If anyone does not love the Lord

If anyone does not love the Lord, a curse be on him. Our Lord, come! 1 Corinthians 16.22 CSB.

In the last chapter of 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul mentions love three times. The sentence above is the second of the three. The curse on the one who does not love the Lord leaves us perplexed. Why end a letter this way?

First, the sentence is a part of the letter’s end written by Paul’s own hand, v. 21. Somebody (Sosthenes?) served him by writing the letter and at the end he signs it, as was his custom. So here, the force of the sentence is even greater. Continue reading “If anyone does not love the Lord”

Four thoughts on 1 Corinthians 16.1-4

In many congregations Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church, in 1 Corinthians 16.1-4, is read before the saints make their offerings. It’s a good passage for that. Below are four thoughts on this blessed text.

1. The blessing of limitations

The church of Jesus Christ does not go beyond what is written, 1 Corinthians 4.6. Our practice is restricted to what is commanded. We do not invent new practices. So in order to finance the Lord’s work and express our solidarity with the brotherhood, the family of faith acts within the limitations of his commandments.

This means at least two things. First, the church only makes offerings. God’s people do not engage in bazaars nor do they sponsor or participate in fund-raising projects to raise monies. Continue reading “Four thoughts on 1 Corinthians 16.1-4”

True love

In the upper room, Jesus gave the apostles a new commandment, to love each other. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 ESV).

This new commandment is echoed throughout the letters written by the apostles and writers. John expands on it in his first letter, telling us what love is and what love is not. Continue reading “True love”

True north: finding a reliable path forward

A compass points toward the earth’s magnetic north. However, the true geographic north pole lies several hundreds of miles away.

Kenny, a friend of mine, recently told me about an international trip where his flight passed between the North Pole and magnetic north. At such a place, if someone were to use a compass to locate the geographic north pole it would point in the exact opposite direction! If we can assume the compass would even function.

To accurately use a compass to discover true north, you must also know your latitude. In other words, to navigate the earth requires both good instruments and the knowledge about how to use them well. For the church to reliably chart its path through difficult scenarios requires understanding how to use well the tools God has supplied for his people. In 1 Corinthians, Paul tackled a rough situation by providing some of these reliable tools for the journey. Continue reading “True north: finding a reliable path forward”

Let all you do be done in love

As Paul concluded his letter to the Christians in Corinth, the one we call 1 Corinthians, he had a number of last minute concerns to mention to them as well as a number of people to comment on.

He began by talking about the special collection they were taking up to help in famine relief for the Christians in Judea. He was concerned that it would be ready on time. He hoped to visit them after he went through Macedonia and warned them that he might even spend the winter with them. Continue reading “Let all you do be done in love”

Helping a dysfunctional church

Just as trees can suffer from many different types of diseases and stresses, so too the reasons are varied why churches might struggle. In spite of this diversity, the path toward health might require the same technique. Thus, although the Corinthian situation might differ from our own, how Paul handed their dysfunctional ways might provide insight into beneficial approaches for helping churches today.

Continue reading “Helping a dysfunctional church”

Exalting encouragement over entitlement

From the start the American flag represented our cry for liberty. Through the years the mantle of freedom has become more than the pursuit of independence from merry ‘ole England. Rather, it has morphed into empowering lifestyle expectations.

Whether expressed with finesse or with a rough crudeness on the morally low end of the spectrum, the language of freedom became a tool for the ego justifying the pursuit of unbridled desires. “I should be able to do whatever I want.”

Polite society discovered at the other end of the spectrum, the comfortable reality of being empowered to engage in anything not inherently wrong. Engulfed within such an environment, Christians can easily acquiesce toward this higher ground to feel justified in simply exemplifying a moralistic lifestyle.

Yet, God calls disciples to a much higher standard than merely abstaining from intrinsically evil acts.

Continue reading “Exalting encouragement over entitlement”

A Pauline root canal

It might just as well have been a root canal procedure, even though no audible high-speed metallic whirring from a dentist’s drill could be heard, nor was the prick felt of an anesthetic injection. Nevertheless, the apostle Paul was fully engaged in extracting a throbbing rottenness from the ancient Corinthian church.

Their confidence in human wisdom in those spewing forth perceived profoundness had created a decay erupting in the early stages of divisive sectarianism. To be sure they would have described their mindset differently, as merely a strong confidence in a particular person’s thinking. However, their symptomatic slogans: “I am of Paul;” “I am of Apollos;” “I am of Cephas;” or “I am of Christ” betrayed a growing polarization around dominant personalities (1 Corinthians 1:12-13).

Continue reading “A Pauline root canal”