Archive for the ‘1 Corinthians’ Category

1 Corinthians 12:8-10a

In 1 Corinthians 12:8-10a Paul continues to teach around the spiritual gifts. He has set the foundation in the first few verses of the chapter and now dives into the individual gifts, the first being uttering wisdom, and the second much like it – uttering knowledge. “To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,” Uttering wisdom is the unique ability to speak forth the wisdom of God, especially in an important situation. Uttering knowledge is the unique ability to declare knowledge that could only be revealed supernaturally. And Paul is careful to remind us that all these gifts come from One and the same Spirit.

It is important to understand the difference between the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge. One may have great knowledge, even supernatural knowledge, yet have no wisdom from God in the application of that knowledge. We must also always use discernment in receiving a word of knowledge, remembering that God is not the only source of supernatural knowledge. Even if a word is true, it does not mean that it is from God and that the one speaking the word is truly representing God. Scripture tells us we have to compare what is said with the absolute truth of scripture and be sure it is true.

Paul continues and next calls out the gift of faith, and the gift of healing. “to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,” Though faith is an essential part of every Christian’s life, the gift of faith is the unique ability to trust God against all circumstances as Peter did when he walked out of the boat onto the water. The gift of healing is God’s healing power, either given or received, and has been repeatedly documented in the New Testament and since. Clarke wrote that “The power which at particular times the apostles received from the Holy Spirit to cure diseases; a power which was not always resident in them; for Paul could not cure Timothy, nor remove his own thorn in the flesh; because it was given only on extraordinary occasions”.

He continues and lists miracles and prophecy as two more gifts given by the Spirit. “….to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy….” The working of miracles is literally dynameis, or “acts of power.” This describes when the Holy Spirit chooses to “override” the laws of nature (as a pilot might use manual controls), working in or through an available person. Prophecy is the telling of God’s message in a particular situation, always in accord with His Word and His current work. Sometimes this has the characteristic of foretelling the future, but always in alignment with God’s Word.

1 Corinthians 12:5-7

In 1 Corinthians 12:5-7 Paul continues his teaching on spiritual gifts. The gifts are diverse, the services are different, and the activities are diverse. But it is all the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God doing the work through the gifts, the services or ministries, and the activities. “….and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” Ministries (or services) probably means different “gifted offices” in the church, such as apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers, as Paul described in Ephesians 4. But the key to remember is that all these services come from One God.

Next Paul moves to the variety of activities related to gifts. The Greek word for activities is energemata, where we get our words energy, energetic, and energize from. It is a word of active, miraculous power. It demonstrates that the gifts are not stagnant and held for self but are active and given to impact people. God displays and pours out His miraculous power in different ways, but it is always the same God doing the work. That is a key principle about spiritual gifts. While individually given, they come from one place – God Himself – and will ALWAYS be in unity with His purpose and plan for mankind.

What are the differences between gifts, services, and activities? All of these are gifts. Some gifts are ministries – standing offices or positions in the church. Some gifts are activities – miraculous events or outpourings at a particular time and place. Poole writes “Habits and powers, by which men performed holy offices in the church, or wrought miracles, are called gifts. The acts or exercise of these powers are called services and activities. These latter differ one from another, as the former signify standing and continuing acts in the church; activities, rather signify miraculous events, such as healing the sick without the application of miraculous means, speaking with diverse tongues, [and so forth].”

Paul reminds us that it is easy for us to focus on our own “little area” of gifts, services, or activities and believe that those who have other something different are not really walking or working with God. Yet our one God has a glorious diversity in the way He does things. We should never expect it to be according to our own emphasis and taste. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” The purpose of the gifts of the Spirit is to benefit the whole church family, not just a particular individual. They are given for the common good, not to build up any particular individual. That is a principle about gifts that is always true.

1 Corinthians 12:1-4

In 1 Corinthians 12:1-4 Paul now shifts from addressing all the issues of the Corinthian church and moves to God’s empowerment of its people with spiritual gifts. Clarke defines spiritual gifts as “Gracious endowments, leading to miraculous results… these all came by the extraordinary influences of the Holy Spirit.” “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.” Paul specifically has three things in his letters he didn’t want God’s people to be ignorant of:

  • Don’t be ignorant of God’s plan for Israel (Romans 11:25)
  • Don’t be ignorant of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1)
  • Don’t be ignorant about the Second Coming of Jesus and the eternal state (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Paul wanted the Corinthian Christians to remember that their past idolatry did not prepare them for an accurate understanding of spiritual gifts. We’re really in no different of a situation today. We don’t have a great background of teaching on the principles of what God’s design is for the church and the gifts He provides for it. “You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led.” It is easy for us to take our materialistic or superstitious views into our understanding of spiritual gifts. God gives us some teaching on gifts, but the world has a tendency to twist and turn God’s truth to fit their own desires.

Paul lays down a broad principle for discerning matters regarding spiritual gifts – judge things by how they relate to Jesus Christ. Does a supposed spiritual gift glorify Jesus? Does it promote the true Jesus or a false one? “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” The ministry of the Holy Spirit is not to promote Himself or any man, but to glorify and represent Jesus. We can, therefore, trust that the true ministry of the Holy Spirit will be all about Jesus.

Paul will go on to list some nine spiritual gifts in the following verses, and more in other places. There is indeed a diversity of gifts! Yet there is only one Giver, who works through the diverse gifts. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;” The reality is that living as a Christ Follower does not mean we all have the same gifts – in fact by design – God has created a variety of gifts to be given to those who follow Jesus. We cannot determine what gifts an individual should have, even for ourself, as those are distributed by God through His Spirit and are part of the variety needed to make the church function as God designed and desires. We are given gifts by God for His purpose, not picked by us for ours!

1 Corinthians 11:30-34

In 1 Corinthians 11:30-34, Paul wraps up his teaching about the Lord’s Supper. He had just warned the Corinthian church that they needed to take this ordinance of communion very seriously as there were consequences for those that did not. “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” And the consequences are severe. Paul does not refer to eternal judgment in this case, but to God’s corrective judgment. There is no word  “the” before “judgment,” so it is not the judgment. This correction is not a judge condemning a criminal; it is a father correcting disobedient children.

Paul reminds us that we can avoid correction merely by doing things the way we have been instructed. We need to stop and examine ourselves honestly and determine what sin needs to be confessed and repented of. We will be judged, if not by ourselves on our own, then by God who will take corrective action to bring us in line with His requirements. It’s that simple. “But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.” And it is that easily avoidable. Of course, if we live a sinless life, we don’t need much judgment of our own. But when we look in the mirror and are honest, there is plenty that needs to be addressed.

Paul makes it clear that he knew none of the Corinthian Christians, even those who died as a result of God’s corrective judgment, who had lost their salvation. That does not happen because of sin. They were given God’s correction so that they would not be condemned with the world. “But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” Our salvation is not at risk because of how we approach the Lord’s Table. But the potential for corrective punishment is at risk – God will not allow His Son to be mocked by us if we approach the Table in a way that is unworthy of taking communion with Christ.

Paul wraps up the chapter by giving some simple rules about how to partake. Be patient and wait for one another – this isn’t a race to the finish and certainly does not mean partaking with poor manners. “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another – if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home – so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.” It also isn’t a meal to fill your stomach – it is a symbolic ordinance representing the body and blood of our Savior. Paul knows he isn’t dealing with the whole issue here. There is more to say, but Paul will leave it for another time.

1 Corinthians 11:26-29

In 1 Corinthians 11:26-29 Paul continues to teach on the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. He reminds the church that this celebration is about Jesus, a new covenant, and nothing else. What is the new covenant all about?

  • It is about an inner transformation, that cleanses us from all sin: For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more (Jeremiah 31:34)
  • It is about God’s Word and will in us: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33)
  • It is about a new, close, relationship with God: I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Jeremiah 31:33)

So it is serious and we need to treat it as such. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Paul then goes on to tell us how to prepare for receiving the Lord’s Supper. Failure to prepare and partake in a worthy manner is like using profanity at Jesus. “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” Taking part in the Lord’s Supper means we recognize what we celebrate. It also means we deal with our sin and confess it. If a Christian is in sin, and stubbornly unrepentant, they are mocking what Jesus did on the cross to cleanse them from their sin. We must get right with God and confess and repent to come to the Table in a worthy way.

Paul warns the Corinthian Christians to treat the Lord’s Supper with reverence, and to practice it in a spirit of self-examination. However, this is not written with the thought of excluding ourselves from the table, but of preparing us to receive with the right heart. “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” It is just given so we take the proper steps to prepare, which begins with looking into our own heart to see what sins we need to confess and what relationships we need to mend. Guzik wrote “ We can never really make ourselves “worthy” of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

He did it because of His great love, not because some of us were so worthy. As we take the bread and cup, we should not stare at the floor or struggle to achieve some sort of spiritual feeling. We should simply open our heart to Jesus and recognize His presence with us – in fact, in us!” If we will discipline ourselves and approach the Lord’s Supper in the right manner, the Lord will not need to chastise us with His hand of correction. “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” God is serious about this ordinance of communion and will discipline us if we fail to take it seriously.

1 Corinthians 11:22-25

In 1 Corinthians 11:22-25 Paul continues to call out the Corinthian church about their behavior in the Lord’s house around the Lord’s supper. Paul’s message is both strong and plain – “If you want to eat or drink selfishly, do it at home!” Using repetition, Paul makes it clear: ‘I do not commend you’ is repeated three times in this brief section. The apostle is not happy with the Corinthian Christians at this point. “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.”

Paul then shifts to telling them what the Lord’s Supper is to be like. Paul didn’t just make this up, he received it from the Lord. It came to him from the Lord either personally or through the other apostles. “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In conducting a communion service, Paul puts the emphasis on remembering Jesus, on what He said about the meaning of His own death for us. The bread represents His broken body.

Guzik writes ‘We remember the Last Supper was actually a Passover meal, when Jesus, together with the disciples, according to Biblical commands and Jewish traditions, celebrated the remembrance of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt to the Promised Land, beginning in the book of Exodus. The breaking of bread and the drinking of wine were important parts of the Passover celebration. Jesus took these important pictures and reminders of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, and added to them the meanings connected with His own death on the cross for us.’ This has historical significance as well as meaning for us as we partake of it.

Paul then moves on to the cup which represents Christ’s blood. “In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” In receiving the cup, we are called to remember the blood of Jesus and the new covenant. The Passover meal featured several cups of wine, each with a different title. The cup Jesus referred to was known as the cup of redemption, and Jesus added to the idea of redemption from slavery in Egypt the idea that His blood confirmed a new covenant that changed our relationship with God.

1 Corinthians 11:16-21

In 1 Corinthians 11:16-21 Paul continues to instruct the Corinthian church.  He begins by telling them to not be contentious and argumentative over the things of God. It is not acceptable to create chaos in the church. “If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.” Paul is going to give them guidance on how they should act and worship together. The Corinthian church as been dysfunctional and destructive in how they have interacted as a body. Paul calls them out, and then gives instruction on what ot change. “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.”

A large part of the problem with the gatherings of the Corinthian Christians was that there were divisions among them, something Paul had heard and could believe, knowing the history and the character of the Corinthian Christians. “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you.” People weren’t getting along – imagine that. What possibly could people find to disagree over? How about dozens of little things that don’t matter, but when put in the middle of a church, can cause people to pick sides and create divisions. But Paul asks ‘is that bad’?

Seems like a silly question right – factions have to be bad. “And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” But Paul makes the point that without them, it would be impossible to tell who truly is a Christ Follower. We usually think of factions and divisions among Christians as nothing but a problem. But Paul reveals a purpose God has in allowing factions: that those who are approved may be recognized among you. God allows factions so that, over time, those who really belong to God would become evident. They truly can be important.

Paul refers to the early church custom of combining a potluck and the Lord’s Supper. Because Jesus so often ate with His disciples, it made sense to the early church that eating together went together with celebrating the Lord’s Supper. “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.” But the problem was how the Corinthian church acted at those meals. They in fact acted very selfishly and put themselves ahead of all others. It wasn’t a Christlike environment at all. “For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.” So Paul says it isn’t at all the Lord’s supper.

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