(1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
If you must boast, than boast in the Lord Jesus Christ. These are the final words in this first chapter of Corinthians that Paul writes to the church both then and now.
Don't boast of yourself, boast of the Lord
As a general rule, and as we are told in other places, boasting is not good. Boasting of yourself is an attempt to make yourself out to be something more or better than you are. It is shameless self-promotion for the purpose of having other people look at you differently. It is a human weakness and I am sure we have all been guilty of it from time to time.
So the bottom line is…don't boast. It does not tend towards anything good and makes you look a fool if you are found not to be what you claim to be. Furthermore, the thinking that underpins boasting does not come from humility but from pride, and we are called to be humble servants of Christ.
But if you must boast, then…
(1 Corinthians 1:18-25)
Paul begins this section with statements about the foolishness of what we as Christians believe. He talks about it as the foolishness of God and the folly of the word of the gospel and the death of Jesus Christ. He makes the point that to the rest of the world, what we believe does appear to be foolishness and folly.
The foolishness of God is wiser than men
And let's face it, who amongst Christians has not been called a fool and had our beliefs scoffed at or scorned by non-believers as foolishness? I am sure that we have all been through such attacks, and if not yet, it will happen at some time.
But Paul shows us here the difference between the thinking of men in this world and the thinking of God. For what a man perceives as folly and foolishness, God has accepted as the pathway to life. God established this pathway and these so-called “foolish beliefs” for a very definite reason, which is worth considering for a moment.
(1 Corinthians 1:10-17)
As I read this section of scripture there was one question that Paul posed to the church at Corinth that strikes to the heart of the church down to this day. At the start of verse 13 he writes, “Is Christ divided?”
Is Christ divided?
The answer to that question is clearly…No. Christ is certainly not divided. There is only one Christ and His word, His ministry and His purpose for man had and still has only one true path. There is only one truth and that is the truth of Jesus Christ.
However the same cannot be said about the church, and that is the focus and the point of what Paul was writing to the Corinthians. Paul had a concern about how people were behaving and the focus of their beliefs. It was part idolatry, part party spirit and partly to do with division in the church.
(1 Corinthians 1:4-9)
In these few verses Paul gives thanks to God for what God has done with the church at Corinth. At a high level when we read between the lines we see that Paul is expressing thanks for the work done in the knowledge that this work is not his own work, nor the work of those at Corinth, but is the work of God.
How does God work in the church to effect change among the people? Again the answer is in these few verses for we see that what Paul is thanking God for is the great and wondrous gifts that God gave to the church that brought them out of the world to where they were in Christ Jesus, and that would continue to protect and hold them in His name until the end.
There are a few interesting aspects to these verses and these gifts that are worth looking into and that is what this study today will cover.
(1 Corinthians 1:1-3)
It is often easy to gloss over the first few verses of the letters in the New Testament as they generally contain things like greetings to the brethren and to whom the letters are addressed.
We are all saints
But it is worth looking at how these greetings are made for there are often insights we can gain from those greetings. And the opening verses of the first letter to the Corinthians is no exception.
As I read this letter before writing today there were two words that stuck out for me and they were “Sanctify” and “Saint” and it is this that we will look at today.
The gospel that was to come through Jesus Christ and the teachings of the new covenant were a mystery to all those who lived before His first coming. But no longer. The mystery has been revealed.
to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. - Romans 16:27
These are the final words Paul wrote to the Roman church as he finished this most informative and significant letter, which God saw fit to provide in His bible for us down to this day.
Nowhere else in the bible is this mystery of the gospel of Jesus Christ so clearly and concisely revealed. The book of Romans lays out step by step how we are to progress in the new covenant as we walk the path to life in Jesus Christ.
In these last verses of Romans 16 Paul warns the church to be aware of those who create divisions and dissensions in the church.
Dissension will break the heart of the church
Paul knew full well that there would be such people come into the church for this was prophesied by the Lord Jesus Christ who said at various times there would be wolves in sheep's clothing come amongst the church. And the mindset of a wolf is to tear apart, divide and kill, and this is what these dissenting and devious people do also.
So let us be aware and look well at the words that Paul wrote here. In the previous verses in my last posts, we saw the importance of harmony in the church and to greet one another with brotherly love. Here we see Paul warning us to be on our guard when that harmony is unbalanced and when the greetings are not returned or are insincere.
In this last chapter of Romans Paul instructs the church to greet various of the disciples in the churches on his behalf. It is clear that these greetings are not a simple formal acknowledgement of those people but rather are a warm, friendly and heartfelt joy the Paul feels for each of these different people.
Greet the brethren
Paul in his humility recognizes the service that these different disciples have afforded both himself and the church. He speaks of sacrifices made and works done by those ones on his behalf and the behalf of many others. Some of these are people we recognize from other writings while others are mentioned only here.
It is evident also that some of these people are well recognized in the early church even though we do not know today who they were or what they did. Consider for instance two of those mentioned,
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. – (Romans 16:7)
These two were converts before Paul's Damascus Road experience when he came to Christ and these two people were also well known to the apostles in Jerusalem. But what they did and who they were is something of a mystery to us today. And in truth knowing them is not particularly important.
Much of this section of scripture pertains to Paul speaking of his own ministry. The Lord called Paul specifically to preach the gospel to the Gentiles to bring the Gentile nations to the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ.
Sustaining the church
We then see Paul continue ministering in the letters he wrote to the churches he established. These letters defined the processes of the New Covenant; how it works, what it is, why it is the way it is and what they and we today need to learn and understand if we are to come into the fullness of all that God promised to those who seek Him through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
What we also see in these verses from Romans 15 is Paul's satisfaction with the early church in Rome saying they now had all they needed to be self-sustaining. It is this message too that we need to recognize today for it is quite different to how many modern ministers and ministries operate.
The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ some two thousand years ago was a pivotal point for all peoples of the world. It was the marking of the end of one age and the beginning of the next age, and the precise point at which the change took place was at the death of Jesus Christ.
Hope For All
In His death He issued in and ratified the New Covenant and by it all mankind entered this age of hope.
The prior age was the age of selection through descendancy. It was where those who were chosen to be God's people were selected on the basis of being the descendants of Abraham who was called “the friend of God”. In that age it was the physical, fleshly descendants of Abraham who were the special chosen people of God. And in that age the law was given to rule and control the weaknesses of the people and priests were appointed to teach the people wisdom.
But this all changed at the death of Jesus when the new age came into being. The age of hope for all mankind began.