Paul shares with a struggling church the powerful effects of the Cross of Christ.
Practical and Pastoral Observations on 1 Corinthians (please read each chapter slowly and meditatively before reading observations below):
Introduction: Corinth, even by standards of the day, was a city known for its striking immorality. The temple of Aphrodite employed 1000 prostitutes. The Greek korinthaizomai ("to act like a Corinthian") came to mean "to fornicate." Acts 18 describes the founding of a small church in this context during Paul's second missionary journey. The church faced many struggles, some of which Paul addresses in this letter, written about 55AD. The central theme is the cross of Christ and it's practical implications for personal and community life.
1 Corinthians 1
God's Calling is Sure, Faithful and Final: God initiates the call to us to be reconciled for communion with Himself. He is faithful to call, sanctify us (v.2) and guarantee the glorious outcome of our struggle in the day of Christ's return (v.8-9).
God's Calling is made Effective in the Cross: The cross is the finished work of Christ for our redemption in this life and the next. For this reason we are called to hold the cross central always, preach Christ crucified (v.23) and explore and apply the depths of the implications of the cross of Christ as our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption (v.30) in our lives and community and eternity.
The Power and Wisdom of God: is opposite the power and wisdom of the world (v.22-25). As such, God also uses weak and foolish people in the eyes of the world to advance His Gospel of Grace to them (v.26-28). Each of us may say, "Though I am not wise, mighty or noble (v.26) and cannot boast before God (v.29), God has chosen me and will use me in His work of redemption."
The Unity of the Cross: God calls us to both unity and purity. The Corinthian church struggled in both areas. Subsequently in history also, when the church allowed impurity, though those who challenged it were sincere and often right, the result was that the church divided into traditions or denominations. Yet as God's church grows His people must seek always to gain or remain unified (v.10), both in personal relationship and in the "church universal" (of which all who trust Christ are a part). This is because Christ is one (v.13) and the cross in its work of reconciliation makes us one. Individual members of the "church universal" can take initiatives to live out this reality in personal relationships and leaders in the church are in a position to do so at a structural level.
My Prayer: Father, how great is your calling, love and patience. How great is the cross and your gift of power and wisdom, righteousness and sanctification in it. Lord, root me so deeply in your cross that I die to myself and emerge the new man in Christ that I am becoming in Him.
1 Corinthians 2
Christ crucified: The result of Paul's experience in Athens was mixed (Acts 17:15ff) leading Paul to stay centred in the cross in Corinth (Acts 18:5). v.2: "I determined to know nothing among you expect Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." This is the heart of the gospel never to be made second place to any other truth of Scripture.
Mystery: Paul's use of mystery (v.7) relates not to something purposely kept hidden which the strong and wise may be able to reason or search out. Rather the Biblical meaning of mystery focuses on truth which requires revelation, i.e. is beyond the ability of man (limited by our 5 senses and sinful distortion of reality), without God's help. The mystery revealed in Christ exposes not the unwillingness of God but the inability of man to see and understand the purpose and grace of the incarnation and crucifixion without the help of God.
Faith: is therefore not unreasonable and "without foundation" as some argue. Faith is not based on clever arguments of the 'wisdom of men' (v.5). Faith rather rests on the power of God revealed in the incarnation and resurrection of Christ. Faith also opens the heart to further revelation in communion with the Spirit of God who reveals those thoughts of God He freely gives those who trust Him (v.12)
Communion with God: The deepest communion with the Father is not first intellectual but spiritual. God reveals His thoughts (v.11) and wisdom (v.7) to those filled with His Spirit (v.10). Just as my deepest thoughts are known only by my spirit (v.11), so it is with God which He shares in communion with us (v.10). Wonderfully, because we are made in God's image, we are given the capacity in redemption to have the mind of Christ (v.16). This is reason not for arrogance but for great responsibility. v. 9: "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has it entered into the imagination of men, those things that God has prepared for those who love Him." As we commune with God's Spirit we also avoid being deceived by the rulers of this age (v.8).
My Prayer: Thank you Lord, for revealing the very heart of God (v.10-12)! Help me to look to You rather than the 'wisdom' of the world (v.5-6) and enable me to fully understand, accept and joyfully live by the things of the Spirit of God.
1 Corinthians 3
God is our source, destiny and is involved in all between: God causes growth (v.7), encourages us to build well (v.10), judges our work (v.13, 17) gives unspeakably great gifts (v.22) and rewards quality work (v.14). God can and has the right to do all this because He owns all (v.23).
As such we are in an amazing partnership: we plant or water (evangelize or strategize), God brings life and growth out of spiritual and moral death as we work (v.6-7); Christ is the foundation (v.11), we must build on Him worthily (v.12-14); we build, God rewards (v.14-15).
This Truth is Freeing: I pray, listen and do my best, God does the rest. This Truth calls for my Best (v.12-14), knowing my work makes a difference for eternity and that reward can be gained for lost (v.15).
Two Costs of Immaturity: Christians can be saved but immature (characterized by the sarx, flesh), resulting in spiritual weakness, human wilfulness and strife (v.1-3). Carnal Christians are scarcely distinguishable from those not following Christ. 1.) Such persons harm the cause of Christ and 2.) stand to suffer great personal loss.
Reward and loss is a major theme of this chapter. Both apply here to the fruit of the life of a believer. The question of salvation is not in view (with the possible exception of v.17). Salvation remains a free gift in response to faith in Christ. Reward and loss refers to what the saved person builds on the foundation of their salvation in Christ. The mature and immature experience diverse outcomes and Paul calls us to maturity.
v.7 Neither the one who plants or the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.
My Prayer: Father, I praise you for the harvest and for the grace and rewards of working in Your harvest, all is Yours (v.23)
1 Corinthians 4
Paul has given his all to the Corinthians to give them the Gospel. Yet he finds resistance to many core values of the Gospel. Therefore Paul works in this chapter to clarify and reinforce basic questions of identity, responsibility and relationship.
God is the giver (v.7), all we have is from Him. This is foundational; if we miss this we will not relate rightly to ourselves or each other. Because all is from God, i.e. grace to us, there is no place for pride in ourselves or for judgement in us towards others. We begin rather with acknowledgement of our foundational responsibility towards our Maker (v.3-5).
We therefore are servants (literally "under-rowers" in a three tiered boat), stewards of His Gospel and gifts; responsible and faithful in the Gospel despite hardships of many kinds (v.11-13) which may come to us because of that faithfulness.
v.1,2 "...Regard us...servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. ...It is required of stewards that one be found faithful."
I will therefore be grateful and faithful to the Lord and His work, though it may lead to poverty, hardship, persecution or death (v.9-13). Our evaluation (v. 3) and reward (v. 5) comes from God at Christ's return. Therefore I will not look to the daily praise of man to keep me motivated or moving in the right direction.
The Kingdom of God comes not with demonstrations of earthly power but through the kind of power shown by God through the weak who are faithful though hardships. (v.20)
Growth in Christ is greatest for many people if they have tutors (v.15). Paul was bold to say, "be imitators of me" (v.16). We also may wisely seek worthy tutors and, as we mature, seek to be worthy tutors, remembering the tutor has greater responsibility than the one who is learning from him/her.
My Prayer: "Father, may I be found grateful (v.7) and trustworthy (v.2). Father, show me how, in heart and in strength."
1 Corinthians 5
Purity of God: God is pure, w/o leaven, holy, able to cleanse others, requires holiness, and judges/separates the unholy from the holy.
Purity of the Redeemed: The salvation of one's spirit is of ultimate importance. It may become necessary, both for the carnal person who once confessed Christ, as well as for the health of the Body of Christ (v.6-7), to deliver an unrepentant carnal Christian to Satan's chastisement for the ultimate salvation of his or her spirit (v.5). To surrender one to Satan's realm is to release that person back to the world, which is the domain of Satan, with the prayer that the person will again come to desire the Kingdom of God above that of the world.
To Judge is to Separate: God judges those outside the church (v.13), we have no need to do so; yet we are responsible for ourselves, i.e. those inside the church (v.12) and must be willing to disassociate with carnal unrepentant Christians, though it may be unpopular both inside and outside the church. Paul does not call for a judgmental spirit but for the courage to address open continuing sin in the church.
v. 7 "clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are (in fact already positionally in Christ) unleavened (holy). For Christ our Passover has already been sacrificed."
Church Discipline: Calvin viewed church discipline as one of 4 essential marks of the church. Church discipline has fallen into disrepute and disuse due in part to some cases of misuse and more prominently due to the dilution of the church by the principle of state or parish church in which commitment to Christ is optional. In the 21st century western society has developed in addition a general hostility to value judgements of almost any kind. Yet God continues to purify His church, sometimes even through persecution and other less comfortable means. Without question, God will have a pure bride for eternity.
My Prayer: Lord, give me a passionate desire to have no part of the realm of Satan, the world where he rules; to be entirely unmixed and unleavened so as to offer the Lord His bride, the Church, pure and holy, worthy of the God who redeemed her.
1 Corinthians 6
God sanctifies us, including our bodies, to be holy. In this process God shows Himself to be just, always judges rightly, cannot be fooled, and teaches us, though it is sometimes difficult, to judge rightly. This distinguishing between right and wrong we should not leave to the world, which lacks standards by which to do so.
The Christian community is to model right relationships and right judgements in case of dispute (v.1-8). Because of our union with Christ we will ultimately, with Him, judge the world (v.2) and even angels (v.3). So must learn and be ready to decide between believers if needed. It is better to be wronged in meekness (strength under control) than to fight. Therefore I will challenge believers in conflict to submit to binding arbitration from a team of wise persons in the church.
Our lifestyle is no longer to exhibit wickedness, which shows the world we remain unsaved (v.9-10, rather to exhibit sanctification (set apart to God) for fruitfulness (v.11-12). We are washed, sanctified and justified (v.11) - free from the dominion of sin. Though we may "eat and drink", to do so immoderately is of no value to us and may be of harm to others (v.12-13). Christian behaviour is to measured, in addition to basic morality, by questions such as, "is it helpful" and "is it enslaving/addicting"?
The Human Body: Because I am sanctified, my body belongs to the Lord, is His temple co-indwelt by my human spirit from Him and by His Holy Spirit, and honoured even to the point of resurrection, and is for His use and Glory, never to be used for immoral purposes. The Gospel holds an amazingly high a view of the human body; requiring care in this life as God's creation, honour as the temple of the Holy Spirit and confidence that it will be raised for the life to come.
v.19-20 ...you are not your own, for you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in you body.
My Prayer: Father, cause me to value my body as a temple for the human spirit You have given me and for Your Holy Spirit, that I might care for it and use it for your Glory.
1 Corinthians 7
We are His: Christ has bought (v.23) and set us apart for His purposes and glory ('sanctified' v.14). He is worthy of our undistracted devotion, whether married or single. As such it behoves us to find our sustenance in the Lord and to be content in our circumstance, married or single, circumcised or uncircumcised (v.18-19), rich or poor (v.21-22). v.23: "You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men (the world)."
We are Easily Distracted: My interests are so easily divided (v.34) to please others rather than the Lord. The two are certainly not always separate but can be if both are not equally committed to Christ. Our greatest benefit and calling is always undistracted devotion to the Lord (v.35).
It must be remembered in understanding this chapter that Paul is not writing a treatise on marriage but answering specific questions put to him during a stressful time in the experience of the early church. Nevertheless it is clear that believers should not divorce (v.10), leave an unbelieving spouse (v.13), or remain single if not suited to celibacy (v.8-9).
Application: I will support marriage in every way possible, resist divorce in every way possible, allow separation when necessary without encouraging re-marriage. These are not popular positions among some, yet right and true, best for society and helping disciples grow in Christlikeness.
My Prayer: "Father, many struggle with this chapter because divorce and remarriage seem easier than learning to live with the one chosen as life-partner. Give me strength to hold to the highest road and grace to minister freely to those wounded by falling from it.
1 Corinthians 8
God and "so-called gods" (v.5): God the Father is all powerful and loving, the source of all things, and we exist for Him. Jesus Christ is the one by whom all things are and it is through Him that we exist (v.6). I exist then, through my union with Christ, for God. So-called gods are of no account in this (v.5) and are not to be worshipped, feared or obeyed. I will therefore not attribute more power to idols and demons than they have (without being foolish or leading those without standing or confidence in their authority in Christ into dangerous territory).
Knowledge and Love: Even limited knowledge without God gives the self-illusion of power and makes one proud and arrogant (v.1-2). True knowledge begins with loving God and being known by Him (v.3). Then we can overcome demons and serve others in humility.
Relating in Love to those without personal Knowledge of God: Not all men and women have a personal knowledge of God in Christ and therefore remain in fear of idols and their demons (v.7). It is our privilege and duty to share the truth of Christ's overcoming redemption with them them. As we do so we must not to wound the conscience of those yet without full confidence in His redemption. Therefore when with those who think it wrong to eat or drink certain things we must not flaunt our freedom to do so. Love of God is the beginning of true knowledge, so we should love (v.13) rather than exercise knowledge without love. v.1 "Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies."
My Prayer: Father, thank You for creating and sustaining and redeeming all things. I want to love all You have redeemed, regardless of whether or how well they know You, and to exercise all knowledge, especially about You, in love. Help me put love before what I know. Cause me to love all in a way that flows from Your love and the love You've given me for You.
1 Corinthians 9
Christ's Example: God has come in the flesh in Christ and suffered as our ransom sacrifice. In this He did all things necessary for the sake of the Gospel, setting an example for us to do the same (v.23).
Following with Discipline: God's call to advance the Gospel gives no option but faithful obedience (v.16), requires constant discipline (v.24) and the willingness to forgo basic rights that others may assume (v.12).
For example, Paul addresses the question of whether apostles or other full-time workers (e.g. Ephesians 4:11-12) may be paid and answers affirmatively. Yet it is clear such workers are servants without a worldly-style authority and cannot demand a wage.
Application: I am under compulsion (v.16); woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel. As such I will adjust my culture and approach, though not the message since I am only the messenger not the author of salvation, to the condition (v.20-23) of the lost to win as many as possible.
v.22: "I have become all things to all men, so that I by all means save some."
My Prayer: Father, with sorrow I confess that I am sometimes a reluctant representative of Your redemptive purposes; too tired, not eager to pay the price, etc., though the Gospel has cost me nothing and given me everything. May I, like Jesus, exercise love and self-discipline in all things (v.25) for the sake of the lost to Your Glory.
1 Corinthians 10
Grace Must be Accepted: God begins with grace, giving many blessings expressing His love and pointing us to His goodness. These blessings however, as illustrated in Israel's walk with God (v.1-10), can be ignored or rejected to our eternal harm.
God wonderfully blessed young Israel (v.1-4) yet they rejected Him continually (v.6-10) including the worship of the Egyptian golden calf. Idolatry is not only sinful but foolish and dangerous as demons make their home in idols to which prayers are made, gifts are given or sacrifices offered (v.20). In contrast, Paul sees the Lord's Supper (v.16-17) prefigured in Israel's eating of sacrifices at the altar (v.18), and baptism in Israel's passing through the Red Sea (v.2).
Because God's grace is singular, our devotion to the Lord must be singular: The first step in avoiding Israel's mistake is have deeply imprinted on our hearts the knowledge that there is only one God who allows no division of allegiance (v.5-10), "therefore, flee (all forms of) idolatry (v.14)." Remember "the earth is the Lord's, and all that is in it" (v.26).
Application: An eclectic approach in this regard is therefore not appropriate. I cannot "drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons;" I cannot "partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons" (v.21). The temptation to idolatry (seeking or yielding to something lesser than God) is constantly to be resisted, both in the large and small scale. In this spiritual battle I will not be overconfident (v.12) but trust God who is faithful to provide a way of escape (v.13) so that I will be faithful. I will trust God to speak through my conscience in this but am willing to limit my freedom in regard to disputable matters rather than confuse others (v.28). In my heart, whether I eat or drink or whatever I do, I choose to do all to the Glory of God (v.32).
God's Provision: v.12: "Let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it."
My Prayer: Lord, there is much in this chapter to process as I walk in this world of competing allegiances, filled with demons and angels. Above all I acknowledge that the earth is Yours and all that is in it (v.26). Keep my heart and mind and motives always on You, never drawn away to lesser things. I want to give You always and only the glory above all.
1 Corinthians 11:1-16
God has rightful authority and each of us have resulting responsibility: God the Father is head of Christ who is head of man, and man has responsibility to care for woman (v.3). Social convention in the culture of the New Testament expressed this order of creation with head-covering; the symbol however is less important than the reality it represents.
Though this passage stands over against the egalitarian values of today's world, we cannot deny scripture's clarity and the responsibility given men. Paul's teaching is based on Genesis 3:16. Though some men wrongly abuse their rightful authority and some women wrongly abuse their rightful freedom in Christ, the radical independence of egalitarianism, in which rights trump responsibility, has done great damage to marriage and family in the secular west in the latter half of the 20th century. Whether men reject their responsibility to care for women or women reject a man's responsibility in this regard, the result reaps social havoc.
In the spirit of our age, many who reject the leadership of a man for the care of his wife and family, throw out too much resulting in men feeling, or actually being, relieved of their responsibility for the wellbeing of their family, reneging on that responsibility with the tragic result of essential failure of family. Men without clear accepted responsibility to care for women become less responsible in other areas of their lives also.
Redemption in Christ from the effects of the fall (i.e. men and women "in the Lord," v.11) protects women from abuse, prohibits radical independence of either gender (v.11) and celebrates mutuality of respectful relationship (v.12).
Application: I am head of my family and responsible to Christ for my leadership of the family entrusted me. I may be tempted to take the easy road but must not renege on my responsibility simply because egalitarian culture denies that I have this responsibility. In my responsibility I will be loving, strong, diligent to protect, and gentle in exercising authority.
My Prayer: Father, enable me to fulfil my responsibility in a way that shows "the image and glory of God" (v.7).
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
The Lord's Table is an "acted sermon:" an invitation to those who are redeemed (v.23-26) and a warning of discipline (v.27-32) to those who will not examine their lives to bring themselves under His redemption. But even the Lord's discipline is grace that we not be condemned (v.32).
Paul is addressing factions in the young Corinthian church rising out of not taking seriously the cross of Christ which also crucifies our selfishness, resulting in sharing our food, lives and goods. Paul suggests that the Lord may even allow the divisions produced by this ignoring of the cross to make clearer the Gospel in those of which He approves (v.19).
Application: I have the ability to avoid unnecessary discipline from the Lord by examining (v.28) and judging (v.31) myself, which is the daily work of repentance. I "recognize the Body" (v.29) by respecting and honoring the believers as I would the Lord, in that they are an extension of the Lord; in that His disciples are the fruit of His suffering and He is in them (cf. Matt 25, "inasmuch")
Remarkable! "If we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord (as believers), we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world." (v.31-32)
My Prayer: Lord, burn these truths into my heart and mind. The truth of your grace in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the truth of your grace disciplining us when we stray, that we may not be condemned but restored. Lord, examine me and make me whole.
1 Corinthians 12
The Holy Spirit forms Christ-in-us: The Holy Spirit has an immense role in the Christian life. In contrast to being led by demons to idols, the Holy Spirit leads us to Christ and enables us to acknowledge, "Jesus is Lord" (v.1). The Holy Spirit then also baptizes us into the Body of Christ (v.13) and empowers us for the Christian life of service, giving spiritual gifts (v.4) for the common good (v.7) - including wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, distinguishing of spirits, tongues, interpretation...etc. These are not for our own benefit but for loving ministry to others (v.5). Finally, the Holy Spirit is the One who produces the fruit (or effects, v.6) of ministry.
We have responsibility as stewards of God's gifts and grace: We are stewards of God's gifts for the good of others and must offer/use/give our gifts at every opportunity. Building up others begins of course at home with my marriage and children where for some it is most difficult but must not be limited there, selfishly in relation to the world, as is so easy. It requires initiative, the enemy of laziness.
Gifts and grace in community: We should encourage one another as fellow-disciples to freely give the spiritual gifts Christ has given us - without pride (v.21) or inferiority (v.22) or competition or division (v.25). We take the cares of others on ourselves (v.25); we cast our own cares on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7).
The Body of Christ as image of God-in-community: Many images for the three-in-one (Trinity) of God-in-community have been helpfully offered (e.g. water, ice, vapor; sun, light, heat). Verse 12 provides a simple image easily overlooked: one body with multiple parts. This being true for the Body of Christ, may well be so because we are born again from the God in whose image we are created. Both the Trinity - and the Body of Christ which is the gift of God-in-Christ - functions in harmony, interdependency, respect and care, exercised in love (chapter 13).
My Prayer: Thank You Lord for Your Holy Spirit, for the abundance of Your spiritual gifts, for Your redeemed Body into which I've been baptized by Your Spirit. Open me always to being the giving channel of Your gifts of grace for the up-building of the Body of Christ to manifest our Lord Jesus in His Body and the world so loved by God.
1 Corinthians 13
God's agape-love is the foundation of Christian ethics and to be pursued above all because only agape will continue into eternity. God's love is "agape" - unselfish esteem, undeserved and without thought of return.
"Eros," the love of an adorable object, specifically between a man and a woman, and "phileo," the love of mutual friendship between peers, are both valued but neither reflect the nature of God as does agape's self-giving on the cross.
Human self-love can be self-deceiving. The opening verses contrast words and actions (v.1), knowledge and faith (v.2-3) in such as way as to show even philanthropy and martyrdom without agape can be egotistic. Motive, attitude and action are of equal importance in our reflection of God's selfless agape.
v.7 "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
Application: Agape is the demonstration, in everyday life and in every relationship, of Christlike character shaped by the cross. Selfless agape involves the call to be patient, unirritable, not easily offended, unselfish. Agape is not limited to caring words, but is in fact God's motive for caring, costly action which is not first conscious of one's own needs but those of the other.
Spiritual discipline: Slowly say your own first name where "I" appears in vs. 1-3 or where "love" is referred to in vs. 4-8a and ask the Lord to make it so.
My Prayer: Lord, strengthen me in faith, hope and agape-love that when the battle comes I may stand, especially in love, so honoring and reflecting Your love and sacrifice for us.
1 Corinthians 14
God's Purpose and Ours: Consistent with His own love, motivation and character, God gives every spiritual gift to His children - including tongues and prophesy - for a single purpose: to edify, strengthen and build up His church into Christlikeness for ministry to the world.
Tongues and Prophesy for that Purpose: Tongues edify the spirit of the person praying and worshiping but do not benefit the rest of the Body of Christ unless interpreted (v.5). Prophesy however benefits all who hear, believer (v.31) and unbeliever (v.24-25), and should be sought by all (v.1, 39).
Believers have a mission inside and outside of the Body of Christ. Outside, it is a love and rescue mission to bring people to the Savior, Jesus Christ. Inside, it is a mission to build believers to be innocent of evil (v.20) and mature in the fullness of Christ. Each member of the Body therefore are mutually to build up the church, both in mind and spirit (v.15) to be fully mature (v.20) both in love towards one another and the world, and in worship in spirit and truth of the Living God.
Worship is Interactive: The norm is informal, interactive worship, or which all prepare and in which all have opportunity to participate. v.26 "When you assemble, each one has a psalm, teaching, revelation, tongue, interpretation. Let all things be done for edification."
Application: I should speak to edify (build up), exhort (challenge/urge on), console (comfort) (v.3) by revelation, knowledge, prophecy or teaching (v.6). To be prepared to do so, I will review my reading of the Word during the previous week, before gathering for worship, in order to have several truths which have edified my spirit ready to share as I join my brothers and sisters, and encourage them to do the same.
My Prayer: Lord, make me an encouragement to all, both in worship and in the fallen world. Protect me from expressing even legitimate frustrations in a way that does not in the end encourage. Make my deepest motivation to build up, strengthen and bless.
1 Corinthians 15:1-34
Christ Our Life: The Gospel is proclaimed, received, and enables us to stand (v.1). Through Him we are being saved as we (cling) hold fast (v.2) to Him as the life preserver given us in the storm. All is of grace (v.10) and this grace motivates and empowers us, also in our efforts to pass on Christ, who is our life (preserver) (Col. 3:4) to all who will receive Him.
By grace God, through Christ, is over all evil, including death; to this certainly Christ's resurrection testifies to our undying hope and great joy.
In the challenges of life and opposition to the Gospel, the "first fruit" (v.20) of Christ's resurrection's guaranteed victory gives courage to "stand" and "hold fast" (v.1-2), "die daily" confident of "all things being put under His feet" (v.27). This strength and hope is not only for this life, as life-changing as that is by His grace, but in fullness in the life to come (v.19).
Application: I will therefore draw from the Lord courage and steadfastness in joy and under hardship, even to the point of death. I would still rather wear out ("die daily" v.31) than rust out. ("Bad company corrupts good morals" was a Greek proverb first appearing in a play by Menander. It does not mean we should avoid bad people entirely but, through the eyes of the Gospel, we should make our association with the lost purposeful and redemptive.)
v.10 "By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I laboured even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God in me."
My Prayer: Father what joy and hope we have in your power, grace and victory in Christ. Where would we be without You? I can't conceive of the answer. Lord, strengthen me every day to stand, hold fast, and labour for the sake of the Gospel to everyone who is perishing in the sure hope I have in You.
Christ Gives the Kingdom to His Father: Salvation history begins with the fall in which Adam and Eve, deceived and in disobedience, submitted to Satan giving entrance in the garden to sin and death (v.22a). Christ was crucified and raised that "whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Sadly, after Christ's resurrection, some purposefully remain enemies of the Gospel (including human and demonic powers; v.24-26), leaving much remaining evil in our Father's world. Yet Christ will in history and culminated in His return, abolish all those who, despite His grace, continue as His enemies (v.25). Then, when all evil has been expiated or overcome, the Kingdom of the redeemed will be given as a trophy of His grace with great joy, to the Father (v.24) for eternity without sin, death or sorrow.
1 Corinthians 15:35-58
The victory of the Kingdom - in which the last Adam (i.e. Christ, v.45) makes possible the impossible; bringing to life what has died - involves a resurrection in which our new body is both similar and dissimilar to the body which has died. This was so of Jesus' resurrection body also, which both was a) recognized as Himself and b) passed through doors. The dissimilar elements of our new bodies are listed in vs. 42-44. In the natural I can only inherit what is of this earth (v.48); in Christ I am changed (v.51) to "bear the image of the heavenly" (v.49). This miraculous change (v.51) is not something we inherit from our fallen world (v.50), since like-produces-like (v.48), but is the unique and absolute gift of grace of Christ.
Personal Application: The effects of this life-and-eternity changing gift take from us the fear of death (v.55-57) and make our work on earth worthwhile and of eternal consequence (v.58).
I will turn to Christ and rebuke the defeated foe when he seeks to infiltrate with fear.
I will be steadfast and immovable in life's storms.
I will take confidence when my work fails or does not accomplish its goal that it is yet not in vain devoted to the Lord.
I seek this change not from earthly sources (as it is not the world's to give) but am willing to die to the earthly, to "flesh and blood"(v.50) and seek the imperishable (v.42), heaven's glory and power (v.43), and ultimate (spiritual, v.44) reality in the last day.
The person who has so died to the world can serve selflessly and invite heaven to earth for others to enter in Christ.
My Prayer: Father, by heavenly means (v.48 vs. v.51ff) work out in me I pray the change given ("put on, swallowed up" v.54) in Christ. Let me then be "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord".
v.49 "Just as we have borne the image of the earthly, we will also bear the image of the heavenly."
1 Corinthians 16
Make the Most of Every Opportunity, especially opportunities for practical love: Opportunity for the Gospel and opposition to the Gospel are constant realities in the Christian life (v.9). In each circumstance make love paramount and practical. "The grace of the Lord Jesus" (v.23) extends to care for believers we've not met (v.1), hospitality to travelling workers (5,6), respect for leaders (v.10-11).
In both danger and opportunity we express and extend the Kingdom of God as an act of God's grace. To do so we need always to be aware and alert, standing firm under attack; full of the strength and love of the Lord. (v.13-14)
Personal application: I will give to the needs of others regularly to keep generosity always before me (v.2 has in mind Sundays), privately (others don't need to know amounts), and proportionally to the prosperity God gives (v.2).
(Note: Paul was careful not to carry the money for the poor himself or alone (v.3) to give no opportunity for misunderstanding or mistrust.)
My Prayer: Father, thank you that in the victory foreshadowed in the resurrection I can be confident both in opportunity and opposition, and full of practical love always.
A summary of Paul's ministry can be seen in v.9: "A wide door for effective service has opened to me and there are many adversaries." v.13: "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, brave, be strong. v.14 Let all that you do be done in love."