1 Corinthians 16

Click here to read the passage.

This chapter is the last in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church. It contains several small sections which are all related to each other in a kind of train-of-thought: collection, travel-plans, relations with other believers, and greetings.

The first few verses are about keeping aside offerings. Paul instructs the believers to put something aside regularly, so that there doesn’t have to be a big appeal and collection when he arrives. The offering is only to be in keeping with each person’s ability, and no amount or percentage is mentioned. This collection will presumably go to the poorer believers in Jerusalem. In modern times, most of us are used to this style of regular offering on Sundays, although what is collected is usually given to the ministry of the church and missions, not saved up to be a special gift for the poor.

This topic naturally leads into Paul’s thinking about his travels. He is currently – that is, at the time of writing – ministering effectively in Ephesus, planning to travel to Macedonia after Pentecost (which usually falls in late May or early June), and during that journey to visit Corinth and stay there, perhaps for several months including over the winter (November to January). After that, when spring comes and travel is possible again, he may journey to Jerusalem along with those bearing the offering. We know from the Book of Acts that the journey to Jerusalem was just before Pentecost, so this letter may have been written about a little less than a year before that event, about the same time as the events of Acts 19.

The next section, apart from verses 13-14, is about specific people who are known to both Paul and the Corinthians. Firstly, Paul is waiting for Timothy and thinks he may go through Corinth; as his faithful co-worker, Paul wants to be sure Timothy is treated well and has nothing to fear (cf 2 Tim 1:7). Secondly, we find that Apollos is not actually in Corinth at this time (contrary to what we might have expected from the earlier chapters), but Paul indicates that he will indeed come when the time is right for him. Verses 15-18 give details about Stephanas (cf 1 Co 1:16) and his friends, who came from Corinth to Paul in Ephesus, presumably the deliverers of their letter. Paul urges the Corinthian believers to recognize and submit to these devoted servants who refreshed his spirit.

The last section contains many greetings: from the churches in Asia, from Aquila and Priscilla and their house-church, from Paul in his own hand, from everyone! And Paul instructs the Corinthians also to greet one another. The last three verses are the content of a formal greeting, including sending grace and love (twice).

I have left verses 13-14 for last, as they form an appropriate concluding application for the whole letter. Verse 13 has four imperative verbs: Be alert; Stand firm; Man up; Be strong. (The third verb literally says something like ‘Be a man’.) Standing firm in what we believe was Paul’s thrust in 1 Cor 10:1-13 and 15:1-11. The last word in verse 14 is a third-person imperative, which we normally translate in English using the word ‘let’, as in ‘Let everything be done in love’. This really is the key for the whole letter. Rather than wisdom or gifts, Paul wants the Corinthians to focus on love.

Prayer: Father God, let me be counted as a friend of Jesus, by his grace. Give me your Spirit to enable me to fulfil your command to stand firm in the faith and be strong. May I be a faithful servant like Timothy and Stephanas. And over everything, may I put on love.

1 Corinthians 15:35-58

Click here to read the passage.

In this delightful passage Paul lays out a simple explanation for understanding how resurrection – that strangest of ideas – could possibly work. In reality, we see resurrection around us every day, when dead seeds become live plants. We should be used to seeing things that are different, just as animals and birds and fish are different; we can see that the sun and the moon and the stars differ in splendor, even that different stars have different intensities. Why should we be surprised, then, that there are less and more glorious versions of bodies? The difference in bodies is two-fold: corruptible – that is, the body that breaks down and decays with which many of us are only too familiar – and incorruptible; or in other words, physical and spiritual. The first is weak, the second is powerful.

Paul focuses his example by looking at Adam – corruptible, mortal, dishonorable, weak, physical – and the resurrected Jesus Christ – incorruptible, glorious, powerful, spiritual. Adam came from the dust of the earth (cf Gen 2:7); Jesus came from heaven (cf John 13:3). We are all like Adam, and those who follow Jesus will be like Jesus too. Our own bodies will change, whether we pass through physical death or not, to be like his, so that as spiritual and incorruptible beings we may inherit the kingdom of God, which can only be possessed by the incorruptible. What is mortal must put on immortality, so that Isaiah’s prophecy may come to pass: that death may be swallowed up in victory, so that every tear is wiped away (25:8). As Hosea also proclaimed, death has no power over God’s people (13:14).

What caused death was sin, and sin’s power to kill came from the Mosaic law. But Jesus’ death on the cross has cancelled this power by taking the punishment for sin (cf Col 2:14). We therefore give thanks to God for giving us victory over sin and death, as undeserving as we may be. And the resulting application is that we continue to steadfast and immovable, not disturbed by the distracting controversies or temptations. Instead, Paul urges, let us abound in the work of the Lord, always knowing that our labour in him is not in vain.

Prayer: Lord God, my heavenly Father, help me not to be distracted by all the arguments against what I believe, nor by the temptations to live for the present life alone. Help me to trust your word, that there is a life to come, where my own body will be seen as glorious and powerful. Thank you for rescuing me from sin and death, and please continue to remind me to serve the Lord Jesus faithfully.

1 Corinthians 15:58 - Wellspring Christian Ministries

1 Corinthians 15:12-34

Click here to read the passage.

We discover in these verses why Paul wrote a summary of the gospel in the previous section; some in the church were saying that there is no resurrection of the dead. This could have been because of a simple refusal to believe in what they had never seen – rather like most of Western society today – or it could have been because of a misguided doctrine of realized eschatology. That is, they believed that as Christians are living eternal life already, there is no more to come. Paul asserts in this section what is foundational to our faith: a firm belief in the resurrection.

The first reason for believing in the resurrection is that it is evidence based. The resurrection has already begun, in the person of Jesus Christ. To start, Paul showed conclusively in verses 5-7 that Jesus definitely rose from the dead; there were hundreds of witnesses, Paul among them, who saw it with their own eyes and could testify to what they had seen.

The second reason has to do with the logical conclusion of not believing in the resurrection: if Christ has not been raised, the gospel is worthless and faith is futile. Contrary to the idea that Christians follow Jesus because he was a good teacher and demonstrated the zenith of love, Paul argues that we trust in the efficacy of Jesus’ sacrifice to take away our sin, and that his resurrection demonstrates that we are now reconciled to our holy God and in an ongoing relationship with him. If Jesus was not raised, this faith has no power. United with Christ, we will also be raised from the dead. We hope in him not for this earthly life alone, but for life in the heavenly kingdom which has been promised to us.

The third reason is theologically complex, spanning the entire biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelation. Paul asserts that Adam brought death to creation as a punishment for his sin, but that in Christ, who does away with sin and therefore death, all will be made alive. As Adam was the first to die, so Christ was the first to be resurrected. All die as descendants of Adam; all descendants of Christ (by faith) will be raised from death.

The last part of this section is about the supremacy of Christ. By ruling over death in resurrection, Jesus demonstrated that he reigns over all – every ruler, every power, every authority. Paul seems to be thinking about an end point, a time at which this current world order will be over. When Jesus rules over everything, by the authority of the Creator, he hands it all back to him, his Father God. Having brought all things in submission to himself, he then submits himself to his Father, so that all is brought to unity. This is in contrast to the stories of Roman and Greek gods, who fight against one another for authority and supremacy. The Father makes the Son the ruler of all, and then as ruler the Son submits himself to the Father.

It was for this reason that Paul could ‘face death every day’ in his ministry. He does not do it for his own gain in this world, but because he is submitted to the Lord God as his ruler, and because he believes there is a reward beyond this current life. If the dead are not raised, we all may as well suck all the marrow out of this life and enjoy ourselves – as some of the Corinthians were doing – but given the dead are raised to judgement, Paul urges us to sober up and stop sinning. Rather than being wise and intelligent, as the Corinthians were in their own eyes, Paul declares them ignorant of God.

How shall we apply all this to our own lives? Most importantly, Jesus is in charge, not us. He rules over every authority, every ruler, every power, even death. That means he rules over us. It also means we can trust him, no matter what crazy things are going on in the world. Secondly, but probably primarily within Paul’s intent for this passage, as Jesus rose from the dead, it means (1) our sins are paid for and we are reconciled to God; (2) our faith therefore has meaning for both this life and the life to come; (3) we will be raised from the dead and there is another life to look forward to. Therefore we should live with him as ruler of our lives even now.

Prayer: Jesus, you are the ruler of life and death. Forgive me for my self-seeking rebellion, and help me to live as your subject. Thank you for your promise to raise me from the dead and keep me as a subject in your heavenly kingdom.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Click here to read the passage.

This passage outlines succinctly the gospel which Paul preached to the Corinthians, and to us. It is the foundation on which Paul will build his argument about the truth of resurrection in the rest of the chapter. It also provides us a firm ground on which to stand secure in our salvation when we are feeling ourselves wavering in our faith. This teaching was passed onto Paul and he passed it onto others; eventually it was passed onto us.

Firstly: Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised on the third day. All this was in accordance with the Jewish Scriptures.

Take note: He appeared alive after his death, first to Peter, then to the original twelve disciples, then to five hundred people at the same time (most of whom were still alive when Paul wrote this letter, and could personally testify to what they had seen), then to his own brother James, then to all the apostles who were preaching the gospel, and finally to Paul himself. On the basis of this evidence, there could be no denying that Jesus was genuinely resurrected from the dead.

This is the gospel that was preached and that we believe. From other parts of the New Testament Scripture, we interpret ‘Christ died for our sins’ to mean that he paid the penalty of death that our sins deserve.

Verses 9-10 are a small diversion that could be written in parentheses, an autobiographical note about Paul’s life from his time as persecutor of the church to his salvation and ministry as an apostle. He describes himself as a miscarried baby, or an aborted fetus, to demonstrate his inferiority to the other apostles. And yet, because of such humble origins, he worked harder than all the others. But for Paul, all was grace, from beginning to end.

I keep coming back to these simple and basic truths. When I get caught up in all the confusion about whether women should keep silent in church, what Paul’s words mean for my homosexual friends, whether re-marriage is outlawed within Christian communities, whether Adam and Eve were real people and how their descendants could populate the earth without incest … When it all becomes too difficult, I remember these simple facts: Jesus died for my sins, and he was raised from the dead. Faith, hope, and love remain, and the greatest of these is love.

Prayer: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, we are weak but he is strong.

1 Corinthians 15:4 - that he was buried, that he was raised on the t...

1 Corinthians 14

Click here to read the passage.

In this chapter Paul writes in further detail about the specific verbal gifts of prophecy and tongues. For the sake of clarity, I define prophecy as speaking the word(s) of God to his people; this may or may not include a reference to the future but always impacts belief or behavior in the present. My understanding of tongues in this passage is a transcendent experience of sounds filling one’s mouth that the speaker doesn’t necessarily understand. Interestingly, there are a few moments in scripture when these two experiences, prophecy and tongues, seem to overlap in a religious ecstasy (eg 1 Sam 10:11 cf 1 Sam 19:24; Acts 10:46). There are a lot of common questions about these kinds of ‘charismatic’ experiences and I am not going to spend more time on it here. If you are interested in the issue of tongues in 1 Corinthians specifically, I recommend reading Gordon Fee (eg this scholarly article); in case you’re wondering, I believe the gift of tongues is ongoing today.

Paul argues that, while both prophecy and tongues are both gifts to be eagerly sought, prophecy takes precedence for the edification of the church. Tongues build up the speaker only (unless there is interpretation), but prophecy builds up and helps others in the community. When it comes to those outside the believing community, mysterious tongues may be a sign that they are still under judgment; but prophecy can be understood by both believer and unbeliever alike. Therefore prophecy is always more valuable than tongues for the whole community’s sake. This teaching continues Paul’s insistence that love takes priority in every situation, especially in the evaluation of different people’s giftedness (Chapters 12-14).

Verses 26-40 continue this message, now concerning proper behavior and order within church services. It is tremendous to note that psalms, teachings, revelations, tongues and their interpretation are things everyone, not just the designated leader, may bring in the gathering of the church. But there should still be order and turn-taking, as well as careful discernment of what is said.

In my opinion, Paul’s injunction regarding the silence of women (verse 34) is not about them not participating in the worship (cf 1 Cor 11:5), but about not calling out in the middle of the gathering. Let me paint a picture to explain: In most synagogues I have attended, women and men sit separately, often with the women in the back or upstairs (although many are divided left and right of the room). The men participate in the service, listening, reading, singing, praying aloud. On the other hand, the women sit and chat, paying little attention to the service. (Of course, not all synagogues are like this, but it is my personal experience, repeated many times over in different congregations.) I can just imagine the Corinthian synagogue community, where women are suddenly interested in what is going on, what is being taught and read, the prayers, the preaching, everything. But having had little religious education, there must have been a lot they didn’t understand. Hence, they might call out to their husbands to ask for explanations. This, I take it, is why Paul asked the women to be silent. Instead of interrupting the service, they should ask their husbands at home, after the church gathering was over. Of course, our culture today is quite different than this.

Few of us reading this blog have the opportunity to order church worship gatherings. But we probably all participate in them. Let us do our part to bring our gifts for the building up of the whole community.

Prayer: Father God, thank you for the gifts that you have given to me. Help me to use them for the building up of your church. May your name be honored in all that I say and do.

1 Corinthians 13

Click here to read the passage.

This is probably one of the most famous chapters in the Bible. My favorite ‘secular’ songwriter, Paul Kelly, wrote this song based on 1 Corinthians 13. Everyone in the world can relate to the message of love. While the chapter may not be central in the structure of the letter to the Corinthians, it is central to solving their problems.

It is not eloquence, wisdom, or spiritual gifts that are the true measure of maturity. Even faith and sacrifice are worthless without love. Prophecies and knowledge, which at this stage of life and eternity are only partial, will pass away when the fullness of perfection comes. As we grow older and look back on our lives, we realize how foolish and ignorant we were as children, as teenagers, even as young adults. Knowledge of God now, compared with full experiential knowledge of God then (i.e. in the future), is like the difference between getting to know a potential spouse through internet dating, and then actually living with them.

I never grow tired of the exercise of putting my name in the place of ‘love’ (and ‘it’) in verses 4-8a. Jessica is patient; Jessica is kind; Jessica is not jealous or boastful or puffed-up; Jessica is not rude or self-seeking; Jessica is not easily angered nor keeps a record of wrongs … Jessica bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Jessica never fails. Try it with your own name. If you are anything like me, there’ll come a point, sooner or later in the list, when you know you do not measure up to being truly loving. But let that be a challenge to further maturity, rather than a rebuke or condemnation.

Faith, hope, and love remain, even though other gifts will pass away as unnecessary in Jesus’ kingdom where all suffering has ceased and knowledge is perfected. That is, faith in the sense of trusting in God; and hope in the sense of expecting good, will continue. But love, of which God himself is our exemplar, is the greatest of these three. He loves within himself as a trinity, and he loves his creation. May we grow into the likeness of the God of love.

Prayer: God, I love you as much as I am able, but you know it is not as much as I would like. Forgive me for my selfishness. Please help me to love others more, as I further experience your amazing love for me.

Bible Verse For Evangelist, 1 Corinthians 13 4-7 Love Is Patient Royalty  Free Cliparts, Vectors, And Stock Illustration. Image 73508807.

1 Corinthians 12

Click here to read the passage.

Paul seems to be addressing the next question which the Corinthians had for him (cf 7:1), but actually the main theme of the letter continues here: healing the divisions in the church. As we already learned in chapters 1-4, the believers in the church in Corinth apparently made distinctions and elevated on pedestals ministers with particular kinds of gifts, especially the gift of oratory. In this chapter, Paul teaches that everyone has a role to play in the church, and no one is better than anyone else because of the special gift which they have.

First of all, he grounds his teaching in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Christians do not have different kinds of spirits, but the different gifts they have all come from one Spirit, the Spirit of God. This may seem obvious to you and me, but the Corinthians were more like the South East Asians among whom I live, who see different spiritual powers coming from different spirits or gods. Someone who believes in Jesus’ Lordship has the Spirit, who gives gifts as he chooses, for the building up of the church, which is the body of Jesus.

Paul lists a number of different gifts which are used for church’s profit: word-ministries (eg prophets, teachers, speaking in and interpreting tongues), healing and miracle ministries, apostleship, faith, administration, and helping. Although some of these clearly look more exciting than others and may elevate the gifted to a place of prominence, Paul states that all are needed and there is no place for division over who has what gift(s). The imagery is wonderful: how can any part of the body think it is more or less important than any other part? Everything works together to make a complete body. The church is – or should be! – the same. The parts suffer together, rejoice together, are mutually concerned for each other. And this is regardless of gifting, ethnicity, or social status; we were all given drink from one Spirit.

It cannot be denied that some roles in the church are simply more glamorous and apparently honorable than others. The one who leads worship, the one who preaches, s/he is up there and everyone is looking that direction. Healers and miracle workers may also get more attention. In contrast, the helpers and the administrators are less visible. But they are no less important for the functioning of the whole body, and we do well to honor them publicly from time to time. The important application is that there should be no division and the body’s members should have mutual concern for one another, not only for the obvious people who are known and loved by all, but for everyone in the church. Let us not be divided in any way, nor jealous, nor overlook the less obvious in our churches.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit, and thank you for the gifts that he gives to your church. Thank you for the gift you have given to me. Help me to know it and use it for the building up of your body. Let us be mindful of everyone in our community; forgive us when we elevate some and forget others.

The Best Mother's Day Gifts in Harare, Zimbabwe; Mother's day presents

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Click here to read the passage.

In this passage we discover more about divisions in the church. They are not only related to who is following whom, but are more fundamental, in the essence of people’s attitudes to one another. In the very meal that is meant to represent sharing and fellowship, there are symptoms of uncaring division. What is the point of coming together as a church if not to demonstrate love for one another and build each other up?

Paul therefore declares that the meal they are sharing is not the Lord’s supper, and their gathering together does more harm than good. In the first century, Christians ate a full meal together to commemorate Jesus’ death, not just the little cup of juice and piece of bread which we use today. But the Corinthians were treating the moment not as a holy sacrament or remembrance, but as an opportunity to feast. However, the poor were not getting food and others were eating and drinking to excess. This was not the intent of the occasion, Paul implies. It is in this context that he writes the words which most of us know by heart from the church liturgy (verses 23-27). Taking the bread and the cup are symbolic proclamations of our union in Jesus’ death and the beginning of the promised new covenant. It should demonstrate the believers’ fellowship together, not be an example of division within the church. Such ugly behavior is the reason Jesus went to the cross in the first place, suffering punishment for the sins of humanity.

The next part of the passage is a curious exposition regarding judgment. Paul uses the usual word for judgment, krino, and also diakrino, usually translated as ‘discern’ and katakrino, usually translated as ‘condemn’. The way I read it is this: The one who eats and drinks the bread and wine at the Lord’s supper brings judgment on herself if she does so without being aware of the Lord’s body, that is the church; if we are properly aware of ourselves then we will not be judged; though when we are judged by the Lord it is for discipline’s sake, so that on the final day of judgment we will not be condemned. The interesting thing here is that there does seem to be a temporal judgment, that the Lord exercises punishment on his people – in this case in the form of illness and even death – as a disciplinary measure before the day of final judgment.

Is it possible that some of our bad experiences on this earth are judgment in order to direct us back towards the Lord? This is a common theme in the Bible (eg Amos 4:6-12). As I look back over 2020, with its fires, floods, locusts, and other plagues, I can’t help wondering whether God is trying to catch the attention of humanity. We must be careful in our application, however, because not every bad thing that happens is as a result of our (or someone else’s) sin. Job is an obvious case in defense of this point. What we need to remember is that, before pointing the finger at others, discernment must start with me, my own character, my own selfishness and sinfulness. Am I waiting for the other, being generous with the other, building up the body? Or am I guilty of breaking the Lord’s body and pouring out his blood?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me discernment of my own sins. I thank you that you died for me, that you took the punishment, and opened the way for me to be friends with God. Help me to be someone who builds and honors your body.

1 Corinthians 11:1-16

Click here to read the passage.

Well, apart from the first verse, this is probably the most troublesome passage we have read together since this blog started. Just what shall we take from Paul’s teaching here?

It is helpful to start with verses 1-2 before getting lost in the quagmire. There is a phonic link in Greek between imitate (mimetai) and remember (memnetai). Paul wants the Corinthians to imitate him, and to remember the traditions he passed onto them. It is perhaps helpful at this point to note that word, ‘tradition’. Because from here on we dive into a culture that is not our own.

Certainly I can agree with verse 3, although even that would raise eyebrows for some people. Some scholars read ‘head’ as source and believe the passage talks about all women and all men, not just husbands and wives; that is, it is not about authority within the family in the same way as Col 3:18. (It is certainly interesting to note here that Paul expects women to prophesy within the church community.) But all this talk of long hair and short hair and shaved heads and head coverings – what is that about? When I visit my husband’s family in South India, all the women pray with their heads covered; if they are not wearing a hat or a garment which can cover their heads, they will grab the nearest tea towel, or even the end of a curtain when someone starts praying. On the other hand, in my Jewish family we have the opposite tradition; men must cover their heads when praying, but women don’t need to. Ah, tradition.

However, Paul seems to indicate this is something more than merely human tradition when he points back to the creation story, specifically Eve being formed from Adam’s rib. On the other hand, Paul argues, males are born out of women. So both are dependent on each other for life. Anyway, everything came from God, and he made the rules, right?

I am relieved from my quandary by the imperative in verse 13, ‘Judge for yourselves’, and the rhetorical question in verse 14, ‘Does not nature teach you …?’. Um, no. Nature does not teach me that men shouldn’t have long hair; if it did, then my son’s hair would not grow like it does. So I will take those little bits of rhetoric and use them for understanding this passage. I am not ‘inclined to be contentious’, and I accept that for Paul this was the way things were, according to his culture and tradition. For me, praying with my head uncovered, even within my husband’s family, is no big deal. I also don’t mind if he comes to my family’s Passover celebration without wearing a skullcap.

Obviously, I am treating this passage somewhat lightly. I don’t mean to be flippant, nor do I want to offend anyone for whom these are really important issues. I definitely don’t have any problem with women who choose to cover their heads while praying, or men who refuse to either cut or grow their hair. The problem comes, I believe, when we try to decide between what is true for only a particular culture, and what is true for all times and in all cultures. If I can say here that women don’t need to cover their heads while praying because this is just for a particular culture, then why should my brothers and sisters not be able to say that homosexuality was wrong only in Paul’s culture? Or the reverse: if homosexuality is wrong, why don’t I cover my head when I pray? In both instances, we may reach back to Genesis to back our arguments. Of course, this is a highly complex issue and I don’t have space to solve it here. But I encourage you to keep thinking about it! Feel free to share your opinion in the comments. Here is another article to read that has more depth; its focus is on the culture of the day and the mutuality of ministry.

Prayer: Lord God, help me to be a humble reader of your word. Let me be an imitator of Jesus, who always spoke the truth in love. Give me wisdom to navigate this world and remain faithful to you.

1 Corinthians 10:14-33

Click here to read the passage.

In this section Paul finally concludes the discussion which began at 8:1, regarding whether believers should eat food that has been sacrificed to idols. He draws together threads that have been running through the whole discourse: rejecting idolatry; the people of Israel; permissibility vs benefit; questions of conscience; exercising freedom vs becoming a stumbling-block for others; seeking the good of others instead of the self.

Paul’s argument starts in a strange place: the Christian sacrament of holy communion (verses 16-22). If sharing in the cup and the bread is a genuine participation in the body and blood of Jesus, just as the ancient Israelites shared the meat that came from sacrifices on the altar, then isn’t sharing the meat that has been sacrificed to idols a real participation in idolatry? We cannot share in both Jesus and demons, Paul emphatically states. And yet, he also declares that idols are nothing and have no power. Without knowing for sure what Paul was intending, I suggest, based on my personal experiences in South East Asia, that he may have been discerning a difference between the visible idol, which has no power, and the demonic spirit that it represents, which indeed has power. In effect, don’t be scared about those figurines in the spirit houses, but also don’t offer sacrifices to the demonic forces they represent. Don’t worship, revere, or honor anything over against the Lord, who deserves all our worship. Don’t make God jealous by giving your attention to something else.

The second half of the chapter (verses 23-33) goes back to the idea first expressed in 1 Cor 6:12. In their superior knowledge and wisdom (please note the irony intended by both me and Paul), it seems that at least some of the Corinthians believed that they could do anything with their bodies without fear of repercussion. Whether that was because of a super-charged notion of grace and forgiveness, or because of a dualistic belief in the complete separation of body and spirit, the net result was complete libertarianism, that the Christian was completely free of the law. Paul’s response is that (1) not everything is beneficial or edifying for the believer; and (2) a believer should not live for her own pleasure, but for the good of others.

Therefore, with regard to food sacrificed to idols, if no one is thinking about it being sacrificed to idols, don’t worry about it, go ahead and eat, especially if that creates good relationships. But if someone at the table – whether you, or your Christian friend, or your non-believing friend – thinks of that food as sacrificed to idols, don’t eat it. Don’t risk anyone’s conscience being challenged by what you eat. Don’t let anyone else fall just because you think you are strong. (We talked about this a few days ago with reference to drinking alcohol, which is perhaps a clearer example in our modern Asian culture.) Definitely don’t eat food offered in spirit houses to demonstrate your point that the idols have no power – that’s probably what those puffed-up Corinthians would have done if they were in South East Asia.

The rubber hits the road, so to speak, when we consider who we are living for. Are you living for yourself, and your own pleasure? Or are you living for the glory of God? Do you want to please yourself, or do you want to bring benefit to others, in order that they might be saved? While there may be many confusing things in this section of 1 Corinthians, what is clear is that Paul wants his readers, in everything they do and say, to live for the sake of others, and especially for God.

Prayer: Lord God, forgive me for my selfishness. Help me in all that I say and do to live for you and for others. Give me your wisdom to make right decisions in how I conduct myself.

Thai Spirit Houses - San Jao (Chao) Thi, San Phra Phum
Spirit house in Thailand