Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today we will begin studying the first of Paul’s letters to the church of Corinth. This was a city known for its wickedness and depravity (like Vegas on steroids), and the church struggled mightily to resist the world. Paul wrote to them in a spirit of encouragement, love, and instruction, so that they could stand against the wiles of the devil.
Reading: I Corinthians 1
Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
3 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Again, Paul begins every letter with a blessing to the brethren.
4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the mark of the faithful. Paul encourages the brethren by reminding them of the Gifts of the Lord – for they are granted insights and wisdom, the testimony of Christ, and all spritual gifts.
Even in the darkest of places, where spiritual forces of wickedness reign supreme, the Light of Life shines bright. And He will raise us up on the last day.
9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
This reflects a dual message laid out clearly by John <confirm>. In his gospel, we find the lines “no one can come to me unless the father draws him” (as water is drawn from a well), and “no one comes to the father except through me”.
This means that the Father brings us to Christ, and Christ allows us to come to the Father. In all things and in all times, it is the work of the Lord.
10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
As with the church of Ephesus (of which I have previously written), the church in Corinth suffered from disunity and lack of harmony. Already denominations had sprung up, apparently on the basis of who baptized you.
However, there is one Lord, and one Spirit. Surely we must all turn to the scriptures and reflect that same Lord in our messages. If we do this, are not all denominations essentially brethren?
(This is not to excuse any manner of heresy, for those who come in a different Spirit preaching a different Christ are not of the brethren.)
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I am of Cephas; and I of Christ.
“I am Baptist. I am Lutheran. I am Presbyterian. I am Protestant.” Let us all read the scriptures and reflect thim in our teachings – in this way, we are all brethren.
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
Paul is happy not to be part of this contention that splits the church. For it is no honor to be the man who turned his brothers against one another.
17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
I have studied persuasion tactics and rhetoric. I am aware of the difference between dialectic and rhetoric, and I leverage that difference every day.
However, clever words are not necessary to drive the Spirit. If anything, charlatans and liars have done more to distract the brethren with these techniques than any pastor has done to unify them.
Therefore, if you have to choose between the plain Scriptures and clever rhetoric, stick with the plain truth.
18 For the preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
This is the great mystery that divides the believer from the unbeliever. To us, the power of Christ is manifest and clear, but to them it is the rambling of dangerous fools.
Without the Spirit, there is no way to cross from one side to the other, just as one cannot cross from death into life without the Spirit.
19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
In his study of philosophy, Aristotle came extremely close to an understanding of God’s logical necessity. However, despite his great insight and wisdom, he was unable to perceive the nature of God that we now understand. This same is true of many philosophers who lacked the Spirit.
In this age, we see the full manifestation of this truth. The modern philosophers have turned to nihilism, relativism, and other “wisdom” that denies the validity of wisdom. By rejecting the truths of Scripture (on which much of Western philosophical tradition hinges), they have produced foolishness.
22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after widsom:
And today, instead of signs and wisdom, we seek a blending of the two in what we term “science.”
The people of this age demand that they receive a sign which is compliant with the modern wisdom – a manifest impossiblity, as the modern wisdom rejects out of hand any such sign.
23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
Why a stumblingblock and foolishness? Because it is not for men to come to God.
24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
However, it is for God to bring men unto him. These are granted a Spirit which possesses true wisdom, and these see signs and wonders.
As an example, consider those biologists who adhere to the doctrines of Christ. These see the depth and mystery of biology, from the obscenely-intricate 3D code that is DNA to the mechanisms required to translate DNA into an organism.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For God is supreme over all creation – what in creation can match Him?
26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty,
28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought the things that are:
29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
One might reasonably fear that a strong man would not marvel and give glory to God should his strength be increased. The same is true of the naturally smart or wise. Moreover, we can consider that the techniques of persuasion which are so often employed by charlatans and con men, if applied to the mechanism of preaching, would be credited with persuasion rather than the Lord.
So it is that the Lord has made things which are ineffective (preaching, etc.) into the instruments with which he persuades and guides his children. These things which are “weak” and “foolish” are effective because (and only because) God has employed them.
30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sancrification, and redemption:
31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
Let us Pray
Loving and Sovereign Lord, who has dominion over all things, both visible and invisible, we thank You that You are God.
We beseech you, in the spirit of unity and love which you have bestowed unto us, that we may be righteous in the face of a fallen and depraved world. We know that we are sinful creatures of the
flesh, and we are often swayed by the thinking of this world, but You are the Lord.
Give to us the wisdom and signs that only You provide, so that we may preach ever more boldly. For we know that You have commanded us to speak the truth in a world of lies.
Grant us peace, strength, and holiness through your Spirit, in the name of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ,
May you increase daily in the Spirit, and grow in favor with both God and Men.