14 Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved. But be that as it may, I did not burden you. (2 Corinthians 12:14–16, NKJV)
Paul laid up spiritual treasures for his children in the faith by diligently teaching, admonishing, and equipping the Corinthians Christians to live faithfully. Paul had delayed his plans to return to Corinth, which was all his detractors needed to think and say the worst about him (1 Cor. 16:5-7; 2 Cor. 1:15-18; 2:1). Despite being loved less, he would continue to “spend and be spent” for their souls. Here is a word of exhortation to gospel preachers. Do not be deterred when others criticize you for preaching the word of God (2 Tim. 3:10-12). Do not be distracted when you are assigned improper motives for proclaiming the gospel. Preach God’s word with the urgency that truth and its power to save demands (2 Tim. 4:2; Rom. 1:15-16). Some will not accept the sting of sound doctrine and charge you with wrongdoing when you deliver God’s truth. Some may even lie in wait and try to catch you in something you say (Lk. 11:53-54). They may try to make you the problem. Do not be silenced (2 Tim. 2:9-10). Always be motivated by love for the saints and the lost. Incur the cost (“spend and be spent”), bear the burden, and declare the whole counsel of God without fear or favor (Acts 20:27; 2 Tim. 4:5).
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. (Psalm 116:15, NKJV)
When death takes loved ones, we ask, “Why?” and “How could this happen?” It is not that we do not know the answers (death comes to us all, Heb. 9:27). Such questions come to our minds because we are left to grapple with our loss. That is natural. The gospel teaches Christians how to deal with death by developing God’s point of view of death. The death of God’s saints (holy ones) is a valuable event in God’s sight. Even at the moment of our loss, it also can be precious to us. Saints have overcome by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11). They have lived their lives by faith, not sight (2 Cor. 5:7). A living hope has lived in them (1 Pet. 1:3). When God’s people die, He blesses them with rest from their fleshly toils and adversities (Rev. 14:13; Lk. 16:25). To “depart and be with Christ” is “far better” than this physical realm. So, we accept patiently and joyfully the passing of beloved saints, knowing the assurance of God are real and received. And so, we press on by faith while living in the flesh, anticipating eternal realms of glory with God and His saints. Thanks be to God that death is our doorway to everlasting joy. Are you ready to die? When you live holy as God is holy, you are (1 Pet. 1:13-16).
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: (1 Corinthians 1:2, NKJV)
This salutation from Paul the apostle and brother Sosthenes gives us a number of insights into the character and purpose of local churches. First, the local church belongs to God, not to us. Culture and consensus do not legitimize rearranging the local church after our image. Next, each local church is identifiable and independent. This church was “at Corinth.” There is no hint of an overarching ecclesiastical and organizational oversight of this (or any other) local church. The centralization of authority over churches is unheard of in the New Testament. Scripture sufficiently organizes local churches to function and fulfill their God-given work. Next, the members of the local church are “sanctified in Christ Jesus” and thus, called “saints” (holy ones). Each Christian is a saint, purified from sins by the blood of Christ (Col. 1:20-22). As such, we are called to live holy lives before God and the world (Rom. 12:1). Finally, the Corinthians needed to know they were not alone. There were other saints “who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” Christians still need the encouragement that comes from knowing others share common faith and fellowship with them in Christ our Lord (1 Cor. 1:9).
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:1–3, NKJV)
In sharp contrast to Calvinism’s “perseverance of the saints” doctrine (a.k.a. “once saved, always saved” and the impossibility of apostasy), the Spirit of God explicitly says some Christians would “depart from the faith” (v. 1). One cannot depart from that of which he was never a part. They would depart “the faith” – the gospel revealed by Christ and preached by His apostles (Gal. 1:11-12, 23). Jesus described those who “in time of temptation fall away” (Lk. 8:13). Paul warned those who had “fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). He also spoke of “the falling away” to console those who thought Christ was soon to appear (2 Thess. 2:3). Why reject this obvious Bible truth? It has nothing to do with God’s ability to save, and everything to do with our faith. We must hear and follow the word of Jesus to be secure in Him (Jno. 10:27-30; Heb. 5:8-9; Matt. 7:21-23). False doctrines (like once saved, always saved) deceive people of their security when they are in spiritual danger. Error sears consciences to prevent us from believing and receiving the truth (v. 3). You can know whether you have departed from the faith by comparing yourself to the truth. We are secure in Christ when we believe and walk in the faith.
5 And the heavens will praise Your wonders, O Lord; Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the saints. 6 For who in the heavens can be compared to the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the Lord? 7 God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, And to be held in reverence by all those around Him. (Psalm 89:5–7, NKJV)
The sovereign majesty of God is on full display in the heavens: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). The wondrous precision of the heavenly bodies sustains life on earth and measures time on this globe. God faithfully works in the heavens and in the assembly of His holy ones. He rises above all the heavenly host and is held in reverential awe by them. The holy ones before His throne proclaim, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11). How much more so, then, ought we to fall before His majesty with reverential praise and adoration! Worship is not play time, entertainment time, or anything else but giving homage to the Lord God “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). As the hymn says, “There is none like Him, none can compare.”
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9, NKJV)
Some nations are ungodly, like Assyria (Isaiah 10:5-6). Some nations are angry and headstrong, like ancient Babylon (Habakkuk 1:6). Israel was a “sinful nation” during the days of Isaiah (Isaiah 1:4). But, the church of Christ is a spiritual nation of holy people (saints). We are sanctified in Christ Jesus – set apart from sin and made holy before Him (1 Corinthians 1:2). The call of the gospel is a call to holiness in heart and life, not a call to continue living in the defilement of sin (1 Thessalonians 4:1-7). “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17). Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, therefore, as its citizens we must not be of this world and we must not love this world (John 18:36; 1 John 2:15-17). The church is a holy nation that constitutes a holy priesthood, serving in the house of God under the kingly and priestly rule of Jesus Christ (Zechariah 6:12-13; Psalm 110:1-4; Hebrews 1:8-9; 5:5-6). Therefore, let us “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
1 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. 3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; (Ephesians 5:1–3, NKJV)
There are repeated warnings in the Scriptures of falling into sexual sins. Here, being imitators of God and walking in sacrificial love are the preventative measures we take to avoid the moral defilement of “fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness.” Ironically, the world often calls fornication, “love,” as millions upon millions commit this sin in the name of “love.” Sexual uncleanness occurs outside of God-approved marriage, and is the fruit of covetousness (Heb. 13:4; cf. Exo. 20:17). These sins are “not even to be named” among Christians. R. C. H. Lenski correctly explains this to mean that “such vices are to be so far removed from us that even an intimation or a suspicion of their presence among us should not occur” (The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians, p. 596). Christians are not immune to sexual temptations; but, we must resist them and reject them whenever they come (1 Pet. 5:8-9). “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7). Then, we can be “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”
1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:1–3, NKJV)
Just as Christ called Paul to be an apostle, Christ calls sinners to be saints. Paul was called to be an apostle through the will of God, and, God’s will calls sinners through the gospel to be “sanctified in Christ” – holy and set apart from sin and set apart unto God. The word saints (“holy ones”) is applied in the Scriptures to every Christian, not just special ones the church decides ought to be called saints (like is practiced in Roman Catholicism). The church is a “holy nation” according to Peter in 1 Peter 2:9. Those who are “beloved of God” are saints according to Paul in Romans 1:7. In today’s text, saints “call on the name of Jesus Christ,” and through Him obtain grace and peace from God. In Catholicism, Saint Patrick is the “patron saint of Ireland,” but in the Scriptures, all Christians are saints. The reason is simple: “Be holy, for I am holy,” says the Lord (1 Pet. 1:15-16).