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. 2 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. 3 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.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends.
Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand–God set standards and kept his people accountable. Israel literally followed God for 40 years prior to taking the promised land. Each day they followed the cloud, each night they saw the pillar of fire. In the midst of the journey they saw seas parted, manna provided water shooting out of rocks…Still, they grumbled, they sinned and they worshipped idols–WITH GOD RIGHT THERE!!! As a result, God made the people accountable, they died, they wandered in the desert they never experienced the blessing God intended for them. Still, He loved them and wanted for them to have all they were promised. Paul summed it up this way–There is nothing that they or you face–that is not common to everyone. God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can handle. Also, all temptation is a choice, and with it comes a way out to not fall into sin.
Nothing has changed. We are a blessed nation. God has provided us freedoms and opportunities few have ever seen. With that comes the temptation to worship idols, to selfishly take without giving back to be prideful and haughty and to forget that it is God that provides and be grateful for what we have rather than being bitter for what we lack. We have opportunities each day to trust and follow God–in both good times and bad. We can never forget that we do not have to choose to sin, to be ungrateful or to forget that HE is Lord and I am not. The struggle is real–every force in the world draws us away from God. We do have the glory of God displayed throughout creation to remind us of God’s supremacy and presence–much like the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire Israel followed. We must continue to trust God–even when it seems impossible. We must remain faithful to the end, just as HE has!!!
God Bless You
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”[a] 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ,[b] as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation[c] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[d] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[e] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
In a world of bi-vocational ministry, Paul speaks out and calls the Corinthians to task. It was important to Paul not to let anything take away from the message. He did not mind working as a tentmaker to support himself if that meant the word would be spread. But, Paul made it clear–Ministry is a job, a career a life pursuit. Those that go after that life pursuit, should be compensated. It is not wrong as a pastor to expect the folks that you pastor to support the ministry. It was not wrong then and it is not wrong now.
In modern ministry, there are so many places to serve. Churches, missions, para-church organizations, foundations and a host of ways to serve. People are bombarded with requests to give and to serve and people become weary and skeptical about giving to causes. The truth is, however, God calls these men and women to serve and to minister. In 1st Thessalonians 5:24 it says, “He who calls you is faithful and He will do it!” Those in ministry cling to the hope and truth of that verse. We who are not in professional ministry have to be ready to accept God’s call to give and allow God to use what we give to advance the Gospel. Do not allow the enemy to rob you of the blessing of giving by making you skeptical of the ministry. Be sensitive to God’s lead and allow Him to bless your gift and you as the giver.
God Bless You
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? 2 Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don’t we have the right to food and drink? 5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas[a]? 6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?
7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”[b] Is it about oxen that God is concerned?10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.
The Corinthians were passionate people. The issues around sexual relations were significant. Paul taught that if it were possible, celibacy was an amazing way to focus on spiritual things. But, as that was not feasible for most, he made clear that sex was a part of marriage and husbands and wives needed to honor the commitment to intimacy by being faithful and not using sexual relations as a tool or weapon. Couples need intimacy. So Paul made clear to couples that except for times of spiritual fasting–be intimate. Do not cheat.
In modern times, the opportunity to escape intimacy is easy. Busy lives, pornography rampant, fidelity considered passe. The ideas of both marriage and family have been reduced to a chaotic former version of what the Lord intended. Still, in our lives, we need to hold sacred the principles of marriage especially intimacy and faithfulness. They are the cornerstone of a healthy family and society. The church must pray and preach fidelity and family to the world so that those most critical pieces of society are not crumbled into a chaotic mess.
God Bless You
Now for the matters, you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7 I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
8 Now to the unmarried[a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
Unity among believers is and has always been a vital part of the health of a church family. Paul had been apprised of the Corinthians tendency to drag each other into court whenever there was an issue. Paul knew that this church was growing and thriving and that the divisions and disputes were a major issue for them. What was worse was that they were parading their problems in front of heathen courts, judges, and spectators making the church a joke to the public. Paul spelled it out well; “How are you going to judge the world if you can’t even settle your personal stuff?!!?”
In our culture, we have made civil and criminal disputes a spectator sport–Judge Judy, Judge Faith, Judge Wapner, 24-hour news cycles all play into the idea that airing the problems and disputes we have are a great way to entertain ourselves. Sadly, such behavior among Christians also makes a spectacle of the Church and the cause of Christ. We, as a family, need to act selflessly and deal with our disputes in a way that preserves what is right, without making us and the church a joke in a world that hates our faith anyway. We must act honorably, but also with the same grace, we have been shown. If we will, then the church will be a light in the most litigious society on earth, and Christ will be glorified in both the good and the bad.
God Bless You
If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? 2 Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? 5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6 But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!
7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters. 9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Paul was shocked and dismayed because the people of Corinth were celebrating a case of sexual immorality in their church. It was not only that they had allowed the behavior to go on, but they were actually making it the “toast of the town”. Paul was crushed. He made it clear that the church must hold the standards in the community. It cannot simply look the other way; or worse, celebrate the sin among the believers. That was, of course, the culture in Corinth. It was a very sinful and sexually immoral place. So, the church in its response would be going against the culture to call the sin what it was. Paul said–You gotta stand firm and call out sin!
In our time, we are faced with the same issues. The media has not only made all forms of sexual immorality OK, but they condemn anyone that would perhaps stand up for what is right. It is a fearful thing to call out sexual immorality, impurity, addiction, and sin. These things are now simply poor choices or unfortunate decisions. As in Corinth, The Church must stand firm and not allow the world culture to shape its view of God and sin. It is not relative and it is not opinion. We must pray for revival and admit that we have looked the other way on way too many issues. Help us, Lord. to stand firm in your truth and be Godly men and women!
God Bless You
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,[a][b] so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case, you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister[c] but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.
David had been through unbelievable pain. He knew that his acts destroyed many lives. Now, the land had seemed to settle down and people were once again accepting David as king–But, then Sheba appeared. Sheba was from Benjamin’s tribe, the tribe of Saul. He declared to the people of Israel that He wanted nothing to do with David–and several followed him. Ultimately, David’s Army sought him out and the people of the city where he was hiding killed, Sheba. The unrest was over. David’s troops returned and no further rebellion happened during David’s reign.
Life is a series of battles and trials. We face them as they come. Some come as a result of our sin and mistakes, others happen because that is a part of life. As one looks at David’s life, it becomes apparent that while God truly loved and blessed David, there was plenty that happened that was not a fairy tale. David had to endure the trials and remain committed to the Lord in good and bad times. Through that, he was able to leave a legacy that truly changed the world. I am sure if you asked David on a day to day basis, many of his days were not the best. We must cling to the hope of our eternal perspective and know that no matter how difficult life can become, God is with us, loves us and has an amazing plan for us!
God Bless You
Now a troublemaker named Sheba son of Bikri, a Benjamite happened to be there. He sounded the trumpet and shouted,
“We have no share in David,
no part in Jesse’s son!
Every man to his tent, Israel!”
2 So all the men of Israel deserted David to follow Sheba son of Bikri. But the men of Judah stayed by their king all the way from the Jordan to Jerusalem.
3 When David returned to his palace in Jerusalem, he took the ten concubines he had left to take care of the palace and put them in a house under guard. He provided for them but had no sexual relations with them. They were kept in confinement till the day of their death, living as widows.
4 Then the king said to Amasa, “Summon the men of Judah to come to me within three days, and be here yourself.” 5 But when Amasa went to summon Judah, he took longer than the time the king had set for him.
6 David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba son of Bikri will do us more harm than Absalom did. Take your master’s men and pursue him, or he will find fortified cities and escape from us.”[a] 7 So Joab’s men and the Kerethites and Pelethites and all the mighty warriors went out under the command of Abishai. They marched out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba son of Bikri.
8 While they were at the great rock in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Joab was wearing his military tunic, and strapped over it at his waist was a belt with a dagger in its sheath. As he stepped forward, it dropped out of its sheath.
9 Joab said to Amasa, “How are you, my brother?” Then Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. 10 Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab’s hand, and Joab plunged it into his belly, and his intestines spilled out on the ground. Without being stabbed again, Amasa died. Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba son of Bikri.
11 One of Joab’s men stood beside Amasa and said, “Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab!” 12 Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the middle of the road, and the man saw that all the troops came to a halt there. When he realized that everyone who came up to Amasa stopped, he dragged him from the road into a field and threw a garment over him. 13 After Amasa had been removed from the road, everyone went on with Joab to pursue Sheba son of Bikri.