man drinking coffee November 26 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): 1Corinthians 1–6

Be Sober-minded

To be sober-minded means to think clearly and see things the way they truly are. When a person is drunk from an alcoholic beverage, he is not sober-minded. He may even become boastful. It is the same when we are drunk from the feelings of our own self-importance. Perhaps, we have accomplished something great, or we are more talented than most in certain areas of our lives. Maybe, we have attained a high position in an organization. Possibly, we achieve our feelings of superiority because we are associated with someone who has stature. Any one of these things might make us think we can behave in any way we want. Is this true? Is this sober-minded thinking?

During the Apostle Paul's second missionary journey he stayed and ministered in Corinth, telling Jews and Gentiles about Jesus. After more than eighteen months of teaching and persecution by the Jews, he left to go to Ephesus. While traveling, he heard the Corinthian church was having some serious problems, so he wrote letters to address them.

In 1Corinthians, Paul commends them for how they speak of Christ and their knowledge of him (1Corinthians 1:4-5), but he rebukes them for their divisiveness, foolishness, and boasting.

How are they divisive? Certain groups within the church boast that they follow the Apostle Paul, Cephas (the Apostle Peter), Apollos, or Jesus Christ. Paul and Peter are the most famous of all the apostles. Peter is the most popular with Jewish Christians, while Paul is the most popular with Gentile Christians. Apollos is a very effective speaker and an expert at expounding the Scriptures. Jesus Christ, of course, is the one who saved all of them (and us) by his great sacrifice on the cross (more...).

Do we think we are more important than some other ministry or organization because of the leader we follow? This is one of the problems of the Corinthian church and can also be our problem. Paul encourages them to think soberly: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” (1Corinthians 1:13, NIV). The obvious answer is no. Paul viewed himself as weak and in some cases disrespected. In fact, he was an enemy of Christ before he was converted. Paul says,

It is because of him [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” (1Corinthians 1:30-31, NIV).

Let us be sober-minded. Paul told the Corinthians that it is Christ, not some insightful human spiritual leader, who gives us wisdom and understanding. Those who are unbelievers do not understand this. They follow successful people who have money, influence, and position. They think following Christ is foolishness. Those who see their need for spiritual life, forgiveness, and peace, however, see the wisdom of following Christ who died for them and rose again. Do we see our need for Christ? (more...)

Paul wants them (and us) to be sober-minded. He says, “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task” (1Corinthians 3:5, NIV). When we are tempted to exalt spiritual leaders or ourselves above others, let us remember that we are all just servants with assignments from the Lord to fulfill. Whether we are a minister, musician, usher or a nursery worker, our work is important. Paul wants the Corinthian church (and us) to be unified.

Nevertheless, let us also render honor to whom honor is due. There are leaders whom God has placed in authority over us. Let us not despise or be jealous of the position which the Lord gave them. Let us render due respect, listen to them, and imitate their godly character.

We should also remember that like children watch their parents’ example, people watch us. Parents know their children copy them, no matter if the example they set for them is good or bad. What kind of example are we setting? Let us be excellent servants of Christ for others to follow.

Not only do the Corinthians have a problem with divisiveness; they also have a problem with boasting about their tolerance and progressiveness. We are encouraged in our society to be the same way, and it is easy for us to adapt to our culture—to swim with the tide instead of against it. The Corinthian believers have tolerance for immoral relationships. Paul describes it this way:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? (1Corinthians 5:1-2, NIV)

Paul wants the Corinthians to sober up and realize that Christians are called to live pure. Allowing a little bit of evil in our lives is not something to be proud of; it is something which should cause us to grieve. In bread dough a little yeast affects the whole lump (1Corinthians 5:6). In the same way, our churches, families, or other organizations can be ruined by one act of indiscretion. We must not tolerate evil but deal with it.

The Corinthians are also suing each other and having their civil cases tried in public court. Again, Paul wants them to sober up. When believers air their disputes publicly, they give the entire church family a bad name. Christians with good judgment should be found to mediate our grievances and bring justice and peace. We can and should handle our own affairs whenever possible.

Lessons to Live By

  • Those who see their need for spiritual life, forgiveness, and peace see the wisdom of following Christ who died for them and rose again (more...).
  • Sober up! Remember, we Christians are all a part of God’s team. By God’s grace and his empowerment we are what we are—merely his servants caring out his assignments. We need to be unified.
  • Let us render honor to whom honor is due.
  • We should be excellent examples of purity, integrity, and love for others to follow. We must not tolerate evil but deal with it.
  • Christians, we must seek to work out differences amongst ourselves so the good testimony of our family, church or other organizations may be preserved.

Focus Verse

3John 1:11 (NIV) “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God,”

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A Look Ahead: There are other issues which can be divisive for the church. What does the Bible say about Marriage, Divorce, Singleness, Christian Liberty and Responsibility? Find out in our Next Lesson.

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