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.
There’s no doubt that food speaks a universal language. We all love it and we all enjoy eating it together. But what happens when the food that we would like to eat has been used in a worship service for a pagan god? This was one of the questions that the believers at Corinth were asking Paul, questions that all relate back to what Paul had already begun to speak of in chapter 8. But in 1 Corinthians 10:14-31, they have this added element… the Lord God will not share His glory with another. Eating is nothing in itself, but all that we do – even our eating and drinking – must be for His glory and His alone.
Hindsight is such a wonderful thing. It enables everyone to be wiser…’if only I had done this instead of that’….but hindisght only works when looking back and never looking forward. As Paul continued to direct the believers at Corinth in the way they should live, after pointing them to his example, he also pointed to examples in the pages of the Old Testament, where God’s people went wrong and faced the Lord’s discipline (severe at times) upon them. These things were written for us, not for them. What happened to them is for our warning, instruction…and even encouragement!
After establishing that Paul ‘practiced what he preached’ with regard to not making his full use of his rights as an apostle, in the next verses, 1 Corinthians 9:19-27, Paul continued to explain how he had made it a principle of life to win people for Christ and maintain his own place in the race toward the finish line through self-discipline by laying aside rights and pursuing responsibilities. Paul’s example before the Corinthians and before us is something that needs to consider well. Are you too, aiming to win people for Christ? Are you too running the race of following Jesus with all your effort? There’s only one race worth being in – because every other race will something that will end up turning to dust..
It’s not always an easy thing to practice what you preach. Sooner or later, someone will point out your hypocrisy. After telling the church in Corinth to put the law of love over the principle of freedom and liberty, the Apostle Paul found it necessary to let the believers in Corinth know that this was a principle that he himself had already put into practice. In 1 Corinthians 9:1-18, as Paul defends his ministry and his actions, he makes it clear that he was one who ‘practiced what he preached’. Could the same be said of you?
It’s pretty fair to say that everybody likes food. Not all the same kinds of food of course, but it’s rare to find someone who isn’t interested in what they eat. At Corinth, as we are told in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, the believers were having some issues with food, especially food that had been offered to pagan idols as part of their pagan worship. Now that they were Christians, the question they wanted to ask Paul was ‘should we or shouldn’t we eat food that has been offered to idols?’ Paul’s answer was a solid ‘yes’, but also a cautious ‘no’. How can he say both and be right both times? Because Christian liberty means we can eat anything, but Christian love means that we ought not to!
Relationship advice is everywhere on just about any topic you can think of in relation to relationships, especially marriage! But the advice that the Apostle Paul gives to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 7:25-40 is advice that helps put all relationships into some kind of perspective. See, no earthly relationship will last, no matter how good it is! Once this world is done, only that which God has decreed will live on and unfortunately, earthly relationships aren’t in that grouping. But God’s Word will go on forever, and so the best advice for any relationship is this – use it for the sake of the gospel!
There’s no doubt that the world we live in offers little in the way of contentment. This applies not only to possessions but also to our relationships. Some say ‘if you don’t like the bed, change the sheets’, ie get a new partner! Some TV shows even throw 2 strangers together and expect them to be happily married. It doesn’t work like that! Paul wrote to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 7:12-24 to urge them not to find that elusive contentment in their relationship status, but in Christ. And what he writes is a game changer in regard to contentment in all of life!
Relationships. According to the way the world thinks, they’re everything. The best that life can offer. In some ways that is true…but what happens when relationships go sour? In 1 Corinthians 7:6-11, Paul gives some answers towards those questions. Not everyone will end up in a relationship. Not every relationship will stay together. Singleness is a gift of God. Divorce needs to be thought about in the light of the Word of God. If we do not allow God the control of our relationships, then the idol we make them into can surely crumble.
It seems that the believers at Corinth were having trouble (as often happens) with sexual issues. We learned something of this in chapters 5 and 6 when we noted how Paul had to address both incest and promiscuity. There was also another extreme view at Corinth which Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5. Some, even those who were married, held to the view ‘no sex please, we’re Christians’. Naturally, Paul had a bit to say about that view and in doing so put marital sexual intimacy into the place that God intended it according to His design.