August 8, 2010
Spiritual gifts part 10: Corinth: cults, conflict, and a cry: "Follow Me!"
Wed 7 PM
Thu 7 PM
Sun 10 AM
prayer meeting Wed after service
The Doctrine of Spiritual Gifts
Point 1: Setting the scene for Paul’s teaching on the Spiritual Gifts.
The most extensive treatment of the subject of spiritual gifts is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapters 12 through 14.
The real conflict is the Angelic Conflict, and how it plays out between the forces of satan and the forces of Christ.
Corinth was a cosmopolitan city, and as such it became a religious melting pot with older and new religions flourishing side by side.
The temptation to engage in behavior that flirted with idolatry and idol worship was very real and very strong in Corinth, particularly among the more well-to-do members of the local assembly there.
Never forget what the Bible teaches about your true battle as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Your real enemy is the kingdom of darkness.
And they run this world. Don’t kid yourself.
If you are going forward in the plan of God for your life, they will do what they can to distract you, put obstacles in your way, and stop you.
Your enemy is a sneak. He is a liar and a deceiver.
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.
Their objective is to stop you from learning the word of God. Keep you from growing spiritually. Prevent you from becoming a witness for the prosecution in the Angelic Conflict.
Is this helping me to get to Bible class, or preventing me from coming to Bible class?
Is this falling into line as a service to me exercising my spiritual gift, or is this making it complicated or darn near impossible to step out in faith and live in my gift?
The other major form of worship that was really taking off in Corinth at the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians was something called the Imperial Cult.
There is this sickness in the heart of man where we have this urge to take what rightly belongs to the Lord - our worship - and give it away instead to anything or anybody else.
1. It earned them brownie points with the Emperor in Rome.
2. It was one thing all these crazy people from all over the place could agree on and do together no matter what their religion or nationality.
All seven cities mentioned in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 had altars to the emperor and a system of imperial priesthoods.
It was not the Roman empire itself that pressured people to worship the emperor, but rather the cities, the colonies.
The imperial cult was probably the most important religious influence in Corinth at the time of Paul’s letter.
People sacrificed on altars outside their homes as the cult procession passed by.
It was the overwhelming pressure to CONFORM to pagan practices that was imposed by the civic loyalty as well as the group dynamics of neighborhoods, clubs, business associations, and the like.
Even the term “gospel” was a challenge to the imperial cult because that same word was used to describe the proclamations associated with the achievements of the Caesar.
The wealthier members of the Corinthian church would have faced enormous social pressure to conform to religious expectations, particularly those related to the imperial cult, if they were to advance or to preserve their place in society.
What is the equivalent to the Imperial Cult in our day and age?
1. Ecumenical religion. Living according to the idea that there are things that all religions have in common, and these are the crucial things.
2. Morality and legalism.
3. Stereotype “Christianity”.
The whole law is summed up in this: “Love one another as yourself.”
Paul in 1 Corinthians points forward to the Rapture to remind us that all the trappings of the world are fading away.
Paul in 1 Corinthians points back to the cross where Christ gave us the supreme example of living - and dying - for others.
The cross is such a challenge to our flesh - to our self-life. It is a challenge to the part of us that wishes to assert ourselves and to hold on to what we have.
A lot of Christians want to know, what does it mean to take up my cross and follow Him?
What does it mean to die to self?
Losing your taste for all that is not Christ.
What particular things do I lay aside?
The New Testament is very concrete about what these things might be.
The “follow Me” statements of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospels tell us in very concrete terms what particular things we may be called to lay aside.