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Category: 1 Corinthians

Paradox

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 ESV)

As I read through 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 today I was reminded of all the paradoxes that exist within the kingdom of God. The first must be last. The least will be the greatest. The greatest must be servant of all. The humble will be exalted. The proud will be humbled. The foolish shame the wise. The weak shame the strong. But why?

Because God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts. Because “God chose”. And He chose so that no human being could boast in His presence and that He would receive all the glory that He is due. So, as Paul Baloche likes to sing, I will boast in the Lord my God. I will boast in the One who’s worthy.

Build others up in language they can understand

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul is instructing the belivers in Corinth in the practice of orderly worship and, in particular, the use of the spiritual gifts of speaking in tongues and of prophecy. While the gift of tongues is one to be desired, it is acknowledged as a spiritual language to communicate with God and therefore really only benefits the person that is speaking in tongues. Prophecy on the other hand is for the edification of the hearers and is useful for encouraging and building up the church.

Regarding tongues Paul says, “There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, but if I do not know the meanting of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me.” (1 Cor 14:10-11)

Also, “if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may  be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up.” (1 Cor 14:16-17)

Paul’s context in writing this letter was to a spefic group of belivers in Corinth, dealing with very specific issues and concerns within their specific church. However, as I read through this section today, my application is out of context but equally applicable. I think that sometimes in today’s church, we have a tendency to speak “Christianese”. We talk our own language that only we, who are already within the church, underdstand. Consequently, we can tend to (at worst) alienate those outside the church and (at best) not impact those around us with an effective presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ because no one really knows what we are saying. We’re speaking the lingo and the dialect of the church to the unchurched and there is no one around to interpret for us. So, when we share the Good News, outsiders are unable to say “Amen” because they don’t know what we are saying.

That’s why I think the most effective way to minister to those outside the church is to simply share our personal testimony of how the gospel has impacted our own life. And to do it in a way that uses language that all men and women can understand (especially those outside the faith). Leave out all of the Christian “buzz words” and just share in laymen’s terms what our life was like before Christ and how it has changed since Christ. And most importantly, don’t just tell them but demonstrate it.

Sexual Immorality

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” ~ 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

Reading this passage this morning causes me to reflect on the fact that many of us who profess the name of Christ are getting it wrong. Paul is writing to the church in Corinth and at the beginning of chapter five references a very specific issue of sexual immorality that he is encouraging the church to deal with. He then, in verses 9-13 quoted above, makes it very clear that his instructions on how to deal with sexual immorality are specific to how to deal with those inside the church, not outside. And this is where I think too many of us Christians are getting it wrong. Don’t misunderstand me, we have been called to be set apart, we have been encouraged and empowered to not conform to the patterns of this world, we have been sent out to be salt and light to a lost and thirsty world. But have we been doing those things in the right spirit, with the right motivations and to glorify the right person?

I’m not even going to touch on the words “sexual immorality” or how the Bible defines it because the word that weighs on my mind this morning is the word “judge”. Unfortunately, the church seems to be known more for what it’s against lately than for what it is for. It seems as though the voice of the church is loudest when it is decrying some behavior, group or decision that is contrary to the (perceived) collective values of the church. Instead of being set apart and becoming known for loudly proclaiming the love of Christ (with words and actions), the church instead has set itself apart and become marginalized by continually judging those that are not living as we believe they should.

How dare we. How dare we forget that it is only by God’s grace and the indwelling Spirit that we are even able to live a life free from the sin that so easily entangles and that we see all around us. How dare we expect anything else from dead men and women that have not yet put their lives to death in Christ only to be raised with him again into a new life that is redeemed and able to please and glorify God. Should we expect anything else from those outside the church. As I mentioned in my post titled, “Instruments for Righteousness“, those outside the church are slaves and in bondage to another master.  And apart from Christ and without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they are unable to please God. So rather than looking upon them in judgement, I pray that we would see them through the eyes of Christ. That we would approach them in compassion, extending grace and mercy to them without expecting anything in return. But simply because that is what Christ did for us. While we were still sinners, He loved us. And before we do any of this, perhaps we should take a look in the mirror so as to remove the plank from our own eye.

Peace!

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