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.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1) Genesis 16:16 concluded by specifically stating that Abram was 86 years old when Hagar bore Abram’s child Ishmael. Now the very next verse, in Genesis 17:1, frankly dates the next narrative as being when Abram was 99 years old — a period of 13 years! Did Abram go 13 years without even hearing from God? It certainly seems possible. Abram had to live by faith during a painful time of waiting and probably
Now the Lord said to Abraham, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) How does Abraham go from idolatry to being a believer in the one true God? God speaks to him! This in a nutshell differentiates Abraham’s story from that of his father Tera who was a Babylonian idolater (Joshua 24:2). God is the one who initiates salvation, God is the one who calls Abraham out of pagan darkness into the light of His truth. God’s redemptive work, like the Creation itself, begins with God
…I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits (1 Corinthians 16:7). Even the best of desires may not be brought to fruition here on earth. Even our best kingdom visions may never be fulfilled. And even our best plans may never come to pass. Here even the apostle Paul himself admits that his plans are fallible and must therefore be flexible. “I have made my very best plans,” Paul says, “and am operating according to them to the best of my ability—but all the while in the recognition that my plans may not be God’s plans.”
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20) When we open the door of communication with Jesus, Jesus himself describes this event as being like dinner with a dear friend. Do you come to your dinner table with a to-do list of things to cover in conversation? Are you nervous or hurried when you sit down to have dinner in your home with a dear friend?
You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15). Paul is intent on telling Christians something the Spirit of God does do, and something the Spirit emphatically does not do. Paul insists the Spirit of God does not bring a slavish fear but rather an affectionate crying out to God as our Father.
In several places in Scripture Paul gives us a list of the kinds of sins that characterize the unsaved, along with the admonition not to tolerate these sins in our own lives as professing believers (1 Corinthians 10:7-12; Ephesians 5:3-7; Colossians 3:5-9). It should be incredibly sobering to us if we are regularly participating in the exact same sins that have brought others under the wrath and judgment of God!
My God will hear me (Micah 7:7). Five small words — but they teach several crucial lessons. As Micah determines to look to the one true God as his only hope and sufficiency, waiting on his perfect timing and perfect answers, he confidently asserts: “my God will hear me.”
In Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul gives us four specific prayer requests he had for the people of God. And all of them center around the person and work of Jesus Christ: that Christ’s Spirit give you strength, as Christ lives in you by faith, giving you an ever-deepening, familiar knowledge of Christ-love, that you may enjoy the very best, the fullness, of what God has to offer: Jesus!
No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him (1 John 3:6). This is a sobering passage. It is meant to be. However, it should not be a passage that causes the Christian believer to despair. John is not condemning the one who is seeking to overcome sin, but the one who habitually gives into sin without repenting. John purposefully describes here the one who is (or is not) continually sinning (as is evident from the “linear present”, or continuing action, of the verbs in the original
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). Paul’s exhortation to be regularly testing the sincerity and purity of your own faith is not given in order to make you doubt your salvation every other day. Faith in Christ is exactly that: faith in Jesus’ finished work, not in our own faithfulness. However, we are to be regularly doing the hard work of honest self-appraisal.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:30). The phrase Jesus uses here on the cross expressed a business transaction completed: “paid in full.” At the heart of trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation is the confidence that nothing else needs to be added to the price he paid, in his death, for our salvation. Do you live in the reality of a fully-paid salvation each day?
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Salvation means “to deliver” someone out of danger. Salvation, especially in the Bible, implies then that people need to be saved. It also implies that someone is able and willing to save the person who needs to be saved. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the only source of true salvation for any human being.
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it“ (1 Corinthians 3:10). Paul emphasizes over and over again that his labors were “according to the grace of God.” In other words, we can only do what God enables us to do. We are only as strong or skillful or successful as God’s grace working in and through us. Have we been blessed to persevere in Christian service for several years or decades? We are
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). Paul is speaking here to Christian believers, to those who have trusted their past, present, and future to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. And Paul reminds Christians that the Holy Spirit within us now gives us the true witness that we are his. The Spirit, it is important for us to recognize, is not lying to us. This is not merely some pep talk that the Spirit gives us, in order to make us feel better: