1 Corinthians 14:26-33a
There are three things that stand out to me in these verses...
A Gathered Church - Paul says "when you come together," indicating that his instruction here is specific to the church gathering, or what we might think of as our "Sunday service". While the Bible is not super clear on what the layout of a Sunday morning should be, or how long long it should be, neither is the word of God silent on these matters. The church gathering is not for us to do whatever we want, or feel like or even whatever "works". Our gathering should be shaped by biblical insight and instruction.
A Participatory Church - Next, Paul is clear that the church gathering is not to be approached as spectators by those attending, nor is it to be programmed for passive involvement by those leading. The church gathers to participate together in the worship of God, the exaltation of Christ, the ministry of of the Spirit all for the building up of the church. This has huge implications for things like congregational singing, encouragement and exhortation from multiple voices (not just the pastor), active listening and learning from God's word and for our individual and collective openness to how God might minister to others through us personally. Sunday is not for Christians to attend and receive from leaders and the Lord only, but bring their worship and bear witness themselves in ways that contribute to the unity and maturity of the church.
An Encouraging Church - Paul is abundantly clear that we gather and receive the gifts of the Spirit for mutual encouragement. When we are out in the world during the week, it is easy to get discouraged, disillusioned and even to feel detached and depressed. When we come together, we all need encouragement. So the church that will thrive and flourish together, and enjoy the presence and power of the Holy Spirit is the church that comes together with that end in mind... to encourage one another through the gospel, imparting grace, reminding one another of who we are, what Christ has accomplished on our behalf and what he's inviting us into for our joy and His glory. So an encouraging church is a church comprised of members who come every week honest about our need for encouragement, open to receiving encouragement and eager to offer encouragement.
Begin praying today and all week, that the Holy Spirit would orient your own heart toward offering worship to the Lord and offering encouragement to others, and let's see how God begins to minister to you more personally than ever.
v. 1 tells us of the value of personal integrity. We tend to place great value on wealth and earthly success, but Solomon is elevating character above those things, and he's undermining any idea that to be poor is to be foolish. The world is not that simple. You cannot draw a straight line from wealth to wisdom, and neither can you draw a straight line from poverty to foolish. What's most important, in either wealth or poverty, is character. We can walk with integrity regardless of our status in life, and it will improve our quality of life and security in life.
1 Corinthians 14:33b-40
I'd rather not have to address these verses. :) They are culturally dicey to say the least. I think our first reaction, because of cultural sensibilities, is to reject what Paul says at face value and assume there is a deeper and different meaning than it appears. I do want to say this though... where God's word confronts our sensibilities and ideologies, we must remember that culture cannot dictate convictions. Our values and thinking often reflect the American culture we were born into more than the Kingdom culture we've been born again into. Beloved, we are not citizens of America first, but citizens of heaven. And the church is supposed to be a counter culture to the cultures of this world. So, we must be willing to acknowledge our resistance to God's word when our personal understandings or desires are opposed. Let this press on you today. Most of us don't like what Paul says plainly here and our immediate temptation is to dismiss it or explain it away. Be careful about that. Acknowledge your hardness of heart and pride and tendency to lean on your own understanding. Let's not assume because Paul says something here we don't like than therefore we must find a way to reinterpret it. We may actually need to lay down our preference and change our hearts and minds... the word of God is supposed to do that to us... let it make you uncomfortable and expose you.
Surrender your will to God's... and ask, what does God's word say? And does God's word only have authority when we agree with it? Or does it have authority when we don't agree in our own thinking? Submission isn't really submission until it yields to something we oppose. Submission is the by definition the willingness to bend our will to the will of another.
Are you submitted to God's word?
Now, having dealt with that issue, wrestle with this... what is Paul saying about women in church and in relation to their husbands? And what is Paul saying about men in their homes? What is God's word telling us about order and structure within the home and church? I dare you to reflect and do a little writing of what you understand God's word to say.
I'll write a short blog wednesday regarding this in a little more detail.
v. 7 gives a clear generational vision for personal integrity. In fact, personal integrity isn't really personal. Just as sins and addictions and stronghold in our lives are often multiplied in future generations, integrity has the potential for replicate itself in our children and bring blessing to future generations. So, regardless of the kind of character we walk with, we are creating a legacy for our children and grandchildren that will likely be replicated. So, if your own quality of life, reputation, future and eternity are not a significant motivator, maybe the quality of life, reputation and future of our children will motivate us.
So, it's worth considering today, if your character is producing something in your children, what are we you living into the next generation?
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
This is one of my favorite passages in all the NT. I love the clarity about the gospel. There is so much here, and I cannot tackle all of it, but I'll try to offer a few insights...
The Past, Present and Future reality of the Gospel - v. 1-2 clearly identify that the gospel is powerfully being appropriated into our lives at every stage of life. Through Jesus' finished work, we have been saved from the penalty of sin, we are being saved from the power of sin and we will be saved from the presence of sin. This is good news indeed in every way.
The Priority of the Gospel - You know we talk about being a "first concern church" and here's partly why. The biblical writers wrote about a great many things and all of them are important and profitable for us, but the gospel is of first importance. It is the primary emphasis of the biblical narrative, from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22. Not every biblical doctrine is equally important or equally emphasized. So we must hold fast to the gospel above everything else because it is of the utmost importance.
The Clarity and Content of the Gospel - The Good news of Jesus is not generic, but specific. It's not fanciful, it's historical. It's not vague and ambiguous, but precise and particular. The good news of Jesus' victory over Satan, sin and death, must include his substitutionary sacrifice on the cross, his physical death and burial, his bodily resurrection, his appearance and widespread proof of his resurrection, his grace to and salvation of guilty sinners through faith, and the new identity and life made possible through identification with Jesus. Whatever gospel is believed and proclaimed, it better include these elements, and the fact that all of this was accomplished in fulfillment of promises and prophecies throughout Scripture. To deny or disbelieve any of this is deny or disbelieve the biblical gospel.
Let today be a day of reaffirming your faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Take time to meditate on it and abide in these realities. Where your heart struggles to believe any part of this, confess that and ask God for faith and a persuaded heart and mind. And consider, are you living today with full assurance of your freedom from sin's penalty? Are you experiencing increasing power over sin? And are you living into the future hope and promise of freedom from the presence of sin?
v. 8, 29 - Integrity and character is about who we are in secret, when nobody is watching. And we may emphasize our choices and conduct in private because that reveals a lot about who we are, but Solomon is saying that our visible lives do matter too. Integrity and uprightness may be more than just how we behave in public, but it's not less than our conduct in public. Integrity is about the consistency of life in both spheres. That who we are internally and privately matches who we are outwardly and publicly.
If we were to watch you at work, at home with your family, or in private with total freedom, would they see the same person?
If we were to watch you at church, in your neigbhorhood and on vacation, would we see the same person?
1 Corinthians 15:12-34
There is some real hope in this text for me today. After spending the last couple weeks in Burkina Faso, surrounded by so much disease, sickness, despair and death, my heart is lifted profoundly by the promise of Jesus vanquishing death once and for all. The fact that death will not get the last word is so comforting to me. I'm just relieved and strengthened by that. Because of my cynical bent and my depressive leanings, it's so important for me to remember, and far too easily forgotten, that the earthly every day things that assail my soul and senses are not ultimate reality. They are real but they do not endure. They will be recast and become untrue when God "fills all in all," as Paul says. I'm just wanting to let this sink in today... I pray you will too.
v. 1 and 29 - These are the first and last verse of Chapter 22. They stand out to me in relation to integrity because in v. 1 we're told of the enormous value placed on a good name. Integrity is the key to a good name because your reptuation is built over time and across a variety of contexts. A good name derives from a common, pleasant and uplifting experience by everyone thatconnects with you, regardless of the setting and circumstances. v. 29 emphasizes diligence and excellence in our vocations, which require some degree of integrity. For most of us, we will do some of our work without supervision. We can cut corners, or take shortcuts. But part of skillful work that gains audience with influential people is integrity is doing our work well, communicating well, honoring our word, following through on commitments, etc. Skill in your work will be undermined by a lack of integrity.
- What is your reputation at work? in your home? at your church? Ask someone else in each sphere to get some feedback. See what you learn.
1 Corinthians 15:35-49
Just read through this text today. Take some time to internalize what Paul is actually saying... what he's pointing us toward. And write down some thoughts about what is most exciting to you about the promise of a future resurrection. Lean into Paul's insights here and journal or talk with someone else about it so it's not just some lofty thought. Take some time to articulate the meaning of this think about what it will be like and what the implications are.
v. 13-14 - Parents, part of our responsibility in raising children is to train integrity in them. We are to faithfully administer discipline to develop character and maturity. This requires consistency and a doggedness because character deficiencies must continually be addressed.
- How are you doing modeling integrity for your children?
- How are you doing developing integrity in your children?
1 Corinthians 15:50-58
I know we all see and feel the sting of death today. We just do. But what a glorious thing to anticipate our freedom from that, when death is crushed and eradicated and made a spectical of by Jesus Kingdom coming in power. Though you may feel defeated brothers and sisters, your feelings lie to you. Jesus is victorious of our enemy and our union with him sets us in the victor's circle with him. This is as bad as it gets... and the triumph of the cross and resurrection seals our eternal redemption and forever victory. Look at v. 58 again...
"Therefore, my brothers, be steadfast. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."
This is a great exhortation. After reading the las few days about our future inheritance, consider this admonition from Paul. What are you growing weary of or thinking of quitting on, which the Holy Spirit is saying, "be steadfast!"? What are you shrinking back from or wavering on which the Holy Spirit is saying, "Don't Move!"? What are you only half heartedly engaged with that the Holy Spirit is saying "Give yourself fully" to? Take courage brothers and sisters. Our labor is not in vain... God is watching and he is pleased and he will honor those who honor him.
Identify a verse that speaks to a particular area of character in your own life which God is speaking into and conforming into the image of Christ.
v. 9-10 - Part of integrity and a good name is our ability to hold in confidence what people share with us. We must have a reign on our tongues and treat people with dignity, honoring trust when it is shown toward us.
- Do you have a history and reputation of guarding other people's reputations?