Monday, September 19, 2005

1 Corinthians 4:8-21

As Paul will write later in this letter, God desires for us, gives to us, and nurtures in us three things: faith; hope; and love. These three fundamental dispositions or qualities are rich gifts bestowed upon us in the one truest and greatest gift – new life in Jesus. They are certainly good things. We should certainly rejoice in them. We should rejoice that, by God’s grace in Jesus, we now possess them.

At the same time, our handling of God’s gifts can warp us toward a spiritual arrogance. We may come to think we are spiritually mature in ways or to a point that we have not really attained. This warp may manifest itself in a feeling that we have arrived. We do not feel the need to grow spiritually. After all, we have advanced in faith so much! Or, it might manifest itself in an arrogance toward others. We may feel we are so better spiritually and morally than non-believers, and perhaps even than other believers.

It appears that many in the church in Corinth, having experienced God’s gifts in plenty through the ministry of Paul and others, skewed toward spiritual arrogance. Paul’s severe irony, in verse 10 of this chapter in particular, exposed their posture of spiritual superiority. He wrote severely not to shame them but to turn their hearts back to true life in Christ. Toward this end, in the next chapters Paul squarely addressed serious spiritual and moral problems in the Corinthian Christian community. His aim, God willing, was to set the Corinthian church right again on the sure foundation of true life in Christ, summarized in chapter 13 in these three gifts: faith, hope, and love, with love being the greatest.

God desires, gives, and nurtures good things in and through us – wonderful works, glorious goods. The only proper posture or disposition in response is humility – humility saturated with love and gratitude, love and gratitude to God. Decades ago when I began to follow Jesus more intentionally and seriously, I sometimes imagined how spiritually advanced and mature I would be decades later. Now I am those decades later. Increasingly close to God temporally, I realize only more how far I yet have to go to close with God spiritually.

Gregory Strong

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