Run for the Prize!

1 Corinthians 9

“Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.”  (1 Corinthians 9:1-2) 

Paul sometimes seems to teach with sarcasm. I don’t know that I had ever realized that before I started studying his letters this way. But here is an example of Paul’s sarcasm. When Paul starts asking questions that the answers should seem very obvious that, to me, seems to be when he is trying to make a very emphatic point. Some of the Corinthian Christians had begun to doubt Paul’s apostleship. But the answers to the questions in verse 1 are proof of his apostleship. Of course he was free, Paul was not teaching and writing letters and preaching under any authority than Jesus. He was an apostle because he was commissioned by Jesus himself on the road to Damascus. Paul knows that he had a true encounter with Jesus himself. And above all, he had done much work among the Corinthians that his credentials should have been enough evidence. 

Neither Paul nor Barnabas received wages from the churches they served. But it appears that maybe they were the only ones who never received wages. According to commentary, this may be the reason the Corinthian Christians were beginning to doubt his apostleship. This seems ironic to me but it appears that is what was stirring among them. Paul is stating his rights here as an apostle. Not that he wants them to start paying him, but only that he should have the same rights as the other apostles, such as Peter. But it is his choice not to receive wages from them. 

In verses 7 – 13 he is reiterating this point by stating the obvious things, even soldiers who go to war get paid, the farmer and the workers of the field get paid at least in the food they harvest. Even oxen treading grain, eat some of the grain that they tread. Those employed in the temple get their share of sacrificial offerings. 

“In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14)

Paul did not want things to change so that he could start getting paid, what he wanted the Corinthians to realize was that it was within his rights to receive wages from them but that he chose not to receive these wages. 

“But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. (1 Corinthians 9:15)

Remember the Corinthians were an up and coming society. They may also have looked down on Paul because of the way that he made his living. He worked with his hands. Paul, however looked on that as his reason to boast. He wanted them to know that working for his own living and yet preaching and teaching was his way of laying down his life and his rights to them. 

And this is where we finally get to our lesson in this passage. What are we laying down for Jesus? What sacrifices are we making to get the message out to the world? This is a time that is so hard because of this pandemic, we aren’t supposed to go out too much. But I’m not talking about setting ourselves up on a street corner to preach the gospel, but there are things each of us can do to live out the gospel right where we are. We can sacrifice our time, to our fellow man and neighbors, we can share good messages when we hear them. I am not talking about the “share if you love Jesus” messages on Facebook. I am the worst at those. But share what you are learning and what you are trying to internalize from His word. Ask Him where He wants you to serve. He will surely show you. 

In verses 19 – 23 Paul is telling them that he tried to become all things to all people for the sake of the gospel. When he is with the Jews he tried to become as a Jew, when he is with those lived under the law, he lived under the law, even though he didn’t have to. When he was with Gentiles he tried to identify as a Gentile. Paul’s life calling was to share the gospel and Paul did whatever he had to do in whatever circumstance to share the gospel. 

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) 

Athletics were a big part of the Corinthian culture, therefore Paul was speaking the language that they would understand. They knew the discipline of an athlete. Paul was letting them know that the self-control that he exercised in his own life was the same amount of self control that an athlete would have to exercise. The athlete does these things so he would not be disqualified by the judges from the games and that he would win the prize. Paul is just saying here he does what he does, so as not to be disqualified. Just because he doesn’t take pay from them is not grounds to disqualify him as an apostle. To Paul they are the prize.

Lord, help us to run our races the way You would have us to. Teach us to “stay in our lane” to the calling you lay on each of us. Give us the strength and courage we need to stay disciplined to what you lay on our hearts to do. 

Please pray for the small business owners and service providers today. 

Don’t be a Know it all!

1 Corinthians 8

“Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.”  (1 Corinthians 8:1)

I must admit to you I have really struggled through most of this book so far, as it has seemed like a lot of the rules that I don’t like to focus on. But this verse right here. It is speaking my language. You see I think many times we let our knowledge of things, of God’s word or of religious stuff get in the way of our love. I love the way Paul cuts to the chaste here. And you might even wonder because it starts out with “Now concerning food offered to idols”. This is phrased like this because Paul is still in the answering questions mode. This was a question that the Corinthian Christians asked Paul. I bet the answer “’all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up but love builds up”, did not seem like the answer to their question at all.

“If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.” (1 Corinthians 8:2)

In other words. Don’t be a know it all.  When you think you have it all figured it out is when, quite frankly, you really don’t. But look at this next verse and get what it is saying.

“But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” (1 Corinthians 8:3)

Wow!!  We can pursue all the knowledge in the world. We can be highly educated. We can be smart off the chart and get it easy or we can struggle to understand. But sometimes all we really need to know is that if we love God that we are known by God! Think about that, let that sink in. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 19:7.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;” (Psalm 19:7)

I heard that verse many years ago, back when I was first starting to truly fall in love with scripture. I loved it because I knew there was a lot out there I didn’t understand but this verse showed me that with the Lord’s help I could get it. The law of the Lord – His word is perfect! It is there to revive our souls. And it has revived mine over and over when the stuff of this world is on me. And the testimony, the stories in His word, is sure and if you dive in, it is there to make even the most simple minded of us wiser.

We got a whole lot out of this chapter in the first 3 verses, didn’t we?  I think chapter 8 just became my favorite in 1 Corinthians.  But that is not all this chapter has to offer us.

Now Paul decides to answer their question. Apparently their question was about eating food that had been offered to idols. I just love what Paul tells them.  He tells them in verses 4 – 6, there are no worries of eating food offered to idols, because idols are not real. There is only one God, that idols are so-called gods. There may be things in this world that people set up as “gods” but for those of us in Christ they should mean nothing to us.

“yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and through whom we exist.”  (1 Corinthians 8:6)

However, it is still our responsibility to think of others. Paul is ending this chapter reminding us that not all may be as comfortable with his argument about idols. This is the same conversation as the Freedom to eat conversation, just different context.

“Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. (1 Corinthians 8:8)

The Corinthians were putting too much importance on the food and not enough on their brothers and sisters in Christ. They may have wanted Paul to tell them they could eat or even to tell them they were being more spiritual if they didn’t eat. But that’s not Paul’s style. The heart of the matter of food is this.

“But take care that this right of yours does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:9)

We must be careful of our actions and who is watching us. Paul is telling them, if your brother sees eating the food that was sacrificed to idols as a sin, then your doing that in front of the weaker brother is a sin as well. We have to be very careful not to lead our brothers and sisters astray by the things we do, the things we say, the things we watch, the things we allow ourselves to hear.

“Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” (1 Corinthians 8:13)

Oh to have that kind of love for my fellow man.

Lord, I pray we will not be puffed up with knowledge but will just love You so that we may love people well. Lord help us not to be stumbling blocks to our brothers and sisters in Christ!

Please pray for the pastors and our churches today. 

Serve Where You Are!

1 Corinthians 7

“Now concerning the matters about which you wrote….” (1 Corinthians 7:1)

The Corinthian Christians had apparently written Paul with some specific questions.  It seems that maybe he had gotten some of their attention concerning sexual immorality so that maybe they were suggesting that they should all be abstinent even in marriage. Isn’t that just like Satan to take what Paul had been saying before and twist it to make something bad out of something good. He’s done it before! Remember Eve in the garden, where Satan takes God’s words and twists them until Eve is stumbling over her own memory on what God’s instructions were. He is so crafty and will twist words until you don’t know which way is up if we aren’t careful.  That’s what I thought about as I was reading the commentary on this. Paul had in the previous chapters told them the evils of sexual immorality and before it’s all over Satan has the Corinthians believing they shouldn’t have sex inside of marriage or that maybe they should all divorce. Paul is answering their questions and giving them instructions on marriage. Paul is telling the Corinthians that if you are married you are a gift to each other and should not deprive one another. Paul does not want them to confuse the sin of sexual immorality with God’s gift of sex inside of marriage. Paul goes on to say that if you are unmarried or widowed it could be good for you to remain single. However, for some the temptations would be too great to not be married. 

While studying I ran across this statement:  “Satan’s great strategy, when it comes to sex is to do everything he can to encourage sex outside of marriage, and to discourage sex within marriage.  It is an equal victory for Satan if he accomplishes either plan.” (David Guzik) Either way he wins a battle. 

Paul also addresses those who are married to an unbeliever. It’s possible that some of the Corinthians actually saw that as less than spiritual and they thought because of their unbelieving spouse that they should just get out of the marriage. Paul is talking to the people who are already married and have an unbelieving spouse. Make no mistake that marriage between an unbeliever and a believer should not be entered into. But if this is where you find yourself, Paul is simply stating that your concern should be for your unbelieving spouse and that you do not know if you will be the means to salvation for your unbelieving spouse. This is such a hard place to be in. I have known people in this spot and it is painful and it is gut wrenching for the believer. But it is not a free ticket out of a marriage. God does not hand those out. Paul does say that if the unbelieving partner wants out that can be permitted but the marriage should not be broken by the believing partner. 

Now I can’t go any further on this subject without mentioning that no where here does Paul address abuse, either mental or physical. So please do not mistake any of this for saying anyone should ever stay in an abusive situation. I do not believe that to be so. If one partner is being physically or mentally abused they should seek help immediately. If both partners will go to counseling then by all means go, and many times for safety sake there must be a separation take place. If both parties will not get counseling then by all means the believing partner should seek good Godly Christian counseling and spend a lot of time in prayer. I have seen God redeem marriages and I have seen divorces happen and God redeem in other relationships. He wants good for His children. 

“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” 1 Corinthians 7:17

Paul has shifted his focus from marriage to calling. Paul gives the example of the circumcised and the uncircumcised. Back in those days this was a big deal. Because of Jewish traditions and the fact that now Gentiles were in the church there were arguments over which was better, to be circumcised or uncircumcised. Well if it wasn’t that argument it was something else, and yes we have addressed much of this already. But what Paul is really saying here and the application for us is serve where you are, in whatever position you have found yourself in at this time. 

“For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. ” (1 Corinthians 7:19-20)

How many times do we think “oh when I get beyond this ___ (job, season of life, church, school, etc.) then I will start serving.” Paul has gone on to say if you are a slave, live in the freedom of Christ and if you are free, realize you are only a slave to Christ. But serve where you are. Wherever you find yourself at this time. Serve there. 

Paul wraps up the latter part of this chapter reiterating. If you are married, stay married, if you are not married so be it. Paul says those who are single are anxious in trying to please the Lord, those who are married are anxious in trying to please their spouse and that none of that should be so. But in all whether married or unmarried stay devoted to the Lord. 

Oh Lord, may we all be satisfied in whatever circumstance we have found ourselves in and may we just serve You Lord Jesus. 

Please pray today for the educators. There are lots of big decisions coming down and whatever camp you find yourself in, you can still pray for those making these decisions. 

Washed, Sanctified, Justified

1 Corinthians 6

Oh these Corinthian Christians. I keep thinking things will turn but to no avail. They had their own thoughts and their own sets of rules they were following. I am sure that Paul was beginning to feel that he was beating his head on the wall.  Paul starts out this chapter addressing lawsuits. Apparently the Corinthian Christians were also arguing in and amongst themselves and they had things that they were beginning to feel that they needed an arbitrator to settle. So they took their matters outside the church and they were suing their brothers in Christ. Paul was stating this just could not be. Paul does not understand why the Corinthian Christians would seek justice from those who weren’t walking in Christ. I think we don’t have to think of this thing just in the context of lawsuits but I think we should be careful if we are taking our disagreements to people outside our churches. I truly think that one of Satan’s most cunning tactics against a church is to stir up divisiveness in the church, or communities, or workplaces, or families. It makes no sense to be taking our arguments outside the church to those people who aren’t Christians. We as Christians should be fully capable of handling our conflicts within ourselves. 

Paul asks the question “Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers?” (v5) He has gone on to tell them that having lawsuits among them is already a defeat. It is tearing down the church. I have seen it and I know you have too. As soon as you go so far as to think you need outside help to settle an argument or a lawsuit you are giving Satan a step into your church to tear you up. This can be said of Christian friendships or Christian businesses also. Satan would like nothing better than to tear things up from the inside out. But when you take your arguments and your disputes to someone outside the circle, you are inviting him in to do just that. Oh I have been so guilty of this before. I get my feelings hurt or I am angry about something and I think I need a judge and jury to help me try my case, or at least a listening ear to tell me I’m right and they are wrong. When Paul says “Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough?” That should stop us in our tracks to realize if we have a dispute then we must settle them among ourselves. If you need an arbitrator it must be a christian. We should be able to settle the disputes among ourselves in our christian circles, but even when we can’t we have to trust God to settle them. I had a situation a while back where there was something going on in a church that I attended. Now I felt that everyone’s heart was in the right place but I also felt a practice was wrong. I’m not talking about blatantly wrong like the sins that Paul has listed just not being handled right. But I was in the minority of those who thought it was wrong. So I prayed about it. And while I prayed about it I asked the Lord to either change my heart about the situation or to change the situation. Over time, slowly some of the practices began to change and the next thing I knew it was not an issue anymore. We saw in the previous chapter if it is blatantly wrong, we are to confront our brothers and sisters in Christ concerning sin. But how many arguments or disagreements are not blatant but just an opinion. That is what we must be careful of. The people on the outside of our circles do not need to be helping us decide our arguments or our disagreements. Because we were them at one time. But we are supposed to be different. 

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11) 

We have been washed in the blood of Jesus. We should have been cleansed of sin by what Jesus did for us on the Cross. We were sanctified, we should be living as set apart people. We are to be able to love people of the world without acting like people of the world. And we are justified. God’s grace justifies us by faith. Not by things we do, feel, say and think. But we truly for the sake of His name we really should be acting like it. 

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12) 

Paul had apparently used this statement “All things are lawful for me” to the Corinthians before. However it appears that maybe the Corinthians had decided to use the phrase as a license to sin. Paul addresses that here. That while we do not live under the “law” anymore. That does not mean that all things are good for us. Paul is addressing food as well as sexual sin here. Paul is using the illustration of the body and sins against the body. We are to treat our bodies as the temple of God. Sexual sin is the one that will destroy the body the quickest. But I think that even mentioning food, Paul may be pointing out that there are lots of things that may be done against your body that are sin. 

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19) 

Sweet Lord, may we handle our disputes amongst ourselves and if we can’t handle them may we lay them at the foot of the cross. And at the end of the day may we only do and treat ourselves and each other as yours so that we may glorify you!! 

Please pray for the medical professionals and first responders.

Correcting in Love

1 Corinthians 5

Paul has heard of sexual sin that is taking place in the Corinthian church. And not only that is taking place but is being blatantly overlooked and truthfully it seems they are in some ways boasting because of their tolerance of the people or person engaging, and he is not happy. Paul starts this chapter addressing the sexual sin and pointing out that what is going on is not only recognized as a sin to Christians but that even those who do not know Christ, the Pagans would not accept it in their midst. And yet they were being so proud of themselves for their tolerance of allowing this to take place in their midst.  Paul, a couple of times in this chapter talks about the sinner being removed from their midst. I have to admit that bothered me a little at first. I have always been of the opinion that being in church was good even for the most horrific of sinners because they may hear something that they wouldn’t have heard otherwise that would lead them to repentance. I had to really pray over this chapter in order to make sure I handled it correctly. I hope I do. 

It seems to me that Paul is upset this is taking place openly amongst the church, but also that the Christians in the church seem to be so accepting of it and that it seems to be happening among those who proclaim Christ. That they are simply taking this behavior lightly, with a wink wink or with a let’s sweep it under the rug. I think when Paul is telling them that they are to confront this man who is doing this what he is saying here is that they are not to be so accepting. I think from what I have learned about Paul thus far that Paul would always want someone confronted or admonished in love. His intent is always to bring someone to full repentance. We are in days where tolerance is not only preached, it is encouraged. We, as Christians are supposed to be tolerant and accepting of those whose lifestyles are outside the bible. But when it is a brother or sister in Christ it definitely is different than when you are dealing with the world. We as Christians are supposed to confront (in love) those who are proclaiming Christ yet are living in a lifestyle of sin. And we should never tolerate blatant disrespect for our churches and our fellowship. Oh these are some fine lines that we must be careful and deal with with much prayer. But deal we must so as to not allow certain lines to be crossed. 

“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)

What Paul is saying here is don’t boast in your tolerance. But be careful for when you begin to turn your head at some sins and being tolerant of those sins, then it gets easier and easier to turn our heads at more and more sin. We must not do that. That is why we call out our brothers and sisters in love. Sin is an entrapment and when you start stepping over those lines it becomes a slippery slope. His illustration, a little leaven leavens the whole lump. If you had bread dough or a cake mix and you put a little of something bad in there and mixed it in, it spoils the whole batch.  This is why you have to “cleanse out the old leaven” and your hope is always that the confrontation will lead to repentance. But we know that tolerance of sin never cleanses, it grows and festers. 

Now to be clear, the points we have made so far is in dealing with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are living in sin. In the last few lines of this chapter Paul is making sure they understand that he is not talking about the people outside the church. Paul does mention judging here, but wait haven’t we talked about not being judgmental. Yes we have. And Paul is stating it here, that it is for God to judge those outsiders? That is left up to God alone. Our role with those outside the church is to love them where they are. Also even in the church, we are never to judge in hypocrisy but only to point out when Christian brothers and sisters are out of fellowship with the Lord and His people. We cannot isolate ourselves from the world, meaning we can never not come in contact with those who do not know Christ and we cannot judge how they are living. We cannot expect those who do not know Christ to live as if they do. However, we do have an expectation for those who proclaim Christ to walk in Christ. 

Lord, please help us as we navigate this. Help us to recognize in our brothers and sisters when there may be something we need to correct but Lord, please help us to do it in love so as to bring repentance. Lord, help us to find those lines and to know how to stay on the side of right! 

Please pray for your government leaders. The President, the Governor and all those in between making decisions. 

Correction in Love

1 Corinthians 4

Paul spent the previous chapter basically saying to the Corinthians don’t put me, or Apollos, or Peter on a pedestal. In this chapter he is basically saying look on us as servants of Christ, or better yet as stewards. 

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2)

A steward would be the master servant of the house. Think Mr. Carson on Downton Abbey. He was the master servant of the house. He was the one who knew all about the house, knew what the master of the house would want. Yet his purpose and his role was still to serve the Master of the house. Paul is saying I am a servant to God. My purpose is to fulfill service that God chooses for me. He goes on in verses 3 – 5 saying to them, “don’t pass judgment on me, that is for God alone.” Paul is saying here that he is doing the best he can to live rightly in the eyes of God and it will be up to God to judge him. 

In verses 6 – 13, Paul is being somewhat sarcastic to the Corinthians. He is letting them know that he and Apollos do not intend to be “puffed up” against each other. He asks them 3 questions. 

“For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)

In other words, who makes us different from each other? God is the one who has made us all different from each other and called us to different tasks. What do you have that you did not receive? Everything you have, everything you are, is a gift from God. Why do you boast as if you did not receive it? If everything you are and everything you have is a gift from God why are you boasting as if you are self made? You have no glory in it. The glory is God’s. We’ve already talked about the Corinthians being a very worldly people. They were apparently struggling with pride too. And while they were in one breath putting the men in front of them on a pedestal they were also looking down their spiritual noses at them. Maybe because of the way they lived. The didn’t have a home, they didn’t have a lot of material possessions. They were missionaries living place to place. 

“We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless, when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” (1 Corinthians 4:10-13)

Be sure to note the sarcasm in Paul’s text. He is telling them, I know some of you think I am “scum”. Lowly and that you are better than me. Some of the people had been talking and while some were putting them on a pedestal apparently there were also those who were talking down about them and Paul is pointing it out. 

In what I am beginning to see as a pattern though Paul is leaving them in this chapter with a positive. 

“I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” (1 Corinthians 4:14)

Just like as parents we will correct our children if we see something in their character that we do not like, Paul wants them to know, I am correcting you out of love. He is recognizing that they may have many teachers in front of them, but he, Paul looks on them as a Father. Which means he comes at them lovingly. He tells them that this is why he sent Timothy ahead to correct and teach in love not as a judge. That their correction, his and Timothy’s is not just talk. 

“For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Corinthians 4:20-21)

Don’t we all want to be corrected in love and not just with rules and regulations? 

Oh Lord, may we always come at each other in love and gentleness and not with the list of rules in our hands and our minds. May we not look down our spiritual noses at those we deem as less than, nor put on a pedestal the teachers we have in front of us. Oh Lord show us your love that we may show it to others.

Working on the Building

1 Corinthians 3

“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos’ are you not merely being human?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)

By addressing the Corinthian christians as brothers, Paul is acknowledging that they have received Christ. In the previous chapter he talked of the “natural man” which would be someone who had not received Christ. In this chapter he begins by calling them brothers. This was his way of saying I know you believe in Christ. But then he jumps in to the fact that the Corinthian christians are not growing in Christ. They are not actively pursuing relationship with Christ, but instead they are still sustaining themselves on the basics of christianity. They are still trying to live in their old ways and they are behaving in only a human way. And if any of them are trying to even “do the right thing” they are trying to follow men (Paul and Apollos) and not Christ. 

In verses 5 – 9 Paul explains the roles that he and Apollos had in their life. That Paul planted the seed for them. Paul was the one who had come and started the Corinthian church. Apollos watered, he was the one who was with them to minister to them and to help them grow but God is the one who actually gives the growth. It seems the people were trying to decide which of the men were more important and they wanted to follow the more important one. But Paul tells them plainly. 

“He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:8-9)

My spiritual life grew by leaps and bounds when I found Beth Moore bible studies. I feasted on them for a long time and I have learned so much from her studies. But about the same time I was diving into Beth Moore studies, I had friends who were feasting on Kay Arthur studies. Both of these women have huge impactful ministries and have paved the way for other women, who create these studies. I have done more Beth Moore studies than probably any other bible teacher out there, however, I am so grateful that I have heard her say over and over in her studies not to stop with her, but to go out and find other studies by other bible teachers. She in no way wanted me or any other woman to put her on a pedestal in my mind. Jesus is the only one who belongs on our pedestal. Should we learn from the mere men or women? Absolutely! But if they are putting themself on a pedestal or if you are putting them on a pedestal in your own mind you can be certain they will fall off eventually. We are all fellow workers. We have fields and buildings to build. 

The next verses (10-15) are in some ways a warning to the one who is building. We must be sure we are building in Christ. First the foundation has to be there. There has to be Jesus. There are people who are gifted in leading others to Christ. And as christians we are all supposed to be ready to lead others to Christ at any given time. Let me tell you, it is one of the greatest privileges of my life to have led someone to Christ. A lady who was in my bible study started asking some very hard questions of me. I assumed, she was coming to bible study she must have been a christian. However, as she began emailing me questions it became evident she had not accepted Christ as her personal savior. I would get an email from her and I would pray over my response before I hit send with fear and trembling. Then finally after several emails she and I met face to face. We met at a Barnes and Noble and sat in two chairs in a corner of the store for hours until she accepted Christ. She and I have lost touch but I pray for her. My job in her story was to plant seeds, I pray and I believe that God has put other people in her life to do the watering. If the foundation of our life is not Jesus it is just like building a building with straw and hay. The building will not stand in bad weather. Building a life on the foundation of Jesus is like building a building with stone, gold and silver. That building, that life will stand when the storms of life come at you. 

“If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:15) 

This verse is basically saying our “work” will be tested by fire. We will be saved if we have the foundation of Christ in our life. But if we have not built on that foundation when we walk through the fires our “work” will be burned up. I truly do not know how people walk through this life without Christ. But even with Christ, life can be hard if we aren’t working on our buildings. 

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) 

Our lives and our churches are God’s temple. The commentary says that because of the context of this passage that Paul here is referring more to the church. That the Corinthian christians in their arguing over who to follow and their human ways were destroying the temple. Paul was giving them a warning. The temple is holy. We should always be careful that we are not destroying the temple with our arguing and human ways within the temple. 

Paul again addresses wisdom and folly in the last verses of this chapter. He is telling them, again, not to pursue worldly wisdom but to pursue God. 

“For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’ (1 Corinthians 3:19-20) 

You can be sure that if you are putting more importance on the wisdom of the world than the wisdom of God, He will not leave you there and allow your building to stand on that. 

“So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23) 

Let’s make sure that our boasting is done in Christ and not in our pastors, or our churches or our bible teachers. As long as they are building on the foundation of Christ they are all there for us to feast on! 

Oh Lord, may we not follow men but Lord may the Bible teachers and pastors and scholars in our life only point us to You. Lord I pray that no one is on a pedestal in my mind that You belong on. Lord I pray that my building would be strong. I pray that all of our buildings would be strong

Wisdom of God

1 Corinthians 2 

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

Paul was an educated man. He could have sat with any educated person of his day and spoken with them. And probably could have spoken above most men. Yet he is telling the Corinthians that he didn’t come to them to impress them with his words. But he came to proclaim the name of Jesus and to tell them of Jesus’ death on a cross and what that would mean to those that believe.  

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

I love how Paul puts this. He is letting them know that yes he was fearful to come to them but not because he may not be smart enough or that he might not be able to find the words to impress them. But he knew that the importance of his task was to point them to Jesus. He wanted to speak to them displaying the Spirit and power in his life so that they would not be impressed with him but that they would be impressed by God!

Words and wisdom were apparently very important to the Corinthians. Paul is telling them in verses 6-9 that the wisdom of God is different from the wisdom of the times. In verse 6 he says “Yet, among the mature we do impart wisdom”. The commentary I read said that there are two thoughts here, Paul could be talking about saved vs. unsaved, or mature Christian vs. new Christian. At any rate, Paul says the wisdom that he comes to impart upon them is the wisdom of God. It is not the wisdom of the world. There is a difference. 

“None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:8)

The rulers of this age did not understand the wisdom of God. We also are surrounded by people who do not understand the wisdom of God. We wonder at times why people don’t just get it. Why are christians persecuted, why our conservative values seem to remain under attack? Well this would be a big part of the why? The people who are persecuting christian values simply do not understand because they have wisdom of this world and not the wisdom of God. If the rulers back in Paul’s day had understood, they never would have crucified Jesus. If the people of this day who are attacking Christian values understood they would not be persecuting and attacking our values. But we shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that they do not understand. 

“But as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

This is the good news of this chapter. God has plans for us, big plans that even our hearts cannot imagine. Our main job, our main purpose here is to love him. 

What is really cool here is the that the Spirit that is God is also the Spirit that lives in us. God reveals the things He wants for us and our purposes and our plans by the Spirit that is living in us. We can’t comprehend what God purposes for us or what God plans for us without the Spirit living in us. 

“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:12-13)

We will be able to comprehend what God plans for us as we learn to comprehend the Spirit that lives in us. 

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. …… For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14, 16)

We have to stop being offended by the people who do not “get it”, the ones who do not understand what we have because they can’t understand what we have. We can only understand what we have, because He has given us the mind of Christ so that we can. 

Oh Lord, thank you for the wisdom that You impart to us only through your Spirit. Help us to know when we encounter the “natural man” that we have a wisdom that they do not have so that we will come back at them in love. Help us to show them Christ crucified in us and not to come at them with lofty words. 

Folly and Wisdom

Continuing right along in Paul’s letters we now come to his first letter to the Corinthians. This will also take a little over 3 weeks as there are 16 chapters. I am learning so much by reading them slowly and unpacking them. I hope you will come along, and again, I welcome comments if ever you see I may not have interpreted correctly. As I have said before I am no scholar!! Please read the chapter in the Bible before you read my words. Then comment if you like something that speaks to you. 

1 Corinthians 1

At the beginning of this letter, Paul starts with telling the Corinthians who he is and also mentions his companion, Sosthenes. 

“Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes” (1 Corinthians 1:1)

Sosthenes may have been his scribe, but apparently he was someone whom the Corinthians would have recognized. In Acts 18:17 there is a Sosthenes mentioned who was the head of the Corinthian synagogue who was beaten, actually for trying to persecute Paul. This may be the same person. This wouldn’t be too much of a stretch since Paul, himself needed forgiveness for the way he had persecuted Christians in his past, I can imagine he would be forgiving of one who may have persecuted him. Paul also, as he did many times in his letter to the Romans mentions his credentials. 

Next he tells who the letter is to:

“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

Corinth was considered one of the great cities of the ancient world. It had an up and coming society, it was prosperous, it was busy, it was growing and it had a reputation for being a place where one could pursue his own pleasure. Paul is writing this letter to the “church of God” in Corinth, to the people who were to be following Jesus. Not to the citizens of the city who had no knowledge of Jesus. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine that a church in such a city, may have a hard time with being sure that they were the ones influencing their city rather than the other way around. 

In verses 4 – 9 Paul gives thanks for the church in Corinth and, in Paul fashion, he is building them up. He tells them he thanks God for them, he commends them for their knowledge and their speech. Apparently they talked a good game in their testimony. They were a gifted people and they were eagerly anticipating Christ’s return. 

However, it had gotten back to Paul that the church had started arguing among themselves. (vv 10-17)  Apparently, there were dividing lines among the people with some saying they were followers of Paul, some Apollos, some Peter and then some Christ. I have seen and heard many churches who will get divided over the color of the carpet, or drums in the church. Or some other such nonsense. Paul is seeing dividing lines beginning to form and he is trying here to point It out to the people. In verse 13 “Is Christ divided?” Paul points out that he (Paul) was not crucified for them, that while he baptized a few men, he did not do it for the people to become followers of him, but his mission was always to preach the gospel. 

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Paul goes on to explain to the Corinthians that the word of God is going to look like foolishness to the world. Hmm does that sound familiar? This day and time, there are people of the world who think that the cross is folly. We get so offended when we hear them make fun of us, or negate us, or persecute us for our Christian values. But this was happening back in Paul’s days as well. Paul is telling the Christians in Corinth that while they live among this society, who will look at them as foolish because of where they have put their faith that rather than letting those facts divide them and quarrel among themselves, that they had to let their faith be what joined them together and that would strengthen them. There was no place for the arguing. 

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29) 

The people in the church at Corinth were just that, ordinary people. They were not the elite of the society, they were not the most educated, they were not the “up and coming”. They were just plain, ordinary people, like you and me that God put a calling on their lives, just like He does for us. Think on David, God looked at his heart, not what the world sees when He chose David to be a King. 

“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31) 

Friends if we are going to argue or boast about anything, let it not be in the numbers of our church, or what we may be doing, or the color of the carpet, or if we like the drums or whatever else, let us be unified in following Jesus in our churches. Let the world look on us as foolish. It is the folly of what we preach that will save those who will believe. (v 21)

Sweet Lord, please help us to put aside arguing in our churches, amongst ourselves, and help us to keep our eyes on You only Lord Jesus. 

Greetings and Warnings

Romans 16

The last chapter. 

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. (Romans 16:1-2 ESV) 

Phoebe was the deliverer of the letter that Paul has written to the Romans. However, Paul points out here that Phoebe is not just delivering the letter she is a servant of the Lord as well. She has apparently served Paul and others well and is now going to Rome and Paul wants to give her the recommendation so that she will be received well by the Romans. 

In verses 3-15 Paul is sending his greetings to people he knows are serving the Lord in Rome. He mentions them by name and gives an accolade to many of them. One of the things to notice here is that Paul is calling out women and men here as servants to the church. Nowadays in most churches women are considered in the work of the church. However, you do still find some circles where that is not the case. All of us have a place of service in the local church and in God’s kingdom. But back in Paul’s day that was pretty significant.

Verses 17 – 20 are warnings to the Romans. 

“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” (Romans 16:17-18) 

Every church is going to have those who cause division and create obstacles. We have the doctrine in front of us, and we are to avoid such people. Be careful who you give a place of service to in your church. Servants of the church should not be causing division, nor should they only be considering their own agendas in their service. People who are stirring division in the church are doing the work of Satan not of Christ. However, if we keep bringing it back to Jesus and get His direction on the matter and be obedient and wise to what is good and innocent to evil, then: 

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (Romans 16:20) 

Now we know that Satan will always slither back out from under our feet and continue to wreak havoc wherever He can at least until Jesus returns and takes us all home. However, with God’s help we can crush Satan and have these small victories over him. 

Paul ends this section with sending the greetings of the people around him. 

“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made down to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Romans 16:25 -27)

Paul’s final well wishes. He is in essence saying in this final word to the Romans don’t forget who gives you strength, don’t forget where it comes from, don’t forget the history of where it came from, be obedient to your faith and only to God! 

Sweet Lord, we thank you for these words of Paul’s to the Romans. We thank you that these words are still as relevant to us today as they were back in Paul’s day. May we never forget where our strength comes from, may we never forget our history and may we always be obedient to our faith in the only wise God!