Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 44
What I Read Today: 1 Corinthians 1.
What Stood Out About What I Read Today: 1 Corinthians 1: 4-12, “I always thank my God for you because of the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus. For you were made rich in every way in him, in all your speech and in every kind of knowledge just as the testimony about Christ has been confirmed among you – so that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into fellowship with his son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose. For members of Chloe’s household have made it clear to me, my brothers and sisters, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each of you is saying, “I am with Paul,” or “I am with Apollos,” or “I am with Cephas,” or “I am with Christ.”
Random Thoughts About What I Read:
There’s this pivotal scene in the movie “The Sixth Sense” where a psychologist, Dr. Malcom Crowe (played by Bruce Willis) is dealing with a deeply disturbed little boy, Cole Sear (played by Haley Joel Osment).
The boy has a secret, which he doesn’t want to tell anyone.
Dr. Crowe tries to develop a repore with the boy and eventually does get him to spill the beans. The scene is dark and slow and methodical, but finally, the boy tells his secret in the now-famous slow whisper:
“I see dead people.”
Dr. Crowe asks for clarification: In your dreams while you sleep? In graves?
“Walking around like regular people. They don’t see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re dead…they’re everywhere.” Same slow, clearly enunciated whisper. Creepy and amazing scene all at the same time.
This scene, and Cole’s words in particular, kind of give an overview of 1 Corinthians. See, the theme of the letter (which is actually not 1 Corinthians at all, but rather Paul sent the “former letter” and then the church in Corinth sent a reply. This letter is the reply to that reply. So, in a sense, it’s 2nd Corinthians–we just don’t have the first letter or the reply) is how is it that the church stays distinct when the culture around it is influencing it.
In other words, how do we live among the dead?
They only see what they want to see.
They don’t even know they’re dead.
Yet, they continually influence the church.
Which is why I love it when Paul refers to believers as those “sanctified” in Christ. The literal translation of sanctified is “set apart.” This implies that we’re unique. Not status-quo kind of folks. There’s the way things are and then there’s “us.” Not only have we been set apart from something, but we’ve been set apart “to” something.
In this case, take a look at our uniqueness starting in verse 4:
We’ve been given grace (unmerited favor AND divine enablement. Sometimes we leave off the positive part of the word when we talk about it…which is sad, because it’s the active part of our faith) in Christ.
We’ve made rich in Him in every way…
…in our speech.
…and in our knowledge.
We don’t lack ANY spiritual gift in and among us. That doesn’t mean that any one person has them all, but rather in whatever body of believers we associate with there will be adequate gifts for the specific needs of that body.
We will be strengthened as needed so that we will be blameless before Him.
We have the faithfulness of God to hold up His end of the bargain. And the cherry on top is that we have fellowship with Jesus Christ Himself.
That’s really set apart, man.
Dead people don’t have gifts. Dead people don’t have riches. They can’t know anything. They can’t say anything. They haven’t received Christ. They haven’t experienced His grace. They don’t know the faithfulness of God and they aren’t in fellowship with anything or anybody.
They’re dead. They’re everywhere. And they don’t even know it.
And we’re not them.
Paul’s argument is that since we’re not them, why do we act like them? See, in their culture, philosophers were kind of like rock stars. The polished orators would come to town and spew their belief system and then garner a following…which, in turn, would allow these teachers the opportunity to make a living off their “schools.”
Naturally, the more famous the teacher, the larger the following and the more intense the factions would be that would gather around them. So, you had people all over town saying, “I follow Great Teacher A!” Others would follow “Great Teacher B” and that would create a rivalry in and among all the teachers in town.
And this behavior then came into the church. See, you have Paul, a former member on the fast-track to the Supreme Court who was likely seen as a blood-thirsty ruffian because the job they gave him was to kill Christians. This requires a certain type of personality–that’d be my guess, anyway.
Then you have Apollos…a highly educated, articulate, gifted orator with a rock-star personality. Not the kind of guy you’d put in the field killing people, but rather the kind of guy you’d put in a pulpit
Then you have the out of town guy with a reputation for strong leadership, Peter. This is somebody who might not’ve been formally educated, but he’d learned first-hand about Christ. No one else except maybe John saw the things Peter saw, experienced the things Peter did or had the direct commissioning of Christ himself. He’d garner a following as well.
The problem came when the “living” started acting like the “dead.” They began to view themselves as superior and condescending when they’d align themselves with the various leaders that appealed to them. Maybe Paul garnered the outlaws and those alienated from their Jewish faith and those that had no background in Judaism. Maybe Apollos grabbed the populace that was very well educated and connected in society–the white collar folks. Then maybe Peter gathered the Average Joe…the blue-collar pragmatists that called things as they saw them.
And you could see the factions making their points as to why their guy was better or why the other guy was worse. The positives and negatives would fly back and forth and then all of a sudden nobody likes each other anymore and the church is no different than the world’s way of doing business.
Paul chose to address those that made him popular…by telling them to stop. In fact, while he founded the church he didn’t baptize many believers there (for those that say baptism is essential for salvation, good luck with this passage. If it was, Paul certainly would’ve baptized a lot more than a couple of people, right? It would seem logical that the founder of the church would’ve been a baptizing machine if it was required for salvation.). He tells them that he came to preach and teach the Gospel, not be a polished orator. He ran with the non-traditional and spoke their language.
The people were paying attention to the superficial and the popular…not the substance. And this is something I can relate to. It’s interesting to me how many people simply focus on hair and tattoos rather than my qualifications (both educationally and scriptural) to be a pastor, the substance of my teaching over 22 years or my love of students.
Anyway, Paul closes the chapter with the difference between the message of the Cross against the message of the world. The message of followers of Christ is the Cross, which seems foolish to the world. So, here Paul is making a firm statement: The wisdom of Christ is actually HIGHER than the wisdom of the world when it comes to THEOLOGICAL issues. The way the world works, the view of God, all that stuff.
Paul’s point, is that God’s Word is the highest reality, even if the world sees it as foolishness. Keep in mind that some of the greatest philosophies that are still studied in universities were coming of age in that culture: Stoicism, Epicurians, Sophists, Plato. It was all there. And now Paul is placing the Word of God above those. Wow. Pretty bold statement all around, don’t you think?
The Cross is a stumbling block to the Jews because they didn’t see how a Messiah could end up on the cross. They were all looking for signs of the Messiah and the Cross just didn’t compute.
The Greeks were always looking for wisdom and a well-articulated argument. How could an executed criminal have any respect in that sense?
So, in this case, the “foolishness” of God is the highest wisdom on the planet. Pretty bold statement, don’t you think?
Why would God do it this way? Because God wanted to glorify Himself through us. So, if man could do it or achieve it, well, how good can it really be?
And that’s the application the way I see it: Do we see God’s Word and the philosophy of life that it sets forth as better than the world it contrasts with? Because if we really believe that, well, there’s an awful lot of living among the dead we should be about.
Because the dead are out there.
And they don’t know they’re dead.
And we have the solution…
…because we’re gifted and have everything we need…
…and we’re set apart.
Because our foolishness is life-giving.
(Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 2-4)