An Anchor of Authority

Sermon on 1 Corinthians 14.1-5 preached 7/18/21 at HBC.

Paul emphasized diversity in Chapter 12 because the Corinthians coveted certain gifts, particularly the gift of tongues. Many different gifts are given for the church to work together effectively. We must have diversity for the sake of unity. Chapter 13 emphasized the need for love. A person might be very gifted and “spiritual” but without love, it is nothing. Now, Paul takes the general statements in Chapter 12 and narrows his focus on speaking in tongues here in Chapter 14. If we look at a broad skeleton outline of Chapter 14, here is what we find:

  • Prophecy is superior to speaking in tongues (14.1-5).
  • Speaking in tongues is vapid without understanding (14.6-19).
  • Speaking in tongues is sign for unbelievers (14.20-25).
  • Speaking in tongues must lead to edification and order in the church (14.26-40).

Paul begins with a summary of Chapters 12 and 13:

1 Corinthians 14:1 (NKJV)

1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.

Remember how he closed Chapter 12:

1 Corinthians 12:31 (NKJV)

31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.

Pursue love because it is the more excellent way. Still, desire the best gifts, desire spiritual gifts. Among the best gifts is the gift of prophecy. Why is Paul telling them to desire to prophesy above all gifts, particularly speaking in tongues?

1 Corinthians 14:2 (NKJV)

2 For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.

Those speaking in a tongue do not speak to men but to God. Why? No one understands him. Now, we must understand what characterized speaking in tongues for the Corinthians during the first century. Whatever is happening in our text seems to be different from what happened when Peter preached on Pentecost in Acts 2. Why different? Here, an interpreter was needed. There was no interpreter in Acts 2. Peter preached and everyone heard him in their own language. This is the miracle of Acts 2.

However, here a person speaks in a tongue, and it is not directed to men but to God. That is, no one understands what the person speaking is actually saying except for God. Even the person speaking doesn’t understand. He speaks mysteries in the spirit. Perhaps this eludes to a heavenly language. This may be why Paul distinguished between the tongues of men and of angels (13.1). If this were an angelic language, no person on earth would understand it. Therefore, an interpretation would be needed.

This is why Paul elevates the gift of prophecy over speaking in tongues in the next three verses:

1 Corinthians 14:3–5 (NKJV)

3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.

  • Prophecy edifies believers.
  • Prophecy exhorts believers.
  • Prophecy comforts believers.

Those who prophesy edify the church. However, those who speak in tongues edify themselves (4). Still, Paul doesn’t denigrate speaking in tongues. He simply puts the gift in its place. Those who prophesy are greater than those who speak in tongues. The exception is when the speaking in tongues is interpreted and intelligible. This excludes the senseless rambling we hear in some movements today.

Why is prophecy greater? It is greater because it communicated new revelation from the mind of God to the minds of believers in the first century. While the active work of prophesying edified, exhorted, and comforted believers in the first century (individuals did not have completed Bibles), it does not take place today. Yet, we are edified, exhorted, and comforted by prophecy now revealed to us not by the direct agency of man but by the work of the Holy Spirit. He illumines and ignites the words of God in our spirits.

The Revealed Word of God Edifies

Explanation: The word edify means to build up. One man wrote, “The church is not a gallery where we exhibit the finest of Christians. No, it is a school where we educate and encourage imperfect Christians.” We do this with the revealed Word of God. Verse 3 states that prophecy is for edification. Verse 4 says that prophecies edified the first century church. The only way that the church is edified through speaking in tongues is when an interpreter is present (v. 5). Paul will say that if the Corinthians are eager for spiritual gifts, then it should be for the edification of the church so that it might excel (v. 12). If speaking in tongues is uninterpreted, the experience may lead the gifted tongue-speaker to give thanks, but the others who don’t understand aren’t edified (v. 17). Paul’s dual emphasis in this chapter is clearly stated in v. 26: “Let all things be done for edification.” And also in v. 40: “Let all things be done decently and in order.”

Yet, we must remember that revelation at the knowledge level makes believers arrogant (8.1); love edifies. The apostles and prophets of the first century along with the evangelists, pastors, and teachers of the 21st century are themselves gifted to the Church by the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4.11). Why? All these men are charged with edifying the Church with the revealed Word of God. This is their primary duty. Why is preaching the revealed words of God so important? The answer is that God’s words will equip all the saints of God for the work of ministry. God’s words will also edify the body of Christ (Ep 4.12). This will continue so that the Church will grow and mature into the fullness of Christ (v. 13). It protects the Church from novelty, trickery, cunning craftiness, and deceitful plotting of false teachers (v. 14). We must speak the truth of God’s revealed words in love to truly edify the Church (v. 15). The objective is to mature in all ways so that we are conformed to Christ and glorify Him as the head of the Church. We are the body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share. This causes growth of the Church for the edifying of itself in love (v. 16). The revealed Word of God edifies as an anchoring authority.

Illustration: When geese migrate, they can be seen flying in a V-shaped formation. While to us on the ground it is a thing of beauty, to the geese it is an essential for survival. If you watch them, you will observe that at certain intervals, relative to the strength of the head wind, the lead bird—who was doing the most work by breaking the force of wind—will drop off and fly at the end of the formation.

The reason for this is that the V-formation is much more efficient than flying loose; up to 60 percent less work is required! It has been discovered that the flapping wings create an uplift of air, an effect that is greater at the rear of the formation. So, the geese take turns “uplifting” one another. By cooperating—working together—the geese can achieve long migrations that would otherwise be exceedingly difficult for the strongest and deadly for the others.

Application: Likewise, when we as believers in Christ actively uplift one another through prayer, sharing material means, and heart-to-heart friendship and caring, we can go further into godliness than if we attempt our pilgrimage alone.[1] We receive our uplift from the revealed words of God.

If you remain unskilled in the use of God’s revealed words, you are building your house on the sand. If you are in a weakened state, you will turn aside from the Word of God to the ways of the world. People are pulling you and tempting you to leave your only hope. Be built up in the Word of God. The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword. Go on the offensive by arming yourself with it. When the world attacks you with bad reasoning and false teaching, when you are lured by contemporary philosophy or intellectual arrogance, when modern day Pharisees appeal to the pride of self-righteous moralism, strike back with “Thus says the LORD!” Determine to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” The revealed Word of God edifies as an anchoring authority.

The Revealed Word of God Exhorts

Explanation: Secondly, “He who prophesies [in the first century] speaks exhortation” to people of the 21st century (v. 3). When Paul preached the gospel during his missionary journeys, he would return to newly converted believers and strengthen their souls by exhorting them to continue in the faith (Acts 14.22). Even though we have many members in one body as a church, all of us don’t have the same function. Our gifts differ according to the grace God gives each of us. So, we must use what we have. Some people have the gift of exhortation (Romans 12.8). They must use this gift to strengthen the souls of believers around them. Think of exhortation as strengthening people with words of hope from the Word of God.

Illustration: One caution here. This doesn’t mean that my exhortations will always succeed in the short-term. However, ultimately, they will. They will lead people either to repentance or judgment. [Copernicus illustration is adapted from Spurgeon’s illustration collection] Copernicus kept bucking against the authority of the scientific world by declaring the truth that the earth and the other planets of our solar system revolve around the sun. One argument brought against him involved Venus. Venus would have to present the same phases as the moon if she revolved around the sun. Copernicus could not see those phases. No one could. Still, he stuck to his guns. He couldn’t reply to his opponents but believed an answer would be found one day. Copernicus died with his views unproven.

Then came Galileo with his telescope. He looked at Venus and demonstrated that she did pass through exactly the same changes as the moon. So, wisdom is justified by her children. Are you a child of wisdom? The truth and authority of God’s Word will prevail. It might not be today or tomorrow, but faith will be made sight and hope will be realized. I exhort you with hope and faith today. I do so from the revealed, authoritative anchor of God’s Word.

Application: Good exhorters bring hope into the darkest days of the lives of believers. When we bring hope to believers in the church, we dispel unbelief. Remember that it is possible that an evil heart of unbelief resides in someone’s heart today. They are about to depart from the living God. How do we stop them? “Exhort one another daily [give hope through God’s revealed Word], while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrew 3.13). This is why we must not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. We must exhort one another as we see the day approaching (Hebrews 10.25). The revealed Word of God brings hope. We must know it and use it as a gift of exhortation to bring hope to one another. It keeps us from departing in unbelief. It is an anchoring authority.

Truth may not prevail in our culture today or even tomorrow. However, be assured. Truth wins. People all over are denying the authority behind God’s Word. They claim it is irrelevant. They twist and pervert it to their own ends. They even say that God’s Word is hurtful to certain segments of our society. You might feel backed into a corner with no answer for your critics. Don’t trouble yourself about it. Don’t be anxious. You don’t have to answer a fool according to his folly. Wait for the truth to prevail.

Transition: The revealed Word of God is an authority that edifies and exhorts. Third,…

The Revealed Word of God Comforts

Explanation: Comfort carries the idea of encouragement. Paul will say in v. 31 of this chapter: “For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” Encourage mean to pour courage within. This week, I thought about Joshua’s long day. This was a day when God made the sun stand still and the moon in the valley of Ajalon. God did something that could not be done. He made the sun stand still for an entire day so that Joshua could win the battle. Joshua had a penchant toward fear. God encouraged Him. I faced something beyond me this week, but God reminded me that it was not beyond Him. This brought real courage when I was afraid. The revealed Word of God comforted me and provided for me an anchoring authority.

Paul tells us to comfort the fainthearted and uphold the weak (1 Thessalonians 5.14). He will say to these same Corinthian believers in his second preserved epistle:

2 Corinthians 1:3–7 (NKJV)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 6 Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.

Illustration: I had Stage IV Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2010. My life could have ended in my mid-40s. It didn’t, but I suffered from the disease. I still suffer from it in some ways. But suffering helps me to identify with Christ. It also intensified and sweetened the revealed words of God in ways that are indescribable and so comforting. God’s presence was so real and special to me.

God comforted me by lighting up and energizing His Word. My illness drove me to pray like I never have. It motivated others to go to the throne of grace for me. It brought me back to a place of unreserved obedience and humility. It developed patience and endurance in me. It matured me. It heightened my desire for Heaven. It gave me opportunity to witness to others. Ultimately, my cancer glorified God. It even gives me the ability to empathize with and comfort others who are going through the same trial.

Application: We might feel like we are constantly taking one step forward to only be knocked back two. Actually, we are pressing on. We are not going back. Every trial, temptation, and soul-crushing adversity is part of the sufferings of Christ. They abound in us so that we might experience comfort from God and then bring comfort to others. The revealed Word of God is an anchoring authority because it comforts us. It pours courage within our fearful, unbelieving spirits. This brings comfort.

Conclusion: I hope you leave this morning anchored to the authority of God’s revealed Word. The prophecies of the 1st Century inform the proclamation and preaching of the 21st Century. I am here for you. I am here to edify, exhort, and comfort you. May God help you to glorify Him and be here for one another.


[1] Michael P. Green, ed., Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively, Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989).

Manifestation and Mastery of the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church

Are the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12.7-10 for every generation in the church age? More importantly, what does it mean to be a spiritual person. The great desire of faithful believers is to make certain we do not quench or grieve the Holy Spirit when we meet together. Any genuine manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our midst is something all of us should desire. The operative word is genuine. God the Holy Spirit distributes gifts as He wills. Some gifts were more common in the formative years of the first century church and some are no longer operative today. That is, there were gifts manifest in the first century that were used to confirm apostolic teaching. God used both signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit to testify of the great salvation delivered to the church (Hebrews 2.3-4).

Whatever gifts the Corinthians had, we know that they neglected some, coveted others, and abused one. Pride, strife, and disorder resulted. Envy, superiority, and inferiority were promoted. Paul sought to correct matters by pointing up the divine origin of their gifts. The sovereignty of the Holy Spirit is in view as you read 1 Corinthians 12. “One and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (12.11). It’s not about peer pressure or psychological pressure to perform in a way that will be accepted. It’s about a genuine manifestation of the Holy Spirit in church life. A manifestation that leads to mastery.

The Manifestation of the Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 12.18 states, “God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” God determines what is needed for both the first century church and the 21st century church. It’s all in accordance with His pleasure. Everything He does in and through every age is good because He is good. We are all one body in Christ. We have talents and gifts from the Holy Spirit. They may not be the same as the those of the Corinthian church in the first century, but they are manifestations of the Holy Spirit nonetheless.

The Holy Spirit manifests Himself in the transforming love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control we see in one another. If we live in the Spirit, we manifest the fruit of the Spirit and walk in the Spirit. We are not conceited and provoking one another or envying one another (see Galatians 5.22-26).

He is one and the same Spirit working all these things (1 Cor 12.11). We are currently being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor 3.18). The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together (Romans 8.16-17). Once we believed, the Holy Spirit of promise sealed us. He is presently the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1.13-14).

The Mastery of the Holy Spirit

The Spirit is sovereign God. This means He has mastery over the distribution of gifts to individuals in the church as He wills and pleases. Paul says in another place that “to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph 4.7). All of us are enabled to live godly lives by the grace of God. But the Holy Spirit gives differing enabling abilities to different individuals. It is as He wills. By the grace of God Paul was who He was. God’s grace toward him was not in vain (15.10). May that be said of each of us even though that grace and its manifestation differs in us. May the Spirit of God manifest Himself in our lives and gain mastery over those lives day by day. What does this look like today?

When Jesus departed, He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us. If we lie to the Holy Spirit, we lie to God as Ananias and Sapphira found out. But if we do not quench or grieve the Holy Spirit, He is able to transform us because He is God.

We need our Helper and Comforter because we cannot help our comfort ourselves. The Holy Spirit still has the power behind Pentecost in Acts 2. He can revive the church. He can revive you and me. Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to be poured out upon us as He was poured out upon the first century church. Let the word be preached in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.

All glory to God. Great things He has done for us and in us. God works all in all so that He may be glorified in all things through the person and work of Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit illumines and ignites His church.

“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many” (1 Cor 12.12-14). Paul uses the metaphor of a body for the church. A human body is made up of many elements: sinew, blood, bone, muscle, eye, fingers, toes, etc. These elements are called members in Paul’s metaphor. The body has many members, but all the constituent parts make up one body.

We are baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. Some of us are Jewish but most of us are Gentiles (Greeks in this text). Some of us are slaves and others are free. We are all made to drink into one Spirit. That is, we thrive and grow because of the water of the Word is illumined and ignited by the Spirit’s sovereign pleasure and will. Still, our one body is made up of many members. We find diversity within the constituent parts of the church of Christ.

A Kept Promise

“The LORD will perfect [complete] that which concerns me” (Psalm 138.8a). I cannot help myself; the LORD will help me. I cannot comfort myself; the LORD will comfort me. I cannot bring my plans and aspirations to fruition; therefore, the LORD will perfect that which concerns me. It is a promise good as kept. The promises of God are backed by the honor of His name (v. 2).

I need help but not on my own terms. I need confidence, hope, and strength, but not on my terms. I receive all I need from the LORD but my circumstances may not necessarily change. God doesn’t always change my situation in life. Instead, He changes me to meet each situation. It’s not the way I want it; it’s the way I need it.

The temporal world is a dark valley. The light from above penetrates that dark valley and puts everything in perspective. It gives me an eternal perspective. I must adjust my perspective by cultivating the expectation of God’s activity in my life. I must cling to His promises with an expectation that He will perfect that which concerns me.

I might not expect God to act, but He will.  So, it’s better I expect it and adjust accordingly.  The LORD will regard the lowly; He will know the proud from afar.  These are two eternal and unalterable facts.  It’s true now.  It will be true at the judgment.  God will act.

Those who are lowly will be exalted and reign with Christ forever.  Those who are proud will be separated from God in the Lake of Fire forever.  Sinners who will not be brought low will be be put down for all eternity.  They’ve yearned for independence, and they shall have it.  They have mocked, scorned, and hated righteousness; so, they shall find no mercy.  I must pray that the proud people in my life find this out before it’s too late.  “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28.13). 

The LORD will perfect that which concerns me. This is a promise good as kept.

The Narrow Way

Choosing the Narrow Way (Mark 8.34)


“When [Jesus] had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me,

  • Let him deny himself,
  • And take up his cross,
  • And follow Me.”

Jesus calls the people with His disciples. The way of discipleship was not exclusively an apostolic way. It is the way for all faithful believers across every culture and generation. It is the way as in it is the only way. It is the truth. It is the life. If I am to enter the narrow gate and traverse the narrow way, I must be saved. Then, I must choose to become a disciple of Jesus. He tells me what that choice looks like in Mark 8.34.

  1. I must deny myself. This means no more narcissism. Choosing the narrow means choosing a path that continually leads me away from the idolatry of being self-centered.
  2. I must take up my cross. This means I will not deny Jesus or deny the suffering and shame that characterize daily discipleship. I am willing to suffer for Jesus and for others.
  3. I must follow Jesus. This means I follow on a daily, moment-by-moment basis. I must press on in my follow-ship under His leadership. He is heading toward Jerusalem and death in Mark 8. If I would follow Jesus, I must also face death figuratively speaking. I must experience death to self. I follow Jesus and depart from my own path. This is a daily choice I make.

Facing the Consequences (Mark 8.35 – 38)

Jesus now lists three consequences of accepting or rejecting the narrow way of discipleship.

  1. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.
  2. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
  3. For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Whoever desires to save his physical life will lose the true meaning and essence of life. His life will not have an eternal quality to it. Conversely, whoever loses his physical life for Jesus’ sake and the gospel’s sake will find the true meaning and essence of life. That is, he will live a life that has eternal quality to it.

  1. Unbelievers will lose eternal life in the sense of experiencing ultimate separation from God in Hell.
  2. Believers will lose out in the sense of a loss of eternal rewards. They will miss out on the full inheritance God intends for them and Jesus won for them.

If I want to control of my life, I must be prepared to suffer loss of something far more valuable in the future. That’s the consequence of living for the here and now. However, if I give up control to follow the path God has for me now, I will gain something far more valuable in the future.

There is no profit in gaining all the world has to offer and lose my soul in the process. It is unfathomable that I would exchange my soul for possessions, position, power, and pleasure in this life. However, if I do, then it is because I have made this choice. I will not be able to reverse course once Jesus returns or I die. I alone am responsible.

Whoever, believer or unbeliever, is ashamed of Jesus and His words, of Him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.

  1. Unbelievers will know acute shame for rejecting Jesus. They will be finally and ultimately rejected.
  2. Believers will be ashamed and suffer loss of reward.

Either I am genuine with a faith that follows the narrow way of the cross or I live a life concerned only with my goals, dreams, and aspirations. Jesus is the Suffering Servant that will occupy the throne of judgment in power and glory with the Father. I am His disciple. It would be good for me to come to grips with that and bear my own cross daily.


The way of faith believes and then sees. The way of the world sees and then believes. There is the gentle, gradual progression of faith for which I owe gratitude to Jesus, my merciful and loving Savior. There is the way of cross-bearing as it develops a faith that truly follows. It is a way of suffering. It is not comfortable. It is the way of discipleship. It gives my life eternal purpose and quality. I trust that God will teach me to exchange my priorities in life for His. True satisfaction belongs to a faith that chooses the narrow way and faces the consequences of that choice.

Jesus, And Shall It Ever Be – Joseph Grigg, 1765


Jesus, and shall it ever be,
A mortal man ashamed of Thee?
Ashamed of Thee, whom angels praise,
Whose glories shine through endless days?

Ashamed of Jesus! sooner far
Let evening blush to own a star:
He sheds the beams of light divine
O’er this benighted soul of mine.

Ashamed of Jesus! just as soon
Let midnight be ashamed of noon;
‘Tis midnight with my soul till He,
Bright, Morning Star, bid darkness flee.

Ashamed of Jesus! that dear Friend
On whom my hopes of heaven depend!
No; when I blush, be this my shame,
That I no more revere His name.

Review of 1 Corinthians

  1. Introduction to 1 Corinthians: Conduct in the Church
  • Corinth is a narrow strip of land that formed a bridge of about five miles connecting the Peloponnese with mainland Greece.
  • Corinth was a wealthy trade city with geographical importance. It was known for its sinfulness. Christians in Corinth struggled with worldliness.
  • The Corinthian churches consisted of mainly Gentiles who were once idolaters.
  • The Apostle Paul struggled with the Corinthian believers because they did not understand what it meant to be spiritual people or people of the Holy Spirit.
  • This letter is Paul’s third exchange with the churches in Corinth. First, he personally founded and taught the church by staying with them for a year and six months. Second, Paul wrote the Corinthians from Ephesus. It is a letter that we do not have preserved for us (see 5.9). Paul dealt with problems regarding sexual immorality in the church in that letter. These problems persist and resurface. Third, Paul writes 1 Corinthians to confront persistent sin and rebellion in the church. This is the letter we are now studying.
  • We ought to study 1 Corinthians because it addresses strident individualism, arrogance, and accommodation to culture. These same problems exist in our church as well.
  1. 1.1-9: Called to be Saints – God calls, commands, and commissions us to be holy.
  2. 1.10-17: Contention in the Church – Paul pleads for peace in the church by moving them to more effectively preach the Gospel of the Cross of Christ.
  3. 1.18-25: Contention at the Cross – There will always be those who stumble at the cross, scorn the cross, and submit to the cross.
  4. 1.26-31: Contention over God’s Chosen – We find righteousness, sanctification, and redemption in God’s Chosen One, the Lord Jesus Christ.
  5. 2.1-5: Contention over Preaching – Powerful preaching must be pure and sympathetic.
  6. 2.6-16: Contention over Spiritual Elitism – We avoid spiritual elitism by developing appreciation for spiritual things and diligently seeking an eternal quality of life.
  7. 3.1-5: Carnal Christians – We must stop thinking and living like the carnal people of this present age.
  8. 3.5-9a: Proper Perspective on Pastors – The pastor has a high calling which leads him to a sober reality: He cannot abdicate or abandon his responsibilities.
  9. 3.9b-15: An Enduring Architecture – Jesus will review our building efforts, reward the good we do, and reject the bad.
  10. 3.16-17: We Are God’s Temple – We are a privileged and protected people.
  11. 3.18-23: We Are Christ’s – We must not deceive ourselves or boast in men. We once belonged to the world, the flesh, and the devil. Now, we are chosen in Christ, purchased by His blood, drawn by His Spirit, and children by faith alone.
  12. 4.1-2: Faithful Stewards – Pastors are both servants and stewards. We must be faithful to Christ and His people.
  13. 4.3-5: Judge Nothing Before the Time – We cannot depend on the judgment of others or our own judgment. We must commit ourselves to the infallible, inerrant judgment of God.
  14. 4.6-13: The Crucible of Our Suffering – Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure, being defamed, we entreat.
  15. 4.14-21: Father Knows Best – We need spiritual fathers exerting spiritual authority motivated by genuine love. Two great motivating meditations: What form of correction do you desire? What form of correction do you deserve?
  16. 5.1-8: An Unleavened Church – How do we avoid misusing the church discipline described in this passage? The entire church must agree on the action of excluding someone from our fellowship. When we do this, our purpose is still restorative. We utilize this form of discipline because of the contamination of sin. This form of discipline is often undermined in the 21st century.
  17. 5.9-13: Principles of Separation (Holiness) – We must be in the world but not of the world; we must not keep company with brothers or sisters who are living in sin; we must separate from evil people in the church.
  18. 6.1-11: The Way We Were – “Such were some of you.” But now we are washed, sanctified, and justified.
  19. 6.12-20: Flee Sexual Immorality – We have bodies destined for eternal redemption not eternal corruption. We belong to God body and spirit. Therefore, we glorify God in both body and spirit.
  20. 7.1-16: Marriage Matters (Pt 1) – Those who are married or used to be married should stay as they are. They shouldn’t change their relationship status.
  21. 7.17-24: Marriage Matters (Pt 2) – Remain in the same relationship that you were in when you were called to salvation in Christ.
  22. 7.25-40: Marriage Matters (Pt 3) – Unmarried people and widows should remain as they are as well.
  23. 8.1-13: The Danger of a Loveless Knowledge – Knowledge and love should be inextricably linked. Loveless knowledge takes on three characteristics: It is conceited, categorical, and contemptuous.
  24. 9.1-18: Preach the Gospel! – All Christians must preach the Gospel and will answer to God for their preaching stewardship. Why? We preach to souls who are needy before a Savior who is worthy.
  25. 9.19-23: All Possible Means – You can’t do wrong in order to get a chance to do right. You can’t do wrong in order to get what you want.
  26. 9.24-27: Make the Prize Yours – Run a steadfast, selfless, and successful race.
  27. 10.1-13: The Danger of Idolatry – All of us can fall into idolatry. Some of us are more likely to fall while some of us are more likely to stand.
  28. 10.14-22: Partaking of the Table of Demons – Beware of contrary interests and imperatives. If we are serving God, we should serve His interests. We make our light shine not through conformity and compromise but through holiness and separation.
  29. 10.23-11.1: A Crisis of Conscience – We strive to give no offense so that people may be saved. We do this by imitating Paul as he imitated Christ.
  30. 11.2-6: What’s a Woman to Do? – What are the roles and responsibilities of women in the church? A Christian woman is a child of God, a steward of His revelation, a priest of God, and will one day reign with Christ.
  31. 11.2-16: Transitioning Not Transforming – We must not be conformed to the world’s penchant to blur and eventual erase the line between a man and a woman. We won’t conform if we experience daily transformation through the renewing of our minds (The Holy Spirit illumines and ignites His revelation to us.).
  32. 11.17-26: The Lord’s Supper (Pt 1) – If we are not prepared to take the Lord’s Supper together, we must repent of our rebellion, ingratitude, and contemptuousness.
  33. 11.27-34: The Lord’s Supper (Pt 2) – Four attitudes of those who eat and drink in an unworthy manner: Undiscerning, irreverent, loveless, and excessive.

Worship and the Voice of the LORD

The two operative words in Psalm 29 are LORD (18 times) and voice (7 times). The whole of Psalm 29 praises the LORD. You might think that the other Psalms do as well. But every Psalm coming before this one contains a mixture of praise and something else (e.g., appeal and application). This Psalm is pure praise… pure worship.

Glory in the Highest

The phrase “mighty ones” (v. 1) refers to the angels of heaven. Why does David call upon the angels to praise God? Maybe he feels his praise and the praise of other men are inadequate. He needs the mighty ones to join with us.
When David was overwhelmed by the majesty of God revealed in a storm he witnessed, he felt inadequate to praise God properly.

Angels understand the importance of giving glory to God in our minds and worshiping Him with our wills in complete subjection to Him. What angels do naturally, we must learn to do as children. Maybe this is why we pray for our Father’s will to be done on earth even as it is done in Heaven.

Passing of the Storm

Verses 3 and 4 seem to detail a storm gathering power over the waters (perhaps the Mediterranean Sea) before coming ashore in full fury. The storm strikes as it moves down from Lebanon (v. 5). Damage is done to the great cedars, a symbol of strength in the ancient world. The mountains themselves tremble. All of this demands a response. The storm passes over the southern desert of Kadesh (where Israel was supposed to end her wilderness journey at the time of Moses, v. 8). What are the people doing who have witnessed the storm? They are in the temple praising God and shouting, “Glory!” Praise began in heaven (vv. 1-2) and is echoed by the people of God on earth. These are people who see His glory in the storm (v. 9).

The Voice of the LORD is an extremely important aspect to worship. The Bible begins with God speaking in Genesis. But He still speaks to me today. He speaks to me everywhere! He speaks In creation, in grace to draw sinners, in judgment to condemn the wicked, and in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ supremely!

Peace on Earth

The earth may shake, but God is steady, enthroned as King of the Universe forever (v. 10). God is in control and there is strength and peace for those who belong to Him (v. 11).

Worship

Notice the second half of verse 2 and verses 10-11:

“Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness …The LORD sat enthroned at the Flood, and the LORD sits as King forever. The LORD will give strength to His people; the LORD will bless His people with peace” (Psalm 29.2b, 10-11).

What is worship? John 4 records the talk that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman on that very subject. “Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21–24)

Worship is a spiritual response to God as a result of understanding biblical truth about God. God is central. His character and works must be understood in order for us to respond with our worship. The reason this is so is because truth is rooted in God. The way that truth is revealed to us is in the pages of Scripture. Truth must be observed, understood, acknowledged, and applied. This is worship. I might learn about God through creation and conscience, but I only know Him clearly and confidently in the Bible.

“The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He dwells between the cherubim; let the earth be moved! The Lord is great in Zion, and He is high above all the peoples. Let them praise Your great and awesome name— He is holy. The King’s strength also loves justice; You have established equity; You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool— He is holy.” (Psalm 99:1–5)

What truth about God do we understand in Psalm 99? We understand that the LORD reigns, He is great and holy. He loves justice and executes both justice and righteousness. How does one respond with worship? He trembles, praises, and exalts the LORD.

“Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100)

What truth about God do we understand in Psalm 100? He made us. He is good and eternally merciful. His truth endures. How do we respond with worship? We express our joy, serve with gladness, sing, express thankfulness, and praise Him.

Worship is not what we say it is. Worship is a spiritual response to God as a result of understanding biblical truth about God.

It’s Not Easier to Ask Forgiveness

The enemy sows the seed of doubt. He convinces you that there is no way out when it comes to temptation. God reveals otherwise. There is always the way of escape from temptation (1 Corinthians 10.13). It’s not easier to seek forgiveness rather than to seek permission. Jesus sacrificed in an incomprehensible way to provide an avenue of escape from temptation. His forgiveness is of infinite value. So, we shouldn’t be blithe about it. Psalm 97.10 says, “You who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.” Do you hate the evil the Holy Spirit reveals in the world? Maybe so. But do you hate the evil the Holy Spirit reveals in you?

First responders face a difficult task. It is compounded when someone put himself in a situation that is dangerous. For instance, a person drinks and drives and now is pinned in a vehicle leaking fuel. A family is told to evacuate a hurricane zone, but the father decided to stay. Now, a helicopter is hovering over the roof of their flooded-out neighborhood. How do first responders feel about people who put themselves in dangerous situations? Good first responders put their feelings aside. They save these people anyway.

God saves us even in our presumption and sin. However, He doesn’t only rescue us; He warns us of danger ahead of time. What path are you on that may be leading to danger today? Allow the Spirit to direct your path. Think of the cross. Do not take it for granted. Devote yourself and your energies to above things where Christ is. Don’t feed your flesh. Don’t spend and be spent on sin and wickedness. Choose well today. Walk the narrow path of righteousness.

Thoughts on “The Bruised Reed” by Richard Sibbes (Pt 1)

Richard Sibbes writes that the bruised reed is the person who is sensitive to sin and misery even to the point of seeing no help in themselves. This leads them to bruising but sparks hope in Christ. “This spark of hope being oppressed by doubtings and fears rising from corruptions makes him smoking flax; so that both these together, a bruised reed and smoking flax, make up the state of a poor distressed man” (4).

Sibbes argues that our post-conversion need for bruising illustrates that we are but reeds and not strong oaks.

  1. We must go boldly to the throne of grace to find help (Hebrews 4.16).
  2. Christ’s way is to first bruise and then heal.
  3. Christ is more mercifully inclined to the weakest of His children.

Who are the bruised reeds?

  1. Bruised reeds see their sin. All former sins and present crosses in life join together to make our bruises more painful.
  2. Bruised reeds see their sin as the greatest evil and God’s favor as the greatest good.
  3. Bruised reeds would rather hear of mercy than of a kingdom.
  4. Bruised reeds see themselves as not worth the dirt they walk on.
  5. Bruised reeds are filled with compassion and sympathy when it comes to others.
  6. Bruised reeds think that others who walk in the comforts of God’s Spirit are among the happiest people in the world.
  7. Bruised reeds tremble at God’s Word.
  8. Bruised reeds are more interested in the inward exercises of a broken heart than with religious formality.

The bruised reeds is self-aware in the best way possible. “Conviction will breed contrition, and this leads to humiliation” (12). Sin is made odious and Christ is above all. “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us” (13).

What is the smoking flax?

It is grace mingled with corruption. “Grace does not do away with corruption all at once, but some is left for believers to fight with …Broken hearts can yield but broken prayers” (18). Sibbes writes of the mingling of light and smoke in our lives and offers some good Scriptural examples. The light of belief mingled with the smoke of unbelief (Mark 9.24). The smoke of being cast out of God’s presence mingled with the light of hope in looking again toward His holy temple (Jonah 2.4). The smoke of self-awareness when it comes to our wretched state mingled with thanksgiving for Christ’s victory (Romans 7.24).

Gratitude for God’s Gifts

The kindhearted attitude of Paul teaches all of us that we can be thankful for the people in our churches. We may even be thankful for those who are the cause of great consternation for us. When people thought of Paul, it seems to me that they would have found it almost impossible to be offended by his manner. While he was uncompromising and firm, he was also genuinely grateful and loving.

This is startling when you consider the state of the Corinthian church in the New Testament. We read 1 Corinthians and wonder how many of these people could be Christians and still need the directives Paul gave in the letter. We wonder how the Corinthians could be indifferent to what he had to say. Yet Paul makes no assumptions and communicates to them as he would any other church. There is no doubt that many individuals were corrupt in the church. Yet, the majority were more than likely sincere believers.

Most people run away from churches when trouble hits. Paul understands that the problem is not with the believers themselves but with the way they misapply their stewardship in the church. We ought to be thankful for one another always because God has gifted each and every one of us. So, we can be genuinely thankful to God for believers at our churches, since God gives gifts to each of us as individuals. But we must also challenge one another to redirect our focus. How does 1 Corinthians 1.4-9 redirect our focus as we contemplate Thanksgiving in America?

  1. We observe that arrogance and self-sufficiency put the focus on people and ignore the fact that everything good comes down from our Father above.
  2. Further, we learn that humility dictates that we live waiting for Jesus to return, which means that there is always room for improvement.

Paul wrote, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:4-9).

Focus your attention on two aspects of this passage. First, Paul is expressing gratitude for God’s gifting of believers. Second, Paul is expressing gratitude for God’s guarantee to believers.

Gratitude for God’s Gifting of Believers

These verses teach us that Paul is thankful because all of the Corinthian believers received spiritual gifts from God. He writes, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.” The present tense of the verb thank along with the adverb always make it clear that Paul’s habitual attitude toward believers was one of thanksgiving. Paul does not relinquish his fatherly responsibility for the church (see 4.14-21), but he understands that all believers belong to God and not to him. Therefore, Paul is grateful to God for these believers.

Christians might disagree strongly with each other, but we are grateful and joyful because God is working in all of us. If this attitude is not in us, we fail to understand how much we ourselves need God’s daily mercy. It seems the Corinthians have forgotten they need God’s mercy. This fuels self-sufficiency and arrogance in them.

Paul is thankful for the grace of God. Grace means gift. God gives good gifts to His children. Paul understands this, sees evidence of it, and then is thankful for it. The problem is that the Corinthians focused on their gifts and not on the Giver of those gifts. Once you understand that everything you have is given to you by God, self-sufficiency melts away to be replaced by humility. Paul will say in this letter, “Who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it” (1 Corinthians 4.7),

Paul is thankful that the Corinthians “were enriched in everything by [God] in all utterance and all knowledge (1 Corinthians 1.5). When God gives gifts, He enriches believers in everything. The Christians Standard Bible renders the phrase this way: “You were enriched in him in every way.” This phrase is connected with the qualifying remainder of the verse: “in all utterance and all knowledge.”

Utterance refers to speaking gifts like preaching and prophesying. Knowledge refers to the gift of information. God gifts them by causing them to learn. It seems that it was very evident that the Corinthians were knowledgeable and very articulate in expressing that knowledge.
The problem is that they forgot they were enriched by God. They forgot that Christ was impoverished so that they could be enriched. Paul will say, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8.9). One great lesson of the Christian life is that self-confidence makes our strengths great weaknesses.

Surprisingly, this was all true “even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in [the Corinthians]” (1 Corinthians 1.6). Paul is genuinely thankful for the gifts God gives them since they are evidence of the testimony of Christ being confirmed in or among them. The Father does the work of confirming that those gifts are present. This passive verb in verse 6 (“was confirmed”) emphasizes again the need for humility. They are confirmed by God already in them. Christians don’t do the work of confirming. God does that work.

The testimony of Christ points up His life’s work, culminating in His death, burial, and resurrection. The work of Christ guarantees the truth of the very message enriching the Corinthian believers. The emphasis is always on Christ not on us. We are simply earthen vessels.

God confirms these gifts in the Corinthians “so that [they] come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1.7). Paul is thankful for what is going on in the present, because he has an eye on the future. He thanks God for grace (v. 4), for enriching the Corinthians with gifts (v. 5), and for confirming the testimony of Christ’s finished work (v. 6). The result is that they come short in no gift that they have (v. 7).

They are complete in Christ. As they are filled with the Holy Spirit, they manifest His fruit in any and every of the gifts they possess. If we were eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, we would exercise the gifts God gives to us in greater and greater degrees of humility. Maybe we lack the gifts we need because we lack the eagerness for Christ’s return. Perhaps there is a direct correlation between anticipating Christ’s return in the future and the exercise of our spiritual gifts in the present.

Many believers today are similar to the Corinthians in that we have an over-realized perspective when it comes to the return of Christ. We forget that we are still being perfected. We are still waiting for our final glorified state. We have not arrived. We must eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed so that will happen.

So, Paul is grateful to God. Specifically, he is grateful for God’s giftedness of believers. Verses 8 and 9 now introduce a second major thought regarding focused gratitude.

Gratitude for God’s Guarantee to Believers (1 Corinthians 1:8-9)

The eager anticipation of the revelation of Jesus Christ is heightened because our Savior is the One “who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:8). Paul already mentions the revelation of Jesus Christ in verse 7. Now, he mentions the day of our Lord Jesus Christ in verse 8. He tells the Corinthians what that will mean for each of them personally. Paul is assured that God will confirm the Corinthians to the end, so that that they may be blameless or guiltless when they stand before the Father in the day of Christ.

It is certain that they have the righteousness of Christ. It’s not that the condition of the Corinthians’ lives at that present moment was blameless or guiltless. Paul doesn’t have confidence or assurance in the Corinthians; his confidence is in God. God is not finished with any of us. All of us need work. But God will see to it that that work is complete. This means that God’s guarantee is our eternal security in Christ.

This is good news which demands gratitude. “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). God is faithful. This is important because, often, we are not faithful. The Corinthians struggled with faithfulness. 1 Thessalonians 5.24 says, “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”

God is not depending on us; we are depending on God. God called us, and God is faithful. That’s an interesting combination. We will be blameless on the last day due to God’s faithfulness. God called the Corinthians and us into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. We have fellowship with the Savior through the Holy Spirit. We are in Christ, free from sin, and in fellowship with Him and with our Father.

So, be grateful for God’s giftedness and for God’s guarantee.

Are you a grateful partaker of His gifts? Are you walking worthily of His calling? Are you dependent upon His power to both exercise your gifts and fulfill your calling?

Grateful for Gifts

We have received good things which have come down from the Father of lights. His daily mercy and benefits are incomparable to anything offered by this world. We know the message of salvation and have experienced it. We enjoy the confidence of our immortality and coming glorious reign with Christ. There is no other gift we need. We are content. There is no regret for things we do not have from this world. We have the greatest gifts any of us could desire in Christ. How could we not be thankful?

Worthy of God’s Calling

Once we understand what we have, we realize we come short in no gift. We present our bodies by the mercies of God, as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable to Him, which is our reasonable, rational service (Romans 12:1). God’s goal for our lives is that we would be blameless when Jesus returns. God is working in us so that we would become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom we shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15). We shine as lights by walking worthily by lining up our condition in life with the position Christ gained for each of us.

Humility

The Corinthians needed to find out where strength came from. God confirms us to the end. God is faithful. He is the Author and the Finisher of our salvation. We are only channels. “The Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3.3). He alone receives glory for the exercise of our gifts.

“Now to Him who is able to keep us from stumbling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).

“Do You Not Know?”

Below are all the times in 1 Corinthians Paul asks this question.

  1. “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you” (3.16)?
  2. “Do you not know that a little leaven (sin) leavens the whole lump” (5.6)?
  3. “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world” (6.2)?
  4. “Do you not know that we shall judge angels” (6.3)?
  5. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God” (6.9)?
  6. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ” (6.15)?
  7. “Do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her” (6.16)?
  8. “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you” (6.19)?
  9. “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple” (9.13)?
  10. “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run” (9.24)?