A More Excellent Way

“But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.” 1 Corinthians 11:31

If you have been wondering what the more excellent way is since last week’s message, don’t worry because I won’t keep you wondering any longer. The more excellent way is love. Paul began his letter to the Corinthians saying that even though they were experiencing all the spiritual gifts (1:7), they lacked love. And it was because of their lack of love that envy, strife and division entered into their church body. It must have been a glorious morning for Paul when he picked up his pen and began writing this powerful passage on love.

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for the joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44

It is important to take note that the last three parables Jesus shared are different from the first four parables He shared. The first four parables were given to the multitude while the last three parables were only given to the disciples. This means the final three parables are meant to bless those who believe in Jesus because they reveal what He is doing through the church during the period between His first and second coming. The first four parables spoke of corruption in the kingdom of God, but the last three parables speak of how highly Jesus values the people of His kingdom.

The Church Universe

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free - and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:13

When Paul declared we “have all been made to drink into one Spirit,” the Greek verb he used for “drink” was also used in his day to describe irrigation. The implication here is that when we drink into the one Spirit, He enters our innermost being and begins to work in us much like water in the ground of a garden. A church is like a garden. We all need the same water to remain alive, but just because we live off of the same water doesn’t mean we are all meant to produce the same food.

Manifestations of the Spirit

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” 1 Corinthians 12:1

We have now come to a new section of Paul’s amazing letter to the Corinthians. I would like us to keep in mind that the key verse of this letter is 1 Corinthians 1:9: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” In reality, this is not only the the key verse of this letter, but is also the key verse of the Christian life. The key to the Christian life is walking day by day, moment by moment, in fellowship with Christ. Our strength comes from Jesus being the center of our lives. He is the abundant life He came to give us.  

Come Together

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:26

I believe the last part of this verse is a neglected part of communion. Oftentimes during communion we focus only on Christ’s death and resurrection, and we don’t bring attention to His promise to return to rule and reign and redeem all of creation. Communion is also referred to as the ‘remembrance meal’. Of course during communion we are to look back and remember what Christ did for us at His first coming, but we are also to look forward and remember that He is coming again. We will not need to partake of communion forever. There will come a day when we no longer have a remembrance meal because we will be in the eternal presence of Jesus Christ Himself!

The Parable of the Leaven

“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” Matthew 13:33

Last week I stated that the parable of the mustard seed is the most misunderstood and misinterpreted parable of Jesus. Well, I may have misspoke. I believe the parable of the leaven may be even more misunderstood. There seem to be two main opposing views of this parable. One view is that the leaven is a symbol of good, teaching that the gospel will permeate the entire earth until every human is saved. The other view is the opposite. It teaches that the leaven is a symbol of evil. Obviously, both interpretations cannot be correct. So, which one is correct?

Heavenly Head Coverings

“Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions as I delivered them to you.” 1 Corinthians 11:2

Almost every time I hear the word “traditions” I think of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof singing “TRADITIONS!” For many Christians today this word has negative connotations, but it appears Paul is praising the Corinthians for keeping the traditions. The Greek word for “traditions” is “paradosis” which means “that which is passed along by teaching”. It is used in a negative way in the New Testament when it refers to man-made ideas or practices, but it can also be used in a positive way as is seen in the verse above and also in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 where Paul wrote, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.”

Stepping Stones

“I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.” 1 Corinthians 10:33

In his commentary on 1 Corinthians 10, Paul Barnett wrote, “Paul wants fellow-Christians to be stepping stones to faith in the God of Israel and His Son, the Messiah Jesus. Under no circumstances does he want Christians to be stumbling blocks to faith.”

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.’” Matthew 13:31-32

Without a doubt this is the most misunderstood and misinterpreted parable of Jesus. If you want to learn why, you will need to join us Wednesday night as we look deeper into this scripture. In the meantime, I would like to tantalize your taste buds by sharing one lesson of faith I believe is found in this parable.

An Essential Lesson from the OT

“Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea.” 1 Corinthians 10:1

George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This was Paul’s concern for the Christians in Corinth. He was worried that they, like their forefathers, would continue to walk in a way that would disqualify them. Disqualification does not mean a loss of salvation, but a loss of fellowship.

Some Rights are Wrong

“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.” 1 Corinthians 9:18

As many of you know, Teresa and I have been in Thailand this past week serving at the Calvary Chapel Asia Missions Conference. I was so honored to have the opportunity to share the Word of God with faithful missionaries from all over Asia. I was greatly humbled when I considered what they have done in order to win some for Christ.  

For Edification

“Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” 1 Corinthians 8:1b

We know from Paul’s other writings that he wasn’t opposed to knowledge. He appreciated good theology as much as the next person, but he was aware of its limitations. Knowledge is only part of God’s plan, it isn’t everything. If we make knowledge everything, it becomes dangerous because of how it puffs us up and potentially leads to destruction. Isn’t this what happened with the first sin in the garden? Rather than being content with their loving and peaceful relationship with God, Adam and Eve were deceived into thinking they could have even more if they ate the fruit and became like God themselves. As a result their unbroken fellowship with God was cut off and death entered the world.

Housecleaning - Part 2

“So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.” 1 Corinthians 7:23

When someone became a Christian in Corinth they immediately wanted to change everything about themselves. If they were a circumcised Jew they would go to great measures to become uncircumcised. If they were married they wanted to become single in order to serve the Lord more effectively. If they were married to an unbeliever they wanted to leave their spouse and marry a believer. If they were not content in their careers they would look for a new career. Everyone wanted to change their position in life.

Housecleaning

“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles - that a man has his father’s wife! In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 5:1; 4-5

It truly is a shame Paul gets a bad rap nowadays. So many attempt to pit him against Jesus, claiming he was harsh and legalistic while Jesus was compassionate and grace-filled. One area where Paul could be labeled as particularly harsh is in the passage above, but once you look past the surface of what Paul is instructing and see his heart, you discover how similar what he taught was to what Jesus taught. For this Sunday’s devotional I would encourage you to read “The Parable of the Lost Son” from Luke 15 in order to figure out why Paul said what he said in the passage above.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

“But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of the harvest…’” Matthew 13:29-30a

When Jesus shared the parable of the wheat and the tares with his disciples, He told them there was both good seed (wheat) and bad seed (tares) planted in the kingdom of heaven. What are tares? Today we might call them “darnel”. Darnel grows side by side with wheat and the similarities between them is so great that in some regions darnel is referred to as “false wheat”. In fact, you cannot tell the difference between wheat and darnel until the ear of the wheat appears.

The Cure for Complacency

“I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 4:14-15

Up until this point in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul has likened his position as a spiritual leader to a servant, farmer, builder, under-rower and steward, but in the passage above he uses the most beautiful and intimate description yet - a spiritual father.

One Thing

“Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:2

I love Paul’s heart. Paul is asking that he and the other ministers be regarded by the Corinthians as servants and not as celebrities. The word “servant” is used to describe an “under-rower”, defined by Morgan as “one who acts under direction, and asks no questions, one who does the thing he is appointed to do without hesitation, and one who reports only to the one who is over him.”

The Parable of the Sower

“Therefore hear the parable of the sower.” Matthew 13:18

The parable of the sower is a very profound parable that is certain to compel the listener to ask, “What kind of soil am I? How can I prepare my heart and mind to be the right kind of soil?” In this parable, Jesus shares about four different types of soil. The four soils represent four classes of hearers, each with a different response to the Word of God. The most important part of the parable is understanding that the soils represent the human heart.

God's Building

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16

We know the apostle Paul was a preacher at heart because he loved a good illustration. In the passage leading up to the verse above, Paul compared himself and Apollos to farmers and builders, and the church in Corinth to a field and a building. It’s one illustration after another, but all of these illustrations seemed to culminate into the statement: “You are the temple of God.” Somehow it feels Paul is no longer speaking figuratively, but literally.

The Cure for Carnality

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:1

The word that really jumps out to me in the verse above is the word “carnal”. In fact, if you read verses 1-4 you will find Paul uses the word “carnal” three times. The reason Paul does this is because the word “carnal” is an accurate representation of the main problem in the Corinthian church. “Carnal” simply means “flesh” or “fleshly”. Paul is not putting the Corinthians down, he is simply pointing out to them their nature. The truth is we are all fleshly people, but some happen to be more fleshly than others.