So, Greece is large at the top, it indents a four-mile area, then there's a large southern part of Greece. That indentation is four miles from the Saronic Gulf to the Corinthian Gulf - two seaports on each side in ancient times. Right in the middle of that isthmus was Corinth. All north-and-south trade and traffic went right through the middle of Corinth; it had to, it had nowhere else to go. So, everything coming to and from Athens came right through Corinth - strategic location, vital location. It became, consequently, a great trade center; in fact, one of the greatest trade centers in the world.
Not only did north-south traffic through there, but something very fascinating, east-west traffic did, too. There were ships, for example, that were on the west coast of Greece. They wanted to go to the east coast, and then down east in the Mediterranean. If that was what they needed to do, they would supposedly need to go all the way around the Peloponnese, at least two hundred and fifty additional miles, all the way around. It was so treacherous that sailors of old used to say, "A sailor never takes a journey around Malea until he first writes his will" - very treacherous. Those small vessels just did not venture that way very frequently.
And so, what they used to do - and this is most interesting - was that they would simply go in at the Saronic Gulf, they would take their ship up on land, put it on rollers, roll it across the four miles, and dump it back in at the Corinthian Gulf, and then proceed east. And they would do the same thing the other way, and avoid going around. It was easier to go four miles on land than two hundred and fifty miles around the Cape. In fact, the isthmus became known in the Greek language as Diolkos, which means the place of dragging across, because ships were always being dragged across.
Today, right now if you go there, you will see a four-mile canal called the Corinthian Canal, that is deep - and I mean it is deep, deep - and it runs right through. You can stand at one end, right on the seacoast of the Corinthian Gulf, and look right down the canal - it's an absolute straight line - and see the west Saronic Gulf. The gulf is now attached by that canal, that took hundreds and hundreds of years to build.
I believe it was started by the Caesars. And so, that was what made Corinth a very populous trade center. It had great success as a center of entertainment as well. There were two great games in those days in that part of the world: the Olympic games, and the Isthmian games. And the Isthmian games took place in the isthmus where Corinth was, and so it was famous. It had a mongrel population; originally populated - I should say, not originally, but it was destroyed in B. It was originally populated with Romans, then slaves came, then there were Greeks there who came, and then Jews came.
As the trade business boomed, people came from Phoenicia and Phrygia, and so it became a mongrel population, as any trade center would become. It also became a place of evil. There is a verb in the Greek language, and that verb is korinthiazesthai. It means to corinthianize. You know what that means?
It means drunken debauchery and immorality. The name of that city became synonymous with evil, and so the word dropped its capital letter and became a verb for evil. It was a vile city. Every town, every major city, usually had what was called an acropolis. Have you ever heard of The Acropolis in Athens?
There's a - it's a mound with buildings on it; you've seen pictures of it? Well, that is not really a proper name. Acropolis just means, it's the Greek word for the high place, and every town had a high place, somewhere to go when a battle came. And there is an Acrocorinthus, there is a high place, just south of Corinth. You look and there's this huge, 2,foot thing, juts up like a great big granite block in the middle of the skyline. And it was fortified on the top, and on a clear day, they could stand on the top and see Athens, 45 miles away.
And it's usually clear over there - at least at that time of the world, it was - a beautiful area. And so it was a very important area for strategy, for securing the city. The people could be moved up there in the case of a battle, from the city which was below, and all the farm lands that were below. But also on the Acrocorinthus was the temple of Aphrodite. And Aphrodite was the goddess of love, and their love wasn't really very ethereal, and it wasn't very emotional. It was mostly just rotten and vile. Their interpretation of Aphrodite went like this: the temple of Aphrodite had a thousand priestesses who were prostitutes, and every night they came down the hill and plied their trade in the town.
Well, that was the worship of the Corinthians. They were a vile, evil people. They had too much money, too much luxury, and too much indulgence. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 6, you get a little idea of what they did. He says, "Don't you know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived" - and here he really describes their life - "neither fornicators" - that's the word porneia from which we get pornography, pornographers, people who are involved in sexual sin of any kind - "idolaters, adulterers" - sex outside of marriage - "effeminate" - that's interesting.
We have people like that who wear clothes, men who wear women's clothes - "abusers of themselves with mankind" - masochism, sexual masochism, maybe even homosexuality in mind there - "thieves, covetous, drunkards" - what — "revilers" - that is orgies - "extortioners, they're not going to inherit the kingdom of God.
That was their town. Those words could all be combined, and they would give you a composite definition of the verb to corinthianize. And so, that city is the city to which the letter is written. And I'm telling you, that church was so messed up by what was going on in that city, that when Paul wrote this letter, they had actually surpassed the city. They were doing some things that even the people weren't doing who weren't even in the church. That's shocking. You say, "Well, what about the church at Corinth? We have to see this, or we won't understand, really, all the letter has to say.
As I said, this is really just an introduction this morning, but it's God's truth, and that makes it exciting to us. Acts 18 - let me give you a little background, just so you can get a setting. Give you some background to the background to the background that we're going to have in 1 Corinthians. Paul arrives in Corinth in Acts 18, but he's a discouraged man when he gets there, and apparently, he was all alone. He had arrived initially in Greece - Macedonia, as it was then known - at the town of Philippi. Remember what happened in Philippi?
It was great. He went out by the river, and found a group of Jewish women, and he presented Christ to them, and they were saved, and he had a little nucleus of a church. And then there was a demon-possessed girl and her - some men were using her to make money. You know, she was telling fortunes, and people were paying, and they were making a fortune off of it. And so, the apostle Paul cast a demon out of her, and messed up their business, and they got upset, and dragged Paul downtown, and threw him in jail, remember?
Locked him in the stocks, with Silas? They were singing in there, and the Lord brought a localized earthquake and broke the jail all up, and on the way out, Paul led the jailer and his whole family to the Lord, and the church grew. Unusual way, but it did. Demon-possessed girl, a jailer and his family, and a bunch of women by a river, and that was the nucleus. But it got hot in Philippi, and Paul had to leave, and they chased him out of town. He came to Thessalonica, and there he ministered, and the church began, and he was chased out of that town.
And he found his way to Berea, and remember, he met those dear souls at Berea who searched the Scripture diligently? But the Thessalonians kept chasing him, and they finally caught him there, and he had to run. And he finally had to take a little detour, a tricky little deal, and wound up in Athens, and he was tired, he was out of gas, he was discouraged. He decided to rest, until he saw the city given over to idolatry.
His spirit was stirred within him, and he started preaching all over again, all by himself, in this huge city of Athens. He started in the agora, the marketplace. He wound up on Mars Hill preaching to the philosophers, but there wasn't much result in Athens, and so he left there, and he came - a very broken and discouraged man - to Corinth, and that's where we begin, in chapter 18, verse 1. And he went to the synagogue, surely, and the Jews in those days, when they went to synagogue, usually sat together with people of a like trade. And so he sat down with people who did the leather work, people who made tents.
The word tentmaker is really the Greek word for leathermaking, leatherworking. So, he sat down, and he met a couple of other leatherworkers by the name of Aquila and Priscilla, and he moved in with them. And he began to preach - in verse 4 - every Sabbath in the synagogue, persuading Jews and Greeks. And finally, his friends arrived, but they didn't get a good reception. You know, in verse 6, Paul finally got thrown out. I mean, he just - they just didn't want him.
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They opposed him, they blasphemed, so he shook his clothes off, as if to say, "I'm shaking the dust off, your blood is on your heads; I'm clean: I'm going to the Gentiles," he said. I'm going to the Gentiles," and he marched right out, and went next door. I like that; I like that. He never lost his heart for Israel. He only went to the next door. That's really kind of funny. Spent a year and a half next door. You think that had an effect on the Jewish synagogue? The chief ruler of the synagogue got saved in verse 8, his whole house, and a bunch of other Corinthians, and the church was begun.
And verse 11 says he stayed a year and a half, teaching the word. Listen, he gave himself to that outfit for a year and a half. That's how the church began. It was made up of Jews and Gentiles. Finally, he had to leave - verse 18 he leaves - but you know who their second pastor was? Had a good man. Second pastor of the Corinthian church is named for us in verse "A certain Jew named Apollos. Born in Alexandria, eloquent, mighty in the Scriptures. Paul met him in Ephesus. He was instructed in the way of the Lord, fervent in spirit, spoke and taught diligently the things of Jesus.
He knew only the baptism of John, so Aquila and Priscilla, those two other tentmakers or leatherworkers in verse 26, got a hold of him, and told him the way more perfectly. And finally, he wound up in Corinth, verse 1 of 19; it came to pass while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul was coming to Ephesus. Now, you see, the apostle Paul's work is continued by a man named Apollos. You remember in 1 Corinthians 1, how that that becomes a cause for faction in the Corinthian church: "some of you are of Paul, some of you are of Apollos?
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Well, that's the church, a brilliant work done by Paul. Then another brilliant man comes, and God blesses his work. But you know something? There were some problems in Corinth, and the major problem was they couldn't detach themselves from the morality of their world. Does that sound common? They could not get de-corinthianized. They couldn't understand the principle of I John: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.
They were holy positionally, but they could not clean up practically. They just were sucked into the vortex of their own world. They were into that Corinthian kind of living, and they just couldn't seem to get out of it. So, Paul, sometime after he left, wrote them a letter. We don't know what he said in that letter in detail, because that letter is lost. First Corinthians is the second letter Paul wrote to the Corinthians; not the first, the second.
The first one, we call the lost letter, for obvious reasons; it's lost. You say, "Well, how do you know that there was a first letter, if it was lost? First Corinthians is the answer. He says to the Corinthians, "I wrote unto you in a letter not to company with fornicators.
Here he is, writing 1 Corinthians, saying, "I wrote unto you in a letter. And what did he say?
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You see what the problem was in Corinth, then, basically? It was the inability of the Corinthian believers to detach themselves from the morality of the system in which they lived. And people, that is exactly what we face in our world today. The morality of the Christian church has gone down at a rate that is measured by the rate of the decline of the morality of the system in which it exists. Now, I don't think we're going down at the same pace; I think we're going down in some sort of a relative way, though.
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There are things that Christians allow today for themselves that they would never dream of allowing years ago. And in a relative way, they're still about the same distance from the world. But the manifestation of the world's evil has gone so far, they found themselves going in the same way.
Well, that was the Corinthian problem. They never knew how to cut off from the world. That's what we're trying to say in I John. Same thing. John's pouring his heart out on it. The church always has the inability, or the problem, of being in the world, and not being able to cut off from the world. So that was where they were hurting. Well, he writes to them, "I told you once before not to company with fornicators.
And he says that in verse If you do that, you might as well go out of the world. You're no good to anybody if you don't mix along with the unbelievers. I didn't mean them. No, don't even eat with those kind. What is the church's obligation to a continual sinning of a brother?
You don't have anything to do with them. You put them out. Because then he has to count the cost of his sin. You see, then you purify the church. Paul is saying, "Get that thing pure. You misunderstood. I didn't mean stay away from the ungodly. I mean stay away from those who are God's children who are living in sin. Make them pay the price of loneliness.
Make them pay the price of disfellowship. Keep the sins of the world out. Anybody who does them, put them out. Their problem was they couldn't disconnect from the world. So, he wrote them the first letter, and then he writes in 1 Corinthians, which comes later. Now, after that first lost letter, Paul got some bad reports. I guess they didn't do what he said. That's the indication of what I just read to you in 1 Corinthians 5. And he got more word. Look at verse 11 of chapter 1. He started hearing things about the Corinthian church that bugged him.
He heard that from Chloe. Now, look at chapter 5, verse 1, just quickly. I haven't even heard this of them. Apparently, somebody wrote him a letter and told him about this. Nevertheless, avoiding fornication" - or sexual sin — "let every man have his own wife, and every woman have her own husband. He got a letter from somebody saying they had a problem in this area. Their basic problem is pretty clear, isn't it: sex. Also divisions, but there you go the rest of the book, and you'll find they had a problem with everything.
They just had no seeming commitment to disconnect from the system. So Paul started getting these reports. He was so upset, you know what he did? He sent Timothy to them.
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Chapter 4, verse 17, of 1 Corinthians, Paul says: "This cause have I sent unto to you Timothy, who is my beloved son, and the faithful in the Lord. He shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which are in Christ. In addition to that, it seems to me most likely that, while he was at Ephesus for three years after he left Corinth, he made a hurried visit back to Corinth, he was so upset. But finally, he writes them 1 Corinthians. But not until he's founded the church, written them a first letter, dispatched Timothy to them, and even made a quick visit himself; finally, then, he writes 1 Corinthians, and this masterpiece of setting the church right morally and doctrinally.
And how he begins is so beautiful. Look at verse 2. He says: "You are sanctified in Christ Jesus. You are saints, along with everybody else who calls on His name. He drives down the same concept, "You are holy," and this becomes the foundation for all of his exhortation. They are saints. You say, "How could they be holy, with all that mess in their life? What kind of day was it? There were eight on the mountain, but only six were visible. Three, Peter, James and John, had come up with Jesus, and they saw Moses and Elias standing there and conversing with Him, so altogether there were six of them.
Thus, the six are actually eight, and there is no contradiction regarding the eight. But these twofold sayings as it were present is a certain format set in mystery, and together with it that of those actually present upon the Mount. It stands to reason, and everyone rationally studying in accordance with Scripture knows that the Evangelists are in agreement one with another. It is because the great vision of the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord is the mystery of the Eighth Day, i.
Everywhere and in every way the King will be present, and everywhere will be His Kingdom, since the advent of His Kingdom does not signify the passing over from one place to another, but rather the revelation of its power of the Divine Spirit. Therefore, and precisely because of this, God manifests Himself upon the Mount, on the one hand coming down from His heights, and on the other, raising us up from the depths of abasement, since the Transcendent One takes on mortal nature.
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Thus, the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord is not something that comes to be and then vanishes, nor is it subject to the sensory faculties, although it was contemplated by corporeal eyes for a short while upon an inconsequential mountaintop. But the initiates of the Mystery, the disciples of the Lord at this time passed beyond mere flesh into spirit through a transformation of their senses, effectualized within them by the Spirit, and in such a way that they beheld what, and to what extent, the Divine Spirit had wrought blessedness in them to behold the Ineffable Light.
Those not grasping this point have conjectured that the chosen from among the Apostles beheld the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord by a sensual and creaturely faculty, and through this they attempt to reduce to a creaturely level i. But to us God has revealed them through His Spirit.
He always prayed alone, withdrawing from everyone, even from the Apostles themselves, as for example when with five loaves and two fish He fed the five thousand men, besides women and children Mt But in our instance right here and now, having taken only these same three, the Lord led them up onto a high mountain by themselves and was transfigured before them, that is to say, before their very eyes. But the Evangelist said this, not in the context that this Light be thought of as subsistent for the senses let us put aside the blindness of mind of those who can conceive of nothing higher than what is known through the senses.
Because we are not happy with what God has given us, we grasp after that which we do not need and should not have. Obscenity refers to that which is evil, ugly, immodest and dirty. Under the influence of alcohol, he says things he would never otherwise say. This is especially the sin of people who talk a lot. If you like being the center of attention and have the gift of gab, beware lest you talk so much, you end up sounding like a fool.
Many comedians today make their living off sexual innuendo. Evidently using four-letter words and telling explicit stories is the way to the top. How quickly this can happen. A conversation begins at a party, and soon everyone is laughing. Someone says something light and funny, another person adds to it, and off we go. In thinking about this, we need to be careful because humor is a great gift from God. How boring life would be without it. How good it is for friends to laugh together. If you have a gift for telling jokes and funny stories, this warning is for you. If you are the master of the quick retort, the funny quip, the amusing reply, the flippant comment.
Light speech can quickly become loose speech, which quickly turns into low speech. These things have no place in the Christian life. This involves ultimate destiny. Two men going in opposite directions may stop and talk for a while. They may even be good friends and spend time together. In the end, they will be far apart. Paul mentions the fate of sinners twice in verses No statement could be clearer. The immoral and the impure and the greedy have no place in the kingdom of God. This is the sort of Bible verse that makes certain people very uncomfortable.
They think Paul is being narrow-minded and exclusionary. Even some Christians squirm when they read a verse like this. Nothing wrong with loving people. The question is, do we love them enough to tell them the truth? There is such a thing as the wrath of God. Let me wrap this up by noting one phrase in verse 3 that I passed over earlier. And by all means. Therein—at that exact point—is the best news sinners ever heard. Download this sermon audio. Comments Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?
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