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)
What Is The Church Of God?
In both of his letters to Corinth, the apostle Paul refers to the brethren as the church of God. He begins each letter addressed to the church of God at Corinth and refers to them as a church of God three other times. Paul warned the elders from Ephesus to take heed and to shepherd the church of God which Christ purchased with His own blood. Recounting his previous life the apostle tells the churches of Galatia that he had persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. Finally, writing to Timothy instructing him concerning the qualities of those men who would shepherd the body of Christ, the apostle reminds his fellow preacher an elder need to know how to rule his own house so that he may be skilled in caring for the church of God. The idea of the people of God to be called the church of God is in keeping with the divine plan of God’s redemptive mystery revealed in the church of Christ. Jesus came to build His church, die for His bride and establish the eternal kingdom of God’s grace for all men to find salvation. On the day of Pentecost, three thousand souls were added to the church of God as they obeyed the gospel message of repentance and remission of sins in the waters of baptism. The church of God multiplied in the early days of new covenant and churches of God spread throughout the Roman Empire. There were churches of God in Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. Paul wrote letters to the churches of God in Ephesus, Colosse, Thessalonica, Rome, Philippi and the churches of Galatia. John revealed the message of Christ to the seven churches of God in Asia Minor when he penned the Revelation.
Paul’s first letter to Corinth describes the nature of the church of God as the group of believers in the city of Corinth. He had spent about eighteen months working with the celebrated city of the Peloponnesus, capital of Corinthia. Opposition from the Jews led the apostle to work primarily with the Gentiles and the church was firmly established. Those who made up the church at Corinth were sanctified in Christ Jesus. The city of Corinth was filled with idols in the pagan worship and glorification of temples, art, pleasure, and debauchery of a wealthy and influential Roman city. It would have been a very difficult place to live as a Christian separated from the trappings of an ungodly world. The sanctification of the Corinthian saints suggests they strove diligently to keep themselves unspotted from the world around them. Their separation from things unholy made them holy or sanctified in the eyes of the Lord. The church of God is made up of those individuals who esteem the character of godliness above the reproach of a world filled with the carnal pleasures and pursuits of the pleasure. For the Christian’s in Corinth, Paul commended them for being sanctified in a place like Corinth. The church was filled with severe problems but Paul had faith in their love for God to make the right decisions. His second letter bears out his confidence in the willingness to correct those wrongs.
The idea of being a saint is lost in translation today but the Bible refers to all Christians as saints. Christ had sanctified the Christians through His blood but their lives signified they lived apart from the world and were aptly called to be saints. The souls who seek to keep their lives out of the filth of the world live as saints in a world filled with the carnal pleasures of sin. To be called as saints is the desire of the Father for His children. Corinth was a difficult city to live and seek to follow the path of holiness, purity, and righteousness but these brave souls in the church of God were commended for keeping their lives apart from the decadent world about them. The manner of their calling is described on how they called on the name of Jesus Christ. Lives that are devoted to the Lord will always use His power and authority to guide their hearts to please the Father. Calling on the name of the Lord is as ancient as the world as all those who please God seek His blessing in their lives by keeping His commandments. In the church, those who call on the name of Jesus Christ as Lord have given their lives wholly to the will of the Father. Corinth had infected the church with carnality, sin, and confusion as Paul explained in his first letter. There were many things wrong with the church at Corinth but the apostle addresses them as a church of God and commends their faith before outlining the problems they needed to fix. Reading the second letter the apostle is thankful that because they had a willingness to call on the name of Jesus Christ they fixed many of the problems that plagued the church. A church of God is a place God’s word is honored and held in the esteem of following the New Testament pattern of authority. The church of God which is at Corinth is a wonderful example of how the Lord desires His people to be called saints and to call on the name of His Son Jesus Christ.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
He Is The God Of Hope
The Lord created man and placed him in a beautiful garden with every blessing he would need to find happiness. Sin destroyed that paradise and man was estranged from God. Immediately man learned the nature of the One who formed him, instilled in him a heart of grace and gave man a beacon of light to carry him through the darkness of sin. In the midst of the pronouncements against the action of the serpent, the woman and the man, the Lord God tells man there is hope. He will not be destroyed or cast aside but the Lord will save man through the promise of a Seed that would come as Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Through every generation, the message of hope was carried by the people of God until the fullness of time when the Son of God was revealed to the world. The hope promised in the garden was not a wishful hope that only chance could make possible. It was not just an expectant hope where there is the possibility it may not come to pass. There was instilled in the lineage of man’s soul a certain hope that God would bring to man a promise of eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That hope was realized on the first day of the week following the crucifixion of a man from Nazareth when God raised Jesus from the dead. From the first day of man’s fall, the Lord had promised salvation through the Seed. That promise was never in jeopardy and the Lord never forgot His promise. The certainty of God’s love was expressed in the life of Jesus and fulfilled in His sacrifice on the cross so that all men could experience a living hope based upon the immutability of the counsel of God.
Every generation that has walked on the face of the earth has received the promise of God through the perfection of His word. He does not lie and every promise He made came to pass because God is truth. It was not until the revelation of the Christ the mystery hidden from time beginning was revealed and the grace of God was spread throughout the world. Nothing man could imagine or devise would create the promise of eternal life as clearly as the message of hope given by God. It was not a weak promise. The hope given by God was demonstrated by the love of His Son dying for all sin and bearing the iniquity of all men. Two thousand years removed from that great sacrifice the promise of eternal life shines as brightly as ever before. The hope for man today is not hidden in the shadows of broken promises. The Lord is the God of hope because His word is everlasting. Men fail God but God never fails man. Reading the Bible reveals the character of the unchanging nature of the eternal Father. His word came to pass whether for good or evil. He promised Noah that He would save him from the destruction of the world and eight souls were saved through hope. Noah did not build the ark based upon a maybe or good possibility the flood would come. He did all God commanded because he knew that hope rested on the absolute word of God. The judgment did come to pass upon the wicked and the grace of salvation came through the ark because God’s word was true. Example after example illustrates the sovereign message of hope bound in the character of a loving God.
The God of hope should fill the hearts of all those who believe in His word. Eternal life is not a maybe promise or a wishful thinking exercise in the remote possibility God is right. He is the God of hope and the child of God can be filled with all joy and peace knowing that everything promised by the Lord is an eternal guarantee. It requires a person to believe in the word of God and to trust in His promises. Abounding in hope is what changes the heart to live every day with the blessed assurance that all the things promised by the Lord will come to pass. The deluded milk of wishful thinking will never secure the soul of man to embrace an eternal hope. Only when the power of the Holy Spirit fills the heart, soul and mind of man to rest assured of the eternal promises of God will hope live fully in their lives. He is the God of hope because there is nothing greater to hope and no greater promise given by so great a God. Jesus Christ is the living representation of eternal life in the resurrection. Death is not to be feared. Life is not to be filled with the hope of this world as all things of this world will be destroyed. The only joy and peace a man can find are found in the God of hope who has promised eternal life to all those who believe in Him and abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. His word is true. He cannot lie. Hope in God and joy and peace will abound.
Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:17-20)
Filling The Family With The Spirit
The book of Ephesians is a grand treatise on the nature of the church. Paul illustrates in powerful tones of God’s grace the redeeming qualities of the riches of His mercy and love to allow a man to possess all spiritual blessings in the Son. As the apostle draws to a close his letter he weaves in the relationship of Christ and the church to the family and how each part represents the other concluding with various admonitions for the wives, husbands, children, and fathers. Before addressing the relationship of the home Paul establishes the kind of teaching that should pervade the home. It should never be lost on the student to take the text as a context and see how the author develops the theme. One of the important needs of the home is to fill the home with the Spirit of God. There are many things that can overwhelm the family with the pursuits of education, recreation, and societal expectations. The will of the Lord is for the parents to instill in their children the filling of the Spirit. Being drunk with wine shows a carefree and unrestrained kind of lifestyle that so many homes are following after. It does not necessarily suggest the actual drinking of wine but the lighthearted approach to life without God. While it is a shameful thing for parents to consume alcohol as a social drink what they are teaching their children is unrestrained behavior before the Lord. Walking in the light is having no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness and this must begin at the home. Instead of filling the family character with the trappings of the world, the home should be a haven of the Holy Spirit. The aims and goals of the family must be centered upon the glorification of Jesus Christ rather than the dissipation of the worldly pursuits.
Paul uses a strong word to describe the wrong character of the home. He says the family should not follow after dissipation or debauchery which leads to wild living. The idea is the excess of life to the point of being more concerned about the things of the world instead of the eternal matters of faith. Parents can convince themselves that as long as they do not commit terrible sins they are doing well. What they often do not realize is that giving their children everything in life in a carnal way without a foundation of God is just as damaging. The will of the Lord is for the family to be filled with the Spirit – not the things of the world. The dissipations of life will teach children to enjoy the passing glories of this world with little or no knowledge of the Lord. Materialistic minded families do not think about God. Jesus described in the parable of the sower the greatest danger to producing good seed is the heart being choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. That is unwise for the family to allow.
Filling the home with the Spirit is done through psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in the heart to the Lord. There is precedence to use this passage in the worship service of the church but it begins in the home. Children should learn the praise of the Lord first in the home by parents who love to spend time in worshipping God in the home. The spirit of the home is filled with thanksgiving for all the blessings of God knowing that anything a family has comes from the hand of the Lord. The name of the Lord Jesus Christ is heard often in the home in praise, honor and the glory of His grace upon the family. Parents do well who build their homes on the praise of the Father teaching their children to sing and give thanks to the Lord God for all His eternal blessings. That is the will of the Lord for the family. It makes submission an easier task. Children are taught in the home the model of submitting to one another as they see their parents submitting to one another. Young ladies learn early the attribute of submitting to a husband because of the example of their mother. Young men are established in the principles of leadership when they see their fathers loving their mothers as Christ loved the church and leading with the Holy Spirit as their guide. It makes the task of children submitting to the father a lot easier when the home is filled with the Spirit. Understand what the will of the Lord is for the home. It must be filled with the Spirit.
But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:3)
Trying To Escape The Presence Of The Lord
Jonah was a complicated man. He was one of the most effective preachers of his day but he was filled with conflicting feelings about those he had brought to repentance. Through the message of Jonah to the Gentile city of Nineveh, the inhabitants believed God, proclaimed a fast and sought the mercy of the Lord. Nineveh was an exceedingly great city covering a three-day journey to traverse. Jonah entered the city on the first day crying out to the citizens that in forty days Nineveh would be overthrown if they did not repent. From the king to the lowest member of society the people turned to the Lord and when God saw their works that they had turned from their evil way, the Lord relented from the disaster He had said He would bring upon them. Few men can claim the immense success of one man towards a whole city like Jonah. Sadly, the repentance of the people displeased Jonah exceedingly and he became angry. He lashed out at God for saving the city of Nineveh and in an angry prayer complained to the Lord for doing what Jonah feared would happen. The Jewish prophet had strong feelings about the citizens of Nineveh and how undeserving the city was for God’s mercy. This explained why in the beginning the prophet sought to flee from the presence of the Lord.
It was not lost on Jonah that trying to hide from God was impossible. After the Lord told him to go to Nineveh to preach to the city, Jonah refused to obey the command of the Lord and abdicated his responsibility. Jonah rose to flee not from the literal eyes of the Lord but rather from being before the Lord as a messenger of salvation to a Gentile city of uncircumcised, ungodly and underserving dogs. It would easy to assume Jonah was trying to go where God was not but the prophet would have known that was impossible. There was no place on earth a man could go the Creator was not already there, and Jonah knew that. What Jonah did not want to do was stand before the Lord and accept the work of preaching to Nineveh. He refused the command of the Lord and sought to run away from his God-given task that was very bitter for him to do. He complained to God the reason he ran away was that he knew the character of the Lord as a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness. The job of teaching the people of Nineveh was given to Jonah and in a bold move of personal rebellion, the prophet of God refused the command of God. Jonah was angry at God for saving the Gentiles of Nineveh. He would have no part of it. Taking a ship bound for Tarshish, the prophet left the job of preaching to someone else the Lord would find but it would not be him; or so he thought. God chose Jonah for a reason. Three days in the belly of a great fish changed Jonah’s mind about doing what God told him to do but it did not change his anger towards the city of Nineveh. In a remarkable paradox, Jonah was the right man for the right time and through his vehement preaching, the city turned to God. The Lord would spare the city and it was through the preaching of an angry prophet God’s work was done. Jonah tried to run away from the presence of the Lord because he wanted to run away from the obligation he had to preach to the city.
Throughout the history of God’s revelation to man, He has used many different kinds of men and women to accomplish His will. A man living in the Ur of Chaldees would become the father of a great nation and promised seed of the Christ. Through the slavery of a favored son, the Hebrews would find themselves in bondage to a cruel nation to be delivered by a Jewish boy with an Egyptian name accused of murder. Moses seemed to be the best answer to deliver the people but it would take forty years for the real Moses to be found near a burning bush. Samson was a complicated man with many vices that eventually brought about his untimely death yet he is listed among the faithful in the Hebrew letter. A shepherd boy of Israel would be the champion of the people when he killed the enemies champion with a single stone. David would be one of the greatest men of God and find himself accused of adultery, deceit, and murder. Amos was a prophet like Jonah who had a fierce personality decrying the luxuries of the people of Israel in comparison to Hosea the prophet who was told to marry a woman of the land who was unfaithful to him. Nehemiah was a cupbearer for a foreign king but through his courage rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in fifty-five days. Jesus gathered twelve unlikely men around Him to take the gospel to the whole world. Four were fishermen, one a hated tax collector, and another a zealot and one who became a traitor. What the Lord wanted each of the stories to represent is that He wants men to carry out His will through the character of who they were. Jonah tried to run away from the obligations put upon him by the Lord but the Lord needed him. The Lord wants me to do the best I can as a means to accomplish His will. He needs all men to carry out His work of teaching and sharing the good news of Christ. We should not be like Jonah and try to hide from our obligation. Everyone brings something to the table to serve the Lord. Do the best you can as the best you can do is serve the Lord.
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that, He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that, He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all, He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
They Saw Jesus After He Died
Resurrection is not an easy concept to accept. It is not a trick of Hollywood or magic of the movies. Death is the most final thing imagined and when someone dies there is no coming back. Thinking it possible that a man would be dead for a number of days and then reappear alive and well is beyond anything the mind can grasp, understand or acknowledge with great fear. There would be legions of doubters failing to accept the possibility of life after death in the visible form. Science cannot explain it; morality will not grasp it and all the treasures of human wisdom fail to express the idea with any clarity. Resurrection is not possible but Jesus of Nazareth stood before a host of people just as real as He had been a week earlier. Everyone in Jerusalem had heard of the death of Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. They had hoped He was going to redeem Israel but the chief priests and rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death and crucified Him. Many stood beneath the cross and witnessed Jesus die and the soldier pierce His side with a spear. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (who had come to Jesus by night) had taken the body of the dead Jesus, wrapped it in linen and placed Him in the tomb of Joseph. They sealed the tomb with a large stone and a number of women witnessed the sealing of the tomb. Later, the Jews feared the disciples would steal the body asked for a Roman guard to be placed at the tomb and Pilate permitted it. Jesus was dead and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind the man from Nazareth was dead. And yet there He stood in front of them as alive as He had ever been before.
Paul’s letter to Corinth was written more than twenty years after the resurrection of Jesus. He was not with the original group of believers who knew Jesus and saw His miracles. Through the stories told by Peter and the apostles and many others, Paul learned of the short time Jesus appeared to His disciples before ascending to the Father. After His resurrection, the Lord spent forty days teaching the disciples of the coming Kingdom and work they were to engage in as the church was established. The Holy Spirit guided the mind of Paul to know of the events in the life of Jesus and His teaching. It was clear in the mind of Paul that Jesus had appeared to Peter, the twelve apostles as one body and then by a large number of disciples that he described as more than five hundred saints at one time. Many of that number were still living when Paul was in Ephesus writing to the Corinthians. James had seen the Lord and then Paul himself testified that he had seen the Lord as one born out of due time. There was no doubt Jesus was alive. This was not a sighting that could not be confirmed or testimony that could be easily disputed. The resurrection may be impossible in the mind of human wisdom but the divine revelation of God was clearly defined by the reality of a man who was dead standing alive before a large number of people. Nothing like this had ever been seen. There had been resurrections before but none would compare to this resurrection. Jesus was the Son of God.
Two thousand years has removed the distance between the faith of saints today and those blessed souls who peered into the eyes of Jesus following His resurrection. There are doubters today who deny the possibility of life after death. This is not any different than the forty days Jesus revealed Himself following the resurrection and the testimony of that generation that spent time with a resurrected man that had been crucified and placed in a secure tomb. If Jesus stood in the midst of men today He would receive the same treatment of contempt as men give Him as revealed through the holy word of God. The resurrection of Jesus is real today because He comes alive through the word of God. If a person will not accept the risen Lord in scripture they will not accept the risen Lord in the body. The first century was filled with many turning to the gospel of the risen Christ but most people in the first century denied the resurrection of Christ. Two thousand years will not change that. If a man will not accept the testimony of the fully revealed word of God that testifies to the love of God and the power of the resurrection revealed through the word, the heart would not accept the physical form of Jesus standing in their midst. Jesus did not show Himself to the whole world after the resurrection. He only appeared to the disciples. Believing in Jesus must come through the avenue of faith in the word of the Father. The resurrection is the proof Jesus is the Son of God. Without this belief, there will be no salvation.
Joshua turned back at that time and took Hazor, and struck its king with the sword; for Hazor was formerly the head of all those kingdoms. And they struck all the people who were in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them. There was none left breathing. Then he burned Hazor with fire. So all the cities of those kings, and all their kings, Joshua took and struck with the edge of the sword. He utterly destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded. But as for the cities that stood on their mounds, Israel burned none of them, except Hazor only, which Joshua burned. And all the spoil of these cities and the livestock, the children of Israel took as booty for themselves; but they struck every man with the edge of the sword until they had destroyed them, and they left none breathing. As the Lord had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses. (Joshua 11:10-15)
They Left None Breathing
Abraham had been promised the land of Canaan but the promise was delayed because at the time of his dwelling in the land, the sinful nature of the people was not complete to the point of needing the divine wrath of God. The Lord made a covenant with Abraham that would be fulfilled through the nation of Israel that would come from his son of promise, Isaac. By the time Israel had left Egypt, spent forty years in the wilderness and stood before the Jordan River, the wickedness of the people of Canaan had become so full it was time for the Lord to exact His wrath upon them. Israel would be the tool God would use to carry out His judgment against a people that had become so depraved in their lives there remained no hope. The grace and mercy of the Lord are limited to a time when men desire Him and seek His will. When the hearts of men turn so completely away from the word of truth, God will bring judgment and condemnation. Like in the days of Noah, the thoughts and intents of the heart are only evil continually with no hope of repentance. The early world was completely destroyed save the eight souls in the ark because the world was that wicked, that depraved and that hopeless. God’s righteousness demanded judgment and it was meted out with His complete and overwhelming power. Israel enters the land of Canaan with marching orders to annihilate all the inhabitants of the land as a judgment from the Lord God upon their wickedness. The text graphically describes the complete and utter destruction of the ungodly people of the land. Joshua killed the king of Hazor with the sword. Every person in the city of Hazor was killed by the swords of the Israelites sparing no man, woman or child. They utterly destroyed every human being in the city and there was none left breathing. Then Joshua burned the city to the ground. This was repeated time and again as they came to each city, killing all the inhabitants taking the spoils of the city for their own. There was no one that was left alive.
Joshua was not acting like a mad man driven by some desperate desire to conquer land for his own. Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the people to carry out this destruction and complete annihilation of the people of Canaan. The reason Moses instructed Joshua to destroy the people came from the word of the Lord. The Lord commanded Moses and Moses commanded Joshua and the son of Nun carried out the will of the Lord to kill all the people of the land. Ultimately the destruction of Canaan came from the voice of God against the nations that had become so wicked the Lord judged them fit for destruction. Sin is the burden of all men but when sin becomes so desperate in the lives of men, the Lord will bring His wrath upon them. God is full of love and His mercy is expressed in the richness of His grace. The destruction of Canaan was not a random act by an angry God bent on bring misery and pain to His creation. All of the things done by Joshua came from the word of the Lord because the iniquity of the Amorites was full – it was time for God’s judgment to be felt. Many generations had passed since the first promise to Abraham. The destruction of Canaan could not have taken place in the days of Abraham because it would have been an unrighteous act on the part of God. The Lord allowed man to destroy himself before the Lord destroyed him. God was not to blame for their deaths. They had fully rejected the Lord, lived in a world filled with debauchery and ungodliness to the point God had had enough and brought the sword of Israel against them. This was a divine judgment from a loving and compassionate God who brought His wrath upon those who disobeyed Him. There was none left breathing because that was the will of the Lord.
Grace and truth come through Jesus Christ but the wrath of God is still reserved for those who reject Him and fill their lives with the desires of the flesh and eye. Satan has convinced many that God is so loving He could never and would never punish anyone regardless of how they live and what they have done in life. Man is not the judge of men’s souls but there are clearly those who live in complete rejection of the love of God and yet so often are said to be dwelling in the bosom of the Lord because God could never send anyone to a place called Hell. Believing that God will never punish the disobedient is a common mistake for those who have not read the Bible and understood the nature of God’s righteousness, justice, and mercy. The iniquity of the Amorites was not full in the days of Abraham but the day came when the people were filled with so much wickedness the wrath of God destroyed them. Joshua killed all those people because that was the will of the Lord. Every man, woman, and child were killed as a society of evil people filled the land requiring the judgment of God to be placed upon them. They left none breathing according to the will of the Lord. Sadly there will be a day when all men will stand before the judgment bar of the Holy God of Heaven and He will punish the majority of his creation with eternal punishment. Jesus Christ taught the lesson of eternal perdition. There can be no doubt as the scriptures vividly describe the scene of a final judgment as blessing and cursing. For those who are righteous the reward of eternal glory will be enjoyed. To the people who chose to live apart from the will of God, there will be a place of torment unparalleled in the annals of man to consider. The Old Testament shows the character of God – his goodness and his severity.
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. (1 Corinthians 3:5-8)
God Gives The Increase
The church is filled with many people who are actively involved in teaching, preaching, sharing fellowship with others and working hard to build up and edify the body of Christ. Any congregation of God’s people would have noble hearts that are devoted to increasing the influence of the gospel in the community. These are special people because of their love for truth and willingness to give of themselves to the hearts of the lost. Paul and Apollos were great men in the early church that taught many people, through the preaching of the gospel saved many souls and helped to establish untold numbers of churches throughout the Roman Empire. The half has been told of their exhaustive work in establishing the early church as a force that is still being felt generations later. Paul’s exploits are preserved in scripture through the writings of Luke as the historian outlined the journeys of Paul in Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. Letters to many of the churches are given by the Holy Spirit as part of the divine canon that allows a man to know the mystery of the gospel and how to serve Christ. There is little doubt of the influence and presence of Paul the apostle in the first-century church but Paul the servant of the Lord realized that any work that was accomplished through his hands merely pointed men to the true purpose of his calling – Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Like Apollos, Paul was a great orator of truth and persuaded many souls with his powerful teaching and forceful messages. He could reason with kings and governors and the common man bound in a Roman prison or spiritually minded women by a riverside. There was no limit to what Paul could accomplish in teaching any man at any time in any place. Like his Lord, Paul knew the power of being a servant. When the day was done and the work was finished, all Paul could rest upon was the knowledge that if anything was accomplished it was because of the glory of God. He would plant the word in the hearts of men and Apollos would fortify his teaching with the same gospel but the increase would come from the power of the gospel finding its way into open and honest hearts. God gave the increase if there was an increase to be found. Paul and Apollos were nothing compared to the saving power of the Lord.
Paul and Apollos had something to brag about. They were movers and shakers in the early church. Men looked up to them, admired them and many considered them as eminent leaders in the early church. But this had no meaning to these humble men as they knew they were nothing compared to how the Lord God changed hearts. The work of teaching and preaching was a blessing for them to use for God’s glory and any effort they put forth was only answered by the grace of God to save men. They worked together to teach the same doctrine of a risen Christ but when the multitudes increased with disciples it was not something they could boast to other men of their own accomplishments. All of the efforts Paul and Apollos put forth to save souls came about because God was the one bringing the increase. As ministers or servants of the Lord, there was nothing they could appeal to for credit, acknowledgment or human praise in the work they did. Preaching was not about statistics but about sharing the gospel. Paul knew his place in the kingdom was a planter. Apollos was an efficient man who could nourish the teachings of Paul in the hearts of men, much like a man who waters a crop already established. If there was an increase in the work of Paul and Apollos, it would come from God. The focus was on the work of God not the work of man.
Pride can enter into the hearts of God’s servants who begin to think more of themselves and their efforts than the one giving the increase. Paul battled this pride and through a humble heart knew the best of his efforts would only be seen through the work of God in the hearts of men. The Lord will bless those who serve in His kingdom with any measure due them. Working in the kingdom is a wonderful blessing when seen through the eyes of Paul. What we do for the Lord is for His glory and His glory alone. If there are blessings, praise God. When the challenges come, give God the glory. All should look at the work of the Lord as serving as humble slaves to the King of Kings in the task given to each one of us. His work is done in His way with His reward given to those who serve His purpose. Whatever God has blessed a man or woman with should be used to the fullest extent of His blessing to share the gospel with others. Let God be glorified in all things.