In order to understand the significance of the Church in Corinth, it is necessary to know something about the city itself. Corinth was a large and important commercial city, as well as an heir of the great thinkers of the Golden Age of Greece – Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc. Two major forces of the city were intellectualism and sensualism, a result of the pursuit of wisdom and pleasure. In the city was the temple dedicated to the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite. The worship of Aphrodite consisted of sexual ceremonies. There were some 10,000 priestesses (prostitutes) connected with the temple. Thus, the city was openly given to practices of licentiousness. This, of course, was the predominant atmosphere of Corinth. And in the middle of all this was the Corinthian Church. The Apostle Paul ministered there for 18 months. Knowing the atmosphere of Corinth you could easily understand some of the problems Paul faced there.
I Corinthians 1:1-2 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the
will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.
As you know the New Testament was originally written in Greek and was later translated into English. Our English translation says that the church was “at Corinth.” The Greek says that it was “in Corinth.” There is a difference. “At Corinth” tells where the church was located, but the phrase “in Corinth” indicates much more. The church was not only located at Corinth, but it was also in the midst of the atmosphere and prevailing influences of what the city had become. Every city has an aura of influence about it, and what the people are determines the aura.
The Corinthian believers had lived under that influence all their lives; it had been a way of life for them that only God could change. The workings of the flesh were unchecked in Corinth. In other words, the Church in Corinth was surrounded by the works of the flesh. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21. All this activity surrounded the Church in Corinth. It also surrounded each individual in the Church. Being a Christian did not eliminate the flesh with its appetites.
Until the flesh is overcome there is a continuous battle with your flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would. Galatians 5:17. Corinth is a type of the flesh, and in the same way the Church in Corinth was surrounded by the nature of Corinth the Christian is surrounded by his flesh nature. Within his flesh nature are all the potential works of the flesh.
When a person becomes a Christian he repents for the sins he has committed, and the Lord is always faithful to forgive. He now feels he is forgiven, justified, cleansed and ready to go to heaven. Sometimes it takes years for a Christian to realize that his number one problem was not the things he did but was rather what he was – his nature. His very nature was sin and still is. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that you are now born again with the Lord’s nature, but it means that you are now in the place where the born again process can begin. All those potential works of the flesh must be overcome by the Lord in you. As He comes forth in your life two things happen: (1) the Spirit wars against the inhabitants of your Corinthian flesh; (2) the nature of Christ begins taking over in you. When you are really born again the works of the flesh are no longer; instead the works of the Lord operate through you. Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for His seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. I John 3:9.
Some Christians would say, “Well, those works of the flesh are not in me. I don’t have a problem with adultery, fornication, wrath, drunkenness, etc.” When a Christian is in a holding pattern and is not progressing in the Lord, the works of the flesh are covered and hidden. But the moment he begins making progress in the Lord, the devil will activate one of those works of the flesh in an effort to destroy his advancement in the Lord. Satan doesn’t bother Christians who aren’t progressing.
Job 14:4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.
Paul ministering to the Church in Corinth was the Lord bringing a clean thing out of an unclean. Let the Lord come forth in your life and He will be the clean thing coming out of you. Keep partaking of Him and the works of your flesh will be replaced by the fruit of the Spirit. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25.
Copyright © 2008 by Henry DuBose