So far, Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth has really gone into some depth in terms of apostolic instruction on the way to live – in that day and age. And, at this point he speaks about the Christian relationship to idols. We remember that idolatry was almost the universal practice of the Greeks. And there – located in Corinth – was the temple of Diana. And where there are idols – there are sacrifices to idols. Sometimes those sacrifices included edible items that could be later consumed by others – including Christians. Paul says in Chapter 8:4 “As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.” Therefore, Paul’s advice seems to be that there is no danger in partaking of the food offered in sacrifice to idols. He is implying that there is nothing wrong with buying meat left over from pagan idol worship to help feed the family. Paul summarizes the point by saying “that an idol is nothing in the world.” And then he emphasizes “and that there is none other God but one.” This line hearkens back to what the Jews called the Great Shema: Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” That is straight up – pure monotheistic worship of the true and living God.
Okay, listen carefully to the wording in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 “For though there be that are called gods (lower-case g), whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods (lower-case g) many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God (upper-case G), the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” Joseph Smith taught in the Section concerning the plurality of wives – Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20 that all who are worthy will become gods over their own worlds and will send their own spirit offspring to those worlds to go through the same plan of salvation as we are going through here. Therefore, there are many gods in the universe. But there is only one Heavenly Father for us. If that is how the LDS want to twist Paul’s teaching to fit Smith’s theology, then they simply don’t understand what Paul is speaking about here. Paul has been talking about the pagan gods Greeks worship – that they believe resided in heaven – like Jupiter, Juno, Mercury, and others. And those deities they believe resided in earth – like Neptune, Ceres, and others. Again, Verse 6 “But to us (Christian believers) there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” Everything comes from God, through His only Human Son, Jesus Christ our Lord!
1 Corinthians 9:1 “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?” From the start in this chapter, Paul mentions the first qualifier of being an apostle – being a firsthand, eyewitness of Jesus – called directly by Jesus. I think it’s important to realize that the “word” apostle and the “office” of apostle have two very different applications. Apostle, the word, simply means a person sent – a messenger. The office of apostle was occupied by twelve men who Jesus entrusted the organization of His church and the dissemination of His gospel. Any one after that, claiming the office of Apostleship are false apostles. Just want to make that clear.
For a good portion of Chapter 9, Paul argues that Christian workers should be paid by those they serve. Paul’s explanation that God’s ministers should be supported by the churches – came as an order from the Lord. Verse 14 “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” But Paul supported himself so that no one would have any reason to think he was ministering with a financial motive. This is true devotion. The question I ask – why don’t today’s Mormon Apostles follow Paul’s example? I know while I was on my LDS mission as a young man, I told the narrative we were given that – the LDS Church had no paid ministry. It was an unpaid lay ministry from the bottom local leaders to the top quorum of the 12 and First Presidency. I taught with pride that we are different from the Protestant and Catholic clergy who received salaries. Then, decades later it was discovered that we had been lied to by the LDS Church. Paystubs of six-figure incomes for the top leaders were revealed. What a lie we all believed and propagated. Don’t misunderstand me – I don’t have a problem with the Mormon leaders getting paid – like Paul said all ministers should be. The problem I have is with the fact that the Church lied about themselves, not getting paid. That is called duplicity and hypocrisy!
In Chapter 10, Paul will turn his attention to explaining that Jesus Christ was the God who led ancient Israel out of Egypt and into the promise land. This is crucial doctrine for those converts who are trying to understand why they should leave the Law of Moses rites and rituals to follow Christ – as Paul has been teaching them to do. He will warn them not to fall into the same sins as the Children of Israel did – which led many to destruction. Verse 13 “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man (all of us are subject to temptation): but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able (God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can resist); but will with the temptation also make a way to escape (will help you overcome it), that ye may be able to bear it (so that you can handle it).” Why can’t temptation take us captive and force us to sin? Paul tells us here that God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength. It is reassuring to know that no temptation can overpower us and strip us of our freewill.
In Chapter 11, Paul deals with a number of issues among the Corinthian Saints, including local customs of hair and grooming, marriage, and husband and wife roles, some of which he approves and some of which he disapproves. His counsel regarding some of these matters – if taken out of context – can become a problem. In Verses 23-26 he also gives a beautifully written sermon regarding – what we call – the sacrament or communion. If this letter or epistle was written before any of the Gospels, as most scholars believe – then Paul’s instruction was the first biblical record of the institution of the Lord’s Supper – given directly from the Lord to Paul and not through his reading of any other apostles.
Chapter 12 is well-known for mentioning several spiritual gifts. Paul calls them Verse 4 “diversities of gifts.” He’s not talking about natural talents, skills, and abilities, but super-natural gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit. Paul also says in Verse 4 that these various spiritual gifts come from “the same Spirit.” – The Holy Spirit – who is in charge of them. To the Corinthian saints, who lived in an environment of many false gods, it is an important clarification. Otherwise, Christians might be tempted to believe that one spiritual gift came from one idol, and another from another god, etc. Verse 7 “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man (and woman) to profit withal.” God is a God of manifesting. Those with God in them, by His Spirit, cannot help but manifest God in word and deed – and by these loving manifestations will all people know that we are His disciples.
We don’t have time to examine individually each one, but the list of spiritual gifts Paul mentions are: the word of wisdom; the word of knowledge; faith; the gifts of healing; the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues; teaching; serving; encouraging; giving; mercy; helps; governments; leadership. Verse 11 “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit (the Holy Spirit), dividing to every man severally as he will.”
Having taught the Corinthian saints about the role of spiritual gifts in strengthening the Church and individuals – Paul now in Chapter 13 focuses on the very essence of Christ-like living for each of us, namely, having charity toward each other. The word “charity” in the Greek is defined as “brotherly love, good will, benevolence.” This is one of the best known and beautiful of Paul’s teachings on Christian love – agape love – Godly love. Because of the briefness of the passage, I will read each verse, 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing (an empty vessel, a fruitless branch). And though I bestow all my goods (material possessions) to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned (to die for the gospel), and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long (is patient), and is kind; charity envieth not (does not resent others for what they have); charity vaunteth not itself (does not brag), is not puffed up (is not prideful), Doth not behave itself unseemly (indecently, inappropriately, rudely), seeketh not her own (is not selfish), is not easily provoked (is not irritable; doesn’t lose its temper), thinketh no evil (in the Greek means doesn’t hold grudges); Rejoiceth not in inquity (doesn’t delight in wickedness), but rejoiceth in truth; Beareth all things (keeps quiet about the errors and faults of others; doesn’t give in to resentment), believeth all things (is completely trusting of and committed to God and Christ); hopeth all things; endureth all things (never gives up in following Christ).
Okay, hang in there – we are half-way through the chapter. Verses 8-13 “Charity never faileth (could mean that a truly Christ-like person never runs out of charity towards others. Or, could mean that exercising charity never fails to make the world a better place): but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail (meaning they eventually finish up by being fulfilled); whether there be tongues (speaking various languages), they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away (false assumptions, philosophies, and opinions will vanish away in the light of truth). For we know in part, and we prophesy in part (in other words, we don’t know all things, and the prophesying we do does not reveal all truth yet). But when that (Christ) which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things (When we develop Christ like charity, we put away childish or spiritually immature behavior and thinking). For now (with our mortal limitations) we see (ourselves) through a glass, darkly (a poor quality hazy distorted mirror, obscured); but then face to face (when we are face to face with God): now I know in part (I don’t know all things); but then shall I know even as also I am known (by God) (as it says in 1 John 3:2 ‘we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is’). And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these (the character trait we need most, and to which faith in Christ and hope lead) is charity (Godly love).” That’s what’s most important!
And, that concludes today’s study. Don’t forget, we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast.
Until next time, God Bless!