There’s something about the story of Joseph in the Old Testament that is so fascinating and insightful. In Genesis 39:1-23, the Scriptures tell us about what might be the lowest spot in Joseph’s bright life. And yet, when his story is taken as a vital part of the outworking of Genesis 3:15 in God’s plan of salvation, the story of Joseph is far more than the story of a ‘dreamer’ with a ‘coloured coat’, but of a man who points us all to Jesus and who shows us God’s purpose in suffering is that we become more like Him.
When Paul brought up the topic of wisdom in 1 Corinthians 2:16-3:4, he was not introducing a new topic. Chapter 1 has told us much about God’s wisdom which is found in the preaching of Christ crucified. The sad case was, that at Corinth, the church had opted for earthly wisdom and this had begun to show itself in the disorder and division that Paul has been addressing.
After telling the Corinthians that they could not boast in men, nor in their position in the world before God called them, and that the gospel message was ‘weak and foolish’ in the eyes of the world, in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Paul went on to write that he too was ‘weak and foolish’. His preaching at Corinth was not a demonstration of his skill or wisdom, but of the power of God who saves ‘foolish’ people through the ‘foolish’ message of the cross.
The Church at Corinth was in crisis. Divisions over personalities were fuelled by the cult of pride. While some distance away from them when we wrote his letter, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 reflects just how close Paul was to these wayward believers. Having established that being united to Christ should mean the death of all divisions, Paul now explains what the world calls ‘foolish’ (that is the preaching of the cross) is nothing but the express wisdom of God.
The text of 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 tells of the report that the Apostle Paul heard from ‘Chloe’s people’ about the state of the church at Corinth. They were a church divided. The issue was playing favourites with people. Some preferred Paul, others Apollos, others Peter and still others – Jesus! At the root of this problem of division was pride and at the centre of the solution Paul outlined was the principle – that when we look to Jesus and Him crucified, there is no room for pride and boasting, for in Christ and Him alone, their is true unity.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, it was no small rural backwater but a bustling cosmopolitan city of about 650,000. Paul had brought the gospel to Corinth and the church had begun – by the grace of God – amidst much persecution. Nobody knew the church at Corinth better than Paul and in the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, it is evident that God was doing something among His people, the Church at Corinth, because He is a faithful God.
In sending His disciples out on mission, He took time to prepare the 12 for what they would face in terms of rejection and hatred of the world, but He also took time to make sure His disciples knew of the consequences of their mission. In Matthew 10:34-42, Jesus told them that they would have to know that families would be divided over the gospel, also that their loyalty to Him would have to be greater than that of their families, and even though they would suffer privations in His service, there would be much reward awaiting them.
When Jesus sent out the 12 on mission, he wanted them to face up to reality – on the one hand they would know the hatred and rejection of the world, but on the other hand, they also needed to know some unseen realities working in their favour. Matthew 10:29-33 speaks of these realities. One was the Father’s care for them – something far greater than they would ever realise – and another was the eternal benefits of being faithful and loyal to Jesus in the present, no matter what the cost or danger.
In sending out the 12 disciples on mission, Matthew 10:24-38 records some more of the instructions Jesus gave to his men. While they had grand but false expectations of all going well and them receiving a ‘right royal’ reception, Jesus sought to put reality in place for them. They would not rise higher in status than He, their Teacher and Master, yet, in turn, they should not fear man and what man could do top them, but live with a greater and deeper fear of God.
When Jesus sent out the twelve on mission in Matthew 10:16-23, it was like he was sending them out to war – not that they were going out to kill, maim or fight – but that he sent them into enemy territory and needed to prepars them for what they would face. Rejection. Persecution. Death. The text is a wake up call to God’s people today… reminding us that the world’s hatred of the gospel and the Saviour will be passed down to us.