The Church’s Got Talent

1 Corinthians 14:29
“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.”

Confusion broke out in the Corinthian church. Instead of meeting for the worship of God and the study of His word, the church had become a place for people to show off their spiritual gifts. Those with the gift of tongues saw the meetings as a time to speak or even sing in tongues. They thought the church existed to hear them sing. Others had the gift of prophecy, or at least they thought they did. To them the church existed as a place to share the things they thought were most relevant for the people to hear. I can imagine what the scene must have been like as the church gathered, opened in prayer, and then one by one, each louder than the last, the people began to share their thoughts and sing their songs. To the onlooker, it must have appeared to be a Christian version of “America’s Got Talent.”

Paul writes to correct their behavior and bring the fellowship back to something that honors God and impacts the community. In order to accomplish this, he reminds them of a responsibility that each Christian bears. He writes, “… let the others judge.” The standard of judgment that must lead the Christian, and shape the church, is the written Word of God. Paul is exhorting them not to accept everything done in the name of Jesus, as being from Jesus. This is a critical principle with much application, not the least of which has to do with the daily function of the local church. Scripture informs us, the purpose of the church is to glorify God, preach the Gospel, make disciples, and train up the next generation of leaders. To that end, the church is to teach the Word of God and provide an atmosphere where people can worship, pray, and develop godly relationships. Paul put it like this,

Ephesians 4:12-13 “. . . for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

We should view the church as a place where we are fed, instructed, built up, and equipped, in order that we might go out into the world, impacting our circle of influence for the Kingdom of Heaven. Sadly, today, many see the church as the Corinthians did. They think the church exists solely as a place where they can exercise their gifts, and when they are not allowed to, they become frustrated with the leadership and complain to others. In many cases, they leave their church and go to another one that will let them perform. While gifts are necessary for the church to function properly, the gifts are not given so we can showcase our talents. If you are not getting to do what you want at your church, don’t behave Corinthian. Instead, look at the fact that God may want to use you in a totally different way than He has in the past. Come to the fellowship looking to be built up and equipped for service, then ask God to set before you an open door to impact others for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Who knows, God may even want to use you in the children’s ministry…

Pastor Jim

Questions for 1 Corinthians 14

  1. After teaching on love in chapter 13, Paul exhorts us to pursue it, “to seek after eagerly”. Are you pursuing a love for God and others? Is it a driving priority for you to see love worked out in your life?
  2. We are also told to desire spiritual gifts. Do you feel this way about spiritual gifts in your life? Do you have a desire to see God work through your life and to equip you for that work with all the gifting He would give?
  3. As Paul exhorts us to desire spiritual gifts, he then goes on to teach that not all gifts are equal. Prophesying (biblically speaking), means to speak for God. This can be predictive (the sense that we often think of prophecy in our culture), or prescriptive, a word from God (instruction, encouragement, exhortation, see verse 3). He clearly puts this at the top of the list of spiritual gifts. Read verses 4-5. Why is prophecy so important?
  4. Read verses 2, 4. Speaking in tongues is a prayer language to God, and is personally edifying to the one who is using the gift. Speaking in tongues is one of the more dramatic, sensational, and unusual gifts. Yet its value is extremely limited. Read 6-11. List some of the limitations of this gift.
  5. Look at verse 12. What is the guiding principle here concerning the use of spiritual gifts?
  6. Read verses 13-20. Paul establishes that understanding is to take priority over ignorance. Did Paul speak in tongues? How often do his letters draw attention to this? When he ministered to others what was his priority
  7. The rest of the chapter is summed up by the idea in verses 39-40. Let all things be done decently and in order. All things are to be done, but not all in a public setting, and none in a way that is disorderly, chaotic, or that draws attention away from Jesus.
    1. Verses 21-25 speak of how gifts are a “sign” that points to God. Is this your focus when you seek to use your gifts?
    2. Verses 26-35 establish some guidelines for the church to function in a way that is orderly and not confusing. Have you ever been in a church service and been distracted by something out of order? How did that affect you receiving from God during that bible study?
  8. There are some pretty plain guidelines in this chapter concerning spiritual gifts and their use. But if a person will not receive the instruction, what is Paul’s position concerning them in verse 38?

Old Testament:
Job 13- Check Your Sources 
Job 14- YOLO?

Love

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

“Love suffers long and is kind

Love does not envy

Love does not parade itself

Love is not puffed up

Love does not behave rudely

Love does not seek its own

Love is not provoked

Love thinks no evil

Love does not rejoice in iniquity

Love rejoices in the truth

Love bears all things

Love believes all things

Love hopes all things

Love endures all things

Love never fails.”

Rather than looking for others to love us like that, let’s express the love of Jesus by showing this love to our family, our friends, and our world.

Pastor Jim

Questions for 1 Corinthians 13

  1. At the end of chapter 12 (which was all about the gifts of the Spirit), Paul tells the Corinthians that he is going to show them a better way to live than being focused on the gifts God gives (as awesome as they may be). As you quickly read through this chapter, what is that “more excellent way”?
  2. In verses 1-3, Paul shows how limited the gifts are when there is no love behind them. Speaking in tongues is a major concern in some churches (and Paul will address this more in chapter 14), but according to verse 1, what does this good gift resemble when there is no love behind it?
    1. People, even unbelievers, tend to put a great emphasis on knowledge.   Among believers, having great faith is also admired (Matt 21:21).   If I have both of these good gifts in my life but I don’t have a love for God and others, what am I?
    2. The most dramatic and impressive acts of selflessness, are giving of our material possessions and even our material body. Yet Paul says that our motives for doing so are not always love. What are some of the other motivations that we can have for doing things like this? What profit do we gain from doing these things when love for God and others is not our motive?
  3. Take a look at verses 4-7.
    1. Make a list of all the ways that love acts.
    2. 1John 4:8 tells us that God is love. Read these verses again, but substitute the word “love” with “God”. Aren’t you glad that He is this way!
    3. Now substitute your own name. Where do you feel you are falling short in living a life that demonstrates God’s love and character? How would living this way transform your personal relationships? Read Rom 5:5 and ask God to do this for you.
  4. In verses 8-10, we see some of the limitations of the gifts. What are they? Why is love superior to the gifts?
  5. Read verse 10-13. There is a time coming when we will see God face to face. He will not be impressed by our gifts; after all, He is the one who gave them! He will however respond to a heart that loves Him and loves others. This is all that matters. Spend some time this morning, and ask God to make love the top priority in your life.

Old Testament:
Job 11- More Or Less
Job 12- In His Hands

Spiritual Gifts

1 Corinthians 12:4-6
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”

Natural gifts, while given by God, are quite different from Spiritual gifts. If you have been given athletic, scholastic, or artistic gifts, you should use those for the glory of God and the furtherance of His Kingdom. However, spiritual gifts are an entirely different subject. Paul writes concerning the supernatural enabling God gives to the believer, for the furtherance of the Gospel, and the growth of the church. There is a great variety of these gifts, but they all serve the purpose of equipping the church to more effectively reach the world for the Christ. Before listing these gifts, Paul gives a few principles for how they work.

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.”

The word ‘diversity’ speaks of variety and reminds us that many different gifts are required for the church to function properly. Like setting up the Tabernacle in Old Testament times, the church functions properly when many gifts are in operation at the same time. Those with the gift of helps serve quietly behind the scenes, preparing the church for the people to arrive. They often stand in the back providing sound, video, worship screens, live streaming, etc. At the same time, those with the gift of hospitality greet people as they arrive, helping visitors find their place, and providing an element where fellowship is most conducive. The times of fellowship provide a way for Christians to exercise spiritual gifts and minister to each other. In those brief encounters over coffee and a snack, God often gives a word of wisdom or a word of knowledge that will help a Christian outgrow a particular sin, or be encouraged through a trying time. From the stage, spiritual gifts are essential. The worship team needs the gift of prophecy, so the heart of God is revealed to the people as they bring high praises to God and prepare themselves for the teaching of the Word. The pastor is perhaps the most dependent upon the gifts. If he is to effectively communicate God’s Word, he will need both the gift of teaching and evangelism. Fortunately, Paul reminds us, while there is much ministry, there are also many gifts.

“There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.”

Just as there are many gifts, so there are a variety of places to exercise those gifts. At our church, while the worship band is playing in the sanctuary, the youth band is leading worship, and the children’s ministers are leading in song. Three different ministries all in need of similar spiritual gifts. In the same way, as the pastor presents the Gospel on Sunday morning, the people are sharing it throughout the week. Just as he needs the gift of evangelism to preach on Sunday, the people need the gift in the break room, at the park, or on the phone with a friend or relative. The same gift is provided in a variety of ministry opportunities, all of which are of equal importance. Rather than complaining that we don’t get to do something we want at the church, let’s look for ways to be used by God throughout the week. Reading through the book of Acts, you will notice most of the Spiritual gifts were in operation out in the world, not behind the closed doors of the church building.

And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”

The term ‘activities’ comes from a word that means energy. Paul explains, the same gift may be given to two different people at two different levels. Certainly, every pastor must have the gift of teaching, but not all have the same teaching gift. The same is true of all the gifts. None would question that Billy Graham has the gift of evangelism, nor would any who know Ron Keenan (one of the two men who led me to the Lord), question he has the same gift. But it is also clear, they have the gift at different levels. Ron, gifted for the ministry he has been called to, living within his community and within his circle of influence, and Billy Graham for his ministry of bringing the Gospel message to millions.

I think the right response to Paul’s instruction is to pray. We should pray for more gifts, more ministry, and a greater energy of those gifts, in order to more effectively minister to others, and further the Kingdom of God. As a pastor, I would certainly appreciate others joining me in praying that prayer for myself, and for all those who attend our fellowship.

Pastor Jim

Questions for 1 Corinthians 12

  1. Verses 4-6 state that there are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit, different ministries but the same Lord, diversities of activities but the same God who works all in all. Do you find yourself trying to be like or do something in the same way as someone else? Ask God today, to show you what He wants to do in your life.
  2. Verse 12 tells us that we are one body with many members. What member of the body has God called you to be?
  3. Verse 13 says for by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body. Read Acts 10:34-35. How can this truth affect how we treat others?
  4. Verses 24-26 give us instruction of how we are to treat others in the body of Christ. The next time you are with the body of believers look and find your place to minister to one another. God made each of us unique and placed us in His body. Remember, God put us there for His purpose. Read Psalm 139:16. God does have a plan and purpose for your life! Are you embracing it? Allow the joy of God’s gifting and peace to have its place in your heart today! Verse 31….”and yet I show you a more excellent way!”

Old Testament:
Job 9- In Between
Job 10- Complaints

Communion

1 Corinthians 11:22
“What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God…”

Paul is addressing one of the most important practices of the church and the individual. He will instruct them regarding partaking in communion. Rather than seeing this ordinance as a necessary, and even holy part of their church life, the Corinthian Christians had turned it into a way to honor the wealthy, thus neglecting the poor. It was a common practice in the early church to feast together before communion. In Corinth, they invited the wealthy to eat first and only after they had their fill did the poor get in line. In some cases, the food was gone and the rich were drunk. Suffice it to say, this was not an acceptable practice. Paul is writing to correct their behavior and to instill within them a proper understanding of communion.

“What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God…”

First, Paul points out that coming to the communion table is different from coming to the dinner table. We must come looking for and expecting something different from when we gather to eat. The expectation is we are meeting with Jesus. Communion was not designed as a religious ritual, but as a means of experiencing fellowship with Christ. The last supper, when this ordinance was established, was a very intimate time. The disciples gathered around the table with Jesus as He spoke with them, and it was at that time, John laid his head in Jesus’ lap. Communion is primarily a time to draw near to Christ. It is through the cross we have access to the Throne of Grace, where we meet with God.

“Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

Second, communion is a time of reflection. Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of Me.” The word remember carries the idea of bringing thoughts together or recollecting. Throughout the day we have scattered thoughts about Jesus. Our time with Him is interrupted by responsibility or distraction, but at the communion table we bring our thoughts into the captivity of Christ, and we focus upon what he has done for us. There are five points that we are encouraged to focus upon. First, we should look in. Paul encourages us to examine ourselves. There, with the cross in view, we look at our life to see if our practices are acceptable to God. It is important that this be done in the shadow of the cross, so we do not leave condemned, but forgiven. Are there practices in your life that need to be set aside in light of Christ? Second, we should look back. Communion affords us the opportunity to examine the cross and reflect upon Christ’s great sacrifice. When we see the brutality of the cross, we can then begin to understand the depths of His love. Each time the whip strikes His back, or the nails are driven, it is a reflection of Heaven’s love. Third, we must look up. The cross is not the end, but rather the doorway to heaven’s throne. It is through the cross, we have access to God. We are encouraged to come boldly to the Throne of Grace, where, in daily fellowship, we can receive pardon for sin, and grace to continue on in Christ. We have not only been saved from sin, we are also saved to Christ. We should be experiencing His life flowing into ours. This happens as we access the Throne of Grace. Fourth, we must look forward. Paul spoke of us “proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes.” The great hope of the believer is that Jesus rose from the dead and will return one day for His church. He calls us His bride, and the marriage supper of the Lamb awaits the child of God. Communion should ever remind us, and prepare us, for the return of Jesus. Finally, we should look out. Again, Paul wrote that with communion we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Communion is the Gospel. Jesus bled and died to save sinners, any and all who receive Him will be forgiven. While communion is a practice for the Christian, it is done in a way to illustrate our need for a savior and to draw men to Christ. The broken bread reminds us of what our sin did to Christ, the cup reminds us of what His blood does for us.

Whenever your church partakes of communion, you should make it a habit to be there, and to bring your unsaved friends.

Pastor Jim

Questions for 1 Corinthians 11

  1. Paul says to imitate him just as he imitates Christ. There are other places that we are told to imitate Christ directly, but the reality remains that the witness of our lives can be a powerful help to showing others what Jesus is like, and how to live for Him. Whose lives are you influencing? Are you living your life in a way that you can say the same thing Paul said here?
  2. In verse 2 and 3 Paul deals with the issue of God’s order, and the authority within that order. In the same way that the Father and the Son were equal but the son was under the authority of the Father, so husbands and wives. What are the benefits of having a clear head of house? What happens when the flesh affects how a person leads? Read Matt 20:20-28 to see how Jesus told us leadership should work.
  3. In verses 4-10, Paul talks about “head coverings”, which were a cultural symbol of being under authority. In essence Paul was saying to live their lives in a way outwardly that showed that inwardly you agreed with and were in line with God’s established order and authority. Are you living in a way that shows people within your culture that you agree with God’s ways?
  4. Although there are differences between men women, we are still equal. Consider verse 11 and 12. In what ways do these verses put us on equal footing?
  5. Verse 13-16 essentially makes a plea to the believer to consider our culture and our witness to it; and to live honoring God in a way that our culture can understand (acknowledging that in some ways we can never please them). Look at verse 16. Does God have a rule that women must wear a head covering? Is it worth fighting over?
  6. In verse 17-19, what is happening when the Corinthians meet together? What bad motivations are driving this? Read Phil 2:1-11 for an antidote to this.
  7. What is happening when the Corinthians take communion together (20-22)? According to Jesus how should we take communion? (He repeats this in verse 24 and 25) Why is this so important (verse 26)?
  8. Paul tells us that we should never take communion in an unworthy manner. This does not mean that we have to be living perfect lives to take communion (Read 1John 1:8-2:1). The rest of the chapter tells us how to take communion in a worthy manner. What things should we do?

Old Testament:
Job 7- What Are Words For?
Job 8- Look Back

My Way Out

1 Corinthians 10:13
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

Years ago, Isuzu ran an ad where a man, sitting in the lotus position meditating, looked at the camera as if to speak wisdom and said, “I can resist anything except temptation.” I think that could be said of all of us. We often resolve to commit ourselves to the Lord, and make steps toward following Christ more closely, only to be derailed by falling again into one of those easily besetting sins. This is a very common experience.

Paul reminds us of three characteristics about temptation. First, temptation is common to all men. No matter who you are, or how long you have walked with the Lord, you will be tempted to do things that are not pleasing to the Lord, and are costly to your relationship with Him. This is not written to justify sin, but rather to encourage us to guard against failure. Leading up to this verse, Paul reminds us of the Children of Israel in the wilderness. He states, while all passed through the Red Sea, ate the Manna, and drank from the Rock, only a few entered the Promised Land. We are all given the same resources to equip us for success. Only those who take advantage of the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the people of God, will overcome the temptations of the flesh.

Second, Paul reminds us that every temptation has a way of escape. There are a few rare cases when we are hit by a surprise attack, but most of the time, we see temptations coming, and are given multiple ways out. Many of the sins that we commit, we do so because we are alone. If someone else were nearby, we would not do them. I think, a very common way of escape, is to simply pick up the phone or go outside. In those rare cases when we are blindsided with temptation, we must follow the example of Joseph, who fled from temptation, even when it meant having his garment ripped off his back.

Finally, Paul reminds us that God is faithful. We would all admit that the reason we fail is that we are too weak. We attempted to resist, but found that our strength was insufficient, and we gave in. Fortunately, we are not left to fight the battle on our own. Our weakness will always be met with His strength. Often, we fail because we keep our attention fixed on the temptation and on our weakness. We will find victory, when we get our eyes back upon the Lord. When David faced Goliath, his eyes were on Jehovah; when he faced Bathsheba, his eyes on the temptation. Victory will be ours when we keep our attention on the Lord. Paul reminded the Ephesians to “Be strong in the Lord in the power of His might.”

Pastor Jim

Questions for 1 Corinthians 10

  1. Paul finishes chapter 9 talking about how he disciplines himself, so that he is not disqualified from the ministry. He then uses an example of a people who known the power of God and yet were disqualified from the fullness of what God had for them. In verses 1-4, list the ways that they had seen God work in their lives?
  2. Verses 6-7 recall an event from Exodus 32 – read it for background; verse 9 speaks of an event from Numbers 21 – read it for background.
  3. Verses 1-11 draw attention to the children of Israel’s failures. Consider verse 6 and 11. Why is God having us look at Israel’s sin? How can this benefit and help you.
  4. Having looked at these things Paul lays down a principle in verse 12. Rewrite this verse in your own words, as if you were explaining it to a child.
  5. What three things do we learn in verse 13? Spend some time thinking about each of these truths and how they impact your life.
  6. Verses 14-22 deal with idolatry. Idolatry is simply worshipping something other than the one true God. In particular, the subject of a divided heart is dealt with; worshipping both Jesus and other gods. How does a divided heart affect our relationship with God? How does a divided heart affect our relationship with others in the body of Christ?
  7. Read verses 23-24. Paul says that all things are lawful for him. This does not mean that he can do anything he wants, or that unlawful things are lawful for him. It means that if it the scripture doesn’t forbid it then he is free to do it. However, just because he is free doesn’t mean he should. What two questions should we ask about the freedoms we take?
  8. In verse 31, Paul states a wonderful guiding principle to his life. Look at your own life in light of this statement. Where would God like to change your life to bring Him greater glory?

Old Testament:
Job 5- Guidance
Job 6- Who Is Afflicted

For The Gospel’s Sake

1 Corinthians 9:23
Now this I do for the gospel’s sake…”

When writing to the Romans, Paul explained, the message of the Gospel has the power to save the sinner. It is when a person humbles himself and accepts that Jesus Christ died to do away with his sin, that he is saved. In order for a person to come to saving faith, he must hear the message and see the reality of it worked out in the life of the believer. Paul, understanding the importance of the Gospel, explains to the Corinthians the things he was willing to forgo, so others would hear about Christ and believe in Him.

First, he speaks of personal freedoms he was willing to lay aside. In his case, he chose to support himself rather than being supported by the church. Others had misrepresented the Lord by making Christian service look like a means of making a buck. To combat this, Paul made certain, while he was in Corinth, money was not the focus of the ministry.

Second, he speaks of becoming “all things to all men that I might by all means win some.” Paul is in no way suggesting that he is compromising the message of the Gospel, or his Christian witness. Instead, he is speaking of being relevant to those whom he is seeking to reach. One way Paul did this was by speaking to be understood. His goal, as a pastor, was not to use such eloquence as to show the world how brilliant he was, but to speak with such simplicity as to be sure the message was clearly understood. He was also careful not to do things that would turn others unnecessarily away from Christ. He saw the big picture. He understood that many of the views, and lifestyle choices people were involved in, were as a result of not knowing Jesus. Instead of making it his aim to change the behavior of the unbeliever, he sought to introduce them to Christ, who would transform their thinking and their living.

Third, Paul spoke of disciplining himself. He realized, one way to undo all his efforts in Corinth, was to personally get involved in sin, thus “blowing his witness.” To guard against this, he treated his Christian life the way an Olympian treats his body. Knowing that success only comes with training, diet and discipline, Paul was sure to have a healthy diet of time with Jesus, study of the Word, and Christian fellowship, while at the same time keeping unnecessary temptation out of his life.

Finally, Paul writes, “When I have preached to others…” The Gospel is seen when we live like Christ. However, it is primarily, hearing and not seeing the gospel, that leads others to faith in Christ. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” ( Romans 10:17) To ensure that others came to Christ, Paul opened his mouth and declared the simple message of salvation by grace through faith.

Paul wrote, all this was done for the sake of the Gospel. It would do us all good to ask, “What am I doing for the sake of the Gospel?”

Pastor Jim

Questions for 1 Corinthians 9

  1. Read verses 1-2. It seems that some in the Corinthian church were calling into question Paul’s apostleship. What does Paul say is one of the proofs that he has been sent by the Lord? Read Luke 7:35 and 1Thessalonians 2:19. Also note 1Corinthians 4:19
  2. In verses 3-6, Paul continues to defend his apostleship to the Corinthians. He brings up three freedoms that he has surrendered even though he has the right to use them just as other minister did. What are these three freedoms? Especially note the last of these as Paul will spend more time on that in this chapter. Do you have any freedoms that you willingly lay aside for the sake of the gospel?
  3. In verse 7 Paul gives three examples of people who rightly receive the benefits of their vocation. What are these examples?
  4. Read verses 8-14. Paul references an OT verse about allowing an ox to eat while it works. He asks a rhetorical question “Is this really about oxen?” What are the answers he gives? What is this really all about? Note verse 11 and 14. Look up Galatians 6:6.
  5. Read verse 15-19. Although it is reasonable and right for a minister of the gospel to take a salary does Paul take advantage of this privilege? What is his reasoning? What are his motivations for serving?
  6. In verses 20-22 we see Paul’s philosophy on reaching others: he will do whatever necessary (without dishonoring or disobeying God) to reach anyone he can. Consider your own heart. Do you have this mentality? Are you willing to change for the sake of others? Do you consider the best way to relate to someone else so as to reach them with the love of God in Jesus Christ?
  7. In verses 24-27, Paul uses the illustration of athletics. In the Olympics, a person must train for their whole life so that when the opportunity presents itself they are ready. Read 1Timothy 4:7-8 and 2Timothy 4:1-2. Should we be ready? How can we be ready?

Old Testament:
Job 3- Hardships
Job 4- The Innocent

Liberty

1 Corinthians 8:13
“Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

One of the controversies the Church in Corinth faced had to do with diet. Animals were offered to pagan gods, then the meat was sold at the local butcher shops. This created a real problem for many Christians. For some, their conscience bothered them knowing that the animal was offered to false gods, while for others the issue was much more tangible. Since the butcher shops were often located close to the temples, and the temples were places of sinful activity, some knew that visiting that area would lead them right back into sin. For others, the idol issue was something of their past, and they had no problem eating the meat with thanksgiving. To them, it mattered very little what the farmer did with the animal, since they received it with thanksgiving as from the Lord.

Paul points out that the issue was much bigger than what a person has for lunch, or where they choose to go to dinner. The bigger picture was the conflict between Christian liberties and the law of love. Webster defines liberty as, “the power to do as one pleases.” As Christians, we are free to practice anything that is not forbidden by the Word of God. While there are some movies whose content certainly puts them in the category of forbidden, Christians do have the liberty to attend movies. The same could be said of television, music, and the Internet. However, there are some who, because of their past experience, or recent decision for the Lord, would stumble if they practiced the same liberties. It is here that Paul introduces a principle bigger than liberty, the principle of love.

“Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

As much as Paul might have enjoyed a juicy steak, or French dip sandwich, he was willing to lay those aside for the sake of others. Rather than touting about his rights, or how ridiculous it was for them to make an issue over food, Paul saw everything as a means to minister to others. Every Christian has been called to invest in the lives of others, in order to make disciples. For that to happen, we have to be willing to set our freedoms aside for the sake of their growth. Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Within the spiritual realm, we might better choose death over liberties for the sake of the Gospel. My freedom to do what I want with my time, could be laid aside, and I could choose to meet with a struggling believer for coffee and the study of the Word. My freedom to sit alone in service and reflect upon the message, could be set aside to sit with a visitor, or someone I know might be struggling or lonely. My freedom to watch the service online from the comfort of my couch, might be set aside to show up early and help get the church ready for others, or to teach a child’s class.

When we set the law of love above the law of liberty, we will see others impacted for the kingdom of God.

Time is short, eternity is forever…

Pastor Jim

Questions for 1 Corinthians 8

  1. In verse 1 Paul states that knowledge puffs up, but that love builds up. How does love approach people? How does an attitude of superior knowledge approach people?
  2. Note verse 2. What does this tell us about knowledge? Read Proverbs 1:5. What must a person do to continue to be wise?
  3. Our relationship with God is secure through what Christ has done. As Paul begins to deal with some very practical issues about what we should and shouldn’t do, he first lays down a truth that is more important than what we do. What principle does verse 3 teach us? Look up 1Samuel 16:7. How does this verse put the same principle?
  4. Read verses 4-6. What do these teach us about the God of the Bible, and about all other gods?
  5. Corinth was a city that was given over to many false gods. Animals were often sacrificed to these idols, and the leftover meat would be sold for a profit. The Corinthians were saved from this life into a relationship with Jesus Christ. For some of them, eating this meat felt very wrong as it would recall bad memories of pagan worship. Verses 7-8 deal with this guilt. In reality, is there anything spiritually wrong with the meat itself that would corrupt the Christian? Look up Romans 14:14, and 14:17.
  6. More important than the meat is the conscience of the believer. If he is being led by God to put it away because it brings back old memories and temptations, then He should listen to God. Look at verse 10. If a struggling Christian sees another Christian doing the very thing they are struggling with, what does that do to the struggling Christian? Is it right for us to decide what is ok for us to do by comparing ourselves to others?
  7. As you read verse 9-12, pay attention to what these verses say about how our walk can affect others. In verse 13, Paul states how he will live his life so as to not tear down others. What sacrifices are you making to help other people in their relationship with Jesus?

Old Testament:
Job 1= For Nothing
Job 2- Grief

Relationships

1 Corinthians 7:10-11
“A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.”

The Corinthian Christians wrote a letter to Paul asking him some basic questions about how to live out their Christianity. One of those questions had to do with relationships between men and women. Since they lived in a pagan culture, they grew up with pagan examples of how to be single and how to be married. After coming to Christ, they realized God had different standards, and they wanted to learn His ideal for Christian relationships. This chapter is Paul’s response to their question. It is worth noting that Paul writes concerning three groups of people: the single, the married and the separated.

To the single Christian, Paul explains that physical relationships, while designed by God, are restricted to the marriage relationship. In order to remove all doubt about the danger of getting involved physically before marriage, he writes, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” Obviously, he is not speaking about an accidental bump or a handshake, but is referring to the physical acts that arouse and lead to sexual activity. Although it is common, encouraged, and expected for single people today to be sexually active, Paul tells the Christian to wait for marriage.

When it comes to the married Christian, Paul has an entirely different message. He explains that when we are wed, we give ourselves to our spouse. We are no longer two individuals living to fulfill our own wishes, but we have become one. Our lives are now wrapped up inseparably with our spouse.This is particularly true as it relates to our physical relationship. Instead of using sex as a weapon to win our way with our spouse, Paul writes, “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.” Clearly, the affection a wife desires is different from what a husband wants. In order to have a healthy marriage, we must take our eyes off our own desires and place them upon our spouse. Sometimes, the most affectionate thing a man can do for his wife is to clean the kitchen, do the laundry or help the kids with their homework.

Finally, Paul has a message for those whose marriages are falling apart. They have encountered such storms within their relationship, the only course of action seems to be to dissolve the marriage before anyone else gets hurt. Within the culture of the ancient world, divorce was common. When things get difficult, people always seem to look for a way out. Paul’s message might be summed up by saying, difficulty is not a reason to dissolve a marriage, but to work on the marriage. He writes,

“A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.”

The situation he describes is a difficult one. The couple has faced such challenges that one or both, have decided to scrap the marriage and move on. To which Paul explains, we should separate only far enough to work toward reconciliation. If you are facing tough times in your marriage, do not look for a trap door that will release you from the covenant you made before God. Instead, look to how your relationship can be restored. It may be, the only solution is for you to daily sit at the feet of Jesus, and plead for Him to change you and your spouse, and restore your marriage. Obviously, two people are involved, and at times, a spouse may refuse to reconcile, but we must always seek the Lord’s best; not what is culturally common.

If you are married, take some time today to read through 1 Corinthians 7 with your spouse and apply the marriage principles to your relationship. It is not too late for God to make your marriage what He intended it to be.

Pastor Jim

Questions for 1 Corinthians 7

  1. In this chapter Paul deals with a few issues related to marriage. He tackles sexuality and temptation first. He starts by saying that it is good for a man to remain celibate (verse 1, 6-8), but then brings up a good reason to get married (verse 2, 9). What is it? Although this passage does not address them all directly, what other good reasons are there for getting married?
  2. Corinth was famous for being home to the temple of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. One thousand temple prostitutes would descend into the city each evening, enticing the population into immorality. Given the culture that the Corinthians lived in, sexual temptation would be a particularly dangerous trap for them. Read verses 2-5. How are husbands and wives to help one another avoid this trap?
  3. Behind this “marriage bed” counsel that Paul is giving, what are the larger guiding principles? How can be applied to other areas of our marriage and our lives?
  4. Read verses 10-16. Consider a few questions:
  5. When is divorce/separation permissible according to these verses? Look up Matthew 19:3-9 for another permissible scenario.
  6. According to these verses, is it ok to divorce your spouse because they don’t believe in Jesus? Why or why not?
  7. Read verses 17-26, and especially note verses 20 and 24. The principle is that we should not make changing our situation in life (the circumstances outside of us) our priority when we get saved. Rather we should make letting Jesus change us so that we can be tool of blessing right where we’re at. How might God want to use you right now where you are? Are there people (even enemies) that God wants to use you and perhaps you alone to show them love?
  8. Although marriage is a blessing, there are costs as well. Read verses 27-35. What reasons does Paul give for not marrying?
  9. Looking at the rest of the chapter, what verse do you think sums up the issue of getting married versus staying celibate unto God?

Old Testament:
Esther 9- Purim
Esther 10- Exaltation From God

Filter

1 Corinthians 6:12
“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”

There are certain things that God’s Word clearly encourages, and other things that are clearly condemned. Earlier in the chapter, Paul gave a list of actions that, if a person is practicing, they “will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.” Among the forbidden acts are fornication, adultery, homosexuality, drunkenness, and extortion. Clearly, Paul is not saying that unlawful things are lawful for him. Instead, he is saying, he is free to practice all things that are not forbidden, but is careful to add that he will not be controlled by them. Paul is giving us a principle by which he lived his life, a principle we would all do well to follow. Hebrews 12:1 warns us to,

“Lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us…

“Easily ensnaring sins” are sins we are more prone to fall into. For some it is lust, others covetousness, jealousy or envy, while others may struggle with pride or discouragement. We all know what our “easily besetting sins” are. While we all have the same freedoms in Christ, we know if we practice these freedoms, we will fall into sin again.

In order to guard against personal failure, Paul set up a system for success. That system included looking at the grey areas, the things Scripture is silent about, and putting them through a filter. He would ask, “although this is lawful, is it helpful?” When I was a young Christian, I began a practice of asking myself a simple question, “Will doing this help me get to heaven?” I understand we do not earn our way to heaven, but I also understand, there are many things that can trip us up along the way. So, I would examine what I was doing in light of where I was going. Before indulging in the activities so common to our culture, ask yourself if it will help your walk with God, or hinder it.

Some things are so dirty, they must be filtered more than once; so Paul added a second question, “Will practicing this put me under its control?” Jesus died to set us free from the power of sin. One of the great experiences, when a person receives Christ, is the realization that their sin is forgiven, and they no longer have to live under its dominion. That being said, there are many things which will lead us right back under sin’s control.

I once knew a man who had a drug problem, prior to coming to Christ. After months of freedom, he fell again into sin. I asked him what happened, to which he explained, he chose to take a shortcut home that led him by an area where he used to purchase drugs. Before he knew it, he was using again. As a Christian, he was free to drive down whatever road he wanted, but because of his ensnaring sins, if he wanted to succeed, he had to forever avoid that part of town. We all have things which will draw us back into sin. We all must honestly evaluate our lives, if we want to ensure we are not brought back under sin’s power.

What things do you need to remove from your life in order to ensure victory in Christ? Is it time to set aside certain music, TV shows, computer time, or even relationships? Keep in mind, although they may be lawful, they might not be helpful.

Pastor Jim

Questions for 1 Corinthians 6

  1. In this chapter Paul confronts the Corinthians about another problem in their church. What is it? (Note verses 1, 4, 6)
  2. It seems that some of the Corinthians were taking advantage of one another (verse 8) and that the ones being taken advantage of decided it was time to bring them to court. Why is this a bad thing? What does he say would be a better response to being cheated? Read Matt 5:38-48, for Jesus’ commentary.
  3. Paul asks the Corinthians why they can’t find a godly man among the church to settle the dispute. How would the judgment of a man of God differ from the judgment of a human court?
  4. Paul tells the Corinthians that they should be able to exercise good judgment, and that one day they will judge the world and angels. Look up Jude 14-15, and Rev 19:11-16 for a peak into this time.
  5. Verses 9 and 10 list 10 different sins that unrepentant, habitual practice of will bar entrance to heaven. Which of these sins seem most heinous to you? Which least? Consider that although we view them differently, they are all wicked before God, and demand judgment.
  6. Some of the Corinthians lived lives that were dominated by these sins. However look at verse 11. What three things did the Spirit of God do that changed them?
  7. Look at verse 12. Although we have freedom in Christ, we must be careful how we exercise that freedom. According to this verse, what must we consider when we use our freedoms?
  8. Sexual immorality was a problem in the Corinthian culture, and it is a problem in the American culture. Read verses 13-20 what truths about our sexuality are revealed in this passage?
  9. Most view our lives as just that: our lives. What light do verses 19 and 20 shed on that viewpoint? How does the truth of these verses affect how you view your life?

Old Testament:
Esther 7- Mind The Gap
Esther 8- New Ways