13 March 2017

1 Corinthians 3:18-23

“For all things are yours … all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God”. (vv. 21-23)

Psalm: Psalm 119:97-112


Paul wrote a letter of pastoral concern to the Corinthian church, which he had been instrumental in establishing. But since he left them, the Corinthians had lapsed into competitive factions preferring different leaders.

Paul told them to remember who they were: a community with one foundation in Jesus Christ.

All their leaders had different perspectives but they were inter-connected - one in Christ. They needed to live this out: make it visible.

In verse 18 Paul asked the Corinthians to hold a mirror up to their inner selves, to see their self-righteous over-confidence in their right ideas. And to see how they were harbouring prejudice and judgement against others.

Thoughts and judgemental hearts can never catch the fullness of the wisdom of God, which comes through participation in God and God's creation (by paying attention and prayer). It enables us to draw on a different source of energy to that of will power, strategy, or herd identity.

In verse 19, Paul quotes from Job 5:13, saying that the world's wisdom can make fools of us.

We might think of describing faith by means of reductive psychological explanations:

  • a social activism not rooted in self-implication and compassion, or acting from wrong energy
  • a fondness of church-speak, which does not connect to the contemporary world
  • an identification with the thoughts of a leader or writer.

But just as Jesus self-emptied himself, living a life of service, giving up his life out of love for the world, so we must continually 'let go' of our confidence in our ideas and judgements, in order to participate daily in the fullness of the knowledge of God.

This fullness Paul spells out has cosmic scope.

All things belong to the Corinthians, their leaders, the world, life, death, present, future …  all things belong to Christ, who belongs to God.

Nothing is missing for the Corinthians, all is complete.

The only thing they must to do (and this is a big ask) is daily to let go of their ego operating systems, and empty themselves to receive the fullness of the life of the mind of Christ.

To Ponder

  • "All things are yours" (v. 21). What inner and outer difference would it make to you this day if you had the attitude that nothing was missing, and if you already had all you needed to deal creatively with whatever the day throws up (ie that you could 'let go' and allow God's life to flow through you)?
  • How do you deal with your own self-righteous tendency to think that although you might not know it all, you are more on the right tracks than Mary and Joe over there?
  • 'God is not unthinkable, but infinitely thinkable.' In what ways is it helpful to realise that we can never exhaust the varieties of ways that God shows up? Naming some of the different ways can be wonderful fun - try it!

Bible notes author

The Revd Jenny Ellis

Jenny is a Methodist minister and this year has permission to study, as well as work alongside a rural chapel to help it find a new physical presence and sense of mission in its village. She is leading a number of quiet and study days.