Monthly Archives: October 2013

October 31 Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 16

Paul concludes this great epistle with instructions concerning a collection for the needy saints in Judea, a sharing of his travel plans, and final instructions and encouragements and greetings.

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Opportunities and Adversities

Devotional Text: 1 Corinthians 16:9

Who doesn’t want God working on their side?  to be blessed by God?  for God to guide our steps and show us the way? to live our lives in concert with His will and purpose?

Can you imagine what that would mean for you?  You would be unstoppable, invincible, and nothing could ever get in your way or overcome you.  So that sounds like it would be a breeze, right?  I mean, what would we have to ever worry about?

In light of all of this, Paul makes an interesting observation about his stay in Ephesus.  He does want to visit Corinth after he leaves and perhaps even spend the winter there.  But for now he’s going to remain where he’s at, at least until Pentecost, “for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Cor. 16:9).

Paul was no doubt very much in tune with God’s will and the work He wanted him to do.  But even with the opportunities God provides there may well be obstacles, hardships, and opposition.  Looking for circumstances where no negatives exist may seem like a sign of God’s approval and directing, but that’s not necessarily true.  Adversity frequently accompanies the work God leads us to do.

–David Deffenbaugh

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Grace and Works: It’s Not What You Think

Devotional Text: 1 Corinthians 15:10

I want to understand grace better.  I want a right understanding and recognition of God’s grace to envelope my life.  We can only say for ourselves, what Paul says for himself, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

I presume, and I believe safely so, that Paul knows grace better than do I or any other man for that matter.  But notice this startling statement very close on the heels of his confession of absolute dependence on grace, “I worked harder than any of them [other apostles], though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).  In a discussion of grace Paul claims to have worked very hard.  How can that be?

There is only one sense in which grace and works are exclusive of each other. That is as the basis of and means of attaining salvation.  But to suggest that grace is mutually exclusive of all work is incorrect.  God’s great grace as bestowed on Paul did not automatically eliminate all work.  Instead, Paul saw that grace as the very reason he should work hard; he was so undeserving and so grateful for what he received.

Recognition of God’s great grace leads me to greater, more fervent, and stronger service to God.  God’s grace, rightly understood, does not demand less of me, but much, much more.

–David Deffenbaugh

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October 30 Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 15

Truly this chapter must be regarded as among the very most important in all of the Bible.  Here Paul speaks to the resurrection of the dead.  He spends a great deal of time addressing Jesus’ resurrection, but his primary point is our own resurrection—which is based on Jesus’ rising from the dead.  As he plainly states, if Christ is not raised then our faith is worthless, we are still in our sins, and we, as believers, are among all men most to be pitied.  It is simply impossible to over state the importance of the resurrection.

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October 29 Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 14

This chapter actually serves as the conclusion of a rather lengthy discussion from Paul that began in chapter 12.  It begins with, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed” (1 Cor. 12:1).  In this portion of the discussion instruction is provided regarding the assemblies in which these gifts were exercised.  Paul’s teaching is quite valuable in providing important insights in to the nature of these gifts, but also in a more general way in regard to all Christian worship assemblies.

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Strive to Excel

Devotional Text: 1 Corinthians 14:12

Spiritual excellence is a most noble pursuit.  The Bible constantly encourages and prompts us in that direction.  “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Php. 3:14).  “Until we all attain…to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).  “…until Christ is formed in you!” (Gal. 4:19).

We may have some rather definite thoughts on how that will play out in our lives.  Hopefully those thoughts will be defined by Scripture; Scriptures like “strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Cor. 14:12).

That principle was guiding Paul’s thoughts in giving instructions about the practice of miraculous gifts in the worship assembly at Corinth.  We may not be dealing with the same particulars (miraculous gifts), but the principle does not change.

We will be well served, the cause of Christ will be advanced, and God will be glorified if our own actions and course as Christians would driven by the desire to excel in building up the Lord’s body, the church.

–David Deffenbaugh

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October Week 5 Bible Reading Introduction

October Week 5: Supplemental Reading—1 Corinthians 14-16
October 29-31

The last three days of this month will be devoted to completing the reading of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth.  Technically, though, it is not his first as he references a previous letter sent to them (see 1 Cor. 5:9,11).  But from the vantage point of Scripture, it is the first.

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October 28 Bible Reading: Catch Up Day

Today is the regularly scheduled “Catch Up” day for the fourth week of October.  If needed use it to go back and cover some readings where you may have fallen behind—it happens.  Otherwise, below are some thoughts for your consideration for today from this week’s readings.

1. Certainly one of the great values of the 1 Corinthian letter is the insight it provides for spiritual formation.  Here is a group of Christians being addressed who are in need of correction, instruction, guidance, repentance, and growth.  Paul provides the words whereby these may all be accomplished.  The fact that they are addressed as Christians and yet have many shortcomings and failings is no justification for their weakness, spiritual immaturity, and mistakes.  Where they are in their understanding and behavior and where they could and should be are clear.  Will those changes happen?  Will the learning take place?  Will repentance come?  Will these Christians grow and their spiritual lives develop?  That, indeed is the question.

2. It is of great benefit that we see not only Paul’s answers to the questions posed to him, but we also see the way he approaches the questions.  For instance when asked about the propriety of a Christian eating meats that had been a part of a heathen sacrifice, he doesn’t just approach it from the vantage point of whether it is right or wrong.  There are other factors to consider.  That one may have a right to do a thing, does not make it right to do so.   What about the impact of one’s actions on another Christian whose understanding and maturity may not be as great as it could be?

3. First Corinthians 13 is a favorite of people “in love.”  It’s a common text read in wedding ceremonies and has been the fodder for many discussions in marital counseling settings.  All of these are quite appropriate.  But, that is not the primary focus of this great chapter.  Instead, the point is the love that all Christians are to have for each other.  This is not a love reserved for the strong emotions between individuals of the opposite sex. This not for a limited few, but for every one, without exception. We are to love each other the way this incomparable text bears out.

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The Right Questions

Devotional Text: 1 Corinthians 10:23

Is it right or is it wrong?

That’s an important question to answer for anyone with any concern for righteousness.  The problem comes when we think it’s the only question to answer.  It’s really only half of the equation.  It only tells me what I shouldn’t do, not what I should do.  For that we need additional questions; like, is it helpful? and does it build up?  (1 Cor. 9:23).

A concern for righteousness demands greater depth of living that just avoiding the wrong, it is also all about pursuing the right, doing the best, and actively serving the well being of others.  God doesn’t just avoid doing us harm, He’s actively working for our good.

Is it right or wrong is a good question but it’s only the first question.

–David Deffenbaugh

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Can You See God’s Spirit at Work?

Devotional Text: 1 Corinthians 13

What Christian is not interested in God’s Spirit working in them and through them?  How else can real spirituality be experienced than for God’s Spirit to be at work in us.  But really, what does that look like?

It is true that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit at work can and has been seen in the form of the miraculous; speaking in tongues, healing the sick, raising the dead, prophesying, and so on.  What is important here, and far too frequently missed, is that the most important evidence of the Spirit’s work is love.

During Paul’s discussion of the miraculous spiritual gifts in the church at Corinth he encourages these Christians to give attention to “a still more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31).  That way, of course, is love.  More excellent than all the miracles.  More excellent because its absence renders anything and everything else I might do, no matter how otherwise impressive, as worthless (1 Cor. 13:1-3).

What does the Spirit at work look like?  Love.

Still in doubt?  Scripture says that the presence of God’s Spirit bears fruit.  “The fruit of the Spirit is love…” (Gal. 5:22).

God’s Spirit at work looks like love.

What does God’s Spirit look like in you?

–David Deffenbaugh

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