Vs. 6, “But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers!” It is believed the legal dispute Paul was addressing was amongst property owners in the church (vs. 1-8). Property was the most common dispute in that era. These types of lawsuits amongst believers were taken into an unbelieving court. Question: What’s the big deal? This was a horrible testimony before their community. Their boasting of wisdom is brought front and center as Paul reminds them how that they are to no longer live like they used to (vs. 9-11). Side note: This does not mean we cannot legally bring a lawsuit amongst an unbeliever who has wronged us. Up to this point, Paul had addressed discipline in the church (incest), improper lawsuits, and now he turns to sexual immorality (vs. 12-20). The Temple of Aphrodite was in Corinth and prostitution was a booming industry. Paul utilized some well known slogans (vs. 12-13) to capture the folly of the Corinthian thinking. God created us to be in loyal relationships with another. Since we are the body of Christ, how could we live in such an immoral way?
Regarding application…Why Be Holy? Vs. 19-20, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” We should live our lives on truth, not emotion. If we lived our lives based on how we feel, the church would not be where it is at today. Fortunately, the Spirit of God guides us in His ways. There will be times and temptations when we don’t want be living a holy and righteous life. But the truth will cut through the incorrect ways of looking at life. Because we were bought at the highest price (the cross), let that be sober and joyful reminder why we should live a holy life.
Vs. 6, “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?” Question: What is going on here? Even though Paul was not in Corinth (Ephesus), he heard about the sexual immorality that had infiltrated the church. It was a sexual sin that is even illegal in our country today and within Old Testament Law (Leviticus 18:8); incest. There was a man who had been sexually involved with his father’s wife (stepmother). It’s more than likely she was much younger than her husband and so was close to age to her stepson. For Paul to address this issue, it was because the church in Corinth didn’t feel like it was a big deal. In fact, their response was abhorrent Paul because they embraced their misunderstanding of “freedom in Christ.” The stepmother was likely not a member of the church, which is why Paul did not speak of expelling her. But, sexual immorality was not the only sin that was abhorrent. Paul would exhort the Corinthians to not even associate with people who are greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler (vs. 11). Don’t misunderstand, Paul is addressing people who know their sin, but have no desire to repent. Some may retort that Jesus hung out with such people. However, we must remember that Jesus was not alone and most importantly; these people wanted to change.
Regarding application…Church Discipline. Vs. 12-13, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” Question: What is the purpose of expelling an immoral church member? Discipline is always done with the ultimate purpose of restoration. If allowed to fester, this man’s sin could lead him to outright apostasy against the Lord. We must never underestimate sin full grown (James 1:15). We should not judge the world outside of church, that is reserved for the Lord. However, the church has a mandate to protect its members and create a place that desires to live holy for the Lord. Church discipline is a very heart-breaking process, but one that must be always prayerfully seeking the Lord. God is our great physician and He can heal our church if we are willing to trust and obey.
Vs. 1, “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.” It was very important for Paul to give the divisive Corinthian believers a true picture of those whom they pledged allegiance to (Paul, Apollos, Peter). They were simply servants of Christ, which reminded everyone of their lowly status (vs. 1-6). The folly for the Corinthian believers is that they were putting their leaders on pedestals. But they were also quick to judge the work of each of the leaders too. In the second section of our chapter (vs. 7-13), Paul addresses the importance of staying humble. Paul utilizes irony and sarcasm, as he wanted to point out the Corinthians arrogant approach. In actuality, the leaders were like Roman gladiators being led to fight to the end. The Corinthians needed to be put in place for their quick judgments and prideful thinking. Paul knew his words were a bit harsh, so he ends the passage with some tenderness (vs. 14-21). God is our Heavenly Father, but Paul was a spiritual father figure for the Corinthians. He had the spiritual right and authority to admonish them in love. God disciplines those he loves, and Paul was not going to allow some of the people actions to go without consequences.
Regarding application…Why Be Faithful?. Vs. 2, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” Some of us may have a drive within ourselves that keeps us faithful. Some of us may be concerned how others may look upon us if we are not faithful (causing younger to stumble), so we may strive to be faithful. Those both could be reasons why we are obedient in our walks with the Lord. But ultimately, our desire to be faithful should be rooted in our relationship with the Lord. I don’t know about you, but I crave the affirmation from the Father in heaven (vs. 5). I don’t have children yet, but my dog (Frankie) delights in my affirmation. He is a wonderful companion and has proven quite faithful over the years. I am not a perfect dog owner, yet Frankie is so faithful. But we have a perfect Father in heaven, may we be inspired to walk in faithfulness with Him.
Vs. 1, “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ.” Paul ministered in Corinth for 1 ½ years, yet their spiritual growth needed improvement. As Paul writes them nearly three years later, he is a bit disappointed at their lack of spiritual wisdom which is causing division. In the first section of our chapter, Paul addresses the topic of their spiritual maturity, or lack thereof (vs. 1-4). Their diet was still milk (simple), when it should have been meat (wisdom and growth). Paul then elaborates further by using an agricultural image (vs. 5-9). The church is a field in which Paul helped plant the seed and Apollos water. But, it was very important for Paul to emphasize to the Corinthians that it was God who was the source of their growth. Remember, that they were struggling with division because of following different leaders. And lastly, we saw Paul give one more example in our passage; we are God’s temple (vs. 10-23). Paul is not addressing the world, but is specifically talking to the believers who build on the right foundation. However, each believer decides what kind of material they will build their lives with. The wood, straw and hay are easy to build with, but don’t cost the builder much. We must build our lives and invest in that which is costly. Costly is not the literal gold, silver or costly stones, but growth of our spiritual lives.
Regarding application…Know Who You Are. Vs. 16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” Much of the struggles of the Corinthian believers stemmed from forgetting who they really were. Having just finished II Kings and reading how Solomon’s beautiful temple destroyed, we don’t want to make the same mistake that the Babylonians did. The more we remember who we are, the more we will be able to live as God’s people. The Super Bowl is this weekend! Many fans of the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will be out in droves proudly declaring who they are. But, the real fans are those who proudly declare who they are in the tough times too. It’s easy to be a fan of your favorite team when things are going well. The Corinthians needed to remember even in the mist of division, that their identity did not lie in their human leaders, but in the Lord! Let’s take time to remember who we are.
Vs. 12, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” Paul was deflecting any amount of human wisdom that the Corinthians might have accredited him for (vs. 1-5). In a cosmopolitan city full of philosophical minds, there were many great orators. The young church fell into the world’s system of being impressed with the wrong things. Some of the greatest preachers/teachers taught with passion the word of God, but their oration skills might have been lacking from a human perspective. That takes us into the next section where Paul elaborates on having the right type of wisdom (vs. 6-16). There is the world’s wisdom and the wisdom that comes from God through His spirit. The Gospel is so simple a child can accept it, yet so profound the greatest minds of the world have been perplexed by it. Many hard-hearted people have had the wisdom hidden from them (vs. 7-9). We get a definite reminder of the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Regarding application…Deeper With God. Vs. 10, “but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” The word of God and the Spirit of God teaches us the deep truths of His word. Over the centuries, many have tried to approach the deep things of God with a new paradigm. As believers, we have the challenge to ensure we have a healthy balance of child-like faith and appreciation of deep theology. I’ve seen the spectrum of approaching the bible, from bible studies led by unknowledgeable people to theological scholars debating nonsensical viewpoints. The more we know God’s word, the deeper we grow in the knowledge of Him. The Holy Spirit is the source of helping us both individually and corporately.
Vs. 2, “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours.” Paul opens up the first letter to the Corinthians with a conventional stype of salutation (vs. 1-8). Because of the sheer size of Corinth, there were probably several house churches, but Paul wrote this letter to be read to all the believers. Despite the difficult topics to address, Paul reminds the Corinthians of their source of strength in Jesus. Paul then cuts to the chase as he address the first very real problem: division in the church (vs. 10-17). Though we are not specifically told the origins of such division upfront, we do know that the Lord’s Supper (I Corinthians 11) was part of it. Nor are we told that the leaders; Paul, Cephas (Peter, Cephas being Aramaic for rock) and Apollos were in contention against each other. While we may have an affinity towards certain leaders, this should not divide us. In light of such foolish thoughts, Paul then goes on to compare and contrast God’s wisdom to our worldly wisdom (vs. 18-25). Paul keeps it real as he addresses the reality that we are either perishing or being saved. Often the things we deem as valuable are nothing in the bigger picture of life (vs. 26-31).
Regarding application…Humble Beginnings. Vs. 28 “He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.” Paul knew something we all do; the world values our social status (reputation, riches, achievements, beauty, brawn, etc.) But all those things have something in common; they don’t bring salvation. Jesus came to earth and humbled himself. He reminds us all that God chose the lowly things of this world. The moment my head gets too big, I remind myself where I came from (orphanage in Korea). Question: Where did you begin? While we may not all have a “rags to riches” tale, we do have a tendency to try to do better than what we originally had. That is the dream of many parents as they sacrifice for their kids to give them something more than what they had. But, let us remember this type of thinking is not a priority for our Heavenly Father. While He is the giver of good gifts, we also store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19). Let us remember to be humble and soberly consider our foolish ways compared to God’s ways!
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!