Archive for January, 2011
1 Corinthians 3:18-23: Become a fool to be wise
Most of this letter to the Corinthian believers is focussed on the difference between the world’s wisdom and God’s. Paul continues this conversation in these next few verses.
v.18, Some of the believers had been fooling themselves into thinking they needed special knowledge or deeper wisdom in order to be saved. Basically saying Jesus death and resurrection wasn’t ENOUGH! Paul tells them to stop “fooling [themselves]” because even if they are “wise by the world’s standards”, they are not wise by God’s. Then he says you have “to become a FOOL so you can become WISE by God’s standards.” Meaning he was warning them that God’s way of thinking is infinitely more valuable, even though it may seem foolish to the world. The believers would have to empty themselves of their pride in human wisdom in order to be filled with God’s wisdom.
v.19-20, In past verses Paul has said that the cross is foolishness to the world now in this verse he says the flip-side of that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight” and he uses two OT verses to back-up his claim:
Job 5:12 “[God] traps the [worldly] wise in the snare of their own cleverness.”
Psalm 94:11 “The Lord knows the thoughts of the [worldly] wise; he knows they are worthless.”
Paul says here that no matter how wise a human being may appear, God is far wiser. God knows all and understands all, even the thoughts of the most intelligent man on the face of the planet don’t compare to God’s wisdom and understanding.
v.21-23, So with all the above in mind, Paul tells the Corinthian believers “don’t boast about following a particular human leader…” such as “Paul or Apollos or Peter” Believers must not put their faith in human leaders, no they must follow Jesus alone! Paul uses the phrase “everything belongs to you” which simply means all believers have everything because they have Christ–they don’t need anything else. Paul finishes off the chapter with “the [physical not ethical system] world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you.” The believers owned everything by association with Christ. Everything belonged to them because they “belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.” Paul is making it clear here that all believers have been given everything from God even death has no victory over them because of their salvation through Jesus. The present and the future belong to them because they belong to God who holds the present and the future. And the same is true of life. Everything belongs to them because God owns everything!
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? It took me a while to figure out what this means to me. I had to read over this passage a few times before it came to me. But I think the thing that is really ringing in my ear is the phrase is v.18 you will have to become a fool so you can become wise by God’s standards. I have always strived to be wise by the world’s standards. To want to be known or popular or even in ministry circles thought of. I guess I am trying to say that no matter what the world or a group of people think of me, it doesn’t matter because God’s standards should be my benchmark for the way I live–even if the world looks at me and thinks I am foolish or stupid or worse.
WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? Focus more of what God thinks of me and less on what my peers, the church and my family thinks. Not to say I am going to live my life with no care in the world. No, what I mean is I am going to live with the question in my head “is God proud of me at this moment?” And if he is I know I am doing his will.
1 Corinthians 3:10-17: Build on the right foundation
Paul finishes v.9 with “You are God’s building” and moves into a discussion about builders, foundations, and materials that are used to build with. You would almost think he was talking about construction but he makes a very interesting point. Read on.
v.10-11, Paul has been called by God’s grace to lay the “foundation like an expert builder” meaning he was called to take the Good News of salvation to the Corinthians. “Now others are building on this foundation” and they “must be very careful.” Paul was referring to Apollos as being “others” but he was not criticizing but explaining that ANY builder must be careful how they “build”= teach. The results of teaching with Biblical convictions will be a strong Biblical church or believers. Then Paul reminds us of a parable Jesus told in Matthew 7:24-27 about two kinds of lives or buildings: one constructed on Jesus as the foundation and the other not. Both buildings were struck by the storm and the winds and only the building with Jesus as the foundation stood!
v.12-15, Paul uses a list of materials that “anyone…may use” to “build on that foundation.” I believe Paul splits up the list of materials in two parts, valuable materials “gold, silver, jewels” and perishable materials “wood, hay, straw”. The significance of these different lists is that ones is God’s truth and the other is the world’s wisdom. And when the “fire” comes it will “show if a person’s work has any value.” Paul here is speaking to the ministers or leaders of the church and reminds them that the time of testing is coming–Judgment Day–2nd coming of Jesus. At that time all believers will be judged to see “what kind of work” they have done. The “fire” pictures a test that will reveal the value of the building. Those made with valuable materials will stand the test and the “builder will receive a reward” but those made with perishable materials will “burn up” in the fire and the “builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.” In other words the person is saved because of Jesus death and resurrection but because they lived their life for themselves they barely squeaked into heaven with no reward like those who lived their lives for God–[Some refer to this a fire insurance--I am saved, now I live anyway I want to].
v.16-17, All God’s people-believers-Christians-Christ followers “are the temple of God” and “the Spirit live in [them].” Paul uses the word “all” because he wants the Corinthian believer [and you and me and all believers all over the world] to realize that we are all need to be united in God–meaning the big “C” Church, should be united. Yes, we are all the Temple of Holy Spirit (6:19) but this passage is talking about all believers, we need to be united with all other believers. Paul even gives a strict warning that “God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple.” Paul was talking about false teaching and division, anything that will undermine believers’ faith or weaken the Church’s foundation. Paul is warning anyone who tries to destroy this Church, God will destroy them or they will face God’s judgment! “For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? I think the time of testing or the fire that Paul refers to really got me thinking about why I do ministry. My motives need to be pure and when I build on the foundation or teach I need to use materials that are valuable or profitable. In other words I need to make sure what I what am teaching is always sound and the truth. I need to test any principles or philosophies from the world before I incorporate them into how I teach and lead–test them against God’s Word and use discernment to assess their validity. And have the wisdom to not use them if they don’t “pass the test.”
WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? I am going to incorporate in all my preparation for teaching and preaching to God’s people a testing of all principles, philosophies, and even modern ideas from the world with God’s Word as the benchmark. And keep my motives in check when I deliver these messages–not to benefit me or make me look good but to honour God ONLY.
1 Corinthians 3:1-9: Paul condemns division
The Corinthians needed to mature in the spiritual lives. They were allowing themselves to be divided into factions regarding which preacher they liked better [things never change]. These divisions in the church threatened the unity they would need in order to stand for the truth against the false teachers and persecution.
v.1, Paul starts this chapter by reprimanding the Corinthian believers for their lack of maturity in the faith. Instead of growing in their faith, they had let themselves be dived into factions so that Paul couldn’t even talk to them as he “would to mature Christians.” He had to talk to them as “though [they] belonged to this world or as though [they] were infants in the Christian life.” Paul was saying to them that their behaviour was sinful in comparison to mature believers. These “infants” had not grown in their faith because they were acting like the world around them. Proof: they were quarreling like children and allowing divisions to distract them from what really mattered–living for God!
v.2-3, Because these believers had not grown up yet Paul had to “feed [them] with milk, not solid food, because [they] weren’t ready for anything stronger.” In other words Paul had to teach them the basics of Christianity again, as if they hadn’t learned it the first time so he couldn’t teach them deeper truths (as he had hoped). Just like babies only drink milk these “baby Christians” had to continue to learn the basic of their faith because they couldn’t handle anything stronger–they weren’t growing! Paul wanted to teach them stronger truths but he realized he couldn’t because they “weren’t ready” and were being influenced by the world around them–”sinful nature”=selfish human / fleshly desires, they were not the desires of the Spirit. Proof: They were “jealous of another and quarrel[ed] with each other.” Which proved they were “controlled by [their] sinful nature” and they were “living like people of the world [who didn’t belong to God].” Because of all this quarreling and jealousy and immaturity it was wreaking havoc in the church and Paul would haven’t it…so he rebukes them.
v.4-5, The cause of the division was loyalty of different teachers or in today’s age teaching / preaching styles (sad but true). Paul only mentioned himself and Apollos because they were the two preachers that spoke or taught at this church in the past. Paul points out that the two of them are nothing more than “God’s servants.” And when the Corinthian believers say “I am a follower of Paul” or “I follow Apollos” they are “acting just like people of the world.” It just happened that these men brought the message of salvation to the Corinthians but it was really the “work the Lord gave them to do” and because they did so the Corinthians believed the Good News and were saved. Both Paul and Apollos were just servants or God’s instruments–nothing more and wanted the people to believe in Jesus for salvation and grow in maturity NOT follow either of them.
v.6-7, Part of the reason for the division was because both Paul and Apollos had different roles in the life of this church. Paul was the one who “planted the seed” of the Gospel and because of this they became believers. He was the person to bring the salvation to these people and he founded the church at Corinth. Apollos’ role was to “water” or help the believers to grow stronger in their faith. Unfortunately some of the believers at this church decided to follow one or the other NOT Jesus! But their loyalties were misplaced because it was not Paul or Apollos that made the seed grow, it was “God who made it grow.” In fact, compared to God’s role in this process, the one who did the planting and watering aren’t as important as what God does–he “makes the seed grow.”
v.8-9, While each servant of God has a role to play…”the one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose”–to bring people to Jesus and see them mature in their faith. Yet, each servant is responsible for his own role or work “they will be rewarded for their own hard work.” Paul and the other preachers / teachers worked together as “God’s workers.”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? Two things. 1st, we need to stay away from favourite preachers to the point where we divide ourselves as believers…”I only listen to….” which leads to substituting these men or women for the one who deserve all our worship, praise and honour–Jesus! 2nd, we all have a role to play in the lives of unbelievers. Whether it is the preacher / evangelist (at the front) or the person who shares their life each day in the “trenches”, each one is just as important as the next and we all need each other to fulfill the purpose all believers should live for–seeing people come to Christ and then seeing them grow deeper in their faith.
WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? Focus less on the teacher / preacher and more on the message. And thank God for every teacher he has in the Kingdom of God that are fulfilling the purpose of why we exist as believers–bringing unbelievers to Jesus and seeing them mature in their faith. If he or she is focused on that and not growing their own empire or kingdom, then I need to rejoice in what God has them do. And never get proud of what I do but remember who I am doing it for–Jesus!
I am sorry it’s been awhile since I have posted. Life has been very busy with our upcoming move, packing and visiting Baby Shawn (as Faith calls him). Not to mention all my new responsibilities at City Centre. Which by the way I am not complaining. I love it here! I love the people, I love the church, and I especially love the team I am privileged to be a part of. God has surely blessed me in this new adventure and position. Thank you God!
I wanted to take a few sentences here to tell you I want to pledge to you my faithful reader that I will do my very best to post something each day so you have a reason to come back to my blog. I don’t want you coming back to find nothing new. So today, January 25, 2011, I pledge to you I will put up a new post each day. And I hope you continue to follow me as I take a wild journey through the Bible. So let’s get back on track today.
Thanks for listening. And I hope to hear from each of you in the future. Remember you can always post a comment on my blog. I read them all.