HOPE CHAPEL Sunday Service Notes
Teaching Series: “Be Different” based on 1 Corinthians
Today’s Topic: Wisdom from the Spirit
For further study:
“Enduring Word” Commentary - https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/1-corinthians-1/
(retrieved September 9, 2020)
Bible Project - 1 Corinthians - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiHf8klCCc4
New International Biblical Commentary - 1 Corinthians - Marion L. Soards
We’re going to pick up where we left off in 1 Corinthians, but first a little review:
Last week we concluded our study of 1 Corinthians chapter one; today, we are going to examine chapters two and three, where Paul expands on his ideas about where real wisdom comes from, the foolishness of choosing sides in the Christian community and the need to not simply claim the name of Christ, but to serve Him with serious intent in order to produce quality results.
“When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5 I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.”
Paul had not set out to impress the Corinthians with inspiring speeches and debates in logic, but had kept to the basics. He relied on the Holy Spirit to win over his audience. Why? To avoid the very situation they found themselves in–relying on human wisdom and not the power of God. Therefore, it had been the power of the Spirit that had convinced them of the truth, not merely human rhetoric.
“Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. 7 No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8 But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared for those who love him.”
10 But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 11 No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12 And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.
13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 15 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. 16 For, “Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.”
Paul assures the recipients of the letter that his use of simple, plain speech was for their benefit, not because he is incapable of debating a defensible argument. He could not go ‘deep’ into spiritual wisdom because they would not have been able to comprehend the truths of God. Understanding God’s wisdom requires His Spirit, which is why those without the Spirit believe the wisdom of God to be foolish. They cannot comprehend spiritual truth.
Have you ever come across this? I have an uncle, who is a smart man by the world’s standards. He decided he was going to read the Bible, cover to cover, to evaluate to what degree it was true. As a non-Christian, however, he was not equipped to understand God’s Word, because he did not have the Spirit to guide him. He came away having decided that the Bible contained some good principles for living and interesting stories, but was not the authoritative word of God. He was left unconvinced that there even was a god...and today he lives the life of an agnostic–unconvinced either way concerning the existence of God. He did not possess God’s Spirit, so could not understand the truths of Scripture.
Paul tells the Corinthians that he is able to discuss deep spiritual matters with other believers who have matured in their faith and understanding. What is the key? They have the ‘mind of Christ’ and are able to understand the truths of God because of their reliance on the Spirit; they are no longer swayed by the old way of thinking–the world’s way of thinking.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. 2 I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, 3 for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?”
Paul continues with this theme of their immaturity. They may want to argue with him about this, but he points out their lack of self-control, their jealousy and quarrelling as proof of their condition–they are immature. Though they may be disciples, they are still very much infants in the faith. In fact, their continuing to live like people who have no faith in God, demonstrates how very immature they still are. Maturity in the faith is attested to by being different from the world.
“When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?
5 After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field.”
The people of the church had been looking to elevate their own status by aligning themselves with one teacher over another. By using the agricultural analogy, Paul blows their ideas of status-seeking to the wind. In the culture of the day, a field hand–those that planted, watered and gathered–were considered to be on the lowest rungs of the social ladder. Much like seasonal immigrant field workers are viewed today. By comparing himself to a ‘planter’ and Apollos to one who ‘watered,’ he relegated both to a low social status indeed. Paul argues that it is not the worker who should be elevated–both he and Apollos and others are just servants–but rather God who makes the seed grow. God’s servants are working together with the same purpose and God will provide each with their own reward. If anyone should receive any credit for the growth of the seeds it is God; as the Master, the field is His.
“You are God’s building.
10 Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.
12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.”
Paul now switches analogies comparing the Corinthian church not to a sown field, but to a building. His purpose is to highlight the quality of their service done in the name of God. He is not comparing the work he and Apollos and others have done, but is rather encouraging the believers to view themselves as those called to add onto the foundation Paul began. They are to work with excellence, adding only imperishable material not flammable to the work that has been done by these others.
Paul gives God credit for the work he was able to begin in Corinth. The foundation that has been laid there is the knowledge of Jesus Christ. As a master builder, Paul has set the foundation in place and it is ready to be built upon. He encourages these new believers to take care in how they proceed; he challenges them to assess their building materials. Many people will want to add onto the foundation he has laid, but only what is suitable will endure. You can’t just use any old materials. Use inferior materials like straw, hay or wood and you’ll find all your work burnt up and your heavenly reward with it. Conversely, use gold, silver and jewels–materials that will withstand God’s fire of judgment–and you are sure to receive a reward for your quality efforts.
So, what do the metaphors of straw, hay and wood versus gold, silver and jewels represent? I believe the metaphors distinguish between what the world values and what God values such as
Paul reminds the Corinthians that when the servant works well, a reward is promised. But for those who do not pay careful attention to the quality of the materials they use in their efforts to ‘build the church,’ these same ones may find themselves sorely disappointed, with nothing to show for all their misguided service.
“Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
18 Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.” 20 And again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless.”
21 So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”
Paul briefly elaborates on the kind of building they are. The are the temple of God in which God’s Spirit dwells. They are not individual little temples, but together, as a corporate body, they are the temple. He wants them to stop seeing themselves as individuals competing for status, but rather they have all become one–workers with Paul and Apollos and Peter–in service of God.
What of the sentence, “God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple.” Imagine that a wrecking ball was introduced to this scene. We are now not talking about what kind of materials are being added to the foundation, but destruction of the foundation itself. Paul is warning that should anyone attempt to destroy the foundation upon which the church is built–the rejection of Jesus Christ himself–that person will receive the judgment given to all nonbelievers. They will receive no reward at the final reckoning.
So, put away all of this nonsense of status seeking and living the way of the world and looking for extra wisdom not found in the Spirit. He further encourages the believers with this thought–why fight over what is already yours? All things belong to the believers–there is no discrepancy amongst them–and they all belong to Christ, who belongs to God. He says this to demonstrate the interconnectedness they all share with Jesus as their mediator to God.
So what’s our take away today?
Each individual’s work for God matters. There are no delineations marking God’s servants into ‘important’ and ‘less important’ categories. The world is obsessed with getting ahead, gaining recognition and climbing the societal ladder. Our aim should be to remain firmly rooted to the ground, serving those around us, demonstrating the love of God in tangible ways everyday. We are not told to be better than others; we are told be different. As believers, we have discovered a better way through God’s grace and it is up to us to show others.
We need to take care in how we ‘build up’ and ‘run’ our collective efforts as a member of Christ’s global Church. Our greatest concerns should focus on unity amongst believers, sharing God’s good news with others, maturing in our faith and building up God’s Kingdom. Programs, buildings and budgets should be viewed as facilitating these greater concerns and not be viewed as end goals onto themselves. Otherwise, we will discover how much of our effort was wasted as it passes through the evaluating fire of God’s judgment. Let’s expend our efforts on what will last!
And, finally, we all belong to God through Christ and to one another. Instead of seeing ourselves as individuals, we would do well to view ourselves as the singular body of Christ. Jesus is our head and we are all ‘one’ under Him. To quote Paul from his letter to the church in Ephesus, “For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). As such we should be concerned for each other’s well-being, not viewing each other as competition–whether within the four walls of our individual buildings, the collection of churches within a given geographical areas or around the world.
Next week: Defensible Leadership
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!