Archive for the ‘1 Corinthians’ Category

            Chapter sixteen of 1 Corinthians brings the close of Paul’s letter and he is sure to mention some of the most well known celebrity Christians of the Bible, people like Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus. Wait- who? Who the heck are these guys? These men of whom Paul says, “Be like these guys, work like these guys, they’ve refreshed my spirit.” But wait a second…how are these guys so important if I’ve never heard about them? How could they truly amount to anything if they never wrote books in the Bible, or grew mega-churches, or wrote best-selling books on theological hot potatoes?

            Hopefully the point of my satire is obvious: we don’t have to be celebrity followers of Christ to be good followers of Christ, and as Paul tells us in Philippians, we’re only able to be the Christians that we are simply by the grace of God. So don’t get hung up on popularity. Don’t think you have to make it big to make a difference for God. It is God working in you to conform you to the image of His Son, and He will do it in His own timing. Your job is to be obedient to the role that God has called you to, and to be content in doing the work He has put you in. That is what following Christ is all about.

            Man, Paul lays on the theology heavy in 1 Corinthians fifteen! I love what he says in verses nine and ten: “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

            There is a lot packed into that statement. Paul recognizes that he has absolutely no right to be an apostle of Christ. The word apostle means “sent one,” a person on a mission from God. Prior to his conversion Paul (then known as “Saul”) was a persecutor of the church. A zealous Pharisee, Paul had made it his business to destroy these people known as Christians- in the name of religion, at that.

            But…we know the story. Jesus got in Paul’s face on the road to Damascus and graciously saved him. Didn’t have to. Wasn’t required to. But that’s why it’s called grace. Along with a change in nature, then-Saul’s name was changed to Paul. And Paul tells us here that God’s saving him wasn’t in vain. It wasn’t as if Paul was saved and then sat back on his butt letting God get busy saving others. No sir. Paul tells us that he worked his butt off. Funny part, though, is that Paul recognizes that even his hard working was a result of more grace from God!

            As I told my class at church this morning, yeah- we have the “option” of sitting back and doing nothing for the kingdom and resting in the knowledge that our willful inactivity is all part of God’s master plan…but that’s just stupid. There’s work to be done, and grace to be shared, so take a page out of Paul’s book and work even more!

            Ever have those days where you’re so busy throughout the course of the day that by the time you sit down to read or write your brain is complete mush? Yeah…that’s me right now, lol. I had planned to write earlier, but I got engrossed in a book that very coincidentally (I say that laughingly- there are no coincidences with God) mentioned 1 Corinthians fourteen, which is where we are today.

            It doesn’t take much reading within the chapter to realize that until one has a grasp of what speaking in tongues and prophesying mean, there is much confusion throughout the chapter. I’ll confess right now that I’m still a little clueless about much within this chapter, but there is one part I want to narrow in on.

            See how in verse twenty-four Paul mentions a hypothetical unsaved person coming into their assembly and encountering God through their prophesying? He says that such a person will be “…falling on his face, he will worship God.” This hammers home the reality that an encounter with God will move us to action. It could be falling flat on our faces and worshipping God, or it may look different.

            Scripture reveals to us many ways by which God’s people worship Him, to include bowing down, clapping, dancing (yes, dancing!), kneeling, leaping, lifting hands, playing instruments, shouting, singing, standing, giving an offering, or being silent*. What do these things have in common? They all involve active participation on the part of the worshipper. True worship is a call to action, and I encourage you to think about this tomorrow as you (hopefully) attend your church service. Don’t go to see what you can get out of it. Go to see what you can give God during it.

 

* This list came from an excellent primer on worship called Worship is…What?!, by Tom Kraeuter.

 

 

 

             If the Christian faith could be summed up in one word, I think that “love” would be one of the top picks, if not the top pick. We see phrases throughout the Bible that attest to this- God is love, God showed His love by dying for us, for God so loved the world that He gave His Son, etc. The entire redemptive story is centered not only on God’s love for His Son, but also His love for us. This idea of love is also for us as followers of Christ, as well. The two greatest commandments are to love God and love people.

            Paul is clearly on board the love boat in 1 Corinthians thirteen as he explains to the church in Corinth that without love, not much else matters. But better than that- he gives us real life, practical ways in which we can better love those around us. Paul said that love is patient, and kind. Think about your interactions with those around you today. Was kindness a trait you could easily see? Tonight at a football game I saw a kid fall flat on his face on the bleachers, and my pastor bent over and scooped him up, asking him if he was ok. I don’t think Pastor Tim had a clue who the kid was, but he was kind to him nonetheless. It wasn’t forced, either. It was instinctive. How hard are you trying to be kind? Do I even need to ask about the patient part? Lol.

            He also said that love is not arrogant, or rude. Love doesn’t insist on its own way, it’s not irritable, resentful, or happy at wrongdoings. He said that love is happy with truth, it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Yeah. All of a sudden we realize that just maybe we don’t love anywhere near the way we should.

            Don’t be too discouraged, though. And don’t expect to get it all right in one day. I challenge you to pray your way through this list and ask God to help you to improve in all of these areas, but particularly in the areas you know you need the most work in. Pray about it, try your best, and watch the way God will work in your life.

Right on the heels of his warning against church members partaking in the Lord’s Supper (also known as “communion”) in an inappropriate manner, Paul addresses more church functionality in 1 Corinthians twelve as he touches on the topic of spiritual gifts. Right up there with election and predestination, this is one of those Biblical topics that quite often do more dividing than uniting of Christians when discussed among theologians. While a Biblical defense of my own position would far exceed the purpose of this blog, we can cheerfully learn from Paul even if some of what he says sparks great debate.

The majority of the debate centers around two things- the function of particular gifts, and the duration of said gifts. Were they for the early church or for all believers in all times? Is speaking in tongues merely having new knowledge of previously unlearned languages, or does it involve a gibberistic utterance understood by no one? Tabling this for the time being, I want you to instead focus on what Paul is getting at.

As the New Covenant Church was gathering her feet beneath herself, Paul explains to the believers in Corinth that the Holy Spirit was actively equipping the young church with apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healers, helpers, administrators, and tongues-speakers. Why is God doing this? To equip the Church to transform the world- that’s why.

Here’s the catch, though…who gets what gift is entirely at God’s discretion- not ours. And Paul is clear that even though all believers are equipped differently, each are equipped to uniquely fulfill a role assigned only to them. We see the same thing in our churches today, too. We have musicians, teachers, greeters, sound guys, and all sorts of other roles that not everyone is equipped to fill.

So here’s what I’d like you to do. Spend time this week asking God where He has equipped you for a special role within the context of your church and/or youth group. Then, when you believe you’ve found what God is equipping you for, seek to do it. If that means coming to me, than awesome. If you want me to go with you to talk to the senior pastor, we can do that too. But time’s a-wasting. Don’t drag your heels in your service to God. He deserves far better than that.

            I have to wonder after reading 1 Corinthians eleven about the seriousness with which today’s students grasp church membership. I know that for many of my students, church life is what you’re forced to endure until you hit 18 and take off for greener pastures. For others, youth group is cool because it’s an extension of your social life. Still others come because it’s better than being at home with the family drama. But if I were to ask my students to describe the function of a local assembly of believers, few of them would have an answer (Here is an excellent place to start answering that one).

            Church life isn’t a game, and when the body of saints gathers to remember the death of Christ via the Lord’s Supper, serious things happen when it’s done in a non-serious manner. In reading the chapter, we see Paul’s admonition against participating in communion in an unworthy manner, because some who had done so died as a result.

            So I ask you today- what is church to you? A punishment? An escape? Something that will bore you until you’re old enough to quit going? Or is a haven, a place for Biblical instruction, somewhere to go to have your batteries recharged, a place where you have the privilege of worshipping God with other believers? How you feel about your church reveals much about your inward spirituality. What is your attitude saying?

                When you know what to look for, one can find a plethora of fascinating topics in 1 Corinthians ten, such as Jesus in the Old Testament, God’s sovereign grace (as well as His wrath), hypothetical perfectionism,  idolatry, Lordship, the Golden Rule, and the believer’s mandate to glorify God. If any of these topics catches your attention, use this chapter as a springboard for further research. There was one thing, though, that jumped out at me. Paul said this: “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.”

                 I think that’s clear enough. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Will you join me in making a commitment to try, in all things, to do what we do for the good of those around us?