Notes on 1 Corinthians
1:1-2:5 - Paul preached the Gospel, ‘not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ (17; 2:4). He preached ‘Christ crucified’ with a determination ‘to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified’(23; 2:2). This is the message of our salvation - ‘Christ crucified... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (23-24). All the glory belongs to God. We have no right to steal away any of the glory for ourselves: ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’ (26-31). Our faith is ‘not based on human wisdom but on God’s power’ (2:5). ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace’ (Mission Praise, 712). Christ is our full salvation. ‘Let us rejoice and be glad’ in Him’ (30; Psalm 118:24).
2:6-3:23 - We come to know God when ‘the Spirit’ leads us to ‘Jesus Christ’ (2:10-13; 3:11; John 16:14). We must not attach too much importance to the preachers - ‘What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants ...’. When we make too much of the servant, we draw attention away from the Saviour. There is a very important lesson here - ‘Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth’ (3:5-7). We are not members of a ‘mutual appreciation society’ - ‘You pat my back, and I’ll pat yours’! We must learn to point to Jesus, saying, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30). Let ‘Jesus take the highest honour’. Let His Name be ‘the Name high over all’. ‘’Tis all my business... to cry Behold the Lamb!’ (Mission Praise, 378,385) - Let’s say it and mean it!
4:1-21 - As ‘servants of Christ’, we must concern ourselves with one thing - being ‘found faithful’. This is not a matter of pleasing people - ‘it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you...’. Pleasing God - this is the most important thing (1-4). Serving Christ is not easy. There are always those who are quick to pass judgment on the Lord’s servants. What does God say about this? - ‘Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes’ (9-13,5). Being ‘found faithful’ is not just a matter of ‘saying the right words’. We must be the right people. This is what Paul means when he says, ‘The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power’ (20). ‘You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses’ (Acts 1:8; Romans 12:11).
5:1-6:11 - ‘Your boasting is not good’ - May we never become so taken up with ourselves that we forget Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us: ‘Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us’, ‘you were washed... sanctified... justified in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God’ (5:6-7; 6:11). There were problems among God’s people - ‘sexual immorality’, ‘lawsuits’ (5:1; 6:7). In all of this, Christ was being forgotten. There are no depths to which we cannot sink when we take our eyes off Christ. There are no heights to which we will not be raised as we look away from ourselves to Him. Christ is able to lift from the guttermost and ‘save to the uttermost all those who come to God through Him’ (Hebrews 7:25). Let it be more of Christ and less of self!
6:12-7:24 - The Lord has placed the highest value on us: ‘you were bought with a price’ (6:20; 7:23). Our love for Him must be stronger than any other love. Some are under pressure, at home, from an unbelieving husband or wife. You wonder whether your Christian witness is doing any good (7:16). You feel you are getting nowhere. You feel like giving up. You feel yourself being dragged away from the Lord. What does the Word of God say? - ‘Lead the life which the Lord has assigned’; ‘Remain with God’ (7:17,24). A difficult situation at home is just one example of ‘the world’ trying to ‘squeeze us into its own mould’ (Romans 12:2). The world will keep chipping away at our faith - until there’s nothing left. ‘Do not love the world or the things in the world... He who does the will of God abides for ever’ (1 John 2:17).
7:25-8:13 - We are to ‘use the things of the world’ without becoming ‘engrossed in them’ (31). Becoming more worldly in our way of living is not a purely personal thing. We harm other people ‘for whom Christ died’. They look to us for a godly example and we let them down. We ‘sin against them’. We ‘sin against Christ’. Our choices affect other people. We choose a self-centred life. We cause them to ‘fall into sin’. We live a life of ‘love’, and they are ‘built up’ in their faith (11-13,1; Matthew 18:5-7, 10). How are we to live? Are we to become preoccupied with how our actions affect those who watch our every move? That could become very confusing and distracting. We must keep our eyes on Jesus. We must live ‘not ... as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart...’ (Ephesians 6:6-7).
9:1-27 - ‘If I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting’ (16). Paul preached the Gospel. His whole desire was to bring men and women to the Saviour (22). Paul did not want to draw attention to himself. He didn’t preach so that his hearers would say, ‘What a good preacher Paul is’! He did not want to be ‘an obstacle in the way of the Gospel of Christ’ (12). Paul was not a ‘performer’, trying to increase his own popularity. Paul described his ministry like this: ‘I do it all for the sake of the Gospel’ (23). Keep your eyes on Jesus. This is very important. Don’t get so preoccupied with ‘a good preacher’ that you lose sight of the great Saviour! There is no room for ‘superstars’: ‘Humble yourselves before the Lord’ - ‘The Name of Jesus is the Name above every name’ (James 4:10; Philippians 2:9-10).
10:1-33 - ‘Participation in the blood of Christ… participation in the body of Christ’ (16): There is nothing more important than this. We are not to be spectators, standing on the side lines, watching what’s going on without ever getting involved. We are to be participants, getting to know the Lord Jesus Christ, growing in our love for Him, strengthening our faith in Him, bringing more glory to Him. We eat bread. We drink wine. We remember Jesus Christ, ‘the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us’. We do not only remember this great event from the past. We participate in Christ here and now. He has brought us out of our old life - ‘I have been crucified with Christ’ - and into His new life - ‘It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20). Participate ‘in Christ’ - not only in ‘the Church’!
11:1-34 - We celebrate the Lord’s Supper (23-26). We even take note of what Paul says about the way we are to come to the Lord’s Table (27-29). What’s this all about? Is it about the whole thing looking good - impressive? Paul gives us something to think about in verse 22 - ‘Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the Church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?’. In Paul’s questions, we hear an echo of the Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 1:12-20; Amos 5:21-24). We rejoice in John 3:16 - ‘God so loved the world…’. Let’s not forget 1 John 3:16-18 - ‘let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth’. Jesus says, ‘…first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift’ (Matthew 5:23-24). Don’t just think about it. Act on it (James1:22-25; 2:14-17)!
12:1-31 - Paul speaks about ‘gifts of the Spirit’. They are ‘given for the common good’ (4-7). We’re not ‘to show off’: ‘Look at me. The Church can’t do without me’. When we draw attention to ourselves rather than Christ, we are not living ‘by the Spirit of God’. He moves us to say, with our whole heart, ‘Jesus is Lord’ (3). We live in fellowship with one another: ‘the body does not consist of one member but of many’ (14). ‘I’m happy - as long as I’m getting my own way’: We can do without this kind of attitude! What about ‘the common good’? Sometimes, things don’t go according to my plan. Perhaps, my plan needs revising - to take account of ‘the common good’. When self raises its ugly head - ‘It’s my way or no way at all’ - let’s not forget the ‘still more excellent way’ (3). It is the way of love - Christ’s love!
13:1-14:12 - Paul’s teaching seems so unrealistic. Life isn’t like this, people aren’t like this, the Church isn’t like this - and we’re all the poorer for it! We speak about revival. We hope for it. We pray for it. What we need most of all is a revival of love. This is not a return to ‘the good old days’. This is for here and now. We can make a great deal of a ‘revival’ which took place a good many years ago. It is in today’s world that we are called to show love. Differences of opinion become deeply-held prejudices. It’s all going on in the Name of Christ! Our reverence for yesterday’s religious leaders will mean nothing - if there is no love. Some things should have been ‘dead and buried’ a long time ago. Keep the negative thinking going and we’ll be speaking to ourselves. Nobody will be listening (14:4,8)!
14:13-40 - ‘Be eager to prophesy’ (39). Preaching God’s Word to the people is important. It is not everything. It is to be accompanied by prayer and praise. Many come to hear ‘the preacher’. Few gather to pray that the whole service of worship will be filled with the presence of the Lord. Some come to hear a ‘sermon’. They show little real enthusiasm for worshipping the Lord. They want ‘the Word’. There is no real heart for worship, witness, and work. The preacher’s public performance becomes more important than the prayerful praise of God’s people. ‘All things’ are ‘done decently and in order’ yet the atmosphere is forbidding. The Spirit of God is not moving freely among the people of God (39-40). Let there be less talking about the preacher and more concern with giving all the praise and glory to the Lord.
15:1-45 - Here, we learn of Christ’s resurrection: the fact - ‘Christ has been raised from the dead’ - and the meaning - ‘the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep’ (20). We look back to His resurrection. We ‘remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead’ (2 Timothy 2:8). We look forward to our own resurrection. We will be ‘raised’ - ‘imperishable… in glory… in power… a spiritual body’ (42-44). Looking back to His resurrection and looking forward to our own resurrection, we are to live, here and now, in ‘the power of His resurrection’ (Philippians 3:10). We believe the fact of the resurrection. We live in the power of the resurrection. We rejoice in the hope of the resurrection. With ‘resurrection’ faith in the ‘resurrection’ God, let us live the ‘resurrection’ life as a ‘resurrection’ people!
15:46-16:24 - In Christ, there is ‘victory’ - glorious, eternal, heavenly victory (54-57). Every day, we face a battle. It is a battle for faith, love and service. (a) We are called to trust the Lord: ‘Stand firm in your faith’ (13). We are to have faith. It is to be a growing faith, a faith which is growing stronger. (b) We are called to love the Lord. This is to be the most important thing in our life: ‘love for the Lord’ (21). Christ’s question comes to us: ‘Do you love Me?’ (John 21:15-17). Is our love for Him growing stronger or getting weaker? (c) We are called to serve the Lord: ‘Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord’ (58). Let’s get rid of the lazy, ‘can’t be bothered’ attitude. We shall be victorious through ‘the grace of the Lord Jesus’ (23).