Vs. 2, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” One of the things we want to remember is that Paul is responding to a letter that was sent to him from the Corinthian church. This must have been one of the topics that was asked about. This collection of offering was for the church in Jerusalem. Question: Why? There was a greet need for many in Jerusalem were struggling financially and impoverished. Notice how already the first day of the week (Sunday) was the day that the early church was adopting for their times of worship. Paul then begins his conclusion and final thoughts to his letter (vs. 5-24). Eventually, Paul would get to visit Corinth again and we have another one of his letters (II Corinthians) that would follow. He also encourages them to welcome Timothy and informs them Apollos will come soon too (vs. 10-12). And lastly, we see the strong relationships that Paul was able to be blessed with in Corinth. There was a definite show of appreciation and gratitude for the fellow workers that help build the church! What a lesson for us today!
Regarding application…Saving & Giving. Referencing vs. 2 from above, the collection of money that was being saved for the Jerusalem church must have been an issue to some in Corinth. More than an application about giving is the fact that when you save and give with a right heart, there is something powerful in this. For many years, I had the opportunity with my youth group up in Oregon to sponsor a child through World Vision. Her name was Azbie and she was from Romania. For years, every week we saved and gave to this beautiful child! It was so wonderful to hear updates and see her grow up! There was a sense of community in our youth group as we gave this portion of money towards a purpose. When a church saves and gives each week for tithing and any additional offering, there is a sense of community and value in realizing that God is using us in a powerful way. So remember to give with a cheerful heart (II Corinthians 9:7)
Vs. 17, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” A grave danger was transpiring in the Corinthian church. This danger was the issue of not believing in the resurrection. The resurrection gives us the confidence that Jesus did in fact conquer death (vs. 1-11)! This young church should have known better the false teachings. It was important for Paul to remind them that there were plenty of those who had witnessed this resurrection (vs. 4-8). But they lived in Greek cultured that believed the body was just a temporary prison for the eternal soul. Remember also the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection as well. The second half of our chapter deals with understanding the type of resurrected body we will have (vs. 35-58). Paul expounds on some illustrations of a seed that grows into a plant (vs. 36-38). He also compares Adam (natural body) with Jesus (spiritual body) (vs. 44-49). In the end, we have hope that our frail physical bodies will have quite the upgrade that comes from the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Regarding application…Choose Friends Wisely. Vs. 33, “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” It’s interesting because Paul is quoting a well-known Greek poet named Menander. The Corinthians would have been familiar with this quote. Their issue was that they were allowing themselves to be aligned with people who had false intentions. It wasn’t that they didn’t know the truth; they were just allowing the false teachings of others to influence them and question their faith. We also would be foolish (vs. 34) to think that we are not influenced in such a way today. In both the church and our interactions with the world, we would be wise to choose wisely our friends. Sadly, there are those in the church with their own agenda’s and wayward beliefs. And there are those in this world that do not have any intention to have your best interest in mind. I’m not advocating to stop having non-Christian friends or reaching out to those who are misled in the church, but I am reminding you to make your best friends those who are believers and can encourage you in your walk with the Lord!
Vs. 5, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.” Question: Why was Paul putting such an emphasis on this topic of tongues? Because the Corinthian church was elevating the gift of tongues. They were speaking in tongues publicly and without an interpretation (vs. 5, 13). If a church body is unable to know what a person is saying, then there is no edification happening (vs. 5, 17). Paul doesn’t pull any punches when he tells them they are acting childishly (vs. 20). He then quotes the prophet Isaiah to illustrate the purpose of tongues. Isaiah prophesied that Israel would hear God’s message by different tongues, but they would not believe. Tongues then are a sign. Question: A sign to who? A sign to the unbelieving Jews. Back in Isaiah’s time, the northern nation of Israel had already been taken captive by the Assyrians who spoke a different tongue. Isaiah proceeded to warn the southern nation Judah of similar fate by the Babylonians (another foreign tongue). Now, at Pentecost in Acts 2, the Jews from all over other regions came literally speaking different tongues (languages and dialects) then the Jews who resided in Jerusalem. Consequently, this speaking in tongues cut at the heart of unbelievers and many at Pentecost came to salvation. Of course, there are those that interpret this reference to tongues as some unknown utterance (vs. 2). I have known and respected believers who side on these two major different interpretations. And in the last half of our chapter, Paul devotes this section to address orderly worship (vs. 26-40) in the Corinthian church. I state “Corinthian” church specifically, because in this passage lies a controversial statement about women being silent in the church (vs. 34-35). As one of my seminarian professor’s stated, “the few unclear passages often are made clear by the plethora of clear passages.” So in other words, this reference was a very specific issue addressed to the women due to some cultural aspect we are not privy of understanding.
Regarding application…Building the Church. Vs. 12, “So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.” Question: Who doesn’t want gifts from God? Any person who wants to follow the Lord should desire gifts that can help them not only in their life, but in the life of others. The Corinthian’s to their credit were eager for gifts, but the mistake was that they were selfish in the process. Each gift played its important part in the body of the church. We are to excel in gifts that edify each other. Question: Who are we to dictate, demand or even pray for any specific gift? My personal thought is that God in His infinite wisdom gives us gift(s) when He needs us to use them. We are to be agents that use them wisely for the time we have. It’s a bit insulting to think that God has given you this gift of encouragement, but you look over at your brother who has the gift of preaching and sulk about it. Let us be people who wisely and with love desire that God would give us the greater gifts that help build His church!
Vs. 13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Throughout the ages, we have tried to figure out what love is. Yet we are given a beautiful description and reminder that it is love that is the greatest of the things we should seek. In context to what the Corinthians were doing, they were elevating the spiritual gifts so much that they had forgotten the most important thing. Paul used some of the gifts specifically (tongues, prophecy) and actions of faith and generosity as nothing if they did not put love into the equation. The love that is used specifically in this chapter is the Greek word: ἀγάπη (agapē), some of you may be familiar with the two other Greek words, “eros and phileo”. The agape word refers to the Father’s unconditional love towards the Son and us. In the last part of our chapter (vs. 8-13), Paul compares “love” as a permanent thing that never ceases to be needed like the spirituals gifts. Of course, there are two major thoughts regarding the ceasing of certain spiritual gifts (tongues), however, we should not allow these types of things to separate the church, for that is the very reason Paul spent this whole section on love!
Regarding application…What is love? Vs. 4-8a, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” This world loves to try to define what love is and isn’t. We must be careful as a Christian community of believers not to fall into a misguided interpretation of this love we are reminded of today. Love is more than a feeling or a romantic relationship. We are reminded in I John 4:16 that is God is love. As Valentines Day is approaching, let’s remember the true meaning of what love is! God is love (I John 4:8)!
Vs. 12, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” In the context of Paul addressing the Corinthians on inappropriate abuse of the Lord’s Supper, he now transits into addressing additional abuses. Our chapter today deals with expressing the need for all the gifts rather than putting certain ones on a pedestal. The Corinthians prided themselves on their knowledge (I Corinthians 8) and now they think they got it figured out with spiritual gifts. Their previous experiences in pagan idolatry heavily influenced how they elevated the gifts within the church (vs. 1-3). Paul wanted to stress how important each gift was within the church and the source of who provided it (vs. 4-6). Paul list of spiritual gifts (vs. 7-11) are no exhaustive by any means, but provided examples for the Corinthians. When you include the passage in Ephesians 4:11 and Romans 12:6-8, we have 19 specific spiritual gifts. Certainly, God can give any of His believer’s spiritual gifts that encompass more than Paul’s list. Every believer has at least one gift that God has given him/her. Paul goes on to share the metaphor of the human body to show the diversity of God’s dispersion of gifts within the church (vs. 12-31).
Regarding application…God’s Prerogative. Vs. 11, “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” The important phrase in our application is “he determines.” It is God’s prerogative whether or not He grants us any particular gift(s). While we may have inclinations towards certain gifts, only He can be the source of that. While I don’t see anything inherently wrong with praying for certain gifts, we must remember that it is not up to us. I’ve experienced first-hand Pastor’s proclaim if we ask Jesus, He will give it to us in the context of spiritual gifts. What incredible folly! Asking is fine, but we must be obedient to how God wants to disperse His gifts within the church. We all can’t be a bicep muscle or hand, we must be content with how “he determines.” As we go forth this new week, I pray we would consider using the gift(s) God has given us to bless others!
Vs. 11, “In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.” This is a very important reminder for all of us as Paul addresses an issue specific to the cultural context of his time (vs. 1-16). It’s important to note that the culture of God’s people in the Old Testament and the church at Paul’s time was probably the most progressive groups of people in its time. It didn’t matter whether you were male/female or Jew/Gentile, you had a place in the church! I’ll mention that there are legitimate interpretations of the woman’s role in the church regarding both sides (egalitarian and complimentarian). The issue here was that the Corinthians had begun to exercise their freedoms without wisdom. As believers, we have a responsibility to not be a stumbling block to others. Let me share a quick example, I live in southern California. Let’s say my church congregation members decide to start wearing very skimpy clothes on Sunday (both guys and girls) during the summer. Even in our culture, it would not be acceptable for ladies or guys to be wearing swimwear for Sunday service. In the latter half of our chapter (vs. 17-34), Paul has to admonish them in their abuse of the Lord’s Supper. It was customary for the Corinthian believers to meet together and eat. It originally began with good intentions, but the rich believers would separate themselves from the poor. This is expected from the world, but not in the church! Paul took the time to remind them of the meaning and gravity of recognizing the Lord’s Supper.
Regarding application…Right Attitude. Vs. 28, “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.” Paul’s love for the Corinthians compelled him to not shy back from addressing this hot topic. Even today, The Lord’s Supper is one of those traditions that can become misunderstood over the years. There is a danger to do it mindlessly and without thought. But, if we examine our hearts and begin to grasp what Jesus did for us, it can be quite inspiring! The Lord’s Supper reminds us of our unworthiness and His worthiness. The love and grace bestowed upon us should be the driving force for us to love others.
Vs. 11, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” Paul takes time to have all of them reflect upon some of the failures (golden calf, sexual immorality with Moabite women, Israelites complaining, Korah’s rebellion) of the Israelites in the wilderness (vs. 1-13). This was an apt reminder for the Corinthians who became quite comfortable with their current circumstances. Like the Israelites, the church in Corinth had been richly blessed, but blessings do not guarantee success. Paul wraps up these temptations with an amazing promise that we can overcome temptation (vs. 13) through the Lord! I Corinthians 10:13 is a wonderful passage to meditate and memorize! Paul again addresses the topic of eating meat from idolatry (vs. 14-22). There is one strict stipulation; the Corinthian believers should never eat and participate in pagan worship services. Though the meat is not evil, the context of what they are worshipping is. In the end, all believers have the freedom to eat the meat sacrificed to idols and the sold in the market (vs. 23-33). Despite our freedom, we must exercise wisdom and love when we are in the midst of “weaker” believers.
Regarding application…Choose Wisely. Vs. 21, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.” Participating in pagan idolatry worship is probably a foreign thing for us today. However, we must bear in mind that we have our own idols we turn to. The church is not immune to such things. Whether it is the style of preaching (health and wealth), the focus on charismatic gifts (which Paul will soon address), the elevating of a particular church program, and putting leaders on pedestals (I Corinthians 1), we all have to choose wisely what we focus on. And I didn’t even take the time to mention all the secular vices. Brothers and sisters, let us choose wisely as individuals as well as a local church to abstain from making choices that can arouse God’s jealousy (vs. 22).
Vs. 12, “If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.” Paul now shares a personal illustration in light of the context regarding personal liberty as a Christian. Question: What is going on here? The Corinthians have now come to a point where they are questioning Paul. Question: Why? Because Paul is not being financially supported by them. Paul’s tent making skills enabled him to work without receiving support. While this was wonderful thing, the Corinthian believer’s began to question Paul’s apostolic authority because he was doing ministry pro bono. Paul makes it quite clear that those in ministry should be financially supported (vs. 3-14). In the case of the Corinthians, Paul’s wisdom led him to understanding that they might be more hindered if Paul accepted financial support (vs. 15-18). Bear in mind, Paul did accept financial support from other churches (i.e. the church at Philippi). Paul’s heart was to help all the people both Jew and Gentile to understand clearly who Jesus was (vs. 19-23). And lastly, Paul uses the Greek Olympic games (What timing!) as an example of desiring to win not for his glory but for the Lord!
Regarding application…Olympic Glory! Vs. 24, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” How ironic that the Apostle Paul is referring to the Greek Olympics’ and today began the first Winter Sochi Olympic events. An athlete’s life is all about discipline: what they eat and how much they exercise. Paul uses this imagery to illustrate how he exercised discipline in light of the freedoms he otherwise could have utilized. The metaphor for running and winning the race is not out of personal glory, but for brining glory to the Lord! How we live this life and share Christ will help others come to know Him. Paul was a herald of his day and encourages us to do likewise. Think about it, the privilege to participate in the Olympics is given to few. Likewise, the privilege to run the race for Christ is given to few as well (Though it is offered to many). Let’s win!
Vs. 4, “So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.” Paul now addresses an interesting topic that became somewhat of a controversy; eating sacrificed to idols. The Corinthians prided themselves on knowledge (vs. 1-3), but the more important factor is the love of God in our lives. Because of the many pagan temples that sacrificed animals, meat sold in temples at a discount was readily available. Question: Should the Corinthians buy meat from pagan idolatrous temples (vs. 4-8)? Paul reminds them that there is only one true God. Though this was an obvious truth to the believer who had ample knowledge, this was not easy for the younger believer. For many who perhaps worshipped at such temples, this was diametrically wrong to their newfound faith. Though we have certain freedoms gained with biblical knowledge, that does not give us a right to practice that freedom in all situations.
Regarding application…Be Unselfish. Vs. 9, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” We do not have the problem of eating food sacrificed to idols, but we have many equivalents for today. Why should we be unselfish? For starters, it’s not about me, myself or I. Second, by being unselfish towards younger believers, we are loving like Christ. Third, we are not inadvertently tying a millstone around our own neck (Mark 9:42). While there are going to be believers who just need to get over it, there are others who are genuinely going to be stumbled. Gray areas in the Christian walk are still controversial: alcohol, drug dependency, secular music, etc. Let us exercise both wisdom and humility when it comes to such things.
Vs. 9, “But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” In our previous chapter, we were reminded of the dangers of sexual immorality. Paul now confronts the differing views of marriage and sex within marriage. Because of the rampant sexual immorality, there were some that went to the extreme of promoting celibacy as the only way to respond (vs. 1-9). Though Paul felt celibacy was a better way, he did not go to such extreme. He understood that God created many be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 9:7). Because of the sexual immorality, it was important for married couples to not deprive each other, lest they be tempted to access the readily available prostitution. Paul also had to address the issue that some were advocating divorce (vs. 10-16). Christianity was still very new to the Corinthians; they do not grow up being believers. Most married their spouses before the Gospel came to Corinth. Question: What should a converted believer do when they had a spouse who did not believe? They should not divorce, unless the unbelieving partner wants nothing to do with the marriage to their newly believing spouse. There are many couples who can find themselves in the same situation today as they might have been married before they believed or made a commitment wholly to the Lord. In next section (vs. 17-24), Paul admonishes believers through other examples (circumcision and slaves) to remain satisfied in where they are at when they became believers. Of course, if they were offered freedom from slavery they should take it (vs. 21). Just remember slavery then was not the way it was in the United States in the 19th Century. Paul closes out the chapter addressing marriage again but with the emphasis on those who have not yet married (vs. 25-40). There are blessings in marriage, but also hardship.
Regarding application…Pressure to Marry. Vs. 7, “I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” It’s important to note that both marriage and celibacy are gifts from God. We still live in an era where we just assume something is wrong with someone because they are not married yet. This is wrong. While there are advantages to being married, there are also many advantages to being single (vs. 32-35). If the temptation for sexual immorality is too high, than it might be good to marry (vs. 9). But, all temptations can be overcome (I Corinthians 10:13). It is not temptation, but giving into temptation that is a sin. As a young adult Pastor, I see the pressure for the church members of the ministry to struggle with being single. I remember all too well my own pressure from others and even myself. In the end, we must pray for the Spirit of God to give us direction and peace in which direction each of us goes down (marriage or celibacy). Be content in whatever situation you are in!