Eternal - The Ministry of Reconciliation





2 Corinthians 5:11-21

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. [12] We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. [13] For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. [14] For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; [15] and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. [16] From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. [17] Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. [18] All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; [19] that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. [20] Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. [21] For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Introduction

I am going to give you a social and cultural concept and its definition.


Patronal Hedonism - a protected people who are not slaves, but freedmen - yet, freedmen who are slaves to their own appetite and intemperance for pleasure and want.


At the end of the teaching I will re-share this so that you might be able to better process not only its impact on humanity whom are in that social and civil condition, but more importantly to sound the alarm and teach the truth about the spiritual implications and impact as well. I think this will be a profound process and I greatly encourage you to openly and honestly engage and consider not only the possibilities, but the realities.


I contend today that the Apostle Paul was bringing to the Corinthian culture and to the Corinthian church the message of reconciliation as the only hope for rescuing and uniting one's heart to God the Creator through Christ Jesus. But there is even more. It is the message of reconciliation and reuniting of humankind to one another - becoming human. That the people of Corinth were not imported solely for hatred, hostility, and mistrust of one another - based on race, color, creed, or country. Or to be under the bondage of the mis-use and abuse of the patronage system of Rome. Humankind were created by God to unite in commonality and in community to worship, inspire, teach, love, build, care, produce and reproduce, to respect others, to accept reasonable responsibility, and to remain concerned for the needs, well-being, and dreams of children from conception to the aged and old among us.


Paul knew that this could never happen without spiritual reconciliation to God the Father in Christ Jesus. Christianity is not a religion for a certain type of people - it is the singular hope of all humankind for eternal life with the Creator of Heaven and Earth. That is why Christianity has fully become the greatest threat in our world today. Being reconciled to God in Christ Jesus is only uniter of human beings - not only to God, but to one another. The Gospel was a threat to the divisive and corrupt system of patronage in ancient Corinth, and I contend it is the single most imposing threat to the systems of men and this world today. We are living it.


"You and I who are still far from wise, must not commit the error of falling into a stormy passion which enslaves us to someone else."

- Stoic Philosopher – Seneca, 50AD


A Historical and Cultural Profile of Biblical Corinth


Graeco-Roman Patronage

The societal structure of both the Roman Empire and the Greek social and cultural influence is that of “patronage.” Patronage is simple a social hierarchal or “class” structure of how a society functions. In ancient Corinth at the time of Paul’s ministry to the Corinthian church, societal patronage was the common cultural practice. In theory, patronage simply means that a higher (ruling) class provides a lesser (working/serving) class with what they need, and in turn can expect to take or ask for what they want. This theory was then put into common social practice as a patron - client relationship.


Roman and Greek societal patronage was highly based around the ideals of fides or loyalty. Clients were loyal supporters of high standing or ruling class families and at the head of those families were the patronus, or their patron. For this ployalty the patron rewarded their loyal clients with assistance of food, housing, work, and land. If a client needed any sort of legal or civil representation or assistance such as aid, healthcare, food, or protection they called upon their patron for support. Patrons often handed out sportulas, which were monetary handouts for their support and loyalty. The patron received not just loyalty from their clients but they also had their social and political backing, men for guarded escorts, and their pol.


By the time of the first century, patronage had grown into a foundational social structure across the Mediterranean world. Thus we should not be surprised to find many kinds of patron-client relationships in the New Testament. In fact, the system was so widespread in the first-century Greco-Roman world that when the writers of the New Testament mention these relationships, they assume that everyone will know what was going on.


The New Testament authors communicated their faith in God and His love, mercy, forgiveness and representation through Christ Jesus, as a relatable form or type of spiritual patronage. The distinct difference is that one is a control mechanism or system of man, and the other is the sacrificial faith covenant of God the Creator providing eternal life to all who believe. One gives the appearance of freedom and the other is freedom. One enables sin and corruption the other delivers liberates from sin and corruption. As we read the pages of the New Testament with an eye to the covenant promises of favor and blessings, we become more highly sensitized to the way these authors seek to instill in us such a hope for, and trust in, God’s promised benefactions and eternal purposes and not those with the godless appetite and lust for power and evil.


The War of Corinth and the Achaean Conflict [147 B.C.]

The Battle of Corinth was a battle fought between the Roman Republic and the Greek city-state of Corinth and its allies in the Achaean League in 146 BC, which resulted in the complete and total destruction of Corinth. This battle marked the end of the Achaean War and the beginning of the period of Roman domination in Greek history.


Corinth was utterly destroyed in this year by the victorious Roman army and all of her treasures and art plundered. Much of the adult male population was put to the sword and the female population and children sold into slavery. The annihilation of Corinth, the same fate met by Carthage the same year, marked a severe departure from previous Roman policy in Greece.


The Re-build and Strategic Multi-Cultural Plan of Corinth [45-44 B.C.]

For the next one hundred years there is little archeological or historical evidence that there was much habitation or activity in the once great city. And then, in 44 BC, shortly before his assassination, Roman Emperor Julius Caesar implemented his societal vision, and began the undertaking to re-found and rebuild the city Corinth from its ashes. He called it, "Colonia laus Julia Corinthiensis."


Caesar naturally employed the Roman template for subduing conquered populations - divide, conquer, and create the appearance of empowerment through use of the patronage society. Caesar gave birth to his vision of a "new Corinth" by having the entire city rebuilt from its ashes before it was ever populated. He then repopulated the "new Corinth" with conscripted Italian, Greek, Spanish, Syrian, Ethiopian, Egyptian, and Judaean freed slaves. More accurately the "new occupants" of the "new Corinth" were strategically "drafted" from among the conquered people groups of Rome for their - specific skill sets - racial strengths and weaknesses - history of language distinction and cultural hostility.


All Things Corinthian

Under the Roman rule, Corinth would quickly become the power-seat of the Roman Empire’s control in Southern Greece or Achaia, according to Acts 18:12-16.


In what seemed like almost overnight, Corinth once again became recognized for its opportunities for personal wealth, its cultural diversity, luxury lifestyles, and for the immoral and unethical habits of the deep cultural divides of its populous. As much as Corinth became famous for its wealth, the "new Corinth" became even more famous for its narcissistic and de-humanizing "street-life." Corinth gained an empire-wide reputation for loose and immoral living. In his first visit to Corinth, the apostle Paul was introduced to a city that not only never slept, but was actually used to coin one of the Greek words for the term "to fornicate”, which was korinthiazomai! This well-deserved reputation was based, in part, on the ancient Greek historian Strabo's report that there were at any time (night or day) more than 1,000 female "sacred prostitutes" as well as an equal number of male counterparts working in the streets just outside the Temple of Aphrodite (Goddess of Love). The temple was one of several imposing focal points on the Acrocorinth, which was a 1,886-foot hill of solid rock that rose above the city of Corinth, just to its immediate south side.


Corinth was the ultimate world trade center - food, art, clothing, literature, precious stones, metals, and custom jewelry, wine, fine cloth, weapons, livestock, slaves, sex, opium, medicine, services and labor - on and on. The streets of Corinth both upper and lower districts were crowded day and night - full of opportunity, energy, and evil.


Corinth was once again a city of public and commercial success, however now (unlike before) it was now filled with a population of diverse people groups who possessed a polarizing cultural and ethnic hostility for one another. Logic might ask... how could something like that work? The answer to that question is that it was done intentionally and strategically by Julius Caesar and Rome. The cultural division and ethnic hostility of a "global Corinth" was brilliantly kept in check by Rome's "uses and abuses" of the patronage system by three of mankind's most powerful forces: fear - greed - pleasure. By these forces the citizens of Corinth were people contained, ruled, moved, and controlled...


· Contained in one location by access to amenities and commerce.

· Ruled by their "fear" of Rome.

· Moved by their "greed for success."

· Controlled by their "addictive appetite for hedonism."


We have been saying that by design, Corinth was a "mixed bag" of origin and culture, but its largest populations (because of geographical proximity) were Roman, Greek, and Jew. And although the populous of the city of Corinth, had brought with them a cultural and racial hostility they now worked and seemingly prospered together and quickly shared similar appetites for excessive and compulsive behavior. They lived in cultural districts and communities designated of their own kinship and supported by the patronage societal structure.


The strategic design of these housing communities were visible and open - where personal and domestic living could not become secretive or hidden. Language was the one natural barrier that Rome could use to control or manipulate the society. Unless the people were to learn a common or uniting language to succeed efficiently at their work and education or even in their leisure and pleasure. Rome strategically used barriers of language and multi-culturalism in protection against societal unification and the potential for a united resistance and revolution. These barriers also aided in the preservation of civil order - work, pleasure, patronage allegiance - work, pleasure, patronage allegiance; not time for anything else. Holding on to one’s language was a priority among the districts and communities - no need for communication with others that one could not understand - no reason to interact with others that one does not trust. In fact, at the time of Paul's first visit to Corinth, the city’s population was just over 130,000 people. Of this 130,000, there were over thirty different cultures, who communicated in at least thirteen different distinct dialects (languages) but of whom only ten percent were literate. The common language used for trade and commerce was Greek - controlling class. In the streets of Corinth it quickly became a Graeco-Roman society of patronage, but in districts and neighborhoods first generation Corinthians were still deeply committed to not only to the kinship of their own families and culture - but to their own language.


Rome itself did not worry about these cultural or linguistic resistances and differences, but rather they masterfully used the differences and the lack of trust to effectively rule and control the people. This was Rome's specialty - patronal societies. Rome saw these barriers and illiteracy as a great advantage in their ability to control one the world's most strategic and profitable regions, and to more easily rule a huge non-Roman population who had a history of cultural hostility to one another. As each culture became more and more absorbed and intoxicated by the energy of opportunity and self-pleasure "Corinthian style", these hostile and segregated people became more than happy to use one another for both profit and pleasure. They lived in their communities where they believed family and culture could be protected and preserved by language and lineage - but that false sense of security and power was just a deception created by Rome's design and a turned head. In reality the essence of what Rome uniquely created from their patronal model in Corinth was a hybrid - a completely co-dependent society.


Patronal Hedonism - a protected people who are not slaves, but freedmen - yet, freedmen who are slaves to their own appetite and intemperance for pleasure and want.


Reference and Resource:

“The Translators Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians” - Paul Ellingsworth and Howard Hatton

“Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes” (Patronage, Honor, and Shame in the Biblical World) - E. Randolph Richards and Richard James

“Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity” (Unlocking New Testament

Culture) - David A. DeSilva

“1 Corinthians - An Introduction and Commentary” - Leon Morris

“St. Paul’s Corinth” - Jerome Murphy-O’Conner


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