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1 Corinthians

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Testing the Building

1 Corinthians 3:12-15

Paul was writing about Jesus, the only foundation of the church, at a time when false teachers were saying that either supernatural signs or human logic should be at the centre of the church (1 Corinthians 1:22).  Even some who accepted the ultimate authority of Jesus still wanted to shape the church in a different way than Jesus had instructed His apostles.  

The Preciousness of God's Dwelling

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

God's temple on earth, Paul wrote, is the church.  God used to dwell in the most holy place of the Old Testament tabernacle, and later the temple, but God now lives within all who worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.  So, He does not reside only in one geographical location or physical building; wherever His people are found, God's Spirit is there too.

The Deception of Worldly Wisdom

1 Corinthians 3:18-20

Self-deceit is easy; it comes packaged with our human nature. We cannot see ourselves as we are, nor can we see the world as God sees it. The pressure of worldly people encourages us to believe that we should conform to their value systems of money, power, relationships and success in education, the professions and business. It is the way to succeed and be satisfied, they say. However, all those things will pass away, but those who do God's will endure for ever (1 John 2:17).

Don't Worship Spiritual Leaders

1 Corinthians 3:21-23

In our human weakness we often feel stronger when we associate with others. And in one sense we are stronger together. However the strength and sense of identity gained by supporters of sports teams (or champions of any kind) does not really make their followers greater in any way: it is the athletes who are the strong ones. In the same way, believers can boast that they follow a particular preacher or church leader … as though that makes them as spiritual as their hero. But it is an illusion.

Faithful Trustees

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

In this chapter, Paul defends the gospel he taught in the face of severe criticism in Corinth. False teaching, party spirit and worldly wisdom had encouraged arrogant and power-hungry people to declare that Paul should not be trusted: he was not teaching the truth, they said. Paul knew he did not need to vindicate himself (Romans 12:19), but he had to defend the gospel. It was God's secret which He authorised the apostles to release to the world.

Pride Invents Reasons to Boast Divisively

1 Corinthians 4:6-7

The church was dividing into factions. Groups had formed, supporting different apostles and visiting teachers, and they fought against each other claiming that 'their teacher' had the truth. But really they were fomenting a power struggle (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). Paul had just described how he and Apollos (and Peter) were united in the gospel and in fellowship. Although they had been given different roles in God's kingdom, they were only God's servants (1 Corinthians 3:5-9) and certainly not in competition with each other.

Worldly Boasting Is Not Godly

1 Corinthians 4:8-11

This may seem to be a rather strange passage. Believers in the church in Corinth had been ridiculing Paul because he upset their society. He was not culturally sensitive, intellectually fascinating and did not fit into the sort of celebrity role that they expected. They were in a spiritually dangerous position so Paul wanted them to see themselves as they were. He was intentionally ironic. Now, we do not usually think that sarcasm is a good way to communicate but these misled believers needed a potent shock to help them to see how ungodly they had become.

Humbly Dealing with Hostility

1 Corinthians 4:12-13

Corinthian culture was driven by success. It was financially prosperous (more slaves lived there than free people – their manual work brought in the money). It was a proud centre for ideas and culture. Even though people responded to the gospel, putting their trust in Jesus, they brought their old habits with them into the church importing worldly arrogance and despising godly humility. They believed that thinking was morally superior to labouring, manual work was unspiritual and that suffering was a mark of failure.

Fatherly Warning

1 Corinthians 4:14-17

Paul had strongly rebuked the believers in Corinth for their party-spirit, divisions, arrogance and for despising God's messengers. The apostle's authority came directly from Jesus Christ (Acts 22:21) and even though Paul had a hostile reception when he first preached in Corinth, the Lord encouraged him to persist (Acts 18:10). He experienced much opposition in starting the church and then the troublesome congregation continued to oppose him.

Knowing That Repentance Cannot Be Deferred

1 Corinthians 4:18-21

Some people do not know how to respond to a rebuke. The right response to revealed sin is repentance. But the erring believers in Corinth seemed to ignore the significance of their selfish divisions. Paul was far away and as they did not see that there was a problem, they did not believe that any action should be taken. Their arrogance had made them spiritually blind.