Learning from 1 Corinthians

Standard

In his sermon this week, Rich invited us to look back over 1 Corinthians and reflect on what we’ll take away from the book. He asked us what we would say if someone asked us what the book was about. What has struck me is that 1 Corinthians is a master class by the apostle Paul on how to apply the gospel to life. Here are some examples.

ImageUnity (chapters 1-4): Christians are one in Christ, and the one Holy Spirit dwells in them. Thus there is no excuse for cliques or celebrity leaders in the church. Those of us who think we know stuff need to be especially careful to keep the focus on Jesus and follow the Spirit’s lead. We are all members of one body, and that body has only one Head.

Unity and diversity (chapter 12): But unity doesn’t mean uniformity. The church, as the body of Christ, needs both unity and diversity to function. All gifts are necessary, and all people are important. This means that our value doesn’t come from how we compare with other people. It comes from the unique dignity and gifts that God has granted to each of us.

Bodies (chapters 5, 15): God cares about our bodies. What we do with them is important. We’re whole people, not souls riding around in disposable shells. Our spiritual lives have physical expressions, and our physical lives have spiritual expressions. We belong to God, body and soul, and God plans to make us truly whole in the resurrection.

Sex (chapters 5-7): Sex is good: it’s meant to be a joyful part of marriage, experienced with mutual sensitivity. Not all sexual expressions are good, though. Our sexuality, like every other part of our lives, must be submitted to Christ. Marriage is good. Singleness is good. Whatever our marital status, we need to be following Jesus.

Separation (chapter 5): Some Christian groups think the church is called to be separate from the world so that it won’t be tainted by the world’s immorality. But Paul is more practical: there’s no way to completely avoid contact with immoral people as long as we’re in the world. What concerns Paul is that we keep our own house in order. That is, we can’t afford to overlook unrepentant immorality in the church. We may have to have some hard conversations and do some hard things to get a fellow believer to wake up–and we may have to do some waking up ourselves–but if we care about one another, we need to take this responsibility seriously.

Freedom (chapters 8-11): Freedom is wonderful, and as Christians we’re free to do a lot of things. However, most of all we’re free to love. This may mean freely choosing not to exercise some of our freedoms out of love for someone else. This isn’t a license to start criticizing the behavior of others; it’s an opportunity to put the wellbeing of other people ahead of our own enjoyment.

Love (chapter 13): Anything we do has to be guided by love. Paul isn’t talking about romantic bliss; he’s talking about the hard work of getting along with people we may not even like very much. We don’t get to pick who our relatives are, even in the church family.

Hope (chapter 15): Whenever we’re tempted to get annoyed with one another, we need to remember the big picture. Our differences will shrink in light of the glorious future God has planned for us. Because of the resurrection, we know that our work for the Lord is not in vain.

What have you learned from 1 Corinthians?

Advertisement

Mind Over Matter?

Standard

“If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” (1 Cor 15:32 NRSV)

In this chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul is responding to members of the church who are denying the resurrection.  That is, they’re rejecting the idea that believers in Christ will be raised from the dead and given perfected bodies when he returns.  Paul notes that if resurrection doesn’t happen, then Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, either; and if Jesus wasn’t raised, then he can’t save us.  He’s just a good man who died.  As Rich observed in his sermon, there is no salvation without resurrection.

Brenda Colijn photo smallThe Corinthians were probably rejecting the idea of resurrection because they’d been influenced by the Greek philosophical idea that spirit is good and matter is evil.  Greek philosophers thought that the best possible afterlife would be to leave our bodies to rot in the ground and live forever as disembodied spirits.  To a Greek mind, the idea of people walking around in resurrected bodies would be as appealing as a zombie apocalypse!

A preference for spirit over body has infiltrated the church, too.  We talk a lot about going to heaven when we die, but when was the last time you heard a sermon or sang a hymn or chorus about the resurrection of believers?

If there is no resurrection, then there’s no point in making sacrifices in this life, because this life is all we have.  Like the old beer commercial said, “You only go around once in life; grab all the gusto you can!”  And if there’s no resurrection, what we do with our bodies doesn’t matter.  This can go in two directions:  either we overindulge our bodies or we despise them.  Sometimes we alternate these, and sometimes we do both at once.

Rich talked mostly about the issue of overeating, which is an increasing problem for Americans.  If someone watched what and how we eat, would they think that we believed in the resurrection?  Or do we eat as if there’s no tomorrow?  But overeating isn’t the only way to disrespect our bodies.  Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia show the same obsession with what we put in our mouths, and they’re at least as dangerous as obesity.  Multi-billion-dollar industries exist to make women dislike their bodies so the companies can sell them things, and these industries are targeting more and more men, as well.  Food is one of the main ways that people self-medicate to cope with the trials of life.  You don’t need a prescription to buy it, after all.

And that’s just food.  We could also talk about exercise, sleep, addictions, sex, entertainment, stress.  Do we treat our bodies as gifts from God to steward until the day that God will glorify them?  Maybe that means working ourselves a little harder, or maybe that means showing ourselves some compassion and respect.  Whatever our situation is, the resurrection means that what we do with our bodies now is an investment in eternity.