Category Archives: Faith

Study 15 – 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Warnings for believers

Discussion Question

What use is the Old Testament?

Background

Paul’s letter about Christ centeredness has progressed to discuss Christian freedom and the possibility of being disqualified from the faith. Even though Paul is aware that he is no longer under the law of Moses, he remains under the law of Christ which is love. He is no man’s’ slave but he will ensure that his own body and intentions will be subject to him for the sake of the kingdom. It is God who saves and we now have an obligation to live for the kingdom and not for ourselves.

Paul talked briefly about the danger of being disqualified and now, in Chapter 10, Paul uses the Old Testament to highlight how we can fall into the same traps as the Israelites did. We are free in Christ but we have an obligation to love God and his kingdom values.

Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”b 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ,d as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

What did you see?

Structure

  • Comparing OT Israel with NT Christians (1-5)
  • Examples of stumbling like Israel (6-10)
  • The Old Testament as warnings to us (11-13)

Comparing OT Israel with NT Christians (1-5)

“…ignorant of the fact…” Perhaps an early stage of foolishness and ungodliness is ignorance. Paul has said previously that love builds up while knowledge puffs up, but here he puts back in balance the need to know things. It’s knowledge applied in love that we need. Not love out of ignorance or a life living in ignorance.

“…our ancestors…” The word for ‘ancestors’ as the NIV  puts it is actually ‘fathers’ in the Greek. I have no idea why the NIV would go with ancestors. One could be tempted to say at this point that Paul is showing us that his readers must be Jews. But he teaches in Romans 9 that the true Israel are those who have put their trust in Jesus. Most of us reading this blog will not be Jewish and yet we are able to think of Abraham and Moses as our ancestors. They are our forefathers of the faith.

“…our [fathers] were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.” We are taken back to the book of Exodus. As Moses lead Israel out of Egypt, they were all lead by a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night (Ex 13:21-22; 14:19-24; 40:34-38). The LORD travelled with Israel in the cloud and met with Moses on the Mountain and in the Tabernacle in a cloud. This was the presence of the LORD in visual form. And as they left Israel, famously they walked through the Red Sea which had been parted for them by the power of God (Ex 14:15-31). The were lead personally by God and were delivered by the power of God from their captors.

“They were all baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Any study on baptism needs to branch out beyond the book of Acts and listen to how it is described in the whole of scripture. Notice firstly that this is called a baptism into Moses. This helps us think of baptism as an allegiance event. As the people followed Moses through the sea, they are aligning their future with his. They are all the one community. They are Moses’ community. John the baptist was not baptising people as Christians but as Jews. He called people to come back to the LORD and be part of the true community again. Only after the resurrection do we get anybody being baptised into Christ. The baptism that Paul is talking about is not only about the sea but is about the cloud also. They moved from slavery to freedom by these two means. Following the LORD into their deliverance. Please note that, although both clouds and seas are made up of water, no Israelite was sprinkled or drenched for this baptism. A water ritual can be used to represent a baptism but a baptism is not by definition a water ritual. I do admit that, in a poetic way, the people went down into the sea and came up saved, but this should not be pushed to the point of misunderstanding the meaning of baptism. The people, young and old, were baptised as they put their trust in God through Moses.

“…spiritual food…spiritual drink…spiritual rock…that rock was Christ.” Paul is highlighting an example of how the stories of the Old Testament point forward to Christ. The historic story of Israel is more than an ancient account of how God was good to them. The story of Israel is the story of Christian faith. As they ate food and drank water supplied to them miraculously in the desert, nourishing their bodies, they became an illustration to us on our own dependance on God. Fifteen hundred years after Moses, Jesus would stand before a crowd and say, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35). He says this in the context of declaring that all those who put their trust in him will be accepted and have eternal life. The Jews in Moses’ day physically ate and drank miraculous food which fed their physical bodies. But Paul says, their story is an illustration of the Christian story.

“…God was not pleased with most of them…” The book of Numbers illustrates how an entire generation failed to enter the promised land because of their disobedience and lack of faith.

As we leave this paragraph, notice how Paul uses the Old Testament as a teaching platform for Christ and the church. The whole bible is an unfolding story that points forward and backward to Christ. The technical term for this is Biblical Theology. This is not to be confused with Theology that is biblical – since all good theology must be biblical. No, this is a term which describes the historical revelation of the world’s salvation through Christ. Every Christian must devote some time to understanding Biblical Theology otherwise they will not approach the bible in the way that the bible is presented. Every Growth Group leader ought to have a grip on this. It can be studied easily through the God’s Big Picture book and the course that we run from time to time at this church. It can be accessed and studied via the Introduction to the Bible subject of the PTC course run by Moore Theological College External Studies. And the writer of this blog would be more than happy to walk people through this important – essential – tool for opening up the scriptures.

Examples of stumbling like Israel (6-10)

“…as examples to keep us from…” The books of Narnia by CS Lewis and ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ by John Bunyan are examples of entertaining narratives which point to a deeper spiritual lesson for Christians. The Old Testament, while historical and real for the nation of Israel and surrounding countries, carries deep spiritual lessons for Christians who are saved by grace. As Israel needed to put their trust in God and not allow the dangers around them, nor the temptation to leave God in pursuit of happiness elsewhere, we are to learn from their story about faith in the God who saves, who protects, who promises and who delivers. The failings of the people of Israel are warnings to us too.

“…from setting our hearts on evil things…” This describes finding our treasure in anything other than God. You cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:19-24).

“Do not be idolaters…” No other god but the LORD right? And yet this command/basic expectation goes beyond idols and statues. Paul is going to make a big deal about this from Verse 14! The Corinthians, and we, need to be reminded not to be idolaters. Anything that takes us outside of true doctrine is idolatry – it captures our hearts and leads us to sin. Paul uses an odd verse in the Old Testament as his proof. Exodus 32:6b is quoted: “afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” Verses 5-6a state clearly the actions of idolatry – the making of a false god and the offering of sacrifices. But Paul points to the real evidence of giving ones’ heart to anything that is not truthfully God. An idol is nothing, but denying your heart to God and desiring fulfillment elsewhere ruins the soul.

“…should not commit sexual immorality…” Paul has already dealt with this issue back in Chapters 5 and 6, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” (1 Cor 6:18). We are not simply flesh and bones, biological animals that can take pleasure as we feel the desire. We are God’s people who walk in the light, with love and self-control as a goal. Our goal can be described with more words than that but sexual immorality is a clear indication that the flesh is winning. In Numbers 25:1-9 we read of the event that Paul refers to where 23,000 Israelite men died in one day! As you reread that event, you can imagine using this as a self-discipline guide to quench one’s immoral desire. Nothing breaks the mood more than someone entering the room with a spear to pierce you and your lover through the heart! When Paul says, flee from sexual immorality, you can see how this account in Numbers illustrates the seriousness of sin.

“We should not test Christ, as some of them did…” Notice how Paul continues to draw a quick line between their faith in Yahweh and our faith in Christ. Paul sees such a strong tie here that it is Christ they were testing! The example Paul gives for this is found in Numbers 21:4-9. Notice too that the remedy for their sin was to look to a pole that Moses was instructed by God to make – much like we look to the cross for forgiveness (see John 3:14-15). We’ve moved from idolatry, to sexual immorality, to putting the LORD to the test.

A note on ‘the LORD’ and on Christ being tested by Israel. Some will ask something like, is the LORD in all capitals a reference to Jesus Christ our Lord? An excellent question with a layered answer.  Jesus Christ is eternally begotten of the Father and he is the name that is above all names. When we refer to Jesus as our Lord, we are declaring that he is the boss and ruler of all things. King of kings and Lord of lords. When the Old Testament writes LORD in all capitals, it is a signal to God being called Yahweh. The Trinity is veiled in the Old Testament (not absent!) and God does not operate or behave in separation from Himself. Our God is Three in One. When they disobey and grumble against Yahweh, it is the Lord and the Father and the Spirit whom they put to the test.

“And do not grumble…” Discontentment is verbalised when we grumble. Paul, in 1 Timothy 6:6-7 describes godliness as a means to contentment for we do not come into the world with anything and we do not leave it with anything. But faith in God, true faith, will increase our contentment in all circumstances. What do we need if we have Christ? The New Testament is filled with illustrations and guidance on how to come to Christ and find life. Blessings and suffering are put into the same category with God since both lead to godliness when viewed through faith in Christ. Paul takes us to Number 16 and 17 where the Israelites grumbling was a major disappointment to God. The destroying angel came in the form of a plague on the people. It is perhaps the same destroyer as killed the firstborns in Egypt during passover (Ex 12:23). See also 1 Chron 21:15. An angel of destruction is allowed by God to complete this deed of death. The bible has much to say to us about angels but not enough for us to know everything and it is wise for us to not become obsessed with such inquiry (Col 2:18;  Hebrews 1-2; 1 Tim 1:3-4).

Let’s learn how the Old Testament, even being an historical account, instructs us much like any narrative instructs us beyond the storyline. If God’s anger is fanned by devoting ourselves to other loves, through sexual immorality and through discontentment, then let’s be warned by that. Although our sins are dealt with at the cross, he is the same LORD who deserves our lives.

The Old Testament as warnings to us (11-13)

“These things happened…and were written down as warnings for us…” It should be clear to any reader of the bible that it was not written down in order to preserve a culture’s history and traditions. Rather, the sins of individuals and nations are recorded as warnings for us. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that ALL scripture is God breathed and is USEFUL for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness. This means that every page of scripture can do any one of those four things.

“…on whom the culmination of the ages has come.” In Biblical Theology we can place the history of the whole world into a few basic stages or ages.

  1. Creation to The Fall (Gen 1-3)
  2. The Fall to Abraham (Gen 3-11)
  3. The Promises to Abraham to Moses (Gen 12-Exodus 19)
  4. The Covenant with Moses at Sinai to David (Exodus 19-2 Samuel)
  5. The Covenant with David to the Exile (2 Samuel 7 – 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles)
  6. The Exile and return to Jesus (Ezra – the Gospels)
  7. The Resurrection of Jesus to Christ’s return (Acts – Revelation)

This 7th age is the culmination of the ages. The coming of Christ and his work of redemption is the culmination of all the ages before this. We live in the Now-but-Not-Yet age. The Kingdom of God has been revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ and all who put their trust in him are declared the people of God and yet we await his final return to conclude even this age. Ephesians 1:9-10; Mark 1:15; Galatians 4:4.

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” Have you heard about the Preservation of the Saints? If you have then you may declare that God does not lose any that he has called. If you are a Christian then you cannot fall. Well, the method that God uses to prevent us from falling is called warnings from scripture! God has waken us up in Christ and we are called not to slumber and fall back to sleep! Of course, Paul may be talking also about falling into sin and so we must be awake and sober minded with regard to the traps of this world. Either way, the Christian walk is an eyes-wide-open walk.

“No temptation…what is common to mankind.” I love this sentence. It humbles me. I know that any experience that I may face, either a triumph of mine or a failing or an experience of suffering, I know that I am only one in a few billion people who have shared this experience in some way. Yes, we are all individuals and unique, but we are all humans with the same drives and thought patterns and so on. Why else do we have personality types and so on in Psychology. Because we aren’t that different you and I. Nobody can turn to God and say, well nobody has felt temptation like I have. I’m only human and you can’t blame me cause if you’ve been through what I’ve been through then you’d understand why I am like I am or behaved like I behaved. Well, a temper tantrum is a temper tantrum. Sexual sin is sexual sin. Humans have been doing it for generations. Every sin you can imagine, you can be the Israelites have a story about how they fell into it!

“And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” We are all sinners. But God is quite aware of what we go through a) he created us b) he has watched us all our human lives and c) he became one of us and was tempted like us. God is also Sovereign and able to protect us. The question is, will we exercise our wisdom, discipline, self-control and watchfulness to flee from immorality and put to death the misdeeds of the body. In short, it is not God’s fault that we sin. Adam and Eve had it in them to say no. But sin is strong and we are easily beaten. We must never blame God for our sin.

“But when you are tempted…” We will be tempted.

“…he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” This is a clear message from scripture. Treat it like a challenge or a dare”: God dares you to be pure and to say no to sin. Let me quote 1 John 1:8-9 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

What did we learn?

All of Scripture has been given to us for our learning on how to be righteous. The culmination of this lesson is that we need a Saviour and He has been provided. We do not ignore the Old Testament because in them we find many examples and illustrations of how to stay pure and walk humbly with our God. He has found us and delivered us. Let’s listen to him through all of his word and take up the challenge to say no to sin.

Now what?

Topic A: Do you know how the bible fits together? A course on Biblical Theology is an essential for every Christian. This can be done formally, informally and even one-to-one. If you are unsure of what this is all about, please ask your leader, or one of the ministry staff or search for (as a good example and summary) a podcast by Nancy Guthrie interviewing John Woodhouse on the book of 2 Samuel. Here is a link to it…
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/help-me-teach-the-bible-john-woodhouse-on-2-samuel/

Topic B: Idolatry, sexual immorality and grumbling. What a variety of categories. Take some time to explore how these three areas affect our lives and how we are tempted in them. For larger groups, you may want to divide down to more intimate groups for this discussion.

Topic C: Knowing the faithfulness of God. He is faithful in calling us and saving us and growing us in our maturity in Christ. We are challenged in this passage to be faithful ourselves but let’s not lose sight of the faithfulness of God toward us. He is faithful and just and will forgive us of our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We are to be aware of our sins and also aware of his forgiveness. We can keep moving forward in holiness when we know that our failings do not equal our eternal damnation.

Study 14 – 1 Corinthians 9:19-27

Living the work of the gospel

Discussion Question

What does it take to be great at something? For example, becoming a specialist doctor, or a concert musician. Do you have a story of becoming great at something?

Background

Early in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul stated that he determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified. He was distressed by the wavering ways that the Christians in Corinth were behaving and thinking and his antidote was to remind them of the gospel and how central and important it is to us all. In Chapter 8 and the beginning of Chapter 9, we were challenged to put aside the things that we feel we have a right to for the sake of the gospel. No-thing is more important than loving others with the love flowing from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Once we are established in the faith because of our knowledge of the gospel, we must pursue life with others in mind before ourselves. Paul says, for example, that if eating meat will cause a fellow Christian to sin, then he would choose never to eat meat again.

Martin Luther, German reformer, in his treatise titled, “The Freedom of a Christian” , wrote, ““A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” This is something of what Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 9:19-27.

Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-27

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

24 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. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

What did you see?

Structure

  • All things to all people – Submit your life to the gospel (19-23)
  • Like a serious athlete – Submit your body to the gospel (24-27)

All things to all people – Submit your life to the gospel (19-23)

“Though I am free and belong to no one…” A great starting point for Paul’s discussion is to note that nobody owns him. He is not working for a sales company, not bound to some higher order except of course to God himself. He is not bound to the Jewish legal system nor the Pharisees nor his own mother. But this allows him freedom to work out who to serve and how. We’ll see now how he lives out his freedom and what drives him.

“…I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” He will expand on what this means by example in the following verses. His attitude is to submit to people around him with rules and regulations that they feel are important. These regulations mean nothing to Paul in his Christian freedom but for the sake of winning people over he will not become a stumbling block for them. His practice is to see what he ought to abstain from or adhere to in order to bridge relationships and therefore preach the gospel. The maturity in this is that he is willingly submitting to the rules of others without demanding his rights. He is free to do this.

“To the Jew…to those under the law” If you’ve read your bible, it is not difficult to imagine what he means by this. If he is reaching a Jewish community or even attending their synagogue, he will pray like a Jew, dress like a Jew, eat like a Jew. Evangelism 1: make peaceful contact with others. Evangelism 2: win them through words and action.

“To those not having the law…” Just like the previous example, he is referring to the Law of Moses, or the Old Testament and everything flowing from that to do with the old Covenant. He does not mean to the lawless criminals. He is not telling us to break the law and infiltrate the underground to save some through criminal activity. But his freedom in Christ means that he is also not under the law (Verse 20). So he is not disqualified in any way here. But he may cross boundaries that he is not familiar with and crossing boundaries that mean something to some is perhaps his point in all this. We use the phrase ‘cross-cultural mission.’ Anytime we thoughtfully move from our familiar ways in order to walk beside another group for the gospel is cross-cultural mission. Other religions, other ethnic groups, different classes, different ages.

“…though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law…” So, when he says he is free in Verse 19, there is a clause here and that he does not live life in rebellion against God. But there is a distinction made here between the Law of Verse 20 and the law of God in Verse 21. So what is the difference? He defines it as Christ’s law which is helpful but still incomplete. The rule is to love God and love others. God’s kingdom is an ‘other-person-centred’ Kingdom and it is a Jesus above all else Kingdom. This is the law. Galatians 6:2 says that if you carry one another’s burdens then you fulfill law of Christ, and James 2:8 refers to the command to ‘love your neighbour’ as the royal law. We are no longer under the law but we remain in the order that God had created for us all and that is to love.

“To the weak…” If you are not under the law because of the freedom of Christ and yet you are still compelled to this or that, the New Testament describes this category as weak. It also says that the weak ought not be put down but looked after. 1 Cor 8:9-13 and Romans 14 describe this category and how to love one another as weaker and ‘stronger’ Christians. Paul is modelling in Chapter 9 what it looks like to be the stronger Christian and withhold your Christian rights for the sake of others.

“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” Followed correctly, this sentence helps us to push boundaries for the sake of the gospel. We do not need to conform in one way or another but are free to ask, “what if we did this differently” or “do we really need to continue such and such”? Reaching people for the gospel is the goal. It is important not to make the systems and church operating procedure or the church culture that we know and love the goal. This Verse does not mean, however, that we become like everybody else in the world so that nobody would ever even know that we were Christian! There is intentionality in Paul’s words, rather than passive assimilation.

“I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” Paul is already a saved man, sins paid for, guilt removed, chosen, loved, adopted and sealed with the Holy Spirit. But to not participate in the work of the kingdom would be a sign of disqualification. We never earn our way to heaven, but we are all called to be disciple-making disciples. The reward we receive for honouring the King is eternal life. This is the gift given to us sinners who have turned to Christ – eternal life (Romans 6:23). In this life, and perhaps in the next (perhaps), we each have different capacity for service in the kingdom. We all ought to consider our opportunities for the gospel and pursue them – not comparing others with ourselves but knowing God and who God has made us. Paul demonstrates his passion to doing everything in his power to serve the King.

This passage, including what comes next (Verses 24-27) may raise the question of rewards in heaven. There is enough language in the New Testament to infer that their might be different responsibilities given but that the reward (singular) that we receive is eternal life. That is a free gift unearned and undeserved. But what we do with this new hope that we have is to tell the world. Be part of the mission. To refuse to get on board is a sign of disinterest in the King. This just makes no sense. (For a brief comment about rewards in heaven, I found this article to be simple and direct: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/you-asked-what-are-the-rewards-in-heaven-jesus-talks-about/ )

Like a serious athlete – Submit your body to the gospel (24-27)

“…in a race all runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” Paul is not inferring that the Christian life is a competition with only one winner. But the example of an athlete who is not interested in second place – that’s a good metaphor for how to dedicate ourselves to the work of the gospel.

“…strict training.” Athletes think carefully about what they will eat, when they will sleep, when and how they will exercise and test their ability. They will get a coach to help them refine their technique. They will abstain from things that distract them from their goal of winning. They want their bodies to be the best they can possibly be in order to win. Paul is an intentional preacher and missionary. He will not let leisure and self-indulgence rule over him. He is for Christ and for winning others to Christ.

“…crown that will last forever.” This refers to eternal life and not a special reward above and beyond that. See the final paragraph of the last section. The principle that Paul is covering here is the principle of active faith. We are running a race here, so get in the race. This world is full of distractions which last momentarily. But the kingdom of God is forever! A day will come when this world is behind us. We will not simply visit heaven – it will be our eternal home. Why do we keep settling for this world as our own? It is a difficult thing to lay aside sin and the things of this world that entangle us, but by faith, with our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can be disciplined and put the things of this world in its rightful place. They are distractions and temporary joys.

“…someone running aimlessly….a boxer beating the air.” Intentionality, focus, thoughtful about all things. We need to be Christians with the lights turned on! We cannot mature as followers of the crowds. We must grow to know Christ, and know how he has gifted us to serve in his kingdom. How can you be more effective for the gospel? I am not trying to burden anyone with anything they are unable to carry – but we do share a tendency for slothfulness that we need to beat out of ourselves.

“No, I strike a blow to my body and make it a slave…” Paul’s own body that he lives in is not his master but he will rule over it. Churches used to talk about Christian discipline. The disciplines of prayer, bible reading, going to church, being watchful of the pleasures of this life, even exercise and diet and sleep. These are all good things that drive us to have the mind of Christ. The easy path is to watch TV all night and eat take-away food until we fall asleep on the lounge. But how Christian is that? I would argue that it is giving in to the sinful passions of the flesh. We must not allow ourselves to be slaves to our bodies but we have the Spirit who teaches us to say no to sin and yet to righteousness. We, therefore, can make our bodies slave to us.

Titus 2:11-14 (esp 12) is a good passage on this:

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

“…so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” When taken out of context to the whole bible, this can look awfully like our salvation is hanging from a thin thread and we can miss out if we have not been keen enough or good enough. Can we be disqualified? Paul illustrates the Christian life like it is being in a race. The illustration does not mean that if you lose the race then you do not receive eternal life. The purpose of the illustration is to say that if you are in God’s kingdom, qualified by God himself (Colossians 1:12), then run the race like a champion. We are free in Christ but do not take this freedom for granted. Be Christian. Be a missionary Christian. Paul will not take pride in his ministry as if he somehow is good enough for God – he will live a disciplined life, living for the kingdom.

What did we learn?

Christianity is about choice. We can choose to get in the game, running the course until Jesus returns or takes us home, giving everything to God and serving him with our time and bodies. Or we can do the fun-run of life like everybody else – going with the flow, keeping to ourselves, holding fast to our own likes and culture and basically not participating in the kingdom work of evangelism. We have all been blessed with the gospel and also our bodies, our time, our wisdom, our knowledge, our personalities and each of these can be used for winning people for Christ.

Now what?

Topic A: Being self-aware of your gospel gifts. We are not all Billy Graham or St Paul but God has equipped each of us with gifts that we can use for the spreading of the kingdom. What is your personality type, and current freedoms and skills enabling you to do for the work of the gospel?

Topic B: Being the master of your own self. Time management, health and Christian growth are three things that require discipline to see improvement in. Are there areas in life that you could take more control over? Are there areas of life that you can see you are weak in? We cannot stop death and there are many things out of our control. But what could you take more control over for the sake of the gospel?

Topic C: What cultures do you see need crossing for the gospel. Every culture that is not your own is one that you need to build a bridge between in order to get the gospel across. We don’t want people to first have to be anglo and white before they become Christian. What cultural gaps do you see you can and need to step into in order to speak about Jesus?

Study 8 – 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

Judgments and Justification

Discussion Question

A child runs to you and cries, “Johnny won’t let me play with his lego!” What would you, as a responsible grown up, say to this child?

Background

The Corinthian church has been described as the church of God in Corinth because they have been called by God to be holy. However, Paul has addressed the first issue among them namely: they are boasting about human wisdom and not simply growing as a church in the knowledge of the gospel. Secondly, Paul rebukes the church for putting up with, and even celebrating evil in their midst. They have welcomed worldly wisdom and they have welcomed worldly activity – or even worse than the world. It seems that the church in Corinth have not grasped the unique and special gift that they have received by God through grace. Their thinking needs to change.

Read 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? 2 Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? 5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6 But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!

7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters. 9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with menr 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

What did you see?

Structure

  • Taking your disagreements to the world (1-6)
  • As it is, you are not looking like saved people (7-11)

Taking your disagreements to the world (1-6)

“…do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people?” It is difficult to apply this passage universally since we live in a unified culture which promotes the legal system for everyone. What Paul wants to get across, however, is that Christians have the mind of Christ and know what is right and wrong and so we ought not to default to going to the law to settle disputes. I shouldn’t think that Paul nor we should teach that we live outside the law. That is not the point of Paul’s words. He is reacting to the disputes and quarrels among the church and asking them if they don’t see the silliness of running to lawyers over matters that brothers or sisters in Christ could not settle on their own. They are acting like a small club that exists in the more superior realm of society. Paul wants them to think more soberly about who they are in the world and in the context of eternal judgement.

“…or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world?” Mt 19:28; Lk 22:30; John 5:22. The exact understanding of this will not be clear until the end of times I’m afraid. But we, as co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), are not to think too lowly of what we have inherited in Christ! When we have followed him, we have judged him to be king over all and especially over us! This is heavenly wisdom and we will participate somehow in the future. Again, the mechanics and details of what this means is a mystery. Paul, however, is tapping into a privilege that we should own and adopt and think twice before taking matters to the officials of this world to decide for us!

“…are you not competent to judge trivial cases?” Again, put things into perspective and see that we have the mind of Christ (2:16), the Spirit of God is in us (2:12) and we are apparently going to judge with Jesus one day. We ought to be sober-minded about this statement since the details of what that means is yet to be disclosed but we must embrace the logic of what Paul is saying – don’t regard yourselves as incapable of sorting out your own disputes. We need to pursue the same mind (1:10) – being in fellowship together with God’s Son (1:9). We’ve got this!

“…we will judge angels…” Just to repeat: this is interesting stuff that we need to accept in order to understand Paul’s argument but how this will come about is a mystery. We should remember, however, that angels are not guiltless by definition. The fallen angels are still angels! The basis of judgment will be determined by who is for the kingdom of God and who is against. John 9:39 expresses that judgement is about those who see and those who do not see. Paul has already given us a little demonstration of judgement in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (esp. Verse 3). Any privilege given to us can be abused and misused because it is misunderstood and misapplied. Paul is giving us a high responsibility and wants the church in Corinth to grow up. Give an idiot a gun and they will shoot themselves. Give a wise person a gun and they will use it respectfully. We are being told that our place in the kingdom of God is not as strangers and intruders but as sharing in the glory of God on judgment day. It’s time now for us to meditate on this and grow up.

“…do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church?” If life outside the church follows rules that do not accord with holiness and truth then why would we go there for rulings? We live in a very Christianised society and many laws fit squarely with Christian views. But what cases would people in fellowship together in the church would need to go to court over? Surely disputes and differences can be resolved way before courts are needed. I should just note here that there are areas that should be settled by our courts which include divorces and rulings over property and such – BUT – the principal Paul is giving us is that there are plenty of matters that we can talk about and resolve before things go pear-shaped. If everybody in the church were putting the kingdom of God first and one another’s interests before themselves then we could do amazing things together!

“I say this to shame you.” In 4:14, Paul soothed the readers by saying that he is not trying to shame them with regard to being divisive over who is the best leader! But now, he wants them to be ashamed of running to the authority of unbelievers to resolve matters that could have been handled amongst themselves. The former incident is folly that needed gentle guidance but this matter must be stopped.

“…and this in front of unbelievers!” The church of God consists of people who have declared Jesus as Lord and desire to grow in their understanding of him and of fellowship toward one another. What kind of message would we tell if we take one another to court? Paul is not telling us to hide our disputes or cover up illegal activity, but that brothers and sisters in Christ ought to be better than that! Things that have been covered up in any church organisation in the past should never have been covered up or looked past or whatever has happened. Paul is talking about trivial matters (Verse 2) and not about serious things that definitely need to be dealt with according to both wise church policy and civil law. I hope that is clear enough.

As we close this first half of the text, let’s understand that the people of God need to grow themselves up and understand what an enormous privilege it is to be part of God’s kingdom. Paul wants us to stop being like little children who immediately run to the teacher when someone won’t share their toy. A child is taught to use their words to talk to the other child and come to an agreement on the matter without involving some outside authority over trivial matters. Know what privilege we have in Christ and develop wise approaches to relationships.

As it is, you are not looking like saved people (7-11)

“…means you have been completely defeated already.” Paul says that they have crossed a line. This is not a grey area but a clear indication that they are not living like the church of God that they have been called to be. Their hearts and minds are not operating on a gospel level. They do not behave like kids of the kingdom! Paul goes on…

“Why not rather be wronged…cheated?” How alien does that suggestion sound to you? Is it so far removed from what you could ever imaging happening? Could you just let something go and allow someone else to get more than you did? Or overlook someone else’s exaggeration when they describe their ministry and forget to mention what you contributed? Or that you always seem to bring more than others bring? Has the gospel made an impact on you? The gospel that speaks of you getting all the riches of God at the cost of God’s Son. The gospel that speaks of how little you really deserve but you get it all anyway.

“Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong…wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?” Rather than displaying grace and mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation, Paul accuses some of retaliation, fighting, quarreling and returning evil with evil. This is not right. God has saved us by his blood and called us to be holy as he is holy. We are not saved by being good people but we are not saved in order to continue as people of this world – as mere humans (3:3)!

“Do not be deceived… sexually immoral… idolaters… adulterers… men who have sex with men… thieves… greedy… drunkards… slanderers… swindlers… will [not] inherit the kingdom of God.” We must keep reading on to Verse 11 (which we will) to keep the gospel in view but let’s just stop at this list for a second. Some of these items are stereotypically wrong. But some of these items have moved in our culture from evil to beautiful. I’m not going to talk about the elephant in the room when it comes to this list because I think the passage has said it. But think about adultery. This is clearly a sin and is given its own place in the ten commandments. And yet, our movies and songs and comedies are able to paint adultery as acceptable as long as it is true love! What!!!? Now, what about greed?! We live in a consume and throw away society. Seeking joy in more stuff is not Christ living. Stealing is not acceptable – unless you can do it without getting caught or in a way that everybody else does. Alcohol comes with many dangers and addiction is the worst. I would like people suffering from alcohol addiction to meditate on Verse 11 and keep getting help. The point, though, is that these things are not our life anymore. We can stumble and struggle with every one of the things in this list – the struggle does not disqualify us – but if we are at home in them then we are not at home in the kingdom of God.

“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Memory verse that! What do they say? God wants you to come to him as you are – but don’t expect to stay as you are. Or it’s ok to not be ok – it’s not ok to stay that way. We are the washed ones. Without blemish or stain (Colossians 1:22). We are the sanctified ones. Made holy by God because of Christ’s holiness and by the renewing of our minds through the word of God (John 17:19; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2). We are the justified ones. Righteous because Jesus has made us so (Romans 3:24; 5:1; Romans 8:1, 30). Don’t overlook the fact that it is through Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God that we are justified and not through works or through any other pathway to God. Jesus is the way! This is what we believe or else we will all be condemned.

What did we learn?

Praise God that he will judge us according to what Christ has done and not on our failure to be holy. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our LORD (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Let us then live as redeemed people who will inherit the kingdom of God. If we will inherit the kingdom of God then why would we bother fighting for what we feel are our rights in this world!

Now what?

Topic A: Seeing the people we go to church and Growth Group with as saved people we will share eternity with. Look at one another in your Growth Group. Potentially, everyone you see will be in heaven for eternity sharing in the kingdom of God! Do we talk and pray about what to be doing in this life with that eternal view? How can we pursue kingdom living together? This group have (hopefully) come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and they have truly understood the grace of God. They are a very unique bunch of people. People whom God loves dearly and cherishes. Do you have that same view of the people in your group? The person sitting next to you will judge angels one day!

Topic B: How do you take serious matters of dispute or hurt and deal with them in the Christian church? Remember that we are not talking about illegal activity that should be dealt with in civil court but about disputes of wrongdoing or being cheated at a trivial level. Discuss some wise strategies for dealing with things that cause a break in fellowship.

Topic C: We are the washed, sanctified and justified ones. Be sure about your salvation. It is by grace that you have been saved through faith. Truly understanding the grace of God is the most important lesson you will ever learn in your life! No exception. Do you understand what it means to be saved by grace? Does everybody in your group understand this? Looking at the list of wrongs in Verses 9 and 10 will cause all of us to be shamed but some, perhaps, more than others. We all need to be taught about the cross of Christ and be lead to a repentance that leads to forgiveness. Once forgiven, we need to hear the gospel again and again and again. Be sure that you and your group understand the gospel and have accepted it by faith.