Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
It wasn’t that hard to choose a memory verse for this week. It’s not an unfamiliar one but it is a powerful one. Paul wants the church to turn from all that has divided them and caused them turmoil and turn to love. In this short chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, he lays out what that means.
In putting together a visual, I wanted to keep it simple and remind us that we wouldn’t really know love if not for the love that we see in Jesus Christ.
It is so tempting to go through life comparing ourselves to everyone around us. Am I keeping up with the Jones?
Instead of fixing our eyes on our neighbors, we need to set our sights on the goal that is before us. We need to set our mind on things above, where Christ is, not the things of earth (Col 3); we should look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12). As we run we need to keep our true goal in mind.
We could look around and think that we’re doing enough because we’re not as bad as someone else. But other people are not like some sort of pace car that we measure ourselves against. We look to Jesus alone and seek him as our goal.
Let’s not lose sight of Jesus in all this talk of Christian freedom and responsibility. Paul has spoken of how we should use our freedom and knowledge to love our brothers and sisters, and at times this leads us to sacrifice our rights.
With this discussion going on, how can we not look to Jesus who has done this for us?
There is one example that overshadows all others when we think of one who gave up his rights in order to love. And he did so to love a bunch of sinners.
Jesus Christ is the only perfect one. He is the only one who lived without fault, without transgression, but the people turned on him. The powers of this world sought to accuse him of wrongdoings. But the innocent one kept silent. The one who is the true judge allowed himself to be judged by sinners.
They took Christ to the cross and Jesus was tempted to call upon his rights. They mocked him saying that if he were really the Son of God, he’d come down from that cross.
But the Son of God, whose right it would be to show his power and judge the world, showed us that he is one who would forgo his right in order to love. Jesus, the strong and faithful, loved his weaker brothers and sisters by giving up his rights, and dying in our place. The strong took the place of the weak.*
*Quote taken from my sermon this last Sunday. Redundancy is the key to learning, right?
Paul begins the final section of chapter six with a illustration that parallels food and the body. He says that food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food. He doesn’t want us to be deceived in thinking that the body is meant for sexual immorality and sexual immorality for the body. No, Paul shows us the correct purpose for the bodies that God has given us. The body is for the Lord and the Lord for the body.
Paul then makes an argument about the negative affect of treating the body as though it were meant for immorality and makes a positive argument for why it is for the Lord and how the body is the Lord’s.
Many in Corinth saw sex as something to be treated casually and even within the church there were those who thought that freedom in Christ meant the freedom to do anything with their bodies, including incest and prostitution. Paul disagrees with this and tries to show why what we do with our bodies has great importance.
Any sexual interaction creates a new unity. Therefore there is no casual sex. This is a myth of our culture that says sex can be “just sex.” It is something more. So to have sex with a prostitute is to join yourself to the prostitute. It is not a casual encounter with no significance and to make it all the worse, Paul reminds us that we are already joined to Christ. We are members of Christ and to engage in this wrong behavior is to take the members of Christ and make them members with a prostitute. We should rather flee this sexual immorality and flee to Christ.
This stems from a low view of the body and of sex. Sex shouldn’t be seen in the same way as food. Ken Bailey’s commentary says this on the topic:
Paul is objecting to the dehumanizing of sex that takes place when it is turned into a form of entertainment and made parallel to food. Paul is rejecting the view that says “I feel hungry–I eat. I feel sexual desire–I engage in sex.”1
No we are made for something more. Our bodies are for the Lord and in Christ we are bound to him, two are made one in spirit. If we throw ourselves into immoral sexual relationships we are pulling ourselves away from unity to Christ and united our bodies, temples of the Spirit, to a prostitute. We are torn apart from the fellowship we find in Jesus.
It is more than a moral argument about what is acceptable in polite society. Paul wants his readers to realize that our bodies are meant for the Lord and they will be raised up with him. Our bodies are meant for the resurrection and what we do to them matters. Christianity is not a religion that pulls away from the body and focuses only on the otherworldly. We believe God created this world and proclaimed it good. Our God even came to us and took on flesh in Jesus Christ. Jesus had a body and our bodies are of great worth and we can’t toss them aside or think what we do with them has no meaning. No, they are meant for the Lord and destined to be raised with him.
Our bodies are given a great task in that they are temples of the Holy Spirit. Where once there was one place where all people went to seek the presence of God, now the one who is found in Christ is the very dwelling place of his Spirit. As a temple, our bodies then are to be places of worship, sacrifice, dedication, praise, offering, and thanksgiving. As a temple, we represent God’s presence where ever we walk.
Sexual immorality draws us away from Christ, harming the unity we have with him. It also misunderstands the purpose of our bodies, giving us a vision of a purpose that is far too small for the Christian. God has given us our bodies to be temples of the Holy Spirit, to be for the Lord. And we are the Lord’s. We have been purchased at great cost to be Christ’s. The price for you and for me was his death. But that is how much we are loved and prized by God. We are beloved, a cherished possession. So know that we now do in our bodies matters. His sacrifice for us gives our whole selves–bodies and all–great significance. If you and your body are important to God, they should be important to you as well.
The last line says it all so well. Remember, you are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Ken Bailey, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes. 185. ↩
When Paul mentions the Passover he is calling to mind one of the defining events for the Jewish people. The final plague of Exodus was to be the death of the firstborns in Egypt, but God’s people are spared because he has made a provision for them. The blood of the firstborns is replaced by the blood of a lamb. Its blood is smeared on the doors of the homes and death passes over God’s people. Paul now says to the church that Christ is this Passover lamb.
But the Passover calls to mind not only the passing over, but also the final deliverance from Egypt. The people were to prepare themselves for on the same night that Israel is passed over and death comes upon many in that land, there were to leave. They need to be ready to go and go quickly. Exodus 12:11 says this:
In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover.
Having your belt fastened is what is at times translated, “gird up your loins.” The idea behind it is be ready for travel. Don’t let your robes hang low and trip you up as you make your escape. Don’t just have your shoes by the door, put them on. Fasten your belt, tie your shoes laces–in double knots, have your car keys in hand and not on the table. Be ready to go immediately.
This hurry is why they eat the unleavened bread. Israel would have no time for their dough to rise. They needed to make haste.
Then as God had told them, it all comes to pass. Cries went up in the night “for there was not a house where someone was not dead.” Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron in the night and commands them to go. He says, ““Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”
There is a great urgency for Egypt to rid itself of such a people that have brought God’s judgment upon them. They fear what may come next. So with such urgency in the land, it was in God’s wisdom that he prepared Israel to make haste. This great exodus was no small undertaking and it would have taken much preparation, and God had guided them through it. Here is what happened, beginning in verse 34 of Exodus 12:
So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.
The book of Exodus then recounts the length of time that Israel had spent in Egypt, emphasizing the ending of that time and the beginning of a new day for Israel. Now they are freed. Generations of slavery have come to an end. So, when death pases over the people and Pharaoh finally tells Moses and his people, “Go!”, the only proper response is to leave. God did not bring about such a miraculous deliverance for his own people from the great worldly power of Egypt for them to remain in captivity. Israel’s response to God’s work and Pharaoh’s charge cannot be to linger. When Pharaoh says to leave, they shouldn’t say, “Give me a minute.” They can’t stay a moment longer. They can’t remain in slavery. God makes this point when he tells them to prepare themselves and dress appropriately for they won’t even have time for bread to rise. When God makes the way for his people, they must go. He desires to free them from Egypt and deliver them into a land that had been promised to them.
Paul is calling upon this theme of deliverance in 1 Corinthians. When he mentions that Christ is our Passover lamb he wants you to remember the Passover. The Passover is not only the sparing of Israel, it is the catalyst of their freedom. Likewise, Jesus is our sacrifice, sparing us from the consequence of our sin. He has taken the judgment on himself. But this Passover lamb was not sacrificed so that we can now linger in slavery. The church in Corinth is making a mockery of the sacrifice and is misunderstanding freedom in Christ. The arrogant sinning that is going on is nothing but a return to slavery. Paul wants them to understand and then live into a true freedom in Christ. His sacrifice is what brings us freedom to flee from captivity, leaving behind the chains of sin and the dominion of death.
Knowing that Jesus is our Passover, we ought to make haste to flee from sin and rush into his arms. We experience true freedom in him. We know the life we are intended to live when we are in Christ.
Using our freedom in Christ to return to sin is a return to slavery. Rather, just as Israel prepared itself to march out of Egypt into God’s guidance, we too must prepare ourselves. We are called to rid ourselves of such bondage, casting aside whatever weighs us down and entangles us because we have a race before us that we must run (Hebrews 12:1-2). We must be ready for a march into God’s promised land. We have a kingdom to be stewards of in this fallen world. We have a life of freedom that leads not to death, but to newness of life and life everlasting. So in our continuing work to leave the captivity of sin and live the life of a freed people, captive only to the righteousness of God, let us prepare ourselves as we are instructed in Ephesians 6, keeping in mind the way the Israelites were to prepare themselves on the night of their deliverance:
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
When Paul refers to Christ as our Passover Lamb, there is a wealth of Scripture that a Jewish audience would have flooding to mind. But the church, as it is now, is a place of great variety, and those who were familiar would have been expected to bring others along in their understanding. Here are two great passages to help make you more familiar with the Passover and further your understanding of how how Christ is our lamb.
Here is where we learn of God’s instituting of the Passover. God’s people are in slavery in Egypt and God is in the process of bringing plagues upon the land as his means of deliverance. God then gives instructions for how to survive his final judgment on Egypt. It is a way for the Hebrews to be saved as death passes them over and this plague will be the catalyst for their deliverance from bondage.
1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.
7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.
Here in the New Testament in John, John the Baptist is identifying Jesus with the Passover Lamb, proclaiming that Jesus has come to take away our sins.
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
Take note that here in the very beginning of John’s gospel, Jesus’ ministry is already directed to the cross, where he will make the ultimate sacrifice.
If we want to have a new start, we can’t just do it on our own. We don’t flip a switch and wipe the slate clean. No, it is done for us. The leaven is cleaned out, the old is gone, and this has happened because of Christ Jesus. He has taken our sin away by sacrificing himself for us. We can be the new creation because Christ is our Passover Lamb.
I always enjoy posting music that fits our readings so enjoy this wonderful song describing our God’s great love for us. The following lines especially fit with our repeated theme of boasting, and not doing so about ourselves, but only in Jesus Christ.
From How Deep the Father’s Love for Us:
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom.
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.