God calls us back to him through Jesus. We live with the same misunderstandings that this church had. The gospel offers us solutions. It’s about God who took on a human body.
Bodies: made for God
The body isn’t meant for sexual immorality. They were made for God to use, not to satisfy physical urges. There’s something unique about human bodies. It’s a generous gift from God. Lust is like greed. The desire for sexual excitement grows the more you feed it. It consumes and controls. Christians aren’t meant to let their bodies master them. Every person is there to serve. We can speak in a way that affects their eternity. Sex is spiritual. Paul quotes Genesis. Sex unites you to someone. It’s a picture of how Jesus loves his people. A united oneness. It does change something forever. Marriage doesn’t solve lust. Sex in marriage is about expressing in a physical way now Christ’s relationship with the church.
Paul says our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is always full of grace. It’s his spirit that lives in our bodies. We are bought with a price. We’ve all messed up. We are all guilty of not seeing people as image bearers of God. Jesus lives in your life. Fight for control by asking for help. You’re not in the dark.
Bodies: made for others
Our bodies are made to love. We have in Jesus a model for how to use our bodies. The only experience you have of this world now comes through your body. Self control of your body can be learned. The Lord stands with anyone who is taken advantage of. You only have your body to love others. However long you have it, you have it to love. The place where God lives should show what God is like.
Because of Jesus, nothing is too bad. You are his. Fight against lust alongside him. We all stand the same way. We are all right with God because of Jesus giving himself. We are choosing to worship the God who chose a physical body so he could give.
We become like whatever we think is great. We become like what we worship. Paul is saying the church should reflect the God who Jesus shows us. The God who Jesus shows us is love.
God is love
He is three persons. They serve and give themselves. In Jesus God has invited us into that relationship. It had all gone wrong in Corinth. God is self giving love. It’s the way you act towards each other as a church that matters, not what gifts you have. It seems Paul is being insulting. He holds a mirror up to them. He says they’re a million miles from where they should be.
The church that is not like God
Without this self giving love, you may as well be any religion at all. You are nothing. God isn’t impressed with people using their abilities if they use them without love. Love is an attitude that you choose to take towards people. It’s ready to put up with a lot.
God suffers fools very gladly
We suffer fools gladly. Why is it that love shows what God is like? Love never ends. The only reason we need these gifts is because we aren’t at perfection yet. It’s a sign of our imperfection. The church is to model the Father, Son and the Spirit and their love for each other.
All the stuff we do is good stuff but it’s not if it makes us proud. It’s worth nothing if it’s without love.
Pursue love (v1)
Paul says that when they’re gathered together, everyone’s aim is to pursue love in the true sense. The church that the Spirit creates has both strong and weak people in it. A spirit-filled church experience is one where everyone pursues the love of others.
Paul says we should eagerly desire to experience the Spirit’s work to love others and to desire spiritual gifts.
The gift of prophecy and tongues have caused debate since Paul wrote this.
Prophecy – saying things about God that other people can understand.
Tongues – speaking in a language different to most of the people in the congregation.
Build the church (v2-5)
If you speak in tongues, it helps you personally but it doesn’t help anyone else. When the church gets together, it’s more important to say things that others can understand; pursue love. The Corinthian church thought that the gift of tongues was better. It is the person speaking in a way that everyone can understand who is ‘greater’. It’s about loving the church. The greatest in God’s kingdom are those who serve everyone else.
Prophecy builds better than tongues (v6-19)
No one can understand tongues. Paul is emphasising his point. Uses the illustration of music. Tongues isolate people. Paul talks about people being foreigners. Tongues aren’t using your mind. Pray that you know what it means. Tongues are unfair to some. How can it be a corporate gathering if people can’t say amen to prayers. Paul says he’ll never speak in tongues in church.
It’s our attitude to Jesus and other Christians that show our spiritual gifts.
The point of meeting is to build each other up. It’s more encouraging when everyone sings loudly. The part where everyone has a chance to talk and to encourage each other after the formal bit is just as important. Loving imperfect people well is the way God loves.
The building up happens through understanding. The Spirit engages our mind and it’s good to ask questions to get an intellectual understanding. We should ask God to gift our church so that we can be clear.
It can be tempting to ignore the facts and begin to doubt the resurrection ourselves. However it is a brilliant thing to celebrate. It doesn’t require a leap of faith.
Jesus was raised
Paul writes to remind this church. He wants to remind them of the gospel. He wonders if they’ve let go of it. Paul wants us to grip tightly to the gospel and the confession that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and raised on the third day. Paul goes on to stress some of the evidence. The word ‘appeared’ crops up a lot. Jesus appeared to lots of different people. It’s a miracle but there’s lots of evidence.
So hold firm otherwise you might waste your life
Some people in this church are saying that there is no resurrection from the dead. You can have a fake Christianity which is pointless. We too like putting a Christian spiritual gloss on our pagan religion. This is a waste of time. If you personally give up believing in a real physical bodily resurrection then it will make your faith weak, useless and hopeless. The truth is the opposite. Don’t let go of the gospel. If you do, you will drift away and waste your life.
You will be raised and the world restored
Why is it worth celebrating Easter? Jesus’ resurrection has cosmic consequences. Jesus is described as the first fruits. He is the one who is reaped early in anticipation of the whole harvest. He is the first one and he is our representative. Adam brings the poison into our lives and Jesus brings the antidote. Jesus guarantees that we will be made alive. Christianity isn’t simply about the here and now. We have something amazing to look forward to.
Jesus will destroy death. Sin is dealt with. We’ll be raised with real bodies to enjoy a creation where God is all in all. Understanding and believing in the resurrection gives us an unshakable hope. It means that we can give our lives now so that others will enjoy eternity with us in the future.
Jesus really was raised. You will be raised. Your future is secure. Jesus’ death and resurrection has freed us from our sin. It has saved us. We don’t deserve it.
Easter is a time of celebration. Jesus is raised so Christians can have an amazing hope. We need to hold onto it. We will be raised with Christ. Death will be dead. Christ is conquered.
The church is God’s work
Union with Christ is a bit like branches on a vine. Other image is marriage. We are living out this reality that we’re not just individuals. We have been joined together with the body of Christ. Each of us are members of that. He did it on the cross.
The church is the Holy Spirit’s work. We are given the one spirit to drink. The church is the Father’s work. He arranges each part of the body as he pleases. The universe staggers at the beauty and wisdom of the church.
God has a glorious vision
God’s vision for the church is glorious. The glory rests upon the unity to the body within diversity. Paul is using our physical bodies. There is to be in Christ this kind of unity. It needs to be reflected in our local churches. The unity is built upon a widespread empathy. Paul says there should be equal concern for the other. It is a high calling for a church of any size. The call to us is to see it multiply to the weaker parts. The whole body responds to each part. Each brother and sister in Christ are family. God has saved people, given them gifts and placed them in the body so that this kind of unity is achieved.
There are two threats to this vision
The problem of inferiority and insignificance (v15-16). The problem of superiority and self sufficiency (v21). Just because you think that way doesn’t make it so. Every part is indeed necessary. God has constructed the church out of diversity and every part is necessary.
Most foundational to our commitment to the church as individuals is a commitment to the whole church. We can’t see home groups as mini churches. It’ll cut off the body. We need to commit ourselves to modelling this empathy. More intentional about rest and noticing people. We want to become the model of this kind of care that’s catching in the congregation.
Practise hospitality. Ask at least one spiritually meaningful question. Come early and leave late so that you can engage with people. Make your main ministry focus people and not programmes. Point people to people. Be patient. Reach and pray. Love and stay.
How should I use gifts that have been given to me by God?
The Corinthians were being selfish and using things for themselves. It doesn’t reflect the character of the giver. There is an order to it.
God is always reaching out (v20-25)
People talking nonsense doesn’t help any non Christians who are there to understand the gospel. Paul’s expectation is that unbelievers will be coming in and seeing the normal things that we do and that will lead them to conviction that God is real. Is our desire to see people saved or to demonstrate our knowledge to everyone to look good? Paul quotes Isaiah in v21-22 that talks about foreign languages being spoken in God’s temple. It was a sign of God’s judgement. It proved their unbelief. Paul says history shows that it is a sign, but it’s not a good thing. It can be a sign for unbelievers but shows their rejection of God.
God is always sorting out (v26-40)
Paul is emphasising that when we’re gathered together, everything should be done to build each other up. Paul says we always for the sake of others when we use our gifts. Confusion isn’t a sign of God’s presence. We don’t present the God we serve if what we do is crazy or chaotic. The women are the third group of people asked to stay silent. It seems that the male leaders were interrupted by women in the church. The order of the church is more important than people being able to express themselves.
Our gifts are given to the church and it’s their job to decide how they’re used. We should demonstrate what God is like by doing what is best for others. Joining in with the way church is doing things is a mark of the spirit working. In all the smallness and sameness of routine, God is working. We can in our church, display God’s likeness but only if we’re willing to give up our individualism and do what the church needs.
Paul describes a church. A picture of community where people belong to each other. Paul addresses two problems an individualist night have with the church.
Maybe you spend your time wishing you were like other people. Maybe you secretly think that other people should be like you. It is never the case that you’re not needed.
The church is so important that it belongs to Jesus.
The inferior (v14-20)
It doesn’t really make any difference. The Spirit creates diversity on purpose. The Spirit makes you love people who are different to you. God has arranged the members of the body as he chose. The spiritual response is to enjoy variety. God has a sovereign reason for making everyone different. God accepts you and has something for you to do the way you are.
The superior (v21-26)
You’ve forgotten the gospel. The Corinthians had great spiritual experiences. You think you’re better than others. There will be lots of people in church life who seem weaker. Sometimes the people who seem the most weak are often the strongest. Paul uses the metaphor of genitals. The parts we think are less honourable. God has composed the body with seemingly weak parts that need to be cared for. We always want to deny weakness. Paul says weakness is good. We need the weak and the strong.
If you’re never weak in church, you can never have the gospel modelled to you. The gospel is about the ones who are strong helping the ones who are weak.
Paul lists a series of gifts. We cannot all do the same things. We can still model together what Jesus is like.
Theology of the tongue: to glorify God and other people.
Love is a set of actions that you do because you have an ambition for the glory of God and the glory of other people.
Gifts of the Spirit – sometimes the OT talks about natural abilities that people have. It also refers to times when there’s an intervention.
Tongues – a form of prayer and praise that is expressed to God in a language you don’t know.
Prophecy – speaking God’s truth into the lives of God’s people with a measure of timely and personal application. Can strengthen and build up but also brings conviction of sin. It included private words to people. It’s not talking about the Bible. The Bible is supreme and is from God. The gift of prophecy is not infallible.
Sometimes it’s just wisdom. When you speak a word of prophecy, there’s something intelligent there.
We’re supposed to have expectancy when we gather as a church. Paul expected God to be on the move. If you miss the gathering, you’re missing a dynamic that The Lord has intended to happen where people are to be built up.
What is your ambition for a gathering like this? We celebrate what Jesus has done.
If you think of eternal life and you don’t want it, you’ve come up with your own false idea. Heaven is a biblical idea but the problem is that we think of it as a spiritual idea. It’s a physical world. A new creation.
We look for the resurrection of the dead
Jesus’ resurrection shows us what ours will be like. He was physically resurrected but he was also changed. He can’t die again and his new body won’t decay. We will not all die because Jesus may return at any moment. Those who are alive won’t be resurrected but will be changed. Jesus is the firstfruits so we know what our resurrection will be like.
We look for the life of the world to come
The Bible teaches that when Jesus returns, he will recreate everything so that it is as it should be. We can have confidence because Jesus has already risen. He is the evidence. He has authority over death.
We want to look forward to it and for it to shape the way we live. Are you longing for the day when Jesus returns and you’ll be transformed? Does the reality of eternity affect the decisions you make day by day? Truly knowing gives us a right perspective. What is your motivation for evangelism? Keep an eternal perspective. This life isn’t all there is.
What difference does this make to church? Church is the place where we are reminded of these life changing truths and are encouraged by others.
In the church leadership, people think different things about spiritual gifts. We need to learn to disagree and love each other at the same time. Paul doesn’t say what he means by a ‘message of knowledge’.
The church is described as Jesus’ wife. If you love Jesus, you love the people he died for. The gift of tongues seemed significant to the Corinthians.
The Spirit acts on us to bring Jesus’ Lordship (v1-3)
Paul says everyone can know about this. He says we were totally ignorant. They had a history of pagan worship that seemed real. The Spirit’s work can be seen in what people say and do if they are proclaiming that Jesus is Lord. That is incompatible with the self focus of the Corinthians. If we’re interested in looking after ourselves, it isn’t spiritual. It’s about our attitude to Jesus.
The Spirit acts in the church to bring variety (v4-11)
Anything being done with Jesus being proclaimed is the Spirit working. Paul gives a list of different types of gifts that might be used. We don’t know exactly what the messages of knowledge and wisdom actually are. The point is the repeated use of variety through one Spirit. It doesn’t matter what we can do, it’s that we can do something.
How does it apply to us as a church?
It’s the same thing as every week – trust in Jesus. Can we say and mean that Jesus is Lord?
Be inspired by the church. It’s amazing because of Jesus. Everybody who knows Jesus is Lord has his Spirit and everyone has something to give. All united but totally different. No one can be devalued if they appear to not pull their weight.
The corresponding negative. If we think that we have a gift that comes from an ability that we would’ve had regardless of whether we’re Christians or not, that isn’t the Spirit as we’re trying to promote ourselves.