Correction and Charisma in Corinth
Paul's first pastoral letter to the Corinthians was written to a church he knew very well, to correct problems and to instruct and encourage believers in their faith, and ours. In the first eleven chapters Paul addressed the specific problems within the church which inhibit spiritual growth and witness, both individually, and as a church. The last four chapters are the constructive section which offers solutions to the church's problems then and in our churches today.
Is Christ Divided?
The first problem Paul addressed was the problem of division; believers were divided over the leaders they followed. Paul's message was, we should follow Christ and not human leaders. Paul taught that the Spirit of God alone teaches spiritual things to man. We cannot learn spiritual truth simply through our human eyes, ears, or heart. We must learn spiritual truth through the Holy Spirit who gives us the capacity to know and understand God's thoughts.
The Love That Confronts
Paul taught that since a man's heart is often deeper than his own knowledge, we are to leave the judgment of men's hearts to God. The Bible does not teach we should never judge another person, but to judge ourselves first, for sometimes it is necessary to make judgments about those who persist in their sin. Our motive for confronting them must always be love, with the goal of restoration to fellowship with the Lord and the body of Christ.
The Marriage Manual
First Corinthians 7 is known as the marriage chapter of the Bible. It addresses a number of questions concerning marriage, singleness, divorce, remarriage, and physical relationships within marriage. Here we discover God's plan for marriage and many of the problem situations. When two believers are joined together in marriage, they commit their lives to one another because they believe God has joined them together and must depend on His grace to stay together.
All Things to All Men
Paul gives instructions on difficult issues in the church and how to apply principles of Christian liberty to those issues: eating food sacrificed to idols, how to observe the Lord's Supper, and how those who are stronger ought to regard those who are weaker in the faith. The issue is not what is right or wrong, but what glorifies God, what leads to the salvation of others, and what profits others. Paul will spell out later that these principles must be expressed in love.
The Function of the Unction
In chapter 12 we have opposite but complementary principles: diversity of gifted believers and the necessary unity of all the gifted saints in a local church. A Spirit-filled church will have a wide range of people blessed with different spiritual gifts which, under the control of the Holy Spirit, are used for the edification of the body of Christ, not its division. Chapter 14 demonstrates what happens when a church elevates one gift above another, specifically the gift of tongues.
The Core of Charisma
Paul offered many solutions to problems in the church, but he offered one solution that can be applied to every spiritual problem Christians can face. That solution is agape love, the way God loves us and the way we are to love others. In chapter 15, Paul declares that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a vital part of the Gospel and is the foundation of our entire Christian belief system. For if there is no resurrection, we are to be the most pitied.
The Task of the Minister
Some in the church in Corinth had begun to attack Paul's apostleship, others criticized his speaking abilities, and still others thought he was out of his mind. In 2 Corinthians, Paul defended his credential as an apostle and the nature of his ministry. He explained how suffering for the sake of the Gospel can be used to qualify us to be ministers of God's comfort. Paul said his life and ministry was one of reconciliation, to bring people back into fellowship with God.
The Transparency of the Minister
Paul's second letter to the Corinthians is all about the ministry God wants every believer to experience, the ministry of reconciling all people to Himself. But our lives must be characterized by Christ who has saved us and lives in us. Paul described our relationship to Christ in three ways: by Christ, in Christ, and for Christ. When we respond to pressures, storms, and trials, people will see that we are different, we are filled with a priceless treasure: Jesus Himself.
The Transcendence of the Minister
In addition to Paul's experience when he encountered Jesus on the Damascus road, he learned from Jesus in the Arabian Desert, and was taken into heaven and given revelations too deep for words. Paul was also given a thorn in his flesh, a messenger from Satan. No one knows exactly what this thorn was, but it is clear God used it to keep Paul humble and to use Paul's weakness to show His strength. God likes to demonstrate His adequacy through our inadequacy.
The Grace of Giving
In 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul writes about an offering for persecuted believers in Jerusalem. Paul describes the faithful stewardship of the Philippians, giving us a masterpiece on the subject of Biblical stewardship. God accepts our gifts, not based on how large they are - the Philippians gave generously even in their poverty - but on the attitude with which we give it. Our motivations should be love and gratitude, joyfully giving back to God a portion of what He has given us.