1 Corinthians 1:9; 2:14 “God is faithful. …But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.”

Observation: Paul was spiritual father to the Corinthians, having been first to preach the Gospel there on an earlier trip. Corinth was a remarkably wicked city, and the fledgling church was having a tough time wringing “the world” out of its midst. There were divisions among them as people identified primarily with Paul or Apollos or Cephas or Christ. Paul responded by reminding them that it is only by Christ’s Cross that power is granted sufficient for living the victorious Christian life. He went on to say that there was an irreconcilable gulf between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom imparted by the Spirit of God. He made clear that we can only live in one or the other: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God. …But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (1 Cor. 2:12, 14).

Application: Paul hammered away at what should have been obvious but was lost to their understanding since he had last been among them. He was deeply concerned for their spiritual condition, and called them to an essential reordering of their beliefs if they are to be Christ’s. 

Who among us cannot relate to Paul’s pleading for correction? Which of us does not have friends or family whom we desperately long to see secure in the kingdom, but who need a major course correction in their beliefs? I can learn much from Paul’s loving approach in the letter’s beginning. Despite all he knew of their divisions and bad theology, he affirmed them by looking ahead to how things will be and spoke as though they were. He identified them as having been sanctified in Christ (1 Cor. 1:2), covered by the grace of God (v. 4), and enriched by Him in speech and knowledge (v. 5). He reminded them that God had given them gifts (v. 7), and that God would confirm them blameless in the end (v. 8). 

Here, then, is my model. Paul understood and verbalized what Christ had accomplished before wading into the Corinthians’ alligator-filled swamp. They needed profound correction, but he began by painting a picture of what Christ had done before he began to teach how to walk it out. Gentle yet firm. Loving but direct. How have I grown under that model? How faithful am I to pass it on?

Prayer: Lord God, thank You for the example of Your Father-heart in Paul. You give me here a great example to follow as I seek to encourage and help others grow in the faith. Cause this lesson to sink deep into my spirit and take root, that I might model it for others.