Deuteronomy 19, Jeremiah 11, 1 Corinthians 15

Read Deuteronomy 19, Jeremiah 11, and 1 Corinthians 15. This devotional is about 1 Corinthians 15.

As this letter to the Corinthians continued, Paul continued addressing issues he knew of in the church. Here in chapter 15, he addressed the resurrection of Jesus which was denied by some of the believers in Corinth (v. 12). Paul began by reminded the Corinthians that they were saved by the gospel he brought to them (vv. 1-2) and that gospel was the death (v. 3), burial (v. 4a), and resurrection of Christ (v. 4b) along with the eyewitness proof of Christ’s resurrection (vv. 5-7). After a brief digression about his apostleship (vv. 8-11), Paul began taking apart the false doctrine that there is no resurrection (vv. 12-49).

If there is no resurrection than Christ wasn’t raised from the dead and the entire gospel message is a fraud (vv. 12-19). But Christ did rise from the dead and his resurrection is a promissory note of a future hope for us (vv. 20-49). Finally, in verses 50-58, Paul spelled out the future hope we have in Christ because of his resurrection. Death is not a permanent state (v. 51); instead, everyone who died in Christ will be raised again with a glorified body (vv. 52-57). This is our hope. Death is a fearful thing for people but in Christ we are promised deliverance from death through the final resurrection. Christ’s resurrection foreshadows (“the firstfruits,” vv. 20-23) our resurrection.

What good is it to us today to believe in the resurrection? The answer is that it gives us motivation to stand firm in Christ and to invest in his work. Verse 58 says, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” The promise of the resurrection is both the promise of eternal life with God and the prospect of future rewards in his kingdom.

Do you ever wonder if it is worth it to follow Christ? Do you ever consider quitting your area of ministry because you feel the results are not there? Most of us have felt that from time to time but this passage urges us to hold fast and keep serving because eternity will be worth it. So don’t quit! Keep following Christ and living for him and you will be glad you did when you reach the final resurrection.

Deuteronomy 17, Jeremiah 9, 1 Corinthians 13

Read Deuteronomy 17, Jeremiah 9, and 1 Corinthians 13 today. This devotional is about 1 Corinthians 13.

The Corinthians had a proud perspective on spiritual gifts. The more powerfully God had gifted someone, the more spiritual that person seemed to be to the Corinthian believers.

Here in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul taught that spiritual power is useless without love. It doesn’t matter how elevated your language is through the gift of tongues (v. 1), how prophetic your words are (v. 2), or how sacrificial your giving may be (v.3), without love there is no meaningful spiritual impact from these things.

So what is love?

Instead of defining it, Paul described it. It is patient and kind (v. 4a-b). It does not envy others or call attention to itself (v. 4c-e). It is not defensive (v. 5). All of these things point to one reality–love is a focus on what is good for others.

It is so easy for us to become self-centered, isn’t it? We serve but we are aware of the cost that service extracts from us. We give but we resent the attention someone else gets for using their gifts in the body. We make a contribution but wonder why we don’t get more out of the church. These are all self-centered, unloving thoughts.

If you want your life to count for Jesus, you need to ask him to teach you to love–that is to focus on benefiting others and not think about yourself. The Bible says that love is the fruit of the Spirit. That means it is the result of your growth in grace by the Holy Spirit of God. Again, because pride and self-centeredness come so naturally to us this is something we need to continually ask God’s help for.

Is there anyone in your life that needs love today? Anyone that needs you to serve them instead of being focused on yourself?

Deuteronomy 10, Jeremiah 3, 1 Corinthians 9

Read Deuteronomy 10, Jeremiah 3, 1 Corinthians 9 today. This devotional is about 1 Corinthians 9.

A new chapter greets us here in 1 Corinthians 9 but the topic of this chapter continued from chapter 8. That chapter started the topic generally of Christian liberty. Specifically, the issue was whether it is wrong for Christians to eat meat after it had been sacrificed to idols. Paul continued discussing that topic in this chapter.

Christian liberty is a right. Nobody has the right to forbid a believer from doing something that is not sinful.

But although you have the right to Christian liberty, you aren’t required to exercise that right in any way. Here in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul holds up his own example to illustrate the point.

Like every believer, Paul was free (v. 1a). As an apostle, he had the right to be supported financially so that he could eat and drink and even bring a family along with him, if he had one (vv. 3-5a). Other apostles traveled with their families (v. 5b) and did not work to support themselves financially like Paul and Barnabas did (v. 6).

In verses 7-14 Paul explained why he had these rights as an apostle using everyday examples and biblical examples. Then, in verses 15-23 he told the Corinthians that he did not insist on exercising all these rights because the gospel is the most important thing.

It is through the gospel that people are liberated from sin and its penalties. Liberating people from sin is more important than exercising the liberties we have in Christ. So, if giving up a few rights is beneficial to the gospel, Paul was eager to do that (v. 19).

Now consider again the topic of idol meat. Is that tasty meat and its delicious low price worth compromising the weak faith of another brother or sister in Christ? Is any act of Christian liberty worth that?

Yes, we are free in Christ but we are also servants of Christ for his gospel which he called us to spread anywhere and everywhere. Does the effect of our decisions on the spread of the gospel ever cross our minds? Our words and actions in this life can point others to Christ or they can cause others to recoil from Christ. As we grow in the Lord, the maturity he develops in us should help us to think about our lives and evaluate our decisions this way.

1 Corinthians 16

Read 1 Corinthians 16 today.

This chapter brought this letter to the Corinthians to a conclusion. Paul gave instructions about how to collect the offering he was gathering for the impoverished believers in Jerusalem (vv. 1-4). He described his travel plans (vv. 5-8) and the possibility of visits from Timothy (vv. 10-11) and Apollos (v. 12). He encouraged the church to live according to their faith in Christ (v. 13) and he recommended that the Corinthians treat God’s servants well (vv. 15-16). He commended three men for the financial support they brought him (vv. 17-18) and he wrapped up the letter with some greetings and a fitting conclusion (vv. 19-24).

Tucked within these final thoughts Paul said some things about Timothy (vv. 10-11) and the family of Stephanas (vv. 15-18) that are worthy of our consideration. Regarding Timothy Paul wrote, “No one, then, should treat him with contempt” (v. 11) The reason? “he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am” (v. 10b). Regarding the Stephanas family Paul commanded the church “to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it” (v. 16). The reason they should submit is “they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people.”

We know that the Corinthian church played favorites among the Lord’s servants because Paul addressed that favoritism in chapters 1-2. This kind of partisanship extended to other servants of the Lord. Given what we know about Timothy from the New Testament, can you imaging treating him “with contempt” (v. 11)? Yet that seemed to be a real potential threat. Likewise, the family of Stephanas devoted themselves to serving God’s people but Paul was concerned that the Corinthians might not submit to them.

Unfortunately, the Corinthians were not the only Christians to mistreat servants of the Lord that they viewed as “junior league” or “less than” Paul and Apollos. Some church people won’t accept ministry or instruction from the elders of their church or from staff members; they want to hear from the senior pastor only. This passage addresses that kind of attitude. All of us are servants of Christ and should be treated that way. If you decide to try another church because your pastor isn’t preaching on a particular Sunday, is that not treating God’s servant “with contempt”? If your elder contacts you and you don’t return the call or an email, is that an appropriate way to treat the Lord’s servant?

There’s nothing wrong with appreciating someone highly who is serving the Lord but there is everything wrong with elevating that person beyond the role of servant of the Lord. Check your heart and determine to treat all of God’s servants with the appropriate level of respect and submission.

1 Corinthians 15

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 15.

As this letter to the Corinthians continued, Paul continued addressing issues he knew of in the church in Corinth. Here in chapter 15, he addressed the resurrection of Jesus which was denied by some of the believers in Corinth (v. 12). Paul began by reminded the Corinthians that they were saved by the gospel he brought to them (vv. 1-2) and that gospel was the death (v. 3), burial (v. 4a), and resurrection of Christ (v. 4b) along with the eyewitness proof of Christ’s resurrection (vv. 5-7). After a brief digression about his apostleship (vv. 8-11), Paul began taking apart the false doctrine that there is no resurrection (vv. 12-49).

If there is no resurrection than Christ wasn’t raised from the dead and the entire gospel message is a fraud (vv. 12-19). But Christ did rise from the dead and his resurrection is a promissory note of a future hope for us (vv. 20-49). Finally, in verses 50-58, Paul spelled out the future hope we have in Christ because of his resurrection. Death is not a permanent state (v. 51); instead, everyone who died in Christ will be raised again with a glorified body (vv. 52-57). This is our hope. Death is a fearful thing for people but in Christ we are promised deliverance from death through the final resurrection. Christ’s resurrection foreshadows (“the firstfruits,” vv. 20-23) our resurrection.

What good is it to us today to believe in the resurrection? The answer is that it gives us motivation to stand firm in Christ and to invest in his work. Verse 58 says, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” The promise of the resurrection is both the promise of eternal life with God and the prospect of future rewards in his kingdom.

Do you ever wonder if it is worth it to follow Christ? Do you ever consider quitting your area of ministry because you feel the results are not there? Most of us have felt that from time to time but this passage urges us to hold fast and keep serving because eternity will be worth it. So don’t quit! Keep following Christ and living for him and you will be glad you did when you reach the final resurrection.

1 Corinthians 14

Keeping up with the daily reading schedule? Great! Read 1 Corinthians 14 today.

Paul continued writing about miraculous gifts in this chapter and he recommended the gift of prophecy over the gift of tongues (vv. 1-25). Paul made several points in this chapter to try to correct the errors of the Corinthians:

  1. Tongues in a church’s gathering are useless (v 6: “what good will I be?” and v. 28). They do not edify other believers (vv. 1-12) and they make unbelievers think that you are insane (v. 24).
  2. Interpreted tongues are useful (vv. 13-17) so pray for that gift if you find yourself speaking in tongues.
  3. Tongues are given to benefit unbelievers not believers (vv. 10-11, 21-22a). The benefit Paul has in mind here is the benefit of hearing the gospel in one’s own language with out a translator (v. 21). Since the Corinthians all shared a common language, there was no need for anyone to speak in tongues, particularly if there were no interpreter. So the Corinthians shouldn’t seek the gift of tongues or elevate it to the ultimate expression of spirituality.
  4. The gift of prophecy edifies believers (vv. 3-5, 19) and it convicts unbelievers (vv. 22-25), so it is a superior spiritual gift to tongues.

There are two larger principles in this passage beyond speaking in tongues and prophecy:

  1. The goal of church gatherings is to edify believers primarily (vv. 5, 12, 19, 26c) and secondarily to convict unbelievers (vv. 24-25).
  2. Church gatherings should be done in an orderly way (vv. 26-40). Chaos does not please the Lord (v. 33).

These two principles should guide anyone leading a church and planning a worship service. They should inform you if you find yourself looking for a church someday. The second of these two principles is drawn from a basic principle about God’s nature: “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (v. 33a). As followers of Christ, we should seek order in our everyday lives as well. Is there chaos somewhere in your life? What is one action today that could move you a step closer to peace and order in that area?

1 Corinthians 13

Today we’re reading 1 Corinthians 13.

This famous chapter of scripture is part of Paul’s teaching on spiritual gifts which began back in chapter 12.

The Corinthians had a proud perspective on spiritual gifts. The more powerfully God had gifted someone, the more spiritual that person seemed to be. Here in verses 1-3, Paul taught that spiritual power is useless without love. It doesn’t matter how elevated your language is through the gift of tongues, how prophetic your words are or how sacrificial your giving may be, without love there is no meaningful spiritual impact

So what is love? Instead of defining it, Paul described it. It is patient and kind. It does not envy others or call attention to itself. It is not defensive. All of these things point to one reality–love is a focus on what is good for others.

It is so easy for us to become self-centered, isn’t it? We serve but we are aware of the cost that service extracts from us. We give but we resent the attention someone else gets for using their gifts in the body. We make a contribution but wonder why we don’t get more out of the church. These are all self-centered, unloving thoughts.

If you want your life to count for Jesus, you need to ask him to teach you to love–that is to focus on benefiting others and not think about yourself. The Bible says that love is the fruit of the Spirit; that means it is the result of your growth in grace by the spirit of God. Again, because pride and self-centeredness come so naturally to us this is something we need to continually ask God’s help for.

1 Corinthians 12

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 12

We’ve seen already that the Corinthian church was divided by opinions about teachers such as Paul and Apollos and by distinctions between the wealthy and the poor. Another divisive item in the church was spiritual gifts, particularly miraculous spiritual gifts (vv. 1-11). Miraculous powers, especially the gift of tongues seems to have become a way to rank who was the most spiritual in the church.

In this chapter Paul taught the Corinthians that spiritual gifts are… gifts. That is, they are not earned or developed by a believer who then has the right to feel proud. Instead, different gifts are distributed by the Spirit of God (vv. 4-5) and for his purposes not for our pride (vv. 6-11).

The analogy Paul used to teach this was the human body (vv. 12-27). Like the human body, the church needs different people exercising different gifts for the health of the entire body of Christ. I never think about my spleen, but I’m glad I have one; likewise, there are people in our body who have very public gifts and others whose service to the Lord’s body is invisible but vital.

How has God uniquely gifted you to serve him by helping his church? Have you figured out what you have to contribute and found a place to make that contribution?

Going further, God gave leaders to the church to serve his body (vv. 28-29). We know from other passages that church leaders and to defend the church, instruct the church, and equip the church. If you don’t know what your gift is, need help developing or finding a place to use it, that’s one of the reasons why we’re here. So, let’s talk.

One major undercurrent in this chapter, which will be developed more in the next, is that whatever our gift or role in the body is, we’re here to give ourselves for the good of the body. Our gifts and ministries are to serve not to be exalted. This is something we need to be reminded about continually because of our natural tendencies toward pride. If you find yourself drawn to a ministry because you like the attention that ministry brings you, it is time to humble yourself before the Lord and ask him to give you a true servant’s heart.

1 Corinthians 11

Today we’re reading 1 Corinthians 11.

Paul seems to have finished addressing the questions and matters that the Corinthians had written to him about and, here in chapter 11, he moved on to things he was concerned about within the church.

Generally speaking, Paul was concerned with how chaotic the worship services of the Corinthian church were. Starting here in 1 Corinthians 11 and continuing through 1 Corinthians 14, Paul instructed the Corinthians about aspects of their worship that were not glorifying to God. In today’s chapter, 1 Corinthians 11, Paul addressed two problem areas. They are (1) how women worship (vv. 1-16) and (2) how the entire church practiced the Lord’s supper (vv. 17-34).

When this chapter was written, it was customary for women in the Roman world, at least, to cover their heads as a symbol of submission to their husbands. But it was also becoming fashionable for women in that culture not to submit to their husbands and to show their lack of submission by not wearing a head covering. In verses 2-16, Paul rebuked some of the wives in Corinth who had stopped wearing head coverings. Although women were (and are) equal to the men in their importance to God and their position before God in Christ, on this earth God commands women who are married to live in submission to their husbands. Verse 3 explained that Christ, the Son of God, was in submission to God the Father. Although he is equal with the Father in every way, he functions in submission to the Father in everything. Likewise, wives should live in submission to their husbands. Shedding the symbol of that submission in the worship service was improper (vv. 13-16), so married women in the church should show their proper relationship to their husbands by covering their heads in the worship service. This was the first of two ways that the Corinthians needed to straighten up their worship services.

The second way in which they needed to bring order to their worship services is in their practice of the Lord’s supper (vv. 17-34). The Lord’s Supper was practiced as part of a full meal that the church shared together. The church met on Sunday, as we do, but unlike in our culture, Sunday was a typical work day so the church gathering happened at night. The wealthier members of their church could arrive earlier than the more common workers and slaves in their church family could. Apparently the Corinthians were not waiting for the whole church to be gathered before they started the meal and Lord’s Supper observance. Instead, people would arrive and start eating and drinking. By the time those who were poorer arrived, the food was gone and many people were drunk (vv. 20-21). Paul rebuked the Corinthians for this practice (v. 22), then instructed them again about how the Lord’s Supper began in the church (vv. 23-25). The Lord’s Supper is a sacred act of worship (v. 27) so it should be observed in a way that unifies the body (vv. 18-19, 22) and in a way that is reverent (vv. 27-34).

When we come together to worship on Sunday, do you prepare yourself well? I don’t mean getting your Sunday best together. I mean, do you think about your relationships and whether they are glorifying to God (vv. 2-16) and do you think about how to unify the body of Christ and show favor to the disfavored in this world (vv. 21-22)? Do you take time to examine yourself and your life and come before the Lord in a reverent, worshipful way (vv. 27-28)?

1 Corinthians 10

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 10.

This chapter concluded Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians on the matter of eating meat offered to idols. The chapter began by pointing to Israel’s history (vv. 1-5), showing that God did so much for the entire nation (vv. 1-4) yet many in that nation fell under the judgment of God due to their unbelief (v. 5). This survey of Israel’s exodus was addressed to the Corinthian believers who believed they were strong in Christ and could exercise much Christian liberty. Yes, God has done much in your life and in your church but his powerful acts in Israel did not prevent people from worshipping idols (vv. 6-7), committing sexual sins (v. 8), testing Christ (v. 9), and being complainers (v. 10). We too have received much from Christ but that should never lead us to believe that we are immune from sin (vv. 11-12).

Although idols aren’t real and there is no spiritual or moral damage done by eating meat offered to idols, there is temptation associated with idol meat. That temptation is idolatry (v. 14). True, the idols are not real gods or representatives of real gods, nevertheless idolatry is demonic (v. 20). If the Corinthian Christians participate in Christ through communion (vv. 16-17) then go to the idol’s temple and are involved there (vv. 18-22), they are participating in the demonic and will face the Lord’s discipline (vv. 21-22).

It is important, then, whenever a Christian exercises Christian liberty not to focus on themselves but on others around them (vv. 23-30). The guiding questions for a Christian’s life are (a) am I playing with temptation to sin but calling it Christian liberty (vv. 12-13) and (b) is God glorified by this (v. 31)–meaning does it help or create obstacles to the spread of the gospel in the lives of others (vv. 32-33)?

Christians may answer these questions differently on the same subject. Here’s an example: One issue that Christians debate is whether it is acceptable to drink alcohol. The Bible condemns and warns against drunkenness but not against all consumption of alcohol. Christ himself drank wine and most Christians have throughout the century until very recently. But alcoholism is a serious problem in our world and many Christians were saved from a sinful life where alcohol was part of their sinful lifestyle. Many of these stopped drinking completely in order to live an orderly, obedient life to Christ. Personally, I don’t drink at all for several reasons, but if I did, I would be exposing myself to temptation–the temptation to drink too much and the possible reckless things I might do while drunk. So, if I were to choose to exercise my Christian liberty by having a beer, my faith in Christ and desire to please him should lead me to be careful about having more than one or two, lest I give into temptation (vv. 12-13).

Also, it may not be wrong for me to drink a glass of wine, but if I knowingly drink when I’m with another believer who doesn’t drink because he has less self-control, then I am sinning by putting him into a position where he may be tempted. So the limits of Christian liberty are about avoiding temptation myself and not leading another believer or unbeliever to sin (v. 32).

Is there an area of your life where you’re living in Christian liberty but you’re tempted to go further into something that is sinful? Are you considerate of the affect of your life on others–either leading them closer to Christ or misleading them from following Christ? Let these chapters from 1 Corinthians help you to guide your thinking as you make choices in everyday life.