Set against this backdrop of sensuality and materialism, the Corinthian church was forged. This letter holds wealth of practical instruction for us today living in an environment much the same.
1Corinthians Chapters 1 – 4
- Greetings, you are very gifted
- You are following personalities and it is wrong because man’s wisdom is foolishness; God should receive the glory; we are all just doing our part; God is the one who causes real growth and resultsChrist crucified is all that matters; we are just responsible for teaching it
1Corinthians Chapter 5
- Immorality defiles the church and should be judged harshly
1Corinthians Chapter 6
- You shouldn’t be taking each other to court; it is shameful. Your body is to be used for God’s glory.
1Corinthians Chapter 7
- Keep your marriage vows; be content in whatever situation God called you (single, married, etc.)
1Corinthians Chapter 8
- Have a clear conscience; enjoy your Christian liberty, but not a the expense of others
1Corinthians Chapter 9
- Those who work for the Lord deserve to be supported yet Paul denied that right in order that could win more; become all things to all men in order to win them; we are in a race for our crown and our victory is predetermined.
1Corinthians Chapter 10
- Old Testament examples clearly tell us of the consequences of sin; idols or God, you can’t serve both; enjoy your liberty but not at the expense of others
1Corinthians Chapter 11
- God’s order of authority and structure (God, Christ, Man, Woman); in accordance with, or despite of local customs Christian should maintain the proper roles God has set up; Partake of the Lord’s Supper in the correct spirit or suffer the consequences
1Corinthians Chapter 12
- There are many gifts, ministries and activities in God’s Body, but they are all controlled by the same God, the same Spirit, the same Lord. There are many different parts to the Body, but all are equally important and indispensable.
1Corinthians Chapter 13
- You could have the greatest of all gifts and talents but they mean nothing without love; Love is patient, kind, content, humble, polite, servile, calm, pure, truthful, sacrificial, trusting, hopeful and enduring. Love is the greatest of all commandments for it encompasses all others.
1Corinthians Chapter 14
- Prophecy is greater than tongues because it edifies others; tongues are useless to the Body unless interpreted; edification of the church is essential. All things in church must be done orderly and must be edifying;
1Corinthians Chapter 15
- The simple Gospel: Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose on the third day. If Christ did not rise and there is no resurrection, Christianity is pointless; We will receive a new and glorious body in eternity; We have the final victory already decided and declared by God; WE WIN!
1Corinthians Chapter 16
- Give regularly to the church; Paul’s travel plans, exhortations and final greeting.
Paul offers typical greetings and mentions Sosthenes who was probably his personal secretary.
Paul commends them for the fullness of their gifts saying they came short in no area of spiritual gifts. This closely parallels our church that excels in gifts and talent in every area.
The Corinthians are admonished for creating cliques in the church. “I am of Paul”, “I am of Apollos”…. Is this different than “I am of Calvin”, “I am MacArthur”, “I am of Hunt”?
In any case, Paul begins by naming names and stating his opposition to the situation.
A comparison is made between human wisdom (Paul’s, Apollos, etc.) and the wisdom of God and the power of Christ crucified. He begins to lay down the foundation for his conclusion of how weak any personality is compared to the Message.
Paul continues to break down their reasons for following a personality. He describes how God uses the weak and foolish to proclaim His truth so that no man may receive the glory for the Message.
Paul begins a description of what he taught when he first came. In context, he is trying to say “did I say ‘look at me’ or did I always say ‘look at Christ’? Nothing he did was to mean to display his personal ability, but only to point men Christ.
Further developing the argument against following a personality, Paul describes where spiritual wisdom comes from emphasizing that it originates in God, so why should you follow the man that speaks it?
Getting back to his original charge, Paul chides the Corinthians for their immaturity. Here he is very direct and to the point.
Men have different parts to play in evangelism and discipleship. No matter what part God has us play; He is the only one who can actually cause growth and fruitfulness. Therefore, why should any man be honored? Workers will receive their reward from God; let God receive all the glory for the work.
When we work, and when it appears that we have “accomplished”, we are warned to remember that it is only because of Christ. Our wisdom is in reality foolishness. So there is no reason to boast in any man.
Paul, Apollos and Peter were only servants; stewards of God’s message. Paul had a clear conscience in the matter and was confident that God would reveal the same when Christ came.
Paul continues with reasons not to glorify men. What do we have, that we haven’t received from God? Then why would we glory in that which we neither have, nor can control? So Paul describes how the Apostles made themselves of little account so that no one would give them glory.
Paul expresses his love and concern for them and his desire that they imitate him as He models Christ.
Paul condemns the existence of, and tolerance of sexual immorality in the church. He commands the Corinthians to put such a one out of the church (Matt 18:15). He reminds them that tolerating sin in one instance will effect the whole church (yeast).
Christians are commanded not to take each other to court. It is shameful that an unbeliever judges those who will rule with Christ someday. We are rather to be wronged that to shame Christ by suing each other.
Christian liberty is a blessing, but we should not allow our liberty to open the door for giving into fleshly control. Especially in the area of sexual purity, Paul warns us that every sin except sexual sin is outside of the body. We become “one” with the object of our sexual sin. We do not belong to ourselves now, we are bought by Christ. Therefore do not take what Christ has purchased with His blood and join it to sin.
Paul instructs on marriage stating that it is good to be single if God has called you to that, but assuring that it is not sinful to marry if you desire. Husbands and wives should not deprive each other sexually except for a short agreed time to devote to prayer.
You should not leave an unbelieving spouse if they desire to stay married so that through your testimony they might come to know Christ. But if they want to leave, you can allow them to go.
Your newfound Christianity should not be an excuse for denying your current responsibilities or position in life. You should remain where God has called you unless He leads you elsewhere where free, slave, married, unmarried, circumcised or uncircumcised.
Paul emphasizes that married people are necessarily concerned about their marriage which takes away from devotion to God, but does not condemn it as sin. Singleness is preferable but not commanded.
You are bound to your spouse until they die. Then you are free to remarry but only another Christian. Paul’s personal opinion is that they would be better off single.
Christian liberty is granted to us but it should never cause a weaker brother to stumble. Mature Christians are to nurture and care for weaker brethren, not flaunt their liberty (which would be a sign that they are not as mature as they believe).
The issue of the day was eating food sacrificed to idols, which of course there is nothing wrong with the food, but it violated the conscience of some. While it was not sinful to eat the food, causing your brother to violate his conscience because of your exercise of liberty, was a sin. Rather to NEVER engage in liberty again, than to cause a brother to stumble.
Paul defends his right to certain privileges and support that he could have claimed as an Apostle such as marrying and financial support. He then declines to exercise that right so that he could never be accused of ministering for material gain.
Paul affirms his liberty but typically submits it to his greater mission, to win souls. He becomes “all things to all men” in order to win as many as possible.
We run race for a crown and we should run our race to win, to be first place. We strive for an eternal crown. We should discipline our bodies daily to bring it into submission lest we run the risk of disqualifying ourselves by letting our body sin.
We have many Old Testament examples of how to follow God. The Old Testament is full of New Testament symbology pointing to Christ such as passing through water (baptism) and drinking from the rock (Christ). Even though God was in the midst of the Israelite camp (just as Christ in our midst), they still became idolaters and committed sexual immorality.
Many fell or were destroyed and those events were written for our admonition. So we are to be on guard and realize that there is no excuse for our sin because God always provides a way of escape for us.
Flee idolatry because we serve one Christ and we partake of His Body together during communion. You cannot partake of the living Lord and of demons… so avoid all idolatry so that the Lord’s wrath will not be stirred up against us.
We have complete liberty in Christ but never at the expense of others. We are always to prefer and seek the well being of others. We are not to violate our own conscience, nor cause another to do so. Whatever we do, no matter what, it needs to be done to God’s glory.
Paul teaches specifically to the local custom of covering the head as it related to life in Corinth. As related to us, the general principle is that women are to look like, act like, and be easily recognized as women and they are not to exercise authority over men in the church. Likewise, men are to look like, act like and be easily recognizable as men.
This may take on variations in dress and hairstyle in different cultures, but the principle is the same: the distinct roles of men and women are to be maintained and easily recognized within the culture.
Paul gives very serious instructions and warnings about the Lord’s Supper. It is not a “meal” in the sense of being some sort of party or dinner where the intent is to satisfy physical hunger or provide entertainment. It is a time of serious examination of our lives before God and memorializing the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Improper partaking of communion results in judgment, sickness and even death. The Lord will chastise us for not giving the reverence and importance due Him at the Communion table.
Paul gives instruction about spiritual gifts to the Corinthians who were already predisposed to the mystical, ecstatic nature of idol worship and evidently were allowing there pagan tendencies to corrupt true spiritual gifts. It appears also that there was some competition and showing off of gifts for personal attention and glory.
Paul instructs that while there is diversity in gifts, they all have the same purpose and are given by the same Spirit.
Paul continues emphasizing over and over that it is ONE Spirit/Christ/God who imparts gifts and that all members of the body are equally important therefore no one should boast in their gift or be dissatisfied with God has given them to do.
Lest the point be missed, Paul points out that love is the most important spiritual gift of all. Love of course will rule out competition, showing off, personal glory and any other personal pride over what gift God has granted to a person.
Love in the positive is patient, kind, content, humble, servile, polite, calm, pure, truthful, sacrificial, trusting and hoping.
Love is not prideful, showy, rude, selfish, evil and does not get pleasure from sin.
Love never fails. It encompasses everything God commands. Everything else will vanish, but love will endure.
Paul begins to teach about tongues which evidently were being abused by the Corinthians and were being used to “show off” or bring personal attention.
Speaking in tongues was speaking to God and required an interpreter for it to be edifying to the Church. Just like a musical instrument that has to be played correctly for “music” to come from it, speaking in tongues had to be done properly for it to be true spiritual “music”.
Paul emphasizes that he would rather speak FIVE words that were understood by all than ten thousand “tongues” words that were only edifying to him personally.
Paul discloses the purpose of tongues as a sign to unbelievers (prophesy being for believers).
Again, it seems that the spiritual gifts were being abused in the Corinthian church because Paul now gives instruction on orderly worship. In the church worship all things were to be edifying to the whole body, all things were to be done orderly and all things God’s way.
If someone spoke in tongues, someone had to interpret. At most, only 2 or 3 were to speak in tongues or prophesy. Women were to be silent.
God is not the author of confusion and all things are to be done decently and in order.
Paul begins to build a foundation for the basis of our salvation: the resurrection. He states the entire Gospel in its purest simplicity: Christ died for our sins, Christ was buried, and Christ rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures. This is the essence of our faith.
Christ was seen by many witnesses including the Twelve, James, five hundred disciples and even Paul himself.
Paul asks: given these facts, how can some of you deny the Resurrection? If there is no resurrection our faith is useless. We would be the most pitiful of people if we believed in Christianity and there was no resurrection after death.
But Christ did rise and brought life to mankind who was dead because of Adam’s sin. All who accept Christ will be made alive and in the end will be given by the Father to His Son as a gift. We will rule and reign with Him forevermore!
While this is a difficult and controversial verse, it seems to be asking: If you don’t believe in the resurrection, why would you be baptized for the sake of some dead “saviour” who you believed hadn’t or wouldn’t rise from the dead? Why do you put yourself in danger for a “messiah” that you don’t even believe rose from the dead?
If there is no resurrection, and Christ didn’t rise, then let’s live it up! Who cares!
Paul follows with a warning to stay away from evil people (referring evidently to those who were teaching “no resurrection”).
Paul goes on to explain how someone can die and then be raised up likening it to what happens to a seed when planted. The seed dies, then miraculously it rises up into new life.
The body is sown in corruption and raised to incorruption. Adam was a living being. The Last Adam (Christ) was a life giving being. Our natural body comes first, then it dies, then is raised to eternal life.
Paul concludes this line of thought stating that flesh and blood does not inherit heaven. It is the resurrected body (implying from this entire line of reasoning how useless and ridiculous it is to deny the resurrection).
We will all be changed in a single moment when the trumpet of God sounds. We have victory over death through Christ. Knowing this, we can be unmovable in our faith.
Paul wraps up with instructions about the church collection taken every week.
He then tells of his personal travel plans and instructions about Timothy and Apollos.
Paul encourages the Corinthians to be steadfast and loving. He ends with a very potent and direct warning: if you don’t love Christ, you will be cursed.
I Corinthians is a letter written by Paul the Apostle to the believers in the Corinthian church.
I. Salutation (1Corinthians 1:1-9)
A. 1Corinthians 1:1-3 Standard greetingB. 1Corinthians 1:4-9 Thanks for their spiritual gifts
A. 1Corinthians 1:10 – 4:21 The Dangers of Sectarianism1. 1Corinthians 1:10 – 1:17 Description of the division2. 1Corinthians 1:18 – 2:16 Explanation of why division should not exista) 1Corinthians 1:18-25 Unity in the message of Christb) 1Corinthians 1:26-31 Give glory to God onlyc) 1Corinthians 2:1-5 Christ crucified is primaryd) 1Corinthians 2:6-16 The Holy Spirit is the source of wisdom, not men3. 1Corinthians 3:1-4 Division is carnal4. 1Corinthians 3:5-17 Unity in effort, differences in responsibility5. 1Corinthians 3:18-23 Don’t lean on man’s wisdom, only God’s6. 1Corinthians 4:1-13 There is no difference, we’re all servantsa) 1Corinthians 4:1-5 Just messengersb) 1Corinthians 4:6-13 Don’t see us! See Christ!7. 1Corinthians 4:14-21 Paul gives reason for his rebuke in this areaB. 1Corinthians 5:1-13 Immorality in the church1. 1Corinthians 5:1-8 Description and observations2. 1Corinthians 5:9-13 Deal with ImmoralityC. 1Corinthians 6:1-12 Christians shouldn’t go to court against each otherD. 1Corinthians 6:12-20 Your body is for God’s glory1. 1Corinthians 12-17 Purpose of your body2. 1Corinthians 18-20 Effect of sexual immoralityE. 1Corinthians 7:1-39 Marriage1. 1Corinthians 1-8 Husband and wife responsibilities2. 1Corinthians 8 Unmarried responsibilities3. 1Corinthians 10-16 Keeping your marriage vows4. 1Corinthians 17-23 Live in the situation your were called to Christ in5. 1Corinthians 25-39 Instructions to the unmarried and widowsF. 1Corinthians 8:1-13 Conscience and LibertyG. 1Corinthians 9:1-18 Pauls rights as a Apostle which he doesn’t exercise for the sake of his testimonyH. 1Corinthians 9:19-23 Become all things to all men in order to save moreI. 1Corinthians 9:24-27 We are in a race, run to win1. 1Corinthians 27 Discipline your body so you won’t be disqualified from the raceJ. 1Corinthians 10:1-13 Old Testament examples for us1. 1Corinthians 1-5 OT saints were in God’s presence continually but God was not pleased with most of them2. 1Corinthians 6-11 We should not lust or engage in sexual immorality lest we be punished or lost3. 1Corinthians 11 The OT examples are written for our admonition4. 1Corinthians 12-13 All temptation is common, yours is not original; God provides a way of escapeK. 1Corinthians 10:14-22 Flee idolatry, we can’t have both the Lord and idols.L. 1Corinthians 10:23-32 Enjoy your Christian liberty but not at others expense1. 1Corinthians 31 Do everything for the glory of GodM. 1Corinthians 11:1-16 Displaying God’s order and authority by physical symbols in this case having to do with head coverings
III. Spiritual Gifts (1Corinthians Chapters 12-14)
A. 1Corinthians 12:1-31 Gifts & Diversity1. 1Corinthians 1-11 God gives each of us gifts and they all work together as one2. 1Corinthians 12-31 One Spirit, one baptism; all work togethera) One part of the body cannot be anotherb) All parts are usefulB. 1Corinthians 13:1-13 The greatest gift is love1. Though we do all other things, if it is without love, it is useless2. The characteristics of love3. Love never failsC. 1Corinthians 14:1-40 Prophecies, tongues and Church meetings1. 1Corinthians 1-5 Desire gifts, prophecy more than tongues2. 1Corinthians 6-19 Tongues must be interpreted; Paul would rather speak five intelligible words than 10,000 in a tongue3. 1Corinthians 20-25 Tongues are a sign to unbelievers; prophecy is a sign to believers4. 1Corinthians 26-40 Church meetings are to be orderlya) God is not the author of confusionb) Women are to be silent and not exercise authority
IV. Teaching about Christ (1Corinthians chapter 15)
A. 1Corinthians 15:1-58 The risen Christ is our hope1. 1Corinthians 1-11 Christ died, was risen, and seen by over 500 hundred witnesses including Paul2. 1Corinthians 12-19 If Christ is not risen, then our faith is empty and futile3. 1Corinthians 20-28 Christ is risena) All die in Adam; all live in Christb) Christ will rule in the end4. 1Corinthians 29-33 If you deny the resurrection, then you were baptized for a dead man that means nothinga) Evil company corrupts good morals5. 1Corinthians 35-49 Glorified body; we will all receive an eternal glorified body not made of flesha) We have the image of man from dust now; but will have the image of the heavenly man in eternity6. 1Corinthians 50-58 Our final victory is secure; death has no hold on usa) We will be changed in a moment and put on immortalityb) This gives us a reason to be steadfast in our faith
V. Final Instructions (1Corinthians chapter 16)
A. 1Corinthians 16:1-23 Collections, Plans and Farewells1. 1Corinthians 1-4 Instructions to lay aside offerings every week2. 1Corinthians 5-12 Paul’s travel plans3. 1Corinthians 13-17 Stand fast, be brave and strong4. 1Corinthians 19-23 Greetings and farewell
III. Observations about Father, Son, Holy Spirit
Unity in Christ
Jesus is the central point around which all things Christian can unite. (1Corinthians 1:10) perfectly united in mind and thought but conditional that the unity be about Christ. Christ is not divided and we should not be either.
Wisdom of God
(1Corinthians 1:20 – 2:16) Man’s wisdom isn’t even comparable to God’s “foolishness”. Of course God has no foolishness, but that furthers the point of how incomparable God’s wisdom is. God confounds man by choosing the weak for His purpose, removing man’s ability to claim credit or glory for his strength. He use the lowly, the humble, the poor in spirit to completely destroy any notion that man’s effort has anything to do with His salvation.
God’s wisdom can be found by the pursuit of one thing: Christ crucified. God’s secret wisdom is reserved for those who seek Him in Spirit and Truth. God decreed in eternity past (1Corinthians 2:7) that His secret things would be reserved for those who believed on His Son.
God’s wisdom is revealed through the Holy Spirit who is perfectly aware of the “deep” things of God and communicates them to our spirit. God has offered and given it freely and yet man frequently chooses his own wisdom over the Creator of the Universe.
Jesus properly is the singular focus of our life. It is His rightful place. Christ crucified ends division. Christ crucified is sufficient. Christ crucified is powerful. Christ crucified is piercing, changing, transforming, unifying, healing and saving.
Christ the Rock
In chapter 10 Christ is the Rock of the Old Testament. He was the protection, the provider and the sustainer of His people. Nothing has changed.
God provides a way for us to deal with and overcome each and every trial or temptation (1Corinthians 10:13). He perfectly understands our weaknesses and in His mercy never allows us to face anything we can’t endure. He knows that all of our temptations are common to all men. Though we feel like it sometimes, in reality there is no trial or temptation that we face that is unique to us. God has seen it all, and provides the “way of escape” for us, if only we are looking for it.
No temptation has plagued us that is not common to man. God IS faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability to deal with it. He will graciously show the way of escape that we may be able to bear it and have victory over it.
One and the Same
The same Lord. The same Spirit. The same God. One Body. One Spirit. One Member. (1Corinthians chapter 12)
The Father, Son and Spirit are one. The church though made up of many members with different functions and gifts, is one body. Many members, one body. By one Spirit we are all baptized.
Different gifts, same Spirit. Different ministries, same Lord. Many activities, same God. Are you a teacher? Do you have wisdom or knowledge? Do you have faith? Are you gifted?
“But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” God is ability to bring about millions of unique individuals to form one body for His glory.
The God of Order
Our God is a God of order, harmony and decency. All things we do whether in daily living, church or business should reflect God’s character of orderliness, peacefulness and edification.
In chapter 14 Paul rebukes the Corinthians for confusion and disorderly conduct in the church. We are seeing a revival of spontaneous, disruptive behavior in the modern day Charismatic movement. It is just as wrong today, as it was then and many of the same conditions and behaviors are common to both eras.
The accusation is leveled very quickly that this command of “decent and in order” is used by some to “quench” the Spirit and results in stuffy, dry, dead church services. To the contrary, following God’s commands results in an edifying and glorifying worship experience that properly reflects God’s character.
You can be joyful and orderly. You can praise without confusion. You can worship and be decent and edifying. Order, edification and Spirit led worship can exist perfectly together.
Stuffy, dead church services are caused by an absence of “spirit and truth” not by the absence of charismatic, or experiential driven spontaneity.
It All Boils Down to This
Christ risen from the dead. That is the sum total of Christianity. Our faith, our hope, our future, our salvation… it all depends on this one fact.
If the dead are not resurrected, Christianity is useless. If Christ didn’t conquer death and come out from the grave, Christianity is futile.
The fact that Christ was raised from the dead (and we will as well) is the single most pivotal fact in all of history or creation. There is not one single thing on which every facet of our existence depends except for this fact.
What is our existence about? Christ risen. What is eternity about? Christ risen. What is the Bible about? Christ risen. What is the only hope for mankind? Christ risen. What is our purpose for getting out of bed every day? Christ risen. What makes life a joy instead of misery? Christ risen. What makes us men instead of monsters? Christ risen.
What is the single defining moment of our life? When we come to the realization that Christ is risen.
Unity in Christ
A main principle of Christianity is that it is unifying. When man gets his dirty little religious hands on true Christianity the inevitable result is division. In 1:10 Paul begins his rebuke appealing to the Corinthian church by no less of an authority than Jesus Christ himself.
He continues (1Corinthians 10-17) to tell them that NO divisions should exist, that perfect unity in mind and thought is the goal. The church had divided up over popular teachers (sound familiar?).
A Christ-following, divided church is a contradiction and a bad testimony to an unsaved world. We should be one in Spirit (1Corinthians 6:17), one body with many functions working in harmony (1 Cor 12:12-13), members of one another in one body (Romans 12:5), called by one God, through one Faith, by one Baptism (Eph 4:4-6).
His powerful questions (1Corinthians 13): is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?; were hard hitting questions that were sufficient for both clarifying the issue and shocking or shaming them into seeing what they had done.
He then begins to explain (1Corinthians 20-31) to them that teachers are not worthy to be followed because the very best of man’s wisdom wouldn’t even compare with God’s foolishness, were there such a thing.
Paul hits them hard about ingrained cultural tendencies (1Corinthians 22-24) exposing the obvious: Jews want a sign; and Gentiles seek wisdom (not Godly wisdom however. They are seeking knowledge for knowledge’s sake).
Since the Jews wanted a sign or miracle, the Gospel was a stumbling block (v.23). They had a hard time accepting it. For them it was “hey, what’s this? The Gospel? That can’t be it. Where’s our conquering hero? Where’s our King that is going to rule the world and put only us Jews into power with him? We want to rule the world. What’s all this about being last, dying to self and suffering? This can’t be!”
For the Gentiles the Gospel is foolishness (v.23). They wanted something that makes sense and to the unregenerate mind, God’s ways make no sense. First will be last? Weak will be strong? Give up to gain? Die to self? No secret knowledge? You don’t have to be an academic elite to get it? What kind of religion is this?
So the Holy Spirit overcomes both these hurdles. And through His communication with the Father, He imparts (v.10-16) the true wisdom of God to us, thus unifying us in mind and thought.
While we work and plant and tend to God’s business, only God causes growth (v.5-15) solidifying the foolishness of following a man who is no more than a fellow laborer.
It seems Paul throws in an observation in v.12-15 almost as “oh yeah, while we’re talking about it, make sure that the planting, watering and working that you do engage in is done for the right reason or you won’t be rewarded for it”.
A great verse confirming our eternal security (v.14) concludes that warning and is both comforting and alarming. We don’t have to fret over whether a lack of works, or unacceptable works will cost us our salvation. We are free to live with the salvation question settled, so that we can serve God with confidence.
This verse also shows us that good works can’t earn salvation. We may earn rewards, but not salvation. We may lose rewards, but not salvation.
Summed up: Don’t follow men. The wisest are fools compared to God. Men don’t give life or growth, only God. Christ is not divided and Christ crucified should perfectly unite us in mind and thought.
Eternal Security & Reward
In the midst of Paul’s teaching about why there should be no division in the Christian body he explains that while we may engage in certain parts of God’s work (planting, watering, tending) only God gives life and produces harvest. Therefore no man should receive credit for what God only can do.
We deserve no recognition or credit for the work we do now, but we will receive our just reward for it from God (v.10-14). But not according to our measurement.
Our works for God will be tested for purity with no less a purifying element than God’s fire. God is the perfect Judge and Evaluator of our works. He can perfectly determine for every single act of service whether the motives were pure, selfless and only for His glory. If not, our reward was already delivered on earth (Matt 6:16-18).
In other words, if you preach to be seen by men, your reward is man’s acknowledgement. If you sing to be admired, your reward is man’s admiration. If you give to be recognized, your reward is man’s recognition. Enjoy it. That’s all you get.
However, God Himself will reward with Heavenly payment any acts done for no other reason than to glorify God.
What if a person has no works worthy of reward? Is he a Christian? According to Paul, yes (v.15). If a person is ever truly a Christian at any point, his salvation is a settled issue. He may not receive reward if he is a poor steward of God’s gifts, but he is still God’s son.
This assurance allows us to work confidently for God not worrying that our works will earn or lose our salvation. At the same time, we should be alert and wary that our work for God is done with pure motive under the realization of not receiving any reward from God for it.
Do you crave recognition? Learn to wait for God’s recognition, which will be eternal. Do you need thanks and a pat on the back? Wait for God to thank you. Do you seek reward for your effort? God’s reward will be eternal.
Everyone who works will be rewarded. Which reward do you prefer? Fleeting and fickle recognition, popularity or compensation right now? Or eternal, imperishable and unimaginable reward from the Creator of Universe? Hmmm…. I’m thinking.
The Corinthians were rebuked for attaching themselves to, and following a personality. While there is nothing wrong with having a strong affection for someone who is a good teacher, or who baptized you, or lead you to the Lord, you should never look to them as your ultimate spiritual authority and take some sort of pride in being associated with them.
This is rampant today though in comparison we have much less excuse. The Corinthians did not have the Scriptures yet and their teachers truly were their main source of leadership and authority. Yet Paul rebuked them for schismata, division.
With today’s media capabilities, Christian personalities are magnified through television, radio and print. It is more common for Christians to be able to tell you what a preacher or televangelist says about a subject, than it is for a Christian to articulately defend Scripture.
While it is certainly obvious that some of these personalities actually do seek to be followed (“world-wide” TV ministries and Word Faith particularly), most do not encourage the division we see today. In most fundamental churches we have groups who subscribe to a certain men’s philosophy: MacArthur, Gothard, Hunt, Sproul, Calvin, Arminius, Wesley, Luther, Graham, one Pastor or another, one famous speaker or another.
Being a student of a particular teacher in and of itself is not divisive or sinful. What is wrong with this is when a person knows a man’s teaching, or a group’s teaching, or a certain systematic theology rather than knowing Scripture first and being able to teach and defend God’s word more carefully than a man’s conclusions.
To often we are guilty of using Scripture to prove our particular flavor of Biblical interpretation rather than letting the Bible speaking plainly for itself. Let the Bible declare the truth, then if certain extra-Biblical conclusions are supported, so be it. We are too often ready to defend to the end our current beliefs more for the sake of not being “wrong” than for the sake of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Acts 17: 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
Singularity of Message
Christ crucified was enough for Paul. He kept his priorities straight.
What about all the other things in the Bible? Church organization? Eschatology? The Old Testament? I believe there is a two-part answer to this.
First, it is a matter of priority and balance. Too many individuals, and too many churches sacrifice the powerful effect of preaching the simple Gospel for the short-term effect of entertaining, social, or popular messages.
Second, all parts of the Bible should be taught and likewise, all parts of the Bible lead us back to… guess what?… Christ crucified. The entire Bible taught in perspective is very simply a testament and expose of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Son of God.
Quality of Our Works for God
As Christians, God will test and measure our work for Him. We will be tested by the proverbial fire.
Our pure and unselfish work will survive as if made from gold, silver or precious stones. Our works that were motivated by pride or selfishness will be revealed and burned away. We receive rewards for these works also, but our reward was on earth when we received the recognition or benefit that motivated the work in the first place.
Matt 6:16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
Temporal, fleeting imperfect reward now, or eternal, unimaginable and perfect reward later… the choice is ours each time we choose to serve Him.
Immorality and Judgment
Throughout Scripture the concept of punishment and disassociation of unrepentant sin is not only commanded (Matt 18), but the effects of ignoring the sin is plainly described. Just as a little bit of yeast or leaven spreads through a large amount of dough and affects it, so just a small amount of ignored sin rapidly affects an entire Christian body.
We live in day when it is unpopular and sometimes even illegal to point out and punish sin. Consequently church discipline is almost non-existent, and typically only exercised in the most egregious cases, if at all.
The church as a whole in our society is hardly discernable in holy quality from the everyday world, proving the Bible to be true that a “little leaven” leavens the whole.
The problem is further aggravated in our society due to the sheer number of churches competing for numbers. Typically discipline never even has a chance to be considered before the offender has moved on to another church to escape the consequences or embarrassment.
That, taken with the incredible social, political and peer pressure to not “judge” someone’s behavior today, church discipline has been relegated to the dusty basement of archaic Puritanism for most churches.
The result is a generally weak, ineffective and powerless American church.
Christ or Court?
In all great societies of history, the same types of ungodliness have signaled their downfall. One of those indicators is the amount of litigation that occurs.
Litigation, while having its proper place, is too often only a means of taking something that cannot be otherwise earned or gained rightfully. It is also an indication of a society that has become unable to be honest, fair and incapable of exercising our Bible command to “turn the other cheek” (Matt 5:39) and “prefer one another over ourselves” (Romans 12:10).
For Christians, who are to be unified in mind and body (1Corinthians 1:10) it is shameful to turn to an unbeliever to force us to do what is “right”.
There are some tough considerations to sort through when considering whether the courts are a Godly alternative:
Are they ever an alternative?
What if the other person claims to be a Christian but doesn’t act like one?
What if the other person is obviously not a Christian but uses the Biblical injunction against court to his benefit?
Does this apply only to personal disagreements?
Does it apply to corporations that are run by Christians?
Does it apply in family law where courts decide custody, visitation and child support?
Does it apply when one “Christian” spouse uses the divorce courts against the other spouse because it benefits them?
It would seem the permeating question is: does this Biblical mandate apply when only one side is “acting” Christian (assuming both claim Christianity)?
When a Christian is sued by an unbeliever, is the Christian free to use the courts? When a Christian has the right to sue an unbeliever, does he do it?
The answer is to be found in health doses of prayer, Bible study and Holy Spirit controlled conscience.
Marriage is a natural and Godly need. Paul tells us that that life singularly devoted to God is better, but being married is not a sin. God intended for us to be married.
Submission and servitude towards each other is critical to marital success. We are to put away selfishness and think of the other as more important than ourselves. We are to keep our vows, live as God has called us and honor God through our devotion.
Contentment in our Circumstances
Contentment is a lost and dying concept. Especially as Americans, we are most discontent in most every thing. We seem to be always just one decision, one event or one milestone from dedicating our life to God:
After I’m out of school…
When I get married…
When we have kids…
When the kids are in school…
When the kids are grown…
When I have grand kids….
When I get that promotion…
When the bills are paid off….
After this divorce…
When I find the right church…
There seems to always be one more step or task that is the last thing that needs to occur before we really get serious about the Lord.
Liberty with a Conscience
To the unbeliever or spiritually immature, the Christian life is one of overbearing constraint and an endless list of don’ts. How untrue!
The Christian life in reality is the most free and joyous imaginable! Under the Spirit’s guidance we have complete freedom to enjoy God’s creation and begin our eternal intimacy with Him in this life. Done God’s way, we can enjoy guilt free living, a clear conscience and ultimate liberty and freedom.
To often we equate freedom with license to sin. This is not freedom, this is slavery to sin. As God’s children, we can throw off the yoke of sinful bondage and live in the delights of His love, protection and mercy.
Our liberty is never to be at the expense of others. This would make our liberty selfishness.
I believe one of the most profound benefits of being God’s children, is the absolute freedom we have to pursue the law of love, live guilt free and enjoy a life that is blessed by God and pleasing to Him.
Authority & Roles
Modern America has all but lost any sense of authority or roles, which God has laid out specifically.
The modern “gender” movement has erased any natural roles for men and women seeking to make every person exactly the same except for differing reproductive organs. This has resulted in problems and chaos well beyond the scope of this study.
Along with that has been the natural erosion of the concept of authority. When you remove the only ultimate authority (God), it is completely natural that all finite authority loses its grasp. All authority is derived by someone or something that is one level higher than the circumstance in which it is manifested.
For example, when a boss has authority over an employee, it is because the company has granted it. The company has authority because it has been granted lawfully and by the societal business norms. Those laws and norms ideally came from Godly principles that are directives from the Ultimate Authority about how business should be conducted.
Removal of the Ultimate Authority leaves no foundation for any other authority thus you end up with lovely American responses such as “who made you boss”, “you can’t tell me what to do” or the ever popular “what makes you’re way right and mine wrong?”.
The answer is “NOTHING!”. Without God as the ultimate source to which we appeal for our authority, absolutely nothing makes my way more right, or more binding than yours.
Spiritual gifts are always given and used according to God’s plan. He has a specific purpose and time for every single manifestation of gifts, whether miraculous or otherwise.
It is common today to hear that all gifts are still in operation in the church today because “God does not change” and “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow”. It is beyond the scope of this study to outline all the reasons, but let me state a few obvious principles about how yes, God never changes, but that He does manifest His power and plans in different ways at different times in history.
You CANNOT apply God’s immutability (that He doesn’t change) arbitrarily to any portion of Scripture for the purpose of saying that something He did in the past, He still does today. His character does not change. His ultimate plan does not change. But, the way He deals with different eras of mankind most certainly changes.
Do we live under the Mosaic law? No, it has ceased. Do we follow Jewish ceremonies, feasts and sacrifices? No, their purpose has ceased. Is the Bible still being revealed and written today? No, Biblical revelation has ceased (despite Charismatic claims that “lesser” revelation does occur. How can God give “lesser” inspiration? How can anything He reveals or speaks be “less” anything?).
Does infallible prophecy by Scriptural standards (100% accurate) still occur today? No, it most certainly has ceased (even modern day prophets only claim partial accuracy stating that God says we can’t handle full accuracy at this time).
Has apostolic or Christ-like genuine, indisputable miracles of Biblical quantity and quality ceased? Of course that is obvious to all reasonable, objective persons. Despite the modern day claims of “greater works that Jesus”, it still remains that NOT ONE verifiable, indisputable, documented Apostolic quality miracle (the dead raised, a limb re-appear, an eye recreated, a quadriplegic healed) is available among the supposed many thousands of miracles that occur at the hands of today’s miracle workers.
To the objective, logical, reasonable, impartial observer this is painfully obvious.
God had a reason to impart miraculous gifts of healing, knowledge, tongues and revelation in the early days of the church: to give credibility and authority to those He had chosen to establish the church and the Scripture. We now have God’s complete Word to govern us and to give credibility to our faith. The need for these types of gifts has ceased.
Decent & Orderly
Paul rebukes the Corinthians for the confusing, self-serving and ungodly church services they were having. The worship had become all about them and not about God.
How applicable to our churches today for the most part! Especially in Tulsa, Oklahoma where a new “worldwide ministry” or “holy spirit full this-or-that new something worship center” is started every week by a new crop of “bible” students all competing for the same group of experience seekers.
Whether a stiff, lifeless worship, or an out-of-control entertainment fest… when our church service becomes about pleasing the crowd and not magnifying the Savior it has ceased to be decent and in order, in truth and spirit.
Christ Raised Our Hope
The deeper you plunge into the Christian life the more focused you become on the pivotal event in the history of creation: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Without it, life has no meaning, the Bible has no meaning, the universe has no meaning. There is no fact in existence that is more foundational, more influential, more transforming or more crucial than the fact that Jesus conquered sin and death and rose from the grave.
It is beyond my ability to discern the parallels, but it strikes me that we have current day “I am of Apollos” situations even in solid fundamental churches. “I am of MacArthur”, “I am of Gothard”, “I am of Calvin”, “I am of Hunt”…. To name a few.
Like Paul and Apollos, none of the very Godly men we “group” around today would desire that this be the case but it seems that human nature will have it no other way. While the Corinthians were a bit more innocent in this because they had no Scripture, we stand today completely without excuse for dividing into camps.
May we all return to the Bible and let God’s plain and clear Word speak for itself and let us all say “I am of Christ and no other”.
That summed up Paul’s solution, preaching, focus and mission. I am convicted by the amount of time spent discussing issues, debating points, answering disputes and learning “theologies”. While there is some profit in these things, it all too often replaces the simple effort of telling, loving, praising & speaking of “Christ crucified”.
The fourth chapter speaks of the sacrifice the Apostles made to preach and spread the Gospel. Fools for Christ; hungry, thirsty, in rags; homeless and brutally treated. I struggle at some petty offense or absence of recognition. Lord, save me from myself!
The Apostles modeled the life of Christ for us: bless when cursed; endure when persecuted; be kind when slandered; be satisfied with being nothing, so that Christ is everything.
Sexual immorality has to be, undoubtedly, the scourge of today’s church. We live in a sex-saturated society where it is freely available, encouraged and sold. Lord come quickly, so that we can escape this terrible battle of flesh! But as you tarry, let nothing wicked be set before my eyes. Only in the Lord is this fight won.
We are clearly taught how shameful it is to take fellow Christians to court. We should rather be wronged than to shame Christ by bickering in front of unbelievers.
I have struggled with how this applies to divorce issues. On the one hand, the court is the only way to protect myself against obvious antagonism and to receive some modicum of fairness in the situation. On the other hand, should I rather not be wronged than have it appear that divorced professing Christians act absolutely no different that non-believers? Does this command apply to me no matter whether or not an ex-wife who professes Christ doesn’t live like it?
In chapter seven we find the principle of living for Christ in whatever situation He called us. How much does this apply to our constant treadmill of upward mobility? If I were to be content with my life and financial status on a daily basis and not constantly seek “more”, how much more time, emotion and energy would I have to give to the Lord?
I was bought with a price. The Lord owns me. So why do I live like I own myself?
Chapter 9 finds Paul describing the extent to which he sacrificed what was rightfully due him for the sake of preaching the Gospel to its greatest result. How this flies in the face of modern Christianity.
There is rarely a week that goes by that the conversation doesn’t arise about what is lacking in someone’s church. That lack is inevitably tied to something that person isn’t “getting out” of that church.
The praise and worship is old fashioned, they just can’t worship Jesus with that old boring music. The preaching is too long, too complicated, too much page turning in the Bible, too weak, too strong, too something… The Sunday school is boring, has the wrong teacher, the wrong subjects…
Church has become like a Super Wal-Mart where we shop for what we want and if we don’t get it, we just go try out the Kmart Worship Center or Target Fellowship Church.
Paul describes how he forsook all for the sake of saving as many as possible. He gave up what was rightfully due him, what his liberty could have asked for, what he desired, what he wanted, what he could be. Sacrifice, deference, contentment… lessons desperately needed today.
Dissatisfaction about where one worships is almost without fail tied to what is lacking in the church according to that person’s opinion. When is the last time you heard someone say, “I really need to switch churches. There is absolutely no need or place to serve in our church. Everyone is so involved and so sacrificial that you just can’t find a place to serve”.
The most common area of discontent in churches today appears to be in the “praise and worship”. It seems a moving, emotional, entertaining “praise time” is needed to qualify as a spiritually edifying church. How much of this is a by-product of what we “get” out of church instead of what we “contribute”?
We live in an experiential time where feeling is on par with truth (or exceeds it) and emotion wins out over substance. If we “feel” like we have worshipped, then it must be so. If we don’t feel like it, the church must be dry and old fashioned. Worship has become an experience instead of an act when in fact it should be both. The focus is on what we get out of worship, rather than what we put in, or what God gets.
This is not to say that emotions and “feeling good” are not part of worship. But it should be a by-product of true worship, not the essence of it. How do you judge which is which? If you can worship God at any time, in any type of service (traditional or contemporary) and under any circumstances, then you are on your way to grasping true worship.
If you have to have the right music, the right atmosphere, the right type of songs and the right mood before you “feel” like you have worshipped, then you should probably examine whether your worship is for you, or for God.
What makes this particular point difficult to discuss in today’s climate is that one is immediately accused of not understanding worship, not “in to” worship, or simply dismissed out of hand as a stuffy traditionalist who just doesn’t “get it”.
Baptism for the Dead
My first conclusion seemed to be stating the obvious about this verse (15:29) until I read several commentaries. It seems the common consensus is that this is one of the most difficult verses in Scripture and that multiple interpretations are possible. It seemed to be plain what Paul was saying here until I read the commentaries. Anyway, here is my original thought on the meaning of this verse:
Paul had just finished the 29 previous verses giving evidence and argument for the fact of resurrection of death. He presents evidence of Christ’s resurrection. The Corinthians former pagan lives had made it hard for them to accept that we will be raised from the dead, and that Jesus had rose from the dead.
Paul persuasively argues that Christianity is useless if Christ didn’t rise from the dead.
In verse 29 Paul seems to be asking “If you don’t believe the dead will rise, why were you baptized for a dead man who won’t rise from the dead (referring to Christ)? That doesn’t make sense, why did you do it? And why do you put your life on the line for some dead guy? (verse 30) If you don’t believe in the resurrection, then you were baptized for a dead man who won’t rise at all and that doesn’t make any sense, does it?”
Maybe that’s too simplistic but it was my take on this verse.
We have the unique ability to think that our sin and our temptation is unique and therefore more understandable than others sin. Not according to verses 12 & 13 of chapter 10.
In reality we don’t have any temptation that is not common to all men. The circumstances might be unique, but the root cause will always be one of our old faithful friends: the pride of life, the lust of the flesh or the lust of the eyes  .
The good news is that we don’t have to give in to the sin! God has provided a way to endure any temptation, so don’t bother with all the elaborate explanations of why you didn’t have a choice or couldn’t avoid it or it wasn’t your fault. We sin because we want to. God provides the method, strength and assurance to overcome any temptation.
Does It Apply Today
Many times I have been asked “does that apply today? The Bible plainly says it”. In 11:1-16 we have one such section of Scripture. Many times the question arises that if we can pick and choose what are “cultural” commands that don’t apply to us, then we can dismiss large parts of the Bible that we don’t happen to like. I agree.
The general rule must be: if the Bible plainly states some command or truth, it needs to be taken at face value unless Scripture dictates otherwise.
When considering commands such as women covering their head, hair length, dress codes, women being silent in the church and other verses that seem to state plain commands that are not followed today, we need to ask: was the writer teaching a principle that applied to his cultural situation, or was he giving a direct command for all times regardless of culture?
Let’s assume for a moment that Scripture commands dogmatically that a women’s head must be covered; that women’s hair must be long; men’s hair must be short and women can’t speak in church as some examples.
God has left us many unanswered questions:
What does she cover it with? How much has to be covered? Every hair? Her whole head or just her hair?
How long is long enough to be “holy” for women’s hair? Is she to never cut her hair? Below her shoulders? To her waist? What about a woman who can’t grow long hair, gets cancer or someone else cuts it off against her will?
How short is short enough for men? A common “men’s haircut’? Military style? Would bald be the most spiritual?
Can women EVER speak in church? In Sunday school? In the hallway? In the parking lot? To give a testimony? In the choir? Does she sin if she so much as utters a sound?
God doesn’t give us specifics on all these things, yet we know from Leviticus He is disposed to giving minute details when it fits His purpose.
Could it be that what God is trying to teach us are PRINCIPLES that we apply to our culture? The specific commands in Scripture concerning these things were given to a specific culture at a specific time.
So what about women covering their head? The principle at stake is one of authority and roles. A woman is to be in submission and under authority and is to dress and adhere to customs that plainly display her Godly role.
What about hair? Again, roles. God wants men to be men, and women to be women. Our hair length and style should leave no doubt as to our gender, and our acceptance to God’s declaration that we have separate and distinct roles as men and women. He has placed the innate knowledge in us that in general short hair is manly and long hair is feminine. Our adherence to that shows our willing submission to God.
Women speaking in church… once again, authority and roles. God is the head of Jesus. Jesus is the head of man. Man is the head of woman. God’s design. Submissiveness and quietness in church by women shows proper respect to God’s commands. A woman taking a speaking role (invited or not) in church shows her taking authority where it is not proper.
When Scripture gives commands that seem to be cultural in nature, it may be that He is teaching us a principle that we are allowed to adjust to our culture with a Spirit-controlled conscience. But we need to be careful to make sure He is giving us that liberty and not a direct command regardless of the culture.
Woe is Me!
Woe is me if I don’t preach the Gospel! While Paul stated this concerning his personal commission by the Lord, it is appropriate for each of us as Christian ambassadors. God has given to each of us the Good News and woe to us if we do not proclaim it within our sphere of influence.
We are too ready to abdicate our personal commission to “professional” clergy whose “job” it is to proclaim the Gospel. Let the saving wonders of Jesus become so real and so glorious to us that we cannot but help turn the conversation to Him at every turn. What a reward awaits us!
VII. So What? Application to Life, Practical Living
Never follow a man. Never identify with a man or group primarily. Identify with Christ. Be His first.
Be focused in your life and message: Christ crucified. This is the single most important fact in the universe and should govern everything about our existence.
Avoid sexual immorality at all costs. It is one of the most destructive and deceiving sins we can commit. Its defiling effects on the church cannot be underestimated.
Don’t use the courts against fellow Christians. Rather to be wronged than to bring shame to Christ.
No matter where you are in life, you can honor Christ. Don’t wait for your situation or circumstance to change before living a life that demonstrates Godliness.
Learn to trust and follow your Spirit-controlled conscience.
Don’t take the Lord’s Supper lightly. Examine yourself thoroughly; focus on Christ sacrifice for you.
Use your gifts for the edification of all. Never elevate one gift over another. They are all necessary and all equally important.
Do all things decently and in order. Reflect God’s nature in all you do.
Look forward to the day when we will be incorruptible, raised in glory to spend eternity in perfection with God.
 1John2:15 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. 16 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. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.