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Nov 21 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 21, 2021



I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me and there are many adversaries 1 Corinthians 16:5-9

Intro: The last chapter of 1 Corinthians is not as interesting as rest of the letter

It is mostly business – like when we were of age and our parents left for a week vacation
– they instructed us, “Don’t forget to feed the dog, water the plants, bring in the mail, and put out the trash”
• so here: Paul’s last-minute instructions include fund-raising for Jerusalem, his own itinerary, Timothy’s visit, Apollos would not be visiting them, and various greetings
• we are looking for a precious gem here or there
◦ same sort of spiritual insights we have found shining through Paul’s ordinary language
– from the start, we’ve listened to Paul as our Spirit-teacher
• like the Corinthians, we become preoccupied with our culture and church issues
◦ in response, Paul has taught them to learn to use their new eyes and ears
◦ to deepen their new awareness of God, who is present at all times and in all situations
• that is why I have called our perusal of 1 Corinthians “A Primer In Things Unseen”
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:16-18)

Paul was in a situation that was “almost” ideal (vv. 8-9)

Any minister or missionary would be excited regarding this prospect,
a wide door for effective work has been opened
• if that were all Paul had to deal with, the situation would have been ideal
• but the truth is, no situation on earth is ideal — at least not for very long
– the kind of work God has us doing in the world will always entail many adversaries
• sometimes strangers, sometimes people on our own team
◦ most often, our adversaries and adversities come from our circumstances

There is a reason Paul had to write a chapter that is all business
– it is because we will always have to deal with the stuff of physical world
• it will always be a source of distraction, hindrance, frustration
• there was a reason why monasteries were built far from cities
– why couldn’t there just be the wide door for effective work?
• why must there be many adversaries?
1. because that is where we find our work; that is, where the need is great
2. because adversity is what makes our lives a story
◦ a series of events is not a story (e.g., “This happened, then this happened, then this . . .)
◦ adversity creates a plot – and suspense, and the need for God to work
• I read this chapter last June – I’ll share a bit of what I wrote back then:
“The lesson here is the same one we learn from Jesus’ Transfiguration. I doubt the disciples ever experienced a fuller revelation of God than on that mountain. But they had to come back down to the mundane world. And there waiting for them was a heated argument and a demon-possessed boy.
“We want the new perspective the disciples had, the greater awareness of God’s immediate presence, the peace we receive from our conscious connection with a larger reality. But all of that is given us to serve one purpose; to be God’s agents of redemption in the world. We need Paul’s “heavenly vision,” for sure! How else will we escape our own worldly entanglements? But we also need to take care of business. These closing words of Paul advise us how we are to go about doing that.”

Here is the kind of insight we had hoped to find in this chapter
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. I Corinthians 16:13-14

“Be watchful” (or stay awake, or wake up)– Jesus taught this to disciples in critical moments
– at end of the era in which they were living — they would need to watch, to stay awake:
when they would be in danger of being led astray, and many would fall away – and betray one another and hate one another – and many false prophets would arise – and the love of many would grow cold (Mt. 24:4, 10-12)
• then again in the Garden of Gethsemane,
◦ when Judas was at the gate with a crowd that was armed with swords and clubs
• then Jesus’ message to church in Sardis, wake up (Rev. 3:2)
◦ Paul also stressed waking up:
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand (Ro. 13:11-12)
– Paul explained that reality is more than our 4-D universe
• that the dimension of God’s Spirit cannot be seen or heard
yet that is the dimension that defines our Christian lives
◦ and though hidden from our senses, we can become aware of it experientially
• we have to wake ourselves up!
◦ I need to be reminded of this every day
◦ I constantly fall asleep and lose awareness of God’s presence
– how can we wake ourselves up?
• constantly return to scripture – listen to God in it
• as you listen, do something – pray it, sing it, bow
• walk in nature – remind yourself of the mystery hidden in it
• nurture reverence – say, “I don’t know” and allow yourself to recover awe and wonder
• acknowledge yourself of the ways you numb your mind – your diversions
• do one thing every day, fully present
• whenever something surprises you, use the surprise to wake you up
• ask, “What am I missing?” Then look around
◦ perhaps you’ll begin to see differently

“Stand firm in the faith”
– when we wade in the ocean, even small waves move us
• it takes effort to resist the pressure of water rolling in and receding
◦ avoid getting into anything over your head
• we need to keep our feet planted in the faith
◦ faith is what connects us to the mystery; faith is our spiritual sight

“Act like men”
– I really do not like this phrase – “Real men don’t cry”
• the same word is found in the Greek translation of the Old Testament
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD! (Ps. 27:14)
• courage is a determination to do what has to be done,
◦ even in the face of danger, difficulty, or discomfort
– there are different degrees of courage,
• and some people have more than others
• each one of us will have to find our own way to do this
◦ I find that the courage of others inspires me

“Be strong”
– Paul is not saying, Be muscular or, Be aggressive, or abrasive
• in this regard, his prayer for the Ephesians was that God
according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith . . . to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge [and] be filled with all the fullness of God (Ep. 3:14-19)
• this kind of strength is like the deep roots of a tree
◦ it’s the strength of good health that produces stamina
◦ it’s the strength that supports courage

“Let all that you do be done in love”
– we’ve been taught, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, do not say anything at all”
• but what Paul says goes way beyond that
◦ first, it’s not just what we have to say, but all that we do
◦ second, the alternative is not “do nothing at all”
–there is no alternative; we have to do something and do it in love
Jesus: So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Mt. 7:12)
• we refer to this as “The Golden Rule” –
◦ however, Jesus referred to it as the “narrow gate”
For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those that find it are few (Mt. 7:13-14)
– if Christianity fails at love, it is then a total failure

Every once in awhile, in our Lexio Divina meeting, everyone will talk at once
– we’re meeting electronically, so it becomes a mess of noise
• but it is also a joyful sound,
• because it only happens when everyone is expressing their love to one individual

I admit that I’m interpreting this next verse out of context
The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord 1 Corinthians 16:19

Is there a “church” in your hoouse?
– a specific place where you meet with God
– a space where you invite others to sit and share conversations regarding your lives with God?
I will leave you to explore the question for yourself

Conclusion: And now the verse that holds the key to open every door
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you 1 Corinthians 16:23

God’s grace makes everything impossible for us possible
– God’s grace fills the gap between where I am and where I could be
– grace is not like God’s Spirit, a source of energy or power
Rather, it is God’s attitude toward us –
his joy in giving us everything we do not deserve
The grace of Jesus is what wakes us up,
enables us to stand firm in the faith,
gives us courage,
makes us strong,
and carries us down the hard way and through the narrow gate of love

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