Orderly Edification

Studies in First Corinthians – XXIV

1 Corinthians 14:26-40

Paul describes here a church which may seem unfamiliar to most of us today. If you are old enough to remember a good old fashioned testimony service, his words will make perfect sense. “When you come together,” he says, “everyone has a song, or a teaching, or a revelation. Everyone has something to add to the service.” The people to whom Paul was writing to did not come to church to receive all the time, they came to give.

Paul admonished them to be sure that everything they did was for the edifying (building up) of the Church. Every believer, whether they came with a song, a testimony, a teaching, or a revelation, was contributing to the upbuilding and ministry of the entire congregation. Everyone came to play their part, contributing to the overall health of the body.

What positive contribution are you making to this goal? Every one of us has something to give and no one’s gift is insignificant. We should come to every service prepared to give; give worship to God and give in ministry to the Church body.

It is more blessed to give than to receive. -Acts 20:25

Obviously, if everyone comes bursting with something to say or do, things can get out of hand very easily. Paul uses the remainder of this chapter to bring balance to the enthusiasm of believers to contribute to the service. He begins by correcting certain practices and concludes with a simple summary, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (14:40).

The word “decently” means “with beauty.” The word “order” means “arrangement.” Let everything be done in beauty and by arrangement. This can only be an outflow of a private spiritual life of a child of God. Without a personal relationship with God, you will never come to a service with something to contribute. It is out of that private and personal communion with God that you can come to a service with a song on your heart and a testimony for the Lord that will minister to the Body of Christ.

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With What Are You Building?

Studies in First Corinthians – VII

According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

-1 Corinthians 3:10-16

Paul points out the importance of having the correct foundation AND the correct building materials. Some Christians are building on the right foundation with the wrong materials (works of the flesh rather than the works of the Spirit). The Church will not stand on any other foundation than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet even on the correct foundation, it is possible to use the wrong materials.

Paul describes two types of building materials: indestructible—gold, silver, and precious stones; and destructible—wood, hay, and stubble. In this Scripture we see a clear distinction between salvation and rewards. It is possible for a man’s soul to be saved, but his works, being of no value, to be burned. If his motives are not eternal, but temporal or earthly, he may be saved, but his works will be destroyed. Our motives must be to build the Kingdom for the glory of God.

Build on the foundation with materials that will last the test of time. Build with the brick of submission to God’s will and purpose, even in times of suffering. Put in a doorway of prayer. Open up the windows of praise and worship. Be sure to include the gold of purity and righteousness, the silver of a radiant testimony, and the precious stones of victory over temptation.

Paul appeals to the Corinthians to pay close attention to how they build because they are the temple of God. Let us also be reminded, we are the temple of the Holy Ghost. We are intended to reveal the glory of the Lord.

Every one of us is building. Every moment of every day, we are building. Look in your hands – What are you building with today? Will it last?

Don’t Be A Baby

Studies in First Corinthians – VI

Every born again child of God has within them the Holy Ghost. God’s Spirit has come into our lives to produce His character in us. Therefore, we must ask ourselves, “Why is it that so little of Christ shows through and so much of my self remains?” We find an answer in the opening verses of chapter three.

“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ” (3:1).

Notice that Paul uses the word “brethren”; he is writing to those who are filled with the Holy Ghost. He classifies these “brethren” into two groups: the “spiritual” and the “carnal”. These carnal Christians have a salvation experience but remain immature, controlled by their flesh.

The carnal man that Paul saw at work in the life of the Corinthians, we see in the lives of many Christians today. Every Spirit-filled believer has within them the capacity to take on the character of Jesus Christ, however this is not always accomplished. Why? Because too many Christians continue to live on the carnal level.

Carnal people lack spiritual growth. Paul calls them “babes in Christ,” saying, “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat” (3:1-2). Don’t be a baby! Babies are totally dependent upon other people. They do not walk on their own. They aren’t able to feed themselves. The same is true for the carnal Christian. He cannot walk by himself. She has never learned how to feed herself on the Word of God.

Carnal people hold on to sin and live in constant defeat. They feed their old nature and starve their new nature. Although they have been filled with the Spirit, they continue to be mastered by the flesh. They can’t even enjoy their new fellowship because they are defeated and constantly fighting.

Simply put, carnal people live a life of fruitlessness and worldliness. In many ways, they resemble non-Christians; there is little that separates them. This is not the life God has planned for anyone who is filled with His Spirit.

Raymond Woodward describes plan God has for His children and the dangers of continuing to live the carnal life: “There are two sides to our relationship with God. As our SAVIOR, He gives us a positional relationship of perfect standing before God. As our LORD, He gives us an experiential relationship of progressive growth in God. This relationship can be broken and scarred by sin; once damaged, it can be healed only by repentance; if repentance is not sought, divine discipline may be the result; if repentance is still not sought, the believer will eventually forfeit even his positional relationship!”

As Christians, we are called to live a life of victory over sin and the flesh. We are called to spiritual growth and Christ-likeness. We are called to bring forth permanent fruit. Just as the carnal Christian reveals worldliness, so the spiritual Christian reveals a life of separation unto God.

Jesus Christ, And Him Crucified

Studies in First Corinthians – V

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (2:2).

Paul had identified a goal for the church at Corinth: “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (2:5). He knew this group of Christians could not face the challenge of presenting Christ if their faith was based only on intellectual assent. Their faith must stand on the rock of revelation rather than on the sands of human philosophy.

Corinthians would not be influenced by a well crafted argument. Nothing but the miracle of the grace of God revealed in the lives of those who had been transformed by the Spirit of God would impact this city for the Kingdom.

The same is true today. If we are going to impact our communities and our world, it will not be by winning a theological argument (though we should always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us). The world we live in is far too clever and sinful to be persuaded by a debate that appeals to their intellect alone. What our world needs is the evidence of a life dramatically and completely changed by the power of the cross.

What is the impact of your faith? Do others see in you the miracle of the grace of God? As you live, surrounded by the evil of this world, you have a mission that must be fulfilled, to stand in the power of God. This is possible only as we live in the revelation presented to us at Calvary. We must grasp the futility of anything untouched by the power of the Holy Ghost.

I believe that God is teaching us that nothing less than the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in revival can ever meet the need of this day. There can be nothing else; no false gods, no misplaced confidence in something or someone, no compromise, no unconfessed sin, no unsurrendered life, no critical spirit, no worldliness, no self can be allowed. For “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

The Light of God’s Wisdom

Studies in First Corinthians – IV

Right through this first chapter of First Corinthians Paul contrasts wisdom and foolishness: the wisdom of men and the foolishness of God, then the foolishness of men and the wisdom of God. It was the wisdom of men that had seduced this church. Division was a plague that was destroying the spiritual health of the people. The remedy for the situation was not philosophy or “the wisdom of words,” but the wisdom of God given through revelation by the Holy Ghost.

The moment any Christian departs from the principle of revelation, relying rather on human intellect for understanding God’s Word, all spiritual authority is lost. If we submit the Word of God to our own intellect and refuse to believe in the possibility of absolute authoritative revelation, we lose the power and authority. It’s not in us; it’s in Him.

If the church in our day is to invade a city for God, then it must get back to a place of absolute dependence upon the wisdom of God.

-Alan Redpath

Each of us is faced with a choice every day. Will we depend upon our human intellect and education to meet the need of the day? Or will we depend on the wisdom of God? Will we trust human wisdom and reasoning? Or will we trust the Spirit to lead and guide us? Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t downplay the importance of reason and thinking. I only intend to question the source: the wisdom of God or the wisdom of man.

Alan Redpath makes a challenging statement, “The moment a man begins to put his confidence in his own mind… in his personal criticism of Scriptures, he is finished as far as divine revelation is concerned.” You must choose the principle on which you will guide your life, on which you will study the Word, and on which you will serve the LORD.

Come to the cross. Take the place of death to self. Glory in the LORD. The Holy Ghost will illuminate the Word in a way that human wisdom cannot and give you understanding.

The Preaching of Foolishness

Studies in First Corinthians – III

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).

I would like to share a story with you from Alan Redpath’s The Royal Route To Heaven. He writes:

I heard an eminent professor of theology say to students in his seminary class, “Gentlemen, I ask you to remember that you are called upon to know something of the foolishness of preaching, not the preaching of foolishness.” In my heart I retorted, “He is wrong! The word of the cross is absolute foolishness.” It says so in my text: to those who are perishing, the word of the cross is foolishness.

It depends on who you are talking to: those who are perishing or those who are being saved. To those who are perishing, the word of the cross is absolute foolishness. It is a contradiction to all of the science, philosophy, education, and knowledge of this world.

Let us hear the word of the cross spoken on a hill just outside of the walls of Jerusalem:

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). This prayer of Christ for His murders doesn’t make any sense, humanly speaking.

“Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). This pity given to the guilty from the innocent as they both suffer seems strange to human logic.

“Woman, behold thy son” (John 19:26-27). The concern of her well being in the hour of His death is at the very least the result of the purest of hearts.

“My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Now alone, utterly cut off, He is introducing a countless multitude to glory through His suffering.

“I thirst!” (John 19:28). Out of the agony of these parched lips flows rivers of living water.

“It is finished!” (John 19:30). Obedient unto death, forsaken by friend and foe, Jesus has paid the price! The innocent died for the guilty!

What is the word of the cross in your life and mine? It is power through weakness, life through death, resurrection through crucifixion.

Those who are perishing say it is foolishness. If that is so, I was saved by the preaching of foolishness.