As I continue to look at First Corinthians Chapter One, I realize that to be given the title of saint, it must have some inherent qualities given by God. The Apostle Paul tells his readers, “that you have been enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge.” Knowing what we know about the church at Corinth I struggle with the idea that God would bless this church with so much spiritual giftedness. In my reasoning, it would appear that they don’t deserve to be enriched by the use of speech and knowledge because their actions betray their giftedness.
The first abuse of their giftedness is seen in how they viewed their preachers.
You may have a section title in your Bible called “Sectarianism Is Sin”, covering 1:10-17. Within these verses we see Paul outlining how the church at Corinth was not speaking the same thing (v10). There was division among them, they were disjointed in the way they viewed their favorite preachers, so much so that there was a great divide between them. An awkwardness crept into the church; the saints were acting like two opposing teams rather than acting like one cohesive unit “set apart” for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
WHEN SAINTS DON’T ACT LIKE SAINTS SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE: Apparently, the schism was so bad that the household of Chloe had had enough, and made it a point to contact Paul in order for him to weigh in with his apostolic authority to bring an end to all the bickering and division. After a short rhetorical questioning concerning whose side are you on and dropping some heavy hitting preacher names, the Apostle Paul then comes to his point, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1:17-18)
I hope you didn’t miss it, but just in case you did I underlined the section that pretty much screamed at me. Paul’s whole argument for the telling the church to stop bickering, being divided, and acting like a bunch of two-year old’s is simple. As saints, those who are “set apart,” they missed the point of their giftedness. The Corinthian’s took great pride in their human wisdom to be able to tell the difference between good and bad preachers. Yet they missed the fact that they were saved by the power of God and His abundant grace being poured out on them, not because Paul was able to use worldly wisdom-filled words.
MY POINT TO ALL THIS: As believers called to be saints we need to be on the same page when it comes to what really counts. It is not the gift but the Gift-giver. When God gifted you with one of His gifts to the church, as a saint, set aside for His purpose and His glory, it is never to showcase the gift. If we showcase the gift the cross of Christ will be made of no effect. I like the way the “New Living Translation” puts it, “For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power.” (1:17)
I am not sure if the church at Corinth understood what Paul was getting at, but I am also not so sure the modern evangelical church is getting it either. As God’s saints I think we place way too much emphasis on our favorite authors, preachers, conference speakers and all the other Bible gurus of today, at the expense of God’s glory.
I will not go into all the sordid details here but once again I have learned about one of my favorite writers and authors has been accused of sexual immorality. And as one more of my favorite “go to” ministers tarnishes the name of Christ, I am reminded to keep in mind the fact that it is not the gifted that counts for anything but the Gift-giver. That doesn’t mean that I don’t value their ministry and workmanship as they pen great writings and demonstrate great skill at preaching, the fact is I do appreciate them very much. But it always brings me back to the Gift-giver, God’s glory and His glory alone.
Isaiah 29:14 says, “Therefore, behold, I will again do marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.” Paul quotes part of this verse when he says, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” (1Cor.1:19) Within these passages God is making it very clear that human knowledge and wisdom are not held in any regard by Him. The fact is, He has destroyed humanities high regard for human thought, talent, and cleverness (wisdom) by using just the opposite. How did God do that? By the message of the cross. Paul says, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (1:21) Through the eyes of the world the cross is just plan foolishness. To God’s chosen people it is a stumbling block, an embarrassment, scandalous, but to those who are “called both Jews and Greeks–Christ is that power of God being displayed.
As saints, those called and set aside for God’s purpose, plan, and glory, we need to recognize the supreme importance God places on those things that are weak and foolish. I Corinthians 1:27, 29 says, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty… that no flesh should glory in His presence.” The only reason that God has chosen His people and His plan is for one purpose, that is, to bring glory to Himself and not to any of us. It is not that God cannot use the gifted speakers, writers, planners, the bright and upcoming shooting stars of our age, He can and will, but never at the expense of His glory.
As saints, those who have been called to be set aside, have one purpose on this earth, and that is to bring glory to God. Anytime we demonstrate sectarianism, use worldly wisdom at the expense of the witness of His power, use man’s cleverness at the expense of His glory, we have brought low the person of Jesus Christ and have diminished the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. As we seek to serve our Savior and bring glory to God allow these rambling to be an encouragement to you today to be saints filled with His wisdom always having the high mark of praise on our lips due to His name.
This is Pastor Pat from BEHIND THE PEN wishing you joy in Jesus!