Thru the Bible – Day 306

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Day 306 – Thru the Bible

Today we continue in First Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 11In the next major section of the letter (11:2–14:40), Paul addresses a series of problems related to worship in Corinth. In each case, self-promotion, a spirit of independence, and neglect of others’ good are at work. Only through the power of the Gospel can such patterns of sin be displaced by love (13:1–13).

The first such problem concerns women who are dishonoring their husbands by praying and prophesying without wearing head coverings. Interpreters debate precisely how Paul’s discussion of praying and prophesying with covered heads applies to today’s church. Whatever the case, the apostle’s instructions are rooted in two clear Gospel principles.

First, Jesus and His Father are bound to one another as closely as a head to a body (“the head of Christ is God”). Within this relationship of love, Jesus gladly honors His Father, and neither seeks to establish independence from the other. Therefore, when Scripture calls Believers to unity, love, and the sharing of common life, it is calling us to respond to and reflect patterns of divine love. In marriage (Ephesians 5:21–33), this means that a wife should respect her husband’s authority (as the Son honors the Father), and a husband should delight in his wife (as the Father delights in the Son). And while a spirit of mutual dependence should certainly characterize marriage, the principle applies to all other relationships in the body of Jesus as well.

Second, reflecting the love that exists within the Trinity has been God’s purpose for His image-bearers since creation. In the church, God is restoring relationships that have been distorted by sin, so that His unchanging character may be displayed. It is therefore crucial that Believers’ conduct in worship reflect the character of divine love.

Some in Corinth are treating the Lord’s Supper as an opportunity for selfish indulgence, amplifying the divisions between rich and poor. Paul’s strong language and stern warnings remind us that our worship of Jesus must honor His sacrifice for us.

The text reflects patterns of sin that blind us, even in worship. Self-centeredness can turn “the Lord’s” Supper into one that is the worshiper’s “own”. And it is easy to humiliate those for whom Jesus has died while we should be “proclaiming the Lord’s death.” Such sins are so serious that they call forth the Lord’s judgment and discipline.

Yet the text also reminds us that the Gospel has power to pardon sin and transform hardened hearts. Fulfilling the Old Testament promise of a “new covenant” (Jeremiah 31:31–34), Jesus has secured our forgiveness by giving His body and blood for us (Luke 22:17–20). When we “remember” Him through the Lord’s Supper, we recall this great act of covenant love—and we proclaim that we need the power of the Lord’s death to strengthen us “until He comes,” just as we need food (“the bread”) and drink (“the cup”) to sustain our bodies. Only through such power are we able to give the highest honor to the least privileged (“those who have nothing”) and to put the good of others before our own (“wait for one another”).

Even the more challenging portions of this text reflect Gospel principles. The warning of verse 27 presupposes a desire to honor (not profane) Jesus’ work by reflecting its worth as we participate in the Lord’s Supper. In fact, when we examine ourselves and judge ourselves in light of Jesus’ saving work, we will find courage to repent more deeply than we otherwise could. Even the Lord’s discipline will not lead to condemnation but to assurance that we are beloved children (Hebrews 12:5–11; Proverbs 3:11–12). Stern warnings and severe discipline indicate that our Savior desires our good even more than we do.

How is the Lord’s Supper a celebration in your life of what Jesus has done for you?

1 Corinthians 12The next three chapters of the letter provide a framework for understanding spiritual gifts (chapters 12–13), followed by a discussion of two particular gifts that are causing problems in the Corinthians’ worship (chapter 14). For Paul, the work of the Holy Spirit frees us from slavery to “mute idols”, enables us to confess Jesus as Lord, and gives us gifts that move the church toward greater maturity. These opening verses on the Holy Spirit provide the foundation for the entire section.

Running throughout chapter 12 is the theme of unity-in-diversity, which reflects the nature and goodness of the triune God (“the same Spirit . . . the same Lord . . . the same God”). An overemphasis on diversity might lead us to a sinful spirit of independence from other Believers; an undue stress on unity might lead to an arrogant insistence that all other Believers be exactly like us.

Instead, God has given a diversity of gifts to His people, who together function as one body. We are to use these gifts “for the common good” and with no sense of envy, rivalry, superiority, or inferiority, because this is the kind of love shared among Father, Son, and Spirit. And just as the cross has a preeminent place in God’s saving plan despite its associations with weakness and shame, special honor must be given to members of the body who seem “weaker” because their gifts are not as visible, celebrated, or developed.

The power to live according to God’s design comes when we, the body, are united to Jesus, our head (“the body of Christ”), who shares His life with us. One mark of this life is grieving with those who suffer and rejoicing with those who are honored. Another mark is “earnestly desiring” greater gifts—that is, gifts that bring the greatest benefit not to ourselves but to the church as a whole.

How has God gifted you to serve others?

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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