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!
Vs. 11, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Paul makes this comment after rebuking the Corinthians of suing each other in the secular courtrooms (vs. 1-11). The Corinthians claimed to be so wise (chapter 4), but couldn’t even settle disputes within the church. It wasn’t that the Corinthians Roman courts were bad, but it was the testimony behind it (vs. 6). They were to stop living like people who are of this world (vs. 9-10) and be reminded that they are new creations (vs. 11). A lasting comment, be mindful that there are some disputes and situations where we certainly can seek justice in the court of law by way of suing. Paul was more focused on the fact that it was Christians suing Christians without seeking wisdom from the church. In yesterday’s chapter, we read about how the Corinthian church was not dealing with a sexually immoral family in the church. Now, Paul directs his attention to sexual immorality on a broader scope (vs. 12-20). Remember, Corinth had a temple dedicated to the love goddess Aphrodite and prostitution was a huge business. Paul quotes a well known saying in Corinth at the time (vs. 12) about everything being permissible. Just because they were no longer technically under the letter of the Old Testament law, didn’t mean that they shouldn’t follow the spirit of the Law. The Corinthians logically stated that if they were hungry they ate, likewise, if they wanted sexual desires, they satisfied those too. Sexual immorality cannot rightly be addressed in a simple paragraph reflection. There is something very sacred in the joining of sex that God gave to His creation (vs. 15-17).
Regarding application…We Were Bought. Vs. 20, “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” Here we are reminded of the picture of being a slave. We were bought at a price. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans (Which he later wrote while in Corinth on his 3rd missionary journey) that we were once slaves to sin, but we are now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6). That is why we flee. Like young Joseph who fled from Potipher’s wife (Genesis 39). When you think about it, no one in the church proudly runs around saying they are committing fortification (sex before marriage) or adultery (cheating on your spouse). No one generally is declaring they are steeped deep into sexual addictions. Why, because we know it’s wrong. It’s a foothold the enemy is quite effective in the church still today. We were bought at a price that is more than we can imagine. Let that be a reminder of His love and desire to sanctify us and move on towards living as new creations! If you struggle with this, pray to the Lord and talk to people in the church that can help you.
Vs. 1, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife.” Question: What is going on here? Almost all biblical scholars point out that a “man’s father’s wife” is referring to his stepmother. In this particular instance, she might have been significantly younger and this might have led to the immorality. In fact, this kind of sexual immorality was even frowned upon by a very sexually immoral culture in the Greco-Roman world. God had made it very clear in Leviticus 18:8, that this type of sexual immorality was forbidden. To make matters worse, the church in Corinth handled it incredibly poor. There was pressure in this young church to conform to the pattern of the world. Question: How do live pure lives in an immoral world? Paul’s charge for the Corinthians to hand this man over to Satan (vs. 5) can be a confusing one. In Paul’s time, the world was considered Satan’s territory, so in essence, Paul was saying let this man go back into the world. What we are seeing here is church discipline. Question: Why should we cast out a Christian who is sinning? Because, Jesus gave us this very mandate (Matthew 18:15-20). Church discipline is done not for condemning, but rather to bring this person to a deep repentance. This sexual sin became quite public and the Corinthians didn’t want to do anything about it. In many ways, the church was prideful and thought that they were exercising their freedom and love in Christ by not disciplining their brother and being open to any type of wayward life (vs. 6-8). In the last part of our passage (vs. 9-13), Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to have nothing to do with professing Christians who deliberately live a public sinful life. Notice, it’s professing Christians. We are to reach out to a sinful world who needs to know Christ. The issue here was that in order for the church to be a light to the world, we cannot be sinning in ways that even the world would find offensive.
Regarding application…Do Something. Vs. 12, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife.” It’s interesting to note that when it came to divisions in the church, people were doing something about it, but when it came to sexual immorality, no one wanted to respond. By not responding, the testimony of the church in Corinth was at a huge risk! The unsaved world is living by their old nature of sin. When the church lives in the same way, it is a very serious thing. For some, it almost seems like the bible is contradicting itself regarding judging. But the distinction is important because we are to exercise discernment and judgment in the church, but it is not our role to judge the world (Matthew 7:1). I’ll give a hypothetical situation: There is a deacon in the church who is very influential and serving very faithfully. However, it becomes a very public thing to the church and the community of a sex scandal where he has committed adultery with several women. The church takes all the steps mandated by Christ to help reconcile this man back to repentance, but he refuses to change his lifestyle. It is at this point that it is appropriate to do something about it. In the end, if the deacon leaves the church and over a few months of sinful living realizes his situation and comes back with a repentant heart, the church should absolutely accept him back into the fold. This was a very difficult passage today, but I encourage you to realize that God has a purpose for His church! We must be loving and obedient in all that we do with the full intention of bringing people back into a relationship with the Lord. The more we know God’s word, the better testimony we have as a church to the world that God loves so much!
Vs. 14 “I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children.” Question: What is Paul writing them that may have seemed to shame them? He was calling them out and concluding his statements about their division. They were putting their spiritual servants on pedestals and rivals against each other (We were reminded of that in chapter 3). Instead, God was raising up servants to help the Corinthian church work together (vs. 6-7). And you may be surprised to see sarcasm in the Bible, but that is exactly what Paul uses (vs. 8-13) Their pride had made them think they were more mature than they were (vs. 8). By doing this, they were treating God’s servants like slaves in a gladiator arena not realizing that the road to being a Christian was a road of humility not pride. Paul then ends this section of our chapter with some measured sensitivity (vs. 14-17). Though there were many who could help, it was God who appointed Paul to be their spiritual mentor/father (vs. 15). Lastly, though Paul couldn’t come right away (He was in Ephesus), he would send Timothy with a warning to them all to get divisive attitude out of their hearts (vs. 18-21).
Regarding application…No More Pride. Vs. 6, “Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.” It was pride that was their downfall with division. They were exalting each other and their leaders. Their pride clouded their judgment and they were going beyond what God had taught them. We must exercise faith in such matters and realize that God has appointed leaders to imitate (in a Godly way). We should do our part in supporting each other and not favoring others. It seems pride is easier to accuse in others than realize that it is in us. Question: What is pride? Rebellion against God (Holmans Bible Dictionary). Take time to prayerfully consider how pride may be affecting your relationships in life. Be honest and bring it to the Lord!
Vs. 5, “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.” This chapter continues the serious topic of division and why we need wisdom. Earlier, we were reminded that the Corinthian Christians were claiming to follow Paul, Apollos, Cephas and even Christ (I Corinthians 1:12). Paul could not share such deep things of God because they were still immature Christians (vs. 1-4). It’s safe to say many today still stunt their growth by not eating solid food (vs. 2). Paul goes on to illustrate how God appoints each leader to do a specific task (vs. 5-9), but God is the source of any growth (vs. 6). The last half our chapter can be easily misunderstood. Paul begins by reminding us the types of foundations we build on (vs. 10-12). We can either build our life on the foundation of Christ or the foundation of this world. However, the Day (vs. 13) will come signifying the coming of the Lord in judgment. All believers will stand at the judgment seat (Romans 14:10, II Cor. 5:10) where the Lord will reward us for the foundation we helped build. This section of Scripture (vs. 13-15) is really addressing God’s grace despite some who may not wisely build. And lastly, Paul closes this chapter with reminder to stop the divisions they were creating in Corinth (vs. 18-23).
Regarding application…You are God’s Temple. Vs. 16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” Question: What is this temple? For the Corinthian audience, Paul was referring to the temple area where only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies) This temple was synonymous with the presence of God. We the church are the Most Holy Place where God dwells. Paul asked the Corinthians this question of “Don’t you know…” nine other times in his letter. The issue wasn’t that they didn’t know, it’s just that they were not practicing what they knew. Knowing is only half the battle. We must be doers of God’s word! The Holy Spirit resides in each believer and in the church. Let us do our part to allow God’s grace to be evident so we may be united as one body (John 17). Being God’s temple is not some mystical thing, it’s just an awesome reminder that God is with us! Let us live in such a way that we don’t forget!
Vs. 7, “No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” Remember, in yesterday’s chapter Paul had to address to the Corinthian church the issue of division. They had thought they were wise, but sadly, they were using worldly wisdom. Paul uses himself as an illustration of the humility it takes to preach the Gospel (vs. 1-5). Before Paul had come to Corinth, he had to address the Greek philosopher’s in Athens and wanted to ensure that the Gospel not be watered down by his own persuasive words. There is a deep wisdom through the Holy Spirit (vs. 10) that can only be given to believers. This is the secret wisdom that Paul referred to in our aforementioned verse (vs. 7). Paul expounds upon the foundation of the Holy Spirit being the source of wisdom and enlightening our hearts (vs. 12-13). Paul contrasts two things: a person without the Spirit and the one with the Spirit (vs. 14-16)
Regarding application…Knowing God Deeper. Vs. 10, “but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” Question: Do you want to know God? This can seem like an obvious answer. When I met my wife before marriage, it was my goal to get to know her own a deeper level. It wasn’t an obligation, but rather a true desire in my heart. We are reminded that God loves us (John 3:16), and that we love because He first loved us (I John 4:19). When we possess a love that comes from God, we would naturally want to know Him more. Question: Do you want to know God more/deeper? I suspect that if you are even reading this, you have a desire to know God deeper. That is why the church is there to help us know Him deeper. Reading the Word, prayer, worship, fellowship, etc…are all things that can help us know Him more. Pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal to you the wisdom of the deeper things of God.
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.” The Corinthian church was probably comprised of several small house churches, but Paul writes to them as a collective whole (vs. 2). Paul takes the time for a gracious greeting to encourage and thank them from the onset (vs. 1-9). Paul sets an example for the church today that though we too have problems, we should not forget the good things and affirm them too. As we venture into Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we will see all sorts of things that Paul needs to correct, but the first and major issue is division (vs. 10-17). Most of you reading this will be able to know this all too well in your own experiences in the local church. The Corinthian Christians were aligning themselves with different leaders. It wasn’t necessarily that the leaders were in contention with each other, but that the believers were favoring one above the other. Some scholars have speculated perhaps they were favoring the leaders who had brought them to salvation or baptized them. In the latter half our chapter, Paul continues to refer to the divisions by addressing the fact that the Corinthians were using worldly wisdom (vs. 18-25). Corinth was a multi-cultured city with both Jews and Greeks. The Jews had a hard time wrestling with the fact that the Messiah had to die on the cross. The Greeks had a hard time because of the fact that Greek philosophy was very respected at that time. In the end, it was human thought and wisdom that was being put before the truth of the Gospel.
Regarding application…Are You a Fool? Vs. 18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The Greek word that Paul used is μωρία which is pronounced (mōria) and we get the modern day word ‘moron’ from it. Are you a moria? Are you moron? Are you a fool? This message of the cross certainly does not make sense in any human logical rationale. Yet, there are many fools who are walking down the broad road to destruction (Matthew 7:13). For us today, we can act like fools when we allow divisions to take precedence over the message of the cross. Let us be part of the solution not part of the problem. Question: Is there any division in your family or in your church? I exhort you to pray and humble yourself and seek God’s guidance.
Vs. 5, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves...” The Corinthians had spent a great deal of time examining Paul…now it is their turn to examine themselves! If any were guilty of such sins, Paul would deal with them harshly! If they listened and obeyed the Word of God, then they would spare themselves a great deal of agony along with Paul. It was as if Paul was almost asking them to make sure they were truly saved! Christians must live out their faith…for no one can tell on the outside if a person is saved. If they examined themselves, Paul would not have to come harshly to them. But the disciplines of people in the church is to never show the power of the leader, but rather help the sinner repent!
Regarding application…Giving 100%. Vs. 11, “Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” Paul is telling them to not be satisfied with where they are at! We tend to justify our lives and lifestyles and compare them to the ungodly. We are satisfed with the status quo, rather than striving for a A+!!! Though we may be satisfed with a passing grade in school, we should never be satisfied with a “B” effort in our Christian lives. God doesn’t want part of us…HE wants ALL of us! God is a jealous God and he desires the very best for our lives and the will He has preordained for us! Let us stop using the crutch of sin as an excuse to not live up to our potential. While we all might fall short of God’s glory, that doesn’t mean we don’t have to aim for perfection! It is this attitude that will bring the love & peace that only God can bring in our lives…even in the midst of the storms in our lives. Let’s be a light to the dark world this Christmas season!