Greet one another with a holy kiss (1 Corinthians 16:20). Before we titter nervously like preteen school boys at Paul’s exhortation to kiss, consider this: a kiss in New Testament times was used as a warm greeting between those of the same sex. Many countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East still kiss on the cheek or on the forehead as a part of greeting one another affectionately. How is this exhortation still relevant to us today, in America?
From a negative standpoint, the neglect of Christian history reflects the incorrect assumption that we have all wisdom in our day and there is nothing to learn from wise men of the past – in effect, that the Holy Spirit has been inactive for the last 2,000 years. Our generation is among the worst when it comes to what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery,” infatuated with the newest thing and suspicious of anything that is old.
In John 10:16 Jesus says, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” When you hear these words, what is your gut reaction? Are you offended that Jesus is just as concerned about homeless people and third-world gorilla fighters as he is about you? Or do you feel unconcerned for “other” people, because they’re totally different than you, although Jesus loves them also?
Paul tells Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) and to “wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). Clearly conflict is to be part of our Christian life — but conflict with whom or what? We will search the Scriptures in vain for the idea that the conflict is supposed to be with other genuine Christians. It is a conflict with sin, with Satan, and with false doctrine that undermines the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). I was thinking recently about cases where a person who has been a professed believer, maybe even a well-known Christian leader, falls into public sin or even apostasy, and walks away from the Christian faith. Sadly, there have been many such cases in the news lately. We often think, and maybe even say, afterward that in hindsight there were some tendencies we could see in that person’s life that led to their eventual demise:
Our first and primary obligation is certainly to the local church. The Bible is very clear on the fact that we are to financially support those pastors who minister to us spiritual things, by ministering to their physical needs (1 Corinthians 9:7-11; 1 Timothy 5:17-18). The Scripture is equally plain regarding our obligation to support the poor and needy within the body of Christ (1 Timothy 5:16; 1 John 3:17).
While knowledge of the truth is very important, it is possible to put so much emphasis on the letter of it that the application is forgotten. Paul reminds us that knowledge alone just puffs a person up, while knowledge according to love actually builds up. So here is a thought for pastors, especially, and by implication the people in the pew as well.
We wish to see Jesus (John 12:21). These were the words of the Greeks who approached the apostle Philip when they came to the feast at Jerusalem. It is interesting to observe that these Gentiles were seeking Jesus while the Jewish leaders were plotting to put him to death. Their appearance points to the bringing in of the Gentiles and the blessing of the gospel they would soon enjoy.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:4). There is a theological point to make from this verse, because Paul is thanking God for his grace to believers. As he does continually in his letters, Paul is reminding the saints at Corinth that their faith, and their faithfulness, is by God’s grace and through Jesus Christ. Yet there is also a personal point not to be missed in this passage:
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1:2). Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is an epistle written to straighten out a church with a host of serious problems. Yet as such it is helpful and enlightening and inspiring to see how Paul the theologian addresses his deep, rich theology to specific, messy, practical issues as Paul the pastor.
Puritan pastor Richard Baxter took an old Latin phrase and popularized it in his day, in English. It is simple, but profound: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Why was Baxter so concerned to see Christians publicly, charitably, doctrinally unified? Baxter, writing in 17th century England about the evil effects of division in the church, made this observation:
Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). I was thinking this past week about cases where a person who has been a professed believer, maybe even a well-known Christian leader, falls into public sin or even apostasy, walking away from the Christian faith. Sadly, there have been many such cases in the news lately.
I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting (1 Corinthians 9:15). What is the ground for Paul’s boasting? It is the “gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12). The gospel of Christ is centered on Jesus Himself—His perfect humanity, His full deity, the salvation that He perfectly fashioned on the cross. When Paul glories in the gospel, he is glorying in the good news of Jesus Christ, not just of “salvation” as though separate from Christ.
Why should I be concerned with doctrinal nuances? Isn’t that stuff just for preachers? This is a common question, or at least a common attitude, with which I have come into contact as a pastor. The richly diverse and meticulous language of Scripture, and a careful theology of Scripture, is often seen more as professional jargon for clerics than every day food for the souls of every day people. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Imagine you are about to move to a new area. Not just a new location, but a whole new part of the world—surrounded by a new culture and new faces, and without any familiar friends or contacts. Besides the personal, emotional challenges of such a move there would obviously be some significant spiritual challenges to anticipate. Whatever spiritual habits you have in place will be changed or challenged; the fellow Christians by whom you’ve been encouraged and to whom you’ve been accountable won’t be nearby to help you.