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Sat, Sep 27, 2003

76 - Demonism in Corinth

1 Corinthians 12:2 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:59 mins 42 secs

Demonism in Corinth


Everything in chapter twelve is merely preface or introduction to getting into the whole problem of tongues. The problem of the Pentecostal and charismatic movement is analogous to the same problem in Corinth. People are coming into church with a pagan background, reinterpreting the Scripture in light of their pagan background, and then the Scripture means something that it doesn't actually mean, and they are lauding these gifts as if they are something special, emphasizing tongues as a sign of a closer relationship with God, a sign of a super spirituality. What actually happens is that doctrine is destroyed, the Christian life is destroyed, and it is the introduction into Christianity of raw paganism.

1 Corinthians 12:2 NASB "You know that when you were pagans, {you were} led astray to the mute idols, however you were led."

This verse is a very difficult verse to handle in terms of the Greek syntax because of the complex structure. The main clause is that they were led astray to these mute, so the emphasis here is on these idols which could not speak. What is the problem going on in Corinth? The problem is tongues speech. So right away, this emphasis on dumb idols has a certain twist to it that begins to foreshadow the tongues discussion. "You know" is a present active indicative of oida [o)ida] and emphasises something that they knew from their own experience, from their own background; so Paul is reminding them of their pagan past" "that when you were pagans." So in this sentence he takes them back to their thought before salvation. This is the real issue in the carnal Corinthian church and today. People come into Christianity with all kinds of ideas, opinions, influences from their past, which then begins to influence their understanding of Christianity. The second thing we see here is the use of the word "pagans" which is actually the word ethne [e)qnh], meaning Gentiles, but here it has more the idea of unbelieving Gentiles. It is not simply that they were Gentiles because in one sense they are still Gentiles but, as we will see, because of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in v. 13 there is no longer Jew or Gentile, male or female, bond or free in the body of Christ. So he is focusing on the fact that when they were unbelievers they were "led astray to the mute idols."

The term paganism is not a pejorative term, it simply refers technically to non-Christian thought. Non-Christian thought is going to involve two elements. It is going to involve the details of what we think. In pagan thought we are going to think about certain things that should be excluded from the thought of the believer, but the details are all put together within the context of a thought structure, so it is not only what we think but it is also how we think. We have to look at these two elements: not just what we think but how we think.

The key Greek thinkers were Plato who actually records much of the thinking of his mentor, Socrates, and there was Aristotle. What was going on prior to 400 BC in Greek thought was that they had a religious system that everyone pretty much believed explained ultimate reality. That religious system is what we think of in terms of Greek mythology. To pre-fifth-century BC Greeks that is reality. The religious system explained who man is, it gave him a system of morality, whatever it was, and it explained everything. Now with the rise of philosophy and emphasis on reason there is an assault on the religious system which begins to show that that doesn't explain reality. When your religion explains everything you feel fairly stable, but once philosophy comes in and starts questioning those religious assumptions the result is that is produces scepticism. Plato's emphasis on reason, on rationalism, Aristotle's emphasis on empiricism, assault the religion. Religion is wiped out, but ultimately Platonism and Aristotilianism is wiped out and the end result was scepticism. And what is going to happen with scepticism? People still have to have a sense of hope, a sense of value, a sense of meaning in life, so now that reason has shown that religion doesn't work, you divorce yourself from reason and logic completely and jump into mysticism. This set up a cycle in the ancient world and it is still occurring today.

Rationalism was the first system, it was clearly articulated in Greek thought under Plato, and the starting point is that man has certain innate ideas, and the real hidden assumption here is faith in human abilities, that the human mind can figure things out on its own without any input from God. Its methodology is the rigorous use of logic and reason. Plat and Aristotle are using logic and reason to develop everything. Then you have empiricism. Aristotle rejected the rationalism of Plato and empiricism builds on the idea that man learns everything from sense perception. These two systems, rationalism and empiricism, are often merged together and both are built on the use of logic and reason. The problem with the independent use of logic and reason is that it is independent of God. God is excluded from the picture, revelation is excluded from the picture, God doesn't have anything to say about these details of life.

The previous two systems are built on the use of reason, they are very rational. But mysticism is irrational, it rejects logic and reason. It puts the emphasis not on human thought, reason or verifiable experience, but on inner private experience—what you feel, what you sense it true, what you think is true. It is a faith in human ability to just know that something is true. It is an inner conviction that is generated in a person's own rebellious thought.

So these three systems dominate human thought, and every one of us gravitates to one of these systems from the day we were born. As we develop, grow and learn about life we are operating on one of these systems because this is the trend in the realm of thought and knowledge of the sin nature. The bent of the sin nature is to try to make life work independently from God. If we are going to make life work independently from God we have to have a source of knowledge that is independent from God. We can't go to the Scripture to learn anything. So there is this conflict and contrast between human viewpoint thought and divine viewpoint thought which is based on revelation: that there is objective, understandable, knowable revelation from God. It is not irrational.

Kant lived to the end of the 1700s, so the 19th century is a century where the intellectual pressure on western culture is sceptism on the one hand, and what always follows sceptism? Mysticism. So what begins to develop in the middle of the 1800s it is this turn to holiness theology and its emphasis on this private, inner experience with God. Holiness theology then gives birth to Pentecostalism in 1900. It fits the same pattern as in the ancient world. The problem is that Christians don't want to think about how they think. They just want some simple little superficial system, a little recipe for life, and they don't want anything to change the way they think.

What under girds all of this is really the angelic conflict, and this is what Paul brings out in verse 2: "You know that when you were pagans, {you were} led astray to the mute idols…" The Scripture modifies the term "idols" many times with the word "dumb" or "speechless" or inability to speak, which is showing a contrast with the God of the Bible who speaks, and these false gods who do not speak.

Psalm 115: 5, 7 NASB "They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see…. They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat."

Ps 135:16, 17 NASB "They have mouths, but they do not speak; They have eyes, but they do not see; They have ears, but they do not hear, Nor is there any breath at all in their mouths."

Isaiah 46:7 NASB "They lift it upon the shoulder {and} carry it; They set it in its place and it stands {there.} It does not move from its place. Though one may cry to it, it cannot answer; It cannot deliver him from his distress."

Jeremiah 10:5 NASB "Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, And they cannot speak; They must be carried, Because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, For they can do no harm, Nor can they do any good."

Habakkuk 2:18 NASB "What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it, {Or} an image, a teacher of falsehood? For {its} maker trusts in his {own} handiwork When he fashions speechless idols. [19] Woe to him who says to a {piece of} wood, 'Awake!' To a mute stone, 'Arise!' {And} that is {your} teacher? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, And there is no breath at all inside it."

Paul is emphasizing the speechless idol because he is contrasting it to the God we worship, the God of the Scripture who is there and who is not silent. He has spoken in such a way that we can understand it. The modern sceptic comes along and says: "How can we really understand God?" He is already operating on such a screwed up understanding of knowledge and epistemology that modern man doesn't think you can really understand communication from God. But not only do we have a problem with idols that are just a block of wood or a block of stone that can't speak, hear, or do anything, but what we find in Scripture is that they are representatives of demons. There is in many cases a reality behind the idols that is a spiritual reality that brings into focus the angelic conflict, and that these idols who represent a religious thought system are merely representing a false religious system, a counterfeit religious system that is being promoted by Satan to distract and to blind the minds of men.

1 Corinthians 10:20 NASB "{No,} but {I say} that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons." So this is just two chapters previously when Paul was dealing with things offered to idols. He recognizes that even though these are dumb idols there is a spiritual reality. They may be going into the temple and sacrificing to these idols but they are really sacrificing to the demons behind the idols. This is the same idea as in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 32:17 the Jews are told that the pagans sacrifice to demons, not to God. So there Moses makes it clear that even in the Old Testament idolatry was energized by demons which empowered these religious systems. Deuteronomy 32:21 NASB "They have made Me jealous with {what} is not God; They have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with {those who} are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation." God is going to judge those who get involved in idolatry because it is involvement with demonism. The Jews' basic problem in the Old Testament is this basic problem of syncretism, i.e. taking the old pagan ideas and merging them with the new ideas from Christianity. That is how human viewpoint works. It doesn't always contradict Christianity, it just considers certain things a good idea and says it will absorb that too. This is the problem with modern Christianity. We don't want to be uniquely biblical anymore, we are just trying to go along and get along and not cause any problems. That is what happened to the Jews, and the result was that when they began to compromise with the idolatry around them it destroyed their distinctiveness. Psalm 106:35 NASB "But they mingled with the nations And learned their practices, [36] And served their idols, Which became a snare to them. [37] They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons." Before long it destroyed the Jews. So when you begin to compromise and fail to maintain this distinction between divine viewpoint thought and human viewpoint thought it ultimately can lead to demon influence.

1 Corinthians 12:3 NASB "Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, 'Jesus is accursed'; and no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit." This verse is confusing for a lot of people and very simplistically think that if you say Jesus is Lord then that means you must be saved, and if you say Jesus is accursed you must not be saved and you must have a demon. That is not what Paul is saying here. Paul is laying down a system of evaluation. He says: "No one speaking by the Spirit of God says, 'Jesus is accursed'." By speaking by the Spirit of God what he is saying is that no one who has been filled by the Spirit can have a bad Christology. This was a major problem in the ancient world. In modern times people reject the deity of Christ, but in the ancient world is that they rejected the humanity of Christ, and Jesus is the name that is associated with the humanity of Christ. If he had said "Christ is accursed" then he would be talking about Jesus in terms of His Messianic role, but he in saying "Jesus is accursed" it was a sign that they were rejected His humanity. It isn't just a simple statement in just saying the statement, it is that this statement is a summation of a belief system. What he is saying is that no one who is speaking by the Holy Spirit, filled with the Holy Spirit, can have a bad Christology. You can be saved, be out of fellowship and be under false doctrine and it is going to show up as a bad view of who Jesus Christ is in terms of His person. Then the second part, "no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit," i.e. recognizing that Jesus is God and having a full and complete and correct understanding of the person and work of Christ, except by the Holy Spirit. You can't get it unless you are in right relationship to the Holy Spirit. So what Paul is laying down here in this whole context of spiritual gifts is that good theology is Christocentric, and that a good understanding of the spiritual gifts is going to be Christ-centred; it is going to be based on an orthodox view of the person and work of Jesus Christ.

In these verses what Paul is addressing is the fact that the Corinthians have brought with them into their Christian life baggage from their religious past. That baggage is related to a whole host of religious system which were popular at that time called mystery religions. These religious systems had various rites. They all had baptismal rites, dedication rites, sacred meals, and so there were similarities. One of the similarities is that they offered salvation. This is what ancients wanted was some sense of salvation because after going through these years of scepticism they want some sense of hope. These mystery religions provided some sense of salvation and identification with a god. They would go out and get involved in these ecstatic experiences in various temple locations and the god would enter into you and speak through them and speak through the priestesses, and that would be a sign of their spirituality and relationship with the god. And there were ecstatic utterances. So what the Corinthians were doing was taking all of that and bringing that to their understanding of the spiritual gifts.