July 26 — 1 Corinthians 14 — Building Up. There are some hard-to-understand and controversial subjects in this chapter that could promote a lot of discussion. As I was reading through it today, however, I was struck by one positive, repeated theme: the matter of building others up. Four times Paul used the same Greek word for “building up” (vv. 3, 5, 12, 26), which is translated “edify” or “strengthen” in some other translations. The emphasis here is that the purpose of all that is done in a church gathering should be aimed at building up the believers who attend. How may we do that in our own churches? When you hear or see something good there, make an effort to communicate appreciation for it. Make a note of something meaningful that your pastor said in his sermon and write a message to him thanking him for what he said and telling him why it was helpful for you. Thank him for his faithfulness in communicating God’s Word to you and others. It would be very encouraging to him if you did that once a month. Let’s be construction-Christians, building others up!
July 27 — 1 Corinthians 15 — Not in Vain. The resurrection of Jesus is critical to the Christian faith. Paul said that if Christ was not raised from the dead, then we won’t be raised either (v. 13). And if we are not raised at “the last trumpet” (v. 52), then our “faith is in vain” (v. 14). But Paul convincingly argued throughout this chapter that the resurrection is real and true, both the resurrection of Jesus and our future resurrection. Paul also wrote twice in this chapter about something that is “not in vain” (vv. 10, 58). In both places, it is speaking about working for Christ. Paul said that “by the grace of God … I worked harder than any of them” (v. 10), referring to other church leaders. The grace given to him by God was “not in vain” because he had been diligent and faithful in fulfilling the task of evangelism and leadership given to him. He ended the chapter by talking about our task, which is broadly referred to as “the work of the Lord” (v. 58). What part of God’s work has been given to you? God has given you natural and spiritual gifts to do a certain kind of ministry that fits you. That ministry must be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding” (v. 58) so that it will not be in vain.
July 28 — 1 Corinthians 16 — Relationships. Paul closed this letter to Christians in Corinth with many comments about inter-relationships between believers. First, there was a group of men chosen to collect and carry the churches’ financial gifts to help believers in Jerusalem and Judea who were struggling with famine conditions. These men were people chosen not by Paul but were “those whom you accredit” (v. 3). Paul was careful to protect not only the money but also his reputation for integrity. The relationship of the Corinthians with Paul’s messenger, Timothy, was also important. They were to “put him at ease” rather than “despise him” and “help him on his way” to return to Paul (vv. 10-11). They had asked about Apollos (“Now concerning…”—v. 12), hoping that he would return to them to teach. There was also Stephanus, to whom they were to “be subject” (v. 16) and “give recognition” (v. 18). Their old friends, Aquila and Prisca (or Priscilla) asked Paul to send their greetings. Paul summed up the importance of these relationships with, “Let all that you do be done in love” (v. 14). What believer could you choose to love today in a practical way?
July 29 — 2 Corinthians 1 — Trouble to Triumph. Today we begin Paul’s most personal and emotional letter. There had been a lot of trouble in Corinth during the two-plus years Paul worked in Ephesus (Acts 19:8-10). He heard about some of this trouble and wrote 1 Corinthians in response, sending it with Timothy (1 Cor. 16:10-11). Timothy apparently returned with news about even more trouble, so Paul made a short “painful visit” (2 Cor. 2:1) to Corinth, intending to go north from there through Macedonia and then back through Corinth (2 Cor. 1:16). Instead, Paul decided to return immediately to Ephesus, which some of the Corinthians interpreted as vacillation (v. 17) on his part. Later, Paul wrote another now-lost letter to Corinth in which he expressed his “abundant love” out of “anguish of heart” (2 Cor. 2:4). He sent this letter with Titus, instructing him to travel from there north through Macedonia so Paul could meet him in Troas. We will read about this in the next chapter. Titus brought great news about the Corinthians and Paul happily wrote 2 Corinthians in response while he was in Macedonia and on his way south to Corinth.
July 30 — 2 Corinthians 2 — Why Forgive? Whatever the problem was in Corinth, it was resolved by forgiveness. Some say the problem involved forgiving the now-repentant excommunicated man in 1 Cor. 5 who was sleeping with his stepmother. Others say it may have involved forgiving a now-repentant excommunicated man who was an opposition leader against Paul. If the Corinthians’ forgiveness was genuine, they would “comfort him” (v. 7) and “reaffirm [their] love for him” (v. 8). An interesting and important reason for forgiveness is given in v. 11: “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his designs.” Satan uses an unforgiving spirit to harm us. Our natural reluctance to forgive is actually harming ourselves. Are you harboring resentment toward someone? Are you intentionally not speaking to someone? Do yourself a favor by forgiving them!