Archive for the ‘1 Corinthians’ Category

1 Corinthians 16:19-24

Paul ends this first letter to the Corinthian church with more greetings and some closing words. Paul had just mentioned the household Stephanas as the converts of Achaia because they were among the first people saved in that region, and were baptized by Paul himself. He was highly encouraged by that. But he came with greetings from other churches in the area, as well as Aquilla and Priscilla who were a married couple who ministered with Paul at Corinth and now they were in Ephesus with Paul and sent their greetings to the Corinthian Christians. “The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.”

The early church met in houses, because they had few meeting places of their own until the third century. Most of there early house churches were very small with usually under 30 people maximum in any given church. So the people knew each other well, and there was no hiding – it was very personal. “All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.” So Paul’s greeting of the encouragement of the holy kiss reinforced the Jewish custom and early church tradition which was a common greeting in that culture. It’s not so much part of our society today, but a friendly and warm greeting still carries a huge impact for those who come together as the church.

Paul had a secretary write the letters as he dictated them. Often he added a personal note at the end in his own handwriting to validate it as coming from him. Speculation is that Paul’s personal handwriting had become poor, which is why he dictated most of the letters. “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.” Paul again stresses the importance of love, pronouncing a heavy curse on those who talk of commitment to Jesus, but have no genuine love for Him. “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!” Being a Christ Follower is not a game, or something to take lightly. It is all in for anyone who claims to be His.

Paul drives home the seriousness of his charge by the word he uses. Guzik tells us that “Accursed translates from the ancient Greek word anathema. Paul said in Romans 9:3 that he was willing himself to be anathema (cursed) from Jesus if it could accomplish the salvation of the Jewish people. Anathema was the third of three levels of discipline among the ancient Jews.

  1. The first level was a simple separation of a man from the synagogue for 30 days.
  2. If one did not repent in the 30 days, he was under the second degree of discipline, giving him still an undefined time to repent, but warning him of the dire consequences to come.
  3. The third level was the anathema, and with that all hope of reconciliation and repentance was cut off. The man could never be reconciled to the synagogue, and was no longer accounted as a Jew at all.”

After that serious reminder, Paul gives his blessing on the church. “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.”

1 Corinthians 16:12-18

In 1 Corinthians 16:12-18 Paul is wrapping up his first letter to the church in Corinth. He talks about those who ministered with and to him. “Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.” This gives a rare insight about how the early church leaders related to each other. It was not a hierarchical relationship and Paul did not dictate his will to Apollos. Paul led by example and consensus, not as the authority that told others what, when or how to do things.

Paul then gives a couple very simple, yet powerful directions to the church. “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” In a sense, each of these mean the same thing, simply saying it in a different way. Christians are to be like strong soldiers, on guard, watching for their Lord’s return. Guzik tells us “This is the only place in the New Testament where the word translated ‘act like men’ is used (andrizomai). Literally, it means, “to act like a man.” All the commands or directives in this verse are military in nature. Paul is letting church know that we are in a war against evil and have to be prepared like someone in the army.

Then he adds the biggest command of all. “Let all that you do be done in love.” All the watching, all the standing fast, all the bravery, and all the strength the Corinthian Christians might show meant nothing without love. They were called to do all those things in a meek, humble spirit of love. Paul has already been very clear in earlier parts of this letter that anything done without love was just a clanging symbol. It is worthless. The charge is not only targeted at how the church treated each other, but also how they would interact in the world around them. They would come under attack and had to respond with love.

There were three men who brought the questions of the Corinthian Christians to Paul. As Paul sends them back with this letter, Paul asked that they be received as devoted servants of the Lord. “Now I urge you, brothers —you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer.” Stephanas was the head of the household, and Fortunatus and Achaicus were two household slaves of his, who accompanied him on his visit to Paul. “I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such men.” Paul was grateful for their visit and how they brightened his spirit.

1 Corinthians 16:5-11

In 1 Corinthians 16:5-11 Paul is wrapping up his letter to the church at Corinth. He has a plan to come visit later after heading through Macedonia. “I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go.” As is often the case, things happened differently than he planned. Instead, Paul made a much sooner, painful visit to Corinth to personally confront them in some areas we will discover when our journey through scripture takes us to 2 Corinthians.

Paul’s plan at the time was not to just pass through, but maybe to spend a long period of time with them over the winter. As is often the case though, our plans may not be the same as Gods. And Paul knows that as he writes. “For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.” Why didn’t Paul go to Corinth immediately? Because he sees that God had given opportunity now in Ephesus. Paul wisely relied not only on his own desires, but also on God’s open doors. Paul knew the secret of directed service.“But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”

Paul also knew that opposition often accompanies opportunities. There was plenty of that in Ephesus at the time. He has someone he’s been training that will be joining the effort. Paul had trouble with the Corinthian Christians not respecting his authority as an apostle and as a minister of the gospel. If they didn’t respect Paul, what would they do to a young man like Timothy? So, Paul asks the Corinthian Christians to respect Timothy when he comes. He wants to set Timothy up for success. “When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am.”

Paul warns the church not to take advantage of a young and inexperienced Timothy. “So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.” Timothy suffered from both a lack of confidence and a lack of respect. It was important for God’s people to not take advantage of this in Timothy, and it was important for Timothy to never give others reason to despise him. Wherever Timothy was, he was on his way to see Paul, and would probably stop in Corinth on the way. Paul is doing all he can to make sure that stop is positive and useful.

1 Corinthians 16:1-4

In 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 Paul replies to concerns of the Corinthian church about their giving. It’s not optional. “Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.” Paul is consistent in his guidance to everyone he speaks with about this topic. We are to set aside some of what we have and give it regularly. It shouldn’t require special offerings or a big push from the pulpit. It should be part of the regular life of the church.

The money to be collected is not just for the local needs of the congregation. Paul wants them to give enough they can help the needy in Jerusalem. “And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem.” Paul has done this same thing among many different churches to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem. There are a few reasons the church in Jerusalem likely needed assistance in caring for the poor. They supported a large number of widows and were in the midst of famine. Giving is about much more than our own needs. It extends to helping all of God’s family.

So does it mean that that because Christians are commanded to help the poor, especially Christians in need, that this is more important than supporting ministers of the gospel. Paul has been clear elsewhere that the answer is no. It isn’t either or, it is both. And we need to recognize how seriously God takes this part of being a Christ Follower. Paul makes it clear just how serious he is about helping the folks in Jerusalem. “If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.” He’s willing to go with the messengers from the church to get the offering to those in need. This is important to him on many levels.

Guzik shared these general principles from the Bible for supporting the poor in the church:

  1. Benevolence distribution is a potential source of conflict and division, and it is the job of deacons to prevent such problems by their wise, Spirit-led actions (Acts 6:1-7).
  2. The church has an obligation to help the truly needy (James 1:27).
  3. The church must discern who the truly needy are (1 Timothy 5:3).
  4. If one can work to support himself, he is not truly needy and must provide for his own needs (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, 1 Timothy 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 4:11).
  5. If one can be supported by their family, he is not truly needy and should not be supported by the church (1 Timothy 5:3-4).
  6. Those who are supported by the church must make some return to the church body (1 Timothy 5:5, 5:10).
  7. It is right for the church to examine moral conduct before giving support (1 Timothy 5:9-13).
  8. The support of the church should be for the most basic necessities of living (1 Timothy 6:8).

1 Corinthians 15:54-58

In 1 Corinthians 15:54-58 Paul wraps up this chapter finishing his teaching around the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the foundation of Christianity and the main differentiator between it and other faith traditions. “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:”Death is swallowed up in victory.” A resurrected body is not a resuscitated corpse. It is a new order of life that will never die again. Death is defeated by resurrection. This isn’t a mere winning of the battle but an eternal victory over death and the enemy.

So Paul writes one of the most powerful verses in all of scripture. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” Paul knows that death is a defeated enemy because of Jesus’ work so he can almost taunt death, and mock it. Death has no power over the person found in Jesus Christ. Spurgeon said it this way: “I will not fear thee, death, why should I? Thou lookest like a dragon, but thy sting is gone. Thy teeth are broken, oh old lion, wherefore should I fear thee? I know thou art no more able to destroy me, but thou art sent as a messenger to conduct me to the golden gate wherein I shall enter and see my Savior’s unveiled face for ever. Expiring saints have often said that their last beds have been the best they have ever slept upon.”

What a time in our history to be reading this verse. As we face unknowns around health and other serious issues, it is easy to allow fear to take hold in our life. But our faith trumps any fear that the enemy can throw at us. There is nothing that Jesus Christ has not overcome through the resurrection after death on the Cross. God had a plan, Jesus carried it out, and you and I as Christ Followers now will have victory over death for all of eternity. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s not ours to take credit for, but is ours to be claimed as a believer. Victory is ours is we believe in Jesus.

Paul then shares a verse that has become my life verse. He challenges us to push aside fear and know what God has done through Christ. The destiny of the resurrection means we should stand fast for the Lord right now. We should not be swayed by anything that happens around us. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” The promise here is that what we do for the Lord will be used by God. Even if your labor is vain to everyone else, and everyone else discounts or doesn’t appreciate what you do for the Lord, your labor is not in vain in the Lord. It doesn’t matter if you get the praise or the encouragement; sometimes you will and sometimes you won’t. But our charge is to keep on serving our Lord!

1 Corinthians 15:48-53

In 1 Corinthians 15:48-53 Paul continues to talk about the resurrection and school us on things we need to understand. We don’t have a lot of places to look to understand what will happen at the resurrection except for what we can learn from Jesus. “As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” The only example we have of what a resurrection body will be like is to see what Jesus’ resurrection body was like. The resurrection body of Jesus was material and could eat, yet it was not bound by the laws of nature. It’s likely ours will be similar when that day comes.

Paul draws a line in the sand that our earthly bodies will never enter the Kingdom of God – Heaven. For that to happen we will need to be resurrected and given a new heavenly body. “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” Our current bodies are subject to disease, injury, and one day decay, and as such are unsuited for heaven. For us to enter God’s presence and spend eternity with Him, we’ll need to receive our heavenly bodies which will no longer be impacted by the many challenges that we face today.

Death is a part of life. We all know it will happen. Paul explains the different ways God will provide us our new physical and perfect body. Since sleep is a softer way of describing the death of a believer, Paul tells us that not all Christians will die, but there will be a “final generation” who will be transformed into resurrection bodies at the return of Jesus before they ever face death. “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” He calls this a mystery because the Corinthian church would not figure it out on their own. It is only by God’s revelation through Paul that enables them, or us, to understand what is ahead.

Great things are ahead for those who believe. In a single moment, Jesus will gather His people (both dead and on the earth) to Himself, for resurrection. “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” The remarkable, instant gathering of Christians unto Jesus in the clouds has been called the rapture, after the Latin word for caught up. There will come a day when in God’s eternal plan, He gives those dead in the Lord their resurrection bodies, and then in an instant He gathers all His people to meet Jesus in the air. “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” We only get to heaven by taking on our new immortal resurrection body!

1 Corinthians 15:41-47

In 1 Corinthians 15:41-47 Paul continues talking about the resurrection. God has created many different things in the universe, each with it’s own characteristics and qualities. “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.” Each thing God creates is unique and special. But when it comes to human beings, God has given a path to transition from our earthly body to a new heavenly body. That’s what the resurrection is about for you and me. “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.” Our new bodies will last for eternity and will have some amazingly great contrast to what we experience here on earth.

It’s hard to understand what our resurrection bodies will be like, so Paul uses contrast to help us, giving four contrasts between our present body and our future resurrection body. On all counts, the resurrection body wins!

  • Imperishable triumphs over perishable
  • Glory triumphs over dishonor
  • Power triumphs over weakness
  • Spiritual triumphs over natural

Spurgeon wrote “The righteous are put into their graves all weary and worn; but as such they will not rise. They go there with the furrowed brow, the hollowed cheek, the wrinkled skin; they shall wake up in beauty and glory.” God has an amazing plan for us.

Paul contrasts three more areas: “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” Poole wrote “We shall rise in a full and perfect age, (as is generally thought) and without those defects and deformities which may here make our bodies appear unlovely.” We’ll go from very imperfect bodies to the perfect body that God has prepared for each of us individually. It’s going to be an amazing resurrection which not only means rising from the grave but receiving God’s new body for us as well.

The first perfect man, Adam, gave us one kind of body – our earthly body. The second perfect man, Jesus the last Adam, will give us another kind of body – our eternal heavenly body. He is a life-giving spirit. “Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” From the first Adam, we all are made of dust, but from the last Adam we will be made heavenly. “But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.” God has a perfect plan for us and our bodies, and we can look forward with assurance to that resurrection!

1 Corinthians 15:35-40

In 1 Corinthians 15:35-40 Paul continues his discussion about Jesus. Someone asks how the dead are raised. “But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” Paul doesn’t answer that question because it is obvious – God alone can raise the dead. But Paul does answer the second question about the body we will have when we are raised. Paul says our bodies are like “seeds” which “grow” into resurrection bodies. When you bury the body of a believer, you are “sowing” a “seed” that will come out of the earth as a resurrection body. “You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” No seed can grow unless it dies to itself and sprouts as a new plant.

Spurgeon put it this way: “Dear friends, if such be death – if it be but a sowing, let us have done with all faithless, hopeless, graceless sorrow… ‘Our family circle has been broken,’ say you. Yes, but only broken that it may be re-formed. You have lost a dear friend: yes, but only lost that friend that you may find him again, and find more than you lost. They are not lost; they are sown.” When you plant a wheat seed, a big wheat seed does not come up. Instead, a stalk of wheat grows. “And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.” That seed grows to become a new version of itself.

So, even though our resurrection bodies come from our present bodies, we should not expect that they will be the same bodies or just “improved” bodies. “But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.” There are all different kinds of “bodies” in God’s creation, including celestial bodies. Our resurrection body will be a heavenly (celestial) body, suited for life in heaven, not only life on this earth. “For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.” This explains why only mankind will receive a new body.

Our present bodies are adapted for the environment of time and earth, our resurrection bodies will be adapted for the environment of eternity and heaven. “There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another.” There will likely be different degrees of glory for believers in heaven. Trapp wrote: “Whether there are degrees of glory, as it seems probable, so we shall certainly know, when we come to heaven.” The resurrection of Jesus is the key to our future of receiving a new body for a new eternity in heaven.

1 Corinthians 15:32-34

In 1 Corinthians 15:32-34 Paul begins by making a rather strange statement about fighting with beasts. “What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Scripture does not record an occasion when Paul faced wild animals in an arena. It may simply be unrecorded, or Paul may mean “beasts” figuratively, in reference to his violent and wild human opponents who were out to kill him. We don’t know for sure which is the case.  But we do know that Paul was keenly aware that death was wished for him by his enemies.

Paul makes another case for the gospel here. If there is no resurrection, we can live however we want. If there is no resurrection, then there is no future judgment to consider. Then life is lived only “under the sun,” as is considered in Ecclesiastes. We have no worry about consequences to how we live. Guzik wrote “The ancient Egyptians, at the end of a big banquet, often escorted a wooden image of a man in a coffin around the tables, telling people to have a good time now, because you’ll be dead sooner than you think. If there is no resurrection, and no future judgment, then we may as well have the best time we can right now – and Paul was a fool for putting himself in such discomfort and danger for the sake of the gospel.”

But the resurrection is real, and how we live matters very much. So Paul warns us to be careful about who we hang out with. “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Where did the Corinthian Christians get their strange ideas about the resurrection, ideas Paul spent this chapter trying to correct? They got this bad thinking by associating either with Jews who did not believe in the resurrection (such as the Sadducees) or by associating with pagan, Greek philosophical types, who did not believe in the resurrection. In either case, these were bad influences that were deceiving the church about God’s truth.

Paul works to jar the church and get them to realize and accept God’s truth. “Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.” For Christians to resist God’s process of transformation by the renewing of their minds is to neglect the knowledge of God. To remain willfully ignorant of the truth is sin. Paul is calling out the Corinthian church for being ignorant. He has shown the power and truth of the resurrection and for the church to ignore that truth – it is plainly sin. Sin leads to death and separation from God so this is a very important thing to correct. Paul is driving home that point with all he has!

1 Corinthians 15:30-31

In 1 Corinthians 15:30-31 Paul continues to teach us about the power of the resurrection. He reminds the Corinthian church that his life literally is in danger constantly. “Why am I in danger every hour?” Most of us are so concerned about living comfortable lives here on earth that our lives give no evidence of the resurrection. Paul lived such a committed Christian life he literally put his life in jeopardy for the gospel every day. There were many who wanted to silence him and were constantly looking for a way to get rid of him to the point of threatening his physical life. But Paul was not swayed at all by those threats.

To say Paul didn’t really think about it was not correct. He thinks about dying daily, knowing who he was in Jesus Christ. “I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!” Paul’s life was lived so on the edge for Jesus Christ that he could say, “I die every day.” His life was always on the line; there were always people out to kill him. An example of this is found in Acts 23:12-13, when more than forty men took a vow that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. With enemies like that Paul had to look over his shoulder constantly.

Guzik writes “It is important to understand that when Paul says, “I die daily,” he does not speak of his spiritual identification with the death of Jesus. He does not speak of the spiritual putting to death of the flesh. He writes of the constant imminent danger to his physical life. It is important and useful for Christians to daily consider themselves dead to sin with Jesus Christ. But to use this statement “I die daily” to support that truth is wrong, because in context Paul is writing about the danger to his physical life.” There are few things that we can know for certain, but death is definitely one of them. But more importantly we know that Jesus Christ conquered death too.

How can we die daily? Spurgeon gives seven steps to dying daily in a sermon titled Dying Daily.

  • First, every day carefully consider the certainty of death
  • Second, by faith put your soul through the whole process of death
  • Third, hold this world with a loose hand
  • Fourth, every day seriously test your hope and experience
  • Next, come every day, just as you did at conversion, to the cross of Jesus, as a poor guilty sinner
  • Sixth, live in such a manner that you would not be ashamed to die at any moment
  • Finally, have all your affairs in order so that you are ready to die

Death will come, and like Paul, we need to accept that reality and be ready to face it whenever it comes!

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