In the final chapter of this letter of Paul to the church at Corinth, as recorded in 1 Corinthians 16:1-24, the Apostle comes down from the high point of the resurrection of Jesus and the hope that that brings to His people, to speak of more down to earth, day-to-day matters – especially relating to the Corinthians’ financial stewardship, some travel plans he could share with them, some news regarding fellow workers they knew and final prayers and blessings up this often wayward church. These matters may not be weighty theologically, but they do matter on a practical basis and they remind us of what kind of church we ought to be – living out the gospel in the world in which God has called us.
There’s something to be said about a church than runs smoothly and orderly. As a Presbyterian church, we usually don’t know any other way. The worship is ordered and everything is in its place. That’s certainly not how Paul would have described the very un-Presbyterian Church in Corinth! Instead of order there was chaos. Choas when it came to the use of tongues. Chaos when it came to the use of prophecy. Chaos when people were interrupting! Rather than ordered it was disordered. In 1 Corinthians 14:1-40, the Apostle Paul had quite a bit to say about these things and we learn from them and seek to do them today.
When it comes to ‘life after death’ there are a whole lot of questions and lots of different ideas. The Corinthians too had questions about what happens to our bodies after death, and these questions were the subject of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 15:35-58, where Paul likened what happens to our bodies when they die to the whole process of pplanting seeds – what you get is not what you put in the ground! This portion of text gives rise to the Christian’s understanding about the resurrection bodies that God will give to His people. To last the distance of eternity, they need to be and must be of a different kind to what we have now! This hope ought to encourage and inspire us to get busy with God’s work and put the fear of death away – as it one day will be – forever!
Sometimes that ‘what if?” question of thought just passes through your mind. “What if I’d married someone else?” “What if I’d been born in another country?” So many options to think on like these! In 1 Corinthians 15;12-34, Paul asks the question ‘What if Christ was not raised?” and comes up with some devastating answers. The resurrection of Jesus is so crucial to the Scriptures that without it, everything else falls. Paul even says that we may as well live the the rest of the world and adopt their philosophy ‘eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!’. But he doesn’t leave it there. One of the great ‘buts’ of the Bible puts things into their proper perspective!
When you compare the leaders of world religions, it’s clearly a no-contest. Only Jesus lives. The rest are dead. And the evidence for this resruuection of Jesus is something that the Apostle Paul was keen to share with the church at Corinth. So in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Paul did just that, reminded his readers of not only the information that had been passed down to him personally, but also of his own experience (not to mention that of at least 500 others) of the risen Christ. But this message of the resruuection is not just fact, it is fact that leads to a changed life and a living hope in the face of death.
There’s something about love that means that thousands of songs are written about it and everyone seems to want it! In 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, the Apostle Paul speaks about love quite extensively in a well-known text that has been used at many a wedding, but what he has to say really applies in the first instance to the church at Corinth, who had forgotten that the grace of love is better than any spiritual gift. And what he wrote was really for the church to put into practise – in loving each other – and loving in the way that Jesus loved the church, by laying down His life for her. Ultimately, our lack of love or lovelessness, is because we have moved far away from the cross – where we learn what love really is.
There’s no doubt that the human body is a wonderful invention. The fact that we can move, breathe, talk, eat sleep, is so often taken for granted. So much has to happen for everything to work together. If the church is the ‘body of Christ’ as 1 Corinthians 12:14-31 indicates, then it’s likely that the same holds true. Every part of the body not only has its own place but its own purpose and function. And every part of the body, each individual in the body is linked to the One who is the Head of the body for His purposes. That’s the wonder of being part of ‘the Church’, which exists for His glory and not that of the individual parts!
The Church. What is it? Some say a building. This is true, but only one aspect of the answer. The idea of the Church being a ‘body’ is found in the New Testament, especially in 1 Corinthians 12:1-13. The church is made up of individuals, all saved by grace, and all united to the one Head (Jesus) who brings us together and makes us part of His body. It’s this that unites us and this unity should be evident to the whole world throughout all generations as witness to the the one truth, ‘Jesus is Lord’.
There’s little doubt that 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is a difficult text that over the years has been interpreted and applied in many ways. But, as difficult as it is to grasp at first glance, the text must be and is there for a good reason. It seems there was a fair bit of confusion in Corinth about gender roles (is anything new?) and this seems to be at the heart of Paul’s words – which apply to us today in the realm of what you have in your heart, rather than what you do or don’t wear on your head.
Throughout the letter of Paul to the church at Corinth there have been many indicators that the church was not in a healthy state. Divisions, jealousies, sexual immorality, pride and idolatry were evidenced in their behaviour and these were symptoms that something was wrong. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 it is evident that Paul had to write to them as he did because these symptoms were begiining to appear at the Lord’s table and it was bringing premature judgment upon them. In diagnosing the problem and prescribing the solution, the Apostle brings us also back to how we should prepare ourselves to appear at the Lord’s table, lest we become like them and bring judgement upon ourselves.