“Jesus Answers” ( John 6:29, WYC ) by Carley Evans

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“Jesus answers, and says to them, This is the work of God, that ye believe to him, whom he sent.”

The question is: “What shall we do, that we work the works of God?” Just as in Jesus’ day when He walks the earth, people ask and argue this question every day. Some people debate while others actually denigrate others’ ideas of what it means to “work the works of God.”

“And now dwelleth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the most of these is charity.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) Paul answers the question, “What shall we do, that we work the works of God” with a strong reminder that without charity, we are nothing.

I’ve actually heard people downplay the value of love, spouting that holiness is the key to God. Jesus, I believe, agrees except that He says that without love, holiness is of no value because without love, there is no holiness.

“Long-Suffering” ( 1 Corinthians 13: 4-5, KJV ) by Carley Evans

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Can you see yourself suffering for a long time under the abuse of a wife or husband? Can you see yourself being only kind to that person? Can you see yourself not envying your neighbor whose wife apparently treats him like a king? Can you imagine never seeking your own welfare? Can you imagine not being easily provoked and not thinking evil of the spouse who abuses you? Can you not think more highly of yourself because you live under the thumb of an abusive spouse?

4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.”

“The Sting And Power Of Sin” ( 1 Corinthians 15: 56, NIV ) by Carley Evans

“Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:50)

Rather, the mortal will clothe itself with immortality, says Paul. When? At the last trumpet. At that moment, in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, death will be swallowed up in victory.

We know “the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”

The good news is that eventually we will be freed from sin and the consequence of the law which is death. At that time, we shall bear the likeness of the man from heaven. When? When we are given the victory over death through that same man, our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

“We will all be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51) We will become like “the second man from heaven” and will no longer be like the “first man [who] was of the dust of the earth.” (1 Corinthians 15:46)

We will no longer be subject to the sting or the power of sin.

“Why Is My Freedom Judged?” ( 1 Corinthians 10: 27, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

If an unbeliever invites me to dinner and I want to go, I “eat everything that is set before [me], without raising questions of conscience.” “Everything is permissible,” says Paul although he admits that “not everything is helpful.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)

That’s a perfect way of looking at consumables  — whether meats, vegetables, breads, milks, sodas, coffees, teas, beers, wines or liquors. All of these are permissible; not all are helpful. Some definitely offend others’ consciences. When my consumption of any one of them offends, I “do not eat it, out of consideration for the one who tells [me]” for the sake of their conscience, not my own. “For why is my freedom judged by another person’s conscience?” (1 Corinthians 10:29)

“If I partake with thanks, why am I slandered because of something I give thanks for?” (1 Corinthians 10:30) “Therefore, whatever I eat or drink, or whatever I do, I do everything for God’s glory.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) On top of this, I “try to please all people in all things, so that they may be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10:33)

How is it that pleasing others in all things leads them to salvation? Paul says that he does not seek his own profit, “but the profit of many.” (1 Corinthians 10:33) Seeking the good of others by imitating Jesus, according to Paul, enables salvation. After all, something attracts unbelievers to Christ. We may as well be attractive. As Paul says, “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

“The Greatest Of These” ( 1 Corinthians 13: 13, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

Paul writes that three remain: “faith, hope, and love.” Then, he writes that “the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) “One and the same Spirit is active in all these;” (1 Corinthians 12:11) but the greatest spiritual gift is love.

Recently, I’ve heard Christian love poo-poohed with a resulting twinge in my heart. Yet Jesus clearly teaches us to love one another, that love is required if we are to lay down our lives for one another, and so for Him. Without love, our other gifts bring us to nothing. Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)

“When the perfect comes, the partial comes to an end. When I am a child, I speak like a child, I think like a child, I reason like a child. When I become [an adult], I put aside childish things. For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but I will know fully, as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:10-12)

In Jesus knowing me is my salvation. Because He loves me, I am able to love myself and therefore to love others. Without love, I am nothing.

“Being The Very Last” ( 1 Corinthians 11: 19, NIV ) by Carley Evans

Perhaps Paul is not being facetious when he tells the church at Corinth, “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.” But in his letter, he writes, “In the following directives I have no praise for you.” (1 Corinthians 11:17) Therefore, it is conceivable Paul is pointing out that these men are divisive when they “come together as a church” in order to show themselves as better than one another. The awful, sometimes gut-wrenching and always anxiety producing desire to be recognized as the best of many or at least the better of two is often destructive of all — of the whole body of Christ.

I think of the two disciples, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who ask Jesus for the privilege of sitting at places of honor when He comes into His kingdom. Rather than being satisfied with their current walk with Him and the promise of being with Him in eternity, they each struggle for more — for that which they are not qualified. For Jesus tells them they know not what they are asking.

The disciples — not only James and John — argue on the road to Capernaum “about who is the greatest.” (Mark 9:34) And Jesus says, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

Seeking recognition from others rather than serving others is self-defeating and ultimately destructive. Be at peace with who you are, what God has given to you, and what He asks of you and where He has placed you. Start there at “the very last.”

“Pitfalls” ( 1 Corinthians 8: 3, NEB ) by Carley Evans

“This ‘knowledge’ of yours is utter disaster to the weak, the brother for whom Christ died. In thus sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience, you sin against Christ,” writes Paul to those in Corinth who ‘have knowledge’ that they have ‘liberty’ to eat foods consecrated to idols. (1 Corinthians 8:11-12) Paul writes, “Be careful that this liberty of yours does not become a pitfall for the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:10)

Why is it fine for one person to ‘eat foods consecrated to idols’ while being sinful for another? The answer is the level of knowledge. The ‘stronger’ Christian knows that there is no false god; the false god does not exist except in the minds of its worshipers. Therefore the food being consecrated remains food; there is no change in its composition. There is no power in its sacrifice.  The ‘weaker’ Christian has faith, but his knowledge is less. He does not fully understand that the food has no value to the idol; that the idol has no power. Perhaps he has grown up sacrificing to idols. His conscience is pricked when he is “emboldened to eat food consecrated to a heathen deity;” therefore, when he eats, he sins. Paul therefore says, “If food be the downfall of my brother, I will never eat meat any more, for I will not be the cause of my brother’s downfall.” (1 Corinthians 8:13)

To the Romans, Paul writes: “If a man is weak in his faith you must accept him without attempting to settle doubtful matters. For instance, one man will have faith enough to eat all kinds of food, while the weaker man eats only vegetables. The man who eats must not hold in contempt the man who does not, and he who does not eat must not pass judgment on the one who does; for God has accepted him. Who are you to pass judgment on someone else’s servant? Whether he stands or falls is his own Master’s business; and stand he will, because His Master has power to enable him to stand.” (Romans 14:1-4)

And, he says: “As a Christian, nothing is impure in itself; only, if a man considers a particular thing impure, then to him it is impure. If your brother is outraged by what you eat, then your conduct is no longer guided by love. Do not by your eating bring disaster to a man for whom Christ died! What for you is a good thing must not become an occasion for slanderous talk.” (Romans 14:14-16)

Paul tells the stronger and weaker brothers not to argue with one another over “doubtful matters,” not to condemn one another. But, he particularly tells the stronger brother to avoid offending the weaker brother’s conscience, which may lead him to an action which he considers ‘impure’ and perhaps thrust him into sin. “If you have a clear conviction, apply it to yourself in the sight of God. Happy is the man who can make his decision with a clear conscience! But a man who has doubts is guilty if he eats, because his action does not arise from his conviction, and anything which does not arise from conviction [faith] is sin.” (Romans 14:22-23)

“If a man loves, he is acknowledged by God.” (1 Corinthians 8:3)

“Love At Full Strength” ( 1 Peter 4: 8-9, NEB ) by Carley Evans

Peter calls us to “lead an ordered and sober life, given to prayer” because “the end of all things is upon us.” (1 Peter 4:7) Even above this ordered life, however, Peter urges us to “keep [our] love for one another at full strength.” This brotherly love – at its full strength – “cancels innumerable sins.” Perhaps this is partly true because Jesus recognizes our love for Him in how we treat one another.

Paul says, “I will show you the best way of all.” (1 Corinthians 12:31) The best way is love. Paul reminds that “if [we] have no love, [we] are none the better” even if we “have faith strong enough to move mountains.” (1 Corinthians 13:3) Above all else, “love will never come to an end.” (1 Corinthians 13:8) “There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)

Let us love one another.

“No Place For Human Pride” ( 1 Corinthians 1: 26, NEB ) by Carley Evans

“Think what sort of people you are, whom God has called,” writes Paul to the Corinthian church members. Paul reminds that most of them are not “men of wisdom, by any human standard” or “powerful or highly born.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-27) Instead, these people are “what the world counts folly” and “what the world counts weakness,” “the low and contemptible, mere nothings.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28) Why does God choose such people for His own? Paul says, God’s purpose is “to shame what is strong, to overthrow the existing order”; and most importantly, to show once and for all “there is no place for human pride in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:27,29,30)

“If a man must boast, let him boast of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31)

“But The Truth Is” ( 1 Corinthians 15: 20, NEB ) by Carley Evans

“All will be brought to life in Christ,” writes Paul. “But each in his own proper place.” (1 Corinthians 15:23) “Christ was raised to life — the firstfruits of the harvest of the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15:20) Later, “at His coming, those who belong to Christ” will be raised. And at the end of time, all will rise to stand at the judgment where God the Father will “abolish every kind of domination, authority, and power.” And, then — finally — He will “put all enemies under His feet; and the last enemy to be abolished is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:25,26)

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, stand firm and immovable, and work for the Lord always, work without limit, since you know that in the Lord your labour cannot be lost.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)