Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

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 11:10-12

In 1 Corinthians 11:10-12 Paul continues his teaching on God’s plan for the home and church. He has made it clear that there are distinct roles for man and woman and Christ. Paul gave us two statements on the structure of God’s plan in earlier verses:

  1. The head of the woman is man
  2. Adam first, and gave Him responsibility over Eve

Adam was not created for Eve, but Eve was created for Adam – and this principle applies to every “Adam” and every “Eve” through history. Adam was not brought to Eve, but Eve was brought to Adam – her head. It is an idea that causes some to cringe in our society today, but the Bible in this passage clearly teaches that (in the church and in the home) man was not made for the benefit of woman, but woman for the benefit of man.

A third reason God has established male headship in the church is the presence of angels in corporate worship. “That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” Angels are present at any assembly of Christians for worship and they note any departure from reverent order. Apparently, angels are offended by any violation of God’s plan and structure. None of these three reasons are culture-dependent. The order and manner of creation and the presence of angels do not depend on culture. We cannot say, “Paul said this just because of the thinking of the Corinthian culture or the place of women in that culture.” The principles are eternal, but the out-working of the principles may differ according to culture.

God has established a clear chain of authority in both the home and in the church, and in those spheres, God has ordained that men are the “head,” that is, that they have the place of authority and responsibility. Our culture, having rejected the idea in a difference in role between men and women, now rejects the idea of any difference between men and women. The Bible is just as specific that there is no general submission of women unto men commanded in society, only in the spheres of the home and in the church. God has not commanded in His word that men have exclusive authority in politics, business, education, and so on.

But here is the kicker that men much accept in the role God has given them – they must lead. The failure of men to lead in the home and in the church, and to lead in the way Jesus would lead, has been a chief cause of the rejection of male authority, and is inexcusable. God will hold man accountable for their failure to lead and fulfill their God given role. And the result of that failure presents itself in many of the societal issues we face today. “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.” It’s God’s plan, and when either man or woman chooses not to fulfill their role, chaos and havoc result. Remember that all this is from God!

1 Corinthians 11:1-3

In 1 Corinthians 11:1-3 Paul begins by issuing a strong message asking the Corinthian church to follow him. “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Paul knew he followed Jesus, so he did not hesitate to tell the Corinthian Christians to imitate his walk with the Lord. He knew the Corinthian Christians needed examples, and he was willing to be such an example. How few of us today are willing to say what Paul said! Instead, because of compromise and ungodliness, we are quick to say, “Don’t look at me, look at Jesus.” While it is true we must all ultimately look to Jesus, every one of us should be an example of those who look to Jesus.

Paul knew he was an example, and a good example at that. He also knew that it was not “Paul” who was a worthy example, but “Paul the follower of Jesus” who was the example. This approach of imitation is not without a need for limits. We need to follow a Christ Follower as much as we see them following Jesus. It isn’t blind following, but we should only imitate Christ like behavior. Paul sarcastically speaks to the church because they did not remember Paul nor keep the traditions he taught them. They did their own thing and ignored much of what Paul had taught. “Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.” So this is a sarcastic slam of the Corinthian church.

Paul then moves on to a somewhat controversial concept in society today. People bristle at the idea of headship and authority in marriage. Yet it is the design of a biblical marriage. “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” Headship means to have the appropriate responsibility to lead, and the matching accountability. It is right and appropriate to submit to someone who is our head. That does not mean that a woman is a door mat to be walked upon or taken advantage of. It is quite the difference. Man, in the covenant of marriage, has the responsibility to care for his wife as Christ cared for the church which meant complete sacrifice to the point of laying down one’s life.

There are three “headship” relationships: Jesus is head of every man; man is the head of woman, and God (the Father) is head of Christ. Because Paul connects the three relationships, the principles of headship are the same among them. The idea of headship and authority is important to God. In His great plan for mankind, one thing God looks for from man is voluntary submission. This is what Jesus showed in His life over and over again, and this is exactly what God looks for from both men and women, though it will be expressed in different ways.

Women in the Church have two options in their attitude towards their head: They imitate the kind of attitude men have towards Christ, showing a rebelliousness that must be won over; or women can imitate the kind of attitude Christ displayed towards God the Father, loving submission to Him as an equal. The authority God has placed on a husband is not to be a dictator, but a protector and provider that carries the responsibility of giving sacrificially of self to meet the needs of his wife. When God calls women in the church to recognize the headship of men, it is not because women are unequal or inferior, but because there is a God-ordained order of authority to be respected.

1 Corinthians 10:15-19

In 1 Corinthians 10:15-19 Paul challenges the church in Corinth, who think they are wise and know the truth, to carefully consider what he is saying. “I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.” Of course, all of Paul’s teaching needs to be compared to scripture as the ultimate authority of what is true and right. That’s the judgment Paul wants them to do. Paul continues to teach them around the culture they were participating in – eating at a pagan temple which was really fellowshiping with the altar related to idols. It was not behavior that was acceptable for a Christ Follower.

Just as the Christian practice of communion speaks of unity and fellowship with Jesus, so these pagan banquets, given in the honor of idols, spoke of unity with demons who took advantage of misdirected worship.“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” Their intent was not to be a partaker of idolatry in all likelihood, but to eat at the same table with someone indicated friendship and fellowship with that person. By eating at the pagan temple banquets, it appeared to others that these Corinthians Christians were worshiping idols.

And since they ate of one bread, that made them one body, because they shared the same food at the same table. So to eat at the table of a pagan temple restaurant was not as innocent as it seemed. “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” The symbolic outcome of the decision to eat meat sacrificed to idols is that the person was aligned with idol worship. It sent the wrong message to everyone. “Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?” Actions mean things, and sometimes how we act brings a message that does not align with what we mean to communicate.

Paul’s been clear that idols are dead – nothing at all in this world. He isn’t changing his position here, but he does say demonic spirits take advantage of idol worship to deceive and enslave people. Without knowing it, idol worshippers are glorifying demons in their sacrifice. “What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?” The Corinthian Christians thought, “Since an idol is not real, it doesn’t matter what we eat, and it doesn’t matter where we eat it.” Paul answers by agreeing that an idol is in itself nothing, but also explains that demons take advantage of man’s ignorant and self-serving worship. So while it isn’t technically an issue to eat it, the act sets one up for other issues much more severe.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4

In 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 Paul gives a history lesson on Israel and the Exodus from Egypt. He is continuing to address the whole issue of meat sacrificed to idols that the Corinthian church is hung up over. “I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink.” Paul wrote about the need to finish what God has set before us, and how dangerous it is to refuse to give up something that gets in the way of finishing. Now, he will use Israel’s experience in the Exodus from Egypt to illustrate this principle.

Paul has already established two principles related to this topic in prior chapters of his letter to the church:

  1. An idol really is nothing, and it was fine for Corinthian Christians who understood this to act according to this knowledge, in regard to themselves.
  2. For Christians love is more important than knowledge. So even though I may “know” eating meat sacrificed to an idol is all right for myself, if it causes my brother to stumble, I won’t do it, because it isn’t the loving thing to do.

He also has shown how important it is for Christians to give up their “rights.” Just as Paul gave up his “right” to be supported by his own preaching of the gospel, so some of the Corinthian Christians must sometimes give up their “right” to eat meat sacrificed to idols, based on the principle of love towards a weaker brother. He wants to have them focus on all the blessings Israel had in the Exodus from Egypt!

Paul reminds them of the cloud of Shekinah glory that overshadowed Israel throughout their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. During the day, the cloud sheltered them from the brutal desert sun, and during the night, it burned as a pillar of fire. It was a constant, ready reminder of God’s glory and presence. He also recalls how all Israel came through the Red Sea and saw God’s incredible power in holding up the walls of the sea so they could cross over on dry ground. Then they saw God send the water back to drown the Egyptian army. This was not only an amazing demonstration of God’s love and power, but also a picture of baptism – by “passing through water,” all of Israel was identified with Moses, even as by “passing through water,” a Christian is identified with Jesus Christ.

All of Israel was sustained by God’s miraculous provision of food and drink during their time in the wilderness. This was a remarkable display of God’s love and power for Israel, and a picture of the spiritual food and drink we receive at the Lord’s table. “For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” Israel even had the presence of Jesus Christ with them in the wilderness! Here, in identifying the Rock that followed them, Paul builds on a tradition that said Israel was supplied with water by the same rock all through the wilderness, a rock that followed them. Some scholars question this, but the point is the same: Jesus Christ was present with Israel in the wilderness, providing for their needs miraculously.

1 Corinthians 9:19-22

In 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 Paul continues his discussion around his work as a minister of the Gospel. Paul was free to do what he wanted, but bringing people to Jesus was more important to him than using his freedom selfishly. “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.” His approach was to be a servant leader, not stand up front and demand attention pounding the pulpit and proclaiming that he was to be listened to and respected. Why was he, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, willing to be a servant? Because his eyes were on the goal – to win more people to Jesus. That was the driver and ultimately what mattered to him.

Paul was a bit of a chameleon as he ministered as a servant to all. He dealt with people where they were, not forcing them to come into his world, but by going to theirs. To outside observers, it might have looked like Paul’s life was inconsistent, but he consistently pursued one goal: to win people to Jesus. “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.” We learn in Acts that Paul participated in Jewish purification ceremonies, which he knew were not necessary for his own life, but he hoped would help build a bridge of ministry to the Jews.

Smith wrote “Paul sought to win people to Jesus Christ by being sensitive to their needs and identifying with them. We should try to reach people where they are today and expect to see changes later.” Paul never changed his message or doctrine in order to appeal to different groups he ministered to, but he did change his behavior and approach. “To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.” His eyes were always focused on the goal of bringing people to Jesus. His key was to attempt to live or behave in a way that his service and ministry would connect.

Clarke wrote “Let those who plead for the system of accommodation on the example of Paul, attend to the end he had in view, and the manner in which he pursued that end. It was not to get money, influence, or honor, but to save souls! It was not to get ease but to increase his labors. It was not to save his life, but rather that it should be a sacrifice for the good of immortal souls!” “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” Paul stayed the course of sharing the Good News of Jesus and threw all he had at people, but realized that he couldn’t save everyone. They have to be willing and ready to make faith their own!

1 Corinthians 6:16-20

In 1 Corinthians 6:16-20 Paul concludes his teaching in this chapter to the church at Corinth about sex. He calls it out clearly – sex is more than a physical act. When we have sex, we become one with that person. It is God’s design for sex – that it be an intimate event that brings two people together to become ‘one flesh’. So we can’t dismiss it as something we do that is disconnected from who we are as a spiritual being. That’s not how it works. “Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”

Paul warns us that the sexual activity we engage in impacts us. In the heat of lustful passion, spiritual things may seem far away. Yet, at the root of most lustful passion is the desire for love, acceptance, and adventure – all of which is far better, and more completely satisfied in our relationship with the Lord instead of with sexual immorality. We can never gain true love in the bedroom. But Jesus went to the cross as an act of true love and we have been offered the opportunity to become one in spirit with Him through grace and faith. It’s the most powerful relationship we can ever have. “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”

Paul’s advice? Run from sexual immorality. He doesn’t tell us to be brave and resist the lustful passion of sexual immorality, but to flee from its very presence. Many fall because they underestimate the power of the flesh, or think they will “test” themselves and see how much they can “take.” They have convinced themselves that they can always just walk away if things go too far. Joseph showed us how to flee – he ran from sin. Paul doesn’t tell us to flee from sex – after all it is a gift from God to mankind. It’s the immorality that we can fall into that we are to flee from. “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”

Paul ends with a principle and a command regarding sexual purity. We have to understand that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit – He dwells within us. Our bodies are not our own. They completely belong to God to use as He desires, not to fulfill our personal wishes. With God living within us, we have power over sin. The principle here is that the Holy Spirit is in us and will equip us to resist sexual temptation. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” The command is clear. We are to glorify God in our body. Harry Ironside wrote, “Glorify God in your body and the spiritual side will take care of itself.”

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