1 Corinthians 1
The church at Corinth was like all other Christians in that they were sanctified and called to be saints, they were truly blessed and had experienced God’s amazing grace. Paul writes about how they were eagerly waiting for the return of the Lord and how God would keep them firm until the day, for God is faithful by whom we are called (1:7-9).
Paul does, however, say a couple of things about the Corinthian church in chapter 1 that might be considered “different.” First of all, they came short in no gift, meaning they were a very gifted church. But the second thing about them is that they were a very carnal church (3:1, 3-4). So Paul doesn’t waste time dealing with issues – beginning with division.
Paul pleaded with them to be united, to speak the same thing. Imagine a church where some were saying they followed Paul, or Peter, or Apollos – this broke Paul’s heart! Paul didn’t die for them – Christ did! We should all be saying we follow the Lord Jesus Christ, we don’t follow man! The enemy will do anything he can to take our eyes off of Christ and divide households and churches. I’m not surprised, but I am impressed that Paul didn’t ask for the people to lean in his direction in any way, even though he was the one who planted the church! In retrospect, Paul was grateful that he hadn’t baptized too many people there in Corinth, because he didn’t want to paint the picture of possessiveness in any way.
Paul wasn’t sent to baptize people, or have people follow him, no, Paul was sent to preach the Gospel, and not to do so with wisdom of words (which may have been the heart of their division, they may have had preferences in teachers). Paul goes on to downplay the wisdom of the world, he didn’t want to cater to them. The Jews were religious, the Greeks were intellectuals; for the Jews it was an offense and to the Greeks it was foolishness, but to those who are called by God, the Gospel is sweet and it’s the power of God to salvation.
We should keep it simple when we share, because the most important part of preaching is making it plain and understandable, not clever or fancy. Paul goes on to touch on the fact that those who are saved are generally speaking, not the wise or noble, but the foolish of the world, the weak, the base (insignificant and lowly), the things which are not (virtually non-existent), to bring to nothing the things which are.
1 Corinthians 2
When Paul arrived at Corinth, it was following a rather interesting time in Athens. I can’t be dogmatic about it, but he may have been a bit disappointed at the results of his preaching in Athens, especially at the Areopagus (Acts 17:16-34). I’m of the opinion that Paul was reminded in a fresh way that there’s power in the name of Jesus and not in human wisdom (the wisdom of this world). I just love his approach in 1 Corinthians 2:2,“For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
I can relate all too well when I read of Paul’s feeling as He ministered at Corinth, he felt weak, he was afraid, even to the point of trembling! He didn’t preach with eloquence or persuasive words of human wisdom, but God still did an amazing work. It proved and pointed to the Person of the Holy Spirit and not Paul or anyone else. Paul wanted the people to give God the glory and not the vessel. The truth is, there’s power in the message of the Gospel and not the messenger of the Gospel.
Sandy Adams explained it this way, “Paul’s ministry did not depend on eloquence or intelligence. In fact, he made a point of being plain! He preached Christ crucified not himself amplified.”
It wasn’t worldly wisdom Paul wanted to impart, it was spiritual wisdom. Paul goes on to elaborate on this fact that spiritual wisdom can only be understood by the spiritually mature. This supernatural knowledge does not come naturally, it’s revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. Paul gives an illustration and explanation in 1 Corinthians 2:11-12,“For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”
All this to say how important it is that we WALK in the Spirit! The natural man doesn’t understand the things of the Spirit, it’s a completely different language, it’s foolishness to him, it’s gibberish, because it’s spiritually discerned. But not only must we WALK in the Spirit, we must also TALK in the Spirit. I like the way the NLT translates 1 Corinthians 2:13 (NLT)“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.”
Paul closes with the truth that as mature Christians whose eyes have been opened, we can judge ALL things, but non-Christians do not have the capacity to judge anyone, or anything beyond an earthly understanding…they do not have the mind of Christ!
1 Corinthians 3
The Corinthians were saved, they were gifted, it was miraculous what God had done there at Corinth, but generally speaking the Corinthian church was carnal. This means that they were being governed by their fallen human nature and not by the Spirit of God. This meant that Paul couldn’t give them the meat of the word – they were still babes in Christ.
Paul gets specific with them in that there was envy, strife, and divisions among the disciples. Unfortunately, these are common things we see in the church and even in our homes as believers.
In Acts 18 Paul planted the church in Corinth. In Acts 19 Apollos went and ministered there. Apollos was a very gifted communicator. Tragically the people started getting their eyes on men, some said they were of Paul, and others said they were of Apollos. Paul went on to address this issue and we read his words in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.”How we need to be so careful that we never exalt or follow man – for even the best of men are only men at best.
Jesus is the foundation of the church – we who labor by the grace of God are to take heed how we build on that foundation. If we build according to the Scriptures and with proper motives one day when we stand before Christ at the Bema Seat Judgment we will be rewarded, our work will be tested by God. (see also 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Romans 14:10-12; 2 John 8; Revelation 22:12 in reference to the Bema Seat and rewards).
Tragically the Corinthians were carnal, they were lining up behind men, and that had the potential to destroy the church, so Paul issues a heavy, heavy warning in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”In this context the temple refers to the local congregation.
Paul closes the chapter by challenging the church to walk in the wisdom from above, not the wisdom from below. The wisdom from below looks to and boasts of men, while the wisdom from above looks to and boasts only in Christ.
The Lord used Warren Wiersbe to really open my eyes on this issue, “Because the Corinthian believers gloried in human teachers (1:12) and human wisdom, they robbed God of the glory that rightly belonged to Him. ‘Let no one boast in men’ is a command, not a suggestion.”I had never really thought about the fact that if we glorify men, if we exalt, point to and puff up men, then we rob God of His glory because He deserves allof it and therefore we shouldn’t share it with anyone!
1 Corinthians 4
When it comes to those called and commissioned to Christian ministry, we are not celebrities, we are servants of Christ. This particular Greek word speaks of an under rower (I can picture myself at the bottom of the ship – just rowing – that’s all I am). We’re servants and we’re stewards; we are therefore called to minister and to “manage” what belongs to God. It’s not ours, and all God asks of us is faithfulness. One day everyone’s heart will be revealed, everyone’s motives will be shown, there will be that revelation and rewards at the Bema Seat Judgment. Until then, Paul reserved judgment, for even he wasn’t 100% sure about himself, and he definitely didn’t allow the opinion of others to have that type of authority in his life.
The Greek word translated “counsels” in v. 5 speaks of motives. A motive is defined as “a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.” So God will judge not just what we do, but why we do what we do.
Wiersbe said, “We judge ourselves, and others judge us; but the Final Judge is the Lord. Live to please Him alone.”
Paul goes on to once again address the issue of how the Corinthians were carnal in exalting men and hence creating divisions. Paul gets a bit sarcastic, but he speaks truthfully as well, that being in the ministry is a call to carry our cross, to suffer and sacrifice. The whole world is watching us, demons and angels are watching us; Paul hungered, thirsted, was poorly clothed, beaten and HOMELESS. He worked with his hands, he worked hard and describes the attitude ministers are to have, in v. 12. One thing that stood out to me is “…being reviled, we bless…”(do I do that?)
Paul didn’t want to shame them, he wanted to help them because he loved them. Paul wasn’t asking for accolades, but since he was the one who had planted the church and led them to the Lord, he was just hoping they would listen to him and not the counsel of ungodly and worldly men. Paul warned those men, and some of the resistant Corinthians, that he would come to them and deal with them. Whether or not he came with a rod or in spirit of gentleness would depend on how they responded to his love-letter.
Wiersbe, “Paul saw himself as a father in the Lord who had to instruct and discipline his children.”
1 Corinthians 5
Paul now deals with a heavy issue that was taking place there in the Corinthian church. It was reported to him that one of the men in the congregation was sexually involved with his stepmother. Rather than excommunicating the unrepentant man, the Corinthian church was proud about it; perhaps they thought they were doing a good thing by showing grace to the guy.
Paul reminds them of the fact that all it takes is a little leaven to leaven the whole lump. How important it is to realize that sin spreads through lives individually and even congregationally. God help us not to compromise in any way.
Paul then exercises his Apostolic authority and fatherly love in commanding the church to“deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”(1 Corinthians 5:5)By excommunicating him, the man would experience life apart from the covering of the church, he’d be open game to Satan. Paul’s ultimate goal is the salvation of his soul, even if it meant the man’s temporal destruction.
Wiersbe said this, “The phrase ‘deliver such a one to Satan’ (1 Cor. 5:5) suggests that there is spiritual safety within the fellowship of the local church. To be disciplined and dismissed from fellowship makes us vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.”
Paul challenges the church to live out the Old Testament feast of the Passover and Unleavened Bread. Jesus was sacrificed as our Passover Lamb delivering us from the angel of death, but connected to that observation is the fact that there is no leaven allowed. The Jews would literally search their houses – every room, nook, and cranny to make sure there was no leaven anywhere…and we’re to do the same.
Paul had written the church commanding them not to keep company with sexually immoral people, but he wasn’t referring to non-believers. We don’t judge non-professing non-believers, God will judge them. Paul was referring to those who claim to be believers. We are to practice Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5:5 to anyone who is a professing believer and yet living in sin. Paul’s words are holy and sobering, 1 Corinthians 5:11,“But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner–not even to eat with such a person.”
1 Corinthians 6
And then there’s the issue of litigation. The Corinthians were going to court against each other. Not only was it a terrible witness, it didn’t make any spiritual sense! Why would they go to non-believers in order to settle matters between believers? As Christians, the Bible is our ultimate “law,” so why not settle these matters Biblically? And why didn’t they allow themselves to be wronged? Why do we so foolishly and frequently fight for our rights?
Paul then asks them, isn’t there one person among you who could arbitrate between you? Paul reasons with an interesting point of prophecy, that one day we Christians will judge the world, and even angels. Some say this will be part of our responsibility in the Millennial Kingdom, others say it even extends into heaven itself. Of course, we know the Lord is the supreme ruler and leader, but we will be vessels through whom He rules and judges in the age to come (see Revelation 5:10; 20:4, 6; 2 Timothy 2:12). If that’s the case, then why couldn’t these Christians in Corinth judge these matters by the Spirit of God who uses and applies the Word of God?
This was such a terrible practice that Paul challenged them to examine their lives. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” Maybe the reason they were doing such things is that they weren’t truly saved! Paul goes on to give a list on this – fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers, would not inherit the Kingdom of God. This was the description of some of them in their BC days, but God had saved them, set them free, and changed them (no one is beyond reach).
As Christians, we’ve been given great liberty, so much so that Paul tells us that “All things are lawful for me…”That doesn’t mean he can do anything he wants, it simply means that our freedom as Christians are vast. If I wanted to, I could eat 10 pork chops and then sit down and watch 10 episodes of Shark Tank on TV. I could sleep till 10AM and only give $10 a month to the church. God has given us great freedom and liberty, but we have to examine our lives, is this the way I should live? The key to the Christian life is what I do with the liberties that God has given me? Whatever I do, I must do as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23) and whatever I do, I should ask myself this question, “Does it build me up, Spiritually?” Is it a wing, or a weight? Paul mentions food, and I must admit, I struggle with that.
I must not let my body dictate my decisions, no matter what the appetite, and especially my sexual appetite. Paul goes on to stress sexual purity. Many Bible teachers believe that there were one thousand “sacred prostitutes” at the temple of Aphrodite at Corinth. Imagine the temptation all around them.
Sexual intimacy is an act of unity where the two become one. Paul says, we are not to become one with a harlot, we are only to become one with our spouse, which is why it is so important to wait until we’re married. As Christians, our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, God Himself lives in us. How awful it is when we choose to use our bodies no matter what part it is, for sin. God help us to glorify Him, and flee all sin.
1 Corinthians 7
Apparently, the Corinthian Christians had written to Paul with questions about marriage. We don’t know the details of their inquiries, but Paul deals with a myriad of issues.
Personally, Paul preferred singleness. He said, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman”(1b). He wished all men were like him (7a). His reasoning was when we’re married a large part of our life is living to care for and please our spouse (32-34). Paul knew that single men and women could serve the Lord without distraction (35). But – Paul also knew that singleness is a gift (7b) that most people didn’t have. For some, this whole idea of being celibate comes a lot easier than others…may the Lord lead us individually. I do encourage single people to take advantage of that time, that season of their lives, to serve the Lord with a “reckless” abandon. Attend those studies, get involved in ministry, if at all possible go on those mission’s trips, even if you know you don’t have the gift of singleness and are praying to be married one day, don’t focus on being married (27b) focus on the Lord, He will bless your life. Remember that saying, “The only thing worse than being single and wanting to be married, is being married and wanting to be single.”
Paul knew the challenge of sexual temptation and he said it is better to marry than to burn with passion (9b). Even in marriage, we are to render to our spouse the “affection due” to one another. We are not to withhold sexual intimacy from our spouse unless there is a mutual agreement for a brief time of prayer and fasting. There is never, ever, ever rational reasoning for an affair, but often-times men or women have affairs because of the fact that there is not a healthy sexual intimacy in their marriage.
There may have been some of the saints who were under the impression that since their spouse wasn’t saved, they were free to divorce, but the truth is, God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and if the unbelieving spouse is willing to stay married, the believing spouse was/is not to divorce. A believer sanctifies the home, his or her prayers, godly words and behavior provide a daily witness for the unsaved spouse and children (see also 1 Peter 3:1-6). If the unbelieving spouse leaves (moved out and moved on) the believing spouse is free to divorce, as God would lead.
In verses 17-24 Paul talks about the overall concept of God’s calling on our lives. God can use us wherever we are in life, married, single, circumcised, uncircumcised, slave or free, doesn’t matter. His point is to seek the Lord, to put Him first, to not get distracted with any of this – if God wants to change something in our lives that’s fine, but don’t be obsessed with anything or anyone but the Lord.
In verses 36-38 Paul may be speaking of a father and his daughter; he may also be speaking of a fiancé who chooses to marry or not to marry. Being married is good Paul says, but personally he believes that being single is better. But as you read between the lines of this chapter, what you find is that God’s will is best, and if God wants you married that will be the best thing for you – just wait on Him for His timing, you will have troubles because marriage is not easy (28b) but you will also have joys with the one that God has custom-made to complete you in such an intimate way.
1 Corinthians 8
Paul addresses another question, this time it was about food offered to idols (this is also dealt with in Romans 14).
From a purely theological perspective, he knew that idols were “nothing in the world,” but not everyone had that understanding. Some Christians had a hard time disassociating the meat that had been offered to idols and their conscience struggled with eating such meat. This created a tough situation.
If I went to the “meat market” and purchased meat that had notbeen offered to idols the meat would be much more expensive; but if I purchased from the temple after it had been offered up, the price would go down. And what if you were invited to a celebration and a weaker brother saw you eating that meat? Paul informs us that this liberty of mine can actually cause my brother to stumble (9) and even perish (11). Paul informs us that if I cause my brother to stumble, I not only sin against him, I sin against Christ. So, he concluded clearly in v. 13, “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
This is how love trumps knowledge.
As I live my life as a Christian I first consider my witness before God, I secondly consider my witness before others. There’s something special about that promise in v. 3, “But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.”And if I love God, I will love others, sometimes this means I will not exercise my liberties, for knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1b).
I’d like to leave you with some very wise words written by Warren Wiersbe having to do with our conscience, “LIFE IS CONTROLLED BY CONSCIENCE. Conscience is the judge within that commends us for doing right and condemns us for doing wrong (Rom. 2:14–15). If we sin against conscience, we do terrible damage to the inner person. CONSCIENCE IS STRENGTHENED BY KNOWLEDGE. As we grow in spiritual understanding, a weak conscience becomes stronger, and we appreciate our freedom in Christ more and more. The weak believer must not run ahead of his conscience, and the strong believer must never force him to do so. KNOWLEDGE MUST BE BALANCED BY LOVE. Your spiritual knowledge can be either a weapon to hurt people or a tool to build people. If your knowledge puffs you up, it will tear others down. Love knows when and how to yield to others without compromising the truth.”
1 Corinthians 9
Paul had planted the church in Corinth, something we read about in Acts 18, but unfortunately there was a portion of the congregation who had turned against him. Certain men had come in and wooed and won their hearts, to the point that Paul writes 2 more letters to try and deal with this issue (1 letter is lost, and 2 Corinthians is the other). From a human perspective, the church at Corinth was Paul’s work in the Lord, they were the seal of His Apostleship, but they made it difficult for him.
We never have the right to relinquish our freedom, but we do have the freedom to relinquish our rights, and that’s what Paul had done for the Lord and the Corinthians. He changed his diet for them as well as his traveling partners; although they worked unceasingly, they did not receive any money for their labor as ministers, they had forfeited that right, even though there is solid Scriptural basis for pastors to be paid (Deuteronomy 25:4) and Jesus had commanded that those who preach the gospel live from the Gospel (v. 14). But Paul chose not to receive a salary while ministering in Corinth. While Paul was in Corinth he labored with his hands, and was also supported by other churches (2 Corinthians 11:8).
Paul was a true shepherd; he wasn’t in it for the money, and if the church couldn’t afford to pay him, or for some other reason struggled to do so, he still ministered, because he had been called personally by Jesus Christ. Paul essentially says, “I can’t brag about preaching, I have to preach, I need to; woe is me if I don’t preach the Gospel.” Now, I’m not 100% sure about verse 17, but the way I see it (and identify with it) is that sometimes we “feel” like preaching and want to give that message and when we do so we’re rewarded; but other times we preach almost unwillingly. In all honesty, I don’t consider myself to be worthy or able to preach well, but every time I do, I only do so because I believe the Lord, in His grace, has put me there (God chooses the foolish things of the world) and I have been entrusted with this stewardship.
All of what we read in this section of Scripture is God’s heart through Paul to do all that he can to win the lost to the Lord. Paul became a servant to all; even when he could usurp his authority, he chose not to, but the people interpreted it as weakness. Paul’s heart beat for the lost and so he became all things to all men, so that he could win them to Christ. When he was around Jews, he gravitated to their Jewishness; when he was around Gentiles, he had no problem chopping it up with them, eating their foods. If someone was a little more on the legalistic side, he would meet them there (to the weak, he became weak), and even those who had no law, he reached out to them, not to the point of compromise or sin, but Paul was a wise fisherman. How about us? We must truly search our soul, does my heart honestly beat for the lost? Do I care? (Matthew 9:36-37)
Paul closes this chapter with his running illustration. We’re in a race, so we’re all running – but the question is, are we running to win? I need to run in such a way that I might receive the prize. We see these athletes training so hard to receive a perishable crown, why am I not doing all that I can to receive the imperishable one? I must travel light and discipline my body, and deny myself, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified (see also Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 2:5).
1 Corinthians 10
This chapter begins with a heavy warning, as Paul uses the visuals of the Old Testament and applies it to us as Christians in the New Testament. God had done an amazing work in redeeming the nation of Israel out of Egypt, they experienced God in a very personal way. Imagine God as a “cloud” by day and a “cloud” of fire by night (Nehemiah 9:12) to lead you every step of the way. They ate manna (angel food), they drank water from the Rock and that Rock was Christ! But v. 5 informs us that with most of the people God was not well pleased for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. It’s a heavy warning to us.
I am not to lust after evil things (they lusted after the food of Egypt). I am not to become an idolater in any way (put anyone or anything before God). I am not to commit sexual immorality (Jesus even taught us not to lust – Matthew 5:28). I am not to complain about my lot, for in doing so I “test” God and “tempt” Him to deal with me. All these things are written for our admonition – it’s God’s counsel and even warning to us.
- 12 tells me I’m not to be overconfident.
- 13 tells me that I never, ever have to sin; it’s interesting that the promise of God is that with every temptation, there will always be an escape ATTACHED to the temptation – I just need to look for it and run for it.
In verses 14-22 we are basically reminded that demons are behind every form of idolatry, so I must flee any type of idol. There may have been some type of practice where the Corinthians were mixing meat offered to idols into their love feasts to the Lord. How sad and sinful when saints think they can serve God with a divided heart.
Tragically I see it even in today’s church, where Christians cuss, or Christian pastors post sexual innuendos that cross the lines of decency, they mix with the world, they look like the world, they sound like the world, to the point that there’s no doubt about it – they’re worldly (Romans 12:2; Titus 2:12; James 1:27; 4:4 1 John 2:15). In Paul’s day they were flaunting their freedom to eat meat offered to idols even if it meant that other Christians who didn’t have that liberty, stumbled. We need to consider, not only our own conscience, but the conscience of others.
So, we close with a few great principles:
- Is what I’m doing helpful to my walk? Does it build me up spiritually? (v. 23)
- Is what I’m doing helpful to my brother or sister’s walk? Does it help them spiritually? (v. 24, 32-33)
- Can I do this to the glory of God? (and we need to ask that about everything we do) (v. 31).
1 Corinthians 11
Paul begins with a pretty awesome command, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” The Greek word translated “imitate” is where we derive our word “mimic.” Paul said something similar in Philippians 3:17, “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.”The Greek word translated “pattern” is the origin of our word type, or typology. As we read of the life and ministry of Paul we have an example of a Christian – he wasn’t God in the flesh – he was a fallen man just like you and me and yet look at what God did through his life. Let’s “mimic” him in his love for the Lord.
Paul writes about women praying without head coverings. This was a cultural issue. Back then and there, the only women who didn’t cover their heads in such a setting would be the rebellious women or the prostitutes. It’s hard to conceive that nowadays, being so disconnected from such a culture, but that was the context of this letter to the Corinthians. Even Paul himself was part of that setting and he gives us the reasoning behind it, that the covering was a symbol of authority (submission). God does have an order, a structure:
Jesus is submissive to His Father. The husband is to be submissive to Jesus. The wife is to be submissive to her husband. It doesn’t mean that the husband is any better in essence or nature, because he’s not; just as Jesus is equal in essence and nature to His Father – but there is a structure in the Godhead, just as there is a structure in the family, and that head-covering symbolized all of this, so Paul asks the ladies to respect that – BUT – in the end he doesn’t make it mandatory (see v. 16). The reason being, this was a cultural practice and not a Biblical mandate.
Sandy Adams put it this way, “Paul is not teaching that women today must wear a veil to pray. All he is saying is that a Christian woman should be aware of how her society will interpret her actions. She should respect the customs of her culture.”And I would add that both men and women need to respect the customs of our culture unless it clearly violates the commands of Scripture.
Paul then deals with some problems they were having at their weekly communion service which was combined with their “love-feasts.” What was intended to be a time of giving had become a time of gorging. Certain people were eating all the good food first – at the exclusion of others – and some so-called saints came drunk! I always get so bummed when I read v. 17 – the NIV words it this way, “In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.” Imagine going to church service, only to leave worse than when you came – aren’t we supposed to leave in one sense, “better” – “stronger” – closer to Christ when we gather with His people?
Communion is a wonderful time to remember Jesus, celebrate our salvation, examine our lives and receive the bread and the cup in gratitude and holiness. Paul warns us that if we eat in an unworthy manner, not taking this seriously, holding on to sin in our hearts, we run the risk of being judged by the Lord – disciplined by God – even to the point of death (sleep v. 30). It would be much better if judged ourselves (repented).
1 Corinthians 12
Prior to conversion, the Corinthians served dead idols that couldn’t talk, but once they became Christians they served the living God who actually spoke to them! It went from a dead religion to a living relationship. Before Jesus came into their lives, they did whatever they wanted to do, they went wherever “they were led” and it was a divisive disaster. But now that they’re Christians they needed to be united.
First Paul deals with salvation – there is the confession of Christ. If a person has truly accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they’re baptized into the body of Christ (v. 13).
Secondly Paul deals with service – confession should lead to union because the bottom line is, there is only one Body of Christ, and we’re all members of that one body. The Spirit gives us gifts (diversities of gifts), the Son tells us where to use those gifts (differences of ministries), and the Father gives the life and energy to use those gifts (diversities of activities – the Greek words translated “activities” and “works” in v. 6 are “energema” and “energeo” hence energy).
Paul goes on to list some of the gifts of the Spirit making mention of the fact that these gifts are for the benefit of all (v. 7). The Holy Spirit is the distributor of the gifts and He chooses what to give to whom (and if you’re a Christian you have at least one gift, but probably more – see 1 Peter 4:10).
The body is a perfect illustration (Jesus is the Head – see Colossians 1:18; 2:19). Every person would say that we have only one body, but we also see all the different parts, or members of our body. We need every member, don’t we? All my fingers, toes, nails, knee caps, bones, muscles, organs, I can’t imagine life without any of it. Recently I had to have a tooth extracted, even that has been life-changing, a bit depressing, I miss that tooth! When it comes to the church in relationship to the body, we might think that the most important parts of the body and church are the parts that everyone sees (on stage, in the limelight) when in all reality, the more important parts are the ones that we will probably never see – like my heart – hidden in the background!
Paul says this so that we don’t divide our body in any way, that when the body is honored, all members are honored with it; that none would be considered insignificant of disposable. We need to love and appreciate everyone who is a valid member of the body of Christ. This is true in the church locally, congregationally, as well as the church universally.
Paul gives an interesting list in v. 28 beginning with the Apostles (missionaries) who start the church, followed by the prophets and teachers who give us God’s word, and then miracles, healings, helps (supporters), administrations (government/leaders/organizers) and varieties of tongues.
Of course, no one has every gift, but Paul will go on to say that every gift must be exercised in love…God will show us a more excellent way.
1 Corinthians 13
1 Corinthians 13 is recognized in both sacred and secular literature, as some of the most beautiful words ever penned…and best of all, it was motivated by love.
For if I speak with earthly eloquence or miraculous marvel (tongues), but I lack love – in God’s ears, it’s just a bunch of irritating noise.
If I’m gifted in prophecy, in all understanding, in all knowledge and have the faith to move mountains (imagine that), but I lack love – I am nothing.
Can you imagine selling everything you have, giving the money to the poor, and giving your body to be burned? So much sacrifice and suffering, but what if it’s for the wrong reason? I want accolades, and I don’t really do it for the love of God and others. Then we read right here in v. 3 that it profits me nothing, in other words, God won’t reward such deeds because it’s not done with the right motive.
D. L. Moody said, “God hates the great things in which love is not the motive…but He delights in the little things that are prompted by…love.”
In verses 4-7 Paul goes on to describe characteristics of love. As we read this list, we must honestly examine our lives – does this describe me?
Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”And John reveals how critical it is by saying if we don’t love others, we’re not saved (1 John 4:7-8, 20).
The Corinthian church was very gifted, but they were also very carnal. This chapter, which is purposely sandwiched between 2 sections on spiritual gifts, clearly teaches us that we are to lives our lives and exercise our gifts in love.
Sandy Adams, “Ironically, the demonstration of spiritual gifts fails to measure a person’s spirituality. The Corinthians prove you can be charismatic and carnal. The real mark of maturity for a Christian is to love as Jesus loves.”
The Corinthian church was sick, and love was the answer.
Sadly, there are some who use v. 10 to try and teach us that certain gifts are no longer available in the Christian church today, they say that with the completion of the Cannon of Scripture, the sign gifts are done away with. But I believe that “that which is perfect” is in reference to Jesus (see 1 John 1:1-3 where Jesus is called “that”) and until the Coming of Christ, the church desperately needs allthe gifts of the Spirit.
It’s not until we’re in heaven, will we know as we are known (v. 12), prophecy won’t be necessary, and tongues will cease, but love goes on forever, and ever – love never fails.
1 Corinthians 14
What a wonderful way to start the chapter – “pursue love.” Am I doing that?
In the rest of the chapter Paul deals with spiritual gifts, honing-in on prophecy and tongues. Apparently, the Corinthian church was out of order; they had elevated the gift of tongues and were misusing and abusing the gift in their church services. Paul writes this chapter to set forth some very important principles.
The gift of tongues is an unknown language to the speaker. It can be a foreign language, and some say even an angelic language (see Acts 2:7-10; 1 Corinthians 13:1). It is a prayer language in which we speak the wonderful works of God, but it doesn’t edify the hearers unless they know the foreign language naturally or there is an interpretation supernaturally.
The gift of prophecy, however, is when we speak forth God’s Word – always forthtelling and at times foretelling. Prophecy builds up (edification), stirs up (exhortation), and lifts up (comfort) (v. 3).
Imagine going into a church service and everyone is speaking in foreign languages you can’t understand. You’d think they’re crazy, wouldn’t you? (see v. 23). Paul says I would rather speak 5 words that are understandable than 10,000 words in a language that people cannot understand – even if it’s a gift of the Holy Spirit (v. 19).
We should be doing things that build up the church. We are to pursue love, and it’s okay to desire spiritual gifts (v. 1) even to be zealous for them (v. 12) but let it be for the edification of the people…which is why we spend so much time teaching the Word at Calvary Chapel; the Word is able to build us up and make us strong (Acts 20:32).
Paul had the gift of tongues (v. 18), and in private he prayed, he was edified personally, but publicly the gift of tongues is only to be spoken if there is an interpreter (v. 28) that the rest may be edified (v. 5). If there IS an interpreter, Paul says, let there be 2 or at the most 3 tongues spoken in a public service, but no more than that.
The Corinthians had become childish in using their gifts for vanity (v. 20).
When Paul calls tongues a sign for the unbeliever (v. 22), the context tells us that this is out of order, uninterpreted chaos – this is what’s called an “unintelligible sign,” meaning it would create hostility, it would have an adverse effect, which is what we see explained in v. 23. Prophecy (Spiritually inspired teaching) on the other hand, is powerful. When God begins to move in such a way people will be blessed and often they say, “How did you know I was going through that?” Or, “I felt like you were talking to me.” God is not the author of confusion, gifts are to be used but not abused, women are not to teach men, and when it comes to Spiritual gifts, at the end of the day, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (v. 40).
1 Corinthians 15
Some have called 1 Corinthians 15 the most important chapter in the Bible. I’m not sure about that, if there is such a chapter for the church, but I will say that there is so much here that is vitally important.
First, we have the Gospel. Did you catch that in verses 1-4? Paul explicitly calls it the Gospel explaining that Christ died for our sins, He was buried, He rose the third day, and if we believe we’re saved.
Paul goes on to list the eyewitnesses of the Resurrection, people who saw Jesus alive after He had died. He mentions Peter, the Apostles, 500 people at one time (and most of them were still alive when Paul wrote the letter), James (Jesus’ brother), and then Paul Himself. You can’t get any better evidence than an eyewitness, and if you have over 500 of them, there’s no judge or jury in the world who can deny the validity of their unanimous testimony. Jesus is alive! He appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, which is why Paul, by the grace of God, labored so hard to get the gospel out.
There were some “among” them who denied the resurrection of Christ. How foolish that anyone would think they could be Christians without the resurrection. Paul goes on to explain that the resurrection is the capstone of Christianity, if Christ didn’t rise, we’re still in our sins. But Christ did rise, and is therefore the “first fruits” in the sense that He’s the first of many others who will rise from the dead after Him, all of us who have placed our faith in Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”
In verses 23-28 Paul glosses over the Second Coming of Christ, the Millennial Kingdom (when Jesus reigns for 1,000 years on planet earth and we Christians will reign under Him), and then the new heavens and the new earth (Revelation 21:1). Yes, yes, and a thousand times yes, there is life after death, there is a resurrection of the dead. Paul alludes to the pagan practice they had in Corinth of baptism for the dead. He didn’t validate their practice, he simply pointed out the fact that they know that life does go on; the Bible says that God has placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
This is why Paul labored so hard, it’s why his life was in jeopardy, it’s why he fought with beasts (most likely a reference to demons), because there is a heaven and there is a hell, there is a resurrection. One day we will receive our new bodies, incorruptible, powerful, spiritual, one day we will bear the image of the heavenly Man (v. 49). But first the seed must die – UNLESS – we are that generation that is raptured. Verse 51 speaks of the fact that not all will sleep (die), but there will be those who are raptured, and transformed in the twinkling of any eye (1/11 of a second – see also 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). So, let’s thank God for our victory in Christ (v. 57) in light of the certainty of eternity and reality of the resurrection, let’s be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 16
As Paul closes the letter he completes his request regarding the collection for Christians in Jerusalem. The Christians in Jerusalem had been hit with a famine, persecuted by the Jews, and had suffered financially due to their faith. Paul asks the Corinthians to set aside a little something on the first day of the week, which is another indication that the early church gathered together on Sundays (see also Acts 20:7). I thought it was interesting how Paul didn’t want a collection when he arrived. We’re not sure why, but it may be that either he wanted it completed by the time he arrived, or he didn’t want to be the one to personally ask for funds. His principles still apply as we are to give periodically, proportionately, willingly, and the funds are to be handled with accountability (they would send “bearers” with their gifts).
We see in verses 5-7 that Paul had his travel plans, but it was all according to the will and permission of the Lord. At the time of writing, Paul said he would stay in Ephesus because of the open doors of ministry he had there, even though there were many adversaries. It’s a lesson for us that often times rough waters of opposition are actually a good sign, that you’re right where God wants you to be. Don’t run away from the devil, resist him, and he will eventually run away from you. Pastor Chuck said this, “Paul would never run from a fight. When he saw the enemies, he took it as evidence that God was about to do something exciting. I wonder how many great opportunities we miss and how many open doors we walk away from, because we get scared away by adversity. Our attitude should be, ‘Resist the devil and HE will flee from YOU!’” (James 4:7)
Timothy had the same heart and mindset as Paul, so he asks that they receive him well, that they not despise him (Timothy was relatively young) and send him on his journey with peace.
Paul wanted Apollos to come to the Corinthians, but Apollos was not willing to at the time. This didn’t upset Paul, he respected everyone’s personal walk and calling from Christ.
And then comes one of my favorite verses of all, 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all thatyou dobe done with love.”Those are great passages to memorize and to put into practice every day of our lives. The enemy is constantly coming against us, he wants to sift us as wheat (Luke 22:31), we therefore need to watch and pray (Matthew 26:41), we mustn’t back down – God help us to be brave, to be strong…and let ALL that we do, be done with love! Wow, those are great marching orders!
Paul closes with some general instructions on esteeming the leadership there in Corinth (15-16) and how he was blessed by their ministry (17-18).
Greetings from Asia; and there’s Aguila and Priscilla again, with the church meeting in their house. What a heavy warning we have in v. 22, along with a beautiful prayer for Christ to come. We have that prayer for grace (v. 23 – how we need that), and Paul’s genuine expression of love for the people (24) a great way to end the letter.