1 Corinthians – The Abundant Life

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That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

This verse is from Isaiah 64:4. The context relates to Israel in captivity, awaiting deliverance. The nation had sinned and had been sent to Babylon for chastening. They cried out to God that He would come down and deliver them, and He answered their prayers. God had a plan and they did not have to be afraid. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Paul applied this principle to the church. Our future is secure in Jesus Christ. God’s plan for His people is so wonderful that with our human wisdom we cannot comprehend them. A day walking with God is a good day no matter what is happening, because God will work everything out to our good. We will live the abundant life if we just believe God and be obedient.

The believers at Corinth had forgotten the cost of their salvation. They had gotten their eyes off the Cross. They were involved in minor matters because they had lost the wonder of God’s plan for them. They needed to return to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This relates to our churches today. Many in the churches don’t ever know what their salvation costed God. The churches today fight over the color of the carpet when all that matters is the salvation of souls.

1 Corinthians –The Gospel is God’s Plan

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“Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began.  But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord.” 1 Corinthians 2:6-8

Salvation is purchased by the Son, but it was planned by the Father.  The gospel is so simple that it can be understood by an illiterate pagan. It is also so profound that the most brilliant theologian cannot fathom its depths. There is wisdom of God in the gospel that challenges the keenest intellect. However, this wisdom is not for the masses of lost sinners, nor for the immature believers. It is for the mature believes who are growing in their understanding of the Word of God. Paul was answering those in the church who were promoting Apollo, who was an eloquent and profound preacher.

This wisdom tells the saint about the vast eternal plan that God has for His people and His creation. The wisest of the world could not invent or discover this marvelous wisdom in God’s plan. God made the plan, set it in motion, and will see to it that it will succeed. God’s plan of redemption was not a hasty afterthought on the part of God after He saw what man had done. This plan of God was in place before He made man. He knew what was going to happen before it happened. “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.” (Ephesians 1:5-6) What a wonderful plan that God had to bring us into a relationship with Him.

“God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago.” (Ephesians 1:12-13)

1 Corinthians – Paul’s Aim

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“I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:5

Paul’s aim for preaching the cross and only the cross was so that everyone could see the power of God. Paul wants everyone to know that it was not by human wisdom that we are saved it is only by the wisdom of God.

He came speaking in simplicity. It is worth noting that Paul had come to Corinth from Athens. It was at Athens that, for the only time in his life, as far as we know, he had attempted to reduce Christianity to philosophic terms. There, on Mars’ Hill, he had met the philosophers and had tried to speak in their own language (Acts 17:22-31); and it was there that he had one of his very few failures. His sermon in terms of philosophy had had very little effect (Acts 17:32-34). It would almost seem that he had said to himself, “Never again! From henceforth I will tell the story of Jesus in utter simplicity. I will never again try to wrap it up in human categories. I will know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him upon his Cross.”

No one can argue against the proof of a changed life. It is our weakness that too often we have tried to talk men into Christianity, instead of in our own lives, showing them Christ. “A saint,” as someone said, “is someone in whom Christ lives again.”

“They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit. In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum.” (Romans 15:19)

1 Corinthians 2:3-4 – Paul’s Attitude

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“I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:3-4

Paul was an apostle, but he came as a humble servant; as a servant of Jesus Christ. He did not depend on himself. He became nothing so that Jesus Christ could become everything. He depended on the power of the Holy Spirit. It was not his experience or ability that gave his ministry its power. It was the work of the Spirit of God. His preaching was a demonstration not a performance. The Holy Spirit used Paul’s preaching to change lives. This was all the proof Paul needed that his message was from God.

Our attitude is what influences all our actions. It is only the right attitude, which gets us good results. All the smiles and hand-shakes are not going to get you far, if you do not have the attitude to help others, without any selfish expectations in return. Paul had the right attitude. He knew that Jesus Christ was in control and that he was only a servant of God. Life is so much better when we have the right attitude. In the beginning of the grass cutting season, I had a problem with my mower; the belt would not stay on. I would have to stop several times while cutting and put the belt back on. I could not find the problem. It would upset me that I was having this problem. Then one day I decided that I was not going to get upset about this problem any longer. I was just going to put it on when it came off. My attitude changed and my belt stopped coming off as much. I decided that God was in charge anyway so why get upset. When we face our problems with the attitude that God is in charge and we need to rest in Him, it’s amazing how things seem to change.

“Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” (Ephesians 4:21-23)

1 Corinthians – God Shows His Wisdom

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“As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.” 1 Corinthians 1:29-30

God shows His wisdom by means of righteousness, sanctification and redemption in Jesus Christ. These are things that Christ did for us. Jesus Christ is our wisdom. It is only in following Him that we can have life and life more abundant. It is only by listening to Him that we can know the truth. Jesus Christ is our righteousness. In the writings of Paul righteousness always means a right relationship with God. Of our own efforts we can never achieve that. It is ours only by realizing through Jesus Christ that it comes not from what we can do for God, but from what he has done for us. Jesus Christ is our sanctification. We belong to God and we are set apart from the world to serve God. Jesus Christ is our redemption. Jesus Christ is the only one that can free us from our sins of the past and help us in the present. He can give us peace about the future.

The Corinthian church was glorying in men and we must glory in God only, because He is the only true wisdom in the world.

“But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Jeremiah 9:24)

1 Corinthians – God Choses the Foolish

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“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.  Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

The Corinthians had a tendency to be puffed up with pride. There is no room in God’s grace for pride. God is not impressed with our looks, our social position, our achievement, our natural heritage or our financial status. God called people not because of what they were, but in spite of what they were. The Corinthians church was composed primarily of people who were terrible sinners. Before Paul’s conversion, he was very self-righteous, he gave up his religion in order to go to heaven. The Corinthians was on the other end of the spectrum, and yet they were not too sinful for God to reach them and save them.

God chose the foolish, the weak, and the despised to show the proud world their need for God’s grace. I am one of those weak ones that God chose and as I have said before, I don’t understand why He chose me. The message and miracle of God’s grace in Jesus Christ utterly confounds the high and mighty people of the world. The wise of this world cannot understand how God changes sinners into saints, and the mighty of this world are helpless to duplicate the miracle of God.

Why does God use the foolish of the world to confound the wise? It is so that God will get the glory and not the person. This was one of the problems with the Corinthian church. They were giving men more honor than they were giving God. “But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Jeremiah 9:24)

1 Corinthians – God’s Weakness

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“But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:24-25

Have you ever felt that you were smarter than God? I have, when He tells me that I need to do something that I feel that I cannot do what He is telling me. Most of the time we have this discussion about how much I know and how I know that there is no way that it will happen. It’s amazing that God always wins. I go ahead and obey. Everything works out just the way God had it planned from the start. God’s weakness is so much smarter than my greatest wisdom. How can that be when we think we are so smart? It is because God knows everything and He knows our future if we just obey Him and let Him control our lives. Everything will work out for our good. “And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:27-29) When we realize that God has our best life in mind for us, life gets easier and we have more peace.

1 Corinthians – Human Wisdom

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“So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom.  So, when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.” 1 Corinthians 1:20-23

The cross was a stumbling block for the Jews, because of their attitude. Their emphasis was on miraculous signs and the cross was a sign of weakness. Jewish history is filled with miraculous events, from the exodus out of Egypt to the days of Elijah and Elisha. When Jesus was ministering on earth, the Jewish leaders repeatedly asked Him to perform a sign from heaven; but He refused. The Jewish nation did not understand their own scriptures. They looked for a Messiah who would come like a mighty conqueror and defeat all their enemies. He would then set up His kingdom and return the glory to Israel. Because the Jews were looking for power and great glory, they stumbled at the weakness of the cross. How could anybody put their faith in an unemployed carpenter from Nazareth who died the shameful death of a common criminal?

The Greeks laugh at the cross. The cross was foolishness. The Greeks emphasized wisdom; we still study the profound writing of Greek philosophers. They saw no wisdom in the cross. They looked at the cross from a human point of view. Paul asked the question of the Greeks, in your study of human wisdom have you come to know God in a personal way. I just read that people said that climate change was causing the fires in the west. They are using human wisdom to cure a problem that can only be cured by God’s wisdom. Paul’s statement in Athens on Mars hill says it all. “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him.” (Acts 17:30)

1 Corinthians – The Wisdom of God

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“The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-19

Go with me to time many years ago. There was a man who walked the earth and told everyone that he was God. He performed many wonderful things while he was here on earth. Many of the people should have known who he was, but they hated him. They wanted to kill him, so he died on a Roman cross, but was an innocent man. To top all this off, this man rose from the dead. If we use our reasoning, we believe that this is not possible. This is foolish to believe such a story. I am telling you that this story is true. How do I know that this is true?  He lives in my heart and I walk with Him every day. I don’t know what I would do without this man named Jesus.

“God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” (Ephesians 1:9-11) Through God’s wisdom He had this wonderful plan. No man could come up with this wonderful plan. “God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.” (Ephesians 1:12-14) To God be the Glory!

1 Corinthians – Baptism

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“Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not! I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, for now no one can say they were baptized in my name. (Oh yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas, but I don’t remember baptizing anyone else.)  For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power.” 1 Corinthians 1:13-17

Keep in mind that baptism was an important matter in the New Testament church. When a sinner trusted Christ and was baptized, he cut himself off from his old life and often was rejected by his family and friends. It cost something to be baptized in that day.

Paul was not minimizing baptism, but rather was putting it into proper perspective, because the Corinthians were making too much of it. It was wrong to identify any man’s name with your baptism other than the name of Jesus Christ. Paul did not carry with him a list of the people he baptized. It was sufficient that they were written in God’s book. Paul always focused on the centrality of Christ. There are people today that think that baptism saves them and has some mystical power. There are many secondary issues that we today put way too much importance on. Many times, our traditions get in the way of the true meaning of church. This causes division in the church. Jesus Christ must be central to all that we do. Paul stresses this in the entire book, not only in this book, but in all his writings.