Fools for Christ’s Sake – Part Three

1 Corinthians 4:1-21 This week’s lessons teach us what it means to follow Jesus.
Rich in Christ

In yesterday’s lesson we saw that faithfulness is to be the standard of God’s stewards. In the passage that we are studying, Paul mentions a number of areas in which we are to be faithful. One is handling the mysteries of God rightly, the secret things of God. When Paul speaks of mysteries, he is not speaking of mysteries as the Greeks would have understood them. The Greeks had various religions that in certain forms have even been revived in modern days. They were called “mysteries” because the things the worshippers did and believed were hidden from everybody else. Paul, here, is not talking about mysteries in that sense. He is talking about that which the mind of man would never have imagined if left to itself, but which God has revealed in the Gospel.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ – that is the mystery. He says if you are going to be faithful, one way in which you have to be faithful is with those truths. Do not play around with the Gospel. Don’t try to reinterpret it in some way that you think might make it more palatable to your generation. Rather, be faithful and deliver the Gospel in the same way it was delivered to you. Paul even uses these words in 1 Corinthians 15 when he is talking about the Resurrection. He says, “Brothers, I delivered unto you the same thing that I received, the same thing that was delivered unto me.” Then he spells out the Gospel, how Jesus was buried, and died, and rose again on the third day, and how there were many witnesses.

Another area in which we are to be faithful is in waiting for God to bring the blessing. When Jesus comes, he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness. God works at his own speed. We get restless. We say, “He’s not moving fast enough. If I’m going to make it in this world, it’s got to be faster than that.” But God works in his own time.

In verses 6 and 7, Paul also says something very powerful about not going beyond what is already written. He was speaking about that which was written in the pages of the Old Testament. For us it means both the New Testament and the Old Testament. What Paul is saying is, “Don’t go beyond what God says.” We are so inclined to break that admonition. We read it and say, “Yes, but it is so irrelevant. That is not where people are today. People don’t want to know about the Bible. They want you to speak to them where they are.” But of course, the Gospel is relevant. It does speak to people where they are. Paul is speaking a profound word to our time when he says, “Don’t go beyond what is written.”

There is also another way we go beyond what is written. We read the Bible and discover a great principle such as church discipline, for example. We say there must be discipline in the church. But then we get sort of carried away with ourselves. So along comes someone who is doing something that we do not think is quite right. We call them in. We say, “We do not think you ought to be doing that.” They reply, “Well, I’m going to do that anyway.” We say, “We’re going to discipline you.” Now that sounds funny, but it happens. Discipline needs to be restored, but not discipline beyond where the Bible speaks. I might have an idea of what I think is right for you, but I have no right to impose it unless the Bible says so clearly. Where the moral law of God is involved, by all means we must uphold that standard. But where there are doubtful areas or where it is a question about which the Bible is not specific, let’s recognize that we are all servants of God at that point. It is before our Master, not before one another, that we stand or fall. Paul talks about the ministry in those ways in the first verses of this chapter.

Study Questions
  1. In what three things does Paul say we must prove faithful?
  2. In today’s lesson, two examples of “going beyond what is written” were given. What were they? In what other ways are we tempted to add to Scripture?

Further Study
Paul is not the only one to warn us of the danger of adding to Scripture. Read Revelation 22:18-19.

We must not judge others for that which is not clearly taught in Scripture. Search yourself to see if you have held anyone to your standards as opposed to Christ’s.

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