Category: 1st and 2nd Corinthians

Excel in gifts that build up the church!

Scripture reading for August 21st: 1st Corinthians 14:1-17

“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.  For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.  Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” (1st Corinthians 14:1-3)

As we seek to live in love, we can eagerly desire spiritual gifts.  The one gift that Paul commends to these believers is the gift of prophecy.  The gift of prophecy that Paul talked about was not the giving of personal words of knowledge or wisdom to individuals, but the gift of expounding God’s will and word in a manner that the church could understand.  Prophecy always is in line with the word of God.  It is intended by God to comfort or encourage the recipients and strengthen them for God’s service.

The Corinthians were evidently fascinated by speaking in other tongues.  They were all speaking in tongues at once and people visiting their meetings were confused.  Not all the tongues were being interpreted and this left the church without understanding of what was God was saying.  This was not acting in the way of love!  Paul told them to continue to speak in tongues for their own edification, but in the church to prophesy so that all might be edified.

According to Paul, we can and should pray and sing  in other tongues.  When a person prays or sings in another tongue, they are speaking by the Holy Spirit directly to God.  This is a good thing.  But in the church, people who do not have the gifts will not understand what you are saying.  “Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.” (1st Corinthians 14:12)

If pubic tongues were given, they must be interpreted.  Two or three could speak, one at a time and then one must interpret.  In this way, all could be edified.  When tongues were used with interpretation, the same effect as prophecy would occur.  God would use that combination to give a sign to unbelievers and to edify believers.  All could profit and order would confirm God’s presence to all.  (1st Corinthians 14:13-17)  Are you seeking the spiritual gifts?  Do you seek be used to build up the body of Christ?

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Love never fails!

Scripture reading for August 20th: 1st Corinthians 12:27-13:13

Each person has been placed in Christ’s body by God as it pleased Him!  (1st Corinthians 12:18)  We are all arranged and joined together in such a way to function as a unit to accomplish God’s purposes.  God appointed some ‘gift people’ to help with the teaching, equipping, and administration of His body.  But no matter what gift you may have, God has encouraged all to desire the greater gifts and to pursue the most excellent way: the way of love!

Paul gives us one of the best descriptions of what love looks like that was ever penned!  “Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.” (1st Corinthians 13:4-8a)

We can have all the gifts and be filled with faith, but without love we amount to nothing.  Pentecostal and charismatic Christians have to be careful in this regard.  The church at Corinth was flowing with gifts of the Spirit, but lack of love caused divisions and many other problems.  Our flesh can easily get in the way and cause the love of God to cease flowing in our life.  Faith works by love.  (Galatians 5:5-6)

The proper exercise of the gifts also requires faith and love working together.  The gifts are for the edification, exhortation, and comfort of the body.   Christ loves His church and all is to be done through love.  Love is not rude, boastful, or self-seeking.  Love is humble and seeks the best for the other person.  Pride and envy are not part of God’s kind of love!  His love doesn’t keep record of wrongs and doesn’t remain angry with another person.  His love trusts and protects and hangs in there for the long haul.  In the end, love like this never fails to produce God’s highest good for the other person and for the Church of Jesus Christ!

“Now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.” (1st Corinthians 13:13)  When all else fades away, love remains the greatest gift of all!  Will you ask God for a fresh revelation of His love today?

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Concerning spiritual gifts!

Scripture reading for August 19th: 1st Corinthians 12:1-26

The Corinthians evidently loved the spiritual gifts.  But the problem was that they were ignorant of these gifts and how to properly use them to build up the body of Christ.  Many had come from pagan backgrounds.  Paul stressed that only those who could confess “Jesus is Lord” were speaking by the Holy Spirit.

All true spiritual gifts come from the Holy Spirit through relationship with Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit gives to each person a manifestation of the Spirit to help in the function of Christ’s body, the church.  (1st Corinthians 12:7)  Paul listed the gifts as follows:  “To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. (1st Corinthians 12:8-10)

We might look at these nine gifts in groups of three’s.  Three gifts reveal something from God’s mind.  The message of wisdom and message of knowledge reveal hidden information to help individuals or the body of Christ understand hidden truth and how to apply it successfully.  The discerning of spirits reveals what spirit is behind something in order to protect or give insight for ministry to an individual or situation.

Three gifts release power into the believer’s life.  The gift of faith enables a person to supernaturally believe God for impossible things.  The gift of miraculous powers works with faith to enable miracles to confirm God’s word and presence when ministering.  The gift of healing brings God’s power to heal sickness and disease, even raise people from death!

Three other gifts are speaking gifts.  Prophecy is the ability to speak God’s mind and word into a person’s life or proclaim God’s will and word in a ministry setting.  The gift of tongues is the ability to speak in an unknown tongue in a public setting.  This must always be interpreted!  The gift of interpretation enables the person to successfully interpret the unknown tongue.

All the gifts are given by the Holy Spirit as He wills.  They are for the edification of Christ’s body.  We are not to be ignorant of His gifts!

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Recognizing the body of Christ!

Scripture reading for August 18th: 1st Corinthians 11:17-34

Paul next dealt with the problem of divisions in the church coming from how they were partaking of the Lord’s Supper, what we would call ‘Holy Communion’.  In that day, this sacrament was usually a part of a meal called a ‘love feast’.  The church came together to eat a meal and celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Paul addressed their bad manners and lack of love for each other displayed during this meal.  Some were coming early and eating all the food.  Others were taking too much wine and getting drunk.  (1st Corinthians 11:20-22)  Paul warned them that they were despising God’s church and humiliating those who had nothing to eat.  This caused strife and division during a meal that was to bring unity!

Paul explained the Lord’s Supper as he had received it.  “The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (!st Corinthians 11:23-26)  This sacrament was to help believers center their lives on the One who had given His life for them.  The bread represented Christ’s broken body, offered as a sinless sacrifice.  The cup represented the shed blood that sealed a new covenant of grace through faith with each person who would trust in Jesus.  The cup also spoke of the second coming of Christ.  When He returned, believers would receive a new body and partake of the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven with Christ.  (Revelation 19:7-9)

Paul encouraged each person to examine themselves before they partook of this precious meal.  They should each judge themselves and repent of any sins or division.  He even warned them that if they partook of the meal in an unworthy manner, the possibility of God’s judgment was there.  Some had even died from failure to partake in the right spirit.  (1st Corinthians 11:29-31)  God’s desire was for all to be blessed!  Take a minute to examine your heart today!  Repent of any known sin and honor Christ’s gift of grace!

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Christ is over all!

Scripture reading for August 17th: 1st Corinthians 11:3-16

“Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” In this chapter, Paul begins by dealing with the role of women in the church at Corinth.  He starts his discussion by stating the biblical order found in Scripture.  God is supreme over all.  Christ is under God’s authority and man comes under Christ.  The woman is to be under man’s authority.  God set up this order, not man.

In the church at Corinth, there was a question about the propriety of women worshiping God through prayer and prophesying without their heads covered.  (1st Corinthians 11:4-7)  The predominant cultural norms for that region were that men had short hair and women had long hair.  Women showed respect in worship settings by having long hair or covering their heads.  This sign of respect was important not because women were inferior in any way to men, but because that was the acceptable custom of that culture.  If that custom was violated, it would cause division in the church.  This was an issue similar to eating meat sacrificed to idols!

“For man did not come from woman, but woman from man: neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.  For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought have a sign of authority on her head.” This is a difficult passage to explain.  Paul states that woman came from man originally in that Adam’s rib was used by God to fashion the woman Eve.  Eve was made for Adam to be his companion and helper.  She was God’s gift to Adam.  The angels are present in our worship services.  Paul said that their presence should cause women to want to wear the appropriate covering to promote worship.

Men and women are equal before God.  Christ is over all of them.  If you go to worship with a church body, follow the ways of the culture of the area to promote unity.  Women should seek to stay under the God-given authority present and by doing so will bring glory to man which in turn brings glory to God!  Men should honor Christ in all they do.  They all may then freely pray and prophesy without causing strife.

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Running to win!

Scripture reading for August 15th: 1st Corinthians 9:20-10:14

Paul’s sole motive was to win the most people as possible.  He had purposely not taken support from those he ministered to in order to win more of them.  Next he told of his strategy to continue to reap a big harvest.  He was not just doing things to be busy, but had a plan he was working on!

To the Jews, I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.  I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1st Corinthians 9:20-23)

Paul loved God and loved God’s people.  He was open to live his life in a way that would have maximum impact on the most people possible.  In order to reach people, we must relate to people.  For the sake of the Gospel, we can lay aside some of our liberties and identify with those who are weak or struggling.  In doing so, we can preach and speak into their lives.

He viewed his life like a race in which he was running to get a prize.  In the athletic contests of that day, many runners ran to get a crown of flowers that would soon fade away.  But in the race for souls to enter the kingdom of heaven, the crown was permanent!  (1st Corinthians 9:24-25)  Paul disciplined himself and brought his mind and body into obedience in order to accomplish his task of reaching the Gentiles.  He was focused on this task and did not want to be disqualified for failing to finish the race!

How is your focus on finishing your spiritual race?  Are you aware of the eternal prize awaiting those who finish well?   Are you disciplining your body and mind to focus on the task ahead?  The eternal crown awaits all who finish in faith!

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Paul’s heart to reach many!

Scripture reading for August 14th: 1st Corinthians 9:1-19

Paul’s discussion of liberty addressed another question.  Does a preacher of the Gospel have a right to support from those who he reaches out to?   Money issues caused trouble in Paul’s time and he again addressed this sensitive issue by using his own ministry as an example.

Some in Corinth were critical of Paul and others who preached the Gospel.  They had accused them of doing ministry just for support.  They looked at ministry as an easy way to make a living off the hard work of others.  Paul cited two different examples to justify the right of those in ministry to receive support.

First he used the soldier who fights for the nation.  Does the soldier provide for his own expenses?  No!  The government provides for him and supplies what he needs.  Next he used the farmer who had a vineyard or the man who tended a flock of sheep or goats.  Does the one who does this have a right to the produce, meat, and milk?   Yes!  “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?” (1st Corinthians 9:11)  The same principle applies to the one who is sowing spiritually.  It is simple to understand and the principle is written in the Law of Moses in simple terms: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” (Deuteronomy 25:4)

But Paul, himself, chose not to use these rights to support.  He chose to preach without charge to insure that money issues would not give anyone an excuse to reject the Gospel.  (1st Corinthians 9:12)  He was not boasting now to manipulate them to give.  Paul felt that God had given him a trust in the Gospel message.  His reward was to be able to preach without charge.

“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” (1st Corinthians 9:19)  Paul’s heart was to reach as many as possible with the Gospel message.  He was willing to work with his own hands making tents to provide for his own needs to be able to preach to them.  Even though he had a God-given right to support, he refused it to obtain a bigger harvest.  Would that we all had such a heart for lost people!

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When liberty causes a stumbling block!

Scripture reading for August 13th: 1st Corinthians 8:1-13

“It was for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1)  The Corinthians were enjoying freedom in Christ, but had more questions about how to exercise this freedom.  There were many idol temples in Corinth where people sacrificed animals.  This meat was often cut up and sold in the markets to make money.  The Corinthians had questions about whether or not they had liberty to eat this meat.

“So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols:  We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but One.” (1st Corinthians 8:4)  Paul told them the truth about the idols.  They were really nothing at all.  God, the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ were worthy of praise.  All things come from God alone.  The world has many ‘gods’ and seeks to worship them in their ignorance.

“But not everyone knows this.  Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.  But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.  Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1st Corinthians 8:7-9)  The stronger believers understood that the idols were nothing.  They knew that eating that meat sacrificed to the idol wouldn’t pollute their faith.  But the weaker believers still had fresh memories of sacrificing to idols.  They felt defiled when they ate.  The responsibility was placed on the stronger to limit their liberties for the sake of their weaker brothers!  They were not to flaunt their knowledge because it was not loving towards their brothers!

The law of love is again used as the rule of faith and practice.  Stronger Christians limit what they are free to do so that no younger or weaker believer’s faith is destroyed by their liberty!  Paul went on to emphasize this, “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.” (1st Corinthians 8:13)  “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1st Corinthians 8:1b)  Check out your love level today!

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To marry or not to marry?

Scripture reading for August 12th: 1st Corinthians 7:20-40

“Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him.”  “Brothers, each man , as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.” (1st Corinthians 7:17, 23)

When we become Christians, our view of life changes from ‘self’ to ‘God’.  Often this radical shift causes us to regret the choices we made or the situation that we find ourselves in.  Some of the Corinthians had married unbelievers who did not believe.  This made it difficult for the believers to share their new life with their mates.  Some Corinthians were uncircumcised Gentiles when they came to faith.  Paul told them they did not need to be circumcised to belong to the church, in spite of what some Jewish believers might say!  Some were slaves when God saved them, but Paul told them to wait on the Lord and serve where they were for the time being.

Paul went on to talk about virgins and others seeking mates or change in marital status.  He stressed that this was his personal opinion, not from the Lord’s direct instruction.  He counseled virgins at that present time in history to remain unmarried.  He also counseled the married, not  to seek a divorce.  If the person was unmarried, they should not look for a spouse.  (1st Corinthians 7:25-28)  His reasoning was to avoid the troubles that were present in that culture.  Paul felt that the time was short for the return of Jesus and that maximum effort should be given to sharing the Gospel.

However, on the other hand, God had ordained marriage to be good.  The command to be fruitful had not been rescinded and God was still blessing people who felt that they wanted to get married.  Marriage is not a sin and is proper for those who have strong sexual desires.  These are to be expressed only in marriage and are not sinful in that context.  (1st Corinthians 7:36-38)

In the case of the death of a spouse, the surviving mate is free to remarry.  Death frees the person from the marriage covenant.   They must be careful to marry again only within the faith.  Paul’s opinion was that to remain single was best.  (1st Corinthians 7:39-40)  For Paul, Jesus was coming soon.  The work of ministry should take precedent.  However, each person should hear from God!

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Living in peace in marriage!

Scripture reading for August 11th: 1st Corinthians 7:1-19

Marriage is the oldest institutions established by God.  God made a helper for Adam out of one of his ribs and gave her to man as his wife and companion.  They were to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.  (Genesis 1:28)  However, when sin entered the lives of Adam and Eve, conflict in marriage also entered the scene.  Guilt, shame and blame caused marriage to suffer and the Church had questions for the apostle Paul in regards to marriage.

One of the questions concerned celibacy.   Paul told the Corinthians that it was good not to marry.  (1st Corinthians 7:1, 8) In fact, he was not married at this time.  Paul gives his reasons for this later in the chapter.  Unmarried people have more time to spend serving the Lord instead of pleasing their spouses.  (1st Corinthians 7:32-35)

Paul also told them that if they married, that was good too.  Because there was so much immorality in that culture, each person should have their own wife or husband.  They should come together for mutual pleasure, not depriving each other of sexual satisfaction.  If they did, they should abstain for a short period of time by mutual agreement for the purpose of prayer.  This would keep Satan from tempting the partners.  (1st Corinthians 7:2-5)

Another question dealt with marriages between believers and unbelievers.  Paul instructed the believers to live with the unbelievers if they were willing and could have peace.  The believers would serve as a sanctifying influence on their unbelieving mates and children.  Divorce was not to be an option to be used unless the unbeliever departed from the relationship.  When this happened, the believer was free to remarry, but only within the faith.  These instructions were given to help the Corinthians (and us) live out their lives under God’s wisdom.

Marriages today are in disarray.  Divorce is rampant, even within the church.  Sex is used to manipulate and control instead of bring intimacy and bonding in marriages.   Believers often take the way of the world in dealing with any issues in the marriage and divorce instead of believing for the salvation of the mate and children by living out their faith within the marriage.  Take a moment today to pray for your marriage and spouse.  If not married, pray for a marriage that you know needs God’s grace!

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