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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

1 Corinthians 1:2b,3: Family matters

…together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours:

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Satan always hates Christian fellowship; it is his policy to keep Christians apart. Anything which can divide saints from one another he delights in.”C.H. Spurgeon.

How beautiful is the story of the disciple, Ananias, going to visit the newly converted Saul of Tarsus and calling him, “Brother…” (Acts 9:17). There is a kinship between all those who own Jesus as Lord. You don’t have to agree with them on every single point. Their churchmanship may differ from yours. You may not particularly like their style of worship. But you have a common experience of “Grace” and so there can be “peace” between you.

The truth is this: the church of God is found not only “in Corinth”, but it is “everywhere” there are people who confess Jesus as Lord. The church is much bigger and wider than my local expression of it. When you go somewhere else and bump into a fellow-Christian, doesn’t it make your heart jump with excitement? You don’t particularly obsess over the denomination they are linked to. (At least, I hope you don’t). You are just thrilled to meet a brother and sister in Christ; and that is exactly how it should be. You share much more in common than any trifling differences there may be.

1 Corinthians 1:2a: In Christ, in Corinth

To the church of God in Corinth,

It was vital that there should be a church in Corinth.

It is always essential that our ‘Corinths’ should have local churches.

It is vital that ‘ Corinths’ should have praying churches (and as we saw yesterday, here were people calling on the Name of the Lord).

In the ancient world Corinth was a by-word for immorality. In fact, there was a saying: ‘to Corinthianise’, or ‘to play the Corinthian.’ It referred to having an immoral lifestyle. But a church had been planted in the moral sewer that was Corinth. These believers were not perfect. They were flawed. The truth is they still had a lot of Corinth on them (and in them). But they’d had a good old gospel dousing down (See 1 Cor 6:11), and they were in the process of being changed. They were “called to be…holy” (verse 2).

The common Greek word for the church: ekklesia, refers to a ‘called out’ people. In one sense, the Christians were called out of Corinth even as they still had to live there. But they were God’s people; they belonged to Him, and were called to live out their true identity. Yes, they were still “in Corinth”, but the greater reality is that they were “in Christ Jesus”.

Prayer: Lord, I pray that my life in Christ will shape and inform how I live in my Corinth.

1 Corinthians 1:2: Double-calling

2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours:

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:12, 13)

Paul writes about a double-calling. First of all, our Christianity begins with the call of Christ. This is of paramount importance. It precedes our birth even, occurring in eternity past. But as far as we are concerned, we are converted when we call upon the Name of the Lord and are saved (Romans 10:13). Like drowning men and women, we recognise that we cannot resist the undertow of sin. It is taking us down. All we can do is to call on the One who offers to rescue us and is able to do it. We relax in His arms by faith and trust Him to carry us to safety. But calling on the Name of the Lord is not just where Christian experience begins, it is also how it continues – in prayer. It is where the race begins and how it is run. Leonard Ravenhill commented that ‘ The church that is not praying is playing.’ To say we believe in God, and yet be prayer-less is a form of practical atheism. After 44 years in pastoral ministry – although now retired – I find myself scratching my head over how many Christians seem to pay only lip service to the importance of prayer. It is a source of sadness and great concern to

 me. As someone said, ‘The greatest cause of unanswered prayer is unoffered prayer.’

What might happen today, I wonder, if all Christians were to devote themselves to prayer, as at the very beginning (Acts 2:42)?

1 Corinthians 1:1: Teamwork

 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes

Paul refers to Sosthenes as his ”brother” or ”friend” (as ‘The Message’ puts it). To be a true friend or brother to someone else is no small ministry. Who is God calling you to befriend just now? Do you know? Why not ask Him?

Paul was a team player. He mentions numerous individuals by name throughout his New Testament letters. (You just have to think, for example, of the last part of Romans). Jesus sent out His disciples on mission two by two. Paul seemed to regularly follow this pattern – sometimes his teams were even larger. But he recognised his need of the help, support, gifts and ministries of others. He saw the church as a ‘body’ made up of many necessary parts. He did not believe in unemployed church membership.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says:

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labour:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Thought: What might be possible for the Kingdom if you were to team up with someone else? What could you do together, ‘in Christ’, that you could not alone? Who might be your ‘Sosthenes’?

Daily Bible Thoughts: Introduction to 1 Corinthians

Just a heads up – this is not going to be a ‘typical’ introduction to a Bible book. It’s more of a word of explanation. In this next season, we are going to start to work through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. I say start because we may not finish. I’m not going to be in any hurry, and there may come a point where I sense the wind change direction and feel that we need to set our sails to move elsewhere. But 1 Corinthians will be our point of departure.

I believe Max Lucado, in one of his books, said something like this, ‘Every day, read in your Bible until something hits you, and then carry that thought with you through the day.’ This is going to be my approach to First Corinthians, and may I encourage you to do the same. Also, I welcome your comments/insights. You should be able to share them whether you are reading from the ‘Home Thoughts from Abroad’ site or the ‘A date with Jesus’ Facebook page. I can’t promise that I will always be able to reply, but I will try to as much as possible. May God bless us as we embark on this journey together.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for your Word. I confess I cannot understand it apart from the help of the Holy Spirit. So I look to you for insight and understanding. Thank you Lord.

Psalm 37: 39,40: A Shelter in the storm

The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
    he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
    he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in him.

Last Sunday was our ‘farewell’ service at the King’s church in Boston Spa. Then early on Monday morning my wife, Jilly, and I had to drive into Leeds, to St. James’ Hospital, where she had a consultation to have some lumps checked. Thankfully, everything was fine. I can’t say we went without any apprehension, but the sense of being carried on a bed of prayers, and of being in the Lord’s mighty Hand whatever, was an undergirding reality.

That morning we ‘happened’ to read this prayer from F.B.Meyer’s ‘Daily Prayers’:

”When the storms are high,

Lord Jesus may I feel you

near; as when you came through

and across the storm-swept

waves, saying, ‘It is I. Be not afraid.’ ”

I noticed that yesterday’s prayer for the day continued the theme:

”O my Refuge, outside of you

the waves are high and the

winds fierce, but in you I have haven,

protection, and peace. You are my

pavilion, my refuge, my strong tower,

the house of my defence, my shield,

and my great reward.”

Psalm 37:30,31: Heart and mouth

The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,

    and their tongues speak what is just.

31 The law of their God is in their hearts;

    their feet do not slip.

Before moving on from Psalm 37, I want to highlight a couple of shorter sections within the larger reading we looked at yesterday. Here’s the first:

It seems to me that the Bible frequently emphasises the link between heart and mouth. Jesus taught that it is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks. I don’t know about you, but I want to so hide God’s Word in my heart that its wisdom flows out of me, whether in conversation or preaching or teaching. His Word is so powerful that the more our words are in alignment with it, the more effective they are likely to be.

In Isaiah 50:4 ‘the Servant of the Lord’ says:

The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.”

My prayer today is that God’s Word may be in my heart so that it may also be in my mouth, and thereby a means of blessing to those who need to receive it. Will you join me in this request?

 (See Psalm 1:1-3; 40:8; 119:9-16; Deut.6:6).

Psalm 37:27-40: The great divide

I haven’t included the remaining text of the psalm today. It is rather a long section. But please do read it.

What this psalm does show clearly is that there is a dividing line running through the world, and on one side there are “the righteous” (those brought into a right relationship with God and who are therefore seeking to live right) and on the other “the wicked.” No one reading Psalm 37 with eyes wide open would want to stay on the “wicked” side of the line. For although these people may often seem to do well in life, and regularly the godly suffer at their hands, it is only for a short time. Ultimately, all will be well with those who fear God, but not so for those who reject Him. So note, at the beginning of today’s section, the call for repentance in verses 27, 28 – a call to get onto the right side of the dividing line. Again, we are encouraged to take the long view.

In his book, ‘In Christ alone’, Sinclair Ferguson refers to Peter’s words about Christ leaving us an “example” that we might follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:18-21). He says, ‘The word “example” here (hupogrammos) is very evocative. It was used of the copper-plate handwriting of the teacher that was to be imitated by the pupil. Jesus has written out the vocabulary of Christian living for us; we are to copy it on the pages of the autobiography we are writing. Some words are not easy to learn – especially these ones: p-e-r-s-e-c-u-t-i-o-n and s-u-f-f-e-r-i-n-g. But they are key words if the name of Jesus is to be legible in our lives’ (p.203).

Psalm 37 presents a world-view that will pertain until Jesus returns to turn the tables. Persecution is the lot of masses of believers across the world today. It has been the case throughout history, and it is the norm to be expected. But let’s not lose sight of the big picture.

I saw Wicked bloated like a toad,

    croaking pretentious nonsense.

The next time I looked there was nothing—

    a punctured bladder, vapid and limp (35,36 ‘The Message’).

In the end, all shall be well.

PRAYER: Lord God, today I pause to think about, and pray for, all my suffering brothers and sisters in Christ. Encourage them with your love, and fill them with hope. Thank you that rampaging evil will not have the final word.

Psalm 37:23,24: The grip of grace

The Lord makes firm the steps

    of the one who delights in him;

24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,

    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

I don’t know about you, but I have a picture in my mind of a toddler who is just learning to walk. She ‘stumbles’ often, her rather wobbly legs giving way beneath her, but she does not ‘fall’ and hurt herself because her daddy is holding tightly to her hand. He can feel her unsteadiness and use his greater strength to correct her balance. So she makes progress safely, if slowly.

Derek Kidner says that the context suggests the stumble points to material calamity rather than a moral plunge. The truth is that believers are not immune from the general sufferings common to mankind. In addition, they will face peculiar attacks because of their allegiance to God. Things can, and do, go wrong in the lives of believers. But they are upheld in the firm grip of divine grace.

The Lord can even make our steps ‘firm’ as we ‘walk through the darkest valley’ (Psalm 23:4).

PRAYER: Lord, you are my Shepherd. May I fear no evil in life’s darkest valleys, knowing that you are with me. Thank you Lord.

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