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The fledgling church in Corinth was outnumbered somewhere between 70-80 thousand to less than 100 people.
The worldview of the general population threatened the very heart of the message that the church had embraced and Paul needed to persuade them to think differently.
The very organizing principle of life (wisdom) was the central issue.
If you were to do a “man on the street” interview with Corinthians, they would be able to state in one way or another what the general public believed.
— Might makes right.
— The ends justify the means.
— People who are excellent communicators must be the wisest among us.
— We must take the advice of the wealthy and powerful, because they know how life is really lived.
If you were to ask one of the newly converted Christians on the street, they may have had a hard time explaining how being a Christian was different from the general thoughts of people in Corinth.
The Cross – God’s Organizing Principle for Life
Paul knew without a doubt that Jesus organized his life around the cross, even before he was nailed there.
Paul also knew that 70-80 thousand Corinthians completely devalued a cross-like life.
He wrote, “the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1.18).
The Romans and Greeks saw the message of the cross as quite foolish, because in their wildest imagination they couldn’t conceive how a god could die at the hands of the Roman army.
Jews stumbled over the message of the cross (1 Corinthians 1.23), because they expected their Messiah to conquer the Romans rather than being crucified by them.
Paul used the word “wisdom” for what I am calling the organizing principle of life.
When we look at Jesus’ entire life, it is clear that self-giving love was the central principle that determined how he thought, felt and behaved.
His experience on the cross was the culmination of a life that was lived in complete love and surrender to God and people.
A Counter-Cultural Message
Living in self-giving love or organizing our lives around the attitudes and actions of the cross has always gone against the grain of culture.
A life that is defined by the attitudes and actions of self-giving love will appear strange to family, friends and the surrounding society.
Paul made it his goal to change the thinking of the church. Let’s consider his logic and apply it to our lives.
— 1 Cor. 2.6 – Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish.
The ability to organize our lives around self-giving love (the cross) is something that mature Christians are able to receive and live by.
Immature Christians will be swayed by the prevailing views of the crowd. Paul warns us that just because someone is in power (the rulers of this age) does not mean that they know how best to live life.
Jesus is our model. Immature people are called to grow up in Christ and to appropriate his attitudes and actions.
— 1 Cor. 2.7-8 – But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
The only way to understand God’s wisdom of self-giving love is for God to personally reveal it to us.
People who do not have God’s revelation will never understand why anyone would chose to live a life of self-denial in the service of God and others.
If earthly leaders understood God’s principles for life (wisdom), they would not have crucified Jesus nor would they oppose people who live in self-giving love.
— 1 Cor. 2.9 – But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him . . .”
This is one of my favorite Bible verses and I often use it in funeral sermons to highlight how heaven is far better than anything we can imagine. While that is true, it is not the main point of the verse.
Paul combined two verses from Isaiah to encourage us. God is willing to give us knowledge through the means of revelation, especially as we grow in our love for him.
Here is good news for the immature Christian. Everyone begins their walk with Christ as an immature follower. However, God is more than willing to reveal more and more of his way of life to people – not based on our intellect, but on love for him.
— 1 Cor.2.10-11 – These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
11 For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.
What is in the mind of a human, only that that human knows. What is in God’s mind, only the Spirit knows.
By God’s grace, he is willing to reveal to us the very character and qualities that define his existence.
The challenge to us is to willingly receive what the Spirit teaches us and to organize how we live by his direction.
— 1 Cor. 2.12-14 – Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.
13 And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.
14 Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
This was the central issue in A.D. 50 Corinth and is the same in 2021 America. Will we organize our lives around the best thinking of the world as taught by human insight and opinion?
Or, will we live by the Spirit’s revelation of God’s wisdom and what is at his heart, self-giving love.
Paul made it quite clear. We will not experience God’s wisdom or know God’s foundational principles by following the best thinking of our culture.
God’s guidance into the best life possible is found only by loving him and following the direction of his Spirit. At the heart of God’s wisdom is the cross, a life of self-giving love.
— 1 Cor. 2.15-16 – Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.
16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.
Paul frequently sprinkles Old Testament verses in his writings and usually ends an argument with a Biblical quote.
His message is consistent with what God has already revealed through people like Moses and the prophets. Paul appeals to both Scripture and the Spirit to challenge people to organize their lives around self-giving love.
With that challenge, let’s respond to his message with new commitment to live a Jesus-kind-of-life.
About This Blog
We are currently alternating between the prophet Amos and the Letters of Paul. Tomorrow’s study will focus on specific issues that God has with Israel and the offer of God’s grace from the Book of Amos.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at email@example.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist prayer team will pray for you.\0