Archive for October, 2019

1 Corinthians 2:7-11

In 1 Corinthians 2:7-11 Paul reminds us that we have been given access to a secret from God – something that God has specifically chosen to share with us. This hidden wisdom can only be known by revelation. It is the hidden wisdom that is now revealed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which Paul preaches. “But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” It’s been hidden for generations and can only be understood when the Holy Spirit reveals it to us. The gospel has always been God’s plan, but revealing it comes in His time and His way.

How do we know most did not understand the hidden truth? Because they crucified the Christ. Sure, it was God’s plan to set us free from the consequences of sin. But had they understood God’s plan and secret, they surely would have chosen a different outcome. “None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” Some scholars consider the Lord of glory the loftiest title Paul ever gave to Jesus. It is certain proof that Paul regarded Jesus as God, the Second Person of the Trinity. It is inconceivable that Paul would give this title to any lesser being.

Paul quotes scripture from Isaiah 64 to remind us that God’s wisdom and plan is past our finding out on our own. We can’t figure it out without God’s help. The Holy Spirit alone can help us understand. “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” In their love of human wisdom, the Corinthians proudly thought Paul was just dealing in basics like the gospel. Paul insists that his message gets to the heart of the deep things of God. And it is truth we cannot understand without the Spirit revealing it to us.

Paul argues from the Greek philosophy point of view that like is known only by like. You can guess what your dog is thinking, but you really can’t know unless he was to tell you. Even so, we could guess what God is thinking, and about His wisdom, but we would never know unless He told us. Thus we have to seek it from the source and receive it that way too. “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” The good news is that God has put the communication tool to His wisdom and thoughts within us – the Holy Spirit – who resides in each of us as a Christ Follower!

1 Corinthians 2:1-6

In 1 Corinthians 2:1-6 Paul reminds the church that he didn’t come in his own power or might. He came as an instrument of God to proclaim truth. Paul’s arrival in Corinth is described in Acts 18. He ministered in Corinth for more than a year and a half, supporting himself by tent making. “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.” Paul didn’t come as a philosopher or a salesman; he came as a witness. He just delivered God’s truth. Paul was certainly a man who could reason and debate persuasively, but he didn’t use that approach in preaching the gospel. He just preached Jesus.

Paul could have taught on lots of topics. He was a Pharisee and teacher of the law. But he chose to focus on one truth – Jesus Christ. There was no other agenda or focus. It was Jesus. “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” In taking this approach, Paul understood he didn’t cater to what his audience wanted. But he wasn’t there to win a popularity contest. He was there to spread the gospel and preach Jesus. So there was no other option. He was not going to water down his message by talking about anything else. Jesus or Jesus – those were the choices.

Paul may seem like a guy that has it all together, but he’s clear that there was some fear and trembling in his efforts to teach the church. He knew it would not be popular, but he also knew it was all that mattered. “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” Without Jesus the rest of scripture is of no consequence. God’s plan is completely built upon the Cross and Jesus sacrifice on it.

Preaching strategies centered on the wisdom of men – around emotion, entertainment and human personality – may yield response, but not results for the kingdom of God. That doesn’t mean the rest of scripture and God’s truth are ignored. Paul used them to drive home the message of the gospel. “Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.” Just because Paul would not cater to the Corinthian love of human wisdom does not mean that his message had no wisdom. It just wasn’t the focus. There was only one focus – Christ crucified – and the goodness that comes with that!

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 Paul asks us to consider our calling as Christ Followers. There were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble among the Christians at Corinth. Paul’s not afraid to remind them that they are pretty normal people. “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” They didn’t have a unique background or lineage. They were just regular folks, not the top of the stack. So they had nothing to claim on their own. Their only claim to anything was Jesus.

That’s not a slam on them. It’s God way. It’s His plan. He takes the ordinary and makes it extra-ordinary. He takes the sinner and makes them holy through the Cross. No doubt, many of the Corinthian Christians were beginning to think of themselves in high terms because of God’s work in them. Paul will not allow this. They have not been chosen because they are so great, but because God is so great.“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;” It’s all about God, not us. God chooses to do things His way. And that is all about Jesus, not you or me.

God goes even further by taking those that the world has written off and making them something special. God has called the weak and ignorant first, but not exclusively; shepherds first, then wise men; fishermen first, then the educated. “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” Why? So God is glorified and Jesus is the only way. This is the end result. No one will stand before God and declare, “I figured You out” or “You did it just like I thought You should.” God’s ways are greater and higher, and nothing of the flesh will glory in His presence.

Here’s the bottom line. Jesus is everything. Without Him, we are nothing and will have nothing. He alone is the source of life. He alone will bring us wisdom. “He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” Guzik writes that He gives us:

  1. Righteousness – which means that we are legally declared not only “not guilty,” but to have a positiverighteousness. It means that the righteous deeds and character of Jesus are accounted to us. We don’t become righteous by focusing on ourselves, because Jesus became for us… righteousness.
  2. Sanctificationspeaks of our behavior, and how the believers are to be separate from the world and unto God. We don’t grow in sanctification by focusing on ourselves, but on Jesus, because Jesus became for us… sanctification.

iii.Redemption is a word from the slave trade. The idea is that we have been purchased to permanent freedom. We don’t find freedom by focusing on ourselves, because Jesus became for us… redemption.

God did it all this way so that God would get the glory. The path for God’s glory is Christ crucified; the evidence of God’s glory is His choice of the lowly. “Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” God alone is worth our boasting!

1 Corinthians 1:19-25

In 1 Corinthians 1:19-25 Paul shows that in spiritual matters, God opposes the wisdom of man. We think we’re pretty smart, but in fact what we know is nothing compared to that of God. “For it is written,”I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” God will destroy the wisdom of the wise, not bow down before it. “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” God has made them all foolish through His wisdom. He has destroyed the wisdom of the wise, just as He said He would.”

Paul explains why it is so difficult for those who know the most to struggle in knowing God. There is a tendency to think that the smartest and wisest humans will know the most about God. But God cannot be found through human wisdom, but only through the message of the cross. “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” It is significant that often the most educated people have the least regard for God. Often the “smarter” one sees himself, the less regard he has for God.

God’s wisdom is not man’s wisdom multiplied to the highest degree. It is wisdom that is completely different from anything man can experience. Paul’s definition of wisdom is Christ on the Cross – something that mankind can never truly comprehend. “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Instead of giving the Jews and Greeks what they demanded in deliverance and wisdom, God gave them something unexpected: a crucified Messiah.

Christ (Messiah) meant power, splendor, and triumph. Crucified meant weakness, defeat, and humiliation. Christ crucified was the ultimate oxymoron, and this was what Paul preached! To man it seemed foolish, but it was wiser than anything man could have come up with or comprehend. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” The Jews regarded Christ crucified as an offense or a scandal. The Greeks regarded Christ crucified as foolishness. But God did not respond to the polling data. He kept to His gospel because it is the only solution to man’s sin problem and the only way for man to spend eternity with God.

1 Corinthians 1:13-18

In 1 Corinthians 1:13-18 Paul continues to preach the importance of unity. He brings the focus down to Jesus. Jesus does not belong to any one “party.” Divisive cliques ignore the truth of unity over all diversity in the church, even if they were all in the name of spirituality. Jesus is never divided. “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” He’s the one who went to the Cross. He is the One who carried our sin. Even more foolish than “dividing Jesus” is to have groups in the church built around men. When Paul explained it like this, it shows how foolish it is to focus on anyone but Jesus.

Apparently, some of the Corinthian Christians made a big deal of the fact that they had been baptized by Paul. Because it was becoming a divisive issue, Paul was therefore grateful that he had not baptized very many in Corinth. “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.” Paul did baptize Crispus and Gaius, and also the household of Stepanas, but it was a limited group. Paul is glad about that fact. “(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)”

Paul also makes clear that his ministry was not about baptizing people, but preaching the gospel. We can see by this that baptism is not essential to salvation. If it were – if the teaching of baptismal regeneration were true – then Paul could never thank God that he baptized so few in Corinth, and he, as an evangelist, could never say Christ did not send me to baptize. “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” This passage also makes it clear that the individual doing the baptizing doesn’t really affect the validity of the baptism. Those baptized by the apostle Paul had no advantage over those baptized by some unknown believer. The power of baptism is in the spiritual reality it represents – that Jesus died, was buried and rose again and carries the sin of the world.

Paul reminds us that to those who reject the salvation of the cross, the idea of being saved through the work of a crucified man is foolish. They don’t believe in the power of Jesus Christ and believe it to be folly. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Contrast that with those who do believe in Jesus and the power of the Cross. The way Paul talks here in the verb tenses is about one who is perishing and one being saved. They both describe a work in progress. Each of us is definitely moving in one of those two directions. We all must choose how we will view the power of the Cross – is it leading us to a place we can have a relationship with God through Christ, or will it lead us to a place void of God because we reject it’s power. We each have to make that choice, but there are only two choices!

1 Corinthians 1:9-12

In 1 Corinthians 1:9-12 Paul reminds us of one of the greatest truths in all of scripture – three words we should cling to for all time – God is faithful! We can be confident because God is faithful. He is the One who has called us into the fellowship of His Son, so He is the One who will confirm us to the end and present us blameless on judgment day. “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” It is because of God’s plan and faithfulness that we will be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a promise we can cling to and have assurance of our salvation.

Paul pushes on the church to live in unity. Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ. He had authority in the church. He had the right, and the authority, to command the Corinthian Christians in these matters. Instead, with loving heart, he begs them – he pleads with them – to be unified as believers. “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” The ancient Greek word for divisions is “schismata.” Paul’s plea is that they stop ripping each other apart, tearing up the body of Christ.

The contrast to divisions is to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. Instead of being torn apart, Paul pleads that they would be joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.” Chloe was a woman (probably a Christian) whose business interests caused her representatives (her people) to travel between Ephesus and Corinth. Paul writes this letter from Ephesus, where these people from Chloe’s household visited and told him about the condition of the the Corinthian church. The division obviously wasn’t secret or quiet.

When there is division, we pick people one over another. We divide our allegiance and support. The actual Corinthian factions may have centered around people in the congregation, not the different apostles who ministered to them as Paul’s example illustrates. Even if this is the case, the picture fits. Paul may be “changing the names to protect the innocent,” or to show mercy to the guilty. “What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” It is easy to pick a person or group in contrast to another. Paul’s message was one of unity, not division. He did not want people to follow Him, but for all to follow Christ!

1 Corinthians 1:4-8

In 1 Corinthians 1:4-8 Paul delivers a prayer for the church in Corinth. He begins with giving thanks. Paul will later spend most of this letter rebuking sin and correcting error, yet he is still sincerely thankful for God’s work in the Corinthian Christians. “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus”. There was the specific reason for Paul’s gratitude. Everything good the Corinthian Christians have from God has come to them by grace. Grace means that God gives freely, for His own reasons. Grace happens without any reason or deserving of it.

He continues by explaining how the people experienced the effect of grace in the life of the Corinthian Christians. The Corinthians were a “rich” church, not only materially, but also in their speech and knowledge of Jesus (all utterance and in all knowledge… the testimony of Christ), in their abounding in the gifts (come short in no gift), and in that they lived in anticipation of Jesus’ coming. “….that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge – even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you – so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift….”

The work of God in the Corinthian Christians could be seen by what they said, by what they learned, by a supernatural element in their lives, and by their expectant anticipation of Jesus’ return. Yet, these positives were no great credit to the Corinthian Christians themselves. They were not the spiritual achievements of the Corinthians, but the work of the grace of God in them. Paul thanks God for the gifts among the Corinthians, even though they were causing some trouble. He recognizes that the gifts were not the problem, but wrong attitudes and beliefs about the gifts. Gifts are given for unity and building up the body, not causing division.

The Corinthian Christians had their strong points, and they had their weak points. Paul praises God for their positives, and expresses confidence that God will take care of their weak points, and confirm them to the end, so that they would be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. “….as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” How can Paul be confident of this when the Corinthian church has so many problems? He can be confident because God is faithful. In these first 10 verses, Paul refers to Jesus in every verse, for a total of 11 times. In this emphasis on Jesus, Paul promotes the sure cure for the problems of the Corinthians: getting your eyes off self and on Jesus.

1 Corinthians 1:2b-3

In 1 Corinthians 1:2b-3 Paul identifies the audience of his letter and describes the Corinthian Christians as sanctified and called to be saints. The words sanctified and saints communicate the same idea, of being set apart from the world and unto God. “….to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints”. Guzik notes that the words “to be” ahead of saints were put in by translators. Paul’s words were that they were called saints. However their actions were hardly saintly and Paul will address that head on.

There is much in 1 Corinthians that is unflattering to the Christians of Corinth. They are shown to have, at times, morality problems, doctrine problems, church government problems, spiritual gift problems, church service problems, and authority problems. It might be easy for us to think they weren’t even saved! But they were. They were called saints by the Apostle Paul. The Corinthian Christians are called saints, but this was not based on the outward performance of the Corinthians. It was founded on a promise of God. “…together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours

Paul lays the foundation for a fundamental issue he will address in this letter: Christian unity, based on the common Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Corinthian Christians are call saints, but this isn’t exclusive to them. They are saints together with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus is both their Lord and our Lord, and because they share a common Lord, they share an essential unity. Unity is something that is an essential part of walking with Jesus. Unity reaches beyond where we are, or who we are, or any other description, as long as Jesus Christ is our Lord.

The greeting including grace and peace is typical of Paul’s letters, and draws from both Greek and Jewish customs. Paul uses this exact phrase five other times in the New Testament. Lenski wrote “Grace is always first, peace always second. This is due to the fact that grace is the source of peace. Without grace there is and can be no peace, but when grace is ours, peace must of necessity follow.” “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul will often (more than 17 times in the letter) refer to Jesus as the Lord Jesus Christ; here is what the title means:

  • Lord: A title designating not only master and boss, but also the Lord revealed in the Old Testament
  • Jesus: The given name of the son of Mary, and adopted son of Joseph, meaning ‘salvation’
  • Christ: This is the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew word for Messiah, or “Anointed One.” This is the One prophesied by the Old Testament Scriptures, sent by the Father to save and deliver us.

1 Corinthians 1:1-2a

In 1 Corinthians 1:1-2a Paul follows the normal pattern for writing a letter in ancient times. We write a letter by saying who the letter is to first, and we conclude with writing who the letter is from. In the ancient culture of Paul, a letter began with writing who the letter is from, and then stating who the letter is to. “Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,” Paul had an extensive history of contact with the city of Corinth, beginning with when he established the church in Corinth. He wrote a letter to the Christians in Corinth from the city of Ephesus.

Paul makes clear that he was a called apostle – not one of the Twelve – but still one that was called by God and chosen to deliver God’s message. Paul positions himself as an authority challenging what some in the church in Corinth felt – they didn’t recognize his apostolic credentials. But Paul makes clear he wasn’t an apostle by election or the selection of other men. He was an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God. An apostle is defined as a special ambassador and certainly Paul was a “special ambassador” of Jesus Christ to the world and to the church. He was picked by God and groomed to carry the truth to the churches of that day.

Paul also tells us about the process of writing this letter, which was penned by Sosthenes who was a fellow Christ Follower. When Paul first came to Corinth, the ruler of the synagogue was a man named Crispus. Crispus believed on the Lord with all his household (Acts 18:8), and was saved. So he was fired from – or quit – his job as ruler of the synagogue! His replacement was a man named Sosthenes, who was beaten by the Roman officials in a bit of anti-Semitic backlash against the Jews who tried to persecute Paul. It was common in the ancient world to dictate a letter to a scribe who would write it all down. Sosthenes was that man for the letter to the church at Corinth.

The church in that day wasn’t about a building, but an assembly of people who gathered to worship Christ. Paul calls the gathering of Christians in Corinth the church of God. This isn’t the gathering of the world, but of God. “To the church of God that is in Corinth….” Corinth was one of the great cities of the ancient world, and a community very much like Southern California. It was prosperous, busy, and growing; it had a deserved reputation for the reckless pursuit of pleasure. Corinth was a major city of business, especially because of its location. The Corinthian people were also world known for partying, drunkenness, and loose sexual morals. Understanding the tension between the church and the city is important to understanding the letter of 1 Corinthians. The bottom line is this: is the church influencing the city, or is the city influencing the church?

Romans 16:23-27

In Romans 16:23-27 Paul concludes his letter to the church in Rom and three more people important to his ministry are listed. “Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.” Paul has been lodging in the house of Gaius who also opened his home to the church. He had an impact on Paul through hospitality. Erastus appears to be a travelling companion of the Apostle but has a job as a city official in charge of money in Corinth. And he also mentions Quartus whom we know little about other than him being a brother in Christ and member of the church in Corinth. Quartus is a demonstration of what Christianity should be all about – one who is with others who follow Christ and part of the Christian family.

Maclaren wrote of these three “It is easy for us to make a little picture of this brother Quartus. He is evidently an entire stranger to the Church in Rome. They had never heard his name before: none of them knew anything about him. Further, he is evidently a man of no especial reputation or position in the Church at Corinth, from which Paul writes. He contrasts strikingly with the others who send salutations to Rome…..Paul’s list runs on. And then, among all these people of mark, comes the modest, quiet Quartus. He has no wealth like Gaius, nor civic position like Erastus, nor wide reputation like Timothy. He is only a good, simple, unknown Christian.”

Paul wraps up his letter to the church in Rome with a benediction of sorts. It’s one that we may hear in church as a priest or pastor closes a service. With all the dangers facing the Romans – and every church – Paul fittingly concludes by commending them to Him who is able to establish you. Paul also knows that this will be done according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ. “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ”…. He knows that this message isn’t necessarily popular or received at all by those in power and Christ Followers need strength from outside themselves to carry on.

Paul confirms this as the whole plan of redemption through Jesus Christ. Though God announced much of the plan previously through prophecy, its final outworking wasn’t evident until revealed by God through Jesus. “according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith– to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.” If there is anything that the Book of Romans explains from beginning to end, it is the greatness and glory of this plan of God that Paul preached as a gospel – as good news. It’s entirely fitting that Paul concludes this letter praising the God of such a gospel.

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