Chapter 8: The Responsibility of Knowledge
Knowledge Vs. Love: While worldly knowledge often leads to worldly pride, the quality of love leads to more love and encouragement. If you think you know it all, then that in of itself shows you are ignorant of God’s will. If your knowledge of the word of God is great, that is in fact noble and pleasing- it’s a good start. But knowledge without love is just not good enough. What good is that knowledge if you use it in such a way as to offend one another? Knowledge is a powerful tool but without love to guide it, it can be harmful as well. Be careful not to take advantage of your stronger faith and cause your brother who may be weaker in faith to become hurt or offended.
There is only one true God, the creator of this world. Yet the people of this world do not acknowledge and honor God. Instead they pay honor to worldly “gods” or idols. In fact anything that comes before God, becomes an idol. But no matter what that idol or “god” is: fame, money, career, a relationship or whatever else- it is not as important as worship of the true God. In the ancient times whether men worshiped false Greek, Roman and Egyptian Gods, or whether it is in modern times when men worship movie stars, musicians, sports figures, wealth, health or materialism- its all the same- worthless. “For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ through whom are all things.” 1Cor8:6
Now in ancient times when Paul wrote this letter to the believers in Corinth, the worship of false Greek and Roman gods was a common practice condoned and encouraged by the government. On a trip to ancient Rome you would see so many temples, and statues dedicated to gods and ancestors. Idol and ancestor worship was as common as patriotism- and was often linked to patriotism. In fact the Roman Caesers were often deified upon death. The worship of these gods and ancestors was called idolatry. It was common practice to offer food to idols and then to consume the meat after words in a ritual. Oftentimes the excess meat would be sold in shops. But God has declared all food as acceptable to eat. Food is not unclean. What goes into your mouth cannot make a person unclean before God. We as believers and hearers of God’s word have this knowledge. But many new believers, who had converted from idolatry felt it was wrong to eat meat that they knew had been dedicated to idols. It would bother their conscious to eat such meat. Paul wanted to clarify that it was okay for a believer to eat any meat even if it had been part of a ritual. But he also told the believers stronger in their faith to not make a point of eating such meat in front of a weaker believer if it meant offending the conscious of that new believer. Above all else, even when we have knowledge of the truth, love and consideration for one another, especially other believers is of the most importance. If your faith causes trouble for the conscious of another weaker in faith then you have done a great disservice both for the Lord and the other believer.
Chapter 9: Paul’s Purpose as an Apostle
An apostle was a messenger of God’s word. His purpose was to deliver God’s message so as to create new believers and disciples. Paul was an apostle to preach the gospel. As an apostle, a believer in Christ with the added responsibility to deliver and spread the message, he was also entitled to the liberties of other believers and even more: food, clothing, material support, family. Yet Paul willingly chose not take advantage of this. He chose not to accept material and financial support from other believers- even though it would not have been wrong to do so. His first and foremost goal was to spread the gospel to the exclusion of seeking his own comfort. His purpose was to communicate and interact with each at his own level to win over believers for Christ.
Chapter 10: The Choice Between Good & Evil
Let us not temp Christ. 1Cor10:9 As believers we should avoid evil or sinful desires. Consider the Old Testament examples of God’s just punishments upon those who ignored the will of God and Godly morals. We are not immune from God’s judgment either. We should avoid idolatry which means putting other things or people before worship of God. We need to also avoid sexual immorality. Another thing, we must be careful even when we think we are strong in spirit and conviction. We are not immune to temptation and we must be on guard. “Whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so that you are able to bear it.” 1Cor10: 12-13 If we are believers , why should we participate in immorality. We cannot have divided loyalties. We cannot serve goodness and evil at the same time. “Are we provoking the Lord to Jealousy?” 1Cor10:22
Again Paul addresses the common slogan that many erroneously believe and live by: “Everything is permissible.” While you may believe everything is okay to do, it really is not always okay. Sometimes what we do can cause harm to us and others as well. Furthermore we should put the well being of others above ourselves. As he discussed two chapters earlier, Paul uses the example of meat offered to idols. It is okay to eat anything sold in the meat market, but if your knowledge and liberties bothers the conscious of another then don’t do it in front of that person. You are also to set an example as well, not simply show off without care or concern. Whatever you do, make sure you do it for the glory of God and that you do not cause the offense of another who is weaker in the faith.
Chapter 11: Respect in Worship
The ancient cultural context of Paul’s passage on head covering must be considered. The general message is for today is this: we must act and dress in respect to God, especially in a worship service. Women are not demeaned or degraded as being inferior. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, Paul encourages the respect of women, and both men and women come from God. It is interesting to note how Paul also mentions that our physical signs of respect are observed not only by God but by the angels as well- to whom we are also examples.
The Lord’s Supper:
Think about how you celebrate communion or the Lord’s Supper at your church today. Have you ever wondered why the pastor or (master of ceremonies- whoever that may be)- passes around a bit of bread and wine/ juice to each individual. It is done in an orderly manner isn’t it? It is not exactly a re-enactment of the dinner served at the Last Supper celebrated by Jesus and his apostles as told in the New Testament gospels. It is not a full course meal as it was with Jesus and his apostles in the upper room. There is a reason for this, and Paul had to address this with the early Christian Church in Corinth. When we participate in the memorial of the Lord’s Supper together in Church, we must not consider it to be a party or a buffet to which we satiate our uncontrolled desires for food and drink. No! That is not the purpose. Eat and drink at home if you are that hungry- don’t expect to eat your dinner at the memorial service of the Lord’s Supper! Don’t eat the whole loaf of bread! Don’t you have homes where you can eat? Eat your dinner at home before you come to church. In the church at Corinth, apparently they used to pass out the bread and wine, and some members of the church would take more according to their appetites so that there would not be enough to go around. Instead of respectfully sharing in the memory of the Last Supper, they were simply fulfilling their hearty appetites. Paul had to condemn this, telling them as well as us to wait for one another and eat at home if you are hungry. Hence this is why in most modern churches the Last Supper is formally and orderly conducted that way it is so as to avoid the free for all, all you can eat- buffet effect. Jesus himself told us to remember Him in the practice of the Lord’s supper together- and as often as we do this, we are remembering his death and sacrifice.
Chapters 12, 13 and 14: Spiritual Gifts
There are different spiritual gifts. Each of these is important! They are simply different manifestations of the Holy Spirit working through the believer for the good of all. These include faith, helping, managing and knowledge. Individual members may be apostles or teachers. The thing to remember is that “one and the same spirit is active in all these, distributing to each as He wills”. 1Cor12:11. It is analogous to one human body having many different body parts: all are different but even the smallest is still important. Each body part has a specific purpose. Those parts of the body we see as less honorable, we must clothe with more honor- we must devote more attention to distribute honor. There should be unity therefore and not division among the members of the church. But, remember this- without love, our gifts are meaningless. It does not matter if we can prophesy or heal, if it is done without love then it does not matter! Without love, you have nothing because love is the only lasting spiritual gift- the others: prophesy, languages (speaking in foreign tongues: angelic and human), and knowledge will all eventually come to an end! The only enduring spiritual gifts are these: faith, hope and love with love being the greatest of the three.
An important thing to remember is that in the early apostolic times of the Church to whom Paul was speaking, some believers had supernatural gifts: healing, prophesy, languages (the ability to speak in angelic tongues and different human languages). But these gifts were considered inferior and transient in nature- meaning that eventually they would no longer be available- as in they would eventually pass away with the passage of time, when the more fulfilling spiritual gifts of faith, hope and love would come into play. For this reason, we do not see the supernatural gifts of healing, prophecy and languages.
Languages (a. k. a. tongues):
Paul discusses the proper use of the gift of languages within the context of the ancient Christian churches- which he sees as the lesser of the spiritual gifts. He explains that if someone has the so called gift of speaking in another language or tongues, but that there is no interpreter available, it is essentially useless. There is no point in it whatsoever- and not to bother! That is because no one else will understand what is being said. If no one can understand what is said, there is no point in saying it. There is no purpose at all unless there is an interpreter to explain what is being said to those who are listening.
Regardless of your spiritual gifts, above all there must be order. If everything is in disorder and disarray when you assemble together, what good will that do? How will anyone learn and be encouraged? As in the created world there is order and there should be order in the church as well. “As in all the churches of the saints the women should be silent in the churches”. 1Cor14:34 This is why you see men as pastors and not women.
Chapter 15: The Gospel Message and the Importance of Jesus’ Resurrection for all of us
Paul sums up the message of the gospel and its significance. “I want to clarify for you the gospel I proclaimed to you; you received it and…are also saved by it, if you hold to the message I proclaimed to you- unless you believed to no purpose.” 1Cor15:2-3 Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead. After he rose from the dead he appeared to over 500 people at one time as well as to the apostles and others. Jesus’ resurrection cannot be denied. It really happened! In fact if he did not rise, then the apostles would be false witnesses- and how would they get away with falsifying that information without someone noticing? And if Jesus did not rise from the dead, our faith would be meaningless- not to mention we would still be in our sins because that would mean that our sins were not paid for.
But just as sin and death came from one man’s actions- Adam; forgiveness and eternal life come from Jesus. In fact, Jesus conquered death through his resurrection. If you do not believe in the resurrection, then we are simply no different from the nonbelievers who have no hope and therefore do whatever they wish regardless of whether it is right and wrong. Watch out for those people because their company can corrupt your good morals. And think about why there are people out there who are ignorant about God- it is because you are not doing your job and sharing the gospel message with them. You should be ashamed!
Remember, before we are resurrected, our physical body must die- just as a seed dies before it becomes a tree. Our physical body represents corruption, but our spiritual body represents incorruption. Our physical bodies cannot go to heaven, therefore we must be changed to an incorruptible body. Our mortal lives will become immortal as death and sin are swallowed up in the victory given to us through Jesus.
Chapter 16: Concluding Remarks
Paul encourages believers to put into the collection for the believers according to their ability. He follows up with a description of his travel plans and some encouraging words.