1 Corinthians 16:5-18 — Paul is the Football Coach Giving His Underdog Team Their Final Instructions…

Posted: August 14, 2015 in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 16:5-18 — This part of the passage is, in my mind, kind of like those famous last speeches in the locker room by football coaches before the big game begins. You know those games that will give the championship to the winner. Or those games where the underdog is up against an overwhelming favorite. The coach gives an inspiring speech that sends the kids out there and play their hearts out and win the game. Ah, I loooove those kinds of football movies. Those movies where it’s us against the world in football terms. Overcoming Goliath. Winning the football when we were not supposed to. Those movies are the best. Well, the church at Corinth is the underdog in this film. They are up against a world that wants to seduce them into being just like them. They are really up against the world. It is an us against the world movie in 1 Corinthians. Paul is about to give his final speech in the locker room before the Corinthians take on the world. Let’s listen in…

Paul gives final instructions to the church body at Corinth. Very simple commands these are. Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. Do everything in love. These may have been instructions for the church at Corinth but they are instructions for the church throughout the ages.

Paul instructs the church to be on guard. The church in any age should be watchful or alert for spiritual enemies that may slip into its midst and destroy them. Division, pride, unrepentant practice of sin, disorder, and erroneous theology are the enemies of the church. The entire book of 1 Corinthians is about dealing with each of these issues that were undermining the strength of the church. We must be ever mindful that we must not let our egos take hold of us. We must ensure that the church is about making disciples of Jesus Christ and not about giving me what I need, not about making a name for myself. When we make church about us, division soon follows, pride soon follows, justification of sinful practices soon follows, disorder follows and most assuredly false theology will follow. When we make the church about fitting with what is acceptable and preferred by culture, these things follow as well. We must make church about God’s Word and to that which to it points, Jesus Christ. Anything less than that, we are simply a social club. Anything less than that we are just kidding ourselves into thinking that it has anything to do with Jesus. We should be marked by our striving for holiness and lives of service in unity to Jesus Christ.

Paul instructs the church to stand firm in the faith. As we had discussed at the beginning of this study, Corinth was a wide-open, loose-morals, anything goes kind of town. It was a girls gone wild video on steroids. It was indeed a tough place to be a Christian. It would have been easy to try to pervert the gospel into saying what they wanted it to just so they could give into the temptations of the flesh and mind that were ever-present in Corinth. Paul urged them to stand firm in the gospel which they had been taught. It was this gospel and this gospel alone that had brought them salvation in Jesus Christ. We live in a culture today that is now very much similar to Corinthian society. Anything goes. Today’s world finds us living in a world where the Bible is considered old fashioned. We find ourselves in a world where Jesus has been transformed into a hippie, flower child who will only love us not judge us. We live in a world where the world has wittled away God’s Word to only those parts that support our chosen lifestyles. Sin is no longer sin. Everything is OK as long as I am not hurting others in pursuing myself. What is the right thing to do is a relative thing. What is right for me may not be right for you but you cannot take away my right to pursue what I think is right for me. There are no moral absolutes anymore. Everything is relative. One of the dangers for the church is the pressure to become like the culture we live in just so that we can attract them. Surely, we are to reach out to people where they are at and connect with them in the lifestyles that they are currently leading but we are, as Paul chides, to stand firm in the faith. We cannot play God and decide what the gospel is to say. We must let God’s Word stand, unaltered, unchanged.

Paul instructs the church to be courageous and strong. Admittedly, after anyone reads 1 Corinthians, you say to yourself, “Man, that was a screwed up church they had in Corinth!” False teachers, rampant unrepentant practice of sin, concern over which preacher to give their allegiance, not observing the Lord’s Supper with the right frame of mind, just to name a few things that Paul admonished this church about. Yes, it was a messed up church in need of correction. But, hey, it ain’t like we have perfect churches today either! Many of the divisive issues in Corinth could and do happen in our churches today. Just as in Corinth, we must have the courage and strength through the Holy Spirit to discern false teachings and to confront those who teach a cheap gospel. We must have the courage and strength to confront one another in love when our unrepentant practice of sinful behaviors causes division in our churches. We must have the courage and strength to solve the problems of our churches and move them back in line with the gospel and with the purpose of church which to make disciples of Jesus Christ who make disciples of Jesus Christ. We must operate from a place of total submission to the power of the Holy Spirit such that we are pointed into doing God’s will and in keeping God’s Word in our hearts and living lives that are progressively more holy.

Finally, Paul give them the most important instruction of all. Do everything with love. We are no more than prideful noisemakers if we do not have love in our hearts. It is the joy of salvation in Jesus Christ that should motivate us to love. We are to love God with all that we have in us. We can be the most benevolent church in town but if we do not do what we do with love then we are just a glorified helps agency. We must love God, each other, and the world around us with the sacrificial love that Jesus has for us. The world expects and experiences love with strings, conditions, expectations of payback. That is not the love that Jesus showed the world. He sacrificed Himself on the cross just so you and I could be reconciled with God. He loved you and me so that much even though we were not born yet that He died for you and me. He died even though we might reject what He did. He loved you and me that much. We are to love in this same manner with one another and with the world around us. How many of us love as in investment to get some return on it rather than loving just because they need to be loved. There is an old vacation Bible school song that kids used to sing called, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” We are to imitate Jesus in everything we do. Jesus loved sacrificially. He cared. He wanted people to lift themselves out of that which was not pleasing to God. He showed them the way. He died on the cross for love. Like a father laying over the top of his wife and kids when bullets are flying, Jesus loved us that way. If we do not have this kind of love in our hearts, we are wasting time calling ourselves Christians.

Father, help us to do what Paul says here. Help us to be your people. Help us to be on guard against the devil’s attempts to destroy us through pride, arrogance, division, blinding us to our own sins. Help us to stand firm in the faith and know why we believe what we believe so that we are not led astray by false teaching, and to allow us to confront sin in our midst through loving use of Scripture. Help us to allow the Holy Spirit to have free reign over our souls so that we can be strong in the faith and withstand any challenges to it. Help us to love you with all our heart and with no reservations or holdbacks. Help us to love others in the same way. Help us to imitate Jesus’ sacrificial kind of love when dealing with each other and the world around us. May the world know and be attracted to us because we love like Jesus. May they know we are Christians by our love. Amen.

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