1 Corinthians 2-5 The Voice (VOICE)
2 My brothers and sisters, I did not pose as an expert with all the answers. I did not pretend to explain the mystery of God with eloquent speech and human wisdom. 2 I claimed to know nothing with certainty other than the reality that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Liberating King, who was crucified on our behalf. 3 I was moved to utter despair during my time with you. I would find myself trembling in dread and fear. 4 The sermons I preached were not delivered with the kind of persuasive elegance some have come to expect, but they were effective because I relied on God’s Spirit to demonstrate God’s power. 5 If this were not so, your faith would be based on human wisdom and not the power of God.
Christianity is not merely a set of ideas and propositions. One can agree with all the truths in the Bible and still miss the power of God. Paul knows the brothers and sisters in Corinth might attempt to reduce Christianity to a new philosophy based on human understanding, but the power of God cannot be fully grasped by our eight-pound brains. We must approach God humbly as creations, not as those aspiring to fully explain the Creator of the universe.
6 However, in the presence of mature believers, we do impart true wisdom—not the phony wisdom typical of this rebellious age or of the hostile powers who rule this age. Despite what you may think, these ruling spirits are losing their grip on this world. 7 But we do impart God’s mysterious and hidden wisdom. Before the ages began, God graciously decided to use His wisdom for our glory. 8 This wisdom has not been grasped by the ruling powers of this age; if they had understood, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. 9 But as the Scriptures say,
No eye has ever seen and no ear has ever heard
10 God has shown us these profound and startling realities through His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep mysteries of God. 11 Who can see into a man’s heart and know his thoughts? Only the spirit that dwells within the man. In the same way, the thoughts of God are known only by His Spirit. 12 You must know that we have not received the spirit of this rebellious and broken world but the Spirit that comes from God, so that we may experience and comprehend the gifts that come from God. 13 We do not speak of these gifts of God in words shaped by human wisdom; we speak in words crafted by the Spirit because our collective judgment on spiritual matters is accessible to those who have the Spirit. 14 But a person who denies spiritual realities will not accept the things that come through the Spirit of God; they all sound like foolishness to him. He is incapable of grasping them because they are disseminated, discerned, and valued by the Spirit. 15 A person who walks by the Spirit examines everything, sizing it up and seeking out truth. But no one is able to examine or size up that kind of spiritual person, 16 for the Scripture asks, “Does anyone know the mind of the Lord well enough to become His advisor?”[b] But we do possess the mind of the Anointed One.
3 My brothers and sisters, I cannot address you as people who walk by the Spirit; I have to speak to you as people who tend to think in merely human terms, as spiritual infants in the Anointed One. 2 I nursed you with milk, as a mother would feed her baby, because you were not, and still are not, developed enough to digest complex spiritual food. 3 And here’s why: you are still living in the flesh, not in the Spirit. How do I know? Are you fighting with one another? Are you comparing yourselves to others and becoming consumed with jealousy? Then it sounds like you are living in the flesh, no different from the rest who live by the standards of this rebellious and broken world. 4 If one of you is saying, “I am with Paul,” and the other says, “I am with Apollos,” aren’t you like everybody else? 5 So who is Apollos really? Or Paul for that matter? We are only servants, agents who led you to faith, and the Lord commissioned each of us to do a particular job.
Paul’s test for spiritually immaturity: Do you argue? Do you compare yourself to others? Are you jealous? Answer “yes” to any of these, then you are spiritually immature.
6 My job was to plant the seed, and Apollos was called to water it. Any growth comes from God, 7 so the ones who water and plant have nothing to brag about. God, who causes the growth, is the only One who matters. 8 The one who plants is no greater than the one who waters; both will be rewarded based on their work. 9 We are gardeners and field workers laboring with God. You are the vineyard, the garden, the house where God dwells. 10 Like a skilled architect and master builder, I laid a foundation based upon God’s grace given to me. Now others will come along to build on the foundation. Each serves in a different way and is to build upon it with great care. 11 There is, in fact, only one foundation, and no one can lay any foundation other than Jesus the Anointed. 12 As others build on the foundation (whether with gold, silver, gemstones, wood, hay, or straw), 13 the quality of each person’s work will be revealed in time as it is tested by fire. 14 If a man’s work stands the test of fire, he will be rewarded. 15 If a man’s work is consumed by the fire, his reward will be lost but he will be spared, rescued from the fire. 16 Don’t you understand that together you form a temple to the living God and His Spirit lives among you? 17 If someone comes along to corrupt, vandalize, and destroy the temple of God, you can be sure that God will see to it that he meets destruction because the temple of God is sacred. You, together, are His temple.
18 Don’t let anyone deceive himself. If any one of you thinks he is wise in matters pertaining to this world, he is going to be really disappointed. In fact, one must be deemed a fool by worldly standards in order to become truly wise 19 because the wisdom of this rebellious and broken world looks like foolishness when put next to God. So it stands in Scripture, “He catches the wise in their deceitful plotting.”[c] 20 And the Scriptures add, “The Lord knows the highest thoughts of the wise, and they are worthless.”[d] 21 So there is no reason for anyone to boast in human leaders. You already have it all. 22 So whether it is Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life or death, the present or the future—it all belongs to you. 23 You belong to the Anointed One, and the Anointed One belongs to God.
4 Rather than power brokers, think of us as servants of the Anointed One, the Liberating King, caretakers of the mysteries of God. 2 Because we are in this particular role, it is especially important that we are people of fidelity and integrity. 3 It makes little difference to me how you or any human court passes judgment on me. I even resist the temptation to compare myself to the ever-changing human standard. 4 Although I am not aware of any flaw that might exclude me from this divine service, that’s not the reason I stand acquitted—the only supreme judge, our Lord, will examine me in the proper time. 5 So resist the temptation to act as judges before all the evidence is in. When the Lord comes, He will draw our buried motives, thoughts, and deeds (even things we don’t know or admit to ourselves) out of the dark shadows of our hearts into His light. When this happens, the voice of God will speak to each of us the only praise that will ever matter.
6 Right now, brothers and sisters, the best thing I can do for you is to apply these principles to the situation with Apollos and me. Maybe we can show you the meaning of the saying, “not beyond the things written.” If you learn that, perhaps none of you will swell with pride because you fall into the seductive trap of pitting one against the other. 7 Is there any reason to consider yourselves better than others? What do you have that you didn’t receive? If you received it as a gift, why do you boast like it is something you achieved on your own?
8 Now let’s see if I have it straight. You suppose that you already have all you need. You already are rich and prosperous. And without us you’ve already begun to reign like kings. To be honest, I wish you did reign so that we could reign with you 9 because it seems to me that God has put His emissaries[e] at the end of the line, like convicts in their final walk to certain death. We have become a spectacle to the rest of the world—to all people and heaven’s messengers. 10 We are nothing but fools for the cause of the Anointed One while you are wise in Him. Am I right? We are feeble and tired while you are mighty and full of life. You are well respected by others while we’re treated as contemptuous creatures by pretty much everyone everywhere. 11 Up to this very minute, we are famished, we are thirsty, and our clothes are shabby, practically rotted to pieces. We are homeless, hapless wanderers. 12 But still we labor, working with our hands to meet our needs because, despite all of this, when a fist is raised against us, we respond with a blessing; when we face violence and persecution, we stay on mission; and 13 when others choose taunts and slander against us, we speak words of encouragement and reconciliation. We’re treated as the scum of the earth—and I am not talking in the past tense; I mean today! We’re the scraps of society, nothing more than the foulest human rubbish.
Paul explains and exemplifies the goals of a mature believer in a way that may be easily contrasted with the desires of an immature believer. He is seeking love and truth more than popularity, embracing suffering rather than comfort. In fact, he disregards popularity and comfort completely so that he isn’t distracted from the love and truth of Jesus. This could be a powerful force in the world if believers embraced this kind of maturity.
14 I am not telling you all this so that you’ll feel guilty or be ashamed of how you have acted. I am only trying to warn you, just as a father would warn his children. 15 You may have 10,000 instructors in the faith of the Anointed One, but you have only one father. In Jesus the Anointed I have become your father through my efforts in spreading the good news. 16 So as your father in the faith, I want to encourage you to live as I have lived. Imitate my life. 17 This is one of the reasons I sent Timothy to be with you. He is my dearly loved and faithful child in the Lord. His mission is to remind you of the way I experience life in the Anointed. In all the churches everywhere I go, I teach the same lessons the same way, and I live out those lessons. 18 But the reality is, some of you have put yourselves on pedestals and live like you are high above the rest—it’s as if you assumed I would not return to confront your misguided pride. 19 But I am coming. Lord willing, I will be with you soon. Then I will know what power is backing those arrogant folks and their words. 20 The kingdom of God is not a realm of grandiose talk; it is a realm of power. 21 So tell me what you want. Should I visit you, rod in hand ready to discipline a crew of self-important people; or should I embrace you, love you, and gently teach you as we celebrate the blessings of God together?
5 Because of my deep love for you, I must express my concern about the report brought to me regarding the lewd and immoral behavior exhibited in your community. This scandal has come to my attention because this kind of thing is unheard of even among the outsiders around us: I understand a man is having sexual relations with his father’s wife. 2 You have turned into an arrogant lot who refuse to see the tragedy right in front of your eyes and mourn for it. If you would face these hard realities, the one living in this sin would be removed from the community.
3 Despite the fact that I am not physically present with you, I am there in spirit and already have spoken judgment against the man who has engaged in this conduct. 4 When you gather in the name of the Lord Jesus and I am present with you in spirit, and the infinite power of our Lord Jesus is present also, 5 I direct you to release this man over to Satan so his rebellious nature will be destroyed and his spirit might be rescued in the day the Lord Jesus returns.
6 Your proud boasting in this matter is terrible. Don’t you understand that the tiniest infraction can bring about an unwelcome chain of events? That just a little yeast causes all the dough to rise? 7 Get rid of all the old yeast; then you’ll become new dough, just as you are already a people without sin’s leavening influence. You see, the Anointed One is our Passover lamb; He has been sacrificed for us. 8 So let the real feast begin. Get rid of all the old yeast, the yeast of hatred and evil. Throw it out so we can feast on the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Sexual sin is always painful, but incest decimates families and communities, and it leaves people isolated and angry. The danger for believers who understand the reality of sin is that they may lose sight of redemption and become complacent in their brokenness. In Corinth the believers have become so complacent that they are ignoring the incest in their community. The church’s reputation is beginning to suffer among outsiders.
Church discipline if properly done accomplishes two things: first, it protects the community from harm caused by the sin; second, it can lead to a restoration of the sinner to God and the community. Ignoring the sin actually makes the lives of the sinners worse. Real love confronts the sin and leads the sinners toward redemption and wholeness.
9 In the letter I wrote to you previously, I made it clear that you are not to band together with those who have embraced immoral lives. 10 Don’t misunderstand; I’m not telling you to hole up and hunker down from the rest of the world. That’s impossible. The world is filled with immoral people consumed by their desire for more; they steal from one another without hesitation and will worship man-made idols with no shame at all. If you attempted to avoid these people, you would have to leave the world itself. 11 What I was saying is that you should not associate with someone who calls himself a brother or sister but lives contrary to all we stand for: committing immoral sexual acts, consumed with desire for more, worshiping tangible lifeless things, using profanity, drinking into oblivion, swindling and cheating others. Do not even sit at the table with a person like this. 12 Why would I ever attempt to judge those outside the church? Aren’t we called to judge those within the church? 13 God judges the outsiders. Your job is this: “Expel the wicked from your own community.”[f]
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