Day 305 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in First Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 9 – This chapter illustrates what it means to give up our rights for the good of others. As an apostle, Paul has the right to financial support. But love for Jesus leads him to give up this right, so that others will understand that God’s saving mercies are a free gift (“free of charge”), not something obtained through human resources. In fact, though he has many rights (“I am free from all”), Paul lives as though he has none (“a servant to all”). For the sake of the Gospel, he has become “all things to all people”—that is, he has adopted many customs and cultural practices that are not his own preferences, so that he might honor Jesus and bless others by sharing the Gospel with as many different kinds of people as possible. Even those of us who are not apostles are empowered to show such zeal for “building up” our neighbors.
The source of such selflessness is the transforming power of love for Jesus, who gave up so much to become a servant for our sake (Mark 10:45; Philippians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 8:9). When we are gripped by such love, a focus on personal comfort gives way to a focus on advancing the Gospel and the blessings it brings. As the athletic images in 1 Corinthians 9:24–26 remind us, passion for Jesus fuels sustained, intense effort. The grace we have already received gives us strength and motive to complete our “race,” where the final victory of resurrection life in Jesus awaits us.
How do you serve those around you?
1 Corinthians 10 – Paul’s focus now shifts to the problem of idolatry. Here the question is not whether the Corinthians are free to eat meat purchased in the market, but whether they may participate in religious feasts at pagan temples.
Three truths stand out: (1) as Believers we are united to Jesus, and therefore we share in the redeeming power of His death, as represented in the Lord’s Supper; (2) the appropriate response to such mercy is to honor Jesus as our only Lord, not sharing fellowship with Him and with false gods; (3) when we do engage in idolatry, warnings of judgment give us opportunity to repent. In fact, no matter what sin confronts us, God faithfully provides a means to escape temptation—a promise that encourages us to resist to the utmost of our “ability”.
Throughout the text, Paul interprets the Old Testament in a way that is centered on Jesus. Jesus is the “Rock” that accompanied and sustained Israel in her wilderness wanderings. Jesus’ “table” (representing His death) fulfills the purpose of Israel’s “altar” (representing the sacrifice of animals). And Jesus, “into” whom Believers are baptized (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27), is the leader of a new exodus, a greater deliverance than the exodus led by Moses. Thus the Old Testament provides Believers not only instructive examples but also rich reminders that God’s Son has always been, and will always be, the only means by which sinners have access to God’s saving mercies.
Paul returns to the topic of the Corinthians’ freedom to eat meat sold in the market (verse 25), concluding the section of the epistle that began in 8:1. In doing so, he underscores two principles that demonstrate the fruit of the Gospel in our lives, and that ultimately point us to the work of Jesus.
First, in matters of conscience, a Believer does not “seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” In Jesus , our goal is to do not simply what is “lawful” but what is “helpful” for others. Paul’s own practice, presented in detail in chapter 9, is again summarized: he does not seek his own good, “but that of many, that they may be saved.” The apostle now states explicitly where he learned such a pattern: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” As Jesus gave up many freedoms to secure our salvation, we are empowered to give up many personal rights and preferences so that others may receive and enjoy that salvation. Paul will touch on this subject from the opposite perspective in other passages—urging Believers not to give up their freedom, due to the legalisms of others—but there as well as here the key principle is honoring what most promotes the Gospel (2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 2:4–5; 5:1).
Second, as Jesus honors his Father in all things (1 Corinthians 11:3; 15:24–28), Believers seek “the glory of God” in everything we do. This is not easy, since sin tempts us to insist on our own rights at others’ expense, and to compromise our loyalty to God. But the Gospel offers us this hope: we who have received Jesus as Savior also have strength to follow His example.
Indeed, the cross of Jesus, where our salvation is accomplished, is the place where we learn to imitate Jesus by doing costly things for God’s glory and our neighbor’s good. For Jesus did the supremely costly thing for our good—dying in our place.
How does Jesus’ fulfillment of the altar (of the Law) invite you to His table of grace?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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