Hub Network – 1 Corinthians

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There can be friction even in the best networks. Not all coverage is reliable. The greatest connections can become restricted. Paul understood this when he wrote to Christians in the significant city of Corinth. They were a growing and influential network. Their system was integrated with some of the most influential and inspiring early Christians. Yet the bandwidth of this particular hub of the church was strained. People from different backgrounds and social strata had given their lives to Jesus, but struggled to relinquish some of the competing perspectives they carried into the Corinthian church. So Paul reminded them:

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.. – 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NLT

The tensions within the “body”, however, were clear. Certain “providers” of faith were being elevated above others. This troubled Paul:

When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 1 Corinthians 3:4-5 NLT

Paul insists that anyone who follows Jesus is ultimately a partner in ministry. Paul doesn’t see himself as better than Peter or Apollos. “I planted the seed in your hearts,” Paul wrote, “and Apollos waters it. But it was God who made it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6). No matter what the background or status, in Jesus every single person has a significant part to play in God’s good work. Paul pleads with the church:

I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. – 1 Corinthians 1:10 NLT

There is a much better way to “do” church than disharmony. Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians of their mutual reliance upon each other by highlighting specific people who lead by example…

You know that Stephanas and his household were the first of the harvest of believers in Greece, and they are spending their lives in service to God’s people. I urge you, dear brothers and sisters, to submit to them and others like them who serve with such devotion. – 1 Corinthians 16:15-16 NLT

… and by highlighting specific ways they can serve one another:

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 NLT

Paul also reminds the Corinthians that they are part of a bigger network:

The churches here in the province of Asia send greetings in the Lord, as do Aquila and Priscilla and all the others who gather in their home for church meetings. All the brothers and sisters here send greetings to you. – 1 Corinthians 16:19-20 NLT

In all, Colossians mentions 15 people specifically by name and also refers to multiple house groups and churches in multiple cities. Paul also includes other insights into the larger network of the early church such as how Peter travelled with his wife (1 Corinthians 9:5) and how Jesus appeared to over 500 of his followers after his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). As stated in the other posts of this Hub Network series, and as this letter of love (eg 1 Corinthians 13) emphasizes, Paul practiced an every-person, hub-networked, co-worker approach to faith and ministry.

 

HUB NETWORK SERIES

Romans

1 Corinthians

Philippians

Colossians

Philemon

Ken Castor

Ken Castor is a husband, dad, pastor, writer and teacher. He serves as a professor at Crown College, Minnesota, where he equips students to pursue Jesus-Centered Faith and Next Generation Ministry. For 20+ years he's focused on equipping the next generations in places like the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. He's the author of Grow Down (Simply Youth Ministry, 2014), Make a Difference (Broadstreet, 2016), the Blue-Letters Editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible (Group, 2015) and numerous other articles and Bible Study guides. But, whenever possible, he gets down on the floor and builds Lego with his kids. Connect with him @kencastor.

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