RSS

Category Archives: 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 16 – “It Goes Without Saying”

“Of course, it goes without saying that…”  It’s a slightly ironic and completely self-contradicting statement.  If it doesn’t require saying, then why say it?  This is an idiom that is often used in conversation to imply that the statement to follow is so completely obvious that it shouldn’t have to be asked, but for some reason does.  That reason is most often, that somebody lacks confidence in either themselves or others that requires the obvious to be clearly stated.  This could be the title for 1 Corinthians 16.  On several matters, Paul must state the obvious because he is lacking in confidence in his own relationships or assumptions about the Corinthians, or he is worried that they will fall short.

So when it comes to taking up a collection for the Lord’s people upon his arrival, Paul wants to make sure that they are already setting money aside every week for the purpose of giving to those in need.  Around this time there was a serious famine in Israel and it is likely that Paul is travelling through the Greek churches collecting donations to help those who are struggling.  It certainly doesn’t hurt Gentile/Jewish relations in the church to have the Gentile churches giving to the Jewish Christians in need.  So Paul writes, it goes without saying, that you should already be setting aside some money for the Lord’s people.  This was most likely in addition to the money already being given to the Lord for the work of the church, care of its own needy, and other gifts to God.

Then Paul moves on to discuss the level of hospitality and cooperation that he expects them to show to Timothy and Apollos.  Essentially, “It goes without saying that you will treat my co-workers well and give them the help, resources and support that a preacher of the Gospel deserves.”  Paul’s statements also serve as a letter of commendation and introduction to those individuals.  Certainly, they will be treated well.  After all…it goes without saying, Corinth will do the right thing.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 23, 2012 in 1 Corinthians, Pauline Epistles

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

1 Corinthians 15 – What Will Be Resurrected?

Paul’s intro to the last section of his letter is quite the attention grabber. “Let me remind you of the gospel I preached to you” would kind of perk up the ears a bit since there is an assumption that you have forgotten the gospel. This gospel saves. You take your stand on it. If you do not hold on to it firmly, you have believed in vain. So…what is this gospel?

Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day. Up to this point in the letter Paul has been focusing on the cross. He does mention the resurrection back in chapter 6 but it is far from being his focal point. It seems as though one of the major problems in Corinth is that they have stopped believing in the resurrection (v12). If you do not believe we will be resurrected, you have let go of the gospel. So…what is the problem they are having with the resurrection?

Everything in the Christian message hinges on Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. If he didn’t resurrect then there is no gospel. If he didn’t resurrect then death has not been conquered and there is no hope. If he did not resurrect, then we will not be resurrected. If we do not resurrect from the dead then neither did Christ and we are left in our sins.

Jesus is the first fruit of the resurrection. Death came through Adam. Life comes through Christ. Christ conquered death in the resurrection, it will be fully destroyed at the end of time, and therefore there is no need to fear death because you are in Christ. If there is no hope in the resurrection then you should live each day as though it is your last because there is nothing to look forward to.

To deny the resurrection is to deny the gospel. Christ didn’t just die for our sins. He was also resurrected so that death would be conquered. So the question remains…what is the resurrection? Paul gives an analogy to seeds. The kind of seed that is sown is the kind of seed that will grow. The body, as we know it, is just the seed of what is to come. We cannot fully understand what the resurrected body will be but it will be a body nonetheless. All things became broken in the fall of mankind and all things will be resurrected again, each to its own seed. Humans will resurrect as humans, but perfectly as God intended. Animals will be resurrected perfectly as God intended them to be. Birds. Fish. Heavenly bodies. Earthly bodies. Etc. All we be resurrected into the glory of God, perfectly as He intends for them to be.

The seed of your body that was sown perishable will be raised imperishable, in glory, in power, and spiritual. This spiritual body is not to be understood as your soul being resurrected and your body staying in the grave. This is not what happened to Jesus when he was resurrected.

Paul ends by saying that flesh and blood, as we know it, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. We must be resurrected! We will be clothed with the spiritual body and death will be swallowed up in victory. Because death has been swallowed up and we will be raised imperishable, we are to stand firm, unmoved, giving ourselves fully to the work of the Lord because we know that all things will be made perfect, as our Lord is perfect. We do not labor in vein. We are victorious in Christ and death has no hold on us!

 

Tags: , , , , ,

1 Corinthians 14 – Don’t Be Confusing

What I don’t know

I have had people that I am close to and who I have a great deal of respect for explain to me in detail times that they have “spoken in tongues.”  They have described to me a very spiritual, almost other-worldly experience.  They didn’t know the words that were coming out of their mouths and others didn’t either.  I haven’t ever experienced anything like this myself and haven’t witnessed it in others.  I also am uncomfortable simply dismissing the genuine experiences of people who I know.  I have no explanation for this, but based on Paul’s instructions in this chapter, I think that’s okay.

What I do know

The church in Corinth has something like what I described above going on all the time and it’s causing chaos in the church.  Any time you have people speaking different languages in a single context you have problems and potentially division.  At the very least it’s hard to communicate and build relationships.  In fact, when humanity unified against God to build a tower to the heavens, God broke their alliance by bringing chaos and division into their community by scrambling their languages.  So why bring the curse of Babel into the blessing that is the church?

This question is at the heart of what Paul is communicating here in 1 Corinthians 14.  He doesn’t disavow speaking in tongues or deny that it happens.  In fact, it was a group of Apostles who spoke in the tongues/languages of Jews from around the world that first converted 3,000 at the Feast of Pentecost.  What Paul does though is insist that the church should be a place of unity and building up.  When people speak in foreign languages, confusing styles, or even just talking over other people they are bringing chaos and division into the community.  So if you find yourself with a foreigner who speaks another language, by all means bring forth the individuals gifted to speak in tongues to preach to them.  However, if you have a church of people speaking Aramaic, get the guy who knows Aramaic but is screaming in English to sit down and be quiet. He’s only causing problems and not benefiting anybody.

What I think I know

Towards the end of the chapter Paul gives the instruction that women should be quiet in the assembly and if they have questions should wait until they get home and ask their husband.  This is somewhat problematic even in the Biblical text itself.  First of all, we have examples of women who played important roles in the ministry of Jesus and in the early church.  How do we justify that with the instruction to remain silent?  And what about women who aren’t married or whose husbands aren’t Christians?  Who do they ask?

I think there is something going on in Corinth that requires Paul to deal with very emphatically.  Since we can assume that Paul is continuing his major theme of unity and order in worship, it appears that some of the women in Corinth have become disruptive.  Paul’s instruction to the church is perhaps the equivalent of “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  The problems have reached the point that it’s time to say nothing at all.

Remember, this is being written by the same guy who on another occasion wrote, “in Christ there is neither male nor female…” indicating a certain level of equality among believers.  I think that today’s passage is largely to a specific group of people in a specific situation.  (Another example of this is when Paul instructs Timothy to take a little wine each day to soothe his stomach problems.  We don’t then assume that we must all take a little win every day for a stomachs.)  And yet, from the very beginning God created people as man and woman, similar and yet unique.  He intended certain roles for men in the family and for women in the family.  When God chose to create his church much in the image of a family, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that there are times when the Bible indicates that men and women have some different roles in the church.  That being said, women never talking at church…isn’t one of those differences.

For more on this, keep reading when we get to some of Paul’s epistles in a few months.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 21, 2012 in 1 Corinthians, Pauline Epistles

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

1 Corinthians 13 – Love Unifies the Church

The Church is to be unified. This is not to be confused with being uniform. The Church is filled with all kinds of people from various backgrounds, social classes, ethic groups, etc. and these people all possess different gifts. How do we as Christians go about unity?

Paul advocates for a greater gift, love. This love never fails. As I read this chapter, 1 John 4:8 continued the come to mind, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” In our relationships with one another we are to act as God does, as God is. Whenever there are conflicts between Christians, or fights in the church, it is important to step back and examine the cross and ask if our actions and view of those we are in conflict with are in line with the God’s love on the cross.

You can have the greatest gifts in the world but if you have not love, you are nothing. Your gifts are nothing. In all ways you need to align yourself with the cross. Patience. Kindness. Absence of envy. Never boasting. Empty of pride. Honor everyone. Selflessness. Slow to anger. Not holding onto records of other’s wrongs. Not delighting in evil. Rejoice with truth. Protective. Trusting. Hope filled. Perseverance. These are the markers of love that unify a diverse group of people. This is the love seen on the cross that never fails. This is the love that is to define who we are in our relationship with one another.

We long for completeness. We long for the resurrection. We continually work towards it till that time comes. Christ has begun this resurrection in us so we are to put the old behind. When you became an adult you put the childish ways behind you. The New Creation has begun in your so put the old away. Strive for the greatest gift, love, and everything else will fall into place as needed.

 

Tags: , ,

1 Corinthians 12 – From What Spirit?

From What Spirit?

Ryan and I often joke about something a professor told us when we were first starting out at Oklahoma Christian.  He was giving us a lecture on the importance of thorough preparation and the value of spending a considerable amount of time in though and prayer before preaching a sermon.  And then he brought up how some preachers stand up from time to time in the pulpit and proclaim that they had a sermon prepared but the Holy Spirit had guided them another direction so they were going to simply speak on this new topic.  “Perhaps you should consider the possibility,” he said, “that it is a different spirit leading you in that direction.”  It’s always fun in those moments to ask each other if perhaps an evil spirit is guiding our thoughts.

I think that professor had a point, and I think Paul is playing with a similar idea at the beginning of this chapter.  After all, he is talking to people who once worshiped stone idols as if they were gods.  It’s entirely possible they could be led astray.  So, if somebody says that Jesus be cursed or some similarly false claim that counters the Gospel then you can know they speak by an evil spirit.  If they proclaim that Jesus is Lord then they are led by God’s Spirit.  In the same way, there are many types of work, service, and spiritual gifts that God gives to His people and these are all given by the same Spirit.  So, if the work that people are doing or the spiritual gifts they are employing begin to cause conflict or division, then clearly one of those individuals is being influenced by something other than the Holy Spirit.

The Body of Christ

Much can be said about the extended metaphor Paul makes here at the end of the chapter.  Every person is gifted in their own way to serve God and serve others.  Every person, no matter how significant or insignificant they may seem to the church is very important and yet also relies on many others to help the church function.  The primary function of this metaphor is to show the need for all the parts of the church to work together, recognize one another’s value and be completely united as one.  If you find that you are causing division or causing problems, then you really need to evaluate how you are functioning as a member of the body.

I do want to take a moment to point out two points of self-evaluation present in this passage.

  1. Are you doing something in God’s church?  If you aren’t doing anything, if you have no role or function at all, then perhaps you need to re-evaluate what gifts God has given to you and what is keeping you from using them.
  2. Are you poking the Body of Christ in the eye?  Think about the person at your church who just drives you crazy and who you are complaining about all the time.  Is the way you treat this person healthy for the body of Christ?  Because if it isn’t, then perhaps you need to assess how you can begin working together instead of working against one another.

Again, if your thoughts, words, or actions are causing division or conflict within the church, then perhaps you aren’t being led by the Holy Spirit.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 16, 2012 in 1 Corinthians, Pauline Epistles

 

Tags: , , , , ,

1 Corinthians 11 – Veiled Gospel and Communal Communion

As much as I would love to simply jump into the topics of women’s covering and the problems of the Lord’s Supper, I hesitate to ignore this amazing call in verse 1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Is this something you could call others to? What in your life needs to change to be a better example of Christ for others? This is a humbling verse and worthy of self examination.

Can the Gospel be Veiled?

This is a heavily debated passage in Scripture. I once had a friend condemned by a guy because her hair was cut too short and I had a number of people make comments to me while my hair was long. I feel like I’ve heard just about every opinion on this passage and people often seem to get pretty worked up when sharing their opinions.

Paul is addressing when women are getting up to pray or prophesy. In chapter 14 he will say that women need to be silent. I tend to work under the assumption that Paul isn’t crazy so I don’t think he forgot what he had just said a little bit before. If his command for women to be silent in the assembly is for all women, then he could have just skipped this section all together. I propose that he is speaking to a specific group of women in ch 14…but that isn’t the task at hand.

Paul is addressing the traditions that he passed on to them and because of that it seems to be that he is addressing corporate worship. I’ve pointed out a number of times that there seems to be a problem of “over spiritualization” in Corinth. How does this play into this passage? If a woman wearing a head covering is a status symbol in that culture and women are to keep their heads covered to distinguish them from men (and this is a point of debate even in our office) then it is possible that the women in Corinth when getting up to prophesy don’t want God’s Word to be veiled? Can the Word of God be veiled? The answer seems to be that because of the practices that they have they need to continue to wear the veil. It is not the man or the woman that is the Word of God. God’s word cannot be veiled so the women in Corinth need to keep with the practices that have been passed on to them. The problem I see here is if someone from the culture comes to their assembly and sees a women get up to share a Word from God or to pray and her symbol of authority is not on her head then it will draw attention to her and not the Word of God. Out of respect for God’s Word, do nothing to draw attention from it and onto yourself.

Verses 13-16 are some interesting questions. “Does the very nature of things…” is an interesting question that seems culturally loaded. Paul says they have no other practices so don’t argue about it. I’m at a loss as to how to handle some of these verses. I’ve heard long debates over “length of hair” and how long is too long and how short is too short. It seems as though these debates are more based on cultural influences and then applied to this passage to prove that their position is right. I lift my hands up, shrug, and move on to the next section.

Communion is Communal

The key thing Paul says in this section that sheds light on what might be going on is in verse 22, “Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing?” Where does the church come together to take communion? Typically someone’s house. Who is able to show up first? The wealthy people. Then the working class can come when they are able to get away from their work. Finally, those who are slaves can arrive whenever their masters let them go. What would it communicate to your Brothers and Sisters who arrive late to find out that the Lord’s Supper was already over because you were too hungry to wait.

What we need to take away from this passage. The Lord’s Supper isn’t about being nourished physically. It is a supper that is to be taken together because Christ has brought us together. It is a time that we come together with God and with our Family and commune together. When Paul says that we are to discern the body of Christ he is saying that we are to recognize the Church. This is not a meal that is just between us and God. It is to be taken together as a reminder of what our Baptism has brought us into, the Family which God has a relationship with.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

1 Corinthians 10 – Too Tempting and Sin

Tempted Beyond What You Can Bear

It’s one of the most commonly quoted scriptures from this book: “And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.”  And then it is followed by the much less frequently quoted “But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so you can endure it.”  I think we get the wrong idea from this passage.  Many times people are in a dark place, struggling to avoid sin and they cry out, “God, you promised you wouldn’t tempt me beyond what I can besdar, but I can’t take it any more.  I have to give in!”  We say it in such a way that it sounds like it is God’s fault if we end up giving in to temptation.  Certainly if it was bearable I could have resisted.  The fact that I didn’t resist means God gave me more than he said he would.

I think that there is much truth in the second part of the verse we often ignore, “He will provide a way out so you can endure it.”  I can’t think of a time in my life where sin was right there tempting me and I didn’t have a choice.  Any time I gave it, it was because I refused to walk through the way out that God had provided for me.  When we recognize that God is always providing opportunities and “ways out” of temptations, we acknowledge that it is our responsibility to avoid sin.  God can provide a way out of sin, but we are the ones who have to make the decision.  We are the ones who are responsible for our actions.  So when you find temptation staring you in the face and you are mad that God is giving you more than you think you can bear, take a deep breath, look around and find the way out that God is providing you and choose to walk through it.

Sin vs Bad Ideas

People often want things in black and white, so as a minister I am accustomed to people saying, “So is it a sin, or not?”  Sometimes it’s that easy.  Sleeping with a person you aren’t married to…sin.  Murder is a sin.  Helping the poor is a good work.  The last part of this chapter deals with the believer’s freedom and says that not everything is beneficial.  In other words, just because something isn’t a sin doesn’t make it good for you or good for others.  Something can not be a sin and still be displeasing to God.  For example, is it a sin to go for a month without praying to God?  No.  But is it a good idea to go a month without prayer…no way.  Is it a sin to skip church?  Probably not?  Bad idea…certainly.

So if things aren’t always black and white (although sometimes they are), how do we know what we have to do and what we should do?  And what if we only want to do what we have to do and ignore the stuff we should be doing?  

If you find yourself asking these questions, you probably have a bad view of God.  Perhaps you see God as a police officer who needs excuses or who you are afraid will give you a ticket.  Perhaps you see God as a principal who wants you to quit acting like a fool and get your grades up.  We are afraid of punishment at times and at other times we simply want to do the least amount required to get our own little mansion over the hilltop when I die.

When we instead see God as a loving and compassionate father, we can begin to understand what Paul is talking about here.  It’s not just about following your father’s rules, but its about trying to make him proud, sharing his values and letting your actions consistently reflect those values.  And you aren’t doing it to get your share of the inheritance and you aren’t doing it to avoid punishment.  You are transforming your values and actions to match your father’s because you love Him and know He loves you.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on August 14, 2012 in 1 Corinthians, Pauline Epistles

 

Tags: , , , , ,

1 Corinthians 9 – Paul is Accused of Being a Televangelist

Paul has been accused of being a televangelist…well…kinda. He’s been accused of taking advantage of the Gospel and using it to take land, possessions, etc. from Christians. Therefore, he speaks of his ministry, declaring openly that he is an apostle, an eyewitness of the glory of Christ, who has seen the Lord. He is without a doubt an apostle to those in Corinth though others may deny his apostleship. It is within God’s will that those who preach the gospel should live on it and by it. Paul had these rights but did not use them so that he would do nothing to hinder the Gospel. He says that he had the right to take for himself a wife, as Peter and others had, but did not do so.

Paul was so focused on his call from the Lord to preach the Gospel that he had no other focus. He did not want anything to hinder what God has celled him to do. Woe to him if he failed to do it!! Being free from any group of people he then could be a servant to all people and move about freely proclaiming the Gospel, so he might win as many as possible.

In every way possible, Paul made himself like those around him in order that he might discover the truth within them so that he could bring God’s Truth to them where they are. He didn’t have one approach to sharing the Gospel. He did everything he could to adapt it, without watering it down, in order that all might be saved.

Paul gives up his rights in order that the Gospel not be hindered. He will call them to this same mindset in other areas. We are to do nothing that hinders the Gospel even if we are in the right. The unhindered proclamation of the Gospel was of upmost importance. This means that we as believers have to understand the people we preach to and the culture we are in so that our actions will not get in the way of God’s saving work in the Gospel.

In the race, all runners run in a way to get the prize. Paul examines each step he takes and makes sure to not run aimlessly but as one who is focused on the end. Run in this way. Know where you are going. Know your purpose and make every effort to always move in that direction. Sometimes this will mean giving up your rights for the sake of proclaiming the Gospel.

 

Tags: , , ,

1 Corinthians 8 – Don’t Eat the Meat

Eating Meat

Here is a model of dealing with church conflict.  Paul deals very wisely with a very difficult moral and theological question in a way we can learn a lot from.  So when you are mediating a church conflict, start with this…”I know we are here today to talk about whether we should _______________ or _____________.  Regarding this situation, we all certainly know a lot about this topic.  And while each of you have great knowledge on the matter, which makes us all feel important, it is actually love that strengthens the church.  Not knowledge.  Besides, anyone who claims to have all the answers doesn’t know very much.  Now, what did you all want to talk about?”

Now on the actual issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols, Paul weighs the options.  He begins by essentially explaining that from each party’s perspective they are correct.  Idols are fake, so who cares if the meat has been sacrificed to them.  (It’s worth noting that the meat market in Corinth is right next to the pagan temple.  If you aren’t eating meat sacrificed to idols, you probably aren’t eating much meat.)  On the other hand, many converts used to worship those idols and eating that meat comes too close to flirting with their pagan past.  What happens if the former pagans concede and encourage the eating of this meat?  Paul seems to think they could relapse into Pagan worship.  What happens if the Christians who aren’t bothered by this meat concede and stop eating it?  Then they have to find something else to eat.  It’s actually not that difficult to figure out the best option here.

Does that mean that we can always use this passage so that Christians can say, “You are doing something that offends me, so 1 Corinthians 8 says you have to stop?”  Not really.  If you are such a weak Christian that another person doing something that bothers you might cause you to relapse and lose your own soul, then yes, this passage applies.  However, if you are a strong mature Christian who wants to get their way, please refer to the conversation above.

Anyone who claims to have all the answers doesn’t know very much.  And while knowledge makes us feel important, it’s actually love that strengthens the church.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 9, 2012 in 1 Corinthians, Pauline Epistles

 

Tags: , , , , ,

1 Corinthians 7 – A Single Guys Perspective on Sex and Marriage…

1 Corinthians 7

We have come to a passage that I know absolutely nothing about on a practical level and also a passage that I probably have a better perspective than most. There is a lot of discussion (heated mostly) about the passages that follow in regards to marriage and divorce. I hope to give some perspective but I have no intention on thinking I’m settling any kind of ancient debate.

“It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman” has been wildly misinterpreted in different groups in the Church. There was a movement a while back who took this verse to mean that the holiest of Christians did not have sex and they called all of their people to live up to that standard. That sect died out within a generation.

The church in Corinth made this claim to Paul in a letter and it is this claim that he is addressing. Corinth says, “It is more holy to not have sex.” Paul replies, “How can you make such a claim when sexual immorality is so rampant in your church?! Sex is part of your marriage. Sometimes you don’t want to but she does. Sometimes you do and she doesn’t. Don’t withhold! Unless you mutually decide to take a break so you can pray…obviously.” The whole purpose of this that you continue to have a healthy marriage, not allowing Satan to have a foothold in your marriage. Paul says that an active sex life with your spouse is a concession on his part and not a command. As a single guy…I’d feel more awkward talking about this but Paul was single too and this was read in front of the entire church so I feel fine. Hooray for observations from the single guys!

Speaking of being single…Paul wishes they all had his gift. I know a few married people who wish they had that gift as well but Paul will address that momentarily. To all the singles out there, it is better to get married than to keep falling into sexual immorality. Paul was completely dedicated to Christ and that was all he needed.

Paul basically says that if you divorce you should stay single or reconcile to your spouse. This is a hard one for me. I believe that those who have gotten remarried will still be shown grace by God. I think this is an issue about being flippant about marriage. I think marriage is the greatest form of commitment two people can have. The intimacy that is shared, the oneness of the two, is to be held in the highest regard. God says that this is the relationship that Christ has with the Church. In that light I think it is the greatest commitment two people can make and should not be taken lightly. Ironically, I have had a number of friends come to me for marriage advice. While I have no practical advice from my experiences I often bring them back to the cross of Christ. You put yourself on the cross in your marriage and look at your spouse from that perspective. Be sacrificial in every way to bring you and your spouse together. This is a one way focus on your spouse in the same way Christ was focused on us. Don’t be flippant about your marriage. Some take a much harder stance on divorce but it is difficult for me to go that far.

There seems to be a problem of Christians leaving their spouses who were unbelievers. I can see where an overly spiritual group of people would be quick to say that their marriage to a pagan was no longer binding because they are not in God. Marriage, being the greatest level of commitment, is a great way to proclaim Christ to your spouse. If the spouse no longer wants to be married to you because you are a Christian, let them go. Do what you can to live in peace. Live in whatever situation you were in when God called you…but I think there might be some circumstances where this doesn’t apply i.e. temple prostitutes and the like.

A mentor and good friend of mine once confessed to me after 20 years of marriage that he was concerned that he loved his wife more than he loved Christ. This had never occurred to me that it could be a problem. Paul says that in every way you should live as though nothing binds you to this world. Christ is your priority. This means your marriage, your children, your business, your stuff, etc. is secondary to Christ. Paul is very clear that you are ok if you are married but he heeds warning to make sure you are not tying yourself to this world.

 
 

Tags: , , , ,