August 20

1 Corinthians 16:5-24 / Read

“Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20)

“You will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.” (Jesus in Acts 1:8)

The mission of Jesus was to empower a movement of the Gospel throughout the whole world. His message is that God loves people and desperately desires a relationship with them - so much so that he would give anything, including the life of his own Son, to remove the barrier of sin between them and welcome them into his family. His method was to embody this message to a few, invite them to follow him and send them as his representatives to the next generation of followers.

We see this movement on full display in today’s reading. Paul, the pioneering evangelist of the early church, was moving through Macedonia (modern-day Turkey); his apprentice and co-worker, Timothy, was being sent to represent him in Corinth; Apollos would eventually follow, a great preacher who had been sharing the Gospel throughout Greece; Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus were also Greeks who Paul lifted up as examples of what it meant to join to mission of Jesus; Aquila and Priscilla were business people from Italy who had met Paul in Corinth, responded to the Gospel and ended up accompanying him to Syria - they were a great help to Paul’s work and also lead a church out of their home.

In our modern, Western culture, many images come to our mind with the word “church”. But how accurate are they? It would appear from the New Testament that Jesus intended church to be a family, founded on the Gospel, sharing his identity and his relationship with the Father, and participating in his mission to extend his good news to the ends of the earth.

  • What do you think the connection is between identity (who you are) and activity (what you do)? Think about this question in terms of your family life, working life and spiritual life.

  • To what degree are you participating in the mission of Jesus? What do you sense God saying to you as you answer that question?

  • What might it look like for you to participate more fully in the mission of Jesus? Does it mean starting something? Does it mean stopping something? Do you have a “family” with whom you will go on mission?

August 8

1 Corinthians 13 / Read

Throughout the past few chapters of 1 Corinthians, we have been reading the ways in which Paul instructed Christians to live out their faith together in community. In Chapter 12, Paul addressed the incredible reality that Christian community is marked by the presence of spiritual gifts due to God’s Spirit being resident in each person.

We will read in Chapter 14 that Paul continues the discussion on spiritual gifts. It is with this in mind that Chapter 13 holds particular significance. It is as if Paul is saying, “We need to pause before going further. Yes, we must be aware of how God has gifted us and use those gifts. But we must always remember to keep first things first. Regardless of our gifts, there is a way of living that we all must embrace.”

Paul calls it “the most excellent way.” (Ch. 12, vv. 31) It is the way of Jesus - the way of love.

No matter our gifts and no matter how well or how poorly we use them, they are worthless if we don’t have love. Paul’s words at once address our motives and our actions. It is not just what we do that matters, but why and how we do it.

  • Are you aware of how God has gifted you? It may be helpful to re-read those mentioned in Chapter 12. To what degree are you intentional in using your gifts among your family of believers?

  • Re-read vv. 1-3 of today’s passage. What most grabs your attention? What is a practical application for your life?

  • How might you become a person who lives love - that is, whose actions and motivations are grounded in the love of Christ? Invite God to guide you to a specific response to that question.

August 7

Proverbs 12:1-14 / Read

  • How does vv. 1 strike you? Can you think of a real-life example in which this statement is true?

  • What is the connection between grace, humility and discipline?

  • What has it looked like for you to receive discipline, either from someone else (e.g. parent, teacher, job supervisor or spiritual leader) or from the Lord? Have you tended to receive it well or poorly? Regardless of your answer, think about why. Try to determine what it is within you that most determines how you receive and respond to correction.

  • Spend some time praying alone with God. Invite him to guide your understanding of discipline and how it relates to making you a wise person. As you do, what area of your life do you sense him leading you to focus on? What will you do to better embrace discipline (from him or other trusted voices in your life) in order to become mature and wise? How will Jesus and the Gospel help you?

August 6

1 Corinthians 12:15-31 / Read

In today’s passage, we continue to read Paul’s explanation of spiritual gifts given to the Church and their relationship to one another. Part of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every true follower of Jesus is the receiving of spiritual gifts. These gifts are to be exercised for unique purposes and in harmony with each other in order that together they reveal a great whole - the glory of God in the person of Christ.

Paul clearly stated that spiritual gifts are not lost or taken away (vv. 15-16). Yet, there is a danger that spiritual gifts can become useless in the body of Christ if believers adopt a wrong view of themselves and others. If they lose sight of the reality that they stand alongside Jesus as sons and daughters of God; if they forget that they are saved by grace and not works; and if they reject God’s call to be his representatives in the world, their focus moves from the Giver of gifts to the ones who are simply stewards of the gifts.

The sad result of this focus on the wrong thing is comparison and judgement. And as Paul states, comparison and judgement manifest themselves in two equally destructive ways: inferiority and superiority.

On one hand, comparison can lead to a view of ourselves that is less than God’s view of ourselves (vv. 15-20). On the other, comparison can tempt us to believe that we are better or more valuable than others (vv. 21-26) - instead of de-valuing ourselves, we de-value others.

Our remedy and defense against the foolishness that comes with comparing and judging is the Gospel. The Gospel forces us to be honest about our sin and understand that it has destroyed our relationship with God. In it we must acknowledge that we deserve nothing from God and that death is a worthy penalty for our willful disobedience. Yet the Gospel also invites us to believe that God’s love for us is endless - that the Father allowed his Son to receive our penalty on the Cross and offers us eternal life with him in exchange.

When we know the grace of God in Jesus Christ, how can we compare? How can we judge? How can we do anything but live out our role in his body with grateful joy that he’s chosen us to be part of it?

  • What from today’s Scripture and commentary most grabs your attention? Why?

  • What do you sense God saying to you about who you are and what he’s created you for?

  • How do you sense him calling you to live differently in light of his Word to you today?

August 5

1 Corinthians 12:1-14 / Read

The Gospel of Jesus creates change. In fact, to be a Christian means to be changed dramatically - from lost to found, from enslaved to free, from dead to alive.

For the believer, change happens from the inside-out so that, eventually, the new person who has been re-made becomes visible through their actions.

The Bible makes clear that all of this change - both inside and out - is initiated by the Spirit of God. This is what Paul reminded his audience of in the passage we read together today.

We’ve become aware throughout our study of 1 Corinthians of the Corinthians’ tendency to compare themselves to one another and succumb to judgement and boasting based on their external lives. It is very likely that these people were experiencing amazing new realities as the Spirit came to life in them and began manifesting himself through the gifts Paul mentions in vv. 7-10. Yet he urged them to remember that it was God - not themselves - that brought these new realities.

God is always the initiator with people. It is not so much that they “find” him as he reveals himself to them, nor is it that they reason themselves to belief as he makes them aware of their sin and his grace. Their salvation is a free gift, an opportunity to change made possible by his Spirit.

So it is with the manifestation - the revealing - of the Spirit within them: given freely so that no one can boast, except of the God who gave freely. While individual parts of the body each have unique qualities, they express their fullness only when understood as part of the whole. Together they reveal something they could never reveal on their own.

  • How aware are you of the grace God has shown you? It may feel like a difficult question to answer at first, so it may be helpful to consider: What good things do you enjoy that, if you’re honest, you can’t take credit for?

  • Where are you tempted to judge the behavior of others? Where are you tempted to believe that you’re better than others because you’re more disciplined, more self-controlled, a harder worker, have higher standards, etc.?

  • What would it look like for you to live in grace today? How will you freely live in your gifts to reveal the presence of God in your life? How will you affirm the gifts of others? How will you cultivate a spirit of continual thankfulness for all that God has given you and given others to reveal his grace and goodness?