The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?
The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (1 Cor. 10:16)
Within Christianity there is this view of the Lord’s Supper (the eucharist) known as the Zwinglian view of the Lord’s Supper which argues that the Lord’s Supper is merely symbolic, a picture, of what Christ accomplished for us by his death on the cross. While this view certainly did not originate with Ulrich Zwingli (ca. 1484-1531), he was the one who popularized it. Unfortunately, however, Zwingli failed to grasp the full meaning of what Paul is discussing regarding the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 10. There he writes, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (vv.14-16). What “cup of blessing” is Paul talking about? What is the bread that is being broken which is a “participation in the body of Christ”? Clearly he is speaking about the Lord’s Supper, which he will go on to discuss in greater detail in the next chapter (11:17-34). For now he is laying the groundwork as to how one ought to approach the Lord’s Supper. But what does idolatry have to do with the Lord’s Supper? In the previous verses Paul reminds his readers of how the people of Israel in the Old Testament would engage in the worship of God with one hand, and with the other hand engage in idolatry. Thus, because of God’s wrath, “twenty-three thousand fell in a single day” (vv.6-11). As he talks about the Lord’s Supper, Paul warns us not to do the same, not so engage in egregious sinful behavior throughout the week and then come into church and partake of the Lord’s Supper. This is because, as Paul says, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” He will go on to say, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy?” (vv.21-22). That is, don’t think for a moment you can engage in egregious sins throughout the week and then take a seat at the Lord’s table and partake in the sacrament without incurring the wrath of God. “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” For this reason, Paul will issue a strong warning in 11:27-30, saying that illness and death can be the result of those who take the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. The point is that such strong warnings about the Lord’s Supper tell us that the sacrament is more that symbolic. When we take the Lord’s Supper, we are sitting at the “table of the Lord.” In a spiritual, yet real sense, we are supping with Christ himself.
I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, 'You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.' (1 Kings 9:5)
In 1 Kings 9-10, we are told of how God appeared to Solomon and reminded him of the promise that he made to his father, David. There God says to him, “And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’” In the rest of the chapter, and then in chapter 10, we are told of the enormous wealth that God blessed Solomon and Israel with, of how the queen of Sheba came to Solomon to see if the rumors were true and to test his wisdom, and how she discovered that the rumors were true (10:6-10). But by the time we get to chapter 11, we see Solomon turning from the Lord and things begin to unravel, which ultimately culminates in the division of Israel after his death. Solomon failed to remain faithful to God, and God had warned him what would happen if that were the case (9:6-9). Nevertheless, God’s promise to David that he would some day give him a son for whom he would “establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam. 7:13) is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, the promise given to David, and then repeated to Solomon, pointed to and was fulfilled in Christ. Matthew makes this clear as the phrase “Son of David” as applied to Christ appears no less than ten times in his gospel. And while we see Solomon reigning over a vast kingdom from the Euphrates River to the border of Egypt (4:20-21) and reigning over vast amounts of wealth, it is nothing in comparison to what the ultimate son of David will inherit. In Revelation 21 we read, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…. And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’…I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (vv.1-6). Christ, the son of David, will someday sit upon his throne and rule over and take possession of the entire earth, not just the land between the Euphrates River and the border of Egypt. As we experience the political turmoil of our day, we can look forward to the day when believers will live under a monarchy, when we will be ruled by a loving and perfect and generous and merciful king. I look forward to the day when I can exchange this republic for a monarchy.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. (Prov. 4:7 )
Yesterday I wrote about wisdom and on becoming wise and, of course, when we think about some of the wisest people in the Bible we can learn from, we tend to think about Solomon. In fact, Solomon’s wisdom was world famous in that day and age. We are told in 1 Kings 10 that “when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions.” Solomon answered all her questions and so she says to him, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard” (vv.6-7). Solomon was extremely wise beyond his years, but this did not happen by chance and had nothing to do with genetics. Seven chapters earlier God came to Solomon in a dream and asked him the one question we all dream about. You know, that secret desire that some day we might find a lamp that a genie pops out of and says, “Your wish is my command.” Oh, what we would ask for if we were just granted one wish to have anything we want. What would it be? Money? Possessions? World peace? In 1 Kings 3, God comes to Solomon and says, ‘Ask me for one thing and I will give it to you. Name it.’ What does Solomon ask for? “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” He asked for wisdom. How often do we pray for wisdom? How often do we specifically pray, “Lord, please make me wise; please grant me wisdom and a heart of understanding?” James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Above all else what we need is wisdom. Wisdom to know how to live the Christian life. Wisdom to know how to strengthen our marriage. Wisdom to know how to parent our children. Wisdom to know how to manage our finances. Wisdom to know how best to serve the church. Wisdom is the key to a long and happy life. Yet, so often we pray for everyone else and everything else except wisdom.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
We are all familiar with the biblical concept that those who walk with the wise will become wise (Prov. 13:20). Or, the opposite, “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33). Most of us inherently know that the people we hang around with, the people we spend the most time with, are bound to rub off on us. This is one of the reasons I left the military. In my younger days, while I enjoyed serving as a soldier in the U.S. Army, playing with guns, tanks, and grenades, spending weeks at a time in the field with a group of roughneck soldiers became difficult. Maybe it’s because I was young in the Lord, a relatively new believer, but when we went out to the field for a three to four-week training exercise, I found myself behaving more and more like them by the end of it. This is because humans are impressionable creatures, and it is easier to behave ungodly than it is to behave godly. Engaging in sin is easy. Resisting sin is not. Yet so often it can be difficult to find those people, those fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, that we can spend much time with, whom we know will be a positive influence on us. People are busy. Schedules are packed. We know it would be good to spend more time with people who would have a positive influence in our lives but finding the time is challenging. This is precisely one of the many reasons God gave us the scriptures and why the Bible is so massive. In 1 Corinthians 10:1-10, Paul reminds his readers of all the experiences the Israelites went through and suffered through, how God delivered them and provided for them in the wilderness, and yet most of them did not enter the promised land because of their disobedience and hard heartedness, because they engaged in sexual immorality and idolatry. However, twice in that section he makes two important statements. In v.6 he says, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” Then again in v.11, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” Paul’s point is clear. This is why we should read God’s word every day. This is why we should read through the entire Bible from cover to cover on a regular basis. Whether we read through the Bible in a year every year or take a longer three-year approach, the important thing is that we are reading through God’s word daily because “whoever walks with the wise becomes wise” (Prov. 13:20) and “these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction.”
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?
So run that you may obtain it. (1 Cor. 9:24)
As Christians it can be so easy to fall into the trap of believing that since salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, then it doesn’t matter how we live or how hard we try to live out our faith. Yet, Paul writes, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” By using athletic imagery, Paul is reminding us of how athletes run a race. They put forth all their effort. They strive with every ounce of energy they can muster. They do so because they want to win the prize, reach the goal. However, this striving to win the prize does not just happen on the racetrack. For those who truly want to win the prize, all their effort and hard work begins long before the race. As Paul says, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. Athletes who are serious about winning, exercise regularly. They watch what they eat. They watch what they drink. They “exercise self-control in all things.” Thus, Paul says, “So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” Paul may have echoing in his mind the words of Christ who said, “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matt. 7:21-23). At the Day of Judgement many will not be allowed into God’s presence having been deceived into thinking that simply saying “Lord, Lord”, professing Jesus as Lord, was enough. Jesus says it is not those who simply say, “Lord, Lord” who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of God the Father. Paul understands this and so he says, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” To be sure, salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone. Nevertheless, at the Day of Judgement, Paul does not want to be the one who hears, ‘Depart from me you worker of lawlessness.’ Paul does not want to be “disqualified” from gaining the prize. Paul does not want to be self-deceived into thinking he is saved when he is not. Thus, he disciplines his body and keeps it under control. He works hard at his sanctification and at mortifying the sin that indwells him.
I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34-35)
As we look out at the political landscape and what we see going on in the world, it can be easy to become discouraged or frustrated or concerned about our children’s future. What will the world be like in twenty or forty years? What kind of world will our grandchildren grow up in? However, regardless of what the world will be like in forty years, we can be sure it will be just as God intends it to be. In Daniel 4 we read this: “At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’ (vv.34-35). God does “according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.” Although what we see happening in the world may surprise us or shock us or even frustrate us, none of it surprises, shocks, or frustrates God. All of world history, all of U.S. history and politics, is moving just as God desires it, just as he planned and foreordained it. We may not know what God is doing or why he does the things he does, but here is what we do know—we know God is sovereign, trustworthy, good, and wise. Therefore, we can know with absolute certainty that everything we see happening in the world—Covid19, the election of Joe Biden, social unrest, political turmoil—is all for a wise and good reason. Likely, Joseph struggled to understand why his brothers would sell him into slavery which ultimately landed him in a dirty, damp, flea-infested prison (Gen. 37). But had Joseph not been sold into slavery, he could not have saved his family from starvation. And had he not saved his family from starvation, they would not have become enslaved in Egypt. Had they not become slaves in Egypt, there never would have been an exodus. And if no exodus, then no Mt. Sinai, and if no Mt. Sinai, then no Law, and if no Law, then no nation of Israel, and if no nation of Israel, then no King David, and if no King David, then no Messiah, and if no Messiah, then no cross, and if no cross, then no salvation, and if no salvation, then I would not be trying this Daily Thought and you would not be reading it. And all of this because of one…single…coat. There is always a good and wise reason for everything God does.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way. (1 Cor. 13:4-5)
If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have probably come across believers who hold to some interesting views. I once had a very sincere fellow believer tell me I was sinning for wearing shorts in public, for showing off the bottom half of my legs. He argued that this was a violation of the Bible’s command to dress modestly. When he saw my wife wearing a skirt and makeup, he about came unglued. This may seem like an extreme example, but we all have views that others would likely think are extreme. Whether that be Christians consuming alcohol, smoking cigars, listening to secular music, watching TV or movies, using a particular Bible translation, women wearing pants, getting tattoos, we all have views we believe are biblical and can be defended from scripture. Views others would strongly disagree with. While it is certainly worth discussing every aspect of Christianity, what do we do once we have discussed and have tried in vain to persuade the other person to our point of view? Very often we think that since we don’t believe our behavior is wrong, we are going to do it anyway and if the other person does not like it or is offended by it, too bad. They are just immature Christians, and they need to grow up. Paul dealt with a similar situation in 1 Corinthians 8, wherein some Christians thought it was wrong, or even sinful, to eat meat that had been sacrifice to idols. The cultural situation going on in the city of Corinth is that many devout pagans who sold meat in the marketplace would often sacrifice a portion of the meat to their pagan god or gods in order to earn their favor in the hopes that the gods will bless their business. Some Christians in Corinth thought that to buy or eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols was in someway to endorse or approve of pagan sacrifices. This is not dissimilar to Christians who believe we should not do business with a company which has a pro-abortion agenda or a pro-homosexual agenda or some other unbiblical/politically liberal agenda. So how does Paul respond to this? First, he reminds those struggling with eating meat sacrificed to idols that “as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one’” (v.4). These false gods are not real; therefore, it’s really not a big deal to eat meat that had been sacrificed to them. But then he reminds those who are not concerned about eating meat sacrificed to idols that “not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled” (v.7). Some Christians, because of their past negative association with idols, are really bothered by eating meat sacrificed to idols. Thirdly, Paul reminds them both that “food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do” (v.8). Eat or don’t eat. It does not matter. But then Paul graciously ends his lesson with these words, “if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (v.13). Even though Paul just taught that eating meat sacrificed to idols is not wrong or sinful, if it offends his brother, he “will never eat meat” again. This is perfectly in line with what Paul will teach in 1 Cor. 13 that “Love is patient and kind…[Love] does not insist on its own way.” In the end, let us seek to love the weaker brethren.
For I know that my Redeemer lives (Job 19:25)
Living life in a fallen world can be tough, just ask Job. In the opening two chapters of Job, we read that God granted permission to the devil to destroy all Job’s property, kill all his children, and inflict him with painful boils from head to toe. Things had gotten so bad, in fact, that by the end of chapter two we’re told that his wife says to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Why don’t you just curse God and die?’ Of course, amazingly, Job says to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Then we read, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Nevertheless, Job had gone through some horrendous experiences. The kind of experiences that would cause most of us to just roll over and die. Then to make matters worse, his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Elihu, do their best to convince Job he is being punished for his sin and if he would just repent of his wickedness, God would relent. With friends like that, who needs enemies? Thus, Job starts out trying to defend himself, but quickly begins to wear down under the pressure of false accusation and believing he has been unjustly treated by God. Yet Job never completely loses hope and never falls into complete despair because ultimately be keeps his eye not on this life, but on the next life. In Job 19 we see him reaching the pit of despair and says, “My breath is strange to my wife, and I am a stench to the children of my own mother. Even young children despise me; when I rise they talk against me. All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me” (vv.17-19). He feels the whole world is against him. Many of us have felt that way, when life is going so bad it seems our entire world is crashing down around us and no one is in our corner. Yet Job still sees there is hope. He says, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (vv.25-27). His hope comes not from looking at this life, but from keeping his eye on the next life. Job looks forward to a day when this life will be a distant memory and in his flesh he shall see God. We can learn a lot from Job.
To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. (1 Cor. 7:10-11 ESV)
The above passage is one of those passages that has fallen out of favor in recent years. The idea that a person should not seek to divorce his or her spouse, and if they do, they should remain single or else be reconciled to their spouse is just a foreign concept that many have sought to circumnavigate. Even Evangelicals in recent years have sought to read between the lines of scripture arguing that people may legitimately get divorced for mental, emotional, or physical abuse. If you are unhappy, simply claim you are suffering emotional abuse from your spouse and then you can get a divorce. The reasoning goes something like this: Jesus permitted divorce on the grounds of “marital unfaithfulness” (Matt 5:31-32; 19:9); thus, when a person is mentally, emotionally, or physically abusive, he or she is violating the marriage covenant. They are violating their marriage vows “to love and respect and cherish till death do you part.” Thus, they are being “unfaithful” to the marriage covenant; they have committed the sin of “marital unfaithfulness.” Therefore, divorce is now permissible. The problem is that the apostle Paul says, “the wife should not separate from her husband…and the husband should not divorce his wife.” The second problem is that Jesus never said divorce was permissible on the grounds of “marital unfaithfulness.” What he said was “everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery” (Matt. 5:32, emphasis added). Jesus permitted divorce for sexual immorality, not simply marital unfaithfulness. The underlying Greek word for “sexual immorality” is one word, the word porneia, from which we get our English words pornography or pornographic. According to standard Greek lexicons, the meaning of porneia is “generally, of every kind of extramarital, unlawful, or unnatural sexual intercourse.” Thus, Jesus allowed divorce only for the reason of engaging in sexual intercourse with someone who is not your spouse. To be clear, the Bible does not require someone who is in a physically abusive relationship to stay in the home. He or she is certainly permitted to move out of the home and seek protection someplace else; however, divorce is not an option, according to Jesus. Or, as Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 7:12-13, “if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.” Thus, if the unbelieving spouse desires to remain married and has not engaged in sexual intercourse outside the marriage, the believing spouse does not have biblical grounds for divorce. All of is to say, being careful to marry a Bible-believing, God-fearing man or woman is tremendously important. Marriage should never be entered into lightly nor speedily. Marriage is designed by God to last for a lifetime.
I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. (1 Cor. 4:6)
One of the many things the church in Corinth was struggling with and was causing division within the church was the gifts of the Spirit, talents, and abilities. Many of them were becoming puffed up toward each other thinking that each was better than the other. There was this pervasive idea running through the church that there were super-Christians who were more important or valuable or talented than the rest (1 Cor 12:14-26). To help resolve this issue, that was running the risk of splitting the church, Paul reminds them “not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” In other words, it does not matter what your gifts are, it does not matter if one has the gift of prophecy or not (whatever that is), scripture is the final, authoritative, inerrant rule of all faith, knowledge, and practice. What is written in God’s word is what we are to adhere to. To Timothy he would write, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-4:1)—“that the man of God may be complete.” In other words, God’s word, scripture, is all we need to be complete. The word of God provides us with all we need to know God, to live the Christian life, to grow in sanctification, to engage in ministry, and to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. No further authoritative revelation is needed, nor available, from God. Peter echoes a similar sentiment when he writes, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1:3). Everything we need for “life;” that is, for living life in this world, and for “godliness;” that is, for growing in sanctification and preparing for the next life is given to us “through the knowledge of him who called us;” that is, through the knowledge of God. The more we study God, the more we study the things of God, the more we study scripture, there is where we find all that we need for life and godliness.
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