Category: 1st and 2nd Corinthians

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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Lawsuits and immorality among believers!

Scripture reading for August 10th: 1st Corinthians 6:1-20

Lawsuits are a big thing in our culture.  Lawyers advertise to entice people to file suits and win big settlements.  Of course, they get a big cut themselves.  Everyone needs to have liability insurance to help in case of some negligent act triggering a lawsuit that will take their savings and even their home.  It was happening in Paul’s day!

“If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?  Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?  And if you are to judge the world , are you not competent to judge trivial cases?  Do you not know that we will judge angels?  How much more the things of this life? (1st Corinthians 6:1-3)  Paul’s statements about saints ultimately judging the world and even angels are amazing revelations given to him by God.  He likened the disputes that believers had here on earth to trivial matters compared to what was to come.

The name of Christ was being shamed by believers going to court and arguing with other believers in front of unbelievers.  Paul told them that they would be better off just suffering the wrong than take their brothers to court with unbelievers.  They should judge among themselves in the church or just drop the matters of dispute.

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived:  Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders no thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Paul  taught them that people practicing wickedness indicated that they are not really saved.  A person who thinks they are right with God when they are really not is incapable of repenting.

Today’s main argument for homosexual sins is that they are genetic.  People are not responsible because God made them that way!  God’s word teaches that sin is a choice and that this list of sins leads to death and eternal separation from God.  God can cleanse and deliver people from all of these sins!

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Dealing with immorality in the Church

Scripture reading for August 9th: 1st Corinthians 5:1-13

The Corinthian church had been formed by people getting saved out of a pagan culture.  Immorality was rampant along with idolatry.  Sexual promiscuity and perversion were everywhere.  Paul had a report of an incident in the church among those who were believers that caused him alarm.  His letter now addressed this difficult problem.

“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans:  A man has his father’s wife.  And you are proud!  Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?” (1st Corinthians 5:1-2)  When the church tolerates immorality and even boasts about it, the pagan world is confused.  They know that we claim to be forgiven and live a life of righteousness.  They are quick to point out when what we claim to believe is contradicted by how we live.  This sin was obvious to pagans and should have been as well in the church.

Paul’s instructions to them in this matter were simple.  “When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” (1st Corinthians 5:4-5)  This church was not to tolerate evil in the members.  This man was to be put out of the fellowship of believers and the body should prayerfully worship and seek God.  As they came together and prayed for this man, they were to give him over to Satan.  This was not to see him destroyed, but that through God’s power of judgment on this sin by withdrawal from Christ’s body, this man might repent and be saved!

Paul reminded them that they were not to associate with immoral people but this did not mean withdrawal from the world where these people were everywhere.  Paul’s instruction was not to associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater or a drunkard or swindler.  (1st Corinthians 5:11-13)  They must not even eat with such persons, but must expel them from fellowship.  The punishment was meant to be redemptive and ultimately hoped for restoration.

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A Father’s heart!

Scripture reading for August 8th: 1st Corinthians 4:1-21

Evangelists, teachers, pastors, and apostles are merely servants of Christ who have been entrusted with the secret things of God.  “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (1st Corinthians 4:1-2)  The people of Corinth had been elevating various men who were servants of Christ.  Paul was helping them to see that each one of these gifted people were merely servants of the Lord.  As servants, God had called them to be faithful.

Not one person has anything in the way of gifts or talents that he did not receive from God.  (1st Corinthians 4:7)  If Paul was a gifted teacher and apostle, all those gifts came from God.  If Apollos was a great encourager and church builder, that also was a gift from God.  No one should elevate them above God.  God had called them to faithful service and also had called the Corinthians to grow up in their thinking.

“I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children.  Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the Gospel.” (1st Corinthians 4:14-15)   Paul had a father’s heart towards these believers in Corinth.  He loved them as a dad.  There may have been many other teachers and pastors that taught these believers, but he had a unique relationship in being the first to share the Gospel with them.

Fathers have a heart to truly love their children in the faith.  Fathers love enough to train their children in the proper ways.  Paul had tirelessly taught this church for over two years.  Fathers also correct and warn their children about coming danger and wrong attitudes.  Paul warned them about arrogance and quarreling.  He did not want his ‘children’ to get off in the devil’s territory!  As a father, Paul was sending Timothy, his spiritual son, to bring this correction to the church in Corinth.  (1st Corinthians 4:17)

Do you have a spiritual father in the faith?  Do you have someone in your life who loves you enough to teach, correct, and discipline you?  If you do, call that person today and thank them for their loving care.  If not, ask God to bring a mature believer who can speak into your life.

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The New Temple of God!

Scripture reading for August 7th: 1st Corinthians 3:5-23

The Corinthians were babes in their thinking.  They were following various teachers who had been preaching in their area.  There was pride and competition going on.  Some were bragging about their teacher Apollos and others boasted about Paul being a great apostle.  These were merely servants who Christ Jesus had used to sow into their lives.  (1st Corinthians 3:5-7)

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” (1st Corinthians 3:16-17)  By their quarreling and divisions, they were destroying the unity of the body of Christ.  They did not understand that the real temple of God was now their own bodies individually and their gathering together in unity corporately.  God’s Spirit lived in them and they were now sacred.  Others who loved Jesus were sacred too, regardless of who they had been discipled and taught by.

Paul used the analogy of building a house.  As an apostle, he had come and helped lay the foundation for the new temple.  This foundation had been laid by God and Jesus Christ was the cornerstone!  No other foundation could be laid for this new temple!  (1st Corinthians 3:10-11)  Paul then talked about building on the foundation with different building materials.  Some builders used gold, silver and costly stones.  Others used wood, hay or straw.  The costly building materials made for a more permanent house.  The wood, hay and straw were very temporary and not so beautiful.

The day when Christ Jesus returns will test the building materials.  “. .his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but as through the flames.” (1st Corinthians 3:13-15)

As the new temple of God, we must be allowing the Spirit to build our temple with the gold of faith.  We must use the silver to make our temple a house of service.  The precious jewels are those we win to Christ by our faithful service.  May your temple bring glory on that Day of fire!

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The mind of Christ is ours!

Scripture reading for August 6th: 1st Corinthians 2:6-3:4

When we humbly confess our sins and ask  Jesus Christ to be Lord, we come into a new understanding of wisdom.  According to Paul, it is a ‘secret wisdom’ that God has hidden from unbelievers and even from the worldly rulers of earth’s kingdoms.   (1st Corinthians 2:6-7)  In their ignorance, they crucified Jesus Christ and actually helped God to complete His plans to bring the revelation of His wisdom to light.

Now, through the Holy Spirit living in us who believe, we have access to God’s wisdom.  “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.  This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” (1st Corinthians 2:12-13)  Paul explained how the Spirit of God helps us  to understand divine wisdom.  As a result of the Spirit, we can understand and preach about this wisdom because of revelation.  The Spirit brings us information about the unseen realities of the kingdom of God that we can only know through God’s grace.  We cannot learn them with our human minds and senses.

“Who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?”  “But we have the mind of Christ.” (1st Corinthians 2:16)  The obvious answer to the Old Testament question (Isaiah 40:13) is “no one.”  The startling revelation that Paul gives the Corinthians and us is that we now have access to the mind of Christ through the Holy Spirit!  Our new life should now be characterized by living by this new ‘mind of Christ’ via the Holy Spirit.

The Corinthians had a problem because they were fighting and quarreling over which teacher of the Gospel to follow.  Paul said that they were ‘mere infants in Christ’, needing milk instead of solid food.  They were not walking by the Spirit and allowing the mind of Christ to reveal truth to them.  They did not understand spiritually who they were.

This problem is very real in the body of Christ today!  People may be born again but never grow up.  They remain carnal and worldly and engage in fighting and following certain teachers who tickle their ears.  Check out your own life and mind today.  Are you enjoying the mind of Christ?

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Preaching the Cross!

Scripture reading for August 5th: 1st Corinthians 1:18-2:5

The cross of Jesus Christ has long been foolishness to the world and its followers.  The message of the cross has been made fun of and those who preached it have been mocked, beaten, tortured and killed by those who refused to hear that message.  But for us who are being saved, it is the power of God that saved us!  It is the wisdom of God that made grace available to whoever will listen and believe!  (1st Corinthians 1:18,24)

The Greeks were known for their search for wisdom.  They had great philosophers like Plato and Aristotle.  Their wisdom and scholarship was well know, but they did not bring the world a knowledge of God and His plan of salvation.  (1st Corinthians 1:21)  The Jews were always seeking miraculous signs and the cross was a stumbling block.  In the Gospel message, Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to earth as a man.  He lived  a sinless life and offered His body and blood as a sacrifice for our sins on the cross.  He was crucified, died and was buried in a tomb.  The greatest miracle occurred on the third day when the tomb was opened and the Son of God rose from the dead!  This message proved to be a stumbling block for the Jews in spite of the greatest miracle ever witnessed.  It proved to be foolishness to the Greeks who reject the message of the cross as without merit.

Yet, in this message is the greatest power ever released on earth!  Through this message, all mankind has the opportunity to be forgiven of sin and receive eternal life.  The key to receiving is a humble heart that will be open to believe in the One who went to the cross for all!  “But God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.  It is because of Him that you are in Christ, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (1st Corinthians 1:27-30)  Have you embraced God’s wisdom through the One who died on the Cross?

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