Monday, August 26, 2019

Overview of First Corinthians - Compromise

To handle troublemakers in his school, one principal created a detention class. Students that misbehaved would go there at the end of the school day and sit for thirty minutes. They couldn’t talk, do schoolwork, nap or use their phone. They had to sit for 30 minutes and listen to Frank Sinatra music. The amount of class disruptions went down dramatically as the kids shared of this cruel and unusual punishment.

Last week we discovered God has a plan for troublemakers. He uses them to show the difference in His will and man’s will. They provide the contrast between the saved life and the lost life. How He deals with troublemakers becomes a deterrent to others who might also consider rebelling. The consequence of the troublemakers’ actions warns others not to go down the same road they went down. 

The essential problem with Corinthian Christians was their practice of blurring the line between worldly and spiritual. Within that blurred line, they were acting like what they weren’t – natural men. Paul coined the phrase when he described them as fleshly – saved people living like their salvation made no difference in how they lived, who regularly gave in to the urgings of their flesh instead of resisting and seeking God’s best.

Paul accused them of living as though there was no distinction between Christians and people of the world, and as though how they lived had no effect on their fellowship with God.

1Cor 1:9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  

Relationship is the result of being right with God. Fellowship is the result of living right with Him.

We saw that, in troublemakers who were willing to divide instead of unify the church. Today, Paul broadens his concern to include compromising troublemakers. The lesson: to teach us God is faithful to provide the building materials for an uncompromised life.

1Cor 3:11-15 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 

Paul saw that the Corinthians were compromised by what they were allowing into their lives. A little God, a little paganism. A pinch of God, a splattering of sensuality. A dab of God, a grab from their old ways. How could he get them to understand they couldn’t fellowship with God if their priority was fulfilling selfish desires? By showing the consequences of building a house using substandard materials.

If you’ve been to Home Depot or Lowe’s, you’ve seen substandard materials mixed in with the good stuff. Builders will pick over the boards, selecting the straight ones and leaving the crooked ones behind. Why do they leave them behind? Those boards are essentially useless. You can’t build a solid, straight wall with crooked boards. 

Ever wonder what happens to the crooked boards? Occasionally you’ll find them in a discounted bin, a clearance rack. Because the store knows that at a reduced price somebody will think they’re worth buying, take them home and try to use them to build something.

The Corinthians were using material from the clearance rack to build their lives and the results were disappointing and the quality of their lives was inferior.

Typical in comparisons in Scripture, Paul uses extremes to make his point. He contrasts building materials of wood, hay and straw with gold, silver and precious stones. It is unlikely anyone would consider using gold and silver and precious stones. He was making a point to distinguish lasting value from temporary value. Wood, hay and straw had no lasting value. Gold, silver and precious stones did. 

His point? Make sure the material you’re using to build your life has lasting value, that it makes a long-term difference, that you don’t invest in one-night stands to fulfill some desire in your life instead of a life-time commitment. 

Don’t cheapen your life when He wants you to have heaven’s riches.

Young son-in-law-to-be was assigned the task of supervising the building of a new house. He was given a budget and told to build it for this amount. Needing extra money for the honeymoon, he cut corners, used inferior quality materials, substandard workers and pocketed the extra money. When his father-in-law-to-be returned, he presented the house to the young man as a wedding gift.

A life, like a house, will be inferior if built with inferior materials. Such as: giving in to the passion of fleshly desires rather than seeking the provisions of the Spirit.

Gal 5:19-23 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these

Eating junk food satisfies a moment but adds no value to our diet. Paul says, when our primary diet is the world’s junk, we will not build a healthy spiritual life. A life based on junk produces a life that disappoints rather than delights us in what God has promised. Why? It can’t sustain our lives.

A Snickers bar may give me satisfying delight and a burst of energy when I eat it, but soon after it’s all gone, I’m back where I was, wanting another.

The junk the world offers to satisfy, but instead, creates desires inconsistent with godliness. Fear, worry, anger, hatred, rebellion, jealousy, greed cannot achieve the righteousness of God. But when we accept those as normal, we forfeit what the Spirit is offering: the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control 

In Luke, Jesus is teaching a crowd described as many thousands of people. He says many of the things He said during the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, which probably means this was the same teaching. He said:

Luke 12:7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. 

Matt 6:25 For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 
What’s Jesus saying? Can we get a little perspective on what’s most valuable?

Matt 6:31-33 Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 

The message: God will provide everything you need for a meaningful and satisfying life.

Luke 12:13-15 Someone in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." But He said to him, "Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?" Then He said to them, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions." 

Your mind is in the world. You’re addicted to the junk food. You think what you possess gives your life value. You are mistaken. You’ve missed the message.

Luke 12:16-21 And He told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said, 'This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." 

Nothing this man did was wrong. He was a successful businessman making a plan and working that plan. Why did God call him a fool? His motive was greed. He had built his whole life on things that only had temporary value and by his desire to only satisfy himself, had missed the greater value of what God could have done in his life. 

Jesus prayed for His disciples and us: John 17:15-16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 

One of the hardest jobs we have as Christians is to live in the world and not be of the world. Being in the world means we are earth-focused, that right and wrong are determined on ground level by society, that the highest priority in life is to satisfy ourselves here and now. Not being of the world means we live with a higher calling, resisting the downward spiral of earthly desires that lead to unrighteous behavior.

What the world allows, God tells us to run from. Why? These desires influence a lifestyle contrary to who we are in Christ. Old computer term: GIGO – garbage in/garbage out. What I allow into my life will come out of my life.

Gal 6:7-8 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 

Or we harvest what we plant. Each seed has the life of the plant in it. What will grow is the life contained within the seed.

  • Can’t plan seeds of discord and expect unity. 
  •  Can’t plant seeds of hatred and expect love.
  • Can’t plant seeds of worry and expect peace.

But you can plant:

  • Seeds of trust and expect God’s faithfulness.
  • Seeds of surrender and expect God’s guidance.
  • Seeds of commitment and expect God’s goodness.

Invest in growing a strong spiritual life. A life built on the provisions of God will stand.

Luke 6:47-49 Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.

What’s the storm? Paul told the Corinthians God was going to test the quality of each man’s work, the content of his life. Those tests are described as fire. The fire will be severe and consuming. But the well-built house will stand. Because the material God provides can withstand the flames, like gold, silver and precious stones. What God provides gives us everything we need for godliness and righteous behavior.

2Pet 1:3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 

Remember the goal: fellowship with God. Fellowship with God is reflected in a life devoted to Him. To maintain fellowship with God, I must live intentionally, without compromise. That’s Paul’s message to the Corinthians. How does he expect them to do that? By choosing to keep their lifestyle pure. By continually seeking God’s direction with all their heart. By treasuring His Word until what He says becomes a priority.

Paul wanted the Corinthians to build their lives on purpose, not just let life happen as though how they lived made no difference. The fires would be severe, but the Corinthians can be adequate for what lies ahead. Because God is faithful.

Paul’s moral for the Corinthians: Don’t compromise by selecting life-building materials from the clearance rack. Select the good stuff God is faithful to provide.


  1. Good building materials don’t come cheap. 
  2. The better you want the building built the more it will cost.
  3. 2Cor 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.
  4. Eph 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.
  5. Why exchange the privilege of a well-built life for a shack that can’t handle the fire?

Monday, August 19, 2019

Overview of First Corinthians - Divisiveness

Is there a good purpose for Troublemakers? 

1Ki 18:17-18 When Ahab [the king of the northern kingdom of Israel] saw Elijah [the prophet of God], Ahab said to him, "Is this you, you troubler of Israel?" Elijah had prayed for the rain to stop and put the whole country into a three-year drought. In Ahab’s mind, Elijah was causing trouble. He called him a troubler or troublemaker.

Elijah said, "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals. The trouble Elijah caused helped expose the trouble Ahab was in with God.

God uses troublemakers to show the difference in His will and man’s will. How He deals with troublemakers becomes a deterrent to others who might also consider rebelling. The consequence of the troublemakers’ actions warns others not to go down the same road they went down. 

Corinth was Paul’s trouble church. Corinth was a highly pagan city, a Roman city, a sensuous city, a freewheeling, do your own thing city. So, when Paul came in, the Good News was embraced but the old, natural way of doing life was deeply imbedded in the hearts of the people. Instead of eradicating the old ways, they compromised the new ways and that compromise spilled over into the church. 

When they came to Jesus, instead of disconnecting from their old lives, they brought their baggage with them. So, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians more to correct their behavior than teach doctrine. He wrote to expose the troublemakers and then give the solution for change. 

His theme: 1Cor 1:9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord

God’s objective was to make them acceptable for fellowship. They were called out of darkness into light, out of death into life, out of sin and into righteousness so they might have fellowship with Him. But they didn’t see how their activity was interfering with that fellowship.

This problem was widespread in the early church. John wrote: 1John 1:6-7 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 

Fellowship isn’t an attitude. We don’t create fellowship; it is the result of living right with God. Relationship is the result of being right with God. Fellowship is the result of living right with Him.

But Paul said their behavior was preventing that fellowship, causing trouble in their lives and manifesting that trouble in the church. He believed: If he could get them to understand God’s faithfulness, they would turn away from that behavior and return to fellowship with the Lord. How could he do that? By pointing out the troublemakers, those doing what he wants the people not to do, and helping them change their behavior.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll expose the troublemakers. Today, the divisive troublemakers. He wants them to know that God is faithful even in disagreement.

1Cor 1:10-11 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you. 

Division is unacceptable to Paul. It defeats the imagery of the Body of Christ. He writes later: 1Cor 12:20-25 But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 

Unity and agreement are signs of a healthy body. A broken body can’t function well.

In Philippians, Paul simply told them what he expected and how to do it: Phil 2:2-4 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 

But apparently the Corinthians needed more than him just saying this division is wrong so quit it. They needed help, power to fight against the natural tendencies of self-centered opinions. Paul says God has provided for that.

1Cor 2:12-15  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 

In fighting against their brothers, they were actually fighting against God’s intentions. A house divided against itself will not stand.

This is a hard thing to grasp, that we are connected to God and interconnected to each other. We can’t be right with God and wrong with one another. Neither can we be wrong with God and right with one another. Paul said our struggles are spiritually based. Eph 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 

If I divide from you, I divide from the body. Remove a burning log from the fireplace and soon it will lose the flame and grow cold. What once burned hot with the other logs, now is just a burned-out piece of wood, its benefit waisted by dividing from the whole.

Because, some within the Corinthian church rejected what God said in order to defend their divisive opinions, they were acting like what they weren’t - natural men – self-driven, unsaved persons.

1Cor 3:1-3 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 

Paul uses the terms natural and spiritual to distinguish between those who are saved and lost. He uses the term fleshly to describe someone who is out of fellowship with God. The natural person and the fleshly person are seeking to live life on their own terms. The Spiritual person is seeking to live on God’s terms.

1Cor 2:12-14 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 

If the natural, unsaved person cannot understand the things of God, why would the Corinthians choose to think like a natural person to try and figure out the things of God?

The word hypocrite gets thrown at church folks a lot. The word comes from the Greek stage when an actor, needing to play a different role, would place a mask in front of his face. He may be young but to play an older man he holds up the mask of an older man. He isn’t an older man, but he is acting like one.

That became the foundation of the word hypocrite: someone acting like something they aren’t.
Christians aren’t hypocrites for trying to act like Christians. That’s what they are. But, the Corinthians were hypocrites because they were acting like they were natural, unsaved people. That’s not who they were but it was how they acted when they divided themselves.

What’s the solution: Looking at the faithfulness of God and seeing what He has provided. The sign of a good planner is the ability to anticipate problems down the road and prepare accordingly. To be faithful to the project, he must be ready for whatever may come. He plans for contingencies.

Paul says: God is faithful. Anticipating divisions, disagreements, arguments, selfish opinions, He has placed within the Christian’s mind the Mind of Christ so we might know the things freely given to us by God. How? By the [indwelling] Spirit who is from God, helping us know the things freely given to us by God.

The Spirit helps us discover what God wants us to know. Rom 8:26-27 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 

God within us is working to direct our minds and hearts toward His best. Placing the Mind of Christ within each of us, the mechanism for agreement if already in place. Here’s my opinion. Well, here’s my opinion. Wait, what does God say? The desire to want to know what God says is evidence of the mind of Christ.

This is one of the advantages of the Christian marriage: Both seeking the Lord in order to be of the same mind, maintain the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

1Cor 1:30-31 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." 

Division is based on self-asserted boasting. This is what I think. Here’s what I know. I’m right and you’re wrong. My way’s best. I’m the sharpest knife in the drawer. Your elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top. 

The boasting that benefits the body is: this is what I believe the Lord wants. The only place to find that, is within the Mind of Christ. And we will discover it when we pray: God, not my will but Your will be done.

Wherever Jesus went, He faced the opinions of others. John 9:16 Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, "This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath." But others were saying, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And there was a division among them.
What caused the division? People who only wished to express their opinions rather than ask God for an answer. 

If we both or all want what He wants, there is no division. God is not divided in His intentions. We yield our opinions to God’s ultimate good. 

When the Hubble Telescope was first deployed, it had a problem. It couldn’t focus. The images were blurry and useless. Engineers designed a corrective lens to clear up the problem. 

When things are blurry, the faithfulness of God can bring clarity. That’s why Paul corrects us by reminding the Corinthians of how faithful God is to provide what they need to live God-centered, God-filled lives. 

God’s goal: He wants fellowship with us. Whatever is blocking that fellowship is rebellion against Him. He calls it sin – the separating element of a natural life. 

If we can’t find fellowship with God, if there is no joy, if we sense a divisive spirit, we may be compromised by our sin. 1John 1:8-9 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

That cleansing restores fellowship with God and each other and connects us with all God has provided.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul teaches the right way by showing us the consequences of the wrong way. In correcting the troublemakers, he provides a deterrent for not doing what they did so we can avoid the same consequences they experienced. 

1Cor 10:11-12 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 

  1. Disagreements are natural and expected.
  2. They can help sort through a variety of ideas to come up with the best.
  3. But, when disagreements create division, they hurt the body.
  4. Knowing that would happen, God faithfully gave us the resource for resolving disagreements before division happens. 
  5. The Mind of Christ within us will direct us to God’s best if we seek it.
6.     Seeking that best promotes healing not division.