1 Corinthians

Paul’s second missionary journey was completed in the summer of 53AD; his traveling companions Priscilla and Aquila will stay in Ephesus to provide leadership for the new church plant. Paul will linger in Antioch for one year visiting churches and preparing for his third missionary trip. Meanwhile in Ephesus Apollos arrives; he is a cultured Hellenistic Jew from Alexandria, Egypt. Apollos is an accomplished speaker and teacher; he effectively debates with the Jews accurately teaching about Jesus using the Old Testament scriptures. Priscilla and Aquila bring him into their home and disciple him in a more complete understanding, with teachings about baptism, the Holy Spirit and instructions from Paul.

Corinth is at the cross roads of travel in the Roman Empire, the new church receives traveling preachers and teachers regularly. Paul, Barnabas and Peter have all visited. The church invites Apollos, who is a gifted orator to come preach, his style of teaching and debate is highly regarded by the Greeks. Before long ‘parties’ develop around the different apostolic workers’ styles and teaching who have visited Corinth.

In 54AD Paul begins his third missionary journey; Paul will live in Ephesus and make excursions throughout the region for the next three years. He has three goals besides preaching the Gospel; he is collecting an offering for the poor churches in Jerusalem, he is training up apostolic workers to work and travel with him and he is strengthening the existing churches and training leaders. Additionally, Paul is making future plans to travel to Rome, and then go beyond through Spain into the far reaches of the empire with the Gospel.

The fall of 54AD, Rome has a new Emperor; the seventeen year old Nero becomes the new ruler after his mother poisoned his stepfather Claudius. The early years of Nero’s reign were peaceful while he was guided by his mother and his tutor Seneca. This will change in his later governing years.

The Apostle Paul sends Titus to Corinth with the message to begin collecting money for the Jerusalem relief fund. After some time Titus returns and reports that Greek philosophies of dualism are gaining ground in the church. Dualism espouses that soul or spirit is completely separate from our earthly bodies and reality. Therefore what you do with your body isn’t important, only what the spirit thinks or feels is of consequence. All that matters is what you think and if you love one another; not whether or not you actually obey the commands of the Lord. Sound familiar? There is nothing new under the sun!

Paul begins his letter to the Corinthian church to address the reported problems, and then he receives even more disturbing news from Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus. They have brought with them a letter from the church with questions about marriage and sexual immorality, food sacrificed to idols, spiritual gifts, the resurrection of the dead and the request for the offering for the Jerusalem church. Paul immediately expands the letter he is currently writing to address the questions and issues.

The first issue: the church has divided into separate camps; they are quarreling over who is the best teacher and whose instructions they should follow. Some follow Paul, others say they follow Apollos and some follow Peter. Paul is clear, there should be no divisions in the gospel, and he uses his own calling as an example. “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with clever speech, so that the cross of Christ would not become useless”. His message is clear, don’t divide over different men and their preaching styles – Follow only Christ!

Paul continues saying, “I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified”. When we divide over preaching or ministry styles we begin to trust the words, speech, promises of people who are fallible and sinful. The world teaches that boasting, persuasive speech and human wisdom are what brings success. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him”. What better proof of this principle than the rejection of Jesus Christ by the wise rulers of that day; Paul says, “If they had known it they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory”.

1 Corinthians 5 begins the instructions to the church, the first issue addressed stems from this wrong thinking about our spirit and bodies. Paul is shocked that there is a man in the church committing incest and that the church is not condemning the action instead they are boasting about their freedom to sin. Paul is very clear; turn this man out of the Christian fellowship, so that he will realize his sin, repent and “may be saved in the day of the Lord”. Paul continues by saying “do not associate with immoral Christians; do not even eat with them”. Paul is quick to clarify, that he is speaking of believers who continue to engage in sin, boast of their sin or declare what God calls sin not sin. God will judge the non-believers, but you must remove the evil person, the yeast, before it expands and contaminates the entire church.

The next issue is about believers bringing lawsuits against each other in the civil courts and allowing themselves to be judged by non-believers. Remember that the Roman government allowed the Jews to settle disputes among themselves according to Jewish laws. Paul says these lawsuits demonstrate that you are already defeated and allow the church’s reputation to suffer. Paul stresses it is better for believers to bear the wrong, suffer financial loss and allow ourselves to be cheated rather than allow the church to be tarnished by these lawsuits.

The Corinthians’ have adopted a saying, “All things are lawful for me” to excuse their sinful lifestyles. Paul quotes them and clarifies saying, “but not everything is beneficial” and “I will not be controlled by anything”. Paul clearly states that what a person does with their body is important, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, you were bought at a price therefore glorify God with your body.

In contrast to the sexual immorality present in the church, there were some who had adopted strict celibacy rules between husbands and wives; additionally they had questions about whether they should remain married to an unbeliever. Paul’s conclusion, “As God has called you into belief, so you must remain in that state, let each one remain in that situation in life in which he was called by God”. Your life of love and faithfulness will be a witness to your unbelieving spouses, family, neighbors and employers.

Another issue in the church is whether or not believers could eat the meat sold in the market which had been sacrificed to pagan idols. Some believers thought that if they ate this meat they were actually participating in pagan worship, Paul instructs them that “we are no worse if we do not eat and no better if we do”; basically they can eat that meat if they want to. However, he is also clear, “if food causes my brother or sister to sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I may not cause on of them to sin”. Additionally, the church is warned that if they eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols they must not be participating in the pagan temple feasts, to do so is to be participants with demons.

The next issue deals with how they should behave in public worship, specifically must the women wear a head coverings and how the men should dress as well. The customs of that day dictated how they should dress, a Greco-Roman woman would wear a veil in public if she was married, an unveiled woman was a sign that she was unmarried and an unveiled married woman was a sign of loose morals. Additionally Greek men did not wear a head covering when praying but Roman and Jews did, Paul is setting a new church policy for men no head coverings when you pray, this shows respect. Also, Greek pagan priestess did not cover their heads when praying and some new liberated Roman women had begun to throw off the cultural norms of the marriage veil and fidelity. Because Paul was known as a liberator of women, some men and women got the wrong ideas about how Christian women should behave in public. Paul is giving a ruling, establishing a practice for the churches when women pray or prophesies in worship she should wear a head covering. But notice these words: “when they pray and worship”, this veil does not restrict the gifting of the Spirit to women to teach, prophesy or participate in worship, rather it is a customary show of respect. This manner worship was the common practice among the new churches, even though the new believers came from different cultural norms, occupations and social standing they were forming a new Christian culture, developing best practices in how to live, worship and serve together.
Paul’s second missionary journey was completed in the summer of 53AD; his traveling companions Priscilla and Aquila will stay in Ephesus to provide leadership for the new church plant. Paul will linger in Antioch for one year visiting churches and preparing for his third missionary trip. Meanwhile in Ephesus Apollos arrives; he is a cultured Hellenistic Jew from Alexandria, Egypt. Apollos is an accomplished speaker and teacher; he effectively debates with the Jews accurately teaching about Jesus using the Old Testament scriptures. Priscilla and Aquila bring him into their home and disciple him in a more complete understanding, with teachings about baptism, the Holy Spirit and instructions from Paul.

Corinth is at the cross roads of travel in the Roman Empire, the new church receives traveling preachers and teachers regularly. Paul, Barnabas and Peter have all visited. The church invites Apollos, who is a gifted orator to come preach, his style of teaching and debate is highly regarded by the Greeks. Before long ‘parties’ develop around the different apostolic workers’ styles and teaching who have visited Corinth.

In 54AD Paul begins his third missionary journey; Paul will live in Ephesus and make excursions throughout the region for the next three years. He has three goals besides preaching the Gospel; he is collecting an offering for the poor churches in Jerusalem, he is training up apostolic workers to work and travel with him and he is strengthening the existing churches and training leaders. Additionally, Paul is making future plans to travel to Rome, and then go beyond through Spain into the far reaches of the empire with the Gospel.

The fall of 54AD, Rome has a new Emperor; the seventeen year old Nero becomes the new ruler after his mother poisoned his stepfather Claudius. The early years of Nero’s reign were peaceful while he was guided by his mother and his tutor Seneca. This will change in his later governing years.

The Apostle Paul sends Titus to Corinth with the message to begin collecting money for the Jerusalem relief fund. After some time Titus returns and reports that Greek philosophies of dualism are gaining ground in the church. Dualism espouses that soul or spirit is completely separate from our earthly bodies and reality. Therefore what you do with your body isn’t important, only what the spirit thinks or feels is of consequence. All that matters is what you think and if you love one another; not whether or not you actually obey the commands of the Lord. Sound familiar? There is nothing new under the sun!

Paul begins his letter to the Corinthian church to address the reported problems, and then he receives even more disturbing news from Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus. They have brought with them a letter from the church with questions about marriage and sexual immorality, food sacrificed to idols, spiritual gifts, the resurrection of the dead and the request for the offering for the Jerusalem church. Paul immediately expands the letter he is currently writing to address the questions and issues.

The first issue: the church has divided into separate camps; they are quarreling over who is the best teacher and whose instructions they should follow. Some follow Paul, others say they follow Apollos and some follow Peter. Paul is clear, there should be no divisions in the gospel, and he uses his own calling as an example. “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with clever speech, so that the cross of Christ would not become useless”. His message is clear, don’t divide over different men and their preaching styles – Follow only Christ!

Paul continues saying, “I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified”. When we divide over preaching or ministry styles we begin to trust the words, speech, promises of people who are fallible and sinful. The world teaches that boasting, persuasive speech and human wisdom are what brings success. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him”. What better proof of this principle than the rejection of Jesus Christ by the wise rulers of that day; Paul says, “If they had known it they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory”.

1 Corinthians 5 begins the instructions to the church, the first issue addressed stems from this wrong thinking about our spirit and bodies. Paul is shocked that there is a man in the church committing incest and that the church is not condemning the action instead they are boasting about their freedom to sin. Paul is very clear; turn this man out of the Christian fellowship, so that he will realize his sin, repent and “may be saved in the day of the Lord”. Paul continues by saying “do not associate with immoral Christians; do not even eat with them”. Paul is quick to clarify, that he is speaking of believers who continue to engage in sin, boast of their sin or declare what God calls sin not sin. God will judge the non-believers, but you must remove the evil person, the yeast, before it expands and contaminates the entire church.

The next issue is about believers bringing lawsuits against each other in the civil courts and allowing themselves to be judged by non-believers. Remember that the Roman government allowed the Jews to settle disputes among themselves according to Jewish laws. Paul says these lawsuits demonstrate that you are already defeated and allow the church’s reputation to suffer. Paul stresses it is better for believers to bear the wrong, suffer financial loss and allow ourselves to be cheated rather than allow the church to be tarnished by these lawsuits.

The Corinthians’ have adopted a saying, “All things are lawful for me” to excuse their sinful lifestyles. Paul quotes them and clarifies saying, “but not everything is beneficial” and “I will not be controlled by anything”. Paul clearly states that what a person does with their body is important, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, you were bought at a price therefore glorify God with your body.

In contrast to the sexual immorality present in the church, there were some who had adopted strict celibacy rules between husbands and wives; additionally they had questions about whether they should remain married to an unbeliever. Paul’s conclusion, “As God has called you into belief, so you must remain in that state, let each one remain in that situation in life in which he was called by God”. Your life of love and faithfulness will be a witness to your unbelieving spouses, family, neighbors and employers.

Another issue in the church is whether or not believers could eat the meat sold in the market which had been sacrificed to pagan idols. Some believers thought that if they ate this meat they were actually participating in pagan worship, Paul instructs them that “we are no worse if we do not eat and no better if we do”; basically they can eat that meat if they want to. However, he is also clear, “if food causes my brother or sister to sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I may not cause on of them to sin”. Additionally, the church is warned that if they eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols they must not be participating in the pagan temple feasts, to do so is to be participants with demons.

The next issue deals with how they should behave in public worship, specifically must the women wear a head coverings and how the men should dress as well. The customs of that day dictated how they should dress, a Greco-Roman woman would wear a veil in public if she was married, an unveiled woman was a sign that she was unmarried and an unveiled married woman was a sign of loose morals. Additionally Greek men did not wear a head covering when praying but Roman and Jews did, Paul is setting a new church policy for men no head coverings when you pray, this shows respect. Also, Greek pagan priestess did not cover their heads when praying and some new liberated Roman women had begun to throw off the cultural norms of the marriage veil and fidelity. Because Paul was known as a liberator of women, some men and women got the wrong ideas about how Christian women should behave in public. Paul is giving a ruling, establishing a practice for the churches when women pray or prophesies in worship she should wear a head covering. But notice these words: “when they pray and worship”, this veil does not restrict the gifting of the Spirit to women to teach, prophesy or participate in worship, rather it is a customary show of respect. This manner worship was the common practice among the new churches, even though the new believers came from different cultural norms, occupations and social standing they were forming a new Christian culture, developing best practices in how to live, worship and serve together.

1 & 2 Thessalonians

Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica from Corinth, Timothy, Luke and Silas have arrived with news about the church and questions about certain teachings. Paul begins with thanksgiving for their continued faith, love, and hope despite their persecution and hardships. He praises them as an example to all the believers in that region and that they have become the apostle’s great glory and joy.

Paul continues with instruction on how to live a life pleasing to God, but he is quick to state that they are already doing this, thus the instruction is to encourage them to do even more. Paul gives a clear list of what to do and not to do; avoid sexual immorality, control your body in a way that is holy and honorable, do not turn back to the passions practiced by heathens and idol worship. Instead you should live a pure holy life, a quiet life, minding your own business, working with your hands and love each other with brotherly love so that you will earn the respect of outsiders.

Then Paul proceeds to answer some questions from the church, apparently some of them were confused about the teachings on Christ’s return. Thinking Christ’s return was imminent, they were concerned about fellow believers who had died. What happens to Christians when they die? Paul reassures the church that those who died will be reunited with Jesus when he returns, that all who believe both those alive at the time and those who have died will be with the Lord forever. Paul’s provides comfort for believers mourning a loved one, “God did not destine us for wrath but for gaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Paul concludes this first letter with encouragement for the church to live in peace with each other, respect your leaders and those who work hard, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak and be patient with each other.

Paul’s second letter to Thessalonica was written six months later after Timothy and Silas returned from their visit with further questions. They now seemed confused about the “Day of the Lord” coming like a thief in the night; there has been some speculation that the “Day” had already come and they missed it. Paul clarifies based on Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 24 and the prophet Daniel. The day of the Lord will not come until the rebellion against God has occurred and “Man of Lawlessness” is revealed. Even though there was current rebellion with people returning to their pagan lifestyles and difficulties in the churches, the rebellion at the Day of the Lord will be more widespread even worldwide. When Christ returns he will gather all believers to him, until that day, the Holy Spirit is holding back the full magnitude of evil and lawlessness. Finally, when Christ returns “he will overthrow the Man of Lawlessness with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming”. Even though the day of the Lord will come quickly, as unexpected as a thief in the night, it will be with a great shout from heaven, with the trumpet call of God and all will see the Lord Jesus destroy the works of Satan.

Therefore, for right now, the church is to stand firm, encourage each other and strengthen the saints with comfort and good hope. They should never tire of doing what is right, keep away from people who stir up controversies and meddle in other people’s lives. Admonish the brother who fails to live a disciplined life, but do not treat him as an enemy; work quietly providing for your own food and live at peace with each other. Know this, the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.