Showing posts with label Quiet Times. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Quiet Times. Show all posts

The Purpose of Parables

Gospel Devotions

And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked 
him about the parables. And he said to them, 
“To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, 
but for those outside everything is in parables, so that
“they may indeed see but not perceive,
    and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
(Mark 4:9-12) ESV

Now here is a rather difficult passage to understand. Jesus had just told the Parable of the Soils to a large crowd by the lake. After his preaching, His disciples (including the apostles) asked Him about the parable.

Comparing Mark's account with Matthew 13:10, I notice that Jesus' followers did not only ask about the meaning of the parable. They also wanted to know why Jesus taught using parables in the first place.

A parable (Gk prabole)"is a comparison of two objects for the purpose of teaching, usually in the form of a story." When Jesus uses parables, He usually employs common, everyday themes and stories that are easily understood by His audience.

In the Gospel of Mark, the Parable of the Soils is the second parable recorded. The first one is the "Parable of the Strongman" in Mark 3:23ff. In contrast, the Parable of the Soils is the first parable mentioned in Matthew (13:3ff), and it is the third one in Luke (8:9ff). There are no parables in the Gospel of John, nor is the word ever mentioned.

In the synoptic Gospels, Jesus' first method of teaching was discourse which, at times, was accompanied with miraculous signs and wonders. In Mark 1:14, for example, Jesus opened His ministry with a straightforward teaching, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel!" He used this method in succeeding episodes in Mark 1:21ff, 39; 2:1-28; 3:1-12, 31-35, before using parables beginning in Mark 3:23.

This is even more obvious in Matthew where I read Jesus' famous "Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5-7). He taught with direct teachings, with lessons that hit straight to the point. The apostles might have expected Him to teach this way until the end of His ministry. Thus, when Jesus began teaching in parables beginning Mark 3, they were moved to ask, "Why?"

Mark 4:9 is telling. As Jesus wrapped up His parable, He gave out a challenge to His listeners saying, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." He basically challenged His audience to understand and apply the parable to themselves. Jesus hid the main points in a story, but called out to the people to understand His message. At the same time, He challenged those who understood to apply it.  

Now, Jesus' followers were confused at their Master's new method of teaching. Perhaps they thought that the parables were difficult to grasp, and so Jesus was actually confusing the people. I can imagine them with question marks in their minds while listening to Him.

As I read further, it became apparent that not only were the audience confused with the message, but also Jesus' followers. This was the reason behind Jesus' disappointment in Mark 4:13.

He expected them to understand, for to these followers "has been given the secret of the kingdom of God…" With secret, Jesus meant that God has revealed to them the truth of His Kingdom. In this context, this truth may mean the nearing complete dominion and rule of God on earth through the coming of Jesus Christ.

This was the message Jesus first proclaimed in Mark 1:14. It was proclaimed to all, but understood only by those who believed. Here, I again encounter the reality that apart from the grace of God, no one will understand His truth (Ephesians 2:8-9).

And when Jesus quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 in part, He took on Himself the very ministry of the prophet. He used parables because like Isaiah, Jesus was to proclaim the truth of God to accomplish two things: 1) to instruct those who have faith on what they should do, and 2) to confirm the hardness of heart of unbelievers so that they have no excuse before God.

Because God's truth was preached to everyone through parables, it was as if Jesus was sifting the people. Those who have faith will understand. These are people who really went to Jesus because they were seeking God. Jeremiah 29:13 comes to my mind, "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart."

This sudden shift in teaching method came because of the heightened harassment of a number of people following Jesus. He knew that there were those in the crowd who were not interested with God's truths. The Pharisees and Scribes are good examples. They appeared interested because of their many questions; however, Jesus knew that they were not really seeking answers.

He perceived that even if He were to answer all their questions, He would never satisfy them because they were not really seeking God. They were just there to cast doubt on Jesus' identity. As such, He chose to hide the message in plain sight so that only those who have faith will be able to see it.

The parables were Jesus' way of fulfilling Isaiah 6:10. Through these simple stories, the people who did not believe were all the more blinded, deafened and their hearts dulled. They had no faith, and so it was useless to give them the truth.

As testimony and judgment to their hardened hearts, God deliberately withheld the truth from them so that they cannot turn to Him to see, hear, understand and be healed.

This seemed harsh and cruel. However, remembering that the LORD had revealed the truths to them in countless ways in the past--through the prophets, through the Scripture and through Jesus' initial teachings--yet they chose not to believe, gives me a glimpse of their hardness of heart. They have earned their judgment.

I also believe, however, that God remained gracious. If they repented and believed, God would have opened their eyes to see.

Some may ask, "Because faith is a gift of God, is it not God's fault that these people did not believe?" Or in other words, "Is God not behind their unbelief?"

I am convinced that unbelief is a product of man's sinfulness (Hebrews 3:12). That is, people do not believe because their sinful nature chooses not to believe. It is not as if God gave them unbelief. No! They have unbelief because of sin and they exercise it, so their condemnation is their own doing.

My prayer is that God will always make me sensitive to His truths. May I be able to see and hear clearly, to obey swiftly and joyfully. And to my friends and loved ones who still do not believe, like Christ, I continue to call out, "repent and believe the good news."

Lord, be gracious to us all.

Philippians 1:3-11

I can feel Paul’s affection for his brothers and sisters in Philippi. He opened the letter with much thanksgiving and love for all of them. As I read the passage, I sought the source of this love. Without a doubt, it is God.

Paul’s love for the Christians in Philippi is rooted on their common standing and relationship with the Lord. Much more, because the Philippian Church is steadfast in its walk with God, Paul’s joy overflows.

They continue to share the Gospel of Christ. They are covered by the same grace from the Father. Their lives are marked by devotion to the God who gave them life. As Paul witnessed these things, he couldn't hide his joy for the fruit of his labor.

In this passage, then, God remains the centerpiece. Paul and the Church in Philippi maintained their vertical relationship with the Father. In so doing, they preserved their horizontal relationship as well. And what joy it brings the heart when brothers and sisters are united in Christ.

Paul is not satisfied with where they are now. He encouraged the Philippian Church to grow more and more in their love. This is possible only when they get to know God more in knowledge and depth of insight.

Why be more intimate with the Source of Love? Because it is to His glory that we grow in our Christian walk. It is to God’s glory that we live pure and blameless lives, bearing fruit in everything we do.

When we stop and come to think about it, God orchestrated everything that’s why he deserves the limelight. He is faithful as well. Trust that He will mold us into His image and likeness as we walk closer towards Him daily. Truly, He deserves all glory, honor and praise.

Nicodemus Continues (John 3:9-15)

As the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus continues, the Pharisee becomes more and more confused at Christ's answers. He cannot understand, or better yet, he cannot accept what Jesus is telling him and what he himself is witnessing and hearing.

He was "Israel's teacher," well versed in the Scriptures, but he could not understand the simple truths spoken by God Himself. Together with the other Pharisees, Nicodemus studied the Holy Words of God for a very long time, searching for the Messiah. Unfortunately, all the traditions, the power and the status he experienced within Judaism blinded him. So severe was this blindness that at the very moment the Messiah came on earth, the Pharisees were at the forefront of those who failed to recognize Him. The unschooled, the marginalized, the lowly of spirit, they were the ones who saw Jesus as the Son of God, their Savior and Lord.

Jesus, Himself, was frustrated at the Pharisee's lack of wisdom and understanding despite a mind of knowledge. Here, we witness that mere human capacity will not bring a person to a loving relationship with the Lord. Like the Pharisees, we may
know the basics of our faith, but without the Holy Spirit's indwelling, our knowledge will be dormant in our heads, unable to change us or bring us to a Spiritual Rebirth.

We also consider our dependence on God's mercy and grace. Without these, the veil that covers our eyes will keep us in the darkness. The Pharisees have seen Jesus' miracles with their physical eyes. They have heard His teachings and His claims. They have studied the Scriptures and, I believe, found prophesies that were fulfilled by the Nazarene. The prejudice and pride in their hearts, however, kept them from seeing who Jesus was.

Jesus felt their need for the Savior that He emphatically emphasized their condition, "
I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony."

In effect, He was saying, "We speak of the truth about our claims; we testify to the miracles, signs and wonders that affirm our claims, but you reject our testimony." This has grave implications because Jesus is speaking to a culture that validates claims through testimonies. For the Messiah, His claims and testimonies may further be validated by signs, wonders and prophecies fulfilled. Jesus had all these, but they still refused His testimony. Jesus was showing their flaw-- they knew that He had fulfilled the requirements of the Scripture and the culture, but prejudice, pride and arrogance prevented them from considering and examining the evidences objectively. This was their downfall.

Jesus continues to speak with Nicodemus, revealing the true nature of his heart, the condition of the Pharisees of Israel. Jesus tells him that it is useless to begin teaching "heavenly things" because he cannot even understand mere earthly truths. We recognize this in our time as instances where spiritual rebirth is necessary for a person to understand what God wants to teach him. You may have Bible studies with an unbeliever, but the effects will be different from the believers. Whereas the unbeliever takes the lessons at face value, the believer applies them in his life.

And as we come to a close in this section, we witness Jesus again affirming His identity. It's as if He's saying, "I have authority to tell about all these things because I, the Son of Man, came from heaven and know all these ." The term, Son of Man, is Jesus' favorite self-designation, and it affirms His humanity side-by-side with His divinity. In this passage, Jesus also reveals that the Son of Man made it possible for God to be lifted up on the cross for the ransom of many. It is this act of incarnation that has made Him a fitting sacrifice for humanity.

Just like the Israelites who were healed from venom by fixing their eyes on the bronze snake Moses made for them, we too are saved from the venom of sins and receive eternal through believing in the Son of Man who was lifted up on the cross.


Lord, thank you for removing the veil in my eyes. Thank you for drawing me to you. I affirm that without Your intervention, I will never have come to realize the truth of the Gospel. Thank you, Lord, for you give me each day to try and share Your Word. Make me bold, Father. May my life be truly a testimony of Your goodness.

Thank you so much for the work You have given me. Thank you, too for the sustenance and provisions You have so generously given me. Teach me, Father, to offer my work to You. Teach me to love You above all. Thank you, Lord, for everything. Protect me from sin and make my life a pleasing sacrifice unto your throne.

I remember my brothers and sisters in DCF, Lord. May you provide a home for them. May you never let
them fall astray but just guide them and keep them close to Your heart. Help them grow in the knowledge and love of You, Lord. Amen.

Nicodemus: Learning from the Master

John 3:1-8

We are introduced to Nicodemus, a Pharisee, "a member of the Jewish ruling council." From these credentials we know that he is a powerful man, very influential, and an important religious figure. He also belongs to the group of spiritual leaders who considered Jesus a heretic and a threat to religious establishments and traditions.

In this passage, however, we see a man among their ranks defying the conventional and daring to speak directly with Jesus, their enemy. Nicodemus is afraid to be ostracized so he has chosen to speak with Christ at night when people are asleep and when he is less recognizable because of the darkness. We commend him, however, for responding to the curiosity God has placed in his heart. He has braved the odds and dared to speak with Jesus.

Nicodemus opens the conversation with polite words, acknowledging that Jesus is from God, but he is careful not to hastily conclude that Jesus is the Christ. He points to Jesus' miracles as proof of His Godly origins. At this point, Jesus has already turned water into wine and healed various diseases around the region. He has become popular because many people from all over Judea witnessed His wonders during the Jewish Passover celebration.

Jesus, however, knows what has been bothering Nicodemus, and He has zeroed in on the issue in His reply, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." This answer appears incongruent with Nicodemus' first statements, but we see that the Pharisee's reply reveals his real concern-- the issue of salvation. How can one be saved? How can one "see the kingdom of God?"

Nicodemus takes Jesus' answer literally and asks, "How can a person be born when he is old or how can a person enter into his mother's womb one more time to be born?" Jesus clarifies His statement and points to spiritual not physical rebirth. He says those who are "born of water and the Spirit" enter the kingdom of God. There can be many interpretations for what water and Spirit stand for. It can be a contrast between Physical and Spiritual birth. How can we say that water stands for physical birth? This becomes more apparent in the follow-up statement, "flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." Because these are parallel statements, water corresponds to flesh and the Spirit corresponds to Spirit.

Another interpretation looks at water as a symbol of washing away of sins at the moment of spiritual rebirth. This relies on previous Biblical experiences of water being the symbol of cleansing especially in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 36:25).

What is clear, however, is that the changing work of the Holy Spirit is essential for a person to see the Kingdom of God. Jesus makes it clear that the way for us to experience salvation is through spiritual rebirth provided by the power of the Holy Spirit, convicting us of our sins and drawing us to begin a personal relationship with our God. When Jesus gives Himself up on the cross, the apostles are able to understand that this relationship is made complete with the Messiah entering their hearts and ruling in their lives.

There is one final but crucial note in Jesus' answer. The work of the Spirit, He says, is like the wind; we "cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going." That is, the changing work provided by the Holy Spirit, who is God himself, depends on His sovereignty alone. It is not our deeds or lifestyle that makes Him decide to call us. It is simply His prerogative, His grace and His mercy.


Thank you God, for you have sovereignly chosen me despite my sins and unfaithfulness. It is my desire, Lord, that You keep me close to You. Never let me go, Lord. Convict me of sin, and teach me to live a life that is truly pleasing to You.

Thank you, Lord, for the example of Nicodemus. Though at first he is afraid to be ostracized, he has allowed the Spirit to work in him, eventually changing him and giving him the courage to take the leap, by your grace, to accept Jesus through faith alone.

Lord, use me to bring this message to more and more people. Teach me to have compassion for those who are lost. Make my life truly a testimony of Your goodness. Amen.

Jesus Clears the Temple (John 2:12-22)

Note: This was inspired by the devotions of Max Lucado.

He was with Mary when I saw him turn water into wine in Cana. This man whom people called the Christ was interesting. He had authority in his speech. Unlike the religious leaders, he practiced what he preached. I did not know if He was who he claimed to be, but I am hoping and praying that he would be the Messiah.

There were many people in Jerusalem that day. Men, women and children flocked to the city from all over the region because the Passover was nearing. We would again remember God's mighty hand that delivered us from Egypt. I was among those who went to Jerusalem. But unlike the Jews who swarmed the dusty roads, I was there for a specific reason. I heard that the man whom John the Baptist called the Christ was going to the feast as well. I wanted to see him. I wanted to witness his miracles and hear his teachings.

Like in any other Passover, Jerusalem came to life with throngs upon throngs of people busy with their preparations. Business was good as the demand for cattle, sheep and dove skyrocketed. Merchants were everywhere, and as usual they mushroomed in places where people converged. The temple was a good example.

I squeezed myself in the sea of people to reach the temple courts. Along the way I spotted Jesus with his followers. He was standing in the temple courts apparently observing the mess that surrounded him, indignation was all over his face. I watched from a distance as he brandished a make-shift whip out of cords. I couldn't hear what he was saying but I was shocked by what he did.

He overturned the tables of the money changers. He drove both men and beast out of the area, scattering coins and goods all over the place. People scampered away from the man; they were as shocked as I was. Just a few days ago he seemed so holy in his baptism in the Jordan River, but now he appeared so violent. Was this how the Messiah should act?

Turning around I heard two men panting while they talked about what just happened. They looked like merchants so I thought they might have been among those evicted from the temple courts.

"I can't find my sheep," the older man said. "I told you, someday someone would throw us out of there," his companion answered, eyes still fixed on the chaos. "What was that all about? We're just making a living," the older man brushed his partner's comment. "I remember that man shouting, 'Get out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!'," his companion said. "Father's house? Since when did someone own the Temple? It's God's. Who was he calling himself the Son of God?"

My mind paused to comprehend what I just heard. This man said God was his father? Wait a minute. That's irreverence. We can't simply call God, father. We're just not the same as God.

"All this talk!" the older man's voice brought me back to reality, "And he said he could rebuild that temple in three days if we destroyed it! What arrogance!" The two squeezed their way out of the crowd, still arguing along the way. I turned my head and craned my neck to get a better view of Jesus. He had stopped clearing the temple court. Every eye was glued on him, waiting for what would come next. I wanted to hear him defend himself, but he quietly exited through the crowd.

This is a very interesting character, I thought.


Again John achieved his purpose in the passage. He showed that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecies of the old. When Jesus cleared the temple, Psalm 69 spoke to them. Here we read, " zeal for your house consumes me." Jesus' zeal for the honor and glory of the Temple, then considered God's dwelling, moved him to clear it from the filth of greed and love of money. It was God's honor and His praise above anything.

Then, we read about Jesus' bold challenge, " Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days." This was to be the sign that Jesus had authority to defend God's honor and glory. Everyone who heard, including his followers, thought he was referring to the structure. They could not believe their ears because it took 46 long years to rebuild the temple.

The disciples, however, would realize at the resurrection, that Jesus was referring to his own body. "Destroy my body, take my life and I will come back alive after three days." Even this early in his ministry, Jesus was already speaking of the resurrection that will take place.

All these things prove that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Scripture. He is the Savior. He is God incarnate.

Water into Wine (John 2:1-11)

That Jesus was a miracle worker was never questioned, even by secular historians. Extra-Biblical sources also showed that the carpenter from Nazareth was known, among others, as a healer and an exorcist. Jewish religious leaders even emphasized the negative aspect of this claim and portrayed Jesus as a sorcerer or a magician. What was clear from all these references, however, was the supernatural works attributed to Christ.

In the Gospel of John, these signs, wonders and miracles all started in a wedding at Cana. There are extra-canonical references that say otherwise. One book, for example, portrayed Jesus working miracles at a very young age. According to these sources, he even brought a dead friend back to life to clear his name of a crime. These are interesting reads, but the Scripture is clear that the "first of his miraculous signs" happened in the wedding at Cana.

The miracle was simple. Jesus turned water into wine to satisfy the demand in a wedding feast. Why did Jesus choose this wedding? I'm not sure, but I believe Jesus could have chosen any other event for his first miracle. It was not the act or the timing, but the grand plan of God that governed Jesus' decision. He did not haphazardly perform miracles to boost his ego, instead, he chose specific instances that would help people identify him as the Messiah, the fulfillment of the prophecies of the old.

When Mary asked him to save the newly-wed couple from embarrassment, Jesus' answer was straightforward, "Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come." At first, I thought "time" referred to the divinely set moment for Jesus' first miracle. But the Gospel contains several other passages where Jesus spoke the same words, so, I reconsidered that understanding.

Time in this passage is better understood as the fulfillment of Jesus' purpose here on earth-- his sacrificial death on the cross. When he said his time "has not yet come," Jesus earmarked his crucifixion. He revealed that he had a set time on earth when his grand purpose would be revealed and fulfilled. Everything he would do inched him closer to that moment. Even his miracles pointed to that day.

In this particular passage, the wedding and the wine readily revealed Jesus' identity. If we backtrack into the Old Testament, Isaiah, Joel and Amos prophesied about the overflow of wine at the coming of the Christ. Jesus literally fulfilled this in the wedding. He, however, brought it to completion when his blood, represented by the wine, overflowed on the cross for the salvation of all.

If we fast-forward to the future, in the book of Revelations, again we see the imagery of the wedding banquet. This time, however, Jesus is the groom and his bride is the body of believers (the universal Church). As early as his first miracle, Jesus gave us a glimpse of his purpose and the things to come.

After witnessing the physical miracle, Jesus' followers "put their faith in him." For us, today, we may not be able to witness this wonder, but we understand its significance. When we try to fit all the pieces together, we will find God's love story culminating at the cross. I praise God for having a Savior who gave himself up for the forgiveness of my sins. I also praise God for the free gift of salvation he offers by grace through faith.

The Unfathomable Wisdom

1 Cor 2:6-10

In the previous passage, Paul ends by saying that his message and preaching did not depend on wise and persuasive words from humanity. They are, instead, a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. He said this so that the listeners will depend only on God’s power and not in the wisdom of humanity in their faith.

As he opens this passage, however, Paul immediately makes clear that though he did not depend on humanity’s wisdom, the words he spoke to mature Christians give wisdom. He specifically focused on mature Christians to indicate how he regarded the Corinthian believers. We see that Paul saw them as infants in 1 Cor. 3:1. Thus, he was assuring them that though they had not yet heard the message they gave to mature Christians, such message gives wisdom.

At the same time, his focus on mature Christians served as a challenge to the Corinthians. It is as if Paul was telling them, “We impart words of wisdom to the mature Christians. If you also want to hear it, I encourage you to be mature in your walk with Christ that you may be able to digest these words of wisdom.”

Interestingly, mature in the original Greek may also mean “perfect” or “finished.” These Christians are not perfect per se, but are being made perfect by the continuous sanctification of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, they are finished because they were ushered into a new life by the death of Jesus in the cross. They are no longer in darkness, but are already walking in the light with Christ.

And emphasizing again the source of such teachings, Paul said they are not the “wisdom of this age.” The King James Version renders it as “the wisdom of this world.” In the original Greek this refers to the accumulated learning of humanity in the past, the present, and the future. This indicates that no matter how much advancement humanity attains, these will never match the source of wisdom Paul was talking about—God Himself through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

This wisdom is also not from the “rulers” or the “princes” of the world. In the secular realm, Paul may be referring to the leaders, the politicians, the military chiefs of Rome. In the religious realm, he is referring to the teachers of the law, the Pharisees, Sadducees, the Scribes and all the religious leaders of Judaism. This is because all of them, all of humanity, in fact, will come to an end, will “cease,” and “pass away.”

Peter supports this when he said, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever" (1 Peter 1:24-25). The wisdom that comes from God, passed on to us through the Bible, remains forever. It is true to the very end, the perfect instruction manual for us Christians.

In v 7 Paul begins to speak of this wisdom. He calls it “God’s secret wisdom.” Paul said this wisdom was hidden and was meant for our glory. This statement can be understood when we look at the Old Testament and God’s promises to His people there. The wisdom Paul was referring to was the promise of the Messiah who will save Israel. It is hidden in the sense that God told them about it through prophets, visions and revelations but He never said when and where exactly He would come. He did not even say who the Messiah would be.

This was what the Jews anticipated. They looked forward for the day the Messiah would come to save them. Unfortunately, they understood salvation more in a political rather than a spiritual sense. They were expecting a Political King with immense force that would overthrow the Roman rule. What God intended, however, was a Suffering Servant who will die for the salvation of humanity from sin.

That is the reason the wisdom was for the glory of those who would believe. When God revealed His promise in Jesus Christ, the wisdom was revealed. When Jesus conquered death, His glory was revealed as well. For those who believe in Him, they will share in the promise of eternal life and eventually the fullness of His glory.

Paul also stressed that such wisdom was not understood by any of the rulers of the world because they relied on the world’s wisdom. In fact, if they understood it, Paul said, they would not have crucified Jesus Christ for they would recognize Him as the Messiah.

But God’s wisdom is truly unfathomable. He allowed this world to be blinded from the truth so that His master plan for salvation would be fulfilled. This wisdom is beyond us, but we need to be truly thankful for without it we would still be under the punishment of death.

God is Everything

1 Cor 2: 1-5

As Paul opens the second chapter of the letter, he continues to exhort the Corinthian believers regarding God’s centrality in his work and teachings. In v 1 he says “…I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.”

For those who knew Paul before he became a Christian, they might be confused. They knew that Paul had a strong Jewish heritage. He was born of the “purest Jewish blood, the son of a Pharisee” and was “cradled in orthodox Judaism.”

At around 13, he was sent to Jerusalem to study. He was under the famous Gamaliel, and was “a superior, zealous student.”

When he was first mentioned in Acts, Paul was already an “acknowledged leader in Judaism” and was actively opposing Christianity and persecuting Christians. “He was convinced that Christians were heretics and that the honor of the Lord demanded their extermination.”

So, for him to say that he “did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom” seems a bit off. However, the key is in the latter part of the verse. Yes, Paul is gifted with speech as seen in his address before the Areopagus (Acts 17:22-31) and wisdom under the tutelage of Gamaliel. But he was not proclaiming any ordinary human truth or wisdom. He was proclaiming the “testimony about God.”

Thus, we see that when Paul said it is not eloquence or superior wisdom that he brings with him, he was in fact saying that the power, authority and value of what he was teaching are drawn from God alone. This had been Paul’s theme since verse 18 of chapter 1. God is above everything. His wisdom totally eclipses humanity’s imagined wisdom.

God delights in the things that seem nothing, and use them to show to the world that the things that are not draw strength only from the source of everything—God himself.

In verse 2, he names Jesus Christ and the power of the cross. He did this after proclaiming that he was preaching a testimony about God. This shows that in the conviction of the apostles, and in Paul particularly, Jesus is God. He is the testimony about God for He revealed God.

Paul resolved, determined, he decided to know only Jesus Christ and the power of His cross. We see that Paul chose to focus only on Jesus. His determination was empowered by the Holy Spirit. But what we need to see here is Paul’s willingness and his obedience. He wanted to know more about Jesus, so he focused on Him alone. May this be our attitude too.

Verses three and four substantiate verse 1. Paul was very detailed in explaining how he felt, what his condition was everytime he preached to the people about Jesus. He said he was weak, afraid and even trembling. And he reiterated that it’s not with wise and persuasive words that he went and preached. Then, he reveals that everything was a “demonstration of the Spirit’s power…”

It is by the Holy Spirit that Paul became a powerful evangelist. The Holy Spirit, who is God himself (Matthew 28:19), is the one who convicts people to believe in what Paul was saying. This is the reason why there are those who accept and there are those who do not. It is not in the speaker but the message. The message is the message.
Finally, Paul shows that his nothingness and weakness in the things that he preached were, in fact, for the benefit of all who believe because they strip him of the credit and ascribe everything to God. Paul reminded them of his nothingness “so that [their] faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

He ends the passage showing that God’s power is the reliable basis of faith. God is the basis of faith, never on man’s wisdom or abilities. This is a reminder that whatever we achieve in evangelism, in the ministry and in our spiritual walk, we bring back to God for He worked and we were but His instruments.

To God be the glory! Amen.


1 Corinthians 1:26-31

“What were you when God called you?” Paul asked the Corinthian believers. He urged them, to take heed, see, regard what they were before the Lord, the God of the heavens and the earth. Paul asked them to recall in their minds who they were first in the sight of man, but most especially in the sight of God.

Before men, they were unwise, uninfluential, ignoble. They were not like the sophists, not powerful, not mighty; they are weak; they were poor and lowly. Yet all these are eclipsed when God’s perspective is consulted. They were nothing before God. They were sinners condemned to hell. They are utterly depraved.

But in the grace, the mercy and the love of God, these people, who in all ways are unlovable, were given the gift of eternal life. They are foolish things of the world. They are nothing in this world. Yet, God, in His infinite wisdom and His sovereignty chose them to shame, to disgrace, to dishonor the pride of this world.

The weak shamed the strong, the despised things, ignoble things, ordinary things shamed the things that are.

The Lord did all these so that the world may know that He is God. So that before Him, no wise, no noblemen, no rich, nor strong, nor powerful may boast and say “I am greater than God.” The Lord did these to show to the world what it is before Him—creation, naught, dust. The Lord did this to ascribe all glory to Himself.

Yet the rebellion of the world continues. The world remains under sin and death. Despite the revelations of the Living God, the lies of the devil consume the very hearts of men and women.

Blessed are we, Christians, for Jesus Christ, became for us the ultimate sacrifice. His nail-pierced hands, His torn side, His wounded head, these gave us our righteousness, holiness and redemption. It is God Himself who became humble. God Himself sought us. But pride blinds the heart. Pride corrupts the soul.

Christians are now put right before God, we are saved from death. And we can boast only in Him. We can say that we are saved, proclaim that we are free because of Him. Yet when we do, let us remember why we boast. To show to the world that God is ever living, He is ever present. We boast to tell the world that He has judgment on us all and only in Jesus can we find salvation.

May we be on fire for Him. Amen.

Our Nothingness

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Paul’s opening verse is a reminder of the gravity of salvation. The message of the Cross is nothing to those whose eyes are still closed. They may laugh at it, ridicule it, question it or simply avoid it. These people are perishing because Christ is not in them. They look at the message of the Cross as illogical.

During Paul’s time, the Greeks and the Gentiles are most known for holding on to human philosophy, understanding and reasoning. They look at themselves as the “rational” thinkers, dispelling faith and the supernatural as “irrational”

Yet, there is another group of people who are perishing in God’s standards. Contrary to the Gentiles and Greeks, they are very religious, very devout but it is exactly these that separated them from God. The Jews became very proud of their keeping of the law that they have emptied the Cross of its power. God is not the center of their lives, their rituals and legalisms are. Even to them, the Cross is foolishness because they cannot accept that everything they have done, the laws they have followed, the offerings they have made are nothing before God.

But to Christians, the Cross is central. Faith is never irrational. Study the Bible and see that it coincides with history and science. Study the prophecies and God’s marginal notes and see that He is pointing to Jesus as the Messiah. To Christians, the message of the Cross is the power of God. It is this that changes people. It is this message that challenges individuals to make the decision.

People may choose to believe and people may not. God never forces anyone because He respects the freewill He has given. But He blesses those who do accept for despite the lies that are so pervasive in this world, they are the people who responded to God in repentance and faith, allowing Him to restore the broken relationship.

In verse 19 we see that the message of the Cross is the destruction of this world’s wisdom and the frustration of its intellect because it is a message which cannot be grasped by the world apart from God. The world can boast that it is wiser than the Cross, but this very pride prevents it from seeing what God has revealed so plainly.

This point is nailed by Paul until the 21st verse. He deliberately compared everything this world has to the one and living God.

He asked, “Where are the wise men?” This is probably a reference to the Gentile philosophers who carry with them the human understanding of the world. Then he asked, “Where is the scholar?” The King James Version used the word “scribe” in lieu of “scholar” referring to Jewish teachers of the Law or the Torah.

Thayer’s Encyclopedia tells us that scribes are “learned in the Mosaic law and in the sacred writings.” They are interpreters and teachers, examining difficult and subtle questions of the law and offering advices and solutions to such. They are enrolled in the Sanhedrin where they study more about the Scriptures.

And from the secular world Paul asks, “Where is the philosopher of this age?” referring to the Greek sophists. These are men who loved philosophical debates and arguments, engaging in “long and subtle disputes.”

In the world’s standard, they are the wise, the intelligent and the learned because they have received the knowledge that the world offers. But Paul is actually telling us that they hold on to foolishness because God has made foolish the wisdom of the world.

They boast in what they have in the world but the living God is so much more that all of them are not even a fragment of God’s most minute.

God’s wisdom, “the infinite, perfect comprehension of all that is or might be (Romans 11:33-36),”made foolish the world’s wisdom for He designed the message of the Cross to be understood only through sheer depravity. The wisdom of the world is not the means for humanity to know Him.

In fact, Paul clearly states in v. 21 that God is “pleased” in the “foolishness of what was preached” because all the more these bring Him glory. For those who are saved testify to the emptiness of this world’s wisdom. They testify that their salvation, their knowledge of God are not products of the world but all of His grace.

Putting these in concrete terms, Paul notes in v. 22 that Jews seek “miraculous signs” and Greeks “wisdom” in trying to know God, but God’s design is for Him to be revealed in the message of the crucified Christ! Unfortunately, this very message is a “stumbling block” to the Jews because they cannot accept that the Messiah would suffer and die. In their wisdom they thought salvation meant the political and physical deliverance of Israel 9Acts 1:6). But God wanted much more, He promised the salvation of humanity from the bondage of sin.

The Jews cannot accept this because they are proud of their history and their devotion to the Law. The Law has desensitized them to the Gospel of Christ.

And the same message is foolishness, absurdity, silliness to the Greeks because of their secular upbringing. To them, God is very foreign and His revelations are essentially unknown. They sought the empirical and scientific in the physical realm, and wisdom and knowledge in philosophy that they view salvation as simply another topic of debate. Christ to them means nothing for they do not acknowledge God and they do not know who they are from His perspective.

Despite this, Paul in v 24 echoed v. 18 and was even more explicit. He said, there are Greeks and Jews who are called by God in His pleasure to know Him and salvation. And for them, what was once a stumbling block and foolishness is the “power” and “wisdom” of God—Christ Jesus. These people are testimonies of God for they were once like everyone else, but they are transformed not by the world but by God.

Paul closes this portion of the passage with a very powerful message: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthian 1:25).” He did not say that there is foolishness in God, he simply gave a comparison that showed that God is everything and humanity is nothing. However, our gracious and loving God allowed His fullness to be known only through the message of the Cross, Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, the world is engrossed with its imagined wisdom and strength that the plain revelation of Jesus and the simple Truth of salvation are considered stumbling blocks and foolishness. Once more it is pride in one’s efforts and acquired wisdom that prevent many from truly accepting Jesus. It is easier for those who feel nothing and inferior to see God for they know their worthlessness.

This is captured very powerfully by Jesus in Luke 10:21 when He said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

These things are hidden because humanity in its complexity and imagined wisdom refuses to see. However, to those who are humble and broken, the fullness of God is very clear. Let us pray that we will not be drowned by pride and that God will give us true humility like little children and true brokenness and repentance that we may know Him fully, completely. Amen.

A Verse on Salvation

1 Corinthians 1:18

Verse 18 is pegged on verse 17 where Paul explained that the cross, Jesus Christ, is the source of salvation not humanity’s wisdom. It is not in the ability of the speaker sharing the Good News; it is the Good News itself that changes men and women.

Paul asserts in this verse that the “message of the cross” which can be the teaching about Jesus, His death and resurrection and the salvation by grace through faith, is “foolishness,” absurdity, or silliness to people who are perishing.

In other Bible translations, “are perishing” which is in present progressive is rendered in the present perfect. Basically, the tenses tell us that the action, though it happened in the past, continues to the present. Originally, this part of Paul’s letter highlights the certainty of death and judgment. Those who do not have Christ are sure to suffer eternal punishment. That is why the action continues to the present.

Those who are perishing refer to men and women who refuse to acknowledge Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. They are those who do not have a personal relationship with Christ. Remember that Christ’s invitation is an invitation of relationship. He calls everyone to know Him more. The first step, which is usually the most difficult, is repentance, the acknowledgement of one’s sinfulness and the turning away from darkness to light.

The message of salvation means nothing to such people. They may even laugh at and ridicule the bearers of the message. This is true then and it is very true now. But I believe what exists today is more of apathy to the message. People are simply uninterested. They think such topics are null, mindless and stupid. Without even analyzing the facts, they easily conclude that faith, Jesus, and salvation are only for the “religious.” These things have no room in a modern, scientific and empirical world.

This is a sad reality. However, in the same verse Paul said the same message is viewed by “those who are being saved” as the “power of God.” Those who are saved here refer to men and women who are delivered from the penalty of sin which is eternal death (Romans 6:23). They are those who have accepted Jesus as personal Lord and Savior by grace through faith and are slowly walking with Him into Christlikeness.

The verb may appear to suggest that salvation is a process. That it is not received in a one-time-big-time event. To misread the verse as such can strip the cross of its power. In fact, some use the verse to argue that salvation—being a process—is attained when good works are done. Is salvation a process?

Yes and no. To answer this, I will be a bit technical. Salvation in its fullness is viewed in three events—justification, sanctification and glorification. Our real issue is the first event which justification or the rendering of a verdict on a person as not guilty because it’s as if the person has not sinned.

Justification is the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. It is the most important for non-believers because it is here that they are ushered into the family of God. When one is justified, he or she is saved though still in a corrupted and fallen body. Justification gives the gift of eternal life, that is, a person is assured of eternal fellowship with God the moment he or she dies.

In Romans, Paul is focused on justification whenever he talks about salvation. If one is not justified, he or she cannot be sanctified much more glorified. Sanctification happens only to Christians. It is the continuous work of the Holy Spirit, molding a person into Christlikeness. It is the sanctification aspect of salvation that is a process. However, a person is already saved even before sanctification begins as long as he or she is justified.

Glorification will happen when Jesus Christ comes again. It is here when all believers are made perfect in and with God.

It is clear that justification is by grace through faith. Several passages in Romans show this. One such example is Romans 3:23-24: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…”

What is the implication of justification and salvation as something acquired by grace through faith in Jesus? Simple. This tells us that everyone, in the eyes of God deserves to suffer eternal damnation because this is the righteous punishment for sins (Rom 6:23). Because all have sinned (Rom 6:23) all must suffer eternal death.

However, the Good News is this: By God’s grace and love, He sent Jesus Christ to be the substitute for our sins. Jesus became the perfect sacrifice because He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). His death satisfied the required punishment for sin. He died for us, so that we may live. He rose from the dead after three days for sin is not in Him, thus, death does not have a hold on him either.

By putting one’s faith in this revealed Truth, one is justified. It is grace (undeserved gift) and faith (trust and belief in Jesus) and nothing more, not good works, not religion, not philosophy. “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourself, it is the gift of God. Not by works so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).”

No matter how many good things you have done as long as you have no personal relationship with Jesus, salvation cannot be given to you. Good works are products of salvation for Christians. Those who try to use such as means will never attain salvation because of sin. Good works do not nullify sin. Sin is sin. It stays on the record. The Bible is clear that death is the only just equivalent of sin. God never said good works will negate sin. Besides, if one decides to pursue God by human effort, what God requires is perfection. Perfection here includes sinlessness. This can never be for sinful humanity.

Paul showed that for people who are saved and walking closely with Christ, the message of the cross is the “power of God.” It is such first because God’s Word changed them, plucked them from darkness to light. Second, it is through this message that they too can be channels or instruments for the spread of the Good News. Those who are saved hold on to this message and eagerly spread it. But those whose eyes remain closed find it either confusing or void.

Do you also want to view the message of the cross as the Power of God? If yes, say a little prayer. Acknowledge before God that you are a sinner and ask for forgiveness. Invite Him into your heart and ask Him to help you walk with Him, to get to know Him more and to mold you into Christlikeness.

If you have prayed and asked God to enter into your life, you have made the first step. You have sought Him and He will surely answer. You have started a relationship with God. It will be long but one worth-taking. Amen.

United in Christ

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

Right after Paul’s thanksgiving, he addressed a critical issue in the Corinthian Church. For Church unity to be high up in Paul’s letter shows its significance in the community life of believers.

With Paul’s appeal and reasoning, we get a glimpse of the challenge faced by the Corinthian believers. At the same time, we see how Paul reasoned with his readers, convincing and appealing to them to be united as followers of Christ.

Verse 10 summarizes the heart of the passage. Paul appealed to the believers that they agree with one another so that no division exists in the Church, and there be perfect unity in mind and thought.

Consider Paul’s first words—“I appeal to you…” The King James Version used “beseech” in lieu of the verb “appeal.” No matter what verb is used, however, Paul’s point is nailed hard—He is begging, earnestly and urgently requesting, imploring, and praying for the unity of believers in Corinth.

This single word shows Paul’s overflowing concern for the Church, as well as the gravity of the issue plaguing the fellowship. The sense of urgency and distress is there, which is underscored by Paul’s direct confrontation of the issue of division.

Reading through the letter, we can even feel the sudden shift in the mood from the previous passage. There is no transition; Paul decisively and directly tackled the challenge of the Corinthian Church.

The appeal goes out to all believers not only to the men. Unfortunately, the use of the word “brothers” is wrongly understood by some Bible readers to mean exclusively for the male population of the Church. This is very careless reading of the passage. Paul uses “brothers” in all his epistles, but during their time, the Greek word was commonly used to address “a crowd or community that included men and women.”

The idea is perfectly captured by Filipino in its use of the equivalent word “kapatid.”

Paul’s appeal, however, draws power in the next few words within verse 10, “…in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Picking up from the previous passage, Paul coursed his appeal through the source of all unity, grace and love, the Lord Jesus Christ. In effect, Paul is saying, “I am but the mouthpiece and my appeal rightly belongs to Jesus. He is the one truly beseeching you to be united.”

Paul gets his authority from the King who met him and changed him on the road to Damascus.

After all these considerations, what is Paul pleading the Corinthian believers to do? Paul is earnestly asking them to “agree with one another.” In the original Greek, “agree” means “speak the same thing.”
We see, then, that the division within the Corinthian Church has something to do with differences in views, stands and opinions.

This is supported by v 11 where Paul reveals that members of the house of Chloe, most probably believers from Corinth, reported that there are “quarrels” among the believers. Quarrels here are originally understood as debates, wrangling and contentions.

In verses 12 to 15, we see that such differences are not really theological in nature. It appears that they stem from the believers’ misunderstanding of the roles of their leaders in the overall working of Christ’s Church. They appear to be arguing over who is the greatest among their leaders.

Four names were mentioned—Paul, Apollos, Cephas and Christ. Paul is the writer of the epistle and is the apostle of Christ to the Gentiles. He was a staunch persecutor of Christians, dragging many of them to prison, before he was called by Jesus to be His follower.

Apollos is also a follower of Christ who has carried a successful and fruitful ministry in Corinth. Apollos started out only knowing the Baptism of John before he came to know Jesus, becoming a bold evangelist of the Lord.

Cephas, though seemingly an unknown character is, in fact, Peter. In John 1:42 we read: "So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas" (which means Peter).” We know that Peter is the leader of the apostles. He was molded by Jesus Himself during His three-year ministry on earth.

Christ, of course, refers to Jesus Christ.

Driven by a desire to be greater than their brothers, the Corinthian believers were pitting their leaders—the people they chose to follow—against one another. Looking closely, however, selfishness appears to be their motivation. During their time, when one decides to follow someone, he is subjected to that person. He becomes the student and the other person, the master or teacher. Therefore, when one’s master is greater than another person’s master, logic says that that student is greater than the students of the inferior master.

This desire to be greater, to be someone, to be distinguished, to have a name is tearing the Church apart. That is why Paul’s questions in v. 13 are very fitting. He asks them “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?”

He asked these questions to redirect the believers’ focus from the workers to the Master. He asked these questions to remind them that the Christ who died on the cross is the ultimate source of everything they are enjoying—salvation, new life, eternity—thus, there is no use arguing who among the leaders is the greatest. The answer is obvious.

Finally, Paul asked these to rebuke them. He showed them that their mindless and useless quarrels are causing the degeneration of the Church. These are no longer edifying the body of believers. In fact, they are stumbling blocks to the growth and spread of the Word in the city of Corinth. If the believers themselves cannot agree among themselves, what testimony do they have to prove Jesus’ offer of salvation and new life?

As side explanation in v 14 to 16, Paul admitted that he did baptize a number of people in Corinth. I believe he needed to explain himself because some may misunderstand his point in v 13 and accuse him of lying. When he asked, “Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” the obvious answer is no. This is because everyone is baptized into the name of Christ.

What Paul meant here is that Jesus is the source of their spiritual cleansing. Those who administer the physical ceremony are not the sources of renewal. They only embody the cleansing as public testimony of changed lives.
This may be overlooked so Paul had to explain in three verses that he did baptize a number of people in Corinth, but only in the physical way. And he even underscores that his calling is primarily to preach and teach, not to baptize. This is not to minimize baptism. Instead, Paul is showing that even leaders are called to do specific tasks which are complementary.

Paul is primarily an evangelist. Jesus called Him to spread the Good News to the Gentiles. His great knowledge of the Scripture brought by his training as a Jew coupled with the power of the Holy Spirit made him very effective in this task.

What Gospel was he preaching? He is teaching that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. He died but rose again. By placing one’s faith in the Son of God one is saved from the punishment of sin which is eternal spiritual death. Paul continuously clarified that it is by grace through faith that one is saved. It is not through good works or by obeying the law (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Such boldness, power and authority in preaching, however, rightly belong to Jesus. This is what Paul emphasized in v 17. It is consistent with the point he has driven in v 13. Christ is greater than all, thus, the achievements of his sent ones are but products of His own doing. In Paul’s case, though he had the power of speech, he pointed out that it was not in the manner of speaking that people are changed.

The power of the Gospel did not rely in the “words of human wisdom.” It is not from man; it is entirely from God. Paul drove this point because the sinful nature of humanity can easily become proud. It may boast that the conversion of men is no longer the work of God but is due to their ability in speaking, their tactics and strategies in mission. When this happens, the Jesus is stripped of His glory. The cross, the ultimate sacrifice and symbol of God’s love, is emptied of its power.

The Greek word for “emptied” means to be “deprived of force,” “rendered vain, useless, of no effect,” “void,” “hollow”. Paul is guarding the Church against this. Unfortunately, in the Corinth, the believers have started to rob the Cross of Christ of its power when they have lost sight of the Savior and have fixed their eyes on His followers.

They are slowly ascribing to the servants the glory which belongs only to the Master.

Paul encouraged the believers to agree with one another. His extensive explanation and illustration showed that they must all agree that Jesus is the only source of power. The Church leaders are nothing compared to the Savior. They are but servants. Instead of focusing on them, the believers have to go back to the source of all grace, power, love and mercy—God.

When they agree on this, Paul sees no division and he sees perfect unity in the body of Christ (v.10). In the same verse he explicitly identifies unity in mind and thought. In modern English, mind appears to be the source of thought. Mind creates the ideas. In the original Greek, mind has something to do with intellect and understanding. Thought, on the other hand, is rendered judgment in the King James Version and it refers to cognition, opinion, and resolve.

These are but wordplay, but we see that because the disagreement began in their opinions and stands, Paul tackled the root to bring unity in the body.

Paul’s plea is an echo of Jesus’ prayer in John 17. When Jesus prayed for his apostles and for all believers, he asked the father twice that all His followers be united (John 17: 11, 21). The measure he used for this unity is the fellowship that exists in the Triune nature of God. This means, perfect unity.

Paul’s plea, then, is very fitting. He sought unity in the Corinthian Church which is being plagued by differences in opinion and stand. Paul urged the believers to set their eyes on Jesus, to focus on Him, because in doing so, they get to understand that He is the source of all and He is the only one who matters.

Everything begins and ends with Christ. A poor view of who He is distorts the fellowship and disrupts one’s spiritual walk with the Savior. A full understanding, reverence and awe of His glory, power, grace and majesty, however, produce holy fear. When the believer sees the face of God, he gets to understand his nothingness and Jesus’ fullness. Amen.

A Story of Grace

1 Corinthians 1: 4-9

Paul starts the body of his letter to the Corinthians. After a meaty introduction, he begins with a six-verse thanksgiving.

This is among the few positive parts of the letter or those parts where Paul did not rebuke or correct the Corinthians. Here, we see a positive aspect about the Corinthian Church. Paul praises God for such aspects.

This opening is very typical of Paul and can be seen in Romans, Colossians and in other epistles.

In v 4, what is striking is the word “always.” Paul always thanks God for the Corinthians not because of these people per se, but because of God’s grace given to them in Jesus Christ.

If we look at it more closely, Paul is thanking God because He has revealed how gracious He is through the Corinthians. The thanksgiving, then, is God-centered and it is a reminder to us that everything really begins and ends with the Lord.

The grace or undeserved gifts upon the Corinthian Church is made possible in Jesus Christ who is the exact representation of the Father (Heb 1:3). This has a great implication in that it lets us see and understand how God has not only supernaturally made Himself known and felt. He, in fact, incarnated to be with us in the flesh!

The grace of God, thus, transcends the realm of ideas or intellectual pursuits and is physically manifested in the work of Jesus Christ and ultimately on the cross in Calvary. This grace is continuously seen in the life of the Corinthians.

In v 5 we see even further how this grace is manifested in the Corinthian Church. In Jesus Christ, they have been “enriched” in their “speaking” and in “all their knowledge.” The idea conjured by Paul here is similar to the preceding verse. The Corinthians were enriched because of the saving work of Jesus Christ. Once again we see how Paul ascribed the glory to God not to human capabilities.

When Paul said they were “enriched,” he may have invoked the imagery of physical wealth because Corinth, being a trade city of its time, was undeniably rich and its people well-off. Paul reminds them that these riches were still given to them by the living God. The Lord has given them riches in every way which in its original Greek can be rendered as enriched in all things.

Though they are enriched by God in all things, Paul underscores their wealth in “speaking” and in “all knowledge.”

The original Greek used for “speaking” is “logos.” This is the same word which referred to Christ in the Gospel of John.

Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Joh 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

This word is also related to reasoning, talking, one’s motive, computation, communication of the doctrines, preaching and reasoning. Thus, the grace of God is seen in the Corinthians’ ability to communicate the Truths of God, most probably in evangelism, teaching and apologetics.

When Paul spoke of knowledge on the other hand, he meant “general intelligence” and “understanding” which, in this context, is obviously related to Christianity. The Corinthian Church is a congregation of intellectuals, easily grasping the Truths of God and Jesus. They are gifted in teaching and speaking.

In these two examples, coupled with the grace of God in every part of their lives, the Corinthians confirmed the testimony of Jesus. They exhibited transformed lives which is very significant because they belonged to a very worldly city. This transformation is possible only by the grace of God which opened their hearts to accept Jesus as personal Lord and Savior.

Paul reminded them in v 7 that they did not lack any spiritual gift. It appears that the spiritual gift he is underlining refers to the gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12-14. These chapters defined spiritual gifts as “capabilities given through the Holy Spirit that enables one to minister to the needs of Christ’s body, the church.”

That the Corinthian Church is gifted is no doubt. But the stress, as seen in the preceding verses, is that the gifts are a result of God’s grace. It is also encouraging to see that the Corinthians “eagerly wait” for the second coming of Jesus Christ. When the Savior comes again, He will be revealed. In the original Greek word, it conjures the imagery of someone being stripped naked, thus, the fullness of the glory of God, the fullness of Truth and Grace in Jesus Christ will be made known and visible to the world.

The overall theme of abundant giftedness by the grace of God culminates in the last two verses. They are also central in the passage because they point everything back to God.

In v. 7 Paul promised that Jesus will keep the Corinthians strong to the end. He will sustain them so that they will be blameless, guiltless on that day when Jesus comes again. We see that the Christian’s life, though already justified and under grace, still needs constant confirmation and renewing from the source of salvation. This is sanctification.

So long as Christians remain in this world, the imperfection of our bodies and of flesh will be footholds of the devil, leading us to fall and sin. Though our salvation is assured, that is, it will never be taken away from us (John 10:28), sin breaks our intimate walk with God and leaves us spiritually depressed, unable to bask or exercise the joy of our salvation.

When this happens, on the Day of Judgment, when we take account of how we have used the gifts given to us by God, we may fall silent before the King of the Universe. If, because of the enemy’s success, we fail to exercise our gifts, we will have to face our Maker like the servant in Luke 19 who buried his master’s mina because he was afraid to lose it. “…to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away (Lk 19:26).”

“Those who seek spiritual gain in the Gospel, for themselves and others, will become richer, and those who neglect or squander what is given them will become impoverished, losing even what they have.”

Remember, however, that the context here is in the use of the gifts for the expansion of God’s Kingdom. It is not merely in the use of the gifts in everyday activities. Our Lord will take into account how we have worked to share the Gospel and the Truth of Jesus Christ.

Paul ends His greeting the same way he started it—a focus on God. He reminds the Corinthians that His promise of God’s sustenance is true because God is faithful; He delivers His promises.

Paul also emphasizes one final truth—The King of the Universe does all these because He is the one who called us into fellowship with Jesus. That is, by His grace, we are saved (justified) and by His grace we are continuously being saved (sanctified).

Let us, thus, gaze upon the face of God, seeking Him everyday to renew us and strengthen us in the face of all trials and temptation. Amen.