1 Corinthians Chapter 16 begins with Paul directing the Corinthians to set aside some money on the first day of the week. He wants them to budget their charitable donations before they spend their money on other things during the week . From this chapter alone it may not be immediately clear what the fundraiser was for. Through supplemental materials we can see that the common consensus was that Paul was raising funds for the Christian Jews living in Jerusalem. They were being persecuted for their Christianity and there were many impoverished widows to support. Paul was collecting donations from many of the Gentile churches he had helped to establish, including the church in Corinth. (Partially sourced from Bibleref.com). Paul does not want to handle the money directly but plans to write letters of reference or maybe even personally accompany delegates to deliver the money to Jerusalem so that the recipients know they can trust the source.
The chapter also talks about several people that will be visiting the Corinthians. The Corinthians are instructed to trust and accept these visitors as ministers officially recognized by Paul himself.
Finally Paul closes his lengthy letter with well wishes and invites the Corinthians to authenticate his handwriting.
As I read this chapter, it seems to me that the Corinthians may have had trust issues. Paul seems to be challenging them to trust in God’s provision through the week even though they give charitably at the beginning of the week. He directs them to trust the visitors he sends their way and finally he invites them to verify that the letter is really from him in case they don’t trust its content.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Do you ever distrust someone’s motives?
Was there a reason that person lost your trust?
Do you ever struggle to fully trust God?
Is there a reason God has given you to not trust him?
What is God calling you to trust him with in your life today?
When I was a kid, I amassed a pretty good collection of action figures. I had a lot of He-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys. I even had a few from the lesser known franchise Silverhawks. Transformer toys (the cars and trucks that convert to robots and visa versa) were popular then, too. I didn’t have many officially licensed Transformers, but several of the toys I did have, could be rapidly changed from one configuration to another in some way. With just a squeeze of the figures legs, a flip of a switch or a dip in hot or icy cold water and the figure’s costume or facial expression might change.
It seemed easier to tell the difference between heros and villains in the 80’s than it is now. For example, The evil Skeletor was He-Man’s enemy. You could tell just by looking at Skeletor, “he was a bad dude”. He had a face like a skeleton and always dressed in all dark clothing. In the cartoons on Saturday mornings, he would cackle with delight at the misfortune of others while I ate Cap’n Crunch.
I still have most of my toys from when I was a kid, but especially those action figures. I didn’t destroy stuff like some kids do; like MY KIDS do. (Remember a few days ago, “puddles” and “Whacko”.) At this point I figure I’d better save those old toys just in case I don’t ever find that savings bond, or my pension fails to keep up with inflation. Sometimes old toys have a lot of value. Sometimes the value isn’t monetary.
My toys helped me explore the differences between good and evil and imagine epic battles. They helped me envision how just when the world seems to be at its darkest possible moment and we feel powerless to the evil closing in around us, our Messiah will return and save the day.
1 Corinthians 15 is one of my three favorite Chapters of the whole Bible. It paints a vivid picture of a war story more intense and dramatic than any Hollywood blockbuster. The chapter is chocked full of memorable quotes such as:
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
1 Corinthians 15:26 NIV
“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:52 NIV
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?””
1 Corinthians 15:55 NIV
So often, people seem to forget that the Bible calls death the enemy, not the reward. It is in fact the LASTENEMY to be destroyed. It is like the “boss” at the end of a video game.
My favorite restaurant in my hometown, DeKalb, Illinois is Pizza Villa.
In the basement of Pizza Villa there is a small arcade. Some of their video games have changed over the years but for as long as I can remember two have been the same.
They have always had a plastic egg dispenser that has a Fred Flinstone inside that spins around slowly when you put a quarter in it. Fred says “Yab ah Dab Ah doo. Yab ah Dab Ah doo” twice and a little plastic “Dino egg” falls out with some cheap prize inside. Maybe it’s a plastic spider ring or an old tootsie roll. The prizes aren’t worth a quarter but the nostalgia of the experience is priceless. Then there is a four player Teenage Mutant Ninja “Turtles in Time” game. It’s pretty much a “must play” every time I’m there. As you may already know, the Ninja Turtle’s final enemy is “Shredder”. Before you get to face Shredder in the video game though, you have to beat several other opponents that gradually increase in formidability. Among them, is a huge fly character that I’ve never known the name of, a giant humanoid hippo named Bebop and a rhinoceros named Rocksteady.
I can’t tell you how many quarters my Dad, my buddies and I have plunked into that machine over the years trying to beat Rocksteady. We could definitely get that horn nosed beast blinking and jumping around faster (a sign that he was taking on damage). We feverishly thrashed the joy stick and hit “A B B A A B” over and over, desperately trying to deliver just the right combination of bow staff blows and ninja kicks. I would bargain for more quarters as a kid. Now, when my kids get to that spot in the game, they will beg me for “just one more quarter?!” as they watch the final seconds tick away. There never seems to be enough “pizza power” or pocket change to finish him off. I’ve never seen anyone beat the game.
Some people seem to think that Satan is God’s final enemy and death is just one of his attack moves. They act like we can put on some kind of invincibility shield by saying the promise of eternal life means we don’t really even die, that we just go somewhere else, maybe even “a better place” immediately. (Remember the Bingo card I wish I had?).
Satan’s first lie was that Adam and Eve would not really die. He tried to put a positive spin on sin. He made it appear as though sin was a pathway to a higher consciousness of some kind; an avenue to special powers or secret knowledge; a way to become almost an equal with God.
What Satan was actually doing was setting up an ambush by the enemy of death. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had access to the tree of life. As long as they ate from it, they would continue to live. They were protected from death. Satan knew he needed to get them out on their own and away from the tree of life for them to be vulnerable to death. The plan worked.
Separation from God and the life sustaining properties of the tree of life was the wage of their disobedience (sin). That separation resulted in death. Their flesh decayed and they returned to the dust from which they were made. Absolutely predictable, scientifically repeatable decay takes place when a human body dies. The changes a dead body goes through are EXACTLY what God said they would be. Every time.
Without obedience to God we cannot be in his presence. Without being in his presence we do not have access to the tree of life. Without access to the tree of life our bodies will grow tired and weak and we are vulnerable to be overcome by the enemy of death. We spend our lives fighting off gradually more formidable foot soldiers of death that attack when we are isolated by our disobedience. You know the ones: loneliness, poverty, obesity…when we get to the end we have no energy left to fight off the final enemy- death. I can’t tell you how much money people have spent trying to keep fighting off death. Sometimes we make bargains with our father at the last minute for just a little longer. Nobody beats the game. Death wins every time.
It stings to realize that.
I vividly remember my first bee sting. I was about 6 years old. I was helping my dad clean out a little ski boat we had on a trailer in our driveway. I moved a pile of life jackets and disturbed a bee. It was like life switched to slow motion for a minute. I saw the little thing wiggle it’s bottom against my arm as it deposited its dagger. I felt the pain pulsing up my arm. I cried and gnashed my teeth. I flailed my arm, but the damage was already done. It stung me. My dad removed the stinger and I held an ice cube against the spot to numb it. Eventually the sting was gone, but the memory wasn’t. Every time I hear the word “sting” I think of that incident. As a Funeral Director and a Deputy Coroner, when I meet with a grieving family, I often see the sting of death in their eyes. I can almost feel it. Death stings. The enemy of death has not been destroyed.
1 Corinthians 15 tells us there is a day coming when things will be changed faster than a transforming action figure. We will be made imperishable and the sting from the enemy of death will be no more. Death itself, the final enemy, will be defeated.
Let us cherish these truths more than our most beloved childhood toys. Like a box of favorite action figures, let us pass these promises on to our children and their children. When their savings bonds and pension plans fall short may their hope in Christ sustain them.
What was your favorite Saturday morning Cartoon? Did you ever have any of the corresponding toys? Do you still have them?
Besides a bee sting, or the sting of death what are some other things that “sting”?
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “enemy”?
How do you define the word “destroy”?
What will it mean for the enemy of death to be destroyed?
“for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,” 1 Corinthians 14:33 NASB
In our house, we narrate the dog’s thoughts. Somebody will see Zippers make a funny expression and they’ll say “She’s like: “Umm guys I’d like to go to the park too. Is that okay? Or if not, I guess I’ll just stay here.” Then somebody else will chime in… “No, Zippers is like I really like to ride in the car…” and it goes on like that for a while. Then somebody will miss-hear what one of the previous dog interpreters said and will ask “Did you just say, ‘She said she wants to use a fork too?’” And everyone will bust out laughing. It’s not quite the same as speaking in tongues or sharing a revelation of prophecy, but it helps me imagine what it may be like to be in a church where more than one person is trying to do those things at once. With a family of six people plus a big dog, when everybody wants to talk at once, it gets a little overwhelming.
We have grown accustomed to our kids’ speech patterns and can usually understand what they are saying. For quite a while EmmaGrace could only say “ahhhhhh” with subtly different inflections to indicate if she was asking a question or affirming that she wanted milk to drink. As she got a little older she would tell you her favorite color was “lello”- which most people can probably figure out by context. But if she was just pointing out something that was yellow, you might need an interpreter.
When Weston was smaller he drooled more than our English Mastiff. So much so that he earned the nick names “Puddles” and “Weston the wet one”. When he spoke with a mouth full of slobber he sounded a lot like Sylvester from the Bugs Bunny Cartoons. When we make smoothies, they are “poovees” to him. When he had a little tummy bug, he told my mom that he had “buffered in the hall way.” That needed a little interpretation. (It’s the word that rhymes with scarf and when kids did it in school the janitor had to get those funny smelling wood chips).
Carter is all about airplanes. So he loves to talk in acronyms that he learned in his ground school for pilot training. From time to time he talks about MSL, VNO or VNE. I went to most of the classes with him but my 40 year old brain has less RAM (Random Access Memory) than his does. So I can get MSL- Mean Sea Level. I can remember that VNE is one that varies from plane to plane but basically it is the speed at which your wings will probably fall off if you continue to accelerate or hit any kind of turbulence. It is the Velocity to Never Exceed. Sometimes I have to ask him though “What does VNO stand for again? Oh yeah, velocity of normal operation.”
Communication is a two way street. When speaking we have to use words that the audience can understand. We also have to listen to the person that is speaking. I fear I am developing the multigenerational genetic gift of hearing loss, so sometimes I wish life had closed captioning.
1 Corinthians 14 tells us that these unique abilities to receive and deliver messages from God are pretty cool but they really only work if we have some order in the church. We can’t have everybody talking at once.
Paul seems to assume that the Corinthian church will have more than one person at a time that wants to speak in a tongue or deliver a prophetic word. It is almost like how he assumed they would be practicing communion. Are these gifts practiced in your church today?
If not, should they be?
If so, are they practiced as directed by Paul in this chapter?
“Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
“They” call 1 Corinthians 13 “the love chapter”. It’s quoted from at most weddings. So what is it talking about? I don’t think it is a coincidence that Paul discusses love and speaking in tongues (a gift involving the ability to speak unique languages), in the same chapter. Love is difficult to put into words.
In my work as a Funeral Director and Deputy Coroner, I am often at a loss for words. I frequently have opportunity to speak with families when there is nothing to say. Nothing that should be said, anyway. That certainly doesn’t stop some people from trying. I’ve heard people say all kinds of stuff to try to comfort the grieving. Most of it, frankly, has no basis in scripture or reality. Sometimes I wish I had a platitude and cliché bingo card I could pull out of my pocket and shout “BINGO!”. About the only right thing to do in that situation is nothing at all.
My father-in-law is a pastor and has served as Chaplain for a local fire department for a number of years and he recently commented during a sermon about how in most situations when the fire department is needed, if the crew showed up and just stood there people would say “Don’t just stand there, DO SOMETHING!” But when it comes to the work of a fire chaplain, the best approach is “Don’t do something, JUST STAND THERE!” I liked that line. I have stolen it and shared it with coworkers several times. When a person has lost everything they don’t need a preacher, they need a presence. To be able to just be present, is a gift. (Do you see what I did there?).
As Christians, being confronted with a sudden and unexpected death is like being the pilot in charge of an airplane when the engines stall. All that is really left at that point is faith, hope and love. What words of comfort can you give when you know that a person did not have faith in Jesus Christ? What chapter of systematic theology will you turn to for the family who has no hope in The coming Kingdom?
I said before, our dog is named Zippers due to her urge to chew on our coat zippers. If we named our children using that method, one of my sons might have been named “Whacko”. He has always liked to “whack” things with sticks. When he was two years old we bought him a Sesame Street drum set for Christmas.
It was a pretty cool toy. It came with a little stool to sit on. It had a pedal for the bass drum. It is hard to see in this picture, but there was even a tiny metal cymbal. Man, did he love to whack that thing!
I honestly don’t know what ever happened to that drum set but I have a feeling it found its way to “a better place”. The place where all the noisy toys end up. You know the toys I’m talking about- the Jack in the boxes, the little microphones with the spring inside that toddlers yell…I mean sing into, the Fisher Price Pop “Corn Poppers” that aunts and uncles buy for their nephews as revenge for the year you wrapped up too many candy canes… We’ve all had noisy toys like that.
Those noisy toys are exactly what I picture when I read 1 Corinthians Chapter 13. To paraphrase, Paul says all of those gifts of the spirit we just talked about in the last chapter are great. I’d really like for you to have ‘em, but in the end all that really matters is faith, hope and love. Of those three qualities, if you only have room for one, choose love because when the rubber hits the road, what people need to know is that God loves them more than anyone has ever loved them. All the rest is just noise.
What is the noisiest toy you had as a child?
What is the “noisiest” thing in your life right now?
Have you ever had a friend who was just silently present with you when you needed them?
The luxury automotive company, Lexus, advertises the “December to Remember” event every year. The commercials show someone waking up on Christmas morning and looking out in the driveway to see a brand new car with a huge bow on top. What a gift that would be! I don’t personally know anyone in the tax bracket that could afford to buy a brand new car and surprise their spouse with it for Christmas. It would certainly be a December to remember. Ironically, I had to google which car company did the “December to Remember” campaign because I couldn’t remember.
My birthday is in January, it is less than 30 days after Christmas. Growing up, the majority of the gifts I received for the year tended to be within a month of each other. During the winter of 1988-1989 a lot was going on in my world (that’s the topic for another time). It was in many ways a winter to remember. I distinctly remember some of the gifts I received that year. My dad made me a really neat wooden puppet stage with real working stage curtains and lights I could turn on with a switch. I received a magic set, an Alphie the robot toy and I received a savings bond. Yeah, a savings bond.
I can still perform some of the tricks from the magic set. The puppet stage went through a couple “revamps” as my dad called them over the years, but I still have it. I think my kids might still play with that Alphie robot when we are over at my parents’ house sometimes. Who knows what happened to that savings bond? I’m probably a millionaire and don’t even know it. If I ever find that thing, it will certainly be a December to remember when Hannah finds that new Lexus in the Driveway.
I started “dating” Hannah when I was 16 and she was 15. On her 16th birthday she told me that her grandparents, in Arizona, bought her a new, blue, Volkswagen Beetle. I kinda believed her. She kept adding details to the story over the next few days. The more she went on about it, the more I actually believed she had received a real car for her birthday. I was more than a little disappointed when the truth came out, the car she had received was a toy the size of a matchbox car.
My brother, Evan, is 13 years younger than me. When I was in college in Atlanta and came home for Christmas I had the opportunity to be a really cool big brother. I went to a hobby shop and bought an “Air Hogs” brand remote controlled airplane. I thought he would love it. If not, I kinda wanted it myself. In an attempt to be funny, I also bought him several boxes of candy canes at the dollar store and wrapped them up for him as a gag gift. I also wrapped up the airplane but hid it. It was just the 20 boxes or so of candy canes under the tree. When it was Evan’s turn to open presents he was excited to see what he got from me. He tore into the paper and saw the candy canes. He started crying. Through his tears he loudly asked “What am I going to do with 100 candy canes?!” That’s the part we all remember at family get togethers now. Nobody even remembers the airplane.
Around Valentine’s Day, when my son Carter was 5 years old he asked me to help him make a heart out of Crayola Model Magic (a substance similar to play dough, except it drys into a soft foam rubber kind of material). Knowing full well that he was talking about the simple geometric heart shape like chocolates come in, I carefully sculpted my best replica of an anatomically correct heart and handed it to him. I took a picture of his disapproving scowl. When I showed my wife, she reminded me that the Bible teaches fathers should not exasperate their children.
The first part of 1 Corinthians Chapter 12 talks about “gifts of the Spirit”. Paul writes:
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”
I have known some people that have said they had the gift of speaking in tongues but I certainly couldn’t understand or appreciate what they were saying. I have known people who desperately wanted or maybe even thought they would receive the gift of healing when someone they loved was very sick, but despite fervent prayers the healing did not come. It would be awesome to have “miraculous powers”. I would love to be able to raise the dead or cause the sun to stand still in the sky. (I do have questions about the physics about how all that worked.). So far I don’t think I have been given those gifts. Even my ability to deliver a message of wisdom or knowledge are iffy at best. There are certainly far better preachers and teachers than me. So where does that leave me? Do I even have any spiritual gifts? Is have a “gift of the spirit” as important as exhibiting the fruit of the spirit? Is this the complete list of gifts?
Paul addresses some of those questions in the second part of 1 Corinthians Chapter 12. He compares the church to a human body. He says “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.”
1. What is the first gift you remember receiving?
2. How about the most unusual gift you have ever received?
3. Was there ever a gift you had on your wish list that you asked for or hoped to receive, maybe even thought you would get but did not?
4. Have you ever received a gift that the giver thought you would like but you totally did not have any desire to use?
5. Have you ever received a gift without knowing its value till much later in life?
6. What gift(s) of the spirit have you been given.
7. When thinking of Paul’s imagery of us all being parts of the body, what body part do you think you are? An eye? An ear? Maybe an appendix or a tonsil?
I graduated from Atlanta Bible College in 2003. I worked with a couple small churches after that, but found my “calling” in helping people through grief. Next month, my wife, Hannah, and I will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. Our marriage is almost old enough to vote. We have four children ranging in age from 12 to 3. In November 2021, we bought a purebred english mastiff puppy. We call her “Zippers” for her propensity to chew on jacket closures. This is the lens through which I see things, my source for some great sermon illustrations and the perspective from which I write today.
I am my parent’s oldest child. I was the first grandchild on both sides of the family. I had three whole years of life experience before my sister was born. I felt like I was practically an adult at age 13 when my youngest brother was born. When I went through grade school in DeKalb, Illinois, each student attended kindergarten through 4th grade at the elementary school closest to his or her home. Then “the whole city” converged on Clinton Rosette Middle School for 5th and 6th grade. Then, everyone transferred to Huntley Middle School for 7th and 8th grade. Finally, everyone went on to the last building of the journey, DeKalb High School. That means when I was a big 7th grader, my 4th grade little sister was still “two whole buildings behind me” in “baby school”, at Carl Littlejohn Elementary. I didn’t let her forget it. I mean it had “Little”, right there in the name. My sister and I would fight like cats and dogs growing up but if anyone else tried to mess with her, they’d better look out. Being “the big brother” or “the oldest” was a big part of my identity growing up. As adults, the three year chasm between my sister and I, does not seem so important. She’s about to finish her master’s degree and will probably make more money than me. My brother can definitely grow better facial hair than me. When we are together people have mistakenly thought he was my older brother. I’ll admit I don’t love having my sense of identity challenged. I think some of the early Christians in Corinth might have felt the same.
In 1998, I “officially” started dating the preacher’s kid, a “PK”, as they say. I quickly learned that people (including myself) make certain assumptions about how a pastor’s family members ought to behave. Sometimes there are unrealistic expectations. When you date a preacher’s daughter, people have some expectations for you too. Some are unspoken. Most of them should be. A lot of them aren’t. Churches are funny that way. People feel safe saying things they shouldn’t, or wouldn’t say elsewhere. If someone perceives you as too perfect, or not perfect enough, they might feel the need to take you down a notch, or give themselves a little ego boost by comparison. It’s kind of like social media.
Sometimes the point of what people are trying to say is correct, but it is lost because of the way they say it. If we aren’t careful, even discussing certain topics can ignite a public opinion forest fire. Polarizing material is pumped into our televisions and handheld devices every day. Maybe that’s why they call them devices; because they are so divisive. Lifelong friendships have been destroyed over which “side of the aisle” a person stands on certain topics. Gender equality is one of these “hot button topics”. At first glance it might look like 1 Corinthians 11 is “too hot for TV”. I suggest that it is not, but reader discretion is advised.
What is Paul talking about with all this head covering business in the first part of this chapter? Is he suggesting that women are somehow less important than men? Not at all.
As I understand it, the tradition of the time was for women to cover her head (and in some cases, her face too) while in public as a symbol of faithfulness to her husband. She was saving her beauty “for his eyes only”. An online Bible commentary on the subject explained that it was not completely unlike the message that would be conveyed by a woman wearing a big diamond engagement ring in today’s American culture. It said she is taken. It said, don’t event try to flirt with her. Prostitutes on the other hand, would not have covered their head in public. They wanted to draw attention to themselves. To do that in church, when the focus was supposed to be on worship, would have been quite provocative. Can you imagine if a woman came into church wearing “barely there beach attire” nowadays? It would be distracting for both men and women alike as was the case in the time Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth.
In case there was any question as to where Paul stood in regards to the value of women. He clears it up in 1 Corinthians 11:12 when he says: “For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.” So in the first part of 1 Corinthians chapter 11 Paul tries to build unity in the church by asking people to be modest.
The second half of 1 Corinthians chapter 11 is less controversial. Paul admonishes the Corinthians for abusing the opportunity for unity through communion. People in that time were eating without waiting for each other and totally missing the point of the exercise. It reminds me of obedient mastiffs and “Boy’s night waffles”.
My wife, Hannah, is a nurse. When my oldest son, Carter was little, Hannah would usually work the evening shift at the hospital. So when she worked, Carter and I had “‘Boy’s night!” Sometimes, I would make waffles and sausage for supper and we would load them all up with all the toppings we both liked: Chocolate chips, blueberries, strawberries, whipped cream, etc. Hannah would never buy all that stuff. So we called them “Boy’s Night Waffles”. As we had more kids, Carter still wanted Boy’s Night Waffles. But it became increasingly difficult with four children. It was like conducting an uncooperative orchestra to have all the waffles warm and the toppings cold and help the kids cut their food into reasonable bites so we could all eat at the same time. Now on the rare occasion that we have Boy’s Night Waffles, I just have the kids start eating as their food is handed to them. We don’t even try to eat at the same time on waffle night.
English mastiffs like our dog, are sometimes called gentle giants. They are known for their size. They are one of the largest breeds there is. A female, like ours, can easily be around 150 pounds. They can be intimidating looking, but they are generally very calm and don’t need a ton of vigorous exercise. These qualities match our family pretty well. I hope to use our dog Zippers as a therapy dog, so I have been going to obedience classes with her one or two times per week ever since she was small. A large part of what we do in class is walk in circles reminding her to watch me and not ahead of me or behind me. When we get to a doorway we practice having her wait and not allowing her to just run right in or out. When we put food in front of her she has to leave it until we say a release word. Zippers is pretty good at the waiting part. She’s not so good at the release word part. We have tried “OK” and “Free” and “Eat”. A lot of times she will not start eating unless one of us sits beside her. Paul would probably like this dog.
As I see it, 1 Corinthians Chapter 11 is meant to remind the reader, (originally, Christians at the church of Corinth in about 55 AD), about the importance of unity. Paul says he is glad that the Corinthians are following his teaching and traditions but, he wants to remind them that it is more important to follow Christ than following himself. He encourages the church to be modest and build unity over division.
What traditions in your church have become a part of its identity?
What are some behavioral differences you notice when you visit another congregation?
What are two or three attitude adjustments your church should consider for the sake of unity?
How does the Corinthian Communion service compare to those you have participated in?
Idolatry has been going on for all of human history. It is as old as sin, because when we stop worshiping God we naturally start to worship something else that is not God, and when we do this we give it an importance and a prominent position in our life that it should not have.
The ancient Israelites dealt with the idols and sacrifices to Baal and Ashera, the early Christians in Corinth lived in a culture that worshiped Apollo, Athena, and the Emperor.
The worship of these idols defined the culture of the day and helped to form a part of the social life of many people. For many, accepting Christ and walking away from the worship of Apollo meant losing all of their friends and community, and a part of their identity. So many of them tried to keep a foot in both worlds. They would go to Christian services and be a part of that community, and they would offer meat to idols and try to maintain their position in society. They would argue that eating meat and talking with friends was not bad, but they missed the point.
18 Look at the Jews. They ate the animals that were brought to God as gifts in worship and put on the altar. Did this not show they were sharing with God? 19 What do I mean? Am I saying that a false god or the food brought to it in worship is worth anything? 20 No, not at all! I am saying that the people who do not know God bring gifts of animals in worship. But they have given them to demons, not to God. You do not want to have any share with demons. 21 You cannot drink from the cup of the Lord and from the cup of demons. You cannot eat at the Lord’s table and at the demon’s table. 22 Are we trying to make the Lord jealous? Do we think we are stronger than the Lord?
It is not the meat they are eating that is bad, but the context, the community and the mindset. If they accidentally happened to eat some of the meat that was offered at a pagan altar, they would get some tasty protein and that is about it, but if they seek out a community of people that are offering sacrifices to, and worshiping something other than God in order to maintain their social standing and public image, then that is sin. They have elevated their pride and their image and have put that ahead of God’s will, and when they join in with the idol worship they show the non-believers that God means less to them than the idols.
27 If a person who is not a Christian wants you to eat with him, and you want to go, eat anything that is on the table. Ask no questions about the food. Then your heart will not say it is wrong. 28 But if someone says, “This meat has been given as a gift to false gods in worship,” do not eat it. In that way, it will not hurt the faith of the one who told you and his heart will have peace. 29 How the other person feels is important. We are not free to do things that will hurt another person. 30 If I can give thanks to God for my food, why should anyone say that I am wrong about eating food I can give thanks for? 31 So if you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything to honor God
In every context our mindset should be to honor God. Because we are Christians all of our actions send a message to others about who God is, and when we are hypocritical or give in to social pressures, that hurts the faith of all who see it.
Do you have anything that you are trying to keep in your life that could be an idol? Maybe a group of friends that party a bit too hard, but you don’t want to lose them as friends? Or an unhealthy obsession with social media and how others view you, instead of how God sees you?
The early part of this chapter looks back at the Old Testament times and how angry God gets at idolatry, why do you think God gets jealous and angry when his people turn to idols instead of to him?
Do you need to be more aware of the struggles of those around you and give up some of your freedoms so that you can honor God and help grow their faith?
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. (1 Corinthians 9: 24)
Being competitive is sometimes presented in a negative light. Probably because competition can bring out the ‘jerk’ in people. That’s too bad, because in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul is telling them (and us) to lean into that competitive spirit.
Paul is using this as an analogy, by the way, he’s not telling us that we are in competition with other believers. He uses two phrases that I hope will inspire you as you run your race.
Athletes preparing for a big competition don’t eat whatever they want and binge Netflix all day. What do they do instead? They do things that will help them succeed in their goal. (Winning!) Paul’s goal, and ours, is “a crown that will last forever.”
How do we train for eternal life?
The word obey comes to mind. In order to obey we need to really know Scripture. If we want to hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant,” we need to know what the Master expects of us. And we need to do it, even when it’s hard. Just like the athlete in training gets off the couch and goes to practice, even when he’s tired, we need to obey even when it doesn’t make sense to our human sensibilities.
“do not run aimlessly”
If you’ve ever been to a kid’s sporting event, you know that there are players that do not have their head in the game. They are wandering around the field, chatting with friends, maybe even picking flowers in the grass. Adorable.
Not so adorable when it’s adults in an Olympic competition and not cute when we’re talking about forever.
So many of us say that we are sharing our faith by the way that we live our lives. But how much of that is a cop-out because we’re not comfortable evangelizing? If we are actively sharing our faith through our life, we will be intentional in planning ways to do it. We won’t just be going about our life, wandering aimlessly along.
I encourage you today to make a training plan. How are you getting ready for Christ’s return? I also encourage you to make a game plan. How are you looking for ways to share your faith with those around you?
(Editor’s Note: Sorry this was sent out later today. It’s been fun hearing from a variety of writers this week, but today’s scheduled writer ran into a health issue and was unable to write. So, we went back in time and found this great devotion from 2019 – thank you, Susan – definitely good enough to read again. God bless you as you Seek, Grow and Love!)
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
How often do you remember that you are training for a crown that will last forever? If we remembered this more often how might it change our hearts, our schedules, our free time, our priorities, our training routine? What could you do differently this week, remembering the goal of your training and perhaps making it a little more “strict” than it has been lately?
Are there any ways in which God may say you have been running aimlessly? What adjustments do you think Paul would suggest? Are you willing to do them?
While we now live in an era where information is at the tips of our fingers, just a few swipes and searches away, knowledge still holds as much power as ever. At the beginning of this chapter, Paul reminds us of this crucial fact when he says, “… But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.” (1 Corinthians 8:1b-3) Here, Paul highlights how gaining knowledge can lead to becoming arrogant and result in divisions between people. He then explains the flip side of this coin: love. By using what we do know for the benefit of others, we can become better leaders in the church and set an example for how to live a life like Christ. To better elaborate on this concept, Paul addresses a question the people of Corinth had for him concerning eating food sacrificed to idols.
Later in the chapter, Paul states, “… yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live But not everyone possesses this knowledge…” (1 Corinthians 8:6-7a) Since Christians are aware that all things come from God, it was clear at the time that the meat in the markets was just meat, despite its old use in rituals to idols past. As more experienced Christians were aware of this fact, they would eat the meat casually as they should; however, as Paul states, not everyone knows this information. To the average individual, seeing the meat could still serve as a reminder of the idols of the past, and witnessing Christians eating this same meat could cause confusion and make one deviate in their faith. It’s here where Paul warns us, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:9)
The rest of the chapter really speaks for itself as Paul describes how wounding someone with knowledge by being that stumbling block also hurts yourself. In verses 11-13, Paul writes, “So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” The result of not being responsible with our knowledge is devastating because not only do we sin against the individuals concerned, but we also sin against Christ. However, as mentioned previously, there is a flip side to all of this. If we are responsible with this powerful knowledge and use it lovingly, then we can build upon one another. It’s no easy feat of course—like giving up meat for good, as Paul describes—but by preventing the fall of those around us, we can continue to raise our commitment to Christ together.
— Austin Kizer
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
How do you use your knowledge to grow closer to Christ? Do your actions and applications of this knowledge show other people your firmness in faith, or are you sending mixed signals?
A unique phrase in this chapter was “stumbling block for the weak”. What are different stumbling blocks that the world throws at us, and how can we combat them to stay firm in our faith?
With knowledge about Christianity becoming more accessible to people worldwide, it’s important to hone in on the areas that we can directly impact. Discuss how Christians in this modern day can share their knowledge and build relationships with people in their community.
1st Corinthians chapter 7 presents us with Paul explaining to the church the importance of Christian liberty in marital relations. This chapter is all about the importance of the Christian concept of marriage and how it needed to be established in the early church.
In Paul’s letter he writes about the principles of marriage, but he also writes about singleness, in 1st Corinthians 7:4 Paul says,
“A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does.”
In a marital relationship, the husband and wife belong to one another, just as we belong to God in our relationship with him. We can also see this in how Elihu speaks to Job in Job 33:6.
“Look, you and I both belong to God. I, too, was formed from clay.”
We all belong to God in everything we do. We are to trust God in his decisions for our lives and the places we are to go, just as our spouse is to rely on us in our relationships.
Paul also speaks of singleness in chapter 7. Paul says in 1st Corinthians 7:8-9, and verses 32-35.
“I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain as I am. But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, since it is better to marry than to burn with desire.”
“I want you to be without concerns. The unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord. How he may please the Lord. But the married man is concerned with the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The unmarried woman is concerned about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But the married woman is concerned with the things of the world, and how she may please her husband. I am saying this for your own benefit, not to put a restraint on you, but to promote what is proper and so that you may be devoted to the Lord without distraction.”
Paul isn’t saying we shouldn’t be married or have relationships, but he is saying, that when we are in them it is important to not lose sight of your faith, and to devote yourself to God first. Sometimes our seasons of singleness are God’s way of pulling us closer to him, and that is one of the most important periods in our life. We have an opportunity to be devoted to only God and spend time learning who he wants us to be.
This is where I have been in my life lately. I’m realizing that my relationship with God must come first before I am able to have a relationship with someone else, so that we can strengthen each other through our faith in Christ. God wants a relationship with us, and for us to trust in him first and foremost.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Whether you are single or married, how can you deepen your devotion to God?
What is the person to do who is married to an unbeliever? Why?
If you will be choosing a spouse, what does Paul say he/she has to be? Why?
If you are married, how can you work (ideally, together, with your mate) at keeping God first?