1 Corinthians – Walk by Faith

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“For the law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest.” 1 Corinthians 9:9-10

Paul continues to write about the rights of those who serve the Lord. This church was having problems with supporting God’s servant. Even scripture says that the ox who works the threshing machine is not to be muzzled but is to be allowed to eat of the grain.  (Deuteronomy 25:4). This was so that the animal working could have support from its work. This applies to humans as well as animals. If we work, we need support for our work. God wants to support and take care of all of His creation. He had provided for the feeding of all His creatures. Paul does make it clear that he walks by faith. In walking by faith, he knows that all of his needs will be supplied by God. In 1980 we accepted God’s call to the ministry and moved across the country to attend Bible College. I still stand in amazement how God provided for us. God provided everything we needed to do His work. Not only did God provide for our physical needs, He provided for our emotional and spiritual needs. God gave us friends that become part of our family.

This Scripture is not teaching us in these passages that one should be paid a salary for serving the Lord. A servant is “worthy of his reward,” to be sure, but the servant must walk by faith, counting on God to provide his needs. Paul could say in Philippians 4:19, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” He knew God would supply their needs because God was faithfully supplying his needs. A servant must look to the Lord alone to supply his needs, and he can surely count on Him to move the hearts of His people to support him.

I know to me at times I read scripture and I think, why would God put this in the Bible. Then I start praying and digging into the Word and God is faithful to always show me why this needed to be in the Bible.

1 Corinthians – Take Care of God’s Servants

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Praise the Lord!

“What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk? Am I expressing merely a human opinion, or does the law say the same thing?” 1 Corinthian 9:7-8

Here we see Paul’s real heart: paid or not paid, it did not matter to him. What mattered was the work of the gospel. Was it more effective for the gospel if Paul should receive support? Then he would receive it. Was it more effective for the gospel if Paul should work to support himself? Then he would do that. What mattered was that the gospel would in no way be hindered. If Paul was willing to deny himself such an important right, for the good of the gospel and the Corinthian Christians, then should not also the Corinthian Christians deny their “right” to eat meat sacrificed to idols, for the same good?

No soldier has to provide his own rations. Why should the soldier of Christ have to do so? The man who plants a vineyard shares in the fruits. Why should the man who plants churches not do so? The shepherd of the flock gets his food from the flock. Why should not the Christian pastor do likewise? Even scripture says that the ox who works the threshing machine is not to be muzzled but is to be allowed to eat of the grain (Deuteronomy 25:4). The church needs to take care of God’s servant. If the church doesn’t take care, God will. The problem with the Corinthian Christians was they refused to support Paul, and thought less of him because he did not receive it.

1 Corinthians – Paul’s Rights

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“This is my answer to those who question my authority. Don’t we have the right to live in your homes and share your meals? Don’t we have the right to bring a believing wife with us as the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers do, and as Peter does? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have to work to support ourselves? 1 Corinthians 9:3-6

It seems that even here at the church that Paul had started, some had begun to question Paul’s authority. Paul is explaining to them that the apostle’s living should come from the people he ministers to. They ministered to the people with no strings attached, but the people must support those who minister to them.

 Paul was a tentmaker and supported himself. “Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tentmakers just as he was.” (Acts 18:3) Paul was letting the Corinthians know that he and Barnabas had as much right as others to receive full financial support from their work. Except for help from a few churches, they paid their own expenses not because of obligation or necessity, but voluntarily.

The privilege that Paul might have claimed was support from the Church. Not only could he have claimed such support for himself but also for a wife. In fact, the other apostles did receive such support. The Greeks despised manual labor; no free Greek would willingly work with his hands. They felt that those that worked with their hands were not well educated. This is some of the problems within the church at Corinth. Even the Jewish Rabbis was to teach for nothing, but they found ways that they were supported in their work. I do believe that those that minister should receive support from those in the church, but I also believe that if you have a call from God, He will provide no matter what.

1 Corinthians – Claim to be an Apostle

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“Am I not as free as anyone else? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord with my own eyes? Isn’t it because of my work that you belong to the Lord? Even if others think I am not an apostle, I certainly am to you. You yourselves are proof that I am the Lord’s apostle.” 1 Corinthians 9:1-2

In the very beginning, we must remember that Paul is answering letters that had been written to him from this church at Corinth. He is reminding them that his authority had come from him being an apostle of Jesus Christ. He also, reminds them that his calling was a dramatic call when he actually came in contact with the Light of the world. Jesus Christ Himself, who had sent Paul to minister to these people. It is with no small authority then that he is doing this. Paul even reminds them, that he was the one who founded the church in Corinth. He goes on to remind them that they were Christians through his ministry. He says, you are my children in the Lord.

Paul is saying to them that in some other places, he might not be accepted as the voice to the Gentiles, but here at Corinth the church established was through his preaching. He is saying, you cannot deny me without denying your own salvation. The Jews in nearly every city had rejected Paul, but he had been accepted here at Corinth by these believers. The existence of the church in Corinth was evidence of Paul’s apostolic authenticity.

The Corinthians who considered themselves mature Christians have been claiming that they are in such a privileged position that they are free to eat meat offered to idols if they like. Their Christian freedom gives them–as they think–a special position in which they could do things which might not be permissible to lesser men. Paul’s way of answering that argument is to set forth the many privileges which he himself had a perfect right to claim, but which he did not claim in case they should turn out to be stumbling-blocks to others and hindrances to the effectiveness of the gospel.

1 Corinthians – Freedom Part 4

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“So, because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something, they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. So, if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.” 1 Corinthians 8:11-13

We are continuing with Billy Graham’s writings on Christian freedom.

“Jesus came to free us from death, sin and anything that enslaves us. The core message of the Christian faith—the Gospel—is that Jesus Christ rescues us from the slavery of sin and offers true freedom in this life and beyond. This is what Jesus said: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The Good News—the best news ever—is that faith in Jesus frees us from the death we deserve for sinning against God. It frees us from the punishment that would be inflicted upon us at the end of our lives for the evil things we’ve thought and done. While Christ followers still battle with sin, they are no longer slaves to it. Through the power of Christ, His people can be set free from the bondage of greed, vanity, pride, pornography, addiction, abusive behavior, gluttony, selfishness—and any other sin under the sun. Here’s what Jesus said about the freedom He offers: “Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

God gives us freedom to choose our own path. God created human beings, not robots. We don’t have to accept the freedom He offers us through Jesus Christ. He gives each person the free will to accept or reject His salvation. But the Bible warns that hell is a real place where real people end up when they knowingly reject the truth. Likewise, those who choose Christ are not forced to obey Him at every turn. But God makes it clear: the best life is one that’s devoted to honoring Him. As the Apostle Paul explained to some of the first Christians: “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)” (Billy Graham) This, to me, is the key to our Christian Freedom, we choose to walk with Jesus every day. If we walk with Jesus, we will live the abundant life.

1 Corinthians – Freedom Part 3

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“So, because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something, they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. So, if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.” 1 Corinthians 8:11-13

We need to understand our Christian freedom. Billy Graham wrote on Christian freedom. Here are some of his writings.

“The quest for freedom is a theme found throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Just three chapters into the story of God’s creation, humanity gave up its freedom by choosing to rebel against God. From that time forward, the perfect freedom God created in the Garden of Eden was gone, and the long-term effects were both physical and spiritual.

The loss of physical freedom was often tied to spiritual disobedience like worshiping false gods. But time and again, the one true God forgave His people and rescued them. When God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, He was foreshadowing the arrival of Jesus Christ, who came to free humanity from sin—the spiritual slavery that leads to death.

Today, many people are living in spiritual slavery without realizing it. They chase false gods of money, success, personal comfort and romantic love—only to realize they still have an emptiness that can’t be filled by any of those things.

God’s answer to our loss of freedom has always been Jesus Christ. When Jesus began his short period of ministry on the earth, He announced He was the One that God’s people had been waiting for since the fall of humanity. He did this by reading a particular passage from the book of Isaiah—a passage his listeners knew was referring to the Messiah, or the Savior of the world.

The words had been written hundreds of years earlier and spoke of a new freedom that was coming in the future. “When Jesus stood up to read, He was saying the future had arrived. Liberty would come through Him. The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (Luke 4:17-21)

More on freedom in the next devotion.

1 Corinthians – Freedom Part 2

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“But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol?” 1 Corinthians 8:9-10

In Christ, we are free from the Law’s oppressive system, we are free from the penalty of sin, and we are free from the power of sin. Christian freedom is not a license to sin. We are free in Christ but not free to live however we want, indulging the flesh: “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13). Believers aren’t free to sin, but free to live holy lives in Christ. Before I was saved, I liked to party and drink. When Jesus came into my life, I had no desire to continue living my life the way I was. To me drinking is one of the gray areas of our Christian life. It is not a sin to drink. I will not drink because I feel that I could lead a weak Christian into problems. “Everything is permissible,” the Corinthians were saying. True, Paul says; Christians have a great deal of freedom in Christ. However, not everything is beneficial or constructive. Our freedom in Christ must be balanced by a desire to build up and benefit others. When deciding how to exercise our Christian freedom, we ought to seek the good of others before our own good.

True freedom means willingly becoming a slave to Christ, and this happens through relationship with Him. When a believer accepts Christ, he or she is baptized by the Spirit into Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. At that moment, the believer ceases to be a slave to sin and becomes a servant of righteousness. “Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.” (Romans 6:17-18)

Paul’s message to us today is this; even if we believe we are right and have Christian freedom in an area, if our actions will cause another brother or sister to stumble in his or her faith, we are to refrain out of love.

1 Corinthians – Freedom

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“However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated.  It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do.” 1 Corinthians 8:7-8

In chapter 8 Paul is dealing with Christian freedom. We need to understand what Christian freedom is all about. The next few devotions is going to be on Christian freedom.

“So, Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” (Galatians 5:1) This verse is Paul’s gospel claim to freedom.  It could be printed on posters and mounted prominently in every church. It is easy, however, to pervert Paul’s message if we do not take time to understand what he means by freedom. We especially do so when we Americans bring to Paul our own prevailing understanding of freedom.

When America issued its Declaration of Independence in 1776, it stated that all human beings are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Ever since, Americans have made liberty one of their most cherished—if not the greatest–value. But what does freedom mean to most Americans today? When I hear my fellow citizens talk about freedom, I get the sense that what freedom means for them is license to do whatever they please. No external compulsive power is able to tell us what to do or how to live. We say we live in a free country, but with this freedom comes responsibility. The same is true of Christian freedom.

Before Jesus died on a cross, God’s people lived under a detailed system of laws that served as a moral compass to guide their lives. The Law, while powerless to grant salvation or produce true freedom, nevertheless pointed the way to Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:19–24). Through His sacrificial death, Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law, setting believers free from the law of sin and death. God’s laws are now written in our hearts through the Spirit of God, and we are free to follow and serve Christ in ways that please and glorify God.

Read Romans 8:1-8

1 Corinthians – The True God

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“So, what about eating meat that has been offered to idols? Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God. There may be so-called gods both in heaven and on earth, and some people actually worship many gods and many lords.  But for us, there is one God, the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live.” 1 Corinthians 8:4-6

As Paul says, there are many gods in the world and there are many things that people worship. We don’t call them idols in our modern world, but they are idols. Anything that we show more adoration to, more than God is an idol. Some people worship sport figures. Some people worship movie stars. There is only one true God. He is the God of the Bible. The one that created the world and the one that lives in my heart. I don’t think that I ever felt that God was not real. I was raised in the church, but I did get away from the church for a time, but during that time I always knew that God was real. Yes, I know that I worshipped other things when I was away from God. I did not call them idols, but they were more important to me than God. We need to trust in whatever we worship. “I hate those who worship worthless idols. I trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:6) I trust the one true God, because He has proven to me that He is the true God. Satan wants you to worship idols. “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” (Matthew 4:10)

1 Corinthians – Christian Liberty

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“Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.  Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes. 1 Corinthians 8:1-3

Paul has changed subject from marriage to food that is offered to idols. This really does not affect us today, but what Paul is talking about is Christian liberty. Today this is very important. The problem today some of the teaching about Christian liberty is that we are free to do whatever we want. It is fine to sin all you want because Jesus died for your sins. Yes, it is true that Jesus died for our sins but the Bible tells us that we must turn from sin and change our lives.

The Corinthians were enriched in spiritual knowledge and were very proud of their achievement. They knew that an idol was nothing. They had a superior attitude. A know-it-all attitude is only an evidence of ignorance. The person who really knows the truth is only too conscious of how much they don’t know. It is one thing to know doctrine and something else to know God. It is possible to grow in Bible knowledge and yet not grow in your personal relationship with God. Paul is telling us that we need to not only have knowledge, but love.

They knew that the idol was not real. A nonexistent god could not contaminate food. This is very logical, but at times logic does not work. The little child who is afraid of the dark will not be assured by a logical argument.