Tag Archives: 1 Corinthians

Editorial: “Therefore Let Him Who Thinks He Stands Take Heed Lest He Fall” (July/August, 2016) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

The inspired apostle gave Christians a very serious warning when he wrote to Corinth centuries ago (1 Co. 10:12).  Oh, how relevant that warning continually proves to be when we are honest with ourselves!  Oh, but how easy it is to forget this warning or unconsciously allow ourselves to downplay it!

There are a lot of positive blessings associated with being a Christian.  We know we have access to “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” because we are “in Christ” (Ep. 1:3).  We know we are part of the body of Christ which is his church and of which he is Savior (Ep. 5:23), and are not deceived by the false doctrines and traditions of men associated with salvation and worship found in denominationalism which have drawn away so many (cf. 1 Ti. 4:1ff; 2 Ti. 4:3-4).  When compared to those out in the world, we may stand head and shoulders above them when it comes to morality and ethics.  Those of us who are active workers in the church can also take pride and comfort in the fact that “(our) labor is not in vain” (1 Co. 15:58) and we make a difference in the lives and souls of others.  All of this and more is good and we should gather great comfort from it (2 Co. 1:3-5).

Yet, let us never forget that even the best of us has sin and continues to sin (1 Jo. 1:8, 10).  We face temptations every single day, and one of Satan’s greatest tools to deceive us into giving into those temptations is to get us to not judge ourselves with the same righteous judgment God gives to us (1 Co. 4:4a; 11:31; cf. Jn. 7:24b).  God shows no partiality (Ro. 2:11), but we tend to show partiality to ourselves!  Like the Pharisee of the parable, we tend to focus on the good we are doing and the shortcomings of those around us while choosing to ignore or downplay our own sins (Lk. 18:9-14).

As a result, we may look at the good we do for the kingdom of God as a crutch instead of the acts of selfless service God wants them to be.  “Yeah, yeah, I know I shouldn’t do _____________, but it’s gonna be okay because after all, look at all the good I do for the church!”  We may compare ourselves to the sinners out in the world or our weaker brethren and use that as a crutch.  “Hey, why are you telling me to repent of ___________?  After all, it’s not like I murdered anyone/committed adultery/skip church all the time because I’d rather sleep in!”  Instead of gratefully finding comfort in our obedience to biblical doctrine concerning the oneness of the church and being motivated to obey further by repenting of our sins, we may use the fact that we obeyed the gospel and are part of the Lord’s church as a crutch.  “If there’s anyone who needs to get right with God, it’s those churches who add to God’s Word and are not the true church!  Focus on them instead of telling me I need to change ___________!”

I am so thankful Paul then gave us that wonderful way out in the next verse (1 Co. 10:13)!  I am so thankful God’s grace exists (Ti. 2:11) and offers continual, immediate forgiveness…but only should we sorrowfully and penitently confess our sins (1 Jo. 1:7, 9; 2 Co. 7:9-11) and follow grace’s instructions (Ti. 2:12-13)!  May we always examine ourselves honestly (2 Co. 13:5) and never insult God’s grace by choosing to rebelliously, unrepentantly, and willfully sin and thus bring upon ourselves his wrath (He. 10:26-31)!       — Jon

 

Advertisements

Unity and the Christian — Eric Diaz

It has been suggested that you can bind the tails of two cats together and they will be united. While they would be joined together, there wouldn’t be unity. Likewise, there are indeed hundreds of religions and church affiliations today but God has always desired there be unity among His people.

The idea of spiritual unity presents us with the goal of being united or joined together as a whole so there are no divisions among us (1 Corinthians 1:10). Not only does God desire that Christians be united in doctrine but also in matters of judgment and in our daily work within the church. We know from reading Ephesians 4:1-6 that unity is expected because there is only one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all. If we are not one with God, we are not united with Him nor with our brethren.

Let us explore a number of ways in which we can be united and how we can contribute to this unification:

Speak The Same Thing

God desires of His children to be of the same mind when it pertains to what we believe. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth because it was reported to him that there were contentions and division within the congregation. Paul sent Timothy to remind the Corinthians to imitate Paul as he taught the same thing everywhere in every church (1 Cor. 4:17). He also encouraged them to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). It is by the authority of Jesus and the standard of His word that they should have been united.

It is no different for us today. We must be perfectly joined together as brethren in order to be pleasing to God. If we cannot agree on sound doctrinal matters then we cannot be united. There are many passages that encourage us to speak soundly in our teachings and passages that warn of those who do not (1 Cor. 1:10; Titus 2:1-15; 1 Tim. 1:3-11; 1 Tim. 6:3-5; Gal. 1:6-10; Rom. 16:17-18).

Imagine if I had a stick, passed it around a crowded room, and asked everyone to tell me exactly how long they thought it was. You might hear twenty different answers based on each individual’s perception of length. It isn’t until a ruler is introduced that all in the room can be united in their agreement of its length. The same principle can be applied to what we believe and why we believe it. Unity isn’t based upon each individual’s perception of truth but by the spiritual standard that is the Bible.

God’s Word has been recorded in a way that makes it possible for us to understand it. Paul prayed without ceasing for the brethren in Colosse that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. By being filled with His will they would continue to grow together spiritually, being partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light (Col. 1:9-14). In order to remain in the light one must fight the good fight and keep the faith (2 Tim. 4:6-8). By walking steadfastly in the light we have fellowship with God and with fellow faithful Christians, and the blood of Jesus Christ continues to cleanse us of our sins (1 John 1). May we never break a bond of fellowship that is in perfect harmony for the sake of our own desires.

Why Judge Your Brother?

An important facet regarding relationships with our brethren is not to bind our own convictions on others. There are some subjects that are matters of opinion and those who are strong must be patient with their weaker brethren. Likewise if you happen to be the weaker brother you would expect those who are more mature in the faith to be longsuffering. When we speak about matters of judgment we are talking about morally neutral topics according to the Bible but which still may affect a Christian’s conscience. In Romans 14 we read of the example that one believes he may eat all things while another eats only vegetables. If they do not judge or despise one another they will both stand because God is able to make them stand.

The type of language used describing scruples is very different than that used in matters of doctrine or salvation. In Romans 14 we read of such language: “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind,” along with, “Who are you to judge another’s servant? But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother?” In verse 13 it closes out with this statement: “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” If we are aware of a certain weaker brother’s faith we must walk in love. We are to consider our brethren and the possibility of giving up something that is not sinful of itself in order to preserve unity.

Another example of how to handle a matter of judgment can be found in 1 Corinthians 8. Concerning meat that had been sacrificed to idols, some would have violated their own conscience by eating it. There wasn’t anything inherently good or evil about eating the meat. Yet by eating the meat a more mature Christian would have sinned against the weaker brother by wounding his conscience. The attitude of Paul in this situation sums up how we are to walk in love: “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Cor. 8:13).

We Be Brethren

When it comes to unity between brethren I think of what Abram said to Lot: “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren” (Gen. 13:8). I especially like the KJV rendering “…for we be brethren.” Even though they parted ways soon after this, they remained brethren and Abraham would later rescue and intercede for Lot and his family. Sometimes we forget that as children of God, we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. If we stick together we will be glorified together (Rom. 8:16-17).

Another Old Testament passage that can be applied to unity is Amos 3:3: “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” This makes me think of a three-legged race, where two people are united at the ankles and must work together to move forward. If you have ever seen or participated in one of these races you will inevitably see some awkwardly stumbling, some falling down and sometimes one will fall and the other will try to keep going. Unless there is agreement and cooperation between brethren some will walk disorderly, some will stumble and some will fall. Yet, the words of the psalmist still ring true: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

Bringing these thoughts to the New Testament, we can turn to 1 Corinthians 12 and read of the diverse members within the one body of Christ needing to be united. We are taught the importance of each individual, the necessity of the weaker members and how God composed and views the body. In verse 25 we read again that there should be no divisions within the body but all should have the same care for one another. There is no doubt that problems will arise. Yet the more time we spend with brethren in the word, the easier it will be to avoid or solve our problems. We will be united in our common faith. If one does stumble the rest will be there to encourage, to pray and to build him up on our most holy faith (Jude 1:20). While those who do fall away will feel the godly sorrow necessary to repent and return to the light. It is a wonderful thing to be unified with brethren of like precious faith by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Work of the Church

There are a number of scriptures that come to mind concerning how we can properly prepare ourselves to be united in the work of the church. The very first is 2 Timothy 2:15: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” I’m also reminded of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which teaches us that the word of our living God is able to equip us for every good work. The Bible contains all that we need when it comes to being united in our work. In order for us to all be of the same mind and judgment we must be diligent in study, accurately handling the word of truth.

We must be knit together in such a way that our love for God will naturally lead to an unquenchable thirst and hunger for righteousness. Yet we must also grow together. One cannot remain on a milk-only diet while others feast upon the meat of the word. Ignorance of the scriptures can leave an individual vulnerable and we know how wolves and lions target the weak, sick and defenseless of a group. If those within the body, with Christ as the head, wear the necessary armor we will be able to stand together against the wiles of the devil (Eph. 5:23; 6:10-20).

If we can be truly united as God intended, the church will grow day by day both spiritually and numerically. We would have strong bonds and consideration for one another, stirring up love and good works. If we can be united with our brethren, in our doctrine and in matters of judgment there will be more time to carry out the work of the church. Without having to address constant dissension, discord and contention there will be more opportunities to study, to teach, to evangelize, to share the soul-saving gospel of Jesus Christ. If we can be united God will be pleased with us. We will be avoiding division and embracing unity (1 Cor. 1:10).

ericmigueldiaz@gmail.com

Heaven, the Better Place – David R. Pharr

Philippians was written from prison where Paul waited to see whether he would be executed or released.  The Philippians were praying for his release and Paul expected that this would be answered and that he could continue his work.  But he also knew that in death he would go to be with the Lord.  This put him in what he called “a strait betwixt two” (pulled between two choices, hard to decide).  One the one hand he wanted to be able to continue to help the church, but he also had a deep desire to go on to heaven.  Verse 21 shows his profound confidence of hope.  If he lived it would be in the service of Christ, but to die would be gain.  We want to look especially at these words in verse 23:  “to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better.”  Heaven is the “far better” place.  Another writer expressed it:  “knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Heb. 10:34).

A Heavenly Country

Heaven is a better place because it is a heavenly country.  Abraham lived in this present world for 175 years.  He participated in and enjoyed many of the good things of this present world, but was looking for a better place.  Hebrews 11:26 says he and others of faith were seeking “a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”  Verse 10 says, Abraham “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

This present world will wear out and be destroyed, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13).  What will that heavenly country and city be like?  Many wonderful metaphors are used to describe it, including streets and walls of gold, and precious stones and pearls.  The description is the best that can be stated in human words, but when we have visualized it as best we can, just know that it is far better.  It’s the Father’s house with many mansions.  It’s paradise, with a river of pure water of life (Rev. 221), and in the middle is the tree of life.  “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev. 1:7).

Better Bodies

There is an interesting and significant statement in the story of Job.  In the midst of his great suffering he was aware that the time would come when his earthly physical body was going to die and decay.  But in Job 19:26 he declared his hope for a new body.  “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”

In the New Testament we are told that we will have a “spiritual body.”  A “spiritual body” means a body not limited by the shortcomings of flesh.  Philippians 3:21 tells us that Christ will “change our vile body [lowly, earthly, physical body] that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).  John writes of the same thing.  “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

The saved in heaven will have bodies, spiritual bodies.  Our finite minds cannot visualize how that is possible, that somehow the dead will be raised and given bodies that are fit for Heaven.  That this is something beyond our ability to imagine is discussed in 1 Corinthians 15:25ff.  This is a text worthy of much contemplation.

First, the apostle uses the illustration of a seed (36-38).  A seed appears lifeless and insignificant, yet it dies in the earth to germinate into a marvelous plant.  Let us suppose we had never seen the process in nature.  Someone shows us a little brown seed and tells how it will grow into a large plant with green leaves and striking colors.  If we had never seen this, if we had never seen a pretty flower develop from a seed, would it not seem impossible to imagine?  The apostle’s point is that when we recognize God’s power in the transformation of seed into grain we can believe he can change our bodies from corruptible into incorruptible.

Then the text calls our attention to the great variety in the universe, the different forms of life, the planets and the stars.  The point is that if God could make all that we can see, why would we doubt that he can do things we can’t yet see.  We don’t know everything and there is much we have never seen.  The Creator who made our natural bodies can also make our spiritual bodies.  This is Paul’s confidence of faith and hope.  “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.  For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 4:18-5:1).

It is sufficient to know that God has promised a new body, a spiritual body.  It will be a body that is relieved of all weariness and stress.  The Bible says, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them” (Rev. 14:13).  “There the weary be at rest” (Job 3:17).  It will also be a body without the sadness, suffering, affliction, and death of this present world.  Heaven will be better because we will have bodies which can never be touched by afflictions and death.  “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Better Companions

Heaven is better because of the companions with whom we will share it.

First, we need to know that there will be no bad people there.  Job said that there “the wicked cease from troubling” (Job 3:17).  No evil person or evil thing can be found there.  “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27).

Consider also that in heaven we will be in the company of the saints of the ages.  “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 8:11).

The righteous living and the resurrected “dead in Christ” will be reunited and together forever.  “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).

Some have reasoned that because we will be changed that we will not know one another.  Others have argued that if we should know one another we might also be saddened by knowing of loved ones who are not there.  This way of thinking seems to count the possibility of that sadness as of greater concern than the possibility of joy in a heavenly reunion.  Paul anticipated that his brethren would be his “hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing” when they were in the presence of Christ (1 Thess. 2:19).  Arguments that limit our hope are like the reasoning of the Sadducees, whom Jesus said “err because they don’t know the scriptures nor the power of God.”