some year Paul received news that the spiritual status of the church in Corinth had degraded. What was wrong? There was strife, division, adultery, incest and all kinds of evil. All these are clearly marks of carnality and spiritual degradation. They have lost their spiritual position, Paul understood this and brought the battle straight to the issue of spirituality. Right from the beginning of the epistle we can see the emphasis on spirituality and Paul was constantly trying to differentiate the carnal from the spiritual.
"Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1Cor 1:25).
"Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:" (1Cor 2:6-7).
"Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." (1Cor 2:13)
"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1Cor 2:12,14)
"And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ." (1Cor 3:1).
There we have it, the comparison between the spiritual and the carnal. The church in Corinth seems to have lost there spiritual perception that they could not tell the difference between the spiritual and carnal. Paul had to make clear the dividing line between the spiritual and the carnal so that they could see how far they have cross the line. Paul uses chapter one and two to show them how far they have left there spiritual position. What had happened then is similar to today's Christianity. We have lost our spiritual perception and we can't tell the difference between that which is spiritual and that which is carnal. The reason we've lost our spiritual perception is because we've left true spirituality, cross the line and journeyed down into the land of carnality. Who would save us? Who would God use as a light to point us back to our spiritual position?
Now we are in chapter three where Paul pointed to them the spiritual ground they have left, this spiritual ground was their foundation. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1Cor 3:11). Christ was their foundation and Christ was the spiritual ground that they were planted. The moment another ground is introduce and another foundation is laid then we have left true spirituality and the devil have defeated us. We must be careful on what ground we are standing and on what foundation you are built. Take time, reflect back and ask yourself this question, are you truly planted on a foundation that is non other but Christ?
Still in chapter three Paul begins to dealt with individual areas where they have deviated from there spiritual position. The first that Paul talked about was division. Christ is one, Christ cannot be divided and if truly they are standing on true spirituality then they can't have division in their midst. Christ is one body and in him there is perfect harmony so where did they find division? It simply shows that they have left their spiritual position in Christ. They have falling into the ground of the devil where division exist in it rich varieties. Look at the world since the sin of Adam and what do you see? Brother turning against his fellow brother, division, schism, disintegrating, contradictions, conflict, in-group and out-group discrimination, denominational segregation and much more. These are nothing but signs of carnality, a result of the shifting from spirituality into the land of carnality where the devil rules. Do you find this sign in Christianity today? Do you see that division and schism is in much abundance among the Lord's people? This could only mean one thing, we have left our spiritual position and we are being defeated in the battle for spirituality.
Paul continued to drive in his point even down to chapter four. He began to show them the foolishness of glorying in man. We exhort men and boast that we belong to them. Some claim they are of Methodist, they are children of Wesley; another claim they are Lutheran, followers of Luther; yet another says they of of Peter the first Pope and we all ally ourselves with mere mortals. Who have bought us with a price? Who are we called to follow? Who is Lord over all? Isn't is Jesus Christ? We must pledge our allegiance to no other but Christ. It is foolishness and carnality that make us take pride in man. No matter how mightily God had use a man, no matter the quality that a man has we should always keep our eyes focus on Christ alone. Following a servant of God is not the same as following Christ. The old testament is far different from the new, for God has now put Christ in us so that we can each personally follow Christ. You don't need to ally yourself with another man but you must pledge your full and complete loyalty to Christ alone. Awaken from your foolishness, awaken from the tomb of carnality where the devil lies have buried you. Awaken into life, for true spirituality is life. 

Let now go into chapter five as Paul moved on to identify ways that they have deviated from true spirituality. Here in chapter five we see Paul addressing the brethren in there midst that was committing incest. It seems like the church in Corinthians are even proud of the fact that someone was committing incest in there midst and Paul just couldn't believe this was happening. The major problem was that they were not resisting this carnality. True spirituality fights against any form of carnality. "For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do." (Gal 5:17). If the church in Corinth is tolerating such carnality it simply shows how far they have journeyed from true spirituality. Now Paul had to ask them to deal with that carnality. If they lost their spiritual position they would have done something about it long before Paul was brought into the issue.
A lot of Christians today love hearing things like this, they always want to contend against those who they think are going our of line. And many of us have attack fellow brethren in such brutal way. But look very closely how Paul ask them to dead with the issue. He said the person indulging in such carnality must be ostracize from the rest of the body. Some churches today also love to excommunicate brethren but we must also look at the condition of the early church. Now the members of a community of believer as at that time have a very close tie. They do everything together, they met almost everyday (if not everyday), they distribute money and food among each other and they struggle to survive together. That epoch was a very hard time, things were not as easy as they are these modern time and these community of believers learn to survive to gather, they were a team. Therefore to them being ostracize from the rest of the body is a very terrible thing and Paul recommended this because it would humble the person and cause him to repent.
"deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (1Cor 5:5). The purpose of ostracizing this person was not mainly to punish him for what he had done but to make him repent. Paul also went further to warning them about the danger of harboring such carnality. It has the ability to spread and corrupt the whole member. If only we could understand the principles laid down here in chapter five the Church today would be able to purge out every form of carnality in her midst. There are much more to talk about concerning the principles set here but we have to move on to chapter six.
Remember we are still talking about Paul pointing out ways by which the church in Corinth have deviated from their spiritual position. And also Paul was making an attempt to reconcile them back to this spiritual position. In chapter six Paul went on to talk about their dispute and how they were taking each other to court. We must understand that Paul was a man greatly concerned about the unity of God people - and this is true of every spiritual person. Look at the gospel of John chapter seventeen and you would see our Lord Jesus crying and asking the Father to make the Church strongly united. The unity of the Church is in the center of our Lord's heart and it is the greatest desire of every man who is truly spiritual. So here we see Paul bringing up the issue of unity again.
There was strife among the believers in Corinth, this is a mark of carnality. And what is even worst is that they couldn't settle the misunderstanding among each other. These were followers of the One who "hold all things together" (Heb 1:3) yet they couldn't even hold themselves together and preserve the unity. It's a shame a result of loosing their spiritual position. They were destine to judge angels yet they couldn't judge themselves. Jesus explained that the unity of the Church would be a testimony to the world about who he is (John 13:35). But here are these believers fighting against each other in front of unbelievers, showing the world how divided they are. They have lost the testimony and they are giving Christ a bad name, these is what happens when we loose our spiritual standing in Christ.
What more they were committing adultery, sleeping with prostitutes and they even have the boldness to say that there is nothing wrong with it they are simply satisfying the desire of their body, there body need sex. This believers have no idea who they are, their minds are so carnal that they could not see that they are a spiritual people. They said just as the stomach needs food so also their body needs sex and their is nothing wrong with finding satisfaction with prostitutes. They are so focus on satisfying their flesh, what about the spirit, do the spirit not need some satisfaction too? But they were too concern about the flesh that they didn't notice the spirit has a need. Paul went on to tell them that even that body they claim they were satisfying does not belong to them. No, it belong to Christ therefore they can't do as they like with it.
When we got born again the body becomes a property of the spirit, it becomes a slave to the spirit therefore it must be subjected to the will and the biding of the spirit. The needs of the body cannot supersede the needs of the spirit. But here they are putting the needs of the body first, what carnality! The carnal man is so concern about his body, so busy and occupied with him body. He spend his whole day trying to earn money to feed his body, maintain his body and take care of it. He then seek to satisfy the hunger and desire of his body, in fact he lives for his body. But we are spiritual people and it should be the other way around. We should be concern and occupied with that which is spiritual.
We now find ourselves in chapter seven were the issue of marriage is dealt with. Among the believers in Corinth, it seems like there was that argument about whether to marry or not to marry. The believers were being troubled about the issue of marriage. Paul answer was that it doesn't matter, in fact marriage isn't even real just as this world isn't real. It all passes away, they are all vanity. Paul explained that it doesn't matter if you are married or not just as it doesn't matter if you are circumcise or not, or if you are a slave or a free man. All of that doesn't matter, in fact according to Paul marriage is nothing just as "circumcision is nothing" (1Cor 7:19). It is carnal people that make such a big deal out of marriage, look at us as Christians we are so concern about the issue of marriage.
We hold several seminar about marriage, we talk so much about it. The average single Christian is so concern about who to marry and who not to marry, how to know the chosen who and how to know God's will. In fact there are ministers who claim there main calling is to teach God's people about marriage and help them find the right partner (I'm not saying they are false). I mean, we make such a big deal out of marriage and we get so occupied with the issue of marriage while there are other more important things of the kingdom. Marriage is only going to last as long as we are on earth, there is no marriage in heaven. Paul never systematically taught about marriage the way many preachers do today, because it is not an issue, it is not as complex as we have made it to be. We are spiritual people and the only marriage in the spiritual world is the marriage between Christ and the Church. All other marriage is not in our reality, it's just a thing we do while we are yet in this flesh. Apart from Christ's marriage no other marriage is recognize in heaven (Matt 22:30). We are children of the world to come and no marriage contract is recognize in the world to come for death cancels every marriage contract (Rom 7:2). Why then do we make such a big deal out of marriage when the Bible says we shows fix our mind on that which is eternal?
Paul tried to explain that there are things that the Lord desire and we should give ourselves to the fulfillment of the Lord's desires not get entangled in the issue of marriage, making it so complex than it really is. But yet Christians talk so much about marriage, about being a parents and having a family as if these are the reasons why God has called us. I'm not saying those things are not important neither is Paul assuming such but we must learn to focus on what really matters. We are spiritual people, so let focus on spiritual things. Marriage is not spiritual, the only spiritual marriage that exist is the marriage between Christ and the Church. So stop this emphasis and all this talk about marriage for it is only a mark of carnality. Let us focus on that which is spiritual, let us relocate to our spiritual position and be the spiritual people that we are.
Chapter eight Paul brought in the issue of eating food that were dedicated to idols. There were those who are very knowledgeable and they were expressing their liberty without considering the ones that are being affected by it. They had knowledge but no love and a person like that is not a spiritual man. People think that because they have knowledge they are spiritual. Spirituality is not in the amount of knowledge you have but in the amount of Christ you can express. God is love and they were lacking in love, this means they were lacking in spirituality. Paula explain that spirituality is being able to denial yourself of certain right so that you won't  cause a brother to stumble.
Paul exemplified this in chapter nine, he denied is right because what matters to him the most is the Lords desire. Although his calling as an apostle was challenge he didn't defend himself but like a sheep led to the slaughter he was humble. This is the sign of true spirituality, it is expressing Christ's humility even in the face of opposition, criticism and slander. And in chapter ten Paul gave some encouragement and some wisdom concerning certain things. But let just move on to chapter eleven.
In chapter eleven Paul addresses the issue of women refusing to cover their hair during meetings. Paul put forth his argument why women should cover their hair while praying or prophesying. Before we go further we have to understand that women covering hair during prayer and while prophesying is a custom practice by all the churches as at that time. Paul say so himself, "we hold to and recognize no other custom [in worship] than this, nor do the churches of God generally." (1Cor 11:16). Like we've said before, Paul was a man who care a lot about the unity and the uniformity of all God's people.
Paul, having planted the church in Corinth pass on this custom to them but due to childishness and carnality the church in Corinth deviated from this custom. Paul in his attempt to preserve the unity and uniformity of the churches tried to convince them they should return back to the custom. We must understand that the problem wasn't really about women covering hair but the issue was the spirit of rebellion and schism brewing up from their carnality. Here lies another mark or sign of carnality; rebellion, wanting to do things your way, to separate yourself from the rest of the brethren and be your own man. Such pride, it's the spirit of rebellion and division and the Holy Spirit point at this very thing, using it to reveal how they have deviated from their spiritual position.
I know many churches today have make a big deal out of this, implying that refusal to cover your hair in church as a woman would cause you to go to hell. Paul never imply such a thing all he said was that, "Now if anyone is disposed to be argumentative and contentious about this, we hold to and recognize no other custom [in worship] than this, nor do the churches of God generally." (1Cor 11:16). Paul wouldn't have say this about something that has to do with eternal life, he wouldn't have taken it so likely.
Life is a very solemn thing to every spiritual person, they don't joke with the issue of like. Let take a look at how Paul handle things that have to do with eternal life; "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to and different from that which we preached to you, let him be accursed (anathema, devoted to destruction, doomed to eternal punishment)! As we said before, so I now say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel different from or contrary to that which you received [from us], let him be accursed!" (Gal 1:8-9). Twice Paul pronounced a curse not just upon man but upon angels and any being that try to steal away our eternal life. Paul takes the issue of Life strictly but when it come to an ordinary custom he says "if you like go ahead and argue with me but I have said my own and that is how we all do it". No pronouncements of curse just levity. But today we have taken this thing as if it's a matter of life and death and that is carnality. Carnality always emphasize on things that doesn't really matter, it is a strategy of the devil to keep us occupied with useless things while he slowly creep in and totally destroy us.
From verse seventeen of chapter eleven and the subsequent chapters Paul started addressing the lack of spirituality in their meetings. The Holy Spirit was laying his hand on that which was carnal in the way they meet, trying to pull that carnality out and establish them on the spiritual ground where they were born. The issue was that their meetings were so divided, the King James Version use the word "heresy". Heresy means division, any form of division from the rest of the body is heresy. So there was division even when they gather as a body - like we've earlier established division is a mark of carnality. Paul firstly mentioned the Lord's supper as one of the area by which this division is expressed.
From this letter it seems like they were having the Lord's supper without the presence of the whole body. It seems like the poor were being cheated and excluded from eating the meal and also people where eating too much and getting drunk. The Lord's supper then was different from the way we do it today. Then a full meal enough to satisfy a man was served and alcoholic wine was also serve as the blood of Christ (yes they were drinking alcohol and they didn't count it as a sin). It was like a family get-together where they eat, drink, play, laugh and feel that unity. They experience what it means to be a family, a body that share the same blood and live by the same life. Every of their meetings where not done in a hall but in a home setting so as to pass across that feeling of being a family, that is why they call themselves 'brother' and 'sister'. Then those words were not a religious cliche but they say it from their heart, they actually meant it.
Anyway, the issue was that carnality was entering into the Church and the Corinthian were now doing the Lord's supper carnally. Concerning this Paul said, "So when you gather for your meetings, it is not the supper instituted by the Lord that you eat," (1Cor 11:21). According to Paul, what they were doing was not the Lord's supper at all. The Lord's supper is a spiritual thing, it is not mainly the eating of bread and drinking of wine but it is the acknowledgement and the experience of our unity as the body of Christ. The carnal man takes that which is spiritual and brings it to the realm of carnality. Paul then tried to remind them of what the Lord's supper is trying to reestablish that event or meeting on the spiritual ground where it belongs. Paul also warned them on the judgment that would come on them if they continue to do the Lord's supper carnally.
Paul continued in chapter twelve to address the carnality in their meetings. But this time he started talking about the use of spiritual gifts. One of the major expression of carnality is division and because the gifts of the Spirit is diverse the carnal man saw it as an opportunity to express that desire to disintegrate and be separated from the rest. As a result, it seems like the gifts of the Spirit was causing division among the believers in Corinth. They were separating themselves base on the kind of gift they have. This is the reason why Paul use enough ink trying to explain to them that all these diverse gifts came from the same Spirit. It is not a thing that should cause division but the carnal mama would always find a reason to disintegrate.
Look at the Church today divided over truths that was revealed by the same Spirit. Some say they are for faith, another say theirs is to preach prosperity, yet another say they have nothing to do with prosperity preachers they strictly stick to holiness, while another claim theirs is deliverance and spiritual warfare, and another teaches mainly about spiritual gifts and so one. All these groups sees themselves as being separate, like water and oil that cannot mix. Isn't all these diverse revelations given to them by the same Spirit? Then why do they have to be separated over it? Isn't this a sign of carnality among the body of Christ today? Yes, we have to admit the truth, we are very carnal, carnality have take over the Church and that is why something like this is causing so much division among us.
Now we would quickly brush through chapter thirteen and fourteen where Paul continue to drag the issue of the use of spiritual gifts and the carnality in their meetings. From chapter one we learn that the church in Corinth was highly endowed in spiritual gifts. But despite how rich they are in spiritual gifts they were very much carnal, the shows that having spiritual gifts does not mean one is spiritual. In fact spiritual gifts becomes an occasion for the carnal man to express his carnality. The church in Corinth handled spiritual gifts carnal, it was use as an occasion to express pride and bring about disunity, disorder and confusion. The problem was not the gifts but the man using the gift.
Paul explained that Spiritual gifts is only edifying when use by the spiritual man but the carnal man will only use it to cause confusion and division. The church in Corinth have left their spiritual position and they are expressing their spiritual gifts in the land of carnality. Paul tried to return the use of spiritual gifts back to the land of spirituality where it came from and where it belong. It seems like the women are also one of the cause of disorder in their meetings. Paul had to ask them to shot women up doing meetings. Well, some Christian have made a doctrine out of this but we would simply leave them to the Holy Spirit, we need to move on.
We are now in chapter fifteen, here Paul talked about the foolishness of not believing in resurrection. How can you be a Christian and not believe in resurrection, Christianity is all about the hope of the resurrection life. The carnal man would always struggle to believe things that he cannot perceive with his senses. The intellectual and philosophical Greek had also laugh at the idea of resurrection. "How can you phantom that?" they ask themselves. For centuries man have learn how helpless they are in the fight against dead, in fact all the abilities of man fails him when it comes to the issue of death. The carnal man would reject anything that is beyond his ability. It is arrogance and pride that makes the carnal man believe that anything that he cannot do can not be done, if it cannot be produce by his ability then  it is therefore impossible. The carnal man likes to see himself at the top and the center of all things, therefore anything outside his ability and perception is not real.
Paul started this chapter by reminding them that this truth (about resurrection) is what Jesus and the disciples preach. The disciples witness the resurrected Christ including himself (Paul). Paul then tried to show them that the Christian faith and hope rest upon the resurrection. Many of what we practice today in Christianity needs to die. When our eyes are being open to this we fear that their would be no resurrection. The truth that Christ gives always bring the cross but we reject the cross because we don't believe in resurrection. We ask ourselves with doubt, "how is life going to be after death, how is resurrection going to happen?" As a result we reject the truth and remain in bondage, we allow carnality keep us in the bondage of lies. I have seen this happen many times among Christians.
We must break free from this carnality, for faith doesn't come by relying on the carnal senses and the ability of the carnal man. Faith only comes by the activation of the spiritual senses and the realization of our ability in Christ. We cannot move forward into God's full thought until we start seeing life after dead. Not just seeing it but pursuing it. We must accept the cross and allow this religious Christianity die so that we can experience the living Christianity born through the power of resurrection. We must start experiencing a Christianity that have pass through the cross, because only such Christianity is truly holy.

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