Archive for category 1 Corinthians
“God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. . . . The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. Who ever knows what you’re thinking and planning except you yourself? The same with God—except that he not only knows what he’s thinking, but he lets us in on it. God offers a full report on the gifts of life and salvation that he is giving us. We don’t have to rely on the world’s guesses and opinions. We didn’t learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we’re passing it on to you in the same firsthand, personal way.
The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can’t receive the gifts of God’s Spirit. There’s no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness. Spirit can be known only by spirit—God’s Spirit and our spirits in open communion. Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God’s Spirit is doing, and can’t be judged by unspiritual critics. Isaiah’s question, “Is there anyone around who knows God’s Spirit, anyone who knows what he is doing?” has been answered: Christ knows, and we have Christ’s Spirit” (1 Cor 2:6-16).
So far in our reflections on Paul’s ministry in Corinth we have discovered that the message corresponds to God-logic, not human wisdom, and the two are often in opposition to one another. In other words, if you’re drinking in deeply of the latest, greatest in human pop-wisdom — often the latest theories of the university curriculum — you may be moving further than away from the “foolishness of God” which is far superior. Second, the people of God, believers who respond to Paul’s gospeling, are God-chosen and God-empowered to active faith in the gospel and a life of following Jesus.
Today’s passage goes a step further in showing that believers are largely at the mercy of God’s Spirit awakening to understand the deeper spiritual realities of faith. The classic term for the Spirit’s work of making spiritual things understandable to largely “unspiritual” people — those Paul might elsewhere call “infants” in the faith — is ILLUMINATION. I will just call it the reality of becoming “God-taught” believers. Read the rest of this entry »
1-2You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.
3-5I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it—and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else. (1 Cor 2:1-5)
The Bible is filled with freaked out, tongue-tied messengers commissioned with bringing God’s Word into risky situations. Moses stammers when he speaks but is told to go to pharaoh. Jeremiah thinks he’s too young and inexperienced but that doesn’t get him off the hook. Paul had a reputation for being impressive in writing but awkward in person.
Those of us pastors and speakers who have the privilege to share God’s Message with others regularly can gain reassurance from passages like this that remind us that even the great apostle had many moments of uncertainty and doubt. Do you find it encouraging to know that even Paul “felt totally inadequate” and “scared to death” at times? I do.
Do you speak, preach or teach regularly to groups? Do you go through deep valleys of uncontrollable self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy in ministry? This can be a weight that sinks your ministry under the waters of despair, or it can be the thing that drives you to become more dependent on God’s power in your ministry. Paul’s greatest legacy was his utter dependence on God to be his “strength in weakness.” He believed with every bone in his body that the effectiveness of his ministry — his preaching of the Message — depended on God’s power.
But sharing the message of the gospel is not a task reserved for pastors and preachers. We are all called to “give a reason for the hope that lies within us” and share this with others “with gentleness and respect.” So, what pointers can we glean from Paul above as we strive to become God-empowered messengers of the Kingdom?
- Don’t try to impress your hearers (v. 1). You’re not an entertainer, you’re a messenger entrusted with a life-changing Word to share.
- Keep it simple (v. 2). Dressing up the truth to make it more appealing, funny or cute can lead people to grab onto the wrong thing. Keep it simple.
- Keep Jesus at the center (v. 2). Make sure everything comes back to Jesus insofar as possible: “First Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did.”
- Be real, be vulnerable (v. 3). Paul is not afraid to tell his flock of his personal doubts, fears and struggles. We shouldn’t either. Sincerity earns you credibility with your audience.
- Depend on God (vv. 4-5). Always. Your message is only effective if the Holy Spirit works through it. “Let go and let God.”
This is hitting home for me right now as I labor to be a faithful and effective messenger of God’s Word. I thank God for choosing people like Paul, and inspiring his writings like this and placing them in the holy Scriptures to encourage ordinary people like me who are also “unsure of how to go about this, and feel totally inadequate.”
It’s a good thing it’s not really about us. The ministry of the gospel is God-empowered ministry.
Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.” (1 Cor 1:26-31)
This passage reminds me of an after-school special aimed at affirming the geeks and nerds who always get picked last on the playground for flag football teams. In this particular episode the chubby kid is shockingly picked first to play quarterback on the cool team and ends up throwing the game-winning pass as the clock runs out.
In God’s economy, in the formation of the Jesus movement, the upside down (or right-side up?) ways of God’s Kingdom place the “nobodies” front and center in the important kingdom advancing work of God. We’re not the “brightest and the best” in the world’s eyes, but God deliberately chose us to make a point. What’s the point? Everything we do rests on God’s power and is done for his glory. We can’t take credit, get puffed up and boastful. ”Everything that we have…comes from God by way of Jesus Christ.”
This should keep us humble. This should help keep us from looking down on “those people” — whether they be the people we judge as less spiritual, less generous, less gifted, less religious, less committed, less kind or whatever. We’re all part of Jesus fold of ragamuffins by his amazing grace. We should in turn be gracious to others as we invite still more fools, geeks, nerds, misfits, jerks, and junkies into this new life we’re living “by way of Jesus Christ.”
It’s simply amazing that the high king of the universe and creator of the world decided to start his revolution of reconciliation by calling uneducated fishermen and despised tax collectors — not to mention a significant contingent of faithful women disciples. And he’s still adding to them today. So, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.” God has chosen us; we’re on the team — and the victory is already ours.
We begin a short series of reflections on Paul’s ministry in the pagan metropolis of Corinth and how he went about proclaiming the gospel and making disciples.
“The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written,
I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
I’ll expose so-called experts as crackpots.
So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn’t God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.
22-25While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.” (1 Cor 1:18-25)
How many of our current evangelistic and apologetic approaches today have as their main goal to make the Christian faith rational, sensible and culturally respectable? When Paul settled into the busy, hustle and bustle pagan metropolis of Corinth in ancient Greece to begin sharing the message of Christ he seems to have taken a different approach. Read the rest of this entry »