Yielding in 1 Corinthians

I mentioned recently that we've been going through the book of 1 Corinthians out at the prison. 

1 Corinthians is a tough book to teach. It's a walk through issue after issue, problem after problem, as Paul fires off advice. And a lot of that advice is strange, confusing or hard to swallow. A chapter by chapter approach just takes you down one rabbit hole after another.

To avoid this, one of the things I've tried to do is trace a theme through the entire letter. A theme that runs through all of Paul's letters. Specifically, whenever he can, Paul points to yielding as the way of Jesus. We look not to our own interests, but to the interest of others. To be sure, many of the issues in 1 Corinthians cannot be addressed by yielding. Issues like sexual immorality or beliefs concerning the resurrection of Jesus can't be handled through yielding. But many of the conflicts in the Corinthian church can. A sampling:

To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? (6.7)

The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. (7.3-4)

This "knowledge" puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. (8.1-3)

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak...Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. (8.9,13)

Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. (9.12)

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. (9.19)

Not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (10.23-24)

Just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (10.33)

So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. (11.33)

But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (12.24-26)

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. (12.4-7)

So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. (14.12)

Let all things be done for building up. (14.26)

Again, not every problem in Corinth can be handled through yielding. But Paul's advice about yielding shows up as the solution for dealing with a wide variety of problems:

  • Lawsuits among believers
  • Sex in marriages
  • Food offered to idols
  • Paul's defense of his ministry
  • Divisions in the Lord's Supper
  • The use of spiritual gifts in the assembly

The call to yield is the answer to a great many of the difficulties in the church. And not just in Corinth, we find this call throughout all of Paul's letters. Yielding sits at the heart of Paul's vision of kingdom living and Christ-shaped character.

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