Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 10/15/06
"For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" (Rom. 5:10).
When I "heard" the title "The Incorruptible Corinthians," I smiled, for the Christians at Corinth were possibly the most corrupt group of folks to whom Paul wrote his letters. Like many other of the locations where he established churches, Corinth was a bustling metropolitan city, a center of commerce located near a sea port visited by people from all over the Roman Empire. Paul resided there for eighteen months (see Acts 18:1-18). Written from Ephesus in AD 56, Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians reflects the difficulties of maintaining a Christian community in such a large cosmopolitan city. Corinth had a population of about 250,000 free persons, plus as many as 400,000 slaves in Paul's day.
Like other cities in the Roman Empire, it had a diversity of religious practices, including the worship of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, lust, beauty and sexuality. The festival honoring her was called "the Aphrodisiac" and her temple was "staffed" with over 1,000 "sacred prostitutes" (no explanation about what distinguished them from secular prostitutes). "So widely known did the immorality of Corinth become that the Greek verb 'to Corinthianize' came to mean 'to practice sexual immorality.'" The English word "aphrodisiac" means "a food, drink or drug (or perfume perhaps) which stimulates sexual lust." I'd say the worship leaders of her temple wouldn't have had to work very hard at getting folks to attend services, for the same reason that advertising campaigns today use seductive ads. They know that "sex sells" the product. Needless to say, the church there had big problems concerning moral laxness which disturbed Paul.
Here's an example of his spiritual wisdom and down-to-earth advice: "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord" (I Cor. 5:1-5).
Notice that he does not say God will punish the man, but that they should hand him over to Satan who will get the job done. This supports the conclusion reached by a few Bible expositors that "Satan is the left hand of God." The idea that Satan was instrumental in saving the man's spirit is extraordinarily different than what most Christians believe! God uses all means to accomplish His will!
Paul said of them that they did not lack any spiritual gift (1:7), but just having all the gifts did not equate to spiritual maturity, and in fact, quite the contrary was true. The church at Corinth had all the problems that still concern churches today: immaturity, instability, jealousy and envy, marital difficulties, divisions (1:10-4:21), immorality (ch. 5; 6:12-20), litigation in pagan courts (6:1-8), and abuse of the Lord's Supper (11:17-34); false teaching concerning the resurrection (ch. 15); and handling of Spiritual gifts (ch. 12).
First Corinthians was written around AD 56, which helps me to better understand Paul's statement "It is good for a man not to marry" (I Cor. 7:1). By the Spirit, he knew that a great judgment was coming upon the church and Christians everywhere. He wrote them that "the time is short" (7:29) and "For this world in its present form is passing away" (7:31). Though the apocalypse of AD 70, was centered in Jerusalem, nevertheless, it caused persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire, which is one way the gospel continued to spread, but would have wreaked havoc on married people and their families.
As I was pondering this writing, we received an e-mail from a friend who asked a question about Romans 5:10 (quoted at the beginning). He wrote,
"Jan, I have personally always had trouble with this verse. Maybe I don't understand the true meaning of the word translated, 'enemies.' No doubt I have been estranged from God, and have been very ignorant of His ways. I have felt devastatingly guilty before God. But to say that I have been an enemy of God, intentionally at least, makes me feel very uncomfortable. I have never thought of myself as being an enemy of God. I have always feared, admired, and respected Him as my Creator and Lord of the universe. But as an enemy... never. I was just wondering if maybe you also had thought about this." End Quote.
My answer to him had to do with how we view scriptures, either through the lens of the Law or the lens of GRACE. Do we perceive every biblical statement in the Imperative mood (commandments of what WE must do to obey God), or in the Indicative mood (a statement of what we already are in Christ)?
Most of my Christian life, I read the New Testament as commands of how I should be, and since I couldn't keep them, anymore than Israel could keep the Law of Moses, I was miserable until the Spirit opened my eyes to see that Christ in me keeps the commandments and presents me faultless before the throne (Jude 24).
I also mentioned to him Paul's assessment that FORMERLY, we were dead in trespasses and sins, "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions, it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph. 2:4-9). In other words, before Christ came to deliver us, Paul said, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).
I e-mailed that to him, but I had apparently missed his meaning and he wrote back, "Webster defines enemy as, 'one that is antagonistic to another,' or 'one that is seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent.' For this word, Strong says it means 'hated, hostile, or in the sense that Satan is an enemy.' None of these ideas apply to me when Paul says 'when we were God's enemies.' I don't now, nor have I ever felt that I related to God along these lines. In other words, the verse as I understand it simply does not apply to me, because... I have never consciously been an enemy of God according to the above definitions. And further, I feel that there are multitudes of people who would not consider themselves 'religious' or who do not know God 'as church people do,' who have no feelings towards God that would in any way class them as being enemies of God. Have I made myself more clear?"
I get it that he objects to using the word "enemy" in describing himself and many other people whom he thinks might fall into this category. It brings up the questions, "To whom was Paul referring," and "in what way were they enemies?"
It appears to me, that these "enemies" Paul spoke about in Romans 5:10, are the same folks of whom he said in his letter to the Ephesians, "remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12). Clearly, he was speaking to Gentiles, people who not only did not keep the Law of Moses, but probably had never heard of it.
He was speaking about the very reason Christ came into the world, to save it from its sins. God's chosen people, Israel, were not foreigners to the covenants of promise, but they were sinners nonetheless, as Peter declared on the Day of Pentecost, because they crucified the Lord of Glory (Acts 2:23: I Cor. 2:8). It is a mystery, but true nonetheless, that from the very lawless, sinful act of crucifying the sinless Christ, came the salvation of the world. Thus, the cross stands at the centerpiece in history of what Paul calls "the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things" (Eph. 3:9. See also Rom. 16:25; Col. 1:26). Before the cross, the whole world was chained in wickedness; after the cross, all men were reconciled to God: "and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32). "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (I John 2:2).
Before the cross, all were enemies of God; but after the cross, all were reconciled to God in Christ, though some do not know it yet! It is the blood of Christ which reconciled the world to God, from Adam forward. However, even when we were enemies to God, He was NOT our enemy! Paul declared, "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two (Jew and Gentile), thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their (not His) hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit" (Eph. 2:13-18).
Like our friend who wrote to us, I have never personally considered myself an enemy of God, far from it, because I was born in church, brought up in church and scripture, and always knew what Christ did for me. And yet, because of the legalism of the church I grew up in, I was never absolutely sure that God didn't consider me an enemy, something that made me VERY nervous, to be sure.
Once He baptized me in the Spirit and I saw, felt, and tasted Christ on that cross for Jan, I understood in my spirit what had happened for my benefit. My Christian life was never the same after that, because it was His life in me.
Somewhere along in there, He showed me that what He had done for me, He had also done for everyone in the entire world, everyone who would ever live. He continues to open up scripture after scripture which affirm this truth. And in fact, Romans 5:10, is one of them, for in it, Paul says that God came to us in Christ while we were yet sinners, enemies of God. Unlikely as it seems to our logical minds, while we were still enemies, "we were reconciled to Him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life?" That describes a living, continuous experience, NOT a one time occurrence, though Christ only died ONCE for all (Rom. 6:10; Heb. 7:27; 9:12; 10:10; I Pet. 3:18). His death happened only once, but His life continues daily in us! We are saved by and through His life flowing in us!
We began this essay noticing how corrupt the church at Corinth was, and yet, in spite of their faults, Paul addressed them the way he saw them in the Spirit: "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours" (I Cor. 1:2). That includes you and me and all of us. God called us to be Saints, not because of anything we did or failed to do, but because of what Christ Jesus our Lord did for us, one and all.
We are no longer enemies of God because He was on the cross in Christ, "reconciling the world unto Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation" (II Cor. 5:19). This encompasses the whole world, dear ones, though many do not know it YET, and many others do not want to hear it, maybe because they want to grab some of the glory for themselves. Of all the writers in the New Testament, Paul expounded God's plan of the ages clearer than anyone else, and for that I love him and cherish his writings which declare the whole counsel of God: "For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite ALL THINGS in him, things in heaven and things on earth" (Eph. 1:9-10).
His vision of the height and breadth and length and depth of God's love is what gets me out of bed every day to see what new marvels He has for us. So, of course, the Corinthians were incorruptible, not because of their actions, which often missed the mark of the high calling of God, but because of Who lived in them, and Who had called them before the foundation of the world.
"Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come" (II Cor. 5: 17). The New Creation in Christ does NOT depend on our actions, but upon our Father's will. Even as we are born again, "not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God" (I Pet. 1:23). Jesus said, "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit" (John 3:6) and Paul concluded, "So it depends not upon man's will or exertion, but upon God's mercy" (Rom. 9:16).
Father, energize Your Word in our lives so that we can leave our sin consciousness behind and move on into the glory and power of what You have called us to be before the foundation of the world. Make of us vessels to carry the living water to a thirsting creation. In Christ, we ask it. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Dragon Slayer (Ephesus)
The Galatian Conundrum (Galatia)
The Macedonian Call
The Heavens Declare (Athens)
The Glory Road
We're always happy to hear from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 10/05/06
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/09/08.