Flooded With Life and Overflowing

The Bible states that “In Him (Jesus) was life and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Jesus was not the ‘light.’ The very life, character, and nature of God (the Father) in Him was the light. This is called the ‘life.’ Jesus was not the light – the life in Him was the light.

This theme of ‘life’ is amazingly throughout the New Testament. He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. He told us that He was the way, the truth, and the life. His gift of grace is eternal life. 

When we are born again this life is deposited within us. Jesus said to the woman at the well of Sycar, “For when you drink the water I give you it becomes a gushing fountain of the Holy Spirit, springing up and flooding you with endless life!” (John 4:14 The Passion Translation).

Christians have life – the very character and nature of God dwelling inside them. The Holy Spirit was deposited in to you when you asked Jesus to be your Lord and Saviour and experienced a conversion to Christ. He is the One that breathes life in you (Romans 5:5). And, as believers who live His life and live with hope we should be enthusiastically engaged with life every day. We should be enthusiastic and excited about life and the opportunities each day brings to us. We are to be proactive and embracing life and celebrating all that God has and is doing in and through us. 

When non-believers look at us they should see people who are consistently excited and “up” as we join the Spirit of God in what He is doing that day. We are not victims. We are not overcome by our circumstances. Even on a tough day we need to remember that God is still in control and He does know what He is doing. We need to be ‘alive’ and on fire for God. We need to walk in His life.

But, there is more than just a ‘gushing fountain’ that enables us to move forward with hope and certainty every day. There is a second encounter with God that the Bible calls the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Jesus talked about it on a number of occasions. One of the first times He mentions it is in John 7 when He is speaking at the celebration of a Jewish religious feast day and He says, “All you thirsty ones, come to Me! Come to Me and drink! Believe in Me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your inner most being, just like the Scripture says!” (John 7:37b-38 The Passion Translation referring to Ezekiel 47:1, Isaiah 44:3; 55:1; 58:11).

These rivers don’t seem to be flowing as Jesus predicted. Many who are baptized in the Holy Spirit focus on such great gifts as praying in tongues. However, they are not grasping the immensity of what Jesus said here. There is so much ‘life,’ His life in us that it is busting the seams and flowing out to touch all others we come into contact with. There is more than enough for each and every person we speak to each and every day. But, you may ask, why is this not the case? Good question. 

The reference to living waters flowing from within could have been translated as: “rives of living water will flow from His throne within” (see Ezekiel 47) 

And, many believers – even those baptized in the Holy Spirit – do not have Jesus as Lord sitting on the throne of their heart. And they are still functioning in life as if it was up to them and that they are seriously in control of their life. So, Jesus has not been enthroned as Lord. The throne is occupied by ‘self’ and thus this abundant life flowing like multiple rivers is not experienced. 

Jesus came full of life and this life was the light of men. This life in us is meant to be the light for others who are living in spiritual darkness. But, they won’t see the light if we are not daily experiencing and then overflowing with His life that is ours because we have asked Jesus to be God in our life. Jesus said, “Your lives light up the world. Let others see your light from a distance, for how can you hide a city that stands on a hilltop?” (Matthew 5:14 The Passion Translation). In other words, shine so brightly that people will see the difference from far away and it will get brighter as they come closer. 

So, as believers, we are called to celebrate life, His life in us, and to release that life so it can light up the spiritual darkness that surrounds those who don’t know Jesus. We are meant to be flooded with life and overflowing.

Gentle Heresy

I recently sat with a young man whom I coffee with when in the province east on my home province. He was a member of one of our house churches who has since decided to leave and attend the “going concern” church in his small city. However, I appreciate him and believe in him so I am keeping in touch. It was a good coffee conversation.

In the conversation he mentioned an author who he is currently reading. I had never heard of this writer. He mentioned that this preacher sees things in the spirit realm and teaches others to do the same. Now, I don’t have a problem with that. I also move in the supernatural gift of the Discerning of Spirits as found in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. What concerned me was his comment that this man could do this since he was born. 

If a person who is not born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit can see what is happening in the spirit realm it is not a God-thing. His source would be the ruler of this age, the devil himself or one of the demons that constantly deceive believers. So, I did not say anything but my warning flags were raised and I decided to purchase this author’s books and read them to see where things stand. If the author actually says that then I will be deeply concerned and try to address the issue with my young friend. That comment would be a gentle heresy. Totally not biblical. 

It does not help that the author is part of a movement that I already have deep concerns about. So, I am treading gently and doing my due diligence reading what this man has written.

This is what I call a “gentle heresy.”

During the same week I was in a sharing session in a local church and another young man whom I know shared about a man he is following on You Tube and reading his books. He shared that this man teaches people how to get rich and, most importantly, the principles needed to handle the riches when they come. Again, my warning flags were blowing strongly in the wind. I am aware of this man’s teachings, his books, and his seminars. He is New Age and certainly not a believer in any way, shape, or form. 

The young man sharing was all excited about what he was learning about the principles needed to gain and maintain wealth. But it was all secular and New Age and not biblical in the least. The Bible states: “Beloved I pray that you may prosper and be in heath as you soul prospers” (3 John 2). Your soul – mind, will, emotions – propers only when connected to the Living God as seen and found only in Jesus. If your finances prosper beyond the level your soul prospers then you will see that specific person’s life enter confusion and end is disaster. I have seen it so often – especially with lottery winners. It is not just a matter of principles – it has to do with your connection with the Living God and letting Him transform your mind, your will, and your emotions. 

Another gentle heresy or wrong teaching. 

In some of the Facebook sharing of several people in the same local church as the “prosperity” guy above there are several who are directly and indirectly quoting the teaching of Joseph Prince. This one I have researched a lot and have seen the danger his teachings are to the Church. This man talks a good talk but when you scratch the surface even a little bit you have a much less than gentle heresy. You find a full-blown early church heresy called Antinomianism. This is any view which holds that Christians are freed by grace from obligations of any moral law – the Ten Commandments, for example. 

All these people sharing their thoughts and their theology are young people who love Jesus but are seeking out spiritual experiences and encounters. They are putting the subjective experiences – their own and that of others – ahead of the objective truth, the Bible. And, they have placed their opinions over the thoughts and the words of the Lord. And, in the process they have created a god that approves of their lifestyle and beliefs. And, they have built strongholds in their minds that need to be pulled down.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”

The young believers today are desperately in need of spiritual fathers and mothers who are mature and will “speak the truth in love”. We need to be discipling and mentoring the young people in the Church today or else they will continue to believe a lie and follow their own vain imaginations. Eventually leaving the Church and the Christian faith because they no longer see it as relevant or believable. 

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Sixty-Eight

The Celts had an interesting strategy for outreach. They built apostle centers! Catholic historians call them monasteries, but they were not what we usually think of when we hear that word. In a Celtic monastery, for example, the monks and priest were allowed to get married and have children.

In the Catholic Church, monasteries were places of seclusion to escape the world. Celtic “monasteries,” on the other hand, were designed to penetrate the world. The Celts moved into a pagan territory and established a Celtic monastery as a beachhead.

Celtic “monasteries” were apostolic training centers. They taught the Bible, ministered in power, and sent out teams to transform the territory.

One of the teams send out from Ire]and was led by an apostle named Columba. Columba was a Christian, born of noble parents, in Donegal, Ireland. In 563, Columba left Ireland with 12 followers (an apostolic team). They sailed to Scotland and established an apostolic center on the small rocky island of Iona. At the apostolic center on Iona, new converts were taught to read and study the Bible, and minister in supernatural power. They practiced intense intercession, they observed Sabbath and Passover, and they maintained continual 24/7 praise.

Columba was much like Patrick in his mission work and his contests with the Druids. He is reported to have changed water into wine, stilled a storm, purified wells, brought down rain, changed winds, driven out demons, and raised the dead to life. Iona served as a base for the evangelization of page Scots and Picks. Through a ministry of preaching, demon expulsion, and miracles, Columba and his followers won all of Northern Scotland to the Lord in a very short time.

From Iona apostolic centers were founded all over Scotland and England. They established one center on the Island of Lindisfarne just off the northeast coast of England. It is still called “Holy Island” today. From there they travelled south to Whitby and established an apostolic center designed to reach all of England.

How did the Celtic Church die? The death of the Celtic Church took place at Whitby in England. At the Council of Whitby in 664, the Celtic Church submitted to political pressure to come under the authority of the paganize Roman Church. The key issue at Whitby was whether the Church should observe Roman Easter or Christian Passover.

Whitby was a third generation apostolic center. It had great potential. Its apostolic leader was a godly woman named Hilda. It was also the home of the prophetic psalmist, Caedmon. But as the Celtic Church was entering England from the north, the first Roman Catholic missionaries were coming in from the east. The problem was the the King’s wife had become a Catholic.

The King Brough together representatives from the Celtic Church and the Catholic Church to meet with him at the Council of Whitby. The Catholic Church sent skilled debaters who argued that the whole church worldwide had given up Passover in favour of Easter. They asked, “Who do these Celts think they are to oppose the whole Body of Christ on earth!” The King was swayed by their arguments and ordered the Celtic Church to give up Passover and become a part of the Catholic Church. When they did this the Celtic Church died.

Some of the Celtic leaders refused to give in. A few retreated to Ireland. Some went back to Iona and continued the apostolic center there for another 50 years. In the year 717 King Nechtan drove the Celtic leaders out of Iona and turned it into a Catholic monastery.

But most of the Celtic Church submitted to the king. They gave up Passover. They gave up Shabbat. They gave up fivefold ministry and their biblical heritage. The result was that the Spirit of God departed.

If you want to know where and when the early church died, it died in the year 664 in Whitby, England. The site of Whitby today is occupied by the ruins of a 12th Century Catholic monastery.

Whitby should have been a place filled with life, but if you go there today, you find it inundated by darkness. Whitby is one of the darkest places in England. Whitby was designed to be an apostolic centre where the power of God could radiate throughout the land. Instead it has become a centre for evil. Whitby today is a major hub of Goth culture, the celebration of vampires, witchcraft, Satanism, and death.

God wants us to remember that for hundreds of years the Celtic Church equipped the saints to minister, winning the lost through signs, wonders, and miracles. It was the last place on earth to operate in the power of the Early Church.

God wants to restore all of this to us today as He establishes regional apostolic centers in every nation.

Patrick had a passion for the Kingdom … not just a passion for lost

A passion for the lost can lead to getting notches on your Bible. You may get some “decisions,” but there is often little change, but a passion for the Kingdom is an apostolic vision to transform a territory.
A passion for the lost is pastoral and often driven by guilt, but passion for the Kingdom is apostolic and is driven by vision.
A passion for the lost sends people to isolated places to lay down their lives with little fruit, but a passion for the Kingdom sends out apostolic teams, with the authority to change nations.
A passion for the lost holds meetings and invited people to attend, but a passion for the Kingdom builds communities where the power and the glory of God is manifested in the earth.
A passion for the lost wins converts and then goes to the next city to win more, but a passion for the Kingdom builds apostolic centers to equip the converts, so that can be sent out to take new cities.
A passion for the lost is good but it often does not produce lasting fruit, but a passion for the Kingdom is God’s strategy and results in many lost being saved.

We live in a day of restoration. In the early years of the 20th Century, God restored the gift of tongues and healing. In later decades, He restored prophecy and apostleship. Today He is restoring the ministry of regional apostolic centers and the fullness of the fivefold ministry.

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Sixty-Seven

A major key to the expansion and growth of the Early Church was the establishment of apostolic centers. Every time the Church penetrated into a new area or ethnic group, it established a beachhead for the gospel. It was a teaching and training center that gave every Christian access to the fivefold ministry. These were apostolic regional centers or regional churches.

When people are trained and equipped, then miracles becomes common. Origen, in the 3rd Century, described the Church in his day this way, “Even recently converted pagans can heal. Greeks and barbarians who come to believe in Jesus sometimes perform amazing cures by invoking the Name of Jesus.”

Irenaeus, in 195, wrote that prophetic words, tongues, miracles of healing were common in the Church. Then he added that the Church frequently saw people raised from the dead, through the prayers of believers, ordinary Christians. The result was a massive harvest of souls for the Kingdom and the Church growing substantially. By the 4th Century the Church had spread all over the Roman Empire and beyond.

But then, the Church died. The Emperor Constantine seduced the church to compromise and merge with the pagan Roman culture. As paganism entered the Church, God’s Holy Spirit left and the Church died.

In the centuries after Constantine, a shroud of death spread across the Church. By the 6th Century the Early Church only survived where the Roman armies could not enforce Constantine’s edicts. The last remnant of the Early Church was the Celtic Church in Scotland and Ireland.

The Celtic Church was the last surviving outpost of early Christianity. In Celtic lands, apostles like Patrick and Columba continued for centuries to heal the sick, raises the dead, and equip the saints to minister. The last major apostolic center was located on a little Scottish isle called Iona. If we can understand what God did on that little island, it will give us a better picture of what God wants to do today.

To understand Iona, it is helpful to know a little background on Celtic Christianity. The key person in the Celtic Church was Patrick of Ireland. When most people think of Patrick, they assume they know two things about him: He was Catholic, and he was Irish. Actually, he was neither. Patrick was born in Roman Britain about 389, and although raised in a Christian family, Patrick was a prodigal who did not follow Jesus. At age 16, he was captured by Irish raiders and sold into slavery in Ireland.

Sitting on an Irish hillside tending his master’s sheep, the young slave Patrick remembered what he had been taught as a child and turned to God. He said, “Constantly I used to pray in the daytime. Love for God and His fear increased more and more. My faith grew and my spirit was stirred up. In a single day I said as many as a hundred prayers, and at night nearly as many. Before the dawn I used to wake up to prayer.”

Finally God spoke prophetically to Patrick and told him to return home. He ran away, found passage on a ship, and returned home to Britain where for several years he devoted himself to the study of the Bible. Finally, God spoke to him again and told him to return to Ireland and win the land for Jesus. What Patrick did in Ireland changed the world. In 30 years of ministry, he converted the whole land from paganism to Christianity and overturned the religion of the Druids.

Like earlier apostles, Patrick operated in the working of miracles – one of the nine supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. One historian wrote of Patrick, “The blind and the lame, the deaf and the dumb, the palsy, the lunatic, the leprous, the epileptic, all who laboured under any disease, did he in the name of the Holy Trinity restore unto entire health, and these good deeds he was daily practiced.” The report goes on to say, “33 dead men did this great reviver raise from the dead.”

“When Patrick came to Dublin, it happened that in the region nearby the young son of the King lay dead in his chamber. The sorrow over his death was compounded when it was learned that his sister who had gone to bathe in the neighbouring river had drowned mid-stream. Her body was finally found resting on the riverbed, and it was laid out beside that of her brother. Tombs were prepared for both according to the pagan custom. And at this sorrowful time, the rumours spread that Patrick, who in the name of the unknown God had raised many that were dead, had arrived in the village. The King Alphimus promised that he, his nobles, and the whole city would be baptized into the new faith if his two children were restored. Patrick seeing the opportunity for a great gain of souls raised them both to life.”

An old Irish code of law describes Patrick’s ministry at Tara this way, “When they saw Laeghaire and his Druids overcome by the great signs and miracles wrought in the presence of the men of Erin, they bowed down in obedience to God and Patrick.”

Patrick wrote, “The Lord has given unto me, though humble, the power of working miracles among a barbarous people.”

At the end of his life he wrote, “Wherefore those in Ireland who never had the knowledge of God but until now only worshipped idols and abominations, from them has been lately prepared a people of the Lord and they are called children of God.”

What we need to see is that Patrick is not a mythical figure. He did not drink green beer. He did not chase snakes out of Ireland. He was not a Catholic saint. He was a man who walked in apostolic Christianity, operated in the power of God, and saw a nation transformed. History confirms that a totally pagan nation was completely changed in his lifetime.

Where did Patrick’s Christianity come from? We know he was not Catholic because he lived 200 years before the first Roman Catholic missionaries came to the British Isles. Two hundred years after Patrick’s death, a Catholic historian wrote a bogus history that said Patrick went to Rome and the Pope sent him to Ireland. Even Catholic historians admit that never happened.

Another reason we know Patrick was not a Roman Catholic is because the church he planted was not a Catholic Church. The Celtic Church did not believe what Catholics believed. They did not believe in purgatory. They did not submit to the Pope. They honoured Mary but did not pray to her. Priests baptized believers by immersion. They observed Passover and Sabbath. They placed a strong emphasis on equipping the saints to do the work of ministry.

Some have suggested that Patrick’s Christianity is more closely aligned with the Eastern Church than the Roman Church – that Patrick was somehow connected to the church in Egypt or Syria or Greece.

So Patrick is an example of early Christianity. He equipped the saints! He trained the pagan Irish to minister in the power of God. He raised up Irish apostles. Other Celtic apostles include Brigid, who was a woman, Brendon, Colomba, Comgall, and many others. They operated in the power of the Early Church as seen in the book of Acts. They trained disciples and they evangelized Europe.

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Sixty-Five

How did the Gospel of the Kingdom penetrate this huge, cosmopolitan city?

The truth is, we don’t know!

The New Testament never tells us when the church in Rome was started (founded). And, it never tells us who started the church.

Acts 2:10 tells us that on the Day of Pentecost, visitors from Rome were present in Jerusalem. Some of them may have been among the 3,000 who were saved that day

After being discipled in Jerusalem for a season, they would have returned to Rome and started a church. Following the pattern they learned in Jerusalem, they probably met together in a home, ate together, praised God together, prayer for each other, and exercised their spiritual gifts. All in a local house church.

As they ministered in the power of the Spirit, the house church would have grown and multiplied – meeting in two houses instead of one. From two it went to four and then to eight. Apostles and prophets and teachers (1 Corinthians 12:28) came in and began to equip the saints to minister. Soon there were house churches started all over the city of Rome. By the time Paul arrived, there were probably hundreds of them.

So, when we read about Paul going to Rome, we need to remember that Paul did not start the church at Rome. There was already a large population of Christians in the city when he arrived.

Paul was not even the first apostle in Rome. When he wrote the book of Romans several years earlier, he sent greetings to two apostles in Rome, Andronicus and Junia (Romans 16:7). So the Roman church was already an apostolic center before Paul arrived to visit and encourage the saints. Rome had apostles before Paul’s first visit. They were already equipping the saints to minister. In Romans 1:8 Paul tells the Romans, “Your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.” This is being an apostolic center.

If the church in Rome was already planted and already had apostles, why did Paul need to go to Rome?

In Romans 1, Paul tells the Romans, “I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you that you may be strengthened.” The Roman church already had at least two apostles. Andronicus was a man; Junia was a woman. They may have been married. In Romans 16 Paul describes them. He says that were his kinsman. They were Messianic Jews. They had grown up with the rich heritage of the Word.
Paul says that Andronicus and Junia had both been in the Lord longer than he. They knew Jesus before Paul was even saved. They may have even been part of the original three thousand added to the Church on the Day of Pentecost. Paul calls them “fellow prisoners.” They had both suffered for the Gospel.

Finally, Paul tells us that Andronicus and Junia were both outstanding among the apostles. They were well-known apostles in Paul’s day. They may have been the founders of the church in Rome.

But as good as Andronicus and Junia were, Paul knew that they could not give the Roman church everything it needed. No one minister or team has everything a church needs to be healthy. No one person can give you what you need to achieve your destiny in the Lord.

Paul knew that the people at Rome needed his gifts also. Paul told the Corinthian church that he planted, Apollos watered, and God caused the growth. In Rome just the opposite happened. Someone else had planted, but Paul wanted to come and water what was there. He believed that God would bring the increase. And, as we will see, God did!

He wanted to add his distinctive gifts to the mix, to help them to the next level. This is how apostolic centers work. Apostolic centers are places where the church can cross-pollinate. At an apostolic center, ministers from other locations can share their teaching, their resources and their impartation.

One of the big problems we have had in the modern church is that many pastors seem to want to build their own empire, instead of God’s Kingdom. They get possessive of their sheep and don’t allow others to come in to teach and minister. They see going to others for ministry as disloyal. This removes the ability for the church to cross-pollinate which is needed in every church for it to reach it’s full maturity (see Ephesians 4:11-16).

Paul writes to correct this wrong approach to ministry in 1 Corinthians 3:4-23. In Corinth, some of the Christians were dividing up, based on which apostle they liked best. One said, “I am of Paul.” One said, “I am of Apollos.” Someone else said, “I am of Peter.” And the super-religious said, “I am more spiritual than all of you! I am of Christ.” Paul rebukes them all. He told them, “All of the apostles belong to you. You need them all.”

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Sixty-Four

God is bringing us back to the biblical pattern for the Church. He is preparing a new wineskin for a new move of His Spirit which will bring many into the Kingdom. Some say, we are being prepared for the end-times harvest of souls for the Kingdom.

The Church has tried following man’s ideas, but man’s ways have not produced results and has resulted in a lot being done in the flesh. We have been faithful but somewhat fruitless. God is bring us into a new season when there was will be a return on His investment and much fruit will be seen. Following God’s plan the Early Church moved in a continuous time of harvest that reached the known world in one generation. We can learn from their example.

A key element in the success of the Early Church, as we have seen, was the establishment of apostolic regional centers. They were placed strategically by the Holy Spirit so they could have the greatest impact in spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom and in training, equipping, and releasing the saints to expand the Kingdom to the end of the then known world. Apostolic centers were not randomly placed. God planted them where they would have the greatest impact to penetrate the world for His Kingdom.

The first apostolic center was founded in JERUSALEM. None of the original apostles were from Jerusalem. They were all Galileans. It would have been easier for them to start the church in Capernaum. But Jerusalem was a strategic location. If the church was going to reach Jews, it had to start in Jerusalem.

The next apostolic regional church (center) was in ANTIOCH. Antioch was also strategic. Multicultural Antioch was the ideal place for the church to welcome people from all nations and cultures into one family, the family of God.

We then looked at the center in EPHESUS. Ephesus was a hub for occult activity in the Roman Empire. If the gospel was to confront the occult structures over the Roman world, Ephesus was the place to do it. In Ephesus the powers of darkness were overcome and the whole territory changed.

Then we saw the apostolic center (church) in CORINTH. Corinth was a hub of sin and depravity. It was a strategic place to reveal God’s power to transfer the hard core unsaved.

In each region, apostolic centers were established where they could have the greatest impact and influence on the territory. This is why Paul’s next goal was to visit ROME. No place in the Empire was more strategic than the city of Rome. It was the governmental hub of the Empire and the centre of the civilized world. In order to reach the world, the gospel had to reach and impact Rome.

Rome was the most important city in the ancient world. It was more than just the capital of the Roman Empire. It was the capital of the civilized world.

As the Roman Empire expanded into new territories, the Romans didn’t bring oppression; they brought civilization. Most people who were conquered by Rome saw their standard of living dramatically improve.

One example of this was the Roman system of aqueducts. Aqueducts brought the world running water, indoor plumbing, and a sewer system that was not surpassed until modern times. Two hundred and sixty miles of aqueducts supplied fresh water to the city of Rome.

But the Romans did not just build aqueducts for themselves; they built them everywhere the Empire spread. Aqueduct systems were built in more than three hundred cities around the Empire. Some of them are still in use today.

There were also Roman roads. The Romans built a system of paved roads extending into every part of the Empire. For the first time in history, you could travel to any part of the known world with relative ease. And because of the internal peace within the Empire, it was safe to travel.

The city of Rome itself was the greatest city the world had ever known. It is estimated that the population of Rome in Paul’s day was over a million people. Considering that the total world population at that time was only about 200 million, we see that one out of every 200 people on the planet lived in the city of Rome.

How did the Gospel of the Kingdom penetrate this huge, cosmopolitan city? … next time

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Sixty-Three

God used the church at Corinth to teach us many things

Because the Corinthians had so much to learn, the books of 1 and 2 Corinthians are filled with some of the most important teachings in the New Testament

1> God teaches what it means to live as a Christian

Paul begins 1 Corinthians by reminding them, “You are saints. You are holy ones.” They needed to know they had been made holy the moment they got saved.

Their problem was that they didn’t know who they were yet. They needed to grow to maturity in Jesus so they could begin to live like saints

Paul later tells them…

You are new creatures in Christ
You are ambassadors of the Kingdom
You are ministers of reconciliation

2> He shows us how to set the spiritual gifts in order (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

He gave them instructions on tongues and prophecy

3> He defined the foundational roles of apostles and prophets and teachers

4> He gave us the signs of a true apostle

5> He showed us the pattern for discipline and restoration

6> He taught about giving and about unity, warfare, and demolishing strongholds

7> He showed us how to relate to the world and still be holy

8> He taught on the centrality of love

9> We learn more about God’s plan for the Early Church in 1 Corinthians than any other book of the Bible (see body ministry in 1 Corinthians 12:12-end)

1 Corinthians, chapters 10 to 14, is almost like walking down the street in ancient Corinth and visiting a first century house church

We join with the Corinthians as they eat together and as they cerebrate the Lord’s Supper

We see their problems, but we see good things too

Paul writes that when the church assembled, the power of the Lord came and was present with them

We watch the Holy Spirit moving among them as they assemble as a family of believers

The Spirit releases His gifts and ministry takes place

It is a joyful celebration – someone leads in a song, someone reads a psalm, another brings a teaching, there are prophetic words and tongues

As they pray for each other, miracles and healings take place

Fivefold ministry has equipped every believer to minister

It is the clearest picture we have of how the early church functioned

God chose the church at Corinth to be our window into New Testament Christianity and the daily life of the early Church

But there is a fifth apostolic regional church – Rome…

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Sixty-Two

What was Paul doing?

He was establishing an apostolic center in Corinth. This was to be a very significant center as it was established in a city known for wealth and immorality

In Jerusalem, the new converts were all Jews who had studied holy Scriptures since they were children. They already believed in the God of Israel and wanted to please Him

In Antioch, where Gentiles were first added to the church, they were primarily Gentiles who were hungry for God and already attending the synagogue

In Ephesus, although most of the converts were from the occult the initial 12 were originally Jewish disciples of John the Baptist and thus believers in God.

When Paul brought the Gospel of the Kingdom to Corinth, he was confronted by the “hard core unsaved.”

In Corinth, he found a city of committed, enthusiast sinners, much like most cities we now take the Gospel to

Corinth was a place the true power of the gospel could be revealed. In Corinth God would rescue a totally pagan people out of the world. They had been cut off from God and in bondage to the devil. They were entrapped in every kind of sin, perversion, and false philosophy. But, out of that group God would raise up a holy people for His own possession

Interesting to note for today and our work in spreading the Gospel…

This church plant was not an easy process

A lot of people are shocked when they first read about the church in Corinth. When you read the book of 1 Corinthians, you think, “Oh my! What was going on there?” The book of 1 Corinthians reads like a grocery list of the church’s sins. Some people in the Corinthians church were guilty of drunkenness. But, they didn’t get drunk down at the local pub. They were getting drunk in church at the Lord’s Supper.. Some of them were engaged in gross immorality. Many were divisive – out of order. Some were into false teachings and doctrine

You might think, “What a horrible church!” The Corinthian Christians were not backslidden believers – they were simply baby Christians. They loved Jesus but had not grown yet. God was changing them but change is a process and a journey

The Corinthians Christians had come out of the world, but the world had not yet come out of them

They didn’t know it was a sin to get drunk at church because in the pagan temples this was normal practice and an act of worship. They didn’t know that God doesn’t like immorality – in the temples this was part of the standard, daily practice of religion. These new believers simply needed to learn and grow…. But as Paul taught them, they grew.

Corinth eventually became a very healthy church

Just a year after writing 1 Corinthians, Paul writes 2 Corinthians rejoicing in the news that the Corinthians had repented of their sins (2 Corinthians 2:6-15). He speaks of his confidence in them (2 Corinthians 2:16) and how others would praise God when they heard of God’s surpassing grace among them (2 Corinthians 9:13-14). So Corinth became a testimony to the power of God’s grace. It was a place where those who were messed up by the world could come and let God put their lives back together. It was a place where people could be saved out of hard core sin, built to maturity, and equipped to minister in the power of the Spirit.

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Sixty-One

Corinth was a thoroughly pagan city

The Temple of Apollo was there, along with the temple to Octavia and a sanctuary to the god of healing. At the outsets of the city stood a huge temple to the god Poseidon. The most significant temple in Corinth, however, was the massive temple of Aphrodite perched on the hill above the city. A thousand sacred prostitutes operated out of Aphrodite’s temple. This played a large part in the city’s reputation – it was the “sin city” of the ancient world like Las Vegas is to North America today

The reputation of the city for licentiousness even made it into the Greek language. The Greek word for “fornication” is Corinthiazomai which means “to act like a Corinthian”. Throughout the Roman Empire calling a girl a “Corinthians girl” meant she was a prostitute. If someone was diagnosed with “Corinthian sickness,” it meant the patient had venereal disease. Immorality was an accepted and celebrated part of their culture. In the temples of Corinth, drunken orgies and visits to prostitutes were considered to be acts of worship. So Corinth was not just a pagan city – It was a place of depravity and debauchery. It was a center for the hard-core lost

In that wealthy, immoral, pagan worship center, the gathering place of the world, God chose to build an apostolic regional center that would influence and impact the entire country. And through the tourist trade and commerce – influence and impact other parts of the empire

Let’s see how God established this fourth apostolic center…

The apostolic center in Corinth was established by Paul, the apostle, during his second apostolic journey. Paul set out from Antioch and was ministering across Asia Minor, but when he arrived at the port of Troas, God spoke to him in a dream. The Spirit of God told him to leave Asia and cross over to Macedonia. So, Paul boarded a ship heading west. It was a momentous journey. On this short sail from Troas to Macedonia, Paul crossed the dividing line between Asia and Europe. The Gospel came to Europe at the Macedonian city of Philippi

In Macedonia, Paul planted churches in three cities: Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea

It is interesting to see how Paul planted churches. A lot of people think it is a hard and complicated thing to plant a church. Paul had a different philosophy to this important ministry. Paul would come to a town, win a few concerts, and start a church. The whole process could take as little as a month. Then he would go on to the next town. He would, of course, stay in touch with each church either by letter or in person. And, team members in Paul’s ministry would also go to these churches and help them to be healthy and growing

How do you plant a church so quickly?

He would start, most times, in the synagogue. The “core group” in the churches Paul planted was usually Jewish. These were people who already knew the Scriptures – the Old Testament. They knew about the one true God. They just needed to meet Jesus and they were ready to go. Adult Jews already knew how to conduct worship services in their homes. They did it every Friday night at Sabbat. Paul’s new converts took that format, repeated it on Saturday night and called it “church.” Most homes in the ancient world were built around an open courtyard of at least 20 square feet which would easily hold 20 or 30 people, so they didn’t have a problem finding facilities. When one house filled, the church multiplied to two houses. As believers were equipped to minister in the power of the Spirit they experienced rapid growth.

So, it was not a complicated thing to start a church. Paul planted churches this way in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. Then he moved south through Greece until he got to Corinth.

In Corinth Paul did something different

In Corinth Paul did more than just plant a church. He began in the synagogue as was his practice. Even the leader of the synagogue was saved. And, a new church was formed. But in Corinth Paul did not just set up the church and move on. In Corinth, he established a training center, and for a year and a half he taught and trained the new believers

What was Paul doing? We will see next time

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Sixty

We have been looking at biblical regional centers or apostolic centers as found in the New Testament… We have looked at Jerusalem, Antioch, and Ephesus… The forth one of five is found in the city of Corinth

Today – the Lord is stirring something in the harvest fields. He is placing a hunger in people’s hearts for a reality – a spiritual reality leading to a new physical reality – beyond anything they have previously seen or experienced.

He is preparing His Church for a great end-times harvest that will soon be upon us. He is preparing us to receive that harvest as well as be labourers in the harvest field bringing the harvest into the Kingdom and the Church. He is planting “new wineskin” churches in nations around the world. He is renewing existing churches that are willing to move into a new future. And, I believe, He is walking away from churches who determined to continue to hold to their lifeless traditions and religious rules that hold people in bondage and control them.

We have been looking at the early Church as seen in the Book of Acts and have noticed that the first disciples of Jesus reached the known world in one generation.

One key to their success was the establishment of regional apostolic centers that enabled new churches to be planted quickly, grow rapidly, and be built following the biblical model. Each of the apostolic centers – Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, Rome – had its own focus. The distinction of the apostolic center at Corinth was that it broke through to reach what we could call the “hard-core unsaved.”

What are the hard-core unsaved?

In many nations today most people who get saved are individuals who grew up in the church – often second and third generation church attenders. They already share a somewhat Christian world view and understand the basics of the Christian faith. They have read some of the Bible. They have been taught the Christian standard of morality. The are familiar with their local ‘church culture’

They just never experienced a personal encounter with God and thus do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. People in the Church or who are familiar with the life of the Church need to get saved as much as the people who are living in the world. But, if we only reach those who have heard the message and even experienced the lifestyle, we will not impact the nations.

There is a large segment of society that the Church today is not reaching at all. These are the ones we are calling the “hard-core unsaved.”

These are people who have never been inside a church building.
They are ignorant of the Bible.
They have no moral standards
They often ridicule anything connected with the Church or the true Christian faith.
They are usually enthusiastic sinners, revealing in immorality, and viewing drunkenness and drug use as great forms or relaxation and entertainment.
They make up a large, rapidly increasing segment of our world no matter what nation you live or work in.

To see what it means to reach this segment of society – there is no better place to look than the Church at Corinth.

Corinth was one of the most important cities in the ancient world of New Testament times

Founded in the 10th Century BC, it was the riches port and the largest city in ancient Greece

Corinth was partially destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, but was rebuilt by Julius Caesar in 44 BC as a place to settle freed slaves from Italy, Syria, Egypt, and Judea

The city thrived

When Paul arrived in AD 51, the Corinth he saw was only about 100 years old, yet it was already five times as large as Athens, and was the capital of the province

It is apparent that there are several reasons why God chose to establish an apostolic regional center (church) in Corinth

If you look at a map of Greece, the country was divided into two parts, northern Greece and southern Greece. The two parts were connected by a narrow isthmus of land less than four miles wide. This is where Corinth is located. So, all north-south trade in Greece had to go through Corinth

Some interesting history:

Early sailors, plying the east-west trade routes across the northern Mediterranean, had a problem. This problem was Greece. Greece is a 300 mile long peninsula extending halfway across the Mediterranean. East-west shipping had to take a long and dangerous (treacherous) detour around the southern tip of Greece

But in 600 BC, a man named Periander built a marble tramway across the Corinthian isthmus so ships and cargo could be wheeled over land by oxcart.. This shortcut cut two hundred miles off the east-west route. This shortcut was so significant that in modern times a canal was cut across the isthmus, following the same route. Periander’s tramway was so profitable that the city of Corinth was able to eliminate all taxes. As a result people wanted to move to Corinth. Corinth ended up with two major sea ports: One on the eastern side of the Isthmus, and one on the west

So Corinth was truly a crossroads city. All north-south traffic in Greece went through Corinth; all east-west traffic in the northern Mediterranean went through Corinth. As a result, Corinth became one of the wealthiest cities in the ancient world. Like major cities in our nations today – it became a very expensive place to live. The Greek writer Horace said, “Not everyone can afford to go to Corinth.” Corinth was an expensive place to live, yet Corinth was a gathering place for the world and it was home of the Isthmian games, second only to the olympics. These games were held every two years and people from all over the world came to see the games

Corinth was a place with worldwide influence in many areas. One of the city’s contributions to architecture was the Corinthian column. You see these columns in the White House and the American capital buildings

Next time … the religious side of Corinth and why Paul built in a different way in this city than previous places he planted a church….