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 a 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 that were affecting their incorrect doctrine. It was important for Paul to remind them that there were plenty of those who had witnessed this resurrection (vs. 4-8). There was also the Greek influence 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 fools (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, though they call themselves your friend. I’m not advocating not 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 making such an emphasis on this topic of tongues? Because the Corinthians were elevating the gift of tongues to a very unhealthy way. 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 childish (vs. 20). He then quotes the prophet Isaiah to illustrate the purpose of tongues. Isaiah prophecied 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. Some believe that these sign gifts have ceased in today’s time (I Cor. 13). But no matter how we interpret, the bottom line is, Paul is trying to remind the Corinthians Christians to have a far bigger appreciation for the gift of words that can be understood (prophecy)! Prophecy here in the New Testament refers more to the spoken word like encouragement, preaching, teaching, although future prophecy can also exist. I will say, I’ve seen a few state they have the future prophecy gift, but none of those prophecies have come true (Jeremiah 28:9). 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 professors state, 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 Corinthians to their credit were eager for gifts, but the mistake was that they were selfish in the process. Each gift played it’s 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, “4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 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 Mother’s Day is tomorrow, I can’t think of better example of the type of love that is demonstrated through the love of a mother. Let this chapter be a catalyst to demonstrate what God’s love is this weekend, especially to your mothers!
Vs. 1, “Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.” Remember, Paul is addressing issues of the way the Corinthians were approaching worship. Over the next three chapters (12-14), we will see Paul expound upon how the gifts of the Spirit should be exercised in the church. It’s important to mention a couple of facts: The Corinthian in church was still very young and the influence of the Greek & Roman religions still weighed heavily upon the congregation (vs. 2-3). The church is a living organism and more importantly the body of Christ. It is a sad state when we allow gifts to divide rather than unify. The enemy does what he can to confuse our understanding of gifts and the importance of diversity. Paul makes it clear that everyone who is a Christian is given a gift (vs. 7). Our chapter today is not an exhaustive list and Paul does have a couple of other lists in his letters (Romans 12:3-8 & Ephesians 4:7-11). The issue here is that some were coveting some gifts above others. But each gift we have comes from the same Spirit (vs. 13). Paul uses the second half of our chapter sharing with us how each gift is an important part of the body (vs. 12-31). I love how Paul reminds them that when one part of the body hurts, the whole body hurts with it (vs. 26) and vice versa.
Regarding application…You Belong. Vs. 27, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” We live in a world where we just want to feel like we belong. Not only can we belong, but we also can be part of putting the puzzle piece together! Each of us have something very valuable to offer. Question: How do I know my spiritual gift? I remember taking a “Spiritual Gifts” test to try to ascertain what gifts I might have. But I think there is a better way. You can begin to know and find encouragement in that gift(s) by starting to be a part of the church. And when I say, be a part of it, that means being in the community of believers: going to service, bible studies, prayer nights, serving, etc. The more you are plugged in the more you will begin to discover what God has gifted you in. You will begin to get affirmation from yourself and others through prayer and practical serving where your gift(s) lie. You belong. You are loved. Let us take hold of the spiritual gifts to help unify and bear witness to the gospel of our Lord Jesus!
Vs. 11, “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.” Paul now begins to address some issues that dealt specifically with worship in the Corinthian church. Worship is an amazing thing that should unite God’s people, but in the next few chapters, we will discover some things that were dividing. In the first half of our chapter, we see Paul deal with what has become quite a controversial passage (vs. 1-16). When we look at what was going on in a historical and cultural point of view, Paul is addressing the general customs of his day. Unfortunately, some have used this passage as a platform against the feminist movement. It was Jewish custom for women to cover their heads, but Corinth was filled with Gentiles and Greek culture. When the early church was meeting for worship, there was some controversy because some women were coming to worship with unveiled faces. Bear in mind, veiled faces were not to be condescending in the first place. Part of it was to help distinguish the men from the women. But this began to be a big issue. Looking at vs. 11 from above, we see Paul wants to make it very clear that there is no inferiority going on here. We are not bound by such a custom in our churches today. But there is a continued debate about the role of women in the church. I would like to point out vs. 5 as a very positive reference for a woman’s role in the church! Moving along to the second half of our chapter, we see Paul address some abuses in the Lord’s Supper (vs. 17-34). In the culture of Corinth, the Lord’s Supper would have looked much different than what most churches do today. They would literally share a meal in connection with remembering the Lord’s supper. It worked sort of like a potluck, they called it the Love Feast. Unfortunately, there were people that were segregating themselves from others and some even getting drunk (vs. 21)! Paul goes on to remind them why they did the Love Feast/Lord’s Supper in the first place (vs. 23-26).
Regarding application…Why Communion? Vs. 26, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” When I was younger in my Christian walk, communion was a pretty sober thing. In fact, I had little emotion that came out of me when I went through the motions. But, we not only remember the sacrifice of the body and blood that was shed, but we also remember the good things! Jesus will come again. Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. Communion is a proclamation of the gift of life by the cross. I have found that many churches go through the motions on Lord’s Supper. When we meet and remember Jesus, this should be something that we look forward to. I recall many emotional moments when I’ve had the privilege of remembering the Lord’s supper on special occasions (Passion week, retreats, etc.). We are absent-minded people, so let us come together in our churches and remember what Jesus did for us! And not forget that we are to share what he did for us to the world we live in!
Vs. 11, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.” Paul spends the first half our chapter reviewing to the Corinthians the past sins of the Israelites in the wilderness (vs. 1-13). Though many of the Christians were Gentile, it’s easy to assume they would have been quite aware of the Exodus story. He is building upon this whole issue of the Corinthians not living in a way that pleases God, just as those who lived in during the Exodus. Paul then addresses the whole issue of the Corinthians participating in idolatry. Using an example of the Lord’s Supper, Paul wants to convey to them the danger of aligning themselves with the power of this evil world (vs. 14-22). I really like Paul’s summarization in the end of this chapter as he concludes his point he started in chapter 8. Looking closer at vs. 31, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do…” Paul goes beyond just the issue of eating meat that was sacrificed to idols. We can apply Paul’s exhortation to a much wider perspective.
Regarding application…Flee from Temptation. Vs. 13, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” Many years ago, Nancy Hook (who shared the Gospel to me) pointed me towards a Bible memorization toolkit done by the Navigators. This particular verse was one of passages that have been etched in my memory for years! And I can say by the grace of the Lord that this promise has helped me through the years in understanding and knowing that God can deliver me from tough situations. I recall the summer after graduating from high school, I moved up to the big city, Indianapolis, IN (Go Pacers!). There was coworker of mine who had invited a few of us over to her house. We were all hanging out and having fun and then people started leaving, before I knew it, I was the only one left with this female coworker. That night, temptation came. At that time, I wasn’t faithful in my walk with the Lord, but this verse that I had memorized year earlier at 16 came flooding through my mind. To make a long story short, God delivered me that night without giving into temptation! Let us be wise in the things we participate in so that we don’t have to put ourselves in situations that can bring us down.
Vs. 1, “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?” Question: What is going on here? Paul is continuing the thought process of not being a stumbling block to others even though we have the freedom in some areas in our life. Another factor involved here was that some of the Corinthians were questioning the very validity of Paul’s ministry. Question: Why? Because he chose not to accept money as he served them. Seems odd to us, but not too much has changed. If you volunteer and help vs. getting paid, the expectations change. By Paul not accepting payment, they didn’t see him as a true teacher. Sure, Paul had the right to do it (vs. 1-18), but did so for the sake of the Gospel. But don’t misunderstand, Paul is definitely supporting the reasons why we should financially support those in ministry. Paul was willing to lay aside his own rights for the sake of all types of men (vs. 19-23). In the last section, Paul cheers us on towards the eternal rewards one day in heaven (vs. 24-27).
Regarding application…Sacrificing for Others. Vs. 22, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” Paul was not compromising the Gospel or himself, Paul was willing to sacrifice for others. It wasn’t about what selfish things he wanted, it was for the good of the church and the lost. When I think about sacrificing for others in their culture, that reminds me of when I visited South Korea for the first time since I was adopted in 1996. My adoption agency had invited around forty of us to come back to our Motherland and learn about the culture for a month. It was an amazing time. I was a mere twenty-two years old. A few of us who were Christians wanted to meet each morning to spend time with God and pray. Fortunately, there was a quaint little sanctuary in the center we were staying at. We all got comfortable and sat around and worshipped in the sanctuary. Soon after, the Pastor came and was appalled that we had not taken our shoes off. While I was not trying to share the Gospel, I learned something about accommodating another culture that day. Sure, I had the freedom to wear my shoes, but I needed to sacrifice my own culture for the sake of being a good witness for another.
Vs. 1, “Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Let’s first deal with what was going on historically and culturally. The Corinthians believers were still young in their faith. This food (meat) that was sacrificed to pagan idols was readily available in the pubic market places. Some of the new Christians who came from a heavy pagan background, looked at such meat as tainted and a stumbling block to their faith. There were also Christians in Corinth that had the biblical knowledge that God was the only true God and that this meat sacrificed to idols was fine to eat. Needless to say, this was causing quite a issue for Paul to address it specifically. This issue of eating food sacrificed to idols is one of those grey areas that is quite relevant to today. In a general sense, we are challenged just as the Corinthians in learning how to live a Christian life in a sinful world.
Regarding application…Stumbling Block? Vs. 9, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” Question: Are you a stumbling block to others? Are you living by knowledge or by love? These are the questions we can ask ourselves as we attempt to apply God’s word today. Let me use a present day example. Alcohol. Alcohol is not inherently evil, but we are instructed to not be drunk on wine (Eph 5:18). You are one of those who just occasionally like to drink wine for your steak dinner. You are inviting church members to your house to fellowship. There are some newcomers in the mix. You break out some wine for dinner and little did you know one of the new church members came from an abusive and alcoholic family growing up. In fact, they are attending AA and have recently put their faith in the Lord. They are astonished by your brazen gesture of offering them wine and are so hindered they stop coming to church. Question: Was what you techinically did a sin? Of course not, you didn’t know their background. However, it is very clear that in these gray areas of life, we are to exercise strict discernment in our actions. It is better to be cautious on the safe side in these matters (alcohol, gambling, secular music, buying certain products, etc.) This is not about legalism, it is about loving others more than yourself. What gray areas in your life could be reexamined? Pray and act out in love!
Vs. 2, “But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” Paul takes on this topic of marriage. Question: Why? Because there was rampant sexual immorality that we read about yesterday’s chapter, so people were responding to the other extreme. They were opposed to relationships all together and believed one should never marry. But Paul was not opposed to marriage, though in his opinion celibacy is a better choice (vs. 7). But in this passage, we are reminded that marriage is monogamous, between one man and one woman (vs. 2). We are reminded that sexual relations outside of marriage as well as premarital sex is against God’s intention for us (vs. 3-8). Now some have a hard time reconciling Paul’s statements about marriage when compared to what the Bible as a whole states. However, from a historical/cultural aspect, Paul was responding to something that was going on unique to the time and culture of the Corinthian church. There is a sense from this passage that the time is short anyway and so we go through all the trouble (vs. 28-29)? Paul also addresses the thought that if you became a Christian after being married, you may have an excuse to leave the unbelieving spouse (vs. 12-14). This was not an acceptable reason to get out of a marriage. In the end, Paul is advising this Corinthian approach of marriage with his own thoughts given their circumstances. We should be wise in the gift that God has given us in marriage.
Regarding application…Marriage & Singleness is a Gift. 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.” There is a tendency to be pressured to have to get married or something is wrong with you. But as Paul reminds us, there is nothing wrong with being single. In fact, being single can be of great benefit. Though, I don’t believe that being married can keep you from being wholly devoted to the Lord. In the end, they are both a gift from God. For a few years, I had given up on marriage and was being content with thinking I may be single the rest of my life. I wrestled with it, but realized my number one priority must be the Lord. But after over three years of enjoying my newfound devotion to being single, the Lord blessed me with finding my wife. With divorce rates so high in the church, with the uncertainty of our future…perhaps we live in a time similar to Corinth. But my encouragement to you if you are wondering if you were made to be single or made to be married is this: Put God first and if He wants to bless you He will. Don’t try so hard on your own desires, but let God bring the right person in His timing!