The Woodshed, part 1

Posted: January 14, 2016 in 1 Corinthians, Route 66, Uncategorized

Route 66: 1 Corinthians, “The Woodshed, part 1”

There are times all of us need to be taken out to the woodshed.  For some children growing up, that was the place they received spankings from mom & dad.  (For others of it, we led them on merry chases through the house until they finally caught up with us & gave us what we richly deserved!)  Discipline is never fun to receive (nor give), but it is necessary.  We’ve seen that throughout various books of the prophets in the Old Testament, but it’s just as true of New Testament churches, and such was the case with Paul and the church at Corinth.

Both 1-2 Corinthians are analyzed as “corrective epistles,” and for good reason.  Paul’s written interaction with the church displays a congregation that suffered with all kinds of maladies.  On one hand, they had a lot that could be claimed: they were planted and instructed by the apostle Paul himself – they had an abundance of spiritual gifts – they were inclusive of those around them, and more.  Yet they took carnal pride in their founding, they abused the gifts to excess, and they were so inclusive that they ignored blatant sin…and that only scratches the surface.  This was a church that supposedly kept good doctrine…but they kept it all in their heads.  They didn’t put it into practice.  They knew they were eternally saved by the Lord Jesus, but they didn’t live as if Jesus was actually their Lord.

BACKGROUND:
As with the book of Romans, that the apostle Paul was the author of both letters to the Corinthians is not an issue of dispute.  The letter directly claims to have been written by him (1:1), there are many self-references throughout the letter, the doctrine is Paul’s, and the occasion is Paul’s.  From the book of Acts, we are familiar with Paul’s ministry in Corinth, having arrived there during his 2nd missionary journey.  Paul and Silas had been through Macedonia, experienced jailtime & a miraculous release in Philippi, experienced opposition on their way through Thessalonica & Berea, and the missionary group had left Paul alone for a time in Athens where he had the opportunity to address the city council overseeing philosophical and religious issues.  It was after Athens that he came to Corinth (~51AD) & per his usual routine, he first preached Jesus in the synagogue until he was forced out.  At that point, Paul began preaching to Gentiles in a house right next door to the Corinthian synagogue (one has to wonder if the buildings even shared a wall!), and eventually even Crispus, the synagogue leader, came to faith.  Paul remained in Corinth for 1½ years (Acts 18:11) before the Jews stirred up trouble against him.  Yet in a divinely-ordained turn of events, it was the new leader of the synagogue (Sosthenes) who was beaten by the courts; not Paul.  (Interestingly enough, there is a Sosthenes mentioned in the opening of 1 Corinthians – perhaps the new synagogue leader also came to faith in Christ!)

After Paul left, he eventually made his way to Ephesus, where he remained for three years teaching the church.  It was during that time that another eloquent missionary by the name of Apollos became known.  Paul had encountered some of Apollos’ converts in Ephesus, and eventually Apollos met some of Paul’s converts in Corinth.  Although this should have made for a wonderful foundation among the church, it sowed the seeds for some prideful division – something which is addressed early in the letter.  It was while Paul was still in Ephesus that he heard of some of the problems facing the church, and that led to the writing of this letter (~54-55AD).  This was actually the 2nd letter Paul wrote to the church (another is referenced in 5:9), but this is the 1st that is preserved for us by the Holy Spirit.

Corinth itself was a truly ancient city, but one that had been recently reformed in 44BC as a Roman colony.  It was hugely populated (larger than Athens), and was considered the Roman center for all of Greece.  It was extremely influential & extremely immoral.  Although the thousands of temple prostitutes Corinth was known for were likely long-passed by the time Paul arrived, idolatry was still rampant, and the Corinthians simply had a sinful DNA…something that the new church there constantly struggled against.

All in all, this was a church that knew Jesus as their Lord, but had a difficult time acting as if Jesus was their Lord.  Whereas the letter to the Romans dealt much with the issue of justification, 1-2 Corinthians both deal with sanctification.  These were people who were made holy by God; now they needed to live holy unto God.  In that, the Corinthians are not unlike American Evangelicals today.  Many people know the right basic doctrine, that Jesus died for their sins at the cross & gave them grace in His resurrection from the grave.  What we tend to struggle with is the practical outworking of our salvation.  How do we live as saved Christians?  Are we living lives wholly dedicated to the Lord?  When we aren’t, we might need to be taken to the woodshed – just like Corinth.

GENERAL OUTLINE
The letter of 1 Corinthians deals with a great many of subjects, and it can feel like a bit of a laundry-list at times.  As a general rule, the simpler a general outline is, the better.  Although it’s easy to break down 1 Corinthians into many more divisions, there are two primary parts to the letter, each containing a few subsections.

Part 1: Problems in the Church (1-6).  These are issues that had been reported back to Paul, and he took pains to address.  This is where most (though not all) of his discipline towards the Corinthians can be found.

  • Divisions (1-4).  Dealing with sectarianism, pride, etc.
  • Disorders (5-6).  Gross immorality, lawsuits & more.

Part 2: Questions from the Church (7-16).  These were issues that were brought to Paul from the church itself, via letter correspondence.  As a concerned pastor, he wanted to help them deal with the things that had been troubling them.

  • Marriage (7). When to marry, when to divorce.
  • Liberty & Conscience (8-10). What might be stumbling blocks to others, and when to exercise liberty vs. restraint.
  • Issues of Worship (11-14).  A wide variety of topics ranging from women in worship, to the Lord’s Supper, to spiritual gifts.
  • The Resurrection (15).  Apparently, the resurrection of believers was questioned, so Paul took pains to show the centrality of it to the Christian faith.
  • Close (16)

PART 1: PROBLEMS IN THE CHURCH
Divisions (1-4)
Introduction (1:1-9)
Paul introduces himself as an apostle (1:1), something of which the Corinthian church would have been well-aware, but this seemed to be a common practice of Paul when he needed to bring discipline of some sort.  It is a reminder of his apostolic authority – something which becomes vastly more important in 2 Corinthians.  This was a calling he didn’t give to himself, but something that was entrusted to him by the Lord Jesus & the will of God – which meant that whatever it was he was about to write was something that demanded careful attention.  It’s one thing if a fellow brother or sister in the Lord gives some advice; it’s quite another if a recognized apostle of Jesus says “Thus sayeth the Lord!”

  • BTW – it’s debatable whether or not God-ordained apostles exist today, though certainly there is no one like the 12 who served a very specific purpose.  But we DO have men & women in our lives with Godly authority – people whom we trust to provide Godly counsel & correction, if need be.  These are people to whom we ought to pay close attention!  God uses men & women IN His church to bring correction TO His church…and that’s a good thing.

Although 1 Corinthians does not have such a clear purpose statement as did Romans (Rom 1:16-17), we do get a hint of it in 1:2.  1 Corinthians 1:2, "(2) To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:"  Notice the double use of “sanctified/saint.”  These come from the same root word in Greek (αγιαζω/αγιος), meaning to be made holy or set apart.  From the beginning, Paul is already reminding the church that they have already been set apart by Jesus; now they are to live as though they are set apart.  Their spiritual practice needs to catch up with the spiritual reality.  They are holy, so now live holy.

That’s just the introduction…the first area of holiness is that of division within the church, and it becomes the subject of the 1st four chapters.

Foolish pride vs. God’s gospel (1:10-31)
Right out of the gate, Paul pleads with the church to be unified.  The Corinthians had divided themselves into various factions, some claiming to be of Paul or of Peter or of Apollos (or even of Christ, for that *super* spiritual claim).  All of their boasting was useless because their faith was not of themselves.  Each of them had trusted in the same gospel, thought to be foolish by the world, but was in truth the very wisdom and power of God.  Men routinely trust in foolish things, be it works-based religion, money, nobility, politics, etc., but none of that saves.  None of that brings someone into a right relationship with God.  Only the gospel of Jesus Christ saves!  It may seem foolish to the world (God made flesh, sacrificed for sinful man, risen from the grave freely offering grace & forgiveness) – but it is infinitely better than the world could ever offer!  If we do not humble ourselves before the so-called foolish gospel, it is we who are the fools, for we turn down eternal life!  In light of all of that, in what can we possibly boast?  That’s why Paul quotes Jeremiah 9 when he writes: 1 Corinthians 1:31, "…He who glories, let him glory in the Lord."

God’s wisdom (2)
It was the truly wise gospel that Paul preached to the Corinthians.  Paul purposefully did not call attention to himself; his whole goal was to point people to Jesus.  Any words he spoke – any miracle he performed – all of it was done to put himself in the shadows & Jesus in the spotlight (quite unlike many evangelists & miracle workers today!).  But what Paul did speak was wisdom, because it was the wisdom of God (2:7).  How did Paul know these things?  It wasn’t because he made it up; he had received them from the Lord by the Spirit of God…just like all of us.  Even today when we understand the teaching of Scripture, it’s not because we are so wise or intellectual; it’s because we have received the Spirit of God.  It is God’s wisdom, revealed by God’s Spirit, and none of us can boast.

  • BTW, this answers the question why non-believers do not understand Christian concepts.  They don’t get why God would humble Himself to go to the cross, nor why anyone would follow in His footsteps and do the same.  They don’t understand sacrificial love to the extent of Jesus, nor of the free gift of grace.  Why?  Because they don’t have the Holy Spirit.  No one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God (2:11).  This is one reason it’s so difficult to preach Christian morality to non-Christians.  It simply doesn’t make sense to them.  First, get them saved; then their morals will change as a response to the work of the Lord Jesus.

God’s work (3)
Paul again turns to the idea of their selfish, carnal (fleshly) divisions, reiterating that it is the work of God that saved them.  Neither Paul, nor Apollos (nor Billy Graham, Greg Laurie, or any of us) have saved one single soul in all history.  They can preach the gospel, plant a seed, and see the growth…but they cannot save.  Salvation is a work of God alone.

That’s not to say we do nothing.  We do not work for our salvation, but we do work for God after He saves us.  In fact, one day each of us will face the Lord Jesus Christ for a time of judgment, determining the reward that we will receive in eternity.  We are held accountable for how we act as believers – not in such a way as to lose our salvation, but in regards to reward.  Paul picks up on this idea (known as the Bema Seat judgment) in 2 Corinthians with more explicit detail.

Overall the point is clear: we belong to God because we were saved by God.  Not only should we let that be our boast, but we should let that be our motivation.

Fools for Christ (4)
It was the boasting that was truly foolish in Paul’s eyes.  Again, they had been saved solely by the grace of God, no matter from whom they originally heard the gospel.  This ought to have caused the Corinthians to live in humility; not pride.  Yet they lived in luxury as kings, allowing their fathers in the faith (Paul being included) to suffer in poverty.  It’s not that Paul was asking for their money, but he was asking for their humble unity.

From here, Paul had to address even more controversial topics.  The Corinthians were not only divided, they were deeply engaged in sin…and they seemed to be totally unaware of it.  That’s what Paul goes on to address in Ch 5-6…

Disorders (5-6)
Dealing with Immorality (5)
One of the many boasts of the Corinthian church was the supposed grace they showed to others caught in sin.  And grace towards fellow sinners is indeed a good thing!  After all, who has not been caught up in temptation from time to time?  Who is not in need of ongoing grace?  That a church would be filled with sinners is simply the normal description of a church; not an anomaly.  A church is the only place where sinners actually admit their sin, and their need for grace.  Yet the church at Corinth went further.  Not only did they have admitted sinners among them, they were unrepentant sinners.  IOW, the Corinthian church misunderstood the grace of Jesus & allowed it to be a license for sin.  Specifically, Paul had heard of an example of a man engaged in an incestuous relationship with his mother-in-law (something the pagan Corinthians didn’t even do!).  This was not only allowed by the church, but the church boasted in it…thinking it added to their credit.  What they didn’t understand was that it was horrible – an abuse of the grace of God; a perverting of the gospel.

  • How often this is seen in our own culture today!  Too many churches desire to be seen as “inclusive” by the world, and they are quick to blind themselves to any sin carried on among them.  They claim to be “loving & nonjudgmental,” but the reality is that they are perverting the gospel of God.  Jesus died upon the cross to save us from our sin; not to pave the way for us to immerse ourselves in it.  We are called to holy purity, and we are to help one another live in that same holiness.

How was the church supposed to deal with it?  Through proper organized church discipline.  It is not judgmental to judge sin; it is simply right.  The man in question was to be excommunicated from the church, with the idea that he would be turned over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh (5:5).  This wasn’t harsh; this was merciful.  Only through confession and repentance could this man be turned back to Jesus, and that was the most pressing need.

  • The goal of church discipline is never punishment; it’s restoration.  It is to help someone be restored to a right relationship with Jesus, all to the glory of God.  (Paul will pick up on this idea again in 2 Corinthians.)

Dealing with Judgment (6:1-11)
Another issue facing the church dealt with lawsuits among the brethren.  It’s not a surprise that Christians sometimes have disagreements, and sometimes serious ones at that.  No one is perfect (apart from the Lord Jesus) and we will invariably cause offense from time to time.  Yet we ought to be able to handle those disagreements ourselves within the household of faith as believers.  There’s no reason that two professing active Christians ought to have to go to the world for a legal judgment against one another.  Yet that was just what was happening in Corinth.  They were filing lawsuits against each other, seeking legal judgments.  This was true foolishness!  After all, Christians will one day judge the angels of God (6:3)…surely we can come to right judgments among ourselves.  In Paul’s eyes, it would be better to suffer a financial loss than to take a fellow believer to court (6:8).

Why?  Because they were different!  They weren’t the same as the world, and the world had no business passing judgment between those who served a different Master.  At one point, they had been the same as the world, but no longer.  1 Corinthians 6:11, "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God."

  • THIS is our motivation for different living – for holy living – for humble living.  We aren’t the people we used to be; we’ve been saved – transformed by the Living God.  Because Jesus has saved us, that changes everything!

Dealing with Liberty (6:12-20)
Paul continues on with the theme of right living in a brief discussion of liberty (something which he’ll come back to in Ch 8-10).  Because the Corinthians were washed, sanctified, and justified, they no longer were to do the same things they did in the past.  It’s not that certain foods & practices would condemn them to hell (that’s what they were saved from); it’s that none of it helped them to live as Christians.  They were now new creations – their very bodies were individual temples of the Holy Spirit.  What they did to their bodies affected their temples.  Thus they were to abstain from sin – especially fleeing from sexual immorality, because it was the equivalent of joining the temple of God with a prostitute.

  • We live in a hyper-sexualized society today.  Everywhere we turn, there is sexual temptation of one sort or the other.  Beware!  There is a reason why Satan uses sexual temptation on so many Christians…it’s effective.  This is something not only to fight, but to flee.  Do whatever it takes to keep yourself from this sort of sin.  Paul singles it out for a reason, because it is so very hard to combat once we’re caught up within it.  This is a sin against our own body – against the very body Jesus died to save & in which the Holy Spirit dwells.  When we engage in sexual sin, we stop thinking.  Studies have shown that people engaged in pornography lose the ability in their brain to distinguish right from wrong; the moral center of the brain basically shuts down.  The best way to fight it is not to engage it in the first place; to flee from it.  And we have the very best reason: 1 Corinthians 6:20, "For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s."

These were the issues that Paul knew needed to be addressed upfront – things that the Corinthian church didn’t even see as internal problems.  Yet there were other questions they had.  Apparently they had written to Paul about other issues, and the 2nd part of the letter deals with the questions they brought to Him…

PART 2: QUESTIONS FROM THE CHURCH
Marriage (7)
The first issue was marriage.  And the first aspect about it is that not everyone needed to be married.  In Paul’s opinion, singleness & celibacy was a good thing.  After all, he himself was not married & he was free to travel & serve the Lord in ways that a family man was unable (7:32).  So to remain single is good (7:1)…but it’s not for everyone.  As Paul had just warned about sexual immorality, he knew that holy marriage is a God-given safeguard against fornication, and it was a gift from the Lord.  As long as husband and wife did not physically deprive one another (other than for times of fasting & prayer), they each had a good guard against the lack of self-control.

So not everyone was to get married, but those who did were supposed to stay married.  When God joins people in wedlock, that marriage is to be for life.  Where there is difficulty, it is to be worked through in patience – where there is separation, there is to be reconciliation.  As long as two believers were joined in marriage, they were to remain married…period.  Even when there was unequally yoked marriages, husbands and wives were to remain together as long as the unbeliever is willing to stay married.  If the unbeliever departs, then that’s another story – God has called us to peace (7:15).  But otherwise, the Scripture is clear: stay married.  It really is that simple.

  • That’s not to say it’s always easy, but the Scripture is clear.  We make too many excuses for ourselves, looking for any potential loophole, but when we do we forget what marriage is really all about.  It’s not about us; it’s about Jesus.  Ultimately, earthly marriage is all about the heavenly marriage between Jesus & the Church.  Jesus does not divorce us; we ought not divorce one another.  Yes, we will have difficulties, and yes there are rare exceptions…but they are exceptions; not the standard.  The standard is marriage for life, and if that’s not our goal, then we’re missing God’s clearly written intent for us.

The basic idea is that Paul was saying that all people were to live as God called them to live.  If they were single, then it was OK to stay a Christian single.  If they were married before they came to faith, they shouldn’t divorce their unbelieving spouse.  Stay in the situation you’re in, glorifying God with the circumstances He has given.

Liberty & Conscience (8-10)
The second issue was that of liberty, something Paul already briefly introduced in Ch 6.  The Corinthians had questions of their own, with the specific example being food that had been offered to idols.  Considering how prevalent idolatry was in the ancient city of Corinth, this was truly a practical problem.  How are Christians supposed to live in a pagan culture, in which even the groceries they purchase might be tainted?  (This is rather practical to us, as many of the companies from which we purchase goods might hold anti-Christian values.  How do we deal with those things today?)  Paul basically gives 4 steps:

  • Beware of scandal (8).  We know the truth of our theology: we are saved by God, and the only God IS God.  If someone else worships an idol, they are worshipping demons or thin air.  But just because we know it doesn’t mean everyone knows it.  We are free to partake of whatever, but other people might interpret our partaking as participation in evil.  Their own faith might be stumbled & scandalized.  We need to beware of causing scandal for someone else & not be so selfish with our liberties.
  • Be humble (9).  We have the right to do many things, just as Paul had the right to much as an apostle.  Yet although Paul used his authority as an apostle in his letter; he never imposed his right as an apostle when he was with the church in person.  He never forced them to financially support him or anything else.  He was willing to humble himself & serve those around them, if it helped them grow in their understanding of Jesus.  Paul was willing to strive & do whatever it took to see success in the ministry, which meant humbling himself before all.  And that’s our example.  We don’t want to disqualify ourselves by flaunting the liberties we think we might have.
  • Be careful of temptation (10:1-22). In addition, the liberty we have may not be all we believe it to be.  Liberty can also serve as temptation, just as it did for the Israelites in the wilderness.  They had the opportunity to be fully dedicated to the Lord, but they found themselves falling in sin.  We need to beware our own weakness, not setting ourselves up for failure.  1 Corinthians 10:12–13, "(12) Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (13) No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."
  • Be mindful of God & others (10:23-33).  Finally, Paul reiterates the need to get our eyes off of ourselves & on to others.  Our behavior inevitably affects the people around us.  How will our witness of God be affected when our actions are observed?  Beyond stumbling someone else in their faith, would our own faith be questioned because of the liberties we took?  Ultimately, our greatest calling is to glorify God & help others know of Him – if our liberty detracts from that, then our liberty is worthless. [Example: alcohol]

Issues of Worship (11-14)
Thus far, the questions addressed by Paul dealt with individual Christian living – but there were other issues that dealt with corporate gathering.

  • Women in worship (11:1-16).  This section is often controversial today, but it really needs to be interpreted within its original context.  For the first time, men and women were brought into the same room for worship, and given the same instruction, all because they had the same value in Christ.  This was revolutionary!  But though men and women are equal in value, we still have complementary roles within the body of Christ, and that’s all Paul was teaching here.  Culturally speaking, it was scandalous for women to pray without a head covering; that was a liberty that caused offense…thus it could be willingly & lovingly abstained.  Yet women were welcome within the fellowship, Paul writes freely of them praying & prophesying (11:5).  This was something in which to rejoice.
  • The Lord’s Supper (11:17-34).  At the time, the Lord’s Supper was seemingly combined with a greater celebration thought of as a love feast.  We might think of a modern potluck, with Communion celebrated at the end.  This was another area in which disorder had set in, and people were being gluttons rather than worshippers.  Paul wrote to give orderly instruction on what the Lord’s Supper was all about (the worship & remembrance of Jesus), and that it was given to believers alone.
  • Spiritual Gifts: Diversity (12).  The Lord’s Supper wasn’t the only confusing part of the Corinthians’ worship – so was their practice of the spiritual gifts.  Paul didn’t want them to be ignorant of the gifts (12:1), but they seemed to lose sight of what they were all about & why God had given them.  They placed greater value on some gifts than others, although Paul affirmed that they all were given by the same Spirit (12:4).  The ones that outwardly seemed to be less prominent might actually have greater honor (12:23) – the bottom line being that ALL the gifts were necessary because ALL the people of God are valued. 
  • Spiritual Gifts vs. Love (13).  Better than all of the gifts of God was the love of God that had been bestowed on them through Jesus.  Even if they excelled in the use of spiritual gifts, it made no difference if the love of God was not abundant among them (which apparently it wasn’t, due to the 1st half of the letter!). 
    • Everything we do as believers ought to be subservient to love!  What good is our doctrine, if we do not love God or others?  What good is our purity if we look down with disdain upon others, especially other brothers & sisters in Christ?  We are called to love God, love others, and love the lost with the gospel…if we fail in this, we’ve failed at what is most important.
  • Spiritual Gifts: Use (14).  Finally Paul gives practical instruction on how the gifts ought to be used.  Much of the controversy today surrounding spiritual gifts could be settled if Christians simply took 1 Corinthian 14 for what it said.  Prophecy is to edify the church (14:4).  Publicly spoken tongues are to be interpreted (14:13).  Tongues are the prayers of our spirit (14:14), and are to be limited when shared in public worship (14:27).  All in all, use the gifts, but do not abuse the gifts.  1 Corinthians 14:39–40, "(39) Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. (40) Let all things be done decently and in order."

The Resurrection (15)
In this last major section of teaching, it’s unclear if Paul is responding to a question of the Corinthians or simply addressing something that he’s heard from among them.  Apparently there had been some doubt about the doctrine of future resurrection for believers in Christ, and Paul was compelled to bring clarity to it.

  • Importance (15:1-19).  First, Paul reiterated that the gospel he preached to Corinth was the gospel that he himself had received, in that hundreds of people had been eyewitnesses to the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Even Paul had seen the risen Lord Jesus, as Jesus had saved him from his past life of legalism & persecution of believers.  But the fact that Jesus is risen from the dead has a direct impact on our own resurrection from the dead.  If some in Corinth believed that there was no resurrection for anyone, then it would mean that Jesus Himself was not raised.  But that is at the very core of our faith – we actually have no faith without it!  1 Corinthians 15:16–18, "(16) For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. (17) And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! (18) Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished."  No resurrection = no salvation.  It’s that important!
  • Implications (15:20-34).  What the resurrection means to believers is that we have the promise of life.  Just like we received death from Adam, we receive life from Christ (15:22).  Jesus is coming back to reign upon the earth, and the only way we have assurance of that is because He rose from the dead – something which all of us will do as well.  Without Jesus’ resurrection, we have no motivation for holy living at all – we have nothing to look forward to in the future.
  • Process (15:35-49).  As to questions how Christians will be raised from the dead, Paul gives the example of a seed.  A seed appears to be dead when it is buried in the ground, but God gives life to it & it grows into something different.  Likewise, our own bodies are buried after death & transformed by God into something different.  It is the same person rising from the dead, but it is a new spiritual body that is raised.  It may be mysterious, but God is more than able to make it all come to pass.
  • Promise (15:50-58).  Finally, we have the promise of the resurrection – it is assured to come to us.  We will one day rise from the dead, see our Lord Jesus in the air, and know that death is forever swallowed up in His victory!  Praise be to God!

Close (16)…wrapping up loose ends.

  • Giving (16:1-4) – At the time Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he was currently collecting an offering for the saints in Jerusalem, providing to them a show of love from the Gentile churches while the Jerusalem Christians suffered.  To Corinth, Paul instructs them to be diligent in putting money aside, in order to avoid confusion & chaos when he came.  This is another item that comes up again in 2 Corinthian, with more instruction about godly giving.
  • Plans & charge (16:5-18).  This is where the reader learns that Paul was still in Ephesus at the time of writing (16:8), and he gave instruction to the Corinthians regarding the men he was sending ahead of him.  He also exhorted them to stand fast in the faith, and be mindful of those who are ministering among them.
  • Final greetings (16:19-24).  Per the normal epistle form at the time, most of the greetings come at the end.

Conclusion:
Corinth was a prideful, divided church.  They were carnal, ignoring both the sin in themselves as individuals and sin in their midst.  They had the name “Christian,” but not the lives that were evident of it.  Thus Paul had to take them to the woodshed, bringing discipline now in order that they might be restored later.  And it would take a while…2 Corinthians isn’t much better.  But Paul was willing to do what needed to be done for his children in the faith to walk rightly with the Lord.

Holiness isn’t something for us to take for granted.  We have been made saints; we are to live as saints.  That is just the practical outworking of our theology.  To live in purity isn’t to impose legalism upon ourselves; it’s to walk in love.  We love the Lord our God enough to submit our lives to Him.  We love others enough to not put stumbling blocks in their path.

How is God calling to you to love Him & others, from the example of the Corinthians?  Maybe there’s an issue of sin you’ve been hesitant to address.  Maybe there’s some temptation in your own life you need to flee.  Maybe there’s something you need to sacrifice, in order not to cause offense to others or harm your own witness.  Whatever it is, may we be willing to walk in humble obedience because we love the Lord Jesus who saved us, who empowered us with spiritual gifts, and who promises to raise us from the dead to eternal glory and life.  Our love for Him is the most powerful motivation of all!

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