The Spirit in Corinthians
2008-04-17 – “Insight”
9 However, as it is written:
“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him” —
10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1Corinthians2:9-10)
We’re ready to pick up our series on the Holy Spirit again, this time looking at Paul’s writings in the two letters to the Corinthians.
The insights in these two letters are going to be interesting because the Corinthians had developed a sensationalistic understanding of the Holy Spirit. They were obsessed with ecstatic experiences and Spiritual Gifts, especially with speaking in tongues and while they appeared very spiritual, there were some serious moral and ethical problems in the congregation.
Here in chapter two Paul is emphasising the wonderful depths and riches of our relationship with God. In vs 10-16 he shows how the Holy Spirit is able to reveal God in ways that our sin-hardened minds and guilt-broken hearts could _never_ perceive.
The point that Paul is making, is that we are like:
– Adam and Eve – hiding when we hear God coming near.
– The Israelites – begging God to speak to Moses and not to them
– Like Saul – hiding in the baggage when God called him to be king
We cannot discover God or understand God without His help. The Holy Spirit reveals God to us. He makes God plain to us. But more than helping us to know God, the Spirit helps us understand the “eternity that has been placed in our hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
The Holy Spirit is part of the Godhead and he reveals the nature of God to us. He helps us experience God’s love and God’s peace.
This is particularly important when we pray for folk who are not believers yet. We can pray that the Spirit would reveal the extent of God’s love and the wonder of God’s majesty to them. Without this revelation they will not understand the gospel.
“But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit…”
2008-04-18 – “Corporately Indwelt”
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? (1Corinthians3:16)
This is another all-important 3:16. We know John3:16 and there is another lovely 3:16 in 2Timothy.
This passage is often misread and misunderstood: The “yourselves” and “you”‘s in this verse are plural while the “temple” is singular.
Most people read this verse as saying that the Holy Spirit makes a temple in each individual. This is not a correct reading of _this_ verse (Paul will talk about individuals and the Spirit in 1Cor6:19).
This verse (and its context) are about the corporate group – the body of Christ – the Church. If you look at the context of the passage, Paul is talking about unity in the church. The Corinthians were arguing. Some said they followed Paul, others said they followed Apollos and some of the self-righteous said “_We_ follow Christ.”
In v.9 Paul says “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
So, here’s the important truth: God’s Spirit is particularly present and at work in our midst when we are in Community. This means that the power, prompting, presence and peace of the Holy Spirit is available to community.
The choice of the word temple, with its implication of worship and adoration is important too: There is something special and significant about corporate worship.
POSTSCRIPT: There is a very sober warning about hurting the church’s unity in v17: “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you (plural) are that temple.”
2008-04-22 – “Individually Indwelt”
19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
In 1Cor3:16 we discovered that the Holy Spirit works in the fellowship of Christians, binding them together as a corporate temple. A place of worship and growth. Now in ch.6 Paul looks at the life of the individual.
The context of the chapter is that some of the Christians had adopted a loose moral standard. They had spiritualised their faith, arguing that their bodies were temporary and irrelevant. They felt it was not wrong to sleep around and get involved with prostitutes.
Paul argues differently. Our bodies matter. The Holy Spirit dwells in us. We cannot be neatly compartmentalised into body, soul and spirit. It would be more accurate to say that we are an integrated unity. (We all know what sore feet after a long day does to our demeanour!)
Jesus suffered in His body on the cross. (We were bought at a price!) He carries in His _body_ the marks of the cross. He took His physical body to heaven when He ascended.
Our bodies matter! Even though the Bible promises that our bodies will be renewed and glorified when we come to the resurrection, it does not entitle us to abuse them now.
What are you doing with your body? How are you treating it?
There are some vitally important questions to ask:
– Are you overweight, eating badly and unfit?
– Is stress destroying your body?
– Do you need to sleep more and exercise to work out the aggro and adrenaline?
– Do you have habits that are body-harmful? (Smoking, etc)
Or, on the flip side…
– Are you body-obsessed? Overdoing the grooming or gym-ming?
– Are you overly self-conscious unable to accept yourself as you are?
Our bodies are not to be abused or worshipped. They are a temple in which and through which _God_ must be glorified.
2008-04-24 – “Bridging the Gap”
3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
Many people speak of their conversion as though they did God a big favour: “_I_ gave _my_ heart to Jesus.”
Now don’t get me wrong: Coming to a place of receiving Christ into our lives as Lord and Saviour is the most important thing we can ever experience.
What is very important to realise is that the decision to “give Jesus our hearts” is nothing short of miraculous!
Because it is our natural inclination to flee from God:
– Adam and Eve hid from God in the garden
– The Israelites didn’t want to hear God speaking on Mt Sinai
– Peter says “Go away from me Lord – I am a sinful man.”
Our sin and rebellion against Him and His law means that when God comes into the picture, we, if left to ourselves, tend to move away. We’ve lived in the darkness of brokenness so long that we fear the light of God’s holy love.
We are unable to fully grasp God’s love and we struggle to understand Jesus’ majesty on our own. When we recognise God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice, it is because the Holy Spirit has already been at work in us, sowing seeds of grace and truth and watering them with conviction.
Does this mean that we have no choice? On the contrary: before the Spirit worked in us we had no choice, we could only choose according to our sinful nature’s ability to observe and understand. The Holy Spirit helps us see and understand. He brings us to a place of choice, but we are not puppets. We do make the final choice, but we can only make the choice because the Holy Spirit makes it possible.
2008-04-25 – “Spiritual Gifts”
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (1Corinthians12:4-7)
We come now to the topic of Spiritual Gifts. I covered this topic in great detail in 2003 in a series entitled “Fruit and Gifts” which is available from our website (http://www.emmanuel.org.za go to Resources and then eDevotions.)
There are a few things that need to be confirmed and reaffirmed in the light of this passage:
1. Paul describes gifts, service and workings as the manifestation of the Triune God. They are from God. Sometimes they are extensions of our natural gifts or “talents” but with the Spirit’s aid, they are “more” when used in God’s service.
2. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts as He sees fit. People often ask for specific gifts (eg Many people ask to be able to speak in tongues) but the Holy Spirit gives these gifts according to His plan and purpose.
3. The Holy Spirit gives the gifts in accordance with the need of the church. The gifts are given for the “Common Good” and they are privileges not rights.
4. There is an incredible variety of gifts. We find a list of dramatic or Spiritual Ministry gifts here in 1Cor12 – these tend to be the “sensational” ones as they include healing and speaking in tongues. There is a list of more practical gifts in Rom12. In Ephesians 4 the gifts that are needed for church building and planting are listed. Peter’s first letter also alludes to the outworking of the Spirit in practical ways.
The bottom line of the Gifts is this: They are from the Holy Spirit and at His discretion and are for the building up of the church and the glory of God.
2008-05-14 – “A promise He makes”
21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
One of the wonderful comforts about Christianity is that our starting point is firm and strong – because it does not depend on us. It is God who makes us stand firm in Christ.
The cross is the bedrock on which our relationship with God is built. We were unable to live God’s way and so God sent Jesus to do it for us. When we are wrapped in His forgiveness and His perfect life, we stand firm in Him.
But this is not the end of the Good News. Not only is our starting point sure and firm – our endpoint is secure in the promises of God. The Holy Spirit is poured out in us as a seal, a deposit and a guarantee.
When I was at University, I was co-opted into a committee that was examining this passage and its implication for a modern creed that the Denomination’s Doctrine Committee was formulating. Without going into the technicalities, the bottom line is that each of the words is a great help in understanding the promises of the Spirit’s presence.
-Seal: Think of the Roman wax seals on letters imprinted with the emperor’s ring. It means that the promise is genuine and there is great authority in the Maker of the promise.
-Deposit: (Can also be translated ‘downpayment’ or ‘firstfruit’) The point being made is that by the presence of the Spirit, we are already experiencing something of what is to come. Jesus said it best in John17:3 – “now eternal life is knowing You…” The comfort and joy our relationship with God gives us now is just a foretaste of heaven!
-Guarantee: God’s ongoing presence in our lives by His Spirit gives us the solid assurance that He will not let go of us.
We have a firm start in Christ and the deposit, seal and guarantee of the Holy Spirit to know that our end is in His hands.
Thank You Lord!
2008-05-15 – “Ink or Life?”
3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Paul was having trouble with the Corinthians. They were being influenced by so-called “Super Apostles” who had fancy letters of reference from various churches, but were false teachers. Paul seemed rather bland in comparison…
But in vv1-2 he turns the tables on them: “You are our letter of reference. The change in your lives is the evidence of God’s work in us all.”
Here in verse 3 Paul goes on to explain that the Corinthian believers can be living letters – not like dusty old scrolls of dead law and tradition, but living life giving letters.
The Holy Spirit translates the Laws and Commandments of God into the practicalities of Love and Service. He writes on our lives with flaming letters of conviction, power, passion, illumination and truth in such a way that our lives become a powerful message of life and hope to others.
This is living, breathing, dynamic faith-life. It’s exhilarating, life-changing and impact-causing.
Unfortunately we are often afraid of the very dynamic ways in which this works.
– We don’t enjoy being convicted of the right thing when we’re in the middle of a wrong thing.
– We don’t like being pushed out of our comfort zones in worship and service.
– We don’t always find it easy to follow His leading.
Then we go back to writing with ink, or to switch analogies, we go back to the inflexible stone tablets of tradition. When we do this, then our lives become “history” instead of “His Story.”
2008-05-16 – “Bringing Life”
6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Paul is still talking about the ministry of ink and stone contrasted to the ministry of life and Spirit (see yesterday’s dev…) He is now at pains to contrast the legalism promoted by the Pharisees to the life of the Spirit contained in the gospel.
The “religion” of the Pharisees was marked by rules and regulations – endless “do and don’t” commands that had to be kept by the worshipper.
It required relentless focus and constant effort because there was no room for slip-ups.
The rewards were a sense of guilt for laws not kept or broken and even if one did well the only reward was a sense of one’s own achievement which inevitably led to pride! Legalism kills: If the guilt doesn’t get you then pride will!!!
Part of the deadliness of legalism lies in the fact that it is based on our effort. It’s up to us whether we are competent. It all depends on our ability to keep the laws. It moves the focus from God to me dwelling either on my failure or my “success” at keeping rules.
The life of the Spirit is different:
– Christ has made us competent by forgiving the guilt of our sin.
– The Spirit doesn’t supply rules, He changes hearts.
The Holy Spirit’s work in us is to make us _want_ to be close to God. The Spirit transforms us to ever-increasing likeness to the image of Jesus. Obeying rules is not His focus. His focus is relationship.
If the law was actually meant to describe what God is like rather than making us jump through hoops for the sake of the hoops, then knowing God better helps us keep the laws instinctively. We deal with sin for the sake of our relationship with Christ – this is the focus. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
2008-05-20 – “Created for Eternity”
1 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands… 5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Sometimes we knock our tent-pegs in too deep…
Paul describes our earthly life as a tent compared to the _building_ that our eternal life with Him is going to be.
Unfortunately we lack imagination and vision – we get so absorbed in this life that we lose perspective. Instead of living long-term, we live short-term.
– We worry more about what our neighbours will think than about what God will think.
– We spend lots of money on houses and cars and very little time on our relationships with God and our family.
– We chase after things that have very little long-term value and miss the eternity-impacting character opportunities that come across our path each day.
We knock our tent-pegs in too deep.
Ecclesiastes says: “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
This promise of eternity in our hearts is fulfilled in the work of the Holy Spirit.
That feeling that we have in the still, small voice of our hearts – “I was made for more than this” is from the Holy Spirit. He is the One who prompts us and assures us that there is more to this life. He is the One who tugs and wiggles at our tent pegs so that they are loose enough that we can pitch our tents wherever God leads us and ultimately pack up our tents for our heavenly home!
2008-05-21 – “Benediction”
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2Corinthians13:14)
We hear this benediction every Sunday, but it still thrills me!
Explore each of the three blessings with me…
Someone described GRACE as an acronym for God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Grace is pardon, unmerited favour, unearned family-membership, and the undeserved smile of God on us.
God’s LOVE is best encapsulated in the Father who gave His Son. Having become a father I am starting to scratch at the surface of this. If I as an imperfect father find it unbearable to consider giving up my son, I can barely fathom what it must have cost the perfect Father. But because of His loving act, I know that I am valuable and loved.
The journey of life is hard and as inspiring as corporate worship can be, the wonderful truth is that when it ends, we are “benedicted” with the comforting truth that we go in the FELLOWSHIP of the Spirit.
You are not alone, you are INdwelt, INspired, INstructed, INclined, INstigated, INcreased, INdicated, INduced, INfluenced, INhabited, INitiated, INsighted, INstinct-ed, INvited, INvolved and INtegrated by the Holy Spirit who INtercedes for you and who INvestigates and INterrogates you, INterpreting God’s will for you INventing and INnovating INgeniously and INfinitely in you the best you that you can be so that you are INseparable from God, INtimately INtoxicated and INtrigued by His love and INfectious to others!
Thank You Lord!