Today we begin our next letter from Paul. Below you’ll find The Bible Project’s video overview of the letter. Check it out – it’s super helpful to understand the background of the letter.
There are two passages in Chapter 1 that really stand out to me today.
First, I am always encouraged by Paul’s boldness to tell it like it is. In 1 Corinthians 1:10-15, Paul confronts those who were quarreling about who they were following and who baptized them. Paul say in verse 13, “…was Paul crucified for you?” Boom! He puts it all back into perspective. Honestly, I don’t think things have changed much in the last 2000 years. We church people still fall into the trap of putting our leaders on pedestals. Paul reminds us – it’s Jesus who deserves our praise.
“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas ”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name.” 1 Corinthians 1:10-15 NIV
The other passage that I love from 1 Corinthians 1 is verses 26-31. I love the way the Lord works. He takes our weakness and frailty and chooses to use them for His glory. For that I’m very grateful.
“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NIV
If I were not reading this letter all the way through, it might be easy to skip over this chapter. In fact, the majority of this chapter is “just” Paul sending greetings to friends in the churches at Rome. Over half the chapter is dedicated to these greetings. It’s tempting to jump over it…but don’t. It’s in the way Paul sends greetings to these followers of Christ that we see his heart for the Church. He calls people by name and talks a bit about his relationship with them. Nearly thirty people are named as well as others in those house churches. Those churches, just like every church is filled with people. These people are all unique creations of God. They all are in deep need of Jesus and in need of relationship. Paul is taking time in this chapter to build them up and encourage them by sending these greetings. It’s just another beautiful reminder to me of how every person matters to God. The church isn’t the building – it’s the people of God.
As I read Romans today it’s clear that Paul is addressing some quarrels among the believers in Rome. They must have had disagreements as a church about what was proper to eat and drink. Not much has changed in 2000 years. The church today has some of those same arguments. Paul spends all of chapter 14 and part of 15 teaching the people to put less emphasis on the created thing (food/drink) and more emphasis on the Creator and unity in His church.
“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.”
Paul isn’t trying to answer every specific question or give a yes or no food list. His heart is to see the people be unified for the cause of Christ. He wants them to realize there is a bigger picture – the spread of the gospel and growth of The Kingdom of God.
Do you ever find yourself struggling in this area? I know I do. I catch myself noticing the failures of others and overlooking my own sin. Though we are to hold our fellow believers accountable to following Christ together – I think too often we let that slip into judgement rather than love and accountability. May we live today more like Paul urges us to live in Romans 15:
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” – Romans 15:5-7