1 Corinthians – Believe and Behavior
When people become Christians, they don’t at the same moment become nice. I know, shocker. But we who are more mature in the faith somehow act as if they should. Conversion to Christ and his ways doesn’t automatically furnish a person with impeccable manners and suitable morals.
The people of Corinth (kind of like a Las Vegas in the moral department) had a reputation in the ancient world as an unruly, hard-drinking, sexually promiscuous bunch of people. When Paul arrived with the Message and many of them became believers in Jesus, they brought their reputations with them right into the church.
Paul spent a year and a half with them as their pastor, going over the Message of the “good news” in detail, showing them how to live out this new life of salvation and holiness as a community of believers. Then he went on his way to other towns and churches.
Sometime later Paul received a report from one of the Corinthian families that in his absence things had more or less fallen apart. He also received a letter from Corinth asking for help. Factions had developed, morals were in disrepair, worship had degenerated into a selfish grabbing for the supernatural. It was the kind of thing that might have been expected from Corinthians!
With this in mind, we can begin to read this letter with more understanding of WHY Paul said what he did to this particular group of people. Many teachers and preachers have lifted much from these letters and used the words out of context to form new religions that veer greatly from the intent of the message.
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is a classic of pastoral response: affectionate, firm, clear, and unswerving in the conviction that God among them, revealed in Jesus and present in his Holy Spirit, continued to be that central issue in their lives, regardless of how much of a mess they had made of things.
Paul doesn’t disown them as brother and sister Christians, doesn’t throw them out because of their bad behavior, and doesn’t fly into a tirade over their irresponsible ways. He takes it all more or less in stride, but also takes them by the hand and goes over all the old ground again, directing them in how to work all the glorious details of God’s saving love in their love for one another.
If Paul was to hear and see all that is going on in God’s church today…what would God direct him to write to us? Mm, just a thought.
We open with Paul’s words of love and affirmation…
I Corinthians 1, The Message
1-2 I, Paul, have been called and sent by Jesus, the Messiah, according to God’s plan, along with my friend Sosthenes. I send this letter to you in God’s church at Corinth, believers cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God-filled life. I include in my greeting all who call out to Jesus, wherever they live. He’s their Master as well as ours!
3 May all the gifts and benefits that come from God our Father, and the Master, Jesus Christ, be yours.
4-6 Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.
7-9 Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.
THINK ABOUT IT…
–In our messes, God never gives up on us!
–There is always room for improvement and growth on this journey of our belief matching our behavior.
–Love God. Love others.
–Live gratefully and expectantly.
–God himself is right alongside us to keep us steady and on track!
Dear Heavenly Father,
We, too are messed up. We repent of self focus. My eyes are focused back to You. Set us apart and make us holy. Help us to live according to your ways. We believe, now help us to behave like we say believe. Thank you for directing Paul to write words that proclaim truth wrapped in Your Holy Spirit of care and extreme love. May these words of love and correction help all of us, as Your church, on our journey today and always.
In Jesus Name, Amen