Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 1 * BOOK 27
PROBLEMS AND CONSEQUENCES OF CARNAL BELIEVERS
As we pick up again in I Corinthians Chapter 4, we also begin book 27. You know all of this ministry started with a home Bible study in Iowa many years ago, and from that The Lord has just helped us to branch out where we can reach more and more folks with The Word. I never try to make argument with people, but I just teach The Word as I feel The Lord has revealed it to me. I’m just a layman; I do not attempt to talk in theological levels, but rather I try to teach The Word in a way that common people can comprehend it, and I believe we’re accomplishing that given the response we’re getting. Now let’s review verse 1:
I Corinthians 4:1
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards (or managers) of the mysteries of God.” We went through the mysteries in our last lesson and how these Pauline revelations are never referred to anywhere else in Scripture – not in the Old Testament, or the Four Gospels, and for the most part, not even in the Book of Acts. You find the mysteries only in the letters of Paul. Paul says in verse 2:
I Corinthians 4:2-4
“Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” So whatever we are in charge of, it can be business, or church activities, or whatever – if we’re in charge we are responsible, and God expects us to be faithful.
“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me is the Lord.”
Never lose sight of the fact that Corinth was a city that was saturated in paganism and all the gross immorality that went with it. They were so steeped in the things of the world. Even as Paul has garnered this little group of believers, remember they had just come out of this kind of background. So it stands to reason that they didn’t all of a sudden become spiritual giants. They had a lot of problems, and in Chapter 7, verse 1 it’s indicated that this congregation actually sent Paul (who is across the Aegean Sea at Ephesus when he writes this letter) a whole series of questions, and so Paul is answering these questions they have asked one by one. And when you get that concept then this little letter of Corinthians just sort of opens up again. Remember back in Chapter 1, Paul had to deal with so many of them lifting him up as the only man to listen to. Others had separated themselves saying that they only listen to Peter, and others said they listen to Apollos. Those were things that divided this little congregation, but that wasn’t their only problem. They also had a moral problem and problems with relationships within the church family. In fact the whole letter of Corinthians is dealing with a series of problems, and they had come to the Apostle Paul in the form of a letter asking, “How do we do this, how do we handle that?” So here he’s defending his apostleship.
Remember back in Chapter 1 we stressed that some said, “No, we listen to Peter, you’re just a fake, you’re an impostor. Peter is the one that has the authority, he walked with Jesus for three years, you didn’t.” So Paul has to constantly defend his apostleship, and here’s another little instance. See?
I Corinthians 4:3a,4b,5a
“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment…” ….but he that judgeth me is the Lord.” So Jesus Christ is the One that judgeth Paul, the One who sent him out to be the Apostle of the Gentiles in the first place. Verse 5a:
“Therefore (since no one can judge Paul except The Lord Who sent him) judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come,”
Believers will never receive their rewards until the end of time. The lost are not going to receive their just recompense until the end of their time. Why? You see, as you and I go through this life as believers, we are making impacts on people all around us. And what the final impact will really be, we won’t know until The Lord, the Righteous Judge, will reveal at the last time. In other words, for you and I living today, if The Lord should tarry, and we go on through the valley of death, every person that we have touched in this life is going to still carry on in some way or another, and we don’t know what they’re going to accomplish.
I have to think of my own experience. I’m sure the people that were instrumental in my early Christian experience are long gone, but you see, the result of what they did in my life is still carrying on. It’s the same way with a lost person, as he makes an impact on the world from his lostness, he too is going to be reaping rewards of people who are following in his or her footsteps. So this is what the apostle is trying to show here, and that is, we are responsible only to The Lord, and until He comes this is where our responsibility lies. Now reading verse 5 again:
I Corinthians 4:5
“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”
Over and over I have defined this word “manifest’ as you see it so often in Scripture – things being manifested, and here it is again in this verse. At the end of time when The Lord comes, then He will make manifest the counsels of the heart which is an area that only God can see. And again that word `manifest’ is being put under the spotlight. And the microscope is a perfect example. When you turn on that bright light of the microscope that manifests everything clearly that is on that slide, and all of a sudden everything that was invisible is now visible. And that is what the word `manifest’ almost every time depicts in Scripture. There is coming a time when that sharp light of God’s knowledge is going to penetrate even into the very hearts of our being, and then every believer shall have praise of God.
This is what we are to live for. You know we’re living in a time of materialism, and I suppose 90% of motivation among most of us is material advancement. We want it better than the last generation, we want our kids to have it better than we had it. But listen, we have our priorities wrong, the things that count the most as The Lord Jesus Himself put it in His earthly ministry.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
There’s nothing wrong with things in themselves; it’s what people do with things in their schedule of priorities. We are to live and breathe so that we might have the praise of God. That’s why He’s left us here, to bring honor and glory to His name.
I Corinthians 4:6
“And these things, brethren, I have in a figure (in a picture or type) transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.”
Paul is having to deal with the problem, that within the congregation of Corinth some were getting all puffed up, and saying, “I’m the one who is most important in this congregation because I go by what Peter taught.” And over here would be another that would say, ” Oh, no I’m the one that is the leader of this congregation because I’m imitating the Apostle Paul.” So you see how infantile they really were? They were still so carnal, and so he was dealing with the problem that you can’t get puffed up and give someone the impression that you’re better than they are, that you’re more spiritually blessed, and all these things. Now verse 7, and here we come down to the whole practicality of our very existence.
I Corinthians 4:7a
“For who maketh thee to differ from another?…” (“from another” is in italic)
Actually it says who maketh you different, that’s what it amounts to. I’ll never forget that years ago (I was probably a teenager in our Church congregation up there in Northern Iowa) we had an old German immigrant who had become quite wealthy. I’ll never take anything away from him because he was a tremendously hard worker. He had accumulated hundreds of acres, and he was known as one of the more wealthy people in the community. This gentleman always sat on the second row in our Sunday morning service, and the pastor evidently was preaching a sermon on this same order, “that we are nothing except what God let’s us be.” I’ll never forget when he asked the old gentlemen, “Who gave you the ability to make all your money?” And the gentlemen said, “Nobody, I did it myself.” But he was wrong. He couldn’t have made a nickel, he could have never bought a quarter section without God ordaining it. And see this is where we all are. We are what we are by the Sovereign Grace of God, and this is what Paul is emphasizing to these Corinthians. “Don’t you get puffed up that you’re better than somebody else, because you’re nothing except what God made you.”
I Corinthians 4:7
“For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? (From Whom? From God. Everyone of us as believers are what we are, we have what we have, only by the Grace of God, and we can never get puffed up, and say, “Hey look what I’ve accomplished.” We can’t do that because we have accomplished nothing of ourselves.)now if thou didst receive it, why doest thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”
In other words the apostle is saying, “Why are you glorying over something that you didn’t even have anything to do with.” Do you see that? And every time we get an inkling that maybe I’m somebody special, knock that thought right down because we are nothing except what God has let us become. And again all of that is based on His Grace. I don’t deserve three meals a day, I don’t deserve any of the good things of life, but I have them, Why? Because God’s Grace has seen fit to permit it. Now verse 8:
I Corinthians 4:8a
“Now ye are full, now ye are rich,…”
Hey, I thought these believers were carnal. They are, they are not spiritually rich like the Ephesians. They still have a long way to go, but again this brings right back home this whole concept of Salvation, that the moment we’re saved we have all of God as He can put Himself into us. We have everything so far as the fullness of the Holy Spirit from the very moment we believe. You don’t have to work, and look for it, because that was all part of Salvation. Now, granted, God does leave within our realm of control how much of the fullness we’re going to maintain (or are we going to let it empty out some). A cup of water is a good example. If I want to fill that cup of water with air, what do I do with my water? Pour it out. Now if I pour out a 1/2 of cup of water, how much of the cup is full of air? Half, and if I pour out 3/4 of a cup then 3/4 is air and 1/4 is water.
Now in an analogy this is a good way to explain the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The moment we’re saved we’re filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit. You just talk to someone who has been recently saved, and they are bubbling over, they are excited, they know what a tremendous thing has happened in their life. But we’re still in this old world with all of it’s allurements and all of it’s temptations and desires of the flesh, so what happens? Pretty soon we start filling that cup up with air or the Pneuma, the Holy Spirit, or we start filling it with material things. Then the first thing you know our cup is full of the material isn’t it? And what have we done with the Holy Spirit? We’ve almost cancelled Him out. Now He’ll never leave, so don’t get that idea, but we love His fullness. Now we come to a point then in our Christian experience, and here is where you have to get into The Word, and you have to be in fellowship with other believers. So then we finally come to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is not having the control in our lives that we want Him to have. We’ve got to do something about it, and remember all these things we saw in the Book of Romans do become a personal decision, because you’re free.
Now if we want more of that fullness of the Holy Spirit back in our lives, what are we going to have to do with material that’s in the cup? Pour it out, get rid of it, and if you want to be completely filled again get right down to the basics, get priority wise, and get to where the spiritual things means more than the material. Looking at verse 8 again Paul tells these carnal Christians:
I Corinthians 4:8,9
“Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.” The Apostle is bringing them to the place where they could experience a greater joy of their Salvation, and the Apostle wants to be part of that. Because after all he was the one responsible for bringing them out of their paganistic lifestyle.
“For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last (I think Paul is including the Twelve back there in Jerusalem, himself, and probably Barnabas), as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.”
Now I’m sure everyone of us have considered death at sometime in our Christian experience. And I know it’s not for us to question God’s Sovereignty, but we’re human, and so we do, we ask why. Do you realize that all twelve of the apostles except maybe John who may have died a natural death, as he was in exile on the isle of Patmos, but all the others died a martyred death, everyone of them, a horrible death, and the Apostle Paul the same way. Beheaded at the hands of Nero. Let’s go for a moment to II Corinthians, Chapter 11 and look at how Paul had to suffer. And as you read this passage inspired by the Holy Spirit (so this isn’t Paul just simply expressing his own feelings of his own vision, this is Holy Spirit inspired) it’s here for a purpose. And look what this man went through for the sole purpose of getting the Gospel out to the Gentile world. He was getting no compensation, he wasn’t gaining any material wealth whatsoever. If Paul had wealth as a Jew and Pharisee he evidently just left it all behind, and that’s what I think happened. I think at one time Saul of Tarsus was a wealthy religious Jew, but he chucked it all for the sake of being the apostle to the Gentiles.
II Corinthians 11:22,23a
“Are they Hebrews? so am I, Are they Israelites? so am I, Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool)…”
Do you remember what Paul said about the Gospel back there in Chapter 1 of I Corinthians?
I Corinthians 1:18a
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
Here in II Corinthians Paul is saying that from the world he was a fool to have chucked all the power, prestige, and wealth that he had as a Jewish religious leader.
II Corinthians 11:23-28
“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes (from the whip) above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. (Near death, and now here it comes in the next verse.) Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice (three) was I beaten with rods, (none of us know what that was like, it was inhuman.) once was I stoned, (that’s when they dragged him out of the city of Lystra, and he was supposedly dead.) thrice (three) I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; (do you see that? And it was for the sake of the Gospel.) In journeyings often, (in his three missionary journeys the man must of been on foot day after day after day) in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, (the Jews were out to kill him constantly) in perils by the heathen, (the Romans are finally going to end up putting him to death.) in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, (he was human, he wasn’t a superstar) in watchings often, in hunger (he couldn’t stop and get a Big Mac along the way) and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” (Not sufficient clothing to keep him warm, and on top of the physical sufferings) Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”
The man was constantly under pressure; as an example, the letters from the Corinthians with all their problems, and the Galatians he finds out they’re trying to go back under the Law, and legalism. And he has to hurriedly sit down and write the six Chapters to the Galatians. So over and over the man is just constantly besieged with the care of Christianity, which is now just beginning to make itself known throughout the Roman Empire. I have to look at a situation like that. Would I keep going? Would you keep going? If you were just constantly suffering everyday of your life for the simple reason of getting the Gospel out to these pagan heathen who were so content to worship their gods of wood and stone. I mean I just can’t help but wonder. I have to ask why did a man like Paul have to suffer to such extreme that we might get the Gospel? What kept him from giving up and going back home to Tarsus, and saying, “What’s the use?” But he didn’t, he kept on, and kept on until finally Rome itself put him to death.