Chapter 13 might be the most wonderful literature in history. After all Paul has dealt with in this letter, after all his frustration, correction, and teaching, he wants the Corinthians to understand this one thing; love. He wants them to be united as one body, the body of Christ, and this is how that solidarity is achieved; love.

In everything they do, in everything they strive for, in all of their differences, and all the ways they try to get things “right”, it’s all meaningless without love.

One writer even says, “God is love.” (I Jn. 4:16)
Jesus sums up the central theme of the scripture, “love God, and love others”. (Matt. 22:37)

Love is absolutely essential for a follower of Jesus, and this is why we continue to stress loving people with no strings attached.

And so the other day I helped take the food from the MMCC food drive down to Living Water Fellowship. Some men from the discipleship house came out to help unload the groceries. These men are rough men, many rehabbing from addictions and a wrecked life. They were overwhelmed with the amount of food being organized for distribution.
One man asked me, “Why are you all so generous?”
And I got to tell him, “Because we love you.”
And he said, “but you don’t even know us.”
And I responded, “It doesn’t matter, God knows you, and so we love you.”

We are fully known by God, and he still loves us. (vs .12)
An activity we do with our students:
Look at verses 4-7, anytime you see the word love, replace it with your name. _________________ is patient. __________________ is kind.
Can you still read these verses with your name replacing love? Will it still be true?


Context plus the Holy Spirit

With a few exceptions, the Apostle Paul’s letters were written to meet an immediate situation. Often times, there was some threatening situation in the churches in Corinth, or Galatia, or Philippi, and Thessalonica. And so when we read the Letters of Paul we must keep the context of which they were written in mind. Did anyone have a tough time with I Cor. 11:1-10? What does this instruction mean for us in today’s world? Should women still cover their heads when they pray? Or was there a certain kind of “woman” who uncovered her head in a place like Corinth that Paul is addressing? Context is important…

But we also must remember that a thing is not transient because it was written to meet an immediate situation.
Think of the greatest love songs of the world. Most of them were written about one person, but everyone likes them. We connect with certain songs because we understand the situation. Couples will even claim one as “our song.”

So it is with Paul’s letters. They may have been written to meet a threatening danger, a difficult circumstance, or addressing issues, but we have much to learn from them. For even though human culture changes, the human situation does not. And so God still speaks to us through these letters he inspired Paul to write 2000 years ago. That is why these letters are considered Holy Scripture; they are alive and active.

Context with the Holy Spirit guiding us is important, otherwise we would have a lot of bald women walking around (I Cor. 11:6).


the body

I absolutely love Paul's discussion about the body, or the church. Paul is clear that each believer receives a gift from God's Spirit and that this gift is to be used to build up the church. He speaks about the church as a body - a group of individual parts working together for the greater good. Each part is vital. There is not one part that can be removed without hurting the body. In other words, there is no appendix in the church. You are a vital part of the church. Regardless of what gift you think you may or may not have, you are a vital part of the church. MMCC is not what God had in mind if you are not using your gift to build up the body, the church. (How is that for guilt?) If you are a believer, you have a gift that fulfills an important role in the church.
So, to build one another up, what gifts do you see functioning in our church body today? Who do you see using a gift that God gave them? For example, Christy Fay and Dan Smith used their gifts the past two weeks to bring The Shack to life in Sunday morning worship.
And, what gift do you bring to the body? Are you using it?


Sin City

Some much needed background information on Corinth:

If you look at a map of the Mediterranean World in the 1st Century, you will find Corinth located on a four mile wide Isthmus that divides the northern and southern parts of Greece. Mariners would actually pull their boats out of the water and drag them on rollers across this isthmus instead of sailing around the dangerous waters of southern Greece. The voyage around Greece’s southern waters was so dangerous that the sailors had a saying, “Let him who sails around (southern Greece) first make his will.” And so people from all over the world would pass through either for trade or on a journey.

This strategic location allowed Corinth to be one of the greatest trading and commercial centers of the ancient world. Its wealth and diversity resulted in an epicenter of culture and fashion.

But there was another side to Corinth. Not only was it known for its wealth and culture, but it also had a reputation for being an evil and immoral city. It was probably a Spring Break destination for ancient young 20 somethings. There was another saying popular in this time period, “korinthianzesthai” or “To live like a Corinthian”, which meant to live with drunken and immoral debauchery. No one is even sure what debauchery means... it is so bad, we can't talk about it :)

One reason for the evil was that above the isthmus there towered the hill of Acropolis, and on it stood the great temple of Aphordite, “goddess of love.” One thousand priestesses worked in this temple as sacred prostitutes, and in the evening they descended upon Corinth and plied their trade in the streets. Another saying became popular; “It is not every man who can afford a journey to Corinth.” Which might have been similar to “What happens in Vegas…”

And so this new, diverse group of Christians starts meeting in this city. Can you imagine some of the “issues” they might have been dealing with? Can you imagine the frustration of Paul as he tries to instruct and bring wisdom, grace and truth to this young church?

More thoughts on this tomorrow…