Paul continues to jump from one topic to another, but each and every one has great significance for us today.
In 9:19-23, Paul describes his philosophy for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. He says, “I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.” What a fascinating position! Paul, of course, isn’t compromising on his morality or theology, but he puts everything else on the table. Imagine if you were called to witness to Bears or Vikings fans - could you become all things to all people? What if you could witness to people of another political party? Or people of another nation and language? How far are you willing to go to effectively share the story of Jesus?
In the midst of a debate about spiritual gifts, Paul writes some of those most memorable words of Scripture in 1 Corinthians 13. He concludes that chapter by saying, “now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” Faith and hope, as essential as they are in the Christian life now, will no longer be necessary in the life to come. When we can see God, we no longer need faith; when we live in heaven, we no longer need hope. But love is the produce of the life of the Trinity, the constant reality of God the Father, Son and Spirit. Love never ends. Do you see faith, hope and love as spiritual gifts, as Paul does? Why or why not?
At the end of his letter, Paul addresses the question of resurrection; both the resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of our bodies. This crucial concept in the New Testament is often overlooked by most modern Christians. What does it mean to be resurrected, according to Paul here? Does Paul envision that we will ever be “dis-embodied” souls? Are you encouraged, or confused, by this idea that Jesus will come back to raise the dead to new bodies, as he was raised?
Paul has, apparently, had some conflict with the Corinthians since his last letter. As you read, see if you can find evidence of this, and of the current relationship between Paul and his church in Corinth.
In 2 Corinthians 4:17-5:4, Paul challenges us to see our current troubles as only "slight, momentary afflictions" in light of what God has prepared for us. What does this passage make you think about suffering in the Christian life?
Famously, Paul proclaims that we are a new creation in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). What does he mean by this? How is being a new creation different from merely being forgiven?
Enjoy your reading and I’ll see you Sunday!