Within the Corinthian church, there was confusion and controversy, misunderstanding and abuse regarding spiritual gifts. And there remains confusion and controversy, misunderstanding and abuse regarding spiritual gifts in 21st century Everett. No other area of Christian doctrine has been subjected to so much confusion and debate. This week we will examine the Apostle Paul's teaching regarding spiritual gifts. Paul beautifully unpacks the reason for the diversity of spiritual gifts and their function in the church.
Sadly, the Corinthian church worship services were out of control, disorderly and sinful. They were not pleasing to God. And so Paul shifts topics from teaching them about how to conduct themselves individually, to instructing them on what they should and shouldn’t do in a worship service. Paul desires that when they gather to worship the Lord, it be done with reverence and respect, that they would be loving toward each other, that their worship service be distinguished by love for God and one another and orderly. The Corinthians are in desperate need of reforming their worship gatherings and Paul teaches them in chapters 11-14 about the changes they need to make.
The great conflict that Paul has been addressing in chapters 8-10 is the Corinthians misuse of their Christian freedom in selfish ways. They did not consider how their actions were affecting others or impeding the spread and progress of the gospel. Paul calls them to a higher and better way. A life driven to glorify God and seek the good of others. Paul beckons them to follow the example of Christ.
Through the Lord's Supper, the church is reminded that we belong to Jesus. This meal is a precious gift whereby we participate in the body and blood of Jesus and have fellowship with him. Through this meal we are nourished by Christ and the benefits of his death. And because we belong to Him, we cannot participate in the worship of any other being or thing. The Lord is jealous for our devotion and worship. We must guard our hearts and minds from being deceived into false worship.
In chapter 10, Paul continues to address the issue of exercising Christian freedom incorrectly. He addresses the Corinthian's insistence to use their Christian freedom to visit pagan temples and participate in a meal in which the food has been sacrificed and offered to idols. Here Paul takes his strongest stance, saying these meals are expressions of idolatry and warns the Corinthians of the dire consequences of persisting in idolatry. And he uses Israel’s history to do so. Paul cites examples of God’s people who did NOT exercise self-control, turned aside to idolatry and suffered mightily for it and failed to obtain the prize of eternal life. Paul follows his warning with a great encouragement, that those who exercise self-control, striving to resist sin shall be aided by God and provided a means of escape from temptation.
Fatherhood is a magnificent gift of God. And in honor of Father's Day, we are going to jump out of our series in 1st Corinthians and focus our attention on God’s Word as it relates to fathers. God is the Father of all. God is a good and perfect Father. God has created Fatherhood and hence, God has instructions on how to be a good and effective father. This morning we examine God's Word to the Ephesians and his instructions to fathers regarding their responsibility to lead, teach and equip their children to live in such a way that pleases God.
Paul in the previous chapter, had been teaching us that love constrains liberty. Just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean it’s always loving to do it. And in Chapter 9, we see Paul practicing what he preaches. He restricts his own freedom so that the gospel may go forth unhindered. Love constrains liberty in Paul’s life. He refuses and relinquishes his rights for the sake of others. Where does this desire come from in his life? How is it, in an entitlement culture when everyone else is demanding their rights, Paul surrenders his rights for the sake of others? Paul does this because the great burden of his life is that the Gospel might never be hindered. So Paul refuses to be compensated by the Corinthians for his ministry among them. He doesn't want anyone claiming that Paul is only in it for the cash. He wants the Gospel to come to them freely because it is a Gospel about a salvation that is free. Those who really grasp the wonder of the Gospel will do almost anything to get out of the way of the Gospel to let it come with full force and power for the good of others, even let go of their rights.
As we come to chapter 8, Paul begins to address the topic of Christian liberty as it relates to eating food sacrificed to idols. And if we are not careful, we may be tempted to think this chapter has nothing to offer us and want to skip over it. And that would be a big mistake. In the church, we are not perfectly unified on the expressions and boundaries of the freedom we have in Christ. For example, for some, their Christian conscience may provide them the liberty to vote a certain way or own a gun or consume alcohol. For others, their Christian conscience may not permit these things. So how shall we, the body of Christ, called to live in unity, treat each other? How then do we move forward together? What should guide our behavior when we disagree? This what the next 3 chapters of 1 Corinthians is about: Differing views in the church regarding Christian freedom and conscience and how to live together in peace and in a way that pleases God.
In the second half of 1 Corinthians 7, Paul speaks about Christian contentment, regardless of our lot. And vital to experiencing contentment in our lives is understanding the call of God towards us. Paul argues that true, holy, lasting contentment does not come by way of vocational change or change in social status. Rather, Christian contentment comes from understanding the call of God towards us. Our earthly status is inconsequential when it comes to living for Christ and being satisfied in him. Furthermore, Paul affirms Christian freedom as it relates to marriage and lends his advice on how presently engaged couples should proceed. Believers in Christ are free to marry or remain single, each circumstance has its own spiritual advantages. But whoever marries must marry a fellow believer in the Lord.
Motherhood is a high calling. And the primary tasks of a godly mother are to commend the works of God to the next generation. The role and value of motherhood cannot be overstated. Mothers are invaluable, their worth is incalculable and their effects eternal. I cannot think of a more valuable calling! May the Lord grant you all joy and success, may God himself strengthen you as you raise your children to know and fear the Lord.