1-corinthians

1 Corinthians 16

Read 1 Corinthians 16 today.

This chapter brought this letter to the Corinthians to a conclusion. Paul gave instructions about how to collect the offering he was gathering for the impoverished believers in Jerusalem (vv. 1-4). He described his travel plans (vv. 5-8) and the possibility of visits from Timothy (vv. 10-11) and Apollos (v. 12). He encouraged the church to live according to their faith in Christ (v. 13) and he recommended that the Corinthians treat God’s servants well (vv. 15-16). He commended three men for the financial support they brought him (vv. 17-18) and he wrapped up the letter with some greetings and a fitting conclusion (vv. 19-24).

Tucked within these final thoughts Paul said some things about Timothy (vv. 10-11) and the family of Stephanas (vv. 15-18) that are worthy of our consideration. Regarding Timothy Paul wrote, “No one, then, should treat him with contempt” (v. 11) The reason? “he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am” (v. 10b). Regarding the Stephanas family Paul commanded the church “to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it” (v. 16). The reason they should submit is “they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people.”

We know that the Corinthian church played favorites among the Lord’s servants because Paul addressed that favoritism in chapters 1-2. This kind of partisanship extended to other servants of the Lord. Given what we know about Timothy from the New Testament, can you imaging treating him “with contempt” (v. 11)? Yet that seemed to be a real potential threat. Likewise, the family of Stephanas devoted themselves to serving God’s people but Paul was concerned that the Corinthians might not submit to them.

Unfortunately, the Corinthians were not the only Christians to mistreat servants of the Lord that they viewed as “junior league” or “less than” Paul and Apollos. Some church people won’t accept ministry or instruction from the elders of their church or from staff members; they want to hear from the senior pastor only. This passage addresses that kind of attitude. All of us are servants of Christ and should be treated that way. If you decide to try another church because your pastor isn’t preaching on a particular Sunday, is that not treating God’s servant “with contempt”? If your elder contacts you and you don’t return the call or an email, is that an appropriate way to treat the Lord’s servant?

There’s nothing wrong with appreciating someone highly who is serving the Lord but there is everything wrong with elevating that person beyond the role of servant of the Lord. Check your heart and determine to treat all of God’s servants with the appropriate level of respect and submission.

1 Corinthians 15

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 15.

As this letter to the Corinthians continued, Paul continued addressing issues he knew of in the church in Corinth. Here in chapter 15, he addressed the resurrection of Jesus which was denied by some of the believers in Corinth (v. 12). Paul began by reminded the Corinthians that they were saved by the gospel he brought to them (vv. 1-2) and that gospel was the death (v. 3), burial (v. 4a), and resurrection of Christ (v. 4b) along with the eyewitness proof of Christ’s resurrection (vv. 5-7). After a brief digression about his apostleship (vv. 8-11), Paul began taking apart the false doctrine that there is no resurrection (vv. 12-49).

If there is no resurrection than Christ wasn’t raised from the dead and the entire gospel message is a fraud (vv. 12-19). But Christ did rise from the dead and his resurrection is a promissory note of a future hope for us (vv. 20-49). Finally, in verses 50-58, Paul spelled out the future hope we have in Christ because of his resurrection. Death is not a permanent state (v. 51); instead, everyone who died in Christ will be raised again with a glorified body (vv. 52-57). This is our hope. Death is a fearful thing for people but in Christ we are promised deliverance from death through the final resurrection. Christ’s resurrection foreshadows (“the firstfruits,” vv. 20-23) our resurrection.

What good is it to us today to believe in the resurrection? The answer is that it gives us motivation to stand firm in Christ and to invest in his work. Verse 58 says, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” The promise of the resurrection is both the promise of eternal life with God and the prospect of future rewards in his kingdom.

Do you ever wonder if it is worth it to follow Christ? Do you ever consider quitting your area of ministry because you feel the results are not there? Most of us have felt that from time to time but this passage urges us to hold fast and keep serving because eternity will be worth it. So don’t quit! Keep following Christ and living for him and you will be glad you did when you reach the final resurrection.

1 Corinthians 14

Keeping up with the daily reading schedule? Great! Read 1 Corinthians 14 today.

Paul continued writing about miraculous gifts in this chapter and he recommended the gift of prophecy over the gift of tongues (vv. 1-25). Paul made several points in this chapter to try to correct the errors of the Corinthians:

  1. Tongues in a church’s gathering are useless (v 6: “what good will I be?” and v. 28). They do not edify other believers (vv. 1-12) and they make unbelievers think that you are insane (v. 24).
  2. Interpreted tongues are useful (vv. 13-17) so pray for that gift if you find yourself speaking in tongues.
  3. Tongues are given to benefit unbelievers not believers (vv. 10-11, 21-22a). The benefit Paul has in mind here is the benefit of hearing the gospel in one’s own language with out a translator (v. 21). Since the Corinthians all shared a common language, there was no need for anyone to speak in tongues, particularly if there were no interpreter. So the Corinthians shouldn’t seek the gift of tongues or elevate it to the ultimate expression of spirituality.
  4. The gift of prophecy edifies believers (vv. 3-5, 19) and it convicts unbelievers (vv. 22-25), so it is a superior spiritual gift to tongues.

There are two larger principles in this passage beyond speaking in tongues and prophecy:

  1. The goal of church gatherings is to edify believers primarily (vv. 5, 12, 19, 26c) and secondarily to convict unbelievers (vv. 24-25).
  2. Church gatherings should be done in an orderly way (vv. 26-40). Chaos does not please the Lord (v. 33).

These two principles should guide anyone leading a church and planning a worship service. They should inform you if you find yourself looking for a church someday. The second of these two principles is drawn from a basic principle about God’s nature: “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (v. 33a). As followers of Christ, we should seek order in our everyday lives as well. Is there chaos somewhere in your life? What is one action today that could move you a step closer to peace and order in that area?

1 Corinthians 13

Today we're reading 1 Corinthians 13.

This famous chapter of scripture is part of Paul's teaching on spiritual gifts which began back in chapter 12.

The Corinthians had a proud perspective on spiritual gifts. The more powerfully God had gifted someone, the more spiritual that person seemed to be. Here in verses 1-3, Paul taught that spiritual power is useless without love. It doesn't matter how elevated your language is through the gift of tongues, how prophetic your words are or how sacrificial your giving may be, without love there is no meaningful spiritual impact

So what is love? Instead of defining it, Paul described it. It is patient and kind. It does not envy others or call attention to itself. It is not defensive. All of these things point to one reality--love is a focus on what is good for others.

It is so easy for us to become self-centered, isn't it? We serve but we are aware of the cost that service extracts from us. We give but we resent the attention someone else gets for using their gifts in the body. We make a contribution but wonder why we don't get more out of the church. These are all self-centered, unloving thoughts.

If you want your life to count for Jesus, you need to ask him to teach you to love--that is to focus on benefiting others and not think about yourself. The Bible says that love is the fruit of the Spirit; that means it is the result of your growth in grace by the spirit of God. Again, because pride and self-centeredness come so naturally to us this is something we need to continually ask God's help for.

1 Corinthians 12

Today's reading is 1 Corinthians 12

We've seen already that the Corinthian church was divided by opinions about teachers such as Paul and Apollos and by distinctions between the wealthy and the poor. Another divisive item in the church was spiritual gifts, particularly miraculous spiritual gifts (vv. 1-11). Miraculous powers, especially the gift of tongues seems to have become a way to rank who was the most spiritual in the church.

In this chapter Paul taught the Corinthians that spiritual gifts are... gifts. That is, they are not earned or developed by a believer who then has the right to feel proud. Instead, different gifts are distributed by the Spirit of God (vv. 4-5) and for his purposes not for our pride (vv. 6-11).

The analogy Paul used to teach this was the human body (vv. 12-27). Like the human body, the church needs different people exercising different gifts for the health of the entire body of Christ. I never think about my spleen, but I'm glad I have one; likewise, there are people in our body who have very public gifts and others whose service to the Lord's body is invisible but vital.

How has God uniquely gifted you to serve him by helping his church? Have you figured out what you have to contribute and found a place to make that contribution?

Going further, God gave leaders to the church to serve his body (vv. 28-29). We know from other passages that church leaders and to defend the church, instruct the church, and equip the church. If you don't know what your gift is, need help developing or finding a place to use it, that's one of the reasons why we're here. So, let's talk.

One major undercurrent in this chapter, which will be developed more in the next, is that whatever our gift or role in the body is, we're here to give ourselves for the good of the body. Our gifts and ministries are to serve not to be exalted. This is something we need to be reminded about continually because of our natural tendencies toward pride. If you find yourself drawn to a ministry because you like the attention that ministry brings you, it is time to humble yourself before the Lord and ask him to give you a true servant's heart.

1 Corinthians 11

Today we’re reading 1 Corinthians 11.

Paul seems to have finished addressing the questions and matters that the Corinthians had written to him about and, here in chapter 11, he moved on to things he was concerned about within the church.

Generally speaking, Paul was concerned with how chaotic the worship services of the Corinthian church were. Starting here in 1 Corinthians 11 and continuing through 1 Corinthians 14, Paul instructed the Corinthians about aspects of their worship that were not glorifying to God. In today’s chapter, 1 Corinthians 11, Paul addressed two problem areas. They are (1) how women worship (vv. 1-16) and (2) how the entire church practiced the Lord’s supper (vv. 17-34).

When this chapter was written, it was customary for women in the Roman world, at least, to cover their heads as a symbol of submission to their husbands. But it was also becoming fashionable for women in that culture not to submit to their husbands and to show their lack of submission by not wearing a head covering. In verses 2-16, Paul rebuked some of the wives in Corinth who had stopped wearing head coverings. Although women were (and are) equal to the men in their importance to God and their position before God in Christ, on this earth God commands women who are married to live in submission to their husbands. Verse 3 explained that Christ, the Son of God, was in submission to God the Father. Although he is equal with the Father in every way, he functions in submission to the Father in everything. Likewise, wives should live in submission to their husbands. Shedding the symbol of that submission in the worship service was improper (vv. 13-16), so married women in the church should show their proper relationship to their husbands by covering their heads in the worship service. This was the first of two ways that the Corinthians needed to straighten up their worship services.

The second way in which they needed to bring order to their worship services is in their practice of the Lord’s supper (vv. 17-34). The Lord’s Supper was practiced as part of a full meal that the church shared together. The church met on Sunday, as we do, but unlike in our culture, Sunday was a typical work day so the church gathering happened at night. The wealthier members of their church could arrive earlier than the more common workers and slaves in their church family could. Apparently the Corinthians were not waiting for the whole church to be gathered before they started the meal and Lord’s Supper observance. Instead, people would arrive and start eating and drinking. By the time those who were poorer arrived, the food was gone and many people were drunk (vv. 20-21). Paul rebuked the Corinthians for this practice (v. 22), then instructed them again about how the Lord’s Supper began in the church (vv. 23-25). The Lord’s Supper is a sacred act of worship (v. 27) so it should be observed in a way that unifies the body (vv. 18-19, 22) and in a way that is reverent (vv. 27-34).

When we come together to worship on Sunday, do you prepare yourself well? I don’t mean getting your Sunday best together. I mean, do you think about your relationships and whether they are glorifying to God (vv. 2-16) and do you think about how to unify the body of Christ and show favor to the disfavored in this world (vv. 21-22)? Do you take time to examine yourself and your life and come before the Lord in a reverent, worshipful way (vv. 27-28)?

1 Corinthians 10

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 10.

This chapter concluded Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians on the matter of eating meat offered to idols. The chapter began by pointing to Israel’s history (vv. 1-5), showing that God did so much for the entire nation (vv. 1-4) yet many in that nation fell under the judgment of God due to their unbelief (v. 5). This survey of Israel’s exodus was addressed to the Corinthian believers who believed they were strong in Christ and could exercise much Christian liberty. Yes, God has done much in your life and in your church but his powerful acts in Israel did not prevent people from worshipping idols (vv. 6-7), committing sexual sins (v. 8), testing Christ (v. 9), and being complainers (v. 10). We too have received much from Christ but that should never lead us to believe that we are immune from sin (vv. 11-12).

Although idols aren’t real and there is no spiritual or moral damage done by eating meat offered to idols, there is temptation associated with idol meat. That temptation is idolatry (v. 14). True, the idols are not real gods or representatives of real gods, nevertheless idolatry is demonic (v. 20). If the Corinthian Christians participate in Christ through communion (vv. 16-17) then go to the idol’s temple and are involved there (vv. 18-22), they are participating in the demonic and will face the Lord’s discipline (vv. 21-22).

It is important, then, whenever a Christian exercises Christian liberty not to focus on themselves but on others around them (vv. 23-30). The guiding questions for a Christian’s life are (a) am I playing with temptation to sin but calling it Christian liberty (vv. 12-13) and (b) is God glorified by this (v. 31)--meaning does it help or create obstacles to the spread of the gospel in the lives of others (vv. 32-33)?

Christians may answer these questions differently on the same subject. Here’s an example: One issue that Christians debate is whether it is acceptable to drink alcohol. The Bible condemns and warns against drunkenness but not against all consumption of alcohol. Christ himself drank wine and most Christians have throughout the century until very recently. But alcoholism is a serious problem in our world and many Christians were saved from a sinful life where alcohol was part of their sinful lifestyle. Many of these stopped drinking completely in order to live an orderly, obedient life to Christ. Personally, I don’t drink at all for several reasons, but if I did, I would be exposing myself to temptation--the temptation to drink too much and the possible reckless things I might do while drunk. So, if I were to choose to exercise my Christian liberty by having a beer, my faith in Christ and desire to please him should lead me to be careful about having more than one or two, lest I give into temptation (vv. 12-13).

Also, it may not be wrong for me to drink a glass of wine, but if I knowingly drink when I’m with another believer who doesn’t drink because he has less self-control, then I am sinning by putting him into a position where he may be tempted. So the limits of Christian liberty are about avoiding temptation myself and not leading another believer or unbeliever to sin (v. 32).

Is there an area of your life where you’re living in Christian liberty but you’re tempted to go further into something that is sinful? Are you considerate of the affect of your life on others--either leading them closer to Christ or misleading them from following Christ? Let these chapters from 1 Corinthians help you to guide your thinking as you make choices in everyday life.

1 Corinthians 9

Today’s reading is from 1 Corinthians 9.

A new chapter greets us here in 1 Corinthians 9 but the topic of this chapter continued from chapter 8. Remember from yesterday that the topic, generally, is Christian liberty and specifically meat offered to idols. Paul continued discussing that topic in this chapter.

Christian liberty is a right. Nobody has the right to forbid a believer from doing something that is not sinful. But you don’t have to exercise any of your rights to Christian liberty and, here in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul holds up his own example to illustrate the point.

As a believer, Paul was free (v. 9a). As an apostle, he had the right to be supported financially so that he could eat and drink and even bring a family along with him, if he had one (vv. 3-5a). Other apostles traveled with their families (v. 5b) and did not work to support themselves financially like Paul and Barnabas did (v. 6), so their .

In verses 7-14 Paul explained why he had these rights as an apostle using everyday examples and biblical examples. Then, in verses 15-23 he told the Corinthians that he did not insist on exercising all these rights because the gospel is the most important thing. It is through the gospel that people are liberated from sin and its penalties. Liberating people from sin is more important than exercising the liberties we have in Christ. So, if giving up a few rights is beneficial to the gospel, Paul was eager to do that (v. 19).

Now consider again the topic of idol meat. Is that tasty meat and it’s delicious low price worth compromising the weak faith of another brother or sister in Christ? Is any act of Christian liberty worth that?

Yes, we are free in Christ but we are also servants of Christ for his gospel which he called us to spread anywhere and everywhere. Does the effect of our decisions on the spread of the gospel ever cross our minds? Our words and actions in this life can point others to Christ or they can cause others to recoil from Christ. As we grow in the Lord, the maturity he develops in us should help us to think about our lives and evaluate our decisions this way.

1 Corinthians 8

Today’s chapter to read is 1 Corinthians 8.

This chapter takes up the next item in the list of things in the Corinthians’ letter to Paul. That item was whether or not it is acceptable for Christians to eat meat that had been offered to idols.

The world in which the New Testament was written was a world full of idolatry. Everywhere the gospel went, except for Israel, there were already established patterns of idol worship. In Corinth, people would bring animals to the pagan temples to offer as sacrifices. Whatever the altar did not burn up, the priests could eat, but whatever they did not eat was sold in the marketplace. The idol meat was cheaper than the non-idol meat, so many people would buy it to save some money. The Corinthian believers were divided on the morality of that. Some said it was acceptable for Christians to eat the idol meat; others’ could not eat that meat in good conscience. So the Corinthian church included this question in their letter to Paul.

One side of the issue argued that (a) idols represent false, non-existent gods (v. 4a) and (b) there is only one real God (v. 4b-6), so what’s the harm in enjoying some Apollo sirloin?

Paul actually agreed with that argument (see 1 Cor 10:25-26) but not with the hardhearted believer who made it. Yes, it is true that idols are not real so meat offered to them has no special powers or curses attached to it. Likewise, someone who ate idol meat that was sold in the open market was not engaging in a worship feast or entering spiritually into idolatry. All of this was true and logic dictated that eating idol meat was totally acceptable for Christians based on these theological conclusions. But what about someone whose theology was not yet developed? If someone was heavily involved in idolatry, eating idol meat could create a temptation that led that person back into idolatry.

This chapter is one of several in the Bible that discussed the topic of “Christian liberty.” The first thing Paul wanted every Christian to know about Christian liberty is that Christian liberty should never be used in a way that causes another Christian to be tempted to sin. That’s what verse 9 is saying when it says, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak” (v. 9). While the topic of Christian liberty is too large to tackle in a devotional, it is important to understand the heart of Paul’s instructions in this passage. The heart of Paul’s instructions in this passage is to consider how your actions affect the walk of another believer in Christ. The stronger you are as a believer, the more you should consider how your example affects other believers. And, if you have reason to believe that your actions could cause another believer to sin, you should avoid those actions (vv. 12-13) for the good of that other believer.

How often do we think about our influence on others? Are there things you do as a believer which may not be sins but might be harmful to the spiritual life of another believer by causing that person to sin? Remember that if your children are believers they are watching you more closely than anyone. Let’s be wise in the choices we make in life by considering how they might affect the faith of other believers who look to us as an example of spiritual leadership.

1 Corinthians 7

Today’s reading comes from 1 Corinthians 7.

This chapter from 1 Corinthians contains several instructions around the subject of marriage. Verse 1 began the chapter with the phrase, “Now for the matters you wrote about.” The Corinthian believers had many questions about what was right and wrong for Christians to do, so they wrote a letter to Paul spelling out their questions. The first question was about sexual ethics: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” This is not a statement from Paul; rather, Paul is quoting back to them their first question or point of confusion: “Is celibacy Christian?”

Paul explored this question from a number of angles. First, there is nothing morally wrong with marriage and a person should marry (v. 2) and have regular sexual relations with his or her spouse (vv. 3-5). One reason for this is to protect against a church full of single people giving into their sexual desires (v. 2a), committing adultery (v. 5b) or burning with lust (v. 9).

Second, Paul commended the single life if a person can be single without giving into temptation (vv. 8-9, 25-40).

Third, he commanded believers not to divorce (vv. 10-14) but also not to contest a divorce if an unbeliever divorces his or her unbelieving spouse (vv. 15-16). This is the passage which gives an additional exception for divorce to the exception Jesus gave in Matthew 18.

The main principle in this passage is “remain as you are” (vv. 17-24). If you are a married person, give your spouse what you promised (vv. 3-5) and don’t divorce him or her--even if he or she is an unbeliever (vv. 12-14). In fact, faith in Christ has a sanctifying effect on the unbelieving spouse which is a reason to stay in the marriage (v. 14). But if your non-Christian spouse leaves you, you do not have to contest the divorce and are free to remarry (vv. 15-16).

Although marriage is the dominant topic in this chapter, Paul suddenly references circumcision (vv. 18-19) and slavery (vv. 21-24). These have nothing to do with decisions about marriage, but they are other applications of the principle, “remain as you are” (v. 17, 20) In other words, your faith in Christ applies to your life whether you are single or married, circumcised or uncircumcised, slave or free (vv. 21-24). There are no second class Christians; whatever situation you are in is an opportunity for you to live for God today. Christians who are married to other Christians have advantages that others do not have, but God isn’t evaluating you based on your circumstances. He’s called you and empowered you to live a godly life in whatever circumstances you are in today.

What circumstance are you in today that you wish were different? Do you find yourself thinking that you could be a more godly Christian if you had a different spouse--or no spouse at all? Do you think it would be easier to be holy if you had a different job or that God would be more pleased with you if left your secular job to work in the ministry full-time? This passage should cause you to reconsider. There is nothing wrong with changing your circumstances if you can do it without sinning (vv. 21b-23), but a change of circumstances is not what you need to live a godly life. You already have what you need to live a godly life--God’s divine power--no matter what circumstances you are in. So believe that by faith and live within your situation differently for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 6

Today’s devotional reading is from 1 Corinthians 6.

At the end of our reading yesterday in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul stated that he does not judge outsiders to the church. Instead, God would judge them (5:12-13). Here in chapter 6 he picked up the theme of judgment and rebuked the Corinthian believers for using secular courts and unbelieving judges to decide their disputes (v. 1). That rebuke started this entire chapter which makes a distinction between how unbelievers live and how believers should live.

  1. Unbelievers go to court when they have a dispute with another person; believers go to the church leaders to resolve those issues (vv. 1-5)
  2. Unbelievers will never accept being cheated and wronged; believers should never wrong each other--we’re brothers and sisters in Christ, after all--but if we are wronged, we would rather accept being wrong than expose our problems to the secular world (vv. 7-9).
  3. Unbelievers live in all kinds of sinful ways; believers used to be like that but were redeemed by Christ (vv. 9-11).
  4. Unbelievers will justify their sinful behavior by any rationalization necessary; believers understand that we belong to God and therefore want to live for him with our bodies, especially in the realm of our sexuality (vv. 12-20).

Does your life look any different than the unbelievers around you? If you’re in Christ, it certainly does. But are there any areas where you need to grow in your submission to the Lordship of Christ? You may not sue another believer, but will you gossip and backstab him if possible? You may not live an immoral life, but do you have food habits or drinking habits or entertainment habits that are not glorifying to God? A passage like this one calls us to reflect on our lives. Verses 19-20 say, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” Is there anything you’re consistently doing with your body or your mind that the Holy Spirit would not do?

1 Corinthians 5

Today the reading schedule invites us to read 1 Corinthians 5

This short chapter discusses the difficult subject of church discipline. The occasion for the Corinthians was a man in their church who was committing adultery with his father’s wife (v. 1). The fact that she is not called his mother probably means that she is a step-mother to the man. Regardless, Paul was appalled (no pun intended though enjoyed) both that someone who claimed to be a believer would do this (v. 1) and that the Corinthian church tolerated this sin in their church family (v. 2). In fact, “tolerated” may be too mild a term; the phrase, “and you are proud” indicates that the Corinthians celebrated this sin. It would be nice to know more about what Paul was suggesting. Maybe the Corinthians saw their tolerance of this sin as some advanced display of grace? Regardless, Paul called on the church to remove this man from the church through church discipline as we saw in the phrase, “put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this” (v. 2b). What, then, does this passage teach us about church discipline?

First, that church discipline is public. Verse 4 told the Corinthians to handle this matter, “when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present” (v. 4). That phrase is speaking of a public gathering of the church, not a private meeting or a letter. When someone is removed from church membership through discipline, all the other members of the church should know of his removal and why he was removed.

Second, that church discipline is for the spiritual good of the person placed under discipline. Verse 5b describes the purpose of this act with this phrase, “so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” Remember that no one should be disciplined from the church until they have been confronted with their sin and given the opportunity to repent. A repentant believer is not removed from the church because he is responding to sin the way that a Christian should. But a person who will not repent when their sin is addressed is acting like an unbeliever. Paul is very concerned that the man described in 1 Corinthians 5 will go to hell because his open practice of sin is not consistent with the life of a believer. A main goal of removing him publicly is to shake him out of the false confidence of salvation he has so that he will repent of his sin like a believer should or turn to Christ genuinely for salvation.

Third, that church discipline is for the good of the church, too. Verses 6-8 compares sin to yeast (leaven). A little bit of yeast expands throughout baking dough to make the resulting bread soft and cause it to rise. The image is that the yeast grows to affect the whole loaf; likewise, sin unaddressed in the church also grows and expands until it pervades the entire body. Church discipline, then, removes the sin by disassociating the church from the person under discipline. While the people in the church might still see this man around, they are no longer to regard him as a brother in Christ who is growing in his faith. This has a sobering affect on the rest of the congregation, showing them that sin will not be tolerated in the body of Christ.

Church discipline is always a difficult thing, stressful for everyone involved. It is like surgery for the body of Christ. A surgeon wounds your physical body in order to remove or repair something that is affecting your health in the long term. Church discipline, likewise, is painful to the body, but God uses it to bring long-term health and healing to the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 4

We’re reading 1 Corinthians 4 today, according to our NT17 schedule.

In today’s reading Paul continued speaking to the Corinthians about how they were dividing their church by championing one church leader over another. Instead of taking sides over whether Apollos was better than Paul, Paul urged them to “regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.” Paul and Apollos were on the same team--the same team as each other and as the Corinthians. They were there--and each of us is here--to serve the Lord.

What standard, then, do we use when considering the Lord’s servants? Verse 2 says, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” Was Paul faithful to do the work God commanded him to do? Was Apollos faithful? Are you faithful in performing the ministry God gave you to do? Only God really knows and his judgment day will reveal the truth about it (v. 5). So instead of evaluating God’s servants before that time (v. 5a), we should simply strive to serve the Lord faithfully today.

As always there are false teachers within the church who threaten it and there are biblical teachers who strengthen it. Whose your favorite teacher? John MacArthur? R.C. Sproul? Jay Adams? C. H. Spurgeon? Wayne Grudem? Paul Tripp? I have learned a great deal from each of these men and many others. Each of them has his strengths and weaknesses but the Lord does not want us to compare them and rank them against each other nor does he want them to battle it out between them. Instead, he wants them to be faithful and for us to be thankful for the work they do for him.

It is definitely a good thing to appreciate the ministry of others; Paul certainly felt that the Corinthians should have appreciated his ministry to them more than they did. As long as you don’t elevate any man to a level of infallibility or trust his word against the clear teaching of God’s word, there is nothing wrong with appreciating a man who is being used by God. Just don’t let your godly appreciation turn into an ungodly adulation that brings discord and strife into the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 2

Today we’re reading 1 Corinthians 2.

The gospel sounds like total nonsense to those who don’t know Jesus but that doesn’t mean it actually is nonsense. Instead, it is a message of great wisdom to those who are mature (v. 6) but not because we reasoned and thought our way to that wisdom. No, it is wisdom that was hidden from most people but now revealed to us by the grace of God (vv. 7-8). Though this revelation given to us in the gospel, we learned about all that God has done for us in Christ (vv. 9-10) but only after the Holy Spirit went to work on our minds and hearts (vv. 10-12). The focus of this chapter is the Holy Spirit and what he did to us in order to make us receptive to the gospel (vv. 10-16).

In churches like ours which are non-charismatic, we sometimes are skittish about the Holy Spirit. We acknowledge that he is God but get concerned when believers pray to him or talk about him. Don’t be concerned. Your spiritual life is a gift from the Holy Spirit of God and you don’t need to do any miracles to see him working in your life. The discernment you have about good and evil, wisdom and foolishness, what is spiritual and what is sinful is because of the Holy Spirit. So, thank him for his work in your life and ask him to keep working on you, in you, and through you to draw you closer to Christ.

1 Corinthians 1

Today’s reading comes from 1 Corinthians 1.

During Paul’s two year stay in Ephesus, which we read about yesterday in Acts 19, he probably wrote 1 and 2 Corinthians so we will read those letters, then come back to Acts later.

The church at Corinth had a lot of problems and Paul started addressing them right away here in chapter 1 verse 10. Despite their many--and serious--problems, Paul took time to appreciate the evidence of their faith in God and express confidence in God’s power to make them holy in verses 4-9. The reason for this confidence was that they were “sanctified [set apart] in Christ Jesus” (v. 2) and that God was faithfully working in them (vv. 8-9). The Corinthians, it seems, had lost sight of the fact that God was the source of their faith and their salvation (vv. 28-30). Judging from Paul’s words in this chapter, it appears that the Corinthians began to think that they had some level of discernment on their own. They argued about who was the best teacher--Paul or Apollos (vv. 10-17) which suggests that they thought one or the other was more insightful. Those who argued for their guy may have thought, if you only had the spiritual insight I have, you’d see that Paul is the better teacher. Paul reminded them that it was not their clever insights that brought them to Christ, but Christ and his grace. Apart from his grace, we would consider Jesus and his atoning death for us to be foolishness (vv. 18-23); God, however, called us to trust in Jesus which is why we turned to him in faith (v. 24a). When we turned to Christ in faith, that’s when we learned that Jesus was God’s power and wisdom embodied (v. 24b). In fact, Christ is everything to us by the grace of God--“our wisdom... righteousness, holiness and redemption” (v. 30).

The pride that Paul addressed in the Corinthians is a present temptation to Christians at all times including us. Sometimes we may be tempted to pity or even despise the lost because of how deeply sin and unbelief has infected them. But it was not our keen insight that saved us from that life; it was God’s gracious work in our minds and hearts when we heard the gospel.

This should cause us to thank God for the gift of grace he gave to us. We’d be lost in our sins just life everyone else if it weren’t for his saving work. And, since God is the one who chooses and who saves, we should never write anyone off as being beyond the power of God. The gospel, by the grace of God, is a transformative message. You’ve witnessed its transforming power in your own life but don’t be proud of that fact. Instead, be proud of God (v. 31) and willing to share his message with others so that they may experience his grace as well.