Volume 9, No. 1 (January 2014)
7. PRINCIPLES OF WORSHIP IN 1 CORINTHIANS
a. The Principle of Grace
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1:26-31 NASB).
“God has chosen” us, and not because of anything He saw (or we see!) in ourselves. It is all a gift of His grace. “By HIS doing we are in Christ Jesus.” In the great passage on the Lord’s Supper, Jesus instructs us to remember Him and His work through symbols of “MY body” and “MY blood” (11:24-25). And in the following chapter, Paul reminds us that “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (12:3).
God gives grace for living and serving too. As Paul speaks of his ministry and others’, he is quick to remind the Corinthians (and us) that “neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (3:7). And towards the end of his epistle, he proclaims:
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (15:10).
Paul “worked harder,” but indeed not in His own strength but rather in and through God’s empowering grace.
Because of our absolute dependence on God’s grace, we should boast only “in the Lord” (1:31; 2 Corinthians 10:17), as Paul makes clear elsewhere as well:
So let no one boast in men (3:21).
What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
(4:7) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. . . . Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith (Romans 3:23-24,27).
In salvation and in service, it is all of God and all of grace. So our boast in in Him!
b. The Principle of Glorification
And our boasting in the Lord brings Him the glory He alone deserves. As John Piper has said: “We get the grace; and He gets the glory.” A good arrangement, to be sure!
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? [God’s grace again] You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (6:19-20).
And in that great verse proclaiming that all of life is to be worship, Paul states:
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (10:31.)
c. The Principle of Edification
As glorifying God (and boasting in Him) in a life and lifestyle of worship is our chief vertical responsibility in response to His grace, so building up our brothers and sisters in the body (and avoiding disunity and division) is a primary horizontal responsibility, in our corporate worship life first as well as elsewhere. Paul turns to this theme repeatedly in 1 Corinthians:
I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment (1:10).
Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble (8:12-13).
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor (10:23-24).
But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. . . . Do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? (11:17-18,22).
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord. . . . To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (12:4-5,7).
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).
For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up (14:2-5).
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. . . . For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged (14:26,31).