Jesus Christ is - The Wonderful One
To Him be the glory both now and forever.  Amen.

1 Corinthians Book Study

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother...1 Corinthians 1:1

 

1 Corinthians is comprised of 437 verses in 16 chapters. This makes it four verses longer than the epistle to the Romans. A few things should be noted about the letter: Its composition is dated at AD59. It is generally directed toward proper Christian conduct and the avoidance of heresy and division within the church. Paul established the church in Corinth during his missionary travels, but it continued to have many problems with adjusting to proper conduct, especially because of being in a pagan environment. This letter is then written to address these problems and to give guidance in these and other church-related issues.

 

Paul begins with an introduction to confirm the letters authenticity. In it, he identifies himself and his position, and from whence his authority arises - "Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ." As Paul established the church, they would know him and hopefully take heed to whatever issues he would address. To ensure they hadn't forgotten, he identifies his title. He was "called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ."

 

The title "apostle" is something which is incorrectly applied in the church today. The apostles were only those who personally witnessed the work of Jesus Christ. Paul was called as an exception to this because he only came to know Christ after His ascension. He will specifically note this calling in 1 Corinthians 15:8. The apostolic age ended with the completion of the Bible and the death of the last apostle. Being an apostle then had a special significance and only came about by a specific calling by Christ himself (see 1 Corinthians 15:7).

 

Next he identifies from where his calling was derived. It was "through the will of God." The story of Paul's conversion is recorded in the book of Acts and it would have been widely known among the churches that he established. His authority was obvious, but he is calling it again to mind in order to establish the basis for the bold statements and directions that he would make throughout the letter.

 

God's will is something that occurs in His eternal state, outside of time itself. Paul was specifically chosen to carry the message of Christ to the gentile people of the world. It is his letters which establish church-age doctrine and they are prescriptive in nature. Ignoring, diminishing the importance of, or mishandling Paul's letters will inevitably lead to unsound doctrine and even heresy. Paul is such an important figure that hidden pictures of him and his ministry are actually seen in the book of Genesis. God's calling upon his life and ministry carry the authority of God; what Paul writes is divinely inspired.

 

Finally in this first verse, Paul states that the letter is from him "and Sosthenes our brother." Sosthenes is mentioned in Acts 18:17 - "Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things." Once the "ruler of the synagogue" in Corinth, he became a disciple of Christ through Paul's ministry. Paul mentions him to add weight to the letter. He would have been one of the first converts in Corinth and being the synagogue's ruler, he would have been well-versed in Old Testament theology. For this reason, he was an excellent person to cite in the introduction.

 

It is also possible that Sosthenes was acting as Paul's scribe. Just as in Romans with Tertius, who is mentioned in Romans 16:22, Paul probably had a scribe write as he dictated the letter. As a synagogue ruler, Sosthenes would have certainly been a competent person to act as a scribe. He would be familiar with how to carefully handle the pen in important matters such as this.

 

Life application: In the church, we have things that we "feel" are right or wrong and we often speak out or act on those issues in a prescriptive manner. But what we "feel" is irrelevant. The only thing that matters in the conduct of the church is what God has prescribed for us. And the doctrine of the church during this dispensation is what Paul has laid out in his epistles. The book of 1 Corinthians is a carefully detailed letter which addresses many important issues. Make sure to study, contemplate, and apply his directives to your church and personal life.

 

Heavenly Father, You called your apostles to carry Your message to the church. They have important instructions that show us the marvelous things You have done for us in the Person and work of Your Son, Jesus. Help us to study, contemplate, and apply Your word, as brought to us through them, so that we will be competent in our Christian walk. Thank You, O God. Amen.

 

 

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: 1 Corinthians 1:2

 

After his introduction, Paul makes his addressees known by starting with, "To the church of God which is at Corinth." Corinth is on an isthmus and its location was on a very narrow portion of it. Because of this, a "highway" was forged from one side of it to another and boats were literally dragged across it to save them the time of sailing all the way around the land. Because of this strategic location, Corinth became a well-known and valuable city in the Roman empire.

 

"The church of God" is a term which implies that this was an established church, founded on God's working in and through the Person of Jesus Christ. It was Paul who established the church as is noted beginning in Acts 18:1. He preached his message and those who received it are "those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus." This means that they were set apart from those around them as holy. Being "sanctified" in this way means that they secure in Christ and have received their heavenly position. Ephesians 2:4-6 explains this -

 

"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus..."

 

Regardless of our earthly walk after salvation, we have been set apart by God because of our simple and heartfelt faith in the work of Christ Jesus. Our heavenly position is settled. Because of this, we have been "called to be saints." Being called "saints" is tied directly to "sanctified." It is the work of Jesus Christ which grants sainthood; not a church or denomination. The abuse of using this title for some people within the church while not using it for all is certainly to be condemned. If a person is a true believer in Jesus Christ, they are a saint. The "litany of the saints" is a long and wonderful list which includes all who have called on Him, not a select portion who are then elevated above the rest. Paul explains this again many times, such as in these words in 2 Timothy 1:9 -

 

"...who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began."

 

As Paul notes to Timothy, it is "not according to works." Instead it is exactly as he states both to Timothy and to those in Corinth. It is an honor for "all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." To "call on the name" means to invoke the name for the purpose of worship. One doesn't "call on the name of Jesus" and then revert back to the name of "Jehovah" of the Old Testament (as the Jehovah's Witnesses and other aberrant cults do). It is the recognition that Jesus is, in fact, the Lord Jehovah who was manifest in the flesh. It is His name alone by which men must be saved (Acts 4:12).

 

In finishing up this verse, the words "both theirs and ours" is given to imply that sainthood and acceptance of Jesus Christ isn't limited to a location (such as Corinth) nor a denomination (such as Roman Catholicism). Nor is it limited in any other way except in the calling on of Jesus Christ as Lord. Anyone, of any race, place, culture, or individual church who calls on Him is a saint and his name is written in heaven - Jew or Gentile, male or female, all are one in Him.

 

Whether this letter was intended as an encyclical or not, it is a timeless letter. Because it is in the Bible, it wasn't just intended to be read by one (or all) the churches in the area and then stored away. Rather God has used it to provide doctrine to all churches in all ages. However, the contents of the letter seem so targeted to Corinth and their many flaws that it would seem they wouldn't want the letter circulated, thus embarrassing them. But when thoughtfully considered, the same problems arise again and again in all churches at one time or another. This is why reading and contemplating the words of Scripture are so very important.

 

Life application: The Bible and its books, especially Paul's letters, give us direct guidance for the many issues which are bound to arise within the church. Church tradition, although welcoming and comforting to congregants, is never to be used as a substitute for adherence to the Bible. If your church has more tradition than Bible... time to move from your church. Stick to the Bible and be instructed by God.

 

Yes Lord God! How wonderful it is to know that when problems arise in our church, we don't need to guess about what to do, nor do we need to seek out a fallible pastor, preacher, priest, bishop, or pope. Instead, we just need to turn to Your word and find the remedy there. You have addressed those things which are important to You in Your word and so we will stick to it like glue. Thank You for Your superior word. Amen!

 

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 1:3

 

After identifying himself, his calling, who was accompanying him, and who the letter is directed to, Paul now gives the standard greeting which is found in most of his epistles, “Grace to you and peace to you.”

 

Grace is unmerited favor which cannot be earned. This is the common greeting among the Greek people. Peace however is the common greeting among the Hebrew people. In their language, the word is shalom. This is more than a greeting for calm or quiet, but is a state of wholeness and completion in all ways. Paul unites the two terms just as the church is being united between Jew and Gentile during his time. This grace precedes the peace because only after receiving the grace of God can a person experience the peace of God.

 

Paul extends this wonderful blessing to them "from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." It is a greeting from the eternal God – both the unseen Father and His Son who reveals the Father to us. Rather than being an argument against the divinity of Jesus Christ, it is an argument for it. He is tying the two in as one - Jesus being a member of the Godhead. He is not making some type of great division, but a harmonious blending of the two.

 

Throughout Paul’s letters, as with the entire Bible, the deity of Jesus Christ is a concept and a precept which simply can’t be missed. It is the very heart of what God has done for the reconciliation of the people of the world.

 

Life application: Outside of God's creation, which reveals Him in a general way, we cannot comprehend Him except through His special revelation. One way we receive special revelation is through the mouths of His prophets. But these prophets all testified to the same thing - Jesus Christ (John 5:39). The most magnificent special revelation of God that we have received is the incarnation of Jesus. But for us, even this isn't sight, it is found in the testimony of those who have recorded what they knew into the New Testament. So, in order to understand God, one must know Jesus Christ, and one cannot understand Jesus Christ unless they know their Bible. Today's life application.... know your Bible.

 

Heavenly Father, how grateful I am that I can fellowship with You personally. I can read Your word and know who You are. I can have personal talks with you as I pray in a quiet place or on a bustling city street. And I can feel Your presence as I attend church and fellowship with others as we praise You and give You thanks for Your wonderful care of us. Thank You for allowing us to fellowship with You, O God. Amen.

 

 

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus... 1 Corinthians 1:4

 

Paul's introduction and greetings are friendly and filled with encouragement. His closing statements will likewise be uplifting and attentive to the building up of his recipients. However, in the main body of the epistle, Paul is going to address, rather directly at times, many hard issues. Some of these issues may be found offensive in today's climate of "tolerance," but these are things which are important to God and which He expects us to pay heed to. We are saved by grace through faith, but we are expected to live out our salvation in holiness and right living.

 

Before addressing the difficult issues which much be addressed though, he first ensures those at Corinth that they are dear to him and ever on his mind. He states, "I thank my God always concerning you." One can just picture him walking along the road to his next destination and recalling the people and experiences there at Corinth. As they came to mind, he probably uttered such thoughts out loud... "Yes Lord, thank You for those in Corinth. Thank you for Mikeopolus, Lisatha, and Philipherous. And Lord, you know how good Kristiniki was to me while I was there. Thank you for these folks, and all of those I've come to know." It is Paul who wrote to the Thessalonians to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and he certainly did this himself in such a manner.

 

Next he explains why he was so thankful to God for them. It was based on "the grace of God which was given to you." Grace is unmerited favor. It cannot be bought, it cannot be earned, it is completely undeserved. But at the same time, it isn't forced upon us by God. Grace is bestowed upon us when we submit to Him properly. And this grace is "by Christ Jesus." He did the work; through Him we receive God's grace.

 

Upon receiving this grace, many benefits are available to the believer. Paul will continue with his thought in the coming verses concerning this, but then his writing will also cover those things that the Corinthians were engaged in which imposed upon God's grace. We will see that such behavior is not what God intends for His children. Let us pay heed to the words of 1 Corinthians. It is a classic example of a church in crisis and needing sound theology, proper doctrine, and right direction.

 

Life application: God's grace is sufficient to cover all our sins - past, present, and future. But He does not intended for this grace to be abused. We are saved in order to be holy and glorifying of Him, not to continue to participate in the sins of the flesh.

 

Lord God, I know that Your grace is sufficient to cover all my sins, but I would rather that the future be free from such things. May I never presume upon Your favor by living in a manner contrary to the high-calling I have received through the shed blood of Your precious Son, my Lord Jesus. Be with me, strengthen me, and help me along this rocky path of life. To Your glory I pray. Amen.

 

 

...that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge... 1 Corinthians 1:5

 

This verse carries on from the previous one where Paul thanked God continuously for the grace He had bestowed upon the Corinthians. This grace, given by Christ Jesus, was endowed so that they would be "enriched in everything by Him."

 

The knowledge of Christ is an exceedingly great knowledge, granted by grace. It enriches our lives in every way and is what leads us to the greatest knowledge of all, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. These are available to us through the teachings of the apostles who were under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as they uttered out the words of the Bible. Paul and the other apostles gave their instructions to the churches directly; now we have the Bible which serves this purpose. In the Bible then is "everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge."

 

God has spoken by Christ everything we need for our spiritual life and practice. This verse, among many others unfortunately, leads folks to believe that because they have accepted Christ, they have all knowledge and all discernment in Christ. Relying on "Holy Ghost" power and instruction, they actually delude themselves and others into accepting whatever nonsense they utter at any given time - prophecies, teachings, proclamations, etc. But this isn't how things work. The apostolic instruction has been given and it has been recorded. Now, in order to understand "all utterance and all knowledge" we actually have to open our Bibles, read, study, and apply.


This is hard work and that is tedious to many. How much easier it is to simply pull out individual verses and misapply them to life's momentary trials or victories. But the Bible, and all it contains, is God's word and demands that we keep it in context as we study it. Through this precious word we are edified, built up, and given our proper knowledge.

 

Life application: To fully understand God's intentions for us is a long and difficult task. The first thing we need to do is to get right with Christ, receiving Him as Savior. After that, we should actively seek Him out through His superior word. Take time, every day, to read and study this infinitely precious treasure.

 

Lord God! How I treasure every new discovery in Your word. I revel in it and love to see its deep riches unfold before me. And thank you for others who have so diligently studied it, finding patterns, parallels, and precious pearls of wisdom. When I read the things others have discovered, it reminds me that there are so many faithful people pursing Your wondrous gift to us. Thank You for Your great word, O God. Amen!

 

 

...even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you... 1 Corinthians 1:6

 

This verse, like the previous one, is continuing on from verse 4. The grace of God was given to the Corinthians by Christ Jesus. Because of this they "were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge." This leads to him saying that this was "even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you." The Pulpit Commentary says that "the genitive is thus objective (about Christ), not subjective (the testimony borne by Christ)." In this manner then, the Christian testimony was, in fact, confirmed in those in Corinth.

 

The apostles, particularly Paul, passed on the message of Christ through preaching and instruction to the Corinthians and it was confirmed through signs. However, we will see in the chapters ahead that they abused the signs and made what was given in honor to look childish and demeaning. Because of this, Paul had to give explicit instructions concerning gifts, particularly the gift of "tongues." To this day, charismatic and Pentecostal churches continue to demean these gifts, ignoring the very instructions breathed out by the Holy Spirit through Paul.

 

As God will never contradict Himself, then any supposed gift which doesn't correspond to the instructions He has given in His word cannot be a "gift" from the Holy Spirit at all. We must pay particular heed to the instructions concerning these things as they come in the chapters ahead. Christianity is to be a "Christ-centered" religion, not a "look-at-me-centered" one. He is Lord, we are His subjects.

 

Life application: What change was wrought in you when you came to Christ? Hopefully you will remember that He is the one who deserves the glory for having saved your soul and confirmed it through a noticeable change in you. Remember to always glorify His great name in all you do.

 

Heavenly Father, from time to time I get feeling pretty great about "me" and the things I do... and then I remind myself that there is no thing that I own, no accomplishment I have achieved, and no honor I have received that didn't originally come from You. It truly is all by Your grace and so to You alone goes the credit for all that I am. Help me to remember this as I walk along life's road... it is all about You. Amen.

 

 

... so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ... 1 Corinthians 1:7

 

This verse is still continuing on with the same basic thought that Paul has been making for the past three verses. The grace of God was given to the Corinthians by Christ Jesus. Because of this they "were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge." This led to "even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you."

 

Because the testimony of Christ was confirmed in them, through their conversion to a new life in Him, it ensured that they would "come short in no gift." The term "come short" is used in connection with the thought of verse 5 where Paul said they "were enriched in everything by Him." Because they (and we also as believers) are so enriched, there will be no deficiency or lack in any "gift."

 

The term "gift" is charismati and doesn't only imply miraculous gifts, such as speaking in various languages, healings, and etc., but instead is certainly speaking of a sound and proper Christian walk. It includes right knowledge, right application of that knowledge, sound conduct, harmony between believers, etc. That it isn't speaking only of miraculous gifts is certain based on the contents of the rest of the epistle.

 

To conclude this verse, he ties in this fullness of what Christ offers during our lives as sufficient to carry us through until the end as we are "eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ." In other words, be it a day or be it an entire lifetime of waiting (which has now gone on for 2000 years) we are fully gifted in our lives to endure and continue on in a full and complete manner as we wait on His return.

 

However, as we will see ahead, despite being so gifted, the Corinthians failed to properly apply what was available to them. Hence, Paul wrote this letter for correction, instruction, and reproof. If this letter to them was given as such a guide, how much more ready should we be for each difficulty that arises? We have the whole word of God available to us! If we would simply take the time to read it and apply it to our lives, we would be living in a manner worthy of that great name to which we have been called.

 

Life application: The Bible is given to instruct us and to enrich our walk with the Lord until He returns for us. In it is everything we need for our spiritual journey. And yet, we ignore it and expect to be filled through shallow sermons one hour a week. This is a great error. Our filling comes through knowing our God, knowing our God comes through knowing Jesus Christ, and knowing Jesus Christ only comes through knowing the Bible. Study your Bible!

 

Most glorious and exalted heavenly Father... today I am filled with a new hunger to search You out and know the wondrous mysteries of Your wisdom and knowledge. Help me to pursue You through Your word, through Your creation, and through daily meditation and contemplation on Your greatness. Thank You for displaying Yourself to us in ways that we can know You personally and fellowship with You intimately. Amen.

 

 

...who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:8

 

This finishes up the long thought which began in verse 4. Since then, Paul:

 

1) Thanked God for His grace given to them by Christ Jesus

2) This grace would enrich them in everything; by all utterance and knowledge

3) Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in them

4) So that they would lack no gift as they awaited the revelation of Christ

 

And it is He, Jesus Christ, "who will also confirm you to the end." This is another of the multitude of verses concerning "eternal salvation." Despite our own weaknesses, we shall be confirmed to the end. We have been given God's grace to help us along the way, but even if we should fall and fail to act upon the gifts we have been given, we will still be "confirmed." We are established in Christ and it is He, not us, who bears the ability to continue us in Him "to the end."

 

As we live, or in our death, we belong to Jesus Christ as Lord. No power in heaven or on earth can remove us from our position, granted by grace through the exercising of our faith. It is this act which then shows us to "be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."

 

The Greek word anegkletous is used for "blameless." This word indicates a judicial standing. Though we may fall into sin, the sin will not be counted against us. Because we have moved from Adam to Christ, we are in Him and free from blame and condemnation. In essence, there is no charge of crime because of our position in Him.


This doesn't mean, and the Bible never promotes, that we should willingly sin. We are to conduct ourselves in holiness and righteousness. The church has the right to take action against those who flagrantly and openly flaunt sin as will be seen in Chapter 5. But in that chapter, using an actual case of open disobedience, Paul never questions the salvation of the sinner. Rather, he assumes that his salvation is secure. However, he will suffer judgment and trouble in this world at the hand of Satan so that his "spirit
may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." 1 Corinthians 1:5.

 

This "day of our Lord Jesus Christ," which is also referred to in that passage in 1 Corinthians 5, is the day when we will stand before Him and receive our judgment for deeds in the flesh, but it is just that - a judgment of rewards and losses; not one for condemnation or salvation.

 

Life application: Salvation is eternal. We are saved despite ourselves. However, we will face many trials and troubles in this life if we fail to live up to the standards which Christ has set in His word for us. We will also suffer loss when we face Him at the bema-seat of judgment. How much better to live rightly, uphold His standards, and persevere in Him now. By doing so, our life will be rich and full and our judgment will be one of great reward.

 

Lord God, thank You that because of the work of Messiah I have no fear of condemnation. Your word assures me that in Him I have been confirmed to the end and that I will stand blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. I truly am in awe of Your great and gracious Gift. I stand in awe of Jesus! Amen.

 

 

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:9

 

The word "faithful" here is emphatic. In the Greek it is the first word of the sentence. A direct translation would say, "Faithful God by whom you were called..." What God speaks, He will perform. What God determines will always come about. And what God has started, He will complete. He is absolutely faithful. This is also seen, for example, in Philippians 1:6 -

 

"...being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ."

 

God is indeed faithful and it is He "by whom you were called." The word "called" implies more than hearing a voice in the distance. It is the effectual calling noted by Paul in Romans 8. In that chapter, he gives the sequence of events which leads from that effectual calling right up until our being ushered into glory -

 

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified." Romans 8:28-30

 

To God who calls, we are already glorified in His mind. This is the surety of the doctrine of eternal salvation. Though we may err, stray, or forget, God never will. That which has been started will be accomplished. This is wonderful news for those who step out in faith and receive Jesus Christ as Lord.

 

The calling which Paul speaks of is just that too, it is "into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." We move from Adam to Christ. We go from strangers and aliens to friends. We were separate from God and now we belong to Him. As Jesus Christ is the Son of God and we are "in Christ," we are now also called "sons of God." The marvel of what God has done through Jesus will be held in awe for all eternity.

 

Life application: Jesus Christ is our Lord. Let's live and act as if we really believe it - to the glory of God the Father!

 

Yes, yes, yes! O wondrous God, I am over-flowing with awe at the beautiful plan laid out in Your word. Despite our disobedience, our turning away, our self-centeredness, and our confused thinking, You call us back to fellowship with You. Now Lord, help me to be so forgiving in my own life. May others see You in my actions and realize that Jesus is the true hope they need. May You be glorified by how I treat those who so desperately need You. Amen.

 

 

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:10

 

Paul now transitions from initial greetings and encouragements into the main body and purpose of his epistle. In this first verse of the main body, he begins with the Greek term parakalo de - "I exhort, moreover." The participle de is what implies the transition to reproof.

 

Five principle rules should be applied when evaluating Scripture for personal use. There are many others, but these first five should always be at the forefront of one's mind -

 

1) Is this passage descriptive (does it merely describe something)

2) Is this passage prescriptive (does this actually tell me something I am to do)

3) Context (what is the context of this particular verse or passage)

4) Context (see above)

5) Context (see above)

 

As the epistle is being evaluated, we must ensure that we have considered the context of the passage or it becomes a pretext; a falsity. In essence, "Context is king."

 

When considering whether something is "prescriptive" there are two logical subdivisions to be considered also -

 

Prescriptive

a) command (an imperative to do something)

b) exhortation (a plea to do something)

 

Understanding why something is either an imperative or an exhortation is needed because we have free-will to consider. When we fail at a command, we are being disobedient and it will definitely affect others, the body, etc in a negative way. When we fail to adhere to an exhortation, we are making bad choices that can have negative impacts on us. The result is usually more self-destructive, as individuals or as a body (even though others outside the exhortation can also be harmed). It is sometimes hard to determine if what we are being told is actually a command or a mere prompting to act without compulsion, but being attentive to the context will normally resolve the matter.

 

These general rules may seem unnecessary, but they are actually critical to a proper analysis of Scripture. If we remember them, our walk and our doctrine will be greatly enhanced.

 

So, considering these tenets, let's start into the main body of Paul's letter -

 

"Now" as noted above is the participle de and is the transitional mark.

 

"I plead with you" implies that what Paul says here is prescriptive but in the form of exhortation. We are encouraged to take action based on a plea. If we do so, things will go smoothly, if we don't then negative consequences are sure to result.

 

"Brethren" is Paul's way of tying the church together into a unified body and it encourages continued unity within that body. As we'll see in the many verses ahead, disunity, fraction, in-fighting, and division are all major problems within the church at Corinth.

 

"By the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" is given as the highest authority and it is given as the only name upon which we are to be identified. A very, very good example of a major failing in this regard continues on in our Christian world today -

 

1) It occurs denominationally, "I am a Roman Catholic" or "I am a Lutheran." etc. In some instances, there is even the incredibly stupid doctrine that one can "only be saved" if they are members of a particular denomination. This isn't limited to large denominations, but it is taught by many smaller denominations, cults, and aberrant churches around the world. Rather, there is one way to be saved and it is through Jesus Christ, not a denomination.

 

2) It occurs by individual name. "I am a Calvinist" or "I am an Arminian." etc.

 

Such petty divisions only divide the body. The fact is that both John Calvin and Jacob Arminius were both fallible men with often very-flawed doctrine. To identify oneself in this manner is to reduce one's reliance on the Word of God and the name of Jesus Christ, and to go down a strange path of less-than proper doctrine.

 

"That you all speak the same thing" is supportive of what was just said by Paul - "By the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." If the members of the church uphold, exalt, and rely on the Person and work of Jesus Christ, then they will naturally tend to "speak the same thing." However, there are always going to be differences of opinion on what a Bible verse says when the main rules above aren't properly handled. And so again, in order to "speak the same thing" we need to always consider the five principle rules of interpretation - prescriptive, descriptive, and context, context, context. By doing this, we will properly handle the word of God and be more inclined to always speak the same thing.

 

Continuing on, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to have "no divisions among you." The word in Greek here is schismata, "schisms." It is a word that indicates a tear or a breech. In classical Greek the word was specifically used when noting the tearing of material. When a garment is torn, there is no longer one piece, but two. These two pieces are no longer at harmony with one another and cannot be used for the same purpose they once were. However, with a properly wielded needle and thread, they can be repaired.

 

Paul is addressing, and will continue to address, major schisms within the church at Corinth. However, his epistle is just that intended fix - the metaphorical needle and thread. When divisions of a similar type arise today, we can use this same epistle, dating back now 2000 years, to fix the same old problems which arise. For example, "Come on people, drop the name "Calivinist" from your Bible study!

 

To finish his thought today, he begins with "but." In contrast to this, do that. And the "that" is for them is to "be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment." Instead of factions, divisions, back-bitings, in-fightings, and other schisms, he implores them to be "joined together" as one cloth, without tear and without the need of mending. They are to be of the "same mind" as they together resolve the difficult issues of running a harmonious and loving congregation.

 

By using the Bible, we can do this today; without the Bible as our instruction, it will not occur. But to be of the "same mind" concerning the Bible, we also need to be of "the same judgment." There is only one proper conclusion to be made from all biblical passages, but to come to the same judgment, there needs to be a putting away of pride, a more thorough knowledge of the whole body of Scripture, and a complete reliance on what is actually intended for a passage, even if it seems contrary to what we may wish or desire. Our desires are irrelevant. When God determines, we should always agree.

 

 Life application: Paul's letter to the Corinthians will address numerous real problems. These problems didn't end with the publication of the epistle. Why? Because people run ahead without giving heed to the word of God. What we need for proper doctrine and correct living is found right there in the Bible. Let us hold fast to it and always apply it to our lives.


Dearest Lord Jesus, You are the Head of the church and we are all members of that church. Help us to not divide our allegiances by claiming denominational or individual church superiority. Rather, help us as denominations, individual churches, or as individual people to exalt Your word above petty differences. You have spoken, let us be obedient. But in order to do so, help us to properly evaluate and apply what Your precious word says. Amen.

 

 

For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. 1 Corinthians 1:11

 

The word "for" is used as a connector to the previous verse and to then build upon that thought. In verse 10 we read -

 

"Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."

 

Based on this, "For it has been declared" is now stated. Paul wanted the Corinthians "perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" but they weren't in such a state. And so in order to resolve the wayward condition they were in, he was writing this epistle of instruction. "Concerning you" means the Corinthians and it is to them specifically that he is writing. This letter may or may not have been intended as an encyclical, but either way it is specifically meant for this church at this time. However, it is also intended as a guide for any other church facing similar circumstances and so God ensured it would be kept and eventually included in His word.

 

Despite the rebuke that is coming, Paul next enters the thought "my brethren." He isn't questioning, nor will he question, the salvation of individual believers. And he never does in any of his epistles. Paul works under the assumption that if a person is saved, they are forever saved. There is no such thought in his writings, or in the rest of the Bible, that one can "lose" their salvation. Verses which seem to imply this are always mishandled and out of context. He is writing to his brethren for their instruction and reproof.

 

With the endearing term "my brethren" now stated, he enters into the main reason for his thoughts. It was declared to him "by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you." Chloe is otherwise unknown in the Bible, but she is a woman of such note that including her name indicates that what is declared isn't amiss, but is correct. It isn't actually Chloe who brought these things to Paul's attention, but those of her household. However, by noting Chloe, it is inferring that those in her household would be of the same caliber and reliability. Perhaps they are family or servants speaking on her behalf to Paul. If they are bringing a report of "contentions" from her, then the report is certainly true.

 

This word "contentions" is the Greek erides. It means that there are altercations occurring within the church and these were arising because of the "divisions" noted in the previous verse. When people divide and disagree, it will inevitably lead to altercations. If not resolved, there will certainly be worse problems which will arise and eventually a complete division of the church could result. Paul desires that they unite in harmony rather than divide in contention.

 

Life application: Divisions in the church are sure to come. If they are because of a tradition, then drop the tradition. Anything added to God's word which causes a division isn't worth the trouble. If the division is something doctrinal, then... to the word! God has given us what we need in His word to rectify any doctrinal issue. Be prepared to search the word while working in love to calm the contention.

 

Lord God, I really love the church I attend and the people I fellowship with. Should contentions arise, please help me to be a part of the resolution, not a part of the problem. Give me the wisdom to work in love, hold fast to Your word, and be prepared to defend what is right so that any troubles will quickly be put behind us. Help us Lord to honor You above all else through times of contentment or times of contention. Amen.

 

 

Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:12

 

Divisions... Paul referred to them in verse 10 and then what they resulted in (contentions) in verse 11. Now he explains the divisions that he has heard about. "Now I say this" is his way of saying, "Now this is what I mean..."

 

The believers in Corinth had divided into factions based on style of preaching or in some other way. One would say, "I am of Paul" and another would say, "I am of Apollos." Paul was probably more theologically adept than the rest, having been a Pharisee who was well-grounded in Scripture. Apollos, who is mentioned in Acts 18:24 as "an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures," may have been a better orator and maybe could have woven a message together which was inspiring and interesting.

 

But there were other divisions besides these two. Someone else claimed "I am of Cephas." Cephas is another name for the Apostle Peter. He had been with Jesus from the beginning. He had received his instruction from the Lord and was one of the "inner circle" along with James and John at all of the high points in Christ's ministry. He could easily have become an object of adoration because of these things. He had seen the miracles, he was there at the resurrection, he beheld the ascension. And he was also the "Apostle to the Jews." Because of this.... well, "He is my man."

 

And yet, there was another faction, "I am of Christ." This sounds right (and it is, if truthful), but it can also be interpreted in a negative way as well. If someone isn't holding to proper doctrine and says "I am of Christ" then those who follow him will be led astray. To say "I am of Christ" then must be followed up with proof of that claim or it is worse than fire in a hay pile. It is what leads to cults, feelings of superiority, bondage, and never coming to know the truth. Therefore, one must be extremely careful when evaluating such a claim.

 

Paul is going to continue to discuss this in the verses ahead and will not leave the matter without a full explanation of what is appropriate. But from what he has said in this verse alone, it is apparent just how wrong this attitude is. And yet, even though it is clearly presented in the Bible, we still fall into this same trap today.

 

How many thousands of people identify their doctrine with John Calvin (Calvinism)? How many identify their allegiances with a pope? How many claim total adherence to the doctrine of Christ and yet are actually deeply entrenched in cults? This is the reality of the world we live in. We get swept up in idol worship of a great orator; we get sidetracked by someone who is supposedly theologically competent, but we don't check what they say. Maybe we get so caught up in a denomination that we feel salvation comes only through it. This may sound nuts, but it is more prevalent than one might think.

 

Let us not make such errors. God has revealed Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible is what tells us of Him and His work. Therefore, let us continually return to the fountain of Scripture and check our doctrine against it. When we place our allegiance in a man, we will always be disappointed. When we put our hope and trust in Christ as He is revealed in Scripture, we will always be edified and in a right standing with God.


Life application: It is fine to hold a pastor in high esteem. In fact, the Bible says that we should render them "double honor" (1 Timothy 5:17) if they "labor in the word and doctrine." However, let us not place them on a pedestal as an idol. Rather, we need to never forget that our allegiance is to Jesus Christ. May we never divide Christ as we see has happened at the church in Corinth.

 

Lord God, I thank you for those who teach and instruct in Your word and in proper doctrine. But Lord, help me to not place any person in a position which would exalt them at the expense of my devotion and allegiance to You. In the end, all people are fallible and are susceptible to error. Remind me to check with Your instruction manual on all matters of faith and doctrine. Thank You for being with me as I keep my eyes on Jesus! Amen.

 

 

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 1 Corinthians 1:13

 

Based on the divisions which have arisen in the church at Corinth which were noted in the previous verse, Paul now asks, "Is Christ divided?" Is there one head of the church or not? If there is, then why are we making divisions which don't actually exist within the body? Is it right to follow after a teacher, preacher, apostle, pope, etc. as if that person was the object of our faith? The answer is obviously "No."

 

But there is another consideration to the opening of this verse, Vincent's Word Studies notes that "Some of the best expositors render [this] as an assertion." In other words, and based on the structure of the Greek, they place this not as a question - "Is Christ divided?", but as a statement of fact - "Christ is divided." The Corinthians had already lost the object of their faith and they had already brought the divisions. Now, it was up to Paul's instructions to return them to the proper path. In order to do this then, he continues with the second thought of the verse - "Was Paul crucified for you?"

 

His question is rhetorical and it demands a negative response. The cross of Jesus Christ is the only acceptable crucifixion for the sins of anyone, including Paul. The crucifixion of Paul would have simply been the end of Paul without the crucifixion of Christ. And Christ was not only crucified for Paul, but He was crucified for all. To somehow place an allegiance in Paul only diminishes the importance of the cross of Christ. Only He was sinless and only His blood can atone for the sins of the world.

 

What follows then is another rhetorical question, with another obvious "No" for a response. "Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" If Paul wasn't crucified for anyone, then no one was baptized in the name of Paul! Baptism is a picture of the work of Christ. One is immersed as a picture of the death (which resulted from the crucifixion) of Christ. Paul wasn't crucified for anyone; Paul didn't die for anyone; therefore, no one was baptized into Paul.

 

The work of God in resurrecting Jesus is the second half of the picture of baptism. One isn't merely submersed and left under the water. They are raised out of the water as a picture of the newness of life found in the resurrection of Christ. Paul's newness of life came from Christ. And the same is true with anyone who has been reborn by the Spirit. Therefore to "follow Paul" or to "follow Calvin" or to "follow Pope Francis" is simply nuts. Only Christ has accomplished the work necessary to save a soul.

 

Life application: Let us not divide Christ, but let us always honor Him alone. At best, let us acknowledge the instruction of others without exalting them in an unnecessary way.

 

Lord God, thank You for Jesus my Lord. Because of His cross I am granted His sinless perfection. Through His death I am restored to You. And in His resurrection I stand justified and sure of eternal life in Your presence. Now Lord, grant me the willing heart and desire to live up to that which I have received. Help me to reflect the glory which is found in Christ and to share this good news with the world. Thank You for Jesus! Amen.

 

 

I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius... 1 Corinthians 1:14

 

In what seems an unusual statement at first, Paul notes his great thanks to God that he didn't baptize any of those at Corinth with the exception of a few he will name. He will give the reason in the verses ahead though and we will see that it bears directly on what he has said in the previous three verses concerning divisions and contentions.

 

If Paul was the one to have baptized all of these people, then those who were instigating the contentions could state that he was setting himself up as some type of figurehead to be more greatly honored or followed. Instead however, he pursued his job without looking for the notoriety that he could have attached to it by being the "chief baptizer" of the flock.


Baptism is one of the most precious and memorable moments in a believer's life and it certainly is an honor to participate in the baptism of someone. This is why families often gather around, pictures are taken, and special care is often used to decide who will get the honor of conducting the rite. It could be comparable in importance to choosing who will marry a couple or perform a funeral.

 

Regarding this highly notable honor of conducting baptisms, Paul states that "I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius." Crispus was the ruler of the synagogue in Corinth as is noted in Acts 18:8 -

 

"Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized."

 

This baptism by Paul certainly made sense. As the ruler of the synagogue and a person in a prominent position to convince others of the truth of the gospel, he himself would then be qualified to perform the rite on others. It would make no sense to not baptize him because then who would do so? But once he was baptized, then he could take over this solemn responsibility for the others who chose Christ.

 

Concerning Gaius, there is a Gaius seen in Acts 19 during a time of trouble in Ephesus. Then, a "Gaius of Derbe" is noted in Acts 20. Paul notes a Gaius in Romans 16:23 also. And finally, there is a Gaius to whom the letter 3 John is written to. The Gaius being referred to by Paul here is certainly the one mentioned in Romans and he may be the one whom John wrote to. He was Paul's host and so he probably baptized him personally because of the care he had taken for him as his host.

 

As a side note to Paul's statement here, baptism in the New Testament always follows conversion. The doctrine of "infant baptism," though going back to very early times, is not a scriptural tenet. The claim by adherents to infant baptism is that it is comparable to the Old Testament rite of circumcision. This is a complete misreading of the precept and cannot be so identified with any teaching in the Bible.

 

Abraham first believed God and then he was given the rite of circumcision for those who followed him. As Abraham is the example of justification by faith, it only follows that those who are justified by faith will receive their external sign after, not before, that justification. Paul's writings in 1 Corinthians, and his statements even here in the first chapter, fully support the concept of baptism only after faith in Christ.

 

Life application: In whatever capacity we serve the Lord, as an evangelist, a teacher, a preacher, or whatever, it should be for the honor of the Lord, not to promote self notoriety. Paul is an excellent example to follow in this. He was constantly redirecting those around him to Jesus. In the end, the Lord sees our works and will reward us for them.

 

Lord, thank You for the many opportunities You place in our path to serve You. Help us to keep our eyes open for these moments and not to let them slip by. Remind us that we have such a short time to walk here and to tell others about You. Let us not look back in regret at missed opportunities to lead others to You while we have the chance. This I pray to Your glory. Amen.

 

 

...lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. 1 Corinthians 1:15

 

Paul had a unique commission which transitioned the church from almost a solely Jewish entity into one which was quickly growing in gentile converts. At some point, a majority of gentiles would inevitably exist, thus the church would be considered a gentile entity. And this would have been brought about by the instruction and writings of Paul. If he were to have been out baptizing people in large numbers, others who disliked this move to gentile predominance could easily make the charge that Paul had baptized these people into his own name.


Thus, this would become "the church of Paul" regardless of whether he directed the disciples to Christ or not. As noted in verses 10 and 12, such divisions exist in today's church. Rightly or wrongly, we identify ourselves among a host of lines. Some are by name - "I am a Lutheran." Some are by doctrine - "I am a Baptist." Some are by a member of the Godhead other than Jesus, "I belong to the Church of the Holy Spirit."

 

Within the church there is misdirection, there is division, and there is boasting in individual names. Paul tried to waive this type of thing off from the start by not making the work of Christ about himself. Instead, he proclaimed Christ and made his sole boasting in the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14). In some ways, divisions are inevitable and even healthy. When Paul and Barnabas divided over an argument, they were able to accomplish twice the work that had previously been done.

 

Dividing from a church because it is straying from the truth of Christ is a good thing. However, in the process of division, care needs to be taken that the division doesn't produce another idol. Paul's example is one that will keep such things from occurring. His continuous boasting in Christ is the right approach at all times and in all seasons!

 

Life application: He who boasts, let him boast in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Lord Jesus, help me to continuously and forever redirect my heart to You. It is You alone who fulfilled the Scriptures, died for me, and was resurrected to life again. If I am to boast in another's preaching, may it only be because he preaches about You. May the song on my lips be one which brings You honor. And may my every step be one securely planted on the truth of Your superior word. Amen.

 

 

Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 1 Corinthians 1:16

 

As Paul is putting forth his thoughts for the epistle, he realizes that when he had just stated that, "I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius..." wasn't exactly correct. And so he amends his thoughts here using the Greek term de. As Vincent's Word Studies indicates, "The de ... has a slightly corrective force." It would then be something like writing, "I only like chocolate ice cream. Oh, and I also like vanilla and strawberry too." It isn't an untruth, but a thought based on reflection.

In the process of his thoughts came the reminder of "the household of Stephanas," and suddenly he realized that he had "also baptized" them. In 1 Corinthians 16:15, Paul will call the household of Stephanas "the firstfruits of Achaia." They had readily come to Christ at the first preaching of the gospel and Paul had baptized them. Because it was at such an early point, certainly before any formal church or meeting place had been established, it had slipped his mind. Then, to ward off any other omissions as intentional deceit, he finally adds in, "Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other."

 

There could have been someone that he had simply forgotten about. Maybe there was someone there in Stephanas' household that wasn't a member of the family or servants who could later state that what Paul said wasn't accurate. He has thus preempted such a charge. In the coming verse, he will explain further the reason for his detailed words concerning baptism.

 

This is a good verse to stop and consider what "household" means in connection with "baptism." This is especially needed because the doctrine of "infant baptism" is often tied to this and several other verses because the term "household" seems all inclusive. The word rendered "household" is oikos and generally covers the two greater concepts of a) a house, the material building, and (b) a household, family, lineage, nation. Depending on the context, it refers to any of the following: descendants, families, family, home, homes, house, household, households, itself, palaces, or place.

 

In Titus 1:10, 11 Paul makes the following statement -

 

"For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain."

 

Speaking of those who are disruptive and destructive, he says that they "subvert whole households." In this, he uses the adjective translated as "whole" in order to show that entire households can be swept up into false teachings. If the term "households" was intended as all-inclusive for baptism (including infants), one would think that a similar adjective would be used. Being baptized into the faith is surely as important as being apostatized!

 

Therefore, the term "household" which is a general term, should be considered in a general sense unless it is accompanied by an adjective to further refine what is being stated. It is only a presupposition at best to state that infant baptism is intended by passages such as this one. Further, because baptism reflects a personal commitment to the Lord, it should be on the more conservative interpretation of "household" that an interpretation should be made; it is general in nature, not specific and all-inclusive.

 

Finally, the wording in today's verse which shows that Paul isn't completely sure of a matter (meaning who he had baptized) in no way diminishes the doctrine of "divine inspiration." Just because something isn't known by the human author of an epistle has no bearing on whether or not the Holy Spirit knows. There are ten jillion times ten jillion things (and more!) known to the Holy Spirit which are unknown to any human. What He chooses to include in His word is at His prerogative, including human failings and uncertainties.

 

Life application: Seemingly insignificant verses found in the Bible often contain some of the most theologically important concepts for us to consider. As you read the Bible, take time to think on "why" certain things are mentioned and why the Holy Spirit allowed their inclusion in the Bible. Don't listen to liberal-minded scholars who would try to diminish the importance of what is stated, but think on what God is conveying to you. Every word is pure and perfect and is given to us to learn more about God's wonderful plan for us.

 

O God, I often read Your word and wonder why certain things are included in it. Some things seem harsh, some seem confusing, and some seem without purpose. It is at these times that I know I need to stop and consider why You would include them. When I attempt to look at things from the greater perspective, I often realize that what I thought at first was wrong... Instead, I see things from a different way and realize that every word is so perfectly placed. What a wondrous joy it is to read and think on Your word. Thank You for it, O God. Amen.

 

 

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. 1 Corinthians 1:17

 

In Matthew 28:19, 20 we read what is known as the Great Commission - "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you."

 

However, this doesn't mean that Paul is being disobedient in his words to the Corinthians. Rather, he has already indicated that he baptized some at Corinth and surely others elsewhere. In addition to this, there are those who are evangelists, there are those who disciple, there are those who serve in other ways, etc. Even Jesus is noted as not being the one to baptize others during His ministry. This is seen in John 4:1, 2 - "Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples)."

 

Paul's primary mission then wasn't to baptize. He probably had others do this. It was time consuming, especially because full immersion baptism is what the Bible implies. Also, it is intended to follow acceptance of Christ. Paul, as an evangelist, would move often whereas those in the church would be available to baptize new converts at a convenient time and location, even if Paul moved on. And also, as he already noted in his previous comments, baptizing people can lead to divisions and strife. This would be especially so if a competent visitor came to town. If he was gaining converts and baptizing them also, then there would be a division in allegiances; something that actually occurred at Corinth even without baptisms being added in.

 

Rather than being one who baptized, Paul said his commission was "to preach the gospel." And this is what he tirelessly did. The record of Acts especially shows that Paul preached to kings, jailers, nobles, and common folk. He preached at an open-air stadium and in synagogues. He preached with words and he preached with actions. He preached to Jew and he preached to Gentile. He met each person on their level and he never missed the chance to tell the wondrous news of salvation through Jesus Christ. This was his main calling and the motivation behind his very life.

 

And as he preached, he did so "not with wisdom of words." In other words, he used the common language and experiences of those around him. It is noted that the Greeks were a society of deep philosophy and mental contemplation. They were often practiced in smooth oral deliveries and were able to tie in high emotional peaks in order to capture the attention and hearts of their listeners. This is very common in modern churches once again. There is an appeal to emotion and there is a high value placed on flashy deliveries and impressive effects to pull the audience in.


But Paul dismissed these tactics. The message of Christ isn't one of philosophical depth or emotional manipulation. It is a message of the consequences of sin and the mercy of God in dealing with those consequences through the cross of His own Son. For this reason, Paul dismissed the dramatic "lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect." In other words, if people can be satisfied in their lives without the cross, then that satisfaction would seemingly negate the need for it. But the cross demonstrates that there are real consequences for sin and that a real penalty is therefore demanded.

 

Paul's only desire was that his message would be clearly and competently stated so that those who heard it wouldn't be misdirected by a false gospel and a belief that the cross was somehow unnecessary for them. In fact, Paul's desire to stick to the very basics when transmitting his message made him appear extraordinarily boring. In his second letter to the Corinthians, we read this from his hand -

 

“For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” 2 Corinthians 10:10

 

This almost sounds like a theologian who is locked away in a library and only comes out once in a while to share his new discoveries - "weighty and powerful" letters, but "contemptible" speech because he never bothered with training in flashy oration. But this is exactly what is needed in our Christian world today, not ostentatious sermons with showy backdrops, but sound theology and words directed to Jesus and His work.

 

Life application: There is one Lord and one gospel. The good news is that Jesus Christ went to the cross to pay our sin debt and that there is no other way to heaven than through His work. Sin has real consequences that must be considered in light of His cross. Let us not get so caught up in the hype of a gaudy church presentation that we miss the wonder of God's word.

 

Lord, I'd rather hear a monotone discourse explaining Your word, than hear the finest speaker on earth who would tickle my ears and give me no instruction from the pages of the Bible. Thank You for preachers who lack flash, but profess Your glory. Bless them and prosper them in their souls. Amen.

 

 

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

 

"For the message of the cross" is a phrase which needs to be considered in the context of what Paul just noted, which was "the preaching of the gospel." In Greek, he now states Ho logos gar ho tou starou - For the doctrine (word) of the cross..." In this phrase, the second article is definite and it is emphatic. The message is the essence and the very purpose of the cross he is referring to.

 

Therefore, the cross is the gospel, but it isn't the piece of wood which is erected in the form of an instrument of torture. The cross has been used on criminal and martyr alike thousands upon thousands of times. On the day Christ was crucified, there were two others on crosses next to Him. The instrument of the cross itself then isn't what Paul is referring to.

 

It also is not the message of the one who follows Christ, picking up and carrying his cross daily. In other words, it isn't the burden that we have as a follower of Christ. Though it may seem foolish to the world around us that we would be willing to give ourselves in this way, this is not what Paul is referring to either.

The "message" or "doctrine" of the cross is the truth that Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son, died on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for those who trust His work. To the world, this message is nonsense because they don't see sin as a problem. But the cross of Jesus Christ shows that sin is an infinitely great problem; one of such magnitude that there is no way for us bridge it in order to be restored to God. Instead, God had to provide the bridge. Jesus Christ, fully human, could mediate for his human followers. Jesus Christ, fully God, could mediate to His infinite Father.

 

But the message of the cross doesn't stop there. It is true that we believe Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, but the cross is also the only atoning sacrifice for sin. Apart from the cross of Jesus Christ, there is no other way to be reconciled to God. Because of this, those who aren't "in Christ" because of His work, are destined for eternal condemnation. This... this is what is foolishness to the world.

 

The world looks to self for righteousness before God. The cross bestows God's righteousness upon undeserving self - apart from any personal merit. This glorious "message of the cross is" indeed "foolishness to those who are perishing." The verb for "perishing" in the Greek is a present participle which indicates the current process of what is happening - they are "on their way" to destruction. Because they find what God has done for them as foolish, they are enemies of God and heading towards a bad end. However, until one dies, they have the opportunity to change the course which they have taken.

 

In contrast to them, Paul then explains the believer's state when he says "but to us who are being saved." There are those who perceive the doctrine of the cross as foolishness and they are on the way to destruction, but there are those who believe this message and they have moved to another category - "being saved."

 

Again, this verb is a present participle which indicates that we are in the process of what is occurring. Unlike those who don't believe though, this status will not change. The Bible consistently proclaims eternal salvation. And so the believer's on-going process is one with the certain happy end intended by that act of faith in the ability of the Lord to completely save us through His cross.

 

And this is because the cross to us "is the power of God." As Paul says in Romans 1:16, " For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."

 

The message of the cross is "salvation for everyone who believes." It isn't limited in ability only in scope. Anyone who turns and believes can and will be saved. The limiting factor of the cross is a simple lack of faith. One must turn from self and to Christ, accepting that what God has done is in fact not foolishness, but glorious. From that moment on, God's power can and will save the once wayward soul.

Life application: Sin is what necessitated the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross of Jesus Christ is what is capable of atoning for sin. No other thing can atone for sin. Therefore, there is no other way to be reconciled to God except through the cross of Jesus Christ. Believe in the message of the cross and be saved.

 

Glorious Lord Jesus, when I reflect on why You went to the cross, it amazes me all the more. Our sin and our unrighteousness has placed a wall between us and our Creator. Your cross was necessary to atone for our sin and to break through that impassable wall. Our sin... my sin... Lord, I believe that what You did is fully sufficient to wipe away that which once separated me from God. Thank You for Your cross. Thank You! Amen.

 

 

For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” 1 Corinthians 1:19

 

As Paul does often in his epistles, he now refers to the Scriptures which testified to the work of Christ, the wisdom of God, and the instruction for proper conduct of the redeemed. "For it is written" implies that God's words have been recorded and are absolutely authoritative. In his quoting of the Scriptures, he turns to Isaiah 29:14 and freely cites it, showing the overall intent without an exact quote.

 

1) "I will destroy" shows God's sovereignty over the matter to be addressed. It also shows His power to accomplish it as well. No power can stand against the tide of God's judgment. In the case of this verse from Isaiah, it is God's decision to abolish what is otherwise worthless, which is...

 

2) "The wisdom of the wise." Isaiah's words were directed to "Ariel," the city of Jerusalem. The people in the city had moved to religion without relationship; to knowledge without wisdom; and to a life of ease without gratitude to the One who provided it. They felt secure; they were "fat, dumb, and happy." Because of this easy life, they felt that nothing could assail them. They boasted that God must be on their side because of the easy life, even though they wanted nothing to do with God. As a side note, this sounds a lot like the nation of America today. This type of behavior in Jerusalem led to God's decision to bring the enemy against them and destroy them -

 

"I will encamp against you all around,
I will lay siege against you with a mound,
And I will raise siegeworks against you.
You shall be brought down,
You shall speak out of the ground;
Your speech shall be low, out of the dust;
Your voice shall be like a medium’s, out of the ground;
And your speech shall whisper out of the dust." Isaiah 29:3, 4

 

The wise would perish in their "wisdom." The same can be expected for those today who reject God's offer of the cross (refer again to the previous verse of 1 Corinthians for context).

 

3) "And bring to nothing" means that He will so eradicate what He judges that there will be nothing left of it to remember; it will be completely swept away.

 

4) "The understanding of the prudent." It doesn't matter what the issue is - moral, philosophical, religious, governmental, etc. No matter what the "wise" or "prudent" man conceives, if it is against God's divinely established order, and if it is contrary to the message of the cross of Christ, it will be shown deficient. Such things will be utterly swept away by God.

 

Life application: What God looks for in His creatures is gratitude, respect for His holiness, a belief that what He has created is good and proper, etc. To shun His word and to shake our fist in His face, particularly against His work in Jesus Christ, can only lead to judgment.

 

Lord God, I know in my heart that You have complete control over the world. I don't need to fear when the weather changes, because You are the One who directs it. If we have a cold winter, it is because You so ordained it. If we have a hurricane, that was because You determined it to be so. You, O God, are sovereign over all things. Our future is in Your capable hands. Watch over us according to Your wisdom. Amen.

 

 

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 1 Corinthians 1:20

 

Paul now brings in a set of four questions in response to his quoting of Scripture in the previous verse. That verse said -

 

"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent."

 

This is reflected in the rhetorical questions of Isaiah 33:18 -

 

"Your heart will meditate on terror:
'Where is the scribe?
Where is he who weighs?
Where is he who counts the towers?'"

 

When asking such questions, a dumb silence or an ineffective retort is the expected response. The same is true with Paul's questions here. His first inquiry is to ask, "Where is the wise?" Here he uses the term sophos which is equivalent to a sage. This would be the instructor of knowledge; a person who was filled with supposed wisdom and is sought out to answer the deep problems of life for those around Him. But in the end, there are no true answers to the most important questions of life apart from Jesus Christ. This takes us back to what Paul said in verse 18, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." Only in Christ Jesus are the answers of reconciliation with God and the granting of eternal life to be found.

 

Building on the terms "the wise" and "the prudent" from his quote from Isaiah, he next asks, "Where is the scribe?" The scribe was originally designated as the person who transcribed the law. Eventually, the term was applied to someone who not only transcribed it, but also was knowledgeable and even a scholar of it. With one exception, the Jewish concept of this word in the New Testament always indicates one who interprets the law. But Paul asks, where is he? On the doctrines of atonement, salvation, peace with God, etc., the scribe is a completely ineffectual interpreter if he looks to the law apart from Jesus Christ.

 

After mentioning the scribe, we are now asked to consider "the disputer of this age." This is a person we might call a sophist; one who makes an inquiry into the cause of things and how they relate to other things. Their investigations would follow through with the minutest details and bring them together into a grand resolution of the greatest mysteries. They would be the "Sherlock Holmes" of investigating philosophical matters.

 

In the Greek mind, these would be the ones who could reason out what seemed impossible to reason. Within the Jewish context, it would be those who would split the hairs of every verse of Scripture, looking for the ins and outs of theological inquiries. Where is such a disputer? Without reasoning life from the context of Jesus Christ, they are lost in a philosophical conundrum and a set of Scriptures which are actually murky and unclear. Nothing, from either a philosophical or scriptural investigation, makes sense without the plan which God has worked out in Jesus Christ. Instead the true purpose of existence and of Scripture are hidden and unattainable.

 

Finally, as an answer to the first three questions, Paul asks another rhetorical question - "Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" The answer demands a "Yes" response. For all of the immense logic and philosophy which had been contemplated by the Greeks (and many subsequent generations since then), and for all of the intensive study of the Scriptures by the Jews, there remains no final answer to the greatest questions of all. Instead, because they cannot answer the ultimate questions, their great learning actually is futile. God has, in fact, made their wisdom foolish. Why? Because even a mere child can understand the simple gospel and be saved. Apart from Jesus Christ, the greatest minds in human history lack what the little child can know and be granted. Their futile efforts are well-reflected by Isaiah 6:9 -

 

"And He said, “Go, and tell this people:

‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

 

Life application: Don't spend all of your life looking for the deeper mysteries of the world without evaluating them through the lens of Christ. Without Him, the greatest knowledge is lacking purpose. Without Him, there can be no true wisdom. But once you understand and seek Him, then all other wisdom finds its proper perspective.

 

Lord God, Your word says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Help me daily to humble myself before Your greatness, to acknowledge your sovereignty, and to look at all of life's mysteries, challenges, and trials through the lens of Jesus Christ. I know that if I follow this path, all things will make sense. And so keep reminding me of this my Lord. To Your glory I pray, amen.

 

 

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 1 Corinthians 1:21

 

Paul introduced the main thought of this section showing that the cross is the power of God unto salvation and that the thoughts of man, no matter how high and lofty, are foolishness when considered apart from the cross.

 

Thinking on the great mental achievements of man - philosophical, logical, scientific, etc., we find that none of them bring us any closer to how to actually be saved. They may be filled with incredible amounts of knowledge and yet still not explain what is truly important. Yes, it's interesting to know about quasars in the farthest reaches of the galaxies, but if we are destined to perish apart from God, what difference does the knowledge of them make?

 

And so Paul begins verse 21 with "For since..." Because the sage, the scribe, and the disputer could never attain to the highest and most important knowledge of all, "in the wisdom of God" another path was chosen to reveal that knowledge. Why is that important? The reason is that salvation is completely separate from human ability, endeavor, or determination. If the very highest aspect of man (the intellectual mind) cannot attain to God, then whatever God gives to bring that reconciliation is greater than that highest aspect of man.

 

Though "the world through wisdom did not know God" is reaffirming the concept that the sage, the scribe, and the disputer (these highest offices in man's understanding) still don't know Him. They may be able to deduce there is a God. They may be able to deduce things about this God. They may even be able to know that there is a disconnect between this God and themselves. However, they have absolutely no idea how to resolve the disconnect.

 

The sage who gives advice can only say, "I think" this is the answer (while being wrong), or he can simply lie and make up a religion, which is why there are so many false religions.

 

The scribe can pull out his many texts on science, logic, philosophy, etc and say "these don't resolve that particular problem." Again, when this fails, he can make up a fib - "The universe created itself. There is no God. Problem solved!" Unfortunately, the problem isn't solved.

 

The disputer can argue back and forth with a classroom full of inquisitive minds about a relationship with God, but the answers will always fall short of satisfying those inquisitive minds. Like the scribe, he can make up a tale and tell the world the problem is solved - "We evolved from lower species. Natural selection and evolution have brought us to where we are." But again, we know that there is sin in the world and one cannot evolve into "sin." There would be no consideration of wrongdoing if natural selection were true.

 

No matter what approach is considered, without God's special revelation, the wisdom of the world cannot know God. And so because of this, God demonstrates His ultimate wisdom in a way which thus confounds the greatest thinking of man. In this "it pleased God." In other words, God is satisfied in the method that He chose because it demonstrates His omniscient authority over every man and over all men. This isn't God "lording" his wisdom over us in an arrogant way, but His demonstration to us that this way is the perfect way. It allows the young child, the jungle dweller, the man on the street, and the business executive - and any other person who so chooses to accept it - to rely wholly and solely on Him. In it His grace is seen because there is a total and absolute reliance on Him.

 

And this beautiful, marvelous demonstration of God's wisdom is "the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." It isn't the preaching which saves, it is the message contained in the preaching. Therefore, the preacher is wholly dependent on the accuracy of the message. This again demonstrates that even the preacher and the listener are altogether dependent on God for salvation. If the preacher preaches a wrong message, intentionally or through incompetence, then there is no salvation. Thus, there is the responsibility on the listener to check up on the preacher.

 

In this, Paul calls the message preached "foolishness." He will explain this in the coming verses, particularly verse 25. But to consider the context now will help us think through what he means. If the greatest minds in humanity, pursuing God through the greatest disciplines, cannot find how to be reconciled to Him, then whatever He devises for our reconciliation is higher than what those great minds with their great achievements can attain. And if that immensely great plan of God is mere "foolishness," then imagine how stunningly awesome is the overall wisdom of God!

 

Life application: Never underestimate the greatness of God.

 

Lord God, the greatest minds of humanity can solve the most complex questions concerning science, logic, philosophy, and mathematics, but they cannot conceive of how we can be right with You. And yet, the message is so simple - the cross of Jesus Christ. If this message is beyond the most intellectual of all humans without You giving it, then how great You are! The message a child can understand is out of the reach of the genius until he receives it by faith. Thank You for demonstrating Your wisdom, even to me - a mere child. Amen.

 

 

 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 1 Corinthians 1:22

 

This verse expands on what was just said by Paul, that "it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." The term "for" means "since" and therefore this is less of an explanation than a continued rendering of the same idea. In this then, he details the categories of those who would reject "the foolishness of the message preached" and why they would reject it.


The first are the Jews. They "request a sign" in order to believe a message. However, the term "request" doesn't fit with our concept of what the word means. When we think of "request" in modern English, we think of someone asking for more soup in a polite way. What the Jews wanted in a sign was more of a demand. In essence, "We will believe you only after we see a sign." This is seen several times in the gospel records, such as in Matthew 12:38 - "
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.'"

 

By receiving such a sign, they certainly felt that it validated their status as a people before God as much as it validated the authenticity of the one to provide the sign. As the covenant people, they had the oracles of God, the prophecies of a great future kingdom, etc. They could refer to the great signs and miracles of the past which showed that they were God's favored. And so they expected them to be shown as continued evidence of this. However, a sign from a person, if a true sign, is ultimately a sign from God. If it is, then what the one who reveals the sign proclaims is expected to be listened to and acted upon.

 

In Jesus' ministry, He performed a specific group of signs, beginning with turning water into wine and culminating with the resurrection. And yet, despite this proof, they rejected the message that accompanied the signs. Paul, and all of the apostles, preached the message of the cross. The cross implies that there was a sin-debt to be paid before one was right with God. But the Jews, believing that they were already right with God, rejected their crucified Messiah - the message was "foolishness" to them. Thus, the signs that accompanied the message were rejected. Because the signs were rejected, the One (God) from whom the signs came was also rejected.

 

Unlike the Jews, the "and Greeks seek after wisdom." The Greek approach to enlightenment was to go deeper and deeper into the heart of a matter, searching out the nature of things. New ideas were constantly received and evaluated. This is seen in the book of Acts when Paul went to Athens. There Luke records, "For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing." (Acts 17:21)

 

Ever in search of new things, new ideas, and new concepts of the workings of the world around them, the Greeks sought out answers to everything in exacting detail. This is equivalent to the world of scientists today. They are looking for the exact details of the Big Bang, they are searching for the "God particle," they want to know everything about everything because they believe that through knowledge alone, they can identify the meaning of life and the reason for our existence.

 

Because of this, the message of the cross is utter foolishness. How could everything be so intricately balanced, so marvelously timed, and so exactingly researchable and yet require an act of grace from God in order for us to be made right with Him? If He existed at all, then certainly He would find us acceptable because we have spent our time searching out His creation so carefully. Wouldn't He?

 

But searching out creation is not the same as searching out God. The creation declares the glory of God, but it is separate and distinct from Him. We don't worship the Creator through His creation, we worship Him because of it and because He is the Originator of it. As the psalmist said -

 

"Of old You laid the foundation of the earth,
And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
They will perish, but You will endure;
Yes, they will all grow old like a garment;
Like a cloak You will change them,
And they will be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will have no end." Psalm 102:25-27

 

The Greeks, like the intellectuals of the world, search after wisdom through the creation and miss the One who gave the creation. The message of the cross has no place in their minds because it doesn't fit with their presuppositions about how things should work in a universe which is so organized and seemingly understandable.

 

In both approaches, the problem is a misunderstanding of self. Sin is a barrier to the message of the cross. For the Jew, sin is discounted because of Jewish-ness. For the Greek, sin is discounted because an orderly universe demands an orderly answer to all things  in a way which is reconcilable apart from God.

 

Life application: The message of the cross is God's way of telling Jew and Greek that sin is a real problem and that it can only be fixed by Him. Don't over-analyze the situation to the point where you miss the grace. And don't expect the grace to be granted through a miraculous sign. Accept the grace and be reconciled to God.

 

Lord, I love the message of the cross because it takes away my need to correct the mess that I am. If evolution were true, then I'm at the top off the ladder - as a mess; that is a depressing thought. But Your word says that I'm a mess because of sin and You have handled my sin-problem all by Yourself. I accept the premise, I receive the payment, I choose Jesus. The sinless Lamb of God has proved that the mess I am is healed and headed for an unmessy future. Hallelujah to the Lamb. Amen.

 

 

...but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 1 Corinthians 1:23

 

This verse is given as a contrast to what was just stated. Taken together, they read -

 

"For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness..."

 

Whereas the Jews request a sign and the Greeks seek after wisdom, those who hold to the doctrine of Christ have a different view of a relationship with God. "But" is the contrasting conjunction, "we however preach Christ crucified." Signs are unnecessary for a right relationship with God. Abraham is the pattern of those declared righteous by faith. He was given a promise which would otherwise seem impossible and he believed. In his belief, God credited it to him for righteousness.

 

The work of God in Christ is that He would be crucified for our sins, but the Jews were looking for something outwardly great in their Messiah. Surely he would be a grand king, a conquering ruler who would vanquish their enemies. Instead, He was a humble servant who was nailed to a tree. This would be particularly offensive because the law which established them says explicitly, "he who is hanged is accursed of God." (Deuteronomy 21:23)

 

Because of the way in which Christ died, as much as anything else, they simply couldn't believe. Where a sign was expected, a dead man on a tree was displayed. This then became a "stumbling-block" to their understanding of God's redemptive work. A stumbling-block (Greek: skandalon) is something which trips one up. When one walks and there is a large block in front of them, they walk over or around it. But when there is just a slightly-raised and almost imperceptible bump, it isn't noticed. Because of this, one trips up because of it. This is what happened with the Jews. They simply tripped over the work of Christ, not seeing it for what it was.

 

For the Greeks who looked to wisdom as the ultimate goal of existence, the cross was simply foolishness. The body of Christ was crucified and died. How could God's redemptive plan include something so base, so not mind-centered. Wouldn't the Christ be able to speak out wisdom that was hidden concerning all things? Wouldn't He be able to explain why we were here and what our purpose was? If He died as He was nailed to a tree, then obviously He didn't understand the way to living forever! And if He was dead, then He was gone. The resurrection must be the foolish delusions of His followers.

 

This is why Christ is rejected by Jew and by intellectual. They are looking at the world around them with presuppositions about how God would do things. But we are men and not God and we cannot fathom what God would do. All we can do is look at what He does and accept His work by faith.

Life application: Christ's death atones for sin. Christ's resurrection proves that His death atones for our sin. Have faith in these things and be reconciled to God.

 

Lord, I love to see Your wisdom displayed in Your creation. Different things bud and bloom at different times so that there is always a supply of food for the creatures of the world. The ice floats so that even in winter fish can swim underneath it in warmer waters. Ammonia becomes Nitrite and then it turns to Nitrate. After that it converts to Nitrogen and off it goes into the air. Everything is balanced so beautifully. What a great, wise, and caring God You are. Amen!

 

 

...but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:24

 

In the previous verse, we read that the apostles preached "Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness." Without the crucifixion of Christ, there would be no atonement, no forgiveness, and no reconciliation with God. But the message seems foolish to the majority of those who hear it, both Jew and Gentile. However, Paul tells us that "to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks," there is an understanding that what God has done in Christ is of the utmost value and importance.


Because he mentions "Jews and Greeks" in one verse it is saying that regardless of heritage, there is one body in Christ. We are shown in Romans 3 that there is no difference between Jew and Greek because both are bound under sin. In Galatians 3:28, he tells us that "There
is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." In Ephesians 2:14, he says that the "middle wall of separation" is broken down. The middle wall was a barrier at the temple which separated the Jews from the Gentiles. These distinctions are now erased in Christ.

 

But it goes further. The term "Greeks" here is used to represent all Gentiles. Paul is saying that it makes absolutely no difference where one is from, what their lineage is, nor the color of their skin. There is one body comprised of people from all groups, male and female alike. And they have all come to the same glorious conclusion, which is "Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."

 

Because all are bound under sin, then there must be a level playing field on how that sin is removed. As we cannot do it, then it is obviously beyond our power and our wisdom. As this is certain, then it truly is a demonstration of "the power of God and the wisdom of God." Jew and Greek alike fall short of the remedy, but God makes the offer. Therefore, the person who accepts the gift, though possibly with a mental defect, has more wisdom than the most intelligent minds of humanity who reject it.

 

Think of it! A mentally-challenged person who is ridiculed by those around him has the ability to grasp what they cannot. The little child who receives Jesus by faith has a greater understanding of God's salvation than the scientist who works on nuclear physics but who shuns Christ. And the believing slave who is beaten and scorned by the master, has a greater position by far than the non-believing master will ever imagine! This is the wisdom of God and the foolishness of man. It is the glory of God revealed in an instrument of scorn and shame. It is the cross of Jesus Christ - power, wisdom, and majesty from heaven's throne!

 

Life application: Do you feel snubbed by the world sometimes because of your faith? So what! You have access to heaven's riches. All they have is temporary access to earth's vanishing vapors. Stand fast in your faith in Jesus Christ - the power of God, and the wisdom of God for all who believe.

 

Lord, You know that I'm not the brightest bulb in the world. You fashioned me and You know my every limitation and fault. But Lord, You also know my heart... I love You, I cherish You, and I cling to Your cross. Though all the world mocks me to shame, I will never let go of this glorious display of love, power, wisdom, and life. I will never let go of my faith in You. Amen.

 

 

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:25

 

This verse needs to be considered from the perspective of man rather than the reality found in God. It is speaking of perception, not in actual terms. In other words, "Because the foolishness of God" is a perception of what God has done, is doing, or will do rather than the actuality of those things.

 

God's plan is anything but foolish, but when man sees it (meaning "man" in general) he finds it foolish.

 

"Taking thousands of years to save the world? What about all those who died in the flood? How stupid!"

"Picking a bunch of tent dwellers to reveal His plans to the world... How stupid!"

"Hanging someone hang on a tree to save someone else... how stupid!"

"Going away after being 'resurrected' from the dead? And still being gone 2000 years later? How stupid!"

 

Unregenerate man sees these things as "foolishness." Picking up the Bible and turning to any page will reveal more "foolishness" to them because they simply cannot grasp the enormity of the plan, the perfection behind it, and the wisdom that is involved. To the logical statistician, the numbers don't add up. To the scientist, the data seems to suggest chaos rather than order. To the philosopher, there is always the question of how evil fits into the picture and how unjust God must be to send so many people to hell.

 

All of these seemingly foolish things have purpose, they have order, they have sure and just resolutions, but the individual man cannot see beyond his particular shortcomings. In this "foolishness," as perceived by man, the one who understands the gravity of the situation and the perfection of the cross will find that truly "God is wiser than man."

 

Again, in the second half of the verse Paul speaks of perception rather than actuality. "The weakness of God" is how man sees this plan.

 

"How could God use someone like Jacob who supposedly saw Him on several occasions, wrestled with the Him in the night, was carried along all his days, and yet was so weak in his faith as to worry about losing his son Benjamin? What kind of God would use him?"

"In the line of the 'Messiah' are prostitutes, fornicators, murderers, adulterers, and on and on. What kind of plan is that? A bunch a weak and useless sorts leading to someone great... I think not!"

 

"The 'Messiah of the world' hung on a cross! You must be kidding. If He is so great, why didn't He actually call down the angels He claimed He had available? Why doesn't He write His name in the sky so that we can all see it? What a weak God....!"

 

Again, to the one who hasn't seen sin for what it is; to the unregenerate man; to the one looking for external displays of power and might - to all of these the plan seems filled with weakness. But the perceived weakness of God is actually stronger than men. What He has done is of such a magnitude of power more than any person could conceive that it is simply astonishing. Every drop of rain in the upper Nile was calculated into what would become a famine in the middle-east so that Israel would need to travel to Egypt.

 

Every grain of grass is monitored to ensure that all things work out as they should. Every galaxy and star in the heavens has an exact place to keep the universe properly balanced for the life on earth. What man fails to consider is held tightly under control by the God who knows all things, sees all things, and directs all things according to His wisdom and might.

 

Life application: When Paul says in Romans 8:28 that "all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose," we can be 100% sure this is true. The wisdom of God and the power of God are so far beyond our comprehension that we cannot come close to perceiving it. Rest in the knowledge that God is God and He will take care of you according to His promise.

 

Lord God, I know that every drop of water that filled the earth during the Flood of Noah was controlled by You. If You were aware of the exact amount of water that would execute Your plan, even down to the last ounce, then why should I worry about the ten zillion things I have no control over? I believe Your word which tells me that You have it all under control. I will rest in that knowledge. Amen.

 

 

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 1 Corinthians 1:26

 

For the past 8 verses, Paul has been speaking about the perceived foolishness of the message of the cross. Because it is something the intellectual can't grasp apart from God's divine revelation, it is considered foolish. Surely if there is a way to be saved, God would have revealed in creation itself, right? And because the religious man can't understand it apart from being viewed through the les of Christ, it seems foolish. Likewise, because the philosopher can't figure out how to be saved through mental ruminations, it seems foolish.

 

However, these types of people are generally the mighty, the noble, and the wealthy. They are the ones who have the smarts to make things happen. Despite this, they don't have the ability to perceive that God may actually be smarter than they are; that the depths of His wisdom can never be fully sought out.

And so, based on these things, Paul says, "For you see your calling, brethren..." He is speaking those who have heard the calling of God through the message of the cross and have received it. This is certain because he calls them "brethren." To them, he continues with "that not many wise according to the flesh, not may noble, are called." This doesn't mean that the wise can't be saved. Nor does it mean that a great number of them won't be saved. But in comparison to the vast majority who are saved, they are few in number.


Some people are "too smart" to be saved. Some are certain God must favor them because of their bloodline. The thought is, "If I was born into a great and wealthy family, then God must really like me." Such thoughts about self obscure the message of the cross which says that we must die to self and put on the garment of Christ - having a righteousness that is not our own. Mental ability, wealth, position, good looks, fame, etc. are all roadblocks to that right and personal relationship with God that can only come through calling on the name of the Lord and being saved by Him - apart from any personal merit.

 

Life application: When you see the rich, famous, and wealthy making a mockery of God, pity them. They have a short life of ease and notoriety and an eternity of regret ahead of them. Pray that they will turn, humble themselves, and call out to Christ for salvation.

 

Lord God, I look around me and see those who mock You and arrogantly shake their fists in Your face. And yet, You loved them enough to send Jesus to save them too. I would pray that many would turn away from their hatred of You and be saved through the precious blood of Christ. I know this is what You desire and this is also what I pray for. May the hearts of the boastful be brought low before the glorious cross of Calvary. Amen.

 

 

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 1 Corinthians 1:27

 

Verse 27 begins with "but" to show support for what he just stated in the preceding verse which said, "For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called."

 

Though many of the "brethren" aren't wise, mighty, or noble, all they need to do is reflect on the fact that they are of the called despite their worldly state. Instead of skipping over them for those others, "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise." How many out there with doctoral degrees think ever-so highly of themselves? Professors teach in colleges and seminaries with impressive insights into academic matters and yet they are devoid of any personal relationship with God through Christ. And yet, there are millions of high-school dropouts who have called on Christ and are of the redeemed. Though they are looked down on by those of high learning, they are in fact the ones who have been granted the grace of eternal life.

 

In addition to them, "God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty." There are many great athletes who boast in their strength. Because they are so exceptional by worldly standards, they often have great wealth and even move into politics or  business later in life. But the puny weaklings who are overlooked have had time to reflect on the more important matters of life. While the athlete is exercising, the weakling is home reading the Bible.

The same is true with the mighty in military, political, or financial power in comparison to the average person who works a regular job and quietly lives his life. Might of any sort is an opiate which replaces one's instinctive need for God with feelings of self-worth and greatness. Instead of such sorts, God has revealed Himself to those who simply and humbly live their lives and take time to seek Him out.

 

Life application: Just because someone is prettier, stronger, more intellectual, or more powerful than you, there is no reason to be envious of them. In the end, beauty fades, the strong tire and age, the intellectual become forgetful, and the mighty go to the same grave as the rest. Those who have called on Jesus though have the sure promise that the grave isn't the end of the story. By the power of Christ, we shall be raised to eternal life. What more could we hope for!

 

The message is so simple, O God. We need a Savior and You sent Jesus. We have sinned; He is sinless. And the surest proof that my faith is in the right place is the resurrection. I believe the word, I accept the premise - Jesus is Lord. Hallelujah and Amen!

 

 

...and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,... 1 Corinthians 1:28

 

Continuing on in the same line of thought as the previous verse, Paul shows that the things God decides upon and uses can be the least of all. And this is for a reason. If He chose the great things of the world, then the world could boast of their greatness before God. But by choosing those things which are weak and foolish, then God is exalted when He uses them to put to shame the mighty and the wise. Such is also true when He chooses "the base things of the world."

 

The "base things" are exactly the opposite of those things which are considered noble. Instead of choosing the blue-blooded, He goes to the uneducated and the lowly. Such people know how they are accounted to those in the world around them. But when they find that God has a purpose for them and that He loves them, they become the greatest example of His tender-mercies. Those who were once drug addicts or prostitutes realize the magnitude of the riches of Jesus Christ and so their hearts will be radically changed in turning to Him. The gratitude will never cease throughout the eternal ages.

 

This is also true with "the things which are despised." These "God has chosen" according to His wisdom. This is true with His original selection of Israel. We read of it in Deuteronomy 7:7 -

 

"The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples."

 

Surely, the surrounding nations looked upon them with contempt and thought they could snuff them out in a moment. And the Bible bears this out. Great nations came against Israel and yet Israel prevailed. Gideon and 300 men triumphed over 120,000 Midianites - a number like the sand of the seashore. And how could this have been conceived of? Even Gideon, when given his commission responded to the Lord with incredulity -

 

“O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” Judges 6:15

 

However, God used him - the least of his father's house, from the weakest clan of Manasseh - and he was victorious. Such is the case, time and time again in the Bible. And such is the case again in the world today. Little Israel is hemmed in by enemies and even her "friends" are working to tear her apart. And yes, she again will prevail over the nations. You, like Israel and those who are despised and weak, can too prevail when the Lord is at your right hand. Be encouraged by this.

 

Finally, Paul adds in, that God also uses "the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are." The Pulpit Commentary notes that "The not is the Greek subjective negative; things of which men conceived as not existing - 'nonentities.'" In other words, that which appears to be absolutely nothing can be used by God as if it is something. John the Baptist spoke this way to those who came to him -

 

"Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones." Matthew 3:8, 9

 

God can raise up children from mere stones and He can raise you up and use you as well. This is the marvelous working of God in redemptive history. From the very dust of the earth, God formed the majestic being known as man - intricately woven together and capable of amazing feats of intelligence and strength. From one man who was old and childless came a group of people who have lasted and endured for 4000 years. And from that line of people, which included some of the worst sort, came the human genealogy of the Messiah of the world.

 

With God, nothing is impossible. If you are the called of the Lord,  He may have chosen something weak, foolish, base, despised, or even considered as "nothing." But if He has called you, then you are of more value than all of the high-minded, noble, and powerful people who have rejected Him. Think of your position of honor in His eternal home and be satisfied with what the future holds.

 

Life application: In Christ, you are a glorious jewel within heaven's treasure box, radiant and precious.

 

Heavenly Father, though I am little and of no account to the great, noble, and learned of the world, I am Yours because of my faith in Jesus. No greater treasure, no higher achievement, and nothing else of this world can compare to that. I belong to You and have an eternal inheritance. Let the world despise me. Your favor is all I need. Hallelujah and Amen!

 

 

...that no flesh should glory in His presence.1 Corinthians 1:29

 

For several verses, Paul has been explaining how God chooses the weak, the foolish, and the despised to shame the mighty, the intellectual, and the noble. Because of this, there is no boasting before Him. If such as these are chosen and not the others, then they are obviously considered lesser in any given category than those others and so they can't boast that they were somehow great.

 

But there is also the fact that some nobles are Christians, some mighty are Christians, and some highly intellectual people are as well. How then can this statement be considered an all-encompassing truth? The reason is that those who are in such positions had to step down from where they were - away from those around them, and humble themselves just like those of lesser status. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. All are bound under sin and so no one can reach higher than any other in expectation of being saved. Therefore, those who are of the higher position on earth were actually more humbled in their status before being saved than those of lower position.

 

As Paul tells us in Romans 3:27 - "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith." In his ever-consistent way of explaining theology, Paul shows that it is faith which saves and so regardless of status, or works of the law, or any other thing, all must ultimately and completely credit God for their salvation.

 

For this reason, "no flesh should glory in His presence." The term "flesh" is being used to consider the whole man. All who stand before God have nothing in and of themselves which they can glory (or boast) in. When the redeemed stand in His presence, we will not glory in ourselves, we will give the glory to God. As this is absolutely truthful for us now and certain for us at that time, then let us endeavor to live as if it is true. In all things, let us give glory to God.

 

Life application: If you feel that you somehow merit your salvation (because of who you are), or if you feel that you must somehow merit your salvation (through works), they you probably aren't saved. Salvation is a gift bestowed upon one who does not deserve it. Accept the gift and rest in the work of Christ alone.

 

Lord, Your word says that I am saved by grace through faith and that this is a gift. I accept that I stand justified before You completely and wholly on the merits of Jesus Christ alone. I rest in what You have done. Thank You for the cross of Christ. Amen.

 

 

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— 1 Corinthians 1:30

 

In the past four verses, Paul has written about the workings of God, specifically mentioning "God" three times:

 

1) God has chosen the foolish things of the world

2) God has chosen the weak things of the world

3) The base things of the world and the things which are despised, God has chosen

 

After that, he noted that because of God's efforts "no flesh should glory in His presence." Because all was a work of God, then we come before Him with empty hands. There can be no boasting in self because of the work of another.

 

And so in verse 30, he begins with "But of Him." This is speaking of God who has been noted as the One who has accomplished the work of reconciliation which began with His selection of us. It is "of Him," meaning God, that "you are in Christ Jesus." God selected us and God did the work for us through His Son. Because we have received the work of Christ, we are "in" Christ. We move from Adam to Christ, from death to life, from condemnation to salvation.


We have moved into a positional relationship with God by being in Christ Jesus "who became for us wisdom from God." As seen in the previous verses, the calling of God is predominantly among the weak, the base, the despised, and etc., according to the world's standards. And even those who are highly intellectual, mighty, or noble had to let go of self and humble themselves before God. This is because the great attribute they possess is actually nothing before Him. Rather than our own wisdom, we find the wisdom from God when we find Christ. All things make sense: life has purpose, the reason why we are here suddenly becomes clear, the Scriptures with their unusual stories suddenly clear up and are understandable. It is in Christ, and only in Him, that such wisdom can be obtained.

 

And along with the wisdom, we also receive more. In Christ there is:

 

1) "Righteousness." Before coming to Christ, we were unrighteous. As humans we bear sin, both inherited and committed. Sin is an offense to God and thus we are born in and continue in unrighteousness until it is removed in Christ. At the cross, a transfer is made. Our unrighteousness is transferred to Him to be removed at His death and His righteousness is imputed to us (2 Corinthians 5:21).

 

2) "Sanctification." Because of our position in Christ, we are sanctified by His Spirit. Prior to Christ, we were deemed unholy and unclean before God. But our position in Him means that we are considered holy and pure. This doesn't mean that we have actually attained this state, but that we are regarded as such because of Christ. In position, we are sanctified.

 

3) "Redemption." Jesus said that the one who sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34). John confirms that he who sins is of the devil (1 John 3:8). Because we are born into sin and continue in a life of sin, the devil is our master. But Christ Jesus can redeem us from this through His work. When we receive Him by faith, we are redeemed from the power of the devil. Because we are so redeemed, we are in Christ and can never lose this position. This truth is noted in 2 Corinthians 5:19 -

 

"For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation."

 

If we falter, it doesn't change our position because God is "no longer counting" our sins against us. The doctrine of eternal salvation is written all over this concept. What kind of a Savior would come only to provide eternal insecurity? Rather, in Him we are declared righteous, we are sanctified, and we are redeemed. This is the marvelous work of God in Christ for us!

 

Life application: To be in Christ is the sweetest place to be.

 

Lord God, You sent Jesus to justify a sinner such as I. I receive Him. You sent Jesus to sanctify us from our impurity. I receive Him. And You sent Jesus to redeem us from the power of the sin. I receive Him. Thank You for the work of Christ. In Him, I have found peace with You. Thank You for the infinitely glorious work of Jesus my Lord. Amen.

 

 

...that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:31

 

The last verse of Chapter 1 begins with, "as it is written." Thus Paul is going back to the only Scriptures of his day (the Old Testament) in order to make a summary point concerning his thoughts of the past 21 verses. His quote is a condensed citation of Jeremiah 9:23, 24 -

 

"Thus says the Lord:

'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,' says the Lord.'"

 

In Christ alone is where our boasting is to lie. It does not belong to any given man:

 

1) There should be no divisions within the church, i.e. "I am of Paul" or "I am of Cephas." Etc.

 

2) The should be no following after the great and learned of the world - whether a pagan or a well-trained and faithful follower of Christ, i.e. "I follow Aristotle," or "I follow John Calvin," or "I follow Albert Einstein," or "I follow Billy Graham."

 

3) There should be no desire to emulate the mighty.

 

4) Our goal shouldn't be to seek after a nobleman, a politician, or a movie star.

 

Rather than these things, or any other potential division in our allegiance concerning our spiritual life in Christ, we should direct our hearts, our souls, our minds, and our attention to what God has done in Him. In essence, "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord." It is Christ who is the head of the church; it is Christ who demonstrates and reveals to us the wisdom of God; in Christ are found the otherwise unsearchable riches of knowledge and understanding - both in the created order and in Scripture; in Christ is all power and strength; and in Christ is all greatness and majesty. Surely then, if these things are true, let us boast in and glory in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.

 

Life application: Why trade your allegiances for something less than what is the greatest of all. As Jesus Christ is the epitome of perfection in all that is good and wonderful, let Him alone be your hope, desire, aspiration, and love.

 

Supreme and all-glorious God - You alone are worthy of our adoration and emulation. Give us a heart to follow after You and to use as our role model Jesus Christ our Lord who fully reveals You to us. Thank You for the endless, ceaseless display of glory which You make known through Him as we walk in Your light and in Your holiness. Help us always to fix our eyes, hearts, and thoughts on Jesus. Amen.

 

 

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1

 

Paul begins chapter 2 with a comparison of himself to what he had just given concerning the called in Christ. In 1:26-31, he showed that God chose the foolish, the weak, the base, and the despised as opposed to the high and lofty, mighty, noble, and etc. And the reason He did this was so that "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord." This is the basis for his words "And I..."

 

Instead of having come as a great orator, or a captivating persona, he reminds them of the type of person he is and was. "And I, brethren" then makes a double comparison. First is the "And I" which is the comparison to his previous words, and "brethren" is his way of demonstrating that he is just like they - brethren. They are not subjects or otherwise lesser in some way.

 

After so presenting himself he reminds them of "when I came to you." Paul is now in Ephesus and is calling to memory the manner in which he presented himself to the Corinthians. With his arrival, he "did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom" to declare to them "the testimony of God." The Greek word for "excellence" indicates elevation or superiority. His speech wasn't in such a self-authoritative manner. Instead, it was of the authority of the cross and the resurrection. Paul directed his listeners not to himself, but to the One he proclaimed. The Greek word for "declaring" implies an authoritative proclamation. In other words, the substance of his words, not the manner in which they were presented, was where the authority rested.

 

Unfortunately, the substance of the message had been forgotten, at least in part, as we will continue to see throughout the epistle. And unfortunately, it continues to be forgotten or disregarded in the world today. Congregations follow after exactly the opposite of what Paul states in this verse. Rather than the authority of the gospel, congregants look to the presentation of the messenger. Instead of the power of the message of cross, the eloquence of the preacher is of paramount importance. This is truly sad - that after 2000 years of holding the Bible open in churches for eyes to see and perceive, the preacher is valued more than the message.

 

Life application: Better a dispassionate speaker with the message of Christ, than the greatest orator with something else...

 

Heavenly Father, guide me to preachers and teachers who are right in their theology regardless of how well they present their message. I would rather sit and be instructed by the drone of bees than the calming sound of butterflies if the bees preach the truth of Your word. How I cherish Your message and how I long after right instruction. Hear me Lord, and direct me to those whose doctrine is sound. Amen.

 

 

For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2

 

"For" builds upon what he has just said, that he "did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom..." In other words, when going to the Greeks who looked for polished speech and fine oratory skills, or when going to the Jews who looked for a competent evaluation of the Scriptures (and being a Pharisee, he could easily provide this), he determined that these wouldn't be his means of proclaiming Christ. Instead of being caught up in a flashy presentation or in a detailed and hair-splitting study of scriptural subtleties, he would be consumed with the contents of the message itself.

 

It was Paul's determination "not to know anything among you." In this phrase, "to know" is the Greek eidenai. Based on verse 1, he is indicating that he wouldn't be engaged in or regard anything other than what he had predetermined to proclaim. There would be nothing flashy, there wouldn't be anything sensational, nor anything without one sole and determined purpose. And that purpose included nothing "except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."

 

In a world which looked for (and still looks for today) eloquence and a composure in oral delivery, Paul overlooked these things. He had a specific message which didn't need flash. Later in 2 Corinthians 10, it will be noted that his "bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible." To him, refining these things for his delivery could only subtract from, not add to, the message. His message was Jesus Christ - the Son of God and the fulfiller of the law. But even more specific, his message was "Him crucified."

The word "crucified" here is emphatic. The very thing which is "to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness" (1:23) is the same thing that he asserted above all else. Before the cross, all eloquence fades away; before the cross, all wisdom is weighed; before the cross - only before the cross, Scripture becomes clear. Without the cross, nothing can ultimately make sense because without it, sin remains. What Jews overlooked and what Greeks snubbed their minds at and turned their eyes from is the most excellent of all of God's workings. As Paul says in Philippians 3:8 -

 

"Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ."

 

Life application: What shames a church isn't the preacher's delivery, be he an eloquent orator or a monotone speaker. It isn't derived from a beautiful presentation of music, order, and intriguing detail from life lessons, or a haphazardly put together gathering. A church's shame isn't realized in a small dirty building or a large exquisite cathedral. Instead, it is found in a message which fails to proclaim the cross of Jesus Christ. Every time a congregation meets as a church, if the Person of Jesus Christ isn't exalted and if the cross isn't highlighted, that church has failed to glorify God.

 

Lord, the beauty of Your church is found in the shame of the cross. Keep me, Lord, from being wooed by a peaceful message, an exciting oration, or lively music which fails to proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified. May my heart long for, may my eyes look to, and may my thoughts be centered on Jesus Christ alone. With this, I know You will be well-pleased. Amen.

 

 

I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 1 Corinthians 2:3

 

Building on his last two sentences which said that he came to Corinth not with "excellence of speech or of wisdom," but he came only proclaiming "Jesus Christ and Him crucified," Paul will now add in a note concerning his own dependency on the Lord. As he came he states that he "was with you." Vincent's Word Studies says that this should rather be "I became" instead of "I was." In other words, what he will describe is something that either grew out of his time there or that was increased during his time there. As he was there for over one and one half years, this is not unlikely.

 

Regardless of the tense used to describe him, the facts were evident to his readers as he calls them to mind. He was "in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling." Paul, contrasting himself to the fine orators and bold proclaimers of the world, was a much more feeble and timid person.

 

His weakness was probably a defect of the eyes. He once stood in the same room with a group of people, including the High Priest, and the following exchange took place -

 

"Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, 'Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.' And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, 'God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?' And those who stood by said, 'Do you revile God’s high priest?'

Then Paul said, 'I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, 'You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.'" Acts 23:1-5

 

Also, in his letter to the Galatians, he made this statement - "For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me." Galatians 4:15

 

Additionally, Paul was known to write with unusually large letters, a sign of bad eyesight (Galatians 6:11).

 

Finally, Paul notes in his second letter to the Corinthians that he had an affliction which he asked the Lord to remove. Three times he implored the Lord. However, Christ told Him that His grace would be sufficient for him; that His "strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

 

With this probable weakness of the eyes, or something which was comparable to it which he openly writes about, he preached the gospel to those in Corinth. But more - he did so "in fear." He was a man continuously targeted by those around him. Again, in his second letter to the Corinthians, he will describe some of those fears -

 

"From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches." 2 Corinthians 11:24-28

 

His troubles and fears become so great while he was at Corinth, that the Lord personally came to him to reassure him that He was being watched over. This is seen in Acts 18:9, 11 -

 

"Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, 'Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.' And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.'"

 

And finally, Paul notes not only the "weakness" and the "fear," but also "much trembling." Above all, Paul was a man who trembled. This wasn't a result of the bodily harms which came his way, but in the thought that he would fail the Lord who called him and thus he would grieve the Spirit with whom he was sealed. It was his strongest passion to proclaim Christ, finish the race, and in whatever manner the Lord was so pleased for his end, to accept that end with confidence. If only he could be faithful, he would be pleased with the life he led. This constant battle against his own weakness caused him to tremble.

 

Life application: Have you determined to exalt the Lord at all costs and to never diminish His glory in the eyes of another? This is our highest calling in life. Let us not fail in this endeavor.

 

Lord Jesus, if I have but one request, it is that I glorify You with my life and never tarnish Your bright glory in the eyes of another. Though those around me fail to see Your holiness and Your majesty, let me continuously bring it to mind as I properly handle Your word to demonstrate who You are to a lost and dying world. This is my plea to You - be glorified though my conduct. Amen.

 

 

And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power... 1 Corinthians 2:4

 

Still building on his previous three verses, Paul continues with his manner of personal delivery of the message he brought to Corinth. The fact that he has spoken about himself and continues to in this verse in this way will be explained in the verses ahead, but it's obviously important that he reminds them of it in order to ensure that they mentally go back and see the truth of what he is saying.

 

And so, in his continued thought he says that "my speech and preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom." His "speech" would include his private conversations and his witnessing to individuals, etc. When he sat and spoke together with others, he didn't try to bamboozle them with a lot of overly-intellectual words. His "preaching" would be his public discourses. Whether preaching to an entire group, or standing on a street corner proclaiming Christ, he kept his message simple, concise, and clear.

 

In fact, in both his private and public speaking, it was "not with persuasive words of human wisdom." When cooing a potential spouse, we may use words we wouldn't use towards a general friend. When trying to sell a product, the salesman will talk in an excited manner about the product and not leave a chance for interruptions. When a politician speaks, it is unheard of for them to give negative impressions about themselves; instead they act as if they are the epitome of integrity and capability.

 

In these, and many other such instances, we use "human wisdom" to effect a change in those we are targeting. The silver-tongued young man wants to obtain the lovely bride; the industrious salesman wants to be promoted and get his commissions; and the politician desires to be in his position of authority. Because there are external motivators, crafty speech of human design is employed. But Paul rejected this method when presenting the gospel to others.

 

Instead, he came to them "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." His words, unlike the eager lover, may have had words directly cutting to the heart of the listener - "You have violated God's law." His words, unlike the salesman, may have had words which would normally blow a sale - "Without Jesus, you cannot be saved." And, his words unlike the politician, may have had thoughts which were self-debasing - "I too am a sinner, like you. I rely solely on the merits of Jesus Christ my Lord."

 

In any words he spoke, his thoughts would have been contrary to what one would expect to obtain the desired results when dealing in non-spiritual related matters. But in the case of the gospel, it is the Spirit who authored Scripture; it is the Spirit who gives the plan of salvation; and it is the Spirit who calls the lost soul to come and be saved. Paul's words were in line with the Spirit's intent for those who would hear and believe and they were filled with the power to save.

 

As he writes in Romans 1:16 - " For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."

 

Life application: Marilyn McCoo, once a member of the pop band the Fifth Dimension, had been presented the message of Jesus on several occasions, but to no avail. Then someone brought the Bible along when they talked to her. In showing her the Word of God and allowing her to look at it directly, she saw in it the wisdom of God and the power of God; she was converted. When witnessing, stick to the gospel and stick to what the Spirit has provided. He will affect His purposes without us getting in the way.

 

Lord God, please help me to remember that Your word has the power to change hearts and bring lost souls back to You. Keep me from getting so caught up in the wisdom of the world that I forget to simply use what You have already given to tell folks about Jesus. In your word is the all the wisdom I need to tell others the wondrous message of Christ. May Your word and Your Spirit work in them - to Your glory. Amen.

 

 

...that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.1 Corinthians 2:5

 

In the preceding verse Paul spoke of his speech and preaching. When he came to those at Corinth, it wasn't with "persuasive words of human wisdom." Instead he came with a "demonstration of the Spirit and of power." Now in this verse he explains why - it was for the benefit of his audience. If he came preaching with eloquence and the wisdom of men, they would have been swayed to him and to a message which was devoid of the gospel. But in order to show that his words were to glorify God, he kept them directed to the message of Jesus.

 

When we hear a message and are swayed by it, we place our faith in it. If we hear a great presentation about the newest product that will help us lose weight, we are bound to put our faith in what we've heard and buy the product. If we hear a politician with an ear-tickling message of wealth and prosperity, we may put our faith in him and cast our vote for him.

 

Whatever the presentation, if it is smooth and properly targeted, we may exercise our faith in what has been said and accept the premise. People do it with products, people, and even religions - all regardless of whether the message is true or not. This is the reason why Paul wrote these words in Galatians 1:6-9 -

 

"I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed."

 

In his words to the Galatians, he uses the term "we or an angel from heaven." Paul was an apostle. Should another apostle come with another message, it is to be rejected. Only the message of the true gospel is acceptable. This is important because even today many claim to be apostles, and yet their message isn't directed to Jesus. The Bible is written and we are accountable to compare what we hear with the words which have been written.

 

Angels are considered authoritative speakers who carry heavenly messages. Both Islam and Mormonism claim their message was received by angels. And yet both of them proclaim a message other than the one recorded in the Bible and therefore they cannot be of God. Unfortunately, many are swept up into these false religions because they don't check with the Bible.

 

Only through the one true message of Jesus Christ can we avoid falling into a pit of false religion. In the gospel, however, is found the true "power of God." When the message is received, the believer is sealed with the Holy Spirit and the soul is converted to everlasting life. Paul speaks of this again in 2 Corinthians 4:7 -

 

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us."

 

Life Application: Test all things and hold fast to what is good. Stand firmly on the truth of the Bible and in the gospel of Jesus Christ alone.

 

Lord, there are so many people who claim they have seen a vision, heard from an angel, or been taken to heaven and given a tour of glory. But me,,, I have Your word. That is sufficient for me. I know that if I keep my eyes directed to its words, my mind contemplating its truths, and my heart directed to Jesus, whom it proclaims, that I will be in good shape. Keep me from being misdirected from the truth of Your word. Amen.

 

 

However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 1 Corinthians 2:6

 

Verse 6 begins with "However." This is given to contrast his preceding argument which encompassed verses 1-5. Without words that were persuasive or which contain merely human wisdom, he notes that "we speak wisdom among those who are mature." The "we" is specifically speaking of the apostles, but it is inclusive of the body of believers. This is certain because in verse 10, he will use the term "us" when speaking about spiritual matters revealed to the body. He will continue with the use of "we" and "us" throughout the chapter. What is available to Paul, is also available to all in the body - it is the knowledge of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

 

This wisdom is "among those who are mature." What he is implying is that what we know as believers is more mature than all of the other heady knowledge of the world which he has been speaking about. He has relayed to us the various wisdoms which people hold to. The first was the wisdom of the Greeks which relied on the philosophic disciplines, mentioned in 1:22. Next in 2:7, he mentioned the "wisdom of God" which is the message he preached. And now, in this verse he speaks of the "wisdom of this age."

 

There are intellectual wisdoms, of which there is nothing wrong in knowing, but they are wisdoms which are futile when devoid of the truth of God. Only when those wisdoms are combined with a knowledge of our Creator do they become true wisdom. As the Bible states on several occasions, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10). This is why Paul says that the message of the gospel is for those "who are mature." It is the highest type of knowledge because it gives the highest form of understanding to all things. The reason for every "what" or "why" is ultimately found in God. Apart from Him, there is always going to be a disconnect to the final resolution of any intellectual matter.

 

Therefore, the gospel is "not the wisdom of this age." It is a wisdom which transcends time and goes directly to the mind of God. It is something which cannot be found in the thoughts "of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing." These people, the "rulers of this age," implies anyone who bears a high degree of intellectual knowledge, but which is devoid of God. If we were to equate them to people of today, we would call them the "evolutionists," the "global warming scientists," the "big-bang theorists," and etc.

 

These are people who are working on agendas which have removed God from the picture. They are pursuing knowledge, but doing so without including the ultimate reason for all that has or will happen. And therefore, there findings will always "come to nothing." In the end, without considering God as the "first Cause" there can be no foundation for how things started or where they will end.

 

Life application: The universe didn't create itself. If it did, it would have had to exist before it existed; a logical contradiction. This is the type of stupidity which the "rulers of this age" must rely on in order to deny God. Have a little faith, use a little common sense, and be assured that God created, God sustains, and God will keep His promises to those whom He has called.

 

Lord God, I see Your hand in everything around me. The beauty of the flower from bud to bloom; the intelligence of the bee as it gathers its nectar; the marvel of the rain cycle which nourishes the earth; the intricately balanced spin of the universe and all it contains... wisdom! This is what I see as I behold Your creation - wisdom. I stand in awe of Your greatness. Amen.

 

 

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory... 1 Corinthians 2:7

 

"But" is given to contrast "the wisdom of this age" and also "the rulers of this age" which he had just mentioned. Those so noted are, despite their high status now, those "who are coming to nothing." Many arguments and philosophies come and go which attempt to answer how we got here, why we are here, what our purpose is, and even how we can control our surroundings and our destiny. But without including God in the equation, the ruminations are futile and ultimately lack true wisdom because they lack the final answers. Understanding this, Paul says "But..."

 

On the other hand, and completely different from their futile contemplations, "we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery." As noted in the preceding verse, "we" is speaking of the true believer in Christ. It is not speaking of the "mature" in Christ, nor the "learned" in Christ, but all Christians. This is because all Christians possess the necessary starting point and finishing point of all wisdom - Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word. This then is not referring to "deep knowledge" but simply the gospel message which Paul has been referring to all along and which is summed up in verse 2:2 - "For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."

 

It is true that there is much deep and intellectual study which can be obtained from the Bible and the many disciplines it reveals, but every one of those disciplines finds its true meaning and fullness in Christ. Apart from Jesus, the most intellectual person on earth can pick up the Bible and find interesting things - interesting patterns of many sorts for example, but they cannot be properly understood without knowing Christ personally.

 

Because of this, Paul calls it "the wisdom of God in a mystery." A "mystery" in the Bible is something that was once concealed, but is now revealed. It is not something attainable only to certain enlightened people, but something which is attainable to all who are found in Christ; that Christ died for our sins and was resurrected for our justification.

 

This truth is "the hidden wisdom of God ordained before the ages for our glory." And this is the "mystery" which is rejected by those who think that they have all of the great answers available without God. They become so blinded by their own intellect, power, understanding, or nobility that they cannot see the work of Jesus for what it truly is. And thus, they are excluded from the wisest information of all. And yet, it is wisdom that truly even a young child can grasp. This wisdom from God turns the world upside down. This is the wisdom from God which Paul speaks of.

 

Life application: Don't get sidetracked by folks who use Paul's terminology concerning the wisdom of God to place themselves above others as if they have secrets others can't perceive. Paul always brings his theology back to the cross of Jesus Christ. If you have this knowledge, and have accepted Jesus' work based on it, then you have the most important knowledge of all.

 

Lord, I know that big computers can track my every phone call, my every text and email, and even my location. If a crummy machine made by man can do this, how much more You, who created all things, must know about me - my every fault, my heart's desire, my thoughts in the night. It is both terrifying and uplifting at the same time. Apart from You there must be terror at such knowledge. In Christ, You have washed away the bad and are attentive to the needs. My God! How great You are.  Thank You for Jesus who covers my sin and reconciles me to You. Amen.

 

 

...which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Corinthians 2:8

 

Paul is continuing the thought from the previous verse which said, "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,..."

 

This "wisdom of God" was hidden from the eyes of the "rulers of this age," both Jew and Gentile. Paul says that if they, in fact knew what was coming, "they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." And yet, this is exactly what was needed in order for we as humans to be saved from our sins. There had to be a perfect Substitute to take our place.


The question then arises, "What does it mean that if they had 'known, they would not have' done what they did?" The reason this is important is because it can be looked at from two different perspectives:

 

1) If they knew that Jesus was the incarnate Word, the Son of God, they wouldn't have dared to crucify Him, knowing who He truly was.

2) If they knew that His crucifixion would prove that He is Lord, they would never have crucified Him; thus they would have attempted to thwart God's plans.

 

In Acts 2:36, it states this, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

 

Knowing this even after the resurrection, they still rejected him for the most part, though many believed. So the question remains open. What does it mean that if they knew the outcome of the cross of Christ, they wouldn't have crucified Him? These people were utterly and completely ignorant of the wisdom of God revealed in Christ, but today the "wise" of the world have heard the message of Christ and they still reject it. In fact, from time to time someone will utter the immensely stupid words, "When Jesus comes back, kill Him again."

 

If Jesus is to come back, it implies a few things: 1) He is alive (and thus over 2000 years old in His humanity); 2) He really came out of the grave, having prevailed over death; 3) Death cannot hold him (see Acts 2:24) and so "killing Him again" is utterly ridiculous; 4) He must be God incarnate; 5) If He is God incarnate, then the words of the Bible which testify about Him must be true; 6) He then is the only way to be saved.

 

And yet, despite these logical deductions, His rule and authority are still rejected! Thus, it is not inconceivable that Paul is saying that rather than not crucifying Christ because they would have loved Him, instead they may not have crucified Him in order to thwart the plans God had to exalt Him because of His work; in essence they would have hated what the cross meant, just as the world hates it and fights against it today.

 

The leaders of Israel knew Him to be a man of God, they saw His miracles, they heard His words, and yet they rejected Him. But the very rejection that they planned was a part of God's own plans for them, or for anyone who would be willing to drop their fists, humble their hearts, and call on this wonderful Lord of glory. This is the amazing thing about the work of God in Christ. Even those who participated in His crucifixion could only be saved because of His crucifixion. What an amazing demonstration of the wisdom of God in Christ.

 

Life application: Never underestimate the hardness of the human heart. Those who reject Christ are at enmity with God. Even knowing who Jesus is and what He did for us, many hate Him all the more. Be ready to defend your faith, proclaim it boldly, and sometimes to do so many times. With witness, prayer, and perseverance even the hardest heart may soften.


Heavenly Father, my prayer today is for those who have heard of Your immense love in the giving of Your Son and who have yet to receive this beautiful gift. Help me to be a strong witness of the great change that can take place in even the hardest heart. Be glorified in calling them to Yourself through Jesus. This is my prayer to You this day. Amen.

 

 

But as it is written:

"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him." 1 Corinthians 2:9

 

This is one of the many verses which is more often than not misapplied by those who quote it. It is not speaking of the future state of the Christian in heaven. From the surrounding context, we see that it is speaking of the same continuous thought which Paul has been writing about for quite a while - the wisdom of God displayed in the gospel message.

 

Turning again to Scripture, Paul loosely cites Isaiah 64:4 -

 

"For since the beginning of the world
Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear,
Nor has the eye seen any God besides You,
Who acts for the one who waits for Him."

 

"But" surely confirms the analysis of the preceding verse which indicated that if the rulers of this age knew that Jesus' crucifixion would prove that He is Lord, they would never have crucified Him; thus they would have attempted to thwart God's plans. The "rulers of this age" were mentioned twice, in verses 6 and 7, as being those who lived by "the wisdom of this age" which is referred to in detail in chapter 1. Paul is giving a contrast to that very notion, one hinted at in the Old Testament.

 

Paul speaks of "the things which God has prepared for those who love him." It is evident that the "rulers of this age" didn't love Him and continued to fight against Him during Paul's time; and for the most part, they still do to this day. Therefore, it is likely that had they known the fullness of the plan of Christ in advance, they would have worked to undermine it. But God kept the details hidden, veiled in seemingly obscure passages within the Old Testament. They only become evident in hindsight.

 

Even those who love Him were unable to clearly see what was coming. Jesus explained much of His work to the apostles and yet they couldn't understand what He was saying. The plan was so incredible that it could never have been comprehended. Even after the resurrection, Thomas doubted the words of the other apostles, seeking tangible proof before he would believe.

 

The true blessedness of the gospel is set apart then for those who have not seen but still believe. It is by grace through faith that we are reconciled to God. The many wondrous facets of the gospel then are "the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. It is the current state of the believing soul that is being referred to in this verse, not the future heavenly state.

 

Life application: In order to avoid misusing verses, ensure that the context of the verses you cite is always considered. By doing this, the hearer won't be misdirected by an improper use of what God intends.

 

Heavenly Father, there is no more wondrous state for me to consider than the one I find myself in now. I am a sinner saved by grace, having faith in the work of another - a sinless Lamb. The eternal wonder of heaven's glory cannot be more astonishing than the place in which I now find myself... reconciled to You through the work of Jesus. Thank You for my Lord, Amen.

 

 

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 1 Corinthians 2:10

 

"But God" is given as a contrast to "the rulers of this age" who are emblematic of all the learned, wise, noble, mighty, etc. These people may have worldly advantages over others, but apart from understanding the work of Christ, they are devoid of the most important knowledge of all. Despite everything they can accomplish, they cannot attain, the precious facets of the "wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory."

 

However, those who hear and receive the message can attain them because He "has revealed them to us through His Spirit." Again, a verse arises which is often manipulated and used in a way which is unintended by Paul. This verse is not speaking about a sudden illumination in the individual concerning a spiritual revelation apart from the Bible. Rather the Bible is the key to  understanding these things because it was authored by the Spirit for our benefit.

 

Albert Barnes wisely notes the following three points concerning what is being relayed in this verse -

 

"(1) That people by nature are not able to discover the deep things of God - the truths which are needful to salvation.

(2) that the apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit; and if so, then the Scriptures are inspired.

(3) that all Christians are the subjects of the teaching of the Holy Spirit; that these truths are made known to them by his illumination; and that but for this, they would remain in the same darkness as other men."

 

God spoke in times past through the apostles and prophets concerning the truths of Christ. As Peter explains in his second epistle to us that, "knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." 2 Peter 1:20, 21

 

These writings are, as Jesus Himself says, what testify to Him. It is the Bible which is to be our standard concerning all spiritual matters. To rely on the Holy Spirit for spiritual matters without reading and knowing the Bible is a category mistake. It can only lead to bad theology which will, by necessity, devolve into heresy.

 

Because the Spirit is the one who guided the prophets and apostles as they wrote, we have the very depths of the wisdom of God revealed to us in the Bible. And the reason is given by Paul - "For the Spirit searches all things, yes the deep things of God." Everything within the Godhead is available to the Spirit of God.

 

This tells us a few things about the Spirit:

 

1) He has all the knowledge of God (omniscience)

2) Only God is omniscient

3) Therefore, He is, like the Father and the Son, an independent Person within the Godhead; but in no way separate - thus the doctrine of the Trinity is confirmed.

 

When Paul says that the Spirit "searches all things" it doesn't mean that He is looking for something. The word erauna is used. It indicates a continuous, complete, and detailed knowledge and enlightenment of "the deep things of God." Those things that are to be revealed by God in the Bible are from the eternal mind of God. Though some parts of the Bible were penned by Moses and some by John 1500 years later, and many authors in between them, they reflect a wisdom that is fixed, firm, unchanging, complete, accurate, harmonious, etc.

 

Because this is so, let us take special care to pay attention in our church gatherings. If something is spoken or taught that contradicts any portion of the Bible, then it cannot be of God. If God says that no more than three may speak in tongues and there must be an interpreter, then any presentation of tongues which doesn't match this is not of the Holy Spirit.

 

The Bible explicitly states that women are not to teach or have authority over men. Therefore, if a church has a female pastor, though she may be knowledgeable, eloquent, or uplifting, she is not being directed by the Spirit and the meeting is not authorized by God. In our pursuit of God, we must allow God to be God and be attentive to His words lest we be found disobedient.

 

Life application: God has spoken and His word is written, other than what is recorded there, what more do we need for the development and practice in our spiritual life? The answer can only be, "Nothing."

 

Lord God, if the Bible is Your word, then surely it is sufficient to instruct me in all aspects of my spiritual life. What more do I need than what You have spoken? Surely You have given sufficient instructions for those things. So Lord, help me to understand Your word and be obedient to it. To Your glory I pray. Amen.

 

 

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. 1 Corinthians 2:11

 

Paul is tying what he just said in with this thought. He has been writing about the wisdom of God which has been hidden and unknown to man until it was revealed by the Spirit of God. If the Spirit of God had not revealed these things (which are now found in the proclamation of the prophets and apostles, and which speak of the work of Christ - all as recorded in Scripture) we never would have been able to discern them. They belonged alone to God, in His eternal mind.


To show us something more easily understandable, he uses the thoughts of the individual man as a comparison. Nobody can get truly get into another man's thoughts. All we can do is make deductions about what someone is thinking, but we can never know for sure the details and sum of his mind. The same is true with God. He has created, and we can make deductions about Him from His creation, but we can never fully attain to the thoughts of God - and we surely cannot speak for Him about what His thoughts are.

 

Only can the spirit in a man know the things of that man and in like manner, only the Spirit of God can know "the things of God." Unless the man reveals his thoughts to another, they remain his alone. As this is true with someone just like us, and it is true with all humans who have ever lived, how much more God! Unless God reveals His intentions to us we cannot ever probe those things which are hidden in Him.

 

Paul is going to continue with this thought in the verses ahead, but it is important to remember that what He has been speaking about, and what he will continue to speak about, is the message of the gospel. He is not indicating that we have something available to us that is unavailable to others. He is not saying that because we have the Spirit, we are able to obtain a level of spiritual knowledge that others cannot. Nor is he saying that we can now "speak for God" in prophetic utterances. He is clearly explaining how the message of the gospel was unknown until it was known and that it is God's incomparable way of bringing salvation to man.

 

Later, when speaking of those who are not in Christ, he will explain why they cannot perceive the gospel. It is not because they don't have it available to them, but because they don't have faith to receive it. When faith is exercised, they will receive the Spirit and the gospel will suddenly make sense.


Life application: Faith in the gospel is not a step into darkness, it is stepping into God's revealed light. This light is found in the Bible which contains the words of the prophets and apostles. These words proclaim Jesus Christ. The things of God necessary for salvation have been revealed by the Spirit of God to us. Let us continue to read and cherish this treasure of wisdom and love all our days.

 

Lord God, I don't need to climb the highest mountain to find You. I don't need to cross oceans or walk in the hot and arid desert to get close to You. And I don't need to sell all my possessions and give the money to the poor to be pleasing to You. What I need is to fix my eyes and thoughts on Jesus and place my faith in Him. And You have revealed Him to me in Your word. Thank You for Your word which shows me Your love for us in Your Son. Thank You. Amen.

 

 

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. 1 Corinthians 2:12

 

Paul just spoke of the Spirit of God being the only One who can truly know the things of God. Now he builds upon this, stating that "we have received." In the original sense, he is surely writing about himself and the other apostles as they received instruction concerning the work of God in Christ (the very subject he has been speaking about). In other words, the reception of the things of God was limited to the apostles who have then given us what they received. Through them, this was revealed to those who accepted the message and believed. When faith is exercised in the true gospel, the believer is then sealed with "the Spirit who is from God;" the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13, 14).

 

Therefore, Paul's "we" is ultimately referring to all true believers. What we receive "is not the spirit of the world." In this, he is probably thinking on two separate lines. The first is the Jew who was looking at the Scriptures from a worldly, kingly sense. Their idea of a Messiah was one who would deliver them from their enemies and set up a kingdom over the world in which they would be the head of the nations. They couldn't understand that "all are bound under sin" and therefore sin is the greatest enemy. Before the Messiah could reign as King, He had to suffer as the Servant.


The second line Paul is probably speaking of is the wisdom and philosophy of the Greek which looked for a rational, natural explanation for all things. Their knowledge excluded the thought of sin needing to be dealt with by God personally. Such knowledge could never understand the deep things of God which necessitated His divine intervention to reconcile us to Him. Along with the wisdom of the Greek was certainly the inclusion of all of the gentile systems which always look to self and to works for reconciliation with God. In all, the "spirit of the world" is at enmity with God.

 

But in His grace, God provides His Spirit to those who believe "that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God." Again, as noted in previous verses, this is not speaking of divine inspiration of new things and prophetic utterances which people claim all the time in churches today. It is speaking about those things that were revealed through the apostles and given to us in Scripture. It is the word of God which tells of Jesus. Though lacking the sensation of charismatic churches, it is the Bible and only the Bible by which we are given insights into what God has done, is doing, and will do in the world. The apostles received the word directly from God; we receive the word directly from the Bible.

 

Life application: Ever since the completion of the Bible, people have continued to proclaim prophecies and claim that they have had dreams and visions concerning divine revelation from God. And yet, in those 2000 years, none of them have added anything of value to the truth of the Bible. Instead, they have been diversions away from biblical truth. Don't get swept up in the vain imaginings of others, but hold fast to what God has revealed. What more does He need to say?

 

Lord, I trust in Your word alone to be my source of knowledge concerning You in all spiritual matters. Thank You for the Holy Bible. Amen.

 

 

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 1 Corinthians 2:13

 

Again, Paul continues to build on his previous thoughts. "These things" refers to the "the things that have been freely given to us by God" from the previous verse. The Spirit was upon the apostles, including Paul, for the reception of the word of God. In this, he shows that they were under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as they spoke out the message of Christ. Those words which were put to pen and compiled for us became the word of God, the Holy Bible.

 

It is this cherished book that is "not in words which man's wisdom teaches." No other book has its source directly in God. Instead they have their source in the created rather than the Creator; man's wisdom is involved. But those prophets and apostles whose work is included in the Bible "spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21).

 

As "man's wisdom" is excluded, only the truth of God remains. It is true that the styles of the  individual writers of the Bible come through, but each word was selected by God, moving harmoniously with the writer so that His perfect intent is realized. When a musician plays from a sheet of music, his style may come through, and yet the musical notes were each selected by the composer. If the musician is faithful to follow the score, then the style and intent of the composer will be known, despite who the musician is. So both the musician and the composer can be discerned at the same time.

 

If Eddie Van Halen were to play Bach, anyone who knew Van Halen's style could say, "That is Eddie Van Halen." At the same time, anyone who knew Bach's writing style could say, "That was written by Bach." In the Bible, man's wisdom is excluded, but the words of the divine Author and the style of the human writer remains. Thus the Bible can be, and is, the word of God.

 

Finally, in Paul's words today he says that this process is noted as "comparing spiritual things with spiritual." This is an immensely complex phrase which is highly debated concerning its exact meaning. Many possibilities exist as to how Paul's words are rightly translated. One possibility which seems appropriate based on the next verse would be "Explaining spiritual things to spiritual persons" (Adam Clarke). This will continue to be evaluated in  verse 14.

 

Life application: God's word is sealed. The prophets and apostles have received God's revelation which has been recorded for us and which is our guide for life and conduct as Christians. Extra-biblical revelation is not only unnecessary, it would be a diversion away from the very word which God has given us. Don't be swayed by those who claim prophecies or "a word" from the Lord. The Lord has given us His word - did He somehow miss something? No!

 

Lord God, You have given us Your word; I will hold to it alone. You have sent Your Son to reveal You to us; I will look to Your Son. You have told us He is our One Mediator between us and You; I will pray through no other. Thank You for Your word which tells of Your love for us in Christ my Lord. And thank You for Christ my Lord. Amen.

 

 

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14

 

This is another highly abused verse within common Christian speech. It needs to be viewed from within the context given and with reasonable contemplation. Far too often, Christians will cite it as a demonstration of the impossibility of a non-believer being able to know, understand, or perceive anything found in the Bible. Likewise, they will cite it to demonstrate that they have access to all knowledge and are therefore authorities on the subject matter they desire to speak of. Both of these are immense misinterpretations of Paul's intent.

 

He has been speaking of the contrast between human wisdom and the wisdom of God (which is the work of God in Jesus Christ). He has demonstrated that His work - the cross, the resurrection, etc. is God's plan of salvation, something which is "foolishness" to those who reject this plan. To support this, he begins with "but." This is given as the contrast to those things "which the Holy Spirit teaches." The contrast is that "the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God." The natural man is the Greek term psychikos de anthropos. The word psychikos is descriptive of the natural or lower aspect of humanity. It is earthly rather than heavenly. The word pneumatikos on the other hand is used to describe the spiritual aspect of man.

 

A great comparison of these two words is found in 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul describes the contrast between the earthly and the spiritual man. In James' epistle, he uses the term to describe earthly wisdom -

 

"This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic." James 3:15

 

Jude speaks in similar terms as well. Understanding that this is a state of the person, it should be noted that there are many Christians who act anything but spiritual. They have accepted Christ, but they aren't focused on Him as Lord through much of their walk. This is exactly what James is talking about in his letter. Therefore, Paul's words here cannot be taken as an example that Christians suddenly become the possessors of all spiritual knowledge, nor can it be used to say that non-believers have no ability to discern the contents of the Bible.


Instead, and what should be perfectly clear from the context, is that Paul is speaking of the very same matter he has been speaking of throughout the chapter (and even in the previous chapter). It is that the wisdom of God is displayed in the work of Jesus Christ. This is God's special revelation concerning the redemptive process. Those who believe that one can answer all things through natural revelation (what can be perceived through creation), logic, and philosophy will inevitably reject the work of Jesus. To them it is foolishness that God would save people in such a way as this.


This is what Paul is referring to. Such things "
are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Only through the spiritual knowledge imparted to us by God can we know the truth of the gospel. The Holy Spirit spoke through the prophets and apostles, testifying to the work of Jesus Christ. They in turn gave us the Bible to read, accept, and believe.


The problem with misinterpreting this verse as many people do, is that they suddenly act upon it as if they have all the spiritual insight they need and it is available to them by daily injections of Holy Spirit power. When in fact, what they have available to them is the Bible - given by the Holy Spirit. The Bible, however, is a big, complicated, and often hard to grasp book. It takes immense study, contemplation, meditation, and care to fully grasp - and in fact, no one can truly plumb its depths.

 

Study is hard work and it involves expanding one's mind, even to exhaustion. It is time-consuming and it requires much perseverance and dedication. These things are not now, nor have they ever been, very popular. Interestingly, many non-Christians - Jews, agnostics, and even professing atheists, know the Bible far better than most Christians. They discern many truths from it and they use it as a valuable source of knowledge and history. Because of this, it is obvious that Paul isn't speaking on the terms of general knowledge and ability to perceive Scripture. He is speaking on the truth of what Scripture ultimately proclaims - Jesus Christ crucified.

 

Life application: Care needs to be taken to always keep verses in their proper context. Sometimes a whole chapter, or even more, is needed to properly discern the intent of just one verse. Running ahead with a verse like 1 Corinthians 2:14 without keeping it in its intended context can only lead to a pretext. It is harmful to sound interpretation and it inevitably will lead to know-it-alls who actually know very little. Be patient, studious, and determined in your pursuit of Bible knowledge and understanding.

 

Lord, I am so thankful to You for Your word. Please grant to me the heart to never misuse it, misquote it, or mishandle it. Give me wisdom to apply all it's truths to my life and to grow in my knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

 

 

But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 1 Corinthians 2:15

 

Again as before, care must be exercised in considering this verse. It is not an absolute that everyone who has called on Christ has the ability to judge all things rightly. Not every "every" in the Bible is an absolute and not all "alls" in the Bible are either. They are often general statements which are applied to biblical truths. This is perfectly evident by reading commentaries on any given verse, including this one. The amount of disagreement on what is meant by Paul reflects the certainty that the Holy Spirit doesn't externally inject us with the knowledge necessary to make right spiritual judgments.

What the Holy Spirit does do is give us the ability, for the first time in our lives, to look into the wisdom of God from a spiritual perspective. What once was nonsense and foolishness now is understandable in a different way. We may not have, and no one certainly possesses, all the knowledge that is presented in the Bible, but we do have the spiritual ability to learn it in the way in which God intended. Unfortunately, there are many hindrances to right spiritual discernment. Some are:

 

1) Pride. We may have learned something in our biblical schooling and despite being presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we remain close-minded to the truth lest we appear to look foolish.

 

2) Lack of proper study. The more one reads the Bible and studies it, the more it weaves into a unified whole in our minds. We begin to perceive macro and micro structures which are contained throughout its pages. But this is hard, time-consuming, and often tiring work.

 

3) Personal bias. We may have a presupposition about a matter (dispensationalism vs. preterism, for example) and we may find it impossible to overcome the mental barrier because of how we perceive God's working in the world.

 

4) Source of authority bias. We may accept a source of authority concerning our understanding of the Bible which then affects our entire view of how to approach its truths. Roman Catholicism claims that the papacy is the authority on Bible interpretation. If we accept that, then we will follow in lock-step with whatever they say. This is true with others as well, including cults.

 

For these and other reasons, our ability to spiritually judge all things may be skewed from what God intends for us to see. Despite this, Paul continues with the thought that one who is able to view the Bible from its proper spiritual perspective, that person "is rightly judged by no one." The one who has accepted Christ and is viewing Scripture from that perspective is, at least in the overall sense, coming at it from the proper perspective. If a non-believer comes along and attempts to refute their interpretation of the Bible which is presented from this spiritual perspective, they will obviously be incorrect in their judgment of them.

How can someone who isn't in Christ judge someone who is in Christ concerning their knowledge of the source of their faith (meaning the words of the Bible given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) which they themselves don't accept? It would make no sense. It would be like an artist arguing with a mathematician about calculations in numbers because the numbers were the wrong color. It would make no sense because it is a category mistake. The color of a number (if written) is irrelevant to the content of the calculation because the substance of what numbers represent has nothing to do with color.

The same is true with the Bible. The substance of the Bible is spiritual in nature. To argue concerning the Bible apart from its spiritual message is a category mistake and therefore, the non-spiritual person cannot judge the spiritual interpretation of God's word.

 

Life application: Although there are differing views on the meaning and intent of scriptural verses and passages, ultimately, they must be viewed from the spiritual perspective intended by God. Only a person viewing them from such a perspective will be able to rightly deduce the true meaning of the passage. But competence, study, and prayer are needed. We cannot assume we have pure knowledge of Scripture without much effort and the accompaniment of the Spirit's illumination.

 

Heavenly Father, a warm shower revives my weary body after a day of hard work. A bite of food gives me strength to re-engage my duties. A friendly smile or a word of encouragement  enlivens me and gives me stamina to meet the foes of the world. All of these are a part of Your creation, given as gifts of Your love. If these things are such a help, how much more heartening is the Source of them... how much more wonderful is Your fellowship than all other things. How my soul longs for You, the Living God. Amen.

 

 

For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16

 

In Isaiah 40, the Lord puts forth a series of rhetorical questions for us to consider. Paul uses the thought of Isaiah 40:13 to close out this chapter of 1 Corinthians -

 

"Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord,
Or as His counselor has taught Him?"

 

The answer is that no one can know the thoughts of the Lord unless He reveals them to us. As he said in verse 11, "Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God." Because no one can know the things of God unless God reveals them to us, then without Him doing so, we are left with the most important questions of all unanswered and unknowable. Further, because He is God and thus the Source of all wisdom, no one can instruct Him. He alone is the bearer of all wisdom and knowledge. That wisdom and knowledge which we possess is only that which has been made available through His creation, of which we are a part.

 

Therefore, there is an infinite gap between the two unless the Spirit of God reveals His mind to us. And He has done so through the Person and testimony of Jesus Christ. The Lord (Jehovah) of the Old Testament is revealed in Him, so that by the Spirit of God "we have the mind of Christ." In other words, Paul is tying the Lord (Jehovah) directly to the Person of Jesus; they are One. Because the Spirit of God has spoken through the prophets and apostles, whose words are now provided in the Bible, and because we have received Christ and understand that the Bible is speaking of God's work in Him, the mystery is revealed. We have the mind of Christ.

 

The People's New Testament sums up Chapter 2 this way -

 

"Two things are learned from this chapter: (1) There is a divine wisdom or philosophy. (2) This divine wisdom, or mystery, is an absurdity or perplexity to the world, but the wisdom of God to the saints."

 

It should be repeated that though we have "the mind of Christ," this doesn't mean we automatically have all of it in its fullness. It means that it is available to us. It is up to each of us to study, contemplate, and meditate on the word of God. God's revelation to us isn't with a "spiritual hypodermic needle." It is the Bible. This is where our instruction is to be derived from.

 

One other point of note concerning chapter 2 is that Paul began it by highlighting his ministry as one which proclaimed Christ and Him crucified. It wasn't with elegant words to woo his audience, nor was it with persuasive words. It was in direct and simple language which accurately and responsibly handled God's word. Let each preacher of the Bible put away the frills and the fluff and focus on God's Word!

 

Would I describe a preacher,
* * * *
I would express him simple, grave, sincere;
In doctrine uncorrupt; in language plain,
And plain in manner; decent, solemn, chaste,
And natural in gesture; much impress'd
Himself, as conscious of his awful charge,
And anxious mainly that the flock he feeds
May feel it too; affectionate in look,
And tender in address, as well becomes
A messenger of grace to guilty men.

William Cowper, The Task (1785)

 

Life application: To have the mind of Christ is to know Christ, but to have it in its fullness is to know the word which speaks of Him. Know your Bible.

 

O Precious God Almighty - use me to Your glory, keep me from bringing dishonor upon Your name, and lead me in paths of righteousness all my days - for Your name's sake. With these things, You will be glorified, those around me will be edified, and I... I Lord will be satisfied. For Your name's sake and to Your glory, this I pray. Amen.

 

 

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:1

 

Paul is referring back to the words of the previous chapter, where he is comparing the natural to the spiritual. In verse 2:14, he said this -

 

"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

 

It is important to understand that there is a difference between the word "natural" which is the Greek psychikos, and the word "carnal" in this verse. It is the Greek word sarkinois. The first word, natural, is not one applied to Christians - regardless of their spiritual maturity. It is a person who has never received Christ and is unregenerate.

 

Instead of this when speaking of the Corinthians, he uses a word which indicates a lack of spiritual maturity in Christ, but not a lack of spiritual nature. They have not developed in their walk and remain no more than spiritual babies. This state of immaturity is well-described by the author of Hebrews -

 

"For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Hebrews 5:12-14

 

And this is how Paul now speaks to those in Corinth. "And I" is Paul's introduction to the coming rebuke based on his previous words concerning spiritual matters. "Brethern" indicates that Paul is writing to the body of saved believers. This is a very important point to understand because by the time he gets to chapter 5, there will be a "brother" who is conducting his affairs in such an inappropriate manner that he will actually advise the body 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."

 

Paul's words in times like this, and in a host of other instances, indicate the eternality of salvation; one cannot lose what has been bestowed by the grace of God. But they can lose rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Paul is hoping to impart spiritual instruction to these immature believers so that they will grow, mature, and be found acceptable in their walk with Christ.

 

Though these are "brethren," he says to them that he "could not speak to [you] as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ." Though they are brethren, saved by the blood of Christ, he was unable to impart to them anything beyond the first milk of their spiritual meal. Unfortunately, this is a chronic condition in many. There is little desire to ever be weaned off the basics and to dig deeper into spiritual matters. What is all the more saddening is that in our modern world, we have the Bible available at our fingertips at any given moment and yet we find it too much effort to pick it up, study it, and mature in our faith.

 

Life application: Spiritual maturity can only come through spiritual growth. Spiritual growth can only come through proper instruction in the tools available to the student. And the main tool that we have for spiritual growth and understanding is the Holy Bible. Logic, philosophy, etc are only effective for spiritual growth if they are combined with understanding the nature of God revealed in the Bible. Apart from this, they are ineffective for spiritual maturity. All things must be brought back to harmony with the word of God for spiritual growth to occur.

 

Lord God, I commit to reading my Bible every morning when I rise and every evening before I go to bed. Amen.

 

 

I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 1 Corinthians 3:2

 

In the preceding verse, Paul said to the Corinthians that he had to speak to them "as babes in Christ." This makes his comment in verse 2 understandable - "I fed you with milk and not solid food" is a metaphor for his speech to them. Because they were uneducated in the things of Christ, he spoke to them about the elementary tenets of the faith.

 

Babies don't come out of the womb and start chewing on steak. Instead, they require milk in order to develop. Eventually, through growth, they can start nibbling on pieces of bread or a bit of rice. As teeth develop, they can start to chew on tougher foods, like meat. This is also how we should develop spiritually, a little bit at a time. Unfortunately, those in Corinth stayed in a state of infancy and failed to move to adolescence and beyond. Paul tells them that they "were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able."

 

Again, the writer of Hebrews provides a parallel thought to this in Hebrews 6:1-3 -

 

"Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits."

 

Here, the author of Hebrews cites all of these as "elementary principles." They are things that even the novice in Christianity should be able to explain competently. Paul, writing to the Corinthians found that they were unable to handle even these basic principles and so he was obliged to continue to feed them milk, not meat. In chapter 14, he will relay to them their state of infancy when explaining to them about speaking in tongues. They were using tongues in church the way many churches still do today. There he says to them -

 

"Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature." 1 Corinthians 14:20

 

In the coming verse, Paul will give a list of other areas where the Corinthians were weak. By reviewing those things, we will see a congregation that still had one foot in the outside world. They were carnal and lacking Christian maturity. Two thousand years later, the faith is still full of such people - not because there are so many new believers, but because so many don't take time to faithfully read and study their Bibles. When they do, they continue to forget the context of the passage and only disorder results in their biblical understanding. Through Paul's hand, God is showing us how to keep this from occurring.

 

Life application: Go back up and read the list of "elementary principles" noted above by the author of Hebrews. Ask yourself if you can rightly explain each of them and why you believe them. If not, take extra time to learn them in a way that solidifies your understanding of them.

 

Heavenly Father, help me to grow in Your word to the point where I can defend the principle doctrines of the faith. The Bible is Your word and what it teaches has been given to me so that I can grow in spiritual maturity. And so help me to properly handle it, be able to explain it, and defend its truths when it is attacked. I know that with this, You will be pleased. Amen.

 

 

...for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 1 Corinthians 3:3

 

This verse explains the comments of the preceding verse very clearly. Paul just stated, "I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able." He notes that they "are still carnal" which indicates that though they are saved, they are immature believers who are living in the flesh more than under the influence of the Spirit. To explain what he means, he then provides three specific examples of their carnality:

 

1) There is envy. When someone possess something that another desires in an unhealthy way, it causes them to resent the one who possesses that thing - be it a physical attribute such as beauty, strength, hair color, etc., or be it a tangible possession, such as jewelry, clothing, etc. It can also involve positions of power, social standing, and so on. Whatever leads one to be envious of another is unhealthy and this will surely lead to strife. In the case of the church, envy can lead to a whole host of problems which includes both of the other two examples Paul mentions.

 

2) Strife. This involves in-fighting and contention. It is an outward demonstration of people unwilling to live in harmony with each other. Proverbs speaks about strife in great detail. One example is the cause of it -

 

"A perverse man sows strife,
And a whisperer separates the best of friends." Proverbs 16:28

 

Another proverb shows it's effect, but also provides a remedy -

 

"The beginning of strife is like releasing water;
Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts." Proverbs 17:14


Studying strife in the book of proverbs is a recommended tool for churches such as those at Corinth who are still living in a carnal manner.


3) Divisions. Paul spoke in chapter 1 about some of the divisions he was aware of at Corinth. Thus, his note to them about being carnal is supported by what he has already said. Divisions, if not resolved, will naturally lead to people quitting the church, completely separating the church into smaller bodies, or a host of other sad situations. It takes care, prayer, and wisdom to overcome them.

 

Because of these things occurring right there in the church, it demonstrated that they weren't living by the Spirit. And so Paul asks rhetorically, "are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?" The answer is "Yes." Instead of living in the Spirit and relying on the wisdom of God, they were living in the flesh and failing to pursue what was right and appropriate for holy living within the body.

 

Life application: Are you spending your time and energy within the church as a part of the problem or a part of the solution? Paul identifies those things which are disruptive and then he explains how to properly conduct oneself. Without reading and applying his epistles to our lives, we will inevitably find ourselves being a part of the problem.

 

Lord Jesus... You are the Head of the church and You have given us the Bible to understand how to responsibly conduct ourselves within it. Help me Lord to apply what You have given us so that I will be a part of what is good and right, rather than a part of the problems which arise. Help me to be discerning in all matters of right faith and practice Lord. Thank You for hearing me. Amen.

 

 

For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? 1 Corinthians 3:4

 

This is a fuller explanation of verse 3. He noted that there was "envy, strife, and divisions among" those at Corinth and then he reminded them of what he wrote in Chapter 1, verses 10-13. They were claiming allegiance to one person over another when the two proclaimed the same message. Some liked Apollos, maybe because he had better speaking skills. Some liked Paul, maybe because he was the first to bring the message to the lost in Corinth. Whatever the reason for their divisions, Paul says it is "carnal" thinking.


By placing a person in higher esteem than another when both are conducting the same service - a proclamation of the gospel, they were actually lowering their standards to that of the messenger rather than the message. Their allegiance was no longer to Christ, but on the one who was proclaiming Christ.

 

Has anything different arisen in the past 2000 years? No. And it has only increased with the advent of radio, TV, and now the internet. We long for flashy orators, great concerts of music set to lights and showmanship, and comfy side rooms where lattes are served. The vast majority of people don't come to church to worship the Lord and learn the word. Instead, they come to be allured by flash.

 

Life application: Let us remember what the purpose of church is. Above all, it is to worship the Creator and Redeemer of our souls. It is also intended for us to learn the word that He has given to us. And church is for fellowship and participation with others in the worship and instruction. Those things which divert our attention from these only cause a return to the carnal side of who we are.

 

Glorious and beautiful Creator - You who fashioned man to bear Your image. Help me to reflect Your goodness, Your majesty, and Your glory to others. When people see me, let them look past my faults and failures and see You instead. Keep me from secret faults and open rebellion. Instead, let me radiate You... only You. Amen.

 

 

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 1 Corinthians 3:5

 

There is the thought of individual subordination by Paul all over this verse. He begins with "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos...?" The word used for "who" is ti. It is an indefinite pronoun which means "who," "what," "which," or "why" based on the context. Though translated "who" by the NKJV, it is more likely "what" as many others so translate. It is a personal subordination that is intended as a deprecation of the ones being named.

 

He is referring again back to the first chapter of the letter where there were divisions based on individuals who carried the message of Christ. Some wanted to follow Paul, some Apollos, and some Cephas. But Paul prompts the Corinthians to think their allegiances through to their logical end. To help them along, he says that they are "but ministers."

 

In this, the word "ministers" is diakonoi. It is intended to convey the idea of "servants" rather than "lords" or "masters." Jesus uses the term in Mark 9:35 -

 

"And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, 'If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.'" Mark 9:35

 

If Paul and Apollos (and any other person) is a servant, then they are ultimately responsible to a higher authority. In the case of a Christian, they are servants of the Lord Jesus. So how can someone rationally throw an unfounded allegiance behind the servant of the Lord? Within a military or political structure, there are many levels of responsibility, but there is ultimately a leader over all.

 

In the case of the United States government, there are hundreds and even thousands of levels within the government, but their authority ultimately rests in the three branches of government which derive their power from the people. And each person is under a higher authority. The choice for selecting leaders comes down to choices about what direction the nation should go and therefore, whether we logically think it through or not, moral choices are made in each election. As God is the ultimate moral Being, our political choices are actually choices for or against over-arching moral principles that we feel should go in one direction or another.

 

Therefore, even our political choices involve a sense of "servant hood." We don't always think this way, but this is what Paul is relaying to the Corinthians. And in turn, his letter is asking us to think the same way when elevating those in the ministry to positions which are actually unreasonable. And how many of us do this as we watch figures on TV or talk about the pastor that we follow in our home town!

 

Next Paul, when speaking of such ministers, uses the term "through whom you believed." If you have believed the message of Christ "through" someone, then they obviously aren't the source of the message. Rather, in the case of Paul and Apollos, they are servants of the Source for the transmission of the message. If they aren't the Source, then what sense does it make to elevate them to an exalted status? It is Christ who saves and it is the message of Christ that they convey.

 

Paul finishes this thought with the fact that they are ministers of the message "as the Lord gave to each one." It is the Lord who gave the authority; it is the Lord who is the Source of the message; and it is the Lord that the message proclaims. Nothing about Paul or Apollos is worthy of boasting or misdirected allegiance. It is the Lord in whom we boast, and it is the message of the Lord that we should hold fast to. The minister is but a servant. He has a duty to perform, he is to be recompensed for his duty (Galatians 6:6), and he can even be accorded "double honor" (1 Timothy 5:17), but he is not to be elevated in an unhealthy way.


Life application:
Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.

 

Lord Jesus, I ask for the wisdom to remember that all pastors, elders, and ministers are merely servants who carry a message. Help me to keep from getting so caught up in the messenger that I forget where my allegiance is actually due. You are the Source of the message and You are the one who grants the ability for the message to be proclaimed. It is You in whom I will boast, only You. Amen.

 

 

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:6

 

Paul, like many of the writers, and of hundreds of instances in the Bible, uses an agricultural theme to present a spiritual truth. He has been discussing the division of the church based on individual preferences of one person over another. Some were following Paul, some Apollos, etc. However, Paul has already asked, "Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Corinthians 1:13).

 

Such divisions are illogical because only Christ accomplished the work necessary to found the church. All the others did was help to relay the message. In his agricultural example, Paul begins with "I planted." To this day, the term "planting a church" is used to indicate the starting of a new church in an area. When a farmer or a forester plants a seed, they are using something that already exists, whose original Creator was God -

 

"Then God said, 'Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth'; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the third day." Genesis 1:11-13

 

Like those agricultural things, God, through Jesus Christ, began the work of the church. Jesus alludes to this in John 12 -

 

"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain." John 12:24

 

Paul merely planted what Christ had originated, having gone to Corinth to tell the good news of the gospel. There he planted a church. Eventually, Apollos came into the area and continued to build up the church. He, in essence watered the seed that Paul had planted. What Paul established, Apollos tended to and cared for. The plant was being cultivated; the church was growing.

 

However, despite their work, and despite the work of any other who had come to assist in the process, it was "God who gave the increase." God is the Creator of the tree with its seed. He is the Creator of the water. He is the One who continues to provide water. He is the One who sustains the life of the tree. God is the One to provide favorable conditions for growth - wind, temperature, etc. Every aspect of the tree is completely dependent on Him. And this includes having called Paul and Apollos and provided them with their abilities, the time they would live, the place they would live, etc. In the end it is all God's doing.


And this is seen all the more clearly in the tense of the verbs Paul uses. The first two, "planted" and "watered," are aorist indicative active verbs. They mark definite acts done at set times. However, the third verb, "gave the increase," is imperfect indicative active. It reveals a continued activity which certainly encompasses the work of Paul and Apollos.

 

God is always the agency behind the worker and He is the agency behind all aspects of the growth or decline of any church which belongs to Him. However, there is also the simultaneous activity conducted by the devil to thwart the work of those in the church. This is seen in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. As Jesus says in verse 19, "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside." Paul likewise speaks of the continued work of the devil in Ephesians 6:10-20.

 

Life application: To God alone be the glory for the church and all it does and continues to do.

 

Lord God, thank You for the church I attend and those I worship with. Thank You for having established us and for continuing to be with us. I know that any good thing which comes from it is ultimately from You. Use us then, to Your glory, and help us to be a light in our neighborhood and a continued source of fellowship, learning, and love. To You be the glory as we continue on in Your good graces. Amen.

 

 

So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:7

 

Taking his thought from the preceding verse, Paul shows that though he "planted" and Apollos "watered" their efforts were but nothing. Instead, it is "God who gives the increase." This is a comparative verse where their accomplished works are put in relation to the continued unfolding of what God has accomplished, is accomplishing, and will accomplish through the plan He has so wisely ordained.

 

Paul is not saying that he (and thus we) shouldn't work. Nor is he saying that what we do isn't worth note in and of itself. We know this is so because in just another verse he is going to speak about rewards for the work we do, work which includes what he is speaking of now. But even this shows the supremacy of what God is doing. If we are rewarded by God, then it demonstrates that what we have done was a part of what God had ordained. In other words, the things we accomplish were set in His mind as a part of His unfolding plan.

 

And so, in a comparative sense, what we do is to be counted as nothing in relation to what His plan fully involves. From seed to mature tree, everything in the process which the foresters participated in and which was beneficial was a part of producing God's finished product; a product which started from the seed, nutrients, and water He originally created and which He continues to increase. Take to heart these words from Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 -

 

"Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart."

 

Life application: All that we do and all that we accomplish is actually a gift of God. If it is a gift, then it came from Him and boasting is excluded. Likewise, praise for the work of another is to be acknowledged as ultimately from the Lord. By keeping these things in perspective, then we will rightly direct all praise, boasting, and adoration to the ultimate Source of what is done.

 

Lord God, why should I be disheartened by a job that seems menial? Why should I be frustrated by low pay, having an old car, or wearing a uniform when I work? My life is a gift from You and You have directed my steps. If what I do is a gift, then being upset with it would bring discredit on the Giver. May it never be so! Help me to be content with all things and yet to strive forward to improve my lot through Your good graces. I love You and thank You for all You have given me. Amen.

 

 

Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 1 Corinthians 3:8

 

In the preceding verse, Paul said "neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters..." As noted, this was not intended to mean that those who plant and those who water shouldn't work at all, as if their work was futile, but rather their duties are pale in comparison to the supreme and overarching work of God. What the laborers do is to use what God provides so that both "he who plants and he who waters are one." They complement each other rather than compete against one another. Therefore, to divide allegiance in the church between Paul or Apollos is misunderstanding their ultimate purpose.

 

They are cohesively working for the same end goal. Not only that, but one is merely building upon the other and therefore they are both filling necessary roles - not independent, but interdependent. And as noted, the tense of the verbs in verse 6 showed that they are a part of God's overall work. Dividing loyalties as the Corinthians were doing accomplished nothing except to mar a process that is being worked, from beginning to end, by God.

 

A question could arise then, if these divisions are marring a process in which Paul and Apollos are engaged in, and that process is being directed by God, are the Corinthians thwarting the plan of God? The answer must be, "No." God knows in advance all things. Therefore, the divisions had and have sound purposes. A few to be considered are -

 

1) The divisions in Corinth led to Paul's letter, a part of the Bible. As it is a part of Scripture used by all who read and apply their Bible - personally and within a church, then God's purposes were met through this schism. God provided the increase.

 

2) The division at Corinth, and many divisions since, have been used to turn one church into two (or more) and thus the gospel can spread more quickly. God provides the increase.

 

3) Such divisions may cause a church to expel those who are unsound, thus protecting the integrity of the church and causing improved spiritual growth. God provides the increase.

 

4) Etc.

 

These and many other problems which may seem to thwart God's work, never can. In the end, the united efforts of Paul and Apollos, the supposed divisions by the Corinthians, and the continued process of spreading the gospel - both by competent people and even incompetent people has and will result in God's plan being brought to a successful completion.

 

And once this wondrous church is taken home to glory, all members of it will "appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10). At that time "each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor."

 

Paul will receive his reward for what he did, Apollos will receive his reward for what he accomplished, and you and me... we will stand before the Lord as well. So don't waste the time you have here, but instead whatever work your hands find to do for Him, do it with all your heart and soul. The rewards will be heavenly!

 

Life application: Good or bad, your actions are being used by God as He directs the building of His church. Make every effort to accomplish good and honorable results so that you will receive a good and blessed reward.

 

Glorious, wonderful Lord. Your church has been in the making for 2000 years. My moment here is short and will pass away quickly. So remind me that eternity's rewards are based on this short and fleeting piece of time. Give me wisdom to contemplate this, gumption to get up and act, and the ability to persevere in this race of life to the finish line, never letting up in my determination to serve You. This is my prayer today. Amen.

 

 

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:9

 

In one verse, there are three clauses given by Paul in rapid succession. In each of them, "God" is emphatic. He begins with his continued use of agricultural themes found in the previous verses with "For we are God's fellow workers." Two possibilities come to mind:

 

1) We are synergistically working with God towards a common end; God does something and we cooperate with Him in producing the desired effect.

 

2) We aren't working with Him as a partner, but rather we (those below Him) are fellow workers with each other. He then is the Director of the operation and those who are involved in what He has directed are working together for that desired end.

 

Based on what he has said about himself and Apollos in the previous verses, the second option is certainly what is intended. Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase because He is the Initiator, Planner, Sustainer, and Overseer of the process.

 

The second option is correct, but it could be looked at in one of two ways as well:

 

1) That God is conducting the labor through us at His will without our choices in the matter. It would be comparable to a farmer using a tool to do his work. The tool is directed solely at the farmer's will.

 

2) Our volitional choices are involved in the process.

 

The second option is certain. All we need to do is look at the conduct of those in Corinth, or at the conduct of any other Christian person. Peter, for example, was the Apostle to the Jews and yet at times his actions were not in line with the gospel as Paul notes in Galatians 2:11-16.

 

If the first view were true, we would be limited to ascribing only the appropriate actions to God. However, Peter's failures (and those incorrect actions of the congregation in Corinth which necessitated this epistle) have been used by Paul as instruction in his letters which are now included in the Bible. As The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges notes - "He regards them as responsible beings, responsible to Him for the work they do. But the results are still God’s and God’s alone."

 

Continuing on in his tri-fold thought, Paul next says that "you are God’s field." He retains his agricultural theme to indicate that the work being conducted by him and any other instructors is being worked out in a larger context, inclusive of all believers. And this context has continued on for 2000 years. The ministers of the gospel are laboring in a field to raise good crops; a crop which belongs to God. Having said this, he suddenly moves from agricultural to architectural... "you are God's building."

 

This is not happenstance or an attempt by Paul to simply make a fine sounding repetition, but it is an intentional change to substantiate the thoughts considered above concerning his first two statements. A building doesn't build itself. It requires an architect, materials, and a host of competent workmen who have a wide variety of skills.

 

In many other passages of the Bible, a builder, or the concept of building, is used in a moral sense. It indicates edification and exhortation in proper understanding and conduct. Therefore, like the parable of the sower and the seed which Jesus gives in Matthew 13:1-23, and the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:24-30, we can know that God's building only includes those who were selected by Him beforehand and who where properly fitted into the structure. God knew in advance all the materials that would be needed for His building and He knew what would be discarded as worthless material in advance as well.

 

Interestingly, in His great building, the greatest Stone of all is the one that was rejected by those who are outside attempting to build their own structure; it is Jesus. As the Bible proclaims -

 

"The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes." Psalm 118:22, 23

 

One final side note concerning this verse. The word for "field" is the Greek word geōrgion. It has been noted that the high use of the name "George" within Christianity is a result of Paul's use of this word here. If you know someone named George, you have now have something fun to share with him.

 

Life application: We are responsible to God for our actions and we will be held accountable to Him for the life we live. Work for heavenly rewards which never fade rather than earthly gain which perishes.

 

Lord Jesus, direct the steps I take, the things I choose, and the desires of my heart so that they will be pleasing to You, suitable for the things that edify others, and worthy of note and commendation when I someday stand in Your presence for my evaluation on the life I have lived. Keep me away from the earthly pursuits which fade away and direct me towards that which is lasting and good. Thank You Lord. Amen.

 

 

According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 1 Corinthians 3:10

 

In this verse, Paul begins with "According to the grace of God which was given to me..." Paul was, as he states himself several times in his writings, a soul needing God's grace and mercy. In 1 Timothy 1:12-14, he describes his former life this way -

 

"And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus."

 

Despite his previous life, God bestowed His great grace on Paul, calling him as an apostle. But more than that, he called him to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. The very thing which would have been most repugnant to him at one time, became the passion of his soul. In his calling, he became "a wise master builder." Here the Greek word is architektōn; an architect. He was given the responsibility to design the new structure of the gentile church by the wisdom God had ordained him with. His personal instruction, followed up by his letters are what provide that structure for churches even today.

 

In this solemn task, he "laid the foundation." There at Corinth (the body he is addressing), he proclaimed Jesus Christ. This is the one and only foundation of any true church. He describes this in detail elsewhere -

 

"Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." Ephesians 2:19-22

 

"The foundation of the apostles and prophets" is the word pronounced throughout the Bible which speaks of Jesus Christ. The entire body of Scripture testifies to Him. Therefore, the foundation Paul laid in Corinth is that foundation he writes about to them now (as will be seen in the next verse).

 

He laid that foundation, "and another builds on it." This is referring back to what he stated earlier, that he planted and Apollos watered. Each had his own role and neither is to be exalted above the other. All are working toward the same goal which is a mature church founded on, and which proclaims Jesus Christ. Because of this, care was and is required. Any departure from this truth can only lead to eventual apostasy. And so he warns them with the words, "But let each one take heed how he builds on it."

 

Throughout the history of the church, people have crept in with personal agendas, unbiblical teachings and traditions, and the mixing-in of false worship. As churches are so influenced, they degrade to the point where very little is left of true worship and pursuit of Christ. When this occurs, people either stagnate and fail to grow, or the congregation simply dies off as a Christian entity (see Revelation 2:5). Those who love Jesus Christ and His word will move to start a new church body which returns to the foundation which Paul speaks of here, Jesus Christ.

 

Life application: Without adherence to the Bible, and a sound interpretation of it, churches will very quickly fall away from the truth. "Jesus Christ" may be on their lips, but He is far from their hearts. Be attentive to the word of God and be ready to defend it.

 

Lord God, there is one Foundation to the faith, Jesus Christ. I will pray to no other, I will praise no other, and I will stand on the truth of the Bible rather than the traditions of man. Give me courage to defend its truths, wisdom to properly explain them, and the ability to turn wayward souls away from misguided religion and back to the pure worship of You through Jesus my Lord. Amen.

 

 

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11

 

In verse 10, Paul said "I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it." As a wise master-builder, he began the church at Corinth with a solid foundation; the solid foundation. Had he come as a philosopher with the wisdom of the Greeks or as a Jewish rabbi with the traditions of the Pharisees in order to build the church, there would be nothing truly solid for others to build on. But he came with the one Foundation that all of Scripture points to, Jesus.

 

"For" refers directly to the preceding verse which said, "let each one take heed how he builds on it." If Paul laid the foundation and others came with conflicting instruction, there would be no cohesion in the building. If one is to build a solid foundation and put up a house of reeds, the house will simply blow off the solid rock. He has wisely laid the foundation on what all of Scripture points to. Isaiah 28:16 shows us a hint of what was coming -

 

"Therefore thus says the Lord God:

'Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,
A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation;
Whoever believes will not act hastily.'"

 

This idea is cited at least five times in the New Testament and it is speaking of Jesus Christ. He is the cornerstone which is the foundation of the work of God. From this, there must be a harmonious erection of the rest of the building using the same material. This then speaks of the principle doctrines of the faith - the Trinity (which implies the Deity of Christ), the virgin birth, the incarnation, the all-sufficient atoning death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the surety of His coming again, etc.

 

If these principle doctrines are denied or skewed, they cannot be a part of the house which God is building. Nothing else can be added as well. It is heretical to teach a "sinless" state in Mary for example. We can have no other Mediator between us and God. And so on. It is all Christ, only Christ, and the properly-proclaimed Christ which must be the building materials upon the foundation, which is Christ.

 

Life application: Be careful to always return to the core teachings of Christ, never adding to, subtracting from, or twisting them as you go.

 

Lord God, help me to think clearly on the all-important matter of biblical doctrine and not to replace Your intent with my own. Keep me from the sin of bad doctrine. Keep me focused on Jesus - without addition, subtraction, or manipulation. What a precious word, O God. Help me to never diminish its luster. Amen.

 

 

Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,... 1 Corinthians 3:12

 

Paul has been speaking of his laying the foundation at Corinth, the foundation which is Jesus Christ. In time, others like Apollos, had or would come to build upon that message he proclaimed. It is to their work that Paul now directs his attention. He begins with "Now if anyone builds on this foundation..." Again, the foundation is Christ Jesus.

 

In time, teachers will come and present their words and doctrine concerning Christ. Some will be well-trained, some will be not-so-well trained. Some may be opportunists (Philippians 1:15-18), some may be so far out in left-field that they completely botch their presentation of Christ. However, all are building "on this foundation." This implies that they are true believers and not heretics proclaiming a false gospel. They are building on the foundation of Christ.


With this in mind, Paul gives six possibilities for their proclamation. In successive order he begins with the most precious and enduring and ends with the least. In each there is a quality that will be measured by a trial. This trial will be seen in the verses ahead. How that quality stands up to the trial is what his words are directed to. But until we arrive there, we can discern a few things about what has been presented. As we look at their qualities, think of them as a sermon, a teaching on doctrine, or the work of someone within the church (even the person in the pew who shares the simple gospel):

 

1) The first two are metals. They are strong and enduring. They will stand up to heat, constant use, time, the elements, quality tests, molding for specific occasions, etc. They serve multi-purposes, are beautiful, and are treasured by those who own them and those who use them. They are more uncommon than any of the following things. It usually takes much effort to obtain them as they are hidden in the ground or in otherwise hard to access places. They must be refined in order to remove impurities and the refining process can continue to improve them until the metal is of the finest quality of all. When they are so refined, they reflect back the beauty of the beholder perfectly.

 

2) The third, precious stones, are beautiful. They will stand up to heat, they often become more lustrous through constant use (polishing them), or they can be marred and chipped through over-use. They can withstand the elements very well. They cannot be molded, but are fixed in their make up. Depending on what stone, they may be suited to multi-purposes, but not all are. They are treasured by those who possess them and are a delight to the eyes of those who see them. Depending on the type of stone, it may be difficult to find, or it may be easy to remove from an outcropping of such stones and surrounding material. They do not need to be refined as much as they need to be shaped and polished for maximum luster. When they are so polished, they will often radiate the glory of light through them in a dazzling array of colors.

 

3) The fourth, wood, is more common than the first three, but there are many types of wood and some are rarer than others. Each wood is suitable for different uses. They will not stand up to high heat well, but some can stand up to the elements better than others. They can be cut and formed into an unlimited number of shapes. They can be left course or polished to an immensely high luster. With a protective coating, they can shine like precious stones. Most woods are easy to obtain and work with. They can be plain to the eye, radiantly adorned with knots or grain, or they can be astonishingly beautiful in natural color with even little grain being noticed. Other than the wood itself, much of what it entails when added into a building is of human effort and shaping. In the end, very few woods last for many ages but eventually degrade over time.

 

4) The last two, hay and straw, are actually used as building materials, but they are temporary and will not stand up to any excessive heat. Instead they will quickly burn up. The elements will degrade them, they can be easily molded into shapes, even twisted in an unnatural way in order to be used. In and of themselves, they don't really leave anything to stir either the imagination or please the eye, but if twisted and contorted, they can be woven into marvelously beautiful patterns which direct our attention toward them. Such patterns though are only the result of man's efforts and were not inherently a part of their make up. Other than very limited and often showy, temporary uses, they are not good for building on a solid foundation.

 

Life application: In evaluating the elements described above, remember that the qualities of them are being used by Paul in a metaphorical way to describe what we as servants of the Lord either add to the foundation or enjoy once they are added to the foundation. Everything we do for the Lord, or enjoy concerning the Lord (such as a particular form of worship or type of sermon) is considered an addition to the foundation. But every addition will be tested for value and endurance. Let us add wisely.

 

Heavenly Father, You have shown that everything I do for the cause of Christ has a specific value. It may be very precious, semi-precious, common but acceptable, or very common and not so useful. Help me to wisely use the abilities You have given me to be of the highest quality and value so that they will endure the test at my judgment and come through it as something that was pleasing to You. Help me to use this one life to Your glory. Amen.

 

 

...each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 1 Corinthians 3:13

 

Paul is now speaking of anyone who builds on the foundation, which is Christ. Therefore, as noted in the preceding verse, he is speaking of saved believers regardless of the soundness of their work. Having noted six different metaphors concerning their work, he now says that "each one's work will become clear." Those people who teach incorrectly will be shown where their faults were; those who taught what is right and in accord with sound doctrine will likewise be so informed.

 

A great example of what Paul is speaking of today is how modern Israel is perceived. The doctrine of dispensationalism teaches that despite being out of God's favor due to their rejection of Christ, Israel's time of punishment will end and Christ will return to Israel after the Tribulation period refines them. From Jerusalem, and in the midst of His people Israel, He will reign for a thousand years.


Reformed theologians, for the most part, dismiss this and believe that the church has replaced Israel. To them, the 1000-year reign of Christ mentioned in Revelation is merely symbolic of the entire church age; not a literal time-frame, but simply a number which represents "fullness."


Both of these cannot be right. Both sides truly believe they are correct and they find the opposing view incredible to even contemplate. In the end, proponents of both views will stand before the Lord and this, along with all their other correct or incorrect doctrine, will be evaluated. At that time "the Day will declare it." This means that when the judgment of believers for rewards and losses are handed out, in that Day, the declaration for right doctrine will be proclaimed and the declaration for the faulty will also be called out.

 

Paul says that the reason it will occur is "because it will be revealed by fire." In Revelation 2:18, we read this comment about the Lord -

 

"These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass."

 

The "eyes like a flame of fire" speak of His ability to seek out and determine all things, burning away that which is of no value. The "feet like fine brass" speaks of judgment. It is at the Judgment Seat of Christ that the evaluation of each man's efforts will be made. He alone will determine the truth of matters such as dispensationalism by "the fire" which "will test each one’s work, of what sort it is."

 

The marvelous thing about Christ's judgment is that it will be perfectly fair and it will be perfectly just. No soul will come before Him for judgment and leave feeling as if he had received unfair treatment. Instead, he will realize the error of his faults. Another beautiful aspect of what is involved in this judgment is the fact that we were given, in advance, the necessary tools to determine what our judgment will be!

 

In the giving of the Bible, we have been handed His instruction manual for life, doctrine, and practice. It is up to us to rationally, fairly, and competently evaluate those doctrines which are presented and then to reject those which are faulty. In the end, we can be as right as we want or as wrong as we want. We can pray about, study, meditate on, and proclaim God's word competently, or we can trust other's findings and hope they were right.


Of what eternal value is sitting on the computer playing games, watching an endless succession of television shows, or heading out to the mall day after day for shopping? And yet, we pursue these at the expense of right doctrine! Let us be prepared at our judgment, which is coming, for that which lasts.

 

Life application: How sure are you about which type of baptism is correct? Are you trusting the Bible or tradition? If the Bible, are you properly evaluating baptism's symbolism and purpose? This is one of a zillion things that you will be evaluated on. Read, study, be approved!

 

Magnificent and splendid God! Someday I will stand before Jesus Christ for my judgment. On that day, the doctrine I held to, the things I taught concerning Your word, and the decisions I made about the standards You have given in Your word will all be exposed before me. Those things of value will stand. The others will be burned away in the fire. Give me the heart now, Lord, to study and be approved on that awesome Day. Amen.

 

 

If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 1 Corinthians 3:14

 

Paul has been speaking of the building of the church upon the foundation, which is Christ Jesus. He noted six different materials of varying quality which one could use to continue the building process and then he noted that whatever we use, something of value or something worthless, it will be seen for what it truly is in the end.

 

Now he notes that "if anyone's work which he has built on it endures..." Obviously, those more valuable and lasting materials will endure while those of lesser quality won't. Using these metaphors, he is certainly speaking primarily of teachers, preachers, and ministers who take and build upon the foundation. However, could it not be said of the mother who sits with and instructs her children on Christ? Could this same principle not be applied to the cashier behind the counter who takes time to tell about the Lord who saved her? And could it not be applied to the electrician who speaks to his fellow workers about Christ?

 

Each of these examples are people who are building upon the foundation. Their knowledge may be less than trained teachers, but it may actually be of better quality. One does not have to be a theologian to get the principle tenets of the faith right and then to properly repeat them to others. Even a person who is confined to a wheel chair and has no other ministry than posting on Facebook or doing other internet work can build upon the foundation.

 

No one is truly exempt from participating in the work for Christ and each has a role that can and should be filled. As long as the words are correct and correspond to the doctrines of the Bible, it will endure. And if it endures, "he will receive a reward."


Christians are saved by grace through faith. It is a done deal and it is a guarantee. What occurs after salvation is up to the individual. Those things that we do, be they many or be they few, are to be of the highest quality if they are to be rewarded. Let us, therefore, endeavor to hold fast to the principle tenets of the faith and thus bring glory to God, And we can do so in the hopes of a reward from our gracious Lord.

 

Life application: You are a minister of the gospel to those around you. Fulfill your commission to the best of your ability and be pleased to do it... the rewards are heavenly.

 

Lord, Your word promises a reward to me for those things which I do in Your name which are enduring. I will endeavor to conduct myself and my work in a manner which is pleasing to You, edifying of others, and lasting in nature. But the reward which matters the most to me is to simply hear from You the words "Well done." With this, I will be eternally pleased. Amen.

 

 

If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:15

 

Paul, speaking of the quality of work which is built upon the foundation of Christ, gives us direct and exacting insights into what will happen when we face Jesus. To understand the timing, one needs to understand the sequence of events concerning church-age believers as the Bible lays them out. First, we are saved at some point in our lives and sealed with the Holy Spirit - our guarantee of eternal life from that moment on. We can never lose this status. From the moment of our salvation, everything we do will be a part of our judgment before Jesus. It is our choice how we build upon the foundation.

 

Eventually, we die and await our call to glory. Or, if we are those left alive at the coming of the Lord (the moment known as the rapture), we will be translated to be with Him forever. After our translation from the earthly to the spiritual, we must then face our trial for the things we have done in our lives since coming to Christ. This is known as the judgment seat of Christ and it is detailed for us in 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 -

 

"Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences."

 

This is the biblical sequence of events for the saved believer. There is no such concept as "purgatory" as taught by the Roman Catholic Church. It is a made-up lie which was inculcated into their teachings for financial profit and as a tool to keep congregants in bondage. There is also no such thing as "loss of salvation" as taught by those who follow the doctrine of Arminius or other such teachers. There is eternal security in the Lord, but there is the sure coming judgment for the life we lived in Him.

And this judgment is explained clearly here. Remembering that Paul has already described our works as
gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw will help us to understand our judgment before Christ. He says, "if anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss." Fire merely refines (or has no effect) on the first three types of work. However, it will consume the last three depending on its amount of heat and duration. Wood may make it through a temporary fire, but it will be marred. The final two will certainly be burned up.


Paul's words then are a metaphor not for condemnation, but for purification. The term mulct is a good description of what will occur at this judgment. To mulct means "to penalize by fining or demanding forfeiture." The things we could have enjoyed in our eternal state will be lessened if our works don't pass muster. If they do, we will receive our reward for them. In the end, all will be completely satisfied with the results because they will be based on the choices we made. There will be no impartiality nor unfairness in what occurs.

 

Whatever cannot withstand the judgment will certainly be burned away. However, despite this scary sentiment, Paul next gives words of a most blessed assurance. Each person will be judged and face whatever loss is due, "but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." The meaning of this is perfectly clear and only someone with a perverse agenda could come to any other conclusion than that this is a judgment solely for rewards and losses, but not condemnation - "he himself will be saved." The immense grace and mercy of Christ means that even a person who has done absolutely nothing for Him after salvation will continue on in his saved state forever.


However, he will bear the sadness of having lived a life which could have done so much more. He will be save "as through fire." When one is pulled alive from a burning house, they may bear the pains of the ordeal, the smell of the ordeal, and the sad memories of it as well, but they will be saved.

 

Life application: The wise soul will take 1 Corinthians 3:15 to heart and will endeavor to work for eternal rewards, putting aside that which is earthly, temporary, and destined to perish. The smell of the smoke at the judgment for such an ill-used life may linger for all eternity.

 

Lord, Your word makes it clear that there is a judgment coming for all who are in Christ, not one of condemnation, but one for rewards and loss. Help me each day to ponder this and to put aside that which is temporary and useless and to work diligently as a productive member of Your church. I desire that my judgment will be one of rewards and a smile, not loss accompanied by a frown. Help me to consider this always. Amen.

 

 

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16

 

In a smooth transition from his thoughts about  having "laid the foundation," and then us as workers continuing to build on the foundation, Paul asks rhetorically, directly, and with an exacting purpose the question in this verse. He starts with, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God?" If thought through logically, the answer necessitates us to think on what he has said about us being builders. If we are the temple of God, then why would we build in a way which our efforts would be of no value and thus be burnt up.

 

This thought is reflected in Jesus' parable about building a house upon the sand or upon the rock in Matthew 7:24-27. Why would someone build a house that would crash down around them? But this is what we tend to do in our spiritual walk and this is what Paul asks us to consider. In this, he uses the term "temple of God." The Greek word for temple is naos. It is equivalent to the temple in Jerusalem where the glory of God dwelt. And specifically, it is referring to the Most Holy Place where His glory was manifest.

 

This is now the state of the believer in Christ. God is dwelling within us and so our efforts, our conduct, even our whole demeanor should be reflective of this high and exalted position. And to show that this is a true and accurate analogy, he says that "the Spirit of God dwells in you." This confirms that God is residing with man in a unique way and that what once occurred in the temple in Jerusalem is now occurring in each believer.

In Ephesians 1:13, we are told that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit upon belief in Christ. This in-dwelling then is different than God's interactions with others. God is everywhere (omni-present) and therefore our in-dwelling is a special act of God which is not available to others. Just as His divine glory was seen in the temple in Jerusalem, He is now revealed in us. Because of this, our actions take on a new significance.

 

When the people of Israel defiled the temple, God destroyed the temple and His presence departed. What then would be the consequences of our disobedience? Paul will continue with his thoughts on this in the coming verse.

Life application: If you have called on Jesus, you are sealed with God's Holy Spirit. If you are so sealed, then you have an obligation to that special honor. As you conduct your daily affairs, be prepared to act in a manner which acknowledges your exalted state and which will bring eternal rewards, not the fire of judgment and loss.

 

Glorious God... my Redeemer who saved me and has sealed me for the Day of Redemption. Help me to walk rightly in this life, building upon the foundation of Christ in a true manner. Help my every action to be directed to the purpose of bringing You glory. On my own, I'm prone to bad decisions and walking in an unfaithful way, so be with me and keep me from myself. May You alone be seen in me and in my every action. To Your glory I pray. Amen!

 

 

If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. 1 Corinthians 3:17

 

Paul has been speaking consistently in this chapter concerning right instruction, especially about the building up of the church upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. In writing to the Corinthians, he made the analogy of building upon the foundation with various materials, some would last at the judgment and some would not. After this, he noted in speaking to them collectively that "you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you."

 

Because you (the individuals believers) are the temple of God, he now makes a sobering statement concerning that position. "If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him." He has not introduced a new group of people; he is speaking to believers within the church - saved people. This context needs to be maintained in order to understand what is being referred to.


As he has been speaking of the building of the church, the intent is that those who build in an inappropriate manner, therefore, defile the temple. (Some versions say "destroy", "violate", "waste", or "ruin"). In taking such a course of action, retribution from God can be expected. In a literal rendering from the Pulpit Commentary,
"God shall ruin the ruiner of his temple."

 

Too often this verse is used by interpreters concerning an action, such as suicide or some other personal harm. If we so act, then God will destroy us. This is illogical and doesn't fit with the context, nor with the fact that if someone has committed suicide, they have already destroyed their personal temple. This is not the intent of this verse. Rather, if someone is engaged in habits contrary to the truth of the gospel such as sexual immorality, divisions (the very thing which Paul has been addressing), backbitings, etc, they can expect a penal judgment for their actions.

Likewise, if an instructor of doctrine, a pastor, elder, teacher, etc, is engaged in either consistently false teachings or in inappropriate behavior which will defile the temple of God, then God will also bring ruin upon them. A sad example of this is the long list of preachers and evangelists who have been caught up in adulterous affairs. When their actions come to light, they are brought to ruin, losing all credibility and usually they are banned from further preaching or teaching.

 

This verse then is not speaking of a loss of salvation. It is also not speaking of suicide. Instead, it is speaking of actions which bring discredit and defilement upon what God is doing. In such actions, God can be expected to bring the offenders to ruin for what they have done. This is certain because he finishes this verse with, "For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are." If these people are God's temple, then they are believers, not unbelievers.

 

As always, care in evaluating context must be given in order to avoid making a pretext. We are God's temple; set apart as holy. Therefore, let us endeavor to live up to that position and bring glory and honor to God.

 

Life application: Proper conduct is a requirement for holy living. If someone is engaged in improper behavior and nothing happens to them in regard to their downfall or chastisement, then they are probably not saved at all. As Hebrews 12:7, 8 says, "If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons."

 

Lord God, I fail You daily and it truly brings my heart sorrow. But I know that in Christ I am forgiven... this brings me relief. I pray that I never dull to sin's consequences, nor the guilt I feel for sin, but I also am grateful that the penalty for my sin was dealt with in a Substitute. I am free to move on, but constrained to continue to work towards holiness. Thank You for Jesus who alone has brought me to such a state. Thank You. Amen.

 

 

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 1 Corinthians 3:18

 

In chapters 1 & 2, Paul spoke in detail about human wisdom in contrast to spiritual wisdom. There we saw that true spiritual wisdom will always be centered on the Person and work of Jesus Christ. In chapter 1 we read this -

 

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.'" 1 Corinthians 1:18, 19

 

Now returning to this thought concerning wisdom, after having discussed our building upon the foundation which is Christ, he reminds us the importance of the materials we use by beginning with, "Let no one deceive himself." Self-deception is an enormous problem. When people are puffed up with pride and are unwilling to focus on (or properly handle) the word of God, they will delude themselves concerning it.

 

A great example of this is when a person is asked a question to which they have no answer. Instead of saying, "I don't know" they will often start theorizing in their own mind, looking for anything that sounds acceptable so that they don't sound uneducated. In this, they begin to deceive themselves and thus deceive others in the process. Paul speaks about this type of thing in 2 Timothy 3:13 -

 

"But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived."

 

Anytime we depart from the truth of Christ as revealed in Scripture, we head immediately in a perverse direction. However, this isn't limited to Christians with bad theology. It permeates the world of academia. It is more than common to invent fine sounding arguments concerning issues to which the specialists have no idea about and no answer to. Instead, they make up things in their head in order to sound wise and they carry many along in their deceit.

 

Paul gives a remedy for this when he says, "If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise." Rather than "seeming wise" by professing a wisdom other than Christ, the wisest course of all is to "become a fool." This means that taking the direction of Christ and running with the knowledge of Christ is foolishness to the world. When someone takes that direction, they are counted as a fool. But in reality, they have made the wisest choice of all because their instruction comes from the true Source of wisdom, God. In this, one will "become a fool that he may become wise."

 

What seems contradictory to the rest of the world is the soundest course of all. In Christ, there is an eternal fount of wisdom, reason, intelligence, and splendor. Apart from Him, there is only vain imaginings and self-deceit which results in the deceiving of others. It is an eternally sad choice to make.


Life application: New religious expressions pop up daily. Old religions are revived and reinstated as supposed sources of enlightenment. Philosophies are held in high esteem because they question reality or the ability to truly know anything. All such things seem wise to the world, but they are foolishness to God. On the contrary, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the true wisdom of God and in it all other machinations of man are made utterly foolish. Stand firm on the gospel of Christ and know that God is pleased with you looking "foolish" to the rest of the world!

 

Lord God, I'd rather be a fool in the eyes of the world while standing on the gospel of Christ than to have all the accolades, honors, and awards that the world can tempt me with. I'd rather be the lowest worker in Your heavenly kingdom, than the smartest philosopher in hell. I'd rather be crucified next to my Lord, than die in peace in a bed of feathers and silk sheets if that meant losing You. Lord, use me, Your lowly servant, until I am used up. And then Lord, take me home to Your glorious place of rest. Amen.

 

 

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; 1 Corinthians 3:19

 

As has been noted time and again in this epistle, care needs to be taken to ensure context is maintained. Without considering the surrounding thoughts, incorrect ideas about what is being discussed will naturally arise. The verse begins with "for" which asks us to consider what has been said in order to make the connection with the rest of the initial thought. Paul has been speaking about building upon the foundation, which is Christ, and that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

 

"For" then asks us to consider that in context with "the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." This has nothing to do with appropriate studies of science, medicine, astronomy, geology, or any other discipline which God gave us the intelligence to pursue. For example, because of botany, we have grafts of hearty fruits which can withstand drought-like conditions and attacks by insects or other pests. We have flowers that bloom in a wild array of colors and durations that are not found in the natural world.

 

God is not asking believers to set aside their brains in this world. Cults and misguided sects ignorantly don't use medicine which has been developed by man and thus they bring on themselves prolonged sicknesses and even premature death. This type of bad analysis is inevitable when context isn't considered. But it is not what Paul is speaking of.

 

The "wisdom of the world" is speaking of that wisdom which excludes Christ in any of its considerations. If a scientist looks for natural explanations to the ultimate questions of life, science, or philosophy, then he will never find the correct answers to his questions, because God is the Source of all such wisdom. Johannes Kepler wisely said, "Science is thinking God's thoughts after Him." This then is wisdom. Without such an attitude, any pursuit of wisdom "is foolishness with God."

 

To build upon and validate this notion, Paul turns to Scripture and cites a portion of Job 5:13. "For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their own craftiness.'"

 

The word "catches" conveys the idea of grabbing with the fist. It is intended to express the notion that no matter what they pursue, apart from including God in the equation, they will never truly get away from the bonds which shackle them. They are pursuing ultimate knowledge, but they are bound by limitations which hinder their ability to discern it.

 

Life application: When contemplating anything of substance, include God in your thoughts. He is the purpose, hope, goal, and end-point of all we could ever consider. Keep Jesus Christ in the equation and the numbers will always add up as they should!

 

Daily I rise and go about my life

But without including the Lord, no true purpose exists

Instead of peace, my soul only finds strife

As I attempt to accomplish my scholarly lists

And so, Lord God, help me never to do a thing in this life without including You in the process. Help me never to forget that the wisdom of the world is mere foolishness to You. But in Christ, all things make sense - pleasure time or while at work; study time or simply thinking about the beauty around me - all of it has no purpose unless it includes the One who gave it all to me. Help me always to consider You, O God. Amen.

 

 

...and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 1 Corinthians 3:20

 

Again, Paul returns to Scripture to confirm the point he has been making. This is a citation from Psalm 94:11. Directly quoted, it says this -

 

"The Lord knows the thoughts of man,
That they are futile."

 

The substitution of "wise" instead of "men" is intended for those he has been speaking of who hold to the wisdom of the world without including God in their thoughts. The word he uses for "thoughts" is comparable to "reasonings." In other words, the search for the knowledge of things is futile when people do it apart from understanding that God is the ultimate Cause of all things.


A perfect example of this in the 21st century is the scientific study going on at CERN - the Large Hadron Collider which is on the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva. At this immense facility is a 27 kilometer long ring of superconducting magnets with accelerating structures to boost energy. These are used to bring matter close to the speed of light and smash it into other matter going in the opposite direction. In their research, they are attempting to find "the God-particle."

 

They believe that by finding a particular particle which results from this type of collision, they will be able to answer all of the questions concerning the creation of the universe. On their website, they begin by asking this -

 

 "What is the universe made of? How did it start? Physicists at CERN are seeking answers, using some of the world's most powerful particle accelerators."

 

Rather than approaching their studies from the presupposition that there is a God and their research will help us to understand how God does things, they leave Him out of the equation. The ultimate answer, therefore, will always elude them and they will be kept from what they desire most. Someday, at the judgment of man unless they call on Christ first, they will be eternally separated from Him, but they will know that He exists. Thus, they will spend eternity lacking contact with what they now realize to be the truth. It is a sad thought, but it is the state of unregenerate man.

 

Life application: Without God, the smartest person is just a dolt, but with God, the least intelligent chap is a true genius. Be really smart; call on Christ!

 

I would rather be shunned by the brightest and best of this world than to be without Jesus. Thank You, O God, for Jesus. Hallelujah and Amen.

 

 

Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: 1 Corinthians 3:21

 

"Therefore" is now stated for consideration of what he has been considering throughout the entire chapter. Paul is moving from his argument into an exhortation to those in Corinth (and thus to us who read this epistle). However, his following words are some of the most disregarded in the entire letter - "let no one boast in men."

 

It is with the greatest note of sadness that this simple sentence has gone almost completely unheeded in Christianity. Catholics boast in the pope; Lutherans boast in Luther; Calvinists boast in Calvin; modern followers of prophecy boast in individual analysts; people cling to TV evangelists and preachers as if they possessed the source of wisdom and knowledge. And yet... they are just people serving in a limited capacity for a limited time and their analyses are merely attempts to explain what has already been given.

 

Paul exhorts each of us to not boast in any man. Instead, let him who boasts, boast in the Lord. Anything other than this merely diminishes what should be the sole and complete focus of our attention, Jesus Christ. In order to explain this, he follows up with an argument for his exhortation by stating "For all things are yours." This will be expanded upon in the verses ahead; it is not a stand alone thought that we can run with and claim all-knowledge or all authority in and of ourselves. Instead, it is a precursor to what he will next explain.

 

Life application: It is commendable to recognize a sound theologian, commentator, preacher, evangelist, etc. But Paul warns us that we are not to boast in that individual. Be careful to heed these words lest your eyes be misdirected away from the Lord.

 

I will fix my eyes on You, O Lord. My heart will be steadfast in my devotion to You, my God. Throughout my days, I will think on You, meditate on Your word, and speak of Your goodness to others. And when I get misdirected, please nudge me back onto the right way once again. You are my All in all and I wish to proclaim You - only You! Amen.

 

 

... whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. 1 Corinthians 3:22

 

This verse is dependent on, and explains, the preceding verse which said, "Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours..." Included in "all things" is the list he now gives beginning with, "whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas." Interestingly, Cephas (Peter) hasn't been mentioned since 1 Corinthians 1:12, 13 when Paul said -

 

"Now I say this, that each of you says, 'I am of Paul,' or 'I am of Apollos,' or 'I am of Cephas,' or 'I am of Christ.' Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"

 

In the interim verses, he speaks about the work of Apollos and himself, but not Cephas. The reason why is clear when one understands that the Corinthian church is a predominantly gentile church. Whatever effect Cephas had on it was directed to the Jews as he is the "Apostle to the Jews." However, Paul laid the foundation of the church at Corinth as a gentile entity and Apollos then continued on in that respect.

 

Cephas did his part, Apollos, did his part, and Paul did his part, but those in the church are the recipients of all of their labors which were united on the proclamation of Christ. The division of these into differing factions is pointless. And as the work of these three all belong to those at Corinth, so do -

 

1) the world, meaning all the created order that we can experience and search out in our attempts to know our Creator better;

 

2) life, which is speaking of the fullness of life in Christ rather than the vain and empty pursuits of life separate from Christ. Solomon, long before Paul, noted that "all is vanity" apart from God. Life ultimately has no meaning or purpose without Christ, but in Him there is the richness of  knowing that we are but pilgrims on a journey to a far better place. It is a place which transcends even....

 

3) death, the termination of this earthly existence is not a foe to the believer, but rather it is a part of assuming our inheritance. As Paul says in Philippians 1:21 - "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Peter explains it as "a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:3, 4);

 

4) things present, is the life we have been given. This is parallel to "life" noted above. Parallelism is used to reinforce a thought and asks the reader to reflect on it a second time. We are living in our present reality, but we have a hope in this reality which is beyond what we can fully grasp. And that will be revealed in the...

 

5) things to come, which is our heavenly inheritance and the fullness of eternal life granted by God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Without this hope, all life is futile and factions are the norm. But in Christ, there should be no such divisions. All these things are united in Him for our benefit and in anticipation of that great Day.

 

Paul says that "all are yours" and as we are also the recipients of his letter to the Corinthians, we also are included in the promises found in Christ. This is the wonder of our state and it shows the absurdity of clinging to single teachers or dividing the fellowship in unnatural ways. Our eyes and thoughts are to be focused on the goal; on the prize; on Christ.

 

Life application: We have a heavenly inheritance, but we also have to work out our earthly existence. Let us therefore do the latter with the former firmly entrenched in our duties and attitudes, to the glory of God.

 

Lord, how good it is to arise and see the world unfold anew each day. As I see the little animals going about their lives, the birds flittering through the skies, and the plants and trees reaching toward the sunshine, I know that Your gracious hand has given these things for our enjoyment and care. Help me to be responsible as a part of this world, but ever-living with the notion that You have something even more wonderful in store for me as I wait upon that Day when Jesus takes me to my true home. Amen.

 

 

And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. 1 Corinthians 3:23

 

To finish out his current thoughts concerning our allegiances and also to close chapter 3, Paul notes that "you are Christ's." We don't belong to Paul or Peter, nor to any other individual, sect, or denomination. We don't belong to a pope, pastor, or priest. Instead, we belong to Christ. He died for us, was resurrected proving that His work was accepted by God, and we have called on Him for salvation. We are His and to Him alone belongs our allegiance.


Understanding this, Paul finishes with "and Christ is God's." Christ is a member of the Godhead - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Because we belong to Him, we belong to God. Jesus is our Mediator to God; no one else can satisfy that role. If we belong to Christ, and He to God, then we are accountable to God and owe Him our allegiance through Christ.


Paul's order of argument and his logic have been exactingly laid out to keep us from misguided allegiances and distractions. And yet, we in the church have continuously failed to heed his words. We throw our trust behind a given pastor as if he were the ultimate authority over us in all matters. Some, like Jim Jones, have even taken their flock to their deaths. All of this tragically occurs because we fail to simply heed the words of the Bible.


Life application: Fix your eyes on Jesus.

 

Lord God, thank you for those pastors and teachers who have instructed me in my walk. But Lord, help me to remember that they are just men doing their job and not the objects of my allegiance. In Christ alone will I trust. I know that any person can falter or let me down, but Jesus never will. Thank You for my ever-faithful Lord! Amen.

 

 

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 1 Corinthians 4:1

 

Paul has penned many words concerning divisions in the church, especially those based on following particular individuals. However, he understood the human proclivity toward this kind of action. And so, having shown that Christ is the foundation and every other person is merely building upon that foundation, he now goes to the task of defining exactly how individual ministers should be perceived. Though they are not to be exalted, they have a particular distinction which is of note.

 

And so he begins chapter 4 with "Let a man so consider us..." He is referring to Cephas, Apollos, and himself, along with any others who come to add upon the foundation. These are to be considered "as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." Paul elsewhere calls himself a "bondservant of Christ." In Romans 6, he shows that we are all slaves to something. We are either slaves to sin (as Jesus Himself noted in John 8:34) or we are slaves to God and to righteousness. Therefore, his terminology that they are "servants of Christ" is inclusive of all believers.

 

In this state, they are to be regarded as equals by the Corinthians. All are under one Master and therefore all owe their allegiance to Him alone. But he continues by stating that despite their common status, they are also "stewards of the mysteries of God." They, as apostles and teachers, carry the details of the faith for instruction and building up of the body. In this capacity, they are to be noted for their efforts. However, this type of note is to be shared among all who are in such a position. There shouldn't be unhealthy divisions within the category.


And there are many categories within the faith. Paul gives several lists throughout his writings, such as one which is coming up in 1 Corinthians 12:27, 28 -

 

"Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues."

 

Life application: The Bible asks us to give honor where it is due. In 1 Timothy 5:17, for example, elders are to be given "double honor" for their service. However, this is a form of respect, not a point of exaltation and division within the body. Be careful to keep the integrity of the body through the exaltation of Christ alone.

 

There is a place where I can go

At any time of day or night

When my soul feels worn down

And I need the Lord to make things right

Heavenly Father, because of Jesus, I know that I have continuous access to Your throne of grace. Help me to use this glorious blessing always, never forgetting that You are with me in the trials as well as in the times of joy. Thank You for the bubbling-over fountain of life and love that I have available to me. Thank You for Jesus.  Amen.

 

 

Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.1 Corinthians 4:2

 

Verse 2 begins with "moreover." This builds upon verse 1 which said, "Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." In addition to this, or "moreover," Paul now notes that "it is required..." Literally, this phrase is "it is sought for" or "it is expected." If one is a steward of another, then they are responsible to their master. Certain things must be accomplished, certain qualities are looked for, and certain standards must be maintained.

 

In such a state it is required "that one be found faithful." His words here certainly reflect the mindset of Jesus' words in Luke 12:42, 43 -

 

"And the Lord said, 'Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.'"

 

The logic is that 1) Jesus Christ is the Master; 2) He selects His stewards; 3) He gives His instructions for proper stewardship (these are found in the Bible); 4) He will search out our works, attitudes, and results to determine our faithfulness.

 

Life application: Have you received Jesus Christ as your Savior? If so, you have become a "steward" or "servant" of Christ. Are you learning His instruction manual? Are you executing your duties according to that manual? This is our one shot at doing these things before we stand before His judgment seat. Make sure to do them diligently and correctly!

 

How great, splendid, and awesome You are, O God. You placed the galaxies in the heavens and set them in motion. And yet you are aware of every bumblebee that goes about its business of collecting nectar to make honey. How can such wisdom and power be! How magnificent are Your ways. Thank You for allowing me to be a part of Your wondrous creation and to behold Your revealed glory with my two unworthy eyes. Amen!

 

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 1 Corinthians 4:3

Verse 3 begins with "but" to indicate a contrast in what he just said about being "found faithful" in the previous verse. In Paul's eyes, "it is a very small thing that" he should be judged by anyone except the true Judge of all righteous deeds and actions. The idea of being "judged" here implies the examination one would go through preliminary to a trial being held.

 

Speaking to those in Corinth, to him being found in this state had absolutely no importance at all when coming from "you or by a human court." He had already found them worldly and carnal and so noted it to them in the preceding chapter (see 1 Corinthians 3:3, 4). They had divided allegiances between individual teachers and were not focused on Christ. If this was so (and he showed them that it was), then any such inspection of his work by them would ultimately be irrelevant.

 

What should be noted is that the term "human court" is the Greek anthrōpinēs hēmeras - man's day; meaning the time from sunrise to sunset. It is translated as "court" because Paul is contrasting "the day of man" to the "Day of the Lord." This sentiment is seen in 1 Corinthians 3:13 -

 

"...each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is."

 

The brevity of human life and the lowliness of our knowledge in comparison to that of God finds man insufficient to make accurate and reasonable judgments concerning such awesome matters as Paul was blessed to impart by God's Spirit.

 

And so this wasn't just the case with those in Corinth, but with any human court. If a human court were to make an investigation into Paul's imparting of "the mysteries of God" which he spoke of in 4:1, they could never correctly investigate the matter anyway. Such information and revelation would be beyond a human court's ability to properly discern. And to prove this he continues on with words concerning himself.

 

He was so sure that such an investigation would come up short, that he exclaimed, "In fact, I do not even judge myself." In his words, instead of the word krino - judge, he uses the term ankrino - examine. In other words, he is unable to examine these things himself, even though they were relayed through him. The mysteries of God were revealed to him by the Spirit of God. As he is a creature created by God, how could he examine something which was of a higher Source than himself? It would be impossible!

 

As the Pulpit Commentary notes, This "verse discourages all morbid self introspection. It also shows that St. Paul is not arrogantly proclaiming himself superior to the opinion of the Corinthians, but is pointing out the necessary inadequacy of all human judgments." He, like they, was wholly unqualified to judge such high spiritual matters through earthly investigations.

 

Life application: Because the Bible is surely the word of God, having validated itself throughout history - both internally and externally, we must accept what has been received without judgment upon it. We are insufficient to judge what God has spoken. We may find it difficult, not suited to our taste in certain areas, or contrary to what we desire, but we must never attempt to find fault in it. God is God and God has spoken. Let us accept His word as it is written.

 

Your word is so precious to me Lord. Many times I've seen others in distress decide to pull it out and read its contents in order to find hope and encouragement there. Me... I will never wait until the time of anxiety arrives. I intend to stay ahead of the game, keeping it fresh in my mind and secure in my heart at all times. In this, I will be ready for any day of evil which comes my way. Thank You for Your word!! Amen.

 

 

For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 1 Corinthians 4:4

 

The sense of this verse is hard to understand in some translations. However, the NIV does a good job of it -

 

"My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me."

 

Paul, speaking of his work as an apostle, and in his ministerial duties in handling the mysteries of God (see verse 1 for context), felt convinced that he had done and was doing his best in presenting it to properly. However, he acknowledged that just because he "felt" he had a clear conscience in no way implied that he was without guilt in the matter.

This verse is an important one in presenting to us, and the world at large, the fact that guilt has nothing to do with how we perceive our standing before God. We may be (and are because of the fall of man) guilty of an offense against God whether we realize it or not. This is no different than turning onto a road with a 35 mile-per-hour limit and going 45 even though we saw no sign at the point where we turned onto it. Ignorance of the law is no excuse and feelings of innocence are irrelevant. This is similar then to what Job said during his discussions. But in the end, he found that what he thought was correct was faulty -

 

My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go;
My heart shall not reproach me as long as I live. Job 27:6

 

Paul understood that God is sovereign and that if he had done something wrong in his gospel ministry, even unknowingly, he bore the responsibility for his actions. In the end, he states his affirmation that "He who judges me is the Lord." We are His subjects and to Him we are accountable. Therefore, doctrine really does matter. People who dismiss this precept and arrogantly state that "doctrine doesn't matter" will face much loss at the judgment seat of Christ.


The Bible is a book of doctrine and it has been given to us for our learning, guidance, and instruction. When we fail to handle it properly, we are offending God who gave it.

 

Life application: Better to spend your time with your nose in the Bible in expectation of approval before Christ, than to ignorantly walk through your Christian life, hoping for a light sentence at the judgment of rewards and losses on that great Day.

 

Lord God, Your word shows me that ignorance of Your law is no excuse. Whether my conscience is clear concerning my doctrine, it doesn't mean I am innocent in regards to it. You have spoken and it is up to me to properly handle what You have given. And so Lord, open my eyes to the truth of the word; give me a desire to approach it carefully and with respect. And thank You for allowing me to know Your mind through it! Amen.

 

 

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. 1 Corinthians 4:5

 

Paul has been speaking of matters of doctrine and he is continuing on in this regard. It is similar to what Jesus said in one of the most misapplied verses in all of Scripture, Matthew 7:1, 2 -

 

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."

 

Jesus was not implying that we weren't to make judgments against others on matters of morals, ethics, or adherence to the word of God. In fact, within just a few short sentences of His words, he noted to us that we are to be firm and steadfast in making right moral judgments. Paul cites a similar thought in Romans 2:1 -

 

"Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things."

 

Our judgments and our decisions are to be based on what God decides rather than on our own perverse machinations. Understanding this, Paul begins with "therefore." This is given in anticipation of us returning to see why he will now state what he states. He just finished indicating his belief in his innocence concerning proper doctrine, but just because he felt innocent, it didn't mean he actually was. Instead, the Lord would determine that.

 

Because of his uncertainty in this matter, even though he felt convinced, he now adds to that thought by saying "judge nothing before the time." Again, this isn't asking us to not make right judgments but to exercise care in our determination of why someone is taking a particular course of action. A good example of this is when Jesus sat and spoke with prostitutes and other "sinners." If one were to judge by mere appearances, they would think He was like them because of His association with them. However, the appearances would be faulty.

 

In like manner, Paul made his presentations, Apollos made his, and Peter made his. Divisions arose among those in Corinth based on who they approved of, but in fact all three were working towards the same end. Making such limited judgments only caused harm, not edification. In the end, each will receive his reward when "the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveals the counsels of the hearts."

 

These two thoughts parallel each other. "The hidden things of darkness" are those things we conceal. What we may put forth as our motivation for a deed may actually not be at all what truly motivates us. The "counsels of the heart" refers to this same concept. Our heart directs us, it guides our emotions and our desires, and it is what we cannot search out in another, only the Lord can (as the Bible shows numerous times and in both testaments.)

 

And so it is the Lord who will do the searching and it is the Lord who will judge us for rewards and losses. At that time "each one's praise will come from God." This word "praise" is from the Greek epainos and denotes the idea of a reward which is due. When the Lord does His great search of our hearts, motivations, and doctrine, He will pronounce the sentence fairly and with justice based on that.


Life application: Truly, we cannot know the motivations behind the actions of another. At times we might feel certain, but in the end we may actually be proven wrong. Therefore, let us withhold such judgments, allowing the Lord to do His work without our prior interference.


Great and awesome God! How good it is to know that You have everything under control. I don't need to worry about the things the world finds troubling. I don't need to feel stress or concern about the sad direction of nations, governments, or society in general. In the end, these things are temporary, but You O God are eternal. In what shall I worry? My hope is in You, the Living God! Amen.

 

 

Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. 1 Corinthians 4:6

 

"Now these things" is referring to everything from a certain point in his writings thus far. In other words, the context of everything that has been analyzed from that point has dealt with the same issue. This is important to understand, because many of the verses between that starting point and where Paul is now have been used incorrectly over the ages as "stand-alone" verses to establish doctrine contrary to what is intended by Paul. These have been addressed individually as they have come up, and Paul's words here now confirm the context of this continuously running thought.

 

He goes on with "brethren." Again, he notes that his words are addressed to believers, not unbelievers. What he has been communicating then is doctrine for already saved people.

 

"I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes" shows us that the starting point for the context of Paul's discourse is the introduction of whatever issue involved both Paul and Apollos. This takes us all the way back to chapter 1 verse 12 where Apollos is first mentioned. And that verse included everything back to verse 1:10 which was speaking of "divisions."

 

Considering this, we see that the proper context of Paul's entire discourse thus far has been that of internal divisions within the church. One can truly see the need for applying proper context when evaluating Scripture by looking at Paul's words here which are noted as "for your sakes." They are words and examples given to the church for edification. They have been a continuous thought which has been figuratively applied to Apollos and himself.

 

And the reason for this... how important is his next statement! "That you may learn to not think beyond what is written." How different Christianity would be today if people took the time to read their Bibles and then apply proper context as they study. Some churches are very legalistic, some are far too liberal; some churches forbid that which is acceptable and some allow that which isn't. There are churches which deny the importance of doctrine at all and others which make doctrine up as they go along, not considering context. All of this stems from thinking "beyond what is written."

 

Paul is showing us that doctrine is of the highest value in our walk after salvation and he is indicating that proper doctrine is what is important, not "any" doctrine. And he gives the reason for it explicitly - "that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other." If one follows proper doctrine, by understanding the context of what is being said, then they will not be puffed up, meaning prideful. Instead, they will be standing on the authority of God's word, not their own individual division. And divisions are what have been the subject of everything Paul has said.

 

The metaphor, "puffed up," comes from yeast which is introduced into bread. When it is, the bread rises. Like a loaf of bread, where there is pride, we become boastful and puffed up. The Corinthians were boasting in Paul or Apollos and not in Jesus. They were dividing over it and this had led to sin, which yeast pictures. This is the reason for Paul's words, and they indicate a man who is willing to go to great length to establish his case and defend his argument.

 

Life application: When evaluating Scripture, context its king. Always look for the proper context to a verse less you be found misrepresenting what has been presented.

 

I'm awake for another day Lord. Help me to use this day wisely, redeeming the time and pursuing that which is noble, good, and of eternal value. Keep me from faults that will hinder my walk with You or bring discredit upon Your glorious name. May my heart be directed aright and my steps be proper and firmly planted on truth, righteousness, and justice. To Your glory I make this morning prayer. Amen.

 

 

For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?  1 Corinthians 4:7

 

"For" explains the thought in the previous verse which said, "that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other." Why should one be puffed up against another? If we think it through, it should never happen. To help us consider logically, Paul asks a series of questions to mull over.

 

First he asks, "Who makes you differ from another?" Paul and Apollos certainly differed from one another, as do all teachers. But who is it that made them different? Of course it is the Lord. If Paul differs from Apollos and they are both proclaiming the same message, then obviously the Lord should get the credit for the difference because He gave them that ability or grace. As this is so, then why should those in Corinth boast about their superiority over one another in their allegiance to Paul or Apollos? Rather they should be boasting in the Lord who made each according to His own wisdom and purpose.

 

If a potter made two pots, one beautiful and one simple, each still has a particular purpose. The beautiful one can be put on a shelf to admire, but it may not be as good for transporting olive oil. However, we need olive oil for cooking. So which is more important? And because the same potter made them both, do we praise the individual pot, or the potter who made them for various uses? Paul asks them to think.

 

He next asks, "And what do you have that you did not receive?" What predominate gift does Paul have? He was the one to plant. What predominate gift does Apollos have? He watered. Who gave them these gifts? Likewise, he would have them look to themselves as well. What do each of you have? And if  you have it, you received it from elsewhere. Was it from Paul? Was it from Apollos? No! It was from God. So why then are you puffed up? Why are there such divisions?

 

If a group goes into a royal palace and the one on the throne has gifts prepared for each of them. Who will they thank, the attendant who brings them the gift, or the one on the throne who offered it? The answer is obvious. Paul asks them to think.

 

Finally, he asks a follow-up question to get them to consider their actions, "Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" His words make it clear that what they have, they received. There can be no arguing against it and so his question is like a sharp knife, intended to cut away their pride. In essence, "Of course you have received all that you have, so why would you boast as if you had earned it?"

 

In the end, this is true for all things. If you have a big house and lots of money, it is because God gave you the time, place, intelligence, strength, etc. to earn these things. So do you say how great you are, or do you thank God for His grace upon your life? If you understand properly, it is God who must be given the credit. Paul asks them to think.

 

Life application. No matter what you have, it ultimately came from God. Illogical divisions which fail to recognize this are sinful. If we in the US boast about our strength, but fail to give God the credit for it, we sin. If those in Japan boast about their technological prowess, but fail to give God the credit for it, they sin. In all things, "To God be the glory."

 

Lord, I have a great family - you chose who I would be born to. I have a super job - you gave me this particular ability. My wife is tops - you chose my time and place of life and she came as a result of that. The people counted as my friends like me because You made me the person that I am. How can I boast in a single thing? In the end, it all came from You. Thank You for every good and gracious blessing that has adorned my life. Amen.

 

 

You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you! 1 Corinthians 4:8

 

Paul makes a sudden transition from his words concerning the boasting of the Corinthians. In this verse his pen shouts out the irony of a man who sees their true state. And he does so in an a way which shows his breaking heart over their childish behavior (something he will note directly in 1 Corinthians 14:20). In this then, he makes three statements which ascend in their tone and force.

 

In each of these thoughts, the emphasis is on the completed action indicated by the adverb or verb. As they are analyzed, stressing those words shows his intent. "You are already full!" You are already rich! You have reigned as kings." Likewise, he has changed his wording from the previous verses which were singular to plural here. He is redirecting from the personal singular to the impersonal group to correspond with the emotion of his words.

 

And so he begins with "You are already full!" The idea here is one who is fully sated. The only other time this phrase is used is in Acts 27:38 -

 

"So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea."

 

Those in Corinth acted as if they had all they needed of the word and instruction in order to continue on in faith and practice, but Paul is just beginning. He will write another 12 chapters to them in this letter and a second letter comprising 13 chapters. Adding in his other letters and those of the other apostles, it is quite apparent that they were far less than full; they were lacking in the extreme. As he noted to them earlier, they were still babes, not yet able to move from milk to solid food (1 Corinthians 3:1, 2).

 

Continuing with his thoughts, he next says "You are already rich!" Not only did they assume they were full and had enough to sustain them, they felt so comfortable that they were rich. The idea of richness is that of having taken the food that they had consumed and processed it into grand knowledge and understanding. So much so that they could rest easy in what they possessed. This is similar to Jesus' words to those is Laodicea in Revelation 3:17 -

 

"Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked."

 

However, Paul's continued instruction to them will show that they are in fact poor beggars needing a handout of spiritual doctrine. And finally, he takes them to the highest level of irony by telling that that "You have reigned as kings without us..."

 

The idea of a king is one who is elevated to the highest position of all. They sit at the throne and direct others rather than taking orders. In this, he is literally mocking them over their boastings because what they have came from Cephas, Paul, and Apollos, to whom they had broken into warring divisions. So how could they be kings if they were claiming allegiance to mere messengers! Their thinking is utterly nonsensical and they have only made themselves look like fools in the royal court rather than the king on the throne.

 

With these thoughts now stated, he lessens his charge against them to show them grace by saying "and indeed I could wish that you did reign, that we might also reign with you." They have assumed that they were kings with crowns and he has charged them otherwise, but his hope is that they will in fact be there to reign with him. He spoke in a similar manner to those in Thessalonica when he wrote to them -

 

"For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy." 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20

 

Paul wasn't looking for divisions, but for a united heart and attitude directed solely toward Jesus Christ. He is where the prize is. He is where the throne is. He is where the crown of rejoicing is. Their attitude about Paul is that they had entered the kingdom apart from him when he in fact was the one who had planted what they now possessed.

 

Life application: Running ahead in spiritual development without understanding the basics inevitably leads to unsound theology, prideful demonstrations which harm the fellowship, and leaders being exalted in an unhealthy way. One cannot be sound in their theology without much study and a complete focus on Jesus Christ.

 

Lord God, a thousand prayer requests I could lay before You this morning - friends with trials, troubles, tribulations, and temptations. But what I would pray for them above all else is that You would impress upon them the need to study Your word. If they make the effort, those other things will find their proper place; many will disappear completely. Your word is a treasure of immeasurable worth. Open hearts to long for it, minds to understand it, and lives to rejoice in it. To Your glory I pray. Amen.

 

 

For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 1 Corinthians 4:9

 

"For" begins this verse and explains this statement made in the previous verse - "I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you!" Paul was rebuking those in Corinth for their attitude of feeling full, rich, and reigning as kings when no such thing was the case. In those comments he added that he wished it was in fact true because if it were, then the apostles would also be right there with them. However, it was painfully apparent that this wasn't the case.

 

Rather, Paul felt that they (meaning the apostles) had been on display by God in several notable ways -

 

1) last - the is a reference to the custom of the times where those who were to fight in the amphitheaters of the Roman Empire were brought in last, after all the other spectacles were finished, in order to fight to the death. They were the condemned about to die. Which is exactly what he then refers to.

 

2) as men condemned to death - those who first went into the amphitheaters may be orators or actors, and maybe animal shows as well. Only after their displays were finished would those who fought to the death be brought in. Those condemned to die had but one chance which would be to fight so well that they would be pardoned. In this they were made....

 

3) a spectacle to the whole world - the Roman Empire was the known world at the time. Amphitheaters were found throughout its borders and the condemned would be paraded through the streets to any and all of them as a sign of power of the empire and as a gory sport for those who watched.

 

Like these people, Paul found that the apostles were in a similar situation. In fact, all but John were actually killed for their faith and even John suffered greatly. For the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they lived their difficult lives as a "spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men." In the sight of both those on earth and those in the heavenly realms, they went about their business of witnessing to the splendor of the gospel, unafraid of even death for the sake of Christ.


Life application: Far too many see Christianity as a means to wealth, prosperity, ease, and a fist-bumping relationship with the Creator. In this, they see their faults as easily dismissed and feel they possess a guarantee of protection and safety. But this is because of the prosperous circumstances which surround them. In most of the world and for most of history, Christians have been the brunt of hatred, torture, and death. Our pleasant surroundings are bound to end. How firm will we be in our faith at that time? Be prepared to serve the Lord through any and every trial.

 

Heavenly Father, I admit my life has been one of ease and prosperity. You have blessed me with so much in the time, place, and circumstance in which I find myself. But I know that those things may end someday. Should they not be found nearby, I would ask for nothing more than the strength to continue to praise You. If all else is taken from me, don't take this desire and ability away. With this I will be pleased. Amen.

 

 

We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! 1 Corinthians 4:10

 

Paul again introduces irony into his thoughts as he did in verse 8. He is showing the folly of their boasting and divisions within the church. He, and the other apostles, have done nothing but proclaim Christ, and they have done it with complete and undivided loyalty. But among those in this world (and even among those in the faith) they have been taken as fools, men of weakness, and those who are dishonored. His words are confirmed throughout Acts and the other epistles.

 

He begins with "We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ." In his statement, he speaks in an ironical tone in order to highlight his words. His message is one which proclaims only Christ; theirs is in divisions within the body. Later, in his second letter to the Corinthians, he will repeat this sentiment -

 

"I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing." 2 Corinthians 12:11

 

Two examples from Acts shows that this wasn't limited to those at Corinth, but was a thought which permeated society at large as well -

 

1) "Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, 'What does this babbler want to say?'" 17:18

 

2) “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!” 26:24

 

In opposition to how he is perceived, he ironically states that "you are wise in Christ." In verse 8, he told them that they were already full, a way of saying they were full of knowledge when in fact they were mere babes in what they knew.

 

He then shows another irony about being mature in Christ when he says, "We are weak, but you are strong!" Again, in 2 Corinthians, he will explain very carefully how one who is truly weak in the ways of the world can actually be full of strength in Christ -

 

"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10

 

This statement came after his explanation that only when relying solely on the Lord can one be truly strong. The paradox is explained in Jesus' words to Him which said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Because he had to rely on the grace of Christ, he possessed the greatest of all strengths. The Corinthians had failed to understand this and were busy in the art of division of Christ rather than total dependence on Him.

 

Finally, Paul again introduces a note of irony by stating "You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!" The natural result of division is to feel distinguished. When someone argues with another about their favorite pastor being better than the other person's pastor, there is a smug feeling of self-confidence. "I follow Pastor Pillowfeathers and he is all I need. I cannot see why you even listen to Preacher Pointypants."

 

The attempt is to be distinguished among a crowd, just as Paul noted about the divisions in chapter 1. And yet, it harmed rather than helped; it destroyed rather than developed. But instead of divisions and mis-directions, Paul kept his eyes on one Prize and held fast to one Hope. And that is to be found in Jesus Christ and Him alone. His previous words to the Corinthians show this singleness of mind and attitude -

 

"For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." 1 Corinthians 2:2-4

 

Life application: What the world sees as foolish, weak, and dishonorable is the only true Source of sanity, strength, and honor. Jesus Christ is the Source of wisdom. Reliance on Him is the position of highest power and might. And there is no more exalted place for any person in heaven or on earth than to be found in Him, covered with His garments of righteousness. Eyes on Jesus! Hearts on Jesus! Minds on Jesus! Rest in Christ alone!

 

Glorious and exalted Lord, the sweetest sound of the finest singing bird can't compare to the beautiful music of Your precious word. The most delicious taste of the choicest pastry is nothing compared to waking up to the savor of You in my life. And the fantastic sensation of the most delightful bubble bath compares not-in-the-least to knowing Your guiding hand is upon me. How wonderfully precious it is to be called, fed, and covered by You, my precious Lord. Amen.

 

 

To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 1 Corinthians 4:11

 

In his words in this verse, Paul now contrasts the ironical statements made from verses 8-10 concerning how the Corinthians perceived themselves with the reality of how the apostles actually lived. The contrast is all the more striking when considering that the apostles were the schooled; they were the leaders; they were those who saw Jesus, were instructed by Him, and were granted His personal commission.

 

He notes their sad state and says that it persists "to the present hour." This means that the poor living conditions of the apostles didn't end with the establishment of churches, as if there were a sudden influx of power, prestige, and money flowing to them. Instead, despite what we today consider the exalted status of those early men of God, they lived in a state of deprivation. Paul says "we," indicating the general lot of the apostles, were:

 

1) In "both hunger and thirst" - Those at Corinth went to church at someone's home or elsewhere, they ate bread together, fellowshipped, and then returned to their homes for their regular life of food and drink, along with all the other benefits of a home. At the same time, the apostles were generally moving from place to place to spread the news of Christ. There were no guarantees of lodging and a meal and so hunger and thirst were a normal and expected part of their travels.

 

2) "Poorly clothed" - Some translations here say "naked." The idea is one of clothing which is worn out from continual use, even to the point of being ragged. As travelers, they wouldn't carry along a suitcase with changes of clothing, but would simply wear the same clothes continuously. In this state, they would enter a synagogue or congregation and speak to those who were wearing their normal clothes or even a set of clothes set apart for special occasions. Instead of being the height of fashion when attending, they would be the poorest dressers of all. This state wouldn't be unknown to the Corinthians and they couldn't claim Paul was making this up. They had seen him and Peter already and knew his words were so. As it was true with him, there is no reason to believe any other apostles were dressed any better.

 

3) "Beaten" - This is a customary theme of the book of Acts. It seems everywhere Paul went, someone was pulling at him, whipping him, slapping him, stoning him, or otherwise attacking him in some other physically offensive way. Even the high priest of Israel had him so abused -

 

"And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth." Acts 23:2

 

4) "Homeless" - The apostles were persecuted to the point where they would have to leave home and family. And the very concept of having a stable home was contrary to the type of ministry they conducted. They wandered about at the direction of the Spirit to whatever place was selected to hear the good news of the Gospel. The thought of a regular job and home probably never crossed their minds as they set their faces to the task ahead of them each day.


But Paul understood that these things had nothing to do with a right relationship with God. If anything, they strengthened it. Paul's words of Romans 8:35 show that none of these things have any bearing on their intimate fellowship with Christ -

 

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" Romans 8:35

 

In his follow up to this, in Romans 8:39, Paul says that none of these things, nor any other thing in heaven or on earth would be effective to "to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

 

He will continue with his sobering words to those in Corinth, and thus to us, of the conditions they suffered for Christ. Let us not worry if the latte machine is broken at church Sunday. It is of little consequence.

 

Life application: Are you timid to go to church because you don't have clothing which is as good as the others who attend? Or, do you wish the dirty person in the pew next to you would take a shower and put on better clothes when coming to church? It is with certainty that either perspective is wrong. The apostles themselves were surely in far worse clothing. Would they be accepted into your church today?

 

XXX Old clothes and raggedy shoes on his feet

Who let this person into our church today?

When we shake hands and when we greet

To that dirty fellow, I've nothing to say

 

But didn't Christ die for Him too?

Weren't the apostles dressed worse than he?

Lord forgive my heart for making such a to-do

I'm sorry for such thoughts Lord, please forgive me

 

Lord God, help me to look past the externals of those around me - their clothes, their possessions, even their culture, color, shape, or smell. Whatever keeps me from seeing them as a person created in Your image, take that away and replace it with eyes that see them as You see them. And then give me the words to say which will lead them to You. Thank You Lord, Amen.

 

 

And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; 1 Corinthians 4:12

 

Paul continues to relay the plight of the apostles as they set forth to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Not only did they hunger and thirst, wear poor clothes, and receive ill treatment, they also didn't impose upon others who may have recognized their plight. Instead, he says they "labor, working with our own hands."

 

In Act 18, it is noted that Paul was a tent-maker and worked in that job while travelling in order to pay his way. In Acts 20, he even notes to those in Ephesus that he "provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me" (Acts 20:34). In other words, he not only worked to pay his own way, he paid for those he travelled with as well.

 

In similar words, he wrote in both his epistles to those in Thessalonica concerning his personal labors and the reason for it. From his first letter, we read this -

 

"So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God." 1 Thessalonians 2:8, 9

 

Despite this, and maybe partly because of it, he notes to the Corinthians that they were "reviled." As common laborers, they would have been looked down on by many whom they encountered. All they would see is a poorly dressed, smelly person who claimed to have a message of salvation and freedom. What a paradox! What a contradiction! They would have been the brunt of jokes and taunting. And yet, despite being reviled, they in turn would "bless."

 

Following the words of the Lord to those He instructed, they showed that this was the way to win true and sincere converts to the message they preached. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus gave this admonition to His followers -

 

"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."

 

This blessing of those who came against them was from the wisest Counselor of all and proved to be the true door to opening hearts and minds. But not only did they bless when reviled, Paul continues by saying that "being persecuted, we endure." The blessings were given and regardless of whether the persecutions continued or not, they endured. They kept blessing, they kept praising God, and they continued to proclaim their message.

 

In their persecution a greater reward was promised. Again from Matthew 5, we learn of the blessing for those who are so treated -

 

"Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:11, 12

 

Although these words were spoken by Jesus, under the law to those under the law, they are confirmed in the apostle's actions and by the words of Peter to those he addressed in his first epistle -

 

"If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter." 1 Peter :14-16

 

Though there are no apostles today, there are missionaries who carry on this type of work in areas which have never before heard the good news. They have the words of the Lord, the examples of the apostles, and the history of many generations of missionaries who have gone before them to be assured that this is the right approach to evangelizing those who have never heard the good news before. It is an awesome and blessed life that far too few consider in this world of ease and luxury.

 

Life application: Take time to pray for those who are in the mission field. They are doing a task which has continued on for 2000 years and which is the only hope of life and blessing for those they encounter.

 

Lord, as I sit at my desk, enjoying the morning and surrounded by the familiar sounds and smells of life, I know that there are some who have given up on these things for a great and awesome cause. They may be lonely, hungry, dirty, or in peril, but they are sharing Your word to a world which so desperately needs it. Today, I pray for those faithful souls who have given up so much for the wondrous gospel message. Please be an ever-present comfort in their lives as they serve You. Amen.

 

 

...being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now. 1 Corinthians 4:13

 

In the previous verse, Paul began a list of things which demonstrated the lowly and unappreciated state of the apostles. He continues that list in this verse to show the difficult circumstances they faced and yet how they handled them. He begins with "being defamed, we entreat."

 

In essence, they are cursed or held in great contempt by those they encounter. However, they turn the proverbial cheek and "entreat." Rather than biting back, they plead for grace between themselves and the offending party. Instead of cursing them and wishing their destruction, they look to reconciliation and hopes of their salvation.

 

Paul then notes how they are actually considered in the eyes of their persecutors by saying, "We have been made as the filth of the world." The word translated as "filth" carries a technical sense to it. In essence, it concerns men who are set apart for death in order to provide expiation. A comparable concept, although death is not mandated in this instance, is found in the Old Testament book of Leviticus which reads -

 

“Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, 'Unclean! Unclean!'  He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp." Leviticus 13:45, 46

 

The unclean person is cast outside the camp in order to carry away the infection from it. This is the kind of thing that Paul is intimating in how he is treated. In addition to this he says he and the other apostles are considered "the offscouring of all things until now." The word here finds its roots in a verb which indicates rubbing, scraping, or shaving and so carries a similar idea to what he said about being filth. In order to be cleansed, they look at Paul and the others as something which needs to be first removed. If one were to think of cutting away hair which was full of chewing gum, the picture would be appropriate.

 

Life application: The apostles were willing to endure great verbal and even physical abuse for the sake of the gospel. A time is probably coming, and it may be prior to the rapture, where all who call on Christ will be faced with similar persecution. Be ready to follow Paul's example when the time comes.

 

Lord God, the world is quickly degrading into perversion, wretchedness, and immense ungodliness. It's hard, very hard, to stand against these things without losing composure. Help me Lord to be strong in my moral convictions while still being graceful towards those who revile me. It's a tough stand to take, but if hearts can be changed by this, then it will be worth it. Be with me and guide me each step of the road. Amen.

 

 

I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 1 Corinthians 4:14

 

Now, in contrast to his words which he has thus far spoken - words of irony followed by words which included examples of personal hardship and trial, Paul removes the irony and explains why he gave those striking examples by saying, "I do not write these things to shame you..." His words were not intended to degrade them, but to effect a positive change in thinking (and thus in life) in them.

 

His words of irony weren't intended as a means of embarrassment, and his words about his sufferings weren't meant to exalt him above them as if they hadn't somehow earned a right through personal trial which he had. Instead, and even if it had this effect, they weren't intended to shame or taunt them. Rather, he had more lofty and righteous intents in mind. In contrast to this perception, he explains, "but as my beloved children I warn you."

 

He has been acting and speaking as a father would to his own children - for good, for edification, for building up and exhortation. Just as a father will use examples from his own life in an attempt to show the right path, so Paul was doing thus far. When a parent tells of their past hardships, it is in anticipation that the child will listen and think, "Oh, I can avoid that by not doing what he did."

 

Whether it concerns financial mistakes, blunders during times of schooling, faults that came up in relationships, or whatever else, the parent uses personal experience, mixed with irony, to impart wisdom to his children. This is Paul's method here and it is with a noble and heartfelt intent for his children in Christ there at Corinth.

 

Life application: The Bible has many notes of instruction which include examples of failure as well as success. There is also irony directed to its audience. None of these are intended to shame us in the sense that we can never measure up. Rather, they are intended as a means of getting us to think on how we can measure up. And then God gives the answer - by putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and living according to His instruction. That instruction is found in the Bible; read your Bible.

 

When I read Your word, O God, I see my own failings in the people I read about. Individuals and people groups alike all fail You again and again as I read its pages, and yet, you tenderly care for them and work to bring about a positive change in them. And then You sent Jesus who never failed. He is what all of those other trials, troubles, and shortcomings are intended to show me... even though I am like that, I can trust in the One who never failed. I can be found within Him! And then I can live for You through Him. What a marvelous God You are, to send us Jesus! Thank You and Amen.

 

 

For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 1 Corinthians 4:15

 

"For" is given based on the warning of the previous verse - "I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you." The reason for the warning then was that "though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, you do not have many fathers." A father will look after his children in ways that an instructor won't. A good example to understand this is to see the only other times that the term for "instructors" which is paidagōgous (a pedagogue) is used. In Galatians 3:24, 25, Paul uses the term twice when referring to the law -

 

"Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."

 

A pedagogue was a slave who conducted children to school and looked over the care of their schooling. In a broader sense, it is used of teachers or instructors of any general kind. This is what the law was intended to be. It was meant to lead us to the knowledge that we need more than just formal schooling, but a relationship and personal care. This is what Jesus provides us.

 

Paul is using this same idea in a metaphorical way about himself. Many teachers and instructors had come to Corinth, but only Paul could claim "for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." He had been the one to originally bring them the message of Christ and to plant the church at Corinth. As a father begets children, he had begotten them in Christ through his preaching ministry. And so between them in this there was a bond similar to a father for a son. He felt the same way about Onesimus when writing to his friend Philemon -

 

"I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains..." Philemon 1:10

 

Life application: Are you still familiar with the person who led you to Christ? If so, take time to write them a note or give them a call and tell them how your walk is going. There is a special bond in this that deserves an extra moment of your time. If you have lost contact with that person, lift them up in prayer today to your heavenly Father who knows exactly who they are and how to reward them.


Lord Jesus, I thank You for the person who took the time to tell me about You. The greatest moment of my life took place because of a caring heart and a few simple words. Please look after that precious soul and bless them for their efforts. And Lord, help me to step forward and to share my faith with others as well. To Your glory I pray this. Amen.

 

 

Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 1 Corinthians 4:16

 

Paul has been speaking of divisions within the church for four chapters. Such divisions can only lead to a breakdown in harmony, infighting, and other trials. Eventually, they can ruin or completely divide a church. So one might think that Paul is actually causing a new division by his words in the previous verse (that he is a father to them) and in this verse by asking them to imitate him. Is he trying to greedily have the church follow him and not Apollos?

The answer is no. His statement that he is a father to them implies that they are children to him. A father will look out for good, not evil, when guiding his children. And a father will have his own example to follow. In the case of Paul, he states his example explicitly in 1 Corinthians 11:1 by again instructing them to imitate him, while explaining why -

 

"Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ."

 

Paul's example is Christ. If this is so, then asking them to imitate him is, in effect, simply learning the greater example of Christ. This is a common theme of Paul, often implied, often explicit. In Philippians 3:17, he makes it explicit again -

 

"Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern."

 

As another example, found in Ephesians 5:1 & 2, he will actually go around himself and ask them to directly imitate God -

 

"Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma."

 

The reason for speaking this way to the Ephesians as opposed to how he speaks to the Corinthians ("imitate God" rather than "imitate me") is that the Corinthians were carnal and not yet grounded in how to imitate God. If he were to have told them to "imitate God" as he did to those at Ephesus, they would have had nothing substantial on which to accomplish this admonition. One must first learn what God expects before imitating Him. As Paul knew what God expected, they could follow him and thus learn how to imitate God.

 

Paul's words are logical, clear, and demonstrate the wisdom which God granted him in order to handle every situation in the most effective way.

 

Life application: How important it is for instructors, teachers, and pastors to understand what God expects before teaching others. Without being God-like in their behavior, those who are instructed by them will most likely never truly learn how to imitate God.

 

Lord God, give me the wise sense to act in accord with Your will and the instruction You have given us in the Bible so that I can turn around and be a proper example to those around me. If their impression of You is faulty because of me, then I have failed You. May it not be so! But rather, keep me on that straight path of Christ, never deviating from what You would desire for me in the sight of others. Amen.

 

 

For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. 1 Corinthians 4:17

 

"For this reason" here will explain Paul's previous statement which said, "Therefore I urge you, imitate me." As it was noted, Paul wasn't trying to cause a greater division by having those at Corinth imitate him over some other apostle. Rather, he was asking them to imitate him because he was an imitator of Christ, something they lacked and wouldn't get right unless they had a proper example.

 

In support of that reason, he told them he has "sent Timothy to you." Timothy was Paul's protégé and would fill the need of the Corinthians on Paul's behalf. This Timothy, Paul states, "is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord." Like those in Corinth whom Paul called his "beloved children" in verse 14, Timothy was also. Because Paul looked at all of them as sons, he felt that Timothy would be a great help in understanding what he was conveying. However, later in this letter, it still seems unsure if Timothy would actually make it to Corinth or not because he uses the word "if" concerning his travels -

 

"And if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do. Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren." 1 Corinthians 16:10, 11

 

Should he make it as planned, Paul says that he "will remind you of my ways in Christ." In other words, we can look at his petition to "imitate me" from verse 16 as a sound request because of his "ways in Christ." Paul wasn't trying to misdirect the Corinthians, he was trying to properly direct them. With Timothy confirming this, they could be certain that they were imitating that which was proper and their faith wouldn't be misdirected.


In fact, their doctrine and practice would be in a manner harmonious with all of the churches which had been established because Paul claimed that his teaching was the same "as I teach everywhere in every church." He was consistent in his proclamation of Christ, consistent in his doctrine, and determined to follow up to ensure that these things continued properly.

 

How nice it would be today if all seminaries taught a proper message of Christ and then occasionally stopped by to check up on the doctrine of their graduates! What we fail to do, Paul carefully and meticulously accomplished.

 

Life application. Discipleship is an immensely important aspect of the faith. Leading people to Christ is only the beginning of a life-long journey of discovery. If you have the necessary training to teach others what is right and sound about Christ, make an effort to impart that to those who are less informed. Paul deemed this immensely important and so should we.

 

My Precious Lord, You have led me all the days of my life, even when I didn't know You were there. You've tended to my needs, cared for my heart, and directed my every step toward a good end. Those times I've erred have been used to mold me. They were times I can learn from and teach to others so they can avoid the same pitfalls. Help me to use my time wisely, assisting in this manner, correcting those who need support, and continuing to grow in You as I go. Thank You for hearing my prayer. Amen.

 

 

Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you.  1 Corinthians 4:18

 

In the previous verse, Paul noted that he was sending Timothy to those in Corinth for a reminder of his consistent message which he teaches everywhere he goes. Having said this, he already knows that "some are puffed up." The idea, as noted previously, is that of pride. When yeast is put into dough, it causes the bread to rise, thus picturing being prideful, full of boasting, or arrogant. And some translations do use the term "arrogant," but by doing this, the imagery is lost. It will be more especially the case as Paul will use the example of dough puffing up in chapter 5.

 

He then notes the reason for some being puffed up by saying it is "as though I were not coming to you." Those who were involved in these divisions and who took the side of Apollos would certainly say, "See, he's afraid to come himself and so he's sending Timothy instead of coming personally." It would then be a poke in the eye to those who claimed Paul was their man. And thus, the divisions would continue. This is why he has preempted them in his letter with this statement. He in fact has plans already to come to Corinth, but there were also other things on his plate before he could. This will be explained to them at the end of the letter in chapter 16 -

 

"Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia (for I am passing through Macedonia). And it may be that I will remain, or even spend the winter with you, that you may send me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not wish to see you now on the way; but I hope to stay a while with you, if the Lord permits. But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries." 1 Corinthians 16:5-9

 

Life application: An effective way of dispelling problems is to think in advance what other issues may arise and then preempt them with words of surety about the resolution to those issues. In doing this, it may completely alleviate the necessity to fix a problem that otherwise could have been avoided.

 

Wonderful Creator - my Lord and my God. Thank you for the unimaginable beauty you've given to us in this world - from sandy beaches and high mountain peaks, to trees of immense wonder and animals with such splendid diversity. There are a thousand shades of color when I look in any direction and there are tastes which delight my tongue. The smells of nature often overwhelm me with joy. Sometimes, it's more than I can contemplate. Thank You for every wonderful blessing of life. Amen.

 

 

But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. 1 Corinthians 4:19

 

"But" is used to contrast his previous words saying "as though I were not coming to you." He had no fear of discharging his duties as an apostle and he had no timidity in facing those who looked down on him. He intended to come and he eventually did make it back to Corinth. This occurred shortly after writing his second letter to them. However, at the time of writing, the future was unknown to him and so he uses a common term of the apostles, "If the Lord wills."

 

Outside of the promises of the Lord, there can be no certainty in the future, not even the near future. James explains our utter dependence on God and His hand of providence quite well -

 

"Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil." James 4:13-16

 

This same attitude of looking to God's will, even for the immediate future, is used elsewhere by the apostles and it shows that they were willing to allow the Spirit to lead them and they had resigned their ultimate end to the capable hands of the Lord. And so, "if the Lord wills" that Paul return to Corinth then at that time he indicates, "I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power."

 

This final portion of the verse tells us that Paul would be willing to listen to the words of the various factions in Corinth, particularly the leaders of the divisions, and he would be able to tell which were merely puffed up orators without a firm grounding in the word as was given, and those who had considered the power of the gospel, the truth of Scripture, and the work of Jesus Christ and had presented it carefully. Those who did so were those filled with the power of the word, the power of the Spirit, and the power of proper influence over the flock.


Life application: Running ahead, without properly handling God's word, has led to a breakdown in correct theology throughout the Christian world. Unfortunately, it is the flock who suffers the most. People have jobs, families, and responsibilities which consume their time. Therefore, their instruction comes not from self-studies, but from those who are supposed to be trained already. Extreme care and tender love and respect for the word of God is of paramount importance for the one who would be a teacher of it.

 

Heavenly Father, I look to the cross and see love. How can such love exist that You would send Your Son to die in my stead? Of what value is man that You look upon him in this way? Though I don't understand it, I receive it in all its glory. My Substitute in punishment, my Hope in the resurrection, and my Desire for all eternity - my Lord and Savior; my Jesus! Thank You for my Jesus. Amen.

 

 

For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. 1 Corinthians 4:20

 

"For" refers directly back to what was just stated about Paul's coming to Corinth and his discernment of the power rather than in puffed up words. Those who were puffed up were divisive and they were filled with words without substance. On the contrary, Paul was filled with the power of the Spirit and the ability to affect real change in the lives around him.


Of course he did this with the miraculous - healings and the like, but more than that, he did it by the power of the words he spoke. The words of the gospel, both then and now, effect real change in those who hear them. Drunkards turn into solid citizens, prostitutes become princesses, and the proud turn and humble themselves before God. There is great power in the words of the gospel, words to which the puffed up boastings of the world can never attain because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.

 

This then is "the kingdom of God." It is not an earthly kingdom, but a spiritual one. It is a group of called-out believers who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. Someday, this kingdom will be physical as Christ sits on His throne and rules among His people, but at this time, it is a kingdom of faith in Him and in the surety of God's word.

 

Life application: There is power in the gospel message, but the power is of no use if it isn't shared. The world is quickly getting darker as the church age comes to its close. Before that terrible Day which will fall upon all the unrepentant, isn't it right that we open our mouths and share? Go forth in the power of the gospel!

 

Heavenly Father, there is no power like that of the gospel. Even the most debased sinner can have a change of  heart and direction through the saving message of Christ. What is perceived of by the world as bondage is actually the greatest freedom of all. To be found in Him, pardoned from a life of sin and covered by the blood of Christ is to be heaven bound and eternally secure. Thank You for allowing me to share such awesome and glorious power! Amen.

 

 

What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness? 1 Corinthians 4:21

 

After his many comments of chapter 4, which are tied in completely with the preceding chapters concerning "divisions" within the church, Paul asks in a forthright manner, "What do you want?" In essence, "The choice is up to you when I come and the results will be realized upon my arrival." And the choices are given:

 

1) "Shall I come to you with a rod?" Is discipline necessary when I arrive? The idea of a using a rod is for one who needs correction and redirection. If it needs to be used in a harsh way, so be it. A rod can be employed for something as simple as redirecting the head of a lamb to move where the shepherd desires all the way to smashing one's enemies with brutal force. "Is the rod what you wish?"

 

Or,

 

2) "Shall I come to you in love and a spirit of gentleness?" Paul writes about love later in 1 Corinthians 13 in a way that shows what he means. The demonstration of love is one which "does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth" (1 Corinthians 13:5, 6). Along with this would naturally come "a spirit of gentleness." There would be no rod of correction, but gentle words of direction, guidance, and a harmonious spirit. "Would you prefer love and gentleness?"

 

Paul will continue to write in this manner in his second letter to them. In 2 Corinthians 10:2, he will tell them, "But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh."

 

And again in 2 Corinthians 13:10 he will be direct in his words to show that he is serious about what he has said -

 

"Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction."

 

Paul's direction was always for edification, not destruction. But he also knew that a strong rod of correction may be needed. It must have broken his heart to have to speak in the manner he did, but in the end, strong words are occasionally needed for keeping the body united and working toward the common goal of spreading the good news in truth and in accord with the word.

 

Life application: Why should we butt our heads against the word of God? If Paul was set to correct those who were disobedient with a rod, how much more do we deserve correction - we who have the whole counsel of God in written format? Let us spend our time wisely, learning, loving, cherishing, and adhering to God's precious word.

 

How precious is Your word to me O God!

More precious than oil upon my head

It is a light to my feet and a lamp for where I trod

Rather to have Your word, than all the world's gold instead

 

Your word I have hidden in my heart
That I might not sin against You

Help me from this day forward to start

Pursuing Your word, even till my days are through

Heavenly Father, the minute care You have shown in the giving of Your word demonstrates how absolutely important it is to You. How can I spend my days playing, fiddling, and knitting when Your word sits unattended? Give me the wisdom to heed! To read! To learn! and To share! Give me this and in using it, I know with me You will be pleased. Thank You for Your word! Amen.

 

 

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! 1 Corinthians 5:1

 

At the end of the previous chapter, Paul noted those who were "puffed up" in their conduct. To close out the chapter he said, "What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?" This sets the tone for chapter 5 which begins with words that are hard to imagine in any society at any time.

 

"It is actually reported..." indicates that Paul received word about the matter. But it also indicates that it is a known matter; something not hidden from the outside world. It was probably Chloe who reported this as she was the source of Paul's writing in the first place as was previously seen in chapter 1 -

 

"For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you." 1 Corinthians 1:11

 

"That there is sexual immorality among you..." This is the reason for Paul's mentioning of "a rod" as noted above. This is something which is intolerable within the body and which needs to be addressed. Bringing this up here in his epistle, which is recorded in the Bible, indicates that it is an offense for all ages, not something merely cultural within the area of Corinth. The implication then at this point, and throughout the rest of the New Testament, is that sexual immorality is not to be practiced or excused.

 

But there is more. This wasn't just a case of sexual immorality which occurred through momentary passions. Instead, it was a deliberate act and one which was considered deplorable in the society at that or any time. This can be discerned from the words "and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles..." What was being practiced was reprehensible even among the Gentiles. This wasn't a matter of merely reinserting the law of Moses (see Leviticus 18:8). Rather, it was a matter which is written on the conscience of all people (see Romans 1:28-32).

 

Because of the offending nature of the act, and because even the Gentiles knew the utter impropriety of the matter, how shameful it was for someone in the church to conduct his affairs in such a way. And more - how shameful it was that the church knew about it and had done nothing to correct it (as will be seen in the verses ahead).

 

And the offence was "that a man has his father’s wife!" This was forbidden by the Law of Moses, which arguably is set aside in Christ, but it was an act which was known to be wrong by all people instinctively. Further, it violated the edict issued by the council in Jerusalem which is recorded in Acts 15 and which stated -

 

"We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth.  For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:  that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well." Acts 15:27-29

 

Life application: Doctrine for the Church Age has been given by Paul for our learning, guidance, adherence, and for our good. What is written there has been given for the sake of the church as well as individuals within the church. To flagrantly ignore mandates and exhortations which are prescriptive in nature can only cause harm to both. When one acts in such a manner, they are bringing disgrace upon the name of Jesus Christ. Be firm in your convictions that you will neither act in such a manner, nor allow it to be tolerated in your church.

 

Lord God, surely Your word has been given to us for our good and for the health of the entire body of saints. Help me to be firm in my convictions that I will never act in a manner contrary to what the Spirit has revealed in the pages of the Bible. And Lord, help me to also be firm in handling such matters which may arise in the church I attend as well. Timidity can only lead to tolerance; tolerance to disobedience; and disobedience to shame. Give me the strength to stand firm on Your precious word. Amen.

 

 

And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. 1 Corinthians 5:2

 

Paul in this verse is referring to the sexual immorality which exists within the church from the previous verse. He now begins with "and" which is used to demonstrate the absurdity of the state of things within their ranks. In essence he says, "You act in this manner, but shouldn't it rather be the opposite!"

 

And the words are, "And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned." Instead of their "puffed up" attitude which was mentioned in 4:19, they should be in a state of mourning and anguish over what is occurring right there among them. To be fair, they could be "puffed up" in one of two ways.

 

1) They were puffed up and filled with conceit and pride despite the wickedness which was among them, or

 

2) They were puffed up and filled with conceit because of the wickedness which was among them.

 

The first is probably the true case. They were acting arrogantly and dividing over petty allegiances even though there were greater issues which needed to be considered. However, the wickedness of the heart (Jeremiah 17:9) is never to be dismissed, even among a group, and so it could be that despite being divided over which leader was best, they were united in an antinomian attitude towards sin; accepting that which was forbidden.

 

Which is the case cannot be determined, but both show a negligence towards proper conduct within the church. Instead of accepting how things were with this person, Paul notes "that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you." Instead of fellowshipping with such a person, they should have already excommunicated him. But rather than facing the problem from this perspective, they have either avoided it or openly condoned it. Paul shows them that this is the wrong attitude; mourning, not acceptance, was needed.

 

Life application: It sure is easy to overlook things which might otherwise cause us to have to act in a manner which seems "judgmental" or "intolerant." However, in such cases, it is not we who actually decide the course of action to take, it is God who has given His word for our Christian walk. If we can remember this, then we will remember that we are honoring Him by adhering to His word.

 

Lord God, Your word mandates certain actions are to be taken to keep the church pure. Too often we overlook faults which are to be censured, but we do this in disobedience to what You have instructed, thus two wrongs exist. Help us to think clearly on the sanctity of Your word, to adhere to its admonitions, and to be resolute in standing on its principles. In this, I know You will be glorified. Amen.

 

 

For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 1 Corinthians 5:3

 

In this verse, Paul writes in broken thoughts as if he were mourning over his words and contemplating each one carefully, even through tears of sadness. Each is a separate heartfelt consideration of what must occur in order for the situation to be resolved. Beginning with "For I indeed..." He is stressing the importance of the issue which is being considered in connection with the previous words "that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you."

 

"As absent in body but present in spirit" is a way of saying that his physical absence from the congregation doesn't negate his spiritual tie to them. He is, in his heart and affections, right there worshipping with them. He is attuned to their situation, feeling their emotions, and sharing in their highs and lows. In this case, it is as a father with his beloved children discussing a matter which will ultimately adversely affect them unless they get it resolved.

 

In this he shares that [I] "have already judged (as though I were present)..." In his deliberations over the matter, which began the moment that they were relayed to him, and probably through much prayer and reflection, he came to a judgment as to what needed to be done. However, he isn't present and so he can only relay his judgment from afar. The broken sentences then are explained in this. He is conveying emotion and a profound determination through them. We do this with exclamation points and other punctuation which was lacking in the Greek. Therefore, sentence structure was important in this manner.

 

And Paul's judgment is against, "him who has so done this deed." The matter of sexual immorality needed to be handled and it didn't matter who it was. He has been singled out in Paul's letter indirectly and it is now incumbent on those around that person to take the necessary action that Paul will recommend in the coming verses.

 

Life application: The reason why so many churches have no moral base is because of compromise over moral issues. Friendships arise that may preclude harsh judgment. Wealthy donors may have their transgressions overlooked because of the supposed need for their money. The same may be true with the politically connected. Eventually, such examples will become the standard. When this occurs, the church is doomed. Jesus has been left outside the door for the sake of tolerance and compromise. The lampstand will be removed and Judgment Day will be a day of regret, not rejoicing.

 

Lord God, Your word presents standards which are expected to be maintained, but too often it's easier to ignore those things than to confront the difficult issues which arise in a church. Help each of us to think clearly on this and to realize that Your word is more important than our sense of tolerance or moral compromise. Grant us willing hearts to be obedient, even when it is so difficult to take such steps. Amen.

 

 

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,... 1 Corinthians 5:4

 

This verse introduces the sentence which Paul recommends to be executed on the offender he has been speaking about since verse 1. The next verse will be the pronouncement of the sentence. His words give us insights into the apostolic authority and also its limitations. Although there are no true apostles today, we can discern proper church discipline from his words.

 

"In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" indicates the ultimate authority of church matters. It is the Lord's church and He is the head of it. When actions of this nature are taken, they are done so in His name. No other authority would make sense. Stating that a judgment is made in the name of the pope would be to supplant the authority of Christ Himself. That, or any other such title of power, would be less than the ultimate authority and thus no true authority at all.

 

"When you are gathered together" indicates that the church is to be kept informed of such decisions and actions and, although not necessarily involved directly in the decision, they are to be witnesses of it. Elsewhere, the authority of elders is noted and explained. They have a proper position within the church and they have been selected to make the final judgments.

 

This goes all the way back to the first such established church recording which is the Council in Jerusalem in Acts 15. There at that meeting, the apostles were gathered and they spoke. However, the final decision was rendered not by them, but by James, the Lord's brother, who wasn't even a named apostle. As it's leader, it was his judgment which was accepted and acted upon.

 

Paul then notes, "along with my spirit." This is like saying, "This is my decision on the matter. Act on it as if I were there speaking at this council." Those in the church had the right to reject his words, but they would be rejecting God's appointed counselor if they did. Now his words, and those of the other apostles chosen to write portions of the Bible, are recorded for us. We should always go to the Bible for our instruction and then render our decisions based on it.

 

To reject it would be comparable to those in Corinth rejecting Paul's words here. It would be a decision not rendered according to the will of Jesus Christ and thus it would be devoid of "the power of our Lord Jesus Christ." This final section of the verse shows that this "power" was in fact granted to Paul for such matters. Rejecting his determination (which they could do) would be to reject the determination of Christ Himself. We stand in the same position now because God's word is complete and ready for our use in such matters.

 

Today, rather than the apostles, we have the Bible which was given under divine inspiration for our guidance in all matters. From this source, and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are to allow our elders to render their decisions concerning such related church matters.

 

Life application: What authority is your church relying upon for their doctrine, practice, and judgments? If it is claimed to be "Holy Ghost power," then it had better line up with what the Bible states (because the Bible was given under inspiration of the Holy Ghost) or it isn't "Holy Ghost Power." If it is claimed to be formal Council decisions of the past or some type of catechisms, then they need to line up with the Bible as well. If they don't, then there is no true power from the Lord in them. No matter what authority is claimed, it must be in accord with the words of Scripture or it is false authority for such matters.

 

Thank You Lord for the words of Scripture. They have been given under divine inspiration and so I know that I can go to them for all matters of life, faith, and practice. You have spoken, and although the Bible is large, I know that it is the best place for me to go to know Your heart, intent, and plan for me. Thank You for the Bible, your superior word. Amen.

 

 

...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

 

In Christianity, doctrine is often thought of as an obstacle to a right relationship with the Lord. Instead, emotions rule theology and it rules the hearts of worshippers to the exclusion of doctrine. This only leads to ineffective Christianity, unsteadiness in a right walk with the Lord, and eventually churches becoming merely social gatherings with no true grounding in what it means to be "Christian."

 

However, doctrine is actually of paramount importance as we can learn from the verse under consideration. Paul has established doctrine on several levels here. First, he has shown what is right and proper to do in the case of such a heinous sin as was being committed within the church. The reasons for taking this action are long and detailed, but above all, it was to keep purity within the faith, a right perception of Jesus Christ to those within and without the faith, and to keep the church from devolving into a pattern of abuse which would eventually mean its right to even be called a "church" would be removed by the Lord (see Revelation 2:5).

 

Besides these and other considerations, there is another point of doctrine which can be discerned from this verse, especially when taken in context with other such verses within Paul's writings. It is the doctrine of "eternal salvation." Christians debate whether one cane "lose" their salvation or not. The debate is unnecessary if one understands the nature of God and properly handles the word of God. The answer is "no."

 

If one believes in Christ, they are sealed with the Holy Spirit at that moment. This is a deposit (also called a guarantee) of their new state. Ephesians 1:13, 14 (among other verses) shows this is so. As God cannot err, and as God has placed His seal upon the believer, then the sealing (and thus the salvation) must be eternal in nature.

 

This is confirmed by verses such as 1 Corinthians 5:5. In this verse, Paul is speaking to the body of believers about a believer. In his direct way of handling the case before him, he makes his judgment which he anticipates they will obediently follow by stating for them to "deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh."

 

Satan is the ruler of this world, but he is defeated before Christ. He has no power over a believer, but can only afflict them as they continue in their earthly walk. The choice is each believers as to whether they will follow the flesh or follow the leading of the Spirit and it is a constant battle (see Romans 7:13-25). This believer had decided to follow the flesh. Paul instructs them to deliver him over completely to the flesh then by delivering him to Satan.

 

If one is an alcoholic and comes to Christ, they are saved. The deal is done and they have moved from Adam to Christ. However, if they fall back on their old ways, they will eventually have their flesh destroyed through alcohol. The same is true with drugs, sexual immorality, or any other such carnal sin which affects the flesh of the believer. Whatever perversion lays hold of a believer, the result will be exactly the same as a non-believer; they will eventually have their flesh destroyed by that sin.

 

However, there is a difference between the two. In the case of the non-believer, they were never united to God spiritually by calling on Christ and their spirit will be lost for all eternity. On the other hand, a believer remains saved regardless of whether they return to earthly lusts or not. The spiritual connection has been guaranteed by God (again, see Ephesians 1:13, 14) and it remains for eternity. For such a person, his flesh will be destroyed. He will suffer all the hardships of any other person following that path.

 

But Paul says there is a difference in his final end when he completes his thought. Instead, he is handed over to Satan so that "his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." Though his rewards will be lost (see 1 Corinthians 3:12-15), though his body may be tormented and afflicted (1 Corinthians 5:5), and though he will suffer much in this life (see 1 Timothy 1:18-20), he still retains the promise of God; the surety of the sealing of the Spirit unto eternal life.

 

In this, and for a jillion other reasons, doctrine does matter. To believe otherwise concerning this issue is to believe that God will not keep His promises. Instead, our salvation would be up to us, not Him. Further, the one to decide such "eternal" matters would then be the pastor or preacher who teaches this aberrant doctrine in the first place. Talk about bondage! If your position is based on your faults and those faults are decided by another human, then these two things have happened -

 

1) The human teacher has elevated himself to an untouchable level and has obtained complete control over the actions (which are still earthly and failing) of those under him. He becomes the ruler of the prize and the one to decide any and every facet of the spiritual life of those under him.

 

2) The person who so believes this concept has subordinated themselves not to Christ, but to the decisions of another fallen soul. They now place their trust in the decisions of a lesser, not the Greater. And this is exactly what Paul has been speaking about for four full chapters - unhealthy divisions!


It is the word of God which establishes our doctrine, nothing more, nothing less. Be approved, stand approved, and hold fast to the truth of the message God has given.

 

Life application: Once saved means always saved. Jesus Christ doesn't make mistakes.

 

Well Lord, despite what any other person says, I will trust Your word in all matters of life, faith, and practice. Teachers can be as wrong as they desire and for whatever personal reason they choose, but I will hold to Your word alone. When a dispute arises, I will check the context; when a disagreement comes up, I will pray to You for clarity; and when I have finished my evaluation, I will place myself and my doctrine in Your capable hands. Guide me, be my Teacher through Your word, and keep me from unsound theology. This is my prayer. I desire to be pleasing to You above all else. Amen.

 

 

Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 1 Corinthians 5:6

 

The words "your glorying" indicates boasting. It refers back to the words he used in 1 Corinthians 4:19 -

 

"But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power."

 

As noted then, this was a metaphor of bread being puffed up from the use of yeast. Throughout the Bible this is seen as a picture of sin, and specifically in this case, pride. The symbolism permeates the pages of Scripture and it all points to sin in our lives. In contrast is Jesus who knew no sin and thus He is pictured by unleavened bread, such as that used at the Passover. The boasting of the Corinthians was, in picture and in reality, un-Christlike. Paul says that it "is not good."

 

In order for them to understand, he reverts back to that Old Testament symbolism and shows them exactly what he means by saying, "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?" That is all it takes, just a little pinch of yeast will permeate the entire lump of dough. It, like sin in a person, will affect everything around it. In other words, the sin in the man whom Paul recommended to be expelled, if not expelled, will affect the whole congregation.

 

Jesus explained this to His own apostles during His ministry, trying to get them to realize that adding to the word of God with man-instituted traditions could only infect the purity of the word of God in our lives. In Matthew 16:6, He said this to them -

 

“Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”

 

And in his consistent way of writing, Paul will use the same terminology when speaking to the Galatians about their attempts to reintroduce the law into their church-age theology (such as the rite of circumcision). Such actions merely set aside the grace of Christ that they had received and made them debtors to the whole law. Here are his words from Galatians 5:9 - "A little leaven leavens the whole lump."

 

To see how potent the true effects of yeast are, we can look at the process of making San Francisco sourdough bread. It is the most famous sourdough bread made in the U.S. today; probably in the whole world. Unlike sourdough which is made in other areas of the country, what San Francisco produces has remained in continuous production for nearly 150 years. Some bakeries, for example the Boudin Bakery, are able to trace their starters back to California's territorial period.

 

A starter is a piece of the bread dough which is cut off and left out of the baking process. The next day, when they make the new batch of dough, they throw in the piece from the previous day – the starter. This piece of dough contains the yeast for the entire batch of new dough. In the case of Boudin Bakery, they have used the same initial yeast, without any addition, for over 150 years, day by day. Cut off a piece, save it for tomorrow. Cut off a piece, save it for tomorrow. Cut off a piece... this one’s for tomorrow.

 

One pinch of yeast, from over 150 years ago, still affects dough in the exact same way. Now think of this in the context of the church. Bad doctrine, introduced by the heretic Joseph Smith (Mormonism) has affected the entire group known as the Mormons to such an extent that they cannot be called "Christians" in any true sense. Likewise, the yeast of "tradition" has crept into almost every major denomination in Christianity. The very thing that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for permeates almost the entire spectrum of the faith in varying degrees. Such is the nature of just a little bit of yeast.

 

Life application: Our doctrine is to be based on the word of God. Anything which is practiced in a church which doesn't adhere to the word of God is to be rejected. Paul's warning to the Corinthians is a principle which must be held onto even now.

 

Lord, You are so good to me. I praise You for Your faithfulness, even when I fail. Thank You for Your kind hand of mercy upon me. I love You, I praise You, I cherish Your presence in my life. Amen.

 

 

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 1 Corinthians 5:7

 

Contained within the New Testament are extraordinary hints of the fulfillment of Old Testament shadows and pictures of Christ. This verse contains two of them which could be overlooked so easily and yet they are immensely deep in their theological significance. In chapter 23 of Leviticus, there is a list of the Feasts of the Lord. In order, they are:

 

Sabbath

Passover

Unleavened Bread     

Firstfruits (Bikkurim)

Weeks (Shavuot/Pentecost)

Trumpets (Yom Teruah)

Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)

Tabernacles (Sukkoth)

 

Paul notes in Colossians 2:16, 17 that these find their fulfillment in Christ -

 

"So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ."

 

As a validation of this, each and every one of them is found to be fulfilled in His work during His first advent. Today's verse from 1 Corinthians gives us verification that two of them are fulfilled - Passover and Unleavened Bread. A detailed study of the other six feasts will demonstrate their fulfillment as well. Christ is the focus of all of Scripture. And all of Scripture testifies to His work.


Understanding this, we can now look at Paul's words in how they pertain to the context of his surrounding thoughts. He begins by saying "therefore." It is a term which asks us to contemplate what has thus far been said. In the previous verse, he said "
a little leaven leavens the whole lump." In order to ensure that the church isn't tainted with bad doctrine or sinful practice, he now builds on that by saying "purge out the old leaven." This is exactly what the Israelites were told to do at the Passover each year -

 

"For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread." Exodus 12:19, 20

 

The Old Testament body was given as physical examples which present spiritual truths. Leaven, picturing sin, is to be removed. This was to be practiced for the entire week of Unleavened Bread. The picture is thus fulfilled in Christ who was sinless and now we, who are in Him, are to purge out the leaven of sin in our lives so, as Paul says, "that you may be a new lump." And he then explains why by saying, "since you truly are unleavened."

 

In Christ, we are deemed as "sinless." We are declared "not guilty" despite the reality of our fallen state. Paul explains this in 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19 -

 

"Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation."

 

Though we are still fallen and sin, those sins are not imputed because of Christ. But Paul would go further and ask us to live in the manner which is reflected by our status. We are to purge out the old leaven and to be a new lump. Along with Unleavened Bread, the symbolism from the Passover also finds its true fulfillment in Jesus Christ. This is noted as Paul continues by saying, "For indeed Christ our Passover, was sacrificed for us."


The celebration of these two feasts, Passover and Unleavened Bread were mere shadows of the greater work of Christ. In Him we find the fulfillment of all types and pictures from the Old Testament, including the fulfillment of all of the Feasts of the Lord.

 

Life application: Jesus claimed that all Scripture testifies to Him. By studying our Bible, we find this is true. He is the entire focus of the word of God. Be sure to read the Bible through the lens of Christ. When you do, it all makes sense.

 

Lord God, it is so wonderful to see that every story in the Bible points to the work of Jesus Christ. Every feast, every miracle, every noted person is used to show us pictures of Him. If you have used real people and real events to show us His work, then I know it is our duty and honor to search Him out in them. Open my eyes to see the wondrous beauty of Christ hidden as apples of gold in settings of silver. Thank You for the precious word which shows Jesus to me. Amen.

 

 

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Corinthians 5:8

 

As was noted in the previous verse, the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread of the Old Testament pictured, or foreshadowed, the work of Christ. Paul claims their fulfillment is found in Him. As these were "Feasts of the Lord" (meaning Jehovah), the connection is obvious - Jesus Christ is Jehovah Incarnate. How people miss this is rather remarkable!

 

Because their fulfillment is found in Him and because we are "in Christ," Paul says, "Therefore..." The coming words explain our duties based on our position in Him. And what does he detail for us then? He says, "Let us keep the feast." In other words we could say, "because Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us, let us keep the rest of the Feast of Unleavened Bread." It is a metaphor asking us to consider our position in Him, the sinless Lamb of God.

 

Christ is the fulfillment of the Passover. Because of His shed blood, God has "passed over" us and we are now found in Him. Because we are in Him, we should "keep the feast, not with old leaven." What we once were and the way we once acted are no longer appropriate ways of conducting ourselves. If Christ had to die to redeem us, then there must have been a need for Him to die to redeem us! Why would we continue in a life that necessitated such an action. That old life consisted of "the leaven of malice and wickedness."

 

This is certainly a reference to what necessitated his words in the first place - the man caught up in sexual immorality who is noted in verses 1-5 is being used as an example of such a debased life and it is a lifestyle which is contradictory to holy living in Christ. Instead of following such a path, Paul implores those in Corinth (and thus the church which remains to this day) that we should instead keep the feast "with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."

 

Jesus Christ is sinless;

We are in Christ;

Therefore, our conduct should be reflective of the sinless position we hold.

 

The Feast of Unleavened Bread, a Feast mandated by God for Israel 3500 years ago, pictured those in the church age who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ. We are living in the Feast and thus we should follow the example - holy living for those who have been declared sinless. Anything else would be contradictory to the honorable position to which we have been elevated.

 

Life application: The Old Testament isn't a compilation of outdated and useless books. Instead, it is the very tool we need to fully understand the marvelous work of God in Christ - why we need Him, what His work entails, and how His work applies to us. Let us not forsake reading, studying, and sharing the whole counsel of God found in both testaments of the Bible.

 

Lord, help my heart not to be restless for anything but You. Help me to be satisfied with all that You have given me and not to lust after or covet things which I have no right to. I know that with food, clothing, and my Bible I have more than enough to be content. Along with these, You have given me so very much. I thank You for every blessing that has come my way. Let those things be sufficient to keep me from wanting more. Thank You for Your provision. Amen.

 

 

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 1 Corinthians 5:9

 

This verse is not a stand-alone verse. If one were to cite it as a stand alone, a false impression of what Paul intends will inevitably be the result. Unfortunately, it is often used in this way and thus it becomes a verse which is used as a tool to disgrace believers who have done nothing wrong. Context is always of paramount consideration when citing Scripture.

 

The words, "I wrote to you in my epistle" indicate that either he had written another letter to those in Corinth which is not included in the Bible, or that he is referring to what he just said in his previous thought in 5:4 and 5:5. Either way, in this he admonished them to send the sexually immoral offender out of the congregation.

 

What is important here concerning this not being a "stand alone" verse, is that Paul is reckoning the person who is to be expelled as a believer. Because he is a believer, keeping company with him would leave the perception that his actions were acceptable. These perceptions would be held by the offender and by those who saw the offender and who were unschooled in the Lord's commands concerning sexual immorality.

 

As we will see, Paul will go on to make a distinction between socializing with believers and unbelievers and keeping "company with sexually immoral people."

 

Life application: Context is king in interpreting the Bible. Anyone can form any doctrine by tearing verses out of their intended context. However, it takes study, care, and continued diligence to properly interpret and rightly divide the word of God based on context. Be approved! Considered context at all times.

 

Lord, Your word is a treasure and a most precious gem, but it takes care and study or it can be easily twisted to say anything anyone wishes. I would pray for wise discernment in order to ensure I am properly handling it, making certain that context is maintained, and for boldness to stand up for what is right and in accord with Your intent. Your Spirit has given it and so I know that I am accountable to it. Be with me as I read, study, teach, and preach this most precious gift. Amen.

 

 

Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 1 Corinthians 5:10

 

In the previous verse, it was noted that it wasn't a stand alone verse. Paul had said, " I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people." If that were all he had said, one might be under the misguided impression that they had to hide themselves in a cave or go to a remote island with no people on it or some other place like that. Where else could one go to keep away from such people? And this is the false impression that is obtained when only that verse is cited.

 

However, Paul continues with his thoughts here and he will further refine them in the coming verses. His intent was not for believers to refrain from being around sexually immoral people, or people with any other such vile habits. How could the gospel spread if such were the case? Even Jesus ate with "tax collectors and sinners." Christianity isn't supposed to be conducted in walled fortresses. Instead it is to be proclaimed to those in the fallen world, such as -

 

To the sexually immoral - people who practice sexual acts outside of the bonds of marriage. This includes any of a host of perverse acts as well. It includes the vast majority of people in any given society. It is true that there are people who are faithful as spouses in any given culture, but if there are no limits imposed by God on how to conduct one's affairs, sexual immorality quickly becomes a predominate trait in most societies.

 

To the covetous - Coveting is desiring something that someone else possesses. It is the greed of the heart which is not content with what one rightfully owns. It also doesn't consider taking the time to earn what is desired. Instead it is a lust of the eyes for that which one has not been worked for or which has been rightly received, such as a gift or inheritance. It is an avaricious attitude which will eventually be realized in hatred, theft, murder, etc. if not reigned in.

 

To extortioners - Such are those who take advantage of others for illicit gain. They may charge high rates of repayment on loans, forced payment for "protection" which if not paid will end in any sort of punishment, etc. In this type, there is little consideration for others, but rather a rapacious desire to profit off anyone for any reason.

 

To idolaters - An idolater is one who puts anything or anyone before a right relationship with God. It can be a mere devotion or service to idols, such as is authorized even by some "Christian" denominations. It can be realized in prayers to or through any other person - such as praying to Mary or the saints. People can make almost anything into an idol - sex, money, gems, artwork, cars, sport teams or sports figures, etc. Idolatry includes the unhealthy devotion to anything or anyone which causes our hearts and affections to be directed away from God.

 

Paul tells those at Corinth that although they are not to keep company with such people, he didn't mean that it included the people of the world. This is because if so, it would mean that they "would need to go out of the world." This is obviously impossible. And so he will continue to explain what he meant in the verses ahead.


Life application: How is the gospel going to be shared by you if you isolate yourself in a room away from the wicked world? Someone took the time to share it with you. Now it's your turn. God has you exactly where He desires you. So step out and share what you know. It could change eternity for someone else.

 

O God, I know that the world is a wicked place

And that I would be so safe behind a locked door

But how will the lost ever come to see Your face

In You I am so rich, but others are so poor

 

Give me the heart to step out and share this word

To talk to those who are bound by the devil's hand

Give me boldness to tell about Jesus my Lord

So that they too can be saved to an eternity so grand

Yes Lord God, if Jesus' words are true that He is the only way to be reconciled to the Father, then I know that what I share about Him is of eternal significance to them. Give me boldness of speech, right thinking in how I convey the message, and a heartfelt attitude to follow up as You direct. Let me not be slack in my sharing of this wonderful message of salvation. Amen.

 

 

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 5:11

 

This verse explicitly lays out what we need to know concerning our relationships with immoral people within the church. Though Paul had no problem with believers being with people who are morally deficient who are not believers, he explicitly states here what our relationship towards immoral believers should be. He says, "But now I have written to you..." This is his doctrine and this is his direction. What is leaving the tip of his pen is to be considered as from the Lord because he is the apostle to the Gentiles and is speaking on the Lord's behalf.

 

And his words are that we are "not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who...." In other words, a person who claims to be a saved believer in Jesus Christ. If they are named among the roles of believers, we are to consider them in a separate category than non-believers. They are being held to a specific standard which he will now continue with as he notes "who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner."

 

From his list in the previous verse, he adds in two new categories which should be defined -

 

1) Reviler - This is a person who is vulgar in his words. His speech is coarse, angry, defiant, and abusive. Such a person has no problem vilifying others in their character, hurting people's feelings through speech, and demeaning those around them. Such an attitude is opposite to Christ who "when He was reviled, did not revile in return" (1 Peter 2:23).

 

2) Drunkard - A drunkard is a person addicted to alcohol; not specifically any person who drinks alcohol. A drunkard has no restraint over his drinking; it has conquered him and his allegiance is to it and not to Christ. Concerning the moderate drinking of alcohol, there is nothing wrong with doing so. The entire body of Scripture bears this out. However, like any other thing there are limits which must be exercised. These will be discussed in detail in the coming chapters of 1 Corinthians.

 

Paul says that of such a person as is named in his list, they are not to keep company with them, nor "even to eat with such a person." By fellowshipping with someone in this category who claims to be a brother, you then implicitly condone their behavior. They will feel justified, and those around them who witness the fellowshipping will be left with the impression that what they are doing is acceptable to you and within the body of believers.

It should be noted though that Paul terms them "believers." He never questions their salvation, but assumes that they are saved. Never in his writings does he say a person can "lose" their salvation. Instead, they may suffer great harms in this life and great loss at the judgment. But their status as believers is left between them and the Lord Jesus.

 

The purpose of Paul's words is not condemnation, but purity and holiness within the body and an attempt to bring about remorse and a change in the offenders. This is what is expected and this is what we should always strive for.

 

Life application: Who are we exalting? At what cost are we willing to bring discredit upon the name of the Lord? We must always consider what our words, actions, and associations will do and how they will appear in the eyes of others. Above all, we should strive to bring glory and honor to the name of Jesus Christ.

 

Lord God, how very far short of "holiness" I feel from day to day. Without thinking, I say things or do things which I am sure are displeasing to You and which diminish You in the eyes of others. Help me to think, in advance, of how my actions will be perceived and judged. Give me wisdom to stay away from corrupt actions and to fix my heart and attitude on purity and that which is honorable. This I pray for Your glory, O God. Amen.

 

 

For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 1 Corinthians 5:12

 

Pay close heed to Paul's words in this verse and remember them as you conduct your daily affairs. In all analyses of the Bible, context is of paramount importance and it is the one aspect which is most disregarded by those who are either not Christians or who are biblically uninformed Christians who use the Bible as a tool to set their own personal agenda concerning any given issue. Today's verse is an exemplary response to the misuse of Matthew 7:1,2 which says -

 

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."

 

What is the context of Jesus' words? Who was He speaking to? Under what dispensation was He speaking? And just as notable, what does He then ask His audience to do just four verses later? He asks them to make right moral judgments. Here are His words -

 

"Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces." Matthew 7:6

 

Almost every time Matthew 7:1, 2 is cited, it is ripped out of its context in an attempt to silence vocal Christians who make moral judgments against perversion within society, government, or even in the church. None of these apply to what Jesus intended and understanding this will allow the Christian to feel secure in their proper, healthy, and God-honoring moral judgments.

 

In confirmation of this approach, we have Paul's words which begin with, "For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside?" His words are showing that he is not the arbiter of the conduct of those outside the church, nor does he sit in judgment of them. This does not mean that what he says about their conduct is not valid, but that he is not the one who will decide their fate for their conduct. If Paul speaks of a non-believer as a licentious or perverted person, he is within his rights as a Christian. But he will not be the one to either forgive them or to cast them into hell. That right belongs to the Lord.

 

On the other hand, there are these types of people within the church. They act out perversion, they are divisive, vulgar, contentious, slanderous, etc (such as he has already mentioned). In those cases, he not only has a right to make a moral judgment about them (as Jesus indicated in Matthew 7:6), but he also has a right to make a punitive judgment as well. And this right extends to the church as a whole. This is made clear by the words, "Do you not judge those who are inside?"

 

It is a rhetorical question which demands a positive answer. If not they, then who? Unfortunately, in our society, Christians are trapped into believing that they are somehow to be silent over the ever-increasing moral wickedness displayed by those in society - from school teachers and college professors, to actors and musicians, and all the way up to congressmen, senators, and even as becomes ever more prevalent, the President of the United States.

 

To be a supporter of moral perversion has reached the height of fashion for the liberal left in our nation and it has grown to epidemic proportions. But Christians are continuously told to be silent based on Jesus' words which have been torn out of context and held up as a banner for the need for "tolerance" against things that are wholly intolerable.


Life application: Right moral judgments do not stop as one exits the doors of the church. Instead, they are to be upheld at all times and against all forms of perversion. However, the punitive judgment for those perversions is not at the discretion of the church. God will judge the immoral and he will condemn them for their wickedness. He is not slack in this either, but is patient, allowing many to humble themselves and turn from their wickedness. Someday though, He will turn and fight against it when the sins have reached their fullness.

 

Heavenly Father, You have instilled in man a moral compass to know what is right and what is wrong. However, we suppress the truth in our unrighteousness and act out our will against You. Help Christians to realize that we are not to condone this, but to speak out against it, stand up for righteousness, and make right moral judgments which are in line with Your will and Your intent for the people You have created. Help us to act with intestinal fortitude against immorality and perversion as You have laid out in Your word. Amen.

 

 

But those who are outside God judges. Therefore "put away from yourselves the evil person." 1 Corinthians 5:13

 

There is a difference between "judgments" and "judging." We as Christians are to continuously make right "judgments." We are to abstain from evil, recognize evil, identify that which is evil, and work against evil. However, as a body we are not given authority over those outside the church. Though we may make judgments on their conduct, we are not the judges over their conduct. Societies come and go and moral perversion is an inevitable part of them, usually increasing as the society ages.

 

Because the church is not the judge of societal wickedness, Paul begins with the word "But." This is given in contrast to what he just said in 1 Corinthians 5:12 -

 

"For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?"

 

Those outside are excluded from church judgment, but they are not free from judgment! Instead, "those who are outside God judges." There is no pass for wickedness and perversion. Instead, it will be handled in a separate manner by the ultimate Judge of all men. On the other hand, we are given authority over matters of disobedience within the church. It is the responsibility of the church to make judgments and then to pass judgment on those who violate the precepts laid out in Scripture.

 

To confirm this, Paul says "therefore." Because the church is given this authority, it must use it properly and exercise it without fail. For those in Corinth, the decision is rendered by Paul - "put away from yourselves the evil person."

 

The most severe judgment of the church is directed. The offender is to be put out of the fellowship and regarded as a pagan to those in the church. He has no rights within the body at all. He has been delivered over "to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" as Paul noted in verse 5.

 

Unfortunately, a consequence of living in a society where there are many churches and denominations in any given town is that the offender in the world today can simply cross the street and sit in a different church. However, the sentence if properly imposed on him should hopefully be of such weight that he would repent and turn from his wickedness.

 

Life application: The church has a moral responsibility to uphold God's word, to keep the body pure, and to expel those who flagrantly disobey what God expects. Let us endeavor to stand boldly on the principles of Scripture and be strong in our moral convictions lest we be found wanting in our adherence to what the Lord expects.

 

Lord God, chapter 5 of 1 Corinthians instructs the church to stand firm on the moral principles laid out in Scripture. Those who flagrantly abuse Your guidance are to be removed from the fellowship. In today's world, this is becoming increasingly difficult due to the immense amount of moral perversion within society and even within the church. This is especially true when our national leaders have grown so corrupt. Help us to look not to their example, but to Yours. Help us to stand fast on what is morally right and to act in accordance with Your will. Amen.

 

 

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 1 Corinthians 6:1

 

In Chapter 5, Paul detailed "judging" for both those inside the church and noting that the church isn't the arbiter of matters outside the church. Now he is turning the same thought around. The reason for this isn't explicitly stated, but it is alluded to in verse 6:6 which is just ahead.

 

Just as the church is to judge matters which occur within the church, the church is not to have such matters judged by those outside the church. It is a point of obvious grief to him and he will detail why as he proceeds. To stress the magnitude of the issue, he asks "Dare any of you...?" It is a note of rebuke or a note of extreme warning. In essence, as Bengel notes, it "implies treason against Christian brotherhood." What he will continue with is something bordering on sacred.

 

And so he continues, "Dare any of you, having a matter against another..." There will always arise disputes between people. This has occurred since the beginning and it will continue throughout the age. People perceive things differently and feel they have a right to a legal remedy for injustices committed against them. But within the body of believers, Paul demonstrates that when such a thing arises, they should not even dare to "go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints."

The absurdity of following such a course will be explained, but even before reaching those verses, it is possible to think through many reasons why this shouldn't occur. If the saints are declared righteous, then how could a fair legal decision be rendered in a court ruled by the unrighteous? Suppose a believer has wronged another believer and is unwilling to own up to his wrong. What would preclude him from bribing an unrighteous judge to maintain his supremacy in the matter?

 

Additionally, what kind of example would a church or church member be setting if he were to take such matters before a non-believing body? What will be the perception of those non-believers concerning the power of Jesus, the charitableness between believers, or the ability for a church to handle matters of even greater weight (meaning spiritual matters)? If they can't handle earthly problems, why should they be trusted with the eternal issues that religion is supposed to handle.

 

For these and other reasons, it is entirely inappropriate for believers within a church to not attempt to arbitrate their differences within the church setting.

Life application: How important is a matter that you would be willing to bring discredit upon the name of Jesus? At what point does an offense justify degrading Him in the presence of the unrighteous. Paul's words ask us to consider this and to act accordingly.

 

Heavenly Father, You have forgiven me for so much and You have done so without holding it over my head. In Your great grace and mercy, You have forgotten my misdeeds because of what Jesus did for me. Now Lord, help me to act in the same way towards those who come to me asking for forgiveness and reconciliation. Help me not to turn my heart away from such an act, but to accept terms of peace and harmony. How can I withhold forgiveness over such little offenses when You have granted it for a life of disobedience against You. Help me in this Lord. Amen.

 

 

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 1 Corinthians 6:2

 

Paul is showing the utterly absurd nature of the saints going before the ungodly for their judgments. His words confirm that their counsels are merely earthly and bear little weight. In contrast to them are the judgments of the saints. "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" The very people to whom the Corinthians were going to resolve petty matters between the believers are the same people who will be judged by the saints someday!


Paul is showing that the religious matters bear immensely higher weight than the earthly issues we find so important. It is to the "saints" that the religious decisions will be rendered. This verse, along with so many others in the New Testament, shows us that those termed "saints" are not decided upon by a council or a pope, but rather it is a term for "believers." All who are saved by Christ are, by default, saints. And these saints will "judge the world."

 

And so, to continue to help these saints think clearly, Paul continues with, "And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?" The folly of those in Corinth is made clear! How can we hold to the promises of the future with all of its honor and power, and not reasonably consider it in our deliberations now? These niggling little matters (which seem so important at this time, but which actually have no true importance when considered against the backdrop of eternity) that arise between believers are minute compared to what we will someday decide.


So how can it be that we can't even decide them now? Paul asks them to think! And it is all the more relevant to believers today. Those in Corinth didn't have the New Testament epistles to rely on. All they had was whatever instructions they received and their faulty memories. Now, we have the whole counsel of God given to us and ready for reference, decision, and action. What an immensely valuable tool for guidance - and yet we still neglect it and we still fall into the same error today that those in Corinth fell into prior to the publication of the Bible.

 

Life application: What priority is Scripture in your life? Just how willing to rely on God's instruction are you? Do you know more than He? Are your judgments more valuable than His?  We know the answers, and so let us continue to learn and apply this precious gift to our every step.

 

Lord, what seems so important in this life actually has very little importance compared to what is coming. So how can we fight over the miniscule things that arise and pester us each day when the true life ahead promises us eternal rest and contentment? Help us to focus on the sure promises that You have given and in this we will be able to keep the little things of this life in proper perspective. You have it all taken care of, and because of Jesus our end is assured. In this, let us remain content! Amen.

 

 

Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? 1 Corinthians 6:3

 

There is much debate and an almost perceived fear among commentators as to what Paul is referring to here. Some say that because there is no qualifier before "angels" it must be referring to the "good" angels. In other words, he doesn't say the "fallen" angels or the "bad" angels. Others disagree and say he must be speaking about the leaders of churches - pastors, priests, etc. The term can be used this way, but it would make no sense at all because he is writing to a body with elders already in place and he himself is an apostle.

 

The plain sense of the verse demands that we look at it in no other way than that he is speaking of heavenly messengers, good or bad, that will be judged by the saints. If a sentence is to be pronounced on a fallen angel, believers will be the ones qualified to make that judgment. The good angels will be excluded from such judgments because there was no fault in them. Thus, in actuality, judgment is rendered on both. One judgment is "no" judgment necessary. The other judgment will be according to their fallen nature and evil deeds.

 

But for what could believers judge fallen angels? The answer is that they are the afflicters of believers now. They are the ones who wreak havoc among the weak, making miserable those believers who are susceptible. They are also those who completely possess non-believers and torment them as demons. Because of the angels' interactions with man, redeemed man will be allowed judicial authority over them.

 

Likewise, the "good" angels have been "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?" (Hebrews1:14). Because of this, their ministrations will be noted by those who finally see what good they wrought among men before their glorification.

 

Understanding this verse from this perspective then makes all the sense in the world. What we don't even perceive now will become clear to our eyes in the future. God has given those who believe an opportunity to actively participate in a realm that we now only passively participate in. And if this is so, then "how much more, things that pertain to this life?"

 

In other words, if we will someday judge angels who are in a completely different order of being than we are, then shouldn't we be able to handle the judgments of this life in the order we now perceive and understand! The answer begs for a positive response. Yes, we should be in control of our judgments now, not handing them over to non-believers when they fall entirely within the parameters of those who will inherit eternal life and the right to judge eternal beings.

 

Life application: Imagine the great honor of being one of the redeemed of the Lord. And likewise, imagine the great responsibility that accompanies that honor. Let us never take lightly our duty to govern our own affairs in the church and among believers.

 

Lord God, it's not to angels that you have put in subjection the world to come, but to man, and more especially one Man. All of the authority of heaven and earth is granted to Your Son, my Lord Jesus. As this is so, then why should I worry about a single thing that happens in this life, from stubbing my toe to losing my most beloved, surely all things are within the control of Your capable hands. If the future is already granted to Jesus, then all of this life is being prepared for that day. Thank You for this sure hope. Amen.

 

 

If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? 1 Corinthians 6:4

 

Paul is continuing on with his same train of thought concerning judgments - who should judge matters in what context? The believers in Corinth had taken civil matters, such as lawsuits, (things pertaining to this life) to the pagan courts to be settled. He has shown them the utter folly of this and now goes on with that line of thought.

 

He says "If then you have judgments..." In this, he is saying that these things have arisen and will from time to time arise. It is natural for there to be disputes. At the time of Moses, while in the wilderness, there was a constant stream of such matters which were brought to him. This is recorded in Exodus 18. It was at a time when people were living in tents and not even settled into a home with land and a large number of possessions. How much more is it expected that such things would arise among those living a regular life in a community.

 

And so when such judgments "concerning things pertaining to this life" would arise, there would need to be a judge. It is inevitable and natural. But who would be the judge? Who would be chosen to preside over such petty matters of "this life?" Paul wants them to think the issue through based on what he said in the previous verse, that as believers "we shall judge angels."

 

And so he says the following words, which need a careful evaluation - "...do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?" The verb for "appoint" is the Greek word kathizete. It is actually unclear whether Paul wrote it in the imperative mood (meaning a command) or in the indicative mood (meaning interrogatively). And so a couple possibilities arise -

 

1) If a command, he is telling them: You are to appoint those who are the least esteemed by the church to judge (meaning the least knowledgeable in the church would still be preferable to appointing unbelievers over them for such judgments).

 

2) If interrogatively, he is asking them if they would actually dare to "appoint those who are least esteemed by the church" (meaning unbelievers).

 

The debate over which is his intent has continued on since the letter was written and scholars disagree, but in the end the thought is clear either way. It is a rebuke to them for their unsound practices. It could be that Paul was intentionally ambiguous in his wording so that we would look at this from different angles and still come to the same conclusion. The practice of going outside the church for judgments was wrong and even the least informed in the church would be preferable to the most knowledgeable outside of it.

 

Life application: Disputes within the church and among fellowshipping believers should be mediated by those within the church. It is a concept which seems all but forgotten today, but when thought of from the eternal perspective, it is the one that certainly makes the most sense.

 

Lord, as I sit here, tired from the load of work and the pressures of life, I still have a wonderful sense of joy about my situation. It's a feeling which transcends the pains and difficulties that come my way. When times aren't right, I keep remembering that You have promised an end to the trials and have given us a much better hope of things to come. Yes, the world wears me down, but the thought of being with You some wondrous day fills me with joy. I just can't wait for it to come. Yes, come Lord Jesus. Amen.

 

 

I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? 1 Corinthians 6:5

 

The irony abounds. Paul has been speaking to those in Corinth who would allow believers within the congregation to carry out lawsuits against one another in pagan tribunals. His words have shown that it is not only inappropriate, but it makes no sense based on their positions in Christ. He now says, "I say this to your shame." They have disgraced themselves over this matter and his words anticipated them feeling the disgrace because of it.

 

And then comes the ironic question - "Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?" It is to this same group that he has now written 5 full chapters of doctrine based on their "divisions" of allegiance. In chapter 4, he said this to them -

 

"We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!" 1 Corinthians 4:10

 

How can it be that they are "wise in Christ" and yet they cannot make simple decisions concerning matters of dispute between believers? It is a scathing rebuke on the wisdom they feel they possess when in fact they are demonstrating none at all! His letter is intended for them to think these things through. Line after line is one which asks them (and thus us) to consider rationally our position in Christ and then to act in a manner according to that high status.

 

But,,,, it is so much easier to watch a movie or sit in the lawn and gaze at the birds as they flit about. This book is our guide, it is our "constitution" for living, and it is that which reveals our Lord. We should pick it up, read it, and cherish its words each day.


Life application: When someone says, "There are many ways to interpret the Bible" they are indicating that man holds sway over what God intends. In fact, there is one proper way to evaluate the Bible, but every one of us fails to do so to some degree or another. Our failure in no way negates what God determines. It shows that we need to study more.

 

Heavenly Father, the most common expression about your word today is that "there are many ways to interpret the Bible." But this is from our perspective, not Yours. You have one truth and one presentation of that truth. Our failure to correctly understand what You intend simply means that we need to study more. And so Lord, give me the aching desire to properly handle Your word; to rightly divide it; to hold fast to its truths; and to never, never compromise its moral judgments. I desire to please You, not have harmony with those who would diminish the power of Your superior word. Amen.

 

 

But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! 1 Corinthians 6:6

 

In the previous verse, Paul asked this question: "I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?"

 

Verse 6:6 is not a continuation of the question, but rather a reply to it. It is a rebuke that there "is not a wise man among you, not even one..." Instead of displaying wisdom (which will someday be used even to judge the angels), he notes that "brother goes to law against brother." Instead of this, they should be willing to sit down and responsibly work out their differences among each other, not even involving the church for mediation.

 

Rather than this though, they not only fail to settle their differences, they were skipping right over the church for mediation and going directly to civil trial where judgment was rendered "before unbelievers." It was an utter failing of their position in Christ and the knowledge, fraternity, and faith that they should have exhibited.

 

Albert Barnes notes that according to Flavius Josephus, "the Romans (who were now masters of Corinth) permitted the Jews in foreign countries to decide private affairs, where nothing capital was in question, among themselves." How could it be that if they had this right, that they wouldn't exercise it? They were considered a sect of Judaism at this time (see the dispute which arises in Acts 18 and the judgment rendered by the proconsul in Acts 18:14 concerning this) and so they had the legal right to mediate many such private affairs.

 

Remembering that 1 Corinthians is included in the Bible, it is a prescriptive letter from Paul explaining our responsibilities within the church during the church age. We should consider how to act in similar matters based on his words here and abide by them.

 

Life application: Of what true value is it to gain the upper hand in petty matters which arise between believers that we would violate the words of Scripture in order to bring suit against our brethren in the church? Looking at these things from the eternal perspective, it is better to let go of such offenses than it is to bring discredit upon ourselves as believers and, more importantly, the name of Jesus.

 

Lord Jesus, I would pray for wisdom in how to handle offenses which come between me and other believers in You. I know for certain that in comparison to the things I have been forgiven by You, the petty differences which arise are utterly insignificant. And so Lord, help me to view our disagreements from an eternal perspective and not from the displeasure of the moment. Grant me a heart of wisdom in such things so that You will be glorified in my actions. Amen.

 

 

Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? 1 Corinthians 6:7

 

"Utter failure" is well translated here. Paul is telling those in Corinth that their lawsuits against one another demonstrate that they have missed the mark in Christian fellowship and in maintaining a sense of fraternity within the faith. It is true that when one sues another, it is generally because a wrong has been committed. Suppose someone lends $5000 to another believer. When it isn't paid back, the normal and expected course of action would be to go to them and attempt to get the money back. When that fails, a suit might be the next logical step to follow.

 

However, Paul is saying that doing this is contrary to what should be expected of a Christian, especially if the suit is conducted in non-Christian mediation. Paul says that instead, "Why do you not rather accept wrong?" And then to further that word, he repeats the thought to confirm what he meant - "Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?" It seems contrary to the normal order of business because it is contrary to the normal order of business. Something more noble is expected of those within the faith.

 

We may suffer from being cheated, but God is not unaware of it. Our faithfulness to His precept will be rewarded in due time. He will handle all wrongs and correct all offenses, either in this life or in the true life which is to come, but He is asking us to stand on the principles He has laid down.

 

Having noted this, the passage makes no commentary on interactions with non-believers, governmental agencies, corporations, or the like. When harm is suffered at the hands of a non-believer, there are venues for handling such things.

 

Life application: How difficult it can be to set aside grievances that have been levied against us by other believers. But how much more satisfying should it be to know that we are following the wishes of the Lord by doing so! Let us stand firmly on God's word and not be weakened in our determination to be obedient to the knowledge we possess; mixing in practice to what we have learned.

 

Lord, my brother has offended me

But You have said that I should let it go

Is it not better that I be wronged

Than to take him to court for all the world to know?

 

Surely the offense has me upset as You can see

But in the end Your word is my rule and guide

Should I consider my offence more important?

Should I so lift myself up and be filled with pride?

 

Rather, I will stand upon my guide, Your written word

And thus be obedient to You, my precious Lord

 

Lord God, you know those who are counted as brothers in the faith who have offended me in one way or another, but Your word has asked me to consider my position in You as more important than the loss I have suffered. Help me to put Your word into practice and to allow You to handle the matter in Your wise way. I know that what You will decide will be perfectly just and so why should I worry? I place such things in Your capable hands. Amen.

 

 

No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! 1 Corinthians 6:8

 

This verse should be looked at in connection with the previous verse for a full understanding of what Paul is relaying -

 

"Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!"

 

He had just asked them why wouldn't they accept wrong and even be cheated instead of going to law against one another. In his written words, it is as if he were speaking without giving them time to even explain themselves because their actions were inexcusable. And so he continues with the same thought, stating a fact that they cannot ignore - "No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat."

 

They are in essence caught with their hands in the cookie jar. He has identified openly that their actions are harmful and wrong towards one another. There is a root of bitterness between the believers which has been allowed to enter into the congregation. It is something that is warned against in Hebrews 12 -

 

"Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled..." Hebrews 12:14, 15

 

This "root of bitterness" is explicitly stated by Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians as something which should not be allowed. Here are his words to them -

 

"...no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified." 1 Thessalonians 4:6

 

The fact that they were cheating and doing wrong is bad enough, but what was more vile to him is that "you do these things to your brethren!" If this is how they were treating one another, then how much more disgraceful must be their actions to those who weren't considered as brothers! It is the Lord Jesus they represent. And yet because of the things they were doing, those outside the church would certainly be inclined to say, "I want no part of that religion."

 

Life application: Would you apply for a job in a company that was known for employees cheating one another and suing one another? Would you willingly join such a company, knowing in advance that there was nothing but infighting and division? Of course not! If this is the case with work, how much more do you think people will reject coming to Christ if they go into a church and see nothing but the same between believers. Our actions in church have real significance to the eyes of those who come in seeking answers to their questions about the Lord.

 

Lord, help me to remember that people are watching my actions and evaluating You based on what I say and do. It is so easy to forget this as distractions arise, deadlines need to be met, and as my thoughts wander to things that come to mind. Fill me with Your Spirit and keep me attuned to who I am in You so that others will see and want to know You because of how I act. This I pray to bring glory to You. Amen.

 

 

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,....  1 Corinthians 6:9

 

Paul is going to make a sobering list of those who "will not inherit the kingdom of God." He makes his statement in the form of a rhetorical question, and it has the full force of a positive declaration - these people will in fact "not inherit the kingdom of God."

 

This is a most unpopular view in the world in which we live and it is one of the reasons why Paul is rejected by many aberrant pastors, priests, and preachers today as they utter sermons which do not consider the whole counsel of God. But his words are true and whether we want to believe them or not is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is what God has determined.

 

And so he begins his list in this verse and it will continue through verse 10. All of the following categories are termed "unrighteous." That word is used for the whole list which is then presented. It is these unrighteous who will not inherit God's kingdom. And to make sure we are clear on the subject, he interjects words of warning, "Do not be deceived." It is his way of saying that others may attempt to diminish, twist, or reject this truth concerning these people, but that doesn't change the truth of the matter.

 

The term here for "unrighteous" was just used in verse 6:1 when speaking of those in the pagan world to whom the Corinthians were going to for their judgments. Paul is showing the illogical nature of this. Why would someone go to "the unrighteous" when they are not in that category? He is attempting to have them think this issue through. And so he presents his list -

 

Fornicators - This includes all sexual impurity. There is a place for sex and it is within the confines of marriage. But there are those who reject this and exercise their sexual desires outside of those confines. Marriage from a biblical standpoint is between a male and a female. Within the confines of those two precepts - marriage, and the union of a man and woman - sex is acceptable.

 

Idolaters - As noted in 1 Corinthians 5:10, an idolater is one who puts anything or anyone before a right relationship with God. It can be a mere devotion or service to idols, such as is authorized by some wayward Christian denominations. It can be realized in prayers to or through any other person - such as praying to Mary or the saints. People can make almost anything into an idol - sex, money, gems, artwork, cars, sport teams or sports figures, etc. Idolatry includes the unhealthy devotion to anything or anyone which causes our hearts and affections to be directed away from God.

 

Adulterers - This concerns those who break their covenant of marriage and engage in sexual relations outside of those bonds. An adulterer can be a married person having sex with someone not their spouse, or it can be an unmarried person who is having sex with a married person. From a biblical perspective, both are adulterers.

 

Homosexuals - The Greek word here is malakoi which indicates "softeness" or being effeminate. This is the trademark of many homosexuals and so it is translated that way here. But many scholars indicate that it includes a broader and darker range of sin. It is a person who is weak in their moral convictions to the point where any perversion is tolerated and accepted.

 

Sodomites - The Greek word is arsenokoites. It denotes a male engaging in same-gender sexual activity; specifically a man in bed with another man and thus homosexuality.

 

Paul's list will continue in the following verse. It is to these categories of unrepentant sinners that there is no hope of entering the kingdom of God. The modern argument that a person "is born" this way is irrelevant. A person may be born with a predilection towards drinking, but this does not mean they need to be a drunk. And whether a person is born with a bent towards some type of sexual perversion, like homosexuality, or not is irrelevant. They have been instructed that this is wickedness. They alone will bear the consequences of their actions.

 

Life application: Whether we like what the Bible teaches on difficult moral issues or not is beside the point. The only thing that matters is that we accept God's sovereignty and act in accord with His directives.

 

Glorious God, when I read lists of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God, such as that presented in 1 Corinthians 6, I have to think that I was once in such a category. But through the precious blood of Christ, I have been washed and forgiven. Help me now to stand firm on my moral convictions and to lead others to the truth of those sobering words of condemnation or life. Help us to think clearly on these things while there is still time. Amen.

 

 

...nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:10

 

Continuing with his sobering list of the unrighteous, Paul next names -

 

Thieves - The meaning is clear in any society. It refers to anyone who lays hold of something which belongs to another and takes it for themselves. Robbery, stealing, pick pocketing, etc are simply different ways of describing the overall concept of thievery. And this can be on a personal, an institutional, or a governmental level. Companies can steal from their employees as much as employees can steal from their companies. And governments can, and do, steal from their citizens through unjust taxation. Those behind these schemes are not guiltless.

 

Covetous - Coveting, as described in the analysis of 1 Corinthians 5:10, is desiring something that someone else possesses. It is the greed of the heart which is not content with what one rightfully owns. It also doesn't consider taking the time to earn what is desired. Instead it is a lust of the eyes for that which one has not been worked for or which has been rightly received, such as a gift or inheritance. It is an avaricious attitude which will eventually be realized in hatred, theft, murder, etc. if not reigned in.

 

Drunkards - These were described in 1 Corinthians 5:11. A drunkard is a person addicted to, and consumed by, alcohol; not specifically any person who drinks alcohol. A drunkard has no restraint over his drinking; it has conquered him and his allegiance is to it and not to Christ. Concerning the moderate drinking of alcohol, there is nothing wrong with doing so despite the stigma many un-biblically attach to it. The entire body of Scripture bears this out. However, like any other thing, there are limits which must be exercised.

 

Revilers - Again, as noted in 1 Corinthians 5:11, this is a person who is vulgar in his words. His speech is coarse, angry, defiant, and abusive. Such a person has no problem vilifying others in their character, hurting people's feelings through speech, and demeaning those around them. Such an attitude is opposite to Christ who "when He was reviled, did not revile in return" (1 Peter 2:23).

 

Extortioners - This final category was described in 1 Corinthians 5:10. Such are those who take advantage of others for illicit gain. They may charge high rates of repayment on loans, forced payment for "protection" which if not paid will end in any sort of punishment, etc. In this type, there is little consideration for others, but rather a rapacious desire to profit off anyone for any reason.

 

The Bible now states, in completely clear terms that all of the categories listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 will not inherit the kingdom of God. It is easy to look at the list and say, "I haven't done that one or that one," but in the end, all have committed at least one and certainly more than one of each offense listed. In other words, we are all guilty and stand condemned before God. As Paul says in Romans 3:10, "There is none righteous, no, not one."

 

No person is justified in and of themselves before God and all people are "condemned already" according to Jesus' words in John 3:18. What we need to be right before God cannot be found within ourselves. Paul will keep on to showing this as he continues with his epistle. We disregard his words at our own peril.

 

Life application: Who can point a finger at one of the people on this sobering list without condemning themselves. There is nothing wrong with making right moral judgments, but there is a problem with doing so before first getting right with God through Jesus Christ. Once that occurs, we stand in a position where we can identify evil in others and lead them to the Fountain of cleansing, which is Christ.

 

Heavenly Father, I once was guilty before You, having transgressed Your laws and violated Your holy nature. But in Your great grace and mercy, You sent Jesus to take my place, to bear my sins, and to remove my stains. Now, because of Him, I stand justified before You, pure and undefiled. Help me to live out that state which I truly possess in a manner worthy of it. Help me to reflect Your goodness in all its splendor. Amen.

 

 

And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11

 

Referring to his list of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God, Paul now shows the immensity of the work of Christ, even for people who have committed such acts against Him as were mentioned in the previous two verses. He begins with, "And such were some of you." Pick from the wicked things on this list and it may have indeed applied to any of those in Corinth. And thus, the same thought gives hope to such offenders today.

 

But without understanding the nature of sin, its hard to contemplate exactly what this means for each and every person in Christ. James says that "...whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10). Paul is taking the most notorious offenses and highlighting them, but James shows that any infraction of God's law breaks the entire law, and thus we are all condemned before God. Because of this, looking down on another for whatever their sin was must be excluded.

 

Next Paul says, "But you were washed." Jamieson-Fausset-Brown states, "The Greek middle voice expresses, 'Ye have had yourselves washed.'" The tense here varies from the next two points that Paul will make, and this is not by accident. It is showing that receiving the Holy Spirit is something that must be accomplished by us through an act of faith.

 

We are not "regenerated in order to believe" as reformed theologians claim. The Bible, time and again, shows that we must receive Christ voluntarily; this verse shows that to be true. The Pulpit Commentary notes that, "The very object of Christ's death had been that he might cleanse his Church "by the washing of water by the Word." Therefore, receiving Jesus is not "a work" that merits something, but rather it is the necessary action that we must take in order to receive the gift.

 

In the receiving of His work, we wash ourselves by the Spirit. This then leads to Paul's next two points which say, "but you were sanctified, but you were justified." The normal order of these two points is reversed. According to Paul in Romans we are "justified" and then we go through the process of "sanctification." However, this is not speaking about the progressive sanctification that occurs in a believer's life. Instead, it is the "setting apart" or "consecrating" of the individual to God. It is a done deal.

 

Despite the state of maturity (all new believers are immature) and despite the lack of knowledge about Godly things (in which most new believers are deficient), they have been set apart by God as sanctified. This is a clear indication of the doctrine of eternal salvation. What God has sanctified is forever so.

 

A point of note in Paul's words is that the word "alla" or "but" is repeated for each of these points. In this, it indicates a special emphasis on each part of the process; the words can be taken as emphatic. You "have washed yourselves;" you "are sanctified;" and you "are justified." And, it was done "in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God."

 

Salvation is accomplished "in the name of the Lord Jesus" and by no other. Only He came in the flesh to redeem us from our sins and to purify us with His shed blood. Nobody, outside of His bestowed grace, can be saved. And the action is accomplished "by the Spirit of our God." The Holy Spirit is the one who performs the actions when a believer calls out to the Lord. The moment they do, they are sealed with the Spirit (Ephesians 1:13, 14), and are given the guarantee of eternal life. They are sanctified in Christ, and they are justified in Christ.

 

Albert Barnes notes that, "This verse brings in the whole subject of redemption, and states in a most emphatic manner the various stages by which a sinner is saved, and by this single passage, a man may obtain all the essential knowledge of the plan of salvation." When one bears the weight of sin committed after coming to Christ and feels that they may have lost what they once received, all they need to do is return to this verse and contemplate it. It contains that wonderful assurance that we are saved despite ourselves.

 

Life application: This verse asks us to look back on who we once were and to conduct our futures with humility, gratitude, and to carry in our hearts deep thankfulness for the grace and mercy of God who took what was ignoble and purified it for Himself.

 

Lord Jesus, you took the clay jar that was broken and dirty and set it apart for yourself. You made it right and cleaned it up so that it could be used for something noble and good. And even today, the jar is changing as You bring it to an appearance never even imagined. You have done the marvelous! Thank You, O God for repairing me and placing me in Your heavenly home. Amen.

 

 

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 1 Corinthians 6:12

 

In what seems a dramatic shift to another subject, Paul begins today with, "All things are lawful for me..." He will go on to speak about foods in another verse, and so it seems that he is referring to something newly introduced. But then he will return to the subject of sexual immorality, demonstrating that he hasn't really changed course at all. He has been speaking about this issue already and is merely taking another approach to help the issue sink in.

 

Therefore, when he says "All things are lawful for me..," it is speaking in a general sense, not literally that "all" things are lawful. In other words, "sex" is lawful, but "sexual immorality" is not. He will introduce "foods" in order to get us to think on a different level concerning this. From his previous comments in this epistle, it is completely inescapable that committing acts of a perverse sexual nature are forbidden. He has already shown that to be true. And so he continues. Yes, "all things are lawful, but all things are not helpful."

 

In this, Paul is speaking of "license." What are we free to do in Christ, and how can we misuse that freedom which actually turns into bondage? And so again, he states, "All things are lawful..." He is emphasizing the matter to capture our full attention and to ensure that we understand what he is desperately trying to tell the Corinthians (and thus us as well who are reading his words).

 

Yes, "all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." God created sex (which we are using as an example of a general principle) and therefore it must be "good." But we can abuse what God has given to the point where it is no longer "good." This takes us down several paths. Sex is normally lawful, but inappropriate sex is not helpful. If it is not helpful, then it is harmful. There is a self destructive nature to inappropriate sex.

 

Likewise, sex is normally lawful, but we can be brought under the power of inappropriate sex and become enslaved by it. If we are enslaved by it, we are no longer serving the Master who bought us and "sanctified" and "justified" us as was noted in the previous verse. We are working contrary to what God has intended. The penalty for this has already been noted - to be expelled from the fellowship. This concept will be built on by Paul in the verses ahead. To understand what he is saying in this verse, the words of C.J. Ellicott will provide clarity -

 

"There is a verbal contrast in the Greek here which can scarcely be rendered fully in English. The Greek words for "unlawful" and "be brought under the power of" are cognate words. What the Apostle says is, 'All things are lawful for me, but I am not the one to allow them therefore to become a law over me.' There is such a thing as becoming the very slave of liberty itself. If we sacrifice the power of choice which is implied in the thought of liberty, we cease to be free; we are brought under the power of that which should be in our power."

 

Understanding this, we see that being brought under the power of something other than Christ is a return to bondage and therefore teaching, practicing, or allowing sinful license is contrary to the gospel. If it is contrary to the gospel, then it is not "of" the gospel and must be condemned. This is why Paul was so strict in his judgment against the sexually immoral sinner in the previous chapter and it is why the church must continue to be strict in such judgments. There is but one gospel and it must not be polluted or corrupted.

 

Life application: Paul wrote his letters under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. What he says are, therefore, God's words, not just his. To reject what he has written is to reject what God expects. Stand fast on the truth of the gospel and the need for purity and holiness within the church.

 

Lord, help me to honor you with every breath I take. I tend to get distracted by the momentary things which pop up and suddenly I find myself walking once again in the flesh. Remind me to be filled with Your Spirit, walking in obedience to You, and ever mindful of the great and honorable title of "Christian" which I bear. This I pray to and for Your glory. Amen.

 

 

Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 1 Corinthians 6:13

 

In his usual way of making exceptionally complex matters easier to understand, Paul now introduces "food" as a way of grasping the immensely more important issue of sexual immorality. However, in what is always the case, Paul's words are often twisted (see 2 Peter 32:14-16) to mean something entirely different than what he intends.

 

By introducing foods, as an understandable baseline, he is showing that they are an indifferent matter which we participate in, even the eating of food sacrificed to idols. This is a matter he will speak about in detail in 1 Corinthians 8 and elsewhere. Foods affect the physical man and have no lasting value other than to sustain a person until the next meal. The eating of foods is a morally neutral matter.

 

God made foods and foods are "for the stomach." Likewise, God created man, including his stomach and the stomach is intended "for foods." In the end, both are material, non-moral, and perishing. And so, "God will destroy both it and them" meaning "the stomach and the foods." On the other hand, there is sexual immorality. It is an entirely different category and one which cannot, despite our greatest desires and our greatest efforts to twist what He intends, be treated as we treat foods.


Sexual immorality is a moral issue. It cannot be separated from this state. We cannot rationalize it away, we cannot makes excuses, we cannot compare it to any other issues of a non-moral or wrongly imposed moral issue. It is wrong in and of itself. Further, though different types of sexual immorality are mentioned by Paul and others, they all fall into one over-arching category and must be considered in that way.

 

Engaging in sexual immorality affects not a merely perishing organ, but it affects the man as a whole - body and soul. Man is not granted the authority to engage in this type of act because the moral nature and effect of sexual immorality doesn't cease to affect the man at his death like eating various foods does. Instead, it is carried with him to his judgment, be it before Christ at the Bema Seat, or before the Lord at the Great White Throne. It is an offense against God, eating foods is not.

 

Further, eating foods will not lead others to commit sin, sexual immorality will. Eating foods will not turn a church from the Lord, sexual immorality will. Foods are neutral, sexual immorality is morally wrong.

 

Life application: Concerning sexual immorality, what we treat in a flippant manner, or what we try to hide through twisting of a precept or in the diminishing of the highly moral nature of such an act, doesn't change the force of the offense in God's sight. Just because we attempt to rationalize away our moral offenses by comparing them with other non-moral or inappropriately-mandated moral offenses, it in no way changes the severity of our actions. God is, in fact, God. We are His and we will stand judged by Him, not excused by our attempts to undermine what He has ordained.

 

Heavenly Father, there are times when I attempt to "justify" the wrong things I do by comparing them with the "bigger" sins of others or reading "just one more commentary" to find someone I agree with, whether I know he is wrong or not. How wicked is the heart within me that I would try to validate my own wrong actions when You have spoken that they are, in fact, wrong. Grant me a clean and pure heart to be obedient to You and to turn from the evil that so easily ensnares me. Strengthen me through Your word and by Your Spirit. Amen.

 

 

And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. 1 Corinthians 6:14

 

In complete and absolute support that sexual immorality is not to be condoned, Paul now ties his discussion in with the resurrection of Christ. It is Paul's way of saying, "Think!" In the last verse, he said, "Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body." To make this so obvious that anyone should see the importance of the matter, he next says, "And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power."

 

He has tied our lives in with the perfect, sinless, Son of God. Because He was found without sin, He was raised to life; death has no power over Him. It was "not possible that He should be held by it" (Acts 2:24). This is the basis on which He was raised. If sin were found in Him, He would not have been qualified for the resurrection. And it too is the only basis for our resurrection. It is not because we are sinless in and of ourselves, but because we are sinless "in" Christ. That means "right now." That means we are "right now" connected to Him.

 

As this is true, then engaging in sexual immorality among believers is to abuse our granted position and to hold in contempt that which is sacred - the only tie that we have for our granting of eternal life. Paul will continue with this thought in the coming verses, but 1 Corinthians 6:14 should be enough to wake up any sleeper and open their eyes to the truth that sexual immorality is not to be engaged in or tolerated.


Life application: We are "in" Christ. We are united to Him and sealed with the Holy Spirit. Is it a light thing that we would so misuse our position in Him that we would excuse voluntary sin? Let it never be so!

 

Heavenly Father, when I received Christ, I received a new position and a new standing with You. And yet, at times I fall and act as if I'm in my old self. What a tarnishing of the honor I have been bestowed and that I bear! Forgive me for returning to my old self and help me to continue to live in and for Christ in a manner worthy of that high and exalted state. This I pray... help me in my weakness. Amen.

 

 

 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!  1 Corinthians 6:15

 

"Do you not know" is Paul's rhetorical way of saying, "You should certainly know..." It is an obvious truth that anyone who has called on Christ should know what he will now state. It shouldn't take any additional reflection or consideration. He is relaying now a thought based on his previous statement of verse 14 which said, "And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power."

 

If God will raise us up by His power because of the work of Christ, then we must be "members of Christ." It should be a self-evident fact to the believer. And because it is, he asks another rhetorical question, "Shall I then take the members of Christ (meaning "my" members because I am united to Christ) and make them members of a harlot?" The question begs a negative response!

 

Harlotry has no place within Christianity and is used by Paul as an all-encompassing term for any sexual immorality. The Bible allows one type of sex and that is between a man and a woman within the bonds of marriage. Anything else is a perversion of this. A harlot not only engages in sex with many partners, but she does so for pay. And this was commonly connected to religious rites. Because of this, Paul uses harlotry as the premier example of sexual immorality.

 

By engaging in sex with a harlot, we are uniting that which is sacred and set apart to God with that which is profane and opposed to God! As Ellicott notes, "The double act of taking them away from their glorious union with Christ, and joining them to a base body, is implied in the Greek." It is a double-slap in the face of that which is upright and acceptable for the Christian.

 

Life application: Although Paul is speaking of sexual immorality, we should consider every action we take in life in conjunction with our spiritual connection to Christ. David, in the Psalms says, "I will set nothing wicked before my eyes..." Isn't this the right, noble, and honorable path to follow in all things. Let us "fix our eyes on Jesus" and not on that which is base and inglorious.

 

Heavenly Father, I know that where my eyes rest my thoughts will follow. Be they my physical or my spiritual eyes, when I look at something profane, my thoughts will turn to the profane. When I fix my eyes on Jesus, my thoughts will be directed to Him. Help me to follow the advice of the psalms and "set nothing wicked before my eyes." Give me the hunger and desire to know You, to seek You, and to focus my eyes upon You. With this, I will be an acceptable jar, ready for Your filling. Amen.

 

 

Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” 1 Corinthians 6:16

 

So far, Paul has argued against sexual immorality from several different perspectives. Now in verse 6:16, he reaches back to the very first account of man on earth from Genesis 2. God intended for man to have a partner and he intended for them to be united in a way which was unique to humanity. As it said in Genesis 2 after naming all the animals God created, "But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him."

 

And so, God created a woman for the man. In their union, the two "shall become one flesh." Paul has just said to those in Corinth (and thus to us) "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!" His words are built upon the thought that we are "in" Christ. Therefore, when we unite in an immoral way, we are defiling the very bond in which we exist by bringing into it an act which is wholly ungodly and immoral.


Such is the case when a man unites with a harlot. Considering this, how reprehensible are such acts in any other form - homosexuality, bestiality, etc? God has ordained the parameters of sex and he has written it on our hearts. To attempt to justify sexual sin in any way is to "suppress" the knowledge that God has given us. Paul lays this out in Romans 1:1. There can be no excuse for such acts, and yet they are often what seem to define us as humans. Our fallen, corrupt nature makes us yearn for the profane and the perverse. The remedy is Jesus. We are to fix our eyes and our thoughts on Him and we are to be obedient to the word He has given.

 

Life application: Sexual sins are no less consuming of our minds and thoughts than drug or alcohol addictions. They can fill us with great anguish and turmoil. This leaves us with real choices, just as the other addictions. We can hold on to Christ, being obedient to His word, or we can allow ourselves to let the flesh take over. Hold firm to the Lord. If you are "in" Him, then He will strengthen you for the battle you face.

 

Lord God, it seems as though every day my thoughts come against me, tempting me to fall into some pit that I desire to stay out of. They attempt to direct my feet down dark paths and across difficult and painful terrain. Help me to fix my eyes on Jesus in these times. Raise the valleys and level the mountains, Lord, so that I can see Him as I avoid the pits, walk the straight highway, and tread on a smooth surface right into His loving arms. Thank You for hearing me. Amen.

 

 

But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 1 Corinthians 6:17

 

We are shown that the bond between a man and a woman who are united in marriage is likened to our union with Christ. Paul said in the previous verse that the two "become one flesh." In a similar manner, but on a spiritual level, "he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him." The words "with Him" are inserted for clarity, but the Greek actually says, "one spirit is." There is a spiritual connection to each believer that is realized when they receive Jesus Christ as Lord.

 

In this verse then is not only the establishment of the concept of oneness in spirit, but the truth that because we are one in spirit, our actions now truly affect that bond. This is why Paul is so adamant about our rejection of sexual immorality. To engage in perverse acts after being saved is to do so when united to Christ. Paul is asking them to seriously think this through from the eternal perspective.

 

But there is also one other point of doctrine which is implicitly upheld by this very verse; the doctrine of eternal salvation. If we are joined to the Lord in this way, then it becomes apparent that our salvation must be eternal. If we engage in a perverse act, such as adultery, and it is something that affects our union with Christ, then it must be that the union with Christ is maintained despite the fault. Otherwise, Paul would have noted it as a warning that the bond would be severed. However, nowhere is that concept even hinted at. Thank God for what Jesus has done. We continue to be saved, despite ourselves.

 

In his ever-consistent way of describing our union with Christ, we see that Paul speaks of it elsewhere. Here a two examples from the book of Galatians -

 

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20

 

"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Galatians 3:17

 

Life application. We are one with the Lord in spirit. He lives in us and we have put Him on as our garment of righteousness. Let us attempt to always live up to that glorious position. He is holy and so let us act in holiness as well.

 

With Christ I too have been crucified

It is no longer I who live but He

When I called on Him, at that moment I died

And the life I now live is one in Him, eternally

 

I now live by faith in the Son of God

Who loved me and gave Himself for me

Help me Lord, in Your steps always to trod

And to reflect in You a life which is pure and holy

 

For surely into Christ I was baptized

And in Him is eternal life realized

 

Father of glory, I know that through Christ my Lord I am again united to You. And yet at times I find myself falling very short of this high and exalted position. My thoughts and actions belie the Name which I now bear and it grieves me when they do. So Lord, keep reminding me, nudging me, and guiding me. Help me to walk in paths of righteousness and to bring honor to You. Amen.

 

 

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18

 

Paul's words concerning sexual immorality now result in a direct command - "Flee it!" No stronger words could be uttered. They are direct and specific. Based on what he has already said, and what he will say in the coming verses, this is something of the highest significance and importance. And he gives the reason why when he says that "every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body."

This is a tie directly back to what he said in the previous verse. We are united to Christ and are one with Him in spirit. Therefore, by sinning against our own body, we are sinning against Him directly. The concept of "body" here is inclusive of the entire man, not merely the flesh (as he pointed out in his note about "foods" earlier. Sexual sin is a direct sin against Jesus Christ because believers are "in" Jesus Christ. Let us consider this carefully as we conduct our lives.

 

It has been said that there is safety in numbers, but in the case of sexual immorality, there is greater safety in running away. This is what Joseph did when he was confronted by Potiphar's wife. He knew that involvement with her was wrong. And that was at a time before the giving of the law. We have the lessons of the time of the law and we have the New Testament to guide us since the passing of the law. How can we believe we will escape judgment if we are caught up in sexual immorality?

 

Fleeing from such sin in this manner is imperative and it calls to mind James' words in his epistle. In James 4:7 it says, "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." We are to resist the devil, flee from sin, and submit to God. If we do these things, we will be sound in our faith and practice and we will stand approved in our conduct.


Life application: Thoughts lead to action and therefore we should always endeavor to control our thoughts concerning sinful practices. The Bible asks us to rather "fix our thoughts on Jesus" (Hebrews 3:1).  By doing so, we will keep from getting side-swiped by the devil and finding ourselves in an unhappy position.

 

Heavenly Father, You direct us to flee from sin such as sexual immorality and idolatry. But even our thoughts are captured by these things at times. Help us to fix our thoughts on Jesus, direct our eyes to Him, and to be obedient to Your word. This is a tough world to walk in and it is getting more so each day. Give us wisdom to control our eyes and our desires and to live lives which are holy and honoring to You. Amen.

 

 

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 1 Corinthians 6:19

 

"Or do you not know" is intended to be taken as a positive affirmation - "Certainly you must know!" It is a rhetorical question designed to get the letter's recipients (and thus us) to think this issue through clearly. And the issue he is speaking of is that "your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you." This then is another case raised by Paul why we should not be engaged in sin and impurity.

 

There are three general uses for the term "temple" in the Bible which we need to understand. The first is the temple (earlier before the temple was built it was the moveable tabernacle) in Jerusalem. This was the place of worship for the covenant people and it showed that God was among them. The second is found in the gospels and it is speaking of the Lord's physical body. Now in the epistles, it refers to the believer in Christ who is sanctified by the sealing (and thus the indwelling) of the Holy Spirit.

 

As a substantiation of this, we can refer to verses such as 2 Corinthians 6:16. There is says the following -

 

"And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

'I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.'"

 

The Holy Spirit "whom you have from God" is He who seals us (Ephesians 1:13, 14) and thus He is our guarantee. He indwells us from the moment we believe. And as much as He is a guarantee, the Spirit also is a sign of ownership. We have been purchased and are owned by God. This is why Paul now declares "and you are not your own." We belong to that which we are a slave to.

 

We were once owned by the devil because we were slaves to sin (see John 8:34 and Romans 6). However, through the blood of Christ, we were redeemed and now are slaves of God. If we are slaves of God, then we belong to Him. If we belong to Him, then we are bound under Him to be obedient to Him. We cannot and we dare not assume that we have license to sin. Such a thought is corrupt and wicked. It defies the very authority of our Master over us.

In a human master-to-slave relationship, disobedience would be considered intolerable. Why should we think it is different with God? But this is the constant theme of those who want to have their foot in both worlds. On one hand they claim freedom from sin in Christ and on the other they claim freedom to sin because of Christ. It is both illogical and perverse.

 

Life application: Go to work today and tell your boss that that you will no longer adhere to his rules, guidelines, and authority. See how far that gets you and then consider how much less God appreciates such defiance. (Note: Don't actually go to work today and do those things.)

 

Lord, You are ever so gracious and merciful. I'm sure that I fail You far more than I could ever please You. But there is a Seal upon me which keeps me in Your hand through it all. I cannot understand the depth of love that You possess to allow that Seal to be a fixed "guarantee" of my promised redemption. Forgive my disobedient heart and help me always to strive to be worthy of what I already possess. Thank You Lord, Amen.

 

 

For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:20

 

This is the last verse of chapter 6 and it is an exacting follow-up to Paul's previous words that said "you are not your own." We are not the possessors of our lives, nor are we to be the deciders of our conduct. These now belong to the Lord. He has purchased us and is our Master and His word is our instruction manual for conduct. We are entirely under His authority because we "were bought at a price."

 

But what was the price? What value was set on redeeming us from the power of the devil? The answer is found in Jesus' final words upon the cross. In John 19:30 we read this -

 

"So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit."

 

The word from which "It is finished" is translated it the word tetelestai. It indicates the completion of something; the rendering of a payment and the final act of purchase. In his first epistle, Peter confirms that it was the cross of Christ which made this possible -

 

"...knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." 1 Peter 1:19, 20

 

"The precious blood of Christ" implies the death of the Lord. The death of the Lord occurred on Calvary's cross. Therefore, we were purchased through His horrifying death. Because such an enormous price was paid, how can we consider it acceptable to live in sin? Our Master has given us His directions and those directions never condone our right to sin. It is unthinkable to even consider! And so Paul says, "therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s."

 

As we are "in" Christ, and because He is sinless and also our Lord, how can we justify sinful actions? We belong to God and are bound to His word as our rule and guide. Understanding this shows us the immensity of the importance of knowing and adhering to His word. If we are His, what would make us think that we should follow extra-biblical church rules which conflict with Scripture, a pastor's unbiblical teachings, or any other set of directions besides those given by God?

It is a simple issue to think through. If we work for a company, Dwyer Industries for example. Would it make any sense to ignore the directions and policies of the company? Would we bring in the directives of another company or listen to a mid-level manager who was making up his own policies which conflicted with the company's instruction manuals? No!


If this is the case with a work environment, how much more should we who are in a bondservant position under God be willing to submit to His guidance and instruction! And yet, how flagrantly we treat the Bible, dismissing those things which we find unsuitable to our tastes? Let us remember our state and stand fast on the counsel given in the Holy Bible. As Bengel's Gnomen states, "
They are in error, who think that God should be only internally, or only externally worshipped." Our state is one which is wholly subservient to the Lord - body and spirit. We are to worship Him with our minds, bodies, deeds, and actions.

 

Life application: What is the value of the death of Jesus Christ to you? In what esteem do you hold His cross? Is it simply a ticket to heaven but a chance for free-living until then? Or do you cherish it right here and right now as a mournful necessity occasioned by our sin? Look to the cross; cling to the cross; and boast in the cross. In doing so, you will conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the cross.

 

Lord God, there is no greater desire in my heart than to glorify You. I was purchased from the world of sin and death through the blood of Jesus Christ and therefore I am Yours. I know that You wish me to conduct my life and actions in accord with this position and I know that the way to do this is through applying Your word to my life. Therefore, give me sound instruction and right-thinking on Your word. Then I will be able to be obedient to its precepts. Thank You for hearing my prayer. Amen.

 

 

Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me:

It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 1 Corinthians 7:1

 

In these words, Paul is referring here directly to a question which had been asked of him - "Now of the things of which you wrote to me..." The first of the issues is concerning marriage and his words are probably a direct response to the question. For whatever reason, the issue of celibacy as opposed to marriage had been addressed. The term "to touch a woman" is a way of indicating marriage.

 

Paul is saying that there is nothing wrong with celibacy. In this, he uses the term kalon, "an excellent thing" instead of a word of lesser impact agathon which means merely "good." It is this terminology which was probably borrowed word for word from the letter he received. They asked his opinion and he in turn has provided it in confirmation. It would be like someone asking, "Isn't the sky really blue today?" The answer might be, "Yes, it is really blue." The words "It is good for a man not to touch a woman" then are his response.

 

Q: "Is it good for a man not to touch a woman?"

R: "Yes, it is so."

 

In other words, what Paul is saying is not intended to mean that it is better to remain celibate than to be married, but not being married is an excellent thing. He will explain his reasons why as he goes on, justifying the soundness of living a celibate life. From this beginning point, he will give quite a few details concerning marriage as well. Some will reflect the Lord's own words concerning the issue and others will be his interpretation of the state of things.

 

However, he will speak of the appropriateness of marriage throughout his thoughts. Thus it confirms that he is not using this verse as a greater or lesser comparison, but rather as a confirmatory response to a question.

 

Life application: Context is always a necessary aspect of our Bible interpretation. If we fail to consider context, we will inevitably come to faulty conclusions concerning matters which will affect our walk with the Lord and our understanding of what is sound or unacceptable for our lives.

 

How wonderfully marvelous it is to know You more each day Lord! Rising early and reading Your word sets my feet on the right path for what lies ahead. Pondering Your word as I walk along the path keeps me safe from the fiery darts which fly towards me; I am fully protected as I consider Your testimonies. And before I retire to my cherished reward at the end of the day where I can get a bit of rest, I once again open Your word and let it fill me up. And thus, my sleep is sound and filled with thoughts of You. How wonderfully marvelous it is to know You more each day Lord! Amen.

 

 

Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 1 Corinthians 7:2

 

Our second verse of chapter 7 shows us that Paul was certainly responding to a direct question in the previous verse. There he said, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman." The concept of "marriage" is connected to "touch a woman." In other words, to remain celibate is a good thing and he had no problem with such a lifestyle. He himself remained unmarried.

 

However, there is also a reason for marriage instead of celibacy which he now explains by beginning with "nevertheless." His words now are set in contrast to what he just said. The idea is, "Remaining celibate is fine, but on the other hand..." And the reason is immediately given which is "because of sexual immorality."

 

Someone who decides to remain celibate is just as likely to be tempted as he is able to refrain. If he is tempted and fails, he will then be engaged in "sexual immorality" because sex is confined to the bonds of marriage. Therefore, being celibate is a noble goal, but it is not the norm and it is bound, in many cases, to result in sin rather than devotion to the principle for which it was intended.

 

And so, because of the propensity for falling into sexual immorality, "let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband." Paul is indicating that being married is preferable to falling into sexual immorality. Although marriage increases problems and trials in many ways, it is a better option than engaging in illicit behavior which thus defiles the body of Christ (as he spoke about in detail in chapter 6).

 

It is rather unfortunate that some denominations within the church failed to heed these words of Paul and instead mandated that their clergy remain unmarried. This is for several important reasons -

 

1) It binds those who are in such positions to something which is contrary to nature.

2) It leads to exactly what Paul notes today, sexual immorality.

3) Christianity is disgraced by the actions of those who have so conducted themselves in these vile practices.

4) It is unbiblical.

 

Once sexual immorality sets into such an environment, it leads to greater perversion as sexual misconduct becomes entrenched in the clergy. And sadly, the greater sexual perversion is directed to those who are easily controlled and manipulated. It has become a horrifying result of the misuse of what God intended for His people and it has so tarnished some denominations that those outside of the church view Christianity with eyes of contempt.

 

Life application: God created woman for man and it is normal and healthy for them to be married. No other sexual relations are authorized by the Bible except those of a man and a woman who are married to each other.

 

Heavenly Father, there are things which You have mandated in Your word which are held in contempt today. Among the most prevalent is that sex is to be limited to a man and a woman who are united to one another in marriage. This precept is looked down on, shunned, and belittled by the world, but Your word asks us to be in the world but not of the world. Help us to be obedient to You above all else and never to act in a manner contrary to Your word. Amen.

 

 

Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 1 Corinthians 7:3

 

Paul is using delicate terms to speak of the marriage bed. He began to allude to this in the previous verse and he will expand on it in the verses to come. After having discussed celibacy and that it was a fine and acceptable action to take, his words to those who decide rather to be married are that they should act in a manner which demonstrates that state.


There is an affection that is due between a man and a woman who are united in marriage and it goes in both directions. If one has decided against celibacy and for marriage, then that which belongs to marriage should not be denied by either spouse. His words are subdued to avoid any hint of perversity or indecency. Instead, the marriage bed remains undefiled and he is using terms which express this.

 

Life application: When one is married, there are expectations from the spouse which are not to be denied by the other spouse. If they are, then why would they have agreed to the marriage? But they did and they therefore have obligations to provide the affection due to the other.

 

Lord God, how wonderful it is to have a wife by my side. We can walk the highway of life and experience things together which would never be as enjoyable alone. In seeing this, I see even more why You have called a Bride to yourself. What a pleasure it is to know that together we will forever enjoy the streams of goodness which flow from Your throne of grace. Until then, thank you for that little slice of heaven that I have now with my own wife, anticipating that great Day ahead. Amen.

 

 

The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 1 Corinthians 7:4

 

This verse is a truth which goes back to the very creation of man. In Genesis 2:24 it says -

 

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."

 

Because they are now "one flesh," there is an authorized control over one another that cannot be dismissed. This verse is not to be separated from the previous verses. Paul noted the appropriateness of marriage because of what would otherwise devolve into "sexual immorality." After that, he showed that a man is to give his wife due affection and the wife is to offer the same to her husband. In other words, they are not to deny the rights of the bed in marriage.

 

To further strengthen this concept, he provides this verse of clarity. "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does." The wife cannot force the husband to live as a celibate. Nor should the wife force him into even temporary celibacy. Instead, she is to offer herself to him because he possesses authority over her.

 

"And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does." In the same manner, the husband it not to deny the wife what she desires in the marriage bed too. She has like-authority over the body of her husband. Neither has a higher standing in this relationship; both are to be granted the fulfillment of their needs and desires. And the reason, based on his previous words, is obvious.

 

If either denies the other their rightful due, it will more than likely end in frustration leading to divorce or adultery. If to divorce, it may still be considered adultery (as will be seen in the coming verses). Whichever is the case though, sexual immorality (and thus sin) is the expected result. And this sin came about from denying what is otherwise a God-granted right because of the marriage vows which were taken.

 

Life application: Marriage and the marriage bed are not to be used as weapons between spouses. They are to be used to build a harmonious relationship which meets the needs and desires of one another.

 

Glorious God! Thank You for the wondrous creation You have given us. There are a seemingly infinite number of smells, tastes, and sensations to delight our minds and souls with wonder. Even those things which are offensive actually serve a purpose, because we can then have something to use as a contrast. Adam and Eve didn't know how good they had it until they lost Eden. We have that knowledge and even more... because we have the surety of being in Your presence, surrounded by delight, forever. And it's all because of the shed blood of Christ. Thank You for the Lord Jesus! Amen.

 

 

Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1 Corinthians 7:5

 

Based on his words of the previous verse, Paul now introduces a word of instruction to avoid problems which may arise between the married. Beginning with "Do not deprive one another" his intent is to show that it is not right for a man to deprive a wife, nor a woman to deprive a husband of their rightful due within the marriage. As one another's body belongs to the other, there is no "right" to deny what actually has mutual ownership.

 

However, there may be times where there may be a mutual agreement to remain temporarily celibate. It should not occur "except with consent for a time." The only reason for one to deny the other is when it was mutually agreed and then only for a short time. The verb used here is in the aorist tense showing that it is intended for brief periods at best, not for continuous years or some lengthy period. A span may be desired, for example, for mourning the loss of a loved one or possibly for seeking God's face for some reason. This is not without prior precedent. When the people were to see God's presence on Mount Sinai, they were given this instruction -

 

"So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and sanctified the people, and they washed their clothes. 15 And he said to the people, 'Be ready for the third day; do not come near your wives.'" Exodus 19:14, 15

 

In a like manner, Paul says that by mutual consent, a couple could abstain "that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer." For a higher purpose of a spiritual nature, temporary celibacy is acceptable. However, Paul understood that we are still in our frail human bodies and it is not the norm for married couples to live in such a manner. Instead, he instructs that they are to "come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."

 

Should a prolonged time of such celibacy occur in a marriage, thoughts will begin to wander, temptations will begin to arise, and the flesh will make itself known once again. In such a weakened state, Satan will come to tempt even the strongest person. Many pastors and other followers of Christ have fallen because of such enticement. And this comes from a "lack of self-control." This is the natural thing which occurs when someone is weakened through temptation.


King David found this out personally as have so many others. There was probably no initial thought in his mind that he would disobey the Lord's command. But in his weak state he succumbed to adultery and then murder to cover it up. If this can happen to Israel's sweet psalmist who penned words of beauty to the Lord even in the most trying circumstances, how certain is it that we too can fall in this manner!

 

Life application: God, through Paul's hand, has given us these instructions for intimate conduct between a man and a woman who are married. If they are not adhered to, or if the man or the woman intentionally violates what He has instructed, it is sin. Be ready to perform the duties which you promised when you made the original vow of marriage to your spouse.

 

Heavenly Father, I want to thank You today for those You have placed in my life and who have such a positive effect on me. You have blessed me with a wife beyond compare, children who have blessed me in ways they cannot imagine, people who help me with words of comfort, actions of support, and times of happiness and fellowship. I'm blessed with a great group with whom I worship and wonderful people that I work with. Lord, just thinking on all the people who are in my life - close by or as distant friends who I only hear from occasionally, I feel so blessed - even to overflowing. Thank You for the intimacy of such people. Amen.

 

 

But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. 1 Corinthians 7:6

 

This verse has caused great conflict between scholars as to exactly what Paul is speaking of. First, some translations say, "But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment" (KJV). The intent of what Paul says then becomes unclear. Some have taken it that the "permission" is something that was granted him to say, but not as a commandment. This is not the intent at all.

 

Rather, the word "concession" shows what he means much better. He is leaving the details of the lives of believers, whether they decide to remain celibate or get married, up to the individuals. However, as we will see, he is doing it with his own personal advice on the matter (this will be seen in the coming verses).

 

The second area of conflict is exactly what Paul says is a concession. Is it from 7:1? Is it from the preceding verse? What is it is that he is not commanding, but rather is giving as sound instruction? The answer is clear from the text itself. Verse 7:1 said, "Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me:" In response to the first question, he began with his instruction on celibacy verses marriage. During this entire set of verses, and for the next two to come, he is giving personal advice on the matter. He has not issued any command, but is merely responding as he believes is appropriate.

 

When we come to verse 7:10, he will issue a "command." At this point, the words of concession end and direct obedience to the words issued is expected. Until that time, his words are intended for a sound contemplation of the issues of celibacy and marriage. Both are authorized by God and so it is obvious that there are no commands concerning the issues, but rather words of wisdom which will keep the individual or married couple free from unhappiness in their chosen state.

 

Understanding this brings us to the third difficulty. Are the words of Paul inspired or not during these first 9 verses? He is claiming that his words are a concession or an "allowance" for believers to follow. If they are his words, and he is not claiming inspiration in the matter, are the words truly to be considered a portion of the word of God and thus inspired?

 

The answer is "yes." They are written by Paul as he was carried along by the Holy Spirit. Regardless as to whether his words are merely descriptive, prescriptive, for exhortation, for advice, or for instruction, they are the words God intended for the particular subject in question.

 

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:5, "Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia (for I am passing through Macedonia)." This is merely a descriptive thought. Paul is describing what will happen. Nothing is required for us, and yet it is inspired because God intended for this thought to be in the Bible.

 

In 1 Corinthians 5:11 he says, "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." This is a prescriptive verse, a command, that is to be followed in Corinth and in all churches at all times. Obedience is expected and something is required for us, and it is inspired because God intends for us to be obedient to His directive, given through Paul.


The same is true with all other forms of writing used in Scripture - wisdom, poetry, history, advice and counsel, instruction, etc. Each has a place and all are inspired. They are exactly what God wants for us to be built up and edified with.


Life application: Understanding context and also style of biblical writing is extremely important to grasp what is being said, to whom, and for what purpose. Arching over all of this though is the expectation that we believe that the Bible is truly God's word. If we accept this premise, then we will properly apply the context and style to our walk with the Lord. Dismissing even one verse of Scripture because we disagree with it will unravel the entire tapestry of the word and it also demonstrates that we believe that what God says is less important that what we desire; it is idolatry. Let us carefully and tenderly handle God's precious word.

 

Oh God, how amazing it is to read Your word and to ponder the beauty which is contained in it. Despite thousands of years of analysis and study, new revelations, patterns, pictures, and secrets are gleaned from it day by day. It is a timeless and precious wonder which is beyond compare. Forgive us for the dust which settles upon it as we neglect it. Forgive us for shunning it, deriding it, and ignoring it. Help us, O God, Your people, to accept it, cherish it, and study it all our days. Thank You for Your superior word. Amen.

 

 

For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. 1 Corinthians 7:7

 

Paul's words here are debated, not because they are difficult to understand, but because of presuppositions in those who read what he has penned. This is true with much of the Bible. What we already believe will affect what we read and assimilate. It is difficult, but not impossible, to set our presuppositions aside, but it is always the right course to take.

 

He begins with, "For I wish that all men were even as I myself." This is the disputed portion of the verse. Paul was unmarried as we can glean from 1 Corinthians 7:8. Because of this, those who prefer the single, celibate life will naturally tend to infer that he means that he "wished all were unmarried as he was." This however is not what Paul means. He is speaking of his ability to control his sexual desires, even in his unmarried state. He wished that all had the same control as he did.

 

This is obviously the correct rendering for several reasons. First, marriage is a God-instituted rite and was given to man for the very reason of having a partner that man could join with. Secondly, if all were celibate as he was, there would have been one generation of Christians and then the faith would have ended. And thirdly, he has already given instructions to both the married and the unmarried and they deal with proper handling of sex, not just abstinence, as the main issue.

 

Instead of improperly engaging in sexual activity, he finishes this thought with, "But each has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that." In other words, some have the gift of remaining unmarried and not being tempted in their celibacy. Others have the desire and urge to engage in a relationship and so God has given them the right to such a relationship in marriage. Thus, even these words, "one in this manner and one in that," demonstrate that he is not saying that he wished all remained unmarried, "but that every one had the same grace of continence which he himself was endowed with." (CJ Ellicott).

 

Life application: Whether we decide to remain unmarried or to marry, we are to abstain from sexual immorality in the state we are in. God has ordained that sex be confined to a man and a woman who are married to one another.

 

XXX Though many trials and temptations may come my way

I pray for strength to remain faithful to You, O God

Grant me the ability to turn and walk away

From any form of sin which lies ahead on the path I trod

 

Oh, that I would be faithful to Your word!

And that I would never displease You with the life I live

Help me to bring honor and glory to You my Lord

In this one life which to me You did give

 

Thank You for Your kind hand of grace upon me

And thank You for looking after Your other children, all of us

I know that it is a gift which is granted for all eternity

And it came through the precious shed blood of Jesus

 

Lord, You have given each of us gifts, abilities, and strengths. But we also have failings and weaknesses. Help us to use the positives to overcome the weaknesses so that we can be pleasing to You with each moment that we breathe and each step that we take. When we fall short, help us to get up, shake off the dust, and continue down the right path which leads to pleasing You. Amen.

 

 

But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am;... 1 Corinthians 7:8

 

This is a follow up to the question levied to Paul about being celibate as opposed to getting married. He answered the question about celibacy, spoke of marriage, and has returned to both those who are unmarried, and those who were married but who are now widows. He is doing this because eventually the question would have been made, "Does his advice on celibacy and marriage pertain in these circumstances too?"

 

He is presenting a logical, orderly, and complete response to their question. And so "to the unmarried and to the widows" he gives guidance - "It is good for them if they remain even as I am." In other words, there is nothing wrong with never getting married, nor is there anything wrong with a widow remaining a widow. Having said that, he is neither mandating this, nor is he saying that there is something wrong with getting married or getting remarried. In fact, in 1 Timothy, he will give this advice concerning younger widows -

 

"But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully." 1 Timothy 5:12-14

 

Everything must be taken in context and the reason behind each statement must be considered. To take any of these individual verses from Paul and use them as a stand-alone text, will inevitably result in bad doctrine. Eventually, things like Catholic doctrine where priests are to remain unmarried will result from a misinterpretation of Scripture and then other, much greater, problems will inevitably arise within the church.

 

Life application: The Bible covers the main issues that we need for the conduct of our lives. If we properly apply it, we will be in good shape as we live lives of holiness and purity in the presence of the Lord.

 

How wonderful it is to have Your word to rely on, Lord. When troubles and questions arise which are difficult for me to resolve, I can go there and find out what You would have for me to do. And as You are the Creator of man and the Author of the manual for man, I know that I will always find the right and proper resolution to my needs. Thank You for such attentive care for us, the work of Your hands. Amen.

 

 

...but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 1 Corinthians 7:9

 

This is the second half of the previous thought to the unmarried. Paul said that it was good if they remained even as he was (meaning unmarried), "but if they cannot exercise self control, let them marry." This is obvious. If someone who is unmarried is filled with the desires that come about in such a state, they should then get married.

 

The surety is that desire leads to action and action in this case is sin because sex is to be between a man and a woman in the bonds of marriage. Referring back to Paul's statements in chapter 6, a Christian is "in" Christ and therefore to engage in illicit sex is to sin against Christ directly.

And so Paul goes on by saying, "For it is better to marry than to burn with passion." To understand this in a way not evident in the English, the Pulpit Commentary provides an analysis of the Greek tense of the verbs -

 

"The 'marry' is in the aorist - 'to marry once for all,' and live in holy married union; the 'burn' is in the present - 'to be on fire with concupiscence.' Marriage once for all is better than continuous lust; the former is permitted, the latter sinful."

 

Paul's words here follow on the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:27, 28 -

 

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

 

The Bible teaches that intent to sin is sin. We are given a remedy for the sins we face concerning sexual desire in today's verse. However, there are instances where the physical needs cannot be met for whatever reason. In those cases, additional prayer and communion with the Lord is needed. This is no different than an alcoholic or drug addict who must learn to focus on Christ and to rely on Him. We are given our instructions and we need to strive to conduct our lives in holiness and in a manner which is honoring to the Lord.

 

Life application: The Bible shows us that we need to make decisions that may be difficult, but they are never unattainable. By staying in the word, walking closely with the Lord, and fellowshipping with other believers, we can be victorious over our sinful actions and desires.

 

Heavenly Father, how often I fail You! Were it not for the cross of Jesus, that eternal void between You and me would be a horrifying thought to contemplate. But because of what He did there at Calvary, there is hope, there is forgiveness, and there is the wondrous surety that I am forgiven and free. What kind of love is this! You are beyond glorious in how You have dealt with Your wayward child. Thank You, O God. Amen.

 

 

Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 1 Corinthians 7:10

 

So far, Paul has been addressing the unmarried and those considering marriage. He now turns to those who are married and begins with, "Now to the married I command..." This is something that is expected to be adhered to at all costs and is not up to the audience's wishes or desires. It is a set, fixed, and firm rule. And to further bolster this, he adds, "yet not I but the Lord." In other words, this is a command based on the words of Christ Jesus. Paul is taking extreme care to show that his words are the Lord's words. They are fixed and inviolable.

 

And the command from the Lord which is re-transmitted by Paul is that, "A wife is not to depart from her husband." If a person is married, they are to remain married. It is a solemn agreement to one another that was conducted in the presence of God, regardless as to whether they were believers at the time. It is also regardless of whether one or both have since called on Christ.

 

The reason for this instruction probably came about because of a question from Christian spouses who may have been concerned as to whether it was unlawful for them to be married to one who is a pagan. It is also possible that Paul's earlier words about it being good for individuals to remain unmarried may be misconstrued to mean that separating is acceptable and even the favorable position. But the Lord's words on this issue must stand and they are those spoken by Him in the gospels, including Mark 10:11, 12 -

 

"So He said to them, 'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.'"

 

The issue of divorce wasn't merely a dispensational issue (meaning under the time of the law or during the church age, etc.). Instead it is an issue which transcends dispensations and is an eternal decree. Marriages are not to be treated carelessly and married people are to remain married until death. Paul will explain why as he continues and he will also provide other pertinent information concerning marriage and divorce.

 

In the end, there is only one exception to the rule on divorce which is if a spouse commits adultery. In our society, we will look for any and every excuse to be disobedient to this command, but there is none other than adultery. Let us pay heed to these words and consider them carefully. The Lord has spoken and our obedience is expected.

Life application: Is it a light thing to ignore Jesus' words concerning marriage? If we are willing to violate His command on this issue, then what type of follower does that show us to be? Let us remain united to the one we chose as our spouse and never dare to ignore the commands of Christ.

 

Heavenly Father, there are things recorded in Your word which are difficult for me to obey, but who am I to be disobedient to what You have commanded? Grant me the resolute and determined state of mind that I will be obedient to You no matter what. I know that I am forgiven already because of Christ, but that cannot be an excuse to be disobedient to Your word. Instead, it should be the impetus for gratitude and an even closer adherence to it. Help me to remember this and to stand fast in my faith and practice. Amen.

 

 

But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. 1 Corinthians 7:11

 

This verse follows on from the instruction in verse 10. It is another regularly neglected and abused tenet from Scripture, and yet it is clear and concise. If a woman has departed from her husband, she needs to "remain unmarried." Excuses as to "why" a woman left her husband (with the noted exception of adultery) are irrelevant. No other words are given which negate this precept and Paul's words here are not merely cultural or passing away. They are doctrine for the church. To disobey them is to disobey the Lord who inspired the words.

 

And so in this case, the woman is to "remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband." This brings up an obvious problem though. What if the husband has gone and remarried? In this case, it would imply that the marriage bond is irretrievably broken and therefore she would be free from this constraint. However, it is not explicitly, but only implicitly to be inferred. No matter what, the stricter judgment on this matter is preferred. It is not acceptable for a woman to leave her husband and go to marry another.

But there is more. Paul then explains that "a husband is not to divorce his wife." This follows on from Jesus' words in Matthew 5:32 -

 

"But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery."

 

These words from the Lord, and also from Paul, show us that the marriage bond within the Christian context is to be held in the highest regard and is to be considered sacred. It is a violation of the will of the Lord for couples to divorce for any reason except adultery.

 

Life application: When you said, "I do" you were confining yourself before God to the bonds of a marriage that are not to be dissolved except through death. Divorce is not an acceptable alternative to unhappiness. Having said "I do" you should always be content with the thought that "I still do."

 

Lord, it is beyond imagination to me how we can call on You to be saved and then not want to know You intimately through the study of Your word. The Bible is the most wonderful gift, the greatest treasure, and the most uplifting joy that I can imagine. And yet we go to church and hear sermons that rarely if ever show us the beauty and marvel of what is contained in its pages. Help us to get our thoughts and hearts directed toward You and give us a desire to know Your word more each day. Amen.

 

 

But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.  1 Corinthians 7:12

 

Paul has addressed those who wish to remain celibate, those who are widowed, and those who are married. However, he will now discuss a new group and his words are immensely important. The reason why will be given, but it actually deals with those who are affected by the marriage as much as those who are married. The issue he will now address is that of mixed marriages, where one is a believer and one is not.

To begin, he says, "But to the rest I, not the Lord, say..." He is very careful to mark a distinction between the directives personally given by the Lord and those that are given by him. His words, however, have no less import than those of the Lord. This is because they are a part of the Bible which is God's word. They are given under the inspiration of the Spirit and must be considered authoritative. And so he begins with, "If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her."

 

A believing man with a non-believing spouse may not divorce her because she is an unbeliever. He got himself into the marriage and he has no right (with the previously noted exception of adultery) to terminate the marriage. The fact that he is (or became) a believer and she is a non-believer is irrelevant. He is obligated to his vows and he must stay with his wife no matter what. Again, reasons will be given for this, and they will not only affect the husband and the wife, but others as well. And it includes a reason that addresses a theological issue which goes all the way back to the fall of man.

 

Life application: As with the previous verses, we can clearly see that there is no reason, apart from adultery, to terminate a marriage. We cannot "excuse" our actions in divorce. And yet divorce has become as common as going to the store for groceries. The Lord cannot be pleased with the flagrant disregard of this by His people.

 

Lord, how often I error in my thoughts and actions and then try to make excuses for the wrong I have committed. Forgive me for trying to justify the unjustifiable and grant me the wisdom to accept my faults, confess them as faults, and determine to not make them in the future. And keep me filled with Your word so that I can recognize what is wrong before it comes my way and to stay on the correct and noble path. Thank You Lord. Amen.

 

 

 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 1 Corinthians 7:13

 

This verse is the flip side of what Paul said in verse 12 - "If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her." By saying this, he is confirming that there is no excuse by either spouse, if a believer, for leaving the marriage relationship. They are bound to their oath regardless if it was made before conversion or not, and even if the other spouse fails to call on Christ.


The reason for his words are coming in the next verse and they show us the immense importance of remaining married, even to an unbeliever.

 

Life application: We are expected to remain committed to our spouse. We are not granted "wiggle room" in this.

 

Lord God, help each of us to be obedient to Your word and to cling to what is right, even if it means our unhappiness for a while. In the end, obedience to You in a state of difficulty or sadness is surely preferable to disobedience accompanied by temporary happiness. Help us to think this through O God. Surely Your word is always given for our ultimate good and for a closer walk with You. Amen.

 

 

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. 1 Corinthians 7:14

 

Paul now states a truth about marriage that affects the children of the marriage. It is a tenet which is so remarkable that this verse should be remembered by every believer. There is a premise in the Bible which is inescapable and which goes all the way back to the fall of man. God created our first father, Adam. At this time, there was a spiritual connection between the man and his God.


However, Adam was given a warning -

 

"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.'" Genesis 2:16, 17

 

The narrative goes on to show that Adam disobeyed God. However, he continued to live until the age of 930 years. This shows us one of two possibilities:

 

1) Either what God said wasn't true, or

2) The man did die, spiritually.


The second is correct and it is the premise of the Bible from that point on. Adam became a physical being with a soul, but no "spiritual" connection to God; he died spiritually. What is implied throughout the rest of Scripture is that all men are born into Adam. We are physical beings, with a soul, but no "spiritual" connection to God. We are conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5) and are spiritually dead and thus all are "condemned already" (John 3:18 & Ephesians 2:1, etc).

 

This is actually confirmed implicitly in the account of Cain and Abel. They brought an offering to the Lord without the Bible noting any offense committed by them before the offering was made. In essence, the implication is that they understood this spiritual disconnect existed in them. And the fact that sin reigned is evident by the actions of Cain who killed his brother. Thus Paul's words, "all have sinned" confirms that we are born in sin; it is inherited and we are born separate from God; spiritually dead.

 

Time and again, the Bible uses this concept of being "in" someone to remind us that we are all descendants of Adam by blood and thus we are "in" Adam. This is why there are such meticulous genealogies recorded in both Testaments of the Bible.  It is to show that connection all the way back to Adam who was created by God. When Adam sinned, we therefore sinned "in" Adam. Paul explains this in Romans 5:12 -

 

"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned." Romans 5:12

 

Jesus came to repair this spiritual disconnect. Without Him, there is no hope for restoration to God. Only through Him can the breech be repaired. Understanding the rite of circumcision will help us comprehend this. Circumcision was given as a sign to the covenant people. It pictures "cutting away" the inherited sin, because that sin transfers through the father. Thus, by cutting the male organ, the sin is pictured to be "cut away." As it was only a picture, the covenant people waited for the Messiah who would actually fulfill that picture.

 

When Jesus came, He was born of a woman (thus He is fully human), but without a human father. He inherited no sin from Adam. His Father being God (thus He is fully God) meant that He was born without sin. Therefore, He was qualified to replace Adam. The four gospels are then given to provide a record of His life. He was born without sin, just as Adam was created without sin. But He still needed to live without sin. The gospels show this to be the case. He lived without sin, prevailed over the law, and He died under the law without sin. Therefore, He prevailed over sin. In Him, sin (and thus spiritual death) is defeated. The Lamb had overcome.

So what does this have to do with 1 Corinthians 7:14? Paul says, "
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband." This does not mean that they are "saved" through the unbelieving spouse. But it sanctifies them for a very important reason. And this reason is that, "otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy."

 

The inherited sin of Adam exists in all people from the moment of conception. We are conceived, born, and live separate from God until the time we call on Christ and are spiritually regenerated (John 3:16, Romans 8, etc). If we never call on Christ, we will die "in Adam" and thus separate from God. But in His great mercy, God has allowed these children of a believer to be regarded as "holy" until the time that they are old enough to choose or reject Christ. Nothing "unclean" can ever enter into God's presence and, therefore, no child is saved - at any age - without Christ's covering.


In the case of a Christian family though, these children are set apart. However, if the marriage is dissolved by the believer, this is lost. Therefore, the sanctification of the parents is necessary to provide this set-apart state for the children. Without it, they are no longer set-apart. This may sound like a cruel and uncaring God, but it is exactly the opposite. He allows us free-will. From Adam to us we have made our choices and we must live by them. But He has also offered us His Son and the protections which come through Him. Therefore, what we perceive as uncaring is actually a demonstration of the greatest grace and mercy imaginable!

 

Life application: Our earthly choices can have spiritual consequences that we don't even realize unless we study and then adhere to the Bible's precepts. Let us also never impute "wrongdoing" or a state of "uncaring" to God. Rather, let us exalt Him for His unmerited grace and mercy.

 

Lord God, Your word shows the most wonderful, caring, and glorious love for Your people. Despite our choices which have separated us from You, You have come and intervened in the affairs of man to make all things right once again. You have sent Jesus to quicken our spirits and to restore us to fellowship with You. Thank You for this great and marvelous Gift of life! Thank You for our Lord Jesus! Amen.

 

 

But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. 1 Corinthians 7:15

 

Jesus had said that the only reason for divorce is adultery. When saying this, He was speaking to the covenant people, Israel, and at a time which was under the law. Paul, now writing to the church for church-age doctrine, has been careful to repeat Jesus' words and note that they are, in fact, His words. After citing that, he said in verse 12, "But to the rest I, not the Lord, say..."

 

He then went on to say that a believer cannot leave a non-believing spouse and he gave a very important reason for it. Verse 15 is still a part of Paul's personal directions and it may seem, at first, contrary to Jesus' words, but it is not. He is being carried by the Spirit and his words have become a part of God's word.

 

"But" begins this verse and it is in contrast to the two previous verses. "If the unbeliever departs, let him depart." This goes in either direction, whether the unbeliever is a man or a woman, but he uses the masculine for both as will be seen in a moment. Either way, if an unbeliever wants to be out of the marriage, then the believer may let them go. In fact, they probably don't have any choice in the matter in most countries and cultures anyway. If they want to go and can go, then there is nothing which mandates that they must stay.

 

Paul then explains this position by saying that "a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases." We, as believers, have been brought out from the bondage of sin to a new master. To be in a different form of bondage wouldn't suit our new position and calling, and it could only be detrimental to our walk with the Lord. Therefore, to release the unbeliever is acceptable when they wish to go. And the reason is that "God has called us to peace."

 

We are His and we are to live in peace under His authority. If our allegiances are skewed because of a marriage fraught with conflict and trial, then we are not living in the peace which He intends for us. And so in this verse we have the only other reason which is biblically acceptable for dissolving a marriage. Understanding this then, we need to think rationally and carefully about our marriage choices and do our utmost to adhere to the commands of the Bible.

 

Life application: Let us stand firm on the Bible, even through those issues which may be difficult or even displeasing. We have been called to obey the prescriptive statements made there and it is unwise and inappropriate to pick and choose which ones we will adhere to.

 

Heavenly Father, again I look at Your word and I see commands which are hard for me to accept at given times of my life. But if I am honestly concerned about pleasing You, I will accept them as written and in the context in which they are given. Those which apply to me directly will be those things which I will determine to do, even if they are hard to meet or unpleasant to me. Your will O God, not mine! Amen.

 

 

For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? 1 Corinthians 7:16

 

In this verse, Paul certainly returns to the thoughts given in verses 12 and 13 which read -

 

"But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him."

 

The reason for a believer not being allowed to depart from a non-believer has especially been given in verse 14 when considering the state of the children. Paul was very careful to note that the children are considered "holy" because of the marriage bond which exists, even if one is an unbeliever. Along with that most important of reasons, Paul gives another reason for the believer to remain with the non-believer, and he does it in the form of two questions:

 

"For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?"

 

It very well may be that the non-believing husband or wife may come to salvation through the marriage by observing the conduct and witness of the believer. Our happiness or unhappiness in a marriage is of far less value than the salvation of even one person that we may no longer be in love with. Our lives are called to be witnesses to Christ, even in a marriage which is unsatisfactory.

 

The verse also confirms that the "sanctified" status of the non-believer which Paul spoke of in verse 14 had nothing to do with salvation, but was rather directed solely to the setting apart of the children as "holy." Also, Paul is not saying that the husband or wife could actually "save" the non-believer. Only Jesus can do this. He is implying that their actions would lead to Jesus saving them. This should be obvious, but still is worth stating.

 

Having noted this about the connection to verses 12 and 13, it is also likely that the thought of verse15 is considered in this verse as well. That verse said -

 

"But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace."

 

Taking that verse and tying it to verse 16 (our verse being analyzed now), Paul may also be saying that allowing the non-believing spouse to depart is acceptable because there is no way that they could know the outcome of the marriage. If they refused to allow the non-believer to depart as they wished because they were thinking they could "save" the non-believer, it could inevitably lead to strife which is in opposition to the statement that "God has called us to peace."

 

So, in all situations, the onus is on the believer to 1) never voluntarily depart from the marriage; 2) to allow the non-believer to stay if they wish; and 3) to allow the non-believer to go if they wish. The free-will choice of the non-believer takes precedence, just as the free-will choice of an individual to accept or reject Jesus as Savior takes precedence. This free-will choice of the non- believer pictures the freedom God has given us in our marriage relationship to Him and shows implicitly that the doctrine of being "regenerated in order to believe" is false. Free-will is granted to humans concerning our relationship with Christ and free-will is granted to the non-believer to stay in the marriage or to depart from it.

 

Life application: God, through His word, asks us to be willing to sacrifice our own happiness for the sake of our marriage. Our choices, when self-centered, will inevitably turn out bad. But when we are obedient to God's word, there is a chance that things will turn out for both our happiness and an increase in the kingdom through the conversion of others. Let us adhere to God's word even if it is contrary to our happiness.

Glorious and wonderful God! How good it is to rise early and hear the light breeze on the leaves. It is marvelous to hear the birds coming to their morning activity, flitting about and singing the songs You have taught them. And the smells of the dawning day are vibrant and alive - flowers opening, coffee brewing, the dew on the grass. The morning is a special time where I can sit back and enjoy being in Your presence in a special way. Thank You for the morning time, O God. Amen.

 

 

But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches. 1 Corinthians 7:17

 

The words now issued by Paul reach back to cover the preceding 6 verses (10-16) and at the same time they are an introduction to other concepts which Paul will comment on. In verses 10 and 11 came the Lord's command concerning marriage; that it should not be terminated through divorce. Then in 12 and 13, he noted that the believing spouse was not to depart from an unbelieving spouse and he gave the reason for it in verse 14. After this, he qualified the marriage arrangement by saying that the unbeliever, if he or she wishes to depart from the marriage, should be allowed to depart.

 

These are the thoughts which are included in the all-encompassing "But God has distributed to each one..." In other words, the position that one is found in when they became a believer was so chosen by God for that time in their lives; it was not unknown to Him and He understands the details and complexities of the situation. Because of this, what He has allowed should remain. Thus, "as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk."


This phrase means that we are to remain in whatever state we were in when we were "called." We cannot say, "Because I am now a Christian, God would want me to leave my unbelieving spouse." Nor can we find any other excuse to be disobedient to His word because we are now "in Christ." Rather, He selected the path we are on and we are to walk it, regardless of the weight of the load upon our shoulders, because it really is no true weight which we bear alone. Instead it is one which Christ shares with us. From this stepping stone, Paul will continue with this line of reasoning in the verses ahead.


For now though, he shows that what he is telling the Corinthians is not arbitrary or suddenly enacted by him. Rather, the instructions he is giving are consistently applied elsewhere as well. As he says, "
And so I ordain in all the churches." Since the writing of the epistle, and because it is included in the canon of Scripture, it is set and fixed. It is a part of God's word and thus we are to be obedient to it, just as obedience was expected on these matters from those in Corinth.


Life application: As believers, we can't use the past as an excuse to get out of our present situation. God has directed our steps which lead to the moment we called on Christ and He did so knowing the baggage that we brought along with us. In His wisdom, He has placed us where we are for His reasons. Let us accept our state with gratitude and work within it as faithful servants of Christ.

 

I will love You, O Lord, my might
The Lord is my rock and my fortress too

He is my deliverer, through day and night
My God, my strength, Him I will trust all my days through


My shield and the horn of my salvation

My stronghold, it is He
I will call upon the Lord with elation

He is worthy to be praised now and for all eternity

 

Lord God, I remember the day that my heartstrings were pulled and I met Your Son. It was a moment that I will never forget and it was a time of immense joy and yet sadness. The feelings of sorrow for having walked apart from Him for so long, and in a way which was contrary to You. But the joy was, and still is, exceedingly far greater. All the past was forgiven and the future became certain and clear. Thank You for the day I met my Lord. Amen.

 

 

Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. 1 Corinthians 7:18

 

In the previous verse, this was noted: "But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk." In addition to the verses which preceded this thought and which pertained to marriage, Paul now gives other real-life examples of what he means, beginning with circumcision.

 

To the Jews, circumcision was the sign of the covenant and a sign of being the covenant people. It was first given to Abraham and it was noted at that time that "...the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant." Genesis 17:14

 

Throughout the history of Israel, circumcision continued to be used as a standard by which the faithful were measured. To those Jews or proselytes to Judaism who came to Christ and who were already circumcised, Paul directs, "Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised."

 

It might be that some converts to Christ may have been anxious to do away with the badge of their previous life in Judaism and go to a surgeon in an attempt to change what had been previously been marked upon them in this way. Paul says that this shouldn't be considered. Rather, he is asked to remember that as the Lord called him while circumcised, so let him walk in that circumcision.

 

And the reciprocal is true as well. He next states, "Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised." For those gentiles who were coming into the faith, Paul now gives the amazing words of release from this ancient rite by stating that their condition, at the time of their calling, was of higher importance than that of the rite of circumcision.


To understand this, it needs to be remembered that we are saved by grace through faith. To attempt to earn God's favor through circumcision would be to set aside the grace of God in an attempt to be justified by the works of human hands. Paul spends much of the book of Galatians explaining this and calls such attempts out as heresy. And to those who require such things, he notes them as heretics who proclaim
"a different gospel, which is not another" (Galatians 1:6, 7). Rather it is something which is accursed.

 

Life application: Let us again consider Paul's words "as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk." Did you have a tattoo when you came to Christ? If so, don't let someone bully you into thinking that you must have it removed. Did you eat pork before you came to Christ? Don't let anyone tell you that you must now stop. There are things which should be changed, but they are explained in Scripture. Those things which are not mandated to be changed are things which we are at liberty to keep just as they are.

 

Heavenly Father, I love the freedom I have in Christ. I was accepted by You by mere faith in His work and His ability to save. I will cling fast to that freedom and always remember that I was saved by grace through faith, and that it was all from You. Help me to continuously remember that I cannot "earn" your favor through any works, nor can I add to it in any way. Instead, I am saved, remain saved, and will never lose that precious salvation - all because of the work of Another, my Lord Jesus! Hallelujah and Amen.

 

 

Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. 1 Corinthians 7:19

 

The confusion that reigns over this verse in the minds of some is immense. Paul could not be clearer in the first half of the thought - "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing." For the believer in Christ, it makes absolutely no difference whether one is circumcised or not. As seen in a previous verse, almost the entire book of Galatians deals with this one subject which is used as the premier example of the Law of Moses, circumcision. It was given by God to Abraham as a sign to the covenant people and the mandate is repeated in Exodus and Leviticus. However, it served its purpose and was fulfilled in Christ.


Now whether one is a Jew who is circumcised, or a Gentile who is not, there is no difference between the two. The circumcision has no bearing at all on their status before God because a believer in Christ is circumcised in the heart (Romans 2:29). The external rite is fulfilled and thus set aside in Christ. However, cults, aberrant teachers, and those who run ahead without knowledge still mandate this rite and thus promote a false gospel. As noted, it could not be clearer, and yet the waters get muddied.

 

And this leads to the second half of the verse which can likewise become muddied, both by those who mandate circumcision, or even by those who understand circumcision is no longer required. Paul says that "keeping the commandments of God is what matters." The obvious connection of "the commandments of God" to "circumcision" should be made. When was circumcision mandated? Under the Law of Moses! Is circumcision still required? No! Therefore, "keeping the commandments of God" cannot be speaking of the Law of Moses or any part of it!

 

This is the force and intent of Paul's words now and is (as noted above) the meaning and purpose behind his words in Galatians. If circumcision is used as a benchmark of the law, and circumcision is set aside in Christ, then all of the precepts of the Law of Moses are set aside in Christ. This is stated explicitly in Hebrews 7, 8, and 10, and both explicitly and implicitly elsewhere. It is:

 

1) Annulled (Hebrews 7:18)

2) Obsolete (Hebrews 8:13)

3) Taken away (Hebrews 10:9)

4) Wiped out, taken out of the way, and nailed to the cross (Colossian 2:14)

5) Etc. elsewhere in multiple statements, explicitly and implicitly

 

So what are "the commandments of God" which Paul is speaking of? They are found in Jesus' words which are directed to believers after the cross, not those directed to Israel under the law. The are also found in the prescriptive verses of the book of Acts which make up a very small portion of the book, possibly no more than five percent of it. And finally, they are found in the New Testament epistles. These, in particular, are doctrine for the church based on the fulfillment of the Law of Moses by Christ.

 

To reinsert the law, or to pick and choose portions of the law - such as mandating circumcision, no eating pork, or observing a Sabbath, etc, is to set aside the grace of Christ and is "another gospel" and thus heresy. We must trust that Christ is the fulfillment of the law and that His work is sufficient to save us, wholly and entirely. And yet, we must also understand that His work in salvation does not give us license to sin by ignoring prescriptive elements of the New Testament. For example, women who preach violate New Testament law based on Paul's words to those in Corinth and also his words to Timothy. This is an example of what Paul is referring to here. It is a willful disobedience of what God has shown He expects of New Testament believers.


Life application: If you allow yourself to be circumcised in an attempt to meet the standards of the law, the Bible says that you have "set aside" the grace of Christ and have become a debtor to the whole law. As no one can fulfill the law, it is a self-condemning act. This is true with any precept of the law fulfilled by Christ. Don't be led astray by a false teacher who boasts in works of the flesh and negates the glorious work of Jesus Christ!

 

Glorious God Almighty! The power and the marvel that You display in the heavens is beyond imagination. Pulsars and quasars put out more energy in a moment than we could mentally comprehend in a lifetime. The forces of gravity are consistent and they hold the universe together in a way which allows all things to continue as they should. And yet, despite the unimaginable power of these things, You tend to our hearts and needs as if we were the sole apple of Your eye. How great is Your love. How wondrous is Your glory! Amen.

 

 

Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. 1 Corinthians 7:20

 

This verse is a repeat of the thought given in the second half of verse 17, which said,
"
as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk." He has been speaking about circumcision and has said that "circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing." And this came after his words that those who were circumcised when they were called should stay that way and those who were uncircumcised when they were called should likewise stay that way.

 

His thought now in verse 20, is given as a confirmation of this. Whatever was our calling when we were called is where we are expected to remain. In order to show that this is not limited to circumcision, but that it is an overall precept to show that we are acceptable to Christ in the station in which we were called, he will give a new example in the coming verses, that of slavery.

 

Shouldn't it be obvious that if Jesus accepted us in a certain condition, that we thus must be acceptable to Him? And yet, many then spend the rest of their walk with Christ trying to please the One who already found them acceptable. In this, they forget that grace is grace and so they attempt to find justification in their own personal works and not in the work of Christ. It is a sad cycle which can lead to neurotic believers who waffle in their convictions and are always worried about "losing" the eternal salvation they have been granted.


It should again be noted that remaining in the calling in which one is called does not refer to the abusive and forbidden lifestyles referred to in Scripture. One cannot say, "I was called as a homosexual and therefore I can remain a practicing homosexual." This is what we are called from, not to. A person is not called from circumcision. This is a thing that they already possessed which is not contrary to New Testament doctrine. Freedom in Christ never means freedom to sin.

 

Life application: If Christ is the end of the law, then let the law be ended! Don't reinsert precepts which will only bring you into bondage and mental confusion.

 

Oh God, some days I arise and I am as tired as when I went to bed. The day ahead of me seems long and filled with toil. Often I have stress between myself and someone else. These things can seem so hard to overcome. But at such times, I would ask that You would grant me sufficient peace in my mind to be able to go to Your word and read enough to settle my soul. I know that if I have this, the rest of the day will fall into place. You have all things under control and Your precious word is there to remind me of this. Thank You for being with me each step of the way. Amen.

 

 

Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. 1 Corinthians 7:21

 

Paul now refers to the second major issue tied to what he said in verse 17 - " But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk." This second issue is slavery. He asks a question of those who are bound in slavery, "Were you called while a slave?"

 

Slavery is something that has occurred throughout human history and has come in different forms, from complete bondage and absolute rule, to simply being owned by another yet with varying amounts of freedom, but without pay for the work which is performed. The Old Testament details provisions for slavery, how certain slaves are to be treated, and the rights which slaves bore within the context of Israelite society.

 

In the Roman Empire of Paul's time, a large portion of the population were bound under slavery and it was as common and accepted as the general paid-labor force is in the world today. The difference mostly centered on the amount of freedom offered to slaves. In coming to Christ, the individual slave may feel that his allegiances were now confused. He or she is bound to a master and yet they have committed to Christ. This might have brought about a level of concern or anxiety concerning their position.

 

His question as to their state when they called on Christ is to show them that there is no true complication in the matter. If they are slaves now as he writes and they were slaves when they we called, then there currently is no change in their state. Christ called them while they were in servitude and they were accepted by Him. And so, He understands the dilemma they feel which to Him is no dilemma at all. Because of this he continues with, "Do not be concerned about it..."

 

If Christ wasn't worried about it, then they shouldn't be either. The allegiance they have to Him is one that will not conflict with the allegiance they have with their own master. They are to remain obedient to their rightful owner and what he expects. A good example of this actually comes from the Old Testament. It is found in 2 Kings 5. A Syrian officer, Naaman, came to know and call on the God of Israel, but he also had allegiances which bound him to his master. This caused him a bit of anxiety as to what he should do when he had to accompany his master into the temple of Rimmon where his master would worship. He asked Elisha the prophet for pardon concerning this matter. The request and response are found in 2 Kings 5:18, 19 -

 

"'Yet in this thing may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord please pardon your servant in this thing.' 19 Then he said to him, 'Go in peace.' So he departed from him a short distance.'"

 

Jesus is looking upon the hearts of his faithful and He understands the difficult position that they are in concerning worldly responsibilities. As He called us, so we may continue, but with a different heart and direction concerning Him. However, at the end of Paul's words today, he gives this final thought, "...but if you can be made free, rather use it." What he means is that if a slave can free himself, then there is nothing wrong with that.

 

In the Roman Empire, like in Israel, there were provisions for obtaining freedom. One could buy their freedom or earn it in various other ways. Paul told them that despite being called as a slave, nothing bound them to remain as slaves. But if they did remain as slaves, there was nothing wrong with that either. Today, this is comparable to changing jobs. If you were a lawyer when you were called, there is nothing wrong with changing one's profession. The principle which is being laid down is one for peace and contentment in the state one is in, but not necessarily being firmly bound in that state.

 

Life application: There is nothing degrading in menial labor or even bondage. If the Lord calls you in such a state, then how can it be considered degrading? You have been given the highest honor in all the world. Whatever lowly position you think you're in is only in your mind, not His. To Him, you are a member of His family and in a high and exalted position!

 

Oh Lord, at times I feel like the menial jobs I do are degrading and not worthy of notice, but then I remember that You called me just as I am. You weren't at all concerned about the amount of money I make, about the dirty hands and face I have at the end of the day, nor the life which lacks flash and pomp that I live. Instead, You called me and set me next to You in the heavenly places. What higher honor is there? When I remember this, the jobs I do take on a new and wondrous light. Thank You for the work of my hands which You have established. Amen.

 

 

For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. 1 Corinthians 7:22

 

In the previous verse, Paul said, "Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it..." That may seem uncaring about the plight of the slave unless one understands the freedom of those in Christ, even if they are in bondage to another human. In an exchange with the Jews of His time we read these words between Jesus and them in John 8 -

 

"'If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.' 33 They answered Him, 'We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, 'You will be made free'?'" 34 Jesus answered them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.'" John 8:31-36

 

The premise of the Bible is that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Because we are in our father, Adam, we inherited his sin. Further we eventually come to the age where we commit our own sin on top of the inherited sin in our lives. Because of this, we are in bondage to the devil, and he is a cruel and harsh taskmaster. But once in Christ, we have become free of the devil's power. Thus, "he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman."

 

Regardless of the burden of being bound to a human master, it is nothing in comparison to the freedom that is found in Christ. The earthly master may have temporary say over the earthly existence of the believer, but Christ has eternally set those in Him free from a much greater bondage. Building on that, Paul then says, "Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave." In other words, we are all slaves in some way. Nobody is truly free to act in complete independence.

 

Therefore, in Christ the slave and the one who is free are actually on the same spiritual level. We are bound to His laws and the freedom that we have in Him is equally shared regardless of our fleeting time on earth. In this then, a sense of complete contentment should be shared by all. In Christ, we have all been freed from the power of Satan and we all are slaves of the One who created us, redeemed us, and has complete and eternal control over the endless future which lies before us.

 

Life application: If you feel the weight of day to day trudge and toil because of your work or because of those who are appointed over you in some way or another, let that not overly displease you. Rather, if you are in Christ, you are the freest of all beings. Whatever temporary displeasures you face will be erased for all eternity when you are glorified at His return.

 

Heavenly Father, I long for the day when Jesus returns for His people. The thought of no more grief, pain, toil, or sleepless nights is a wonderful hope which I can almost taste. Moment by moment I wait in antici.......pation for that wondrous sound when the trumpet blows and we are gathered to be with Him. May that fantastic moment be soon. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.

 

 

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 1 Corinthians 7:23

 

This verse isn't saying what may initially come to mind when it is read. What it sounds like is that because we were bought at a price, meaning the finished work of Jesus which included His cross, that we are now His and so we shouldn't allow ourselves to be sold into literal slavery as bondservants of another. However, this is not what is being referred to.


Rather, the idea of being a slave that Paul is speaking of would be yielding to unnecessary rites and customs which a false teacher or non-believer might impose on them. As slaves of Christ, we are under His ultimate authority. We have been granted grace and are freed from the constraints of both the law and of the world around us. We are to live as slaves to Him. If we were to allow ourselves to fall back under the law, or to be swayed by those who reject or manipulate the gospel, we would be brought into a form of slavery from which we had been bought from.

 

Paul explains this in a concise statement found in Ephesians 4:14 where he says that "we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting." If we fall into their trap, we are making ourselves a slave to a far lesser authority than Christ who redeemed us. The Pulpit commentary gives an excellent explanation of this verse when they say the following:

 

"There is a grand play of words in the advice to them not to become slaves, at the very moment when he is advising them to continue in slavery. In that which the world called "slavery" the Christian slave might enjoy absolute liberty. The price which a master paid for them was but an unmeaning shadow; they had been bought once and eternally by an infinitely nobler price, and that purchase was the pledge of absolute emancipation."

 

Again, the words of Paul in Galatians 5:1 give another beautiful rendering of the thought he is making when he says, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." The "yoke of bondage" which makes us "slaves of men" is speaking on a spiritual not a physical level.

 

Life application: The greatest freedom we can ever possess is to be found as a slave of Christ. To enjoy the fullness of this freedom, we must read, learn, and apply the Bible to our lives. If we don't do this, but rather trust in the doctrines of men, then we are putting ourselves back into bondage, even if we think we are following a path of freedom and ease. Read your Bible, keep its precepts in context, and apply them to your life. In doing this, you will truly experience the fullness of the life that Christ desires for you during this earthly existence.

 

Let us no longer be children

Tossed to and fro and carried about

With every wind of doctrine

By the trickery of men who rave and shout

 

In the cunning craftiness of their deceitful plotting

Let us their wayward tricks be a'spotting

 

And let us speak the truth in love

That we may grow up in all things into Him

Who is the head—Christ, our Lord above

Let us in His doctrine immerse ourselves and swim

 

Let our walk be acceptable in His sight

Let us always follow the noble path, the one just and right

 

Yes Lord! It is my prayer today that I would be grounded in Your word and kept from the bondage of those who would twist it in a way that would keep me from a sound and joyous walk with You. In Your word is freedom, wholeness, and the path for right living. So fill me with proper understanding and then the desire to apply that to my every step. Amen.

 

 

Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called. 1 Corinthians 7:24

 

This verse is somewhat of a repeat from verse 17 and it covers the entire thought from verses 17-23. In essence, Paul is saying that whatever state one was called in is acceptable and that there is nothing wrong with remaining in that condition. Whether one is married or single, a slave or a master, or whether they are circumcised or uncircumcised, there is nothing in the Christian faith which they have accepted that would ask them to change that state.

 

In this thought though, there is nothing which condones a lifestyle which is contrary to the Christian message. In other words, if someone's lifestyle was contrary to what is expected of a Christian, that is not included in Paul's word here. Only those things which are neutral, or those things which are set aside in Christ (such as circumcision) fall within the parameters of these words. We are not granted license to continue in the life of sin which we were engaged in when we called on Jesus.

 

We are to conduct our walk side by side with the Lord and in harmony with His expectations, but not fearing that we must change our state now that we are in Christ.

Life application: Let us walk confidently with Christ, knowing that He has accepted us in the state in which He called us. If we are poor and drive an old car, we are just as acceptable to Him as if we were loaded with money and had a large house and many possessions. What we possess is not what is important. Our faith in Him and our adherence to His word, however, is worth much in His sight.

 

Heavenly Father, I feel so blessed just to be allowed to come into Your presence knowing that You hear my prayers. Thank You for access to Your throne of grace which I have because of the shed blood of Christ. Today, my prayer is one of thanks, gratitude, and praise. Be exalted, O God, in my life and in the lives of all Your saints. Amen.

 

 

Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy. 1 Corinthians 7:25

 

Based on the opening words "Now concerning virgins," we can infer that this begins another section of answers to questions addressed to Paul by those in Corinth. This is based on his opening line of chapter 7, which said "Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me..." The question which begins in verse 25 is about virgins. What is it that a family with young virgin daughters who are coming of age should do with them? Should they keep them in an unmarried state? Should they allow them to be married? And so forth.

 

His response begins with, "I have no commandment from the Lord." There is nothing that was spoken about concerning this issue by the Lord during His earthly ministry, nor did Paul receive anything specific from Him during his time of direct instruction from Him. He is careful to note this so that his words are not intended to be taken as such. Instead, he is giving his personal opinion on the matter for their consideration. Because of this he says, "yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy."

 

In other words, the Lord demonstrated confidence in Paul to reason out an issue and to make a right, sound judgment on it. What he writes has the full force and authority of that bestowed upon him by the Lord. Being considered "trustworthy" also implies that he will render a judgment which has no self-seeking motivations or biases, but rather will be with the intent of bringing glory to Christ and also building up those who receive his instruction.


Life application: Paul wrote his letters to the Corinthians who received them and kept them for sound counsel. Eventually, these letters became a part of the Bible. They are the inspired words of God, spoken through Paul, as doctrine for the church age. Let us consider them with that in mind, never deviating from the precepts he has laid down under this state of inspiration.

 

Lord, help me to stand fast on Your word, even when tested by those who "pick and choose" what they want to accept from it. Help my doctrine to be pure and my understanding of Your word to be kept in proper context and with the intent that You have given. Be with me in this, because so many refuse to submit to its precepts and it takes fortitude to stand up and proclaim what is correct and right. Without Your hand of help, it is a battle which seems overwhelming. So be with me in this daily fight. Amen.

 

 

I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress—that it is good for a man to remain as he is: 1 Corinthians 7:26

 

A portion of the words in today's verse are probably either a direct quote from the letter he had received (verse 7:1), or are the same basic substance of what was asked. There was obviously a "present distress" which afflicted those in Corinth. Possibly the entire population, or Christians in general, were affected by this distress which might have made getting married a difficult proposition at that time. Some believe it was a time of general famine and deprivation (see Acts 11:28). Others believe it was from the persecution of Christians by Nero which was coming around that time. Whatever is being spoken of, they had probably asked Paul, "Don't you think that it is good, because of the present distress, for a man to remain as he is?"

 

His response then would follow their words - "Yes, I suppose therefore..." Having said this, there is nothing to suggest that this was anything other than a temporary arrangement and not the standard for all times. In other words, Paul is not promoting monasticism. Were there a massive famine in the world today, his words would still ring true. Why would someone want to get involved in a marriage, which is a time of expected happiness and family growth, when neither of those could be expected because of the difficult circumstances? Should things get worse, only sadness and death would result. This isn't what one would expect for a marriage!

 

Likewise, if it were a time of war or major persecution, would it be wise to get married and spend those moments of life together fleeing, hiding, and possibly dying? No. Rather it is better to get through such a major calamity without the additional burdens and heartaches which may come from a marriage.

 

Having noted this, the next few verses will show that even if staying single is a wise choice during such a time of deprivation or hardship, remaining married is expected for those who are already married. Paul is covering each contingency in order and ensuring that proper biblical and Christ-honoring standards will be upheld at all times.

Life application: The context of life around us is an important guide in making big decisions about the future. Would it be wise to invest in a construction company when the housing market had collapsed? Would it be wise to buy land for a farm during a cycle of severe famine? Likewise, is it wise to consider getting married in a time when one cannot provide for a spouse and family those things that they need to remain healthy and content? Just as ensuring proper context when reading the Bible is necessary, so is considering context when evaluating the world in which we live concerning major decisions about the future.

 

Most gracious heavenly Father, I would ask that You direct my steps according to Your infinite knowledge. I cannot see the future before it unfolds, but You can. And so, should there be obstacles or hindrances to a sound walk with You and a content life for me in the time ahead, grant me the ability to make decisions now which will allow me to honor You through them. Guide me for the sake of Your glory and honor. Amen.

 

 

Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 1 Corinthians 7:27

 

There is no reason to suppose that Paul's words in verse 27 are a fixed and firm rule, but rather a temporary guide. This is based on the previous verse which spoke these words -

 

"I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress—that it is good for a man to remain as he is:"

 

The colon at the end of that verse, used by the translators to signify the thought being presented, shows that verse 27 is based on "the present distress." It is also evident from the coming verses. Therefore, based on this, and taking in context the other times Paul speaks of this issue, this is a temporary measure, not a fixed and prescriptive directive. In this temporary state, he asks, "Are you bound to a wife?" His answer, which is based on his previous guidelines and which is confirmed by the word of the Lord Himself is, "Do not seek to be loosed."

 

And his next question is, "Are you loosed from a wife?" This can mean "free" from a wife, such as in being single. Or it can mean one who is loosed in a host of other ways - death, divorce before becoming a Christian, divorced because of sexual immorality, or single because the non-believing spouse departed, etc. If in this state, and because of the temporary trials he says, "Do not seek a wife." Again, this doesn't mean a suitable woman for a wife might not come along and that she should be shunned. Rather, he is certainly inferring that a man who is caught up in the current dilemma should focus on those circumstances and not be seeking a wife.


Who would be in battle during a war and be looking for a wife at the same time? Who, in a time of famine would say, "Gee, it should would be nice to find a wife to starve with?" And so forth. There is a time for all things and the current distress that Paul was writing about showed the need for right thinking on the issue of marriage.


Life application: Seeking a spouse is a good thing, but doing so in a time of hardship or calamity will more than likely only increase the hardship or calamity. Therefore, take all things in a proper order and without causing increased suffering in what is already a tough world.

 

O wondrous God! Thank You for the day which lies ahead. Every blessing, every trial, every bite of food, and every flower on the path has been arranged by You for us. Some things will be great, others may not be so, but they are given to us for growth, learning, and appreciating You all the more. And so I look forward to whatever comes my way as a gift from You. I'll take the good, take the bad, and do it all with gratitude to You. How I love You, O God. Amen.

 

 

But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you. 1 Corinthians 7:28

 

In the preceding verse, it was noted that there is no reason to suppose that Paul's words in that verse were a fixed and firm rule, but rather a temporary guide. Verse 28 verifies that. He had just said "Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife." His words were spoken because of the difficult circumstances those in Corinth were facing at that time and he wanted them to not be further troubled through the added weight of marriage.

 

In substantiation of this, he now says, "But even if you do marry, you have not sinned." Therefore, his previous words cannot be considered prescriptive, but rather as an exhortation based on circumstance. Those who do marry are not in violation of his inspired words. Continuing on, he notes that "if a virgin marries, she has not sinned." The same is true with the virgin. No sin has been committed, but it may be that the new couple will face undue hardships because of their decision and in this, Paul says, "but I would spare you." In other words, "I give you advice to spare you from those hardships." He is acting as if a loving father giving advice to his still naive son.

 

If we consider the soldier who is in battle, of course he would not be thinking about marriage. He is under fire and there is death all around him. However, if he gets a pass to an area which is not under fire, he may meet a young lady and fall in love. His desire is to marry her and never let her go. But he also has the reality of returning to the battle when the pass has expired. This then may be likened to the situation to which Paul is writing.

 

There was some sort of hardship at the time of his letter and it would make for a difficult path for newlyweds. In his words, he is giving them advice to alleviate that difficult situation. A commander might write to his young private and say, "You will be coming back to the lines and you could die. Or, your wife's village may come under fire and you might lose her." His words would be an attempt to help him think the issue through. However, in the end, the private will make his choice and whichever way he chooses, unless specifically ordered to the contrary, he will not be considered insubordinate. Such is the case with Paul's advice here.

 

Life application: The Bible gives explicit commands which require obedience. It also gives words of advice and counsel which, if acted upon, will lead to happiness. If not acted upon, the result isn't sinful, but sadness, loss, or difficulty may be the result. As God made man, and as God gave us the Bible for our instruction, the best route is to always apply it's precepts to our lives.

 

O God, I read Your word and I see in it so many valuable lessons. Some things I see are points I wish I had known long ago. I would have saved myself a lot of grief and troubles. And yet, I know that by paying attention to Your word now, I will have a much firmer foundation to walk on in the days ahead. You gave us Your word not to hamper our happiness, but to make it full and also that we might be pleasing to You. Thank You for Your superior word. Amen.

 

 

But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, 1 Corinthians 7:29

 

This verse is generally taken to mean that Paul thought of the coming of the Lord as "right around the corner" and that the expectation for a long and normal life before His coming was unlikely. Although this is possible, it is not the only explanation and it dismisses his words of verse 26 which speak "of the present distress."

 

Considering his words here with that in mind, a more probable view of what he is speaking of comes to light. He begins with, "But I say, brethren." He continues with the idea that his words are directed to "brethren," meaning believers. It doesn't exclude that his words could be applied to unbelievers, but his concern is to those in the fellowship. For them, they need to consider that "the time is short." The word used here is sunestalmenos which means "contracted" or "drawn up, as if into a narrow space." It is a word which is elsewhere used in the act of "furling" a sail. It goes from being a large, open sheet, to a condensed roll which takes up little space.

 

So, is Paul referring to the expected return of the Lord, or "of the present distress?" Because he has already referred to the distress of the moment, it seems unlikely that he would suddenly jump to "the return of the Lord" without specifically stating this as a reason for his coming admonition. He isn't going to refer to the coming of the Lord specifically until chapter 11, and that is in the context of taking the Lord's Supper. When he speaks in detail about His coming, it will be in chapter 15. This will be after countless admonitions for the conduct of life, even a long life ahead.

 

Therefore, the probability strongly suggests that Paul's words are intended for those in Corinth who were facing a high degree of uncertainty because of the conditions around them and they would therefore point to the same for anyone living in a time of exceptional turmoil. If this is the state of things in the world around the believer, he says "that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none."

 

Without considering the words of the coming verses, what he says here could be misunderstood to mean that no regard should be given to one's wife. This is not his intent, as will be seen. Rather, he is saying that the attitude of clinging to one's wife in the hopes of a long and prosperous marriage isn't recommended. Because of the present distress, one should understand that the wife may be taken away suddenly (through whatever the distress is - plague, famine, war, persecution, etc.).

 

In such a difficult time, clinging to the marriage as if it were a long and permanent arrangement could certainly lead to heartache and bitterness.

 

Life application: The context of the times is important when understanding biblical applications. We are to enjoy the things God has blessed us with, but if we assume that the life we live today will be the same on the morrow, we may find bitterness and disappointment. It would be unwise to expect a good job, a stable family, and a garage full of nice toys during a time of economic collapse. Context is important when evaluating life, just as it is when evaluating the Bible.

 

Lord, I know that the time around me is like a sail being furled in. There will be a moment when it will be gone and I certainly don't know the speed with which my sail will be fully secure. It could be a long and pleasant roll through the years, or it could end suddenly with an abrupt pull of the cord, drawing my days quickly to their termination. For this reason, I will spend my moments wisely - seeking Your face, praising Your name, and attempting (even if failingly) to glorify You in all ways. It is my heart's desire to keep my sail in the face of favorable winds until no more can be captured. Amen.

 

 

...those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess... 1 Corinthians 7:30

 

This verse continues the same thought analyzed in the preceding one. To get clarity, we can take the first portion of that verse and apply his words to this portion. It would thus read -

 

"But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on... those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess."

 

What Paul meant by "the time is short" was discussed in detail in that preceding verse. And because of that reason, he admonishes "those who weep as though they did not weep." It is nearly impossible for us to drown out all emotion, but our emotions can be subdued because of the difficulties which surround us at any given time. In war, a soldier may lose his best friend and not shed a tear, knowing that there isn't time for tears when bullets are still coming his way. It may be that he doesn't mourn his dead friends until after he returns home from battle, or by then he may have completely suppressed the difficulties.

 

This is true to a varying degree with any emotional trauma when the surrounding circumstances are of a most difficult nature. Paul saw the circumstance of those in Corinth as necessitating the need to not weep over such temporary things. In the same manner, he admonished "those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice." Again, there may be times when giving out a joyful or triumphant shout may not be appropriate.


If a battle is won, but there was immense loss in human life on the side of the victors, is there any true reason to rejoice? Rather, it would be more appropriate to humbly and gratefully acknowledge those who had given their lives for the cause. If a football team were to win a game in which a player had died (on either team), would it be appropriate for the winners to rejoice? No! It would be a time of acknowledgment that a tragedy had occurred.

 

And finally in this verse, Paul says that because of the present situation, "those who buy" should act "as though they did not possess." If one is living in a time of great upheaval where anarchy filled the streets, would it be wise to go to the store, buy a new TV, and then revel in the great new purchase? No! It would be more likely that the TV would be stolen soon, the house ransacked and even destroyed, and the owners forced to live from moment to moment in a state of terror and privation. It would make no sense to grab the TV as the rioters were banging at the door, holding fast to it as if it would be of use later.

 

There was some distress at the time of Paul's letter to those in Corinth and Paul wanted to save them from what he knew would be pointless emotion. He was asking them to keep calm, be level in their feelings and attitudes, and to understand that this world is temporary and passing away. And the same should be true with each of us in some measure at all times. The more we cling to this world, the less we will cling to Christ. This is a world of uncertainty, distress, and loss. To overly hold onto it can only lead to increased unhappiness at some point in the future.

 

Life application: If our hearts, minds, and thoughts are always directed towards Jesus, we will be more prepared for times of trials, sadness, loss, and even an appropriate response to joyful times. If He is our ultimate prize and hope, then the things of the world will necessarily be put into the proper perspective. Let us always and in all things place Him first.

 

Heavenly Father, thank You for the sure knowledge that You are there and that You are my ultimate Prize. The very best of this world is just a temporary, fleeting thing that I can only tenuously hold on to. And the greatest sadness I could face will be replaced by an eternity of joy when the Lord comes for me. Help me to keep this quickly-passing world in its proper perspective and to always carry with me the reality that it is not my true home. I love You and will wait patiently for You. Amen.

 

...and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away. 1 Corinthians 7:31

 

This verse finishes the thought analyzed in the preceding two verses. Again, to get clarity, we can take the first portion and apply his words to this final section. It would thus read as follows -

 

"But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on... those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away."

 

Today for this final portion of the thought, Paul says that "those who use this world" should use it "as not misusing it." This is speaking of the excess of life that can so easily ensnare us. We live in the world and must use the things of the world to continue to exist, but we are not to allow them to become our prime focus or center of hope and contentment.

 

Instead, we are to continually reevaluate our state and remember that those things we use and possess all came from the Creator and they are temporary, as is our very body. All these things are "passing away." But there is a greater and eternal hope for those who have called on Christ. If our lives are filled with the lust of the world, then we have shown that this world is our desire and that God is less important to us than the world. John speaks of this exact thought, along with the transitory nature of this world, in his first epistle -

 

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." 1 John 2:15-17

 

Those things around us which seem fixed and firm are not. Even the mountains erode and can be leveled through a large cataclysm. If such magnificent and seemingly permanent structures are temporary, how much more those things we possess! The terminology for that which "is passing away" calls to mind the fleeting scenes of a movie. Our eyes take in the information and our brains process it, but it is actually gone from before us as soon as the next scene comes. It is nothing but a memory. This is exactly what Solomon speaks of in the book of Ecclesiastes. In his opening words, he says this -

 

"'Vanity of vanities,' says the Preacher;
'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.'" Ecclesiastes 1:2

 

The word for "vanity" in this verse is havel. It literally means "vapor," or "breath." Solomon warns that just as exhaled breath on a cold morning quickly disappears, so is the sudden disappearance of the world around us. Everything is fleeting except God. Because this is so, we are admonished to call on Him and then remember Him now while we still have the chance. Someday, all things will be made new for those who have called on Christ. It will be an entirely different order and one which will endure for all eternity.


Life application: Don't get so caught up in this temporary world that you miss the greater and eternal world to come. Don't miss out on Christ!

 

Heavenly Father, everything that I used to think was permanent and lasting is actually just a temporary vapor. The years have quickly gone by and I'm suddenly not a young person any more. Friends have come and gone and the fun things that I thought gave me satisfaction have disappeared, one by one. The only thing that is truly constant is You. As so my hope, my joy, and my anticipation is truly in You alone. How I long for You. My soul is thirsty just for You. Amen.

 

 

But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:32

 

In this verse, Paul reverts back to his words of verse 28 which said, "Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you." After that came the intervening verses to build upon that thought and then this verse which begins with a confirmation that he has their best in mind and his words are intended not as commands, but as heartfelt words of counsel - as if a father to his children. And so he begins with "But I want you to be without care..."

 

If they will follow his exhortation, they will spare themselves trials and sadness that he is sure are coming because of "the present distress" (verse 26). And so to live "without care" he tells them, as an explanation, that "he who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord - how he may please the Lord." This was his personal state and he knew it to be true. The man who is unmarried, particularly in times of distress, is not distracted by the marital issues which can complicate one's life in many ways, and which inevitably will cause minds to be distracted from a clear and unhindered relationship with the Lord.

 

In contrast to this will come his words in the next verse which will be looked at separately.

 

Life application: Life happens. The more responsibilities we have, the easier it is to get distracted from a single-minded devotion to the Lord. This is particularly true when close relationships are involved. Having a spouse, children, or other family members to care for can cause our minds to be consumed with those details, leaving less time for pursuing Jesus. This does not mean being in such relationships is wrong, but if the world around us is in the middle of a time of distress, it would be better to consider not getting into overly burdensome relationships during such a time.

 

Lord, if I am a man of the dust which has been made into a jar of clay, then I am intended to be filled. I can be either be filled with precious contents, or something vile. I would choose to be a receptacle for Your goodness and Your Spirit. But also, if I am filled with You and then allow small amounts of wickedness to seep in, the contents will be tainted. And so daily, fill me anew with You and keep the world from seeping into the cracks of my life. Instead, seal me tightly with Your word and Your precious doctrine so that I may be a holy vessel, dedicated to You alone. Amen.

 

 

But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife. 1 Corinthians 7:33

 

This verse is set in contrast to the preceding one which read, "He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord." When one is single, and if they are directed to the things of Lord, they will naturally care for doing those things which are pleasing to Him. However, the contrast is also usually the case. And so Paul notes it for our reflection by saying, "But he who is married cares about the things of the world." This doesn't mean such a person isn't interested in pleasing the Lord at all, but his allegiances may become skewed, especially during times of distress.

 

Even if such times don't currently exist, a man still needs to provide for his wife and keep her happy and content, but he can usually do it in a way in which both will be able to direct their lives toward pleasing the Lord. They can attend church together, pray over meals together, talk about the Lord's goodness on walks, etc. However, if it is a time of distress, the man may become overly consumed with "how he may please his wife."

 

If food is in shortage, the man will spend a great deal of effort in obtaining it in order to feed his beloved and any children that they have. Going to church may become a secondary matter as the time once available for this is lost in the struggle to live. And finding time to stop and praise the Lord in times of privation is naturally harder. This doesn't mean that the love for the Lord is gone, but priorities become skewed during times of upheaval. How much more difficult it is to please the Lord when there are many additional burdens upon the man's heart which he feels he must handle!


Life application: As has been noted over the previous few verses, the context of the times in which a person lives is important to consider when pondering life-changing decisions such as marriage or having children. This is why it is often good to stop and evaluate such decisions rationally and apart from the emotions which tug at our heart strings.

 

Lord God, today is open before me and I don't know even a moment from now what will come about, but You do. And so I place this day in Your capable hands asking for just a few things. Give me the opportunity to speak to someone today about my faith in Jesus. Grant me patience with others so that I don't bring discredit upon Your name. And should You call me home today, allow my last breath to be one which praises You. With these things, I will feel the day was well spent. Amen.

 

 

 

There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. 1 Corinthians 7:34

 

In the same manner as there is a difference between the unmarried and the married man (concerning focus on the Lord and proper allegiances to Him), there is also a difference in the case of women. Paul notes that "There is a difference between a wife and a virgin (meaning a female virgin). He is not at all speaking about the physical difference, but the same difference noted among men from the previous two verses as he next explains.

 

"The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord." When a believer is unmarried, they have a much better opportunity to keep their minds and thoughts on the Lord. Their actions will be directed towards Him alone, and their spiritual life will be filled with Him as well. Because of this, "she may be holy both in body and in spirit." Regardless of the surroundings, even in a time of certain distress, her actions will be directed toward Him. On the other hand, Paul notes the contrast which is found in a married woman by beginning with "but."


"But she who is married cares about the things of the world - how she may please her husband." When a woman marries, she is bound to her husband and will naturally set her affections on him. In a time of distress, this may be even more so. The cares of their marriage, the thought of losing him, and the separations which might arise may consume her mental and emotional strength and even debilitate her physically. When this occurs, she is no longer focusing on the Lord as much as the virgin would be.

 

Having said this, Paul is not in any way saying to not marry. Nor is he saying that there is anything wrong with marriage. He is speaking to those in Corinth at a time when there is a "present distress" as verse 26 noted. This distress, whatever it may have been, could only increase the troubles and trials associated with a marriage.

 

A good example of the divided allegiances that result in such an instance is found in the sisters Martha and Mary. One was worried about many things when Jesus was in the house. At the same time, Mary was content to sit and listen to Jesus. The account is found in Luke 10 and is a great example of what Paul is relaying concerning this issue of marriage even though it isn't specifically speaking of marriage. Martha, like the married woman, was concerned with many things and her priorities reflected that -

 

"Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.' And Jesus answered and said to her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.'" Luke 10:38-42

 

Life application: What is your priority? Are you following Christ, reading His word, and listening to the prompting of the Spirit in your life? Or, are you being distracted by many things and allowing them to shut His presence out of this one life He has granted you before you stand before Him? Make sure to spend this valuable time wisely. Spend it with Christ.

 

Time is fleeting Lord and the days go so fast

And yet there is so much for me to do

But when the sun is setting and the day is past

I look back and see I spent too little time with You

 

And so I commit to spending more time with You on the morrow

Surely I will do better when the sun rises anew

But at the end of the next day, again I'm filled with sorrow

I failed again, O Lord, to spent precious time with You

 

O God, give me a wise and discerning heart

Grant me the resolve to open Your word as I should do

And to walk with You and talk with You, yes help me to start

To spend my quickly fleeting life in sincere fellowship with You

 

Heavenly Father, my days are rushing forward and the time that is gone I cannot get back. And yet, so little of it has been spent in the pursuit of You. Help me to set my priorities aright and to pursue the knowledge of You now. I desire to stand before You approved and commended for the years I have lived. Help me in this Lord. I ask this that You will be glorified. Amen.

 

 

And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction. 1 Corinthians 7:35

 

Paul's words, "And this I say" is referring to the instructions on marriage that he has given from verses 25-34. In this, his words were "for your own profit." Explained differently, what he has said is advice which is meant to help those in Corinth and to assist them in their thinking about the issue. Remember, in verse 26, he wrote of the "present distress" which they were facing. As a person who understood the complexities of the times and was able to process them in a valid Christian context, his words were intended as general guides for a sound life through that distress.

 

This is certain that the words are only recommendations and not directives because he next says that it was "not that I may put a leash on you." The word translated as "leash" is the Greek brochon. This is its only use in Scripture and it implies a noose, snare, or cord which is used to restrain something or someone. The gist of his words then are that he was not intending to bind them with a man-made rule and thus add to the gospel of freedom which is found in Christ, nor to bind them from anything lawful within the society which didn't contradict the gospel, but rather his intent was to provide sound, helpful, and fatherly advice for their welfare.

 

In contrast to such an over-reaching command, Paul simply wanted them to consider "what is proper" in order that "you may serve the Lord without distraction." His intent then was solely for their good during the "present distress" and his words are not to be considered directives for any time at any point of the church age. Rather, in times of upheaval and distress, believers should be able to go to Paul's words and determine a sound course of action that will keep them from trials and heartache, and yet able to serve the Lord fully and without additional burdens which could take away that full devotion.

 

Life application: Again we see the importance of context. Reading a single verse and applying it without context inevitably leads to crummy doctrine. But by checking the context of what is given, we can be certain that we are on the right path in our walk and in good stead with the Lord.

 

Lord God, I am so thankful to You for the guidance Your word gives. There are proverbs of wisdom which provide a general guide for our daily walk. There are words of exhortation to build me up and keep me thinking correctly. There are commands which if followed will ensure that I am right with You and in Your favor. And there are psalms of praise which show me how I too can express my own personal feelings to You in a way which is pleasing. These and so many other aspects of Your word fill me with wonder, delight, and surety that I am walking correctly in Your presence. Thank You for Your word! Amen.

 

 

But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry. 1 Corinthians 7:36

 

It is generally agreed that this verse is speaking of a man who is responsible for a virgin daughter or who otherwise has the charge and responsibility over the young woman. There is an age where she will naturally be inclined to want the company of a man, even if there is a time of distress occurring in the world. Just because there may be, it doesn't change the natural process of her life. Eventually, she will be tempted to express those desires if she is not allowed to marry.

 

The one in charge of her should understand this and may eventually feel that his care of her, even if it is for her own good, may cause her to sin if he doesn't allow her to get married. And so when she reaches or exceeds that point by becoming "past the flower of her youth," Paul says that he may "do what he wishes" by giving her away in marriage.

It is more preferable to do this than it would be to restrict her from marriage and eventually cause her to act on her natural impulses in a sinful way. Obviously, the world is different today and parents don't exercise the same control over their children than they once did. The custom of prearranged marriages is all but over and instead the decision is left up to the one marrying. Now however, even under the best of circumstances, parents may agree to the marriage, but there is little control exercised by them over the "who" and the "when" of it.


Regardless of this, whether it is the arranging of a marriage or simply the "nod of consent" to it, if the girl is of marrying age and his approval is given "he does not sin." Instead Paul says that it is ok to "let them marry." Again, all of this is based on the "present distress" which was referred to in verse 26 and has been cited as a general guideline for such an instance. For the past 2000 years, marriages have continued as normal during the time that the church awaits the return of Christ.


Life application: Marriage has been ordained by God. Likewise the urges and desires for marriage were instilled in us by God. It is better to marry than to sin against Him by engaging in sex apart from marriage. And so even in times of distress, the situation and circumstances of marriage must be carefully considered for the good of all involved.

 

Lord Jesus, it sure is wonderful to know You. I cannot imagine being without the hope found in the eternal life promised through Your shed blood. And so today, I simply want to thank You, to praise You, and to acknowledge Your wondrous majesty. Hallelujah and Amen.

 

 

Nevertheless he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well. 1 Corinthians 7:37

 

These words are set in contrast to what was stated in verse 36. It is assumed from these verses, and known from the customs of the times, that the father had control over his daughter's marriage decisions. Unlike the world today where young people fall in love and decide who they will marry, those in the Roman empire were simply told who they would marry and when. It might be that in the afternoon a father could come home and say, "Tomorrow you will marry a man I met today." Arranged marriages were the standard, not the exception.

 

Paul noted previously that the father didn't sin if he allowed his virgin daughter to marry. And now he introduces the contrast by saying, "Nevertheless..." What was said is acceptable, but there is another point to consider. And all of it is based on the "present distress" already noted in verse 26. Because of this difficulty "he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well."

 

By withholding marriage from his virgin daughter, he is doing well because he will keep her from the great troubles which were expected at this time of distress. Someone had to tend to her, be it him or her new husband. Because she was already in the home and because there was no external need to marry her off, they could ride this time of distress through together without causing sin. The idea here is that if keeping her from marrying would cause her to be tempted to the point of losing her virginity, then it would be sin. If this wasn't the case, then they were doing well by having her not get married.

 

Life application: Paul's words continuously show his regard for purity, holiness, and keeping sin at bay. If we can learn from his examples and his words of instruction, how much easier will our lives be and how much more pleasing to the Lord will we walk!

 

O wondrous God. Around me are the sounds of life. The crickets are chirping, the chimes are tinkling in the wind, and the house is stirred with morning routine. It is a comfort and a joy to have such things and I thank You for them. But should times of loss and disaster come my way, I will be unwavering in my thanks to You. My love and gratitude to You isn't based on the present delights, but on the surety that nothing can separate me from Your love because of Christ. Thank You for this steadfast hope. Amen.

 

 

So then he who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better. 1 Corinthians 7:38

 

Having stated his instructions on the giving of one's virgin in marriage, Paul sums the thought up in today's verse beginning with, "So then he who give her in marriage does well." He has not erred in his actions nor sinned against God by them. He has given a wife to a husband and his virgin to a man for her care and protection. Even if this were during a time of "distress," no wrongdoing has occurred.


Having said that, Paul then notes the contrast by saying, "but he who does not give her in marriage does better." He cannot be speaking of "better" in a moral sense because if so, then the other chosen path would have been morally deficient. The better moral path should always be chosen. Instead, "better" must refer to the issue of the distress of the times. For the sake of the virgin, by withholding marriage it would be a better expedient for the care of her heart and any possible sadness which might result from the challenges which lay ahead.

 

Life application: If a path can be taken which avoids the pitfalls of heartache and sadness, it is certainly the better one to choose. Getting ourselves into trials and difficulties should naturally be avoided because we are then much more likely to have freedom to praise God instead of worrying about the trials which surround us.

 

Lord God, it's hard to lose friends that I am close with as they move away for work, marriage, or some other reason, but at the same time they will have new adventures, meet new people, and will hopefully be blessed in the path they take. Above all, I would pray for those who have set out on a new trail that they would remember You as they go. Help them to keep their lives in focus concerning their need to pursue You first. And then Lord, bless them beyond their wildest imagination! Yes Lord, bless Your people. Amen.

 

 

A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:39

 

Paul's words now are probably a direct response to a question put forth by the Corinthians. However, even if not directly asked, they still provide a well-rounded summary of his previous thoughts on marriage. First he reiterates his earlier words by stating that "a wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives." This "law" is speaking of that of God from the beginning of creation, conscience in Christ, and New Testament theology; not the Old Testament law which has been set aside because of the work of Christ.

 

As long as the husband is alive, she is bound to him. However, "if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes." Again in this verse, it is implicitly seen that the giving of a virgin in marriage was done by the one who had responsibility over her, not by her own choice. This is unlike today where that right is generally granted to those getting married and by mutual consent. Having noted that, for the widow, there were no restrictions and the choice to remarry was hers "to whom she wishes." Paul speaks of the widow's freedom from her marriage in Romans 7 -

 

"For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man." Romans 7:2, 3

 

Understanding that a woman is freed from the marriage by the death of her husband, and that she is free to marry whom she wishes, Paul adds in one caveat requiring her obedience which is that she must marry "only in the Lord." Regardless of whether her previous husband was a believer or not, if she is a believer, she is required to marry a Christian. Several reasons for this should be obvious, but above all, her consideration of Christ as her Head is the most important. How could she be honoring Christ by allowing a non-Christian the authority over her? Paul speaks of the headship of Christ over man and the headship of the husband over the wife in 1 Corinthians 11. Her marriage to a non-believer would ultimately be dishonoring of Christ.

 

Paul gives this same general guideline in 2 Corinthians 6:4 when he says, "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers." Marriage implies a yoke and to be yoked to a non-believer in marriage would certainly be an unequal yoking. Therefore, Paul's words are intended to honor Christ and ensure that He is exalted in our lives.

 

Life application: Heartstrings are far less important than obedience. When making decisions in life, the first and most important consideration is our allegiance to Christ. We need to make sure that our emotions don't drive our decisions lest we be led astray from a proper walk with Him.

 

Lord God, there are times when I really want something which I know I shouldn't have. Sometimes taking a bite of something yummy will cause more trouble than the appeal of the bite. Sometimes, taking part in an adventure may unnecessarily risk my life and so I need to not engage in that activity. I know these things and try to live by them. And yet, do I hold obedience to Your word as just as important? Help me to live according to its precepts first and foremost and never take part in something that would hinder my walk with You. This I ask that our fellowship will be pure and undefiled. Thank You for help in this. Amen.

 

 

But she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment—and I think I also have the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 7:40

 

To complete chapter 7, Paul finishes his thought on the remarrying of a widow during the "present distress" which was mentioned in verse 26. He just noted that for a widow, "if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord." Having said that, he states that the present time may not be the best time to get involved once again in marriage. His thoughts are that she will be "happier if she remains as she is."

 

This is only to be construed as a temporary thing during the "present distress" because in 1 Timothy 5, he gives the following instruction -

 

"But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some have already turned aside after Satan." 1 Timothy 5:11-15

 

Whatever distress was occurring at the time of this letter to Corinth had passed or it didn't affect those in the area to which Timothy was working as a pastor. Therefore, his advice differs from 1 Corinthians 7. Continuing on concerning his words to the Corinthians, he says that they are "according to my judgment." This refers back to verse 25 where he began this particular discourse on virgins and widows. In that verse he said, "I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy." Therefore, these are his judgments on an issue not explicitly explained by the Lord.

 

But this doesn't mean that his words are not authoritative. Instead, as an apostle and one who was under the influence of the Spirit, they bear the authority of the Lord, granted to him. And so he closes the chapter with, "and I think I also have the Spirit of God." These words don't indicate that he wasn't sure. Rather, as the Pulpit Commentary notes, "it is an expression of personal conviction that he has the Spirit, not an implied doubt of the fact." He understood the authority he possessed and that the Spirit was guiding him. In a polite manner, he reminds those in Corinth of this fact.

 

Life application:  Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 7 have been given under the influence of the Spirit and for the general edification and instruction of the church. Some of his words were directed solely to a period of "distress" that surrounded the church at that time. They must therefore be taken in that light and considered when times of distress surround believers at any point during the church age. Paul's words contain wisdom and exhortation, but not necessarily prescriptive commands for such times.

 

Let the elders who rule well be counted by all

As worthy of double honor and respect

Especially those who labor in the call

Of the word and doctrine which is pure and correct

 

For the Scripture says in its pages

"You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain

And, "The laborer is worthy of his wages

Thus giving us sound advice once again

 

Yes Lord, I am thankful to You for those who have labored in Your word and in sound, proper doctrine. The greatest treasure of my life is knowing You more each day and coming to understand the mysteries of Your word. For those who have spent so much time in it, rightly dividing it and then sharing their learning with me, I am forever grateful. Thank You for them and please heap an eternal blessing upon their heads for their efforts. Praise to You for those You have put in my path. Yes! Thank You Lord. Amen.

 

 

Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. 1 Corinthians 8:1

 

Paul now begins a new line of question answering, specifically that of "things offered to idols." The Corinthians had written him about various subjects and Paul is addressing them based on his comment of verse 7:1 which said, "Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me..." With the items of chapter 7 complete, chapter 8 takes on this subject and it will consume the entire chapter which consists of just 13 verses.

 

The reason for their question and Paul's response should be obvious. Under the Mosaic Law, there were special dietary restrictions which applied to the faithful. They were extremely strict and they formed an important distinction between being a Jew and being a Gentile. The issue is addressed in the book of Acts, in Galatians, and elsewhere as well. In those accounts, what is relayed shows the immense importance of the matter for those in the new faith found in Christianity.

 

Unfortunately, as clearly as the issue of "foods" is explained in the New Testament, many have failed to heed the words and have fallen back on the Old Testament law in varying measure instead of relying on the grace of Christ. They again impose burdens which were set aside in the work of the Lord and place themselves under unnecessary bondage. Even Peter was found to fail in this regard and Paul had to correct him on the truth of the gospel.

 

If certain dietary restrictions were to arise within Christianity, we would find ourselves bound under a legalistic situation similar to the Levitical laws and thus we would be found attempting to obtain God's favor through works once again. The strong view concerning foods then is that all foods are acceptable and that any process of obtaining and eating those foods is unimportant.

 

However, there is more to the issue than merely denying "works" in order to be justified. There is the issue of conscience and knowledge which Paul will address in a wise and clearly-stated manner. As the Pulpit Commentary notes about this verse -

 

"His liberality of thought shows itself in this - that he sides with those who took the strong, the broad, the common sense view, that sin is not a mechanical matter, and that sin is not committed where no sin is intended. He neither adopts the ascetic view nor does he taunt the inquirers with the fact that the whole weight of their personal desires and interests would lead them to decide the question in their own favour. On the other hand, he has too deep a sympathy with the weak to permit their scruples to be overruled with a violence which would wound their consciences. While he accepts the right principle of Christian freedom, he carefully guards against its abuse."

 

And so in order to show that there is, in fact, a contrast between conscience and knowledge and that both need to be harmoniously considered, he immediately introduces a parenthetical comment which begins with, "We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies." Just because someone may have knowledge doesn't mean that their actions are appropriate. In essence, "Yes, I have knowledge that I can eat all foods, but how does that knowledge affect those around me? If it affects them in a negative manner by harming their conscience, then am I acting in love towards them?"

 

Additionally, Paul notes that "knowledge puffs up." In other words, having knowledge can lead me to being prideful in my knowledge which will inevitably lead to sin. He is returning to the metaphor he used in chapter 5 where "leaven" or "yeast" is used to make bread rise. The leaven is a picture of sin infecting our lives. As we sin, we become puffed up in our actions. Just because we have knowledge of a particular subject, it doesn't mean that it is right to use that knowledge if it will harm others. Instead, he states the contrasting truth that "love edifies."

 

He will continue his parenthetical thought in the next two verses before returning to the main line of reasoning. In this then, he is demonstrating wisdom in how he approaches this subject. He will hold the line on the truth that we are free in Christ from all such restrictions that they have asked about, but we are not free to exercise that freedom while allowing others to be harmed in the process. Where there is doubt or misunderstanding, there needs to be instruction in the word of God. Once this is accomplished, then we can exercise our freedoms with a clear conscience.

 

Life application: It is not true that we have to avoid anything that others find offensive. In such a case, Christians wouldn't be Christians at all because the message of the cross is an offense; the truth that hell is real is an offense; and the truth that the only way to avoid hell is to be saved through the cross of Christ is certainly offensive. However, instruction on these (and all other points of doctrine) need to be explained. It would make no sense to say "You are going to hell" to a pagan without explaining why. Likewise, it is right to explain our freedoms in Christ to weaker Christians by opening the word and providing right instruction. After that, if they remain offended by what we eat or where we eat, it would be unreasonable to not go eat. Their offense has been explained in love and therefore there is no longer an obligation to refrain from acting in accord with the freedoms we are granted.

 

Heavenly Father, I want to thank You for the freedoms which are found in Christ. I know that the foods I eat cannot affect my walk with You. But I also know that they may affect a weaker brother who lacks proper knowledge in our freedoms. And so Lord, give me the wisdom to lead him to the truth of Your word in love. Help me to be responsible in my actions so that You will be glorified and my brother will be edified. Amen.

 

 

And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. 1 Corinthians 8:2

 

Paul now introduces a thought directly related to what he said in verse 1. In that verse, he said, "We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies." It is true that everyone has a certain amount of knowledge, but for some having knowledge is believed to be an end in and of itself. They suppose the mere knowledge is a ticket to understanding everything that is necessary to control one's life and one's surroundings.

 

However, knowledge without a moral compass has led to many millions killed in war, to the falling of nations, to the subjugation of others, and to a complete lack of true goodness in the world. "If anyone thinks they know anything" then is speaking of the person who is satisfied with the head knowledge in the book, but feels there is nothing more which is needed.

 

In the case of the Bible, Paul would be speaking to the theologian who understood all of the mechanical aspects of the word - knowing Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek; understanding the historical background of what the writers were relaying; grasping the literary forms found within the writings; etc. Such a person may feel that he has conquered the Bible and is therefore above those around him who are less educated. However, such a person may know "nothing yet as he ought to know."

 

God is certainly far more pleased with the uneducated high-school dropout who finds a heartfelt relationship with Christ than that stuffy professor who has never humbled himself at the foot of the cross. All of the knowledge in the world won't get a person one inch closer to salvation without the heart accompanying that knowledge. Only when that increased knowledge is accompanied by faith does it take on its true purpose. As we grow in understanding, we should also grow in glorifying God, empathizing with those around us, walking in love with others, and applying the Bible to our every step. This is wisdom then - the correct application of knowledge toward the things of God.

 

Life application: If your heart is right with Christ, you are in the sweetest spot of all. Don't feel your walk with the Lord is lacking just because your level of knowledge is minimal. You will learn as you study, but you will do it on the wise path of mixing your knowledge with your love of the Lord.

 

Knowing everything about the Bible is a good thing, we know

But without love, just what good is that knowledge to us?

So what if I know Hebrew and Greek and put on linguistic show

How much closer does that get me to Jesus?

 

I could know every detail of every story found in this book

And when someone cited it wrong, I could make a giant fuss

But if I never open up my heart and take a good look

How could I expect to be pleasing to Jesus?

 

Instead, the heartfelt faith of a child is such an important thing

Walking humbly with the Lord should be the goal of each of us

When we speak, of the Lord our voices should ring

I know that these will surely bring a smile to my Lord, Jesus

 

Lord, I love Your word and all that it contains. I delight in every detail and subtle nuance that can be gleaned from it. But I also know that as I learn more, I need to put my knowledge into practice and into a desire to share it with others in a way which brings You glory. If I have all the knowledge in the world, but don't back it up with love for You and others, it is ultimately wasted. So Lord, humble my heart and help me to apply my knowledge in love. Amen.

 

 

But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. 1 Corinthians 8:3

 

This verse completes the parenthetical phrase which began in 8:1. In this, one might expect Paul to say, "But if anyone loves God, that person knows Him." However, this would only lead to more ego within an already puffed up church. It is possible to know God in a general sense, but it is impossible for a finite man to know the infinite God in His fullness. And so he uses the passive "is known by Him" rather than the active "knows Him." He states the same type of thought in 2 Timothy 2:19 - "The Lord knows those who are His..."

 

Such nuances in communication  are essential to recognize. An important thought which requires understanding the nuance of what is being said is found in 1 John 4:8 -

 

"He who does not love does not know God, for God is love."

 

John says that "God is love" but this cannot be turned around to say "love is God." There is a definite article in front of God - "the God." God is not limited to love, but it is a definition of His character that we can understand. Again, Paul uses this same type of wording in Galatians 4:9 as when he says, "But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God..." It is true that the Galatians (and the Corinthians) "know God" but it is only in a limited way.

 

Understanding this then we can then apply what Paul is relaying to the context of the rest of the parenthetical statement. He is using what is known as a metalepsis for us to grasp his intent. A metalepsis is a figure of speech in which a word or a phrase is used in a new context. A good example of this is, "I need to go and catch a worm tomorrow." This leads to the common expression that "The early bird catches the worm." This means to get an early start on the day and thus to be successful in whatever endeavor is intended. The subject "I" in the first phrase is compared to the subject "early bird" in the next.

 

He is substituting "love" with "knowledge" in order to show that love is the principle thought in that which edifies. In our love of God, we are "known by Him." Such should be the case in our love of others then. The main subject of this chapter is "food sacrificed to idols" as mentioned in verse 1. We can have completely accurate knowledge about the subject and yet err in our handling of it. If we fail to act in love towards others (who have less knowledge than we do) in the use of our knowledge, then we will fall short of what God expects.

 

As Barnes notes on this topic, "...a man should not be guided in his contact with others by mere knowledge, however great that may be; but that a safer and better principle was 'love, charity,' ... whether exercised toward God or man. Under the guidance of this, man would be in little danger of error. Under the direction of mere knowledge he would never be sure of a safe guide."

 

It was important for Paul to include this parenthesis at the beginning in order to establish the truth that knowledge is no substitute for love, but love mixed with knowledge is necessary to complete the picture in the guidance he will present.

 

Life application: The subtle nuances of how words are used in Scripture are important to pay attention to. When we grasp what is being relayed, we can then act on the matter appropriately. Love is necessary when exhibiting knowledge on a matter in order to ensure that the weaker in knowledge isn't further weakened in his faith. Having said this, no matter how delicately one handles an issue, people will almost always find offense in religious and political dialogue. Eventually, one can "love" another to the point where nothing at all can be said. This is a trap the Christian must also avoid.

 

Heavenly Father, I am very passionate about Your word, including the right application of every detail. I'm also passionate about other things, such as politics, adhering to set laws, etc. Because of how I perceive these things, I am zealous to express my beliefs, but I would ask that You help me to exercise what I believe in a charitable yet firm way. Give me the ability to balance right thoughts with amiability towards others, but without giving up on an inch of what is right in Your eyes. This is surely a gift which can only come from You, and so I ask for such wisdom today. Amen.

 

 

Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. 1 Corinthians 8:4

 

"Therefore" begins the main discourse of the subject at hand, and yet it is relying on the parenthetical statement he just finished. The thought process thus far goes as follows:

 

1) Now concerning things offered to idols:

-----a) We know that we all have knowledge.

-----b) Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.

-----c) (linked to 1a) If anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.

-----d) (linked to 1b) But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.

2) Therefore.... (after considering 1a-1d)

 

When the Bible gives a "therefore" it is always important to go back and see what it is there for.

 

And so to begin his discourse on the subject, he reiterates the first half of verse 1 again by saying, "concerning the eating of things offered to idols." In essence, "Now that I have explained to you a more important issue which is directly connected to your question, I will now answer your question." And he does so immediately by saying, "we know that an idol is nothing in the world."

 

In this, his direct response is tied to "knowledge" as mentioned in 1a above. Everyone who has called on Christ should intuitively realize that an idol is nothing. It is a part of the creation and has no ability to change the outcome of anything. If something is sacrificed to it, it has no more ability to respond to the sacrifice than does a handful of dirt or a cup of water. Because this so, then the sacrifice has no meaning either. It was a futile gesture to a futile non-god. And this is all the more certain because, "there is no other God but one." This short phrase was preceded by "and that" which again ties it to 1a - "and that there is no other God but one."

 

This is knowledge which every believer should certainly possess because they have rejected all other religious systems and have called on Christ as Lord. If He is Lord, He is God and there is none other. This is knowledge that should be certain. But though understood in some measure by all true believers, it may not have been properly processed by all of them. This will inevitably cause a conflict in them when considering the issue of food sacrificed to idols. When it does, their faith may be challenged. Before addressing this though, Paul will continue to speak concerning "knowledge" for two more verses.

 

Life application: When reading the Bible, it is a good habit to reconsider what was previously stated when coming to prepositions such as "for," "and," "but," "therefore," and etc. If the context is still unclear, try mapping it out in a simple manner and re-considering the context. This will often open up the passage to what is intended by the writer.

 

Glorious Lord God! Today I am overflowing with joy in my heart simply because I know You personally. The world is spiraling into chaos. False religions are taking the upper hand all around us. There is insecurity, trouble, trial, and sadness everywhere... and yet, despite all of this, I have a more definite hope than these things could ever destroy. I have the surety of eternal life because the grave was defeated for me by Christ Jesus. What can man do to me? I am safe, secure, and serene because of Your Gift, my Lord Jesus. Hallelujah and Amen!

 

 

For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords)... 1 Corinthians 8:5

 

Continuing on with his thoughts concerning knowledge and love, Paul introduces a hypothetical argument using words translated as "for even if." It is important to understand that Paul is not implying that there truly are other gods, but that this is what people may think in their confused world view. Even the Old Testament speaks in this manner. From the law itself, Moses shows that there are "many gods and many lords" -

 

"For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe." Deuteronomy 10:17

 

People all over the world bow to things they think are "gods" even though they aren't. The words in the Bible, including the quote from Deuteronomy and from Paul's words here, are meant to indicate the belief by some that these gods exist, but not that they actually do. They are no more real than the imagination of those who follow them. These "so called gods" are everywhere in the world and are to be found in all cultures. Some are found in "heaven" in the minds of those who follow them.


In this thought include the "gods" of Greek and Roman culture such as Zeus, Apollo, Hermes, etc. Also there are the heavenly gods in the stars and constellations, and so forth. Then of course, there were (and still are) representations of them on street corners and in temples in every location. These would be the gods "on earth." But there were other such earthly gods - Caesar was proclaimed a living god; trees were believed to be divine; and certain mountains or valleys may have been believed to be places of divine presence. Even Paul and Barnabas were proclaimed gods after performing a miracle in Jesus' name -

 

"Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, 'The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!' 12 And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes." Acts 14:11-13

 

The apostles obviously argued against this, stating that the people "should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them." (Acts 14:15). This is the type of thing Paul is speaking of in verse 8:5. As noted, he is merely making a hypothetical argument. He is not arguing for the validity of such "gods."

 

He is relaying that some believe that there are other "gods" for a reason which will become evident in the coming verses and his thoughts are directed toward a loving attitude concerning our handling of delicate issues in the presence of those who still struggle with these things. As the thought progresses, keep in mind that "knowledge puffs up, but love edifies."

 

Life application: When reviewing verses in the Bible, context must be carefully considered. Jesus quoted a verse from the Old Testament about "gods" which is often misused even from the pulpit today to indicate that we are divine beings when we come to Christ. Such is not the case, but error can creep in easily when individual verses are taken out of their intended context.

 

Lord God, though I may lack intelligence in many ways, there is one thing I am perfectly confident of - You are God and the word You have given us is without error. There are no contradictions in it and it is the perfect guide for my instruction, my walk with You, and as a tool to train others in those things as well. May I never "pick and choose" which verses apply and which don't. Instead, help me to understand them in context and then to be obedient to them. Guide me in Your word. Amen.

 

 

...yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. 1 Corinthians 8:6

 

Continuing on with his "knowledge" portion of "things offered to idols" Paul finishes up with this verse. He has just noted that "there are many gods and many lords." In this, he meant in perception, not in reality as can be seen in this verse. "Yet for us there is one God." Unlike the rest of the unregenerate world, we possess the knowledge of the absolute truth that there is one God. This is then in contradistinction to the lie that there are "many gods."

 

This one God is "the Father." In this, Paul is not speaking of the Father within the Godhead as separate and distinct from the Son and the Holy Spirit. Rather, he is using the term "Father" when speaking of God in the absolute sense. This one God is our Father. We know this is the sense in which he is speaking because he does not use the term "Son" when speaking of Jesus in the coming words. Instead, he will speak of Jesus in parallel thought. Therefore, "one God, the Father" is God who is the Father, "of whom are all things."

 

God our Father is the Source of all things. They exist because He wills them to exist and nothing exists apart from His will. There is no other God and all of creation was created by Him, "and we for Him." This refers to His faithful believers who have put their hope in the Messiah. We were created for Him and by Him to be a praise and a glory to Him. God so intended this and His will is effected in our existence and in our state in Him.

 

In parallel to that, Paul continues with "and one Lord Jesus Christ." It is important to note the absence of the word "Son" to understand properly. It is parallel to, not in addition to, his prior words concerning "the Father." Again, his previous verse noted that "there are many gods and many lords," a set of parallels - "gods" and "lords." He first addressed "gods" as opposed to the one "God." He now addresses "lords" as opposed to "one Lord Jesus Christ."

 

Understanding this is important because aberrant cults, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, try to subordinate Jesus by inaccurately analyzing this verse... "See there is one God, the Father, and so Jesus isn't God." Such misrepresentations fail to accurately handle God's word issued through Paul's hand. This "one Lord Jesus Christ" is "through whom are all things." It is set in parallel with the note about the Father "of whom are all things." God is the Source and Jesus is the member within that Source by which all things came into being; He is the Word of God (see John 1:1).

 

Finally, Paul says that it is the Lord Jesus Christ, "through whom we live." This is parallel to the thought concerning God the Father which said "and we for Him." Jesus is the Creator and He is the Re-generator. We exist physically because of Him and we are spiritually quickened by Him when we receive Him. All is a work of God and all is by Jesus Christ.

 

Life application: When you pray to Jesus, you are praying to God. When you pray through Jesus, you are praying through our Mediator to the Godhead. Jesus is God and Jesus is our Lord. By carefully examining Scripture in its intended context, we can see that there is no division between Jesus and God, and yet there is a Godhead in which the three Persons of the Trinity exist.

 

Heavenly Father - gracious, glorious, and almighty. Thank You for Your divine hand of grace which showers down upon us every wonderful blessing. You water the earth so that we are fed and re-nourished. You change the seasons for our enjoyment and for the flowering of different parts of Your creation. You heal the scars of the earth which come from time to time and You heal the wounds of our souls through the grace of Your own hand in the Person of Jesus Christ our Lord. In Him, we have the certainty of every spiritual blessing and the wondrous prospect of eternal life in Your presence. Thank You for Your attentive and divine hand of grace. Amen.

 

 

However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 1 Corinthians 8:7

 

Paul has been speaking of "knowledge" "concerning things offered to idols" for the past two verses. He now enters into the fact that "not everyone" has that knowledge by stating "however." This then is in contrast to what should be obvious, but it is knowledge which is lacking in some for whatever reason. And so he continues by saying that "for some, with consciousness of the idol." There is a definite hindrance in their ability to accept anything offered to that idol, even though it is actually nothing at all.

 

Their conscience tells them that if something was offered to an idol and they were to "eat it as a thing offered to an idol," then they have somehow done something wrong. As an understandable example, suppose you were to go to the local Buddhist temple because they have a great farmer's market there. While there, you see meat being sold too. Because you're a big fan of steak, pork chops, and lamb cutlets, you decide to buy a few of each. But then you hear that the animals were sacrificed first as an offering to the idol at the temple, is it ok to buy that meat now or not?

 

Paul has just said that "an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one." After that, he clearly explained what he meant in the next two verses. And so the answer is "Yes, you may buy the meat." Your conscience tells you that there is no God but one and you know that the sacrifice has no validity at all. Therefore, your conscience on this matter is undefiled and your devotion to God through Jesus Christ is unhindered when you buy and eat those tasty delights.

 

However, there is another consideration to be made. Those who have a conscience about the idol, not understanding that it is nothing in all the world, may not recognize your liberty in Christ. This is because "their conscience, being weak, is defiled." If you buy and eat meat in the presence of someone like this, what will be the result? Paul will continue to analyze this situation, explaining that love for that weaker brother is more important than your correct knowledge of the matter. He will also further address the issue later in the book. As he said when he began this chapter, "Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies."

 

Life application: If you find yourself in a situation where you may harm the conscience of a weaker brother, what you need to do is first act in love and not do what would cause them greater confusion. After that, you should take the time to properly instruct them in the matter, showing them directly from the word of God what is correct. Once you have done this, you have shown love and respect for them and validated the stand by God's standard. If after that, they still disagree, you can do no more. They have willingly failed to see the true intent of the matter because there is no higher authority than what God has presented through His word.

 

To understand this, think of an issue from the US Constitution, owning a gun for example. If you have a gun and another person says, "You shouldn't own a gun; that is just wrong." All you need to do is take them to the 2nd Amendment and read it to them. After that, you show them your permit which authorizes you to own the gun within whatever state you belong to and maybe you even take time to show them your bill of sale. If they still say (and most lefties will) that you shouldn't own a gun, then disregard what they say. You are no longer under any obligation to be concerned with their conscience. It was defiled, you attempted to show them the valid proofs of their error, and they rejected the proofs. You can do no more. Go enjoy target practice without them.

 

O precious heavenly Father, how I cherish my time talking with You. When I get up, I know You are there... "Good morning, Lord." When I head out, You are with me... "It's a glorious day, Lord." When I see a beautiful rainbow in the clouds... "Why thank You for that, Lord." When a friend who hasn't called on You comes to mind... "Lord, show them the truth of Your Son." Throughout the day, You are with me... "Whoo hoo, Lord! A dollar on the sidewalk, thank You." During each meal, "Gracious God, thank You for this food." And as the day ends I know Your hand is still upon me... "Thank You for the wondrous life You have blessed me with. Good night Lord." O precious heavenly Father, how I cherish my time talking with You. Amen.

 

 

But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. 1 Corinthians 8:8

 

Taken in context with what Paul has been saying concerning "things offered to idols" this verse should be perfectly clear on several levels. And yet, it is astonishing that so many Christian sects and even aberrant cults fail to grasp the simple and clear language of his words. Here he starts with the word "but." It is then a contrast to what he just said, "...for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled."

 

The weaker in doctrine and understanding, the less informed in what Christ did, and those who are not yet properly instructed in the word may have reluctance to eat some type of food because it is perceived to be defiled and thus unclean. But that is not the case. There is no unclean food for the Christian. As Paul will later state in chapter 10 -

 

"Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake; for 'the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.'" 1 Corinthians 10:25, 26

 

It is the Lord's earth and He has granted the things of the earth to man to eat. Only a particular group of people, and for a particular set time and purpose, were given dietary restrictions. That time and purpose was fulfilled in Christ Jesus and is now set aside and obsolete. There are no dietary restrictions imposed by the Bible for those in Christ. Paul explains why when he says, "food does not commend us to God."

 

It is not worrying about what we eat that is pleasing to God, it is a pure conscience, a right walk, and a heartfelt adherence to His word. Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses and we are to trust in His work, not our own. Concerning foods, the truth is that "for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse." Whatever we eat cannot harm our relationship, nor can it make it for a closer walk with Christ. It is a neutral matter.

 

If a thing sold in the meat market which had been sacrificed to an idol is not unclean, then this shows us that no foods are unclean. Pork is the typical example used by nutty cults and sects as being a "no no." And yet, it is certain that "whatever is sold in the meat market" includes it and any other type of meat. The pagans didn't care what meat was hanging in the market. They had no idea what the Law of Moses included. It is absurd to think that the act of sacrificing an animal to an idol didn't include pigs, dogs, horses, or any other unclean animal. Those sacrificing didn't pull out a copy of the Torah and search to see if the animal they were about to sacrifice to an idol was clean under the Law of Moses before defiling it by sacrificing it to an idol!


Life application: Think clearly on biblical issues! Don't be led astray by people with crazy agendas or ideas. If one doesn't eat pork because they are trying to please God, then anything else under the Law of Moses must also be adhered to. It is an illogical thing to pick and choose Scripture in order to make a point which actually doesn't exist. Instead, it only causes one to revert back to the need to fulfill the law in its entirety, an impossibility!

 

Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do

Do all to the glory of our great God

Give no offense, as the Bible instructs you

To the Jews or to the Greeks in this life that you trod

 

Nor to the church of God, and those in it

Instead attempt to please all men in all things

Therefore, don't seek your own profit

But the profit of many in all your doings

 

This, so that they may be saved

By seeing your actions and how you have behaved

 

Yes Lord, I need help in this one for sure! Give me the right attitude to not be an offense to those who see my actions. Help me to use my obvious liberties in Christ for good and not for harm. The knowledge I have is less important than the love I display if that knowledge is used in a way which causes a stumblingblock to others. So, Lord, help me to think clearly on the delicate issues of the faith and then to act wisely in my exercising of them. Amen.

 

 

But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. 1 Corinthians 8:9

 

Paul has been speaking of "knowledge" concerning the issue of "things offered to idols." He has clearly shown that eating something offered to an idol makes no difference at all and that the food is not defiled, because the idol is "nothing in the world." This is an inescapable truth when clearly reasoned out. However, his words today begin with "but." There is a contrasting thought which must be presented. When he began this chapter, he issued a parenthetical statement which introduced two thoughts. The first was "knowledge" and the second was "love." He will now begin to address that second issue.

Yes, we may have knowledge concerning our "liberty" in the matter, but is that the end of the issue? The answer is, "No." His understanding of the weakness of some leads him to state his contrasting thought. "But beware" tells us that this is a serious matter. The word translated as "beware" indicates to "look" into a matter or to "discern." If we have knowledge, we should mix that knowledge with discernment. And the reason is "lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak."

 

His use of the word "weak" is tied to "knowledge." In other words, where your knowledge is strong and sound, others may be wavering, unsure, or misinformed. If your knowledge isn't mixed with discernment, what will be the result in them? It will become a "stumbling block." A stumbling block is something that trips one up. It is usually an unseen obstacle, such as an imperceptible raise in the level of one block on a path. It is just enough to cause harm, but not big enough to be noticed. At other times, a stumbling block may be perceptible, but the person may have their attention diverted to other things. Either way, the result is a fall.

 

Paul's coming explanation of this will move from the subject of knowledge in a person to that of love for another person. This then is a verse which transitions to that thought.

 

Life application: We are given rights (liberties) in Christ that are very clear and precise. However, they often require knowledge through study in order to be properly grasped. As study is something most people don't really cherish, have time for, or for whatever other reason, it is up to those who have studied to not use their knowledge to harm those without the knowledge, but rather to instruct them in right doctrine of what they already understand. As Paul noted, "Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies." Let us impart knowledge and do so in a loving manner.

 

Lord God, Your word is certainly a treasure and a delight, but oftentimes people disagree on a particular point or precept. If I am certain of my position, help me not to be arrogant in my defense of it, but rather to impart that knowledge in love. With all certainty, arguing will only cause greater divisions and insurmountable walls will result. And so help us to amiably work towards the one truth which You intend for us to see. Be with us and guide us as we search to rightly divide Your word. Amen.

 

 

For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? 1 Corinthians 8:10

 

Continuing with the discourse on "knowledge" in relation to "love" Paul now brings in an example from real life to help the Corinthians (and thus us) to understand more clearly what he has been speaking of. He begins with "for" thus showing that he is referring to a previous thought. This thought is that the knowledge of someone who uses their liberty in Christ may "become a stumbling block to those who are weak." This verse now explains that thought.


"For if anyone sees you who have knowledge" is speaking of the person who understands that an idol is nothing in the world. Their conscience is free from the superstition that an idol has any effect on anything. If such a person with that knowledge is seen "eating in an idol's temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols?" In this, the person of the "conscience of him who is weak" is the person who believes that an idol is actually something. It could be a weak believer or a person who is still trying to figure out if Christianity is true and worth following. What will be the result of such an action in their mind?

 

The answer is that they will then be "emboldened." The word for emboldened is "oikodomēthēsetai," and it is used only here in the New Testament. It carries the thought of "building up a house." In this then is an ironic expression because Paul is intimating that what he is building is actually destructive. Instead of being edified, he is harmed in a right understanding of the truth. Why? Because he may now believe that 1) it is ok to mingle the pure faith with other ideologies (syncretism); and/or 2) he may now believe that an idol is actually something with a force or power rather than "nothing in the world." Calvin translates this thought "a ruinous upbuilding."

 

In order to make this understandable to the readers in Corinth, Paul uses another word which is unique in the New Testament. It is the word translated as "idol's temple" here in the NKJV which is eidóleio. This was not a word used by the Gentiles. Instead, it was something that those who understood there was only one God used. A Gentile would name a temple based on the idol in the temple, such as "Athenaeum," the temple of Athens, or "Apolloneum," the temple of Apollo. To them, the temple was a reflection of the "god" within it. To the Gentiles, it was a reflection of any given idol within it; hence, the term "idoleum" was used to indicate "the temple of an idol."

 

Life application: The perception by others of our freedom in Christ is important. Until they have right knowledge of a matter, it is right that we not use our freedom in a manner which could destroy the very building which they are erecting in their knowledge of Christ.

 

An idol is nothing in all the world, this I know

But others may not understand this yet

If to the temple of an idol I were to go

For a tasty snack or for lunch, I may later regret

 

What if they misunderstood my going there?
And thought that I worshipped the idol, just like the Lord

They may think that they also can worship anyone, anywhere

And that the Bible isn't God's only word

 

My knowledge may harm them in this way

Though it was not my intent for it to be

And so my actions are important, every where and every day

To reflect devotion to the Lord, yes to the Lord only

 

Heavenly Father, help me to act responsibly in all ways and at all times in an undivided devotion to the Lord. Keep reminding me that others are watching my life and actions and are making valuable judgments about my heart for Christ. Let me not be a source of their downfall or to their misunderstanding of the freedoms which I possess in Him. In this, I know that you will be glorified and others will be built up. Thank You. Amen.

 

 

And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 1 Corinthians 8:11

 

This is speaking of those with a weak conscience who may be motivated to act in a manner contrary to their conscience by eating "those things offered to idols." If this happens, Paul says that "because of your knowledge" it will inevitably cause an offense to occur. This is written as a question - "...shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?" However, some scholars argue that it is emphatic even if a question. Many translations actually cite is as an affirmative statement, such as the ESV - "And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died."


In other words, it is an predictable occurrence where one action follows another. In the weaker brother our actions will cause inevitable harm. However, what should be considered is what it means when he writes "perish." There is no doubt that he is speaking of someone who is already a believer. The term "brother" is used and this indicates someone already in the faith. Further, the fact that Paul is referring to a weak conscience implies a believer as well. There is a conscience concerning Christ, but it is not a developed one.

 

So does the word "perish" imply a loss of salvation? The answer is, "No." There are several thoughts to support this notion. The first is that though he speaks as if something is leaning toward an occurrence, it doesn't mean the thing will actually occur (meaning a loss of salvation).

 

Secondly, though it says (as the ESV translates it "this weak person is destroyed"), is this referring to the whole individual or to the faith of the individual? Is the person's faith being used as representative of the person? This is the case because elsewhere a believer is noted as having "forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins" (2 Peter 1:9). It is also confirmed by Paul's coming words on the issue.

 

Thirdly, just because one thing typically will follow another, it is in no way conclusive that such a thing will inevitably follow, but that it is the normal, natural, and likely result of such a thing. Considering that a person is sealed with the Holy Spirit, that which is natural can (and will) be negated by the greater spiritual act which previously occurred.

 

It is sure that nowhere else does Paul ever indicate that a believer could lose their salvation. And the contrary is true. The sealing of the Holy Spirit upon belief (Ephesians 1:13, 14) is a "guarantee." The one who has placed their faith in Christ, weak though it may be, is saved by His work. He truly is a brother "for whom Christ died." If Christ died for this person, then Christ also lives for that person. He will ensure a good end results. The next verse will absolutely confirm this.

 

An excellent connecting verse to this one is found in Romans. Our actions, especially towards our fellow brothers, should be seen in a positive and edifying light. Here is how he states this -

 

"Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." Romans 14:16, 17

 

Life application: Jesus died for all. Those who receive this gracious offer become children of God and are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Is it worth destroying the faith of such a person over our actions, particularly what foods we are willing to eat? We generally eat three times a day and the meal is forgotten as soon as it is done. Let us not consider such a temporary thing as worth harming the faith of another believer!

 

Precious Lord Jesus, You fulfilled the law on my behalf. You paid the penalty for my sins, and You went to the cross in order to do that. But You also did that for all people. Those who have received this gracious offer are now God's children and fellow believers. Would it be right for my actions to destroy the faith of one of them? If You died for them, then I should be working to edify them, not tear them down. And so help me with this Lord. Help me to rightly instruct them and to be a good example of mixing knowledge with love. I know that with this, You will be pleased. Amen.

 

 

But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 1 Corinthians 8:12

 

This verse begins with "but" which is set in contrast to what he just said. The preceding verse asked, "And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?" The answer is actually stated by Paul in an interesting way. No, they won't "perish" in the sense of a loss of salvation as follows below:

 

"When you sin against the brethren" implies that we have caused an offense to occur. This person is weaker in their knowledge and thus more prone to falling or failing than another may be. Their lack of knowledge may cause them to act against their conscience in a matter that they are unsure of. Paul shows in Romans that any action which isn't in faith is sin -

 

"But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin." Romans 14:23

 

Therefore, to act in a manner contrary to conscience (which means that faith is lacking in action) is to act in sin. The conscience is wounded because there is a lack of proper understanding and this has led to an action which was taken which was not in faith. What is immensely important in this is that "when you sin against the brethren" in this way "you sin against Christ." The person is "in" Christ, having been saved by Him and having been brought into the family of God.

 

John Chrysostom asks, "What can be more ruthless than a man who strikes one who is sick?" What is needed is the healing power of right doctrine, not an arrogant display of knowledge about freedoms in Christ which are not clearly understood by the weaker brother. To sin against another believer (in this or any way) is to actually sin against Christ. In this case, it was because of an exercise of knowledge instead of a demonstration of love. What is needed is to instruct in right knowledge (which is certainly loving) and then to act together as faithful believers in Christ and in adherence to His words.

 

Understanding this verse confirms that the previous verse was not speaking of a loss of salvation. Paul had asked "shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?" His answer is implicitly "No." The reason is because if we sin against Christ when we sin against the brother, it implies that the brother is "in Christ." If he is "in Christ" then he is safely in that position. The offense affects both the weaker brother and Christ. In essence, it would be no less possible for that weaker brother to lose their salvation than it would for it to happen to Christ.

 

Life application: When we are saved, we move from Adam to Christ. We are once and forever united to Him and are positionally "in Christ." Therefore, when we sin against another believer, the offense is also against Christ. This is a sobering thought for us to consider and to remember. Let us act charitably towards those who are the redeemed of the Lord as we conduct our affairs.

 

Heavenly Father, to be "in Christ" is the sweetest place to be. We are covered by the most precious Sacrifice. We are granted and given the most beautiful Garment. We are seated in the most sacred place. We have the greatest Defender and the most marvelous Mediator. We are secure in the mightiest hand and uplifted by the Giver of all grace. There is no end to the glory of what Jesus has done for us. To be in Christ is the sweetest place of all. Thank You for this honor.  Hallelujah and Amen!

 

 

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

 

This is the last verse of the chapter which has dealt with "things offered to idols." However, right at the introduction of the thought, Paul divided that major subject into two over-arching issues. The first was knowledge and the second was love. He then explained how the two do not always work harmoniously together and that love is the preferred avenue to follow when knowledge in a weaker brother is lacking.

 

The exercise of knowledge without love can lead to sin and so the words of chapter 8 have been given to help the one with knowledge concerning a matter in order to consider it in a way which promotes love first and foremost. The issue of "things offered to idols" was the main area of discussion because it came response to a question submitted to him by those in Corinth. However, the concept rings true in whatever situation one may face, be it any liberty we have but which is not understood by the weaker brother.

 

To sum up his thoughts, he begins with "therefore." In this then we can see his final conclusion on this subject. It is an issue he also treated in Romans 14:19-22. Those verses perfectly compliment his thoughts in this chapter. He will also again speak on this subject in his words to the Corinthians. For this portion of the letter however, his conclusion is that "if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat."

 

The eating of meat no matter how tasty and delicious, and even if what he proposes to eat is actually acceptable, is not worth causing another to fall into sin because of what he knows to be right. Love towards the weaker brother is more important than what is consumed at mealtime. And this isn't just for one meal, but - as the Greek reads - "to the age." It is a term which means "forever." Paul would gladly give up on his liberties for all his days instead of causing his brother stumble.

 

If stumbling is an offense, and if he is the cause of the stumbling, then he is actually causing the offense. This is a lesson for each of us as we consider our actions before our weaker brothers. Whatever gain we think we might have from an action, if it causes another to stumble, then it is not worth it.


Life application: The old saying "little eyes are watching" isn't just true with children who see the example of their elders. It is also true of those who are "little" in the faith. Let's endeavor with all of our heart to keep our actions in line with this precept in order to keep those less informed from stumbling.

 

Lord, as I come before You in prayer, I know that I have erred in so many ways since my last prayers to You. My life is a constant stream of hoping to please You and yet continuously falling short of that goal. My words, actions, and interactions with others show me how desperately I need Jesus. Thank You for providing the wondrous salvation that could come in no other way. Thank You for my Lord, His work, His cross, and His resurrection. In that, I know that my erring ways are covered, forgiven, and cast away. Amen.

 

 

Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? 1 Corinthians 9:1

 

This first verse of chapter 9 appears to both look back to the concluding statement of chapter 8 and also forward to the main subject area of chapter 9 which concerns Paul's apostleship. Looking back, he has just noted that "if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble." Even as an apostle, which indicates that he had personally seen and been commissioned by the Lord, he was willing to make such a concession for his "weaker" brethren. If he was willing to give up such rights in this way, it should be considered an example for those in Corinth.

 

Looking forward, there are those who may have questioned his apostleship, something he will immediately defend in order to dispel such a thought. Additionally, there are those who may have felt he was abusing his rights, overstepping his authority, or unnecessarily inserting himself into their local affairs. He will defend himself concerning these and other issues as he progresses through the chapter.

 

And so to begin, he asks rhetorically, "Am I not an apostle?" In essence he is saying, "I am an apostle." He meets the requirements of apostleship and he carries the commission of the office. Continuing, he asks, "Am I not free?" Elsewhere, he calls himself "a bondservant of Christ." This is not what he is speaking of, but rather that he has the freedom found in Christ that all other Christians also possess, including those freedoms which belong to the office of apostle. He should be free from working for money, but rather should be paid for his ministry. However, he will discuss later why he didn't exercise that right. This is the type of freedom he speaks of.

 

After that, a third rhetorical question, "Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?" The answer is with all certainty, "Yes." He saw the Lord on the road to Damascus; he saw Him in Arabia (as can be inferred from Galatians 1:17); he saw Him in Jerusalem (see Acts 22:17); he saw Him there at Corinth (see Acts 18:9); and, he had seen Him at least one other time as well (see 2 Corinthians 12:1). In having seen the Lord and been commissioned personally by Him (see Acts 9:15, 16), he met the necessary requirements of the office of Apostle.

 

Finally in this verse, he asks, "Are you not my work in the Lord?" The answer is surely once again, "Yes." He established the church in Corinth and was their "father" in the faith as he noted earlier in this epistle -

 

"I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." 1 Corinthians 4:15, 16

 

Paul is taking the time to note that he bears the apostolic authority because he meets the requirements of an apostle. He is doing this in order to logically defend his words and his position on important matters. All of this can ultimately be traced back to the beginning thoughts of the epistle which spoke of divisions within the church. As an apostle, he was working for harmony within the church, not divisions. There is one Lord and He is not divided. Therefore, in order to demonstrate that his words were intended as a unifying and valid set of instructions, he is taking the time to defend his position as an apostle.

 

Life application: There are certain requirements necessary in order to claim the title of "apostle." These were for a set duration of time known as the "apostolic age" of the church. There are no longer any true apostles within the church and people claiming such a title only demonstrate that they are not qualified to bear the title because they have not properly understood the very basis for claiming the title. Hold fast to what is sound and in accord with Scripture and don't be led astray by those who make claims to titles which sound impressive, but which bear no weight or authority.

 

Lord God, I do not mind doing menial labor or taking on otherwise seemingly boring jobs. You have given us this world in which we live and if someone doesn't pick up the trash, then Your world will be trashy. If someone doesn't clean the restrooms, then the restrooms of Your church won't be pleasant. If the trees don't get trimmed, then the house will appear shabby. Whatever work I do, I know that it can be something to reflect Your order, intent for that which is beautiful, and also a willing heart to not be proud or lifted up. In all my tasks, I will endeavor to bring You honor and glory so that others see it and praise You. Amen.

 

 

If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 9:2

 

It can be inferred from these words of Paul that there were people who had come to Corinth and accused Paul of not being a true apostle. Some have speculated that it was from the camp of Peter, but this is unlikely, unless it was at a time before Peter fully grasped the nature of Paul's ministry. In his second epistle, Peter wrote the following words concerning Paul. They conclusively show that he believed in and supported Paul's apostleship, including the authority of his letters which he actually places on the same level as all other Scripture -

 

"Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." 2 Peter 3:14-16

 

Whoever it was who was attempting to undermine Paul's authority, he gives his own defense here to show that his ministry is a valid one. Beginning with "If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you." So what if others don't accept his status as an apostle? This shouldn't matter at all to those in Corinth because those in Corinth were brought to Christ through his ministry. If they had called on Christ after hearing his words, then their actions validate that he was a minister of Christ. One cannot lead someone to Christ if they are talking about someone other than Christ!

 

In substantiation of this, he continues by saying, "For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord." Their conversion is the proof needed that he is, in fact, an apostle. He has already shown that he meets all of the requirements of being an apostle. Using that status, his work resulted in their conversion and thus "sealed" those necessary requirements of the office; they were a convincing demonstration of his apostolic authority. The "seal" (or Greek sphragis), is a seal, signet ring, or impression of the seal or ring which attests to the validity of what was conveyed. His words show that they are the attestation of his office, one that was sure and irrevocable.

 

Understanding this seal in the Corinthians, we can then rightly deduce that Paul's words are valid for doctrine, reproof, and correction. His letters, included in the pages of Scripture, are fully authoritative and they have been attested to by those who came to Christ through his ministry. Like Peter's comments about Paul above, the Bible is a self-validating document. It is a marvel and a treasure and it gives us the certainty that we are on the right track in the pursuit of our faith.

 

Life application: If you come to a time of doubt in your faith, the best place to go is to the Bible. The more you open it and read it, the surer you will be of He whom you have trusted. God has organized it in such a way that it will resolve your doubts, edify your walk, and correct your thinking. Be content in the fact that you have properly trusted in God's provision when you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ!

 

Well Lord, another day is here and I'm still waiting on Your return. Instead of worrying about that, I will rejoice in it. You have shown that I have another day to tell others about Your goodness. I won't waste it speculating on whether you'll be back tomorrow or the next day. Instead, I'll use the time You have granted in the way in which You intended... to glorify You, to give You praise, to tell others about Your offer, and to faithfully work in the job in which You have placed me. You'll be back at the right moment. Until then, I am content to wait. Amen.

 

 

My defense to those who examine me is this: 1 Corinthians 9:3

 

The NKJV (cited here) phrases this verse as Paul's introduction to his defense when in fact he has already made his defense. The terms he uses for "defense" and "examine" are legal in nature, used during an inquiry. He had been legally challenged and he has legally defended his position. Therefore, this verse is referring not to what follows, which is a series of questions on which he bases his defense. Instead, they are a series of rhetorical questions in confirmation of what he has defended.

 

This verse then should end with a period, not a colon because the subsequent verses are merely rhetorical questions given as a follow up to these previously submitted facts:

 

1) He is an apostle (verse 1)

2) He is free (verse 1)

3) He has seen Jesus Christ our Lord (verse 1)

4) Those in Corinth are his work in the Lord (verse 1)

5) The Corinthians are the seal of his apostleship in the Lord (verse 2)

 

He has been challenged and he has responded in a manner which proves his apostleship. From this springboard of his certified status, he will next show what rights he is entitled to in that status.

 

Life application: Understanding Paul's method of writing allows us to more accurately interpret his words. He was trained under the law and was skilled at identifying an issue and then defending that issue preemptively. This is an excellent way of handling a sensitive discussion which will keep others from thinking they have outwitted you. Thinking of contingencies that may arise and responding to them in advance will usually bolster one's viewpoint in the end.

 

Be my defense O God as I face the enemy's darts

When they speak against me, fill me with Your word

Though they may have graphs, notes, and charts

You are on my side; my Defender is my Lord

 

Knowing Your word is a most valued tool

Because it was given by You to guide me through each trial

Against the vain utterings of the wicked and the fool

By standing on it, the attacks will end after a short while

 

Every good lesson given there is a great defense for us

Because they are lessons which reflect the very heart of Jesus

 

Lord God, the more I read Your word, the clearer the difficult issues of this life become. I can see why bad things happen, even to the best of people. I understand that wickedness has an end. I find there hope and solace in times of depression and trial. In Your word I find these and so much more. Help me to direct others to this wonderful tool, guide, and path of sound reason where they also can find sure footing and contentment. This I pray that they will be edified and You will be glorified. Thank You for your precious, superior word. Amen.

 

 

Do we have no right to eat and drink? 1 Corinthians 9:4

 

Paul's words concerning his rights as an apostle here have grown naturally out of his previous discussion about food sacrificed to idols. There, in verse 8:9, he said, " But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak." In that verse, the word "liberty" is translated from the same word as "right" which Paul uses here in 9:4. Though the subject has changed - from meat sacrificed to idols to the rights of the apostle, the example remains consistent.

 

Paul finished chapter 8 by saying that "if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble." This was immediately followed by his claim to apostleship. He has a "right to eat and drink" at the expense of the church. But he hadn't exercised that right as will be noted in the verses to come.

 

In not using this right, however, some may have come to the conclusion that he wasn't actually an approved apostle. In essence, "If Paul were an apostle, the church would pay his bills and he wouldn't be working side jobs in order to support himself." The same could be concluded today - "Peter Preacher isn't really a pastor because he has several part time jobs. He is just 'playing pastor' at the church he preaches at."

 

However, Paul has preempted this line of reasoning by stating the somewhat parenthetical thought of verses 9:1-3. His apostleship is, in fact, validated by those in Corinth; they are the seal of his apostleship. As this is the case, then why doesn't he exercise his rights as an apostle? The answer will come in due time, but before it does, he will continue to rhetorically ask several more questions concerning apostle's rights. These questions will be answered from the words of Scripture including words from Jesus Himself.

 

Life application: Is it a mark of an unacceptable ministry that a preacher has side jobs in order to pay his wages? Is a small home-church of less importance than a large mega church? Using Paul as an example, surely the opposite may at times be true. The preacher, pastor, or priest who relies solely on the church for his expenses is in the comfortable position of preaching whatever he wishes without worry of where his bread will come from. Because of this, his heart may or may not truly care about the word which he has been called to present. But the one who stands behind the pulpit without receiving a full measure for his efforts is more than likely doing so because of a profound sense of care and respect for God's superior word. Which then is more likely to feed, defend, tend to, and be willing to give all for his flock?

 

Precious heavenly Father! Thank You for those who strive to share Your word without trumpets sounded before them. Thank You for the quiet scholars who sit and analyze Your word, straining to understand every subtle nuance it contains. Thank You for the missionaries who truly care about the lost and not about the exciting travels and surroundings that accompany their duties. Thank You for the pastors of wee little churches off the beaten path who care more for instruction than they do for flash, pomp, and notoriety. And Lord, thank You even for the folks who clean the restrooms so that the church is tidy. Thank You for Your servants who possess a servant's heart. Amen.

 

 

Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?  1 Corinthians 9:5

 

In this verse, Paul continues to show that he bears the rights of an apostle, whether he exercised those rights or not. His question, which is composed of several parts, is rhetorical in nature. In essence, it is a strong affirmation, not a perplexed question needing validation. In this verse, much interpretive abuse has taken place over the centuries because of the policies of the Roman Catholic Church and the mishandling of concepts by early sects and individuals.

 

Paul begins with, "Do we have no right to take along a believing wife?" In this, the clear and obvious interpretation is that he is speaking of an actual wife. However, because of those who forbid the clergy to marry (and other confused thoughts), they interpret this not as a "wife" but as merely a sister in the Lord who would accompany an apostle. This however only brings in even greater difficulties and is certainly not the intent of the verse. Rather it is speaking of a right known among the Christians of that time. That right is that the apostles who were married could be accompanied by their wives and both the apostle and the wife were to be supported by the church.

 

This is the intent of "as do also the other apostles." Those apostles who were married were accompanied by their wives during their apostolic travels and they were supported by the church. Therefore, Paul's rhetorical question is, "Don't we have this right as well?" In response, a "Yes" answer must be given whether he were to accept the right or not. The "we" is speaking of Barnabas who accompanied Paul (who will be mentioned in the next verse). They were also entitled to this right.

 

The question next includes "the brothers of the Lord." Accepting this portion of the verse at face value has caused a great deal of apoplexy among many over the centuries. The cult of "Mary" worship and the nutty ideas that she is a "perpetual virgin" has lead to unreasonable interpretations of these words. The word translated as "brothers" could be referring to children of Joseph and Mary, but it could also refer to children of Joseph from a former marriage, or even more distant relatives of the Lord.

 

Of course, those who heretically worship Mary will inevitably claim that one of the latter two was correct and that Mary never had relations with Joseph. Such biblical interpretations are inexcusably forced and unnatural. These were sons of Joseph and Mary, born after the birth of Christ Jesus as the Bible indicates elsewhere. They, like the other apostles, were entitled to this right and privilege as well.

 

And finally, a separate distinction is made for Peter - "and Cephas." This spirit-inspired wording was certainly intended to keep the church from heresy concerning leadership. The leader of a body is entitled to be married and is entitled to have the wife supported by the church. Despite the clarity here, the Roman Catholic Church, claiming that the Pope is directly linked to Peter, does not allow their Pope to be married; something completely contrary to the very model given in the person they claim as their first "pope."

 

Not only does this verse show that Peter was married, but other such indications are given in Scripture. In Matthew 8:14, 15 this is noted -

 

"Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them."

 

It would be rather nutty to acquire a mother-in-law and not a wife. A clear interpretation of this verse is that Paul had the rights of an apostle to be married and to bring his wife along at the expense of the church; that Jesus had half-brothers who were the sons of Joseph and Mary; and that Peter took a wife when he took a mother-in-law.

 

From these points we can deduce that 1) it is right and acceptable that the clergy of the church may marry and that the wife should be supported by the church. Further, the ideology of a church which forbids such marriage is contrary to Scripture. 2) When the church clergy travels for church business, including missionary work, the wife should be supported by the church, thus keeping the clergy member from possible temptations during that period of absence and for the general well-being of the husband and his wife. 3) There is no obligation of a clergy member to be married, but there is also no tenet which would forbid them from marrying.

 

Life application: When evaluating the Bible, keeping one's thoughts free from pre-suppositions is always the right approach. If one comes to the text already supposing something is the case, then he will manipulate what is being read in order to fit what is already believe. This is not sound interpretation and it can only lead to great problems in doctrine.

 

Many blessings You have upon us showered

Kindness beyond measure You have poured up us

Delicious food, clouds of white, and radiant fields which have flowered

But none of these compare to our Lord Jesus

 

You send us rain in due time to soften up the earth

And beauty adorns the mountains which stand before us

Our hearts are filled with joy, gladness, and mirth

But nothing compares to the delight of knowing Jesus

 

What kind of love! How You care for Your children!

What kind of love You have lavished upon us!

Indeed, You have been so good to the sons of men!

By sending us Your greatest Gift, our Lord Jesus!

 

Glorious God Almighty! Of all the wonders and the joys You have given to us in order to delight our senses, fill our minds with wonder, and make us hope for even more as each day unfolds, above all this You have given us the most marvelous Gift of all by granting us a personal glimpse of Your heart and Your love reflected in the face of our wondrous Lord, Your Son, Jesus. Thank You for Jesus! Amen.

 

 

Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? 1 Corinthians 9:6

 

This verse is not actually a new thought which is submitted to the Corinthians, but the completion of the series of questions which began in verse 4. Though stated as questions, they are rhetorical in nature and are to be taken as affirmative statements... "I and Barnabas have a right to earn a living from our preaching." By asking it rhetorically after having given the evidences of his apostleship though, he is merely showing the ridiculous nature of the situation.

 

There was seemingly, however, a group that felt that Paul and his ministry wasn't actually worthy of being supported by the church. It probably goes to the decision rendered in Galatians 2:9, 10 which reads thus -

 

"James, Cephas, and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along."

 

Maybe it was believed that because Paul was "only" sent to the Gentiles, he wasn't worthy of support. However, as history has borne out, his ministry and letters have been far more productive in establishing the church than all the other letters combined. His words have comprised the main doctrine of the church for nearly 2000 years. Despite this, and despite the true apostolic ministry that he had, he continued to support himself and work for a living.

 

It is known from Acts 18:13 that he was a tentmaker by trade. In this, he worked to support himself. The Greek word for "working" is ergazesthai and it indicates manual labor. Despite his tireless efforts in sharing the gospel, he was a man of physical labors as well.

 

One final note on this verse is that this is the last time Barnabas is mentioned in Scripture. The previous mentioning of him was in Acts 15. In that account, Paul and Barnabas had a great dispute about a matter which caused them to almost come to blows. They divided at that time, and there is no record of them having met up again. However, it appears from this verse that Barnabas took Paul's example of working for a living to heart and continued to follow this pattern in his own ministry.

 

Life application: There is nothing wrong with good hard work. In fact, the pastor who gets out and tends to the church grounds, works around his house, or works physically in some other way will be a positive example to those in the church to not sit around collecting welfare or other charity when they are fully capable of earning their own way. The Bible says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, "If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat." In this verse, the same word for work, ergazesthai, is used which was used by Paul 1 Corinthians 9:6. Don't be a sluggard. Rather, if your physical makeup and the economy around you allows it, be productive with your hands, not causing others to support you when you are fully capable of earning a living.

 

Lord God, thank You for the work of my hands which You have given me to do. There are things to fix and clean around the house. There are lawns to be mowed, trees to be trimmed, and cars to be washed and waxed. And at my regular job, there is always something I can do to be productive. None of these things are demeaning or lowly, but rather they are worthy of my best effort and my sincere, heartfelt attendance to them. And so Lord, establish the work of my hands and be glorified in how I follow through with each task. Amen.

 

 

Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock? 1 Corinthians 9:7

 

Paul now continues with three more questions which are rhetorical in nature. Each demands a response of "Nobody!" He begins with warriors. "Who ever goes to war at his own expense?" Do those who fight the battles for king and country do so at their own expense? No. Instead, they are fed, clothed, and paid by whoever they are fighting for. Even those who are mercenaries fight for pay by the power who has hired them.

 

If a soldier who is enlisted to take life is so paid for his service, how much more then should a soldier who is sent out to preserve life be paid for the warfare he wages. And Paul equates the ministry of Christ to an on-going battle. In Ephesians 6, he notes that, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Ephesians 6:12, 13).

 

Likewise, in 1 Timothy 1:18, he notes this to his beloved protégé - "This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare." The lesson from this is that the soldier of Christ should, in fact, be paid for his services by the church for whom he wages war.

 

Next he asks, "Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit?" Again, the question demands an answer that the vinedresser does partake of the fruit of the vine. It is right and expected that he should do so. In the very first such example of the planting of a vineyard in the Bible, this is noted -

 

"And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk..." Genesis 9:20

 

Noah not only planted a vineyard, he also enjoyed the benefit of what the vineyard produced. Regardless of whether one finds fault in him getting drunk, the fact is that he partook of his vineyard. Later, in the Law itself and certainly the verse to which Paul is speaking, Moses notes these points to the people of Israel prior to their entry into the land of Canaan -

 

"Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying: 'What man is there who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it. Also what man is there who has planted a vineyard and has not eaten of it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man eat of it. And what man is there who is betrothed to a woman and has not married her? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man marry her.'" Deuteronomy 205-7

 

Again as he did concerning the warrior, Paul equates those who labor for Christ as "farmers." In 2 Timothy 2:6, he shows that the expectation is that the spiritual farmer should be allowed to participate in the benefits of the harvest in which he labors, when he says, "The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops." The lesson from this is that the one who works in Christ's field should be paid for his services by the church for whom he farms.

 

In his third question, he asks about the flocks of the field - "Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?" Again, the answer is that those who do so certainly partake of their efforts. Under the law, the tithe of the flocks and herds were taken to where the temple stood and they were eaten by the giver after they were sacrificed. This is found in Deuteronomy chapter 12 -

 

"There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you." Deuteronomy 12:6, 7

 

As before, the work of those in the leadership positions in the church is equated to that of the shepherd. In Acts 20:28, Paul states this to the leaders in Ephesus -

 

"Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."

 

Peter uses the shepherd terminology again in 1 Peter 5:2. Thus, the lesson from this is that the one who tends to Christ's flock should be paid for his services by the church for whom he shepherds. From these three examples, Paul clearly defends the principle that it is not out of the ordinary for the one in leadership to expect to receive the benefit of his labors directly from the church.

 

Life application: In today's world, it is common for pastors and other clergy to be paid for their services. This is right and appropriate. However, it was never intended for people in such positions to be paid extravagant amounts. Those who have jet planes, million-dollar mansions, and flashy clothing and jewelry make a mockery of the humble, hard-working lives of the apostles who established the church. If your pastor lives a life of flash and pomp, you should find another pastor in more Bible-centered church.

 

O God, the Father of those who have by faith called on Christ as Lord, thank You for the wondrous hope of the future which You have granted to us. In this life, there are great days, good times, and moments of true elation. But there are also crummy days, times when nothing goes right, and moments of previously unimagined sadness. One day can be completely the opposite of the next. And yet, when things go south and life is dim, we have the assurance that the very best days we've had are not even a taste of a regular day when we are brought into Your presence. With this assurance, we can get through the tough times. Someday, we will see Jesus! Amen!

 

 

Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? 1 Corinthians 9:8

 

After defending his apostleship, Paul has been asking rhetorical questions to bolster his rights as an apostle. He is entitled to partake of the benefits of being an apostle whether he exercises those rights or not. It can be inferred that because he didn't exercise them, others were using it as evidence that he really wasn't an apostle.

 

Because of his apostleship to the gentiles, there was certainly a dislike of his status among those who argued that the gospel was for the Jews, or at least for those who held to the law of Moses. That issue was resolved at the Council of Jerusalem, but it didn't change the hearts and minds of those in the legalistic faction of Judaizers. In fact, it hasn't changed them today, 2000 years later. Regardless of this, Paul's apostleship was valid and he was entitled to the rights and benefits of it.

 

In order to bolster this, especially in the eyes of those who held to Scripture (meaning what is now called the Old Testament), he will appeal to Scripture itself. He uses this particular formula abundantly in his letters. Instead of relying merely on human reasoning, Scripture will support his claims. In this verse, he uses two separate words to intensify what he is relaying. In his comment "do I say," the verb is lalo. In the comment "does not the law say" the verb is legei. The first word, lalo, is a general word; as a mere man. The second word, legei, is a more distinguished word; from Scripture itself.

 

Life application: Paul's argument from human reason is bolstered and intensified when it is combined with the very words of Scripture. This is an extremely useful point to consider and remember. Defending the faith from science and philosophy is a wonderful way to get people to consider the workings of God. However, only Scripture can specifically bring a person to salvation. One who relies on Scripture first for their worldview will always have a better understanding of the issues which surround us, be they morality, Zionism, the nature of God, or a plethora of other things that swirl around us from day to day.

 

Lord, there are many ways to look at a given issue, be it morality, prosperity, health, Zionism, the nature of creation, or even the nature of You who created. Because these things can be argued in different ways, I will always first consider them from the perspective of Your word. I know that in doing this, I will have the superior source from which to make my decisions about those issues, regardless of how they may appear in the world around me. I trust Your word above all else to be my light, my guide, and my source of understanding those issues which are addressed by You. Thank You for Your superior word! Amen.

 

 

For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? 1 Corinthians 9:9

 

In his words of 1 Corinthians 9:9, Paul uses a common rabbinical technique known as kal va-khomer (from light to heavy) to argue his case. It is an argument as Chabad describes "whereby a conclusion is drawn from a minor premise or more lenient condition ("light") to a major or more strict one ("weighty") or vice versa, a fortiori argument. In common parlance, 'all the more so.'"

 

He has, for the past several verses, been arguing for the case that he bears all the rights of an apostle. In order to bolster that argument in a way which the "judaizers" could not honestly refute, he turns to the very source of their claims for their laws, traditions, and heritage - the Law of Moses. There, within the law are written the words, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain." This is stated in Deuteronomy 25:4.

 

The idea is that to muzzle an ox, who is participating in the labors of treading out the grain in order to separate the grain from the chaff, would show a disrespect for the laborer, even if it were a mere ox. Muzzling involved tying its mouth closed in one way or another or even placing a basket over its mouth so that it couldn't eat the grain, thus depriving it of the food that was in its eyesight. It showed a coldness of heart towards the brute beast that was unacceptable in the eyes of God.

 

Paul then asks, "Is it oxen God is concerned about?" The answer is two-fold. First, "Yes, God cares about the oxen or he wouldn't have placed the admonition in the law in the first place." For this to be prescribed showed that God did, in fact, care for the oxen. He showed the same care for the animals of Nineveh when speaking to Jonah. At the very end of the book, these final words are noted -

 

"You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?" Jonah 4:10, 11

 

However, in making his kal va-khomer, or "light to heavy" argument, Paul shows that though God did care for the ox, he displays more care for man, His highest creature. This is with all certainty (though Paul doesn't explain it here) because bordering the curious verse about muzzling the ox are examples of care for His people. Deuteronomy 25:1-3 deals with the punishment of an offender of the law and the mercy he was to be given. No more than 40 lashes could be meted out lest, "he should exceed this and beat him with many blows above these, and your brother be humiliated in your sight."

 

And then after the note about the ox comes more verses which concern the care of His people. Specifically, the rights of, and care for, the widow of a dead man. The principle of the ox then, even within the law itself, implies something of greater weight than the mere words initially seem to entail. God is showing care for the ox and yet, the implication is of greater care for His people.

 

The verse is of such importance to understanding the greater principle intended by the law that Paul repeats it in his first letter to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:18.

 

Life application: The Law of Moses, though set aside in Christ, contains valuable insights into God's relationship with, and desires for, His creatures. Because the Old Testament is so heavily cited in the New Testament, it is not truly possible to grasp the depth of New Testament revelation without understanding that of the Old. Don't be afraid to dig into the Old Testament... it won't bite you, but rather it will edify your understanding of God's redemptive plans for humanity.

 

Precious Lord! I am thrilled beyond measure to wake up in the morning and know that You are there. As the day unfolds, I can see Your hand of grace, leading me to beauty that surrounds me - rainbows and puffy white clouds are there if I will just lift my eyes and look. The food I eat... I will not take it for granted, but will remember to thank You for it. So many others lack the abundance I possess. Lord, thank You for Your attentive hand of care for me. And should it all disappear tomorrow, I will thank You for my lack, knowing that it was ordained by You. You are great and are always worthy of praise. Amen.

 

 

Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope.  1 Corinthians 9:10

 

This verse refers to the previous verse. Taken together, they read -

 

"Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, 'You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.' Is it oxen God is concerned about? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope."

 

Paul's question concerning the words of Deuteronomy 25:4 is whether God intended to mean an ox, or was He rather making a spiritual picture of a fortiori argument. Is it "altogether for our sakes?" The answer immediately follows - "For our sakes, no doubt." The context of the verse, which is in the middle of other passages dealing with human matters, indicates that it was actually referring to a human matter as well. However, this does not exclude a literal meaning also. The word translated as "altogether" is pantos. Albert Barnes, after reviewing the nine uses of pantos in the New Testament concludes -

 

"The word here, therefore, means that the 'principle' stated in the law about the oxen was so broad and humane, that it might "certainly, surely, particularly" be regarded as applicable to the case under consideration."

 

And this is exactly what one should deduce when reading the law in Deuteronomy. The logical thought process should be something like: "God has said to not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain. The law is intended for us to understand and consider God's heart for us. If God is concerned about a mere ox as it labors, then how much more is He concerned about us! If I have employees under me who labor for me, I should give greater care to them than the law requires me to give to my brute beast."

 

The man "who plows should plow in hope." The laborer shouldn't come home hungry after his day of work if he has been laboring in the processing of food all day. That would be an abuse of the bounty given to the one who hired the laborer. Likewise, "he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope." There are various ways to thresh grain depending on the type of grain. Isaiah explains this to us -

 

"For the black cummin is not threshed with a threshing sledge,
Nor is a cartwheel rolled over the cummin;
But the black cummin is beaten out with a stick,
And the cummin with a rod.
Bread flour must be ground;
Therefore he does not thresh it forever,
Break it with his cartwheel,
Or crush it with his horsemen.
This also comes from the Lord of hosts,
Who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance." Isaiah 28:27-29

 

If an ox is not to be muzzled while it treads out the grain, then it logically follows that someone who beats out grain with a stick should also not be kept from partaking as he threshes. Therefore, the principle found in the law is God's way of protecting His creatures and keeping the hearts of His people from hardening towards His laborers. It is an ingeniously placed passage in Deuteronomy which points to much more than it at first appears.

 

From this springboard, Paul will move from grains to the gospel.

 

Life application: The word given to us by God spans thousands of years of human existence and yet it coalesces into one whole, united, and understandable work of literature. The reason this is so is because God is the ultimate Author of its words. He carefully, methodically, and slowly revealed His heart to us through His word in order to show us our great need for Jesus. As you read the pages of the Bible, never stop looking for spiritual applications and pictures of Christ. You will be abundantly rewarded as you do.

 

O Lord, my heart often gets beating rather quickly as I read Your word. A sudden insight into something I'd never before considered will fill me with a sense of awe at how I missed that in the past. Reading a psalm will often elevate my soul to a higher place where my hope in You becomes surer than only a moment earlier. When I contemplate the words You spoke to and through your prophets, I see history itself unfold. I stand ever in awe of the beauty revealed in Your superior word. Thank You for this immeasurable gift! Amen.

 

 

If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? 1 Corinthians 9:11

 

Paul has been showing through the use of Deuteronomy 25:4 that the oxen which treaded out the grain is actually making a greater statement about the labors of people. If an oxen isn't to be kept from eating the grain he treads, then how much more should the human laborer be provided for through his efforts! He now transfers this thought directly to his apostleship, which he defended several verses ago as one shown to be valid and which actually was the means of transmitting the gospel to those in Corinth.

 

Because their coming to Christ came about through his efforts, then wasn't he entitled to be provided for through those efforts? In this reasoning, he states it from the greater to the lesser; from the spiritual to the material. This then is the opposite of the previous argument -

 

1) From the ox (lesser) to the human (greater).

2) From the spiritual (greater) to the material (lesser).

 

His words are "If we have sown spiritual things for you..." The "if" is to be taken as a statement of fact - "We have (definitely) sown spiritual things for you" (as he demonstrated earlier). Because of this, "is it a great thing if we reap your material things?" The question demands an answer that it is no great thing, but rather what would be expected. The ox was entitled, according to the law, to eat as he threshed. The context of the surrounding passage (and Paul's words of analysis concerning it) show that this naturally leads to the same entitlement for man in his labors. Therefore, it is no great thing to consider that those who minister in spiritual things should in fact reap in material things.

 

In both clauses, the "we" is emphatic, only bolstering the intent of his words, and the use of the word "great" involves a hint of sarcasm. He is showing very clearly that his apostleship is one which has been both helpful to them and deserving of their help to him in return. Despite this, Paul declined to accept such help from them. This will be seen as the chapter continues and the reason for it will be explained.

 

Life application: Paul says in Galatians 6:6, "Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches." There is good reason for this. The one who teaches spiritually is providing the most valuable of all benefits to those he teaches (assuming the word is being properly handled and rightly divided). Is it then too much to return to the teacher something of benefit for his material profit?

 

Let him who is taught the word share

In all good things with him who teaches

For in that precious word, and only there

Is the found the true path to which heaven reaches

 

The one who so instructs has the most important duty

And the one who is instructed should so avow

With gifts and offerings, a thankful booty

For spiritual instruction of the Who, the what, the how

 

For in learning the word, we learn of Jesus

And in Him is found the true and only heavenly path

It is His cross which has delivered us

From condemnation and God's holy wrath

 

Lord, I thank You for the many great men who have instructed me in my spiritual walk. Some have passed long ago and only their writings remain. Some I've met from afar, through the television or radio. And some have come into my life by Your gracious hand so that I have personally met them and learned from them. For each of these people I am grateful to You. Thank You for those who have carefully and rightly divided Your word in order to instruct me about Jesus. Amen.

 

 

If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?

Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. 1 Corinthians 9:12

 

After all the previous verses of chapter 9, Paul will begin to explain why he chose not to exercise his apostolic rights. Before he does though, he makes an obvious statement -

 

"If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?"

 

He has spent seven verses showing how the rights of the one who labors include their entitlement to being supported by those they labor for. As this is a right which goes all the way back to the Law of Moses and which included brute beasts, it should be considered a universal axiom.

 

As it is, and because the other apostles used this right when visiting Corinth, weren't Paul and Barnabas even more entitled to using it? It was they who originally came and shared the gospel with them! In fact, Paul said to them that "you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord" (verse 3). Because of this undeniable fact, he was certainly entitled to the right of payment for his labors.

 

And yet, despite this certainty, Paul continues with "Nevertheless we have not used this right." This shows that Paul had an agenda other than profiting off of those in Corinth. If sharing the gospel was his passion and his life's main purpose, and yet he didn't earn his keep from it, then it showed a sincerity of heart that others should have recognized. If a person played major league baseball for nothing more than food money and a place to sleep, it would show a true love for the game. But when there are millions of dollars up for grabs, one can never really tell if the players are on the field for love of money or love of the game.

 

The same is true with televangelists. Just because someone has great oratory skills, doesn't mean that their love for Christ is sincere. Knowing that there are literally millions of dollars available to those who preach the gospel, along with fame, power over others, and Lear jets waiting in the hangar, one can't really be certain that Christ is the purpose for the preaching. Paul desired to avoid any such pitfall in the minds of those he ministered to. Instead he notes that they "endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ."

 

He was willing to go to great lengths and through any trials to share the gospel, even without exercising his rights as an apostle. The word translated "endure" is the Greek word stegomen. It means to cover closely (so as to keep water out). In essence, "to contain without leaking." The external pressures on a ship as it passes through heavy seas is immense. Such a test of the ship will show its true colors. If it survives such a beating, it is a worthy vessel to trust one's life with. Paul was showing to them that the message he preached was a worthy message; one in which another could trust with their eternal soul. There was nothing which could harm their fate, and Paul's willingness to suffer externally without cost or benefit was a demonstration of this.

 

The word for "hinder" is the Greek word enkopēn. It is only used here in the New Testament and it basically means an "incision" or a "cutting into." Hence Paul gives the idea of an impediment on a path which would interfere with following that path. If he were to come and lollygag around, eating food, schmoozing with the church, and expecting special treatment, those in the church could easily question his motives concerning the sharing of the gospel.

He wanted no such thing to occur, and so he worked diligently and without charge to share the wondrous message which had been entrusted to him.

 

Life application: About the secrets hidden inside each of us the Bible says -

 

"The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9

 

Only the Lord can truly search out the heart of man. But our eyes should be used to evaluate those around us, particularly those in positions of power or leadership. It is a foolish thing to implicitly trust someone who acts in one way while speaking in another. If a leader were to spend all of his time on the golf course while telling others about the importance of work, it would show a corruption of the heart which was obvious. Likewise if that leader's wife were to tell those around her to only eat certain foods she deemed healthy and yet she was often seen eating foods which weren't on that list, it would show the corrupt and twisted thinking of a person who merely wanted control over others. In such cases, evaluating the actions would show the heart of the person. Let us reasonably evaluate our leaders, both in the church and elsewhere, and not blindly follow them because they have fine speaking abilities or some other highly noticeable trait.

 

Lord, help me to be discerning in how I evaluate others. Help me not to be overly judgmental, but at the same time, give me the wisdom to not blindly follow those in leadership positions. Help me especially in the church to properly and wisely evaluate leaders and to not get caught up in idolizing them or their great abilities. I know if that were to happen, I would blindly trust them, even if their message wasn't sound. Grant me such discernment so that I will follow Your word above all else. Amen.

 

 

Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? 1 Corinthians 9:13

 

From verse 4 until verse 12, Paul meticulously demonstrated that those who labor should receive compensation for their labors. Then in verse 12, he switched his comments to note that "we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ." He has moved from general labor to the specific labor, meaning work for Christ. Now in verse 13, he shows that those who labored for the Lord in the Old Testament received compensation for their efforts.

 

This move is to further bolster his previous comments about the rights of an apostle and how they should be entitled to support from the ministry. And so he again reaches back to the mandates of the Old Testament law. One of the twelve tribes, Levi, was set apart for ministering to the people. Within this tribe one group, the sons of Aaron, were called to the priesthood. In return for these mandated services, they were supported through the sacrifices and offerings of the people of Israel.

 

The first portion of his question deals with the Levites - "Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple?" Whether they knew this or not before Paul asked them, they knew it to be true now. The question is a rhetorical one and indicates that they do in fact eat those things. Likewise he asks if they also knew that "those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar." This portion concerns the priests of Israel who, in fact, partook of those things.

 

There are numerous verses in the Old Testament law which so provided for the Levites and priests. Every third year, the Levites received the tithes of the people as a portion of their wages. From this a tithe went to the priests. When animal or grain sacrifices and offerings were brought to the temple, depending on the type presented, a portion may have been taken and given to them for their sustenance. When an animal was so sacrificed, the law even provided that the skins of the animal were to be given to the priests as payment. These could be sold for clothing, tents, parchments, etc. (This is found in Leviticus 7:8).

 

In all, the answer to Paul's question is that those who so minister and those who so serve do in fact benefit directly from their work. Using this line of reasoning from the Mosaic Law, he will next show that the Lord Himself directed something similar for those who share in the gospel.

 

Life application: Paul's words, though seeming to flip back and forth, actually form a well though out progression. In following how he presents an argument and then defends it, we can learn also how to defend the tenets of the faith. There is nothing wrong with using Old Testament concepts for such a defense if those concepts carry through logically to the New Testament. However, we must be careful to not arbitrarily apply or claim verses from the Old Testament which actually have no relevance to a New Testament concept. Care then needs to be taken in how one approaches concepts and prescriptions found in the Old Testament.

 

As the years pass by we grow in knowledge

We change from children into young adults

We move through school years and may head off to college

And we learn in life from mistakes and from faults

 

Eventually though we to a certain point age

Where we start to lose some of the things we once knew

Our memories fade, whether a professor or a sage

And sooner or later our time here on earth is through

 

But You, O God, are from everlasting to everlasting

In You is a sure hope to have life anew

And so to You our eyes and our hopes we are a'casting

For the wondrous resurrection and eternal days with You

 

Yes Lord God, our days on earth are few and full of trials and difficulties, but You have given an eternal hope to those who have called on Jesus. Help us to remember this in the times when things seem hopeless, toilsome, or painful and remind us that these afflictions are just temporary and passing away. Thank You for our sure and grounded hope in Jesus our Lord! Amen.

 

 

In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:14

 

Paul has made a logical and orderly defense concerning the rights of those who minister to others in spiritual matters. He even reached back to the law both from a spiritual application and concerning those who "serve in the temple" and "those who serve at the altar." In a final and unambiguous defense, he notes that the Lord Himself "has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel."


Although the gospel which was preached during the Lord's earthly ministry lacked a knowledge of the "church age" for both those He commissioned to teach it as well as those who heard it, it was still a preaching of the gospel. Though the disciples at that time expected the gospel to be immediately realized as one of an earthly kingdom, something He corrected them on in Acts 1:6-8, it was nonetheless the gospel proclamation. At that time, he gave these instructions to the twelve apostles -

 

"Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you." Matthew 10:5-13

 

His words "the worker is worth his keep" indicates that these men were to be cared for during their travels as they carried this good news to the people of Israel. Based on this, along with all of his other supporting thoughts, it was clearly evident that Paul (and all who preach the gospel) are to be given the same support as they minister to others.

 

Paul's reference to "the Lord has commanded" implies that the words were already being circulated among believers. In other words, there were probably copies of these words from Matthew already out among the people. If not, then he would have most likely said something like "as Peter informed me, the Lord has commanded." The fact that he left the source out of his letter implies that the gospel narrative was already known to those in Corinth. It is an attestation of a very early date for the writing of the gospel record.

 

Finally for this verse, Paul notes that preachers "should receive their living from the gospel." In essence, he is equating the "gospel" with the "altar" of his previous thoughts. The work of the temple only prefigured the greater work of Christ. Thus we see in Hebrews these words -

 

"We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. 11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come." Hebrews 13:10-14

 

Life application: Remember as you go to your respective place of worship, that your pastor is entitled to certain benefits and honors. If faithful in his proclamation of the gospel, which includes the whole counsel of God, then don't be timid to do something special for him from time to time. In many ways, serving as a pastor can be a brutal job. People get angry and leave for petty reasons and this will cut the metal of the toughest man eventually. So let him know you support him as long as he continues to present the Bible in a careful and God-honoring way.

 

Thank You Lord for another morning in Your presence. Today I will do my best to fix my eyes on You; to fix my thoughts on You; and to meditate on Your word as I go about my business. Please guide my every step, be with me in the decisions I make, and help me to remember to be good, kind, and courteous to others as the day unfolds. Help me Lord, to be the example of grace and goodness that You would desire of me. This is my prayer and this is my petition for the day ahead. Amen.

 

 

But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void. 1 Corinthians 9:15

 

For the past 14 verses, Paul has clearly and methodically defended his apostleship and then his right to compensation for the conducting of the duties of that office. This right was one granted even by the Lord Himself. However, he now introduces a new direction concerning this by stating "but." In contradistinction to what he has clearly laid out, he says "I have used none of these things." This is not in defiance of the Lord, but in support of the cause of the Lord's church.

 

All of the rights and privileges that should be associated with the exercise of his office have been turned down by him. He will explain this directly in this verse and for the next three verses, and then he will divide that explanation into two separate reasons -

 

1) His serving of men to impress upon them the gospel of Christ (verses 19-23).

2) His desire to run the race and receive the prize set before him (verses 24-27).

 

In order to lay the foundation for those things, he continues with his thoughts by saying, "nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me." In other words, it is as if he were saying, "Though I am entitled to these benefits and as of yet have not received them, this letter is not to get you to recognize this and correct it." Instead, his words are twofold. First, that they recognize his apostleship as valid (which he has done). Secondly, to understand why he has not accepted the rights that go along with the position and why he will continue to not accept those privileges.

 

And to show the absolute determination concerning his resolve in this matter, he finishes the verse with, "for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void." To him, the impartation of the gospel was the most important aspect of his life. He had been called out of darkness and into light directly by the Lord. He had received the highest measure of God's grace and he felt that to accept payment for such a wondrous gift would be worse than death. And if his life was sharing the gospel, then death would mean he could no longer share the gospel, something he earnestly desired to do. It is the strongest assertion possible that his motives were focused only on the sharing of what he had been bestowed.

 

Life application: People do certain things because they love to do them. We will pay large amounts of money to go mountain skiing, adventuring in the African safari, or go on an ocean cruise. Who would expect to be paid for doing such things? Paul's passion was sharing the gospel and so he was willing to share it without payment. And each person who truly loves Christ should likewise feel the desire and hunger to help in some way in this endeavor. Local missionary work, helping keep up the church, or even just carrying around tracts to hand out after dinner at a restaurant are ways to spread the message. What value is Christ to you? Are you showing it to others in self-sacrificing ways?

 

Lord God, I know that I could never do enough to merit the great grace which has been bestowed upon me through the work of Jesus. And yet, I have to admit that I fail daily to even try. I pass by people who don't know about Him and don't take the time to share the good news. I rush out of church without thinking that maybe I could help with some small task. I spend a lot of time watching TV or silly videos, but I don't pursue You by reading Your word. Help me to change this attitude in my life and to draw closer to You while imparting my love for You to others. Amen.

 

 

For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! 1 Corinthians 9:16

 

In his previous words, Paul tied the very continuance of his life in with the preaching of the gospel. He does this elsewhere as well. In Philippians 1, he wrote that there were two paths ahead of him. One was to depart and be with Christ (meaning he would die) and the second was that he would remain and continue preaching the gospel and teaching those he was a minister to. Here are his words -

 

"I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again." Philippians 1:23-26

 

If his life was literally tied to the performance of his gospel preaching, then how could he boast in preaching? One cannot boast in taking breaths, one cannot boast in the beating of the heart, and one cannot boast in the need to eat food. These are necessary things for the continuance of the person. Likewise, Paul could not boast in the preaching of the gospel. It was to him simply a necessity. Jeremiah felt the same burden -

 

"Then I said, 'I will not make mention of Him,
Nor speak anymore in His name.'
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
I was weary of holding it back,
And I could not." Jeremiah 20:9

 

Jeremiah could not hold back what he was impelled to do without dying. If he were to hold back from food, he would die. Likewise, if he held back from speaking out the word of the Lord, his end would come. This is what Paul felt as well. As he says, "for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!" As this was so, then how could he boast in his efforts in the gospel, the very thing that sustained his life? Rather, he had a boast in the gospel itself, not in his conveyance of it. In Galatians, he explicitly states this -

 

"But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Galatians 6:14

 

Life application: If you have been called by Christ, then you have a calling in Christ. The question is, have you allowed that calling to take root? A plant can only survive if it receives the nourishment it derives through its roots. And even if it survives, the amount it flourishes is derived externally as well - soil, water, sun, pruning, etc, all determine the health of the plant. Are you using your external sources properly - the Bible, prayer, fellowship, etc? Determine today to let nothing hinder you in developing your calling in Christ.

 

Heavenly Father, I know that a plant cannot be sustained unless it is fed through its roots. I also know that it can only flourish and thrive in good soil, the right amount of sun and water, and with proper pruning. As I know this by simply observing how the plant responds, then isn't this a truth that applies to me as well? How can I thrive in my walk with You unless I drink from Your word, commune with You in prayer, and fellowship with others who can build me up? I know it cannot happen without these things, so please keep me in the good field which provides these things. Amen.

 

 

For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. 1 Corinthians 9:17

 

In his previous comment, Paul said, "I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!" Therefore, this verse now follows logically from that thought. If necessity is laid upon him (meaning if he was compelled by a force he could not contain), then no reward should be expected. As he says, "For if I do this willingly, I have a reward."

 

Suppose he wasn't compelled to preach, but rather did it of his own free will. In such a case, he could expect a reward. When he showed up in a town such as Corinth, whatever pay they offered would be this reward and it would be his just due. However, this isn't the case with him and so he enters the word "but." This portion will explain the position he is actually in which is, "if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship."

 

Using a hypothetical (which is what applies to him) he shows that if one is under constraint to do something, they have been given a directive which is their obligation to fulfill. In this sense, he is likening himself to a bondservant (a term he specifically refers to himself as elsewhere). A bondservant is told what to do and he does it. No pay is expected for such services. Rather, the reward merely rests in pleasing the master of the house.

 

Like the bondservant, Paul's efforts in the gospel ministry were not for expected pay, but to fulfill an obligation that he was bound under. The reward is not from the work, but from the approval of the one who assigns the work. His approval and His reward is found in Christ, not in what he can gain from proclaiming Christ.

 

Life application: The more freedom one has realized in Christ, the more indebted to Christ the person must naturally feel. Paul's freedom from persecuting the church led him to an attitude of complete servitude to Christ. Some are freed from alcohol, some from drugs or murder or prostitution. Everyone will feel a different level of gratitude and willingness to return to the Lord a measure of appreciation. The question for each is, "How much do I feel I have gained in being saved by Christ?" The level of appreciation should be reflected in the level of willing return to the Lord without thought of receiving something for the effort put forth.

 

Heavenly Father, the day You opened my eyes to Jesus, I realized the magnitude of the guilt I bore in Your presence. And with it, I realized the immense forgiveness I received through His death in my place. May the work I do for the cause of Christ be acceptable to You, but I know that no matter how much I put forth, it will never be even minutely close to the debt I have been forgiven. Please, never let me forget the significance of the cross, but to set my eyes, heart, and feet on the road of sharing this wondrous message, even if it means I give all in the process. He died for me, I will live for Him until I die! Amen.

 

 

What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:18

 

Paul noted already that "necessity" was laid upon him to preach the gospel and that he had no expectation of a reward of compensation from those he preached to. However, this doesn't mean there was no reward at all in his preaching, and so he asks, "What is my reward then?" There is always a reward for fulfilling one's duties.


If a person has a job and he fulfills his duties, he will receive wages for doing that job. However, if he is a slave, he won't receive any wages. Nevertheless, he has a reward. If he has a harsh master and he fails to work, the master may beat him. His reward then when doing his job is to simply not be beaten. If he has a kind master who would never beat him, he will still lose his reward if he fails to work. It will be whatever punishment the master decides upon. But being a kind and gentle master, when the slave does his job, the reward may be a smile, a thumbs up, or a thank you. Though none are required, they are a reward in and of themselves.

 

But there is also the reward of merely doing the job because it is a job that the slave loves. He loves his master, he loves the type of work he is doing, and he loves that it gets done. The satisfaction is in the doing. This is Paul's reward. As he says, "That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge." Because he had necessity laid upon him, he followed through with that which impelled him and he found satisfaction in that. Had he asked for or received any wages for his work, then it would mean he was being rewarded for something he had to do. In this, there would be a taking advantage of his rights in a way which he felt was inappropriate. Instead, he refused this right, as he says, "that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.

 

Life application: If you are employed and have set wages and benefits which you regularly receive, then you are receiving what you agreed on when you took the job. If you are offered something from an outside contractor to "help" you make your mind up about something which would affect the company you worked for, then you would be abusing your position within your company. Paul stood fast on the gospel. If he received something for his preaching, then others could claim that they had an influence on his doctrine, whether it was true or not. Others are always evaluating our actions and we are asked to be upright in our dealings with those we come in contact with. This is an expectation of the follower of Christ.

 

Lord, there are principles which I believe - in my faith, in my morals, in my politics, and in other aspects of my life as well. They are what define me when others look at me. Help me to not be perceived as one who would compromise my principles, but to stand fast on them regardless of anything that challenges me in them. Above all, may this be true for my faith in Christ and in the teaching of Your word. Help me Lord to never compromise the doctrine which establishes me as Your servant. Amen.

 

 

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 1 Corinthians 9:19

 

The word "for" begins Paul's thought. It is then building upon his previous discussion. He said that he preached through "necessity," as one bound under a master and that his reward was solely in the preaching of the gospel. Hence, "for" shows an extra weightiness in what he will now say. "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all."

 

Paul had no person that he was bound to. He was a Roman citizen and thus free within the Roman society. He was also liberated from the bondage of the law by Christ and had no person over him in Jerusalem. He was not accountable to the Sanhedrin or to the high priest. He had no boss over him. Instead, he made tents while working with his own hands. And he preached the gospel without recompense from those he preached it to. Thus, he was not bound to any person or group within the church. He was free from obligation to any and all humans as far as a society could consider a person.

 

And yet, despite his exceptional freedoms, he willingly made himself "a servant to all." The word translated as "servant" is douloo and is more appropriately to be rendered "slave" in this context - "I have enslaved myself to all." What would be the reason for such a choice? Why would this man, free from all constraints, decide to treat everyone around him as a master to whom he was indebted? His reason shows a beautifully pure desire for that which freed him on the road to Damascus - "that I might win the more."

 

The sole desire of Paul's life of work and toil was to bring others to Christ. His refusal to accept payment was because he was showing his status as one who is actually a slave to Jesus Christ. In this position, he was thus allowing himself to be considered a slave to any and all who might call on Him. It is the mark of a truly selfless individual who understood what it meant to be "in Christ" both for himself and those around him.


Life application: To what extent are you willing to spread the gospel? Are you willing to give up on sleep in order to get up early and prepare for the day's battle? Are you willing to forgo lunch if it means an opportunity to tell someone about your faith. Will you give up on payment for your efforts, or will you even be willing to spend money out of your own pocket to share your faith? What is Christ worth to you? At one time you were without Him, but someone took the time to lead you to Him. Now that right and privilege is yours. Don't squander it!

 

Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help

Whose hope is in the Lord his God

Who made heaven and earth

Even the beautiful earth where man does trod

 

Also He made the rich and abundant sea

And all that is in each of them as well

He is the great and wondrous God of glory

As the wisdom of His creation does tell

 

He is the God who keeps truth forever

Who executes justice for the oppressed

Who gives food to the hungry

The Lord to weary souls He gives rest

 

Lord, who is it that can look up into the heavens and not see Your wisdom on display? Who is it that fails to see Your marvelous hand in the many creatures that walk the earth? Lord, who can deny the intricacy of how all the earth is balanced ever so perfectly so that even its wounds are healed and new life springs from them? Lord, open the eyes of such a person and show them that You are there, calling to them. Reveal Yourself and Your majesty by opening eyes that are blind. Amen.

 

 

...and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 1 Corinthians 9:20

 

This verse begins to explain his previous verse where he said, "I have made myself a servant to all." He will defend this thought for three verses and give a summary in the fourth. As a "servant to all, he showed himself to the Jew as becoming as a Jew. He did this, as he says, "that I might win Jews." In Philippians 3:4, 5, he says this -

 

"If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews."

 

Paul was neither overly proud of his Israelite heritage, nor did he run from it. He held it in its proper place and to those around him, he lived as a Jew so that they could see there was no conflict between his national status and his faith in Christ. If through such a presentation of his life and heritage he could convince some that his Christian faith was the right, natural, and logical path for the Jew, then he was willing to use that approach.

 

But there was another aspect of him which he addresses in this verse. He goes on to say that "to those who are under the law" he became "as under the law." And again, he gives the same reason, "that I might win those who are under the law." Continuing on in Philippians 3:5, 6, he said -

 

"...concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless."

 

Not only did he conduct himself in a way where he continued to live faithfully within his national heritage, but he did it as one who was obedient to the religious heritage of that national identity as well. There were many observant Jews in his time. They lived under the Law of Moses and followed the edicts of those placed above them.

 

Likewise, some of them lived within the strictest sects of the faith, as Pharisees or Sadducees. These people were those who were considered by others as the epitome of righteousness within the society at that time. Regardless of whether this was actually the case, because Paul originally came from them, he had the ability to demonstrate his obedience to the Law of Moses while at the same time showing that it in no way conflicted with his faith in Christ.

 

Unlike Peter who was actually unfaithful to the real principles of freedom in Christ while being observant as a Jew, Paul was able to work within both realms without showing any contradiction or hypocrisy between the two. And how could he do this? He gave up his freedoms in order to be a servant to all. This is exactly what his previous many verses were leading up to which concerned his true apostleship and the fact that though he deserved recompense for it,  he didn't use that right. He was a man who meticulously fit his life into every category he could in order to win some to Christ.

 

Life application: In Paul's time, some Jews viewed themselves from a point of national identity. Others viewed themselves from a point of religious identity. This is still true today within the Jewish race. Should you have the chance to talk to a Jew, be he an observant Jew or a "national Jew" you can still show, directly from the Bible, that there is no conflict between their Jewish connection and the truth of Christianity. It can be extremely difficult to change their thoughts on this for many reasons, but it is possible. More than anything else, prayer and patience is needed. One cannot force Christianity onto another, but through the word of God, through a loving attitude, and through heartfelt prayer, it can come about.

 

Heavenly Father, Your word is a word for all people. It is the message of hope and reconciliation  for both Jew and Gentile, for men and women, for young and old, and for the smartest person or the one lacking any education at all. It is one that can touch any and all who are willing to set aside their pride and humble themselves before the One who came to grant peace and reconciliation between You and us, our Lord Jesus. Help me to tactfully and wisely handle this word so that those I meet along the way will see the glory of Jesus and call out to Him in faith. Amen.

 

 

...to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 1 Corinthians 9:21

 

Paul has been addressing his willingness to spread the gospel to all classes of people in all ways. In the previous verse, he addressed those who lived as national Jews as himself being a national Jew. He also addressed those who lived under the law (meaning those who lived as religious Jews) as himself living as if he were under the law. At the same time, he now addresses those who are "without law." This is a reference to the Gentile peoples, of whom he is the apostle.

 

In his apostleship to them, he lived "as without law." In other words, they are without the Law of Moses and he showed that they were acceptable to Christ in that fashion. Paul notes that he so lived in that manner as well, through his words and through his writings. It is Christ which makes you acceptable to God, not adhering to the precepts of the law. However, he then qualifies his statement by saying in a parenthetical thought that though "not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ."

 

The law which he was under was God's law that reveals Christ. It is the understood law that man is infected with sin and that the only remedy to that problem is the cross of Jesus Christ. Christ is the embodiment of the law, having fulfilled it in our stead. When we place our trust in Him, we should have the desire to fulfill the law of conscience written on our hearts and be observant to the moral laws which are ingrained in us. Paul notes this in the early chapters of Romans. No one can be absolutely without law and be pleasing to God. Therefore we are not without law toward God because we are under law toward Christ.

 

This "law" which he observed has now been revealed in the writings of the New Testament. Particularly in Paul's words which are doctrine for the church. When we follow these guidelines, we are emulating what Christ would have for us because they are the inspired words which have been given for this purpose.

 

Paul lived this life that he mentions so "that I might win those who are without law." Once they were won to Christ by him, they could be rightly instructed in the "law toward Christ." Faith through grace saves. However, salvation implies being obedient to the One who has saved us. We are not without law in this regard; we do not have license to sin. The teaching that being in Christ means we have complete license to act as we wish is known as the antinomian error and it is something that is warned against throughout his writings.

 

Life application: We are all slaves to something. If we are a slave to Christ, then we are free from sin's condemnation. However, we are not free from sins consequences. If we live in sin after being saved by Christ, we will suffer the consequences of our sin. But we have been given freedom to live for Christ. Use that freedom wisely and live in a manner which will glorify our Lord.

 

In Christ I am freed from sin's condemnation

In Christ I have been saved through and through

But in Christ I may still suffer tribulation

This is something I should expect, I know it's true

 

How much more when I fail to properly heed

The words and directions He has given for my life!

If I act against his words in tongue and in deed

Should I expect anything but trouble and strife?

 

Rather, I will keep my nose deep in His word

And then apply its precepts to my walk each day

In grateful obedience to my gracious Lord

Yes, I will thankfully walk in His holy way

 

Yes Lord God, how can I expect to do my own thing and ignore Your word and yet be blessed by You? I will not be so presumptuous, but rather I will continue to meditate on Your word, cling to its precepts, and let them guide my walk to the very best of my ability. Be with me and strengthen me in this endeavor my Lord. And thank You in advance for hearing and responding! Amen.

 

 

...to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 1 Corinthians 9:22

 

So far, Paul has shown himself to be accommodating to others who viewed their faith differently than he did. He has identified himself as a servant to all, as a Jew, as one under the law, and as one without the law (meaning the Law of Moses, and thus implying a Gentile). He now, despite his vast knowledge of what it means to be a Christian, says that "to the weak I became as weak." This is certainly referring back to those he spoke of in 1 Corinthians 8. There he referred to believers lacking proper knowledge on certain issues.

 

An example of such a lack of knowledge might be eating pork. When someone didn't understand that eating pork was acceptable, he wouldn't have thrown it back in his face by having a pork-chop in front of him. Whatever the person's weakness, he would have made himself like them. He explained the need for this in that chapter with these words -

 

"And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble." 1 Corinthians 8:11-13

 

He took his role as an apostle seriously and meant to never harm someone who viewed their position before the Lord differently. This included those weak in the faith. And the reason for this was "that I might win the weak." To him, having the superior knowledge was of less immediate importance than demonstrating love to the one lacking knowledge. That person could later be properly instructed and also grow in his knowledge if he wasn't first chased away by Paul's actions.

 

And so having described several different categories of people, he sums up his accommodations by saying, "I have become all things to all men." As long as it wasn't improper or harmful, Paul would work within the parameters he had been granted as an apostle in order to bring others to faith or to build others up in their faith. All of this was done with the noble cause "that I might by all means save some."

 

This final thought is tagged on to show that his adjustments were for a right and noble purpose, not to simply be a man-pleaser, something that he knew would lead very quickly to heresy. He even states this explicitly in Galatians 1 after speaking of exactly that scenario -

 

"For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ." Galatians 1:10

 

In all ways, Paul knew that the purity of the gospel was paramount, and yet within that purity there was room for accommodation. He always attempted to find that right and untainted balance as he walked through the life of his apostleship.

 

Life application: "Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies." These words of Paul should be remembered by those who have the greater knowledge. In exercising love while instructing in right doctrine, the immature Christian will be built up in his faith and in his heart as well.

 

Heavenly Father, I look back on my early days as Your child and remember the passion I had - for You, for Your word, and for sharing the wondrous message of grace that I had received. Since then, I've grown in many ways, but has my passion in any of these areas cooled? Lord, search me out and ignite any flame which has died down. How much more should I love You now that You have carried me along life's path! How much more should I desire Your word, now that I have learned how to properly handle it! And how much more should I burn to share the gospel when I see how it has changed and shaped me! Return me to a longing desire to exalt You, O God! Amen.

 

 

Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. 1 Corinthians 9:23

 

Summing up his thoughts of the previous four verses, we read Paul's reflection on why he became "all things to all men". He's already said that it was that he "might by all means save some." But for him, there is a wondrous bonus tied into that notion. By doing this "for the gospel's sake" Paul knew that this would make him a "partaker of it with" those who heard and believed.


And isn't this the burden on our own hearts for those we love? Don't we longingly desire that the people we share our daily lives with will also share heaven's glory with us? Paul looked even beyond his close associates and relatives and desired this for all men. He knew that he was once far off from the Lord and that only through his calling on the road to Damascus was his salvation possible. He looked for that same heartfelt conversion in others.

 

Life application: As you pass by people on the street, do you take the time to think "that is a person created in God's image."? Isn't every person of equal value when it comes to sharing Jesus? Even our enemies can be changed. Try to have Paul's attitude and realize that sharing the good news is something we should do at all times and with all people.

 

Heavenly Father, don't let me be timid in telling others about Jesus. Keep me from shying back for whatever silly reason pops up in my mind. Instead, fill me with boldness to speak out this wondrous message which can change the eternal direction of others. I know that someone took the time to tell me and I'm grateful for it. Help me to remember this and to act on it Lord. This I pray that Your kingdom will be filled to overflowing! Amen.

 

 

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 1 Corinthians 9:24

 

In this verse, Paul moves from his thoughts concerning serving men in order to impress upon them the gospel of Christ (verses 19-23), to his desire to run the race and receive the prize set before him (verses 24-27). In this, he begins with "Do you not know...?" This is way of saying, "You certainly know." The reference he will now make will be to the Isthmian Games which took place on the Isthmus of Corinth. They were comparable to our modern Olympics and were something every person would be aware of. In Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers, he describes these games:

 

"These, like the other games of Greece—the Olympian, Pythian, and Nemean—included every form of athletic exercise, and stood on an entirely different footing from anything of the kind in modern times. For the Greek, these contests were great national and religious festivals. None but freemen could enter the lists, and they only after they had satisfied the appointed officers that they had for ten months undergone the necessary preliminary training. For thirty days previous to the contest the candidates had to attend the exercises at the gymnasium, and only after the fulfilment of these conditions were they allowed, when the time arrived, to contend in the sight of assembled Greece. Proclamation was made of the name and country of each competitor by a herald. The victor was crowned with a garland of pine leaves or ivy. The family of the conqueror was honoured by his victory, and when he returned to his native town he would enter it through a breach in the walls, the object of this being to symbolise that for a town which was honoured with such a citizen no walls of defence were needful."

 

This is the reference Paul is making. The athletes of his time, and those of ours as well, have the same end goal in common. They "all run, but one receives the prize." There was only one victor's wreath then and there is only one gold medal now. Those who are capable, well-trained, and endure the rigors of the race are the ones who win and receive their reward. Paul tells those in Corinth to act this way in their race to the finish. Writing to all, but with each individual in mind, he hints that each should "run in such a way that you may obtain it."

 

He will continue with his thoughts on this for three more verses, showing the necessity for each of us to train with rigor and to persevere in our steps all of our days as we look forward to the Prize which awaits us.

 

Life application: Paul's use of an athlete who strives to be the champion in the Isthmian games is an excellent example for us. We can look at those who work towards the gold medal in the modern Olympic games and understand what he was referring to. These people put out maximum effort for the thing they desired. If our desire is truly Christ, then we should be even more willing to put out all we can in order to please Him. We have one short life in which to earn our heavenly rewards. Let us not squander it, but strive forward with our eyes firmly fixed on Him!

 

Lord God, there is a race set before me with the greatest Prize at the end. I know that in order to be the champion You would have me to be, I need to be fully trained, and so I will read Your word in order to comply with the standards of the race. I know that I will need to be ready for a long race because I don't know my life's end. And so I will stay close to the fellowship of others who can build me up as I persevere.  And I know that the victor's crown won't be mine unless I act in accordance with the rules. And so I will apply my training, not cheat in my perseverance, and will fix my eyes and my thoughts on Jesus each step of the way. Be with me as I strive to complete the race with honor and with purity of my heart. Amen.

 

 

And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 1 Corinthians 9:25

 

In his previous verse, Paul wrote that there are many runners in a race, but only one would receive the crown. He then implored those in Corinth to run their course in Christ in the same manner, setting aside all encumbrances and looking towards the Prize. Now, still using the Isthmian games as his metaphor, he tells them that "everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things."

 

Ancient writers note that those who were involved in the preparation for these games required ten full months of training, right up to the moment before the games began. Much of their training involved not only physical conditioning, but dietary restrictions as well. The thoughts of two commentators from those times read:

 

Epictetus - "Thou must be orderly, living on spare food; abstain from confections; make a point of exercising at the appointed time, in heat and in cold; nor drink cold water nor wine at hazard."

 

Horace - "The youth who would win in the race hath borne and done much; he hath sweat and been cold; he hath abstained from love and wine"

 

Such extreme conditioning would have been known to the people at Corinth and so Paul, without extra comment, states this in the plain form that the athlete was "temperate in all things." In this simple expression, he was intimating to those at Corinth (and thus to us) that we have an obligation to be temperate as well. We cannot expect to live an antinomian existence and feel that we are properly conditioning ourselves as we strive towards the Prize. Freedom in Christ is not freedom to sin. Rather it is freedom from sin.

 

Paul continues with his thought, noting that those who participated in these games conditioned themselves in this manner in order "to obtain a perishable crown, be we for an imperishable crown." Think of the difference! The athlete in these ancient games was striving for temporary notoriety and a crown that would literally fall apart in a very short amount of time. The leaves would fall off, the twigs would become brittle and eventually break, insects could destroy it in a few hours, or any thief could carry it off and it would be gone. It was a temporary reminder of a temporary honor. All of that intense conditioning for something so ephemeral in nature.

 

On the other hand, the crown that we are striving for is an eternal one. It will never fade, never be taken away, and never lose its luster. Paul asks us to consider this and to determine that we will strive even more rigorously for our crown than those of the Isthmian games strived, simply because our reward is so much greater; infinitely greater because it is eternal.

 

Life application: In this verse and the preceding verse he has made some notable contrasts that we should remember. The first is that of the earthly race which was in hopes of earthly results in contrast to the spiritual race which is in hopes of spiritual results. The second is that there was only one crown given in the earthly competition in contrast to the idea that all can obtain the crown in the spiritual race. And the third is that the crown in the earthly race is temporary and corruptible in contrast to the heavenly crown which is incorruptible and eternal. In all ways, the end result of the spiritual race is superior. Because of this, our conditioning in this race should also be superior in all ways.

 

Lord, the race is set before me and the reward is an eternal crown that will never fade, never perish, and which will never be taken away. If I strive for prizes in this earthly walk which will fade away in time, how much more should I strive with all of my existence and every fiber of my being for that wondrous crown which You have promised? Help me to remember this and to determine each day to do my very best for the high honor of receiving Your everlasting crown of life! Amen.

 

 

Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 1 Corinthians 9:26

 

In this verse, Paul sums up his thought concerning running which he has referred to for the past two verses by saying "therefore." Because of what he stated, his concluding thought is that "I run thus: not with uncertainty." In his run towards the Prize, he had a positive end and goal. The word he uses for "uncertainty" is adēlōs, a word used only here in the New Testament. It means something out of sight or obscure. For Paul, there was nothing obscure about his goal. He had a marked determination which led directly to Christ. The author of Hebrews says it this way -

 

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith..." Hebrews 12:1, 2

 

There was nothing that would hinder his race to the finish line, and to him that finish line was never out of his sight. After having conveyed this thought, he then suddenly switches from running to another metaphor, boxing. Not only was his race unhindered and with an end that was perfectly evident, but his attitude in reaching that point was also comparable to the boxer. Again in this one verse he uses another word found only here in the New Testament, pykteuō.  It specifically refers to a boxer; one who uses his fists in a match.

 

As he ran; so he fought. In his battle, he was one who fought "not as one who beats the air." Before boxing matches then, and still in boxing matches today, boxers will punch the air in front of them as they warm up. It loosens the muscles and it gives an advanced demonstration of the fight ahead. When they do this, they don't arbitrarily let their arms flail about. Rather, they are focused and punch as if there was already a face being hit. They also remain focused as if punches were expected to come back at them.


Once the fight actually began, they would use this same marked determination to ensure that every punch landed on its intended target. If the target is missed, it becomes too late to control the arm and additional energy is lost as the body moves with the arms. The boxer becomes unbalanced and susceptible to a good pounding from his opponent. Additionally, the tendons and muscles can be more easily strained during such a miss. For this reason, "beating the air" rather than the body of the opponent was a big mistake, a mistake which could end in defeat.

 

Paul determined that any attack by Satan would be deflected and that his prowess as a fighter was to fight back with exacting blows, not just in defense, but in an offensive manner. He prepared himself for the battle and he always determined to be ready and on target with his actions.

 

Life application: Paul likens our time in Christ to a race and also to a boxing match. Both of these are extremely strenuous activities and the implication is that we need to be prepared both mentally and physically in order to meet the challenges we will face. The surest way to be ready is through three distinct avenues - 1) prayer; 2) fellowship with other Christians; and 3) reading, studying, and adhering to the word of God. If we do these, we will be like Paul as we strive forward. We will be prepared for the race and for the battle.

 

Lord God, I thank You that You haven't left us here in a battle without tools to get us through it. You have given us the avenue of prayer to speak to You and wait upon an answer. You have given us the opportunity to fellowship with other believers and to be built up and strengthened in our race and in the battles that come our way. And Lord, You have given us Your word to instruct us and to build us up in what we should do. We can face the challenges that come and we can even take the offensive position because we have Your word as our guide and our light. Thank You for these implements of battle, O God. Amen.

 

 

But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27

 

To finish chapter 9, Paul shows the severity of the conditioning he placed upon himself in order to obtain his crown. He had just said that he fought, not as one who "beats the air." Using a boxing metaphor, he showed that like a boxer, he made every "punch" count in his training and in his fight to share the gospel. Now he continues on with the boxing metaphor. The word translated as "discipline" is the Greek word hupópiazó. It means to "strike under the eye" and thus to bruise, like a black eye. It is from the Greek word hupópion which is the part of the face under the eyes. It's used only one other time in Scripture, in Luke 18:5. There it is speaking of the widow who troubles the judge as she continuously comes before him seeking justice.

 

Paul strove in the same manner as she did, continuously bringing his body "into subjection." Here he uses an interesting term, doulagōgō. It means to bring into captivity or slavery as one would do when leading the losers of a battle off the battlefield. In this then, Paul is saying that his mortal flesh was the continuous loser in his battle. It was the flesh against the Spirit and the Spirit in him was always the victor. All of the worldly lusts and temptations were brought into this state of captivity, as he says, "lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."

 

Here he was telling others to remain pure and undefiled in their walk. It would be hypocritical to act differently than how he preached. What a sad thing to stand at the judgment seat of Christ next to those he had preached to and have them receive greater rewards than he because of failing to bring his passions into subjugation! In order to avoid this, he lived as he preached. The term he uses for "disqualified" is adokimos. It comes from the idea of "bad metals." It indicates the metals that are put into the fire and fail the test for purity. They are scraped off and removed; they are worthless slag and thus are cast away.

 

Paul was determined to be pure and undefiled when he stood before the Lord and so he disciplined himself in a way that this would come about.

 

Life application: Paul's words here at the end of chapter 9 show that he struggled with the flesh like anyone else. If he had to discipline himself against it, it is an indication that discipline was needed. If we have a problem with weight, we won't lose the weight without working out our diet. If we have a problem with an addiction, it won't solve itself. Instead it will need to be brought under control. This is the way it is for all things contrary to the word of God. We can either slip comfortably into rebellion or we can fight against it. Let us be found approved by adhering to the word and standing fast in the battle which rages within us!

 

Lord, the flesh certainly does put up a fight

I cannot deny that it wages war against me

I struggle back at each punch and bite

And focus my eyes so that You are all I see

 

Lord, help me in this raging battle

Keep me close to You and obedient to Your word

As the snake hisses and his tail does rattle

Be with me and protect me, this I pray my Lord

 

You went to the cross to win the war for us

And so I know that You will be with me, my precious Lord Jesus

 

Lord, You know the conflicts that rage within me. You know my weaknesses and those things which tempt me. Help me Lord to stand strong against the devil and his use of these things which can only make me lose my sight of You. Give me the strength and determination to get into Your word each day and to remain obedient to it at all times. I'm so weak Lord, but in You I know that I have all the strength I need. Thank You for this assurance. Amen.

 

 

Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 1 Corinthians 10:1

 

In beginning of chapter 10, Paul will refer back to the issue of chapter 8, food sacrificed to idols. However, he is also building upon the thought which he has been discussing at the end of chapter 9, that of striving for a crown and the conditioning that it required. And so he begins with "moreover."

 

Many translators state "but" or "for" rather than "moreover" to either show a contrast to his previous words or a continuation of the argument rather than a new direction. Whichever is intended, he is addressing "brethren." The words are given to believers in the church for their edification and growth. To these brethren, he gives a phrase which is intended to open their minds to a passage of Scripture in a new way. He says, "I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea."

 

As he continues, it will become apparent that they are already aware of the exodus story. What Paul is making known to them is that there is a spiritual application to the story which is applicable to them (and thus to us) as believers. He will repeat the word "all" five times in the first four verses to highlight that what occurred included the entire body involved in the exodus. Despite that however, it wasn't received by all in the same way.

 

It then is a spiritual warning and admonition that will apply to those in the church. Yes, all were "under the cloud." This was the sign of God's divine protection for the Israelites. The terminology was used, for example, by David in the 105th Psalm -

 

"He spread a cloud for a covering,
And fire to give light in the night." Psalm 105:39

 

That "all passed through the sea" means that the entire body of Israel, along with the mixed multitude who went with them, marched through the waters of the Red Sea and to freedom from the bondage and oppression of Egypt.

 

Life application: Paul shows us that the stories found in the Old Testament have been given for our instruction. In all, they will always point us to a stronger relationship with Christ if we will use them as they are intended. Not only that, there are spiritual applications and pictures of future redemptive history which can be gleaned from these stories. As you read the Old Testament, always ask yourself, "How does this point to Christ Jesus?" In doing this, you will be pursuing Scripture as it was intended to be viewed.

 

Everyday, O God, I love to read Your word. I know that every story in it and every detail given was selected by You to lead me to know You and Your heart better. And I know that all of it is intended to show me the work of Jesus. Help me to grasp this as I open Your word each day and help me to understand the treasures You have tucked away there for us to see. Thank You for this immeasurable gift, the Holy Bible. Amen.

 

 

...all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 1 Corinthians 10:2

 

Paul, telling his readers at Corinth "that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea," now further explains this. In this exodus from Egypt which took place under the conditions he mentioned "all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea." In other words, what they did is to be symbolically equated to what we have now done in Christ. The Israelites willingly followed Moses thus accepting him as their spiritual leader. They subjected themselves to the laws and ordinances that he gave to them and thus they were symbolically "baptized" as they were under the cloud and passing through the sea.

 

The same preposition which is used for baptism in Matthew 28:19 is used by Paul here. In this, we can see that those who are baptized into Christ are acknowledging an acceptance of His spiritual leadership and the laws and ordinances which He prescribes for us. The Old Testament is given in shadows and pictures of a greater reality found in Christ. God used little Israel for these pictures. We are brought out of Egypt (bondage to sin) through the work of Christ. We are baptized into this work, meaning His fulfilling the Law of Moses, and into His death and resurrection. Thus we are acknowledging His authority over us.

 

Paul will continue with his thoughts and then show that the external rites must be accompanied by a change in our hearts and lives.

 

Life application: The wondrous stories of the Old Testament are all given for a purpose. When we read them, our eyes should be open to their true fulfillment in Christ. Paul uses several examples, such as the exodus from Egypt, to show us that this is the case. Therefore, always consider this and ask the Bible questions about the meaning of passages as you read them. It will answer back with beauty and treasure.

 

Baptism without any change in one's heart

Has no significance, no meaning at all

It should indicate a changed life and a fresh start

And it should only come after a person on Jesus does call

 

Abraham first believed the promises of God

Then he was counted as righteous in God's sight

Only afterwards was he circumcised in the life he did trod

He already had shown that his heart was right

 

Baptism then is a sign for the believer

For the one who has first on the Lord Jesus called

Go get dunked after being a receiver

Of the Holy Spirit Who into Christ you He installed

 

Yes Lord ! Thank You for the grace You lavished on me, saving me through the faith I exercised in You. Now, help me to be obedient in all ways out of gratitude for the marvelous redemption which has ended all of my enmity with God. Through Your blood I am washed, purified, and acceptable; sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise for that wondrous day upon which I await! Amen.

 

 

...all ate the same spiritual food, 1 Corinthians 10:3

 

Not only were those brought out at the exodus "baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea," but they also "ate the same spiritual food." Again, Paul is showing that the food which sustained Israel is symbolic of the true spiritual food which we participate in when we receive the Lord's Supper.


Exodus chapter 16 shows the first details concerning the giving of the manna (manna means "what is it?"). There is even a description of it as is recorded in Exodus 16:31 -

 

"And the house of Israel called its name Manna. And it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey."

 

This "spiritual food" continued to sustain them for the entire time of their wilderness wanderings. Once Israel had crossed the Jordan, we read this in Joshua 5:10-12 -

 

"Now the children of Israel camped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight on the plains of Jericho. 11 And they ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day. 12 Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year."

 

The giving of the manna was never forgotten by the people of Israel and it is referred to at various times in both testaments of the Bible. Even the psalms, while recounting the wondrous deeds of God, remembered the manna which sustained Israel -

 

"Had rained down manna on them to eat,
And given them of the bread of heaven.
25 Men ate angels’ food;
He sent them food to the full." Psalm 78:24, 25

 

But, like all things of this nature, the physical reality of the manna pictured a spiritual truth. Jesus notes this in John 6:31-33 -

 

"Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" 32 Then Jesus said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.'" John 6:31-33

 

The manna only anticipated the greater and true Bread from heaven, which is the body of the Lord Jesus. This then is what is pictured in the taking of communion, or the Lord's Supper. It is a remembrance of the work of Christ, looking back on His cross until He comes again.

 

Life application: Taking communion at church has no meaning unless one has received Christ as Lord. Only when the heart is directed towards Christ does the meal take on any true significance. When you receive the elements, it should be done with a humble and grateful heart for the wondrous blessing of being included in the body of Christ.

 

Lord God, Israel had manna in the wilderness to sustain them for forty full years, but I know I have something much more wonderful. I have the true Bread of Life which came down from heaven to grant me eternal nourishment. I thank You for the honor and the pleasure of receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and for the weekly blessing of sharing in the Lord's Supper in anticipation of the day when He returns for His people. Even so, come Lord Jesus! Amen.

 

 

...and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4

 

So far in just three verses, Paul has shown the great amount of spiritual connection between the exodus and wilderness wanderings and their correlation to Christ. He has shown that the cloud and the sea pictured being baptized into Moses, meaning the Law given by the Lord. He has also shown that the manna they ate was "spiritual food." Now he shows that even the water they drank was a spiritual picture of Christ because they "all drank the same spiritual drink."

 

One cannot live long without water. God intended this to show that just as we cannot live without water, so we cannot live without being spiritually connected to Him through Christ. We are either dead in sins and trespasses, having inherited Adam's fallen nature, or we are born again through Christ. To show us that this was pictured in the exodus account, he says, "For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ."

 

The people of Israel twice drank directly from water which issued from a rock. The first time was in Exodus 17:1-6 in a place called Rephidim (meaning "resting places") which was their 11th stop while traveling. The second is recorded in Numbers 20:1-11 at a place called Kadesh (meaning "holy"). This was their 33rd recorded stop. After they received the water, the places were renamed "Meribah," which means "strife" or "contention" because the people strived with the Lord over the water.

 

Paul says that in these places "they drank of that spiritual Rock which followed them." There is a Jewish tradition that the rock literally followed them wherever they went. This is not the intent of Paul's words. Rather, the idea of "following" them is that wherever they were, Christ was present. They contended with the Lord, claiming that He had left them to die, but then the Lord, through Moses, showed them that He was always there, ready to provide. This is the intent of saying that the Rock "followed them."

 

This Rock is then said explicitly to be Christ by Paul. In other words, the natural rock is merely a metaphor which is then left completely out of the true picture. If there was one rock in Rephidim and one rock in Kadesh and both gave water, then the Rock is a picture of Christ. If this is so, then it isn't just the rock either, but the water which issued from the rock which is also the intended symbol. As it says, "they drank 'of' that spiritual Rock."

 

Understanding this, the rest of the Bible in both testaments uses the terms "rock" and "water" to describe the Lord. The rock is the unmovable foundation upon which our faith is grounded, such as in the parable of building one's house upon the rock in Matthew 7. The water is the water of life seen in John 4, John 7, Revelation 22, and elsewhere. The account from John 4 is both memorable and explicit -

 

"Jesus answered and said to her, 'Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.'" John 4:13, 14

 

Life application: When reading the Bible, one should attempt to remember things that are mentioned and see if later comparisons are made. Rocks, water, harvesters, the wind, trees, numbers, milk, types of grain, different types of work, and on and on. All of them having meaning and nothing is arbitrary. Each will give us insights into Christ, into God's plan of redemptive history, and teach us moral lessons as well. Nothing is superfluous and nothing is left out. The Bible is an amazingly beautiful compilation of words which all form to show us God's love for us. And it is all centered on the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

 

Lord God, I know that whatever I read or study will be absorbed into my collective memory and mold me in some way. As this is certain, I will endeavor to read, contemplate, and absorb Your word above all else. As it reveals Your very heart for me, then obviously I will be molded more and more into Your image as I learn and apply it to my life. Thank You for this wondrous gift which will allow me to be shaped by You into a vessel of beauty and holiness. Amen.

 

 

But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 1 Corinthians 10:5

 

Despite the Israelites having  all of the privileges which Paul mentioned in the preceding verses (baptism in the cloud and the sea, the spiritual food, and the spiritual Rock), he shows that it didn't profit them at all in their spiritual lives. He leads into this with the word "but." Despite all of the proofs and all of the physical demonstrations of God's presence among them, instead of having faith that He would see their redemption through to a good end, they failed to trust.

 

What God looks for is faith in Him and His promises. What He got was rebellion and a stubborn, stiff-necked attitude. And because of this "with most of them God was not well pleased." Because they lacked faith in Him and His provision, He rewarded them with what they accused Him of.

 

Time and again, the Israelites complained and accused the Lord of wrongdoing. One example is from Numbers 14:2-4 -

 

"And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, 'If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?' So they said to one another, 'Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.'"

 

After this, Moses petitioned the Lord to pardon the people, but there would be a penalty for their lack of faith. This is recorded later in the chapter -

 

"Then the Lord said: 'I have pardoned, according to your word; 21 but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord22 because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, 23 they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it. 24 But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it. 25 Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valley; tomorrow turn and move out into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea.'" Numbers 14:20-25

 

The Israelites would receive the punishment that they deserved. Because of their lack of faith, "their bodies were in the wilderness." This was the very thing that they had said would happen and so their words were used as a witness against them. Despite this though, there was grace in the sentence. Instead of being snuffed out immediately, they would be allowed to live out their lives and raise their children until they were old enough to assume the responsibility of going into Canaan. This is detailed later in the same chapter -

 

"But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. 32 But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. 35 I the Lord have spoken this. I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die." Numbers 14:31-35

 

In the end, only two of the 603,550 registered males who were of fighting age were permitted the honor of entering the promised land. Figuring in the women, well over a million people would die as they wandered through the wilderness. Such was the price for lacking faith and rebelling against the Lord.

 

Life application: God asks for faith in His faithless creatures, so a little bit will do. He asks us to trust Him, even when times seem out of control. If we truly believe that He will fulfill His promises, we will continue to trust Him and to praise Him each step of the way. With this, He will be well-pleased.

 

Heavenly Father, the lesson of those Israelites who perished in the wilderness should teach us that we need to trust You when times are tough or even seemingly out of control. Yes, life takes turns that lead us into deep and dark valleys, but You have promised to never leave us nor to forsake us. Help us to remember that You are there with us in those dark places and that You have a good plan and purpose for those times. Remind us that the dark valley is merely a short walk towards a bright and wondrous mountaintop. Thank You for Your ever-faithful presence. Amen.

 

 

Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 1 Corinthians 10:6

 

"Now these things" is speaking of those with whom "God was not well pleased." They had seen the miracles and been sustained by God's gracious hand, and yet they rebelled in various ways which Paul will explain in the verses ahead. Because of their rebellion he noted in the previous verse that "their bodies were scattered in the wilderness." It is all of this that he is referring to as examples.

 

This word translated as "examples" is the Greek word typoi. It could be referring either to the pictures of Christ and thus be translated as "types" or "foreshadowing events." Or it could be translated as "examples" and thus be referring to the scattering of the bodies based on rebellion. As he hasn't yet explained the examples which caused the deaths, some scholars insist that it is speaking of the pictures of Christ. However, because he just mentioned the deaths of the people and he will continue to explain that, others insist this is what he is referring to. There is no reason to assume that he isn't speaking of the entire process though. The types of Christ and their subsequent rejection led to the deaths of the people.


Either way, Paul's continued statement in this verse is that we should learn "that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted." If we have been redeemed by Christ, then we should follow Christ, trust Christ, and fix our eyes on Christ. It makes no sense to call on Christ and then to ignore the very salvation that He has provided.

 

Life application: The Old Testament is often overlooked by many Christians. And yet, it has been given to show us the logical progression of redemptive history as God slowly reveals Himself and His plans to the people of the world. The Old Testament allows us to know where we have been, where we are going, and the pitfalls to avoid in our walk.

 

Lord, I remember the tears of joy on the day I realized I was forgiven and free because of the cross of Christ. The weight of my past was lifted and the prospects of living in newness of life lay ahead like a path of gold. But at times, I forget that and find my feet heading off in wrong directions once again. Forgive me for my disobedience, help me in correcting my waywardness, and restore me to the joy of my salvation once again. I thank You for Your merciful hand upon me as I erringly walk in this temporary life on my way to glory! Amen.

 

 

And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” 1 Corinthians 10:7

 

In the previous verse, Paul spoke of lusting after evil things. Continuing on, he next warns against becoming "idolaters as were some of them." The very people who had been redeemed from the bondage of Egypt, and who had seen the marvelous works of the Lord, fell into idolatry. Rather than honoring the Creator, they worshipped before the created. This account is found in Exodus 32:1-6 -

 

"Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.

Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.” Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play."

 

Paul, citing this account and saying "As it is written" is intended to show that it was specifically recorded for our learning and our instruction. The people failed to conduct themselves in a manner which was in accord with the glory of the Lord which they had beheld. A question that could be asked then is "What was wrong about the people sitting down and eating and drinking and rising up to play?" The answer is not that the actions were specifically wrong, but the context of their actions was. They directed them towards the golden calf, not towards the Lord.

 

People need to sit down, people need to eat and drink, and the Bible shows that properly directed worship can be brought to a very emotional state. A great example of this last category is found in 2 Samuel 6. David danced and leapt before the Lord as the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the City of David. His wife Michal didn't approve of his conduct and rebuked him. His response was that, "It was before the Lord, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight." 2 Samuel 6:21, 22

 

This verse which Paul is citing cannot be used as a reason to forbid dancing. There are churches that do forbid dancing and they use verses like this one to justify that stand. However, this is not the intent of what Paul is saying here. Rather, that is a manipulation of Scripture which cannot be justified.

 

Life application: There is nothing wrong with rejoicing and praising before the Lord. There are abundant examples given in Scripture which show people praising the Lord with their voices and in dancing. If our hearts and souls are directed toward the Lord, then we are given the freedom to jump and shout praises to Him or beat on drums as we praise Him. Surely the Lord is worthy of our praise.

 

I will praise You, O God, with my voice and with my heart. I will praise You with my actions and in my deeds. I will praise You with music that glorifies You and with twirling dances of joy. Lord, how can I withhold the praises? You have done wondrous things for me and I will surely pop if I don't return thanks and praise to You. You are great, O God. Surely You are worthy of praise. Hallelujah and amen.

 

 

We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 1 Corinthians 10:8

 

Paul is quite clear here, as he is throughout his writings, that sexual immorality is unacceptable. And this isn't just Paul, but it is a precept which permeates Scripture, even to the very last page of the Bible. Revelation 22:15 says that the sexually immoral will be excluded from entrance into the gates of the New Jerusalem. There, they are lumped together with dogs (those who are unclean and who would go after their own vomit), people who practice magic arts, murderers, idolaters, and those who love and practice falsehood.


In other words, sexual immorality is not an acceptable part of a Christian's walk. In today's world, this seems almost foreign to us. Even churches allow the most sexually depraved of people to participate in their services and excuse it by saying that God would "want them to be happy." Happiness is irrelevant. What matters is obedience to the Lord. As an example of this, Paul goes back to the account of the Baal of Peor in Numbers 25:1-9. There it says "
the Lord’s anger burned against them."

 

It was an incident they were reminded of later in Numbers and then in Deuteronomy before entering Canaan. They will continue to be reminded of it in the books of Joshua, the Psalms, and Hosea. Likewise, Paul reaches back to it to show the severity of the judgment for what occurred. He says that "in one day twenty-tree thousand of them died." It was a huge price to pay for the faithless actions of the people.

 

As a note concerning this, Numbers 25:9 places the number at 24,000 instead of 23,000. There have been several suggestions as to how the numbers can be reconciled. It is possible that 23,000 were killed by the plague which resulted, and the other 1000 were killed by those who defended the Lord's honor by using the sword against their own countrymen. Another view is that the number could have been a round number. If it were 23,600, then it could be rounded up or down. Another explanation is that 23,000 fell "in one day" as Paul says and the other 1000 died the next day.

 

The most probable is that Paul was referring to those killed by the plague only and not those killed by the sword, thus showing the severity of the Lord's judgment. If this is the case, then it was a tradition handed down in the society and not something specifically recorded in Scripture. The main issue though is in regards to sexual immorality. It is considered unacceptable and the Lord will judge those who violate this precept.

 

Life application: The Lord intends for those who engage in sex to be married - a male to a female. Any other sexual contact is considered immoral.

 

Lord, You have granted to man that He can take a wife

Someone to share their walk together all of their days

You would have them to remain together till the end of life

Living in holiness and bringing You honor and praise

 

Help us in our weakness to be stout and strong

To be faithful to one another as the years go past

Yes Lord, help us in this all our life long

To be obedient to You until You call us home at last

 

Heavenly Father, I know that Your word is clear on the issue of sex. It is intended for the state of marriage and it is to be between a man and his wife. Your word shows that any other sexual contact is considered immoral and that You will judge the sexually immoral. This may not be popular, but I didn't write Your word and so I will proclaim this truth because You have ordained it. And Lord, help me in my weakness to be pure in this regard. The world is filled with temptation and so I ask for strength, wisdom, and fortitude concerning this issue. Amen.

 

 

...nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 1 Corinthians 10:9

 

The words in this verse continue to refer the wilderness wanderings of the Old Testament between the exodus and the arrival of the Israelites in Canaan. During that time, this is recorded in Numbers 21 -

 

"Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died." Numbers 21:4-6

 

God had time and again provided for the people and demonstrated His care of them. He had sent the Angel of the Lord before them to lead the way and to ensure their care. However, the people "spoke against God and against Moses." In this they were showing a willful disregard of God's care for them. Paul's words though tie this account to Christ. "Nor let us tempt Christ." It is another implicit reference to the deity of Jesus. His presence was there with Israel in the wilderness. If this was Jehovah, and yet Paul now identifies Him as Christ, then the connection is obvious - Jesus is Jehovah incarnate.

 

Paul uses two different words for "tempt" here, the first being ekpeirazōmen. It is an important compound which means "to tempt out." In other words, "to try to the utmost." It is used only three other times in the Bible - in Matthew 4:7, Luke 4:12, and Luke 10:25. Each of these was a tempting related to Christ, twice it is quoted by Jesus during Satan's tempting of Him and once by a lawyer of the law. 

 

To "tempt" when applied to man involves inducing him to sin. When it is applied to God, it carries a different signification, that of trying his patience and provoking Him to anger. This is what is being conveyed here by Paul. The people tried the Angel of the Lord's (Christ's) patience and suffered the consequences of their attitudes. We are instructed to not so tempt the Lord's patience now. He is the same Lord, eternal and unchanging. Our rebellion can only be met with His hand of discipline.

 

Life application: The warnings of the New Testament aren't given for us to ignore. How often do we hear Christian friends around us complain about how their life is going and yet we see that they have not been faithfully following the Lord. Should discipline be unexpected in such a case? Of course not. Our acts of disobedience will suffer consequences. Let us learn from those times and resolve in our hearts to be obedient to the word God.

 

Lord, how often trials come my way. When they do, I wonder "Why is this happening to me." And then I hear a preacher instructing me from Your word and showing me that the wounds were actually self-inflicted. In my failure to adhere to Your word, I walked down my own path of disobedience and right into Your needed correction. When I think it's Your lack of care for me, I find it's actually my lack of attention to Your word. Help me in this Lord. Give me wisdom to stick to Your wonderful blueprint for my life. I know that things will go so much better when I do. Amen.

 

 

...nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 1 Corinthians 10:10

 

The word used by Paul for "complain" is the Greek word gogguzó. It means to whisper, murmur, or grumble. He is asking his readers to not engage in this type of activity, which they clearly had been as they divided into factions. Rather than building one another up, factions that arise inevitably work to tear one another down. In the case of those in the wilderness, there were complaints against Moses. Because he was the one chosen by God to lead them, it was an indirect complaint against the Lord. This is evident because they "were destroyed by the destroyer."

 

There is no one incident which involved this complaining, but a series of complaints which seemed to arise any time that things got a little bit tough. Instead of seeing the tough times as a chance for God to reveal His glory, they saw them as chance to complain. When they did, the destroyer would reveal God's glory in another way. This destroyer is certainly the same one who killed the firstborn at the Passover and who continued to destroy pockets of resistance throughout their wanderings.

 

He further brought destruction to Israel and against Israel's enemies after they entered Canaan. This is recorded time and time again throughout the Bible. Paul's words show that this hard and unrepentant attitude against God is not just some "Old Testament" concept, but something that we need to watch out for as well. Were it not so, he would not have included the words here in 1 Corinthians. His words in the next verse will confirm this.

 

Life application: There is a difference between idle grumbling and calling out erroneous doctrine. Just because we don't particularly like a precept from the Bible or a teacher of the Bible, this no excuse for grumbling against them. However, if someone is actively teaching a falsehood, they need to be called out for it. Too often, followers of an unsound Bible teacher will accuse his detractors of attempting to "divide Christ." This terminology is used to get the detractors to remain quiet, as if they have done something wrong when the opposite is true. The teacher of false doctrine is the divider of Christ. Never be afraid to uphold the purity of God's word above all else.

 

The Bible is precious and altogether pure

It gives us guidance for our daily walk

And so on it's precepts I remain confident and sure

And of it's doctrines I will constantly talk

 

When someone teaches it in a way which is not right

I know it is my duty to ensure their error is noted

It is too precious to be treated with contempt or spite

And it should never be mishandled or misquoted

 

It is our guide and the book which is given to instruct us

It is the wondrous gift of God to reveal His heart in Jesus

 

Lord, too often people attempt to defend the indefensible. When a famous teacher or preacher goes against Your word, they need to be corrected for it. And yet, because of the fame of a name or out of being star-struck, Your word is ignored and bad doctrine is allowed to take root. Which is more important to me? Lord, give me wisdom to rightly handle Your word and the strong will and desire to defend it, even above all else. It is far too wonderful to be treated with scorn. I will always stand on what I believe is the truth of Your word. Amen.

 

 

Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 1 Corinthians 10:11

 

"Now all these things" is referring to the examples that Paul has cited from verse1-10. But it is also certainly referring to all of the body of Scripture which comprises the age of the law. God chose examples from the life of Joshua, Samson, David, and others as well as from the time during the captivity with Esther and Mordecai, from the post-exilic times with Nehemiah and Ezra, and so many more examples for our learning and instruction. Ellicott notes that, "The verb “happened” is plural, referring to the multiplied occurrences which the Apostle has just mentioned; but 'written' is singular, referring to the sacred record in which the historical facts are handed down."

 

The lessons to be found in the Old Testament serve "as examples" for our instruction and edification, and "they were written for our admonition." We are to read them and learn from them, not simply ignore the Old Testament nor to read it as a mere curiosity of times gone by. God selectively chose these stories to teach us. It needs to be understood though that this was not the sole purpose of why "these things happened to them." Rather, they literally happened to the people as they lived out their own lives. A zillion other things happened to them as well, but these were selectively chosen for our learning. Therefore, there is the reality that God used the events of real people's lives to assist later people in how to conduct their own lives.

 

The word "happened" is in the imperfect tense to show the slow and successive unfolding of those events in history in order to reveal exactly what God determined we should know. And there is another, unstated, reason for these selected moments. They are given to reveal Christ. Paul alluded to that earlier and Jesus says it explicitly in John 5:39 -

 

"You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me."

 

Lastly Paul notes that these things occurred and were then recorded and given to us "upon whom the ends of the ages have come." This phrase shows us that the Church Age is the last age before the end times will be ushered in. The previous dispensations were leading to Christ; Christ has been revealed; and now that He has been revealed, we are living in His age of grace. Everything has worked in the past to bring us to this point in history, after which will come the tribulation period. Paul goes to great lengths in the book of 2 Thessalonians to show us this is true.


The sequence of events then is 1) the rapture which ends the church age; 2) the tribulation period where the world will be judged for rejecting the grace of Christ; and 3) the millennial reign of Christ. The fact that the church age has lasted 2000 years shows us the great harvest which has been on-going during all of that time. When it ends, the world will be ripe for judgment. Why? Because they have rejected the very words that we are looking at now - examples for our learning and admonition.

 

Life application: Don't just pick up the Bible and flip through the pages for something curious to read. Rather, pick it up and read it with fervent desire to know Christ and to learn from the past!

 

Lord, You have chosen specific people and events of the past and recorded the details of their lives in order to instruct us on how to live rightly and how to avoid the terrible pitfalls of being outside of Your favor. Help me Lord to think on these wonderful passages and to apply them to my life, looking for Christ in every detail and also looking for the moral lessons that You would have me to learn. What a great God You are for having given us such a precious word! Praises be to You. Amen.

 

 

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12

 

There is no reason at all to assume that Paul is speaking about a "loss of salvation" here. He has been using lessons from the exodus and the wilderness wanderings to show that the people lacked faith in God's continued hand of support for them. They failed to trust that what He started He would also see to its completion.

 

They had Moses to lead them, and yet they failed to trust him. They had the cloud and the pillar of fire there as a display of God's glory and they failed to acknowledge that He was there with them. When they became needful, they were given manna, water, and quail and yet they failed to trust that God would continue to meet their needs as time passed. They had seen the destruction of the armies of Egypt, and yet they feared going in to possess the land of Canaan. On and on it went, a lack of faith leading to times of judgment. Even Moses, because of His actions, was excluded from entering the land of promise.

 

These people, with the evidence right before their eyes, fell into disbelief time and time again. Paul admonishes us to be more stout and steadfast in our faith and practice. We have the truth that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. We have the complete Bible given to us for our instruction and growth. We have promises in the word which show us that even death cannot separate us from the love of God which is found in Christ Jesus. And yet, we allow our faith to become weakened through temptation, through privation, and through neglect of meditating on His word.

 

At these times, we aren't going to lose our salvation. We "have" been forgiven; past tense. We "have" been sealed with the Holy Spirit; past tense. We "are" seated with Christ in the heavenly places; done deal. These things are told to us to remind us of this and to keep us from falling. And yet, from time to time, we hear of a great preacher, teacher, or Christian professor falling into sin; maybe adultery. We see people neurotically worrying about whether they will be raptured along with the rest of the church because they failed to cross a "t" or dot an "i".

 

Likewise, people come to Christ, but never grow in the knowledge of the word and they flounder about in a state of theological confusion. Others forget that they have been saved at all (see 2 Peter 1:9). We are asked to not only ensure our salvation by calling out to Christ for His unmerited favor, but to walk in our salvation, getting ever-closer to Him. If we do this, we will be firm and fixed upon the Rock and filled with the Water of life in those times when difficulties arise.


Life application: In the morning, read your Bible and think on Christ. During the day, meditate on the word and think on Christ. In the evening, pick up your Bible and read it again and think on Christ. Be firm, fast, and secure in your walk with Christ and you won't fall.

 

Oh my precious Lord. Help me never to think of myself more confidently than I ought to, but rather, help me to rest in You and not in my own strength. Help me Lord to not be prideful of the things I own or the knowledge I possess. But rather, help me to remember that everything I have is temporary and can fly away in a moment and that all of my knowledge came from You. In all things, help me to walk humbly and with humility all my days, ever-thankful for Your kind hand of grace upon me. Amen.

 

 

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

 

In the preceding verse, Paul gave those at Corinth a warning when he said, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." Now he gives them a note of up-building and encouragement. The temptations that they faced in seeking divisions or facing decisions concerning eating or not eating certain foods, etc, are regular temptations that "are common to man." In other words, they are a part of the human experience, just like the temptations of those in the wilderness. There was nothing supernatural about their temptations and they could have resisted rebelling, but instead, they lacked faith in God's provision and fell into weakness.

 

Those at Corinth were following this same human pattern, but they had the power to prevail if they so chose. They had the truth of the gospel and they possessed the knowledge that "God is faithful." From those Old Testament passages, they saw that God never abandoned His people, even if they may have thought that He did. The Corinthians had the surer foundation, which is the word of God, to look into and see this.

 

As a further encouragement, Paul instructs them with the happy thought that God "will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able." God is not in the business of "causing" His people to fall. Rather, He has placed us in the stream of humanity and our experiences are those which humans can and should expect. In those experiences, temptations are a natural part of what occur. This was seen in the Garden of Eden, this was seen at the time of Joseph and Potiphar's wife, and it was seen when David saw the beautiful Bathsheba and desired her.

 

These and other examples show us that some failed and some prevailed. When Joshua and Caleb set out with the other spies to investigate the land of Canaan, they held fast to their faith in the Lord while the other ten weakened. It was a common human experience and each had the ability to stand fast in their convictions or to waffle in them.

 

As a continuation of his encouraging words, Paul then tells those in Corinth (and thus us) that with whatever temptation we face God "will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." As noted above, God is not in the business of trapping us in our weakness. Because we are humans and share what is common to humanity, then the weaknesses we face are merely human experiences and thus can be overcome, even from a human perspective. With the surer word of God and the sealing of the Holy Spirit, how much stronger should we be in the face of these things? There is never a scenario that we will face where defeat is inevitable. Rather, when we are pulled away by our own lusts, we voluntarily give way to sin.

 

This is why it is so important to follow the three avenues of spiritual strengthening that we have available at all times - 1) Praying to God. We can simply talk to Him about our needs continuously. Every moment can be a moment of prayer if it is a conversation with Him. 2) Knowing the Bible. If we read and apply the Bible to our lives, we will have that sure foundation on which we can stand when temptations arise. We can draw from the well and be reinvigorated with the lessons it has taught us. 3) Fellowshipping with other believers. In our weaknesses, we can be strengthened and encouraged through communion with others. They can provide us the "pat on the back" that we need and they can often give us additional perspectives into the word of God that we may have missed.

 

Life application: Pray without ceasing, read and meditate upon God's word, and fellowship with other believers. In doing these three things, you will be strengthened and built up in your faith and in your walk with God.

 

Heavenly Father, I love that Your word tells me that You are faithful and that You will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I am able. Your word goes on to say that with any temptation You will make the way of escape for me. I thank You that through this promise I will be able to bear up under any test or trial that comes my way. I know that You are not in the business of causing us to fail, but instead You allow temptations to come our way in order to teach us and to strengthen us in our walk. Thank You for Your kind hand upon me and thank You for Your word which instructs and encourages me! Amen.

 

 

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 1 Corinthians 10:14

 

"Therefore" is given to lead us to a summary thought concerning the previous words of instruction. In verses 1-5, Paul showed how the Israelites had actually partaken of the spiritual goodness of the Lord - the cloud and the sea, the spiritual food, and the spiritual rock (from which the water issued forth). These were there for the people and sustained them as they travelled. And yet, instead of clinging to that which gives life, they turned their backs on Christ and followed a different path.

In verses 6-10, we were shown that some fell into idolatry, some into sexual immorality, some into tempting Christ through their speaking out against Him as if He were incapable of properly providing for them, and some merely complained about their circumstances instead of being grateful for His provision. Paul showed that their lives were given as examples for us to learn from. He also instructed us that we should take heed of these things because we all share in humanity and are susceptible to falling as they did. But in a note of encouragement, he said that God will always provide a way out when we are tempted. This is where his thoughts have led to and they bear directly on his previous discussion about foods sacrificed to idols which was seen in chapter 8.

 

Eating foods is a neutral matter, even foods sacrificed to idols - because idols are nothing. However, idolatry is harmful and sinful. It is also tempting and destructive as his examples have shown. Idolatry leads to barriers between God and us and destroys our intimate fellowship with Him. Therefore, we shouldn't see how close we can get to it without going over the line. Instead we should turn our backs to it and run from it. The Apostle John has the same word of admonition for us. As the final thought of his first epistle, he closes the letter with, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen" (1 John 5:21).

 

In spiritual matters, we are to remain in fellowship with God in ways which He has personally authorized such as reading and studying His word; praising, worshipping, and praying to Him; and fellowshipping with other believers. In doing these things, we will be kept safe from the sins which we can so easily fall into.

 

Life application: An idol is not necessarily a piece of stone, wood, or metal that is set up to worship, but rather it is anything which replaces devotion to God in our hearts. Sex, money, over-indulgence, etc., are things which tear our hearts and minds away from the Lord. Let us continually walk with Him and purposely flee from idolatry.

 

Lord God, keep me free from the things which take my heart and eyes away from You. A million temptations come my way each day and some of them are more difficult to face than others. You know the ones which will try me the most, so remind me to put on the armor which will protect me from them. I know that You will always be with me and provide a way out of the temptations I face. And so I ask in advance for eyes to see those paths of exit and to be strong enough to take them when those temptations arise. Thank You for hearing my prayer. Amen.

 

 

I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. 1 Corinthians 10:15

 

Paul has just written in the previous verse that we are to "flee from idolatry." This was based on his words concerning what occurred during the wilderness wanderings of Israel. Through idolatry, the people's hearts and actions were turned away from God and it resulted in punishment, death, and destruction. Such lessons were recorded to keep us from falling into the same type of situation. Now he is going to spend the rest of chapter 10 explaining this from the perspective of the work of the Lord and how we are to relate to that.

 

In his words of this verse though, there may be a hint of irony attached. He says, "I speak as to wise men..." Saying this, he uses the same word, phronimos, that he used earlier in his letter -

 

"We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!" 1 Corinthians 4:10

 

He very well may be using that previous statement to help them realize that they don't know everything and that their actions can have the most severe of consequences. If this is his intent, then it explains why he showed those Old Testament examples first. And so to now bolster their wisdom, he tells them to "judge for yourselves what I say."

 

Life application: The hand of Paul exudes wisdom partly because he was well educated in the things of God as a Pharisee before coming to Christ. He was able to tie the symbolism of the Old Testament in with the reality of what Christ had done. He was specifically chosen by the Lord to be His apostle to the gentile church. Further, he was filled with the Spirit of God who led him in his writings in order for us to gain this wisdom and not fall into error. Remember that it is the epistles of Paul which are intended to guide the gentile-led church until this dispensation ends.

 

Heavenly Father, when I look at the process of how You have given us Your word, the Holy Bible, I am utterly amazed. You have used real men who were guided by Your hand in order to give us instructions for our lives and to reveal Your Son to us through their words. Every author is distinct and has an individual message and yet every book carries on the same exacting theme so that this marvel of beauty is one seamless whole. You are amazing, O God. You are great! Thank You for Your superior word. Amen.

 

 

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 10:16

 

Paul's previous words asked for us to flee from idolatry and then he immediately asked us to judge his words, as to whether they truly are words of wisdom (he said to them "I speak as to wise men."). In this then he is asking us to use wisdom and grow in wisdom by reflecting on his words of instruction. And so he begins with, "The cup of blessing which we bless." Three thoughts on what this may mean arise. The first is that the cup is the means by which we receive a blessing. In other words, we are blessed as we partake of the cup. The second is that the cup is a cup by which we bless the Lord. And the third is that the this is a Hebraism (a Hebrew term) which describes the cup.

 

Scholars argue over which is intended by Paul, but in actuality all three ideas have merit. The first is certainly true in one sense. We have been blessed (past tense) through receiving Christ, but yet we are commanded to participate in the Lord's Supper as well. Paul will note this in the coming chapter. The Lord surely looks with favor upon those who partake of this holy sacrament as He instructed us to do. The second concept has merit also. We offer our praise and thanks back to the Lord when we are obedient to His directive. Our taking of the cup is an act of blessing toward Him in this regard. And finally, the term "the cup of blessing" is comparable to what is mentioned in Psalm 116 -

 

"I will take up the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord." Psalm 116:13

 

In this psalm, the term cos yeshuot, or the "cup of salvation" is used. This actually then forms a pun on the name of Jesus, which is Yeshua. The "cup of Yeshua" was anticipated in the 116th Psalm. In other words -

 

"I will take up the cup of Jesus,

And call upon the name of Jehovah."

 

It is an Old Testament picture of the incarnation of Jehovah in the Person of Jesus. Paul then is using the "cup of blessing," or cos haberakha, as a Hebraism - the cup stands in regard to the "state of blessing" just as the psalm's cup stood in regard to the "state of salvation." It is this "cup of blessing which we bless" that Paul equates to "the communion of the blood of Christ." This brings to remembrance the words of the Lord (which Paul will explain in the coming chapter) that the cup is His blood. But what does that exactly mean?

 

Because He held a cup of wine in His hand when He said that, it is intended to mean that it is a picture of His death, not a literal nor a spiritual drinking of His blood. Paul confirms this in his words of chapter 11 when he says that in the meal "you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes." It is a picture of the suffering of the Lord; a remembrance of His work.

 

After this, Paul notes that, "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ." Again, this is a pictorial remembrance of the broken body of Christ. Jesus held the bread in His hands and said, "This is my body." It is not His literal body, nor is it a spiritual body. Instead, it is a symbolic representation of His death. And in that death we share "the communion." The Greek word for "communion" is koinōnia. It is a "participation" or a "fellowship" in this wondrous act. As Vincent's word studies notes concerning the Passover observed by the Jewish people in relation to the Lord's Supper, "The Passover was celebrated by families, typifying an unbroken fellowship of those who formed one body, with the God who had passed by the blood-sprinkled doors."

 

There is no reason to assume that we either literally eat the body of Christ (Catholic transubstantiation), nor that we somehow spiritually partake of the blood of Christ, becoming sharers in His divine life (Calvinist doctrine). When we call on Christ, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit and it is in that act that we share in His divine life. The cup and the bread as noted by Paul here are symbolic representations of that awesome position in which we stand.

 

Finally, there is curiosity by many as to why Paul places the cup first in this verse instead of the bread first as other verses place it. The most likely reason is that Paul took the extra time to deal with and explain the bread (verse 17) and so he dispensed with the matter of the cup first.

 

I will take up the cup of salvation in my hand

And I will call upon the name of the Lord

It is in the name of Jesus where I take my stand

And in His name I am attentive to God's word

 

For He is the very Word of Life, this I know

And in Him alone can I live and grow

 

I will take up the cup of blessing in my hand

And in the name of Jesus will I ever bless my God

It is in His name alone where I take my stand

And in Him alone will I fellowship in the path I trod

 

How can it be, O great and awesome God, that You have come and united with Your own creation in order to redeem Your fallen children? It is beyond my comprehension and yet it is what Your word proclaims. And so I place my faith, my trust, my hope, and my eternal soul in the Lamb who was slain to ransom me from the grasp of the devil. I thank You and I praise You for all You have done. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

 

 

For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread. 1 Corinthians 10:17

 

In this verse, Paul builds upon the thought that, "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" He just stated this and now begins with "for we" in order to continue and expand upon those words. There is a grand church, filled with many people from many cultures and places. It is filled with men and women, young and old, and from people of every color. And yet, despite this diversity, we "are one bread and one body." The word "and" is not in the original and so a semicolon shows the thought better - "We are one bread; one body."

 

And the reason for this is that "we all partake of that one bread." Paul just showed that the bread is to be considered "communion" with "the body of Christ." Bread is made of many individual kernels of grain and yet it becomes one unified substance. Likewise, we are individually many people and yet we are "one bread" when we are in Christ. This brings up an obvious question - "Does the taking of the communion bread result in our being one body?" The question is important because it is the basis for what Paul is writing about in the first place.

 

In the coming verses, Paul is going to tell the Corinthians (and thus us) "I do not want you to have fellowship with demons." He will say this in relation to participating in sacrifices to idols and then he will build on that by saying, "... you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons." If thought through logically then, the actual bread is not what makes us "one bread." Rather it is the reception of Jesus Christ as Savior that unites us. The bread then is a symbolic representation of this. It is our way of remembering this bond and communing with the Lord in that remembrance.


And so why is this important? The answer is that 1) It makes no sense for a non-believer to participate in the Lord's Supper. 2) The Lord's Supper is a symbolic participation only; it is not literally the Body of Christ (Roman Catholicism), nor does it mean that we are "spiritually" united with Christ when we take the elements (Calvin). If these were so, then anyone who was a non-believer would be either literally or spiritually communing with the Lord during the reception of the elements. Paul excludes this.

 

His words here are intended to instruct us that communion is a public demonstration of an inward reality, just as baptism is to be an outward proclamation of a change that has been rendered in one's life. Both are after-the-fact pictures and remembrances of the work of the Lord. Therefore, if we were to eat at the sacrifice of an idol (not the meat itself, but at the ritual of the sacrifice) then we are indicating to those around us that we are willing participants in that particular society or religion, including everything that it constitutes. And yet, if we are truly saved Christians, that participation has no true bearing on our position in Christ. Therefore, the consumption of the meat of the sacrifice cannot be the actual participation with that demon to which it is offered.

 

This may seem to be splitting hairs, but to Paul it is an immensely important theological distinction that he will explain in detail in verse 23-33. We can eat (as Paul clearly states and allows) the meat that was sacrificed to an idol without any conscience that it will defile us because it cannot defile us. In the same way, a person who is not saved and yet takes the elements of the Lord's Supper cannot be made holy through those elements. It is the participation in the ritual that Paul is especially concerned with, not the actual element that is used.

 

Life application: The careful evaluation of the details which build into a biblical doctrine are important for many reasons. If they are misinterpreted or misunderstood, then further departures from the truth of Christ are inevitable. Eventually, entire systems of improperly administered teachings will prevail. As Paul said earlier in 1 Corinthians "a little leaven leavens the whole lump." He repeats this in Galatians 5 and equates it directly with proper doctrine.

 

Lord God, help my doctrine to be pure and undefiled. Give me wisdom to understand Your word and not to depart from it such as adding anything to it which You have not ordained or taking away from it something which You require of us. Seeing how just a small departure can lead to enormous heresy, I would ask that You send me proper teachers who will exalt Your word alone and who would rightly divide it and carefully present it. Thank You for responding to this most important matter. Amen.

 

Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? 1 Corinthians 10:18

 

Paul has been speaking about the Lord's Supper and our partaking of it. How does that fit in with participating in pagan sacrifices? To do both would be completely contrary to the purpose of partaking in the Lord's Supper. As an example for them to consider, he now brings in a lesson from the law itself. In this, he begins with, "Observe Israel after the flesh." This is an unfortunate translation when rendered by the NIV and some other translations which say something like "Consider the people of Israel. In Greek it reads blepete ton israel kata sarka - "Consider Israel according to the flesh." He is making a statement about Israel who participated in the sacrifices at the Temple, regardless of whether they were really right with God or not, hence the term "according to the flesh."

 

All of Israel would go to Jerusalem and offer their offerings to God. Some truly believed and some simply went through the motions, but the sacrifices brought the people together as one. It separated them as a people and showed their united allegiance under the God whom they served. When they went to these sacrifices, they actually participated in most of them. Some, such as the sin offering, were completely burnt up. But most of them were handled differently as Paul notes in the form of a rhetorical question, " Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?" The question demands an affirmative answer. "Yes, they are." 

 

A portion of the sacrifice was burned on the altar, a portion of it was given to the priest who conducted the ritual, and the rest of the offering was returned to the one who offered it for him (and his family if applicable) to eat. In this, he participated in what was offered. But it wasn't mere participation, instead the word Paul uses is koinonoi. It was a communion with the altar, just as we commune in the Lord's Supper.

 

Regardless of whether these Israelites were "circumcised in the heart" or merely national Israelites who were only going through the motions, their sacrifices were a communion with the altar and they were thus identified with that altar, with the people of Israel, and with the God to whom the sacrifices were made. If this was the perception by all who saw them as they offered, and if it was also the perception of their fellow Israelites who looked at one another as a corporate body, then doesn't our participation in the Lord's supper convey the same concepts? Likewise, what would people think if they saw us at the sacrifice to an idol?

 

Regardless of whether the idol is a true god or not (and we know that it isn't), that is irrelevant to the perception we are giving others by our actions if we participate in such a sacrifice when it is made. Paul shows that our actions have consequences because they produce perceptions in the eyes of others which may become a stumbling-block to them.

 

Life application: Paul shows us that the conscience of others is an important consideration for us as we conduct ourselves as Christians. We need to be understanding of others in our actions which could cause them to misunderstand our freedoms in Christ. However, this does not include all things that people may find offensive. If someone doesn't like something we do, like eating meat because they are vegetarians, that is their problem and not ours. Discernment and understanding of what could be considered a stumbling-block to others takes time to learn.

 

Lord give me discernment in order to know

What actions may harm the faith of another

In this walk with You, it is my desire to show

What is right in order to instruct my brother

 

Let me not be the cause of him to stumble

But instead help me to be a good guide to show him Jesus

What good is it to the team if I make the ball fumble

That can only harm the goal set before us

 

And so O God, help me to stick close to Your word

And to always bring honor to Jesus my Lord

 

Heavenly Father, help my actions to be right and pure in Your eyes. Grant me the wisdom to conduct myself in a way which will keep others from stumbling in their own desire to know if You are God. Likewise keep me from hindering another's growth in You if they already have faith in You. In all things, let me not diminish You in the eyes of others, but to exalt You and bring You the glory You deserve. Amen.

 

 

What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? 1 Corinthians 10:19

 

In 1 Corinthians 8:4, Paul affirmed that an idol is actually nothing. The fact that man worships something other than the Creator in no way means that it is anything other than the material it is comprised of - metal, wood, flesh, etc. In reality, it is an ineffective lie. Isaiah even uses that term when speaking of idols -

 

And no one considers in his heart,
Nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say,
“I have burned half of it in the fire,
Yes, I have also baked bread on its coals;
I have roasted meat and eaten it;
And shall I make the rest of it an abomination?
Shall I fall down before a block of wood?”
20 He feeds on ashes;
A deceived heart has turned him aside;
And he cannot deliver his soul,
Nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” Isaiah 44:19, 20

 

Understanding this, Paul made the affirmation that, “an idol is nothing in the world” and that “there is no other God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4). Since that time though, Paul has been using examples of God's judgment on Israel for following after idols. And then in the verse preceding this one he said, "Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?" With this noted, some might come to the conclusion that he is equating the participation in an idolatrous sacrifice with that of the participation in the true temple sacrifices.

 

And so he asks, "What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything?" His answer is, "No," and it is not what he is indicating. Rather, he is showing that the participation in the true temple sacrifices produced a bond between the people. "Israel after the flesh" was united as one, regardless of whether they actually believed in God or not. They went to the feasts, sacrificed at the temple, and ate of their offerings. Thus they were united in their rituals. If a believer were to join with pagans in their sacrifices, those pagans would feel this person was united to them in their belief. Thus he would appear to validate the idol as something even though it is "nothing in the world."

 

Life application: Our business is to exalt Christ, not idols, demons, angels, Mary, the saints, or anything or anyone else. Let us then exalt Christ, through whom God will receive His just glory.

 

Lord God, today I would pray that when people see me, they would say "That guy is a reasonable fellow and he really believes in Christ Jesus. I want some of what he has got." Use me, O God, to lead others to Christ. Amen.

 

 

Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. 1 Corinthians 10:20

 

In this, Paul makes a contrast to his previous thought. It read, "What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything?" The meat which had been sacrificed to an idol was merely meat, nothing more. In the verses ahead he will show that we can eat such meat without regard to our conscience (verse 27). However, to ensure that he isn't misunderstood, he does acknowledge that food sacrificed to idols is nothing and then immediately inserts "rather."

 

The meat is unchanged, but the sacrifice itself is wholly inappropriate to participate in. His words to support this are almost a reflection of a verse from Deuteronomy 32. In that passage, Moses speaks of the people sacrificing to false gods which are not God and thus they "forgot the God who gave" them birth. Here are his words -

 

"They sacrificed to demons, not to God,
To gods they did not know,
To new gods, new arrivals
That your fathers did not fear.
18 Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful,
And have forgotten the God who fathered you." Deuteronomy 32:17, 18

 

By participating in a pagan sacrifice, they are turning from God to a non-god who is actually a demon. If the ritual isn't to God, then it must be to either the devil or a force under the control of the devil. This is the battle we are constantly facing; a spiritual battle against wicked powers. We are told about this in Ephesians 6. There P