Lord, when I am with lost people, help me explain the simple message of Jesus Christ and His crucifixion. Please use even my weakness, my fear and trembling. Help me humbly trust in the power of Your Holy Spirit to give others spiritual understanding, instead of being so concerned with whether or not my own words sound wise. My faith and theirs rests in Your power, not in how persuasive I am. And as I read your Word today, I ask for your wisdom so I can understand spiritual truth. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read 1 Corinthians 1-4
1 Corinthians 1 Paul rejoiced in God’s faithfulness to the Corinthian church, but he also drew attention to a serious problem: disunity. Corinthian believers were splitting into factions, pledging allegiance to whichever church leader they considered most “worthy” of praise. Have you noticed the tendency among Christians to idolize certain leaders? Have you ever been guilty of “hero worship”?
Paul called these believers to be unified in their thinking because they had experienced salvation and baptism through one name—Jesus Christ. Instead of focusing on Christ, however, the Corinthians were focusing on people. And they were judging those people by the world’s standards.
One problem was their assumption that godly wisdom and worldly wisdom are the same. Paul addressed this error by reminding his readers that the gospel itself sounds foolish according to the world’s way of thinking. Jesus’ death appeared to demonstrate weakness and defeat, but in reality it displayed God’s power and victory. Similarly, God often chooses those who appear foolish, weak, and lowly to communicate His deepest wisdom. His wisdom cannot be pressed into our limited, human categories. Therefore, it’s truly foolish for Christians to judge anyone, including church leaders, by human standards of success or worth.
1 Corinthians 2 Paul reminded the Corinthians how he first shared the gospel with them: simply, clearly, humbly, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. He didn’t come with eloquent speech or slick arguments. As a result, those who believed put their faith in God, not him.
Paul explained how God’s Word contains deeper truth beyond the simple gospel message. This truth can be discerned by the spiritually mature, as the Holy Spirit transforms their minds and gives them wisdom and insight into God’s Word.
For example, the Old Testament is filled with descriptions of the coming Savior of the world, but this truth was “hidden” from view for much of history. Even the most educated Jewish scholars and religious leaders could not understand it without the work of God’s Spirit to open their eyes. Compare the responses of the scribes and Pharisees (Mark 3:1–6, 3:22–30) with those of Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:22–38). What was the Holy Spirit’s role in their understanding? How has the Holy Spirit given you a deeper understanding of the Bible since you first trusted in Christ?
1 Corinthians 3 Although the Corinthians had what was necessary to grow and mature in Christ, they were still spiritual babies. This was evident by the “fruit” they were producing—the jealousy, strife, and divisions among them. Paul reminds them the Christian life is not a human competition. Believers are privileged to be involved in God’s work, and despite our different roles, we’re all fellow workers, building on the same foundation of Christ. We cannot boast in our own success or that of others because it is God who both enables and judges our work.
1 Corinthians 4 In this light, how should we view church leaders? As servants and stewards. They’re called to serve the church humbly and teach the church clearly, using the insight God has given them into His Word. They’re called to faithfulness, not spiritual super-stardom.
In fact, pride has no place in the ministry of any believer because we’re only using what God has given us. Paul thanks God for the suffering and poor treatment he and other church leaders experience because any success that comes through such apparent “weakness” is clearly a result of God’s power—so God receives the glory. In conclusion, Paul asked the Corinthians to imitate his life, not because he’s successful, but because he’s their spiritual father.
In summary, Paul called the Corinthian church to be unified, to humbly work together in the power of the Holy Spirit to glorify Jesus Christ, to share the simple gospel message, and to mature spiritually.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,31 so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’
- When you share the gospel with others, do you put your confidence in how persuasive or intelligent you sound? Or do you avoid sharing because you don’t feel smart or spiritual enough? The heart of the gospel is simple and can be communicated by ordinary people like us.
- This week, write or voice-record a short, clear summary of the gospel message, and then practice it with at least two people.
- Invite a new friend into your home for coffee, meal, dessert, or holiday. Consider hosting overnight guests (visiting missionaries, a guest speaker, etc.) [Making Disciples, Spiritual Disciplines]