Bible Reading Plan – October 22-28

1 Corinthians

Bible Project Reading Plan (October 22-28):
Romans 5-16; 1 Corinthians 1-2; Psalms 135-141

If you know anything about the Corinthian church, it is that it was something of a hot mess. There were factions fighting with one another for recognition, fighting over what they perceived of as the greater gifts, all the while leaving grievous sin alone. Therefore, how the letter begins, and how it proceeds, is somewhat shocking.

First, Paul begins with a thanksgiving to God, assured (somehow!) that the grace of God given to these churches in Christ is present and active, and will continue with them until it has accomplished its goals. “God is faithful” Paul remarks. Faithful indeed! Even to the Corinthians, and even to us.

Second, Paul doesn’t come directly at the problem and its specifics, which he leaves for later in the letter. But he does come at the general attitude that the Corinthians exhibit. They see things still from the viewpoint of the world. What does it mean to be great? What does it mean to be strong? What does it mean to be wise? What does it mean to be powerful? The Corinthians would answer all of these with active Greek minds. Paul wants them to think through such questions with the cross of Christ refocusing their sight like a pair of powerful lenses.

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:28-31 (ESV)

Not only is your boasting foolish, but it is counter to the gospel that has saved you. The gospel was not meant to make you powerful, wise, strong, or great according to the world. Stop pursuing such things.

With all of these problems then, and more to come, Paul’s answer to the Corinthians is what he preached to them in the very beginning: the cross of Jesus Christ. He refused to win them with cleverness, wisdom, or lofty speech. Instead, Paul entrusted himself and his message, not to the greatness of the oration or the personality of the speaker, but rather to the Spirit that stood behind the message. What you win them with, Paul knew, is what you won them to:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (ESV)

You see, the gospel is not simply the message that gets you saved, punches your ticket, frees you from hell, but leaves you without help or insight on how to live your life here. Paul was assured, based on the faithfulness of God in the gospel he had preached to the Corinthians, that their ticket was indeed punched. But he was also assured that the power they needed to live a right life before God, in all humility and service, was that same gospel. The cross is not just a guarantee for the future, but power, help, and aid for the present. To truly understand the cross is to live in its light; it alone shows that true greatness is what the world thinks of as worthlessness; true power, service; true wisdom, foolishness; true life, death.

Many of us are prone to feel the pull to the world’s standards and ideas. We are prone to this by our birth and our presence here. We are bombarded daily with such things. That is why we must bombard back: to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom 12:2) by reading the word and understanding the cross. So, let us hear the message of the cross. Let it be preached in our sermons from our pulpits on Sunday and in our devotionals from our armchairs on Monday. Let it sink it, and do so deeply.

And Jesus said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Luke 9:23-24 (ESV)