I Corinthians 4-6: Going Beyond

I have applied all this to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brethren,

that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written,

that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.

I Corinthians 4:6, RSV

 

I'm watching my seven month old grandson today so this will be a short one. However, do not let the article's brevity make you think that the topic is unimportant, for the theme of the verse above is one of the most consistent and oft repeated teachings of the Bible.

 

While I think most of us understand the command to not beyond what is written, it is interesting to see one of the reasons for not doing so: It is so we will not give men, no matter how impressive or seemingly knowledgeable in the Bible, preference over the Scriptures. I am constantly amazed at hearing the reasons for people when they depart from the most obvious and plainly stated teachings of the Bible. Almost invariably when they leave the commands of the Word, it is because of some man or woman who has impressed them with their own insight of the Bible.

 

And by doing so, they become "puffed up in favor" of one man over another. In effect, they divide over what the Bible says, not because God was unclear or incompetent in stating His commands, but because people have their favorite relatives, preachers, and pastors whom they occasionally rely on over the Word of God.

 

Because of this, they endanger their very souls, for our responsibility in handling God's Word has always been to listen to God and not to men, no matter how impressive those men may seem. By not going beyond what is written, we can avoid such pitfalls and be confident that our service to God is based upon His Word and not the opinions of man.

 

The reading for the next few days is I Corinthians 4-6. They are filled with vital themes that will help us to correctly handle the Word of Truth. 

I Corinthians 1-3: Is Christ Divided?

I appeal to you, brothers,by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.

” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

I Cor. 1:10-13, ESV

 

As a long time student of the Word and observer of the church, I believe one of the greatest failures of modern day Christians is that we have divided the church that Jesus shed His blood for. As Paul pointed out, Jesus cannot be divided, so when the church is divided then the problem must be with men... and it is a very big problem!

 

Just think for a moment how many different churches there are. It seems like there is a church for every opinion and every preference of men. It's as if men just don't trust God enough to realize that His way is right so, rather than trying to seek His church from within the Scriptures, they simply make one of their own.

 

I guess there is just nothing like a custom fit.

 

One of the most important points that Paul is making in this passage is that Jesus was indeed crucified for our sins. Therefore, when we are baptized, it is to be a baptism into Christ, not into some organization created by men. And when we are added to the church (Acts 2:47) it is God adding us to the church, not a church. Many people will not get the point of this statement, but I think that God expects us to all the same.

 

And He expects us not to be divided.

 

But, how is that possible when men have so many different opinions? The answer of course is that our task is to place ourselves within the commands of God as found within His Word, rather than trying to come up with our own custom religion. The fact is that Jesus died for our sins and God has extended His grace to all who will accept His terms. But make no mistake, men will remain divided until they realize that it is God who is in control, not men.

 

The reading for the next few days is from the first three chapters of I Corinthians. It tells us all we need to know about God's desire for us to be united together within the church of His Son, rather than to be split into a million churches that are often designed to suit the desires of men rather than the will of God.

 

Romans 13-16: It's Time to Wake Up!

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.

So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

 

Romans 13:11-14, NIV

 

One of the things that I like about reading the Word of God is that it gets right to the point. In the case of the passage above, Paul simply points out that it is later than we think. Therefore, it is time to wake up and get to the work that God has put us here to do.

 

In order to accomplish that, we are going to have to stop sinning. In addition to sin's other harmful attributes, it has a way of distracting us from the task at hand. It's like a really cool video game in the hands of a bored adolescent (whether that "adolescent" be fifteen or fifty). Anyone who has ever been involved in such activities knows that they can be very absorbing. They have a way of making time seem to stand still when in fact it is flying by. Just ask any teenager who decided to play "just one last game" before studying for that big test how much time can actually be wasted. Ask the same teenager after going to the test unprepared because of his play time and, if he is honest, he will admit that he could have made better use of his time.

 

Now, compare that to Paul's inspired instructions above. He warns us that our time is indeed running out, that our salvation is nearer now than we first believed. How devastating this will be for those who had planned on getting prepared for the Judgment, only to find out that they had frittered their time away on sinful pursuits. Of course, one of the saddest things about this harmful effect of sin is that it not only takes away time that we could have been preparing ourselves, but also time away from helping others achieve their goal of salvation. So, what's the point?

 

Wake up, before it's too late!

 

The readings for the next few days will be from the final four chapters of Romans. They are chock full of ways in which we may better prepare ourselves for the life we were created for.

Romans 8-12: What is Separating Us from God?

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35-39, KJV

 

When you think about all the things that could go wrong in life, it appears that more than a fair share of them have in recent years. We have seen people seeming to do everything from lying, cheating and stealing to gain power in our nation. We have seen a modern day plague that has shut down industry and separated close friends all over the world. In the small community that I live in we have seen historic droughts that have threatened the livelihoods of so many.

 

That's a lot to deal with, and these things are barely the tip of the iceberg when you consider some of the true struggles and heartbreaks that many are experiencing. When you add them all up, it seems that there are a lot of things that could separate us from God, and indeed many will allow the hardships of life to take their focus off of God and onto the things of this world.

 

But, it doesn't have to be that way. We do not have to let life's challenges separate us from God, that is the point of what Paul writes above. As a matter of fact, Paul mentions a key fact in this passage that so many seem to miss: It is the love of God that we cannot be separated from. For the trials of life have always raged and far too many have allowed these difficulties to help take their eyes off of God. But it should not happen and it will not happen...

 

unless we let it! For the fact remains, whether in the challenging times in which Paul lived or the difficulties that men face in their own eras, that these difficulties are not powerful enough to separate us from the love of God. 

 

If the times that you have been going through have seemed trying, it is likely because they truly are - that's not the point. The point is that they are not trying enough to separate us from God and Christ unless we let them. So, if you have been feeling that your relationship with God has been waning, whose fault is it? We might be tempted to say God for letting these things happen to us in the first place, but we would be wrong, for we are promised that there is nothing so bad that we could be removed from the presence of God and His love for us. 

 

And this promise will sustain us through all of life's challenges, if we will let it. What is separating you from the love of God? 

 

The readings for the next few days is from the 8th through 12th chapters of Romans. They contain many of the secrets to helping us not only survive life's difficulties, but actually thrive during times that would otherwise tempt us take our eyes off of the only One that can truly rescue us.

Romans 6-8: Grace, Christ's Sacrifice & Baptism

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

Romans 6:1-8, ESV

 

This short passage in Romans chapter 6 contains some of the most important teachings in all of Scripture. It reveals that we cannot use grace as an excuse to go on sinning. It shows that baptism is not some archaic rite that has no place in modern religion, rather, that it is required for everyone desiring to take part in the resurrection. And, it shows the vital role of the sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.

 

Perhaps no other passage so completely demonstrates the relationship between God's grace, Jesus' death, and our baptism. It would be dangerous indeed to try and take out any of these items - grace, sacrifice, or baptism - for it is the combination of these three that allow us to be born again, to have our sins forgiven, and to have the hope of eternal life. It would be a great mistake for anyone to minimize or try to eliminate any one of these, for by doing so they risk losing out on the new birth, forgiveness of sin, and the resurrection.

 

I continue to be amazed at the simplicity of God's Word and His plan for us. He reveals so clearly His role, Jesus' role, and our role in salvation. How could anyone miss it? Who but God could have come up with such a perfect plan? Isn't it wonderful that we have the Bible to read so that we might find out about that plan so that we might live forever! 

 

The reading for the next few days is from the 6th through the 8th chapters of Romans. Read them carefully, for they contain the words of life!