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1 Corinthians

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One God, One Lord

1 Corinthians 8:4-8

When we are used to thinking in a certain way, we assume that is true and normal. The new Christians in Corinth had been brought up from childhood to believe that the many pagan gods were real and had real power, which is why they were worshipped and sacrifices made to them. So the gospel brought a massive personal and cultural change. Paul taught that there is only one God (Deuteronomy 4:39) and that the so called 'gods' of Greek and Roman culture, and the mystery 'gods' of the tribal religions, had no reality, personality or power (Psalm 135:16-18).

Don't Obstruct Another's Faith

1 Corinthians 8:9-13

Everybody in Corinth was used to worshipping at the pagan temples. It was part of their normal social life. But Paul taught that there is only one God and all the idols had no personality or power (1 Corinthians 8:4). However, old habits are hard to shift, particularly if family or friends were still sacrificing to the idols. A big moral question arose: was it right or wrong to eat meat which had been offered to the idols? Paul was clear that the association of the meat with idol worship did not alter the meat in any way, and it had no spiritual power (1 Corinthians 8:8).

Apostolic Authority

1 Corinthians 9:1-6

The Apostle Paul was under attack. Although he had founded the church in Corinth (Acts 18:1-11), other visiting preachers were probably not so direct about the need to be committed to discipleship. Some may have been false teachers; others may have compromised their faith by tolerating old pagan religious practices in the church. Others opposed him simply because he set such a high standard of Christian living.

Apostolic Integrity (1)

1 Corinthians 9:7-12

Market forces determine the value of commodities. If something is rare and good it will attract a high price, but if goods are offered at a very low price, they are assumed to be valueless. Corinth was a trading city and market mentality was embedded into the culture. If a visiting lecturer charged a high price to teach new students, they presumed it reflected the high value of important knowledge. The problem was that Paul did not ask for money (Acts 20:34). So the Apostle had to defend the gospel, which is of eternal value, against critics of his 'free message of free salvation'.

Apostolic Integrity (2)

1 Corinthians 9:13-15

Money is not evil in itself but a lust for money is a breeding ground for evil (1 Timothy 6:10). It can be seen in a million different ways in business and the professions. Corinth was full of people trying to make money; some were travelling philosophers and religious people who offered their ideas in exchange for money. Paul was determined that the gospel should not be tainted by the slightest perception of personal greed and so he chose to earn his own living as a tentmaker (Acts 18:1-3).

Compelling Gospel

1 Corinthians 9:16-18

Some people in Corinth may have wondered: if Paul does not get any money for preaching the gospel, then why does he do it (and put himself at risk from mobs, jealous religious people and Roman soldiers)? The Apostle wanted to make clear that his preaching did not boost his ego, nor were the associated risks a sort of 'danger game' that gave him a thrill. Presenting the gospel was a simple act of obedience. He was privileged to be appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ to tell the gospel (Acts 26:15-18).

Selfless Gospel

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Roman citizens had freedom to travel over the whole empire; they could vote, hold public office, make legal contracts, buy land and property, and they were protected under the Roman justice system and could demand a fair trial. Paul was such a citizen. He was a free man and not a slave to anybody. He was also a high ranking Jewish teacher. And yet, in order to win people for Christ, he did not use his status to exert power over people.

Disciplined Gospel

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

The Roman Empire was well ordered, its military forces were disciplined, and they knew how to keep the peace with a good degree of success.  Although they conquered Greece by the decisive battle of Corinth in 146BC, the legacy of Greek culture persisted - the arts and competitive sport were rigorously tested, but personal morality was morally dissolute. That morality was infecting the church. As new believers joined the church they had to be taught to control their fleshly appetite to please themselves, for Christ's sake (2 Timothy 1:7).

Religious But Not Pleasing to God

1 Corinthians 10:1-5

The Corinthian church, like God's Old Testament people, thought that they were all right with God because they did some religious things. Paul needed to shake them from their self-indulgent fantasy by reminding them of the exodus from Egypt, the powerful act of God which is the Bible's prime example of His sovereignty in salvation (Exodus 13:17-22).

Real Life Warnings

1 Corinthians 10:6-10

The narrative passages of the Old Testament are not just history. They show how God interacts with His people when they are faithful (in blessing), and when they are unfaithful (in judgement). Paul used episodes from Israel's wilderness wanderings to illustrate some things which God will not tolerate. They were also the same behaviour patterns which were considered normal in Corinthian society, from which God had called the believers.