While today’s society has abandoned all sexual restraint, Christ’s true disciples must live by His Way.
[Gary Petty] Paul here is launching a sexual revolution. He claims God's design for human sexuality is the institution of marriage and what he writes next would have been shocking in Corinthian society.
[Narrator] Join our presenters from the United Church of God as we bring you help for today and hope for tomorrow directly from your Bible here on beyond today.
[Gary Petty] The ancient city of Corinth was famous throughout the Roman Empire. It was a wealthy city, politically important, a bustling seaport, but those weren't the reasons for its fame. Corinth was so well known for its sexually charged culture that the word Corinthian became a synonym for a fornicator. One of the earliest Christian communities started in Corinth, and at that time Christianity was called The Way. And this is an important story that you've never heard. When you’ve discovered and accept The Way, it will change your assumption about the very purpose of your life. The Way in fact changes everything because The Way is a path to becoming a child of God in His family.
In a previous episode we looked at the impact The Way had on the city of Ephesus and like so many cities in the first century, it's in a Jewish synagogue that The Way began in these cities. But a controversy over the belief that Jesus is the Messiah prophesied in the ancient Hebrew scriptures resulted in the people of The Way being pushed out of the Jewish community. Their impact on pagan society was even more dramatic, leading to a large book burning and a riot.
Now what we're going to do today is explore The Way’s impact on the people of the ancient city of Corinth and how their experience, the people who left Corinthian society and came into The Way. Their experience is relevant to your life's experience if you're searching for authentic Christianity. We actually know a lot about those first Christians in Corinth because of two letters written by the Apostle Paul and they've survived to this day. They're in the Bible now. In these letters we find some very strange happenings in this fledgling church. Let me read to you something that Paul wrote and you realize there's something strange going on inside this church. He said, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a heart?” He says, “Certainly not. Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her for the two,” he says, “shall become one flesh.”
Now think about this for a minute. I mean, Paul was chiding Christians in Corinth because they were visiting prostitutes. Now why would followers of The Way of Jesus Christ be visiting prostitutes? To answer that question we need to understand the city and culture of ancient Corinth. And as we do, you're going to see some startling similarities to the society you and I live in. You know, Corinth was a thriving metropolis on the isthmus between the Ionian and the Agean Seas. It had a strong economy with shops filled with goods from all over the Roman Empire, a place where diverse people freely mingled and they produced sort of a hodgepodge of cultures and religions. By the time of Paul's writings of this letter here in Corinth, Corinth had actually surpassed Athens as the commercial and political center of Greece. You see, it was situated between two seaports and their economy boomed because of tourism for one thing, and because sailors came and landed at the seaports to spend their hard earned money by participating in excessive entertainment before going back out to sea. Gambling drunkenness, and most importantly sexual amusements were the main attractions in Corinth. As I said, it was so filled with sexual freedom that the word Corinth became synonymous with ‘to practice fornication.’
You know, what we see in Corinth is similar to everyday life in Las Vegas or Bourbon Street in New Orleans, or really a Saturday night where I live in downtown Nashville. Except our society actually goes beyond the Corinthians as we promote transgender indoctrination of children. So how are the people of the way supposed to respond to this abandonment to sexual restraints? You know, Paul’s answer to the Corinthian society actually launched a sexual revolution and people of the way in the 21st century must also participate in the same revolution. Are you up to being a spiritual revolutionary? It is The Way.
Now, we still haven't answered the question of why Christian men in Corinth were visiting prostitutes. It actually was because of religious customs in their society. Everyday life in Corinth was centered around the worship of Aphrodite, the goddess of sex, lust, beauty, passion, and procreation. Her temple was on a large hill towering over the city and the two sister seaports so that sailors could see it long before they landed. And the temple contained both female and male prostitutes whose actions were considered sacred in the worshiping of Aphrodite. You see the men Paul chides for going to prostitutes who had become part of The Way did so because they had grown up in a society where it was considered a spiritual experience. Corinth was a city saturated with a preoccupation of sexuality and you and I, just so we don't think Corinth is just some ancient story, you and I live in a society that's becoming more like ancient Corinth every day.
Paul's message isn't just for these old ancient people. If you're going to accept Jesus as the Messiah, you must accept and live His Way. So how did Paul, Jesus' disciple, deal with people who are leaving Corinthian society to follow The Way when they're involved in this sexually charged atmosphere? Paul gives them two important basic teachings and the first thing he does is he actually launches a sexual revolution. Okay, now you think, wow, Christians launching a sexual revolution. Oh yes, it was in this society. Here's what he wrote to them. “Now, concerning the things of what you wrote to me, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.” Now the Corinthians had written Paul a letter and he responds, you know what? Basically you people have a lot of problems. Maybe it's better you stay celibate. But of course that wasn't what was going to happen and it's not what he really wanted. Because he says “Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, but each man have his own wife and let each woman have her own husband.” Paul here in this environment is launching a sexual revolution. He claims that God's design for human sexuality is the institution of marriage, and what he writes next would've been shocking in Corinthian society. This may not be very shocking to us, but in the ancient world of Corinth, this would've been shocking. He says, “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due to her and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise,” this has, this has been shocking, “the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
It's a revolutionary concept of marriage in ancient Greece and it's a revolution that the followers of The Way must live by, promote today, because you know it's the only Way, it's the only solution to stopping STDs and the sexual exploitation of children and addiction to pornography and the sexual identity crisis and the denigration of the nuclear family ordained by God. But why would Paul's teaching seem so strange to people living in Corinth? You know, in Greek society, women had few rights. A wife was supposed to run the household, she might even be over some household slaves, but she was considered intellectually inferior to her husband and had no sexual rights in marriage. What does Paul teach? He tells the people of The Way and begins with a premise that the sexual relationship was designed by God for the institution of marriage. That's his premise. He then launches a marriage revolution by claiming that in marriage, both men and women have sexual responsibility for each other. This turned the entire Corinthian male dominated society upside down. We don't understand the impact this was having. You see the people The Way saw marriage and the family is the most beautiful relationships in life. The love, the emotional bonding, the commitment, the working through the hard times and shared joy in the good times, is God's design for human society and marriage. And the sexual purity in marriage was a spiritual aspiration. This is what these people aspired to as they were coming out of a society with total sexual freedom. You know the idea of sexual freedom without boundaries, you know what it creates? Cheap sexual relationships and cheap sex is very emotionally, physically, and spiritually costly. There is no such thing as cheap sex. Paul that taught that sexual liberation and true liberty is experienced through sexual discipline and a God created relationship.
Now there's a second way Paul deals with these issues. He teaches that human sexuality is based in a revolutionary concept of a person's relationship with God. This was brand new. Let's go back, for these people in this Greek culture this was brand new. Let's go back to what we read here when he talks, first interacts with these people, writes of these people who are actually visiting prostitutes. Remember, here's what he said, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?” He says, “certainly not. Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot as one with her for the two” he says, “shall become one flesh?” See, Paul here is actually quoting for the book of Genesis where God creates the sacred marriage covenant and commanded that two shall become one flesh in this male and female relationship.
There's no doubt that Paul's teaching those of The Way that marriage was established by God at the very beginning of human existence and marriage is intended to be the context for love and sexuality between a man and a woman. Now, Paul's also here making a very important implication for the people of The Way. Throughout the Bible, God makes covenants with people. These covenants aren't agreements between equals. They're contracts designed by God and agreed upon by human beings to participate in. When you agreed to follow The Way, even your sexuality is an aspect of your relationship with God. This was new and that is because marriage is a covenant relationship between God and the husband and the wife. It's a covenant God makes and it's a three-way, covenant people of The Way. We're being taught that by Paul.
You see, the attack on biblical marriage is an existential threat to humanity. It tears down the very foundation of how we are to learn to love. It destroys the environment for healthy child development, robs us of wonderful joy of following The Way, and it actually creates a conflict between us and God. Let's go back to where Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the men who are going to prostitutes and what he said next to them. Okay, so here's what he says next, “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” In other words, when we accept Christ we enter into a personal relationship with Him and as we will see, with God the Father. And that actually is supposed to affect our sexuality. He says, “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.”
Now listen to Paul's explanation of this concept. And this is earth shattering. This is life-changing. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you whom you have from God and you are not your own, for you are bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are gods.” To follow The Way isn't just some kind of subjective, spiritual or mystical experience. It is the acceptance of a covenant that the Almighty God makes with you. And in doing so, He shares His spirit with you. It can be difficult to believe that God wants to make a personal covenant with you, right? But you know, here's the truth. You can go to church, you can serve in a homeless shelter. You can march against L-G-B-T-Q or you can march for L-G-B-T-Q and all these things feel very spiritual but still not be in a personal relationship with God.
Okay, so let's go back and reread what we just read, okay? Where Paul talks to them about this relationship with God and how this relationship with God affects how they use their body. “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you whom you have from God and you are not your own?” Understand when you enter into this covenant with God, the covenant of the way, you become a temple for His interaction with you. An ancient Corinth, people went to a temple made of stone to visit prostitutes, to find a, try to find a more meaningful relationship with this goddess. And since she didn't exist, it was meaningless. It was pointless. God wants to create a special relationship with His children by actually interacting with our hearts and minds through His spirit. And by the way, we'll be exploring the New Covenant, a future segment of The Way when we look at the earliest Christians in the city of Jerusalem. So then Paul says, “what for you were bought at a price.” There's a price God paid for us,” therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are gods.” Our bodies were made for marriage. That's the point. And you were bought with a price. This is central to Christianity and is disappearing from modern Christianity.
Jesus came actually to die for us because we are worthless without that sacrifice. That's a substitute sacrifice for your sins that separates you and me from God and then God through Christ will bring you back from this meaningless existence. He will take you back. He wants to fill your life with the excitement of His purpose for you to be His child. He wants you to experience the happiness of living the way He created us to live. And that's why The Way is the only true spiritual path. So how did Jesus, what did He teach about The Way? How did Jesus approach this? Here's what He, what He told His followers. “Enter through the narrow gate for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it, but small is the gate and narrow is the road or the path that leads to life.” And only a few find it. Jesus said that following Him in The Way isn't easy. And what we learned here from the Corinthians is that they faced a monumental struggle and rejecting the norms and morality of their society and following The Way. It's the same for anybody anytime anyplace that leaves society and becomes a follower of The Way. That's why this is still important.
Paul describes a congregation that's transitioning from Corinthian society to The Way, and not only did they have sexual problems but there were people who got drunk at church, ignored the poor in the congregation and worship service were filled with chaos and competition and members were even taking each other to court and some still participated in paganism. And Paul instructs them in The Way and then he does something that's very important. You know, we are looking in this series, the impact these people had as they left and came into The Way, but they, God also warned them that they must stay in The Way and He gives them some a warning and He gives them some encouragement. So let's read the warning and then we'll read the encouragement. He says, “do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived.” He's talking now to the people of the way in Corinth, “neither fornicators nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers nor extortioners, will inherit the Kingdom of God.” Paul writes to them that The Way is not, by the way, all inclusive. The followers of Jesus did not define love as tolerating all behaviors and forms of worship. He even says that if people don't follow The Way, they won't be accepted by God. Yep. That's the warning. To follow “The Way” is to be committed to The Way. But then he says this encouragement, “and such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus by the spirit of our God.” And in this small verse, Paul tells us how God washes us of our sins and faults, makes us clean, and lets us come before Him in this personal special relationship that involves our thoughts, our emotions, our actions, and even our bodies. You see, The Way isn't just about belief, it's about believing in the life changing power of God. And no matter what you struggle with in your life, alcohol or drug addiction, greed that motivates you to take advantage of others and you know it's wrong, maybe a life of stealing, despondency and lack of purpose or the pursuit of meaningless sexuality, God can and will heal you.
The people of The Way in Corinth are examples of people who were struggling as they followed a path of spiritual renewal. And in this struggle, God was creating change in their lives one step at a time. Remember what He wrote to them, “and such were some of you.” In fact all people who come into The Way when understanding what God wants in His children. “As such were some of you” applies to every one of us, that's the great encouragement. This is what we all need. It's actually what we all want, we were created to desire. This relationship with God is the only way to fulfill the inner emptiness in your life.
We've seen that The Way and the marriage revolution taught to the people in ancient Corinth involve two points. One was a revolutionary concept of marriage. Paul goes back to the book of Genesis to teach the reason that God created human sexuality was for a special relationship in a sacred marriage covenant. This marriage covenant was to be the foundation of family and raising children. And this point would've been revolutionary in a society where human sexuality was a main component of the Aphrodite. It's just as revolutionary today in a society that worships at the feet of sexual freedom.
The second point was a revolutionary concept of a special relationship with God. When we live The Way we surrender our hearts and minds and even our bodies to God in order to have Him live in us through His spirit. These two teachings lead to a profound change in a person. The marriage revolution and the new concept of a personal relationship with God created a profound change in the lifestyles of the people in Corinth. To accept the concept of sacred marriage and have God spiritually involved in our lives leads us to dramatic changes in lifestyles.
Now, to help you learn more about The Way and how it will change your life, I want to offer you a free copy of Transforming Your Life, A Process of Conversion. Now conversion's a word that's often used in religious language, but what does it mean? Is it just accepting Jesus professing a creed or adhering to a certain set of official doctrines? Well, the biblical concepts of conversion is the total transformation from an aimless confused life to literally becoming a child of God. And it takes a miracle. It involves entering into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ so that He actually guides you by His spirit. It leads to a new way of thinking, a way of processing your emotions, a way of approaching everything in life. The study guide Transforming Your Life, A Process of Conversion will take you to the Bible to help you understand the covenant God wants to make with you personally and what steps you must take to further your journey on The Way. And you know this study guide is absolutely free. Call the number on your screen or go to Beyond Today TV where you can download a copy or read it right there online and at Beyond Today TV. You can watch hundreds of Beyond Today presentations that explore God's remarkable message to you, to you personally.
You know, the story of The Way in Corinth is recorded for those today who wish to accept Jesus as the Christ and follow His example and we'll continue to explore the people of The Way and how their experiences are models for us who are really searching for authentic Christianity. And future programs in this series will look at the introduction of The Way in Athens, the intellectual center of Greece. We're also going to look at the introduction of The Way in Jerusalem because that's where it really started when thousands of Jews committed to The Way. And how God's spirit was actually poured out on the day of Pentecost. And we'll really explore what that covenant means, what Paul calls the New Covenant. We'll explore The Way in Sardis the warning message of a church built on The Way, built on Jesus Christ and dies because it does not adhere to the warning to stay committed. If you're searching for God's plan for you and the only hope for all of humanity, then - Please join us next time right here as on beyond today as we explore the power of God's work.
[Narrator] Call now to receive the free booklet offered on today's program, Transforming Your Life, The Process of Conversion. The Bible reveals that a person must become converted to be in God's family. Christian conversion is more than believing a few doctrines and going through a ritual. It's allowing God to change your heart and mind. Are you ready for that change? Here's how you can begin. Order now. Call toll free 1-888-886-8632 or write to the address shown on your screen. Conversion is a life transforming process and it's only possible through the direct powerful involvement of God. When you order this free study aid, we'll also send you a complimentary one year subscription to Beyond Today Magazine. Beyond Today Magazine brings you understanding of today's world and hope for the future. Six times a year you'll read about current world events in the light of Bible prophecy, as well as practical knowledge to improve your marriage and family and godly principles to guide you toward a life that leads to peace. Call today to receive your free booklet, Transforming Your Life, The Process of Conversion, and your free one year subscription to Beyond Today Magazine. 1-888-886-8632. Or go online to be Beyond Today tv.
[Gary Petty] Hi, I'm Gary Petty, a pastor with the United Church of God. If you are looking for a church that encourages living what the word of God really teaches you found the right place. Visit ucg.org to find a church near you. We're looking forward to meeting you soon.