Summary: Why do we go through hard times? Is it because God is not pleased with us? Is it that we just must suffer in order to really be deserving of God's grace? Though the reasons might be many (and those two are not among them), Paul gives us one of the most im
Having received a very stern letter from the Apostle Paul, you’d think that God’s problem church, Corinth, would have gotten their act together. The church was rife with pastor worship, division, misuse of spiritual gifts and the Lord’s supper, class distinctions, tolerance of outright and open sin—and the list goes on. Yet just about 18 months later Paul writes back—while some problems had gone away, others had cropped up and it was time for Paul to bring them up short for their attitudes and behaviors.
The main issues Paul now faces in Corinth involve the arrival of an anti-Paul sect who claimed they should be the ones the Corinthians listened to, not the Apostle. Some scholars suggest that Paul wrote the letter in parts—perhaps hoping things would get better on their own, but then learning that even more problems were occurring.
As we look to the first eleven verses of chapter 1 today, we focus not on the problems at hand, but how to handle problems when they come into your life. What does it mean when life goes south and what do I do about it?
Paul calls himself an apostle “by God’s will.” While this might seem like just a normal sort of greeting, it is vitally important to Paul that he assert his apostleship right off the bat. Why? Because the Corinthians had been infiltrated by pseudo-apostles who set about telling them that they shouldn’t trust Paul. He puts in there “by God’s will” to show that he was not a self-made apostle like the false ones currently at Corinth. God pulled Paul (then Saul) from being an enemy of Christianity to being its chief proponent.
We are well served to understand the chain of custody of the witness and word of the Lord. In the Old Covenant He spoke through prophets, then through His own Son Jesus Christ, who passed on that word to His apostles.
He writes with Timothy, his protégé, who also came and went from Corinth as Paul’s emissary.
2 – 3
So Paul is God’s apostle and Corinth is God’s church. Some people make a grave mistake by thinking that the church personally belongs to them. It is their money making machine, their fame creator, their toy, their tool for self-satisfaction or to give credence to their viewpoints. It is not.
Each church belongs to God. In Revelation 1 the Lord threatens to remove church’s authority that do not obey Him. We serve at the pleasure of God and for His glory. Just because a church is popular does not mean it is glorifying the Lord.
Notice too that he brings in “all the saints who are throughout Achaia” which is southern Greece. The Corinthians could not operate in a vacuum—no church is an island. We should all connect upward to the Lord as the head. We may have stylistic and minor differences but we should line up in the major doctrines of the faith or there is a problem.
3 – 7
This is an incredible section of Scripture that we need to unpack and walk through. In general Paul is gently leading to some very difficult things he must say. Rather than just blast them, which is a little bit of the way 1st Corinthians starts out, Paul wants them to know that though the letter will be tough to hear, God will comfort (“encourage” – para’klaysis) them as He is a God of mercy, not punishment.
It’s so wonderful that God works that way. If we were God we probably would lose patience with people rather quickly. God not only treats us with patience, but also loves us so much that He won’t leave us alone, but even in those times when He has tough things to say to us, He holds us and comforts and encourages us through them like a loving Father disciplining His child.
4 – look at the purpose here: God comforts us so that we can comfort others who find themselves suffering. God does not promise to remove us from trouble, but to see us through and then use the things He did in and through us to reach out to others. Look for this in your own life. Look at the difficulties you’ve gone through and how that makes you uniquely qualified to speak into the lives of others.
5 – Suffering as a Christian is a given.
Philippians 1:29-30 For it has been given to you on Christ's behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, 30 having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear about me.
In this present age we want to avoid sufferance at all costs and get out of it as quickly as possible. Suffering is a sign of God not approving of you. This is simply not the case. Furthermore, suffering is a way to draw closer to God and become more like Jesus: