1 Corinthians 9-11
1 Corinthians 12-14
1 Corinthians 15-16
2 Corinthians 1-4
2 Corinthians 5-9
2 Corinthians 10-13
This week was all about Paul’s ministry to the church at Corinth. As I read through our passages, I was struck by how similar this church is to our churches today. They dealt with sexual sins, lying, hypocrisy, following specific preachers rather than God, false doctrines, complaining and more. When we look at society, we see that from the day of the fall to today, man’s sins haven’t changed. Unlike the early church, we can now sin in the comfort of our air-conditioned homes.
The basic problem with the church at Corinth was confusion over freedom in Christ versus license in Christ. Paul used the illustration of the Israelites. Moses – a type of Christ – led the people to redemption from bondage, but they took their freedom as license to sin. God was displeased, and this was the result:
For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 1 Corinthians 10:1-5 (ESV)
Paul makes the point that although in Christ we are no longer bound by the Law, those laws that God set down thousands of years ago are unchanging. The application of the Law is different because now we don’t have to sacrifice animals to receive our salvation. That was done one and for all at Calvary. However, our common sins were all shadowed in the wilderness.
Whatever we do, we are to consider its effect on other people. We are living testimonies to God, and if we feel license in Christ to do a certain thing, we can (but be sure that it’s GOD giving license and not your own fleshly desires). If our actions could cause another to stumble, we are to reassess those actions and put them aside so we don’t cause someone to stumble.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:31-33 (ESV)
It’s easy for us to say, “The devil made me do it”, but that’s not true. When we are tempted, we have a way out. That’s where our prayer life and knowledge of scripture comes in. There are times when I am tempted and all I can do is pray, “Jesus, help me!” – and that prayer, prayed honestly, gets me through the temptation. Other times, I can recall a particular Scripture that prevents me from taking the temptation. This Scripture is a great reminder that we have help if we just reach out for it.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)
Head coverings. What’s the big deal whether a person covers their head or not? In Paul’s day, a woman would cover her head as a symbol of marriage and authority of the man over the woman, just as we use wedding rings today. An woman with an uncovered head, or worse – a shaved head – was a sign of either disobedience or prostitution. Paul wanted to make sure that there was a visible sign among believers that they all understood their position in the kingdom. Later, Paul will remind us that women aren’t to be subservient. The man is to love the woman as Christ loved the church and be willing to die for her, and the woman is to look to the man as the head of the family, as Christ is the head of the church.
When you take communion, is it just a ceremony? Do you listen to the words the preacher says and then eat a piece of bread and drink a thimbleful of juice and not think twice about it? That’s sort of what the Corinthian church was doing. Paul told them that they needed to examine themselves before they hastily took communion:
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 (ESV)
Powerful words! Are you weak and ill? Could it be your unrepentant spirit? Communion is symbolic of Christ’s atoning death. When the Israelites went into the temple to worship, they had to make themselves ceremonially clean, cleansing their bodies and hearts before the living God. Cleanse your heart before you take the cup! Don’t take it unworthily.
There were those in Corinth who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Paul took time to explain the folly of their thinking. If all we have is this life and nothing afterwards, then our faith is futile and useless. But we have a great hope:
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 (ESV)
Paul gives us great hope this week: hope for our ability to step past temptations, for our future home with Christ, for our ability to walk the talk through the power of the Holy Spirit. He also gives us much to think about: our freedom in Christ versus how doing our own thing will impact our testimony for Christ, how our sins today are not any different than those in the fledgling church, and how God even uses physical trials to help us in our Christian walk.
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (ESV)
I pray that you will ponder this sobering question. As we move through the world of 2012, we see more persecution all over the world. As we see Christians suffering for their faith, are we “praying up” so we can face whatever trials come our way? Do you want to be like Paul, whose greatest desire was to be like Jesus? Ponder the things Paul endured so he could write these letters and give us instruction in our Christian walk. Doesn’t it make you want to meet him soon after you worship the risen Lord?
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 (ESV)
Hard to believe it’s the end of week 48 already. Congratulations for making it this far. Only one more month before you’ve completed the Bible! I would love to know what you’ve learned – how have you been challenged, strengthened, saddened, made glad? How has this challenge impacted your life? Please write and let me know.
I close with the words that made the most impact on me this week.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:10 (ESV)
See you next week.