1 Corinthians 15 Part 1–The Gospel

One of the most simple but amazing messages ever penned. Paul laid the gospel out for the Corinthians in an orderly and relative manner. Christ died, He was buried, he rose and appeared to many people over a period of time that can be verified. Paul was helping all to remember this was so much more than a religion.  It was a relationship with a living God and a living Savior.  That relationship changed the lives of the Apostles–none were anything extraordinary–but then, upon his resurrection–these guys changed the world. Especially Paul!
 
Paul went from religious zealot to humble and grateful servant; bringing this gospel across the gentile world. It cost him his fortune, his freedom, and ultimately his life. Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand why it was worth it. This was no religious ritual, it was a life-changing relationship; put in place through the death of God’s son. Same is still true. We are blessed beyond measure, simply because of the very same gospel. He died and rose for us! we owe God everything–but all He seeks is our faith, belief, and submission to His plan. 
 
Thanks, Lord, for Your Gospel–Your gift, for Your sacrifice, and for Your desire to remain in relationship with us!
 
God Bless You

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve.After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

I Corinthians 14 Part 2–Gifts and Worship

Paul continues his discussion about spiritual by reminding the Corinthians that the gifts are for the edification of the church.  Paul speaks in tongues regularly, but he was clear that for church edification, to speak in tongues without being able to interpret does not serve a worshipful purpose. Paul wants the Corinthians and believers, in general, to weigh the value of their worship on its edification to the church and others, not on how it makes one feel.
 
We need not avoid or ignore what God does in our lives.  If we are gifted to speak in tongues, great.  But for the purpose of worship, that should only take center stage when it can be interpreted. We need to make sure as we grow in the Lord, that we are consistently seeking His will and purpose for our lives. We should embrace all God is willing to impart in our lives. 
We need not take that which He has given us, and allow pride to keep us from being grateful for the gift and humble in our exercise of it.  
 
God Bless You

 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

13 For this reason, the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer,[d] say “Amen”to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church, I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

I Corinthians 14 Part 1–About Spiritual Gifts

Paul continues to discuss the way of love and focuses upon the gifts of the spirit.  Paul was not discouraging the desire to have the ability to speak in tongues, prophecy, interprets tongues, or heals the sick.  Paul instead was reminding the people that those things are an outpouring of the relationship we have with the Lord and their use should be for the growth of that relationship and the edification of others. From Paul’s perspective, God continues to look at what is coming from our heart and as He blesses His children with the spiritual gifts–it is the Father’s desire that they are used as tools for personal and community development of the body of Christ.
 
The same remains true today. When we follow the Lord, He will grant us spiritual gifts to assist us in our personal walks with Him and to develop the body of Christ. We should not fear the gifts, judge folks for which gifts they manifest nor use God’s gifts to honor ourselves.  Instead, we should seek Him and His Kingdom first. as we do, we can then allow the Father to transform us into His image and lead us toward Him.  If we are to be prophets, speakers of tongues, interpreters, healers or which other gifts he chooses to grant–then as we operate in those gifts, we should do so humbly and with the intent of glorifying God and not ourselves. It was never God’s intent to cause division through equipping His saints–but, you can rest assured the enemy will use anything to neutralize and minimize the church’s impact on the world–division is one of Satan’s best tools!
 
God Bless You

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue[a] does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues,[b] but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues,[c] unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.

Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

I Corinthians 13 Part 2–The Greatest Gifts

Love never fails, or ends! Paul continued his discussion about spiritual gifts, He wanted to shift the focus from the manifestation of the gifts, and return the discussion to the true gift.  Love is God’s greatest gift to us and for us.  Without Love, life loses all its luster and purpose.  God designed people to be in relationship with him and with each other.  The common theme in that design is the gift os Love.  So Paul encouraged the Corinthians to see the word from the perspective of God’s chosen and not focus on tongues, prophecy leadership or one of the other spiritual gifts but to instead focus upon Love. When God’s people can focus upon him and his love, then the outpouring of the gifts are abundant.  Christians use the gifts to serve God and His people.  They were never supposed to be the prize, they were to be the tools to lead the world to God, the real prize.

In our lives, God has shown us that it is the same.  In the midst of a chaotic culture, those who are faithful, hopeful and loving are the ones that truly experience peace and purpose.  Whether or not they are doing miraculous things or simply laying their lives down for Christ and the family of God, God gets the glory and we enjoy his grace and power.  We cannot fully understand God’s plan for our lives.  It is so much bigger than we conceptualize. But if we trust him,(Faith), remain hopeful (Hope) and love Him (love); then he will pour out his blessings in our lives and prepare us to be a light and a guide to others.  Let’s cling to the great gifts–Faith, Hope, and Love and allow him to reveal other gifts in His timing!

God Bless You

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.12 For now, we see in a mirror dimly but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I Corinthians 13–The Impact Love Has on our Faith and Our Ministry

Paul came to what many would call the climax of his letter to the Corinthians. It was the discussion to end all questions about Life, sacrifice and talent.  It reframed the entire discussion of faith into one single word. Love. Paul starts the discussion with what love is not–1. Love is not saying the right words or teaching the right doctrines–because to do so without love is both noisy and annoying.  2. Speaking the truth and foretelling the mystery of life is not love; to do so without love is worth nothing. 3. Personal sacrifice in deed or death is not love, because making a sacrifice without love gains one nothing.
 
Paul then addresses what love is–it is patient, it is kind, it is humble, selfless, graceful. It does not act brash, rude, boastful nor does it snicker at the sins and crimes of others. Love rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, endures all things, it is always hopeful and always positive about others.  Love is quite simply what we are all about.  
 
When operating out of love the “religious activities” naturally occur.  Amazingly, they are more beautiful, helpful and meaningful when they come from the love we have for God and for one another. As in everything else in Christianity God looks at our hearts, not our deeds.  If our heart is right, the deeds happen. But using the deeds as a way to gain approval, when done without love is a distorted mess. That is the heart of love and that is the heart of ministry.
 
God Bless You

 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

I Corinthians 12 Part 3–Unity in our Diversity

Continuing the thoughts from  Church Families, It is important not only to realize that different people have different gifts and one should not be considered more or less important; it is equally important to utilize and hold accountable the body to do its part.  In Corinth, everybody wanted to be showy roles. I want to be on stage, I want to get the handshakes and pats on the back. Paul wanted the Corinthians and Church in general to realize two things. If you are a hand, pick things up. If you are an eye, look at things if you are a foot, then step lightly. Whatever God has gifted one to do, He did for a purpose and that purpose is grand. 
 
Second, The Church need not focus on the gifts, jobs or elected positions given to its members…they need to focus on Christ. If a church focuses on the gifts, then people, not Christ, get the glory. That always leads to division, destruction of the family, inevitable favoritism, and disenfranchising. Churches lose valuable members doing amazing work simply out of neglect and selfishness. If the body would focus on the Savior, them its members would do all they could to use their giftings to support and build up the rest of the members. Then, like a well-trained athlete, the body would work together to achieve awesome results. 
 
In our day, the goal is the same. Let us use the gifts the Lord has given us and do so for His glory, not caring about praise for ourselves. If we will, then we will see the church at its best and we will be a major part!
 
God Bless You
 

24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

I Corinthians 12 Part 2–The BODY of Christ

As a church, Paul likened the family of God as parts of a body.  This was an especially keen example for the people of Corinth because, as a port city, it was a fashion hub. The Corinthians were all about how they looked and what the had.  They all wanted to keep up with the best and the elite.  So, when Paul was explaining spiritual gifts, it probably resonated that like a body, not every part could be attractive.  But, there was so much more. In reality, the attractive parts of the body, hair, height, eye color are not what keeps the body alive. It is the pancreas, the liver, the colon. It is teeth, kidneys, and feet. So many of our unattractive parts are vital to the survival of the body.  
 
Paul wanted the people to grasp the idea that it takes all the parts to make the body function properly. What is more, if parts are not healthy, the entire body suffers. One need only have a toothache or ear infection to realize how it affects the entire body. It makes as little sense to minimize the different roles within the church, as it does to minimize the importance of the different parts of the body. 
 
In our day, we are so much more aware of the critical nature of the ugly parts of the body. Hopefully, we are also aware of the critical nature of the different working parts of the church body. In my various roles within churches, I have seen the invaluable work of those not on stage or in elected leadership. The childcare folks, the trustees, the deacons and AV folks. those that mow lawns or help those in need.  All the people behind the scenes are what help a church body to remain alive and healthy. When those people are not functioning, the rest of the church body suffers greatly.  I can tell you that I am forever devoted to a guy that fixes electrical problems, builds shelves, teaches kids and makes coffee. Week in and week out people all over the church benefit from his quiet and humble devotion to the family, to Christ and to walking humbly with our Lord. He is a critical part of the church and if he is gone or ill, it is like an organ failure–life-threatening. 
 
We must be willing to realize the vital help those behind the scenes give and be willing to fill the less attractive roles knowing that it is those roles that keep a church alive.  Lord, help me to fulfill the role you have for me in the body–even if I am to serve in a role no one ever notices–Make me a liver for You, Lord!!!
 
God Bless You
 

 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it

I Corinthians 12 Part 1–The Distribution of Spiritual Gifts

Next, Paul addressed the issue of spiritual gifts.  The first thing that Paul wanted the people to understand was that the Holy Spirit distributed the gifts, and, as he did, it was never done to become an issue for the church.  The Spirit of God did not operate as a tool for division, nor did the Spirit ever do things that would take glory from God or tear God’s family apart.  So, Paul wanted the people to understand that the distribution of spiritual gifts was never done to divide the church or to make one person a spiritual superstar.  The gifts of encouragement, teaching, prophecy, speaking in tongues, discerning spirits were all distributed to the people for the purpose of making the church stronger.  They were not given out to divide the church or highlight any one person.  So, Paul wanted the people to stop acting as if one gift was more spiritual than another. What Paul hoped to see was that the group used their unique gifts and talents to honor and glorify God!
 
God still distributes the spiritual gifts to his people. The gifts each possess are given to support and build the entire body of Christ. Christians cannot begin to wear their spiritual gifting as some sort of badge or trophy to glorify themselves.  The church should remain submitted to God and humble.  They should use their gifts to help glorify God and build up the entire church. One’s gifts should never point to themselves, but, should always point back to God. As that remains the case, the Church becomes strong and makes an impact on lives and communities. There is no place for division among the Church, and the Spirit would never do anything that would cause such division. Simply put, God gladly distributes the gifts for the edification of all of us in God’s family. If the use of our gifts does anything else–we need to take a look at our hearts and motives.
 
God Bless You

Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers, and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

I Corinthians 11 Part 2–Church is More Than Simply Gathering

The Corinthians never had a problem getting together, in fact, that was one of Paul’s major concerns.  The people were coming to argue and to party.  The regular meeting to take communion had become a combination tailgate party and runway to show the haves vs have nots.  Some people would come to the fellowship and not have anything while others would come and get drunk and eat bread until they were sick. Paul was furious.
First, communion is for remembering the sacrifice Christ, it was not about us. So, when folks came in and used it as a buffet and bar, clearly Christ was neither the focus nor purpose for the communion. 
In addition, If folks were coming to communion underfed and hungry, the church should have been meeting those needs in another forum–not communion.  The church body should not have had a “have’s” and “have not’s” division. It is unthinkable to have such issues in a prosperous and growing church.
 
As believers, we need to keep our focus on Christ, His sacrifice and His leadership.  Communion is an opportunity to stop, take stock and refocus upon Him.  When we come together as believers, we are blessed to share that experience of remembering His sacrifice and love for us. We must never use that time to focus on our needs or our accomplishments.
As a body, Christians must focus on how to serve Christ and the others in His church. We must be proactive in our service and humble in our demeanor–if we will, then the Church will be a family, not a meeting place. Our gathering will be a joyful time and not a time of jealousy, pride, and infighting. Help us, Lord, to gather with the desire of honoring you and not focusing on ourselves.
 
God Bless You

 In the following directives, I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent, I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 11 Part 1–Hair, Hats and Whose in Charge of all That

In the 1st part of I Corinthians 11, Paul speaks directly to the issue of head coverings, haircuts and the hierarchy of roles among believers. In the culture, men had short hair, women had long hair and women wore head coverings and men did not…Paul’s point, do not cause controversy where it is not needed.  Paul was trying to stabilize a church that was growing but also going off the rails. They were dealing with division, immorality and trying to determine significance and relevance in the church. In Paul’s mind–hair, hats and whose in charge of all that needed not to be a point of contention. Paul made it clear–take the controversy out of this.  Be modest, be humble and let God be in charge.
 
That brings us to the 21st century. In our culture, there are so many issues that divide churches. Issues around worship styles, leadership, political and social justice that cause controversy among church families.  If Paul were here, he would say let’s not cause controversy over things that we do not need to. Be modest, be humble and allow God to be in charge.  He will bless his people–when they are seeking Him with their hearts, and adopting His character.  If we, as Christians, will get over ourselves and have the same attitude as Christ (Philippians 2:5-10); then the Lord will bless us and draw folks to His kingdom through us!  Face it–we are human and do dumb stuff. We get all bothered over things God simply does not see as that significant. The truth is, if we are busy taking care of our Father’s business, we will not have time to worry about hair, hats and whose in charge of all that!
 
God Bless You
 

I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man,[a] and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.

A man ought not to cover his head,[b] since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was a man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own[c] head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For a woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.