My dear child,
(1-2) This letter comes through my servants Paul and Sosthenes, whom I called to preach my good news. They wrote this message to the Corinthian church under the direction of my Holy Spirit. Corinth was a metropolitan city located on a land bridge in Greece, a crossroads for many different people and ideas. Through Paul, I reminded these believers that they were made right with me because of my Son. I also reminded them that they were not isolated, but connected with believers everywhere.
(3) As was Paul’s common practice, his salutation was “grace and peace.” He did not want anything to distract them from the core message that grace for life and peace with me were found in my Son, Jesus.
(4-9) Then Paul offered thanks to me for my ongoing work through my Spirit. My grace is for salvation and sanctification. My Son makes you a better person; what you know and how you talk are changed by him. When people look at your life, they can see evidence of my Spirit’s work. Through my Spirit, you do not lack anything you need for a godly life. Not only are you equipped for your journey, but you are being kept safe by my Son. You will not be found guilty when he returns. I am faithful to you and my Son, my Spirit, and I will be with you forever.
(10-16) Listen little one: work hard to agree with one another that in my Son, you are all united. I have called everyone to faithfully represent my Son. Selfishness that leads to quarrels and division is one of humanity’s most destructive activities. Believers all over the world fight about their own rightness. One person says, “I am Lutheran” while another says, “I am Catholic,” and they call into question one another’s salvation. Listen, in my Son there is no division. Martin Luther never saved anyone. St. Augustine never saved anyone. Not even Paul saved anyone. It is my Son, and only my Son, who has the power to save. When you are baptized, you are baptized into Christ, not into a specific denomination.
(17-25) When my Spirit commissions someone, it is to share the good news of my kingdom, plain and simple. My Son’s crucifixion seems to be a stupid waste to most people. All they see is a man who was pointlessly killed, but when you truly know him, his cross is not death, but life! My wisdom is often contrary to what the world calls wisdom. The world is filled with philosophers, authors, scientists, and what societies call “great thinkers,” yet in light of my eternal power and wisdom, the sum of their combined knowledge equals nothing. Despite the common belief held by industrialized nations, technology, science, and philosophy save no one. I alone have the power to save through my Son, yet the world scoffs at him all the way to their destruction. The wisdom of my kingdom, preached by fallible humans through my Spirit, is what reaches hearts. Scientists demand proof of my existence, even though they ignore what is right before their eyes. Philosophers seek after knowledge, but they fail to see that I am the beginning and the end of all wisdom. When they think about my Son’s death on the cross, it is foolish to them. They cannot accept that a man could die and rise again. Even if they could accept resurrection, they cannot accept that my Son’s act would have any eternal significance, but for people who have heard my call, my Son’s death and resurrection becomes the basis for your existence. It opens your eyes to see my wisdom and power. Even the smartest scientist or philosopher holds no candle to my infinite wisdom.
(26-31) Consider your own life and look at the people around you that I have used powerfully. Those who have most effectively represented me were not great because of worldly success, high IQs, or birthright. I choose to use whomever I want. I often use those who have no worldly position to shame those who arrogantly trust in their own brains or brawn. Listen, my Son seeks out those who are lowest on society’s ladder to reveal that it is not earthly success that grants you entrance into my presence, but rather it is union with my Son. If you want to brag about something, brag that you know him, the possessor of all wisdom and righteousness and growth and salvation.
(1-5) The message of my Son does not rely upon celebrity or compelling rhetoric, but on the transformative power of the cross. My Son willingly went to his death, taking your sin with him. It is my Spirit in you that matters; not knowing what every book ever written has to say.
(6-8) Yet there is a wisdom that the mature can hear; not book knowledge, but spiritual wisdom, which does not decay as time passes. This is the wisdom that was established even before I created the universe.[i] The world’s leaders trust in their own “wisdom,” which led them to crucify my Son.
(9-13) Neither your senses nor your imagination can comprehend what wonderful things are available in my Son, who loves you more than life. The Spirit reveals the depths of my Son’s love if you are willing to see it. Search your thoughts. Know yourself. My Spirit who lives within you knows all my thoughts. In my Son, and by my Spirit, you can discern the gifts you have been given. Tell everyone that will listen what my Spirit is teaching you.
(14-16) I know that you want to convince the whole world about my Son, but those whose heads are fully within the world are unable to hear my Spirit, believing that your faith is utter foolishness. It is only the one who heeds my indwelling Spirit who can accurately judge truth; and no one can judge him. When you recognize and live by my Spirit in you, your life reflects my Son.
(1-4) You need the basics. Like a newborn baby who requires the nourishment of his mother’s milk and not a chunk of steak, you need to feast on the simplicity of the gospel. You are not ready for complex meals because you are still living in the old way of your flesh. Your self-centeredness leads you to fight with others. You think that when you debate about theology, it means you are wise. You confidently assert, “I follow Calvin,” while another believer says, “I follow Wesley.” Too often, these debates are not wisdom, but pride.
(5-9) Who was John Calvin? Who was John Wesley? They were both men who loved me deeply and proclaimed the good news of my Son. There are many spiritual writers who can stimulate your thinking, but not one of them is responsible for your spiritual growth, which comes only by my Spirit. I will reward your work for my kingdom, but the reward is not based upon proving you are right.
(10-15) I use many different people to build up the household of faith because I am a gracious God. Early evangelists like Paul worked hard to build the framework of faith upon the solid foundation of my Son. Through two millennia of church history, many builders have continued adding on, using whatever resources they had available to them. I use both magnificent artisans and lowly carpenters for my purposes. Nothing is wasted when it is done for my glory. In the end, you will see the magnificence of one another’s works. In my refining fire, the true, good, and beautiful will shine with my glory, while those things that are evil will be burned up. Regardless, each person will be saved.
(16-17) Never forget that I created you and my Spirit dwells inside of you. So often, when you try to live by your own strength, you forget that you are more alive than you could possibly imagine. Because I am in you, you are holy.
(18-23) Sometimes, when I look at my church, I see people exchanging jabs and criticisms. I hate the way my people sin against one another. These conflicts often flow from an overconfidence in your own “wisdom.” You read books and you scan articles on the Internet, so you arrogantly think of yourself as having attained wisdom, but he who is truly wise understands that there is much that he does not know. Do not be afraid to acknowledge your own ignorance. A willingness to say “I don’t know” is a sign of godly humility. If you continue to pretend you have all the answers, your folly will eventually be revealed anyway. All your accumulated knowledge amounts to nothing if it is not from my Spirit. So do not brag about who you know or what you think you know; you already have everything you need in me. It does not matter what your circumstances are in the past, present, or future. Your identity is secure within the Trinity.
[i] Prov. 8:23.
(1-4) I want everyone to have a heart of service. You can serve others by honestly and faithfully guarding my word. As you reflect on your own life, remember that the judgments of others carry no real weight; in fact, even your self-judgments do not matter. I am the only one who has the right to judge and you have already been justified by the blood of my Son. My servant Tim Keller called this “the freedom of self-forgetfulness,” a freedom that releases you from the burdens of pride and self-condemnation.
(5) When the time comes, I will judge, so do not carry the burden of judging others. Judgment is not your role. I alone can see into the depths of the heart. I already know about those things you are afraid are hidden. I am taking care of it.
(6-7) Paul and Apollos applied these principles to their ministries. I want you to do the same. Stick with my word; do not exaggerate to make yourself appear better than others. Are you really that different? Every good thing you have was received from me, so do not feel the pressure to brag about your own skills or achievements.
(8-10) You have everything you could possibly want. You are rich, powerful, and comfortable, but do those words describe a servant? My apostle Paul is proof that it is not possessions or power that make you effective; it is my Spirit in you. My apostles were not celebrities but suffering servants. The world considers my followers to be fools, but in my eyes, godliness is not folly, but wisdom; not weakness, but strength; not disrepute, but honor.
(11-13) Child, you will experience times of intense suffering. Your pain may be physical, psychological, or relational, but keep following me. Your labor is not in vain. When people treat you poorly or call you names, I want you to bless them. When you are attacked, persevere in my love. When people misrepresent what you have said, answer with kindness. By worldly standards, my followers are considered the scum of the earth.
(14-20) Do not be ashamed about these things, in yourself or in others. You are all a part of my family. There are millions of Christian books, podcasts, and media, but very few believers who know you deeply. Pay attention to the wisdom and insight of those with whom you are most connected and who show evidence of my Spirit. Watch how they live and then go and do likewise. Paul sent his disciple Timothy to the Corinthians so they could see godliness in action. Do not be so arrogant that you think that making your own way is best, as though I do not care how you live your life. Arrogant people are brash and confident, but there is no evidence of loving fruit in their lives. My kingdom is not made up of self-congratulating narcissists, but those who know that my power is made perfect in pain and weakness. Never underestimate the power of gentleness and love.
(1-2) The church is filled with immorality. Those who claim to be Christians delight in pornography, lust, adultery—sexual immorality of the darkest kinds. Too often, the church gives a pass to the sexually immoral, pardoning pastors and parishioners who abuse. These offenses should be cause for mourning. Their abuses should be called out and removed from the body.
(3-5) My words, delivered through Paul, should mark the seriousness of my judgment regarding these issues. My Spirit dwells in the assembled church, but I do not intermingle with evil. Do not downplay the seriousness of iniquity. Sin leads to spiritual, relational, and physical disintegration. Do not overlook sexual sins in the church. Those who engage in them are on the path to destruction. Do not stand in their way. If you allow them to pursue their self-centered ends outside of the faith community, they may reach the end of their rope. People often must hit bottom before they are able to look up and see their need for me. Some never do.
(6-8) Do not brag; it harms your soul. When arrogant people gather, the weeds of pride begin to grow and overtake the whole assembly of believers. Pull up the weeds of pride! Live with humility, knowing that your only hope is found in the blood of my Son. I want you to celebrate the truth that you are forgiven by me. When the reality of my mercy begins to form your identity, you will increasingly grow to hate the evil in your life.
(9-13) I know these are hard words—avoid celebrating together with those who choose to celebrate their lust. They call themselves Christians and want you to give approval to their harmful choices. You will not be able to avoid these things in the world—lust, greed, deceit, idolatry—but be cautious about those who claim to be my faithful servants, but make a practice of living primarily by the world’s standards. I am not asking you to judge those who are in the world, but rather to call those to account who confess my name but do not live that way. I have called Christians to a better way and you must help one another stay on the road.
(1-8) You will not always agree with your fellow believers. When you are holding something against someone, you may be tempted to immediately take them to court, rather than working on it in your community. Believers will participate in my final judgment, both of the world and of angels. Why let those who have no part in the church determine what is right regarding church matters? My Spirit equips you to be able to settle these disputes with one another. The world is watching how you handle conflict. It would be better to suffer than insist upon your own way, but lingering sinfulness is revealed in self-centeredness.
(9-11) People who continue to revel in their sinfulness are living outside of my kingdom. Sexual immorality, idolatry, robbery, greed, and drunkenness are evidence of living for the kingdom of self. You forget that you have been washed in the blood of my Son and my Spirit dwells within you.
(12) I hear you say that because of my grace you are free to live as you wish, but things I permit do not necessarily benefit you. Do not become enslaved by your freedom.
(13-14) You justify immorality by citing proverbs like “food for the stomach; the stomach for food.” Trite phrases like this may be partially true, but not when they are used to excuse sinfulness: “The body was created for the sex and sex for the body.” I did not make your body primarily for sexual pleasure, but to glorify me. I care about how you treat your body. In my eternal kingdom, you will not be some disembodied spirit, you will have a glorified body of flesh.
(15-17) You too easily miss the truth that your physical body is a part of Christ—not only your spirit, but your body too. Why would you take my Son, who dwells within you, and make him have sex with a prostitute or invite him into a one-night stand? It is unthinkable. When people have sex, a union forms between them. There is no such thing as “casual sex.” But if my Son dwells within you, you are of the same spirit.
(18-20) Do not toy around with lust. Nothing else you do affects your body as much as sex does. Broken sexuality damages you. Your body is a dwelling place for my Spirit—he lives in you. I have taken up residence in your flesh. Honor me with your body.
(1-4) Sometimes believers wonder if it is better to avoid sex altogether. Celibacy can be a good thing; however, you live in a highly sexualized culture where sex is everywhere, and it is hard to get away from it. Seek to keep sex in the marriage bed, husbands and wives fulfilling one another’s sexual needs. They belong to one another.
(5-7) Do not withhold sex from each other; abstinence is not my design for marriage. It can bring me honor if you stop having sex for a while so that you can focus on prayer, but only if you agree with one another about the decision, and then only for a brief time. It is too easy to allow Satan to put his foot in the door and exploit your lack of self-control. Not everyone can be celibate, nor should they be. Whether you are celibate and single or married and sexually active, honor me with your body.
(8-9) If you are unmarried or if your spouse died, you may find that life is easier when you do not have to deal with sex. But if temptations arise, rather than sleeping around or looking at porn, I would rather you marry. It is much better to be married than lusting all the time.
(10-11) Even if your marriage is struggling, it is generally better to stay married. Do not think that you will find deeper relational fulfillment with someone else because the old saying goes, “wherever you go, there you are.” If it is possible and wise, be reconciled to one another.
(12-14) Sometimes believers marry non-believers, which is unwise because alternative worldviews can lead to fundamental conflicts. At other times, one spouse stops following me, which is a painful situation. However, if the one who has turned their back on faith is willing to continue living with the believer, it is best to stay together. The willingness to remain brings my presence into the household in a more palpable way and when believers stay, it puts a visible representation of me before the kids.
(15-16) Sometimes the non-believer walks out. Let them go. You are no longer bound. Be at peace. But do not forget that you may have more influence on your spouse’s spiritual life than you realize.
(17-19) I put you in various circumstances and my desire is that you will bloom where you are planted. Pay attention to my Spirit and live with fullness wherever you are. Do not seek to be somebody else. You do not need to change your appearance to follow me. Whether circumcised or uncircumcised, be who you are. Outward signs do not matter to me. I am after your heart. Ask yourself, “is my heart committed to following Jesus’s command to love?”
(20-24) Changing your circumstances will not change your heart. If you were a servant when I called you, then love me as a servant. Do not worry about your social status; give yourself to love. If a better opportunity comes along, by all means take it if you wish, but wherever you are, serve me in love. Whatever your circumstances, you are my Son’s ambassador, bought with his blood. Whatever your circumstances, remember that you are with me.
(25) Sometimes my servant Paul would share counsel that he did not perceive as being a direct revelation from me, but it was wise nonetheless. His words are trustworthy.
(26-28) During stressful situations, your first inclination may be escape, but often one of the best things you can do for your soul is stay put. If you are married, stay married; if you are single, do not settle for someone just because you want to be married. I am not saying that marriage is sinful! Indeed, it is a part of my grand design, but contrary to what naiveté dictates, marriage is not an entryway into everlasting bliss. Married people face unique difficulties.
(29-31) Paul’s point was this: there is still much kingdom work to be done. My beloved children get so focused on the world beneath the sun that they miss the glory of my coming kingdom. Misplaced attachments will never fully satisfy you. Earthly things will pass away, but I never will.
(32-35) Constant anxiety was never my intent for you. Singles certainly have worries, but dealing with a spouse is not one of them. They are freer to think about how to love me best. They do not have to regularly face the conflict over how to balance loving me and meeting the needs of their spouse. Unmarried people can focus on my kingdom; married people can fall prey to neglecting me in favor of pleasing their spouses. These are not mandates, but rather to give wisdom in kingdom living. Briefly, whether you are married or single, love me with your whole heart.
(36-38) I created you with passions that sometimes run strong. I would rather that you marry than sin against others with unrestrained lusts. Marriage is not sinful, but I still want you to enter it with wisdom. Some people have their passions well in check, even when they are engaged to be married. There is no hurry to marry. Marriage is good, but in some cases, remaining single is preferable.
(39-40) I created marriage as a lifelong bond. But if one spouse dies, the widow is free to remarry. But again, singleness may be more satisfying.
(1) People so often get hung up on theological matters by asserting their rightness. In Paul’s day, the people were fighting about whether a believer could eat food offered to idols without offending me. In your day, there are many more theological debates—for example, Calvinism versus Arminianism, whether women should preach, or whether baptism is for infants or believers. Everyone likes to trot out a little bit of knowledge, assuming that their perspectives are the right ones, but when you are impressed with your own knowledge, you swell with pride; I see it all the time. Like a balloon, as you float up, you look down on others. That is not what love does. Love builds into others. Even in disagreement, love seeks the good of the other.
(2-3) When you assume your accumulated knowledge amounts to anything, you reveal your foolishness, but when you love me, you are known by me. What is better, to know facts about me, or to be known by me?
(4-6) Beloved, you do have a good grasp on many theological issues. In some cases, your ideas about me are more accurate than the people with whom you are interacting. It is enough for you to know that I am the One and that all things exist because of me. Rest in the knowledge that my Son’s life flows in and through you.
(7-13) Listen: not everyone possesses the same knowledge you have. Everyone is at a different place in my story. For example, some people grew up with alcoholic parents and for them, alcohol is evil, even if it carries no moral repercussions for you. It is their conscience, not yours that has been affected. Whether you choose to drink in moderation or abstain completely, it is not your choices that make you right with me. But if you feel free in an area where your brother or sister does not, do not flaunt your freedom and put them at risk for stumbling back into old patterns. When you flaunt your freedom without considering others, you may destroy them. What may seem to you to be a real-life demonstration of Christian freedom is actually destructive. When you cause another person to stumble, you sin against my Son. Instead, seek to love sacrificially. If setting aside your freedom builds up your brother and sister, it would be better for you to never indulge again.
(1-2) Paul faced criticism about his status as apostle. The word apostle means “sent one,” a person who carried my message. In the New Testament, it also referred to those whom my Son chose as ambassadors. Most people in the church accepted the original 12 and even Judas’s replacement, Matthias, but some questioned Paul’s legitimacy.
(3-7) Paul was frustrated about the criticisms that he faced day by day. The church expected things from Paul that were neither from me, nor expected from the other apostles. I never demanded that my ambassadors were supposed to avoid anything pleasurable. They are free to enjoy good food and wine. They are free to marry. They can be paid for their work. Let those who are a blessing be blessed.
(8-12a) As a former Pharisee, Paul knew my law. To add authority to what he was saying to them, he quoted Moses, who wrote that oxen should not be kept from the fruit of their labors. It is demoralizing to work without reward. That is one of the horrors of slavery. So share in the labors, and share in the fruits.
(12b-14) After making his case, Paul pointed out that he and Barnabas had set aside their right to payment. Why? Because they were dedicated to telling people about my Son that they wanted nothing to get in the way. All the same, preachers should receive support from the gathered church.
(15-18) If you have paid attention to this section of Paul’s letter, he alternated between talking about his rights and how he willingly surrendered those rights. He was not sending the Corinthian church a bill for services rendered. He was proud that he served my kingdom from a place of love rather than a passion for wealth. For Paul, the gospel was not a money-making opportunity; it was his life blood, as important to him as breathing. He could not resist telling the groundbreaking news about my Son. Whether he was paid or not, he could not keep his mouth shut, so he preached freely and without expectation of reward.
(19-23) Paul understood that the gospel set him free, but he chose the way of service, in order that more people might hear and receive my message. He was willing and able to adjust his approach so that people could hear about Jesus. He had lived as an observant, even zealous Jew his whole life, so to live among them was no stretch even though he knew that he was no longer under the law. He lived as a weak person among the weak, so that some of them would be saved. Everything Paul did, he did for my Kingdom.
(24-27) In the kingdom, some are especially fervent about getting my message out. If you are going to follow, follow hard. Elite athletes train wholeheartedly. They do what it takes to earn the gold medal, but even gold eventually loses its gleam. I am calling you to work toward a prize that will never fade: life with me. Live with purpose. Practice disciplined living so that your message is reflected in your own life. People do not trust hypocrites.
(1-5) It is important for you to not lose sight of the history of Israel. At my command, my servant Moses brought my people out of slavery in Egypt. He led them through the Red Sea, but the cloud of my Holy Spirit always pointed the way. I provided them with spiritual nourishment poured from the Rock that was with them. That Rock was my Son. Despite my presence, they often pursued other things. Instead of resting in my Son, they fell along the way because their hearts desired evil.
(6-12) I have given you 66 books not only so that you know the history, but also learn from it. The people in Moses’s day desired evil. They sought meaning and pleasure outside of me. In my felt absence, they made and worshipped a golden calf and 23,000 died in their idolatry. They had put my mercy to the test, and I allowed serpents to put them to death. All sin leads toward death and disintegration. Do not become proud; pride goes before the fall.
(13) Whatever temptations you face are not unique to you. In the fallen world, all temptations share a common thread, which is the belief that there is something better than me. Temptations will come to you in myriad ways, but I will never put you in a situation where you are unable to turn to my Son. He is always the way out.
(14-15) My child, do not toy around with idols. Flee from them back to my arms. You are wise enough to know their true peril.
(16-18) When you break bread and drink the cup together, it is participation in my Son’s body and blood. My Son came to bring unity into diversity, wholeness into brokenness. All who partake in the bread and the wine are nourished by the same Christ. Even before my Son came, those who ate of the sacrifice joined at the altar.
(19-22) Some people make sacrifices to demons. Idols are nothing and carry no real power in and of themselves, but those who are offering their sacrifices to idols have misplaced affections, and to demons no less! I do not want your heart divided by anything. You cannot live for me and for Satan. You can only dine at one table at a time, and I want you to dine with me.
(23-24) The blood of my Son cancelled the record of debt and the demands of the law. You technically have the freedom to do many things, but just because you have freedom does not imply that all actions are wise or loving. Selfish living harms your neighbor, but it also harms you. I have called you to love one another.
(25-30) Here is how this could practically look. You are absolutely free to eat or drink whatever you would like. If you are invited to dinner, eat and enjoy from the abundance of my creation. I have no moral opposition. But if your host makes it clear that the food he is serving supports his idolatrous beliefs, you should decline. For example, if he brags about how he mistreats his servants who have prepared the food, politely say no. It is not your conscience but his that is at risk. You may be free, but he is still bound. When you partake, do so with thankfulness.
(31) Have this mindset: whether you are eating, or working, or having coffee with friends, or sleeping, or seeking entertainment, do it all for my glory. Ask yourself regularly, “How does this glorify the Lord?”
(32-33) Live non-offensively. I see too many of my followers majoring in criticism, sarcasm, and attack. Too many seem to get a charge out of riling up those who believe differently. You can stand boldly for my truth without being a jerk. Live rather to please others, even those who strongly disagree with you, not compromising truth, but live with kindness and other-centeredness so that others may come to know my Son.
(1) Paul walked in the way of my Son; go and do likewise.
(2) Traditions are important. Through the Bible writers, I provided instructions for life. Work hard to understand what I am communicating through them.
(3-15) Christ is the head of man and the head of the wife is her husband. I am the head of Christ. In my kingdom, we are all relationally interconnected. Carefully ponder this passage. I do not expect you to completely grasp what I am saying to you here. I had Paul write about these issues, because as I communicated through him in another letter to the Ephesians, submission is mutual. My Son and I are one and the same: we are of the same mind, yet he submits to me, and I to him. Not in hierarchy, but in love. In perfect relationships, submission works without conflict, but your lives are affected by the fall. Let your worship of me proceed with respect and reverence. It is too easy for you to lose sight of my holiness. In Paul’s culture, a man who left his head covered or wore long hair was considered disgraceful and rebellious. A woman who cut her hair short may as well have shaved it. Symbolically, I created man in my image and not covering his head reflected that image. By the same token, women reflect the beauty and magnificence of mankind and by extension, reflect me. Humans are uniquely magnificent, reflecting my glory as the pinnacle of my creation, a true intermingling of spirit and flesh. Seek to honor both earth and heaven in how you worship, but do not miss the point that neither man nor woman are independent of one another. Rather, they flow from one another. Pay attention to how my servant Eugene Peterson phrased this in his Message paraphrase: “Don’t, by the way, read too much into the differences between men and women. Neither man nor woman can go it alone or claim priority…since virtually everything comes from God, let’s quit going through the ‘who’s first’ routine.”
(16) Too often, you fight and fuss over proper understanding. Honest wrestling with my word is a good and holy activity, but never let it be for the sole purpose of being disagreeable. The church, despite its differences, is one body, my Son’s body.
(17-18) I look at your gatherings and too often, they reflect self-centeredness. When you gather, there are divisions among you. You are there to celebrate the unity that comes through my Son’s broken body, but instead, you focus on the conflicts. These divisions reveal your heart.
(19-22) You think that when you come to church, you are following my Son’s instructions when taking communion, but you entirely miss the point, which is love. Some people come in early, grab their food and start eating when others have not even arrived yet. How is this “communion?” There is no mutuality. Some people remain hungry while others get drunk. That is not the purpose for the supper. If you are famished, eat at home. If you are embarrassing those who have nothing to bring to the table, you are utterly missing the point of a life of love. It breaks my heart when someone new or different comes into church and they are treated with suspicion and haughty judgment rather than being welcomed at my table. I have called you to honor one another and thereby honor me. Too often, Christians humiliate the less fortunate and isolate outsiders, and it infuriates me.
(23-26) Instead, always keep in mind the love my Son demonstrated in the upper room. Even though he knew he would be betrayed only hours later, he still served his friends. He thanked me for the provision and then he broke bread, reminding them of his soon to be broken body, given for them. He did the same with the cup, which was his shed blood, also for the purpose of their forgiveness and restoration to me. Every time you take communion, remember what Jesus died for, which was nothing short of the reconciliation of all things. His brokenness is your wholeness—with yourself, others, and me.
(27-30) Jesus showed you how to come together in a worthy manner, but how quickly you forget. Remember that the Lord’s Supper is a recollection of the wholeness that comes through my Son’s brokenness so before you come, ask yourself, do I have an issue with the people in this gathering? Am I holding grudges? Are there people here that I feel a block with? If you know there is division, yet you go ahead with communion, you judge yourself. You are saying that on the one hand you believe that my Son’s crucifixion justifies and restores, but on the other hand you do not practice it in your relationships. When you fail to care for your brothers and sisters, there are real consequences. People get sick and even die.
(31-32) If you consistently asked yourself how well you related with others, there would be no need for judgment, but when you ignore relational strife, you may feel the discomfort of my discipline, which is meant to shape you into a more loving person. My temporal discipline prevents eternal condemnation.
(33) When you gather for the meal, wait for each other. Do not lose sight of the purpose of the celebration. If you are famished, eat before you get there so that you do not invite judgment upon yourself.
(2-3) Look around, the world is full of idols. I created every single person with a passion for worship and everybody worships something: politics, sports, celebrities, social media, nature, or their country’s flag. But none of these things are divine. They cannot feed your soul’s deepest hunger. I have never encouraged people to substitute these other things for me. Still, I want you to understand that no one can say “Jesus is accursed” and truly mean it if they are indwelt by my Spirit. In the same way no one can say that my Son is Lord over all things and mean it except by the Spirit.
(1, 4-8) I want to take some time to discuss spiritual gifts, so that you might understand what I mean because Christians are often confused by them. My Spirit is one, but he bestows a variety of gifts. People serve in many different ways, but it is always me that they serve and I am the one who gives them the ability and drive to do so. My Spirit’s gifts are not for individual benefit, but for the whole.
(5-11) Some of my followers are especially wise; a gift from me. But my Spirit gives others knowledge, and yet others faith, the ability to heal, miracles, prophecy, discernment, communication, or understanding. Regardless, all gifts come from me. I always give each person as I see fit for the good of my kingdom.
(12-13) Many parts make up the whole. So it is with my church in my Son. I created each person uniquely, but by the cleansing waters of my gracious baptism, you are all invited into my body. Your principle status is not your culture, race, or ethnicity, but “Christian.”
(14-20) Think about your own body again. Your feet do not wish to be hands. They do not think any less of themselves because they cannot grasp a pen. They do what feet do. Ears do not complain that they cannot see. Instead, they delight in hearing. I have eloquently designed the body for movement, sensation, thinking, and communication, which requires many parts serving the one.
(21-26) It is important to take this a step further. Body parts cannot reject others that serve different purposes. The eyes do not reject the hands, nor the head reject the feet. Even those parts that seem to serve little purpose are essential to the whole. In my upside-down kingdom, it is the weak ones who receive greater honor. I want there to be no division in my body based upon who is better than whom. I have called you to take care of each other. When you suffer, suffer together. When you rejoice, rejoice together.
(27-31) My church is made up of parts, individual and unique, and it is also whole, unified and strong. You are built of apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healers, helpers, administrators, and communicators. Did I create all of you to be apostles? No. Neither did I make all of you prophets, teachers, or miracle workers. Seek to develop the gifts that I have given you and so glorify me.
(Pre) My child, this short section of my word has become amongst the most recognized and beloved. But I never intended it to be trite or sentimental; it is the very heart of life with me.
(1) You could be the most gifted communicator the world has ever seen. The world is filled with honey-tongued speakers who have no interest in me or others, and they miss the purpose for living: love. If you speak, but not from a place of love, you are just adding to the noise.
(2-3) You might have uncommonly perceptive wisdom and insight. You may be able to look at the events happening in your broken world and speak about them with conviction and clarity. You may be a human encyclopedia. You may possess a faith so strong that with you, the impossible becomes possible, but if you do not use those gifts to love, they are worthless. You may put yourself in the poorhouse because of your charity, or even sacrifice your very life, but this too can be done in unloving ways.
(4) What then is love? How do I want you to love in the manner of my Son? Be patient. Do not get irritated when others are not going at your pace or following your agenda. Be kind. There is so much biting animosity in the world and even in my church. It should not be that way. Treat people as my image bearers. A life of love is radically other-centered. Do not smolder with desire over what other people have. Be glad for them. Do not put yourself on a pedestal. There is no wisdom in telling others how wonderful you are. Arrogance and narcissism are the opposite of humility and love.
(5) Love is not rude, sarcastic, or mean-spirited. There are too many biting words in the world. Be countercultural. Here is another way to be countercultural: do not constantly bowl people over with your own sense of rightness. Life is not about you. Love and irritability cannot last long in the same container. Irritability drives people away from my love. Similarly, resentment is a bitter root that must be pulled up. You already have everything you need in me.
(6) Love does not celebrate the sins of others. Yes, I want you to be gracious and patient, but in doing so, do not let the pendulum swing so far that you rejoice in sin and brokenness. Instead, rejoice at the truth that is found with my Son.
(7) Love is all-encompassing goodness. To love someone is to bear their burdens, to listen with a compassionate ear, to place your hope in a future filled with my glory, and to help one another along life’s path until all things are restored to wholeness in me.
(8-12) True love never ends. All other gifts that I give—prophecy, tongues, knowledge, and things like these—will eventually be unnecessary, but the love that energizes those gifts never will. Right now, your gifts remain underdeveloped as you live in a broken world, but one day soon, wholeness will be realized as I set things right. At that time, you will see that these gifts are just scaffolding for my ultimate purpose: love. Growing in love is part of the process of maturing. Kids talk and think like kids are supposed to talk and think, but as you grow, your thinking grows along with it. When you look into a mirror now, you can only see an incomplete, distorted image of who you truly are, but soon you will see my love face to face. Right now, I give you tastes of my kingdom, but then, child, you will be feast upon the full banquet. You will fully know the experience of my glory, but I do not want you to miss this: in your knowing, you will also come to see how fully and completely I know you: your gifts and your brokenness, your goodness and your sins. My love covers the whole package. You will finally understand what it means to love without condition.
(13) I want my followers to manifest many traits. The trio of faith, hope, and love persist through fiery trial, but love is my highest call.
(1-5) As you seek to grow in maturity, remember that love is my standard. It is good to desire my gifts, especially the ability to speak truth to the world, but do not forget that even prophecy is to be done with an attitude of love and for the encouragement and comfort of my people. Speaking in tongues may have the effect of uttering mysteries of my Spirit, but too often, it remains shrouded in mystery. That spiritual experience may build you up, but if you are wanting to live a life of love, I want you to build others up. Yes, feel free to speak in tongues. I desire that, but I desire prophetic words even more, because they build up the church. Unlike tongues, prophecy requires no interpreter.
(6-12) Beloved, when a person speaks in tongues, what benefit is it to you? It is mysterious, sure, but it will not edify you unless he also offers words of encouragement, wisdom, or revelation. Musical instruments are a good analogy. In skilled hands, they produce a melody that tells a story, but when someone untrained blows upon a horn, it produces a powerful albeit meaningless sound. If a bugler did not blow upon the horn in a distinct way, it would communicate nothing, and the soldiers would sleep in. When you speak unintelligibly, no one will have a clue what you are saying and you will only add to the confusion. At that point, you are just making noise. In the diversity of my people, there are hundreds of distinct languages and they all have meaning for those that speak them. But if you choose to speak fluent Mandarin in a room full of people who have never heard it, you will frustrate them, which is unloving. As your gifts grow, remember that my ultimate goal is that you build one another up in love.
(13-19) I ask that when you speak in tongues, you also ask me that you might interpret them. Otherwise, what is the point? I want you to engage your whole self—spirit and mind, so that you can give meaning to these utterances, especially with outsiders. How will they benefit if they hear you praying, but do not understand what you are saying? How could they possibly add their agreement to your prayer? As far as they are concerned, you are speaking gibberish. Remember, I have called you to live relationally and such prayers do not build up your brothers and sisters. Paul was grateful for his ability to speak in tongues, but he knew that five words of wise instruction were worth more than five volumes spoken in tongues.
(20) Pursue a maturing wisdom. The world is filled with so much foolishness. Do you want to act like a child? Then do so regarding evil—live with innocence, but do not be immature in thought.
(21-25) In my law, I made it clear that I will communicate to foreigners through tongues, granting some people the ability to cross language barriers in a relational use of tongues in a reversal of Babel. Tongues are for those who do not believe, while the conviction and instruction of prophecy are principally for those who follow me. If a nonbeliever sees you gathering and hears a bunch of babblers, he will think you have all lost your minds, but if he hears the conviction of my word, it may reveal the sinfulness of his heart, and he will see my movement among my gathered saints.
(26-33a) So what am I saying? When you gather—whether you bring a song, a lesson, something you heard for me, or even a tongue, keep this in mind: do it with the intention of strengthening one another in the faith. Do not fill the service with tongues but allow only a handful to speak and give space for their interpretation. If there is no one there gifted in interpretation, I would prefer you keep silent. Remember, I am interested in your mutual upbuilding. Let those with a prophetic word speak—again just a few—and then ponder together what was said. When someone shares what they have heard from me, do not rush in and dissect it. Let my words fall gently upon you. As you go, one by one, let the words edify you, and know that my Spirit is present among you to bring clarity and peace.
(33b-35) This section of Paul’s letter has led to a lot of controversy. Many people believe that it suggests that I am a God of patriarchal oppression, but for others it feels like evidence of orderly worship. It is good to wrestle with the implications of what I have revealed through my writers. Remember, do not be infantile in your thinking. I desire my gathered church to have a semblance of or order. I do not want people pontificating or questioning everything that was said during communal worship. Rather than chasing down every rabbit trail, ask later.
(36-40) Sometimes, I see an air of pride among my followers, believing that they alone have received my words. Not true. I reach many people. If a prophet believes he has been especially gifted, he needs to keep me in view. My word gives parameters for revelation. A true prophet’s words will not contradict mine. If they do, they are not from me. Do not give them any credence. Again, desire these gifts, but do so according to my word.
(1-2) Child, it is so good to regularly be reminded of the good news of my Son. Your identity is secured in him. Do not believe in vain, but with authentic hope.
(3-11) The 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians summarizes a core gospel principle. My Son went to the cross to bear your sins, just as I revealed in the Old Testament. He was buried in a tomb, not merely resting, but dead. Yet as my prophets said, he did not lie there long. He burst forth alive from the grave on the third day. He did not return to me right away but visited with his friends, and even 500 at one time. His resurrection was not a myth, but objectively verifiable. He saw his brother James, his closest friends and, eventually the apostle Paul. Paul was proof that my Son’s grace can penetrate even the hardest heart. Paul did a 180, from the biggest attacker to my most active ambassador, totally consumed by my grace.
(12-19) Sadly, despite evidence to the contrary, many people deny my Son’s resurrection, but your salvation does not come by being a nice guy. You have been made right with me because of his finished work on the cross, and for no other reason. If Jesus is still in the ground, all the preaching in the world is pointless. You may as well throw in the towel and go play golf for the few years you have left. If Jesus was not raised, neither are you. It would be pitiful if your passionate living for my Son was only for your few decades upon the earth. If Jesus was not resurrected, you would be better off to live for yourself.
(20-28) But the truth is that my Son has been raised, fruit born out of death. His resurrection is a taste of things to come. Adam’s sin brought death into the world; my Son brought new life! In Adam, every person dies, but my Son reversed death and in him all are made alive. Jesus was first, of course, but he will not the last. When he comes again, everyone who belongs to him will rise once more to live with me in my kingdom. You will have no doubt about who is the sovereign king. Death itself will bow to his command. I have placed the entire cosmos in his safe keeping. He rules everything, yet he rules within the Trinity, and not over it.
(29-34) Baptism is a picture of your final resurrection. It was the practice of Corinthian believers to get baptized in the place of believers who had already died. I would not tell you to baptize if it were not a living picture of being raised to new life. Why do you worry so much about death? When facing the danger of death, remember your life! I want you to come to a place where you do not fear death, but rather learn to die to your false self every day. If you are clinging to temporal pleasures, you will lack courage for kingdom. So many people live for whatever pleasure may come to them in the next moment, giving in to lusts of many kinds, but I am calling you to a higher way of living. Put away this self-centered sinfulness and seek my glory instead.
(35-41) People will ask you snarky questions: “Oh, so the dead come back to life, huh? Do they come back like zombies?” Those scoffers are not actually interested in knowing the truth but are making fun of the resurrection. Think about a seed: small, hard, and non-descript. It is buried in the earth in death, and from its death springs a glorious life! When you are raised, you will reflect my overwhelming magnificence. You will not look like anyone else; you will be gloriously you, just as the sun, and moon, and stars each distinctly reflect my glory.
(42-44) Your earthly body is mortal and it breaks down, but that will not happen with your resurrected form. What was dishonorable, will be uniquely glorious. What was weak, will be turned to power! What was natural, will be supernatural, the natural and spiritual, perfectly joined.
(45-49) The first Adam had life, but the second Adam gave life. Adam was made from the dust of the earth; my Son has eternally existed in heaven. You are flesh, and you are spirit; together they make you fully and uniquely human.
(50-57) It is not only your earthly self that is an heir to my kingdom. My kingdom is imperishable, which is why I will give you a glorified body. I know that this does not all make sense to you now. Even those who will never taste the sting of death will know the joy of a glorified body. When heavenly music announces my Son’s return, the dead will rise to a transformed life. All things will be made astonishingly new, not a shell of former things, but true and vibrant life! I am so eager for you to see this glorious truth.
My Son destroys death, which has no real pain, nor power. Death’s pain comes from sin, and its power comes from my law, but because my Son fulfilled the law perfectly, sin is powerless and because he bore the weight of sin, you will not feel its eternal pain.
(58) So beloved, considering my promise, keep on keeping on. Stay the course. Love me. Love others. Nothing is wasted.
(1-4) It is good for churches to share their wealth with one another. When you are paid, set some of your salary aside; when you are proactive in giving, your tithes are a blessing. Generosity will not send you to the poor house. You know the awkwardness of seeing the collection plate coming and feeling the guilt of wondering how little you must put in. Instead, think about your giving ahead of time keeping in mind the saints around the world.
(5-9) Paul often had to balance staying in a community with deciding when to move on. He had an established relationship with the Corinthian believers, and he wrote to them several times. He desired time together, so that he could be encouraged and renewed. Kingdom work can be difficult at times, particularly when you meet with conflict and pushback. Allow others to feed your soul.
(10-11) Paul also asked the church to welcome his young protégé Timothy. Paul wanted to make sure he was treated well. The effects of the fall are still seen in my churches and people suspicious of the motives of the saints, greeting one another with paranoia rather than peace.
(12) Paul also told them about Apollos, another minister with a great reputation. Paul had wanted him to go to Corinth, but because of freedom in my Son, Apollos chose not to go at that time.
(13-14) Observe what happens both outside the church and within. Anchor yourself in the reality of my love. Be courageous, knowing that my Spirit courses through you. In strength, stand on what you know about my Son and with everything you do, never forget that it is all about love.
(15-18) The work of the church is for my glory, but also remember that I am glorified when believers celebrate one another. Paul told the Corinthians to honor and celebrate Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaius—early believers—because of their hearts to serve and encourage others.
(19-20) My church is more than the building down the street. It is made up of my followers from around the planet. Pray for them. Greet them in my name when you meet them, whether they are from the other side of the street or the other side of the world. Embrace as brothers and sisters from the same family because you are.
(21-24) Although Paul dictated this letter to a scribe, he concluded with a postscript written in his own hand. Paul deeply longed for my return. It was the prayer of his heart. He knew that love for me was essential to vibrant life; anything less was a curse. Like Paul, let your love be for me, and from me, flowing out in your love for others.
 Timothy Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness (Farington, Leyland, England: 10Publishing, 2012).
 Deut. 25:4.
 Eph. 5:21.
 Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in contemporary language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2002).
 Gen. 11.