Friday, January 30, 2009

1 Corinthians 3: Review and Outline

We've been looking at 1 Corinthians, verse-by-verse. This week we completed 1 Corinthians 3. If you're just now joining the study, you may want to go back and read the previous studies on 1 Corinthians:1-3. You can also read the reviews from the previous chapters, and jump on in.


1. 1 Corinthians 3:1-4- People of the flesh are contrasted against people of the Spirit.

  • Fleshly people must begin with spiritual milk. The Corinthians wanted to debate and discuss philosophy of deeper theological points than they were ready for. They still didn't understand the basic truths of grace and holiness. Many people today try to dive into theological discussion before they are ready. Sometimes churches forget that new Christians haven't adjusted their way of thinking to their new calling.
  • People of the flesh are identified by their behavior. Fleshly people are normal. They argue among one another, seek their own rights above the welfare of the Church, and are anxious to follow human leaders with a loyalty that competes with their love for Christ.
  • Key verse: 1 Corinthians 3:3 for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn't that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren't you living like people of the world?

2. 1 Corinthians 3:5-9- Spiritual leaders, pastors, and evangelists are merely servants for the cause of Christ.

  • Each Christian has a job to do. We should all strive to approach, nurture, and harvest unbelievers to the cause of Christ all the time, but some people are "specialists". Each of us probably does one of these jobs best, but every job is equally important to impacting the world for the glory of God.
  • God is the only One who can supply growth. We can't make people understand. We can't make them believe. Prayer is a powerful tool to increasing our results. At the end of the day, each and every person who is saved owes his/her salvation completely to the Spirit of God. It is our privilege to get to be a part.
  • We are expected to work, and will receive payment based on our effort, not the results. The quality of a Christian's life cannot be determined while on this earth. It's about putting yourself out there, being willing to look foolish, and keeping at it. We will be rewarded, even if it appears that our work is fruitless.
  • Key verse: 1 Corinthians 3:7 It's not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What's important is that God makes the seed grow.

3. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15- We are commanded to carefully build onto the foundation of Christ.

  • The foundation of the Church is Christ. That means that what we do reflects on Him directly. We must be very careful, therefore, in the work that we do in the Church.
    The quality of the work that we do to build up the Church will be revealed in eternity. We may not see the results now. We may not realize that what we are doing has any affect, or we may think that our work is more effective than it is because we are building quickly, but not carefully. That work will be revealed for what it is on the Day of Christ's return.
  • Real ministry (paid or not) is slow, difficult work. The most valuable work that we do requires patience, time, and personal sacrifice. If we want our work to last, we must be willing to put our whole selves on the line.
  • Careless work will cost us. Although we cannot lose salvation by carelessly building onto the Church with cheap materials and carelessness, it will cause us to smell of fire before God. The work that we do in the flesh, without depending on God to enable us to do things His way, will be burnt up. Only that which is done through the power of the Spirit will last.
  • Key verse: 1 Corinthians 3:13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person's work has any value.

4. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17- The Church is the dwelling place of God, called to holiness.

  • The Church is precious to God. That means that those who destroy it are messing with the wrong Man. God will punish those who mess with His people. He takes it personally.
  • We, as members of the body of Christ, are called to be completely holy. Holiness means that we are set apart, to be used only for the cause of Christ. We cannot allow ourselves to pulled into the ways of the world. The Church should be one place where people always forgive, always love, and are seeking after the good of the whole above their own.
  • Key verse: 1 Corinthians 3:16 Don't you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?

5. 1 Corinthians 3:18-23- The wisdom of this world isn't just useless; it's dangerous.

  • In order to gain pure wisdom, we must admit that the wisdom of this world is actually foolishness. We cannot earn salvation. We aren't the highest rung on the ladder of the universe. Being a good person just ain't enough. We have realize the folly of earthly thinking in order to grasp the greatness, power, and wisdom of the salvation we have received.
  • The wisdom of this world is useless, and it will be used to show our own stupidity if we cling to it. God is going to use fleshly ways of thinking to prove His greatness. It doesn't make sense that God would give up His perfect Son in order to save those that hate Him. That shows His infinite love. It doesn't make sense that God would rather have His Son die than have sin go for unpaid. That shows His intense sense of justice.
  • Boasting in what we know reveals a pride issue that prevents us from enjoying the full unity of the Church. Pride is dangerous to the Church. Pride places faith in ourselves when that faith rightfully belongs to God. It creates disunity in the Church because we are all placing our faith and loyalty in something other than God. He deserves all our faith and all of our loyalty. When we give Him what He deserves, we are unified because we share a common goal, the glory of God.
  • God has given us what we need to have a healthy church and holy life. He has given us leaders to help in guiding us, but they are only a tool that comes from Him. He has given us this world and the next, the present and the future, all to bring Him glory. We belong to Him, and we must use the resources bestowed upon us by way of Christ to bring Him glory.
  • Key verse: 1 Corinthians 3:21 So don't boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you --

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Not Supposed to be The Temple of Doom

1 Corinthians 3:16-23 Don't you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple. 18 Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world's standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, "He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness." 20 And again, "The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless." 21 So don't boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you -- 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Peter,1 or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

The Body of Christ, the Church is what's in play here. We are the temple of God. By that, Paul means that the very presence of God is alive in the Church. There are issues at play in the Corinthian church that are bringing damage onto the Church as a whole. We said yesterday that the foundation laid by Paul was Jesus Christ. Anything that we build onto it reflects on Him. That cannot be changed. God isn't happy with the Corinthians for additions that they are putting onto His temple. I wonder how thrilled He is by what the American church building.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Don't you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.

Although Paul makes a point about the body of a Christian being the temple of God, here he is dealing with the whole church being the dwelling place of God. We don't mean that the church building is "God's house," but the point is that the Spirit of God, His presence is magnified in a group of believers.

The organization of the Church is meant to reflect God Himself. It is meant to reflect the character of God, just as marriage is meant to do. Jesus speaks of the unity of the Church reflecting His personality.

John 13:34-35 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

Every organization on the planet deals with selfishness, pride, personal ambition, and other sinful arguments. The Church shouldn't function like every other organization though. We are supposed to different. We are meant to act differently as individuals, and as a a group.

Peter also calls on Christians to show love to one another.

1 Peter 1:22 You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.

Are you seeing the degree that Jesus and Peter are telling us, as God and on behalf of God, to love each other? Jesus says to love each other in the same way that He has loved us. What does that mean? That means that we should be willing to die for the good of the Church. All of us should, not just "super Christians". As we follow Christ, we also represent Him. If we can't even get along with one another, if we can't even be patient with people who share our ideaology, how on earth are we going to make people believe that there is a spuernatural Presence among us? That is how natural people act. Natural people seek their own benefit. That is not what we are called to, Christian.

We should be motivated by the forgiveness that we have received from Christ to forive each other without condition. That is how a church should function, in grace and love.

1 Corinthians 3:17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.

Yesterday we saw that building onto the foundation of Christ carelessly leads to a far closer escape from fire than one would desire. Today we see that those who tear down the Church are to meet a far greater punishment. The Church will be built up by those who follow Him. It's not an "if" situation. The job may not be done well, but it will be done. Those who tear down the Church are not of God.

It is a high crime against God to mess with His Church. He takes it seriously because He has pulled His people from the rest of the world with the purpose of holiness. That is a big calling that requires respect, both from its members and its enemies.

1 Corinthians 3:18-20 Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world's standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, "He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness." 20 And again, "The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless."

Paul returns again, from the platform of holiness, to the difference between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of man. It seems like he's harping on it, doesn't it? Well, he is. It's a major issue for the Corinthians. It's a majoy issue for the Americans, too. We worry about sounding crazy, so we keep our mouths shut. We are worried about getting pulled into a debate that we can't handle, so we just send people on their merry little way to Hell. We want to sound smart. We want to look smart. But that isn't the point of the Christian life. We are to be holy, and to be holy, we have to be weird.

The problem was the people were placing their faith in worldy wisdom because it made more sense to their fleshly minds. What they needed was some humility. What they needed, what we continue to need today, was to embrace the freedom of foolishness. Wordly wisdom desires to "get it" on our own terms. Godly wisdom says that the only thing you "get" on your own terms is Hell.

Why is it we can't just say, "Nope, I don't get why I understand that Jesus loves me, and that love changes everything, but I sure am glad I do!"? Why can't we just let go of philosophical debates of theology that prevent us from doing actual ministry. Theology is good. It's just a systemized way of understanding the Bible, but the second that the system prevents us from actually doing something about it, we've stepped over a line that should never be crossed. We are trying to turn Godly wisdom into earthly wisdom.

Do you think that we impress God by figuring things out on our own? Nope. It has no eternal value. The knowledge that we need comes straight from God. We have been led to believe that all wisdom, all knowledge, all understanding is good, but the original sin was developed around Eve knowing more. She wanted to "get it" all by herself, so she didn't trust God for the answers. She turned away from the presence of God in an attempt to be wiser. It didn't work out well for her, did it? And it doesn't work out well for us, either.

God sees the way that we think. He is able to use earthly wisdom to trap us. Do most of the lost people, who feel that they are so much smarter than we idiot Christians, seem all that free to you? Do they seem happier? They seem stuck.

I had an atheist professor the last couple of semesters of college. I liked him a lot. He was so smart! He understood the human brain brilliantly. Every term he'd present us with this problem: If there is a physical element to man (the body and brain) and a metaphysical (what we would call spiritual) element to man (the soul or mind), how do they connect? Apparently, he found this to be enormously important because he spent the first day of class, no matter which class he was teaching, going over this. He always concluded that there must only be a physical element to man. Now, it seems pretty obvious to me that if there is a connector between the body and soul or brain and mind, that it wouldn't be possible to sense it. If it's partly metaphysical and partly physical, then it would either be a third thing (neither physical nor metaphysical) that is beyond our comprehension, or it would only appear to be merely physical to our physical senses.

That man was trapped by a really stupid, really useless question. He couldn't get past it. Apparently, his goal was to trap as many students with him in the snare of this question as he could. He considered it the essential question of the human life. His daughter, who was about 8 at the time, and believed strongly in the metaphysical realm, would always tell him, "Well, I guess you'll find out when you die, huh, dad?" What a sad thought for that little girl.

God looks at this question, and I can only imagine Him rolling His eyes at the thought that this was how Satan trapped a truly brilliant man. This was how a man's entire life was wasted. God sees that and knows that it is obviously ridiculous, worthless to his soul (not that my professor believes in such things). He may very well go to Hell purely based on a philosophical question, not that I didn't try to stop him. It is going to look utterly ridiculous to my professor one day. He's going to see that question, either after he has been saved by God's grace or after he reaches his eternal destination of Hell, and realize just how stupid it is.

1 Corinthians 3:21-23 So don't boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you -- 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

The Corinthians didn't see it, but they were limiting their understanding by clinging to a particular person. They couldn't grasp the full counsel of God because they were limited to the spiritual gifts and teachings of the particular person they were choosing to follow. God has given us everything. We have every resource, and every gift we need to live out the fullness of the Christian life. The Corinthians didn't realize what they were missing because they were too caught up in themselves and their belief systems. They couldn't let go of personal followings, and because of it, they couldn't fully follow Christ.

We have this life, and all of eternity, to gain from the greatness of God. That gain won't be like the earthly, prideful gain of man. That gain will reflect onto our Owner. We have everything within our possession, and yet we remain in the possession of Christ. By the ownership granted to us, we are able to give more to Him. When we seek after our own interests, we limit the gain according to what we can understand. When we seek after the things that God desires, the results are unlimited, infinite in greatness and results.

Live the infinite life, sweet Christian!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

(Wo)Men at Work

We are going to continue looking at the roles we play in building up the Body of Christ. Paul used the metaphor of a field earlier. Now he's going to use construction as a physical representation of the spiritual work of the people of God.

1 Corinthians 3:10-15 Because of God's grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have -- Jesus Christ. 12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials -- gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person's work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

Paul begins this passage with a statement of his own work in Corinth. He says that he has laid a foundation for their church with expertise. This sounds pretty odd to us, doesn't it? It sounds a lot like bragging to our Americanized ears. He does pre-empts this statement with "Because of God's grace..." Even with that statement, though, we still think that Paul is tooting his own horn a bit.

The statement is not meant to bring himself glory, though. He is making a point about the value of the work that he put in. As he said earlier, he came to Corinth with a resolution to "know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2, ESV). This was the foundation that he put in place. God used Paul, even a trembling, fearful Paul (2:3), to put a solid foundation for a healthy church. Now others were working to build on it.

Paul warns those who are actively building the church to be careful. Jesus Christ cannot be removed from the foundation of the church. What they do now affects His reputation in Corinth. The church that they are developing will be His body among the Corinthians. That is a high calling that requires great care. Carelessness will result in consequences, as we see a little later in this passage.

1 Corinthians 3:12-13 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials -- gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person's work has any value.

You are building on the work of the Church. If you are a Christian, the life that you lead will have a lasting affect on the Body of Christ. Even in choosing to not go to church, not volunteer, or not speak up, you are representing God, Jesus Christ. The choice is how you build on it.There are two basic sets of materials. There are those that last: gold, silver, jewels; and there are those that don't: wood, hay, and straw.

The first set, those that last, are costly. They take time to develop and secure. It's pretty difficult to move large sheets of metal into place. They're heavy. They can't just be secured with a simple nail, either. They require a great deal of care. It may takes weeks to cut the stones into the proper shape, polish the gold or silver, set the jewels into place, and add them to the structure. It's slow, tedious work. The likelihood of damaging the materials is higher, and the consequences are far more costly.

The second set, those that aren't going to last as long, are easier to work with. They are lighter, and you can nail them into place quickly. There's little need for specialty. Most men built their own homes, and were familiar with using these materials. There isn't much preparation required, either. You can find straw, hay and wood almost anywhere. It may still be difficult, but it is much simpler than working with silver, gold, or jewels, and failure isn't nearly as costly.It sounds a lot like the three little pigs, doesn't it? But that's what we do, all the time. We don't think about how our words are going to affect the entire church, but they do. We don't think about how our "that'll do" attitude is going to create issues in the future, but they do. We don't think about how our selfishness, laziness, or inability to see things from any point of view other than our own is going to leave a lasting impression, but do they ever!

Take care. Think through things. Test your actions by God's Word. There are countless statements made by Sunday School teachers that I have never forgotten. Many of them were flippant remarks, made without thought, but they stuck with me.

How do we find out the value of our work? It's going to be a little while until we see the full results. Those are going to be seen through a test of fire. So many churches work to do ministry here and now. So many pastors are easily discouraged because the work that they put in seems to bring no results. We're human, and we want to see our work now!

That's not a God's eye view, though. He doesn't judge work based on the results here and now. He tests the work that we put in by fire. That needs to be the test of our lives: Is the way I'm living now going to make a mark on eternity, or is it based on what works now? Is it about what I can see, or is about how God sees it?

1 Corinthians 3:14-15 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

The work that we do will have eternal consequences for us personally. The work we put in will either survive, or it won't. The work that survives will be done through dependence on the Spirit of God. Remember, that is how Paul laid the foundation, through the grace of God. That is how the work must be continued.

The context of this passage is that we must not be like the rest of the world, bound up in the flesh and seeking after earthly things. We have to be focused on spiritual success. When we try to "make things happen", the results are rarely eternal. It may look really good right now. Sure, we may cover the wood with gold wall paper, but it isn't going to make it through a fire.

We can't lose our salvation by carelessly building upon the foundation of Christ, but it will give us a smell of smoke in His presence. Work that is done in His power will be rewarded, but we will have nothing to show of a life that is done in our own power.

I don't want to stand before God, trying to hold the charred remnants of my life together. I want to be able to look on the work that He has done through me. I want to enjoy the results of His grace beside Him. I want to know that His name was glorified with each addition to His temple that He graciously allowed me to make. What dreams do you have? Are they drenched in the Spirit, or are they revolving around your own idea of success? Is your life made to last, or is it destined to death by flame?

Lord, please allow each step we make today to be covered in Your grace. Help us to carefully walk by the Light of Your Word. Amen.

Friday, January 23, 2009

1 Corinthians 3: 5-9

1 Corinthians 3:5-9 After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God's servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7 It's not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What's important is that God makes the seed grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God's workers. And you are God's field. You are God's building.

As we said earlier, Paul was dealing with an unhealthy church. One of the biggest issues they faced was that they were dividing themselves into factions. They were placing faith in men instead of in the Creator and Savior of men. This passage deals specifically with the foolishness of that plan, and it also gives some wisdom into building a healthy church and how healthy evangelism works.

1 Corinthians 3:5-7 After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God's servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7 It's not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What's important is that God makes the seed grow.

Christians are individuals who are honored to serve God on His terms, according to the roles He has blessed us to fill. Some people are gifted in different areas, but we will all perform each role at different times, as long as we are obedient. In the case of the Corinthian church, Paul came and first planted the seeds of the Gospel in Corinth. Apollos then came and nurtured that Truth. God supplied growth, blessing the work of His servants so that the Corinthians understood what they were being told and grasp the power of their message.

Sometimes we assume that great ministers always produce great results, or that we aren't able to do big things because we never attended seminary, can't speak well, or just aren't "that special." What we are doing by believing such things, subconsciously if not consciously, is similar to what the Corinthians were doing. We are placing more faith in people than in God. We are associating results with people, and not God's choice to bless.

God has brought people into relationships with Him through people who had ulterior motives, ego problems, and secret sin that filled their lives. That's because God's greatness was bigger than their weaknesses. There have also been times when pastors, ministers, and godly lay-people have done everything correctly, sought after God earnestly, and loved Him completely, but results were minimal. Some people look at such a situation and assume that the pastor, minister, or lay-person made some mistake along the line that prevented blessing. Although this could be true, it's quite likely that God simply isn't looking at the same things we are. The act of obedience, in the midst of an apparent drought of blessing, only increases in value. It requires greater faith to continue serving when it doesn't seem to be working. That spiritual growth its self is a blessing.

1 Corinthians 3:8-9 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God's workers. And you are God's field. You are God's building.

There's a little issue in Christian work: we never know when we're planting, watering, or harvesting. One pastor may walk into church one morning, and five people get saved right then and there. Most people would look at that situation and assume that the pastor must have had an incredible sermon or a very special, intimate connection with the Spirit that day. It's just as likely that there was a quiet deacon's wife who has been gently planting seeds and watering them daily by answering their questions, coming to their aid, and offering kindness in the midst of difficult times. It doesn't really matter, though.

The Spirit of God is the One who deserves credit. The pastor and the deacon's wife may have both been faithful and obedient servants, but it's the grace of God that brought about results. We mentioned while studying chapter 1 that without the work of God in our hearts, we couldn't understand the wisdom or power of the Gospel. We can endlessly preach the truth, but without God at work in the hearts of the lost, there would be no results. God's blessing is present whenever anyone receives even a glimpse of the Truth that is so obvious to those who are saved.

Although we can't create results, we must continue to be obedient in sharing the Word of God. We are promised rewards if we do so. Some might take that to mean that our work will always produce results, but that isn't what this means. We are going to be rewarded eternally. Eventually, we will look at our lives and see them as God sees them. We will see each and every opportunity that we had to lighten the darkness of the world in which we live. There will be missed opportunities in everyone's lives, but the hard work that we pour into sharing God's grace will be rewarded in Heaven. Merely knowing that we are not at fault for another person's suffering is enough of a motive for sharing our faith, but there are rewards that only God can imagine for those who faithfully sow seeds and water them for the glory of God.

Paul uses a metaphor to describe God's Church. He says that he and Apollos were the workers, and the Corinthians themselves were God's field and building. He uses this to introduce us into the metaphor he will use to help us understand the building up of the Church that follows. He is moving us from the idea of the entire world as a field into a picture of the Church as a building. We'll discuss this further in the next study.

Keep praying for the lost in your world. Pray that God will use you to reach them, and that you will be perceptive enough to see each and every opportunity to share the glorious news that has brought you from darkness into light. Be bold. Be loving. Be joyful. It's the greatest challenge of the Christian life to simply be what we were meant to be, but it is so very worth it!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

1 Corinthians 3:1-4

1 Corinthians 3:1-4 Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn't talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. 2 I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren't ready for anything stronger. And you still aren't ready, 3 for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn't that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren't you living like people of the world? 4 When one of you says, "I am a follower of Paul," and another says, "I follow Apollos," aren't you acting just like people of the world?



Paul is talking to some spiritually immature people. They've been saved for a while, but they aren't growing as they should. We've already seen that main issue that they face is that they have allowed worldly considerations to creep into their church. Let's look at a few lessons we can take from this passage.




1 Corinthians 3:1-2 Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn't talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. 2 I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren't ready for anything stronger. And you still aren't ready,



Paul says that he "had to talk' to the Corinthians like spiritual babies. He had to. He might not have wanted to sit there, going over the same things over and over again, but it was important that he did. Man, can I relate to that! I spend my whole day with little children who understand very little of what I say, and boy! is it annoying. When Edwin gets home from work, I am desperate to have a real conversation. Still, it's what I have to do as their mother. I have to repeat, "No, Ella. Leave her alone!" at least a hundred times a day. I have to tell DeLaynie, "We do not throw temper tantrums because we are unhappy," about fifty times a day. Why? Because they don't get it yet. One day, these things that I keep saying, over and over again, will get lodged into their little brains. I won't be there, but my words will be. Ella will finally understand that everything on this planet does not belong to her, and DeLaynie will grasp the idea that there is a right way to handle her emotions, and a wrong way to handle her emotions.

That's where the Corinthians are. They are having to learn the most basic of lessons, and Paul is having to repeat the same, elementary principles again and again. The difference is that the Corinthians should have gotten it by now. They have had the Holy Spirit for a while now, and they still haven't learned to depend on Him. Paul is repeating himself, saying, "You are different now that you are Christians. You aren't supposed to be like everyone else," but they are still stuck in their ignorance, or maybe arrogance. They can't move ahead because they still haven't gotten this lesson.

Paul talks about milk, spiritual food for young believers. Babies can't handle a t-bone steak and green beans. They'd choke. Sure, it tastes better. It even has more nutritional value to it. But they can't eat it yet because they aren't old enough. The Corinthians are acting like little babies in the spiritual realm, and it's hurting their growth and their witness. How many American Christians want to try to live like everyone else, but go to church a couple of times a week? We think that we are more mature on the whole than the Corinthians, but I'm not so sure that we are. We still don't seem to understand what Paul was so desperate to get into the Corinthian's heads. "You're different. The Spirit is at work in you. You don't have to sin anymore. Live like you belong to Jesus, because you do!"

I honestly think that the American church could use some more milk in her diet. There's plenty of debate over theological points, but I'm not sure that we're ready for it. The divorce rate in the church matches that outside of it. Most evangelical Christians (as in, church attenders) aren't even sure that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. It sounds like we could use some milk. The problem is that church members get annoyed and pastors get bored. Obviously, annoyance and boredom are pretty terrible things, because they're keeping the American church from reaching her potential in fulfilling the calling that Jesus purchased for us with His blood. I'm not so sure that there aren't going to be a large number of church-attending, committee-meeting evangelicals standing before Jesus and the Father, shocked to discover that what they thought salvation was is actually a cheap substitute sold to them by Satan.

I sound harsh, I know. That price is going to be on us, Christian. We're the ones allowing them to buy into it. When was the last time you heard of a church taking a stand against divorce among its members? When have you heard of a set of deacons demanding that the pastor preach on the basics because it's obvious that her members don't get it yet? When have you heard of a pastor who was willing to preach again and again on the subject that a Christian is going to look different from a sinner because he knows that there are members of his congregation that are going to go to Hell if they don't get it? We're afraid of social discomfort when the world around us, even our own churches, are headed to Hell.


1 Corinthians 3:3-4 for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn't that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren't you living like people of the world? 4 When one of you says, "I am a follower of Paul," and another says, "I follow Apollos," aren't you acting just like people of the world?


We've said before that a big symptom of spiritual sickness is cliquishness. This passage shows us a little more of why. We like to feel right, so we divide every issue, from what color the hymnals should be to if it's time to add praise choruses into the order of worship, into two groups. It is perfectly human to divide everything into "us" and "them" categories. That's the problem. We aren't supposed to depending on our humanity anymore. We're jealous of someone else's power over, oh say, the hymnals, so we create a group of people who agree with us, proving just how correct we are on the issue. We want what we want, and the body of Christ is cast aside on our journey to get it.

Let's be different, shall we? We'll look at more of what that means tomorrow. Never doubt the value of spiritual milk when facing conflict. Conflict is, after all, a sign of immaturity, and immaturity is best combated through a better understanding of who God is.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

1 Corinthians 2- Review and Outline

As I have decided to do with each chapter, I am giving you an outline and review sheet. I suppose that this will help you feel nostalgic about school days. Enjoy memory lane, and a quick overview of 1 Corinthians 2.

1. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

  • Paul focuses on the necessity of the Gospel alone, rejecting "lofty speech" and earthly wisdom.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:2 (key verse) For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

2. 1 Corinthians 2:6-10
  • The "secret and hidden wisdom of God" is revealed to the mature believers through the Spirit.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:10 (key verse) these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

3. 1 Corinthians 2:11-13

  • Having received the gift of the Spirit, we are able to understand the mind and heart of God.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:12 (key verse) Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

4. 1 Corinthians 2:14-16

  • Those who are not saved are unable to understand spiritual wisdom because they do not have the Holy Spirit at work in them.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:16 (key verse) "For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

Application points:

  1. We are to stick with the whole truth of the Gospel. We do not add elements to make it more impressive, nor do we remove parts to make it less controversial.
  2. We are able to understand the Word of God by way of His Spirit. When we are having trouble understanding a passage, prayer and dependence on Him are the best resources we have at our disposal. (Books and commentaries are also helpful. Many are the product of the gifts others have received by way of the Spirit, so they are given to us by the Holy Spirit as well as personal insight and spiritual wisdom. Just be careful about who you read and who you trust.)
  3. Remember that those who are not saved do not have the Spirit to help them understand spiritual truths. It requires a work of the Spirit for the lost to grasp the Gospel. Prayer is the best way to break through that wall. Keep sharing the truth the Lord has taught you, and cover each situation in prayer, asking that God prepares the heart of the person you are trying to reach by opening their eyes to the spiritual wisdom of the Gospel.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Knowing the Heart of God

1 Corinthians 2:11-16 No one can know a person's thoughts except that person's own spirit, and no one can know God's thoughts except God's own Spirit. 12 And we have received God's Spirit (not the world's spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. 13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit's words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren't spiritual1 can't receive these truths from God's Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can't understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 15 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. 16 For, "Who can know the LORD's thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?" But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.

Have you ever thought about it what it means to have received the Holy Spirit? Do you realize that through the Holy Spirit, you have received an intimate connection with the Father of All? That's a big deal, Christian. Let's look at what Paul has to say about it in today's passage.


1 Corinthians 2:11-12 No one can know a person's thoughts except that person's own spirit, and no one can know God's thoughts except God's own Spirit. 12 And we have received God's Spirit (not the world's spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.

Because we cannot read the mind of God, just as we cannot read one another's minds, God has given us a way to understand what our own minds cannot comprehend alone. His Spirit first helps us to understand what we have already received from God. We can understand what it is to be free from sin. We can understand the joy of knowing God. We can understand the peace that comes from His forgiveness. It takes time to "unwrap" these gifts sometimes, but they are already in our possession. The Holy Spirit is there to guide us through the process of unraveling what these Biblical truths mean to us in the way we live.

Let's take freedom from old ways of thinking as an example. A new Christian has dealt with unhealthy relationships her whole life. She has looked to men to define her and give her value. Now she is saved, but she doesn't yet understand that her value comes from Christ. She enters a new relationship, again not a healthy one. She depends on him too much. One day he does what most of the men before him have done. He hits her. Although her first reaction is to beg his forgiveness for whatever it is he says she has done, she realizes that God doesn't mean for her to worship a man as she would worship God. She realizes that she doesn't need him. She only needs her Heavenly Father. It may take weeks, but for the first time, a whole new concept is realized in her mind and heart. That is the work of the Spirit.

God has poured out blessings on us that will take a lifetime to even begin to understand. It is our joy, dear sister, that we are able to have a line directly into His heart so that we can grasp things that only He can reveal.


1 Corinthians 2:13-14 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit's words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren't spiritual can't receive these truths from God's Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can't understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.

There are some things that won't make sense without the Holy Spirit at work in a person's life.
Edwin and I were once talking to a couple about faith. They were very well educated and extremely kind people. The wife said something to the affect of, "Well, I just don't buy this junk about serial killers coming to know Jesus in prison and being forgiven. I think they must still go to Hell." The idea that a God can simply forgive someone for crimes that appear to be the Devil's handiwork is foreign to the lost person. But to those of us who are saved, it is obvious that He doesn't "simply forgive" anyone. Those sins have been paid for, with tons of interest. God gives salvation based on the size of His sacrifice, which is infinitely costly, and big enough to cover the sins of even the most evil of humans.

The Word of God speaks volumes to those who listen with the Holy Spirit as their earpiece. The spiritual words that are held within this Living Book are able to reach into the deepest corridors of our hearts.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

Have you ever been reading the Bible and thought, "Wow! That must have been written directly to me!"? If not, keep reading! I will never for the time when I prayed that God would teach me to love His Word, and not just obey Him out of duty. That was on the 18th, of which month I am unsure. I was reading a few Psalms a day, based on the date. The next day, then, the Psalm of the day was Psalm 19.


Psalm 19:7-14 The instructions of the LORD are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The commandments of the LORD are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are clear, giving insight for living. 9 Reverence for the LORD is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the LORD are true; each one is fair. 10 They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. 11 They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them. 12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don't let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. 14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

How cool is that? I'm not saying that something mind-blowingly cool is going to happen every time you read the Bible, but when Bible-reading is partnered with prayer and Spirit-filled meditation, amazing things can happen.

1 Corinthians 2:15 - 2:16 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. 16 For, "Who can know the LORD's thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?" But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.

There is a biblical word for "getting it". That word is discernment. Spiritual discernment is an extremely valuable tool. My mom is known for having a super-powerful gift of discernment. There was a time when she realized that a man in a previous church was having an affair "by the way he was driving." No kidding. She just had this gut-feeling that something was going on when she was riding behind him one day. Sure enough, the next week it all came out. Most Christians aren't so highly gifted in this area.

Many of us aren't using the discernment that we have to its full potential because we pollute our minds and hearts. The more wrong-thinking that you put in, the harder it is to discern wise thinking. The more spiritual food you put in, the easier it is. What can pollute our hearts and minds and detach us from the intimate connection that we are meant to have with the Spirit? Magazines, soap operas, talk shows, inappropriate music, ungodly friends (I know you're just trying to "save them," but watch how much time you spend with bad influences, and never, ever "missionary date"!), romance novels, crude joking, and other stuff too numerous to mention.

Obviously, you can't control what the other ladies say at work. What you can do is earn a reputation for loving God. People may not like you as much, but it's because you are a reminder to them of their own condition. A lot of the time people are accused of being "holier than thou" when the accuser is aware of his/her own sinfulness. Something else you can do is invest as much time as possible in putting in the good stuff. Read, pray, and concentrate on the things of God. Be careful what Christian authors you read, too. Not every book sold in a Christian book store is worthy of being read. Ask your pastor for some recommendations. Stick with people you know that you can trust. Kay Arthur, John Piper, Elizabeth George, and C.S. Lewis are all great authors. Just reading their books will take half of a lifetime. When all else fails, just read the Bible! Write down some Scripture on index cards and take it with you. Tape one onto the dashboard or bathroom mirror. Memorize it.

Lost people have no spiritual discernment. So remember, the next time that you're talking with a lost person, that they are at a disadvantage. It can be easy to get irritated with them for not understanding. Sometimes they will pull an attitude that can be just, plain rude. But they aren't playing with a full deck. I don't mean that in a derogatory way. I just mean that they don't have the understanding that we have because they don't have the supernatural interpreter that we have. So the next time someone rolls their eyes because you are obviously "so intolerant" or "uneducated", just remember that it really does seem that way to them, and if the Holy Spirit doesn't intervene, they will go to Hell. Keep loving them and praying for them. You may just see some miraculous things happen.

We have the mind of Christ. How dare we force feed our brains junk when the mind of Christ is dwelling there? We are to constantly be mindful of the thoughts that we entertain. It's a difficult task, I know. Even billboards are disgusting now days. Test everything according to the Word of God. Allow the Holy Spirit to envelope your mind, and it will be an amazing thing to see what God can bring out of His Word and what He can speak into your very heart!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Great Mystery

1 Corinthians 2:6-10 (ESV) Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him" - 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

Paul begins this passage by affirming that he doesn't reject intellect altogether. Among those who are mature enough to understand it for what it is, he does delve into the deeper aspects of theology. That doesn't change the fact that the wisdom he teaches does not align its self to the wisdom being taught by the worldly scholars. Paul also mentions the "rulers of this world." Later in this passage, we'll see that this is speaking specifically to the religious and political leaders who were a part of the Crucifixion, but this can refer to any leaders who do not recognize Jesus Christ for who He is.

1 Corinthians 2:6-7 (NLT) Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. 7 No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God -- his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began.

The mystery that Paul is referring to is the plan that He has had from the beginning to reconcile creation to Himself. The Jewish people knew that God had a plan, and their salvation was found in faith that He would work it out, but they didn't know what it was. We are the ones who have the joy of understanding what that plan is. In fact, we are a part of that plan that began so long ago. When the "Faith Hall of Fame" concludes, Hebrews' author mentions this.

Hebrews 11:39-40 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.

We are a part of the same story as Moses, Abraham, Rahab, and so many others whose lives fill our Old Testament. Apart from the faith that we are able to have in Christ, their stories would be incomplete. The point of the Old Testament is that God was working out His plan from the very beginning. He used the sinfulness of men, such as Pharaoh, to His good. He also worked through the faithfulness of the Bible heroes I already mentioned.

This great mystery, then, is that God could walk on the earth, as He did in the Garden of Eden before the fall, though now in human form, live a human life, and die an undeserved death. It was through such a bizarre course of events that we, Gentiles who would be considered pagans by the Jewish people, are able to attain salvation by the grace of God. This is our ultimate glory! Oneness with God in spite our undeserving nature.

1 Corinthians 2:8-10 But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." 10 But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God's deep secrets.


This is where we see that Paul was referring to the Crucifixion. God could have opened their eyes to their actions. But He didn't. He not only allowed the death of Christ, but He worked it out. From the beginning, the plan was Christ's death. It was the only sacrifice that could atone for the sins of all who receive Him.How could man have understood this? In a world where children are the most precious of commodities, how could they have imagined such a plan? No human could have come up with such a plan. The simple idea that Jesus was born from a virgin makes no sense at all in human terms. This is a God thing.

Only those who have the Spirit at work in us can understand the meaning of it all. Do you realize what that means? We are able to know the heart of God better than any other! Because of God's grace in giving us His Spirit, we can read His Word and know His thoughts. Have you ever heard a lost person try to understand the Bible? To them, it all sounds like make-believe incantations and nursery rhymes. Yet, we hear the Lord of All Creation revealing His deepest thoughts and greatest hopes for us, His people. What a privilege! It is only through His power that we are able to understand Him. It is only by His grace that we can come before Him. We know Him because He desired to know us.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What You Need to Know

1 Corinthians 2:1-6 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

We've discussed how God uses people who are not considered wise to make the wisdom of this world appear foolish. We talked about how we can dilute the Gospel by trying to make it more palatable to the lost. All of this was discussed in chapter 1. Paul continues this trend into chapter 2. Today I'm using the English Standard Version.

1 Corinthians 2:1-2 And I, when I came to you, brothers, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Paul came into Corinth with one goal: tell people about Jesus. He was a smart guy, and he could have studied rhetoric in order to "meet them where they are". Rather than dilute the Gospel, He chose to take a chance at appearing stupid. He chose to focus on the Gospel, and nothing else. He wasn't out to impress people, and he certainly didn't want to generate a following. We often use the excuse that we aren't smart enough to share the Gospel, or we aren't good with words, or we just aren't good at "that kind of thing". Paul could have used an excuse, but He didn't. He had to brag on His king.


1 Corinthians 2:3-5 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul says that he was weak and fearful, to the point of trembling. We don't know what exactly got Paul so shaken up, but what we do know is that Paul was on empty. He wasn't working out of his own resources any more. He was going to have to trust in God to make something from his nothing. And He did.

His words were implausible. It doesn't make sense that God would allow His own Son to die for people who ignored Him. It doesn't make sense that God could die at all. It's a bizarre thing to think about, really. How can He be all-powerful, and yet His Son, who is one with God the Father, was able to die a human death at the hands of men?Paul knew that. There's only one ingredient that can make such insane sounding facts fall into place. The Spirit had to work.

Paul might could have made an exceptional speech laying out the logical explanations for such a transaction, but Paul just allowed the Spirit to work, through him and in the hearts of the people.Why? If the faith of the people had been based on something Paul said, it could easily be defeated by another argument. Such faith is not saving faith. It is temporary. Edwin said that he didn't understand the idea that we were having a baby until he saw DeLaynie. He knew it long before. He had seen pictures of her in my womb, and he could even describe her actions when we watched her turn her head and "look" at the ultrasound device. It wasn't until he saw her, though, that his faith was complete. In a similar way, many people know the facts of the Gospel. They could tell you Bible story after Bible story. They may be baptized and regular church attenders, but something just hasn't clicked yet. They think the right things a lot of the time, but these ideas aren't real to them. Such faith is in an untested hypothesis. The Spirit must be at work for faith to be complete.

There is one thing that takes precidence over all else: Jesus Christ and Him crucified. That is our starting point. We may be told that it's foolish to believe in something that cannot be proven, but we aren't thinking in terms of earthly wisdom. We are believing in Jesus Christ because His Spirit has worked in our hearts and changed our way of thinking. Call me crazy. Call me stupid. Call me a fundamentalist. Call me a Christian. There is nothing else I want to be than the child of my Heavenly Father.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Review and Outline of 1 Corinthians 1

I know that we aren't in school, and there will be no test or pop quiz. Still, it makes good sense to take a step back and look at the themes and major ideas of this first chapter. The plan is to do this with each chapter of 1 Corinthians as we study it.



1. 1 Corinthians 1:1-3- Paul's introduction
a. Paul was called by God's will, as are all Christians.
b. The church in Corinth shares a Lord and a status with the churches in every other part of the world, even those less knowledgeable that they may look down upon.

2. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9
a. The presence of sin does not negate salvation.
b. God has granted believers gifts according to His Spirit. They are not earned and are not based on our abilities. no gift is more important than any other.
c. Our gifts have the purpose of getting us to the return of Christ. At that point, His grace in us will be fulfilled.
d. We can be sure of God's sustaining grace. Although the Corinthians were struggling with a lot of terrible sin (as we'll see later), they were still reminded that God was at work in them, and that He will be faithful in their lives.

3. 1 Corinthians 1:10-16
a. God desires unity among the Church. That is, the whole body of Christ.
b. He is the Boss, therefore we are to strive to be obedient and get along.
c. Divisions can occur when members are more faithful to another believer than to God Himself.
d. Christians leaders are responsible to ensure that they are not being treated as if they are worthy of a following.

4. 1 Corinthians 1:17-25
a. God's wisdom will seem ridiculous to those who do not have His Spirit within them at work.
b. Some people want an emotional experience, and others want everything to be completely logical, but God' ways don't always work that way.
c. It is possible for the Christian can see what the unbeliever cannot, that the Gospel is power and wisdom. It's because of the Spirit that we can see this.
d. The unbeliever isn't stupid for not understanding. His thinking is darkened by the absence of the Spirit. Prayer is the best way to break through. The Spirit can work, and will work, if He so chooses. (Prayer does change things!)

5. 1 Corinthians 1: 26-31
a. God didn't choose us based on what we know, how powerful we are, or how prestigious we are. He chose us because He can do amazing things through people who aren't all those things.
b. God is going to use those of us who are the least according to worldly standard to show up those who are great according to worldly standards. This does not mean that we go around trying to show people up. God can do that on His own, and in a much better way than we can think up.
c. We have no right to boast in ourselves. We are recipients, not creators, of grace.
d. We are downright responsible to boast in our King. We should be sharing the Gospel. We should be testifying. We should try to do this in appropriate ways, obviously, but we should make sure that we are getting out there and bragging on our God.

Themes:

  1. Make unity happen!
  2. Be humble; respect the gifts of other believers, and don't take the credit for your salvation.
  3. God is everything that we are not: powerful, wise, and righteous. Through Him we have received redemption and sanctification.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Remember Your Calling

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world's eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world,1 things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. 30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, "If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD."

The first phrase of this passage in the English Standard Version is "For consider your calling." It would be easy for the Corinthians to forget that it isn't something special about them that has led to their slavation. It wasn't that they had a deeper understanding of God, or a better grasp of Scripture. Paul is reminding them to think back to the time just before they were "called" into salvation. Acts says that Paul (then Saul) was still "breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1) as he was headed to Damascus, where God called him from his life of sin into the glorious Light of salvation. We are nothing special apart from Christ. We want to think that we are. We want to think that we have something to do with the grace offered to us by God. The fact is, He didn't call us because we are special; He called us to make us special.

What does it mean to be called? What is the significance of that word in this passage? Think of it like being drafted. You were minding your own business, living life like you always had, when a message came. You had seen other people receive the message, and you had thought maybe you would be next, but you hadn't heard anything particularly meant for you. You've seen the posters saying "I Want You!", but you were able to walk away from it. Now the choice was gone. You know the cost. All your life you've been strong (you think), but now it's time to be "army strong". You've been called to be a part of unit that is bigger than yourself.

Here's the difference: this passage says that the strong ones weren't chosen. The noble ones weren't chosen. The wise ones, nope, not chosen. God has drafted the losers. He has taken the ones who limp, can't see without Coke bottle glasses, and who pass out at the slightest sign of danger.What's God's angle? What on earth is He doing recruiting a bunch of losers? Let's look at a couple of verses in the English Standard Version and find out.

1 Corinthians 1:27-28 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,

God took the unmotivated losers that no one else wanted with one purpose. He's going to make something out of nothing. He's going to take a rag-tag group and turn them into a well-oiled machine of His glory. We all want to be a part of something big. We are all waiting for greatness. What could be greater than being a part of the Body of Christ? God didn't want the people who think that they can acheive greatness on their own. He didn't choose the ones that the world looks to in awe. He chose us, and He is faithfully completing the task of whipping us into shape.

Remember, this is in a time when the Corinthian church is divided into cliques, each one competing with the others. Such competition is a result of prideful hearts. They are saved, and many of them are wise, smooth speakers. They've allowed the gift of the Spirit to be perverted into a stumbling block of pride.

1 Corinthians 1:29-31 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

We cannot come before our Maker with any kind of pride in ourselves. He came to us knowing our hearts, understanding our weaknesses, hating our sin, and He chose us anyway. If it doesn't make you humble to know that, you need to consider what that means.

Every time you judged someone based on how they dressed, the color of their skin, or the size of their belt, He saw you focussing on the shell of man, who is made to be a reflection of His glory. When you used Scripture inappropriately in order to defend a sinful way of thinking or cast someone else into shame (using the Bible as a reason to hate homosexuals, for instance), He saw you perverting the purity of His Word! Everytime you worry over things that are our of your control, He sees you holding back the trust and faithfulness that rightly belong to Him. Every sin. Every time.He took you in anyway. He took me in anyway. How great is that love? How powerful is that salvation? We can't stand before God on our own life. We can only stand before Him based on the greatness of His grace.

There's a second part to this truth. We can't boast in ourselves, that's certain. What we can boast in, what we better make absolutely sure that we do boast in, is the God who has saved us. We can't keep quiet. We can't hold back a portion of the glory that belongs to Him in fear of embarassment, or the ever-dreaded accusation of fundamentalism. God loves you!God chose a red-headed, freckle-faced, Alabama girl to take His Word to Nicaragua. He can still change that plan, but if He does, the new plan is even greater. He chose a nutty, English-loving, french horn playing nerd to tell people how cool God is! It makes no sense to me. Why should it make sense to me? I'm the vessel, a clay pot begging to be used. I may end up being God's trash can, or God's fine china. That's up to Him. The wonderful thing, the astounding truth that rings through this passage, is that I am chosen! I am here to serve Him. I never have to doubt my purpose. My sin killed His Son, but His grace has resurrected me along with Christ! I am a partaker in His body.

If you can't find a reason to boast in God, maybe you're broke, or lonely, or life just stinks in general, think about what He did for you. He sent His Son to live on earth, separated from the full-fellowship with the Father He had enjoyed from eternity past, enduring what had to be a pretty lonely life (you think it was hard being a regular, everyday goody-two-shoes). He then willfully looked on as His precious Son died a humiliating, painful, soul-wrenching death, being killed by the very ones He came to save. He heard His dear One call out in the garden, begging to let it pass by, but the Father told His Son, "no". Why is it that we think we deserve better than Jesus? Why is it that we get all worked up when God says, "no," or worse, "not yet"?

Maybe you're looking at your life, and you're saved, but you just seem so... incomplete. Maybe there is a sin that you struggle with everyday, or you aren't struggling but should be. Perhaps you try to read the Bible, but you just can't grasp it. Maybe you stopped trying at all because it was just too hard. Maybe you don't pray anymore because you don't think He cares, or you may believe Him to be angry with you. Re-read verse 30, typed below.

1 Corinthians 1:30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.

He has joined us together with His Son. He has provided us with wisdom and purity. He has granted us holiness. We no longer have to sin as if we weren't saved. There may be a lack of faith, and you just can't believe that He really has done all of that for you. Believe it, sister! He doesn't "half-save" people. He has already done everything listed, but it may take some time for you to see all the fruit. In the meantime, keep praying, reading the Word, and keep trusting. As Ephesians 3:19 puts it,

Ephesians 3:19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Just experience it. Don't ignore it. Don't forget it. Don't get over it. Remember it by memorizing Scripture. Delight in it through praise music. Talk about it with other Christians and lost people. You are loved! Stop moping and start living out loud!

Humility and joy come hand-in-hand. When we remember that God is bigger than we can imagine, and is greater than our most disgusting sin, peace and joy come tumbling in. We are His workmanship (Eph. 2:10), and there is nothing more wonderful than depending on our Maker, knowing that He can create beauty from destruction, and greatness from emptyness.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Man's Foolishness as God's Power

1 Corinthians 1:17-25 For Christ didn't send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News -- and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power. 18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent." 20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world's brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. 22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. 23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it's all nonsense. 24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God's weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.


Paul begins by giving a kind of purpose statement to his ministry. Although baptism is important, as he explains in other passages (Romans 6:3, for instance), it is not his purpose. His purpose is to preach the Truth of the Gospel. You can go to Heaven without being baptized, but the Cross is absolutely essential to salvation. Therefore, Paul places his duty to tell this Truth to the people at the top of his priority list.

We’ve mentioned before that Corinth was a very intellectual place. We’ve also said that the Corinthians placed high value on the art of rhetoric (speaking with the purpose of drawing emotional response). What we’ll see is that the worldly value given to sounding impressive is an enemy to the Corinthian church, as well as to the modern Church.

Paul says that trying to sound eloquent in describing the Gospel can actually cause the Truth of the cross to “lose its power”. That’s an impressive statement. Why do you think he says that? Paul explains what he means by this in the following verses.

1 Corinthians 1:18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.

One of the things that Paul is saying is that the Gospel is supposed to be confusing, even stupid-sounding, to lost people. They are still thinking in earthly terms. When we explain the cross, only the Holy Spirit can get through the wall that sin has built into their hearts. Their idea of wisdom contradicts the wisdom of God. When we are saved, God removes the veil that blinds us to the power of the Truth of the Word of God. When that happens, the Truth that once seemed ridiculous is revealed for the power that it is.

This is why Paul refuses to make the Gospel sound wise to the worldly people of Corinth. When we try to make the Gospel make sense to lost people, we are forced to change parts of it. The Gospel is simple, but not so simple that “anyone can understand it”. It takes a work of God Himself, by way of the Holy Spirit, to make the cross make sense to the fallen people of this world. Our job is to present the Gospel in its entirety, as it is written in the Bible, pray, and allow God to do His work in the hearts of the hearer.

1 Corinthians 1:19 As the Scriptures say, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent."

From the beginning, we see that God prefers to take simple people, from whom most people expect nothing, and use them to go great things. He chose David, a kid, to kill a giant, save Israel, and eventually become King of God people. He chose a young girl and a carpenter to raise His Son. Angels appeared to shepherds, poor, smelly men who weren’t considered worthy of respect, to tell them about Jesus before anyone else knew. Jesus told parables that used farming terms that the smart religious leaders couldn’t grasp, but the blue-collar everyday Joes got immediately.

God likes broken people. He likes to use people that everyone else throws away.

Why does God do it that way? If we could grasp the cross through human terms, it would be just another philosophy. If we could get to Heaven through conventional wisdom, it would lose spiritual value. Only God could do it this way! Man might could do amazing things with the best-of-the-best. We might could devise some impressive stunts if we recruit some rich people to give us their money and smart people to draw up a plan. But only God can take dummies like me and do something with them. Only God can transform the life of a Christian-killing sinner like Paul into the life of an apostle. It’s about making us understand “only God!”

1 Corinthians 1:20-21 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world's brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.

When we are saved by God’s grace, we look back and see just how insane our previous way of thinking was. We understand that the life we had been living was worthless.

Have you ever been talking to someone who doesn’t love Jesus about Christ, and realize that they don’t get it? Maybe they were smarter than you. Maybe they understood things that you could never grasp. But this thing that seems so simple to you goes right over their head! You sit there thinking, “How can I get this through to them?” But you can’t. Their brains just can’t take hold of what seems so obvious you to you.

The philosophers, scholars, and speakers that are so widely respected, but don't place their faith in the Word of God, have two options. Either they will come to know Jesus, or they will go to Hell, and there it will be revealed to them that in all their wisdom, they didn’t understand the only thing that really mattered. Tomorrow we’ll look at the difficulty of their situation.

Paul came to a place like this. It was on the road to Damascus that God called him. Paul had been a wise man, a scholar and philosopher. He knew a lot, but he didn’t know Jesus. It was there that Jesus began calling Paul to Himself. Later, Paul would call all of the knowledge that he had as a religious leader useless.

Philippians 3:4-8 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

Paul was everything that a good, Jewish man should be. He started out as a baby, being brought up to be a great man of his faith. All of that training, however, became a hindrance to him. He loved the Jewish faith so much, that he killed Christians in order to protect it, even if he was protecting it from the truth. Paul genuinely believed that he was doing the right thing by killing Christians, but he was blind. He was so spiritually blind that God had to do something radical to reach him. Once he saw the cross for the power that it has, all of the training that he had once seen was counted as loss. It didn’t matter anymore. He now knew God personally, and the Law no longer held him! When asked to give up everything that he had worked for, he was willing because he realized that it was worthless to the Kingdom. He gave it all away so that he could gain something greater: a deeper intimacy with his Father!

1 Corinthians 1:22-25 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. 23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it's all nonsense. 24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God's weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.

We’ve been using the New Living Translation today, but let’s also look at these verses in the English Standard Version.

1 Corinthians 1:22-25 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

There are two groups mentioned here: Jews and Greeks. The Jews wanted God to slap them in the face with miracles and make them feel good. Greeks wanted to be able to understand things philosophically. These two groups still exist.

We all know people who seemed to have had a meeting with Jesus. They were so excited, so full of emotion, but they fizzled. They had an experience, but once that experience ended, nothing was left. They didn’t know God. They just felt something.

Then there are those who have to see God proven to exist on paper. They always seem to find some reason not to believe.

God can save ‘em though. You can be in either group, and the Holy Spirit can still pull you out of it and change you. The Holy Spirit can remove the veil, whether it’s emotional or intellectual, and reveal the Gospel for what it is. It is not beyond His power.

We can’t word it in a way that makes them want it. It isn’t a candy bar. We aren’t doing an infomercial for Jesus. Now, there’s nothing in this world wrong with getting rid of churchy words, like grace and sanctification, when dealing with someone who simply doesn’t have that vocabulary. But those ideas still need to be there. The cross must be explained for what it really is.


At the end of the day, the best thing that we can do is pray for those who don’t get it. God can do amazing things. Keep telling them. You may be surprised that one day, they get it! The light can come on, dear Christian. It did for you!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

1 Corinthians 1:10-16, Part 2

1 Corinthians 1:10-16 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 11 For some members of Chloe's household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. 12 Some of you are saying, "I am a follower of Paul." Others are saying, "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Peter," or "I follow only Christ." 13 Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not! 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 for now no one can say they were baptized in my name. 16 (Oh yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas, but I don't remember baptizing anyone else.)

“What,” you ask, “is this? We already looked at this passage!” It’s quite true. Yesterday we pretty much used this passage as a spring board to get to Ephesians 4. That wasn’t my original intent, but there are worse things. Today, we are looking at the specific problem that the Corinthian church was dealing with that prevented them from experiencing unity.

1 Corinthians 1:11-12 For some members of Chloe's household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. 12 Some of you are saying, "I am a follower of Paul." Others are saying, "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Peter," or "I follow only Christ."

The Corinthian church had issues. One of which was that they struggled with personal followings. People were divided up into groups according to who baptized them, or who they believed was the most theological. If you think that this is a problem left in the past, think again!

It is so tempting, isn’t it? We want to have someone that we can see and touch that we can follow. A very smart person comes along, or a very friendly person, or a very spiritual person and we gravitate toward them. Before we know it, we have become more loyal to them than to the body of Christ! It’s difficult to see what’s going on because we really believe that allegiance to this person is allegiance to the Church.

The person being followed doesn’t have to be evil, or even incorrect. They can deserve your attention, but they do not deserve your allegiance. Only Christ deserves that.

An entire church can be a faction. Your church can seem united, all on one page, but it may pull away from the rest of the Christian community. It can be easy to get with a group of people who all agree with you, and take that to mean that you must be right. And then we turn preferences into commands. When we have a human leader that we trust to an unhealthy degree, we can find ourselves believing things that just aren’t true.

1 Corinthians 1:13-16 Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not! 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 for now no one can say they were baptized in my name. 16 (Oh yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas, but I don't remember baptizing anyone else.)

Paul is being careful here. It may have been nice to have people who are as loyal to you as Paul’s followers among the Corinthian church were to him. He could have fed into it. He could have continued teaching, which he was very good at, and allowed the people under his leadership to believe that it was okay to value another human being to the degree that they valued him. He didn’t do that, though.

Paul took great care in making sure that the people of Corinth didn’t treat him with more respect that was proper. He wanted to make sure that they worshipped God, and not man. He took measures, some of which may have seemed strange, to keep the Corinthians focused on Christ alone.

We must be careful when we are in positions of leadership. Women are especially bad at creating an “us vs. them” mentality when in groups. (Sorry, girls; you know it’s true.) It isn’t enough to “not try to” create a faction. We have to make sure that we “try not to”. We have to be intentional to make sure that we point to Christ in everything. In every mistake, point to Jesus as the Redeemer. In every success, point to God as the Giver of every good gift.

Only God can save us. Only the blood of Jesus can pay the price for our sins. It is wrong to give any measure of the faithfulness that belongs to Him to any man, even good ones. It’s also good to remember that people, even those that are correct most of the time, are going to be wrong some of the time. That doesn’t mean that we drop them like a sack of potatoes. It just means that we keep things in perspective. People are people. They are created in the image of God, but they are fallen. People are no longer capable of achieving perfection. Anything good that comes from the life of any human being is due purely to the grace of God. (In this sentence, “good” is defined as “that which brings glory to the King”.)

Tomorrow we will move to the next passage. Have a fantastic day!

Monday, January 5, 2009

1 Corinthians 1:10-16

1 Corinthians 1:10-16 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 11 For some members of Chloe's household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. 12 Some of you are saying, "I am a follower of Paul." Others are saying, "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Peter,1 " or "I follow only Christ." 13 Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not! 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 for now no one can say they were baptized in my name. 16 (Oh yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas, but I don't remember baptizing anyone else.)

You may want to open up your own Bible to mark in it and glance at the passage from time-to-time. I'm not sure of the reason, but reading from your own Bible is more intimate than reading from a screen. One of my youth pastors once said that we should read the Bible like we would a love note. When I dated Edwin, he printed out every email that I sent him. Holding a letter in your hand is warmer and sweeter than staring at a screen, but it isn't a sin to read the Bible passage off the screen. The most important thing is to read it!

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.

Notice that Paul is speaking on behalf of Christ. It isn’t jus a good thing when Christians get along. It isn’t just “nice” or “attractive” to the lost world. It’s the will of the Head of the Church. The One whom we are supposed to be pleasing wishes for His people to be of one mind, united. It’s a command.

The Church is different from every other organization. We aren’t led by other people, who can be wrong. Our President is the Creator. He knows how to run a church. It may seem impossible for a large, diverse group of people to get along all the time. It would be, but not with Jesus. Let’s look at a similar passage that deals with the same issue.

Ephesians 4:1-6 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.

The reason that God can tell us what to do is that we have been called into His service, and we accepted that calling. An ambassador is expected to act in a way that makes the country he/she is representing look good. Otherwise, that person loses his/her job. Well, we aren’t going to get fired from the calling of Christianity. But there are consequences for acting unbecomingly. One of those consequences is that the people around us may go to Hell. That’s right. When we turn people of to church, we may be turning them off to God. That’s a big responsibility, and one of the main responsibilities of the Church.

So how do we do that? How do we make God look good, in spite of our differences and faults? This passage gives a list of ways to make community happen.

Be humble. One of the problems that many churches have is that members over-estimate their own importance. Church ain’t about you, sister! It doesn’t matter what you deserve. What you deserve is Hell. Think of other people first, even if they never think of you before themselves. The most important thing isn’t that you feel warm and fuzzy. It’s worth getting a stinky classroom space if it means that lost people come to know Jesus.

Be gentle. There are times when real issues need to be addressed. You could bring it up in an embarrassing way. The person that you ridicule may deserve it, but that isn’t the focus, is it? Gently help your brothers and sisters. It’s not just what you do, but how you do it that matters.

Be patient and make allowances for faults. People mess up. It happens. I’m pretty sure that you and I will make some mistakes this year. Don’t expect your church to be perfect. Even the most experienced pastor will do something stupid some days. Forgive. Accept apologies graciously. Overlook minor mistakes.

Make the effort for peace. It takes work to be the kind of church that Jesus wants us to be. It requires effort to make sure that you don’t offend people who are too sensitive at times. It takes time to ensure that things are done well, and not just sloppily thrown together. It takes effort to include people who don’t seem to want to be included. It takes time and energy to see things from another person’s perspective. Who gave you that time? Who gave you that energy? Who gets to decide how you use it? You know the answers…

Remember the commonalities. There are some people who argue over the most minor of beliefs. There is a temptation to forget that we have the same purpose. It is easy to overlook that someone who seems totally different from you is called by the same God to accomplish the same basic tasks. We’re all going to end up together in eternity, so you better get to liking one another now. Sometimes it’s just a choice to switch your focus. Certain things are going to bug you, but that doesn’t mean that you have to let those things control you. Do you really want to look God in the eye and say that you refused to minister to someone (or some group) because they were annoying? All Christians, by definition, believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. All Christians are being sanctified by the same Holy Spirit. We can’t be all that different because He is at work in all of us. We may start in different places, but His goal for us all is to make us holy.

Let’s read the next verse from Ephesians really quickly.

Ephesians 4:7 However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ.

We each play different roles, and that is going to cause some stress. Be prepared for it. For instance, the treasurer’s job is to use the money that the church has wisely. The hostess committee believes that they need something in order to fulfill their duty to care for the people by meeting their physical need for food and emotional need for comfort. This can lead to a disagreement. It isn’t that either party is wrong. They are both using their gifts. The way to deal with such a situation is to go to God. The gifts that He has given us are to be used His way, so He will, most likely provide a solution. Pray that the equipment needed will go on sale. If God doesn’t provide such a solution, go to a leader. But don’t over-react, and don’t get defensive. Just remember: it’s not about my rights, but His glory!

We’re going to continue looking at the rest of this passage tomorrow. Until then, shalom (that’s peace in Hebrew)!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

1 Corinthians 1:4-9 (a few additional notes)

We already looked at this passage yesterday, but I wanted to go over a few more points since we concentrated on a particular application yesterday.


1 Corinthians 1:4-9 I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. 5 Through him, God has enriched your church in every way -- with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. 6 This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. 7 Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 9 God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

First of all, notice that Paul begins with gratitude for the work that God has already done in the hearts of His people in Corinth. Paul isn't backing down, and he certainly isn't ignoring the problems that they are having. He remains grateful because of who God is. He is sure that God will continue the work that He has begun (v.8).

He doesn't deny the salvation of the Corinthian church, either. Christians may go through spells of disobedience. They may struggle for periods of time. The difference is that these phases are not characteristic; they are the exception, not the rule. He still believes that they belong to Christ. Bad behavior does not nullify salvation. It gives God opportunity to work in the life of the believer. In Paul's second letter to the Corinthian church, we see that the people did come out of this phase to enter into deeper relationships with the Father.

Next, the gifts of speaking and knowledge are not denied to be good gifts. As we said yesterday, it was a misuse of the gift that was the issue.

The next verse completes the thought.

1 Corinthians 1:7 Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Think on that for a second. We, as a community of believers, have every tool we need. The gifts that we have received by the grace of our King are meant to tide us over until He returns for us. We have what we need to grow, obey, and glorify Him until He gets here. Look at Matthew 25:14-29, and read the parable there.

Jesus is away for a little while. It may seem like a very long time to us, but it isn't to Him. He has left us with bags of silver that we are responsible to invest in the world we are in. If you are gifted with organizational skills, you better use them for the glory of God. If you are gifted with speaking abilities, you better use them for the glory of God. If you are gifted with a servant's heart, well, you get the idea. If you are frustrated with having too few responsibilities, do the ones that you to the best of your abilities. He will give more tasks, and more of the resources needed to accomplish them, as He sees that you are able. If you don't feel like your talents are being put to use, talk to your pastor, or find a ministry that is outside of your church, like a crisis pregnancy center, MOPs group, or homeless shelter. If you're frustrated, or just, plain tired, from too many tasks on your plate, it's okay to ask for help. You can't do the best with what you've been given if you're running in too many directions.

Remember this: God has placed you in a local church, and in a community, with the abilities and gifts that He has given you in mind. You have a function there. Use what He has given you. You will give account to Him on what you did with your life.

Let's re-read the final two verses in the English Standard Version. (The previous translation is the New Living Translation.)

1 Corinthians 1:8-9 [Jesus] who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

As Paul is looking at the Corinthians, struggling in their faith, He is reminded of the faithfulness of God. The One who has called you into a relationship with Himself has no plans of leaving the job unfinished. There will most certainly be bumps along the way. I could give some corny analogy about mountains or some such thing, but I'll spare you. God will continue to work in your life, even if it seems like you're moving backward.

If you're in a spiritual valley, or if it seems like your life is characterized by failings and not God's faithfulness, you may want to do some spiritual soul-searching. Make sure that your idea of salvation is biblical. It's not about going to church. Christians do want to go to church in order to be with others who struggle in similar ways, edify one another, and gain from the gifts of others, but going to church in and of itself cannot save you. Salvation isn't gained through belief alone. You can believe in God. You can believe in Jesus. You can believe and be lost.

James 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe - and shudder!

Salvation isn't gained through baptism, either. Baptism is a great first step, and an important act of obedience, but it merely demonstrates publicly what has already happened in the life of a Christian. It signifies the death of the old self and resurrection of the new self that has been gained through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

What is salvation, then? It takes place when a person recognizes their sin, comes to a place of belief that Christ is the only way to get to Heaven, and places their trust in Him alone to save them.


1 John 1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.


Romans 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.


Acts 3:19 Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out,


The word "repent" is a churchy word that means to turn from one direction and go in a totally new way. First, a person recognizes that they are going in the wrong direction. They stop, turn around, see Jesus for who He is, and then they start walking, but not their own way. They are headed somewhere totally different. It's not just about going to Heaven. It's about the road to get there, too.

This life is an opportunity for us, as Christians, to give the glory to God that He deserves. As we walk this new path, He is there with us. He makes the path straight beneath our feet, and He directs us in where to go. When we disobey, that doesn't make us less saved. It does hurt our relationship with Him, though. Even there, in our disobedience, however, He is faithful. We were reborn with the purpose of fellowship. Don't miss out on the wonderful opportunities that He has given us! Don't allow a worldly way of thinking to rob you of the joy and peace that come from obeying your Maker.


Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.