In Acts 17:6 we see an accusation lobbed against the early church that should be worn as a badge of honor today:
[The Jews] dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here.” Acts 17:6
The phrase “caused trouble” literally reads in the Greek “turned upside down.” That’s what the early Christians did: they turned their world upside down for Jesus. In a letter to a group of these “troublemakers,” Paul gives us five steps to turning our world upside down for Jesus today. In the book of 1 Corinthians, we see five main themes highlighted in the first four chapters.
STEP 1: Unity. Paul begins his letter by highlighting the absolute importance of unity among the body (1 Corinthians 1:1-17). A body divided against itself will never move forward. Think of your church like a boat, and every member is given a paddle to row with. Church members can refrain from putting their paddles in the water because they don’t want to serve, they can paddle in their own direction as they pursue their own agenda, they can even use their paddles as weapons to hit other Christians. But only when the church rows together (in unity) will it grow together.
STEP 2: Humility. Paul expressly reminds the Corinthians of their low status (1 Corinthians 1:18-31) and how God intentionally uses the weak to shame the strong. This is a deep truth about God that He actively opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). God will never fill us with His Spirit if we’re already full of ourselves. God blesses the broken; God honors the humble; God works through the weak.
STEP 3: Spiritual Gifts. Paul reminded the church in Corinth that his preaching weren’t with wise and persuasive words but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Corinthians 2:4). This foreshadowed Paul’s later exhaustive conversation on spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14). As we discover and develop our spiritual gifts, we are literally manifesting the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7) and demonstrating the Spirit’s power in our world.
STEP 4: Excellence. Paul described himself as a “wise builder” (1 Corinthians 3:10), and the original Greek word is where we get our modern word “architect” from. It’s the divine mystery where both God’s sovereignty and our human will interact. To put it bluntly, too many Christians are lazy today. We’re entitled and addicted to leisure. We don’t want to put the hard work in necessary to see a movement of God and so we’ll never see our world turned upside down for Jesus.
STEP 5: Sacrifice. Paul’s life was not one of glitz and glamour. In fact he said, “For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings” (1 Corinthians 4:9). Turning our world upside down for Jesus requires a level of sacrifice many of us are unwilling to make.
If our churches can be places of unity, humility, spiritual gifts, excellence and sacrifice, we will indeed become (once again) people known for turning the world upside down for Jesus.