The Kingdom of God is Bigger Than Your Church

It would be easy to take a few minutes of your time today, to “tie up” all of the loose ends in 1 Corinthians. I don’t see the final chapter that way, though. I see something different.

I see Paul, again, being Paul. Always concerned about what’s next in the kingdom.

He was concerned about the impoverished in Jerusalem, and so he encouraged the Corinthians — each of them, wealthy and poor — to give to this relief effort.

He offered them his travel plans, and was planning a trip to their city later. He wrote this letter from the city of Ephesus, and these are his words:

But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me. (1 Corinthians 16:8, 9; NIV84)

He would not leave Ephesus. Not yet, anyway. The work was too great, in spite of his fierce opposition.

His protegé, Timothy, may visit them. Or may not.

Paul held Apollos’ name until the end of the letter, which was a letter that would have been read aloud. Paul was being sneaky here. He wanted this to surprise them. Those in Corinth who favored Apollos over Paul would have been surprised to find both of them together.

He urged support for the household of Stephanas, a wealthy believer whose entire family served the poorer in the Corinthian believing community.

This is the typical Paul. He’s finished with the instruction. I see him at his desk, writing this letter, pouring his heart and soul into this attempt at mending these divisions. After finishing his teachings, I see him placing down his pen to get a drink of water. Maybe to look out of his cramped window on a busy Ephesus street. And there, he realized that his letter-writing was over. He was living in the middle of a city that needed the gospel of Jesus.

So it was time to wrap it all up. Paul had work to do. The kingdom was much larger than the Corinthian church. Paul may not have intended to say that. But his message was loud and clear, and stretches even to us, today.

The kingdom of God is much larger than my church, and your church, too.

One of my favorite passages in this letter comes in this chapter. Here it is. I think it’s a fitting ending to these few days of reading and blogging, too.

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love. (1 Corinthians 16:13, 14; NLT)

__________

This is the 53rd straight post in 53 days, while I’ve been reading through the New Testament. You can find all of the others here. Thanks for joining me today. Tomorrow we begin 2 Corinthians.

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