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First Corinthians - Background


Part 1
Gods Plan for Mankind
Every letter that Paul wrote to the churches which has been retained in the Scriptures has its own unique
flavor. This has a great deal to do with the circumstances under which the letter was written, what
assembly it was written to, what the relationship of Paul was, to that assembly, and what prompted the
letter. Knowing these things can create a deeper understanding of the content of the letter - so we will be
looking into those things.
But even though the letters that Paul wrote to each church were different, Paul had one particular objective
in writing which was always the same. He was writing that the church might be sanctified - set apart from
the world, and set apart to God, for His purposes.
Turn to Romans chapter 15, where Paul stated this objective concisely, as he told the Roman assemblies the
reason he was writing to them.
[Romans 15:15-16] Paul saw his own purpose as a missionary was to make those entrusted to him a
sanctified offering to the Lord - each one who believed, holy and acceptable to Lord.
And not only Paul, but Peter saw this as a goal, for the churches. Turn to First Peter chapter 3.
[First Peter 3:15-16] Peter recognized that sanctification is what gets the attention of those on the outside.
They see the believer has a know-so hope, which they do not have, and they see that it motivates the
believer to live a righteous life. Thats our witness before the world to our Righteous Lord.
And John also wrote of that hope. Turn to First John chapter 3.
[First John 3:1-3] John is writing here of glorification - the believers know-so hope. That certain, future
reality motivates the believer to purify himself in the here and now; to be sanctified.
The letters to the churches all address the believers sanctification. Why do you think that is so? Because
thats Gods will, for the believer. In fact, Paul stated precisely that, to the church in Thessalonica: For
this is the will of God, your sanctification (1 Th 4:3a).
This was a crucial issue for the churches of that day. Do you think thats changed? Of course not. So since
this is the will of God for us, the Body of Christ today, we certainly would like to understand why.
Why should we be sanctified? Obviously, that involves change. People dont generally like to change. If
they have to change, they want to know why. And they want it to be for a good reason; for that would
serve to motivate them, to change.
So the first thing we will look at in this study is the good reason that God has, for us to be sanctified. Well
begin with something that Paul wrote to Timothy. In fact, it is the last letter that we have of Pauls, in
Scripture.
Turn to Second Timothy chapter 1. Paul wrote this during his second Roman imprisonment - when the
persecution of the church by Nero had just begun. Paul was not under house arrest, as he was his first time
in Rome, but in a bleak prison. And he could see that his earthly course was coming to an end - but his
eyes were fixed firmly upon the glory that was just ahead, for him.

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Paul was encouraging his son in the faith,Timothy, not to be afraid to preach the gospel, despite the dire
circumstances.
[Second Timothy 1:8-10] The gospel is according to the power of God. It was the power of God to save
His creation of mankind.
The Father purposed this before time began - in eternity past, before He ever created anything. And the
Father purposed that it would be done in Christ Jesus; and now, that purpose has been revealed - through
Christs accomplishment of it.
The Father graciously offers this salvation to all - but it is given only to those who choose to receive it,
through faith - to us, who receive Christ, the Savior sent by God.
But just what is it that the Father has saved us from? Look what Paul says, at the end of verse 10. The
Father has saved us from perishing - how? By abolishing death. Christ overcame death through the power
of His resurrection; thats how He brought forth Life to mankind - eternal Life.
The word immortality here in the Greek actually means incorruptibility. What part of a man corrupts?
His body. This is the Life that Christ brought forth through His resurrection - eternal Life, for the body; a
body in which death has no part; a glorified body, like unto our Lords.
But wait a minute. What does this have to do with sanctification? We were searching for the good reason
God has, for us to be sanctified.
Well, we see in verse 9 that Gods gracious offer to deliver men from death in Christ is a holy calling, for
mankind. Thats a calling for mankind to be set apart to God - through this high calling that God has for
him; the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14). For that, man must become holy as God is holy (1
Pet 1:15). And that is what sanctification is all about.
Paul expresses this clearly in a letter he sent to the churches in Asia. Turn to Ephesians chapter 1. Well go
right to where Paul begins the body of the letter.
[Ephesians 1:3-6]
Can you see that Paul is expressing the same purpose of God here that he did in his letter to Timothy?
Before time began, the Father chose us - those who would believe into Christ - for salvation.
But here we see further details concerning the Fathers purpose. Before the foundation of the world, before
He ever created mankind, the Father planned to adopt those who would believe as His sons, through Jesus
Christ. This is the Fathers will, that through the grace He extended through His Beloved Son, He would
accept men right into His family, as His own children.
A son of the eternal God must live forever - and for that, we see the need of the forever-living body, that
Paul spoke of in his letter to Timothy. This is what will fit us as a son, on the outside.
But what about the inside? We must be fit as a son there, as well; a son is a son, inside and out. To be fit as
a son of God on the inside is to be holy - pure - and to be without blame - faultless - and to abide
continually in the love of God - thats love in which selfishness has no part.

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Like Father, like son. And its sanctification that does that; sanctification fits the believer on the inside, as a
son of God.
But some may think, then why didnt God just create men, that way? Why didnt He just make men as
pure, faultless, loving sons of God, in ever-living bodies of glory? To answer that, we need to go back to
the beginning - to when God initiated His plan.
Turn to Genesis chapter 1. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1) - that was the
beginning of time, of space, of matter and energy. For six days, God formed and filled what He had created
into a physical universe that would provide a suitable environment in which His plans could be carried out.
Then as His last act on the sixth day, God created mankind.
[Genesis 1:26-27] Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. Father, and Son, and Spirit
worked together, in perfect union, as One - the three Persons of the Godhead, who are One Spirit Being of
Deity. The three were one in Their purpose to create mankind - male and female, He created them - in
the image and likeness of God.
Both the terms image and likeness refer to a resemblance; a representative of an original; in this case,
God. But in the NT record we find a nuance of difference in the ideas, when speaking of men.
The term image, in similar usages, refers to an external representation (Rm 8:29, 1 Cor 15:49, 2 Cor 3:18,
4:4, Col 1:15, 3:10, Heb 1:3). What is the external part of a man? His body. And the term likeness
points to the quality or kind of life a body possesses (Rm 6:5; similarly, see Rom 8:3, Phil 2:7).
For mankind to be made in the likeness of God would be to possess the quality of life that God has; what
kind of life does God have? Eternal Life; God is a forever living being.
But what about the image of God? God is spirit (Jn 4:24); He is Spirit Being of Deity; God does not have a
body.
But one member of the Godhead would take a body, in order to fulfill the purposes of God, for mankind;
who would that be? The Son.
Jesus would come in the likeness of men (Phil 2:7); that is, in a body whose quality of life was mortal; a
body capable of dying. Through death, that body would be changed into an immortal body; an ever-living,
glorified body, in which death has no part.
In the resurrected Jesus, God would have a body that perfectly reflected His glorious Person; the express
image of God (Heb 1:3). So Gods purpose stated here, to have mankind in His image, according to His
likeness will be fulfilled when God has men in ever-living glorified bodies - these will be the sons of God.
But is that the way God created mankind, initially? No; we read of the creation of the first man in Genesis
2:7.
[Genesis 2:7] So the LORD God formed the body of the first man from the dust of the ground; a material
body that would fit him for his earthly environment.
Then the LORD God breathed into the nostrils of the first man the breath of life. God breathed in His very
own life - spirit life - creating the immaterial part of the man. And by that breath, man became a living
being; literally, a soul of life - a soul of spirit-life.

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Man, then, was created by God as a personal being of spirit life, housed in a body of flesh; a spirit being of
humanity. Through his body, the man - that is, his soul, his personal being - could sense and respond to his
earthly environment. And through his spirit, which is the very life of his soul, the man had awareness of
God and the potential to respond to God.
The book of Job declares, There is a spirit in man, and the Spirit of the Almighty gives him
understanding (Job 32:8). God - Spirit Being of Deity - enlightens His creation of mankind to spiritual
realities - Spirit Being to spirit being - so that man can have understanding of the things of God.
In accordance with its creation, mans soul possesses the very life of God - not the Holy Spirit, but spirit
life, which is eternal; it goes on forever. That the soul goes on forever is seen very clearly in the story that
Jesus told, of Lazarus and the rich man (Lk 16:19-31).
But what about the body of the first man, that God created? It was never designed to be an eternal body, as
witnessed to by the changeableness of the clay in the hands of the Creator as He formed the mans body.
So we understand from this that the first man, Adam, was just the beginning of God having man in His
image, after His likeness: man, with eternal Life in a glorified body. And that brings us back to our
question: Why didnt God just create men, that way - as eternal beings, in eternal bodies?
The answer has to do with God, and why He chose to create mankind, in the first place. The Bible tells us
that God is love (1 Jn 4:8). The kind of love that is God - is selfless, love that desires to give, to share.
God desired to share Himself, His love - with others.
Jesus expressed this desire of God in His prayer to the Father, just before He went to the cross: That they
may be made perfect in one - that is, in union with God - that the world may know that You have sent
Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me (Jn 17:23).
God, in desiring to share Himself with others, determined to create men, and then invite them to become
part of His loving family, as His children. It would be mans choice, to accept that invitation - for Love
would never force Himself upon another.
And in order that man could make his choice in this matter, God created man as a soul of spirit life, so that
man could consider what God was offering to him with his mind, so that he could fathom the love that God
had for him in this offer, with his emotions, and so that he could make a decision with his will, to take his
place in the family that God had in store for him.
But by the same token that God gave man a will, so that he could freely choose to become a son of God,
man now had the capacity to exercise his will to make other choices - choices that were contrary to the
good will of God, for man.
Why would man choose to do that? Because of mans strong desires for himself. There was lawlessness in
the heart of the creation of mankind, rooted in mans self-serving love.
Gods testing of the first man and woman in the garden was designed to prove to them the lawlessness that
resided in their hearts. As each one transgressed the expressed command of God, it was demonstrated that
they were unrighteous - sinners (Rm 5:19).

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And, as transgression of Gods command incurred the death penalty, death then entered into the bodies of
the first pair, through their sin, so that their temporary bodies would now come to a defined end, a point in
time determined by God when their bodies would return to dust.
In the test, Adam also served as Gods representative for the entire creation of mankind, that would come
from him - like the prototype of an inventor. Through one man, Adam, sin entered the world, and death
through sin - and so death passed through upon all men (Rm 5:12).
Men, through their natural birth in Adam, are born of corruptible seed; born dead in trespasses and sins
(Eph 2:1). So God judged the entire creation in Adam, and His judgment is shown to be righteous indeed,
because everyone sins. Mankind has one heart, and it is lawless.
But God, in His foreknowledge, understood the heart of mankind. God knew that man would use his Godgiven freedom of choice as license to practice his unrighteous desires; to sin. Sin separates man from holy
God, causing mankind to come up short of the glorious end that God had in store for man (Rm 3:23) - to be
a son of God.
So, foreknowing this of His creation of mankind, God foreordained One to come and put away sin - before
He ever created man.
The apostle Peter wrote that the Lamb was foreordained before the foundation of the world (1 Pet 1:20); the
Lamb without blemish and without spot. The perfect, sinless Lamb of God would take away the sin of the
world (Jn 1:29) - even before the Sin ever made its entrance into the world. For God had determined it in
His plan, and what God plans is as good as done (Num 23:19).
The Lamb of God was none other than the Son of God, who lay aside the glory that He shared with the
Father before the world was (Jn 17:5); who took the form of a bondservant - the Servant of Jehovah,
subordinating Himself to the will of the Father; who came in the likeness of men - mortal, and therefore
capable of dying; who was in appearance as a man - in a flesh body with blood, and therefore capable of
being shed (Phil 2:7-8).
The eternal Son of God stepped into time - God, in a body of flesh. Jesus lived a perfect life in that body,
sin apart, and then offered Himself to God as the Sin Offering, on behalf of mankind.
From heaven, the LORD saw the labor of His soul, on the cross (Is 53:11) - a labor of Love. And God
accepted this perfect offering, on our behalf. Here was the propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1 Jn
2:2); the shed blood of Jesus perfectly satisfying the LORDs justice, concerning sin (Rm 3:25). The Lamb
of God had taken away the sin of the world.
And, as the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8), the sacrifice of Jesus was good for
all men, for all time - from Adam, on. Before sin ever entered the world, God had sin covered, in His
Coming One.
Now we have our answer, as to why God did not just create men as sons of God, in forever-living bodies;
because of mans lawlessness. Each man must first become the righteousness of God, through faith in
Christ (2 Cor 5:31, Rm 3:22). The gift of righteousness will reign in eternal life, in a forever-living body of
glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rm 5:17, 21).
But how do men who have been made righteous obtain those forever-living bodies? This, too, was
accomplished through the work of the Son.

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The Father, who has life in Himself, has so granted the Son to have life in Himself (Jn 5:26) - eternal Life,
which the Father purposed for the Son to bring down to earth from heaven.
Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit into a virgins womb, from which God wove a flesh body (Ps
139:13); a body that was like the coat of a seed, which contained the germ of life within it - eternal Life.
Jesus described Himself as the corn of wheat that must fall into the ground and die, in order to bring forth
much fruit (Jn 12:24).
It was through His death on the cross that Jesus fulfilled His own words. Through death, the Life that Jesus
brought down to earth from heaven burst forth in resurrection, transforming His body of flesh into a everliving body of glory, thereby overruling Death with eternal Life. In this way, Jesus became the
incorruptible Seed (1 Pet 1:23), that could now reproduce after its kind, in the field of the world - in men.
But how is this accomplished, for men? Through death. If we choose to believe into Jesus, completely
trusting ourselves to Him to save us, we are baptized into Christs death; buried with Him; and just as
Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father - to eternal Life, in a glorified body - so we also
(Rm 6:3-5).
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away - because he is no longer in that
old creation, in Adam; behold, all things have become new (2 Cor 5:17).
We have died out of the old creation in Adam, and been born again (Jn 3:3), born of the incorruptible Seed,
Christ (1 Pet 1:23), right into the family of God (Jn 1:12), as a glorified, ever-living son of God.
And Gods purpose - to have man in His image, according to His likeness, has been realized, through
Christ. The pleasure of the LORD - His good will - has prospered in Christs hand (Isa 53:10).
From the eternal perspective, its all finished. United to Christ in His death, we have been justified; God
has pronounced us not guilty; weve been freed from all charges of sin; were righteous.
And joined to Christ, we have been sanctified; He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all
of one (Heb 2:11); God sees us as holy, just as Christ is holy.
And from the eternal perspective, we have also been glorified; we have already been raised with Christ
(Col 3:1), in our bodies of eternal Life.
But as we cast our eyes downward, what do we see? A body of flesh? Yes. From our perspective of time,
we are not yet glorified. In fact, our sanctification is not complete; under time, here on earth, sanctification
is a process that is being realized day by day, in our lives.
At least, it should be being realized. As Paul has written, we should no longer be slaves of sin (Rm 6:6).
Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age
(Titus 2:12); we should now serve God in the newness of the spirit of Life (Rm 7:6) - that eternal Life for
the body - the Life of Christ - which we received when we first believed.
We should, because when Christ comes for His bride, the church, He will present her to Himself, a church
of glory; and she should not have spot or wrinkle or any such thing. She should be holy and without
blemish (Eph 5:25-27).

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This is why we find the subject of sanctification throughout the letters to the churches, including the letter
we will be studying next. And the exhortation to be sanctified rings down through the ages to the church,
in our day. Its a call to holiness, for holiness is befitting of a son of God.
So lets go back to our first question - Why should we be sanctified? Because the One who loved us, and
gave Himself for us, is coming for us. He will be taking us to our heavenly home, the New Jerusalem,
which we will share with Him, forever.
Sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit, whom God gave to us, the moment we believed - to be our
Teacher. So we have the Light, by which we can walk, in sanctification.
And we have the Life, which will enable us to walk; we already possess eternal Life; Christ died to give it
to us; and we can, and should live it, here and now.
The question is, do we have Love - for it is Love that is needed to empower our sanctified walk. Love is
always a choice. Gods Love abounds toward us; the Holy Spirit is continually sharing the Fathers love
with us (Rm 5:5). Do we abide in His love (Jn 15:9-10)? Do we love God back?
God wants us to be prepared, for our Bridegroom is coming for us - so soon. Will we submit to the work of
God, so that we are ready? We should be a glorious Wife, of the Lord of glory.
Next week: Background for First Corinthians. Read John 20:19-22, Acts 2, Acts 7:57-8:4, 9:1-30,
18:1-18.