In my home church, we are studying Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church. I am greatly affected by this letter, for in it, Paul describes the modern-day Christian church to a “T”, and gives us poignant admonition for how we ought to live. These are my musings as we study the third chapter of this very relevant and valuable set of instructions.
The letter to the Corinthian church should cause Christians today to see the general state of our immaturity and fleshliness, and to strive to move beyond it.
In many ways, we are infants, only taking tidbits and small gulps of milk from the Word and not solid food. Just reading the reflections of saints of old like Charles Spurgeon or Martin Luther make it obvious we have significantly relaxed our standard for studying the Word. How many of us have read (much less studied) the great books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah? How many of us have contemplated the Psalms instead of just whizzing by them in a Daily Reading Plan? We treat them like dirt. As the late theologian Martin Boos once said, “…most read their Bibles like cows that stand in the thick grass, and trample under their feet the finest flowers and herbs.” These great books were the works that Paul and Peter studied voraciously. They formed the basis of their letters to the churches. We ought to know them. If we did, we would far better understand concepts of holiness, atonement, and idolatry. Our ability to discern good and evil would be greatly enhanced.
We don’t use the Word appropriately. It is likened to a “hammer”, “fire”, “sword”, and a “mirror” in scripture. When used properly, it exposes our motives and inspires us to change. It gives us everything we need to grow to maturity, if we only approach it correctly, with willingness to learn from it and do what it says.
Instead, we settle for fleshly living, lukewarmness, like we don’t need the Spirit. We are comfortable in our lifestyle. We don’t give the Word a second thought. As a result, we unknowingly allow pride, arrogance, envy, greed, strife, jealousy, contempt, sensuality and other sins to remain and fester in our souls. This ought not be.
In chapter 10, Paul encourages the Corinthians to see the ancient accounts of the Israelites as ready-made examples for us. The stories are much more than dry history lessons. They custom-made by God to teach us what we’re like, to show us the warts, vices, and the corruption in our hearts. They should motivate us to own our corruption and take it to the cross for burial, so that the Spirit of Christ may come and abide in us and be our wisdom and righteousness. They should motivate us to distrust our own thinking (our ‘natural’ wisdom described in chapters 1 and 2) and to depend solely on the Spirit for guidance and inspiration.
As Paul says in chapter 3, Christians have Christ as our foundation. We should think of everything we do from here on as building something on that foundation. We are either building worthless things or timeless things on the foundation. We need to start understanding the difference. The worthless things are the improperly motivated, fleshly, or other temporal things with which we fill our lives. These will burn in the end, leaving us little to show for our effort. The precious things are the pure, valuable, and timeless works we do under the inspiration and motivation of the scriptures and the Holy Spirit. They are pure, loving, selfless, peaceable, generous, and kind deeds. They are timely, like a gift given to a weary neighbor at exactly the right moment, just as God intended. It doesn’t matter to us if nobody sees these works, for we know God sees them, and that is sufficient. Those are the works of a mature Christian.
It is not the works themselves, but the educated and inspired works of maturity we must seek. Christians should be defined by these things, not by the fleshly, arrogant, contemptuous, and divisive behavior all around us.