November 16th – Les Kovacs Ephesians 5 - 6
Observe: These chapters are a continuation of Paul’s thoughts from Chapter 4, in which he discussed sins we, as Christians, should avoid. We are to live as dearly loved children of God, imitating the life of Jesus. Paul encourages us to be Christ-like in our lives, to live as children of the light, not as those who live in darkness, with their impure ways. Those who pursue those impure ways have no inheritance in God’s kingdom. We may have once dwelt in the darkness, but because of Christ, we now live in the light. We must be careful to do only what is pleasing to God, and to praise Him for all He has done for us.
After discussing a lifestyle that contrary to walking in love as an imitation of Jesus, Paul then gives a description of what walking in love looks like. The greatest example of walking I love was to give up your life for another, which is what Christ did for us. The next greatest example is to give up our will to one another, in a lifestyle of mutual submission. In marriage, both husband and wife are to submit to each other, with their main motivation being a submission to the Lord.
Beyond the example of marriage, Paul then speaks to the family relationships, saying that children must submit to their parents, in the Lord. He points out that this is the first commandment that contains a promise, “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Parents also should not provoke their children, but raise them with a knowledge and understanding of God.
Paul then addresses the relationship of master and slave, calling each to deal with one another with respect out of submission to the Lord, because they both have a Master in Heaven who will deal with them according to how they each deal with the other.
Finally, Paul says to stay strong in the Lord and His mighty power by putting on the full armour of God. That is what will protect you from all the attacks of the enemy, in all its worldly forms. The armour of God is the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of Spirit, which is the Word of God.
Interpret: In these chapters, we see Paul return to themes that he has touched upon before, namely walking in love in imitation of Jesus, and submission to one another in love as an act of submission to God. Paul contrasts the old ways of living in the spiritual darkness of the world, with the new ways of living in the light of the love of Christ. We are to demonstrate our love for one another by submitting to each other out of obedience to God. Regardless of our relationship with the other person, whether as a spouse, a family member or someone in a work relationship, we are to put the other person’s interests ahead of our own. Being imitators of Christ means imitating His submission to God. Jesus put our spiritual well-being ahead of His own life.
Paul knows how difficult that depth of submission is for us. The only way for us to persevere in our love for one another is to immerse ourselves in Christ, to put on the armour of God. When Paul says “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power”, we understand that all the pieces of this armor come from God. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit are all gifts from God to His people to strengthen and encourage us, to allow us to stand firm in our faith and
Application: Paul’s teaching on the submission of wives to their husbands and the husband’s devotion to his wife to the point of sacrificing his life for her has been so horribly misunderstood, misrepresented, and misused that most people in western society shrink from discussing these passages as if their ears would explode upon just hearing the words. But they miss the point Paul is making. As imitators of Christ, we are to submit to each other in love, out of obedience to God. We are to respect the dignity and welfare of every human being, especially those whom we love the most. We must hear their voices. We must share their burdens. We must offer them our help. We must serve each other as if we serving God directly, because we are. In Matthew 25:34-40, Jesus is telling His disciples about the sheep and the goats, and when asked by the sheep when they had ever served Him in all those deplorable circumstances, the King (Jesus) replied, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
None of this is possible without putting on the armour of God every single day.
Questions: Husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees, do you love each other enough, within your context, to put the other person ahead of yourself?
Prayer: Father God, you are the source of all goodness and love. Help us to put on the armour of God, without which we are vulnerable to the dark influences of this world, and without which we know we cannot serve you in love and Obedience. Help us to submit to each other and serve them just as we submit our will to yours and serve only you. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Big Daddy Weave - Audience of One - YouTube
OBSERVE: Within these chapters we observe the following:
INTERPRET: Paul was a minister of the gospel according to God’s grace. Though he was the least likely to be in this role, God gave him this calling to share Christ with the Gentiles. He sought to bring light to everyone, regarding the plan and grace of God.
The first three chapters of this letter are primarily doctrine; while the last three chapters provide a practical approach on how to live. It is chapter 3 that begins the transition from a Christian understanding of salvation, grace, and the power of Christ; into a practical guide for Christian living. To ease the transition, Paul refers to his own calling by God and prays for the spiritual strength of the Ephesian church.
Beginning in chapter 4, Paul puts the doctrine into practice. Paul begins by emphasizing the ultimate unity of all Christians. Paul makes it clear that spiritual gifts are given to us through the grace of God. These gifts are then used to build up the church as a unified body. Paul also begins to explain how knowledge of God’s truths should translate into real life action. Paul urges the church to live in ways that reflect the grace that they’ve been given.
APPLICATION: God’s grace is an undeserved gift that is epitomized at the cross. Grace is an undeserved gift that keeps on giving; as we continually seek to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Grace is not only a quality of the nature of God, but it is an acting of God that works in us to change our capacity for obedience, work and even suffering.
God’s grace empowers us to live in ways that glorify God. We are to set our minds on spiritual things; putting on the new self of godly living. As we focus on Christ and what he has done for us; he will build up the church as one unified body. As believers; the Holy Spirit will equip us with spiritual gifts. These spiritual gifts will help us minister to other believers and to make a difference to the world around us.
REFLECTION: Have you be prepared to receive the spiritual gifts that God wants to grace you with? Have you discerned your gifts by testing them within your church body?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father; I pray that out of your glorious riches you may strengthen me daily with power through your Spirit; so that Christ may dwell in my heart. I also ask that you will help me; along with all of your holy people; to grasp how wide and long and high and deep your love is. AMEN.
SONG: Ephesians 3:14 20- A Scripture Song
Blog Post 41: The Law and Faith in Christ (Gal 3-4)
A very frustrated Paul is writing to his Galatian audience over their impending rejection of the grace of Jesus Christ by listening to those who preach salvation by works. “How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” He insists that the law is of no use in bringing anyone closer to God and goes on to explain that “… those who depend on the law to make them right before God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the law and commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.””
He emphasizes his point by showing that God initiated His covenant with Abraham by promise and not by law, and Abraham was the forefather of Israel. The purpose of the law is here explained as both a guardian and a means by which the sins of all those who are under it have been revealed. Jesus, Paul explains, was the one who came and liberated those captive to the law of sin and death, and now they ought to live in Christ. He urges them to remember that “now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are His child, God has made you his heir.”
Paul goes on to express concern for the souls of these wayward Galatians, reminding them that they were once slaves before they received Christ and not to return to that same slavery. He draws parallels between them and the two sons of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael. Ishmael was born of a slave and his descendants continue on in slavery. Paul says that those who are in Christ have been born again and not into slavery but freedom in Christ.
A lot of these two chapters is fairly straight forward and clear in its message, but it’s worth repeating once again here that we are not slaves to anyone or anything once we are in Christ, so we ought to live like it. Paul is desperate here to keep the Galatians on track with the truth of the Gospel, that the entire point of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was to break the power of sin and death, fulfill the law, and bring those under it into union with God Almighty. Basically Paul is saying that if they don’t have that, then they don’t have anything.
It takes a lot of work and depends on Divine Power for sinners to have their eyes opened to their true state, to have stubborn hearts melted and faces turned towards the light. It depends on the Holy Spirit’s irresistible call of grace that breaks through pride and arrogance, drawing sinners home. I personally believe that it is far easier to depend on works – real, tangible things we can do with our hands and heads – to get us into God’s graces, for that requires little in the way of obedience of the heart. If all we had to do was one good deed a day, or to say a certain prayer, or bow in a certain direction to gain salvation then we would feel a lot more confident in our own abilities to save ourselves. That’s what the Galatians have been tempted with, and that is a clear rejection of the Gospel and God’s grace.
For we are saved not by the words of our mouths or the works of our hands but by a change of heart and the birth of a new creation within us. We are saved when we humble ourselves and do the unthinkable: actually do what God tells us to do; that is, depend on Him and His work on the cross. When we actually take that leap and dive into His hands we can be sure we will be caught. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God, however we do need to put Him where He belongs, where He wants to be: First and foremost in our lives. If we find ourselves at odds with God or His Body, He is not the problem. The hardest thing to do is to humble ourselves. That’s true now and was true for the Galatians who, I imagine, must have felt much more secure if they were able to procure salvation with their own good deeds and obedience to the law.
Paul, however, calls both them and us to do better than that. He calls us to acknowledge the superiority and sovereignty of God in every aspect of our lives and to not humble ourselves once but, just as Jesus Christ the Son of God, empty ourselves for the sake of others.
Application and Question -
But what does that mean? One of the hardest things to do when someone is struggling with sin, addiction, or any other sort of unhealthy situation is trying to get them to recognize that they are indeed enslaved to something dangerous and harmful. There comes a time when debate and discussion are of no more use. It is no longer a matter of the head but of the heart, and nobody can change hearts but God. Paul was desperate for those whose hearts had been changed to not be fooled or led astray. He urges them and us not to submit again to the yoke of slavery from which we were liberated.
We must not be ignorant of the schemes of Satan either who constantly seeks to divide and conquer like a pack of wolves – to isolate members of the church one by one and pick them off, inflating their pride and self-reliance to the point where they are unable to recognize their own sin. It is good to get a reality check now and again, however God requires us not to submit ourselves to Him occasionally and only when we get off track but to live and walk attentively by His side. Psalm 32:9 says “Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.”
If any of us read the words of Paul in Galatians 3-4 (or even these ones, as I am speaking from Scripture) and believes that you certainly cannot be guilty of arrogance or pride or are blind to your own sin, that you are too well-read, too experienced, too in-the-know to be wrong, rest assured that all these words are levelled directly at you. Paul was desperately concerned with the unity of the church in both letters to the Corinthians and though the reasons for division are different with the Galatians, the same alarm bells are ringing.
The Lord desires us all to act humbly, to live in that humility which we saw exemplified in Christ who gave up His security for the sake of others, that we can recognize when our eyes and ears are leading us astray. Are you preaching salvation by works? Are you dividing the body and isolating yourself? Who or what do you prize most in this entire life? Remember the words of Jesus Christ. If we find ourselves torn between standing up for ourselves and laying our lives down for the sake of the Body of Christ then be comforted, for Luke 14:26-7 says “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Christ gave up His life not so that we could take it and go our own ways, but that we would actually, honestly DIE to ourselves, our opinions, our ideas, and LIVE for Him! Heaven forbid we actually do that in this day and age, that we actually step out in faith and burst the bubble of arrogance and pride. Are we serious about the unity of the Body? Thenet us submit ourselves fully to Christ. Those same Galatians who preached the law were sincere, but sincerity is not a mark of truth. “Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you?” Let us no longer be fools but be wise, for the days are evil and few. We must never be found to hinder the work of God. We have been broken out of prison, and the life we had there was no life at all. Let us lay down our life for Christ and live by faith in Him, hating our own lives and sacrificing our comforts and beliefs for the sake of His heavenly Kingdom.
Lord Jesus, thank you for setting us free from the law of sin and death, for opening our eyes and doing for us what we could never have done on our own. Please help us submit in true humility to you and go where you would have us go, never considering ourselves but emptying ourselves for others, that we might work to keep the unity of your Body in faith and works, to the glory of your Holy Name. Amen.
Song: In Christ Alone (Shane & Shane)
Text: Galatians 1, 2, Acts 15
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Unlike his other letters that begin with thanksgiving and prayer for the recipient churches, the letter to the Galatians gets straight to the point with Paul’s emotional expression of astonishment that the Galatians are turning to a different gospel than what they originally heard and accepted. Influential individuals among them are causing a lot of confusion by changing and perverting the gospel of Christ. Paul says he is not willing to be a people-pleaser and he boldly reminds the Galatian believers of his original gospel message to them, a revelation he received directly from Jesus Christ.
Paul qualifies his message saying he did not need the approval of the other apostles in Jerusalem because God called him and revealed Jesus to him personally and directly. It was only later in his faith journey that Paul met Peter and the other apostles and shared with them his call to preach to the Gentiles. At that time, he went to Jerusalem and met with the leaders of the Jewish believers and his call was readily affirmed by them.
Continuing his letter, Paul shares about a time when Peter fell into the same struggle the Galatians are experiencing:
Although Peter was Jewish, he exercised his freedom from the law and ate with Gentiles. But when he visited Antioch, pressure from certain people influenced Peter to give up this freedom. When Paul saw how this hypocrisy negatively impacted Barnabas, he openly confronted Peter and corrected this wrong way of thinking and living. Paul explained that for Jews and Gentiles alike, it is faith in Jesus alone that justifies the believer, not the additional observance of the law. It is an abandoning of the grace of God to seek to fulfil the law in order to be made righteous. If that were true, Christ’s death was for nothing.
Paul was zealous to defend the essence of the gospel message. His life was an extreme example of the transformational power of the true revelation of Jesus. Paul knew none of his former efforts to fulfill Jewish Torah laws, no matter how passionately pursued, could earn him a status of righteousness before God. It was only the perfection of Jesus’ life and his sacrificial death that enabled Paul to be justified and made righteous before God. At his conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul humbly set aside the idea that he could do anything to earn God’s favour. It was only through what Jesus did that Paul was able to come into approval with God.
As he confronts false teaching by writing this letter to the Galatian churches, Paul’s identity in Jesus gives him boldness to face rejection from people. He models for the believers the very truth he communicates: do not nullify God’s grace by falling into the practice of people-pleasing, instead stand firm in your identity of being approved by God through your faith in Jesus.
By accommodating persuasive false teachers and entertaining their ideas, the Galatians have fallen into people-pleasing instead of fearing God and living in the fullness of the gospel. The pressure to perform any particular part of Jewish Torah law was actually changing the truth of the gospel message they originally received. It was only their identity in Jesus, his righteousness that justified them, not any sort of work they could do to be made more right with God; the costly price of Jesus’ death was enough. The believer does not need anything else to be made right with God--so, they need to resist and reject the pressure from false teachers saying otherwise.
Paul understood the influence other people can have on our sense of acceptance, identity and belonging. Even Peter, the “rock”, fell into wrong thinking and living because he prioritized what people would think about him if he exercised his freedom, bought by the precious blood of Jesus.
The key to resisting false teaching and wrong living perpetrated by influential people is to stand firmly in our identity as being fully approved by God—this grace won for us by Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. When we understand the richness of our relationship with God, that we have his full favour and approval, we will not fall victim to the fear of man or the fear of rejection that manifests as people-pleasing.
Reflect: What sort of pressures do you face in today’s culture? Are you prone to people-pleasing? How does today’s reading challenge you? What are some ways you can practically lean into God’s approval?
Pray: Precious Jesus, thank you for the sacrifice you made to buy my freedom and to restore my relationship to Father God. Thank you for your Holy Spirit that empowers me to live a life pleasing to you. Teach me more about why your approval of me trumps everything else. Help me to bask in your delight of me instead of falling victim to the pressures and influences of this world. Amen.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12: 9-10
2 Corinthians 11-13 (Psalm 4)
Our biggest weakness is our dependence on our own strength; our self-sufficiency. It seems that this early church is being lured by the appearance of strength and the appeal of ‘super-apostles’ who teach a false gospel (11: 1-5). Paul in contrast, who seems not to be an eloquent speaker, simply came in humility and truth (11: 6). Paul then details a quite incredible list of his own qualifications that demonstrate an amazing strength, spirit of endurance and motivation of love (11: 16-33). He truly is a ‘super-apostle’ who would prefer not to promote himself but Christ. However, because the Church is being drawn to the false light of human appeal he declares his credentials. Paul goes one step further though. He explains that his real boast is in his weakness as this is where Jesus’ grace and power is truly revealed. Paul suffered from some form of physical ailment (much debated) that he asked the Lord to take away. God’s direction was that it remain, so that Paul trusted God and not his own strength. God’s light shines most truly in the broken vessels of our humble submission to Him (2 Cor. 4: 7).
Towards the end of this letter Paul encourages the Church to truly repent and turn away from sinful ways that he has previously spoken to them over (12: 20-21). It seems that a focus on false apostles and their teaching has drawn them away from their relationship with God. Instead he calls them to examine themselves and faith in light of the truth and to be united (13)
Coincidentally I touched on part of these passages in my sermon on the 7th November (click here).
The lure of human strength and self-sufficiency in ourselves and towards others is the root cause of many a conflict and failing. Essentially it is pride; the belief that we know better than God our creator and can do better on our own. In this state of need and rebellion God will often work through difficulties and suffering to wean us off ourselves so that we place our trust in Him. Not only do we find that His grace is sufficient for all our needs, this reliance on God causes His light to shine out of us towards others. Faith magnifies God’s grace. For us personally we suddenly find a strength beyond ours and an ability to rejoice in God despite our circumstances. Wonderful truths for our times of challenge and risks of division.
The hymn that I have chosen for today was written by George Matheson a Scottish preacher. He was known for his life of love and sacrifice despite the huge ‘thorn in his side’ of blindness. He wrote this hymn during a period of time which he described as, “the most severe mental suffering.” Please listen to and read the words carefully and marvel at God’s grace.
The Question of Application
Who do we trust most of all: ourselves; others; or God? Who do we seek to glorify most of all: ourselves; others; or God?
God of grace and love enable us to rejoice! By your grace and in your power may we strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind and live in peace. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen
From 2 Corinthians 13: 11-14
O Love that wilt not let me go
Text: Psalm 3
Observe: Today, I’d like to share with you my thoughts on Psalm 3. King David wrote it as he was fleeing Jerusalem ahead of a rebellion lead by his own son, Absalom.
1 Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”
3 But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
4 I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.
5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
6 I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.
7 Arise, Lord!
Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.
8 From the Lord comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.
Interpret: The story of King David and his son Absalom is a tragic one. It’s the story of a father’s love and a son’s rebellion. Psalm 3 was written by David at a particularly stormy time in their relationship which eventually ends very badly. In time, King David comes to the sad realization that his son’s behavior was just a reflection of his own sins. You can read their whole story in 2nd Samuel.
From the time Absalom returned from Hebron to Jerusalem, he quietly plotted against his father, subtly currying favour with the people, biding his time until, in an act of deception and betrayal, Absalom deposed his father, causing David to flee from his kingdom and his throne. Psalm 3 records the desperate cries of a father’s heart pierced by the betrayal of his much loved son.
As David flees with his remaining faithful followers, the magnitude of his loss weighs heavily on his heart and mind. The accusations of his enemies ring in his ears, “There is no salvation for him in God” (Ps 3:2). He has been forced from his throne even though the Lord himself said, “I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (Ps 2:6). He began to doubt whether God would still rescue him. Perhaps his accusers were right. Perhaps David had sinned so greatly that he no longer found favor with God. Perhaps he was utterly forsaken and this would be the end of his life, fleeing from his own son, Absalom.
But this wasn’t the first time King David had feared for his life. He had many well-worn paths in his heart for times of distress, and he remembered his only real source of hope, and “cried aloud to the Lord” (Ps 3:4). Emphatically, he pleads, “Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God!” Wondering if he would ever escape the clutches of his pursuers, David reminds the Lord, “You strike all my enemies on the cheek” (Ps 3:7). Despite his fearfulness over his safety, David was exhausted from fleeing, so he “laid down and slept”, unsure of whether or not the Lord will listen.
When he awakes, David praises God, “for the LORD sustained me” (Ps 3:5). In times of crisis even little things, like sleep, become daily opportunities for us to express our gratitude to the One who sustains us. In the uncertainty of our challenges, the Lord is “a shield about me.” In the shame of rejection, the Lord is “my glory.” In the defeat of despair, the Lord is “the lifter of my head” (Ps 3:3).
Application: Listening to this story in the life of King David, we are reminded of the story of another King. This King, too, was betrayed by one of his most intimate friends. There were many who rose up against him. He was denied his rightful throne and was mockingly portrayed as, “The King of the Jews.” This King, too, felt forsaken because he was utterly forsaken by His own people. However, when He lay down, He slept in the grave and rose triumphantly because His Father sustained Him. So King Jesus can boldly announce to our heavenly Father, “May your blessing be on your people!” (Ps 3:8). Therefore, as His people, looking to the salvation He brought for us, we can defiantly reply to our accusers, “Deliverance comes from the LORD!” (Ps 3.8). In all our tribulations, the Lord is our blessing.
Questions: Have you ever experienced a time when your world came crashing down around you? To whom did you turn in your time of need?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we know that you are our only and ultimate source of help. When events in our lives turn out badly for us, we know that we find our refuge in you. You are our fortress and strong tower against all adversity. On you we rely for all our needs, our comfort, and our salvation. You are more than our Deliverer. You are our ultimate blessing. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Song: Song of Deliverance – Zach Williams
Text: II Corinthians 7 and 8
In this part of the letter to the Corinthians, it appears that the people in the community have confessed their sin against God, and against Paul. Paul is writing to let them know how encouraged he is with their change of heart and behaviour. Paul also wants them to know how delighted he is with Titus’ welcome by the Corinthian church.
At this point, it seems Paul has enough confidence in their change of heart that he calls them to give generously to the relief fund for the Jerusalem church who have experienced much testing, and many are now living in poverty.
Paul gives some instructions on how to give: Be generous but give in proportion to what you have, not what you don’t have.
Paul models a right godly attitude and behaviour of church leader who has used his Christ-given authority to admonish the church in their sinful behaviour. He then is quick to encourage them in their repentance and changed attitudes, noting that he himself is much encouraged by their turn-around.
Never one to let the church rest on its laurels, Paul then thanks them for their acceptance of Titus and recommends another brother to them. He expects the church to accept this other brother as well and to show love to all the brothers (and sisters?) with them.
QUESTION for Reflection
What kind of a giver am I? Do I give according to what I have, or am I stingy in what I give? Do I give with joy, not with reluctance? Do I trust that God has and will continue to give me what I need, so that I am able to give generously and joyfully?
Oh Lord God, you who gives to us so completely your compassion and your Holy Spirit, mold us to become generous and joyful in sharing the gifts you give us.
Generous Giver By Vintage Worship
2 Corinthians 1-2
2 Corinthians starts off with Paul praying a blessing of comfort and mercy upon all those in Corinth who are receiving his words. He points to God as the source of all comfort and abundance which they are all to join in through Christ. Continuing on, he references the many hardships and afflictions he and his have endured on behalf of believers just like those in Corinth, being brought to the very end of themselves and despairing of life entirely.
Paul alludes to his meekness and simplicity of life as a measure of submission to God and calls on his listeners not to exclude him or others on account of a humble life but to see him as a slave of Christ, one utterly submitted to the Lord, who leads them all in a triumphal procession. He references a painful visit that took place somewhere between the first and second book of Corinthians, too, where those of Corinth who have grown arrogant demanded Paul verify his claims to leadership. This is continued on in the third chapter, however it is helpful to realize where Paul is aiming his words in the first and second chapter!
It’s no secret that Paul’s time in and among the church in Corinth (and everywhere else, for that matter) was one of turbulence and toil. Between his many comings and goings, weeds would always spring up and try to choke those seeds that had sprouted in good soil. 2:11 tells us to forgive one another and ultimately keep the bigger picture of the body of Christ in mind when dealing with such troubles, mending and healing quickly, “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”
Time and time again, Paul references the issues over which people in Corinth are dividing, and the entire thrust of these two letters are to forget about yourself and do everything you can to maintain the unity of the Body! For Paul had more than two interactions with the church in Corinth as a cursory look at the Epistles would appear to reveal: he had many a heated interaction with those who sought to leave the church over petty issues or worse, divide it.
This led to a confrontation which is referred to as a painful visit and was clearly something that left a lasting impression. He points to Christ as the one who leads them, not any man or woman of eloquent speech and fine attire. He points to Christ as the source of authority and anointing; each and every leader appointed by God acts according to the Spirit, “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put His seal on us and given us His spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” It is this very same Christ who “always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere … for we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”
Application and question:
I would speak plainly to those who seek to divide the church in this day and age over petty concerns; those who have been faithfully anointed and appointed by Christ, in the presence of many witnesses and according to Scripture and the discernment and guidance of the Holy Spirit; those who have obediently and with unwavering loyalty wielded authority as faithful shepherds of God’s flock – when it comes down to it, why do you suddenly feel right to reject their leadership and guidance and the opinion of the majority when it comes to inconsequential matters? You who read of ancient Israel or the church in Corinth and shake your head at their disobedience and hubris, do you not condemn yourself for nearly identical acts? Those whom God has established in Christ, and has anointed, will you reject and ignore? Shall we divide the Body of Christ over questions of sexuality or walk out over vaccines? Or will we submit to God’s ordained leadership until it comes time to actually be lead? Nonsense!
This painful visit that took place with Paul must have been truly painful, but it was pride that stoked the flames. The unwillingness of those Corinthians to actually be led by Paul resulted in them being shown their place so as to save them from further guilt – guilt of division and arrogance and pride. No doubt some of those who sought to split one way or another did so out of sincerity and conviction, but just as they were, so too are we capable of being sincere and convicted and wrong. When in doubt, let us put all things to Scripture in prayer, examining the faithfully ordained shepherd over us, and recount the many ways in which the Spirit has led us all so far. Let us choose obedience in uncertainty and ensure that we not only maintain the unity of the Body, but faithfully work alongside that which God has already established.
Lord God, we are all in need of humility and your mercy. We are desperate for your guidance and leadership, so please open our eyes to how you are already leading and guiding. Give us eyes to see and a heart to accept your mastery of our lives. Please honour us as we step out in faith and obedience, especially in areas where we feel uncomfortable. Help our love and reverence for your Body overcome all our objections, and in doing so keep us from any evil division. Amen!
Song: Tis So Sweet (Shane & Shane)
Text: 1 Cor 15-16 (Ps 148)
Observe Paul articulates the heart of the Gospel – Christ died for our sins … and rose again (15:3-7). Those to whom Jesus appeared after His Resurrection are listed, from Peter first, ending with Paul , captive of Christ by pure grace.
Paul slams the conspiracy theory of his time: there is no bodily resurrection. But … if in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (19) This is countered in the next six verses – Christ the Risen One has conquered death. The old – Adam/death, is overcome by the new – Christ/life. Chaos is vanquished by order; death, the last great enemy, by real life in Christ.(26)
Paul neither commends nor commands the odd practice of baptism on behalf of the dead (29). However, he rails at those who ‘have no knowledge of God’; that is, they deny bodily resurrection. So what’s the point? The dead in Christ will be raised on His return – ‘nuff said.
As for what to expect, a series of contrasts, assures us … as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (49), and a most wonderful mystery: In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, … the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (52) Death has no power over us who believe. Christ’s death killed death.
Paul moves into last-chapter practicalities: he asks wealthy Corinthian Christians to financially support needy Jerusalem Christians, gives his travel itinerary, asks them to welcome Timothy, and writes out final instructions. One of these, … act like men (16:13c) exhorts the entire Corinthian church to foster courage and strength in the Lord, acting out of love. Naming those who are true servants, passing on greetings from the Asian church and a house church, the letter ends with a blessing (23) (for us, too!).
Interpret In the Nicene Creed’s final words, “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”. This credal statement is chapter 15 succinctly packed into one line.
Baptism on behalf of the dead is useless if baptizing dead bodies comes without the hope of resurrection, asserts Paul. Faith in the living Christ and personal relationship with Him are requirements. We get things so twisted by add-ons!
The Corinthians couldn’t fathom how limited, sick, decaying bodies could live eternally. Paul straightens them out – God changes the mortal to immortal (42-49). In eternity we will be truly imago Dei -- beautiful as God had intended. A resurrection body is no pipe dream, but a reality to be anticipated. Transformation awaits! Meanwhile, we live for Christ, bearing fruit in doing His eternally lasting work.
Apply Listen to the Messiah excerpt – a direct quote of 15:51-52; ‘mystery’ beyond anything we know. We will be changed; we can’t imagine how. But we prepare for change by living in thankfulness to God while bringing His Kingdom to others.
The ask in the closing chapter nudges us beyond our own needs. Our church, by the Holy Spirit, is moving outward, ripples widening as we reach others in Him. God is using what we have and give for His glory. We can’t stop once we’ve started!
Ask How can we become excited and inspired to let others know there is a future and a hope (Jer.29:13)? In this bleak time, as secularism ramps up its agenda against faith and truth, how can we build each other up in our faith? Small groups, cords, prayer alone or with others, reading and learning God’s Word in fellowship, helping in the church where we can … now, how can we participate as church more fully?
Pray Lord Jesus, keep me excited about You, about what You ask of me, about being with You forever, in Your likeness. Thank You for this glorious, mysterious promise, because You are risen and alive!
Sing Handel Messiah Behold, I tell you a mystery; The trumpet shall sound https://youtu.be/rQYv8EsGSQ
Ps 148: Graham Kendrick Praise the Lord from the Heavens
“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.”
1 Corinthians 14: 1
1 Corinthians 13-14 (Psalm 147)
Paul has covered a number of heavy topics in his letter so far: division; sexual immorality; lawsuits; the Lord’s Supper; spiritual gifts; and unity to highlight some of the big hitters. He now moves to the well-known ‘hymn of love.’ In doing so he agrees with Peter that love covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8) and is the most excellent way. Love is simply the solution. He describes amazing gifts: prophecy; tongues; knowledge; faith; and charity. If these gifts are not motivated by love they are useless. There is a way Christians are called to live by, a way that imitates Jesus; it is the admirable way of love. Paul describes fifteen characteristics of this love….each is worth meditating upon. This love is permanent, complete and therefore absolutely supreme (13: 8-13); love is the power behind and in our faith and the motivation for our hope (13: 13).
Having described love so beautifully Paul encourages his readers to pursue the way of love and to eagerly desire Spiritual gifts. This naturally leads us to a worshipful relationship with God. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live in the way of love and draws the Church to Unity. Therefore, as members of the Church we are to worship God in an intelligible and orderly way. The gift of prophecy, foretelling and forthtelling, is to be desired as this builds the Church up as a whole. Speaking in tongues is a gift that blesses the individual in their relationship with God and should only be used in Church if a person is present who has the gift of interpretation. Worship is to honour God and must not be self-seeking or glorifying. True worship where God is present and His Truth proclaimed will be orderly and bring individuals under conviction of their sin and God’s judgement, thus bringing them to worship filled faith (14: 22-24).
Quite simply God is love (1 John 4: 8). He is the source of all love. Therefore, if we are be in a real relationship with Him, love will be our foundation. The Holy Spirit is the presence of Jesus Christ in our hearts and the wellspring of this love. As He daily transforms us through His sanctification process these characteristics of love will grow and be more evident. Our part is full submission and obedience. As we gaze upon Him and grow in our understanding of who He is and His love for us we cannot help but love Him back. We then begin to see others as God sees them and our love for our neighbor grows too (1 John 4: 12). This in turn means we can even begin to love ourselves! This love is the source of our strength and the means of Unity for us as a Church.
The Question of Application
Meditate on each of the fifteen characteristics of love (13: 4-7). Which area does the Holy Spirit highlight to you, what action is He calling you to take?
Almighty and loving Father, by the power of your Holy Spirit through your Son Jesus Christ enable our love to be patient and kind. Help us not to envy, boast nor be proud. May we not dishonor others, nor be self-seeking, easily angered, nor record the wrongs of others. May we not delight in evil but rejoice in your truth. Finally may your love within us always protect, always trust, always hope and, always persevere. Amen
From 1 Corinthians 13
Stand in your Love, Bethel Music
1 Corinthians 14: 34-35 often causes consternation, hurt and ill feeling. Commentators highlight the context of this letter and the differing positions women held in society, ranging from low in the Greek culture and Jewish faith to high in some of the cults present at the time. It is most likely that in the new freedom and equal status within the early Church, honouring worship was being derailed by conversations and distractions. Paul was calling for orderly worship. I would encourage you not to focus on this one point but see the bigger picture of true love and honouring worship.
Bible Blog 2022
This year the blogs are focused on the Psalms and are posted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.