Tags: 1 Corinthians 4, Apostles, Biblical sarcasm, Christian ministry, commentary on 1 Corinthians, humility, ministers, pride, Sunday School lessons on 1 Corinthians
Previously we learned that ministers must be managers.
Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
I Corinthians 4:1-2
The word for “ministers” in 4:1 is hyperetes – the under-rowers on a Roman trireme – the lowliest of the low. They are workers who exist only to serve. While it is true that the Apostles were ministers who revealed the mysteries of God, they did not see themselves as overseers rationing out food so that no one gets too much or too little. They saw themselves as slaves driven to reach the destination of greater knowledge and greater intimate relationship with Christ.
And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.
I Corinthians 4:6
There were other factions causing division in the church at Corinth, but Paul used himself and Apollos to set an example of humility. Just as the puffiness of pride will destroy a marriage, so it will also destroy a church family. Puffiness is emptiness masquerading as fullness, and it is a symptom of pride. The Holy Spirit here does a better job deflating egos than Tom Brady does deflating footballs.
For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
I Corinthians 4:7
Who made me different from anyone else? God did. What do I have that I did not receive? Nothing. Why am I proud of it if it was purely a gift? Because I forgot I am a Know, and not a Know-Not, and I thought I could steal a little of God’s glory for myself (or at least distribute some it it to somebody I really admire).
The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to engage in some biting sarcasm.
Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.
I Corinthians 4:8
The “us” he referred to was the Apostles. He was suggesting to the Corinthians that, since they seemed to believe they had outgrown their teachers, perhaps they could teach the Apostles. After all, Paul and the Apostles were just out on their mission field, in the world, fighting to the death for Jesus, that’s all.
For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.
I Corinthians 4:9
The “spectacle” was the last part of a gladiator show, when only the too-drunk-to-leave or the really poor or the most-depraved stuck around to see slaves and criminals fed to beasts. The main events were “contests” – these were just spectacles
We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
I Corinthians 4:10-13
It’s as if Paul was saying, “We’re just out here putting on a show, being humiliated, laughed at as we suffer, but you’ve got this whole Christianity thing really figured out . It’s really about sitting around trying to show off whose teacher has the most knowledge, and trying to brag about how smart you are.” He was being honest about his own hardships, persecution, and suffering, but he was also driving home the point that meekness is of the utmost importance in managing the knowledge and gifts given by God for the purpose of Christian ministry.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 3, Biblical gardening, commentary on 1 Corinthians, commentary on Psalms, farming, gardening, Jeremiah 17, Psalm 1, Sunday School lessons on 1 Corinthians, Sunday School lessons on Psalms
You may have heard the term “church planting.” We tend to describe the work that goes into the establishment of a local Christian church assembly in a new location with this agrarian terminology because this was how the Holy Spirit taught Paul and the first Apostles to think of it.
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
I Corinthians 3:5-6
It makes sense that, in doing the work of ministry – in winning new converts to Christ and in establishing local churches – that the planting comes first, and then the watering. Anyone who knows anything about farming or gardening would know that it makes little sense to water a seed, and then bury it in parched earth. That does not mean, however, that the watering is less important than the planting. Both are vital to the laying-down of foundational roots and new growth.
The word translated as “watered” in I Corinthians 3 is potizo, and it does not mean to simply pour water on something for the purpose of getting it wet. It has the idea of “watering” in the sense that a herdsman “waters” cattle. It is the pouring of water as an offering, invitation, or encouragement to DRINK.
When we are “watering” new converts, we don’t want to blast them with a fire hose in the hopes of getting them clean, and we don’t want to dunk them merely for the purpose of a spiritual bath. We should water them with the Word of God, with kindness, love, fellowship, camaraderie, and encouragement.
Our desire is to grow strong trees, drawing their hydration from the life-giving water of Christ Himself, not fleetingly-damp tumbleweeds, who sipped in enough moisture to barely count as vegetation, only to be blown away, out of sight and out of mind.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 4, commentary on 1 Corinthians, duty of ministers, fiaitfulness, judging, management, stewardship, Sunday School lessons on 1 Corinthians
Christian ministers must be managers.
Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
I Corinthians 4:1-2
Managers must be faithful. Faithfulness trumps:
2. Common Sense
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.
I Corinthians 4:3
Managers must be prepared to receive criticism from those under their authority, but a manager must also be answerable to (and judged by) the owner.
For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
I Corinthians 4:4
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
I Corinthians 4:5
The timing was wrong; they were judging before the time. The motive was wrong; they were judging the hidden counsels of the hearts. The standard was wrong; they were seeking the praise of men rather than the praise of God.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 3, Bema Seat, Christian motives, Christian responsibility, commentary on 1 Corinthians, freedom in Christ, Judgment Seat of Christ, motives, Sunday School lessons on 1 Corinthians
In a previous lesson I discussed how “ministers,” including all believers, will have their building materials judged. This is known as the Bema seat judgment.
If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
I Corinthians 3:15
This verse is not a reference to purgatory, although the Roman Catholic Church used it to attempt to bolster its unbiblical tradition. It is actually in the context of Christians having their works, doctrine, and motives judged, not their sins. Christians will be at this judgment. Unregenerate sinners will not.
If you are a Christian without an official ministry title, in what way are you still a “minister?” Hopefully, you are ministering to your spouse, children, parents, friends, fellow church members, fellow Sunday School class members, or whoever finds his way into your sphere of influence. Remember, there is no “secular” versus “sacred” distinction in true Christianity and in true Christian living.
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
I Corinthians 3:16
Know-Nots do not know that this world, and all our lives, are about God – and specifically about Christ. The Knows know that God designed them to be a temple – a dwelling-place for His presence on earth. In the Old Testament when the profane touched the holy, the holy was defiled, and, in the case of the Tabernacle, the holy destroyed the profane (worldly) in order to preserve its holiness.
If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
I Corinthians 3:17
This goes all the way to our motives. In the church at Corinth the Knows were acting like Know-Nots. They were being childish, forming factions, and feuding over the leaders with which they aligned themselves. To have our “works” judged will be one thing; to have our “doctrine” judged will be another; but to have our “motives” judged, this will truly be a consuming fire. Our motive is revealed – this side of eternity – by cooperation (working together for God’s glory), rather than by competition (outdoing others for my own glory).
Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;
I Corinthians 3:21
What can the world give you? Nothing, really, because you have everything good in Christ. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” What can the world take from you? Nothing, really, because you don’t truly own anything. Christ owns it all. The Knows have everything and nothing, which is perfect freedom. The Knows-Nots seek everything and are never able to find it, which is utter bondage.
Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.
I Corinthians 3:22-23
All things are ours = Christian liberty
You are Christ’s = Christian responsibility
Tags: 1 Corinthians 3, carnal Christians, childishness, Christian maturity, church, commentary on 1 Corinthians, factions, Jesus Christ, Sunday School lessons on 1 Corinthians
The Knows sometimes behave like Know-Nots. This was another one of the chief problems in the church of Corinth. In I Corinthians Chapter 2 Paul had defended his method of preaching and the message he preached. In Chapter 3 he once again takes up the problem of factions and fighting among the church members. He ties the ideas together by addressing the accusation that his message (the Gospel) and his method (simple preaching) were too simple.
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, [even] as unto babes in Christ.
I Corinthians 3:1
Paul said that he had spoken to them very simply with a very elementary version of the message because they were obviously babies. You may have heard the term “carnal Christians” or maybe not. It was very much in vogue for a while, but in more recent times it has come under attack. On one side are those who say every professing Christian who lives carnally must still be considered a true Christian because of his profession. On the other side are those who say that the profession of those who live carnally must be false. I Corinthians Chapter 3 has nothing kind to say about carnal Christians, but it certainly proves that there is such a thing (“brethren” who are “carnal”).
I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able [to bear it], neither yet now are ye able.
I Corinthians 3:2
Milk is good for babies, but, whether good or not, it is necessary because it is all babies can handle. Basic Christian doctrine can be both milk (for baby Christians) and meat (for mature Christians), but there is also a sense in which it can be seen as needing to be controlled by the givers of the milk rather than offered freely and received according to maturity level by the receivers of milk. The Roman Catholic church grew apostate partly over this doctrine, known as the Disciplina Arcani, the doctrine of the “hidden essence.” Lay people shouldn’t be trusted, they say, with the unadulterated Word of God. God says otherwise.
For ye are yet carnal: for whereas [there is] among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
I Corinthians 3:3
Verse 3 sounds as if was written as a scolding – albeit a scolding-in-love. “Divisions” especially speaks of a spirit of “side-choosing” – factions or “parties.” Such divisions are not only troublesome among the church, and not only irritating and time-consuming for the leadership and those caught in the middle, but they ruin the testimony of the Church of Christ. Why would an outsider seeking an earthly representation of the Kingdom of Christ want to join your local church assembly if the members “walked like men,” meaning they lived just like every other worldly, non-Christian person? The distinction here is not a literal distinction between immature children and mature adults, but between regenerated spiritual believers who should be united around sound doctrine, and ungodly pagans who squabble childishly over personal recognition and preferences.
For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I [am] of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
I Corinthians 3:4
Can you hear the sing-song connotation of childishness in Verse 4 as each petty party-member calls out his or her favorite church leader by name? Paul tries to put a stop to it in Verse 5.
Who then is Paul, and who [is] Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
I Corinthians 3:5
Paul, who, among all his virtues, really stands out for his humility, is not being falsely modest when he denigrates his own personality as being completely unworthy of any party allegiance, and he illustrates this with a familiar Bible example: a vineyard or a farmer’s field.
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
I Corinthians 3:6-7
Planting and watering are menial tasks compared with the power of God, Who actually gives the increase. Charles Hodge, in his commentary on I Corinthians, wrote that the Holy Spirit’s point here is, “Ministers are nothing.”
Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
I Corinthians 3:8
Not only is the work of Christian ministers remedial and replaceable from God’s perspective, but their personalities are in a sense consumed corporately into the same goal: the fulfillment of the Owner’s plans and desires.
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, [ye are] God’s building.
I Corinthians 3:9
We are both the tools and the building. We are what God uses, and we are supposed to be the habitation in which He is pleased to dwell and show His glory. Remember, the Knows have only received their “know-how” purely as a gift.
Growth requires different types of workers (diversity), but diversity requires unity (working toward the same goal). Unity requires humility.
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
I Corinthians 3:10
We can be “wise masterbuilders,” but we must build on the foundation already laid, and we have to “take heed” to be careful how we build. We can put our “wisdom” to use in building relationships or even just gaining an audience, but we can’t deviate from the foundation of Christ or the foundation of His Person and work in the Gospel any more than a door framer can frame the door 30 feet from the slab, or than the cabinetry workers can build cabinets in mid-air above the slab.
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 3:11
The beauty of God’s building is a byproduct of its strength. Its foundation is Christ and the Truth about Himself. This is the “rock” upon which He builds His church.
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
The building must have the right foundation, and only the right doctrine (precious jewels and materials) must be used to build it.
Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
I Corinthians 3:12
Gold, silver, and precious stones like granite and marble were used in temples, but wood for the doors and posts, hay for the walls, and stubble or straw for the roof were used in common houses.
Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
I Corinthians 3:13
The day of the Lord will be revealed by Jesus appearing in fire. It will be a time of harsh testing, and then the wood, hay, and stubble will burn, and the gold and silver and precious stones will be purified. False teaching will be revealed. False doctrine will be exposed. There will be no disputing or confusion in that day of fiery judgment.
I. Knowers (I Corinthians 3:1-4)
A. New believers feed on Bible facts.
B. Mature believers feed on Bible doctrine.
II. Growers (I Corinthians 3:5-9)
A. Growth requires diversity.
B. Diversity requires unity.
C. Unity requires humility.
III. Showers (I Corinthians 3:10-13)
A. The beauty of God’s building is a by-product of its strength.
B. It must have the right foundation, and it must be built with the right materials.
C. False teaching will be revealed and false doctrine will be exposed in a future judgment.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 1, 1 Corinthians 2, Biblical knowledge, commentary on 1 Corinthians, divine revelation, humility, Isaiah 64, knowledge, mind of Christ, Sunday School lessons on 1 Corinthians
That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
I Corinthians 1:5
In the book of I Corinthians knowledge is seen as a gift. Those who have knowledge (“the Knows”) are not Knows because they are worthy. They didn’t “figure it out.” They didn’t acquire this kind of knowledge on their own.
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
I Corinthians 1:17-19
Those who do not have this knowledge (“the Know-Nots”) think they have wisdom – and the world around them confirms them in this – when really they are the opposite of wise: foolish. This is one of the most tragic things about being a Know-Not: You know NOT that you are a Know-Not.
This keeps us from discounting the possibility that we are secretly Know-Nots, except when we receive the knowledge of Christ from Christ Himself.
Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
I Corinthians 1:20-25
Good news: Just because you wake up and realize that you are a Know-Not, you do not have to stay in that camp.
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
I Corinthians 1:26
In fact, the Holy Spirit is calling you out of that camp into the tribe of the Knows.
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
I Corinthians 1:27-30
It is humbling to be a Know – even though you wouldn’t think so. The Knows have the knowledge, but it is a dependent knowledge. Our only source of so-called boasting is boasting in how great our God is and how unworthy we are.
The Apostle Paul was a know-not only in a purposeful way.
And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
I Corinthians 1:16
He determined not to know the record of his past accomplishments, and not to know things that would distract from the Gospel.
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
I Corinthians 2:2
This was a selective and special instance of voluntary “Know-Notism,” because the true Know-Nots crucified the Savior.
Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
I Corinthians 2:8
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
I Corinthians 2:9-11
These verses apply Isaiah 64 to progressive revelation. The Spirit searches even the deep things. Don’t sell yourself short concerning what you are able to comprehend about God’s Word, since you have its Author, His Spirit, residing in you to teach you. The Know-Nots want to know less. The Knows want to know more. And the Knows have received the Spirit of God
The “flesh” has a spirit, but it is a selfish spirit, and the world also has a spirit that is not a good spirit.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
I Corinthians 2:12
Spiritual knowledge is ignorant of fleshly, worldly knowledge.
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
I Corinthians 2:13
“Comparing spiritual with spiritual” is a good rule of Bible interpretation, but also a good rule to live by. Spiritual minds want spiritual truths.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
I Corinthians 2:14
The Bible holds no real attraction for a lost person. A big difference between the Knows and the Know-Nots is that the Knows know the mind of the Lord, because, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, they have received the mind of Christ.
But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
I Corinthians 2:15
The Knows should not be proud, but they also should not be intimidated by the Know-Nots.
For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.
I Corinthians 2:16
Christ is knowledge and wisdom personified, so we ask not just “what would Jesus do?” but “what has Jesus done?”.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 9, devotions for teachers, getting started, Isthmian Games, Olympics, races, racing, running, shortcuts
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
I Corinthians 9:24-26
There are many metaphors for life: a battle, a trial, a journey, a puzzle. The Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to compare the Christian life to a race. This would have been a familiar theme for the Corinthian Christians because of the Isthmian Games. The Isthmian Games were a smaller version of the Olympic games. They featured organized athletic contests, including fights and races.
Everyone knows how a race works. Everybody who signs up to run gets to participate, but only one wins. This makes for a good analogy, even though it is not precisely true in the Christian life. As Christians, our prize is the approval of our Master, and we do run to obtain it, but it is not a zero sum game. Christ has enough “well dones” to go around, which means we are competing, but not against each other. It is like we are competing against ourselves.
The prize for winning a race at the Isthmian Games would have been a laurel or a grass crown – which is corruptible. It would look splendid on race day, but it would look like dead straw after a couple of days. In the race of the Christian life, our prize has eternal value.
Running in place or shadow boxing are handy for warming up before an earthly race or fight, but, in spiritual matters, we are not supposed to be playing games. We are affecting the lives of others for the sake of Christ. As fallen sinners, we may expect to encounter our share of relational drama, petty gossiping, even bickering, in-fighting, and childish squabbling, but Christ commands us to be victorious over those things. Our race is well underway, and we don’t have time to play around. We’re going to see King Jesus in a few days, and we don’t want to be ashamed or regretful.
So, let me give you a few things to keep in mind as you hit the ground running and keep your eyes on the prize.
1. Get started right.
Make sure you are saved, and make sure you know the Gospel. If your life is not Gospel-centered, then it’s not Christ-centered, and you are either loitering around the starting line long after the gun has sounded, or you’ve jumped the gun and are going to have to start over.
2. Don’t carry too much weight.
Material possessions will weigh you down in this race. So will cares and concerns and burdens that need to be given to God. You can’t win a race carrying a suitcase full of baggage.
3. Don’t get tangled up with the other runners.
4. Stay on the race track.
Taking a shortcut in a race will get you disqualified – like the lady who may have a taken a subway in the Boston Marathon. There are no shortcuts in the Christian race. You’re going to have to discipline yourself to read your Bible, to pray, to go to church every week, to serve, to love people you don’t feel like loving. You will need to learn to expect suffering, and to recognize it as an an opportunity to glorify God.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 1, called by God, foolishness, glory of God, Jeremiah 9, mighty, the Gospel, world conquest
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
I Corinthians 1:26
We are called to recognize our weakness, our foolishness, and our lack of nobility, and to still believe and act as though this message from our King and Redeemer will confound the mighty.
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
I Corinthians 1:27
We are called to believe and act as though the message will conquer the world. We are called to admit that we do not deserve to be loved and helped by this King. God calls the weak and the foolish, not because He has a weak spot for the helpless, not because it’s His fault that we are like that, not because He has to take what He can get. No, the primary reason He uses the weak and the foolish is to show off His glory.
That no flesh should glory in his presence.
I Corinthians 1:29
Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.
We are called to preach and live the Gospel, and – when it works – to point straight upward.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 1, called by God, Catholic mass, division in the Body of Christ, Eucharist, factions, God's will, Jesus Christ, Roman Catholic communion, unity
Last time we saw that, as Christians:
I. We are called to Pure Upgrade.
II. We are called to Proper Unity.
The fellowship with Christ to which we are called is a good segue into another fellowship to which we are called: the fellowship with each other.
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
I Corinthians 1:10
“All speak the same thing” = “all be on the same page.” This is not what was going on in Corinth:
For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
I Corinthians 1:11
According to Proverbs 13:10 contentions only come by pride. They often lead to factions – choosing up sides – and that’s what happened here.
Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
I Corinthians 1:12
Paul’s response to this was his usual response, in a way. He pointed to Christ.
Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
I Corinthians 1:13
Christ is not divided, and He never has been – neither bodily (one of many reasons why the Roman Catholic practice of the “eucharist” is heretical), nor doctrinally. Only Christ died for us, and we are to be baptized in His name, not in the name of the preacher who does the dunking.
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
I Corinthians 1:17
He preached a message that has always sounded foolish to unbelievers.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
I Corinthians 1:18
But it is a message that is incredibly exciting and transformative for new believers. Why such a simple message? Why a crucifixion? So God would get all the glory and credit, not His messengers.
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
I Corinthians 1:23
The Jews tripped and fell over the idea that their King would be crucified. The Greeks could never be impressed by a message which said that the Savior of the world was a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth. But we need to see ourselves as having a third specific calling, which we will look at next time.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 1, called by God, direct revelation, God's will, Jesus Calling, Jesus Christ, sanctification, voice of God
Have you ever heard someone say that he was “called to preach?” Or “called to teach?” Or “called to join the choir?” How does this work? Is it like when someone says, “God laid this on my heart?” “God told me to go back to that person and ask her if she’s okay?” Have you ever felt left out and lonely because it seems like everyone but you is getting private messages from the Lord telling them what to do? Did it make you feel like the sterotypical broken-hearted lover staring at the phone – just trying to will it to ring?
Christian publishers and booksellers have capitalized on this idea with books and devotionals like Jesus Calling, in which a young lady claims to have written down what Jesus told her privately, so she can pass it on to the readers.
I will confess that I am not sure what to do with all this. I have never to my knowledge heard the audible voice of God. There have been a few times when I have felt like He wanted me to do something, and I am often convicted about my sin – in my heart – but I never know for sure how to discern whether I’m hearing directly from God, or if it’s just something that occurred to me.
I don’t know what God might be calling you to do, but I do know that there are some things that He calls all Christians to do in the Bible. I like these much better than ambiguous feelings and nudgings which are open to my own private interpretation. Some of them are pleasant, some are not. “Die to self daily.” That’s a calling, but it’s not always easy to do. “Give your spouse a lot of hugs.” That’s easy (for me, anyway. My wife may see it differently!) In this short series I want to point out three things that you have been called to – in the Bible. They are specifically for Christians (and even more specifically for church members), and they are found in I Corinthians Chapter 1.
I Corinthians is a letter that the Holy Spirit used the Apostle Paul to write to the church at Corinth. Paul had been there for about 18 months before moving on, and now he was writing to address the problems they were having.
I. We are Called to Pure Upgrade
Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
I Corinthians 1:1
Now, Paul was directly called by God. He didn’t become an Apostle by finding a Bible verse that told him to do it, but the age of the capital A Apostles is over, so that call – in the truest sense – is not for us. It is the next verse that lists a calling which every Christian has received, and which every Christian needs to answer.
Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
I Corinthians 1:2
Notice that the Holy Spirit is addressing the church of God which is at Corinth. This was a local church body – an organized local fellowship of believers meeting together. You don’t have to go to a local church to be a Christian. You also don’t have to go home to be married, but I would be a terrible husband if I never went home, and I would be a poor Christian if I didn’t go to church frequently and regularly.
Notice also the two types of sanctification in Verse 2: positional (“are sanctified”), which means that Christians are set apart in Christ Jesus, marked by God as belonging to Him; and progressive, which deals with our participation (“called to be saints”). God has called us to be special – sacred – set apart – set apart from the world – and set apart unto Him.
Our sanctification classification comes with gifts, too. The Corinthian church members were wealthy in gifts.
I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
I Corinthians 1:4-5
They were especially wealthy in revelatory gifts. Our spiritual gifts are given to us by God so that we can use them not as trophies to brag about, or toys to play with, or weapons to fight each other with, but as tools with which to build Christ’s Church.
So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
I Corinthians 1:7
We are building a building of fleshy stones – believers brought into the Kingdom and placed in the body of Christ to serve and glorify Him.
This is one of the clearest callings for Christians: the call to pure upgrade. When we get saved, the blame for our sins is taken away, but we are still blameworthy on a daily basis. Our sanctification is about going from being blameworthy to blameless.
Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 1:8
Blameless is not sinless, but it does have to do with the purification of our motives.
God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
I Corinthians 1:9
God is faithful to get us to a state of blameless sanctification. We could not do it on our own, but we are “called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ,” and that fellowship is promoted and enriched by our sanctification, just as it is hindered and strained when we move backward from blamelessness.
Next time, we will see another clear call for Christians: the call to proper unity.