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I CORINTHIANS 12-16

HOW TO BE HOLY IN AN UNHOLY WORLD

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF I CORINTIANS

 

Introduction (1:1-2:16)

1. Paul reminds them of his calling (1:1)

2. Paul reminds them of their high and spiritual calling (1:2-9)

3. Paul exposes their worldliness (1:10-17)

4. Paul reminds them of the spiritual nature of their salvation (1:18-2:16)

Their worldliness (3:1-11:34)

1. Their worldly divisions (3:1-4:23)

2. Their worldly immorality (5)

3. Their worldly disputes (6:1-11)

4. Their worldly thinking about sex and marriage (6:12-7:40)

5. Their worldly attitude toward Christian freedom (8:1-10:33)

6. Their worldly attitude toward the role of the sexes (11:2-16)

7. Their worldly fellowship (11:17-34)

A guide to spirituality (12:1-15:58)

1. How to recognize genuine spiritual gifts (12)

2. Genuine spirituality will always be motivated by genuine love (13)

3. Genuine spirituality always emphasizes those gifts that edify others (14)

4. Genuine spirituality is based on Jesus Christ's resurrection (15)

Final instructions (16:1-18)

Final greetings (16:9-24)

 

INTRODUCTORY INFORMATION ABOUT I CORINTHIANS

1. The city

a. Its important location:
"A glance at the map will show that Corinth was made for greatness.  The Southern part of Greece is very nearly an island.  On the West the Corinthian Gulf deeply indents the land and on the East the Saronic Gulf.  All that is left to join the two parts of Greece together is a little isthmus only four miles across.  On that narrow neck of land Corinth stands.  Such a position made it inevitable that it should be one of the greatest trading and commercial centers of the ancient world.  All traffic from Athens and the North of Greece to Sparta and the Peloponnese had to be routed through Corinth, because it stood on the little neck of land that connected the two.  Not only did the North to South traffic of Greece pass through Corinth of necessity, by far the greater part of the East to West traffic of the Mediterranean passed through her from choice.  The extreme southern tip of Greece was known as Cape Malea (now called Cape Matapan).  It was dangerous, and to round Cape Malea had much the same sound as to round Cape Horn had in latter times.  The Greeks had two sayings which showed what they thought of it -- 'Let him who sails round Malea forget his home,' and 'Let him who sails round Malea first make his will.'  The consequence was that mariners followed one of two courses.  They sailed up the Saronic Gulf, and, if their ships were small enough, dragged them out of the water, set them on rollers, hauled them across the isthmus, and re-launched them on the other side.  The isthmus was actually called the Diolkos the place of dragging across.  The idea is the same as that which is contained in the Scottish place name Tarbert, which means a place where the land is so narrow that a boat can be dragged from loch to loch.  If that course was not possible because the ship was too large, the cargo was disembarked, carried by porters across the isthmus, and re-embarked on another ship at the other side.  This four mile journey across the isthmus, where the Corinth Canal now runs, saved a journey of  two hundred miles round Cape Malea, the most dangerous cape in the Mediterranean."  "Taken from The Letters to the Corinthians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1977 by Westminster Press."

b. Its immorality
"There was another side to Corinth.  She had a reputation for commercial prosperity, but she was also a by-word for evil living.  The very word korinthiazesthai, to live like a Corinthian, had become a part of the Greek language, and meant to live with drunken and immoral debauchery.  The word actually penetrated to English language, and, in Regency times, a Corinthian was one of the wealthy young bucks who lived in reckless and riotous living.  Aelian, the late Greek writer, tells us that if ever a Corinthian was shown upon the stage in a Greek play he was shown drunk.  The very name Corinth was synonymous with debauchery and there was one source of evil in the city which was known all over the civilized world.  Above the isthmus towered the hill of the Acropolis, and on it stood the great temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.  To that temple there were attacked one thousand priestesses who were sacred prostitutes, and in the evenings they descended from the Acropolis and plied their trade upon the streets of Corinth, until it became a Greek proverb, 'It is not every man who can afford a journey to Corinth.'  In addition to these cruder sins, there flourished far more recondite vises, which had come in with traders and the sailors from the ends of the earth, until Corinth became not only a synonym for wealth and luxury, drunkenness and debauchery, but also for filth."  "Taken from The Letters to the Corinthians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

2. The church at Corinth

a. The church's beginning
Paul started this church on his second missionary journey.  See Acts 18:1-18  He stayed in Corinth a year and a half, establishing this church.

b. The state of the church at Corinth
The church at Corinth was being influenced by the world more than it was influencing the world.  It was not influencing the world toward holiness, but the world's unholiness was penetrating this church.

3. The letter

a. It is the second letter to the Corinthians:
I Corinthians is actually Paul's second letter to the Corinthian church.   In I Corinthians 5:9 Paul talks about what he wrote in his first letter.

b. The reason for the letter:
Paul's letter is in response to the news that he had received about the unholiness and problems within the church.  See I Corinthians 1:11, 5:9, and 7:1

c. The messenger of the letter:
It was probably sent with Timothy.  See I Corinthians 4:17, 16:10-11

The city of Corinth was one of the most worldly cities of all time.  It was a port town and a center of the pagan worship of a goddess whose temple priestesses were prostitutes.  We would like the church to influence the world we live in, but often the world we live in influences the church.  That was certainly the case at Corinth.  The church at Corinth had become in many ways a worldly church.  Paul begins his letter to this church describing their worldliness, rebuking and correcting them for it.  Then, beginning in chapter twelve he will begin to describe how they can go from being a worldly church to being a spiritual church.

In chapters twelve through sixteen, we will find Paul's description of a spiritual church.  In chapter twelve, we will learn that a spiritual church will function very much like the human body functions.  There will be both unity and diversity working together harmoniously in Christ's body.  In chapter thirteen, we will learn that a spiritual church will be primarily motivated by love.  This chapter is often referred to as the "love chapter."  In chapter fourteen, Paul explains the place of the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy in a church that is spiritually motivated.  This chapter provides the primary set of guidelines in the Bible for the proper practice of the gift of tongues in the early church.  It also gives us a basis for evaluating modern-day expressions of the gift of tongues.  Chapter fifteen has been called the resurrection chapter.  This chapter provides us with Paul's explanation for why the resurrection of Jesus Christ is an essential belief of the church.  It also gives us valuable information about what our resurrection from the dead will be like.  The last chapter gives us some insights into what life was like in the early church.  Your time digging for gold in these chapters will be well spent.

 

(continued from I Corinthians 7 – 11)

 

A GUIDE TO SPIRITUALITY (12:1-15:58)
The church at Corinth was carnal or fleshly and not spiritual.  In the previous chapters, Paul exposed their fleshly behavior and rebuked them for it.  In the following chapters, Paul directs them toward being a Spiritual church.  In the first verse, Paul says, "Now about spiritual gifts."  The two words "spiritual gifts" is actually just one word, and it can be more accurately translated, "Now about spirituals" or "Now about spirituality." 

These chapters provide us with guidelines for what a Spiritual church is like.  First of all, a church that is directed and empowered by God's Spirit will function just like the human body.

1. How to recognize genuine spiritual gifts (how to recognize whether spiritual gifts are coming from God's Spirit or are, instead, artificial gifts (12:1-30)
Gifts from God's Spirit will function together in the same way as the parts of the human body function together.

a. True gifts from God's Spirit will always exalt Christ, the Head of the Body of Christ. (12:1-6)

(1) True spirituality and true spiritual gifts will not lead us to get carried away into an uncontrolled frenzy. (12:1-3a)
"Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.  You know that when you were pagans, somehow or another you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.  Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is cursed,'"

Thought Question:  What do these verses tell us about the difference between authentic spirituality/spiritual gifts and counterfeit spirituality/spiritual gifts?

 

 

When they were pagans, they had worshiped idols.  Paul says here that their idol worship got carried away; much like the worship of the Golden Calf got carried way when Moses was up on Mount Sinai with God.  See Exodus 32 (32:6, 17-19)  So their worship of idols was not a controlled time of worship, but they were "carried away" by their passions into a wild frenzy.

Apparently, when they were pagans, their worship of idols had led them astray or carried them away into an out-of-control type of behavior.  Part of that out-of-control type of behavior had led to such atrocities as declaring that "Jesus is cursed."  Could such a thing happen today?  It undoubtedly does take place in drinking orgies across our world every day.  It happens every time Jesus' name is used as a curse word.  Demonic spirits are using men and women to curse Jesus Christ today, just as they used idolaters to curse Jesus Christ in Paul's time.

This out-of-control frenzy that led to Jesus being blasphemed was obviously the very opposite of what happens when God's Spirit is working in His people.

(2) True spirituality and spiritual giftedness will lead us to exalt Jesus Christ. (12:3b)
"And no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit."  When God's Spirit energizes us, we will not go into a frenzy; instead, our mind will be enlightened by God's Spirit and we will see who Jesus is.  We will see that He is "Lord," and we will soberly choose to put ourselves under His control.  We will not be out-of-control, but under Jesus' control.  And under His control we will choose, in a clear-minded way, to worship and obey Him.

A crucial issue is visited in this portion of the verse.  When God's Spirit fills us, our mind is not passive, but it becomes more active.  Through the years there have been those who have advocated the viewpoint that our mind hinders true spirituality.  But, here Paul tells us that true spirituality enlightens and heightens the ability of the mind to understand the truth about Jesus.  Through the Spirit we come to understand and comprehend that "Jesus is Lord."

This is what happened to Peter and how he recognized who Jesus is:  "Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.'  Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.'" (Matthew 16:16-17)  Genuine spirituality will not lead us into a frenzy or into a mystical and mindless experience; instead, it will lead us to exalt and to obey Jesus Christ.  We should be wary, therefore, whenever what is called spirituality or spiritual gifts leads to a type of mindless frenzy or to a mindless type of spirituality, rather than to Jesus Christ being understood, exalted, and obeyed!  There is much that is called Christianity today that does lead to emotionalism and mysticism, and which does not lead to Jesus Christ being exalted and obeyed.

Before we move on to the next section of verses, just a brief note on idol worship.  Idolatry is a not just a primitive practice of ancient people that has no relevance to people in our time.  For, an idol is anything that replaces God in our lives or in others' lives.  For the evolutionist, science has replaced God and has become a modern-day idol.  At Christmas, materialism has replaced the worship and adoration of Jesus Christ and has become an idol.  Often it is materialism that is worshiped at this time rather than the One who was born in a manger.

(3) True spiritual gifts will always manifest themselves in both unity and diversity. (12:4-6)
"There are different gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men."

Thought Question #1:  What do these verses tell us about the difference between genuine spiritual gifts and counterfeit spiritual gifts?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What is meant by "there are different kinds of service"?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What is meant by "there are different kinds of working"?

 

 

In our world today, there are many supposed workings of God's Spirit. Is it all coming from the "same" Spirit of God?  If it were all coming from the "same" Spirit of God, there would be a unity of purpose and a holy direction.  Instead, we see many spirits.  There are spirits who masquerade as God's Spirit, but who say that God condones homosexuality, abortion, racism, adultery, and many more abominations and atrocities.  That which is from God's Spirit will always lead men in His holy ways.

But along with this unity, there will also be diversity; for God's Spirit gives us different gifts with "different kinds of services" and "different kinds of working."  Every Christian has been given a supernatural giftedness.  The Greek word is charismaton.  The root word in this Greek word is charis, which is the Greek word for grace.  God has graciously and freely gifted each Christian with a supernatural ability.

The fact that these gifts are given to us freely means no one has earned a higher spiritual level than others through his or her own spiritual efforts; instead, God graciously gives out spiritual gifts for His own reasons.  We should also be wary, then, when someone claims to have somehow attained a higher spiritual level than other Christians.  Spiritual snobbery does not come from God.

First of all, He has gifted us all with a supernatural ability to serve.  But He has gifted us to serve in many different ways and in many different settings.  Some may serve by teaching children and others may serve by showing mercy in a nursing home.  God is supernaturally enabling both of them to enjoy and persevere in their areas of service.  But, it is the same Lord working in both of them.

So far we have seen that Jesus the Lord works through the Holy Spirit to gift His people to serve in many ways.  Next, we have the Father "working" in different ways in those we serve.  The Father does many different types of "working" in those who are served.  Here is an example, that we are all familiar with.  The Pastor is empowered by God's Spirit and directed by the Lord Jesus Christ to preach a message from the Bible.  While the Pastor is speaking, God is working in many different ways in the congregation.  God uses the Pastor's message to speak to people where they are on that Sunday morning, according to their various needs at that time.  What the people come away with is often different than what the Pastor expected people to hear.  For God applied the Pastor's message directly to their needs and lives. The "same" God is "serving" and "working" in many different ways!

Here we have a section of verses that clearly states that there is one God who exists in three Persons.  Although Paul does not say, "Trinity," it is clear that he assumes that his readers knew that God includes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who work together for God's purposes.

b. True gifts from God's Spirit will always work together for the "common good." (12:7-11)
True spiritual giftedness will always result in our one Lord being exalted
(12:1-6).  True spirituality and true spiritual giftedness will always result in both unity and diversity (12:4-6).  And in these verses we will discover that true spirituality and true spiritual gifts will result in Christ's Body, the church being built up.

"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines."

Thought Question #1:  Which gifts in this list do you believe are operating today?  Explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Which gift do you believe that God has given to you?  Explain your answer.  See also I Corinthians 12:27-30; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:7-12; and I Peter 4:10-11

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What is the proper attitude to have toward those who have a different gift than you have?

 

 

(1) Every Christian is given a gift by God for the "common good" of the church. (12:7)
"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."  Do you have a spiritual gift?  According to Paul's very clear words in this verse, if you are a Christian you have a gift.  "Now to each one."  You have a gift that you are to exercise for the good of Christ's church.  Peter says exactly what Paul says in another way.  "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others." (I Peter 4:10) 

(2) God gives us His gifts as He decides to give them to us. (12:8-11)
"To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines."

What we have described here is a statement of what is true in the invisible and spiritual world.  In the physical realm, we have been given physical talents such as mental and physical abilities.  In the spiritual realm, Christians also have been given special abilities.  These abilities do not come from us, but they come from outside of us.  They are a "manifestation" of God's Spirit in and through us.

There are many who have attempted to describe these gifts.  The descriptions of these gifts that I give may differ from some of those descriptions.  But, whether I am able to accurately and specifically describe these spiritual exactly or not, it is nevertheless true that you do have one of these gifts from God.  You also may be gifted with a gift that is not on this list.  For we know that this list is not complete, as there are other gifts listed later in this very same chapter and in other books in the New Testament.  See I Corinthians 12:27-30  See also Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:7-12; and I Peter 4:10-11

The following is my best attempt to describe what these gifts supernaturally enable a Christian to do:  (1) "word of wisdom" The ability to apply God's truth to our lives.  It is spiritual insight into how we apply God's Word to our lives.  It is also a spiritual insight into what God is doing in the world and an understanding of God's reason for doing it.  It is spiritual insight into why God is doing what He is doing.  See 1:20-25, 2:6-16, and James 1:2-8

(2) "Word of knowledge"  The ability to know, understand and put into words something about God and His ways that we would be incapable of knowing apart from God's Spirit.  For example, God's Spirit enables us to know that Jesus is the Son of God and that the Bible is the Word of God. See Matthew 16:13-20 God's Spirit enables those have this gift to know and understand God's book.

(3) "faith"  The ability to know what God is going to do before He does it, so that others can believe also.  It "is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)

(4) "gifts of healing"  We cannot be certain what type of gifts of healing that Paul is talking about here.  In Jesus' and Paul's time, God worked instantaneous and complete healings that were recognized as spectacular signs from God.  See Hebrews 2:3-4; II Corinthians 12:12  I Personally have not seen anyone who has this miraculous gift, although I have observed those who claim to have this gift.  The fact that Paul says, "gifts of healing," could mean that there could be gifts that result in a slow and gradual type of healing, and gifts that result in the instantaneous types of healings.  The "gifts of healings" could also refer to the ability to heal physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually.  If, though, he is talking just about the miraculous and instantaneous type of healing that is described in the New Testament (particularly in the Gospels and the book of Acts), it does not appear that God is giving this gift today.  Or, at least, it is not a gift that is an everyday part of the church in the United States today.

(5) "miraculous powers"  This gift is the ability given by God to powerfully perform a miracle.  The single Greek word translated "miraculous powers" is the word dunemeon.  We get our word "dynamite" from this Greek word.  Paul striking Elymas blind in Acts 13:6-12 and Peter striking Ananias and Sapphira dead in Acts 5:1-11 are examples of the God-given ability to work a miracle.  Jesus performed miracles when He walked on the water, when He fed the 5,000 from five loaves of bread and two fish, and when He raised Lazarus from the dead.  Do we see this gift today?  I have not seen it, so I can say with confidence that it is not a common gift today.  There are some reports from Christians around the world of God working miracles today.  But, because there are those in Christian circles who have used trickery to give the impression that there are miracles where there are no miracles, we need to be careful and put reports of miracles to the test.  See I Thessalonians 5:21; II Thessalonians 2:9

There are clearly some gifts that were exercised during the early days of the church as signs that God was speaking through Jesus Christ and the apostles.  "how shall we escape if ignore such a great salvation?  This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.  God, also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will."  (Hebrews 2:3-4)  "The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance."  (II Corinthians 12:12)  We do not see the type of miracles and signs that the early church saw.  That is understandable, for we do not now need to see signs in order for us to believe that God spoke through Jesus and the apostles.  So, it is not surprising that we do not see the miraculous types of gifts that were present in the early church.  They are not needed today as they were needed then.

(6) "prophecy"  Those who have this gift are spokesmen for God.  They speak forth His words and thoughts with His power.  It is speaking in God's place.  In the Old Testament, God spoke through His prophets.  The Prophetic section of the Old Testament starts with the books that are often called the Major and Minor Prophets.  Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel are the Major Prophets through whom God spoke to the nation of Israel.  The Minor Prophets begin with Hosea and go through Malachi.  In the New Testament times, the prophets received God's Word directly from God, for they did not have the completed New Testament as we have today.  Today, God prophets are those who God has given the ability to powerfully speak from His Book to our world.  Certainly, a man like Billy Graham clearly was empowered by God to speak for Him in his day.  See Acts 11:27-28, 13:1, 15:32, 19:6, 21:9-10

(7) "distinguishing spirits"  This is the ability given by God to recognize such things as deception, false doctrine, the work of demonic spirits, and counterfeit Christianity.  Someone who has this gift will be used by God to protect the church from being led astray by Satan's trickery.  The Apostles exercised this discernment on many occasions.  See I John 4:1-6; II Corinthians 2:11, 11:4,513-15; II Peter 2:1-3, 18-19

(8) "speaking in different types of tongues" and "interpretations of tongues"  This is the ability to supernaturally speak in a language that one has not learned and the supernatural ability to be able to translate a language that one has never learned into one's own language.  Because chapter fourteen focuses on these two gifts and explains them in detail, I will wait until we get to that chapter to discuss these gifts.

"All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one just as he determines."  Paul makes it clear here that this list of gifts is not like items in a store where one can say, "I would like to have that gift, and I would also like to have that gift over there."  For it is God alone who decides who gets which gift.

c. True gifts from God will always produce unity. (12:12-26)
Genuine spiritual gifts from God will bring God's church together, until we function like the human body.

(1) In the spiritual Body of Christ, there is both unity and diversity. (12:12-13)
There is one body with many parts.  "The body is a unit, though it is made of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.  So it is with Christ." 

Thought Question:  According to this verse, in what way is the church the same as the human body?

 

 

In verse twelve, Paul emphasizes that the church is like the human body in that the human body is one unit with many parts and the church is one Body with many parts.  The unity of the many parts of the human body becomes evident whenever you or I burn a finger.  One part hurts, but the rest of our body becomes immediately involved and responds to the pain.  You may grab it with the fingers of your other hand or you may stick the hurting finger into your mouth to hopefully cool it off.  Paul's point is that we are not acting the way His Body should act until we are functioning harmoniously like the human body functions.

"For we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or freeand we were all given the one Spirit to drink."

Thought Question:  When do you believe that Christians are "baptized in the Spirit"?

 

 

Next, Paul tells them how they became part of this one Body of Christ.  We were baptized by one Spirit into this body and we were all given one Spirit to drink.  This verse brings up many questions.  Is this the baptism of the Spirit predicted by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:11 and John 1:33, and by Jesus in Acts 1:4-5?  "I baptize you with water for repentance.  But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."  (Matthew 3:11)  If it is, then all of the Corinthian Christians had been baptized in the Spirit.

This is a question that has divided Christians into two camps.  Does the "baptism of the Spirit" describe what takes place when a person becomes a Christian and is regenerated by God's Spirit, or does it describe a second experience that takes place after a person becomes a Christian that is usually accompanied by speaking in tongues?  Pentecostals and many who call themselves Charismatics believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is an experience that takes place after one becomes a Christian.  Other Evangelicals believe that the baptism of the Spirit described in this verse is what takes place when God's Spirit regenerates each and every Christian at the time when we each become a Christian.

The arguments for the non-Pentecostal evangelical position that all believers are baptized in the Spirit when they become Christians are as follows:  (1) There are no exhortations in the letters to the early church in the New Testament that urge or require them to seek after the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  There would have been no need to urge these early Christians to seek after the baptism of the Holy Spirit, if all Christians in these early churches had already been baptized by the Spirit when they first became Christians.

(2) The only mention in the New Testament letters to the churches about the  baptism in the Spirit is found here in I Corinthians 12:13.  In the context of chapter twelve, it is clearly teaching that Christians are baptized by the Spirit when they became one body through their joint union with God's Spirit.  "We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body."

If the Pentecostal interpretation of the baptism of the Spirit were correct, it would mean that Christians do not become one body until they have all experienced the baptism of the Spirit through speaking in tongues.  Also, it is clear that the baptism of the Spirit described in I Corinthians 12:13 did not lead these early Corinthian Christians to a higher spiritual walk with God as the Pentecostal viewpoint sometimes teaches, for Paul rebukes them for being fleshly and acting no different than those who were not Christians.  See I Corinthians 3:3

(3) Non-Pentecostal evangelicals believe that John the Baptist and Jesus were predicting the New Covenant indwelling of the Holy Spirit in believers when they promised that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit.  The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all believers was predicted by the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah. See John 1:33 and Acts 1:5, 11:16  See also Jeremiah 31:31-33 and Ezekiel 36:27  Non-Pentecostal Christians believe that this change from the Old Testament or Old Covenant situation where not all believers were indwelt by God's Spirit, to the New Covenant where all believers are indwelt by God's Spirit was at first dramatically introduced to the world by miraculous signs such as the gift of tongues. Since then, God's Spirit has come into the new believing Christian without signs such as speaking in tongues.  For example, though the apostles spoke in tongues at Pentecost, there is no indication, that those who believed and received the Holy Spirit through Peter's preaching at Pentecost spoke in tongues.  Today, all new believers are immediately and quietly indwelt by the Holy Spirit when they first believe in Jesus Christ.  As Paul says, "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ."  (Romans 8:9)

(4) Non-Pentecostal evangelicals also make the observation that if we were to be baptized in the Spirit in exactly the same way that the early apostles were baptized in the Spirit at Pentecost, we would not only speak in tongues, but we would also have tongues of fire come down on us as they had tongues of fire come down on them.

Now, let us look at the Pentecostal interpretation of what is meant by being baptized in the Spirit:  (1) Pentecostals point to a number of places in the book of Acts where believers receive a second endowment of power after their conversion.  One example that they give is Paul.  They rightly contend that he believed in Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, but that he was baptized in the Spirit when Ananias prayed for him. See Acts 9:17  They also refer to the Samaritans who were converted through the preaching of Phillip, but received the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands by Peter and John.
See Acts 8:14-17

(2) Pentecostals point out that there is a difference between the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit.  They argue that though the Corinthian Christians were fleshly and were not exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit in their lives, they were nevertheless baptized in the Spirit and able to express the gifts of the Spirit.  Paul thanked God that "they did not lack any spiritual gift." (1:7) See I Corinthians 1:4-7

(3) Some Pentecostals do not include I Corinthians 12:13 as a description of the baptism of the Spirit that John the Baptist predicted.  J. I. Packer explains the Pentecostal position in these words:  "Some, accepting that this is so, have urged that this initiatory baptism by the Spirit in I Corinthians 12:13 is distinct from Christ's subsequent baptism with or in the Spirit referred to in Mark 1:8; Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5, 11:16."  Packer notes, however, that "in all seven passages the same preposition (en) is used, making the Spirit the 'element' in which Christ baptizes, so that the distinction is linguistically baseless." "Taken from Keeping in Step with the Spirit by J. I. Packer."

(4) The Pentecostal position is primarily based on the accounts in the book of Acts where believers are baptized in the Holy Spirit.  For example: "While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus.  There he found some disciples and asked them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?'  They answered, 'No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.'  So Paul asked, 'Then what baptism did you receive?'  'John's baptism,'  They replied.  Paul said,  'John's baptism was a baptism of repentance.  He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.'  On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.  When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied."  (Acts 19:1-6)  "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.  The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had poured out even on the Gentiles.  For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God."  (Acts 1-:44-46)  "As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning.  Then I remembered what the Lord had said:  'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'  So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?" (Acts 11:15-17)

Is, then, the baptism of the Spirit (1) the Spirit giving a person a new birth as he or she becomes a new member of God's family or is it (2) a second experience that takes place after a person becomes a Christian which is accompanied by speaking in tongues?  Certainly this issue is not to be easily or unemotionally resolved in our times.  Billy Graham's words in his book,     The Holy Spirit, however, are worth considering:  "I realize that baptism with the Spirit has been differently understood by some of my fellow believers.  We should not shrink from stating specific differences of opinion.  But we should also try to understand each other, pray for each other, and be willing to learn from each other as we seek to know what the Bible teaches.  The differences of opinion on this matter are somewhat similar to differences of opinion about water baptism and church government. . . . In no way should these differences be divisive.  I can have wonderful Christian fellowship, especially in the work of evangelism, with those who hold various views.  On the other hand, the question of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, in my judgment, is often more important than these other issues, especially when the doctrine of the baptism with the Spirit is distorted.  For example, some Christians hold that the Spirit's baptism only comes at some time subsequent to conversion.  Others say that this later Spirit baptism is necessary before a person can be fully used of God.  Still others contend that the baptism of the Spirit is always accompanied with the outward sign of a particular gift, and that unless this sign is present the person has not been baptized with the Spirit.  I must admit that at times I have really wanted to believe this distinctive teaching.  I, too, have wanted an 'experience.'  But I want every experience to be biblically based."

He makes the additional observation that "sometimes these different opinions are really only differences in semantics…..What some people call the baptism of the Spirit may really be what the Scripture calls the filling of the Spirit which may take place many times in our lives after conversion."  "Taken from The Holy Spirit by Billy Graham.  Copyright 1978 by Word Books." 

We also must be careful that our usage of biblical terms be in agreement with how they were used in the Bible.  It seems clear from I Corinthians 12:13, that the baptism of the Spirit is the new believer's immediate initiation into the Body of Christ through the entrance of the Holy Spirit into his or her life.  During the earlier stages of the church, the new birth by the Holy Spirit was accompanied by signs such as the miraculous speaking of foreign languages as God spread His church from Israel outward to the Samaritans and Gentiles, as well as to the followers of John the Baptist who had not yet received the Holy Spirit.

It is interesting that there is no one way the early church received the baptism of the Spirit.  With some it was accompanied by signs and other received it without signs.  The only pattern is that there was no consistent pattern for how the early Christians received the Holy Spirit during the beginning of the church.  God accompanied the new baptism of the Holy Spirit that made the church unique in a number of different ways.  Today, we are not in a period of transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament, from Jews to the Samaritans, from the followers of John the Baptist to the followers of Jesus, and from the Jews to the Gentiles.  There is now no need for a sign each time someone becomes baptized in the Spirit.  People today are quietly baptized in the Spirit, just as those who believed in Peter's message at Pentecost quietly received the baptism of the Spirit when they believed.

Although this view of the baptism of the Spirit does not, in and of itself, give a biblical basis for ruling out modern-day tongues, it does reveal that the Bible does not teach there is a need for believers to have a second supernatural experience after conversion.  None of the letters to the churches urged Christians to seek after the baptism of the Spirit.  The simple reason that there was no exhortation to receive the "the baptism" as it is sometimes called, is that every New Testament Christian had already been baptized by the Spirit when they became a Christian.  We who are Christians today, like those Christians at Corinth, have also been "baptized by one Spirit into one body . . . and we were all given the one Spirit to drink."

When someone asks you, "Have you been baptized by the Holy Spirit?' If you are a Christian, you can answer, "Yes!"  For you are now a member of the Body of Christ, and were baptized by the Spirit into the Body of Christ when you first believed in Jesus Christ.

Notice also that Paul says that you "were all given the one Spirit to drink."  When we drink water, we take it from the outside of us into the inside of us.  When we drink of God's Spirit, He also went from being outside of us to coming inside of us.  And that is where He now lives.  He lives now on the inside of every Christian. See Romans 8:9

(2) In the Spiritual Body of Christ, no part of the body is inferior. (12:14-20)

(a) No member of the Body of Christ should ever feel worthless. (12:14-16)
"Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.  If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body, it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body." 

Thought Question:  How does Paul's use of the human body to teach us about the church, help you to understand your importance to the church?

 

 

Some in the church can feel that they are unimportant and unnecessary to God's work through the church.  Paul explains here that just as every part of the human body is important, so every part of Christ's Body is important.  It is true that the hand is able to do things that the foot is unable to do.  For example, you cannot write or type with your feet.  But, who would say that the feet are unimportant and not essential.  Also, the eyes are able to do more for us than then our ears are able to do, but who would feel that their hearing is unimportant.

Some can feel that if they are not a part of the Sunday morning, up-front type of ministry, that they are unimportant.  But they are just as important and essential to Christ's Body as those who have a more noticeable ministry in the church!

(b) For what would it be like if the whole body were an eye? (12:17-20)
"If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?  If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body."

Thought Question:  What problem in the church is Paul seeking to correct in these verses?

 

 

Paul's point is that if a body is made up of just one part, it would not be able to do anything, but, for example, see or hear.  Christian humorists have had fun with these verses.  One describes the body that is only one large ear as a very large Frisbee.  A Youth Pastor painted a football white and also painted an eyeball on it. He came to his youth group meeting with it under a blanket, calling it his baby.  When he was asked, he removed the blanket to expose the large eyeball.  His High Schoolers got the message that a baby needs to include more than just one part.  So God's church needs to include more than one part.  Paul's argument here is convincing, every part of the Body of Christ is necessary.

To use a modern-day example, what if a football team was made up of 22 quarterbacks?  How would it do if it played against a team with the normal complement of players (250 pound line men, fleet receivers, etc.)?  So, a Church needs not just a Pastor, but people with many different gifts.

Notice that the "arranged" in 12:18 is in the past tense, indicating that the gifts are given to us when we became Christians. See also I Peter 4:10 and 12:28 where "appointed" is also in the past tense.

(3) In the Spiritual Body of Christ, no member is superior to the other members, nor is any member independent from the other members. (12:21-24)
"The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!'  And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!'  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.  And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment.  But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it."

Thought Question:  Paul is using the human body as an example of what the church is to be like.  What is he teaching us to do in these verses?

 

 

Paul first observes how ridiculous it would be for the eye to say to the hand that it did not need it, or for the head to say to the feet that it did not need them.  Every part of the human body is needed and important.  Just as a person would be severely handicapped without his hands or feet, so the church is severely handicapped if it loses the work and cooperation of some of its members.  A quarterback quickly discovers that he needs to have the offensive lineman blocking for him; for if they are not making an effort, he is soon jumped on by the big defensive linemen that they did not try very hard to block.  So also is every member of the church very important and necessary!

Next, he points out that we tend to give our greatest attention to the least presentable parts of our body.  For example, if we have a tooth that has a chip out of it, we will often get a cap put on it.  On the other hand, we do not show this type of concern for our teeth that are presentable.

Paul is highlighting the need in the church for us to give special attention to those in the church who are necessary, but who do not have the most noticeable places of ministry.  They need special encouragement, for they do not get the recognition that those get who are regular up-front and obvious contributors to the ministry of the church.  We need to often encourage and express our appreciation for those who do the clerical work, the up-keep, the children's work, the sound technicians, the visitors, the prayer warriors, and the other servants of the church who do not receive regular recognition as important parts of God's work.  Though few may know about all they do, they are just as essential to the ministry of Christ's Body as the Pastor and the soloist.

(4) In the Spiritual Body of Christ, each part shares in the life of the other parts. (12:25-26)
"so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."

Thought Question:  Paul is using the human body as an example of what the church is to be like.  What is he teaching us to do in these verses?

 

 

Just as the whole human body suffers when there is a sliver embedded in a finger and the whole body rejoices when a tasty cold drink guzzles down the throat, so the Body of Christ is functioning as it should be functioning when each person in Christ's Body hurts when another member suffers and rejoices when another member is prospering.  Just as the rest of our human body members attend to a sprained and swollen finger, so the members of the church are to attend to a member who is going through a painful time.  Just as the rest of a bowling team celebrates when one member of the team throws a strike in bowling, so the members of the church are to celebrate whenever a member has succeeded in some way.

d. True gifts will be divided among the members of the Body of Christ.
(12:27-30)
"Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.  Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Do all work miracles?  Do all have gifts of healings?  Do all speak in tongues?  Do all interpret?  But eagerly desire the greater gifts.  And now I will show you the most excellent way."

Thought Question:  What do these verses teach us about spiritual gifts?

 

 

Paul makes the following statements in these verses about spiritual gifts:
(1) Every Christian is a part of the Body of Christ.  Each Christian has a gift and a function in Christ's Body.

(2) Some gifts have priority over other gifts in the Body of Christ.  Because it is the gift that was the most essential to the formation of Christ's Body, "apostles" is at the top of the list; while the less important gift of "speaking in different kinds of tongues" is found on the bottom of the list.  The "apostles" were chosen by Christ.  It was required that they be among those who saw Him after His resurrection.  See Acts 1:21-22 and I Corinthians 9:1  Their apostleship was confirmed by signs and wonders. See II Corinthians 12:12

(3) No gift is possessed by everyone.  For example, "do all work miracles?" is a rhetorical question stating that not every member of the early church worked miracles.  Nor, did all speak in tongues.  Just as God has given many different functions to the many members of the human body, so He has given many different spiritual functions to the many members of Christ's Body.  "'It would be as preposterous', says Paul, 'for all to have one and the same gift as for all the parts of the body to perform one and the same function.'  Once more, he inculcates the principle of diversity in unity, and incidentally explodes any tendency to claim that all spiritual persons must manifest glossolalia." [speaking in tongues]  "Taken from The New Century Bible Commentary I&II Corinthians by F. F. BRUCE.  Copyright 1971 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company." 

Paul concludes by exhorting them to eagerly seek after the greater gifts.  Is he saying that it is possible for each Christian to seek after an individual gift or is he urging the whole church to seek to make their priorities line up with God's priorities?  It would seem from the context that the latter is what Paul is concerned about. He is speaking not to individuals but to the whole church at Corinth.  He is urging them to make the higher gifts the highest priority of their church.  He is urging them to seek to make their priorities line up with God's priorities.  And God's greatest priority for their church and His greatest priority for the church that you and I attend, as we will see in chapter 13, is to seek after love!  Also, a high priority for their church and for each of our churches, as Paul will explain in chapter 14, is the use of the gift of prophecy.

2. Genuine spirituality will always be motivated by genuine love. (13:1-13)
This chapter is often referred to as the "love chapter."  Love is certainly the central theme of the Bible.  Consider these key verses in the Bible on love:  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it.  'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:27-39)  "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." (I John 4:8)  "The fruit of the Spirit is love . . ." (Galatians 5:22)  "A new commandment I give.  Love one another.  By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)

Thought Question:  This chapter describes as well as any chapter in the Bible, what true love is.  Before we study this chapter, write out your definition of love?

 

 

From what is taught in this chapter, here is my definition of love. True love is a genuine and heart-felt desiring after and seeking after the good of others, regardless of who they are and regardless of what it costs us.  See if you agree with my definition.  Also, see if your definition fits what is taught in this love chapter.

Some of us have been told by a doctor that we needed to cut down on our fat, sugar, and salt.  Food can be pretty drab when we cannot eat any of these.  But, what would be even worse?  Try cutting out all food and only eating fat, sugar, and salt.  Some things are essential and others are not.  Love is one of the essentials of life.  Particularly, it is an absolute essential for family life and church life.

What is love?  A popular movie once gave this definition:  "Love is never having to say your sorry."  Is that love?  Do we really love each other when we have come to the place where we no longer need to tell each other we are sorry?  There is much confusion in our society about what love is.  What is love?  I once heard on the radio that most divorces occur after the first two years.  The speaker said that these divorces take place "after the warm fuzzies have worn off."  In other words, they occur after marriage partners no longerfeel in love with each other.  The infatuation or "puppy love" usually leaves when they really get to know each other.  Actually real love, the kind you and I all need and the kind of love that others need from us, is when there is a genuine and committed desire to seek another's best no matter who they are and matter how much the cost.

Can we have genuine church life without this type of love?  It is possible to go through all the church-type of activities, and yet be missing this essential ingredient.  The church at Corinth was a church like that.  They did all the things that churches do.  They even were enabled by God to perform miraculous signs and healings, but they were lacking in what was most important.  They were doing it all, without really caring for each other.  They were primarily a selfish church.

Paul makes it clear in this chapter, that if a church does every church-type of thing, but does not really love each other, that church is worthless.  For the ingredient is missing that makes Christianity, Christianity.

Love sums up all that is taught in the Bible.  Jesus' two greatest commandments were that we must truly love God and truly love each other.  Paul said in I Timothy 1:5: "The goal of this command is love, with comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith."  Paul's highest purpose in writing I Timothy was that Christians would truly love each other.  I Corinthians is the "love chapter" in the Bible.  Let us learn from the "love chapter" in the Bible what love is!

a. Gifts – love = 0 (13:1-3)
"If I speak in the tongues of man and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe that love is more important than the gift of tongues, prophecy, knowledge, giving to the poor, and even the giving of our lives?

 

 

The church at Corinth was treating their spiritual gifts like a child at his birthday party treats the gifts that have been given to him.  They saw their gifts as something to play with and to show off.  But Paul powerfully points out to them that even if they experienced the ultimate that gifts could offer them and did not exercise their gifts out of a heart of genuine concern for others, their gifts were worthless in God's eyes.

First of all, Paul focuses on the miraculous gift of tongues.  This gift of tongues is a controversial issue in the church today.  Some believe that God is still giving this gift today and others believe that it was a gift that God only gave to the very early church.  We will take this issue up fully when we get to Chapter fourteen.  We can be sure, though; that God granted the church at its very beginning the miraculous ability to speak in languages that they did not know.

Paul is saying that even if you have this miraculous ability, it is of no value if you do not really care about each other.  In fact, even if they had the ultimate gift of tongues and were not only able to speak in human languages that were unknown to them, but were even able to speak in an angelic language; if they did not have love, their gift of tongues would be of no more value to God and others than a "clanging symbol."  In other words, to God and others it would just be a lot of noise.

It is interesting, according to Barclay, that clanging symbols were part of the heathens' worship service.  Paul is saying, that if they are lacking in love in their church, they were not any different than the pagan worship services where they was just a lot of clanging and clatter.

Some believe that Paul is saying here that the gift of tongues is the ability to speak in the languages that the angels use.  The gift of tongues as it was used at Pentecost was the God-given ability that He gave to the early apostles to speak in the language of the foreign visitors to Feast of Pentecost.  See Acts 2:1-1

 The NIV Study Bible's notes on these verses in I Corinthians interpret Paul's words in the following way:  "Paul uses hyperbole [exaggeration].  Even if he could speak not only the various languages that human beings speak but even the languages used by angels—if he did not speak in love, it would be nothing but noise."  "Taken from the NIV Study Bible.  Copyright 1995 by the Zondervan Corporation."  Paul was using exaggeration to make a point; he was saying, "even if you could speak in the language of angels."  He does not say those gifted in tongues were speaking in the language of angels, he is saying that even if they were able to accomplish this amazing feat, but did not have love, their speaking in the language of angels would be utterly worthless.

Paul also makes it clear in these verses that without love, even the gift of prophecy is worth nothing.  Prophecy is the God-directed ability to be a spokesman for God.  He groups prophecy together with the ability to understand God's mysteries and to be in possession of knowledge about God and His ways.

Earlier in I Corinthians (I Corinthians 8:1-3), Paul said that "knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."  It is possible for someone to know a lot about the Bible and even be an able Bible preacher and teacher, but not be loving.  The Pharisees of Jesus' time were very knowledgeable, but they lacked love for those they were teaching.  "You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence." (Matthew 23:25)

It is certainly possible that there are religious men today who are like these Pharisees.  Men who excel in knowledge, but are without love and are worthless before God.  As Paul say here, one can have even a great knowledge about God and His ways, but if he lacks love, all of his  knowledge is worthless!

He goes on to say that even great faith in God without love is worthless.  We can have a faith in God that results in mountains being moved.  A person can be someone who continually trusts God even in the most difficult of times, but if their faith does not result in a life of love toward others, it also is worthless.

Paul is probably speaking hypothetically here, for it is difficult to imagine someone having great faith in God without also being loving.  For, true faith is trusting in God's love.  And that faith will result in us wanting to love and forgive others just as we have been loved and forgiven.

We even can give to the poor, but if we do not do it out of love, it is all for nothing.  When we give, God does not look on how much we give, but on why we give.  The only giving that pleases God is a cheerful giver.  See II Corinthians 9:7  Barnabas gave to the early church in Jerusalem out of love.  See Acts 4:36-37  Ananias and Sapphira gave so they might gain prestige in the early church.  See Acts 5:1-11  If our giving is not done out of concern for others, it is worthless in the sight of God!

It is possible for one to even give his or her life as a martyr, but do it without love as a motivation.  What made Jesus' sacrifice on the cross of such great worth is that He gave His life for us completely in selfless love.  But there have been many who have given their lives who did do it out of love.  The Kamikaze pilots of World War II and the suicide bombers of the Marine barracks in Beirut gave their lives, but they sacrificed their lives to kill others and not out of love for others.

We can do what we believe are great works for God, but if we do not serve out of love for those we serve, it is all worthless to God.  We must first ask ourselves, "are we serving out of love for God and for others?"  If love is not our motive, we are wasting our efforts and accomplishing nothing of any eternal value.  It is not what we are doing that should be our first concern, but we should first focus on why we are serving God and others.  If we are not serving out of love, we need, above all, to do our service out of a heart of love!

b. Love = seeking others' best regardless of the cost or the circumstances. (13:4-8a)
"Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails."

We truly love someone when we are able to seek their best in spite of encountering the types of circumstances that tend to turn our attention away from others and away from seeking their best.  Irritations, offenses, others' success, our success, and many more circumstances in life tend to draw our focus to ourselves and away from others.  True love will keep loving and seeking for the best of others no matter what occurs in life that tends to pull our attention toward self-interest and away from others and their needs.  The Corinthians were responding to each other in the normal human manner.  They were irritated by those who were irritating, they were offended at those who were offensive, they envied those who were successful, and they enjoyed it when they outdid their fellow Christians.  Paul reveals in these verses, that their self-love was the very opposite of love.  For love for others is able to endure all these temptations toward self-love and it is able to continue to really care about others no matter what happens.

(1) Love continues to seek others' best in spite of unpleasant delaysLove is patient. (13:4a) (LOVE IN THE WAITING ROOM)
"Love is patient"

Thought Question #1:  Why do we believe that true love will always be "patient"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What are some situations in your life where it is hard for you to be "patient"?

 

 

The Greek word here means that love is long-suffering.  Selfishness is short-suffering.  Selfishness seeks out those people and those situations that are least likely to cause us any suffering.  We seek out those who are pleasant to be around, those who are soothing, tranquil, pleasant, friendly, and interesting.  If they are not all of these, then, the normal human response is to begin to avoid them and to seek out those who are more pleasant to be around.  Those who follow their natural human motivations will not end up serving in a Union Gospel Mission.  True love is able to endure delays, disruptions to our plans, and disappointments.  Love is patient.

(2) Love continues to seek others' best in spite of their irritable imperfectionsLove is kind. (13:4b)  (LOVE GOING THE EXTRA MILE)
"Love is kind"

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe that true love will always be "kind"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What are some situations where it is hard for you to be "kind"?

 

 

When people irritate us, the normal human response is to be irritable right back and to be harsh.  But when we love them we will do only what will lead to their best.  Being harsh to them will not help them.  When we love someone we want to build them up, not tear them down.  Kindness will build them up, whereas harshness will tear them down.

Loving people (1) who are primarily self-interested, (2) who can sometimes be heartless, and (2) who have many short-comings is not easy, but, true love will continue to be kind, because kindness is what people need.  True love does not just endure, but it goes the extra mile and reaches out in tenderness and kindness.  It says and does what it knows will help even if the other person has never even gone the first mile for us.

I heard a testimony some time ago of a lady who was raised in a foster home rather than in her own home.  Like many who end up in these types of homes, she was very bitter and she took it our on her Christian foster parents.  But this Christian couple did not retaliate.  They continued to be kind.  It bugged this bitter young lad and she got even meaner.  But, eventually their kindness won out and she became a Christian.

When we are kind we are like God.  Listen to Jesus' words in Matthew 5:44-45:  "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."

The normal human response is to be kind to those who are kind to us, and return hurt for hurt.  When we love someone we will be kind to them even if they are unkind and harsh to us.  Jesus demonstrated this kindness on the cross when he asked His Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him.

(3) Love continues to seek others' best even when they outdo usLove does not envy. (13:4c) (LOVE BEING A GOOD LOSER)
"Love" "does not envy"

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe that if we truly love someone we will not be envious toward them?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What are some situations where it is hard for you to not be envious of someone?

 

 

The Bible says that we are to rejoice with those who prosper.  But, the normal human response is to rejoice with those who fail and suffer when they succeed.  We are, then, not pulling for them, but only pulling for ourselves.  But true love wants the best for others, even when they are better off than us.  Love enjoys the success of others, even when their success is greater than our success.

Envy is when we are resentful toward those who appear to be richer or more successful than we are.  James tells us that envy has an ugly and dark origin.  "But if you harbor envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven, but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil." (James 3:14,15)

There are many examples of ugly envy in the Bible.  Cain murdered Abel because he resented it that Abel's sacrifice was acceptable to God and his was not.  Joseph's brothers resented it when Jacob favored Joseph over them.  Aaron and Miriam rebelled against Moses because God made him the leader over Israel and not them.  There are many more examples of those in the Bible who were ugly with envy.

The Bible is clear.  Envy comes straight from Hell, and we Christians should hate it whenever it raises its ugly head inside of us.  Instead of being envious of those who prosper, we should be happy for all God is doing for them and be content with all that God has given to us.  See Titus 3:3; I Peter 2:1; II Corinthians 12:20

(4) Love continues to seek others' best even when we out-do themLove does not brag and is not proud. (13:4d) (LOVE BEING A GOOD WINNER)
"Love" "does not boast, it is not proud."

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe that true love will "not boast" or be "proud"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What are some situations where it is hard for you to "not boast" or be arrogant?

 

 

Our success tends to turn our focus toward ourselves and our accomplishments.  Remember, even Jesus' disciples struggled in this area. for at the Last Supper they were arguing about who was the greatest.  See Luke 22:24

We can always find some way that we are superior to anyone if we look for it hard enough.  Also, we may conclude that we are superior to someone else even when there is no real basis for our arrogant estimation.  A good percentage of the country, for example, believes that they could do a better job of running the country than the president.  We may believe that we could do a better job of raising other peoples' children than they are doing.  We may believe that we are pretty good people compared to others.  But, when we compare ourselves with God and with His holiness and purity, we will see that we are base, mean, deceitful, selfish, and wretched by comparison.  Isaiah the prophet, when God brought him into His presence, immediately saw that he was a "man of unclean lips!" (Isaiah 6:5)

Love is not boastful, but it is humble.  Everything about the Christian life should lead us to humility.  Do we become a Christian because of our accomplishments?  No!  We became a Christian because we cried out, "God be merciful to me a sinner!"  When we do truly succeed, God alone deserves the credit and the glory.  Our greatest success is when we boast in God (see I Corinthians 1:31) and when we humbly serve others.

(5) Love continues to seek others' best in a crowded worldLove is not rude. (13:5a) (LOVE ADJUSTING TO PEOPLE)
"Love" "is not rude"

Thought Question #1:  What is rudeness?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why is love the opposite of rudeness?

 

 

It is not human for us to make adjustments to others.  We much prefer that others would make adjustments to us, to our schedule, to our interests, to our plans, and, in short, to our selfishness.  When they do not adjust to us, we tend to get sharp with them.  Selfishness is rude.

Part of not being rude is being willing to wait for others.  We are rude when, in our selfishness, we refuse to wait our turn.  Our selfish side will cut in line, resent having to wait in line, cut someone off when we are driving, do more than our share of talking, expect others to listen to us and walk off when they start talking, and many other types of rude behavior.  Anything that disrupts a fair and orderly atmosphere is rude.

Love, on the other hand, does all it can to create a decent and orderly atmosphere.  Children tend to be self-centered.  They also tend to create disorder and not order.  They need to be continuously corrected to not be rude.  We are selfish when we battle to get our way even if it creates confusion and chaos.  Love seeks after arrangements where it is best for everyone.

The church at Corinth was the opposite of what a church is to be like.  There was strife, pride, and chaos.  In the services, everyone was seeking to speak at the same time.  The women were rebelling against the cultural forms of their day.  People were speaking in tongues without seeking to control themselves; creating a din of unintelligible noises.  There were women who interrupted the services to give their opinions about what was being taught.  In short, rudeness dominated their church's meetings, rather than love.  Love was the solution to what was wrong in this church. Love is the solution to much of what is wrong in our society.

(6) Love continues to seek others' best in spite of temptations toward self-indulgenceLove does not seek its own. (13:5b)  (LOVE GIVING OTHERS EQUAL TIME)
"Love" "is not self-seeking,"

Thought Question:  Why is seeking our own the very opposite of love?

 

 

At their Lord's Table' meal the rich ate richly and the poor ate poorly.  The riches of the world are a strong allurement to draw our focus and concern toward ourselves and what we want for ourselves, and away from others.  But, we truly love someone when what will make them happy is more important to us than such things as sensual pleasure, personal recognition,, and material possessions.

Selfishness results in the seeking of our best no matter what it costs others.  The greatest selfishness of all occurs when someone seeks their own best even if it costs someone else their life.  Love results in the seeking of another's best, no matter what it costs us.  "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

(7) Love continues to seek others' best in spite of offensesLove is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs. (13:5c) (LOVE FORGIVING)
"Love" "is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs"

Thought Question #1:  Why do we keep a "record of wrongs"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why is keeping a "record of wrongs" the very opposite of love?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Do you keep a "record of wrongs" with anyone?  What does that tell you about your attitude toward that person?

 

 

Nothing is more human and natural than for us to want to return hurt back to others when we have been hurt by them.  The result, of course, is that we start a vicious circle of hurting each other.  True love does not start this vicious circle of returning hurt for hurt.  Love wants to help the one who is hurting us rather than hurt the one who is hurting us.

It is very human, though, for us to keep a list in our mind of every wrong someone has done to us.  Then, we use every opportunity that we can to try to get even with them.  We point out their faults to others.  We are careful to do everything that we can to make their lives difficult.  We can shun them and give them the silent treatment.  We can get hostile when they want something from us or when they want our cooperation.  In the back of all this is our list that we are keeping of the times that they have offended us.  But, if we are loving others, keeping a list of their wrongs against us is of no value at all.  Instead, it hinders us from seeking their best.  So, true love for others does not keep a "record of wrongs." 

Are you keeping a record of the ways someone has wronged you?  This person does not need your bitterness, they need your love.  As Jesus has forgiven you, you need to forgive this person or those persons.

In a world full of selfish people like you and me, we can expect to be hurt and mistreated.  We are not always understood by people, others are often selfish and insensitive in the way they treat us, and they might even be downright mean to us.  True love will not allow any of this to prevent us from caring for them.  Instead of returning hurt for hurt, we will return love for hurts.

Do we want others to keep a record of everything we ever have done against them?  If you are married, do you want your spouse to keep a record of every single time you have wronged or hurt him or her?  When we love someone, we will not keep a careful record of the ways they have wronged us, so that we can build a strong case against them.  When we love someone we will forgive them and forget the ways they have hurt us, so that we can put our focus and effort into seeking to do what will be of greatest help to them.

(8) Love continues to seek others' best in spite of our natural inclination to enjoy it when misfortunes happen to themLove does not delight in evil. (13:6) (LOVE ENJOYS IT ONLY WHEN GOOD HAPPENS TO OTHERS)
"Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth"

Thought Question #1:  Why would anyone "delight in evil"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why is "rejoicing with the truth" the same as love?

 

 

"It is all too characteristic of human nature to take pleasure in the misfortunes of others."  "The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1958 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  It is especially easy for us to enjoy the misfortunes of those who have hurt us.

You may think at this point that you could never rejoice in evil.  As Christians we should not.  But, nevertheless, it is very human for us to enjoy evil.  If it were not true, people would not pay money to go to movies that contain violence and other types of evil.  Sadly, it is very human to enjoy evil.  True love suffers with those who suffer; it does not enjoy it when they suffer.  Even when those who are suffering are those who have wronged us in the past.

Paul explains that love does not delight in evil, but it "it rejoices with the truth."  We delight not in what tears down people, but in what builds them up.  Love is not love without truth.  Paul is full of love for these Corinthian Christians, but he also tells them the truth about their sin.  Much of the Bible is God telling us what is not easy for us to hear.  Much of the Bible is God telling us about our sin.  Is it negative or unloving for God to tell us the truth about our sin?  If it is, then a major part of the Bible is negative and unloving.  See II Timothy 3:16-17  Is it negative for a doctor to say that his or her patient needs to change his life patterns or he will be in danger of having a heart attack.  It is an unpleasant truth to hear.  But, it is the loving thing for him to say.  When we seek what is best for someone, we will tell that person the truth in love.  Love "rejoices with the truth."

(9) Love continues to seek others' best in spite of everythingLove never fails. (13:7-8a)  (LOVE NEVER GIVING UP)

(a) Love "Always protects" (13:7a)
"Love bears all things" or "always protects,"

Thought Question:  What are some of the things that love is willing to bear?

 

 

"The verb stego has the basic idea of 'cover.'"  "Taken from The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1958 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  But it can also be translated "bears all things patiently" as it is translated in the NASV translation.  Charles Hodge observed that when Paul used this Greek word he clearly meant it to mean to "bear patiently."  See 9:2, I Thessalonians 3:1,5  In this context, the translation "bears all things" of the NASV appears to be a better translation than the "always protects" of the NIV.

When we genuinely love someone we will bear all things about them that make it difficult for us to continue to love them.  We will bear slights, insults, misunderstandings, irritations, and whatever else, and continue to seek, from the heart, after what is best for them.  Jesus followed a path that ended in a cross, because of His love for us.  He bore mocking, being spat upon, being tortured, and ultimate separation from the Father.  His love bore all things.  On the cross, where he said "forgive them they know not what they do," we can tell that He continued to love these who hated Him.  If we love like He did, we also will bear all things in our pursuit after what is best for others.

(b) Love "Always trusts and always hopes." (13:7b)
"Love" "always trusts, always hopes,"

Thought Question:  What is meant by love always trusting and always hoping?

 

 

Love will always be willing to look for and see the best in others, and love will always hope for the best in others.  There are many who at one time seemed to be without hope who then became Christians and as a result of their relationship with God, their life has completely turned in a new direction.  Many Christian parents have not given up hope for their children, even when there was not a sign at all that there was any hope that they would turn back to God and His ways.  The Apostle Paul was at one time an eager observer as Stephen was being stoned to death.  See Acts 7 And yet we know that Paul was not a hopeless case.  Most of us have known someone who became a Christian whom we thought would never become a Christian.  True love continues to seek the best for others and continually hopes that the best will happen to them.

(c) Love "always perseveres." (13:7c)
"Love" "always perseveres"

Thought Question #1:  Give examples of those you have known or people in the Bible whose love always perseveres or always persevered (never gives up or never gave up).

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What happens when our love does give up?

 

 

"The verb hupomeno denotes not a patient resigned acquiescence, but an active, positive fortitude.  It is the endurance of the soldier who in the thick of battle is undismayed, but continues to persevere.  "Taken from The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1958 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  It is the type of love that does not give up when it would be easy to give up.  True love perseveres no matter how difficult it is to keep going and no matter how easy it would be to stop loving.  Love does not give into bitterness, grumbling, or despair.

(d) Love "never fails." (13:8a)
"Love never fails."

Thought Question:  Explain why "love never fails" is a good conclusion to this description of love.

 

 

The Greek word translated "fails" means "to fall, to collapse, to be destroyed, to be ruined, to come to an end, to fail."  True love continues to love no matter what it encounters.  It is not conquered and brought to ruin and destroyed by any obstacle or a force that opposes it.  In the end, after the battle, after the discouragements, after all the opposition, true love still stands.  God's love is like this.  God continues to love a world full of people who have rejected His love.

But you might say that God's love does fail.  For isn't it true that God will judge and send many to Hell?  But it is not God's love that fails; rather it is men who ultimately failed to receive His love.  He paid the ultimate price to rescue us from Hell.  But men have chosen to reject Him and they have also chosen to reject the salvation that He offers.  We also can persevere in our love for those who reject us.  Love "never fails"; but men do fail to receive unfailing love.

What is love?  Love is continuing to seek another's best no matter what that person is like and in spite of everything.  Nothing can stop our true love from seeking after someone's best.

Ray Stedman gives three excellent descriptions of this type of love.  First of all, he says that love is like a leak in a boat that keeps on coming at us no matter how fast we keep bailing it out.  Love keeps coming at us no matter what we do.  Then, he mentions that one of his favorite hymns describes this type of love.  "O Love That Will Not Let Me Go."

Finally he tells this story as told to him by Stephen Olford, an Englishman and a Pastor of a church in New York, who was raised by missionary parents on the continent of Africa.  It occurred after his father died in Africa and his mother and he were returning to England on a tramp steamer.  Here is one beautiful example of genuine love.

"They had not been out of port more than a few days when one of the seamen injured himself.  His wound began to fester and smell very badly, and the other seamen refused to have him in the cabin with them.  They lacked adequate medicines to treat this man, and it looked like he was going to die!  He was in great pain, but the other men took him up and dumped him on the deck, exposed him to the weather, and refused to let him come down at all.  They passed food to him with a long pole, as no one would touch him.  Stephen Olford's mother was a godly, Christian woman, and, after about a day of this treatment, she took pity on this man and went up to him.  No one else would draw near him because the stench was so terrible, but she took a basin of warm water, knelt down beside him, and washed away the pus and all the collected foul excrement of the wound.  He cursed her, as he had cursed everybody who had come near him, but she patiently kept on and never said a word.  She brought him his food that day, again in the evening, and again washed his wounds and took care of him.  This went on for the duration of the voyage.  When they arrived in London he was able to hobble off the ship.  As you can well imagine, a display of love like that had broken through all of this man's bitter defenses.  He became a Christian and a lifelong slave of Stephen Olford's mother."

The greatest encouragement of all is that you and I can know that we are loved by God with this type of unfailing love.  For because "God is love" (See I John 4:8), we can replace the word "love" in these verses with "God."  For example, God is patient and kind.  His love for us bears all things and never fails.  Because we are loved in this way, we, like Stephen's mother, can also love others with this same type of unfailing of love.

c. The preeminence of love: Love is always primary and spiritual gifts are always secondary. (13:8b-13)
"But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Thought Question #1:  Do you believe that these verses teach that tongues ceased after the early church?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Do you believe that the gift of tongues ceased after the early church?  What do you base your answer on?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What do you believe is meant by the word "perfect" in verse nine?

 

 

"But where there are prophesies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away." (13:b) This half verse is one of the most hotly contested half verses in the Bible.  The standard interpretation by much of Christianity is that this verse teaches that the gift of tongues ceased to exist after the early church.  In this portion of this verse Paul lists three spiritual gifts; the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge.  With the gifts of prophecy and knowledge, he uses the same verb form.  The verb is in the passive form.  A passive verb describes an action whereby something is acted upon rather than where something is doing the action.  For example, instead of a person hitting the ball (an action verb), a verb is passive when the person is hit by the ball.  Prophecy and knowledge are, therefore, done away with by something else.  Paul is predicting that something will come along that will cause these two gifts  to come to an end.  Paul does not say, however, what will occur that will cause these gifts to cease.

On the other hand, the verb that is used with the gift of tongues is in the middle form.  A verb is in the middle form when a person does an action to himself.  For example, "I hit my hand."  So, tongues will cause themselves to cease, or they will cease all by themselves.  In other words, nothing will cause them to cease. 

The problem is that Paul says they will cease of themselves, but he does not say when they will cease.  So, we can only determine from this verse that tongues will cease at some time subsequent to when Paul wrote I Corinthians.  But we cannot determine from this verse when they will cease. Nor can we determine from this verse if they have already ceased.  We must use other means to determine whether the gift of tongues still exists today or whether they ceased to exist shortly after the time of the early church.  Some of the methods that have been used to seek to determine whether or not the gift of tongues have ceased are the following:  (1) There have been tests made to see whether or not the tongues that are being uttered today are actual languages.  (2) The writings of the early church can help us to discover if the gift of tongues stopped after the early church or if this miraculous gift continued after the time of the apostles.  (3) There have been historical studies made that have sought to determine whether or not the gift of tongues was practiced throughout the history of the church.  (4) We can test the modern-day tongues' speaking to see if it follows the guidelines given by Paul in I Corinthians 12-14.

So, although there is no place in the Bible that says specifically when the gift of tongues was to cease, we can say with Biblical certainty that the gift of tongues was to cease at some time in Paul's future.  We can also test what has happened in church history and at the present time and determine whether or not the gift that is described in the Bible has ceased.  The question is, then, did God continue to enable Christians to miraculously speak in languages they did not know after the church of Biblical times?  Also, is God enabling Christians today to miraculously speak in languages they do not know?  Some within Christianity answer that this gift is still being given by God and others say that this gift is no longer being given by God.

My personal observation is (1) that church history does not record a continuous, God-given, miraculous gift of tongues from the early church up until now; (2) that the present-day speaking in tongues has not been verified to be a miraculous speaking in a different language, (3) that at least much of what is called tongues' speaking is not a miraculous gift but it is merely an emotional high, and (4) and a large percentage of what takes place in Charismatic services does not follow Paul's guidelines in these verses.  Therefore, although I would not say that there are no times when God enables Christians today to miraculously speak in a language that they do not know, I do believe that it is generally true that the gift of tongues ceased after it had served its purpose in the early church.

(2) Spiritual gifts are imperfect and they will be replaced by the perfect in the same way as childishness is replaced by maturity. (13:9-12)
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am known."

Some believe that the "perfect" Paul mentions in these verses is the completed Bible.  Previous to the Bible being completed, some gifted members of the church such as the apostles and prophets gave the church messages from God.  Those who believe that the "perfect" is the completed Bible, believe that now that we have the Bible we no longer need these gifts to give us new messages from God.  So, they would say that the spiritual gifts of "prophesy" and "knowledge" were done away with and rendered unnecessary when the Bible was completed in the late first century.

A problem, though, with this interpretation is that there is no mention of the Scriptures either prior to these verses or after them.  So, then, there is nothing in the context of these verses to give us any reason for being confident that when Paul is using the word "perfection," he is referring to the Scriptures.

Another interpretation is that the "perfection" is the perfect place or heaven.  According to this viewpoint, Paul is saying that one day this imperfect world will be replaced by the "perfection" world.  Then, at that time, prophecy and knowledge will no longer be necessary and they will be replaced by God speaking to us directly.  A strong argument can be made that the "perfection" is heaven, for then we will see God "face to face."

Ray Stedman believed that the "perfection" is perfect love.  That interpretation does fit the context.  Notice that in verse eight, Paul does say that "Love never fails."  Then he goes on immediately to say that prophecy, tongues, and knowledge will cease or fail.  He could have been saying that we will experience "perfect" love in heaven; and then when we reach and experience this perfection in being loved and loving others, the spiritual gifts will be rendered unnecessary.  This interpretation appears to me to best fit the theme of this chapter on love.

Let us seek to interpret these verses using love as the "perfect."  Paul would then be saying to these Corinthian Christians that they should not be childishly focusing on their spiritual gifts, but they should be focusing on that which will last eternally.  They should be focusing their lives on love which will never pass away, rather than focusing their lives on that which will pass away.  God's ultimate goal for them and us is "love"!  At that time, they were like children who were excited with their children's toys.  But as children eventually move out of the toy stage and become concerned with adult activities, so they should concern themselves with the primary concern of mature Christians; they should concern themselves above all with love.  Spiritual gifts are good, but they are secondary in their importance.  Their purpose is to help us to love God and to love others.

Right now we are in a process of transition as we head for this time when we will experience perfect love.  Now it is as if we were looking into one of the mirrors of Paul's time.  The mirrors of Paul's time did not provide an exact and clear image as the mirrors of today do.  When you looked at these mirrors you saw only a blurred image.  So we are unable to clearly see the "perfect."  All we can see now as we look around us, is a whole bunch of what is imperfect.  The gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge are part of this transition time and their purpose is to help us to understand God.  And His desire is for us to experience His perfect love.  During this period when everything is imperfect, these gifts have the temporary purpose of helping us toward faith, hope, and love.

Paul's point seems to be: do not put your total focus on these gifts and make them your highest priority.  For they are merely the temporary and baby stages of your spiritual journey, but put your primary focus on the abiding qualities of faith, hope, and love, as you head ultimately toward that time when you will come into a full knowledge of God who is love.

Thought Question:  What personal application can you make to you own life from these verses?

 

 

We also need to focus on God's big goals and not be childishly concerned with things like, "who gets the credit?" "How do I compare to others?" "He offended me!" "Am I doing more than others?"  Paul explains in this chapter what is of greatest importance, "Am I serving God by loving others?"

(3) Faith, hope, and love sum up all that is eternally important. (13:13)
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love."

Thought Question #1:  What do you believe is the primary difference between Paul's groupings of "faith, hope and love" and Paul's groupings of "prophecies," "tongues," and "knowledge"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe that "love" is greater than "faith" and "hope"?

 

 

Spiritual gifts like prophecy, tongues, and knowledge should lead us toward "faith, hope and love."  They should lead us toward a life of dependence on God, a life of "faith."  They should lead us toward a life of looking to the future in confident expectation that all of God's promises to us will be fulfilled, a life of  "hope."  See I Corinthians 2:9  And they should lead us above all to "love."  "Love" is the greatest because "faith" and "hope" is depending on God, but "God is love!" (I John 4:8)  When we seek after love we are not seeking to trust in God, but we are seeking to be like God.

The Christians in the church at Corinth were childishly and selfishly focusing on their spiritual gifts.  There is a saying that is used to promote cooperation in sports.  It is simply, "There is no 'I' in team!"  The Church at Corinth was focusing on themselves and missing God's big picture.  They needed to stop focusing on themselves.  "I am the greatest" is not a Christian saying.  These Corinthian Christians needed to put their focus on what is truly great: "the greatest of these is love."  Ray Stedman finishes his two messages on this love chapter with these words:  "To become a loving, compassionate, patient, kind, truthful person is the reason we exist." "Discovery Publishers."  I believe Paul would have liked Ray's summation of his words in this chapter.

3. Genuine spirituality always emphasizes exercising spiritual gifts in such a way that others are edified. (14:1-40)
Paul is careful in this chapter to not in any way imply that the gift of tongues was not a valued gift of God's Spirit.  But, he is also concerned that it would be given its proper place in the Corinthian church.  The key in determining how each gift should be used is to determine how its use can best promote the building up of others in the Body of Christ.  In the church at Corinth where selfishness reigned, (See 3:1-3, 13:11 and 14:20); the gift of tongues was being used in a selfish way (and in a chaotic way as well as we will learn 14:26-40).  The Corinthian Christians were not seeking to edify others, but they were focused on themselves and what would make them feel good. See 14:4  Paul desired that they would begin to emphasize prophesy in their meetings because this gift was most effective in edifying others.

a. Seek after all the gifts, but especially seek after prophesy, for prophesy edifies the church. (14:1-5)
"Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophesy.  For anyone who speaks in a tongue, does not speak to men but to God.  Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.  He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church."

Thought Question #1:  What can we learn about the gift of tongues from these verses?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What can we learn abut the gift of prophecy from these verses?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What do you believe Paul means when he says that he who speaks in a tongue "edifies himself?"

 

 

Thought Question #4:  Do you believe that there are spiritual gifts today?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #5:  Do you believe that the gift of prophecy exists today?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

The church at Corinth is urged to "eagerly desire spiritual gifts."  He is speaking here to the whole church.  They as a plurality of Christians should seek to discover and to exercise their spiritual gifts.  Furthermore, he tells them to particularly seek after the gift of prophecy.  Prophets in the early church received direct messages from God.  See Acts 11:27-29, 21:8-11  There appears, though, to have been a difference between the man or woman who was a prophet and who regularly was a spokesperson for God and the gift of prophesy.  Those who had the gift of prophecy were enabled at times to speak God's word to the church.  See I Corinthians 11:4-5  As was mentioned earlier, the church at that time did not have the completed Bible as we do today.  So, God used the early prophets and those with the gift of prophesy to speak His words to the church.

The question that needs to be answered, though, is the following one:  "does anyone have the gift of prophesy today?"  Leon Morris' answer is, "No."  The gift of prophesy is "something like our preaching, but not identical with it.  It is not the delivery of a carefully prepared sermon, but the uttering of words directly inspired by God."  "Taken from The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians by Leon Morris.  Copyright 19955 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

In I Corinthians 14:29-32, Paul describes the ministry of prophets.  "Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.  And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.  For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.  The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets."  This gift is at least similar to God giving a preacher a message so that he can proclaim God's message to the world today.  Some believe that it is for today and others believe that this gift is not given to the church today.  Something, though, very similar to the gift of prophesy is given to the church today, for as I mentioned in chapter 12, men like Billy Graham have been certainly gifted and are used by God to speak His word to our world.

It is clear, though, that there are no apostles and prophets today, for we are told that the church was "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets." (Ephesians 2:20) The early church was the foundation period of the church.  Today, we are the building that has been built on top of that foundation.  As the foundation of the church was completed two thousand years ago by the apostles and prophets of the early church according to God's plan, we no longer need or have apostles and prophets with us today.

Paul gives the following reasons why prophesy was a preferred gift to the gift of tongues in their church assemblies:  (1) "For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God."(14:2a)  In Acts 2:1-3, when the early apostles and a few others spoke in tongues, they spoke in a human language other than their own language.  See Acts 2:5-11  But, we are also told that they were praising God in these foreign languages.  See Acts 2:11  Some believe that the gift of tongues is to be used to evangelize those in a language that the missionary does not know.  But here Paul says the gift of tongues is not for speaking to men, but for speaking to God.  And in Acts 2:11 we learn that early apostles were not sharing the gospel message of Jesus' death in a language foreign to them, but they were praising God in languages they did not know.  So, the purpose of the gift of tongues, according to these two passages, was for praising God and not for the evangelizing the lost.

(2) Tongues' speaking did not make any sense to those who were listening—to those who did not know the language that the tongues' speaker was speaking in.  "Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit."  The ones who spoke in tongues were lifted in their spirit as they praised God; but those who listened had no idea what was being said.  The listeners to the tongues' speaker (who had the miraculous ability to praise God in a foreign language) heard only unintelligible noises. It is very similar to how we feel when we listen to a television station from a foreign country.  Their words sound like a lot of meaningless sounds to us.  Paul's point is obvious.  Speaking in the gift of tongues in a church service only benefits the one who speaks with the gift of tongues.

The application to our modern day is obvious.  Even if those who claim to have the gift of tongues today do actually have the same supernatural gift of tongues given to the church at Corinth, they should not be speaking in tongues in a public service.  For those listening do not know what is being said.  It is of no value to those who are listening, it should not be done.

(3) Prophecy is of value in a church gathering, for it edifies those who listen
"But everyone who prophecies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort."  Why was the gift of prophecy to be preferred over the gift of tongues in church gatherings?  It was very useful and helpful to those who were listening; while the gift of tongues was just meaningless sounds to those who were listening.  Some of us have been in a service where a number of people began to speak in the modern version of tongues.  My response, particularly as a new Christian, to hearing everyone uttering sounds that made no sense to me was frightening rather than edifying.

Paul gives three ways that the gift of prophesy edifies: (1) it strengthens those who are weak, (2) it encourages those who are discouraged, and (3) it brings comfort to those who are in emotional pain.  Modern-day preaching has exactly the same goals: to strengthen, encourage and comfort those who listen as God's Word is preached and taught.

"I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophecy.  He who prophecies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues,"  Paul makes it clear that he is not opposed to the Corinthian Christians speaking in tongues.  In fact, he would like it if every one of them spoke in tongues.  Nevertheless, he would rather that they prophesied, because it is the "greater" gift for the reasons he has just given.

"Unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified."  If he has been gifted with the ability to interpret what he says in the gift of speaking in a foreign language, then his interpretation will make sense to his listeners and they will be built up by his interpretation in their own language.

b. Tongues is a foreign language and meaningless to those who do not know this language. (14:6-12)
"Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?  Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes?  Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for the battle?  So it is with you.  Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying?  You will just be speaking into the air. "

Thought Question:  How do these verses apply to some Charismatic services where everyone is speaking in modern-day tongues at the same time?

 

 

Paul points out in these verses in a number of ways, that tongues' speaking has no value in a church's service unless it is accompanied by an interpretation.  He asks them to consider how worthless it would be if on his next visit he spoke to them only in tongues.  They would not have understood a thing that he said.  This would be like one of us going to a south sea island as a missionary and only speaking in English, a language they did not understand.  Everything we said would not make any sense to them.  Paul's point is that if he spoke only in tongues to them, it also would be worthless to them. 

Paul compares tongues' speaking to the use of instruments.  Even they are of no value if there is no discernable pattern in the music.  If someone get up and sits at the piano during the offering at a church service, but just starts hitting keys without any plan or purpose, it would neither be pleasant to hear nor would it be profitable for the listeners.  There is a great deal of difference between just anyone sitting down to a piano and hitting notes randomly and an accomplished pianist masterfully playing a beautiful piece of music.

Then, Paul presents his conclusion:  If there is tongues' speaking in the church without interpretation, it has no more value to the church than for someone to be "speaking into the air."  There is an obvious modern-day application.  A Charismatic service that becomes a time where most everyone in the congregation is speaking in tongues at the same time is, according to Paul's words in these verses, a totally useless time.  Everyone is just speaking into the air, for none of the sounds are connecting with anyone's understanding.  No one has any idea what is being said; especially the poor visitor does not know what is going on.

Paul goes on to say that this tongues' speaking without interpretation is not only useless, it is also destructive.  "Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning.  If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me."

The word "foreigners" is barboros from which we get our word "barbarian."  Paul is simply saying when you speak in tongues, you sound like a barbarian to someone who is listening to you.  They took great pride in their gift of tongues, but to the outsider they sounded like a bunch of barbarians.

Paul closes with this conclusion:  "So it is with you.  Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church."  In other words, stop exercising your gift of tongues in a way that ends up making you look foolish and in a way that does not build up your church.  Instead, focus on prophecy which will strengthen, encourage, and comfort those in your church.

Incidentally, when Paul says in verse ten that "there are all sorts of languages in the world" when he is speaking about the gifts of tongues, he is confirming that the gift of tongues was an ability to speak in a human foreign language.

d. Seek the type of prayer, worship, and ministry that is understandable to others. (14:13-19)
Paul tactfully uses himself and what he has chosen to do with regard to his use of the gift of tongues, as a way to persuade them to make the same decision in their use of the gift of tongues.  "For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.  For if Ipray in a tongue, myspirit prays, but mymind is unfruitful.  So what shall Ido?  Iwill pray with myspirit, but I will also pray with mymind.  Iwill sing with myspirit, but Iwill also sing with my mind.  If youare praising God with yourspirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say 'Amen' to yourthanksgiving, since he does not know what youare saying?  Youmay be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.  Ithank God that Ispeak in tongues more than all of you.  But in the church Iwould rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue."

Thought Question #1:  If a modern-day Charismatic church properly applied these verses to their church, what will their church services be like?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Do you believe that Paul spoke in tongues in private?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

He begins by urging them to not be satisfied when they speak in an unknown tongue that is not understandable to others who are listening.  Instead, if they speak in tongues, they should pray that God will give them the ability to interpret what was said in the tongues' speaking.—Evidently, it was possible to both have the gifts of tongues and to have the ability to interpret or translate the gift of tongues—Then, he uses his own logic.  He is not satisfied with just praying in tongues, where only his spirit is engaged, but he chooses to pray with his "mind" and his "spirit."

What does he mean by praying with the "mind" and the "spirit"?  He explains this in verse 19.  There he says he "would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue."  Praying with the "spirit" and the "mind" is praying in your own tongue or language.  Then, you are both praying in your "spirit" and you understand what you are praying as well.

Then, Paul urges them to apply his reasoning to their situation.  When they are in their church congregation, they should also choose to give thanks in their own language rather than in the gift of tongues, so that all who are present will be able to understand what they are thankful for and will be able to say "Amen" to their thanksgiving.

Finally, Paul shares his own conclusion.  Though he is not opposed to speaking in tongues and says that he does it more than all of them, when he is in a church gathering he would rather speak a few words that can be understood than thousands of words in tongues that cannot be understood.

From these verses we are given at least two teachings about the gift of tongues:  (1) Those who spoke with tongues were unable to understand what they were saying in tongues; "my mind is unfruitful."  (2) Those who spoke in tongues were expressing praise and thanksgiving to God; "if you are praising God" (14:16a) and "say 'Amen' to your thanksgiving." (14:16b-17)  As was mentioned previously, in Acts 2:11 we are told that the visitors to Pentecost said they heard them "declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues."

These verses also emphasize the important place of the mind in our church gatherings.  Church worship is not a mindless activity, but it should result in our minds being filled with an understanding of God's glory so that we can praise Him for who He is.

Still Paul is not disparaging the gift of tongues, for he himself spoke in tongues more even then they did.  But he said he did not choose to speak in tongues in church gatherings, for to him, even a few words in a language they understood was preferable to thousands of words they did not understand.

If he did not speak in tongues publicly, when did he speak in tongues?  It would appear that he must have spoke in tongues privately.  An argument, however, that is given that the gift of tongues was not meant to be used in private is that it was meant to be for a sign (we are about to come to the verses in this chapter that teach this, 14:21-22).  The argument is given that the gift of tongues would not be very useful as a sign if it was done in private.  Also, it is argued that in each case that is described in the book of Acts where tongues is spoken in the early church, they were spoken in public.  See Acts 2:1-13, 10:44-46, 19:6  Nevertheless, it is hard to explain how Paul, who preferred not to speak in tongues in public, still spoke in tongues more than these Corinthian Christians who did regularly speak in tongues in public.  One likely answer to how he could have spoken in tongues more than they did is that Paul spoke in tongues in private.

c. Tongues were meant as a sign of judgment to Jewish unbelievers. (14:20-22a)
"Brothers, stop thinking like children.  In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.  In the Law it is written:  'through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.  Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers;"

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, what was the main purpose for the gift of tongues?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How can we be immature in a similar way to these Corinthian Christians?

 

 

 It is sad that in our world most of our children are more knowledgeable about evil than past generations, and it is equally sad that most are less mature when it comes to understanding God's ways of righteousness and wisdom.  They are experts with regards to selfishness and sin, and lacking in expertise in the values of knowing God and His ways.  Paul's point in these verses is that these Corinthian Christians should not be like children in their thinking with regard to the gift of tongues.  They should understand what God's purpose was in giving them the ability to speak in languages they did not know.  They should recognize that the gift of tongues was meant to be a sign to Jewish unbelievers of God's judgment on them.  The Corinthians in their childishness saw only what the gift of tongues could do for them.  It was their plaything.  They were selfishly missing God's picture with regard to the gift of tongues, and only saw their small picture of what the gift of tongues could do for them.  So, their use of the gift of tongues resulted in their services being nothing more than a confusion of disorderly and meaningless voices that edified no one but themselves.  Paul asked them to step outside of their self-centered worlds and learn the purpose that the gift of tongues had within God's purposes.

"In the Law it is written:  'Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even they will not listen to men,' says the Lord.  Tongues, then, are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers."

Paul quotes Isaiah 28:11-12 to explain the purpose of tongues.  The people of Isaiah's time looked on his simple messages to them as tedious and repetitive.  "Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, a little here, a little there."  (Isaiah 28:10)  Because they rejected the simple message in their own language from God's prophet, they would receive God's message of judgment from the foreign tongues of the Assyrians.  Shortly after Isaiah's words in Isaiah 28, the northern kingdom of Israel was horribly conquered by the Assyrians.  Instead of hearing God's words of warning in their Hebrew tongue, the Israelites heard the foreign words of their conquerors.  The words of their conquerors the Assyrians, in the Assyrian tongue, were a sign of God's judgment on them.

What does this have to do with the gift of tongues?  Because Israel in Paul's time had rejected their Messiah and had not chosen to give praise to God in their own language, they would instead hear God praised in foreign languages.  God gave the gift of tongues to the Gentile church as a sign of judgment on Israel.  Tongues were not a toy for the Corinthians to childishly play with, but their God-given ability to praise God in many tongues was a sign that God had judged Israel and was now blessing the Gentile world!  When they spoke in tongues it was a sign of God's blessing on the Gentiles and God's judgment on Israel.

e. So, tongues alone are not beneficial in a church service, but prophecy is effective in edifying believers and in persuading non-believers of their sins. (14:22b-25)
"prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.  So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?  But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare.  So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, 'God is really among you!'

Thought Question:  How can tongues be a sign to unbelieving Israel but are not good at convincing unbelievers to become Christians?

 

 

Tongues are a sign of God's judgment on the unbelieving Jews.  But God did not use the gift of tongues to convert the Jewish people who became the first church at Jerusalem.  It was Peter's preaching that convicted the Jews at Jerusalem of their sins and led them to turn to Jesus Christ.  In fact, as Paul says here, speaking in tongues without interpretation will not lead people to Christ, but will turn them away.  Paul explains that when an unbeliever or someone who does not understand (possibly a seeker who does not yet understand the gospel or one who does not understand the Christian life) comes into a church gathering where everyone is speaking in tongues, he or she will think that everyone has gone mad.

The Corinthian Christians (and many Charismatics today) saw speaking in tongues as the highest expression of spiritual intimacy with God and as God's promotion of them to the highest spiritual status.  But, Paul says here that if everyone is doing it in a church service, to the non-Christian world they do not look like God's most spiritual people, they look like a lunatic asylum.

On the other hand, if an unbeliever comes into a service where everyone is prophesying God's truth in an understandable language and manner, God will reveal to him what is in his heart.  The dark side of him that he has been trying to avoid seeing will be exposed.  He will also recognize that God is in their midst.  And, as a result, he will humble himself before God.

So, Paul now has given four functions of the gift of prophecy.  It is for strengthening, encouragement, comfort, and, finally, it is for convicting of sin. See 14:3, 14:24

f. Everything that is done in the church should be done in an orderly way and should be directed toward the edifying of one another. (14:26-40)
Leon Morris makes the following observation about these verses:  "This little paragraph is very important as giving us the most intimate glimpse we have of the early church at worship.  Here we are able to see what the first Christians actually did when they assembled to worship God.  Though we must not think of the description as a complete one."  "Taken from The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1958 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

"What then shall we say, brothers?  When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.  All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.  If anyone speaks in a tongue, twoor at the most threeshould speak one at a time, and someone must interpret.  If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.  Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.  And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.  For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.  The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.  For God is not a God of disorder but of peace."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, what do you think the church services were like in the early church?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What in their services was similar to our services?  What was different from our services?  (What were there services most like—a Sunday morning service? an adult Sunday school class? a Bible study?)

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Why do you think Paul gives them these instructions?  Hint:  What were they doing that needed to be corrected? (The instructions: "all must be done for the strengthening of the church" "two—or at most three—should speak one at a time" "if there is not an interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet . . .")

 

 

(1) When you come together, everyone brings something from God for the strengthening of the church. (14:26)
"What then shall we say, brothers?   When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.  All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church."

Barclay adds to Morris' observation about this being a description of an early church service in these words:  "The really notable thing about an early Church service must have been that almost everyone came feeling that he had both the privilege and the obligation of contributing something to it.  A man did not come with the sole intention of being a passive listener, he came not only to receive but to give.  Obviously this had its dangers, for it is clear that in Corinth there were those who were too fond of the sound of their voices; but nonetheless the Church must have been in those days much more the real possession of the ordinary Christian.  It may well be that the Church lost something when she delegated so much to the professional ministry and left so little to the ordinary Church member; and it may well be that the blame lies not with the ministry for annexing those rights but with the laity for abandoning them.  Certainly, it is all too true that many Church members think far more of what the Church can do for them than of what they can do for the Church, and are very ready to criticize what is being done, but are very unready to take any share in doing the Church work themselves."  "Taken from The Letters to the Corinthians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."

Morris give the following explanation of the elements of this early church service:  "It is curious that Paul does not speak of anyone having a 'prophecy', but perhaps a revelation means much the same.  A psalm for us has come to mean a member of the canonical book of Psalms.  But the word itself signifies a song, presumably of his own composition, to bring before the worshippers (cf. verse 15).  A doctrine is a piece of Christian teaching (RSV 'a lesson').  A revelation here will be some specific matter that God has revealed to the believer, perhaps something akin to what he reveals to the prophets.  An interpretation must the interpretation of a tongue."  "Taken from The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1958 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

Paul does not tell us if these were large gathering or hundreds of believers or small groups that met in homes.  We know that the early church often met in homes, so these verses may then describe what Paul directed should take place in these home gatherings of the early Church.

(2) There should be no speaking in tongues unless the tongues are interpreted. (14:27-28)
"If anyone speaks in a tongue, twoor at the most threeshould speak one at a time, and someone must interpret.  If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God."

 

 

Thought Question:  What do these verses tell us about speaking in tongues?

 

 

Some believe that speaking in tongues occurs when God takes over their tongue and they are driven irresistibly beyond their control to speak God's words in a supernatural tongue.  But, Paul says here that the early churchgoers who had the gift of tongues could control their speaking in tongues.  In fact, Paul commands them to control their speaking in tongues!  The early church meetings were to be a balance of spontaneity and order.  Paul would not condone modern-day Charismatic meetings where everyone is speaking in tongues at the same time.

Our modern sharing times also need to be both spontaneous and orderly.  They should be orderly, so people should speak one at a time.  Yet, they also need to be spontaneous.  What is shared usually is not planned and is not usually known by the one leading the sharing time until the persons in the congregation begin to share.

In our modern-day speaking in tongues, there is a strong emphasis on emotions and emotional expression.  Ray Stedman expressed the following concern about church meetings that have the goal of being highly emotional:  "I have been in meetings that were a riot of hand-clapping, shouting, singing, raising hands, and even dancing in the aisles.  They were wild, emotional times.  There are people today who think that that is the only kind of meeting that is of value.  They look forward to their weekly religious jag where they experience a kind of spiritual high to live on the rest of the week."

(3) Prophecy should be given in an orderly fashion and evaluated by others. (14:29)
"Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said."

Thought Question #1:  What does this verse tell us about the prophesies that were given at that time?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Who are the "others" who are to evaluate what the prophets said?

 

 

In this short verse we are given a number of principles that should guide our services today.  First of all, he says that "two or three prophets should speak."  There is at least one good reason for there to be only a small number of speakers.  Otherwise, there would have been no limit to the length of the meetings.  We also limit the numbers of speakers in our services, so we can keep our meetings within a reasonable time limit.

The words of "two or three prophets" appear to be the limit of what the Christians at Corinth could absorb.  Some of us have been to conferences where we have heard so many speakers or sessions that we were unable to absorb any more of what was being taught.  Paul gives these early Christians directions probably so that they would keep their meetings within reasonable limits.

Next, he says that after a prophet speaks, the "others" should evaluate what is said.  First of all, who are "the others?"  F. F. Bruce gives this interesting answer to this question:  "Grammatically the others might mean 'the other prophets', but in 12:10 'the ability to distinguish spirits' is given to others than prophets, so the others here are more probably the hearers in general."  "Taken from The New Century Bible Commentary I & II Corinthians by F. F. Bruce.  Copyright 1971 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 

The next question we must ask is, how were they to evaluate the prophets?  This verse and other verses in the letters to the church specifically teach us that everything that someone says that they have received from God is not to be immediately accepted as being from God, without an evaluation or testing.  We are not to despise them if they say that something is from God, for there is always the possibility that it is from God; nor are we to naively accept that everything that someone says is from God actually is from God.

In I Thessalonians 5:20-21, we are told to "not treat prophesies with contempt.  Test everything.  Hold on to the good."  We are not to narrowly reject everything we hear.  We are to be always open to the possibility that something that is claimed to be from God, may be from God.  But we are also to test it thoroughly before we accept that it is from God.  For the type of free-flowing service that is described here to be successful, they and we cannot be narrow or naïve.  We must be open to God, but we must also be ready to examine everything by testing it to see if it measures up to what is taught in the Bible.

We also should treat our Sunday morning sermons, Sunday School classes, and Bible studies in a similar way.  We need to be open to what God may want to say to us through our Pastor, Sunday school teacher, and Bible study leaders.  But, we also must test everything by what the Bible teaches.  In a Sunday School class and a Bible study, there is often the opportunity to ask questions and to seek after clarification.  An appropriately humble and God-honoring teacher will welcome this type of questioning.

(4) Prophets should take turns and be willing to readily give way to other prophets. (14:30-33a)
"And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.  For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.  The spirits of the prophets are subject to the control of the prophets.  For God is not a God of disorder but of peace."

Thought Question #1:  What do these verses tell us about the prophecies that were made in Paul's time?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe a speaker needed to stop when another received a revelation?  Are there times when these instructions apply to today's church?

 

 

Just as those who spoke in tongues had the ability to control their speaking in tongues, so the prophets had the ability to control their prophesying.  In other words, neither gift was the result of God so taking over their tongues that they no longer had control of themselves.  Nor do Biblical gifts of the Spirit lead to Christians being in an uncontrollable ecstasy or frenzy.  They could choose not to speak!  And Paul instructs them to control their prophesying so that their meetings will be peaceful and orderly.

Even when someone is being moved by God to speak God's words, he or she is still able to choose to speak or not to speak.  This exercise of self-control and discretion will enable the church service to proceed in the most orderly and helpful way, so that it will be the most edifying for those who are attending the meeting.

Paul instructs the Christians at Corinth that prophets should give way to someone who receives something from God while they are still speaking.  There are a number of possible reasons for this:  (1) What God has revealed to the person who is sitting and listening may be apt and would be most profitably heard right at that apt moment.  (2) It may be forgotten if it is not said at that moment.  (3) It may have been that some at Corinth were not willing to yield the floor to others and destroyed the atmosphere of the Body of Christ ministering to one another.  Most of us have been in what was supposed to be a discussion, but that ended up being a one person domination of nearly all of the time.  He or she did not seem to realize that there were others who would have loved to have also participated, but who were unable to easily share what God may have given to them.  It has been said that there are two types of speakers, those who have something to say, and those who have to say something.

Because God is a God of peace and order, we can assume that anything that comes from Him will not produce disorder and confusion.  The moving of God in a church service, therefore, will never produce confusion.  Instead, His working will always lead to the same type of order, peace, and beauty that was found in His original creative work; where He looked at all He made and said that it was good.  Ray Stedman puts it this way:  "Remember if there is strife, jealousy, confusion, argument, and that kind of thing, it is not a meeting led by the Spirit of God, God does not work that way.  When that kind of meeting is going on, it is some other spirit at work."

(5) Women are to remain silent at these gatherings. (14:33b-36)
"As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches.  They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.  If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.  Did the word of God originate with you?  Or are you the only people it has reached?"

Thought Question:  What does Paul mean when he says, "women should remain silent?"

 

 

According to these verses, are women to remain silent in today's church services?  In the discussion in chapter eleven, the point was made that if what Paul says here means that women are to be absolutely silent, it means that women cannot say anything at all in our church gatherings.  It would mean that there can be no casual discussions at any time during our meetings, no singing, no solos, no teaching of children, no discussion in Sunday School class (even if it is a women's class).  Few would want to take Paul's words this far.  What does Paul mean if he does not mean that women are to be absolutely silent?  There are at least two possible answers to this question:  (1) One possibility is that because the culture of that day was restrictive on women, women were to be silent in church; but in today's culture where there are almost no restrictions on women, women do not need to be silent.  (2) Because Paul did sanction women talking in an orderly way —prophesying and praying with their head covered (See 11:5), he must have been talking about some type of disorderly talking.  For if they prayed and prophesied in church, they did talk in church.

It is my conclusion that the second possibility best fits the context.  From verse 36, we can tell that the church at Corinth had chosen to rebel against the pattern that was practiced in the other churches.  Paul sarcastically says, "Did the Word of God originate with you?  Or are you the only people it has reached?"  See Job 12:2  It appears that the Christian women at Corinth had rebelled against the customs that were practiced in the other churches of their day and were speaking in an inappropriate manner at their meetings.  First of all, they had chosen not to wear head covering while they were praying or prophesying even though this head covering was, in their culture, a sign of submission to their husband's leadership.  See 11:3-10

Secondly, they were not being submissive to the church leadership and were speaking out in an inappropriate way.  The speaking that Paul is referring to here would be similar to a woman or anyone else publicly challenging the Pastor of a church right in the middle of his sermon or speaking to their husband or a friend right in the middle of the sermon.  We have our patterns today, as they had their patterns in Paul's time.  We know when it appropriate to speak and when is inappropriate to speak in our services.  If there is someone who is out of line or speaks inappropriately, we all know it right away.  The women at Corinth were speaking inappropriately and creating disorder and confusion in the church assemblies.  Paul corrects them and tells them to be "silent."  If they want to inquire about something, it is not appropriate for them to do so right in the middle of a service; instead, they should wait until they get home and talk about it there with their husbands.

The main issue here is that the women were to "be in submission, as the Law says."  Women (and men) are to be in submission to leadership.  It is disgraceful when anyone in the church who is not in leadership challenges the leadership or rebels against the leadership or acts in an unsubmissive and disorderly way.  When this takes place, God's order and plan, which includes submission to leadership, is disrupted and is replaced by confusion.

(6) Those who ignore these instructions will be ignored. (14:37-38)
"If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command.  If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, are there times when we should avoid being around some people?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Paul had clearly presented the truth in an understandable fashion.  Those who were willing to hear what Paul was saying here would understand that what Paul had said was not just Paul's words, but they were a command of God.  But Paul knew there were rebels in this congregation—as there can be in our congregations as well—who would choose to harden themselves and refuse to hear his commands from God.  Paul realized that it was a waste of time for him to argue with those who deliberately chose in this way to harden themselves to his words.

But Paul says that because they had chosen to ignore Paul's words which were a command of God, now they themselves would be purposely ignored, in the same way as they had purposely ignored God's Word.  Paul is directing the church at Corinth to ignore those who had chosen to harden themselves to the truth.  It was useless for Paul to continue to seek to reason with them.  Also, it was useless and dangerous for the Christians at Corinth to fellowship with them, to listen to them, or to try to persuade them.  Paul gives the very same instruction to Titus: "warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time.  After that, have nothing to do with him."  (Titus 3:10)   See also 11:16; I John 4:6

(7) Therefore, be eager to prophesy, but do not forbid to speak in tongues. (14:39)
"Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophecy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues."

Thought Question #1:  What is the difference between the way Paul treats prophesy and tongues in this verse?  Why do you think he treats them differently?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How does this verse apply to today?

 

 

Notice the totally different attitude they were to have toward these two gifts.  They were to eagerly, as a church, pursue and long for the gift of prophecy.  On the other hand, Paul merely says, do not forbid speaking in tongues."  Some things in life are to be pursued with all of our heart, and others are not to be forbidden.  Paul does not exhort them to eagerly seek after the gift of tongues.  Today, contrary to what Paul emphasizes here, there are churches who eagerly pursue the gift of tongues above all.  The gift of tongues was a gift of the Spirit, but even in Paul's time, it was the least helpful of the gifts and, though it was not to be forbidden, it was not to be the gift most eagerly sought after.  Even if the gift of tongues did not cease after the first century and perseveres today, it is still not to be the gift that is to be most sought after.  It is the gift of prophesy that we who make up the modern-day church should most eagerly seek after.

(8) Everything in the church should be done in an orderly way. (14:40)
"But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way."

Thought Question:  From this verse and chapters 12-14, what will a church be like that is being fully led by the Holy Spirit?  What will it not be like?

 

 

This is the concluding verse of the three chapters that began with instructions on how the church is to function like the human body.  In the middle of these three chapters is the "love chapter."  The final chapter is Paul's encouragement to seek after the gift of prophesy, the spiritual gift that most builds up the church or the Body of Christ.  In this final verse of the three chapters, Paul sums up what will be the result if they properly apply the teaching in these three chapters: a church will operate in an orderly way.

James explains the cause of disorder and order in the church: "if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice."  The church at Corinth was this type of a disorderly church.  But, James goes on to describe what will lead to order and peace:  "But the wisdom from above is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:14-18)

If the Corinthians applied Paul's teachings in chapters twelve through fourteen, their church was transformed from a disorderly and self-centered church, into a church that functioned like a well-coordinated human body, where the human members of Christ's Body in Corinth loved, cooperated with, and respected each other.

4. Genuine Spirituality is based on Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead. (15:1-58)
Worldly Christians are those who are living just for this world.  The church at Corinth was to a large degree made up of worldly Christians.  See 3:1-4  But, the gospel message they had received and upon which their Christian life was based, spoke of life after death.  These worldly Christians are reminded by Paul that the hope of all those who believe in Jesus' death and resurrection is life after death!  Some see life as no more than a chemical process.  To them, when the chemical process stops, we are no more.  In their minds, we are like a match that burns for a while and then burns out, no more to burn again.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ speaks to us across the centuries saying, "life is more than a chemical process"; "life does not end at the grave"; and "there is life beyond this life."

a. The message of good news (the gospel) is that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead. (15:1-8)
"Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the Apostles, and last of all he appeared to me as one abnormally born."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, what is the "gospel"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  According to these verses, what does the "gospel" do for us?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  According to these verses, what is our part in receiving the "gospel"?

 

 

Thought Question #4:  If a case was brought into court to determine whether or not Jesus was raised from the dead, what evidence is there found in these verses that He was raised from the dead?

 

 

Thought Question #5:  In what ways was Jesus' death for our sins predicted in the Old Testament?

 

 

(1) "Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand." (15:1)
Paul takes them back to the basics of the Christian life.  Let us allow Paul to take us back to the basics of the Christian life also.

Ray Stedman observes that this section is divided into what the gospel does for us and then he tells us what the gospel is.  Paul begins by telling us what the gospel does for us.  It enables us to "stand."

Listen to Ray Stedman's words about our "stand." in the gospel.  "That means you have a foundation; you have a place to handle life; you have a security to which you can resort at any time of pressure and problem and you can stand steady, no matter what kind of force comes against you.  When you believe that God has forgiven your sins for Christ's sake, when you believe that God loves you and has accepted you as his child, when you believe that he is working in you by the power of His resurrected life to enable you to love and to live as you ought and to give to you the power to say 'No' when you need to say 'No,' you have a place to stand that can handle anything that comes." "Taken from his series of messages on I Corinthians. Discovery Publishers."

Where else can we stand secure in our world that is so full of insecurities?  As Christians we can stand trusting in the love of the God who so loved us that He gave His Son to die for our sins.  We stand secure in the One who brought this universe into existence, who holds it together, and who is above all.  There is no surer Rock than the One in whom we take our stand.

(2) "By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain." (15:2)
"In vain" appears to be a central theme of this chapter.  See 15:10, 14, 17, 32, 58  The resurrection points to hope and life after death.  Those who have not firmly based their life on this fact have believed "in vain."  But those who have believed in this hope have not believed "in vain"; as Paul will powerfully argue in the rest of this chapter.

(3) "For what I receive I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." (15:3)
The gospel message does not begin with "Christ died," but with the message that "Christ died for our sins."  Christ's death is not the Good News, but that He died to pay the penalty for our sins is the Good News.  That Jesus died is not Good News.  Everyone dies, and that is usually not good news but bad news.  What is good news is that when Jesus died, He was doing something wonderful for us.  He was paying off our moral and legal debt before a Holy God.  His death completely atoned for our sins.  In simple terms, because of Jesus' death, we are no longer on eternal death row.

And Paul says, it was "according to the Scriptures."  In other words, it was predicted throughout the Old Testament.  In particular, Jesus Christ's death for us is predicted in Isaiah 53.  See Isaiah 53:6  See also I Peter 2:24  Many believe that Jesus died on a cross.  Many would even say that His death on the cross was very important.  But, that is not the gospel.  The gospel is that Jesus "died for our sins."

(4) "That he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." (15:4)
We do not often think of his burial as being included in the gospel, but Paul in this verse includes Jesus' burial as a part of the gospel.  His burial provides us with a concrete proof in history that He died.  His physical body was placed in a tomb.  He came down to our level, died for our sins, and His body was buried in a tomb where we, not He, deserved to be buried.  When the body of Jesus Christ was placed in that tomb in ancient Israel, our sin and all that we deserved to suffer for our sin was brought to a final and just end.  There His body was put instead of our body being placed there.

The next part of the gospel is "that he was raised on the third day."  Because the resurrection from the dead is the theme of the rest of chapter fifteen, I will not go into much depth about this subject at this time.  But Marv Rosenthal in the magazine, "Israel My Glory," made a very important statement about these words on the resurrection found in this verse:  "the three essential ingredients of the 'good news' which Paul preached were 'Christ died for our sins'—'He was buried'—He rose again (vv.3,4).  The first two verbs 'died' and 'was buried,' are in the Greek tense which denotes a once-and-for-all occurrence.  That is Christ died at a specific point in time—these were past historic events.  The Greek verb for 'rose,' however, is in the perfect tense.  This described a past historical event, the effect of which continues on into the present.  That is, Christ died, period; Christ was buried, period; Christ rose and still is living—and the effect of that resurrection life continues uninterruptedly on.  The 'good news,' then is that Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He arose and is still living."

So, in these first few verses of I Corinthians 15 is found the simple gospel message:  Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and He arose from the dead.  Ray Stedman points out that the gospel is not a philosophy, not a system of theology, but the gospel is three things that happened to Jesus Christ in history!  In the following verses, Paul gives evidence to support his teaching that the death, burial, and resurrection did occur in history.

(5) "And that he appeared to Peter" (15:5a)
Now Paul begins to give proof that Jesus did resurrect from the dead.  First of all, it transformed Peter from one who denied Jesus into one who ultimately gave his life for Jesus.  Luke 24:34 describes this personal appearance to Peter: "The Lord has risen and appeared to Simon."

(6) "Then to the twelve" (15:5b)
When the resurrected Jesus appeared to the Twelve, even the hardest skeptic, Thomas, became a believer.  See John 20:24-29

(7) "After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep." (15:6)
The Corinthian Christians had not seen the resurrected Jesus Christ, but there were five hundred who did see Him.  And most of these five hundred were still alive.  And these Corinthian Christians, if they crossed paths with them, could ask them what they saw.  First-hand witnesses were still alive when Paul wrote this letter!

Sometimes someone tells us that Jesus visited them, possibly in a dream.  We tend to be suspicious of these types of claims, but, what if 500 people said that they actually saw Jesus.  It is not likely that 500 people were all imagining the same thing.  If the resurrection of Jesus Christ was put on trial in Paul's time, and you were the defense attorney, you would feel pretty good about your case if you could march in 500 eyewitnesses.  That is what Paul does here; he marches in 500 hundred eyewitnesses who saw the resurrected Jesus Christ.  He does this to support the gospel message that Jesus did actually historically rise from the dead.

(8) "Then he appeared to James. (15:7a)
This resurrection appearance to James is the most natural—or supernatural—explanation of how James went from being an unbelieving brother of Jesus (See Mark 3:21 and John 7:51) to being a follower of Jesus Christ (See Acts 1:14),and to even becoming a leader of the church in Jerusalem (See Galatians 1:18-19; Acts 15:12, 21:18; Galatians 2:9)

(9) "Then to all the apostles" (15:7b)
This probably refers to Jesus' appearance to the Apostles before he ascended into Heaven.  See Acts 1:6-11

(10) "and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born." (15:8)
"last of all"  Paul was the last one that the resurrected Jesus Christ appeared to.  "Abnormally born"  Paul highlights that He did not at all follow the pattern of the other Apostles.  They had been followers of Jesus.  Paul had sought to put in jail and kill the followers of Jesus.  Paul, on the other hand, had been a strong unbeliever in Jesus.  So, compared to them, Paul came to belief in Jesus Christ in an abnormal way.  He was on the road to Damascus for the purpose of seeking out the Christians in Damascus so that he could put them in jail.  But on that road, Jesus miraculously appeared to him, and he became one of those that he had previously been seeking to put in jail.  He was "abnormally born."  See Acts 9:1-19  "Abnormally born" means a "miscarriage." 

b. It was this gospel message that transformed Paul, who had at one time been a persecutor of the church, into the hardest working of the apostles. (15:9-11)
"For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of themyet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.  Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preached, and this is what you believed."

Thought Question:  In these verses, Paul says he is "the least of the apostles."  Yet, he also says that he "worked harder than all of them."  Does this mean that Paul had a poor self-image or that he was proud?  Explain your answer.

 

 

(1) "For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God." (15:9)
Here he appears to be a man who is totally lacking in what we today call self-esteem.  But he, nevertheless, saw himself as he really was.  Did he deserve to be a Christian?  Did he deserve to be an apostle?  Paul knew the answer to these questions.  The answer to each question was an emphatic "No!"  He had not earned a thing from God.  In fact, he had earned God's wrath for his sinful heart and for his persecution of God's followers.  But, what did he get?  He had gotten God's grace.  God made him an apostle!  Paul was amazed and he was overwhelmed by how unworthy he was and also by how blessed he was.

Do we believe that God cannot use us?  We are too unworthy and too undeserving of God's blessing.  But, if God used Paul in such an astounding way, certainly he can use any of us!

Ray Stedman observed that these verses completely discredit the arguments of those who say that Paul was arrogant.  He does not believe he deserved to be an apostle.  Instead, he saw himself as being the very least deserving of the apostles.

(2) "But by the grace of God I am what I am and his grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of themyet not but the grace of God that was with me." (15:10)
Apart from God graciously intervening in Paul's life, he would have continued to blaspheme and persecute God's church.  Therefore, it was totally because of God's grace that he was who he now was.  Who was he by God's grace?  By God's grace the former persecutor of God's church had become God's apostle to the Gentiles.  And here he is writing to this Gentile church that he himself had planted at Corinth.

He goes on to show that God's grace was "not without effect" in his life. Though God's grace was having little effect in much of the worldly church at Corinth, God's grace was having a powerful effect in Paul's life.  It had empowered him to "work harder" than all of the rest of the Apostles.

Bible scholar F. F. Bruce makes these observations: "latecomer as he was to the apostolate, he strove to make up for lost time, and the sum-total of his achievements thus far surpassed the record of those who had been called earlier.  The extent of those achievements is impressive enough, even if we go no further back than the six or seven years immediately preceding the writing of this letter: he had evangelized the provinces of Galatia, Macedonia and Achaia, and was now actively engaged in evangelizing proconsular Asia.'  "Taken from The New Century Bible Commentary I&II Corinthians by F. F. Bruce."

For all Paul's labors, he does not take any credit, but gives all the glory to God's grace working with him.  "He speaks of this grace as working with him rather than 'in' him, or the like.  This way of putting it almost make the grace a fellow-laborer working alongside him, and this emphasizes that the credit does not belong to Paul."  "Taken from The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1988 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

(3) "Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed." (15:11)
Verses three through eight is one of the simplest gospel messages given to us in the Bible.  It is about Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection.  He died for us so that we can share His resurrection life forever.  That's the Good News.  It should change us from being worldly-minded to being those who live always with eternity in mind!

c. If there is no resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ was not resurrected from the dead; and if Jesus was not resurrected from the dead, everything in the Christian life is in vain. (15:12-19)
Apparently there were some in the Corinthian church who claimed that there was no life after death.  Paul brings to their attention that the gospel message that their Christian life was based on, is the good news that Jesus did not stay in the grave.  If there is no resurrection from the dead, then Jesus also did not rise from the dead.  He also points out that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then everything about the Christian life is totally futile and of no purpose.  Like a college student who labors for four years for the job that will never be available to him, so the Christian would then be laboring for an eternity that will never come.

"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men."

Thought Question:  The hymn, "He Lives" was written as a result of the author of the hymn hearing a preacher say that it does not make any difference whether Jesus did or did not rise from the dead.  From these verses, list some reasons why it is essential to the Christian faith that Jesus rose from the dead.

 

 

(1) Then, our preaching is in vain! (15:12-14)
"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

If the content our preaching is not true—if Jesus was not raised from the dead and there is no life after death for those who believe in Him, then our preaching is absolutely of no value at all!  Paul presents the horrible possibility of what it would be like if this life is all there is.  We die and that is it.  If this is true, then all we who are Christians are wasting all our efforts.  Billy Graham has spent a lifetime of preaching a message that is not true.  Christians who died in the Roman Coliseum were not raised into Jesus' presence in Heaven; they just died!  If there is no judgment and no hope, we can then live in any way we choose; for it will not really matter what we have done or not done in our lives once we are dead.

Also, our faith is in vain.  If there is no life after death and we Christians are trusting that there is life after death, then our faith is as useless as putting our faith in some phony-get-rich scheme.  It may make us feel good, as we really believe that we are going to get rich, but in the end we will face the horrible discouragement that comes when we learn that we have put our faith in something that will never occur.  If there is no life after death, we will feel good now as we hope for life after death, but when we die there will simply be nothing but death.

(2) Then, we are liars! (15:15)
"More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised."

If we tell others that Jesus rose from the dead and he did not, we can be nothing but liars, for we are then telling others something that is not true.  The greatest liars, then, would be the original apostles, who claimed that they saw Jesus after He died.  Were they liars?  If they were liars, they were maybe the greatest deceivers of all time, for they have led astray all the Christians from all over the world who have ever lived.  Paul believed that these Corinthians Christians would agree that the apostles were not liars.

(3) Then, we are still in our sin! (15:16-17)
"For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins."

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then there is no basis for knowing whether or not our sin's penalty has been paid for, and there is no power to conquer sins.   For if Jesus is still in the grave, our sins will have conquered Jesus and we will still be under the power of sin with no hope at all of forgiveness.  If Jesus did not conquer sin, there is no hope for us to conquer sin!

(4) Those who have fallen asleep are lost forever! (15:18)
"Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost."  If Jesus was unable to rise from the dead, there is also no hope that Christians who have died have risen from the dead.  Most of us who are Christians know many who were close to us—relatives and friends—who have died.  If Jesus was not raised from the dead, we have no hope that we will ever see them again.  If Jesus did not rise from the dead, they are gone forever!

(5) Then, we are to be pitied more than all men! (15:19)
"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men."  For, then we are living and hoping for an eternity that will never come.  We will have then made the very worst of investments, for we will have invested our whole lives for an eternity that will never be!  We thought life had an eternal purpose.  We have ordered our whole lives and have given our lives sacrificially so that others will share in this God-promised eternity.  But if there is no eternity, and this life is all there is, then, life is meaningless once again as it was before we became Christians.  But the darkness is now even greater, for we have for a time been deluded into believing that there was life and hope beyond the grave.  If there is no life after the grave, "we are to be pitied more than all men."

d. But Christ was raised from the dead!  (15:20-28)
"But Christ has been raised from the dead."  We are not to be pitied because Christ did rise from the dead.  Marvin Rosenthal eloquently proclaims the importance of these words:  "And then with eight words he ascends from the lowest depths of despair…..to the heights of Heaven itself, as he jubilantly exclaims, BUT NOW IS CHRIST RISEN FROM THE DEAD"  Instead of being pitied we can look to the very ultimate in our future.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ will lead to our resurrection and ultimately to the very reversal of Adam's sin.  For as Adam took mankind away from God, so Jesus' death and resurrection will, in God's plan, ultimately return man totally to God.

(1) Jesus' life after death is the first of those who will rise from the dead (He is the "firstfruits"). (15:20)
"But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep."

Thought Question:  What is meant by Jesus being the "firstfruits"?

 

 

Marvin Rosenthal explains the meaning of "firstfruits" as follows:  "First fruits is one of the seven holidays which God instituted with the children of Israel (Lev. 23:9-14).  Passover was the first in sequence and depicts Christ's death as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).  This holiday was immediately followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Leaven (yeast) in the Bible is illustrative of sin….Unleavened Bread…depicts the sinlessness of the Lamb, an absolute essential of His sacrifice was to satisfy the demands of a Holy God.  Third in sequence was the Feast of First Fruits.  This holiday occurred in the springtime.  When the barley harvest came out of the ground and ripened, the first fruit, or sheaf, was cut and offered to the Lord.  His acceptance of the first fruits was the assurance that more barley would come out of the ground."

The Feasts picture Jesus the sinless Lamb of God's sacrifice for our sins followed by a harvest.  Jesus' resurrection from the dead is the first of the harvest.  He is the first of those who will rise from the dead never to die again.  There are resurrections recorded in the Bible before Jesus' resurrection.  For example, Lazarus rose from the dead.  But unlike Lazarus who died again, Jesus never died again.  Jesus is the "firstfruits" of all who believe who also will rise from the dead never to die again.

(2) As death came through Adam, so now life will come through Jesus Christ. (15:21-22)
"For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."

One man led man away from God and all mankind died, now Jesus Christ, God's chosen replacement for Adam, has made it possible for all men to come back to God and to everlasting life.  Ray Stedman observes that one man brought us out paradise and one man provides the way back to paradise.  See Romans 5:12-21

(3) When Jesus returns again, death will lose its final battle and all things will once more be under God's rule. (15:23-28)
"But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.  Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.  For he has put everything under his feet.  Now when it says that 'everything' has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ.  When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who puts everything under him, so that God may be all in all."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, what is Jesus' ultimate goal?  In what ways will we benefit when His goal is accomplished?

 

 

In Genesis 1:26, "God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the airs, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'"  God's plan was for man to rule for Him over all creation.  But, instead Adam chose to disobey God and as a result he (and we) lost his place of dominion.  Jesus, the God-man came to restore what Adam lost.  The process from death to life began when Jesus conquered death, and will continue as each of us who have believed in Him will conquer death at Jesus' return.  And then Jesus' final purpose will  be realized, when, after he has conquered all powers that are hostile to God, he will return God's creation to the Father.  Jesus will fulfill what Adam failed to do.  He will bring all creation under the Father's dominion.  Once He has accomplished this great task, creation which rebelled against God, will now once again be in subjection to its Creator!

"Paul's thought is that Christ will at the last have full and complete authority over all things and all men, and that, He will then 'deliver up' this authority, this rule, to His Father.  When Christ comes back it will be to reign in majesty. . . All that opposes God will then be subdued."  "Taken from The First Epistle to the Corinthians by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1958 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  See Psalm 8:5-6; Philippians 2:9-11

Paul says that the "last enemy destroyed is death."  We learn in Revelation 19 and 20 that when Jesus returns, He will conquer the earth and reign for one thousand years.  But even after He has defeated His enemies and is ruling for the thousand years, there will still be death.  People will live longer lives during this thousand year reign of Christ, but there will still be death.  "Never again will there be in it [the reign of Christ] an infant who lives a few days or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth." (Isaiah 6:21)  Someone who dies at a hundred years old will be like someone today who dies at nineteen years old.  But there will still be death.  At the end of the thousand year reign, Jesus will conquer the devil and He will conquer death.  See Revelation 20:14

Finally, what is meant by the very last words of this section:  "so that God may be all in all?"  It may be summed up in this way: at that future time, everything will be in complete subjection to the Father.  After all that has been in rebellion to God has been completely conquered and the consequences of sin have been completely overcome, it will then be finally as it fully ought to be.  God will rule everywhere without any exceptions.

d. So, therefore, we should live as if Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. (15:29-34)

(1) Paul points out their inconsistencyWhy were they baptizing for the dead if they did not believe the dead would be raised from the dead? (15:29)
"Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead?  If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?

Thought Question #1:  What did Paul mean by "baptized for the dead"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why is it wrong for the Mormons to have developed an elaborate ritual based on this one verse?

 

 

This is the only mention of this practice, "baptizing for the dead," in the Bible.  Because all we know about this ceremony is what is found in this verse, we can only speculate about what they were doing when they "baptized for the dead" in the Corinthian church.  F. F. Bruce gives us some insight about what took place from the meaning of the Greek words:  "the prima facie meaning of these words points to a practice of baptism by proxy!  If some disciples in Corinth (conceivable in an epidemic) died before they could get themselves baptized (cf. 6:11), did some of their friends undergo baptism vicariously in their name?  We could not easily envisage Paul referring without disapproval to a practice of vicarious baptism on behalf of believing but unbaptized friends….but such an action on behalf of believing but unbaptized friends might be mentioned by him in passing in an ad hominem argument with neither praise nor blame."  "Taken from The New Century Bible Commentary I&II Corinthians by F. F. Bruce.  Copyright 1971 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  Notice that he gives no approval of this practice and he does not say that "we" do it, but that "people" are doing it.

In simpler words, he uses an argument about their practice of baptizing for the dead, even though he gives no indication that he approved of it, to make a point.  Paul asks them why they were observing this ritual if they did not even believe there was life after death.  Why were they baptizing for the dead if they believed the dead they were baptizing for were gone forever?

Ray Stedman points out how this one-verse mention of "baptizing for the dead" has become a major doctrine in the Mormon church:  "The Mormon church bases a major part of their religious activity on this one verse.  Unless you are a 'good' Mormon you are not permitted to enter one of their temples.  People ask, what goes on in there?  Well, one of the things is that they are being baptized on behalf of the dead.  The Mormons believe that you can go back through history and be baptized for all your ancestors.  That is why they put great reliance upon genealogical tables and spend a lot of time tracing their ancestry, because they believe they can be baptized on their behalf and thus save them.  I met a woman once who said that she had saved more people than Jesus Christ because she had been baptized for so many thousands of people!  Some Mormons pick out the well-known figures of history and are baptized for Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, etc., all based on this one verse; there is no other reference in the Bible to being baptized on behalf of the dead." "Taken from a message by Ray Stedman.  Discovery Publishing."

(2) Paul gives himself as an example of one who believes that there is life after deathwhy else would he be willing to risk his life daily and even hourly? (15:30-32)
And as for us, why de we endanger ourselves every hour?  I die every dayI mean that brothersjust as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord.  If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained?  If the dead are not raised, 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.'"

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, how did Paul show that he believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How should belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ affect the way that we live?

 

 

If there is not life after death, there is also no reason for self-denial.  We should, instead, eat, drink, and be merry with all the gusto we have, for it won't be long and this short life will be extinguished never to be lit again.  See Isaiah 22:13, 56:12 and Luke 12:19  But Paul and many of the early Christians followed Christ's path, even though it often led to persecution and even to a horrible death.  Paul said that he fought "wild beasts in Ephesus."  Because there is nothing in the book of Acts about Paul facing literal wild beasts like lions, it is likely that he is speaking figuratively of the great riot against Christianity that erupted in Ephesus and the angry crowds he faced while he was there.  It is possible, though, that Paul did face actual wild beasts, for as we see from his listing of his trials in II Corinthians 11:23-30, that all of his trials were not listed in the book of Acts.  See II Corinthians 1:8, 4:7-10, 14-15 and I Corinthians 15:32

Paul's point again is plain.  He did face all of these dangers because he did believe that there was a resurrection from the dead.  It would not have been worth it for Paul to have gone through all of these trials if there was no life after death.  But, it was worth it for him to face the worst of trials, if it produced eternal-never-ending rewards.  "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternalglory that far outweighs them all." (II Corinthians 4:17)

Certainly, our world today is following the live-for-today and live-for-yourself philosophy—do not even think about any eternal consequences.  It is very easy for us to be drawn right into this current and be pulled downstream with them.  Do we really believe what Paul believed?  Do we really believe that what we do with our lives will have eternal results?  Is it affecting the way we live?

(3) Paul exhorts them to wake up and stop living in sin. (15:33-34)
"Do not be mislead:  Bad company corrupts good character.  Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of GodI say this to your shame."

The quote, "Bad company corrupts good character" is, "a quotation from the Greek comedy Thais written by the Greek poet Menander, whose writing the Corinthians would know."  "Taken from the NIV Study Bible notes.  Copyright 1995 by Zondervan Publishing House."  These Corinthian Christians were being influenced by those who believed that there was no life after death and who lived like it.  As a result, they had become just like them—they, like their non-Christians neighbors, were also living just for themselves.  Paul strongly urges them to wake up, and come back to their senses.  Many of us who are Christians have had times when we have nodded off to sleep, not even recognizing that we were slowly drifting toward the world's ways and away from our walk with God.  Then, God has used some situation, some speaker, or both to wake us up!  These Corinthian Christians had drifted away from their walk with God and were sinfully living for themselves instead of for God.  Paul says, "Come back to your senses . . . and stop sinning"!  The world will shape us into its mold, unless we choose each day to live for eternity!

e. Nature demonstrates that the dead can be raised. (15:35-38)
To get the meaning of what Paul says in these verses you need to recognize that when he refers to the questions that some were asking, challenging the resurrection from the dead, he responds with sarcasm:  "But someone may ask, 'How are the dead raised?  With what kind of body will they come?'  How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.  When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.  But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body."

Thought Question:  How is the planting of a seed like what will happen when a Christian dies?

 

 

"It was obvious to these Greek skeptics that a body quickly decomposes, and they thought to laugh the whole idea of the resurrection out of court with their query as to the body.  What kind of body would arise from a heap of decomposed rubbish?" Here we have a typical skeptic's attitude, "I do not understand how it can happen, therefore it is not going to happen."  Paul's answer is, "how foolish!"  "Fool may not be the most tactful form of address . . . but its bluntness makes clear Paul's view of the worthlessness of such arguments."  Both of the previous two quotes "taken from The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1958 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

How does Paul answer them?  He points them to a regular occurrence in their lives which proves that something which decomposes can produce something that is alive.  Every time they saw a seed put into the ground it decomposed, but from that decomposed seed came a new type of life; a life unlike the decomposed seed.  And so, we see resurrection life all around us when we see flowers, grass, and the trees.  Each of these living things came from a seed that died, decomposed, and then produced life—resurrection life!  So, in the same way, will we who have trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation resurrect from our dead and decomposed bodies to a new and greater life!  Ray Stedman observed that it is interesting that Easter, the time of Jesus' resurrection, is at the same time that nature resurrects from winter to spring.  His resurrection was at the time of the year when death gave birth to life.

Notice also that the seed that decomposes does not become another seed, but it produces new type of life.  It produces a plant of some form.  A new form of life, a flower for example, springs forth from the dying seed.  So, a new type of man will come forth from the dead body of each Christian—a resurrection body that will be different than the body that died.

f. God's creation demonstrates that God has created different types of matter. (15:39-41)
"All flesh is not the same: men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another.  There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthy bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and splendor of the earthly bodies is another.  The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and stars differ in splendor."

Thought Question:  What does the fact that God has created different types of bodies have to do with what will happen when we resurrect from the dead?

 

 

(1) There are many different types of bodies in the animal world. (15:39)
Fish have bodies suited to aquatic life, birds have bodies designed for life in the air, and we and others have bodies built for life on the land.  And even among the water dwellers there are many differ types of bodies.  Consider the octopus, seal, whale, shark, trout, and crab.  It is clearly God's practice to design bodies that are suitable for the type of environment within which that body will live.  God will also provide us with the type of body in the future that will be suited for life in heaven.

(2) The heavenly bodies are different than the earthly bodies. (15:40)
Bible scholars disagree about what Paul is referring to in this verse when he contrasts earthly bodies with heavenly bodies.  Do the earthly bodies refer to the earth itself or to the bodies like our bodies which are designed for dwelling on this earth?  Do the heavenly bodies refer to the sun, moon, and stars or do they refer to angels' bodies?  Because he goes on in 15:41 to contrast the sun, moon, and stars with each other, we can safely conclude that he is contrasting the earth with these heavenly bodies (the sun, moon, etc.). 

In this verse, he calls our attention to how different the earth is from the sun and the other heavenly bodies.  So, there will also be a difference between our present earthly bodies and our future heavenly bodies.

(3) The heavenly bodies differ from each. (15:41)
As God made the sun to be different from the moon, and the stars to be different from each other, so he will make our heavenly body to be different from our present body.  At this point, most would agree that Paul has made his point.  God does make different types of bodies.  So, it is not unusual that we will have a different type of body when we get to heaven.

g. So it will be in the resurrection from the dead (15:42-57)
As God has made the different types of bodies, so our resurrection body will be different from our mortal bodies.

(1) Just as we have a body like Adam's, so we will have a body like Christ's resurrection body. (15:42-49)

(a) A perishable, dishonorable, weak, natural body is sown or placed into the ground, and an imperishable, glorious, powerful, and spiritual body emerges from the ground or grave. (15:42-44)
"So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.  The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory, it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, how will our resurrection bodies differ from our present bodies?

 

 

Paul returns to the example of a seed sown, dying,  and then giving birth to a living body that is totally different from the seed.  In the same way our body which will ultimately decay will be replaced by a body that will not decay.  Our sin-plagued mortal body will be replaced graciously with an honorable body—a body that will reflect without fault the glory of our Creator.

Our present bodies, that are inadequate and powerless as vehicles to totally express God's power and holiness, will be replaced by bodies that are powerful. And finally these human bodies that are incapable of fully yielding and responding to the Spirit of God will be replaced by spiritual bodies that will be wholly responsive to God's Spirit.

"The present body is a natural body; the future body will be a spiritual body.  By that, it may be, Paul meant that here we are but imperfect vessels and imperfect instruments for the Spirit; but in the life to come we will be such that the Spirit can truly fill us, as is never possible now.  Then we will be able to render the perfect worship, the perfect service, the perfect love that now can be only a vision and a dream."  "Taken from The Letters to the Corinthians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  William Barclay has already passed from this life and into the next life.  He is now experiencing that which was once "only a vision and a dream."

Would you agree with Paul here, that your present body suffers from many weaknesses and is unable to live totally responsive to God's Spirit?  Our present bodies have scars, imperfections, falling hair, poor posture, foul cravings, memory loss, sore feet, indigestion, allergies, ringing in the ears, and a host of other problems.  The Bible calls this weak body our temporary tent.  See II Corinthians 5:1-10  Are you, like me, ready for your powerful and perfect permanent body?  See Philippians 3:20

(b) In the same way, as we received the perishable, dishonorable, weak, natural body from Adam, we will receive the imperishable, glorious, and spiritual body from Jesus Christ. (15:45-49)
"So it is written: 'The first man Adam became a living being.'  The last Adam, a life-giving spirit.  The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.  The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.  As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth, and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.  And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of man from heaven."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, what will determine what our resurrection bodies will be like?

 

 

The bodies that we now live in have been handed down to us through Adam.  His body and our bodies came from "the dust of earth."  Jesus' present body, by contrast, has a heavenly origin.  And just as we now have Adam's earthly body, so all Christians—we who have put our trust in Jesus Christ—will one day have His heavenly body!  "Dear friends, now we are children of God, what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see him as he is." (I John 3:2)  "But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." (Philippians 3:20)

Ray Stedman makes some interesting observations about this passage:  "Do not call him 'the second Adam' because that would allow for a third and a fourth and a fifth.  There are only two—the first Adam, and the last Adam Jesus." "Taken from a message by Ray Stedman.  Discovery Publishing."  Adam was the first man and the head of the race of Adam.  Jesus is the last Adam and the head of a new race of man.  We who have believed in Jesus Christ are now of the last Adam.

The second observation made by Ray Stedman is that "The Mormon church teaches that we were once spiritual beings who then came to earth and became men, but this verse flatly contradicts that.  It is not the spiritual that is first, it is the physical." "Taken from a message by Ray Stedman.  Discovery Publishing."

"The spiritual did not come first, but the natural and after that the spiritual." We were first born of the physical Adam; now,  through faith, we are now of the spiritual Adam Jesus Christ.  We were born with an earthly origin and now we have a heavenly origin.  One day we will have a heavenly body and will be right at home in heaven with the last Adam Jesus Christ!

(2) We must be changed and receive this heavenly body before we can enter heaven. (15:50-57)

(a) We will all be changed. (15:50-53)
"I declare to you brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Listen I tell you a mystery:  We will not all sleep, but we will all be changedin a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will all be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality."

Thought Question #1:  What is the "mystery" that Paul is talking about in these verses?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  According to these verses, what will it be like for you if you are there when Jesus raptures the church?

 

 

What is the "mystery" that Paul is talking about here?  The "mystery" is that not every Christian will wait until they die to receive their imperishable and immortal body.  Some will be alive and then a moment later they will be in their immortal bodies.  They will be immediately caught up to the Lord in the clouds, changing instantly from their earthly bodies to their heavenly bodies.  They will immediately need the heavenly bodies so that they will be able to be at home in their new heavenly environment.

This catching up to be with the Lord in the air has come to be called "the rapture," from the Latin word for "caught up."  See I Thessalonians 4:13

"In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet."  The word "flash" "is atomos (that which cannot be cut or divided; i.e. the smallest possible; we get our word 'atom' from it).  It signifies the shortest possible moment of time. Twinkling (rhipe) is connected with the idea of throwing, The twinkling of an eye is the time it takes to cast a glance, or perhaps to flutter an eyelid."  "Taken from The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1958 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

"last trumpet"  During the Old Testament period, a trumpet was to be sounded at a number of important times of celebrations in Israel: at the Feast of Trumpets (See Leviticus 23:34); at the beginning of the Year of Jubilee (See Leviticus 25:9); when God summoned Israel to assemble before Him (See Numbers 10:5-10).  Also, it is predicted that a trumpet blast will usher in God's end-time judgments and God's return for His people.  See Isaiah 27:13; Matthew 24:31; I Thessalonians 4:16 and  Revelation 8:8-9:21, 11:15-19  "Last refers not to the last in a series of trumpet blasts . . . but last among events on earth.  It marks the end of things as we know them.  "Taken from The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1958 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

Now, let us gather together and summarize what has been said in these verses.  A dramatic time is coming in the very last days of the earth as we know it.  At that time, God's people, dead or alive, will be immediately changed into heavenly beings with heavenly bodies.  Oh by the way, it will not be a slow change, it will take place so quickly that we will be in our human physical bodies one moment, and in the very next moment we will be in our heavenly bodies.  Thanks Paul, for letting us know about this mystery!

(b) Then, death will be conquered. (15:54-57)
"When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.'  'Where O death is your victory?  Where, O death is your sting?'  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Thought Question:  How is the "sting" removed from death for we who are Christians?

 

 

Now that Paul has established that all those who have believed in Jesus Christ will share Jesus' resurrection, he addresses death victoriously.  "Death, what happened to your sting?"  For the Christian, death no long needs to be feared.  It is like suddenly finding a wasp walking on your bare arm, and then noticing that it does not have a stinger.  We might say, "O wasp, ha ha!  Where is your sting?"

Just as we would not fear a wasp without a stinger, so we do not need to fear death without its sting.  The sting of death is twofold; it is our sin plus God's Law.  Those who fear death itself (not the process of dying), fear it because of what may lie beyond the grave.  Ray Stedman puts it this way:  "What bothers us is, we have a sense that we are being plunged into accountability.  Beyond death lies a settling and an answering, for where we have been and how we have lived, and what we have done.  That is why death is such a fearsome thing.  It is made all the more so by the law that says you cannot escape the evil of your past.  God cannot set it asidenot can any man.  It must be faced.  There can be no deliverance from it.  That is what makes us afraid of death."  "Taken from a message by Ray Stedman.  Discovery Publishing."

Why do we who are Christians not need to fear death?  It is because we no longer face condemnation and God's just wrath.  Before we would have died and then faced God's judgment; now death will be like falling asleep and then waking up to be with Jesus.  We once faced judgment because of our sin.  After death we were to be judged by God's holy Law because of our sin.  But, through Jesus, sin and death have been conquered for us.  He took our judgment of death and rose victorious over death.  "But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."  Now we can face our deaths with eager anticipation, knowing that we will resurrect as Jesus did!

"He gives us the victory" is in the present tense, meaning that he is right now continually giving us the victory, rather than that he will at sometime in the future, at one dramatic moment, give us the victory.  This probably means that we can enjoy right now, and continually enjoy the fact that sin has been conquered.   So, we can live each moment, not fearing a future judgment or fearing death.

h. Therefore, because of Christ's resurrection, do not give up, for your toil in Christ is not in vain. (15:58)
"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

Thought Question:  According to this verse, how should believing that you will resurrect from the dead affect the way that you live your life?

 

 

Earlier in this chapter, Paul implied that unless they believed in the resurrection, their believing in God was in vain.  If there is no resurrection, there is no reason for any of us not to be worldly.  How, then, should our lives be affected now that we believe that we will resurrect from the dead just as Jesus resurrected from the dead?  We should "stand firm" against every worldly temptation.  Instead of giving in to worldly temptations we should give ourselves fully to God's work, knowing that our efforts will be worth it all when we come face to face with Jesus.  All who truly believe in the resurrection will respond appropriately to Paul's exhortation, for we know that our perseverance and labor in the Lord will never be without eternal results. See I Corinthians 9:26; II Corinthians 4; and Galatians 6:9

And so we should "stand firm," keeping a steady focus and determination to stay in God's work.  We should "Let nothing move [us}," We should not let anything that life brings our way get us off track from doing God's work.  And we should "always give [ourselves} fully to the work of the Lord," we should not do our Christian service with anything less than a full effort.  The result?  Our work will not be in vain!

PAUL'S FINAL PRACTICAL INSTRUCTIONS (16:1-18)

1. What can we learn about giving from Paul's instructions to the Corinthian Christians about how they were to give to the needy in Jerusalem? (16:1-4)
"Now about the collection for God's people:  Do what I told the Galatian churches to do.  On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.  Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.  If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me."

Thought Question:  What can we learn from these verses about how giving should be organized in a local church?

 

 

The book of I Corinthians can easily be divided into three sections:  (1) Paul's description of the fleshly behaviors of the Corinthian Christians in chapters one through eleven.  (2) Paul's description of what a spiritual church is to be like in chapters twelve through fifteen; and (3) now the last chapter is Paul's practical instructions to the church at Corinth.

a. "Now about the collection for God's people:" (16:1a)
In these verses we are only told about a collection for "God's people," but in other letters, Paul tells us that the God's people who were in need at that time were the Christians in Jerusalem.  Jerusalem, the home church of Christianity, was also, apparently, the most needy church at that time.  "Jerusalem as a whole was not rich, being largely dependent on Jews from outside Palestine."  "Taken form The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1958 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  See Romans 15:25-28; Galatians 3:10; and Acts 1:29-30, 24:17

b. "Do what I told the Galatian Christians to do." (16:1b)
In these verses Paul provides us with some principles of giving as he instructs the Corinthian Christians in their giving. The first principle is found in this first verse.  Giving is a Christian duty.  Listen to Hodge's clear words about these words of Paul:  "This is the language of authority.  For although these contributions were voluntary, and were required to be made cheerfully, II Cor. 9:7, yet they were a duty, and therefore both.  The collection itself, and the mode in which it should be accomplished, were proper subjects for apostolic direction." "Taken from Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians by Charles Hodge.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."

c. "On the first day of every week" (16:2a)
This verse shows that it was the first day of the week when Christians at that time chose to gather together.  The gathering of the church on the first day began with the disciples' pattern of doing this (See John 20:19,26), and continued after the church came into existence (See Acts 20:7).  It came to be known as the Lord's Day, because it was the day on which the Lord rose from the dead.  See Revelation 1:10  It is interesting that these instructions to give on the first day of the week—the day when Jesus rose from the deadfollow Paul's instructions about the resurrection in chapter fifteen.  It is also called "the Lord's Day" in the writings of the early church fathers who wrote shortly after the time of the Bible. 

The second principle is also found in these few words of Paul.  It is the principle that gives us a biblical foundation for the taking of a weekly church offering.  The principle is simple.  It is proper to provide the opportunity for God's people to give on a weekly basis, for Paul instructed this church to set aside money each week to be given to the church.

A third principle is found in the first part of this second verse also.  "Each one should set aside money."  The offering was a universal offering.  Everyone was to give: the rich and the poor, the young and the old.  This provides a biblical support for the practice of many parents who have their small child put some money, small amount though it may be, in the offering plate as it is passed around.

Still, a fourth principle for giving is found in this part of verse two.  "Set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income."  Those who have more should give more.  A person who is making twice the money that is needed for him to meet his needs should give considerably more than the person who is just barely meeting his needs.  Notice that there is no instruction here about giving a tithe.  Giving a tithe was God's instruction for giving to the nation of Israel, but it is not given as a guideline for Christian giving in the New Testament.

d. "So that when I come no collection will have to be made." (16:2b)
Paul gives instructions about giving, but he puts the responsibility for giving on the shoulders of the church at Corinth.  Here, he avoids putting himself in the role of a fund raiser.  We will notice throughout these verses that Paul distances himself from being involved in the handling of money.

Some tragedies that have occurred in the church at large due to the mishandling of money would have been avoided if Christians had followed Paul's pattern as described in this verse.  By putting the responsibility on individual Christians to give and by instructing the church to gather the money, he was able to focus on his ministry rather than on the collection of money.

e. "Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem." (16:3)
Paul would not handle the money himself, but the money would instead be given to men of their choosing.  Paul would merely send letters of introduction, so that the church in Jerusalem would receive them as fellow Christians who were responding to their need.

f. "If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me." (16:4)
Commentators disagree about whether Paul meant that he would go only if the collection was so large that it required additional safeguards, or if he meant that he would go if other circumstances warranted it.  Two things are clear, though, from these verses: (1) Paul wanted the money to go to meet the need of the Jerusalem church and (2) he wanted to have as little to do with the handling of the money as possible.  He preferred not to handle the money at all.

This is much different than what can happen today.  We should not become involved with a ministry where the leader does all the handling of the money.  If, for example, a ministry does not have a detailed description of how the money that is given to them is distributed, it provides too much opportunity for the misuse of that money.

2. What we can learn about God's guidance by looking at Paul's plans? (16:5-9)
These verses give us insights on how Paul planned his ministry.  We will notice that he does not have, as Ray Stedman says, a five-year or a ten-year plan.  "After I go through Macedonia, I will come to youfor I will be going through Macedonia.  Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go.  I do not want to see you now and make a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.  But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me."

Thought Question:  What can we learn from these verses on how we should plan our lives?

 

 

First of all, Paul answers a charge made against him by his enemies at Corinth.  Paul's original plan had been to go from Ephesus, where he was writing this letter, to Corinth, so that he could be with them.  Then, he would have gone to Macedonia where the churches at Thessalonica and Philippi were located.  He would then have returned once more to Corinth before going on to Jerusalem.  But, he had changed his original plan.  His critics were accusing him of being undependable and saying that he made promises to them lightly.  See II Corinthians 1:15-24  But, it was not because Paul was undependable, but because the situation at Corinth had changed that Paul made his change in plans.  He chose to send this letter in place of the first brief visit. Then, he would make a long visit with them, after they had received his letter.  He did not want to make a short visit; then, the whole visit would have been unpleasant.  For their whole visit would have been taken up with talking about the problems at Corinth that he brings up in this letter.  Then, he would have left them after the short visit with everything still unresolved.  Paul was not fickle and undependable as his enemies had charged, but it was their misbehavior that had led him to change his plans, not his instability.

We learn from these verses that Paul did not have a 5-year plan or a 10-year plan.  Instead, he made his plans based on the needs of people and on how he could best minister to those needs.  He changed his plans with this church after he learned about their needs.  He would stay in Ephesus because "a great door for effective ministry" had opened up for him.  We learn from Acts 19 that there was such an interest in the message and teachings of Jesus that he "took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus."  And it "went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord." (Acts 19:9-10)

It is interesting that along with the open doors, he had many adversaries.  There is one popular book that teaches that if God leads you and opens a door for you, there will be no opposition or struggles in your ministry.  Paul teaches the very opposite.  For he had a "great" open door and he also had great opposition.  In Acts 19, we learn that a silversmith who made "silver shrines of Artemis" (the false god of Ephesus) started a city-wide riot against Paul and his message about Jesus Christ.  See Acts 19:23-41

3. What we can learn about relationships from Paul's instruction about Timothy's visit to them? (16:10-11)
"If Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am.  No one, then, should refuse to accept him.  Send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me.  I am expecting him along with the brothers."

Thought Question #1:  What can we learn from these verses about Timothy?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do we learn from these verses about how we should treat each other?

 

 

We see from Acts 19:22 that Paul had sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia.  Eventually Timothy would reach Corinth.  Paul was concerned about what would happen when Timothy reached Corinth for at least three reasons.  (1) Corinth was a scary place for a Christian.  It had even frightened Paul.  "One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision [while he was in Corinth]:  'Do not be afraid, keep on speaking, do not be silent."  (2) The church at Corinth was a worldly, self-centered and rebellious church.  (3) Timothy had a tendency to be fearful.  Paul encouraged him in II Timothy with these words:  "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline."  (II Timothy 1:7)  II Timothy is, in many ways, Paul's encouragement to Timothy so that he can find in the Lord the resources and the resolve to overcome his timid disposition.

So, Paul tells the Corinthian Christians "To see that he has nothing to fearwhile he is with" them.  They should receive him and support him because he was not coming to visit them on his own or for his own reasons, but he was coming to them as a representative of Paul.  It is Paul's desire that Timothy would have a peaceful time with them.

4. What we can learn about influencing other people's decisions from Paul's  instructions about Apollos? (16:12)
"Now about our brother Apollos:  I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers.  He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity."

Thought Question:  Do you believe that it was okay for "Apollos" to not go to Corinth when Paul urged him to go?  Explain your answer.

 

 

Paul had urged Apollos to go to Corinth, but Apollos had refused.  We see here that Paul did not lord it over Apollos.  Consider Peter's instructions to church elders.  According to Peter, Christian leaders are not to dominate the Christians who are under them:  "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers---not because you must, but because you are willing as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." (I Peter 5:2-4)

We cannot be sure why Apollos chose to reject Paul's urging.  It may be that Apollos had heard how he was being idolized at Corinth (See 1:12), and he preferred to wait until this unhealthy focus on him had changed.  But, it may simply have been true that he was too busy to come at that time.  But, we can see from this verse that there is a place for individual decisions in the church.  The church is not to be an organization where a leader orders people and they mindlessly obey.  Paul appears here to allow Apollos to make his own decisions about how God was leading him.  Paul strongly urged him, but he left the final decision with Apollos.

5. What we can learn about Christian service from Paul's words of encouragement to these Corinthian Christians? (16:13-14)
"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith, be men of courage; be strong.  Do everything in love."

Thought Question:  Please memorize these short two verses.  Why do you believe these verses are worth memorizing?

 

 

In These verses Paul summarizes how each of us can stand up against the type of worldliness that was present in the church at Corinth and is also present today.

(1) "Be on your guard"  We are to be awake and alert, so that we will always be aware of  where and how our enemy is attacking us.  We must not allow him to sneak in and gain an advantage of us while we are asleep to what he is doing.  From this letter we can tell that Paul is very aware of what Satan was doing in the church at Corinth.  He was on his "guard."

(2) "Stand firm in the faith"  They and we are not to allow the seductive teaching of the world to lure us into their way of thinking.  But we are to resist the false and hold on to the true.

(3) "be men of courage"  Do not be intimidated by those who line up against us; even if seems that everyone is lined up against us.  (4) "be strong"  Bear up under opposition and continue to persevere!  In a secular college, it is not unusual for a knowledgeable and sharp tongued professor to intimidate Christian college students to the point where they are afraid to challenge his anti-Christian statements and accusations.  But, we are not to be ashamed of our Lord, nor are we to be afraid of those who can only publicly embarrass us or only hurt us in this world.  Jesus gave these instructions when he sent His disciples out to minister by themselves:  "So do not be afraid of them. . . Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."  (Matthew 10:26,28)

(5) "Do everything in love"  This is a summary of what he said in chapter thirteen, the "love chapter."  If we are all the things that he just mentioned, but do not do it in love, it is all for nothing.  For love is our badge of authenticity.  Without love, each of us is just one more factious person, selfishly fighting for our selfish causes.  With love, we are standing firm, but we are continually standing our ground for the sake of even those who are in opposition to us.  Jesus courageously stood firm in love so that He would provide a way for men and women to be reconciled to God.  He stood His ground and fought for even those who crucified Him.  We also are to love and forgive those who are opposed to God and to us.

6. What can we learn about the recognition of leaders from Paul's
recognition of the leaders in the church at Corinth? (16:15-18)
"You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints.  I urge you, brothers, to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it.  I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you.  For they refreshed my spirit and yours also.  Such men deserve recognition."

Thought Question #1  Who do you know who are like "Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus"?  How are they like them?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How have they influenced your life?  How have you given them recognition?

 

 

Paul directs most of this letter toward correcting the worldliness in the church at Corinth.  But, in these verses, Paul directs the attention of the church at Corinth toward those in their church whom they could admire and imitate.  "The household of Stephanas were the first converts in" Greece or "Achaia" (the name for Greece at that time). 

Paul said in chapter 1:16 that he had baptized "the household of Stephanas," and he appears to be describing a "household" from the church at Corinth.  The very first converts in Greece were the few who followed Paul and believed in Jesus Christ during his short ministry at Athens.  See Acts 17:16-34, especially 17:34  He appears to be calling "the household of Stephanas" "the first converts in" Greece because they became Christians during the very beginning stages of his ministry in Greece.  In other words, though these Corinthians became Christians shortly after the Athenians became Christians, they still did become Christians in generally the same time period as the Athenians. 

It is these three men who brought Paul news about what was taking place in their home church at Corinth:  "They have supplied what was lacking from you."  Paul says, "They refreshed my spirit."  Their faith and his fellowship with them was an encouragement to Paul.  "They refreshed my spirit . . ."Paul is confident that when they return back home to Corinth that they will also be a source of refreshment and encouragement to those at Corinth as well.  Particularly they will be a source of refreshment and encouragement when their fellow Christians at Corinthians share with them in the afterglow of their time with Paul.

According to Paul these three men "devoted themselves to the service of the saints."  Paul urges them to give their full support to and submit to anyone who is like this group of men who are fully and properly involved in God's work.

We should do the same today.  As Paul says, "I urge you, brothers to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins us in the work and labors at it."  We should look for those who are submitting fully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and we should follow their pattern of godly service.

FINAL GREETING (16:19-24)
1. Final greetings from Aquila and Priscilla (16:19)
"The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings.  Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house."

Thought Question:  Write down anything that you know about Priscilla and Aquila.

 

 

Barclay has the following to say about why it was that a church met in Aquila's and Priscilla's home:  "In those early days there were no church buildings.  It is, in fact, not until the third century that we hear about a church building at all.  The little congregations met in private houses.  If a house had a room big enough, it was there that the Christian fellowship met."  "Taken from The Letters to the Corinthians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

It was the pattern of "Aquila and Priscilla" for their home to be used as a meeting place for a church.  A church met in their home at Ephesus (Paul was with them at Ephesus when he wrote this letter), and a church also met in their home when they lived in Rome.  See I Corinthians 16:3-5

"Aquila and Priscilla" were fellow tentmakers with Paul and we learn from the book of Acts that they had a significant ministry in the life of Apollos.  See Acts 18:2-3, 18-28

2. One method of greeting at that time (16:20)
"All the brothers here send you greetings.  Greet one another with a holy kiss."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe that Paul encourages them to greet each other with a holy kiss?

 

 

"The kiss of peace was a lovely custom of the early Church.  It may have been a Jewish custom which the early church took over.  It was apparently given at the end of prayers and just before the congregation partook of the Sacrament.  It was the sign and symbol that they sat at the table of love joined in perfect love."  "Taken from The Letters to the Corinthians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

A physical expression of affection is an important and maybe even an essential expression of our love for others.  Children who have never been hugged or kissed by their parents have certainly been given a reason to doubt whether or not they are loved by their parents.  Christian hugs, since Christian kisses are not practiced in our churches, are an important expression of our love for each other.

3. Paul's final greetings to them (16:21-24)
"I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.  If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him.  Come O Lord!  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.  My love to all of you in Christ Jesus.  Amen."

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe that Paul ends his letter with these words about a curse being on those who do not love the Lord?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How do you think the Corinthian Christians responded to this letter from Paul?

 

 

Paul typically dictated his letters to someone who wrote the letter.  He, then, would sign the letter.  His signature was a sign that the letter was an authentic letter from the apostle.  See Colossians 4:18; II Thessalonians 3:17; Philemon 19  A man by the name of Tertius wrote Paul's words to the Romans. See Romans 16:22

Paul's words became very strong after his initial greeting:  "If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him."  Paul words here seem out of place and harsh for the one who just wrote chapter 13, the "love chapter."  But what Paul is describing is the certain state of those who do not have affection for Jesus Christ.  Those who continue to not love Jesus Christ remain under the condemnation and curse of a just God.  They are justly under a curse.

The Greek word for love that Paul uses here is Phileo, not Agape.  It is the word for affection.  Our city, Philadelphia, is named using this word for love. The Greek word for "brother." is adelphos."  Hence, phileo and adelphos together give us "brotherly love," and so Philadelphia is the city of "brotherly love."

Then, he says: "Come O Lord!"  The Greek word is maranatha.  "Maran and atha are two Aramaean words signifying 'The Lord,' or 'our Lord comes.'  It is a solemn warning.  The Lord whom men refuse to recognize and love is about to come in the glory of His Father and with His holy angels to take vengeance on those who know not God, and who obey not the gospel."  "Taken from Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians by Charles Hodge.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."

There is a play on words in verse 22.  "Curse" is anathema  and "Come, O Lord" is maranatha.  Those who do not know and love Jesus Christ will be cursed when He comes, but we who love Him can eagerly desire that He comes quickly.

"The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.  My love to all of you in Christ Jesus.  Amen."  Paul was strong in this letter to a church that was for the most part a worldly church and not a spiritual church.  But, it is clear from the way he ends his letter that he was saying the truth to them in love.  He was not condemning them for he offers them here the solution for their sin—God's grace.  And he was not separating himself from this rebellious church, for his very last words to them in this letter are an expression of his love for them!

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.  ® NIV  ®  Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.  Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

Studies in Corinthians