Monday, December 30 1 Corinthians 1:1-3
“To God’s church in Corinth”
Paul began his letter, which would eventually have in it some very stern criticism, with a reminder of the relationship which he and its recipients shared in God’s call. He was called “to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ” and they were called “to be saints.” He had been sent by God for the specific purpose of taking the gospel of salvation to “Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15-16). The mention of his apostleship was an affirmation of the authority which God had given him, and it was particularly significant in view of the fact that there were those in Corinth who questioned his authority.
The same God who had called him to be an apostle had called his readers to be a different kind of people. This is really what the phrase “sanctified in Christ Jesus” means. The root idea is that of separation – because the believer belongs to God, he or she has been set apart for God. To be called “to be saints” means to be invited into the Christian life by God’s invitation and not by some human initiative.
You have called me out of the world, Lord, and into life with you. Amen.
Tuesday, December 31 1 Corinthians 1:4-9
“God has enriched you in every way”
It was Paul’s habit to encourage and praise those with whom he worked and he did not make an exception in this letter. Even though he might write primarily a letter of reproof he always began it with a section of praise. Some people have even questioned Paul’s sincerity in this section, knowing the kinds of problems he would be dealing with in the body of the letter. But when we read the verses more carefully we see Paul’s focus is on what God had done in their lives. These brief words about what God had called them to become would be a great source of encouragement as they dealt with the heavy burden of their shortcomings.
First, they were the objects of God’s love and grace, which is God’s unmerited favor. Second, Christ had brought them spiritual riches, referring both to their conversion and to the spiritual growth they had subsequently experienced. Third, God had given them every spiritual gift necessary to do his work and be his church in Corinth. Fourth, Paul reminded them of the ultimate hope they have in Jesus Christ, setting the problems they faced in the context of eternity.
I praise you, Lord, for all the ways that you are good to me. Amen.
Wednesday, January 1 1Corinthians 1:10-17
“Let there be no division in the church”
Immediately following his opening words of encouragement, Paul begins with the problem of division within the fellowship of the church. The fact that he puts this problem first and continues the discussion for four chapters indicates that he feels it is of great importance. First, he states the problem. Second, he gives the original source of the information. Third, he repeats the division slogans, “I am of . . .” This is a great example of how to deal responsibly with a problem – be clear about what the problem is, identify how you became aware of the problem, and share as precisely as you can what has been told you about the problem.
Paul does not direct his argument against any one faction but against all of the groups. Instead, he attacks the spirit of partisanship which he feels could ultimately divide the church. His larger concern was the quarrelsome attitudes to which their differences had given birth. He was not calling for uniformity of thought and action but for the oneness of spirit which binds the body of Christ together and allows it to perform its function of loving God and neighbor.
Bless our church, Lord, with unity of purpose to do your will. Amen.
Thursday, January 2 1 Corinthians 1:18-23
“The world will never know God through human wisdom”
There are times when Paul seems to interrupt himself to explore a different subject before coming back to his original line of thought. A casual reading of these verses might lead us to think that Paul is turning away from his discussion of divisions to pursue the subject of the gospel. Rather, he is launching his criticisms by insisting that the problems in the church are caused by false wisdom, by human pride, and by loyalty to human leaders who seem wise to human eyes but are foolish when it comes to the true nature of the gospel.
While the gospel does not measure up to worldly standards, it is the only word of salvation to those who believe. The church in every century has had to resist, sometimes not too successfully, the temptation to alter the gospel by either adding to it or attempting to reduce it in some way, in order to make it more palatable to those who will not accept the preaching of the cross. As we preach and witness to the gospel of Christ, it is imperative that we have the same confidence in it as Paul did: it is the power of God for salvation.
We will not alter your gospel, Lord, to please an unbelieving world. Amen.
Friday, January 3 Isaiah 29:1-14
“The wisdom of the wise will perish”
Jerusalem’s problem is that they believe they have immunity from judgment because they are the ones who truly worship God. But, Isaiah says, their worship is worthless because it is not from the heart. He even goes so far as to say that their worship is not in response to God’s revealed will for them but made up by those who consider themselves wise in the things of God. They are trying to manipulate God, not worshiping as an expression of their love for God.
Consequently, Jerusalem’s religion has become only a performance with themselves as the audience. There is no real connection between the worshipers and the One being worshipped. They go through the motions with no expectation of any real encounter with the living God. Their religion has lost all sense of wonder. So God says he will astound them with wonders, but the clear implication is that it will be the wonder of the God they thought they had under their control suddenly bursting forth to reveal their foolishness. All the “wisdom” of their religious leaders will be proven false.
I will worship as an expression of praise, Lord, not an attempt to manipulate. Amen.
Saturday, January 4 1 Corinthians 1:24-31
“Few of you were wise in the world’s eyes”
By referring to the makeup of the Corinthian church, Paul now illustrates the principle that God takes what is foolish to our world and makes it wise. While he did not completely eliminate the possibility that there were a few culturally and socially prominent members among them, he knew that the majority were without educational, social, cultural, or religious credentials. They had little or no clout in society.
Paul is not suggesting that these are the only people God loves or that they are the only ones to whom the gospel is attractive. Rather, he is illustrating out of the makeup of the congregation the fact that God is able to take ordinary people and do extraordinary things in the world through them. The perspective of the centuries allows us to see what must have been very difficult for many to believe – that the most powerful force in first-century Corinth was neither the political power of Rome nor the cultural heritage of Greece, but the gospel of Jesus Christ which would change the world.
I draw wisdom for my life from my relationship with you, Jesus. Amen.