When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he highlighted many decisions they had made. Made badly! They frequently chose the wrong option. even when there only two choices. Paul urged the church to ask themselves, ‘Now which way will we go?’ Here are some of the pairs.
(All quotations from the English Standard Version. Verse reference included in brackets.)
World’s power – God’s power
Paul preached the weak and shameful message of the cross. ‘Christ died’ unveils the power of God. The world’s idea power does not include a king submitting to a humiliating and cursed execution.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Division – unity
It seems the Corinthian Christians were active in choosing to join the best groups so as to be on God’s escalator. ‘Peter/Paul/Apollos is the leader of greatest blessing.’ But this was simply human boasting. The truly great way is to join in unity with all who trust Christ.
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
Inaction – action
With an immoral brother, the church was proud of doing nothing. It showed how accepting they were. Instead, they should have roused themselves into action that purified God’s church.
Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
Wrong – right
Christian meals deeply express the Christian life. We thank God that he feeds us physically with bread, as well as spiritually with Christ. We love our brothers and sisters in the faith as we live out the unity of the Spirit. And we are strengthened for lives of love. Except if we do it wrong. As in Corinth. The church was called to do right as they ate, and to cease doing wrong.
For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement on himself.
Acceptable – much better
The extravagantly gifted Christians of Corinth had plenty of people to contribute to church life. So many gifts-so little time. So, Paul says, do what builds up the church. There is stuff that is OK and even builds up an individual. But why would you choose that when you can build up everyone? It’s an easy choice!
Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.
Lie – truth
Corinthian ideas and action messed around with truth that Jesus rose from the grave. They were sliding towards a lie about the resurrection. Paul reminded them of the necessary truth: Jesus is alive.
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.
Not every decision in church life is the same. It’s not always truth versus lie, or bad versus good. The decisions remain important, nonetheless. Corinth took a surprising number of bad options! May their errors stand to teach us of the better way.