Exposition of 1 Corinthians 16:19–24 “My love to all of you in Christ Jesus”

1 Corinthians 16:19–24

19 The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. 20 All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

21 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.

22 If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord!

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.

When Paul mentions “the churches in the province of Asia” (1 Cor. 16:19), he is again sending actual greeting but also making the Corinthians see that they are part of the larger body of Christ. Let them look above not only their factional divisions but also outward to see the bond of love between Christians everywhere. The Roman province of Asia was located in what is now western Turkey.

The role of Aquila and Prisca (a shortened form of Pricilla) is notable. Acts 18:1–3 informs us that Aquila was a Jew who, along with his wife Pricilla, was expelled from Rome (probably as a Christian) in A.D. 49, when Emperor Claudius “closed down a Roman synagogue because of continuous disturbances centering on the figure of Christ.”[1] They emigrated to Roman Corinth where they met Paul, another tentmaker, and both hosted him and worked with him in the trade. They also joined Paul in Ephesus, where a church met in their home.

Anthony Thiselton approvingly describes the research of another scholar concerning Paul’s stay in Corinth: “Murphy-O’Connor convincingly paints a picture of Aquila and Prisca having their home in the loft of one of the shops around the market square (approximately 13 ft. x 13 ft. x 8 ft. without running water) ‘while Paul slept below amid the tool-strewn workbenches and the rolls of leather and canvas.’”[2] Are you feeling the hardship?

Though Paul dictated his letter to a professional scribe or secretary, he could not resist writing a greeting in his own hand (1 Cor. 16:21). This was all typical. One of Paul’s scribes actually identifies himself in Rom. 16:23.

Verses 22–24 serve as a sharp conclusion to the entire letter. The purpose of such a rhetorical conclusion was to reinforce the argument of the letter with emotional force. Here the vocabulary emphasizes Jesus Christ, love, and either the grace or the judgment that all will receive when Christ returns.

It seems most probable that in verse 22 the verb “love” refers to covenant loyalty. Covenant loyalty essentially amounts to obedience, just as Jesus emphasized with his disciples: “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). In the Old Testament, the result of maintaining covenant loyalty to God was blessing, while breaking the covenant resulted in curses. The curse is expressed by the famous Greek noun anathema, which has been adopted into English most frequently in reference to a person who has been excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.

Thiselton summarizes: “Paul has reproached the [message] of the cross and the content of the gospel through the array of pastoral, ethical, and theological issues that bubble away at Corinth: Come on, he concludes; are you ‘in’ or are you ‘out’?”[3] The return of Christ will resolve this question once and for all.

“Come, Lord!” represents the Aramaic term “Maranatha.” Generations of Christians have echoed this appeal.

Paul closes by mentioning the grace represented uniquely by Jesus Christ and Paul’s own special love for all who are joined to Christ (verses 23–24). Amen!

Copyright © 2014 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 

[1] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 1343.

[2] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1343.

[3] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1351.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12:4–7 Paul’s synopsis

1 Corinthians 12:4–7

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Compare 1 Corinthians 12:1 with 12:4, paying attention to the word translated “gift.”

 Now about the gifts (pneumatikos) of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. (1 Cor. 12:1)

 There are different kinds of gifts (charisma), but the same Spirit distributes them. (1 Cor. 12:4)

 The Greek word translated “gifts of the Spirit” in verse 1 (pneumatikos) means “having to do with the divine Spirit.” It could be a reference to either “spiritual things” or “spiritual persons.” The English versions have translated pneumatikos in a more specific manner in 1 Cor. 12:1 due to the context beginning in verses 4–6, where Paul begins his extensive argument about spiritual gifts. But this contextual translation obscures the fact that Paul has changed words and uses the Greek noun charisma in verse 4, meaning “that which is freely and graciously given.”[1] This word is closely related to the Greek noun charis, which is usually translated “grace.” God’s grace has come to us through Christ crucified.

So, what is the point? Some of the Corinthian believers — and some believers today — want to focus attention on themselves as spiritual by using the spectacular gift they have been given as proof of their supremacy over others. Paul is saying that emphasis is all wrong! God gave them this spiritual ability as a free gift, a grace-gift, not as their due. All honor should go to the gift-giver, not to the gift-holder.

It is easy to spot the deliberate parallels in 1 Cor. 12:4–6. Note, for example, the phrases “different kinds” and “the same” that occur in each verse. This heavy use of parallel phrasing focuses the mind on the few differences between the verses.

One such difference is the progression “Spirit . . . Lord . . . God,” a clear reference to the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus and God the Father. In short, the entire Trinity is involved in providing spiritual gifts for the good of the church. Further, the Father, the Son and the Spirit are all different, but they are totally unified in their actions. Even the Corinthians should have gotten the hint that the variety of spiritual gifts should operate in unity and not division.

Another progression is the sequence “kinds of gifts . . . kinds of service . . . kinds of working.” At first glance, these phrases seem to focus on the gifting, service or work carried out by each believer, but that misses the point. We have already noted that the gifts are apportioned by the Spirit (verse 4) as a matter of God’s grace or kindness. The different types of service are all designed to honor the same Lord (verse 5). The phrase “kinds of working” (verse 6) speaks not only of work but of bringing about results[2], and Paul attributes this working to “the same God who produces all of them in everyone” (1 Cor. 12:6b, NET). So, there is much more emphasis on what God is doing than initially comes to our attention.

Another difference stands out in the parallel phrasing of verses 4–6; it is the phrase “in all of them and in everyone” (1 Cor. 12:6).Thiselton explains that in verses 4–6 Paul is succinctly introducing his coming argument in 1 Cor. 12:7–30.[3] So, it is vital right at the start to say that every single Christian has been gifted by the Holy Spirit. This leaves no room to claim — as some were doing in Roman Corinth and as some are doing today — that only those with certain gifts, notably tongues, could be considered spiritual.

If taking personal credit is a warped attitude about spiritual gifts, what can we say about the right attitude. Thiselton gives us a treasure when he says, “Jean-Jacques Suurmond sums up this issue well: ‘It is not so much a matter of having a gift, as of being a gift.”[4] That comes close to expressing all that Paul is saying about a Christ-centered life in First Corinthians!

Now it should be clearly stated that since God has graciously gifted you as a Christian with a specific spiritual gift, he is expecting results. You are a steward of all that God has given you, and a day has been set for your stewardship to be evaluated. Since your gift is given “for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7), it is clear what the evaluation will entail. Heads up!

Copyright © 2013 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 [1] BDAG-3, charisma, gift, q.v.

[2] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 933.

[3] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 929.

[4] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 902.

Join me at a great church! (Christ Fellowship ONLINE)

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Almost all of the materials posted in this blog were prepared for Christ Fellowship, a Christ-centered, caring church in McKinney, Texas. During this blog’s first three years, we have reached people in 143 countries with information designed “to explain the Bible and honor Christ.” It would be a pleasure to meet you at my home church!  (more info)

Since many of you live outside of the McKinney, Texas, area, we encourage you to gather every week with other believers at a church that honors Jesus as the crucified and resurrected Son of God and treats the Bible as God’s infallible Word. If that is sometimes not possible, we invite you to join our streamed, interactive church services at Christ Fellowship Online (CLICK HERE).

Christ Fellowship Online streams our church services, including great Christian music and some of the best preaching you can hear anywhere! Volunteers are also available to answer your questions, pray with you and help you find and follow Jesus Christ — all though an interactive web interface! (CLICK HERE)

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Copyright © 2013 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 10:27–30 Will “the strong” risk shame?

1 Corinthians 10:27–30

27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

In keeping with Paul’s long-running theme in chapters 8–10, the controlling verse for what follows is verse 24: “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”

Though the section from verse 25 through verse 31 is complex due to “if” statements and rhetorical questions, Kenneth Bailey shows that it has a simple underlying structure:

Eat (verses 25–26) — shopping in the meat market; all belongs to God

Eat (verse 27) — dining with unbelievers and believers

Do Not Eat (verses 28–29a) — food is declared dedicated to an idol

Eat (verse 29b–30) — eating freely, without regard for others, defames you

Eat (verse 31) — eating in a way that honors God[1]

We have already addressed 1 Cor. 10:25–26 in the previous lesson. Paul switches to another common situation, being invited to a meal with an unbeliever (1 Cor. 10:27). There again the Corinthian believers may eat whatever is offered without raising questions; issues of conscience are not involved. Garland explains, “In this instance, Paul makes a concession to the reality that social connections were absolutely necessary to survive in the ancient world. In his day, intrepid mavericks could not strike off on their own and expect to manage. One needed relationships with others for services and protection.”[2]

In 1 Cor. 10:28, there are various possible scenarios about the possible identity of “someone” who says, “This has been offered in sacrifice [to an idol],” but choosing among them does not really matter. As soon as the statement is made, the invited Christian cannot eat, both as a matter of covenant loyalty to Christ and as a consistent witness to others. His choice is determined for the good of the others, or, you might say, for the good of the gospel. The focus on others is made explicit in verse 29a: “I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours.”

The interpretation of 1 Cor. 10:29b–30 is disputed. Keep in mind that the Greco-Roman world was far more focused on public honor and shame than we are today. We next present Thiselton’s views[3] in simplified form. Paul has dealt with some common situations in the previous verses. but now he imagines “the strong” to be dissatisfied with having their freedom limited by the opinions of others. After all, “the strong” know that idols are nothing and feel they should be able to eat meat in a neutral setting, such as a home, even though someone says, “This has been offered in sacrifice.” With this background in mind, “the strong” are saying inwardly, “Why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience?” (1 Cor. 10:29b). Paul intends this rhetorical question to force “the strong” to rethink their position in light of what comes next.

Thiselton’s translation of 1 Cor. 10:30 reveals the thorns hidden in the green grass of “the strong’s” freedom-from-concern-for-others: “Well, if I take part in a meal with thanksgiving, why should I suffer defamation of character over that for which I, at least, give thanks?”[4] When “the strong” plunge ahead and eat the meat sacrificed in the idol temple, both unbelievers and other Christians will shame them with their inconsistent behavior; they claim faith in Christ but then behave with disloyalty in eating food sacrificed to an idol. As a result, “the strong” will experience “defamation of character” when others revile them.

For these reasons, Thiselton sums up in the following way:

Paul’s meaning on this basis would be: what would be the advantage of my exercising my freedom if I thereby suffer defamation of character? If it genuinely does not matter whether I eat or not, why choose the path that raises unnecessary difficulties? What is the point of “freedom” if I cannot choose not to cause problems?[5]

In our next post, Paul will provide a fitting conclusion to the argument he has developed in chapters 8–10. You can be certain it will involve the Man for Others, Jesus Christ.

Copyright © 2013 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Adapted from Kenneth E. Bailey, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 2011) 283–284.

[2] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 493.

[3] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 790–92.

[4] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 779.

[5] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 790.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 10:23–26 Getting things in perspective

1 Corinthians 10:23–26

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say — but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” — but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

Because covenant loyalty to Christ is so critical to the believers in Roman Corinth, Paul wraps up his long argument (chapters 8–10) about Corinthian participation in contexts involving idols — and often sexuality as well — by talking about guiding principles. Garland ably summarizes: “He gives the go-ahead on everything that is beyond an idol’s orbit. It is not permanently poisoned. . . . He clarifies that food is food, and it is permissible to eat unless it is specifically identified as idol food, which puts it in a special category that is always forbidden to Christians.”[1] Undergirding these practical principles is the self-sacrificing love exhibited by Christ and expected of all his own.

Paul returns to the theme of personal freedom ( as in 1 Cor. 6:12) by quoting the Corinthian slogan “I have the right to do anything” (1 Cor. 10:23). While many Americans like the sound of that slogan, Paul considers it fatally deficient because it shows no consideration of what is “beneficial” and “constructive” (1 Cor. 10:23). Verse 24 puts this deficiency beyond question. Paul says our freedom should be used in the service of others. Paul gave his own example of surrendering his rights in chapter 9, and he is imitating Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). Put in other words, Christian freedom should lead to love for others. When you think about it, Jesus’ voluntary self-sacrifice was an act of love he freely chose.

The word “good” in the NIV translation of verse 24 — and in most other English versions —does not represent a Greek word; it is an inference. The New Revised Standard Version tries a different idea: “Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other” (emphasis added). Why would Paul leave the word out? Because he wanted to direct attention to the other person, not to the nuances of their condition. Garland adds, “Seeking the advantage of others rather than one’s own runs counter to the ‘me first’ sentiment that ruled the Corinthian culture.”[2]

Though it should not be necessary to remind Christians of the fact, when Paul gives commands about seeking the good (or advantage or well-being) of others, he is speaking on behalf of Christ! That is what it means to be an apostle of Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:1). As we learned in 1 Cor. 1:2, Paul is speaking to Corinthian Christians and all who trust in Jesus.

The “meat market” in Roman Corinth was something like a specialty butcher shop, and most of the meat there had likely come from one of the idol temples. Paul tells the Corinthians not to make an investigation at the meant market; just buy the meat and eat it (1 Cor. 10:25). This is not a question of loyalty to Christ, as it would be for meat eaten within an idol temple.

Paul implies but does not say that the demons behind Corinth’s idols do not have universal jurisdiction. What Paul does say is: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (1 Cor. 10:26, quoting Psalm 24:1). Garland explains, “Idol food loses its character as idol food as soon as it leaves the idol’s arena and the idolater’s purpose.”[3] That being so, the Corinthian Christians needed to focus on the rule of God and the grace of his provision rather than being obsessed with idols. We would do well to focus on the same things.

Copyright © 2013 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 486.

[2] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 489.

[3] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 492.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 4:6–13 Who will reign with Christ crucified?

1 Corinthians 4:6–13

6 Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. 7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign — and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! 9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world — right up to this moment.

As stated before, Paul is trying to deal with Corinthian pride and a dangerous reliance on human wisdom. In verse 6 he reveals that his previous statements about himself, Apollos and Cephas — “I follow Paul” (1 Cor. 1:12 and 3:4), “I follow Apollos” (1 Cor. 1:12 and 3:4), and “I follow Cephas” (1 Cor. 1:12) — were actually a polite fiction to avoid naming the real faction leaders in Corinth. Why would Paul substitute for the names of the real faction leaders? David Garland says, “By using aliases rather than fingering the real culprits and by stressing that his deprecation of the role of leaders as servants extends also to himself (“What, then, is Paul?” 3:5), he allays potential resentment and makes it easier to swallow the medicine.”[1] Wise!

What, then, was he trying to say to the leaders and their factions? “Learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written.’ Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.” (1 Cor. 4:6). The phrase “what is written” probably refers to the Old Testament quotations Paul has used in the letter to this point. Those sum up to teach this: “While it is the wisdom of the world to indulge in human boasting, there is a simpler, more perfect kind of wisdom, that of boasting only in the Lord.”[2]

In Roman Corinth the desire to rise higher in social standing than others was exceptionally strong, and this cultural pressure had seeped into the church. In 1 Cor. 4:7, Paul unleashes some powerful questions. Ben Witherington puts the first question into this form: “What makes you think that you are so special that you should be judging God’s agents?”[3] After that crushing blow, the hammer strokes keep falling: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor. 4:7b). You will do yourself a great favor to reflect on those questions! The whole idea of God’s kindness toward us, his grace on our behalf, is that grace is an unexpected gift. No performance earned it, and no relationship required it. God is kind to us in Christ because it pleases him to be so.

You have probably realized that chapter 4 is full of irony and sarcasm to which Paul adds exaggeration in verse 8. Garland explains, “The Corinthians’ basic blunder is that they ‘already see themselves as morally and spiritually perfected, without having to experience the bodily struggles which Paul sees as the sign of life in Christ.’”[4] They imagine themselves to have done all that without Paul!

With tongue in cheek, Paul contrasts the spiritual kings in Corinth (verse 8) with God’s apostles who are led behind a Roman victory parade and have only the expectation of death (verse 9). While the Corinthians are — to their own perception — wise, strong and honored, God’s apostles are foolish, weak and dishonored (verse 10). The painful list of hardships listed in 1 Cor. 4:11–13 recounts all those things Paul and the other apostles have endured to preach Christ crucified to the alleged spiritual champions in Corinth’s divided factions.

In 1 Corinthians 4:13, Paul sums up his apostolic experience by saying, “We have become the scum of the earth” and “the scrapings from everyone’s shoes”[5] — “right up to this moment” of reputed Corinthian spiritual triumph.

Just one question stands: Which of these two groups, the spiritually triumphant Corinthian factions or the mistreated apostles, bears a greater resemblance to Jesus crucified on a Roman cross?

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 133.

[2] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 136.

[3] Ben Witherington III, Conflict & Community in Corinth (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995) 141.

[4] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 138, citing D.W. Kuck.

[5] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 365.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 3:10–15 Grace and a test by fire

1 Corinthians 3:10–15

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved — even though only as one escaping through the flames.

Paul consistently gives credit to God, but he does not hesitate to speak about the responsibility God has placed on him. When Paul mentions “the grace God has given me” (1 Cor. 3:10), Fee says, it “would refer especially to his apostolic task of founding churches.”[1] The updated NIV says Paul’s role was “builder,” but most other translations say “master builder” (ESV, NET, HCSB, CEB, NASB, NAB, RSV, NEB, KJV) for the Greek architekt?n, a combination of recognized skill and project oversight.[2] In matters of identity, details matter because it is God who has given us our identity in Christ. In relation to the Corinthians, Paul was not merely a wandering teacher, he was the God-appointed master builder.

Paul changes from the metaphor of the church as a field (verses 6–9) to the church as a building. What makes him a “skilled master builder” is that he laid the foundation of Christ crucified (1 Cor. 3:11). Now others are building on that foundation, but with what skill? “Each one should build with care” (1 Cor. 3:10).

Ben Witherington makes the notable point that “Paul’s work could be harmed either by the Corinthians tinkering with the foundation and changing it or by the Corinthians building the wrong sort of superstructure on the right foundation.”[3] The reason to build carefully is based on the certainty that a fiery day of testing is coming to “test the quality of each person’s work” (1 Cor. 3:13). Garland pointedly says, “Whether one’s work will endure awaits more than the test of time; it awaits the test of the end time.”[4]

Whether or not the Corinthians have concern for Paul’s opinion, “the Day” (1 Cor. 3:13) is coming when “the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.” David Garland says, “’The day’ refers to the end-time judgment (cf. Rom. 13:12; 1 Cor. 1:8, 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:14; Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16; 1 Thess. 5:2, 4; 2 Thess. 2:2).” The more fully expanded name is the Day of the Lord, an Old Testament term that Paul converted into “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8).

Verse 14 seems plain enough — “if what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward” — and yet it has produced controversy. Gordon Fee says: “The theme of ‘reward’ harks back to v. 8, and suggests that appropriate ‘pay’ will be given for appropriate labor. For some this has been a difficult idea to reconcile with Paul’s doctrine of grace [God’s kindness toward us in Jesus Christ] . . . . How can grace receive ‘pay’?”[5]

Your understanding of grace — God’s kindness — will be greatly enhanced if you pay attention to what it says about God rather than what is says about us. Out of a heart of love, God sent his Son to die for the sins of the world (John 3:16). This act had nothing to do with obligation and everything to do with the merciful nature of God. On this basis of Christ crucified, this gift of grace, God made it possible for us to accept the amnesty he offered and be saved from eternal judgment.

In a similar way, God was not obligated to offer reward for faithful service, but it pleased him to do so. Jesus expressly taught his disciples that he expected their faithful stewardship until he returned and that they would receive reward commensurate with that service, some more than others. See Luke 19:12–27, Matt. 25:14–28 and Matt. 24:45–51 for the details.

There will be some whose work is consumed by the fire of judgment (1 Cor. 3:15), and yet their salvation will stand. Garland aptly summarizes both outcomes by saying, “Brilliant work does not earn salvation; lackluster work does not lose it.”[6]

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 137–138.

[2] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 308.

[3] Ben Witherington III, Conflict & Community in Corinth (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995) 133–134.

[4] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003)117.

[5] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 143.

[6] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 118.