1 Corinth. 16: “En Garde”

At the end of Pauls first letter to the church in Corinth is a power packed verse for living: 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NLT) 13 Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. 14 And do everything with love.

If we were to break this down, it would look like this:

  • Be on guard
  • Stand firm in the faith
  • Be courageous
  • Be strong
  • Do everything with love

Be On Guard

Growing up I always loved the story of the Three Musketeers. I think the coolest thing about the Musketeers is that they were incredible swordsmen. Now, if you grew up a boy, or grew up with a boy, or watched a boy growing up, you know that a boy can turn any item into a sword. In fact, no only can they turn any item into a sword, but they learn very quickly the famous start to any duel, “en garde” (on [your] guard in French).

En garde is a term that basically means, get ready cause I don’t want kill you unless you’re ready… or at least that’s what I thought. Truth be told it’s an ancient french term that is, “Used to warn a fencer to assume the defensive position of readiness for an attack.”

As Paul used it, “be on guard” literally translates “watch” or “be watchful.” What Paul was saying to the Corinthians and what he’s saying to you and me today is to be spiritually on guard against any and all spiritual attacks.

Stand Firm in the Faith

The other thing Paul communicates, is for the Corinthian Christians to hold tight and stand firm in their faith! Remember, Paul is writing to a church that was struggling with a ton of spiritual immaturity. There isn’t another church in the entire New Testament that gets more attention for being so messed up than the church in Corinth.

Like the church in Corinth, we too are bombarded by a society that if allowed will ethically and morally corrupt our character. The difference is, the Corinthian church was confused between the difference between what was happening in the church and what was happening in society. Paul was trying to motivate the church to remember the gospel he preached to them, and to not waiver in their commitment to living out that gospel, no matter what society threw at them.

Be Courageous and Strong

Although I put “be courageous” and “be strong” together, Paul breaks it down into two separate statements. “Be courageous” is literally translated in the Greek, “act like men.” God wants us, in the midst of being on guard and our commitment to stand firm in the the faith, to be strong, and act courageously as Christians.

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT) 6 So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

The principles up to this point to be on guard, to stand firm, and to be courageous, are all things Paul wants them to do, but to be strong is about what God does to them. The instruction from Paul here is to submit to God and be filled with His strengthening power. Only when we allow God to give us strength do we then have the ability to be on guard, stand firm, and be courageous.

Do Everything With Love

It’s no wonder Paul ends his power packed principles with, do everything with love, especially knowing Paul puts such a high price on love. This praise, “doing everything in love,” is the equivalent of saying we should be like Christ and reflect His love to the world around us. Christlikeness should be the foundations of everything we say and do. For the church in Corinth, doing everything in love meant no more feuds, no more showing-off spiritually, no more lawsuits between Christians, the elimination of pride and arrogance in the church’s leadership, no more gluttony and drunkenness during the fellowship meal–in short, applying this principle of love for Christ and love for each other meant helping to create a radically different church, sold out to Christ and untainted by the world.

 

1 Corinth. 15: “The Resurrected King is Resurrecting Me”

*Sorry for the technical difficulties. I didn’t realize the post didn’t come through

One of the songs we introduced for Easter at Trinity this year is off the new Elevation Worship album, “Here as in Heaven.” The whole song is amazing, but when I heard it for the first time I was blown away by the bridge of the song:

BRIDGE
By your spirit I will rise
From the ashes of defeat
The resurrected king
Is resurrecting me
In your name I come alive
To declare your victory
The resurrected king
Is resurrecting me

If you’ve ever hung around Trinity for any length of time, you’ll be challenged by the idea to live the resurrected life…NOW! We don’t need to wait to experience eternity! Eternity starts at the moment of salvation!

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is communicating one of the most central truths of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus. Every claim of Christianity has its roots in the resurrection. I love what theologian Dr. John Whale says:


“The Gospels don’t explain the Resurrection; the Resurrection explains the Gospels. Belief in the Resurrection is not an appendage to the Christian faith; it is the Christian faith.”


Paul knew the Corinthians were wavering due to other religious leaders around them making conflicting arguments.

Why is the Resurrection so Important?

Think about where the church would be without the Resurrection? I’ll make it easy for you, there wouldn’t be a church! Put yourself in the shoes of the disciples. Up until the point when Jesus died and was placed in an unused tomb, everything that was prophesied, and everything Jesus said would happened, happened; then there was Saturday. It’s no wonder the disciples were heading home. It’s no wonder why the ladies were heading to the tomb with spices. In both cases they were pretty certain that Jesus wasn’t going be Resurrected.

Here’s why the Resurrection is so important:

  1. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we know that the Kingdom of heaven has broken into earths story. The Resurrection shows that the world is now heading towards redemption; sin and death are defeated once and for all.
  2. Since death has been defeated we should have no fear of death, because we too will be raised with Christ.
  3. The apostles most important argument in the early church is that Jesus was raised from the dead.
  4. No matter what we experience in this world, the Resurrection gives us hope for the future.
  5. The Resurrections gives us the assurity that Jesus is alive and is interceding on our behalf to the Father.
  6. The same power that brought Jesus back from the dead is the same power available to us today.

Although within Christianity there are varying theologies, beliefs, lifestyles and even politics, the one constant and central belief is that Jesus Christ rose from the dead!

Jesus confirms what he said about himself in John 11:25, “I am the Resurrection and the Life”

1 Corinth. 14: “Works vs. Fruit of the Spirit”

Before we begin you have to know a little about me. I was born and raised embryonic Nazarene. I was born in June and was at camp meeting six weeks later! So if there’s one thing I know, it’s the Church of the Nazarene. With that being said, if there’s one thing I don’t know, it’s any other denominations other than Nazarene. I can remember getting into my first debate about eternal security with a Baptist friend my freshman year in college. I honestly had never heard the term “eternal security” until I went to college.

Here’s another thing you need to know, up until 1917 the Church of the Nazarene was actually called The Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene, so the topic of speaking in tongues isn’t as foreign to our tribe as we may think.

I’ve heard many people tell me stories about their experience with speaking in tongues. A friend of mine was in a prayer circle praying when afterwards was shocked to hear from another person in the circle that one of the girls was speaking in tongues. When my friend asked the other people in the group what they heard they said the same thing. The strange thing was, my friend, who was Nazarene by the way, could tell you everything this girl prayed for that night.

Jim Cymbala tells a story of when he was a teenager growing up in the church. He shared the disheartening reality regarding the pressure to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He tried and tried, but never seemed to get to the point of being able to publicly speak in tongues. He recalled one day feeling as if he was supposed to share, but didn’t know if someone else in the congregation was being led to interpret. Suddenly a man a couple of seats down from him leaned forward, looked him the eye and said, “young man, you better share what the Holy Sprit put on your heart.” Jim looked back and asked, “how do you know I’m supposed to share something,” to which the man replied, “because the Lord told me what to interpret for you.”

On the other side of these stories are the stories of friends of mine who grew up in Pentecostal churches and felt forced to do something they didn’t believe in their heart. They felt further from God rather then closer because of the pressure to speak in tongues.

Now hear me, it would be foolish for anyone to say they don’t believe in speaking in tongues. They may not believe in the practice of speaking in tongues, but speaking in tongues is a spiritual gift and there is evidence of this gift found in scripture.

I’ve been asked a couple of times what I would do as a pastor if someone in the congregation stood up to speak in tongues. I would exhibit 1 Corinthians 14:27 (NLT) 27 No more than two or three should speak in tongues. They must speak one at a time, and someone must interpret what they say. 28 But if no one is present who can interpret, they must be silent in your church meeting and speak in tongues to God privately.

Our God is not a God of confusion and as Paul indicated to the church in Corinth, don’t let speaking in tongues hinder the people around you. It’s the very reason why the Church of the Nazarene moved away from the Pentecostal side of the church. We still believe there should be evidence to the baptism of the Holy Spirit in our lives, but instead of the evidence being through the “works” of the Spirit, we believe it should be evident through the “fruits” of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

 

 

1 Corinth. 13: “Wuv, Twue Wuv…”

“Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… And wuv, twue wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv.”

The famous quote from the cult classic “The Princess Bride.” There’s one thing powerfully true about the wedding scene in The Princess Bride… you can never un-see it!

Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians is probably thee most famous location for gleaning understanding about love. Paul goes on a tangent about what love is, and what love is not. However, when you step back and look at this chapter, you can’t help but look at the placement of this chapter in light of the whole letter. Obviously when Paul wrote this letter he didn’t include Chapters and verses, but we can’t un-see that either.

Instead, if you look, you see that in Chapter 12 Paul is talking about the utilization of spiritual gifts and the the Corinthians lack of love. Here in 13 Paul makes the strong point for the purpose of love in both the individual and the faith community. In Chapter 14 Paul will instruct the church on how love works. So wedged right in the middle is Pauls magnum opus on love.

Crazy Love

As we talked yesterday about the church being in “harmony,” Paul kicks off Chapter 13 with this verse, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” He continues, “If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”

I love the organization of Paul’s thoughts and his systematic approach to communicating what love is, and is not…

  • Love is patient
  • Love is kind.
  • Love is not jealous
  • Love is not boastful
  • Love is not proud
  • Love is not rude
  • Love does not demand its own way
  • Love is not irritable
  • Love keeps no record of being wronged
  • Love does not rejoice about injustice
  • Love rejoices whenever the truth wins out
  • Love never gives up
  • Love never loses faith
  • Love is always hopeful
  • Love endures through every circumstance

Francis Chan in his book, “Crazy Love,” says, “I was challenged to do a little exercise with these verses, one that was profoundly convicting. Take the phrase Love is patient and substitute your name for the word love. (For me, “Francis is patient.…”) Do it for every phrase in the passage (p. 94).”

So it would look like this… (insert your name in the blank)

  •                        is patient
  •                        is kind
  •                        is not jealous
  •                        is not boastful
  •                        is not proud
  •                        is not rude
  •                        does not demand                      ‘s own way
  •                        is not irritable
  •                        keeps no record of being wronged
  •                        does not rejoice about injustice
  •                        rejoices whenever the truth wins out
  •                        never gives up
  •                        never loses faith
  •                        is always hopeful
  •                        endures through every circumstance

I’ll let this sink in for a few minutes…

How true is this of you? As I was thinking about this and doing this exercise for myself, I couldn’t help but think how much I need God to help me accomplish this in my life. The only way     Steve    is not jealous is with the help of God. The only way     Steve    never loses faith is with the help of God. Then I took it another step when I thought of the verse in 1 John 4:8 (NLT) 8 but anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. It doesn’t work for all, because we do know that God “is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14), but there are some major truths regarding God that I’ve missed before in this Chapter. Maybe while we’ve been so focused on this chapter being about relationships, we’ve missed God’s desire to communicate something amazing about Himself. I don’t desire to sound anthropomorphic (giving God human characteristics), but follow me a little on this.

  •        God        is patient
  •        God        is kind
  •        God        is not boastful
  •        God        is not proud
  •        God        is not rude
  •        God        is not irritable
  •        God        does not rejoice about injustice
  •        God        rejoices whenever the truth wins out
  •        God        never gives up (This is my favorite)
  •        God        never loses faith
  •        God        is always hopeful
  •        God        endures through every circumstance

I’ll let this sink in for a few minutes…

1 Corinth. 12: “Anatomy Shuffle”

Growing up in youth group we used to play a game called “Anatomy Shuffle.” The premise of the game was rather easy. Forming two circles and partnered with a teammate, a person would could call out two body parts and you had to be the first to put those two parts together.

Example: the leader would call out, “elboy to kneecap,” the two teammates would rush to find each other and get their two parts together to complete the challenge. Whoever was the slowest had to sit down. It always got interesting when you would yell out, “forehead to forehead.”

It’s a super fun game, but it also has a strong point. The point is, you need both parts to complete the challenge.Think of it this way, you can’t win the game alone. Even the most competitive, “I-can-do-anything-and-I-don’t-need-anyone-else-person,” can’t get their right elbow to their left ear.

The Behind the Scenes Folks

Paul desires for the Corinthian church to recognize how much they need each other. It’s not a coincidence that we just read about Paul’s disgust for the way the rich were treating the poor in Chapter 11, and now we’re reading words like, 22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.

Although Paul isn’t talking about the poor in verse 22, he is talking about a group of people who are at times equally marginalized in the church, the Behind the Sceners. Behind the Sceners may not be out front exercising their spiritual gifts, but it doesn’t make them any less important to the Body of Christ, the church. Speaking as a Pastor: We need our behind the scenes people! In fact, the church wouldn’t thrive without people who God has spiritually gifted to work in the background. I would agree wholeheartedly with Paul that these folks are actually the most necessary. 

Paul really stresses the importance that each person has in the body of Christ, and that we truly need each other. Think of the church like a band, better yet, a choir. The choir analogy fits better with Paul’s language in verse 25 (NLT) 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.

Harmony

Growing up and into college I’ve had the distinct privilege of singing in some incredible choirs and ensembles. I was even blessed my freshman year at ENC to sing at Jordan Hall with players from the famed New England Conservatory of Music. If there’s one thing I love about a choir its the complex harmonies and sounds a mass choir can make. There were many times while singing I would be amazed at what we were able to do. I can still remember all the words and tenor part to “My Times Are In Your Hands,” and “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.”

Truth is, it would sound a little funny if I was to sing just the tenor part without the other parts. It’s kind of funny, but I have a really hard time singing melody! I’ve been singing harmony for so much of my life I can’t hear the melody in some songs. But without a person singing the melody, the harmony sounds silly …And so it is with the church.

If the church was comprised of all tenors it would be, well… awesome, but that’s not my point. My point is, if in the choir of life you’re a Soprano, than carry the melody! If in the choir of life you’re a Bass, hold us firmly to the foundation of the song around us. You know the Alto’s in your church, they’re the serious ones who like to get the job done!

But just like a band, or a choir, when you spend enough time together, and travel together, you become family. Paul’s talking to a church here that is becoming a family. He’s wants them to see the unity in their diversity. He wants them to recognize that each one of them, like each one of you, has a special role in the life of the church.

1 Corinthians 12:26-27 (NLT) 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.

 

1 Corinth. 11: “Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself”

I’ve never shared this story with anyone… so of course, this is a perfect time. Growing up my church had Communion based on the church calendar. Which meant there were sometimes weeks, even months between the celebration of Communion. Every once in a while we would walk into church to see the Communion trays up front covered by a white veil. In my young little mind I always thought, sweet, snacks!

[SIDE NOTE] Do you know how the tradition got started about covering Communion? Cause think about it, did Jesus cover the bread and cup? No. Many people believe it was a symbol of Christ’s time in the tomb. That’s cute, but not true. It may have morphed into that meaning, which is really good, but the early church covered the trays because they were trying to keep the birds from pooping on the elements. True story!

Getting Full on Communion

I was a church rat who had too much time to run around and get into trouble. While my parents were in choir practice, I was with my friends finding new places to explore in the church, including looking through the cabinets in the kitchen. Among other things, we used to grab a handful of creamer from the refrigerator and suck the cream out by biting into the lid. Again, true story.

One day we were snooping around when we found packages of flat, round, packing peanuts. We new they weren’t packing peanuts, but they tasted like it for sure. Not knowing any better we began to dare each other to eat as many as we could at one time. I think my friend (who will go nameless for their protection) got up to 11. The problem wasn’t eating them, it was trying not choke on the paste it created in your mouth. I’m not sure what caulk tastes like, but I think I found a close second.

Obviously I wish I knew then, what I know now. For me, there’s nothing more beautiful than celebrating the Eucharist once a month with my church family. The sacred symbol of Christ body and blood is something I respect greatly. I desire to teach the church the power of coming to the Lord’s Table and what it means not only to us individually, but corporately as well. The corporate celebration of Communion is as equally important to the church body, as it is to the individual body.

Love Feast

Paul found himself seething mad when he heard what the Corinthian church was doing when they partook in the Lord’s Supper. Due to the dynamics in the church, Paul heard that there was a division between the rich and the poor in the church. Apparently the rich were not accommodating the poor during both the fellowship meal (a.k.a. “love feast,” not what you think) or Communion.

At the Love Feast each person would bring food to share, since the rich brought more food they felt they had more right to the food for themselves. They lacked two important things: 1. Sharing, and 2. Caring.  Because the rich typically hosted these meals, which ended with Communion, they would choose for themselves who would eat in the dining area, and who would be relegated to the courtyard or atrium. Where a person ate became a distinction of class. This led Paul to make the distinction that yes, they were eating, but it surly wasn’t the Lords Supper (v. 20-21).

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Paul recognized that he needed to do more teaching in this area. Not only does his letter include instructions on how to administer the elements (vs. 23-26), but it also includes a warning the you need to check your heart before participating (vs. 27-32). It’s important to understand that no one comes to the table “worthy,” but because of God’s grace, freedom is extended for those who believe. The very nature of Communion calls for a time of introspection and examination of ourselves. If we don’t take serious the call to examine ourselves with a humble and repentant heart, we too could be found guilty of participating “in an unworthy manner.”

Basically, to quote my dawg Ice Cube, “You better check yourself before you wreck yourself.”

 

1 Corinth. 10: “Malarkey!”

You may have grown up calling it “Liar,” or “Bible Study,” “I Don’t Think So,” or even “Bluff,” but my favorite name for the infamous bluffing card game is, “Malarkey!”

Remember how to play? When you think you caught someone stretching the truth during their turn, you would yell out, “Malarkey!” or whatever word you used to describe the game. This may seem like a stretch, but there’s a couple of things going on in Chapter 10 that people have misconstrued, to which we need to respond gracefully, “Malarkey.”

Misconception #1: “God will never give us more than we can bear.”

People are surprised to find that at no time in the movie Casablanca does Rick ever say, “Play it again, Sam.” People are also surprised to know that in all the Star Trek episodes and movies, the line, “Beam me up Scotty,” is never said. The closest to this line is said by Captain Kirk in Stark Trek IV: The Journey Home, which is, “Scotty, beam me up.” I digress.

I know I’ve said it before myself but the phrase, God will never give us more than we can bear is Malarkey! As a pastor, let me coach you when you’re working with people who have experienced something devastating in their life, please don’t say, “God will never give you more than you can bear.” First of all, it’s not found anywhere in scripture. In fact, I can point to you scripture after scripture that would support the very opposite of that statement. Even Paul recognizes his own limitations in 2 Corinthians 1:8 (NLT) We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die.

I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like Paul reached the end of himself. Now, some will argue that because he did survive then God didn’t push Paul to his end. Again… Malarkey. Just look at Paul’s next statement. 9BUT as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. Not in every situation, but in some situations God is calling us to stop relying on ourselves and learn to rely only on Him. [Another Coaching Tip] It doesn’t help for you to determine for someone else what God is doing through their situation, it’s not fare, and can be really damaging. That’s between them and God to work out, instead, simply admit, “you don’t know,” but that you’ll seek God together.

The reason I mention all this is because its 1 Corinthians 10:13 that people misquote:13 And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. Let’s talk about this for a minute.

Temptation

Here’s the whole verse in context: 1 Corinthians 10:12-14 (NLT)

There’s a couple of things Paul’s saying here, for time sake, here are the highlights:

  • Temptation happens to everyone, regardless of spiritual status
  • God will not allow you to be tempted too far
  • Others have resisted and so can you
  • ANY temptation can be resisted with the Lords help
  • God ALWAYS and FAITHFULLY give you a way out.
  • Recognize the temptation… then RUN!

The Corinthians temptation was palpable. As you’ve heard me mention before the Corinthians were tempted on every side in every way possible. Paul mentions this teaching on temptation so the Corinthian Christian would learn to flee from the worship of idols.

 

I wish I had more time, but it’s important to remember that God is NEVER the one who temps us, as we read in James 1:13.

Misconception #2: “Paul said, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.”

We tend to have heard that Paul gave permission for the Christians to experience anything and everything they wanted, but then warns them that not everything is beneficial. Malarkey! Paul never said “Everything is permissible,” instead it was the people in Corinth that were making this claim. As we already discovered in Chapter 6, Paul says, “YOU SAY… I can do anything (NLT). He’s says it again here in Chapter 10 to make the point that your spiritual freedom can cost others around you.

Conclusion

Clearing up these misconceptions are important to fully understand the power and context of the scripture. In the end, Paul’s ultimate point is to put others before himself. Verse 33 is a great place to wrap up this morning: 33 I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.

1 Corinth. 9: “Share In Their Weakness”

As we were challenged at the end of chapter 8, let me challenge you again with this question: What are you willing to give up in order for a weaker believer not to stumble? Well, what follows in this chapter is Paul’s defense of his apostleship and ability to choose: what, when, where, and how much he could, if we wanted, to give up for a weaker believer.

Although most writings on Chapter 9 immediately gravitate to the end of the chapter (Running to Win), I was more challenged by Paul’s incarnational approach to ministry in verses 19-23. What’s really impressive about Paul’s writing in Chapter 9 is his ability to teach some fundamental practices of believers when reaching out to non-believers.

Starting in verse 19 we see how Paul adapted to the culture around him; but what’s most important, and the intention of this reflection, is that although Paul became, “all things to all people that he might win some,” he never compromised his integrity or the doctrine of scripture.

Even when Paul…

  • Was free: He became a slave
  • Wasn’t under the law (Jewish), he lived as one under the law
  • Lived with the Gentiles, he didn’t follow the Jewish law. (He didn’t ignore the law of God, but obeyed the law of Christ)
  • Was with “weak” people, he shared in their weakness

Cultural Adaptability

At the heart of missiology is the understanding that in order to effectively communicate cross-culturally, you need to understand and “exegete” your culture. Paul was willing to accommodate and adjust to different settings. As mentioned in detail above, Paul was a cultural chameleon even down to his diet. When he was with Jews, he ate kosher food; with Gentiles, he ate regular food (even to the point that he asked God to protect his conscience). In some places, like Philippi, Paul accepted support from the church, but as we’ve already read, Paul didn’t accept any support from the church in Corinth. The greater question isn’t “how” Paul did this, but “why” Paul did this. Paul wanted all people from every culture and background to experience the power of the gospel.

Weaker Believers

At first glance we may be compelled to consider a “weaker believer” to be a person of less strength or even poverty, but as Paul points out, “weaker” doesn’t have anything to do with stature, but instead points to persons conscience. As Paul already discussed in Chapter 8, even though a person is “free in Christ,” we should still consider giving up certain freedoms for another believer. Here we see Paul not just saying in Chapter 8, but backing it up in Chapter 9. As it reads in verse 22 (NLT) 22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. 

This is the verse that really struck me. I love the language in the NLT that Paul “shared their weakness.” His intention was always to bring anyone and everyone to Christ. Remember as you read here, the “weak” were already believers. He wasn’t trying to convert them, but instead was coming along side these new believers to nurture their relationship with the Risen Lord. He wanted them to to have a deeper knowledge and understanding of their freedom in Christ. So in order to do this well, Paul entered into their weakness. This truly is shades of Jesus’ incarnational relationship with humanity!

Questions To Consider Today?

The question not only for Paul, but for you and me, is this: What liberties are you willing to give up in order for people to grow in their relationship to Christ? How incarnational are you willing to get so people will draw closer to God?

 

1 Corinth. 8: “I’m Never Eating a Cheeseburger Again!”

The other day a friend of mine came to me with a huge dilemma. Before I share with you my friends dilemma you need to know something about them, they’re a glutton. Like a full fledged, “I worship food more than God,” type of glutton.

So it became a dilemma when I asked him to meet me at one of my favorite places of gluttony, Five Guys! He felt bad asking if we could change the location, but he knew if he went he would be sinning directly against God. So I told him, “Friend (to protect their identity) I will never eat a cheeseburger again as long as I live! I don’t want to ever cause you to stumble. So instead we met at Panera Bread.

It sounds silly, and I know you’re probably laughing wondering if this story is true, but I want to ask you, does it matter? From the story, place yourself in my shoes. What would you do if a friend contacted you and was open and honest that they couldn’t meet you due to something that caused them to sin? Unless you left your heart at the door, you probably would be accommodating and ensure your friend it wasn’t a big deal, even though you know a cheeseburger won’t send you to hell… or will it?

Ask yourself, is it sinful to eat a cheeseburger? No. But would it have been sinful if I ate it in front of my friend who was struggling like the Hamburglar with the keys to McDonalds? Yes! This is the fact that we miss so often when we debate on topics related to consumption.


1 Corinthians 8:10 (NLT) 10 For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol?


It wouldn’t have been uncommon for people to be found at a temple eating to celebrate a social or cultural event. Paul knows that the food in those temples, which would be sacrificed to the idol of the temple, didn’t have any power or value. Aphrodite’s food was just food, but that same food eaten in Aphrodite’s Temple was something completely different. Paul was warning those with “superior knowledge” (basically believers who understood there was only one true God) that eating in a location known for worship of another idol may lead weaker believers to think that’s okay. Paul says, that’s not okay.

A person of weaker conscience is more likely to sin because of the actions of the believer. It’s the same message Paul wrote in Romans 14:23 (NLT) 23 But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning. Doesn’t this change the very definition of sin for us?


1 Corinthians 8:12 (NLT) 12 And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. 13 So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.


Everything we read today is addressed to the more mature believers of the church. So if that’s you today, let me ask you, what are you willing to give up in order to support your weaker brothers and sisters in Christ? The reality is, stronger more mature believers can and should give up some of their spiritual freedom for the benefit of those around them. Paul said he was willing to give up meat if it meant it wouldn’t cause another believer to stumble. What are you willing to give up?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Corinth. 7: “Single vs. Married”

Dr. John Murray

Dr. John Murray was once a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and c0-founder of Westminster Theological Seminary. Murray served on the faculty there for many decades as Professor of Theology, writing many excellent books that have served the church well for decades. A life-long bachelor, he finally retired at age 75, moved back to his homeland of Scotland. Upon his arrival back in Scotland, Murray married a woman about half his age. Less than two years later they had a child (it’s a real Abraham and Sarah story). It may have been he felt that he had given God the best 75 years of his life; now it was time to have a little fun. Unfortunately, his heart couldn’t take all that excitement, and a few years later he died.

According to Paul’s philosophy of marriage, Paul would indicate that Dr. Murray lived for 75 years with less distraction in his life. Of course we don’t know if Murray struggled with lust, prostitution, or carousing of the sort, but all indications point to Murray being a man of God who served him well in academia.

Considering the example of human sexuality in Corinth was so perverse, it was critically important that Paul help define a healthy definition of marriage for the Corinthian believers. You have to keep in consideration when reading this section that these new believers in Christ would quickly be swimming against the current of cultural immorality. But just as the pendulum often does, there were some Greeks who were ready to reject sex and marriage all together in the name of higher morality.


1 Corinthians 7:32-34 (NLT) 32 I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. 33 But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. 34 His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband.


These verses in many ways serve as a synopsis of the major point Paul is trying to make through the entire chapter. It’s interesting to read how Paul goes back and forth on the issue of being single verses being married. While Paul is typically not fearful of mincing words, you can see him doing more of a little political dance throughout this chapter. Right from the beginning of the chapter, we learn Paul is responding to a question that’s been raised in a previous letter to Paul (7:1).

Free From the Concerns of This Life

The summary statement for the whole chapter is found here in verse 32 (NLT) 32 I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. If you walk away from the reading today with anything, let it be to allow this statement to cause refection in your own life. Paul understood that the less distractions we have in life, the more focused we can be on God. What are the things in this life that are distracting your attention from the next?

Although Paul didn’t condemn a Christian for marrying, he did point out the benefits of being single. He continues in verse 32 (NLT) An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him.

But not only does Paul advocate for being single, but he also makes a very strong statement regarding the priorities of those who are married. To summarize verses 33-34, a married man and woman’s interest should be divided between their earthly responsibilities and pleasing their spouse. While Paul is advocating primarily for single living, he’s also helping to teach the necessity for every married person to be concerned about their spouse.