Beginning The First Book Of Corinthians
[1st Corinthians 1, verses 1-17]
Today’s Bible study continues our chronological series on the writings of the apostle Paul in the order of their appearance in the Bible. Today we will begin an in-depth study of the first Book of Corinthians in the New Testament. This epistle is the first of two letters the apostle Paul wrote to the early church in Corinth, which is a coastal village located in what is modern Greece today. At the time Paul wrote this, he was addressing a few problems with divisions that were occurring there. With that in mind, I will begin at chapter one and verse one.
“Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes: To the Church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours – grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” [I Corinthians 1: verses 1-3 NIV]
“…(T)ogether with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Simply put, this means everyone who calls upon the name of Jesus has direct access to the unfathomable peace of God the Father and His only Son Jesus Christ. So if you have been praying a prayer for some peace in your life and an end to turmoil and strife, you can stop now because you’ve been praying a redundant prayer. God’s peace and the love of Jesus Christ are already available to us, all we have to do is ask for it with a thankful heart, and we will receive it because God enables us to. Paul then continues:
“I always thank God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him you have been enriched in every way – in all your speaking and in all your knowledge – because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any Spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” [I Corinthians 1: verses 4-9 NIV]
In this passage of Scripture, the apostle Paul continues his theme of all true believers receiving free gifts from God, first through salvation and second through grace. At first Paul is talking about the peace of Christ, which is incomprehensible by human standards (see Philippians chapter 4). But here he also mentions several things that true believers can receive from God if only they will ask with a thankful heart. Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.” I can tell you from personal experience that this simple precept works very well when it is properly applied. But Paul then goes on to say, “I always thank God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus.” Grace can be generally defined as undeserved favor from God. So it is easy to see that grace, like peace, is a very desirable gift. But Paul then expands that statement by saying, “Therefore you do not lack any Spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” Paul goes on much further into the 1st Book of Corinthians about Spiritual gifts, so I will save that topic for another study. But for now Paul continues and begins to address the needs of the church at that time. He starts out with a plea for peace among the members.
“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ’. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanus; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” [I Corinthians 1: verses 10-17 NIV]
Does this sound familiar? As you can clearly see, the various denominations of the church sprang up almost immediately after Pentecost and began competing with each other for members, a behavior that continues to this day. Equally visible is Paul’s consternation over these divisions when he pointedly asks them, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” The same or similar questions could be asked of the church today. Does the church you attend worship and love God with all its heart, mind, soul and strength? Does it love its neighbor as it loves itself? Or is there – such as is the case with many churches today – a cult of personality surrounding the pastor that supersedes everything else having to do with worship and church affairs? If anyone reading this discovers that this is the case with the church they are currently attending, leave quietly at or near the end of the service and never go back there. You could be caught up in a cult without realizing it, and this can happen even to seasoned and mature Christians.
In the modern world, organized religion has gone to extremes as far as the divisions currently existing within the church are concerned. In the United States alone there are over 400 denominations of Christianity. The Catholics preach against the Protestants and the Jews. The Protestants preach against the Catholics and against each other. The Jews don’t have anything to do with much of anybody. In the meantime, the Muslims and the Jews keep threatening to wipe each other out. The Christians and the Muslims don’t get along any better because they can’t seem to stop bombing each other. They can’t even agree on God’s proper name. As a result, several wars have been fought over Israel, and two more much longer wars have been fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. And now, it looks like yet another war is breaking out in Iraq, as if that country needed any more war. Does anyone who reads this think that God is pleased with us for fighting these wars over His name? What do they think God will do to America when His patience with us runs out? When that happens, He will split our land into two, mark my words!
We would serve God a lot better if we all began to unite under the cross of Calvary instead of under a flag. We would also serve God and each other much better if we stopped the fighting in the Middle East and withdrew from Afghanistan. Think of how much money that would save! We’re talking trillions of dollars here, people! And so, beginning today, let us all begin to learn more tolerance towards each other so we can be more united under the one true God. This is how we can carry out Paul’s command to the church. In so doing, we make his words just as relevant today as they were when they were first written nearly 2,000 years ago. God’s word still matters – indeed, it matters more than ever considering the tumultuous times we live in. So let’s start living by His Word so we can have an enriched and enhanced life.