1st, 2nd CORINTHIANS
(942)1st CORINTHIANS INTRODUCTION- Out of all of Paul’s letters, this one is ‘the most verified’ as being his. Of course we know this because Paul says so in the letter! But for all those intellectual higher critics, this helps. Corinth was a city of great influence and trade, many land and sea routes converged at Corinth and her port. The city was also known for her philosophers and ‘preachers of wisdom’ [Rhetoric]. They actually had a custom at Corinth in which you could ‘hire’ your own ‘preacher of wisdom’. These were the traveling teachers who made a living at speaking. This also might be why Paul specifically said ‘when I was with you I did not take money from you’. The custom of the traveling preachers was you could pay a one time honorarium for a single speech, or you could actually hire a regular speaker and have him ‘on salary’. Paul did not want the Corinthians to think that he was their hired preacher! How much influence this type of trade would have on the later development of the ‘hired clergy’ is unknown, but the similarities are striking. The famous 5th century bishop of Hippo, North Africa, Saint Augustine, made his living as one of these traveling teachers of philosophy before becoming a Christian. It’s believed that Paul wrote a 3rd letter to the church at Corinth, so what we know as 1st, 2nd Corinthians might actually be letters 2 and 3. I personally think Corinthians holds special value for the church today. The 21st century believer is being challenged on her Ecclesiology, the whole idea of what the church is. In Corinthians we see a specific picture of what the church is and on how she should meet. Paul will not address ‘the Pastor’ [there was none in the modern sense of the office] but he will speak directly to the brothers at Corinth and give them some heavy responsibilities to carry out [like committing a brother to satan for the destruction of his flesh! Ouch]. Paul went to Corinth on his 2nd missionary journey and spent 18 months with them [Acts 18] one of the longest stays at any church. Because of the pagan background of the city Paul will address specific issues related to believers and certain practices of idol worship. Eating meat offered to idols and stuff like that. Corinth also practiced a form of idolatry that included prostitution, so he will deal severely with the loose sexual morals of the people at Corinth. Well we have a lot to cover in the next few weeks, try and read Corinthians on your own as we plunge into this study, it will help a lot.
(943)1ST CORINTHIANS 1:1-17 Paul greets them as an apostle called by God, he affirms his authority and ‘fathering ability’ as coming from God. He tells them he thanks God all the time for the fruit that he sees in their lives, the thing that made Paul rejoice was the work God was doing in the communities he was establishing as an apostle. Today ministers have a tendency to ‘rejoice’ over the Christian enterprise that we oversee. Whether its’ how well the budget went this year and stuff like that. Paul’s joy wasn’t in the fact that God called him to some great personal ministry where he would find self fulfillment. His joy was in the actual growth and freedom that ‘his churches’ [communities of people] were experiencing. He also defines them as ‘those that call upon the name of the Lord like all the others’. Remember what we said when studying Romans chapter 10? One of the signs of the believer is ‘they call upon Jesus name’. They are believing communities of ‘Christ callers’. Not so much a one time evangelical altar call, but a lifestyle. Jesus said we are ‘a house of prayer’. A spiritual community/house who intercedes for all nations. It’s in our very DNA! Paul also commends them as being enriched by God in all ‘knowledge and utterance’ [speech]. It seems funny that he would say they were blessed and enriched in speech. Paul will give some of his strongest rebukes over speaking gifts [tongues, prophesy] to this community. Yet he does not approach it from the strong anti charismatic view. He doesn’t say ‘your speech is demonic’ he says it is enriched by God! We will deal with the gifts later on. Now for the first real rebuke. Paul says he has heard reports that there are divisions and strivings among them. They are already dividing up into various sects. Some follow Paul, others follow Cephas, some say ‘we are the true Christ followers’. Paul rebukes them sharply over these divisions, he does not want the early church to identify with individual personalities and gifts at the expense of true unity. Was this the early development of denominationalism? To a degree yes. But I also don’t think we should view the various Christian denominations as deceived or ‘lost’. The modern church has become what we are thru many struggles and difficulties over a 2 thousand year history. My personal view is we should strive for unity, not by trying to dissolve all the various ‘tribes’ that exist in Christ’s church, but by growing into a more mature view of all who name the name of Christ as being fellow believers who partake of a common grace. I applaud all the efforts being made by various Christian churches today to come to a greater outward unity [for example the Catholic and Orthodox dialogue] but I also believe as we see each other as fellow believers and learn to appreciate our different emphasis, that this approach can also lead to greater unity among believers today. Paul saw the beginnings of division in the early Corinthian community, he did his best to quell the coming storm.
(944)1ST CORINTHIANS 1:18-31 Paul declares the actual preaching of the Cross to be the power of God. The Jews sought for a sign [remember the sign of Jonas?] and the Greeks prided themselves in wisdom. Paul declares that Jesus IS the wisdom and power of God. In Christ is contained all the wisdom and power [signs] in the universe! Paul says God destroyed the wisdom of unregenerate man and that Gods foolishness is wiser than men’s greatest achievements apart from God. Wow, what an indictment on enlightenment philosophy. Man goes thru stages of learning and knowledge [renaissance, enlightenment. Industrial, scientific revolution] these are not bad achievements in and of themselves. Many of the greatest scientists and scientific discoveries were made by men of faith [Newton, Pascal, Faraday, etc] the problem arises when men think that sheer humanistic reasoning, apart from God, is the answer. Right now there is a movement [11-08] going on where some atheists bought ad space on the sides of buses that say ‘why believe in a god? Do good for goodness sake’. So they had both sides [Christian /Atheist] debate it. The simple fact is, sheer humanism cannot even define ‘what good is’. ‘Good’ becomes a matter of what serves me best at the time of my decision. Without God and special revelation [scripture-10 commandments] good can be defined by Hitler’s regime as exterminating one class of society for the benefit of the whole. Only Christian [or Deist, Jewish, Muslim] beliefs place special value and dignity on human life. It is a common misconception to think that all the enlightenment philosophers were atheists; this was not the case at all. Locke, Hume and others simply believed that thru human logic and reason people could arrive at a sort of naturalistic belief in God. This would form the basis of Deism, the system of belief in God but a rejection of classic Christian theology. Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers of our country were influenced by this style of belief. Now, getting back to the Greeks. Paul says ‘God destroyed the wisdom of this world’. What wisdom is Paul talking about? The enlightenment philosophers of the 18th century had nothing on the Greek philosophers going all the way back to a few centuries B.C. Plato, the Greek wrestler turned philosopher, had one of the most famous schools of Greek philosophy. At the entrance of the school the words were written ‘let none but geometers enter here’. Kind of strange. Geometry simply meant ‘form’ in this use. Most of the great theoretical physicists were also great mathematicians [Einstein]. The Greek philosophers were seeking a sort of ‘unified theory’ that would explain all other theories and bring all learning together under one intellectual ‘roof’. Sort of like Einstein's last great obsession. The Greeks actually referred to this great unknown future ‘unifier’ as ‘the Logos’. Now, some atheists will use this truth to undercut the New Testament. They will take the common use of these words ‘The Logos’ and say that Johns writings [Gospel, letters] were simply stolen ideas from Greek philosophy. This is why believers need to have a better understanding of the inspiration of scripture. John’s writings were no doubt inspired, he of course calls Jesus the ‘Logos’ [word] of God. But he was simply saying to the Greek/Gnostic mind ‘look, you guys have been waiting for centuries for the one special ‘Word/Logos’ that would be the answer to all learning, I declare unto you that Jesus is this Logos’! So eventually you would have ‘the wisdom of the world’ [both Greek and enlightenment and all other types] falling short of the ultimate answer. They could only go so far in their journey for truth, and ultimately they either wind up at the foot of the Cross [the wisdom of God] or the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’. God said this ‘tree’ [sources of wisdom and knowledge apart from God] would ultimately lead to death if not submitted to ‘the tree of life’ [the Cross]. You would have some of the enlightenment philosophers eat from this tree all the way to the ‘death of God’ movement. Man in his wisdom would come to the conclusion that ‘God is dead’. If this is true, then the slaughter of millions of Jews is no moral dilemma. If God is dead then man is not created in his image, he is just this piece of flesh that you can dispose of at will. To all you intellectual types, it’s Okay to have a mind, but you must love God with it. If all your doing is feeding from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will surely die.
(945)1 CORINTHIANS 2- Paul tells them that when he came to them to declare Gods wisdom, that he did not do it with excellency of speech or with enticing words of men’s wisdom. What is he saying here? Remember, Corinth had the background of traveling philosophers of rhetoric who could ‘dazzle the average folk’. Sort of like the role science would come to play with modern man. All science is good, it’s when man in his arrogance begins to espouse or ‘twist’ things to his advantage that the problem arises. That’s when the arrogance of mans wisdom simply says to the average Joe ‘who do you think you are to question me! I am a man of wisdom’ Phooey! [I know it’s corny]. The fact is that natural man has always had the ability to deceive or come up with ‘evidence’ just in the nick of time. Did you know there was/is an entire cottage industry in ‘finding’ fossils to prove evolution is true? Do you really think men were above deception in the 1800’s? That they were above the temptation to come up with findings so their funding would not be cut off? Darwin wrote his famous book ‘the Origin of Species’ in 1851. Right after the book became popular there was a race among the archeologists to find the missing link. It just so happened that within a few short years they found it! [or something they thought fit]. It was also a ‘coincidence’ that some of the findings were discovered right before the grant/funding would run our for the researcher. Now, don’t you think the poor brother was tempted to fudge? Do you think that some of these findings, which later fell into the category of various bones simply being found in one location, were simply hyped for the benefit of the researchers to continue their work? You bet stuff like this happened. Some of the discoveries of skeletons that looked a little different were determined to be modern humans that simply suffered from various growth deficiencies. Scientists said this publicly! But this finding didn’t ‘fit’ all the excitement that was happening around the ‘new knowledge’ of Darwin. And the fact is that some of these early findings, with all of these obvious opportunities for fraud, stand today as the best evidence for evolution. After 150 years, these guys just happened to come up with the best evidence under these highly suspicious circumstances. But the average man, like the brothers living in Corinth, were simply dazzled by all the technical jargon. ‘Neanderthal man’ wow, that’s scientific brother! The name comes from a Christian whose name was ‘Neander’ and the famous discovery of the bones were in a field where he lived. Now that’s what I call the wisdom of man! So Paul lets the Corinthians know that his gospel isn’t some fabricated wisdom that has no basis in reality, he was preaching the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ! [chapter 15]. He does say this wisdom and truth of Jesus is ‘hidden wisdom that the princes of this world can’t grasp’. He teaches that only God himself can teach a person this true wisdom of the gospel. But when Paul says ‘hidden wisdom’ he is not talking about the Gnostic belief [early cult of Christianity] of ‘special wisdom that only an elite few have’. Paul is saying mans unregenerate nature cannot grasp the great riches of the gospel. God regenerates us and gives us freely of his Spirit so we can ‘know the things of the Spirit of God’. Make no mistake about it, in Christ there are tremendous sources of riches and wisdom. This wisdom is sound and sure, not like the wisdom of the philosophers. Their wisdom often times was based on sheer fantasy.
(946)1 CORINTHIANS 3:1-10 Paul tells them that because of their immaturity he has ‘fed them milk, not meat’. He continues to correct them on their penchant for ‘men worship’. He says ‘I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase’. He even says ‘we are nothing, its Gods Spirit that counts!’ I guess poor Paul wasn’t up on the contemporary self esteem movement in the church? Paul says ‘as a wise masterbuilder I have laid the foundation and others have built upon it’ also ‘ye are Gods building, Gods garden’. I have studied this concept of the ‘wise masterbuilder’ a lot over the years. The Apostle is known for his wisdom. Jesus said ‘I have sent you [Jerusalem] wise men and prophets’. The Apostles are the ‘wise men’. If I remember I will try and paste some entries on the reality of the apostolic ministry today. That is the teaching from scripture on the ongoing apostolic ministry. Don’t mistake it for the original ‘apostles of the Lamb’. They were special eyewitnesses of the resurrection. The ongoing gift which is spoken about in the New Testament plays a different role, yet we can glean things from Paul and others on this ministry gift. Paul was primarily a ‘foundation layer’ he spent no time building ‘buildings’ or human institutions, but he knew the reality of foundation laying. His proclamation of the gospel had the inherent ability to change a region for Christ and his kingdom. He had the wisdom to build into the communities a self sustaining mentality. A few months to a few years was the amount of time Paul spent in these communities. When he left them they were for all practical purposes self sustaining communities of Christ followers. How in the world did he do this on such a shoestring budget? The reality of Jesus and his resurrection was tremendously good news. Paul started them right. In today’s church world we seem to lay all sorts of other ‘foundations’. Faith, prosperity, healing, the ‘house church’; all good things in their proper place, but the reality of Christ seems to take second place. Also, Paul did not institute the pastoral office that we have come to depend on in the modern church. He did establish Elders, but he did not leave a ‘professional minister’ as the primary functioning ‘elder’ in their midst. Why is this important to see? Because when people are given ‘crutches’ they will use them! If momma eagle never kicks baby eagle out of the nest, then baby eagle will wind up on food stamps [Don’t feel bad if you are on them, I am just using this as an example]. In essence Paul built into the first century churches a self sustaining mindset. They were the church and they had the responsibility to represent Christ in their locals. They couldn’t pawn it off on ‘the pastor’. Paul would also do some writing. These letters would circulate throughout the communities and were regularly read by a literate believer in these churches. I know it’s common to think that the early believers ‘had bibles’ but this wasn’t the case. Paul’s letters were part of the early ‘canon’ but you wouldn’t have total agreement on the canon until around the 4th century. But these letters played a major role in ‘foundation laying’. The modern believer is primarily educated thru the sermon. Sermons are okay, but without literature, the job won’t get done. Say if your doctor, or mechanic or tax man told you ‘I have never been educated in school, but every Sunday I attended a lecture at the local lecture hall. I did this for 50 years. So let’s get on with the operation.’ Ouch! But we approach Christianity with this mindset. Paul wrote letters, short booklets if you will. These letters could be looked to as a stable source of doctrine for the early church. They would eventually be canonized and would be passed down to us 2 millennia later. We are reading from one right now.
[These 2 entries simply give scriptural evidence for the ongoing function of Apostles/Prophets today]
(739) ACTS 1- Luke, the writer of this book, feels the need to document the ongoing work of Jesus and his revolution. He already wrote a gospel and believes this to be the beginning of the story. In essence, the reality of Jesus and his resurrection are just the start, we have much more to do and become on this journey. Most writers jump to chapter 2. We have churches and music groups called ‘Acts chapter 2’. Why does Luke seem to wait till chapter 2 before getting to ‘the good stuff’? Chapter one records the 40 days of Jesus showing himself alive after his death. Luke feels this singular truth to be important enough to simply stand alone [I do realize the early letters did not have chapter and verse divisions like today]. The real physical fact of Jesus bodily resurrection is without a doubt the foundational truth of the gospel. The outpouring of the Spirit and the whole future of the church depends on the reality of the resurrected Christ. Paul will write the Corinthians and tell them if the resurrection were not true then they are the most miserable of all people. Luke tells us Jesus gave instructions for the Apostles to wait at Jerusalem for the Spirit. Thy will be witnesses of him to all the surrounding nations after the Spirit empowers them. We also see Peter emerge as the key spokesman for the group. He quotes freely from the Psalms and reads their own history into the book. He sees the prophetic verse from David on ‘let another take his office’ as referring to Judas betrayal and death. They cast lots and choose Matthias as the one to replace Judas. Peter shows the importance of Judas replacement to come from one that was with them thru out the earthly time of Jesus. Someone who saw and witnessed Jesus after the resurrection. Scholars have confused this with the ‘ascension gift Apostles’. Some scholars have taken the truth of the early Apostles having the criteria of being actual witnesses of Jesus, and have said ‘therefore, you have no Apostles today’. Paul will teach in Ephesians that after Jesus ascension on high he gave gifts unto men ‘some Apostles, others Prophets, etc.’ The New Testament clearly speaks of Apostles as an ongoing gift in the church. Barnabas will later be called an Apostles [Acts 14:14] as well as many other references in the original Greek using the same Greek word for Apostle. But here we find Peter seeing the need to replace Judas. Other scholars think Peter might have jumped the gun. They see Paul’s apostleship as the possible person the Lord picked out as the replacement. You do find Paul referring time and again to his Apostolic authority as one ‘born out of due time’ who saw Jesus on the Damascus road. If Paul was simply an ascension gift Apostle, why would he refer time and again to his authority based on being a witness who also saw Jesus? It’s possible that Paul was in this group of ‘Apostles of the Lamb’ who had extra authority based upon their testimony of being eyewitnesses. So in chapter one we see that Jesus appeared for 40 days giving instructions to the early leadership and told them to wait at Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We see the incarnational purpose of God, Jesus was and continues to be the express image of God to man. He was not some ‘phantom’ like the Docetists will claim, but a very real physical resurrected Lord. Luke begins the early history of the church with this reality being important enough to stand on its own.
HEBREWS commentary copyright 2007 John Chiarello www.copruschristioutreachministries.blogspot.com P.O. box 181256 C.C. Tx. 78480
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‘God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the Prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds’ Many years ago when I was going to a fundamental Baptist Church, they would interpret this passage in a ‘cessationist’ way. They would say because God says in the past he spoke by prophets, but now by his Son. That this means he doesn’t speak thru Prophets any more. The Prophets here are Old Testament voices. In Ephesians it says after Jesus ascended up on high he gave gifts unto men, some Apostles, some Prophets, etc. The fact that Jesus made Prophets after the ascension teaches us that there were to be a whole new class of New Testament Prophets that were different from the old. I find it strange to believe that Jesus would create a whole new class of gifts, and then take them away as soon as the Bible is complete. Why would Paul give instruction in the New Testament on how Prophets would operate [Corinthians] and then to say ‘as soon as this letter is canonized with the others, all this instruction will be useless’ it just doesn’t seem right.
The reason Paul is saying in the past God used Prophets, but today his Son. Paul is showing that the Jewish Old testament was a real communication from God to man. But in this dispensation of Grace, God is speaking the realities that the Prophets were looking to. Paul is saying ‘thank God for the Old Jewish books and law, they point to something, his name is Jesus’! The Prophets [Old Testament] served a purpose; they brought us from the shadows to the present time [1st century] now lets move on into the reality. Now you must see and hear the Son in these last days. ‘Who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person…when he by himself purged our sins SAT DOWN on the right hand of the majesty on high’ here we are at the beginning stages of themes that we will see later in the letter. The significance of Jesus ‘sitting down’ will be contrasted with the Old testament priests ‘standing up’. Paul [for the record I think Paul wrote this letter, from here on I will probably just refer to the writer as Paul] will teach that the ‘standing up’ of the Levitical Priests represented an ‘incomplete priesthood’ the reason Jesus sat down was because there would be no more sacrifice, and no more priesthood made up of many priests who would die year after year. This doesn’t mean there would be no more New Testament priests as believers, but that there would be no more Old Testament system. Paul will find spiritual truths like this all thru out the Old Testament.
Some theologians feel that Paul is a little too loose with these free comparisons that he seems to ‘pull out of the hat’, for the believer who holds to the canon of scripture, it is the Word of God. ‘Being made so much better than the angels…but unto the Son he saith “thy throne O God is forever and ever, a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy Kingdom”. Here Paul introduces another theme that will be seen thru out this letter. The superiority of Jesus over angels. Why is this important? Most believers know that Jesus is greater than angels, don’t they? Here we see why context is important to understand this letter. In Jewish tradition it is believed that the law was given to Moses by God thru the mediation of angels. Some say ‘well, we don’t use Jewish tradition, we use scripture’. First, Paul used anything he could to win the argument. Second, if we believe Hebrews is an inspired book, then when we read later on that the law given thru angels received a recompense if broken, then right here you have scripture [Hebrews] testifying that God did use angels to ‘transmit’ the law to some degree. Now, why is it important for gentiles to see this? Well it really isn’t! But it is vital for a first century Jew to see it. If Paul can show that Jesus is greater than the angels, then he is beginning to make the argument that the New Covenant is greater than the Old.
Here is the context. Moses law is highly revered in the first century Jewish community, so here Paul says ‘how much better is the law/word given to us from Gods Son’. Since Jesus is much better than the angels, therefore pay closer attention to the words spoken thru Gods Son, he is greater than the angels! ‘But to which of the angels said he “sit at my right hand until I make thy enemies thy footstool” we end chapter one with the theme of Jesus being better than the angels, yet in chapter 2 something funny happens, Paul will make the argument of Jesus being “a little lower than the angels” lets see what this means.
(947) 1ST CORINTHIANS 3:11-23 Paul teaches that once the foundation of Jesus is laid, that no other foundation can come in and replace it. Remember, Paul is speaking about a spiritual foundation. He is not building ‘a literal building’! I know we know this, but for some reason modern church planters can’t seem to break the mindset of having a building ‘to do church’. Now we begin to get into some doctrine. I believe Paul begins a New Testament doctrine here that could be called ‘the sin unto natural death’ or the judgment of a believer when he falls into open sin and rebellion and refuses to repent. Now, I have looked at this doctrine from different views over the years. I try not to allow my own leaning towards reformed theology to effect me. But I have come down on the side of ‘eternal security’ in viewing these verses. Paul teaches that even though the foundation of Jesus is laid, it’s still possible to build a life of worthless things upon it. He says ‘if any man defiles Gods temple, him will God destroy’. This same language will be used in chapter 5 ‘deliver the sinning brother to satan for the destruction of the flesh so the spirit may be saved’. Paul also uses the term again here in chapter 3 ‘yet he will be saved as by fire’. Also in chapter 11 ‘for this cause many sleep [physical death] and are sick among you’ he uses this as a judgment that came upon them for their abuse of the Lords table. So reading this in context it sure seems that Paul is saying ‘if you, as a believer, allow yourself to fall into sin in such a way that you are doing permanent harm to the temple [which he describes as their bodies, both individually and corporately] then God will destroy you’. This seems to fit all these other verses. The apostle John also speaks on the ‘sin unto death’ [which I see as physical death] in his letter. He says ‘if any one sees his brother sin a sin unto death, I do not say you should pray for them’. Now, the Arminian brothers [those who do not believe in eternal security] obviously see these a different way. They would apply some of these verses as meaning the loss of salvation. Though I personally do not see it this way, yet they have some of their own scriptures to back up their belief. They are certainly not out of line with historic Christian belief to hold to this view. So Paul introduces [in my mind] the concept of the possibility of the rebellious believer falling into such a sin that he can ‘be destroyed’ [lose his life] while at the same time saying ‘yet his spirit will be saved’. This ‘in house’ instruction [in house meaning Paul’s dealing with them as believers who fall into sin] should not taint the overriding view of Paul in his entire corpus of teaching. His main teaching on ‘those who live in constant sin’ is they will not inherit the kingdom of God. John also teaches this doctrine in his epistle. So we begin to see the ‘minefield’ we can get into as we tread thru the New Testament. It will be important to make these distinctions with much grace as we continue our journey thru the New Testament. Many well meaning believers view the ‘other camps’ as heretics over these issues. I see it more as a matter of believers being influenced to see these verses from a sincere standpoint of their upbringing. If you were raised Baptist, you more than likely view them from a Calvinistic lens. If you were raised Pentecostal [or Methodist], from an Arminian lens. Both good camps, with their own ‘slant’ affecting their view. I don’t think we should call each other heretics over stuff like this.
(949) 1st CORINTHIANS 4: 1-7 Paul says we are ‘stewards of Gods mysteries’. This hidden knowledge of the gospel that can only be revealed by divine revelation has been committed to us. These great treasures of God’s wisdom are not products of our own intellect, therefore there is no reason to glory in men! Paul says stuff like this in Romans 4 ‘if it is by grace that Abraham became righteous, then there are no grounds for boasting.’ Now, because of this reason we ‘ought not to think of each other in an exalted way’. All men [apostles, prophets, teachers] that you have received truth from are simply ‘carriers of a gift freely given’. When you check out a book from the library and it contains great truth, do you exalt the librarian for it? Of course not, she is just a ‘steward of the book’. So Paul says this about him and Apollos and all other human teachers. Paul also teaches that we all will be judged according to the motives and intents of our hearts. He could care less about the private judgments that others made of him, he realized that all men would give an account some day. Therefore why waste time trying to impress people, it is about the most useless thing a person can do. Why? Because all men are like grass, we are here today and gone tomorrow. How much effort would you make in trying to impress your lawn? It’s all wasted time. Paul is not degrading human dignity, he is battling with the mindset of men worship that the church was falling into. Jesus himself said he would not commit himself to man because he knew what was in man [John’s gospel]. What’s in man? Do you ‘know yourself’? Have you ever tried to impress people? Did you later realize what a useless waste of energy this endeavor was? Well all men are like you [and me!] so why waste your time doing something that has no lasting value. Paul said it concerned him very little, he knew God would some day see all of our motives. He focused on stuff that mattered for eternity.
(950) 1ST CORINTHIANS 4: 8-20 Paul tells them he’s glad they have an abundance of material things, though he as an apostle is lacking. He’s happy about their sterling reputation [among the elite, though a bad reputation as believers- see chapter 5!] though he is mocked and treated badly. He even says ‘till this hour I labor, working with my own hands trying to make ends meet’. I don’t want to harp on this too much, but I am trying to show you one of the themes that we overlook in today’s pastoral ministry mindset. When we taught the book of Acts [chapter 20] I showed you how Paul purposely worked to leave an example TO THE ELDERS at Ephesus. He called them over to Mellitus and gave them these instructions as he was about to depart. Here we see Paul telling the Corinthians, in a letter [he is not with them at this time] that he is STILL working with his own hands. We often think Paul only worked while at Corinth, in order to not take offerings from them. But a careful reading of the New Testament will show you that Paul made a habit of working all thru out his life. He never became ‘a fulltime apostle’ who was supported thru his apostolic gift. Now we also see Paul send Timothy to them as a ‘carrier’ of doctrine and order. Paul wrote 3 pastoral [I prefer to call them apostolic] epistles. Titus and 1st and 2nd Timothy. These brothers were Paul's apostolic co-workers. They deposited the faith [basic Christian truth] into the communities they were overseeing. Paul knew he could trust them to ‘set things in order’ [an apostolic characteristic]. Some teach that in today’s ‘church world’ you can’t ‘have a church’ without the interplay of an apostle. That basically you need an apostle [in person] to interact with your community to keep things in order. Now, I think apostolic men are needed and helpful, but we also need to realize that we live in a day of mass communication like never before. The web, telecommunications. All sorts of stuff that Paul didn’t have. So let’s not be too dogmatic on stuff like this. I am sure Paul would have used these things if he had them. The basic thrust of Paul having a Timothy who could be sent to a community was for the purpose of seeing and impacting them in a ‘real time’ way. Paul was hearing rumors about their conduct, he is writing these letters to them. But he really needs to have ‘boots on the ground’, he needs to know firsthand what’s going on. Today this real time knowledge could be gained with a simple phone call, or e-mail. Paul also says Timothy will bring them into remembrance of his ways/teachings that Paul teaches ‘every where in every church’. Paul was depositing a consistent message of ‘faith and rule’ with all the churches he was planting. This of course didn’t mean the gentile churches had no individual expression of church life, but it did mean there were some consistent ‘rituals’ they were to follow. Things like we read in Acts ‘continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and breaking of bread and prayers’ simple instructions on living as a community of people. The historic church has a tendency to use these verses to say ‘Paul taught high church liturgy’ well, not really. The ‘radical house church brothers’ [they describe themselves this way!] tend to teach that any consistent rule, or way ‘to act’ violates the ‘no leader rule’ [no pastor] and prohibits the free expression of the ecclesia. Well, this sounds noble, but Paul told the Corinthians ‘Timothy will show you my ways that I teach in all the churches’. It’s not wrong to have some basic order and instructions on ‘how to act, function as the New Testament ecclesia’.
(952)1ST CORINTHIANS 5:1-7 Okay, now we get into some tough stuff. Paul tells them that he has heard about a situation where one of the brothers is sleeping with his step-mom [fathers wife, though probably not his mother]. And the rebuke is they are not repenting over it, but instead are kind of proud of the whole thing! Paul says to ‘deliver him to satan for the destruction of the flesh so the spirit may be saved’. Now I already showed you the way I view this verse. I tried to follow the other times where Paul speaks this way in this letter and when using this type of language I see him speaking of physical death [chapter 11- sleep-death as judgment to a believer who sins]. I often ‘day dream’ how bout you? I’m not sure if it’s the lord at times trying to tell me stuff. One of my noble fantasies is I can picture myself as the sole Christian preacher who has survived some nuclear holocaust and I am responsible to train the survivors. In this scenario [I am kinda ad libbing here, I don’t day dream this much!] I have both Catholic and Protestant believers. Although I am tempted to raise this new generation of people as Protestants, I instead teach the Catholics true Catholic doctrine [though I don't fully agree with it all] and I teach the Protestants their stuff. Now, I think this little day dream in some way speaks to what I need to do at times on this blog. I need to honestly tell both sides! In this verse ‘commit to satan for the destruction of the flesh’ some do see it a little differently. You can read ‘flesh’ as meaning ‘fleshly nature’. Paul does use the word this way at times. You can’t really make the distinction by going to the Greek. Instead you have to simply look at the context. So this view would be saying ‘deliver this believer to the enemy, don’t allow him to remain ‘in the camp’ and continue to receive the benefits of the believing community. As you ostracize him he will feel the effect of not being with you, he will come to his senses and leave his sin’ [which in this scenario is ‘his fleshly nature’] so the ‘destruction of the flesh’ in this interpretation would fit in well with Arminians. Now, do I believe it this way? No, but I sure feel noble, sort of like the Protestant preacher in my ‘day dream’. [p.s. if you tell anybody about this day dream, I will deny it!]
(953)Yesterday I managed to catch a few TV shows that were good. National geographic did a special called ‘the first Christians’. It was excellent. They covered more historic truth in one hour than you would get from years of sermons. They basically taught the New Testament word for ‘church’ [Ecclesia] and showed how because the early Christians did not believe the ‘church’ was a building, that therefore they spread rapidly without lots of money. They then covered the historic development of the ‘church building’ and the effect this had on them. They also got into the ‘end times’ scenarios that are played out over and over again by today’s prophecy teachers. They interviewed true theologians who put Johns Revelation in historical context. Just an excellent job overall. I also caught the show ‘Journey Home’ on E.W.T.N. [the Catholic channel]. I do like the show, it often gives good historical stuff. Last night they were a little ‘too Catholic’ [I know, what should I expect]. They had a good brother on who left ‘non-denominational Christianity’ and became Catholic. Now, most of these brothers are very intelligent believers who make this choice out of sincerity. They usually study the early church fathers and realize the ‘Catholic tone’ of these early believers. I simply felt the brother who spoke last night was a little too critical of his former church experience [Willow Creek]. I then caught Scott Hahn [an excellent Catholic scholar and apologist], he always has stuff that interests me. He brought up an argument I have heard before on how the early church saw the ‘real presence of Christ’ as being in the Eucharist. Others have made this argument before from the Catholic perspective of Jesus being with us, as opposed to the detractors arguments that he misled the early followers to think that he would soon return and set up a literal earthly kingdom. I have heard and do understand this reasoning. In essence it defends Jesus and his followers by saying ‘Jesus didn’t let down the early church by not returning and ‘being with them’ he was with them all along thru the Eucharist’ good intentions. I would prefer to argue the same point thru the fulfilling of the Fathers promise and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. Jesus says in John’s gospel ‘I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you’ it is understood by most theologians [Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant] that Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit. Jesus actually refers to the Spirit as ‘One just like unto myself’. The new testament very Cleary speaks of the Holy Spirit as Gods presence tabernacling among us in a real way. So in my thinking I would prefer to argue the real presence of Christ as being among the early believers as fulfilled thru the Comforter. Overall it was a good night of viewing some good teachers. I also couldn't help but notice how I have been skipping over the ‘more popular’ preaching shows of the day. I did click on one of the prophecy guys, he was defending ‘the rapture’ and I couldn’t help but notice the difference between the good theological discussions from the earlier shows, and the ‘silliness’ of what this brother was teaching. I don’t want to demean you if you hold to the rapture theory, it was just such an obvious ‘step down’ from the level of theologian to the level of popular prophecy preaching. In our current study of Corinthians we just went thru the verse ‘though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you have only one father’ [Paul referring to himself]. I couldn’t help but get this sense of the modern seen. You could flip thru all the religious broadcasting of our day and get every possible conceivable viewpoint on some subject, ten thousand of them! But there is a consistent voice of truth and wisdom that comes to us from both scripture and church history/tradition. I think we would be better off sticking with ‘the father[s]’.
(954)NOW IT’S A PARALLEL/BUBBLE UNIVERSE! I watched the first TV special I ever saw on the multi-verse theory. I think it’s the first one of its kind by the history channel. It was very eye opening. It seems as if its defenders have been told ‘your initial argument is nonsensical’ and they have made some adjustments. As you read down thru the Evolution section you will see that one of the arguments against a multi-verse is that it is a ‘non physical’ argument. It is metaphysical. This meaning that you could never truly prove the existence of another universe thru the science of Physics. Why? Because the original definition of ‘the universe’ was every thing that exists in the time/space continuum. If by definition, all that can be seen or detected is ‘part of our universe’ then how in the world can you detect something outside of it? [they have some ideas on this, but its pure speculation as of right now] Once you detect it, it, by definition is in our universe! Well the brothers now realize that they fell into this obvious contradiction, so they seem to be moving the goal posts a little. In the special I just saw, they now seem to be saying that our universe is simply one ‘bubble of universes’ that’s floating around in space [before, space and the universe were synonymous!] so they seem to be simply shrinking down the definition of universe and making it mean ‘our closed existing time space continuum, which is simply one of many’ Ahh, you guys are cheating with his one! But hey, how many viewers realized this? That’s the problem with these theories, they come up with them for the purpose of having another explanation for existence, but they then get into more trouble trying to keep their theory alive. Remember, the reason this theory started in the first place was to come up with some type of explanation, apart from God, to explain the fine tuning of the Cosmos [read my sections on fine tuning under Evolution]. The unbelievable fine measurements that have been found to be exactly right to support life have no other real explanation apart from a creator. The multi-verse theory simply says ‘well, if you have millions and billions of unseen universes [pure speculation!] then the odds on one of them getting it right just went up’. So this theory was originally floated for this reason. Now, even if this theory were ever proved [according to the new definition of the universe!] it would simply mean that instead of trying to figure out how ‘our universe got here’ [the original question] now we have to figure out how they all got here! It really proves nothing. But I thought it interesting to see how these giants of Academia now realize that they were violating the basic laws of logic by espousing the theory in its original form! [In essence, all these so called floating, bubble like universes would have originally fallen under the heading of ‘the universe’. You wouldn’t have seen them as a bunch of separate universes. But they had to change the definition in order to keep their argument in the boundaries of logic and common sense]. They also borrowed from Einstein’s theory on worm holes. But Einstein surmised that worm holes might be these tunnels in space/time that one could travel thru and exit at another dimension, a different location of the universe. He did not use this idea as traveling from one ‘bubble universe’ into another, like the proponents of the multi-verse were doing. The show then got too silly to even give it a speck of serious thought. They then theorized that there are possible duplicates of us, and duplicates of other sports teams and presidents and all types of stuff. They thought it possible for the Giants to have won the super bowl in one universe, though losing it in ours [and you call this science!] they even said that this theory has moral implications. How did they come up with this? One of them explained that you could be ‘good’ in one universe, but if you realize that this holy altar image of yourself is doing good somewhere else, then this might effect your choice of being righteous in ‘this universe’ WOW! As we continue our study thru the book of Corinthians, keep in mind Paul’s teaching on the foolishness of men’s wisdom, I think we just saw a good example of it. There is this stature that we give in our modern day to any ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’ that comes down the pike with any nonsensical idea. We see them as a special class, the Academics can’t be wrong! After all it sounds intellectual. A few centuries before Christ you had the great philosopher ‘Philo- Betto’ [O wait, that was Clint Eastwood's character in ‘every which way but lose!’] I mean Plato. Truly Plato and Aristotle and Socrates have had tremendous influence on Western thought. You would be hard pressed to find other later philosophers who have had the same influence [maybe Immanuel Kant]. Plato built this great school of learning in ancient Greece. He bought the land from a man by the name of ‘Academe’. Eventually we would call this pursuit of knowledge ‘the Academic world’ or Academia. Hey, don’t be intimidated by these guys.
(955)1st CORINTHIANS 5:6-8 Okay, lets get back to Corinthians. ‘Your glorying is not good, get rid of the old leaven. Don’t you know that a little yeast can affect the whole lump? Get rid of it, you are all unleavened, Christ is our new Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’ [my own paraphrasing]. A few things. I want you to see something here, over the years I have read and studied lots of great theologians. It is common for these brothers to go back to the reality of the early church fathers belief in the ‘Real Presence’ of Christ in the Eucharist [Lords supper]. It is also becoming less common [in theological circles!] to defend the symbolic view of the Lords Supper. I believe Paul is presenting the idea of all believers spiritually sitting at the ‘table of life’ on a daily basis and receiving from Christ’s new life in a spiritual/symbolic way. He clearly says ‘let us keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’ [clearly symbolic!] Peter writes of the new sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. Jesus speaks in an interesting way about this in John chapter 6. The Jews ask him ‘show us a sign, Moses gave us bread to eat from heaven. If you’re from God then prove it like Moses’. I find it interesting that in the key chapter of Jesus being the bread that comes down from heaven, the conversation turns to Moses. The beginning of the chapter does say the Passover feast was getting close, but the imagery is Moses and Manna. Moses represented the Old system of law and works, John’s gospel tells us that ‘the law came from Moses, but grace and truth from Jesus’. Jesus contrasts himself with Moses. He says ‘I am the real bread that has come down from heaven, if men eat my flesh and drink my blood they will live’. Now we must understand the tremendous offence this statement caused. The Jewish people had Levitical laws [commands in their law] that forbid the drinking of any type of blood, never mind the blood of a person! But yet Jesus would speak this way to them. In the conversation the hearers acknowledge the difficulty of the saying, Jesus will say ‘the flesh profits nothing, it is the Spirit that gives you life. The words I am speaking to you are Spirit and life’. At the last supper [which was the symbolic end of the Passover and the beginning of a new celebratory meal centered on the final sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God] Jesus seems to be saying ‘from now on, as long as you do this, you are showing my death until I come again’ [we get this from Paul later on in Corinthians]. As you put all of this imagery together, you get the sense of the New Covenant being one of an ongoing continual New Covenant meal from which all believers daily eat from and ‘keep the feast with the new leaven of truth and sincerity, not the old leaven of sin and wickedness’. You clearly see a symbolic element in this language. Now, I do not discount the importance of the actual ordinance of the Lords Table. I recently defended the Catholic idea to an ex Catholic who is now Protestant. They said ‘how can people believe something so silly’ I had to say that many serious intellectual believers accept the Real Presence doctrine by faith in the literal reading of Jesus words. Luther himself believed it, he made no bones about it when he slammed his fist on the table in his dispute with Zwingli and said ‘this IS MY BODY!’ [I think he slammed his fist, he might have carved it in the table?] Standing for the literal interpretation of the sacrament. John Wesley, the founder of the great Methodist movement, wrote many hymns speaking of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. So make no mistake about it, many good believers hold to the literal belief. I just wanted you to see that it is also in keeping with the scripture to see the entire Christian walk as one huge ongoing ‘feast’ that is kept with spiritual sacrifices and symbolic language. Jesus is the bead that came down from heaven, those who would stay with ‘Moses bread’ [law] would die, those who would eat from this new table would live forever.
(957)1ST CORINTHIANS 5:9-13 Now Paul clarifies what he meant when he said ‘don’t associate with those who sin sexually’. He wants to be clear that his instructions on ‘not being with sinners’ is not misunderstood. After all we are called salt and light, Jesus himself was accused of spending too much time with the lost. So Paul says ‘what I meant was don’t keep ongoing fellowship with a brother who is practicing unrepentant sin’. He also says ‘if you thought I meant all sinners in general, then heck you wouldn’t be able to live in society this way’. Some believers have taken a stand on ‘separation from the world’ in such a way that they have no unbelieving friends. Others seem to view the unbeliever as the enemy. Sort of like we are in this culture war and the enemy is YOU! I can’t even watch the O’Reilly factor [Fox news] too long, he says he’s fighting this culture war and then in the ads for upcoming shows he shows the raciest pictures on any news show. What’s up with that? I feel we need to make the distinction between separating from a sinning brother [for his own good] and having friendships with unbelievers. People you can influence down the road. Paul also says if we judge our own [by shunning them for their own good] that this is a type of ‘present chastening’ that believers do experience. But those who are ‘outside the camp’ [unbelievers] are left to be judged by God. We see this same theme in chapter 11 ‘when we are judged we are disciplined by the Lord so we will not be condemned with the world’ [at the final judgment]. I believe that this idea is one of the best arguments for eternal security [once saved, always saved. Though I don’t like this language, you get the hint]. The concept of believers being presently dealt with for sin, even to the possible point of physical death, seems to indicate that they will not face a future judgment like the lost [eternal damnation]. When we recently did one of our Old Testament studies, I overlooked a verse that said to King David ‘I will raise up one of your sons [Solomon/Jesus- dual Messianic prophecy] and he will build this new temple/people. The way I will deal with the people under this new covenant is, if they commit sins, I will chasten them, but I will not utterly take my mercy from them’ [my paraphrasing- it is said to the actual son, Solomon/Jesus, but in the New Covenant revelation of the church actually being part of the Body of Christ, this is how you could apply it]. You can also read this idea in a few other places. I think Jeremiah uses it ‘I will give them a new heart and I will put my Spirit in them’ and he also speaks about not being totally rejected if they commit sin under this new covenant. So the point is, if there is a mechanism under this new covenant whereby sin is dealt with in the present time, and if this is compared to the other choice which is ‘judgment at a later time’. This would seem to indicate a type of ‘in house discipline’ that says ‘if you openly sin now, God will judge you now. He does this for your own good, so you won’t face the judgment of the unbeliever at the end’. So the fact that some were sinning, even pretty badly! Did not mean that they were expelled completely from the benefits of the covenant. As a matter of fact, temporal excommunication itself was one of the benefits! I don't want to be too dogmatic on this, I just want you to see a repeated theme in scripture that says God will deal with his kids in the here and now [no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous- Hebrews] but this in itself is a blessing that is designed to ‘produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby’ Hebrews.
(958)1ST CORINTHIANS 6: 1-7 Paul rebukes them for taking each other to court. He tells them ‘don’t you have any wise people among you who could handle this? Why go before unbelievers!’ he also tells them ‘plus, why even fight for your rights, if you think you have been wronged in some way by your brother, then simply see it as part of the cost of carrying your cross’. Paul contradicts the prevalent mindset in much of Christianity today. He doesn’t teach ‘get what’s yours, know your rights!’ he teaches the ethos of self denial, of living with the expectation of giving up your rights and dreams. Of taking loss, if it glorifies the Father. Now we get into some ‘stuff’. Paul appeals to them by saying ‘don’t you realize that we shall judge angels some day, we shall judge the world’. A few years back there was a debate going on in theological circles. Some theologians popularized a new way to look at God’s sovereignty. This new system was called ‘Open Theism’. Scholars like Clark Pinnock and others held out the possibility that God doesn’t foreordain all future events, they actually went further and said ‘he doesn’t know all future events’. Well of course this sparked off a firestorm among the Calvinists. Does scripture teach that God is sovereign and does know all that will happen? To be honest about it, yes. But the idea of open theism was saying ‘because God has chosen to give man free will, he, by his own design, has chosen to limit his knowledge in the area of knowing all of mans future choices’. In essence that God purposely ‘does not know’ the future outcomes of decisions that have not been made by humans. If free will is real [of course the Calvinists say no] then God must limit himself to knowledge in these areas. I personally do not believe this, but I think I needed to share it to explain this section of scripture. Paul does tell them they will judge the world and angels. In second Peter 2, the apostle says the fallen angels are being held for a future day of judgment. In Matthew [19-?] Jesus says those who follow him will play a part in a future ruling over human government. These scriptures do indicate that believers will play a role in future judgment scenarios. So if we ‘judge angels and the world’ we should be able to arbitrate between ourselves! Now, in the world of theology you have sincere questions on ‘is it fair for God to judge people who have never heard the gospel’ or ‘if God is truly sovereign in all things, even in predestinating certain people to salvation, then this is unfair’. Many have turned to universalism, or a belief in ‘no hell’ in order to quell these questions. I want to simply float a scenario to you. Jesus says ‘whosoever sins you remit [forgive] they are forgiven. Those you retain [not forgive] will be retained’ while there are differing views on these verses, I want you to see how these scriptures, in keeping with all that I just showed you, might leave us room for another possible way out of all the so called questions on Gods ‘fairness’. Say if at the judgment, we are all gathered [Calvinists, Arminians, Catholics,…] and say if we are all waiting to see who’s right ‘I’ll show that Arminian…I’ll show that Catholic…’ and we are at the day where the future destinies of millions are at stake. What will God do? It’s possible that much of the final decision will rest in the hands of the church. I know it sounds heretical, but keep in mind all the verses I just quoted to you. Say if all of our pompous pontificating [wow!] amongst varying theories of the atonement and universalism and all the other stuff. Say if Jesus turns to us and says ‘You are now going to make the most important judgment of your lives, you shall judge the world and angels’ and all of a sudden all of our scrutiny of God’s fairness turns on us. We see in the crowd of masses, faces of people who we hate. People who have been demonized by history [Darwin, Hitler]. Those we always wondered about [eastern religions] and now much of their final destiny rides on us. Even the possibility of fallen angels being forgiven! [Hey, maybe Origen was right?] The whole point of this scenario is to simply say we might have been asking the wrong questions all along. Now for sure, no one gets in without Jesus and his blood! But there are also a few other verses [Peter] that seem to indicate a second hearing [or first!] of the gospel before the final day. The point being how willing are you to really carry out something like this? Are you really ready for the great responsibility of having someone’s destiny depend on how forgiving you are? I really don’t believe 100 % in this scenario I just floated. But Jesus does put us in positions of responsibility all thru out our lives. He does say ‘whoever’s sins we don’t forgive, these sins will be held against them by your own choice’ we keep people in ‘chains of bondage’ today! Never mind the future. God has committed to us great responsibility as believers, if we are still fighting each other over insignificant things [taking our brothers to court, if you will] then we are truly not ready to ‘Judge the world’.
(959)1ST CORINTHIANS 6: 8-20 Paul paints a ‘canvas’ of those who will not inherit the Kingdom. The list not only includes the big ones, but also the ‘average Joe’. Homosexuals, covetous, straight people who commit sexual sin; just the whole gambit. I do want to stress that Paul is not politically correct, he does categorize homosexuality as sin. He is not simply saying ‘non monogamous homosexuality’ but all types. I know there is an honest effort being made to try as much as possible to be more inclusive of other people’s views and lifestyles. I am for this approach as much as possible, but we also need to be honest about sin, all sin. Now covetous is that strong desire to amass wealth, it is the daily longing and confessing and believing for more material abundance. Yes folks, it’s what many of us have been duped into thru wrong teaching. I had a homeless friend who used to tell me how his dad, who was retired, used to wake up every day and simply consume his day with the stock market and how his retirement was going, he didn’t realize that he made the funding of his retirement [an okay goal] the main thought pattern of his life. I also just saw a story similar to this on some business channel. We need to be ‘ware’ of covetousness. Now Paul makes special mention of the destructive nature of sexual sin, he says ‘it destroys you’. I have been reading Proverbs the last month or so and there are many warnings about sexual sin. It says ‘he that does this destroys his own soul’. A few years back I watched [or read?] a local story of a professor who came down with a disease called Dementia. As they shared his story they described the progressive nature of him slowly losing his mind, and how his family eventually brought him back home [he was not married, his parents took him in] as they shared the sad story, they kinda tactfully said ‘one of the possible signs of this disease is obsessive compulsive sexual behavior’. They basically were saying part of this mans history included obsessive sexual sin. I wonder if the dementia in some way is a result of the behavior, as opposed to a symptom. There was also a study done years ago that showed the difference in the brain scans of Homosexuals and Heterosexuals, they seemed to have found some real physical brain distinctions. But once again, is it possible that sexually engaging in certain sinful behaviors is actually ‘destroying the soul’, or causing a change in the brain? Paul singled out this sin [not just Homosexual behavior, but all sexual sin!] as causing actual damage to a person’s physical make up in a way that was more damaging than other sins. I think we all need to heed his warning. [note- sexual sin is a common struggle in life. Many believers do struggle and have fallen into this sin. Paul actually is addressing these sins because of the prevalence of the problem. I don’t want to condemn any one who reads this site and struggles this way, Paul is offering hope and forgiveness thru out this letter. He seems to be extra harsh with the Corinthians because of their lax attitude towards this sin].
(961)1ST CORINTHIANS 7:1-15 Paul addresses divorce. It is interesting that Jesus himself actually raised the bar from the Old Covenant practice to the New. In most other areas he emphasized grace as opposed to law ‘the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’ but in this area Jesus said ‘Moses made an exception under the law for divorce, but from the beginning this was not Gods plan’ and Jesus restricted divorce to the cause of adultery [fornication- actually the word for pornography] only. Here Paul gives some direction. First, you shouldn’t divorce. You also shouldn’t be married to an unbeliever. Well, what should happen to those who were unbelievers when they married, but now one is a believer? Paul says if the unbeliever is ‘pleased’ to stay in the union, then that’s fine. Well what does ‘pleased’ mean? If the unbeliever is physically abusing his spouse, then that doesn’t seem ‘pleasing’ to me. Paul will say if the unbeliever departs, let them go. The believer should not feel condemned by this. He/she had no control in this case. But if there is a divorce, let the one who left remain unmarried. So what happens if you were forced into it, can you re marry? Paul does not specifically say. He does say to the one who left the marriage, they should not remarry. Divorce is a tricky issue. When attending the fundamental Baptist church they taught that if one were divorced they could never be ‘a Pastor’ [even though no one was ‘a pastor’ in this way in the first century church!]. Many teach that Paul’s instructions on Bishops/Elders said a divorced person should not be an overseer. Paul actually said ‘they should be the husband of one wife’. This most certainly could simply be saying they shouldn’t be in a plural marriage. This was common in the first century, so you could take it this way. Overall I find it strange that someone could have been a murderer [Paul] or any other type of sinner, but the divorcee' seems to be the only sinner that is excluded. The other problem is how much of ‘a believer’ were you at the time of your divorce. There have been well known preachers who initiated the divorce from their wives, they remarried and later wanted this to be treated as any other sin, just forgive and forget. The problem is if you were wise enough in the lord to have known better, then true repentance would entail making things right. Whether that’s reconciliation or simply remaining single, but it sure seems like these types of brothers who went into the whole remarriage thing with their eyes wide open, they should be held to a higher standard. Overall, we should not be in bondage to things that were out of our control. Those who were victimized and the partner left you, you should not be condemned for something that was out of your control. Believers who initiate the divorce from someone who was willing to stay in the marriage, they should not remarry. There have been too many cases where believers divorce other believers, without biblical grounds, and then remarry someone from the church. These situations are not permitted. If the believing spouse was simply ‘difficult to live with’ then that doesn’t cut it. In situations where there was actual physical abuse, well I don't believe the Lord wants you to stay in the house under these circumstances. But the only biblical excuse for divorce, according to Jesus, is adultery. In all of these gray areas, wisdom must be applied. The high profile ministers who have initiated their divorces and remarried, without the proper biblical grounds, should not be simply ‘forgiven’ and permitted to continue in their public role in ministry. True forgiveness and restoration would entail some sort of repentance and a public change in the situation. Like Paul says ‘to the rest speak I, not the Lord’. I am giving you my opinion on some of this stuff, but I too think I have the Spirit of Christ.
(962)1ST CORINTHIANS 7:16-24 ‘Were you circumcised when you were called into the Christian life? Then don’t become uncircumcised’ [that would be quite a feat!] ‘Were you uncircumcised when called? Don’t get circumcised’. What’s Paul saying? Basically he is keeping the decrees that were made at the Jerusalem council [Acts 15]. He is stressing the importance of Christ’s spiritual kingdom. To the Jew, he is not saying ‘keep trying to become justified by the law and sacrifices’ but he is saying ‘I am not trying to wipe out your culture and heritage, I am trying to bring you into the fullness of what the Prophets have foretold’. This is Paul’s ongoing defense in the book of Acts ‘I stand condemned because I believe that what the prophets said would happen, did!’. Paul says the thing that matters is ‘the doing of Gods commandments’. When we studied Romans I showed how Paul did say ‘the hearers of the law are not justified, but the doers shall be’. Here again Paul stresses the importance of the Christian life being one of true conversion. Those who believe are changed and become doers of Gods law by nature. The mechanism of conversion is Faith, the outworking of that conversion is obedience. So even though Paul is not putting the law on the gentile converts, yet he does teach that they will by nature keep the law [Romans again]. Now he says ‘were you a slave when called? Seek not to become free. Were you free? Don’t become a slave’ and ‘be not the servants/slaves of men’. We actually have hit on this a few times in recent months. Once again Paul says ‘don’t see this new faith as an opportunity to mount a civil disobedience campaign’ but at the same time he makes it clear ‘don’t put yourself under servitude either!’ The New Testament does not justify the institution of slavery or racism! The basic ethos of this new kingdom is freedom from bondage, it was only a matter of time before this new movement would shake the foundations of society and uproot this evil. Make no mistake about it, the anti-slavery movement was instigated by the people of God [William Wilberforce, Charles Finney and many others].
(963)1ST CORINTHIANS 7: 25-40 let’s be a little unconventional today. This passage deals with Paul’s counsel on celibacy and marriage. The historic church has had a bad rap on this issue. It is common today to say the church devalued marriage [and sex] and therefore we should exalt it. Sometimes this attempt at trying to correct the perceived imbalance puts a stumbling block in the way of those who are truly called to live the single life. Though marriage is an honorable thing, a true gift from God, yet living the celibate life can also be considered a very noble thing. It is rare in contemporary evangelicalism to leave this option open. Paul does say this option is not only available, but a noteworthy calling! He also makes it clear that only those who are called to this single lifestyle should attempt it. The church should not force celibacy on people. Now, do our catholic brothers force it upon the Priests? In a way, yes. But don’t forget that no one is ‘forced’ into the priesthood. Some feel like the scandals of catholic priests who abused children can be blamed on forced celibacy. The problem with this idea is many protestant ministers have also fallen sexually, and they were not celibate! The point being we need to be careful when we brand any Christian denomination with an accusation. Now, Paul also makes an interesting statement that we need to look at. He says ‘for the present distress I give these guidelines’. Is it possible that Paul's seeming harshness on marriage was due to the fact of some type of distress that he saw coming? Possibly the Neronic persecutions? If so, Paul could be saying ‘because of the upcoming severe persecution I recommend everyone just laying low for the time, if married, seek not to be single and vice a versa’. This is possible, we need to keep this in mind when reading this section of scripture. But most of all I think the modern evangelical church needs to retool her message in this area. Marriage and sex are good, God ordained these things in their proper place. But living single and celibate is also considered a very noble calling, we do not normally reflect this balance in the present atmosphere. Also as an aside, a few years back it was common to teach ‘the world/public schools have taken sex and taught it to our kids. They have usurped the job of the family/church’ while there is some truth to this, the problem was some well known TV evangelists began to discuss sex in the Sunday morning setting that was improper in a way [If you local Pastors who read this have done this, be assured I am not talking about you!]. I remember watching a national minister speak openly, with grandma’s and children in the service, and say ‘now speaking about sexual climax’ Yikes!! Just because the family/church dropped the ball on these issues, this doesn’t mean there are no barriers at all while dealing with these issues. Those who do this type of stuff seem to be saying ‘sex is not a dirty thing, therefore we need to bring it out into the open’ while this is true to a degree, there are also age appropriate subjects that should be taught in a private setting. If the church feels the need to delve into these subjects, we need to be careful that we are not crossing boundaries when doing it.
(964) MORE PROOF FOR GOD- Okay, what’s up with ‘dark matter’? In the 20th century the amazing breakthroughs in science showed us that what we thought was a limited universe, was actually a growing universe that was expanding at a faster rate every day. The further out you got, the faster it was expanding. This discovery [Hubble] worked in harmony with Einstein’s theories. This discovery also created a problem. If the universe is so much more vast than previously thought to be, then the amount of known matter needed in the universe in order to maintain the proper gravitational force was not there. Basically you need so much matter to exist in order for this newly discovered expanding universe to hold together and function right. The problem is that the matter is not there![some say it is still not detected]. So the theory of ‘dark matter’ [unseen, undetected matter] has been floated. This invisible matter is supposedly the single greatest matter in existence, though we have no proof that even one tiny particle exists! Ahh, when stuff like this happens, we need to pay close attention. Why? Well some who defend the young earth theory of creation use this to back up their claim of a young universe. It’s kinda technical stuff, but this ‘dark matter’ has to be there to defend the old age theory [for some!]. Another problem is we have absolutely no proof that this dark matter exists. It is simply believed in because the naturalistic explanation demands it! Sort of like coming to a part in a puzzle where a piece doesn’t fit, so you simply make something fit. Now, the bible does teach that the vast universe is held together [a key role of so called dark matter] by Christ’s absolute power. The other explanation for how the vast universe is able to function smoothly, without the needed matter to create the huge amount of gravity, is that God himself is holding all things together by his omnipotence. In essence, we need God for this puzzle to fit. I am not saying the idea of dark matter is totally false, but as far as we know today, there is no proof that it exists. We as believers should not take an anti scientific stance on everything, to the contrary, true science always backs up the Christian world view [in general] but we also need to be suspicious when science floats an idea that can be explained by the existence of a creator. If the idea is simply out there, with no proof at all [the multi-verse] then we certainly have the right to challenge whether the whole thing is a bunch of ‘dark [invisible] matter’!
(965)1st CORINTHIANS 8- Once again Paul will deal with the issue of what’s clean or unclean, the Christians convictions. Corinth not only had low sexual standards, but also much idolatry. This led to a problem of whether or not believers should purchase the meat sold in the market that was used for idol worship. After the sacrifice was made, whatever good meat was left could be sold on the streets. Now, Paul says the believer knows there is only one true God, so with this knowledge you are not sinning because you know the meat really wasn’t used to worship other gods, because there are no other Gods! But he also says that every man does not have this knowledge. So just like he taught the Romans, he teaches the Corinthians that in all of your freedom, the highest standard is whether you are building others up or tearing them down. If you have a free conscience to eat the meat, then fine, it is no sin to you. But if this liberty is offending the minds of those who are weaker in the faith, then your freedom just became a stumbling block and worked against the main goal of building others up. So the real question isn’t ‘can I do this with a clean conscience’ but ‘does my practice offend or build others up’? Many years ago I had a friend who smoked cigars, he was a believer and simply saw nothing wrong with it. We had a mutual friend who found out about it and bought some cigars and gagged on them. His conscience was emboldened to ‘eat the meat’ and by doing it he sinned. Why was cigar smoking sin to the weaker brother? Because he really wasn’t doing it out of a pure heart with a clean motive. Though the cigar smoker felt he had the freedom to smoke [it wasn’t an every day thing] yet his freedom caused another to fall. So Paul consistently takes this position in his letters. Some day we will get to other verses like ‘the things the gentiles offer to idols are being offered to demons, so don’t partake with them at the same table’ this is dealing with a different thing, I’ll explain it at another time. Paul also says ‘knowledge puffs up, but charity builds up’. One of the side trails believers can easily fall into is thinking the Christian life is simply an exercise is learning things. That is knowledge for knowledge’s sake. While Paul was not advocating ignorance, he was dealing with carnal believers who walked in pride. He was showing them that those who think they stand should be careful lest they fall. Paul was calling them to a higher purpose than just learning scripture and applying it for personal satisfaction, he was calling them to live sacrificially, to take the wrong done to you [legally in court stuff]. To give up the freedom to ‘smoke cigars’ if you will, for the sake of others. Paul was teaching them that it was possible to be right and have the answers to back up your position, but if you are truly not dieing to self, you are simply getting ‘puffed up’.
(966)1ST CORINTHIANS 9:1-14 Paul defends his apostleship and gives a strong defense for the New Testament doctrine of financially supporting Christian leaders. Now, I never want to be one of those types of teachers who skews or bypasses scriptures that seem to contradict previous teachings. It’s common for good men to do this, all leaders need to avoid doing it. Recently I added my comments to a debate that raged in the blogasphere. You had Frank Viola put out the book ‘Pagan Christianity’ [good book, I read and do recommend it] and another good theologian, Ben Witherington, gave a good critique [I also recommend Bens site, you can find both Frank and Ben’s sites on my blog roll]. Part of the debate hinged on the financial support of elders/ministers. I must admit I fell on Ben’s side in this argument, though I probably would agree with Frank around 90 % of the time on all the other stuff. Ben argued for the biblical mandate to support elders, frank seems to teach the support of apostles [itinerant workers] is okay, but does not leave room for the support of elders who live in the community. Now, you really need to read all I have written under the ‘what in the world is the church’ section of this blog to get my full view on all of this stuff, but this section of Corinthians makes this stuff pretty clear. Paul says ‘I have the right not to work and only live off of the offerings of the people’. So Paul defends this practice, but he also says ‘I choose not to use it’. He also uses two interesting examples from ‘the law’ [Old Testament] to defend the financial support of leaders. ‘The Ox who is treading out the corn shouldn’t be muzzled’ and ‘the priests who serve at the altar get to eat the meat from the sacrifices’. What is the most obvious example that he does not use? The tithe! I would say this is one of the best proofs for the tithe not being a normative practice of the early church. But Paul does use the other examples to say its right to financially support those who labor among you. But Paul has also given examples to elders [read my Acts 20 commentary] to show them that they are not in this for the money! Paul will actually defend the practice of working and not taking money from the believers. So we see a wide range of freedom in this area. I feel the biblical example is it is fine to financially support Christian leadership who are dedicating their lives to teaching and ministering the word. It is also fine to not use these ‘rights’ as a Christian leader. But nowhere are we taught a type of Levitical tithe system for the support of Christian leaders. Why? Paul’s main message was one of grace and coming out from the requirements of the law. To have used the tithe as an example to give financially would have been counterproductive to his whole message. Eventually believers would come to view ‘the church’ and ‘the priest/pastor’ as the single head of ‘the church building’ who would be supported like a Levite who served as a priest under the old covenant [bring all the tithes into the storehouse type concept]. This legalistic view of ‘the church’ is prevalent today in much of Christendom, both Catholics and Protestants seem to cling to this limited view of the church. The modern house church movement is giving the old view quite a run for its money! But let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. Paul said its okay to financially support Christian leadership among you, just don't see it as a tithe that is supporting some type of Christian New Testament Levitical priest!
(969)1ST CORINTHIANS 9:15-27 I have a letter sitting here from some northern radio station. I guess these guys hear us some how? It’s a great offer to be on 140 stations for next to nothing [$140.00 a month]. I have had radio stations write us before. I choose to stay small so I can be consistent in not taking offerings. I am sure if I took offerings I could easily expand like this, but I think I need to set the example for others. This fits in with the following.
Now Paul will say ‘I would rather die than take money from you’ [and you guys think I’m an over reactor!] and also ‘I don’t take money from you because I want to make the gospel free of charge’. Remember, this is in the same chapter where he says it’s okay to support leaders financially. But yet he also makes these strong statements. Does Paul contradict himself? Some have tried to harmonize these statements by either saying Paul wasn’t really teaching the financial support of elders, or by saying Paul only restricted taking money from the Corinthians. Both of these are not true [Read my Acts 20 study]. Paul was hard on whatever group he was addressing. If he is speaking directly to the local saints, he says ‘you should make sacrifice and support those who labor among you’ but to the elders/leaders he says ‘I worked with my own hands while among you [elders!] to give you an example not to expect the people to support you’ [Acts 20]. He appeals to both sides to lay down their rights and give themselves away freely! He also says he adapts to every type of situation, he ‘becomes all things to all men, that he might save them’. He also brings his body under discipline so that after preaching to others, he himself will not be ‘cast away’. In my Proverbs reading I just came across ‘he that has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls’. God wants you to succeed and accomplish things, the enemy wants to sidetrack you. Allow God to have the upper hand, let the fruit of ‘self control’ [one of the fruits of the Spirit] abide in you. Now remember, Paul says ‘they do it to obtain a corruptible crown’ [material, temporary stuff. Money included] but we do it [discipline ourselves] for an ‘incorruptible crown’. The scripture is filled with examples that contrast money [material rewards] with true spiritual riches. In these examples the scripture teaches us to expend our time and efforts in building a spiritual heritage as opposed to a financial one. Yet some will even use this scripture ‘running the race’ and apply it to stuff! Ahh, when we do stuff like this we are ‘reading/quoting scripture’ without truly knowing it. Jesus told the religious leaders ‘you search the scriptures because by doing this you think you have eternal life, but you will not come to me that you might have life’. It’s possible to spend your whole life searching scripture [for what you want] and still miss the chief cornerstone! [the main point]
(970) CORINTHIANS ‘woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel’ ‘they which preach the gospel should live by the gospel’. Let me do a quick review before we jump into chapter 10. Over the years of re-learning the style and function of the New Testament church, it took time to read these scriptures without superimposing my preconceived ideas upon the text. For instance, you could easily read these verses and simply fit them into the ‘church building’ [as the church!] mindset. I know of, and have partaken of, the excitement that preachers experience when they ‘preach the gospel’. It’s a fulfilling thing. But the problem is much of the present day church follows a program where one main person becomes the attraction of the community. We live and hear and vicariously learn thru the growth experiences of a single individual. Now, we don’t realize that this is not the main intent of meeting together as a community. God originally intended for his people to share as a community of grace. There are specific warnings in the New Testament to avoid the Christian community’s penchant to identify around an individuals giftings [we actually just covered some of these in this study]. But when we simply read ‘they which preach the gospel should live of it’ we think this is justifying the present day context. It really simply meant that those in the community with the ability to read and teach should be taken care of while they are giving themselves for the benefit of others. The first century believer’s could not all read, the majority probably were illiterate. This created a need for those who were literate to actually read Paul's letters out loud in the assembly. These sincere men were not modern day full time Pastors! This is why it’s important to read the scripture with historical context in mind. When I meet with the brothers, or travel to another town. I usually simply ask the guys ‘what’s the Lord been saying, do you have a word to share’? And sure enough, by the time our fellowship is over most everyone feels edified because they gave of themselves for others. One of my homeless friends is an excellent teacher. Believe me, he knows more scripture than many Pastors. He excels in this environment. There is really no need for one person [like myself!] to dominate the conversation, or to think that my calling entails me being the primary voice of the community. Sometimes when I find myself at some Christian function, I can tell that when people find out that you speak on the radio, that they kinda want you to preach. I always [yes always!] avoid it. Not because it would be wrong to teach, but the modern church has made such a profession out of it, that the average saint never really expresses himself on a regular basis. God never intended the church to be a place where people learn and grow and experience most of their Christian lives thru the experiences and gifts of one person. I just wanted to challenge you today with these few verses. When you just read them did you see them thru the old mindset? Don’t feel bad about it, just allow the Lord to ‘re-wire’ your brain as we continue to teach thru the New Testament. We find stuff like this all the way thru.
(971) THE PLAYPIPE AND THE ‘RED LINE’- Well it’s been a while since I gave an example from the fire Dept. I was thinking of this the other day and still get a laugh out of them. On our rookie tests at the fire dept. the captains and chief would make up questions to test the guys. One question would ask ‘how many parts are there to a playpipe’ [a type of nozzle for the fire hose]. The answer would say something like ‘5’. One of the expected ‘parts’ was ‘the playpipe itself’. Well that’s like asking ‘how many parts to a car’ and the answer being ‘the wheels, motor, windshield, and the car itself’. The ‘car itself’ cant be a part of ‘the car’. What you could say is ‘the body/chassis’. So the poor rookies who would get the question wrong were actually right. The funny part was trying to explain this to the captain. In his mind he couldn’t see what he was trying to say was ‘the shaft’ [the actual pipe part of the nozzle]. The other funny thing was on one of the fire trucks we had what was called a ‘booster line’ [or red line]. Most of the modern trucks had red hose for this line. So it was common to call it ‘the red line’. The problem was one of the old trucks had a black hose for the ‘booster line’. So the question would ask ‘what color is the red line on unit 104’. So the poor rookie, who wasn’t really around long enough to memorize all the hose colors, what put ‘red’. You simply would think this was a gimme question, a trick question. It would be like asking ‘what color is the red truck’. The problem was the poor rookies would answer ‘red’ and to their dismay they would get it wrong. The ‘red line is black’! Once again, trying to explain this to the test makers was like trying to convert the Pope to Protestantism! The captain would insist ‘the red line is black’! Not realizing what they should have said was ‘what color is the booster line’.
(972)1ST CORINTHIANS 10:1-4 it’s actually Christmas morning, 2008, as I write. Paul says ‘all of our forefathers were under the cloud, they were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and sea’. Note- 2 baptisms ‘Cloud’ [Spirit] ‘Sea’ [water]. Let’s do a little thinking here. How can Paul refer to the Jewish fathers as the Corinthians forefathers? Is he expecting a large Jewish group to read this letter? [Like Romans- both Jews and Gentiles were in mind]. Is he addressing them like the author of Hebrews, who is speaking directly to a nation in transition? While it’s possible for a few Jewish believers to have read/heard the reading of this letter. Yet I think Paul is simply being consistent with his letters to the Galatians and Romans, where he taught that all who would believe were the ‘children of Abraham by faith’ Abraham is ‘the father of many nations’. Now, I like the way Paul ‘spiritualizes’ here. Moses was the prophet who typified Jesus. The people were baptized [joined] to him both thru the good times and the bad. There was quite a rough history between Moses and the rebels! Times where they wanted to change leadership. Times where God even said ‘I have had it with this bunch, let’s just wipe them out and start over’. They had history. Also Paul says ‘they all ate of the same spiritual meat and drank from the same spiritual rock. Christ’. Again, Paul seems to teach the symbolic, as opposed to literal, view of ‘eating/drinking Christ’. Israel did have some physical ordinances in the wilderness. The Passover and the bread from heaven [Manna] already happened. But Jesus himself [John 6] would say ‘Moses didn’t give you the real bread, I am the real bread!’. So Paul’s use of the ‘Rock’ is purely symbolic. The story relates to the time where God gave the children of Israel water from an actual rock in the wilderness. Moses spoke to/struck the rock and water came out. Paul sees this as a symbolic picture. He is saying ‘this foreshadowed Christ, the true rock who would be the ‘Rock of ages’ who would be struck on the Cross and water would flow from his side’. Once again, this leaves us some context to interpret the Lords supper in a symbolic way. Was Paul teaching the Corinthians to go out in the fields and actually drink real water from a rock? No. He was simply saying these physical symbols would be fulfilled at a future time, and that time was now! All who believe in Christ are partaking [spiritually] of the water of life, the Holy Spirit. Tomorrow we will get into the examples that were left to us from these stories. I just want to mention that the Apostle Paul freely uses the Old Testament [his only bible at the time!] and applies these stories to both Gentile believers and 1st century Israel. The writer of Hebrews [who I think was Paul] says ‘just like the forefathers missed out on the promise by unbelief- entering the promised land- so too there is a danger that you, 1st century Israel, might miss out on eternal life by not receiving the Messiah by faith’. In this context, Israel of the Old Testament represents Israel in the first century. But when addressing a gentile church [Corinth] it is also okay for Paul to say ‘just like Israel faced physical death by being disobedient, so you too have had premature physical deaths in your community by rebelling against God’. In this comparison Israel [Old Testament] is simply being used as an example of God judging his covenant people for their disobedience. I feel these distinctions are important, they help us to keep the New Testament in context.
(973)1ST CORINTHIANS 10:5-13 Paul warns the Corinthians not to fall for the same temptations that Israel committed in the wilderness. ‘Don't sin sexually, don’t complain about stuff [ouch!] don’t be idolaters [lovers of your cash flow!]’ basic sins that effect us all. He also says something interesting ‘you are now those upon whom the end of the world [age] has come’. Not the ‘end of existence’ but the time period where Gods fullness has come [Galatians 4]. I find this interesting. The first century Apostles saw the breaking in of the Kingdom of God, thru Christ, as the event and ‘moment’ that all human history hinged upon. There was a real sense of ‘this is the special kairos season that all men have been waiting for’. The New Testament teaches that even the angels were waiting to see this day. One of the errors of dispensationalism was the idea that the important, main event was still some future happening [the second coming]. While it is true that this event will happen, and it will be glorious. Yet there was a sense in scripture that said the time of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection was the act of reconciliation that turned the destiny of man. Paul in essence was saying to the Corinthians ‘you don’t understand the full import of all that the Father has called you to. You are part of the most important movement in human history, all humanity has been waiting for this season, the ‘ends of the ages’ have come to this point. Don’t blow it for heavens sake’! Got it? Let’s grasp the fact that we too are part of this ‘time period’ [the new covenant kingdom age] and realize that our forefathers are watching from the stands [Hebrews]. Let’s not blow it [I was going to say ‘like the Cowboys’ but this gets too many locals mad].
(974)1ST CORINTHIANS 10: 5 ‘But with many of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness’. As I just sat down and was debating on how much to cover, I felt the Lord wanted me to stop with this one verse. Let’s review a little. Does this experience of being ‘scattered in the wilderness’ define past experiences for you? [Or present!] Historically the church has always had to deal with wilderness times. St. John of the Cross called this ‘the dark night of the soul’. After Mother Theresa’s death we found out that she struggled with doubt many times thru out her life. The historic church has been ‘scattered in the wilderness’ over truly insignificant stuff. I find it ridiculous that one of the main reasons the western [Catholic] and eastern [Orthodox] churches split in 1054 a.d. was over the silly distinction of whether the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father [the historic creed] or the ‘father and the Son’. This is considered the official cause of the split, though there were many other factors as well. In a day or so we will cover a verse that says ‘God is the head of Christ’. I had a friend that used to point out the fact that many Baptists would refer to ‘God and Jesus and the Spirit’ he would think this was in error because they would leave out ‘the Father’. To be honest he was consistent with Trinitarian thinking [I am one by the way!] If the ‘sole’ definition of God in the New testament were ‘3 separate persons who equally posses the Divine attributes’. Then the phrase ‘God is the head of Jesus’ would not make sense. It would be like saying ‘God [Father, Jesus and Holy spirit] are all the head of Jesus’. What am I saying here? Basically the historic church came to certain ways of framing the argument that were limited in their application. Does the New testament teach the Trinity? Yes. Does the word ‘God’ primarily refer to ‘the father’ in its language? To be honest, it does. Though the reality of the Trinity is there, yet the normative language of ‘God’ is referring to ‘the Father’. So my Baptist buddy was right in seeing a contradiction when Baptists said ‘God, Jesus and the Spirit’. If they were true to all the historic language, then they should have said ‘the father’ not ‘God’. Because ‘God’ would be the all encompassing language of ‘3 distinct persons who all posses the divine attributes’. But in fact, my friend was wrong. Why? Because the language of scripture mostly means ‘God the Father’ when simply saying ‘God’. Now why go into all this? Because the historic church has been divided over the language used. Arian, the Catholic Bishop/Priest, said that Jesus is ‘not God’. That ‘God the Father is God’. He was rightfully condemned, and the Trinitarian language would prevail. The problem is some of the language of the creeds and councils that would follow were not totally accurate. Some of the Creeds would say ‘Jesus was eternally begotten [always begotten]’ this statement was for the purpose of refuting those who said ‘Jesus had a beginning’ [Arianism]. Now, did Jesus ‘have a beginning’? John’s gospel says Jesus was with the father from the beginning, and that ‘the Word was with God, and was God’. Jesus had no beginning! But, does this mean he was ‘eternally begotten’? No. He was begotten by Mary 2 thousand years ago. Begotten refers to the incarnation, not the preexisting Son who was with the father from all eternity. So the well intended phrase ‘eternally begotten’ was wrong. Why even discuss this? Because most of Christian Orthodoxy would still condemn certain aspects of the Syrian and Ethiopian churches over this. We at times are ‘scattered in the wilderness’ and our ‘bodies’ [denominations, divisions in Christendom] are a sad representation to the world. [NOTE- I want to restate what I have said in the past. I believe in the Trinity. But I also want you to see how other Christian perspectives have viewed these things in the past. There are large groups of ‘historic churches’ [not Gnostics and stuff like that, the so called ‘lost Christianities’] who lean towards Arianism. Most of the invading barbarians who sacked the Western Roman empire were converted to this ‘brand’ of Christianity. So while I hold to the historic orthodox view, I wanted you to see that we too have been inconsistent at times].
(977)1ST CORINTHIANS 10:15-17 ‘The cup that we bless, is it not the communion of the Blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of Christ's Body? We are all one bread, we all partake equally of Christ’s Body and Blood. We exist as a community because of him’ [my paraphrase]. Here in my study I have various volumes on church history. I own catholic volumes, protestant ones, and even some from ‘the out of the institutional church’ perspective. Over the years I have learned that most believers tell their story from their perspective. This is not a wrong thing, nor is it a purposeful act to distort history. It’s just natural to see ‘your world’ thru your lens of past experiences. Around the 17th century the Jesuit priests were some of the first Christians to write systematic church histories. Though you had many scholars who were informed on the subject, the Jesuits were the first to try and bring all the previous centuries together and present them in an orderly way that could be understood and read by the average student. There is some debate on how accurate some of these first ‘tellings’ of history were. For instance, some classic church histories [both catholic and protestant] show an early 2nd century development of belief in the Eucharist as being the literal Body and Blood of Jesus. Also most volumes focus on church figures such as Iraneus , Tertullian, Augustine [4th- 5th centuries] and many other good men [I know I spelled these names wrong!]. There seems to have been a basic belief that this history is the only ‘history’ of the first few centuries. The problem with this approach is we now have archealogical evidence from the first few centuries that would support the idea that the early church might not have been as ‘institutional’ as previously thought. For instance, most histories say the development of the monarchial episcopacy [single bishop over ‘a church/region’] was early. But the evidence discovered shows that as late as the 2nd, possibly early 3rd centuries you had bishops who were simply elders/overseers in the early church. Burial places were uncovered that showed multiple ‘bishops’ all buried in one spot. The evidence seems to indicate that these were all men who served at the same time. Not one bishop dieing off while others took his place. This would mean that some practicing Christians never fully accepted the institutional idea of the single bishop. But you really couldn’t find this out from a wide reading of all the different church histories. Why? Were the Jesuits who put together the first cohesive history trying to deceive people? Of course not! They were seeing church history thru ‘their lens’. Now, what in the world does this have to do with the verse on communion? The word for communion here is a translation from the Greek word ‘koinonia’, which simply means ‘fellowship’. The church at Corinth practiced ‘communion’ as a love feast. The early believers had their ‘communion service’ as a type of buffet type fellowship where they all shared and came together in real friendship. Now in the next chapter we will deal with some of the problems that arose out of this practice, but the point today is I want you to see that when Paul says ‘we are all one bread who are partaking from one loaf’ he is simply saying ‘just like when we all get together and share in the communal meal, this is the same way we all spiritually live off of the Body and Blood of Christ. We are ‘one bread’ [people/communion] because we all derive our life from Jesus, the true bread that came down from heaven’ [John 6]. I simply want to give you the flavor of what Paul is saying. It’s easy to read these verse’s from the sacramental perspective. To see the focus being on the actual bread and wine of the meal. I think it’s better understood from the broader communal idea that I just espoused. Our entire New Testament is the most verifiable collection of first century documents ever to be found. Though we as believers take them as Gods word, they also show us the most accurate historical picture of what the early church believed and practiced. I think the reformers of the 16th century were right in stating that the final authority should be the word of God. They did not reject church tradition, but they said the final arbiter in controversial issues was Gods word. Even the great Catholic humanist, Erasmus, was known for his desire to ‘get back to the original sources’. He was helpful in urging the Catholic Church towards reform by going back to the Greek New Testament [most scholars were using the vulgate version, which was the Latin translation. The Latin did not do justice to the Greek!] Well today’s point is our New Testaments are accurate first century documents on early church belief and practice. I think Erasmus cry to ‘get back to the sources’ would do us all some good.
(978)1ST CORINTHIANS 10: 18-33 Paul ‘re-uses’ a previous analogy of the priests partaking of the meat from the altar. Here he uses it to describe the reality of fellowship and being joined to that which you worship. Now he deals with the idea of the meat from the idol worship that was sold ‘in the shambles’ [market place]. He already said this meat was fine. But here he says ‘the things the gentiles offer are being offered to demons, so I don’t want you joining in with this type of demonic worship’. It’s not a matter of the meat, or the idol! It’s a matter of being unequally ‘yoked together with unbelievers’. This is a theme that Paul discusses in this letter. It not only applies to marriage, but also to any type of intimate fellowship with an unbeliever. Here's where a distinction should be made. Yesterday one of my homeless buddies stopped by. His name is Tim [carpenter Tim]. I mentioned him before. Tim’s a great friend who I have known for many years. He just stopped by to say hi, he told me he caught my radio show on Sunday and really enjoyed it. They get a kick out of being real friends with some so called ‘radio preacher’. I think it’s hard at times to connect the ‘radio guy’ with the simple brother who takes them out to eat and stuff. Tim is a believer who works regularly [thus the name carpenter Tim!] He does not take the free handouts and stuff that are offered to the local homeless population. But I have helped Tim as a friend and brother in the Lord for many years. I asked if he has heard anything about Bill ‘painter Bill’. I have known Bill just as long as Tim. These are the original homeless guys I met in the early 1990’s. Bill is in his 70’s, Tim is around my age [I am 46 years old as I write]. Bill was a bitter homeless person. Just too many years of going thru stuff. Over the years we had become real good friends. I think he sees me as one of his best friends. A few weeks back I heard he was on a respirator and they though he wasn’t going to make it. It sounded pretty bad. As of right now I don’t know if he’s alive or not. A few months back I was giving Bill a ride home. He had a temporary place to live at the time. He did ask if I had a few dollars to spare. I don’t remember if I did or not to be honest. But I told Bill I don’t make the same amount of money since I retired. Just to let him know that’s why we haven’t gone to eat recently. He also asked me if I wanted to get the free eye checkup from the mission. They had some locals donate their time and they would get the guys free glasses. I told him that's all right, I don’t want to take stuff that’s meant for the homeless [I also don’t eat the free meals]. They get upset that I don't use the system. So as we arrive at Bills trailer he asks if I could come in for a minute. I told him sure. He handed me the free glasses he recently got, he asks me to try them on. I did. He then offers them to me. I told him no thanks, though I appreciated the offer. Bill was willing to give me his glasses. When Paul the apostle deals with having fellowship with unbelievers, he is not telling us to have no contact with the lost world. He is showing the Corinthians that they were not to be partakers of evil things along with the world. We are here to reach out to the world, not to have fellowship with evil things, but to be like Jesus. He was accused of being ‘a friend of sinners’. Do you have any ‘sinner friends’?
(980)1ST CORINTHIANS 11: 1-16 at first I was just going to skip this section and say ‘I know you didn’t get your moneys worth, but wait, you guys didn’t give me any money!’ But this would be a cheap shot. So what do we do with portions of scripture that are difficult? I have heard this taught in a way that says ‘Christ is the head of the church [both men and women- true] and any distinction between a man being ‘the head’ of the woman only applies to natural families’. The problem is Paul mixes the analogies ‘Christ is the head of a man, a man [husband] is the head of the woman [wife], and God is the head of Christ’. To dissect these verses into a ‘secular/religious’ division is next to impossible! So what do they mean? I believe the New Testament does teach a type of functional difference between men and woman. Now, Paul teaches that women ‘can prophesy’ in ‘the church’. He says so in these verses! In Romans 16 Paul refers to Junia as an apostle and Phoebe as a deaconess. In the Old Testament Deborah was a mighty judge. Peter says that both sons and daughters will prophesy [Acts 2, quoting Joel]. I could go on. Then why make a distinction? Paul gives his rationale in this section. Believers show the order and submission of the Godhead when they willingly take their God ordained positions in society. When husbands love their wives as Christ loves the church, God is glorified. When wives submit [oh no, I can’t believe I said it!] to their ‘loving’ husbands they show the role of Christ’s willful submission to the Father. And yes, Paul also teaches we all submit to each other in love as well. Those who see all of Paul’s teaching on women as a cultural thing will have a problem with the inspiration of scripture. But on the other hand the strong fundamentalist/literalist also has a problem here. Should we mandate the wearing of ‘coverings’ [hats] when women prophesy? I don't think so [some do think so!]. But most fundamentalists have no problem chalking up the ‘hat wearing’ portion to culture. Also in this debate, one of the obvious questions is ‘can a woman be a Pastor over a church’? Or Bishop or whatever. Remember, no one was a ‘Pastor over a church’ like we think until around the 4th century. So before we judge whether or not it is fair to restrict women from certain roles ‘in the church’ we need to understand what roles there are ‘in the church’. Did you ever wonder who was marrying and burying the people for the first few hundred years of Christian history? It is quite obvious that Paul and the first century Apostles/Elders were not doing it. So when did the ‘clergy’ pick the practice up? During Constantine’s legalization of Christianity in the 4th century, the church took over the rites and ceremonies from Rome. The Roman ‘philosopher/speakers’ could be hired to speak a eulogy when someone died, they could conduct wedding ceremonies. They for the most part were ‘the Pastors’ of the day! Now we simply took the job from them. Does this mean all Pastors are pagan funeral directors? No. It simply shows us that when we ask the question ‘why can’t women be pastors like men’. Maybe the question should be ‘were men ever supposed to be pastors either?’ [in the contemporary use of the term] So in this little excursion into history I think we all have some lessons to learn. The people of God are made up of men and women and Jew and Gentile, scripture says in Christ there are no more distinctions like this. We are all considered the Body of Christ equally. Yet this does not mean [in my view] that everyone does the same job as everyone else. The New Testament clearly says ‘are all Apostles, all Prophets’. God has distinctions in this Body. Do these distinctions carry over to the woman/man issue in functionality? It seems so to me to a degree. Those who are striving for more equality in function for women, I think the best way to approach it is not to by- pass all these difficult portions of scripture. But to take the approach that as the church grows she allows the greater overriding truths of scripture to over shadow any personal advice given by Paul to a specific church in the first century. Now I don’t fully take this approach myself, but to a degree many of us do accept this approach when dealing with the ‘hat/covering issue’. So instead of just showing you my view, I wanted to paint a little broader picture. Ultimately how you come down on this is between you and God. Women most certainly can and do function in Christ’s church today, they always have and always will.
(983)1ST CORINTHIANS 11:16-34 ‘When you come together IN THE CHURCH’ [king James version] ‘when you come together AS THE CHURCH’ [new king James version]. In this section of scripture we see a real good definition of ‘church’ and also a bad one. The word for church is found over 100 times in the New Testament [114? - if I remember right] in every occasion, bar none, it refers to the people of God. Sometimes it refers to them as ‘coming together’ or simply as ‘the called out people of God’ [that is they are all spiritually gathered as a community in Christ]. The word never refers to a ‘church building’ [there is one reference in James that can seem to indicate a place to meet. James is speaking to Jews, the synagogue [or Jerusalem temple] as a building is different from the term for church in Paul’s letters!]. In the example I just gave you from the king James versions, it shows you how Gods people viewed this term for church [Ecclesia/Ekklesia] as time rolled along. The original translators of the King James saw it as ‘a place you meet in’ the new version saw it ‘as when Gods people come together’. You say ‘what’s the big difference’? Well I am sure the original translators meant well, but in actuality there is a big difference between ‘being an organic family’ or ‘being a building’! As Paul addresses the Corinthians he says ‘your coming together is not for the better, but for the worse’. They were using the gathering as a means of self gratification. ‘What can I get out of this’ type thing. I do see a parallel in much of today’s ‘church meeting’. Do we see Christianity thru the lens of ‘what am I going to hear this Sunday that I can implement in my own personal life for self improvement’? This mindset prevails in today’s church environment. The ethos of Jesus was contrary to this. He challenged his followers to lay down their rights and desires and seek another kingdom, one that was not measured by the standards of this world. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for seeking ‘their own wealth [benefit] and not the other’s’. He also told them to examine their hearts before coming together so they would not be judged. I have heard the new generation of church thinkers [which I am one myself!] kind of mock the old time churches by saying ‘Oh they tell you communion is some dangerous thing that you must approach with a holier than thou attitude’. Most mean well when they level this charge, but the ‘old time churches’ are not without scriptural support for this approach. Paul did say ‘you guys are too flippant in your attitude towards the Lords table, you need to straighten up and take more seriously your corporate call to those around you’. Understand, the celebration of this ‘love feast’ was to ‘show the Lords death till he come’. Who were they ‘showing it to’? The entire ‘unchurched’ community around them! Their selfless lives of being the community of God, loving and sharing of themselves as a spiritual family, was for the intent of having an effective community wide witness. They reminded not only themselves, but those around them ‘of the Lords death’. It was truly a corporate witness! Our Catholic brothers might not be as wrong as most Protestants seem to think. The Catholic Church sees the Eucharist as the central witness and part of their meetings. The Protestants see the preaching of the word from the pulpit. Though the Protestants are sincere in their efforts to teach the word of God, there is a tendency to become ‘pastor/pulpit’ centered, as opposed to being ‘Christ centered’. All in all Paul rebukes and corrects them based on their self centered actions when meeting together. He also sees ‘the gathering’ as ‘the church’. Not the place their meeting at! It’s easy to confuse this when reading ‘when you come together in the church- in one place’ it sure seems like he can be referring to a church building. Take my word for it, he’s not.
(984)1ST CORINTHIANS 12:1-6 ‘There are different gifts, ministries and out workings of the Spirit’ [my paraphrase]. In this section we see an idea that I feel gets lost in the current paradigm of ‘doing church’. When Paul addresses a church [community of believers] he is speaking to all the believers in the city. When we think ‘church’ we assume it means ‘church’ as ‘going to the church [building] on Sunday’. Therefore we tend to read these types of verses as ‘there are different gifts and functions in ‘the church’- the Sunday school teacher, nursery worker, door greeter’ well you get it. The better reading would be ‘there are various expressions and ways the Spirit works and administers thru/in the community’. For instance, those who labor in ‘Para-church’ ministries are often considered noble, but not ‘a church’. But according to this passage, they would be just as much ‘church’, a legitimate part of the local body, as the home meeting [of course we know in Paul’s day there were no church buildings]. So the broader view of church as community would see these verses saying ‘where you live there are a variety of gifted ones whom the Spirit of God lives and operates thru. These saints all express the community of the Spirit in various ways. All these expressions are just as legitimate as the other, it is one Spirit manifesting himself in diverse ways for the overall benefit of all the believers in your city’. When we label what the Spirit is doing thru other ‘administrations’ as ‘Para-church’ we violate this passage of scripture. When we limit the various expressions and gifts to ‘the Sunday church meeting’ we actually are violating the intent of these verses. In your city you have doctors, lawyers, and all types of trades. While it is fine for them to operate out of a building and to keep regular business hours. Yet you wouldn’t describe them as separate, individual little ‘cities’ who all operate out of your town. You would see all of them as various gifted people who ‘operate out of your city’. So this is the broader view of what I think Paul is saying. Now he will also give directions on how these various gifts work in the meeting, this of course is part of it. But we need to see the broader view of what the Spirit is saying. Jesus expected his disciples to go out into the highways and hedges and ‘compel them to come in’ [not into the church building for heavens sake! But into the Kingdom] Paul taught that the Spirit accomplishes this in many different ways thru ‘the church’ [people of God].
(985)1ST CORINTHIANS 12:7 ‘But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to EVERY MAN to profit EVERY BODY’. I want to share a criticism that sometimes gets made against me. I know ‘the critics’ mean well, and are actually sincere men. It’s just they have been ‘shaped’ by the present system of ‘church’. The criticism goes like this ‘sure John has an effective teaching ministry [blog/radio] but if you need someone to come pray for you, lets see if he will come’. The idea is that the true legitimate ‘elders’ are those you can ‘call for’. James says ‘if any one is sick among you, let him call for the elders of ‘the church’. They see ‘the church’ as the actual 501c3, building, Sunday meeting [storehouse] type thing - they are simply seeing thru their ‘lens’. What James is simply saying is ‘if someone is sick in your community/local body of believers, call for the elders [more spiritually mature ones] and let them pray for you and anoint you with oil’. Now, I have personally spent many thousands [yes thousands!] of actual man hours on the streets helping people. I have helped and given to some of the local homeless population who attend some of these ‘churches’, out of my own pocket. Yet these same homeless brothers are encouraged to give ten percent of their money to ‘their church’. What am I saying here? I know the men who level this type of accusation are often intimidated by peer pressure and stuff. But the verse above says ‘the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every believer to profit every one around them’. The biblical view of ‘church’ would simply require all believers to ‘administer the gift’ in a way that would profit all those around them. There is no need to make these types of distinctions between ‘the elders of our church’ or ‘the spiritual leaders in our region’. They mean the same thing. So see your gift as a freely received charism that should be used unselfishly for the benefit of others. Also some Pastors do seem to come around to ‘my view’ after many years of hearing us. They might then try and do some city wide ministry, open to all the body. Then if the results are not good, they can become discouraged also. Understand, many of these men took many years before they could really see what we were saying, don’t expect a majority of local believers to see things that took you years to see! The paradigms don’t come down that easily.
(986)CORINTHIANS 12: 8-10 this section deals with the various gifts of the Spirit. The list is not exhaustive, Paul speaks in Romans and Ephesians about other ones as well. Instead of diving into a definition for each gift, lets look a little at the various ‘modes’ and characteristics of the Spirit of God. In revelation we have a scripture that many seem to stumble over, it says ‘the 7 spirits of God that are before his throne’. Some associate Isaiah 11 with this. In Isaiah 11 you can find 6 distinct characteristics of the Spirit of God, some see 7. Or you could say ‘God has 7 actual Spirits’. Does God have 7 spirits? Or 25 or 10,000? God is the creator of all spirits. He is the Father of lights! In revelation you have Jesus holding the ‘7 stars’ in his hand, which are said to be angels. Then you have the ‘7 angels of the 7 churches’. I showed you before why these angels are not ‘Pastors’ they are angels! [You can find the post somewhere under END TIMES STUFF]. Revelation has 7 seals, bowls, candlesticks. The book is a prophetic book that has angels revealing and operating and functioning. The 7 spirits before God’s throne are probably the 7 angels spoken about in the book. Hebrews says the angels are ‘ministering spirits’. Well let’s get off the rabbit trail. In Isaiah 61 we have the famous verses that Jesus read and applied to himself in the New Testament [Luke 4]. Jesus opens the scroll and reads about the Spirit of God upon him, the eyes of everyone in that place were fixated on him. Notice how both in Isaiah 11 and 61, one of the main purposes of the anointing was to administer justice to the poor and oppressed. Much of Evangelicalism has opted out of this responsibility. There was an overreaction to the social gospel of the late 19th, early 20th century. The social gospel had a tendency to overemphasize good deeds, without focusing on conversion. But the Fundamentalist movement of the 20th century neglected the social justice aspect of the kingdom, thank God for the Catholics who picked up the torch. The point today is the purpose of the gifts, which we will get into tomorrow, is not simply for self glory and edification. Or should I say the purpose of the anointing. Jesus made it very clear that his mission involved justice for the poor and oppressed, he did not limit his ministry to ‘the church’.
(991)1ST CORINTHIANS 12: 8-11 Instead of giving you my definition for each one of the gifts of the Spirit, let me just give you a sense of where I’m coming from. Over the years I have learned the normal Pentecostal understanding of these gifts. I also have learned the ‘anti-Pentecostal’ view. I take a little from each camp. The strong Pentecostal view usually sees all the gifts as ‘supernatural’ I do too! But to them this means the gifts of Wisdom and Knowledge can’t be ‘regular wisdom or knowledge’. Okay, so what are they? Some teach that the ‘word of wisdom’ is simply a prophetic word about future stuff. The ‘word of knowledge’ is simply prophetic insight into ‘past stuff’. To be honest I have no idea how people come up with stuff like this [well, actually I do have an idea]. I see Paul as operating in a strong gift of knowledge, though Paul was trained and had a good education, the Spirit took all of his ‘head knowledge’ and quickened it. I see James as having a strong gift of wisdom, his epistle is the only New Testament work considered to be part of the corpus of wisdom literature. Of course the gifts of healing[s] and prophecy are supernatural, but wisdom and knowledge can be ‘supernatural’ without having to fall into some prophetic type category. If it’s wisdom and knowledge from God, then it is supernatural! I have known Pastors who had the gift of wisdom, sometimes they would come to the same conclusions as me, but they took a different route to get there! They might not have ‘seen’ all the knowledge portions of scripture that I saw, but the wisdom they operated in caused them to arrive at the same place. Some teach that after the Spirit fell on the church at Pentecost [Acts 2] that you no loner had miracles, dreams and visions or angelic visitations. Why is this wrong? The book that records more miracles and angels and visions than any other book [except for the gospels] is the book of Acts. In essence, one of the major New Testament books on these manifestations shows them to be a result of the Spirits outpouring! The point being these things didn’t end after Pentecost. I realize both camps [Pentecostal- non Pentecostal] have had their wars over this stuff. I find that both sides can be just as legalistic and judgmental in their views. I think one of the major ‘signs’ of being ‘Spirit filled’ is a life based on free grace. When people grasp the gospel and are filled with the Spirit, they should be free from living their lives out of a state of condemnation and guilt. Many ‘Spirit filled’ churches operate in the gifts [their view of them] but are just as legalistic as the non Pentecostals. To me this is not what it means to be ‘Spirit filled’. Overall we should be open to the working of the Spirit in supernatural ways. We should avoid making this the goal or identity of our Christian walk, but we should not reject or despise prophetic/supernatural things. They are available and necessary at times for completion of the mission.
(994)1ST CORINTHIANS 12: 12-26 Paul uses the analogy of a body to describe the church. Keep in mind that the ‘church’ in Paul’s writings mean ‘all Gods people in the region/city’. Not just the gathered assembly! It’s important to make this distinction because much of the talk on the restoration of the organic church versus the institutional church focuses too much on the way believers meet. Here Paul is saying ‘you are all individual distinct members in the local community, you express Christ in various ways, though you have unique gifts you also are part of one corporate expression of Christ in your city’. The distinct gifts function in your community, not just in the meeting! [Whether it be the Sunday building type thing or the living room!] Paul also tells them to be on the guard for the ‘one member dominating the group’ expression of church. If everyone is centered on one particular gift then the corporate expression of the Body of Christ is diminished. Or if everyone saw ‘full time ministry’ as being a modern Pastor then you would have too many sincere believers all seeking to serve God in a limited way ‘if all were an eye, ear, mouth [speaking gift]’ then where would the Body be? I find this chapter to be a key chapter in the current reformation of modern church practices. As Gods people strive for a more scriptural expression of ‘being the church’ we need to keep this chapter in mind. Now, a word for the strong organic church brothers. The fact that Paul encourages a corporate expression in the church does not mean the gatherings of Gods people must be leaderless. Paul includes the concept of Elders in his writings. To be sure these men were not to dominate the meetings, or be the weekly speaker on an ongoing basis. But some hold to a type of idea that the way the church is supposed to testify of the ‘headship of Christ’ is by demonstrating a human leaderless church. That is God ordained the local bodies of believers to have no functioning human leaders in order to show forth Christ’s headship. To be honest I don’t see this in scripture. I see leaders in plurality [never a one man show] and Paul was not afraid to tell Titus and Timothy to ‘ordain’ [recognize!] Elders in the church. But the overall instruction in this chapter is God wants all of his people to function on a regular basis in the Body of Christ. This of course includes the gatherings, but it is not limited to them. The primary way we ‘show’ the world the Lordship of Jesus is by the selfless love we have one for another. When we daily live charitable, sacrificial lives, this demonstrates the ‘headship of Jesus’ over the church. The way believers meet has some effect on this, but most of Jesus instructions to the disciples was on how they would go out into the world and bring the great message of the kingdom to society. The primary ‘battlefield’ of the church militant is the world, not the meeting place!
(996)1ST CORINTHIANS 12:27-31 Lets talk about ‘the fivefold ministry’ [some say four]. In the 90’s there was a real interest in this subject. It comes from this portion of scripture [and Ephesians 4]. The basic teaching is/was that God was restoring all these ministries [Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers- some see this as one combined gift] and that this restoration was one of the final things to happen before Christ’s return. I read and bought lots of books on church planting and how Apostles are gifted to ‘plant churches’. This teaching really wasn’t a new thing. Back in the 1800’s you had Edward Irving head up an apostolic movement called ‘the apostolic catholic church’ [Irvingites]. You had interesting folk like John Alexander Dowie who would start a modern city of God called ‘Zion’ in Illinois. Brother Dowie saw himself as an apostle and felt the Lord led him to start an apostolic city. You can still visit the city today. It was also common for many ‘up and coming’ preachers to begin seeing themselves as ‘apostles/prophets’ and actually advertise their callings in this way. Well of course the old time brothers who reject the gifts all together, saw this as another sign of the end time apostasy. You also had a strange phenomenon take place. It was common for ‘apostolic/prophetic’ people to be taught ‘the missing ingredient is covering and authority’- the churches are weak because they are under pastoral authority, they don’t have apostles ‘covering them’ [ouch!]. So it was not uncommon to have respected men kind of stepping over the normal boundaries of relating to churches and to say things like ‘you need to do this’ ‘you over there, be quiet. I don’t give you permission to speak’ and stuff like this. These sincere men thought it their responsibility to act this way. They felt this was a part of the restoration of apostles. Now, do apostles exist today [and prophets]? To be honest with you, yes. If you read this section along with Ephesians chapter 4, it is next to impossible to teach that they passed away in the first century. These scriptures make it clear that after Jesus ascended he gave ‘some apostles, others prophets’ they are included in the list of evangelists, pastors and teachers. If you lose one gift, then you lose them all. Also the timing of their ministries is given ‘till we all come to the unity of the faith unto a perfect man’. These gifts are all given to build Gods people up until we come to fall maturity. We aint there yet! So it’s pretty obvious that these gifts exist. Those who believe they don’t exist usually refer to the fact that the apostles of the Lamb [a category unto itself] did pass away. They will show you the truth of these apostles having to have been witnesses of Jesus actual resurrection. But these are a different category of apostles. The ones in this chapter were not even ‘made’ until after Jesus ascended on high. The same for the prophets. So, what do these strange fellows do? In all the books and stuff I have read on these movements, I feel some have been too limited in their definitions. Some taught that they were primarily itinerant men [traveling church planters]. Of course Paul was the master at this. But you find James as a stable pillar of the church at Jerusalem. Peter did travel, but he was no Gentile church planter like Paul! And Timothy in the New Testament had an apostolic type gifting, yet he was a protégée under Paul. So for the most part apostles do carry a special ability to ground Gods people in truth. Those who are called to ‘plant churches’ need to be more in tune with the example of Paul. Many modern day ‘apostles’ see church planting as going to a region and organizing Christians to meet in certain ways. I have heard it said ‘I have planted an organic church’ ‘I have planted a home group’ or of course the standard ‘I have planted a building based church’. The main ‘church planting’ of Paul was bringing the gospel to UNREACHED PEOPLE GROUPS and evangelizing those groups. Now of course he did give instructions to them on ‘how to meet’ [like in this book we are reading!] But don’t confuse ‘church planting’ with organizing believers around a new way to meet. All in all God gave us these gifts to build each other up and bring us to maturity, a place where we are no longer dependent on these gifts to function. I feel one of the greatest dangers was the strong authoritarian mindset that some of the apostolic brothers had, they meant well, but they stepped over their boundaries at times.
(998)CORINTHIANS ‘DO ALL SPEAK WITH TONGUES’? - Before we leave chapter 12, let me overview a little. Paul mentions ‘do all speak with tongues’ and the presumed answer is ‘no’. I love my Pentecostal brothers, but some have developed an interesting doctrine that says ‘God wants all to speak with tongues’ though here it is obvious that all don’t! I am familiar with the classic defense of this. It says that in the beginning of the chapter the gifts are individual gifts that all believers can have [true enough] but that later in the chapter the ‘tongues’ that all don’t operate in is speaking of some sort of ministry gift of tongues. That Paul is basically saying ‘you can all prophesy, speak with tongues, etc..’ but you are not all going to have public ‘ministry gifts’ in these things. Okay, I got it. What’s the problem with this defense? Simply that when your done making the case, the brothers usually wind up saying ‘therefore, we should all speak with tongues’! Any argument [case] made from scripture, needs to use the plain language/thought flow to interpret that which is not plain. I believe all the gifts are for today [though I would disagree on certain Pentecostal definitions of them] but I also believe we violate the New Testament when we teach that certain gifts are supposed to operate in every person. Sure, you can find tongues and other gifts as signs in the book of Acts that believers were filled with the Spirit. But this doesn’t mean that those who don’t speak in tongues are not filled with the Spirit. Paul’s teaching here is that we are all baptized into Christ by the Spirit and we are all ‘drinking in the one Spirit’ but yet he empathically says ‘you all will not have the same gifts operating’. I think it is a violation of scripture to develop a doctrine that says ‘unless you function in a certain gift, you are not Spirit filled’. I do not see the classic Pentecostal division between ‘public tongues’ [that everyone doesn’t do] and ‘private tongues’ that you must have in order to have proof of being baptized in the Spirit. I do see the division to a degree, but I feel the Pentecostal brothers are being legalistic when they make this case.
(999)1ST CORINTHIANS 13:1 ‘THOUGH I SPEAK WITH THE TONGUES OF MEN AND OF ANGELS, AND HAVE NOT LOVE, I AM BECOME AS SOUNDING BRASS OR A TINKLING SYMBOL’ Over the years I have seen how the church can ‘have a voice-make noise’ without actually effecting change. Last night I watched some Martin Luther King stuff. Without ‘sucking up for political purposes’ I must admit that Martin is at the top of my list of personal heroes. Martin spoke with a revolutionary purpose in mind, he was not ‘delivering sermons’. One time I spoke at a friends church, I only spoke for around 15 minutes [much like my radio show] and the pastor said ‘no wonder John doesn’t have a church/ preach regularly, you have to at least speak for 45 minutes’ [something like that]. Though after the message I had good comments from the people, the sincere pastor felt like we didn’t ‘put the time in’ in order to fulfill the Sunday morning practice of ‘church’. Were did we get our modern sermon from? [The actual format]. If you go to Bible College you can take a course called ‘homiletics’ this course will teach you the structure of speaking and putting a message together. If you study Greek rhetoric you will find that this science existed in the Greek intellectual world before Christians embraced it [the actual format and structure taught in homiletics comes right out of the Greek system of rhetoric, to the tee!]. I find it funny how many modern pastors seem to measure a persons degree of ‘being scriptural’ by this measuring rod. ‘Well brother, didn’t they preach in scripture’ you bet they did. We see Jesus reading from the scroll in the synagogue. Paul and Peter were master ‘preachers’ if you will [though Paul himself was no ‘golden tongue’] basically the biblical concept of preaching/teaching was more of a spontaneous thing. It’s certainly not wrong to borrow the sermon from the Greeks [which we did do] but we don’t want to fall into some mindset that sees modern ministry [pastoral] as being a professional speaker. Here Paul says there is a danger of believers becoming like ‘sounding brass and tinkling symbols’ we can lose the reality of simple communication. We also can lose the prophetic edge of speaking into society over issues of justice. If we become too mundane and ‘professional’ then the world simply views us as another program to simply pass over when clicking the remote. Both Martin Luther King and Charles Finney were known for their social activism. One of the charges [actually true] made against them was that they held to liberal theological positions. Finney was effected by the higher criticism of his day [the trend in the universities to deny the supernatural elements of scripture] he embraced certain doctrines that could be viewed as heretical [things on the atonement and mans sinful nature]. King’s critics make note of the fact that he also accepted certain types of bible interpretation that viewed some of the miraculous stories as ‘myth’ [not fake, but simple allegorical stories that were not literal but simply meant to convey a spiritual theme]. Things like Jonah and the whale, or Ballams talking donkey [or the talking snake in the garden!] Some intellectual brothers view these stories this way. Is there any validity to these views? Actually yes. I personally hold the ‘literal’ view with stuff like this, but ‘literal’ does not mean the bible does not contain different styles of writing. You do have poetry, allegory, symbol and other types or forms of grammar in scripture. Even the strong literal brothers will contradict themselves when they fully accept the ‘Lamb on the throne’ as not being a literal Lamb! [or when they interpret the scorpion like demons in Revelation as Black Hawk helicopters] So scripture does use allegory and symbol. But why did Luther and Finney associate with the more liberal trends in theology? I feel it was because of the strong anti social gospel that the fundamentalists embraced. The more conservative thinkers who rejected the liberal trends in teaching, would also reject social activism. Luther and Finney simply gravitated towards those who were like minded in their concern to speak into society. Basically they didn’t just want to be theologically correct [though they might have been in some of there views] but they wanted to be able to effect change in society. They wanted to be more than just a tinkling symbol that could tickle your ears.
(1002)1ST CORINTHIANS 13: 2-3 ‘and though I have the gift of prophecy [Pentecostal, prophetic expressions] and understand all mysteries and all knowledge [Orthodox, Reformed, intellectual creedal churches] and though I have all faith that I could remove mountains [the Faith camp] and have not charity [Agape- love] I am nothing’. Whew! Thank God us mission/outreach type guys are not in there. ‘And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor [ouch] and have not love it profits nothing’. I love the various expressions of the church, I feed from the Reformed brothers teaching, Love reading and studying Orthodoxy and Catholicism. I of course favor the outreach/hands on type ministries, but according to this text we can have all these things and still be missing the mark. Our intellectual type brothers are engaging the culture and defending the faith, but without love we don’t even put a dent in the culture. The apologists are great at refuting the new atheists, to be honest about it the Christian intellectuals are head and shoulders above the atheists [Craig Lane and men like him] but I have noticed that we don’t really change that many minds even when all the proof is on our side. And I cant tell you how many well meaning missions and soup kitchens I have been too, but often times there is a disconnect between the people being served and the ‘servers’. You get the feeling sometimes that the well meaning helpers are simply punching a time card. We all need to reevaluate our motives. People can tell when we are in ‘ministry’ for the love of the business. Or for the self glory and adulation that comes with our service. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they truly were in it for the recognition of men. They wanted others to see that they were ‘successful in the ministry’ so they could receive recognition in public. Paul tells the Romans ‘he that shows mercy, let him do it with love [cheerfully]’. It’s easy to fall into a rut and simply be functioning out of a sense of duty. Now duty can be a good thing, there are times where we just need people to report for duty! [The harvest is plenteous, but the workers are few] but we need to examine ourselves and make sure we are functioning out of the Love of God. Often times the various ministries and expressions of the church are simply God ordained ‘places’ where we can connect with people. As we interact with the lost world, lets do our best to win the arguments, give proof for the legitimacy of Christianity. Combat false ideas and mindsets that are imbedded in our culture, but lets leave room for the other side to get in with us. Understand that they have a ‘missing piece’ [Augustine’s hole in the heart] and we are the only ones that can show them how to fill it.
(1003)CORINTHIANS 13:4-10 Okay, what exactly is this love that we need? Paul has told us that all religious activity apart from it is vain. Paul here simply gives us a picture of the way it acts. You can read this section and substitute your name for the word love ‘love puts up with stuff and is kind’ ‘John puts up with stuff and is kind’ [ouch] ‘It does not boast or show off’. ‘It does not seek its own benefit’ a ‘what’s in it for me’ type mentality. Love is being just like Jesus. James tells us ‘if you fulfill the royal law of scripture, you do well’. The law is to love thy neighbor as yourself. Paul also shows us why love outshines the other gifts of tongues and prophesy and knowledge. He says ‘we know in part, prophesy in part. But when we are made perfect and mature at the appearing of Christ the partial gifts will no longer be distinguishable. Only love will rule’ [my paraphrase] I find it interesting that Paul says knowledge itself will cease. Will actual knowledge cease? What exactly is ‘knowledge’? When we use this term in society what we usually mean is the degree of ones learning/education compared to someone else. If you have a masters and I have a high school diploma, we see a difference. We measure knowledge by the amount we have as compared to others. Now, at Christ’s appearing when we all ‘shall know, even as we are known’ this fine distinction will ‘pass away’. We still will have knowledge, but as a tool that we use to measure one another, it will cease. It wont make a difference how much of the ‘knowledge pie’ [know in part] you possess, at that time everyone one will have ‘all pie’. Knowledge is a funny thing, our understanding of it has developed thru the centuries. During the enlightenment era the concept of ‘what does it even mean to know’ was tackled. One of the famous sayings was ‘I know/think, therefore I am’ [Descartes? Hey, I forget sometimes] the study of ‘how we learn/know things’ is called epistemology. The enlightenment produced a way to approach knowledge that can be called ‘modernism’ mans modern way of knowing stuff. In essence, there exists real truth that a person can know and learn. There is/was a challenge to this mode of thought. Many in the Emergent church movement would grasp on to another theory of ‘knowing’ loosely defined as being in the category of ‘post modernism’. Some challenged the actual ability to know a thing. The emphasis is on who is actually viewing/learning the thing. The terms ‘metta- narrative’ are sometimes used to describe this dynamic. There is some truth to the fact that our context, who we are and where we are coming from, can shape the actual stuff learned. But the question is ‘does our perspective actually change the thing, make it real or not’. Some in the field of Cosmology have grasped on to this post modern theory and have surmised that the very act of human beings studying and examining a thing can in and of itself cause the thing ‘to be’. You can see how this theory would be helpful to the atheist. ‘Where did every thing come from?’ ‘it is a result of human kind’s thoughts and inquiry’ [Ouch]. This sounds a lot like the metaphysical cults that espouse that reality is a product of what you think, confess. That man has the power to create reality simply by the act of studying a thing. Well this is of course a challenge to the truth of God. Jesus and the Cross aren’t ‘real’ because men ‘put their mind to them’. They are real whether or not man ever thought about them. ‘Let God be true, but every man a liar’ Romans. Paul tells us that all these varying degrees of knowledge will some day ‘pass away’. We will all stand before a self existent God and give an account of our lives. This day is coming whether you ‘think about it or not’.
(1004)CORINTHIANS 13:11-13 WHEN I WAS A CHILD I UNDERSTOOD AND THOUGHT AND SPOKE LIKE A CHILD, BUT WHEN I GREW UP I PUT THOSE THINGS BEHIND ME- Paul shows us that we presently see and understand things thru ‘a glass’. God gives us insight and glimpses into Divine truth, but we need mercy because we all have limited sight. Over the years I know I have ruffled some feathers. Whether it be our teaching on what the church is, tithing, end times stuff. How New Testament believers should view the nationalistic promises made to Israel under the Old Covenant. I have found that the problem usually isn’t solved by simply proving something from scripture. For instance someone might become convinced by an ‘avalanche’ of information, they might actually see what I am saying. They can even articulate it to a degree [sometimes better than me!] but at the end of the day the answer to the problem is we all need to ‘grow up’. We need an overall change in the way we view things thru a legalistic lens. For instance, the tithe issue. Over the years I have taught the concept that believers are not under this law. Those of you who have read this site for any length of time know this. But I have also taught that it is fine to put 10% of your money into the offering on Sunday. It’s okay to support those who ‘labor among us’. But there are also many examples in the New Testament warning Gods leaders to not be in it for the money. Now, if we took seriously the mandate in Malachi to tithe. If we want to actually bind the believer’s conscience in this way ‘how are you robbing God? By not bringing in the tithes!’ Then we need to also look at the context. Israel as a nation was mandated to ‘tithe’ of their goods [not money] in three ways. They gave to support the Levites, also for the poor, and then they gave a tithe for religious feasts. In essence this ‘tithe’ was a total of around 30 % of their annual income, not 10%! [This by the way is right around what I spend on a monthly basis for the ministry stuff I do]. So, if we were telling people ‘you are going to be cursed if you don’t pay 10%’ we are actually misreading this verse. Also, how many believers think they are going to be cursed if they don’t ‘tithe to the poor’? Most modern preaching on the tithe simply puts it in the category of the Sunday offering. Most of this type of giving goes to support salaries, building upkeep, light bills, insurance for staff. I could go on and on. A very minute portion of this money [in general] goes to the poor. Certainly not a third! Also the portion that went to the Levites could not be used to purchase anything that would be owned by the Levite. They were forbidden to own any type of personal inheritance as Levitical priests. How often does the modern concept of tithing include this? The whole point is if we are going to bind peoples consciences in this way [which we shouldn’t] then we need to make sure we are at least teaching it right! Why bring this up? This is simply a good example of what Paul is saying. ‘When I understood in a limited way, I spoke and acted in a limited way’. The answer to the problem is simply ‘becoming mature in our thinking and speaking’. Recently I read an article from a U.S. congressman, he was speaking about the situation between Israel and Palestine. He sided with a military interpretation of the Old Testament promise to Abraham to ‘posses the land’ and used that to influence his political activism for war. How ‘mature’ is this type of thinking? Did any of the JEWISH apostles do this? No. So instead of trying to ‘crisis manage’ every single doctrinal problem, we really need to mature on an overall basis and view these doctrines thru the paradigm of Jesus and his life and work. Are we imitating his ethos when we do these things? Was this the primary message and life of Jesus when he walked the earth? How did he respond to Roman oppression and unjust govt.? Did he advocate military action in defense of the promises of God made to the nation of Israel? If we as the 21st century church do not ‘rightly divide’ these things, then we are of all men ‘most miserable’ [1st Corinthians 15].
(1006)CORINTHIANS 14:1-20 Lets deal a little with ‘Tongues’. I have written before on the various ways believers view this gift. Much has been taught over the years that can be seen as extreme from both camps [the Pentecostals and the non charismatics]. Is Paul speaking about the same gift as seen in Acts 2? If not, then does that mean the only legitimate ‘tongues’ are the Acts 2 expression? If a distinction is made, then Paul obviously put his stamp of approval on the second type of tongues by actually writing about it here! Ecstatic utterance was not exclusive to the early church. Paul earlier taught that the pagans engaged in this type of speech when worshipping false idols. This does not mean that true spiritual worship has no ecstatic type elements to it. The gifts themselves are seen as divinely inspired speech [the speaking ones]. Isaiah 8:1 says ‘TAKE A LARGE SCROLL AND WRITE ON IT WITH THE PEN OF A MAN’. God was telling Isaiah that he would use his actual writings as inspired instruments from him. Scripture also speaks of ‘the tongue of a ready writer’ we are called ‘living letters’ by Paul himself. Paul doesn’t challenge the legitimacy of this type of gift, but he does stress the importance of approaching all the gifts from a standpoint of unselfishness. If when the believers are gathered, they are all functioning in self edifying gifts, then they are making the same mistake that Paul rebuked earlier with the Lords table. The purpose of the gathering and gifts are for the building up of others and not for self gain. So Paul warns them of the selfish use of the gifts. He says it’s better to use Prophecy or Teaching because others can learn and grow. Some Pentecostal groups make a distinction between the prayer time and the ministry time. They practice tongues during corporate prayer and then treat ‘a tongue uttered’ during the service as something that needs interpretation. I see some merit to his, but it should be noted that here Paul does say ‘when you bless with the Spirit’ [prayer over a meal or something like it] that your prayer is fine, but still the other person doesn’t benefit. So Paul actually includes both ‘prayer tongues’ and ‘a word in tongues’ as needing to be tamped down during the public gathering. Of course we will see the teaching on private tongues as being fine, the point I am making is Paul includes ‘prayer tongues’ along with the other type. The main thrust of Paul’s teaching on Tongues is that the gift itself is legitimate [definitions of the gift vary!] but that all the gifts of the Spirit should be used unselfishly. ‘Well brother, Paul himself says it’s fine to pray in tongues to build yourself up! Got you now!’ well actually you don’t! ‘Building ones self up’ in a private setting can be considered beneficial to the overall corporate group. I just prayed/mediated for around an hour before writing, this was personal ‘self building’ for the purpose of corporate teaching. No matter where you personally come down on the various gifts of the Spirit, it is important to do all things with the benefit of others in mind. I hate to stick this example in here, but heck I just came up with it! Last night I was watching the news. I channel surf from CNN, MSNBC, FOX and even hit the PBS station every now and again [plus the big 3 networks]. Its still the first week of President Obama’s presidency and I couldn’t help but notice the unbelievable amount of ‘slobbering’ [yes, I borrowed it from Bernie Goldberg] that was taking place. I actually clicked the channel from Hannity to CNN. Hannity just finished talking about the embarrassing amount of gushing that the media were doing over Obama. As I clicked to Anderson Cooper, they were showing clips from the first media interview that Obama has given since being in office. It was a very good interview to an Arab language station. As Cooper was asking the reporters on their first thoughts of the interview, one actually said ‘it is so unbelievably outstanding that I am actually ‘giddy’. Now, I don’t subscribe to the Hannity/Limbaugh stuff 100%, but this really was too much. The media are putting such a high expectation on the poor man that no human being could possibly fulfill their image of the man. It was also reported that George [Stephanopoulos-?] actually cried during the inauguration. Of course Chris Matthews will go down in history for describing a ‘feeling going up his leg’ during coverage of an Obama speech. What’s wrong with this picture? I understand that the average white man feels self affirmed when he engages in public displays of support for Black advancement. I too like our President and do pray regularly for him. Not too long ago I met a black homeless friend, he actually has a little apartment but he was at the free mission so I sometimes refer to all these brothers as homeless. He was under the impression that I ran some type of ministry that took in money [I never take any offerings, for radio or anything else] so as I offered to by him some groceries and stuff, he kinda went a little overboard. I really didn’t have any ‘extra money’ but I bought it any way. I didn’t get mad or feel bad about it. I still see the brother every now and then and am still willing to help him. Now, is it better to show your love for the black man by publicly crying and gushing and describing sexual type feelings when listening to the new president speak, or to actually go out and find some black person in need and meet the need? I don’t want to get into the whole political scene at all, sometimes it gets me mad. I have actually ‘cussed’ [yes, I admit it] at the screen at times. [Little curse words, not the big ones!] The point being we all need to heed the admonition in scripture to show our love by our deeds and actions. To simply put on a public display for the world means very little.
(1007)CORINTHIANS 14:20-33 Paul instructs the church that when they are gathered together they should do things ‘decently and in order’. God is not the author of confusion. Notice the ‘order’ of the early church meeting. It is participatory in nature, those who give a word should take turns, those who give ‘a tongue’ need to let someone interpret. But there is no sense of ‘a pastoral speaking gift’ in this mix. Some teach that here Paul was giving directions to ‘the home group’ but they still had a regular ‘church service at the building’. This of course has no support at all from scripture or 1st century church history. Paul was simply telling ‘the church’ how to act when they met. I don’t see any hard and fast rules in which Paul is dictating some type of mandatory liturgy to the people. He is giving them some basic guidelines that are in keeping with the idea that God’s people are ‘a body’. He encourages open participation in the group. He shows how someone could be sharing and another who is ‘sitting by’ can also have a revelation. The idea is people grow and mature when they function. People become co-dependant when they simply observe. The modern church service for the most part has believers as spectators while one person speaks. While there are times where one person speaking/teaching is fine, what we have done is exalted this very limited format of ‘church’ and made it the criteria of what church is supposed to be. Note how Paul does allow for the gift of tongues to be used in the gathering, but only when there is an interpreter. He even ‘lifts’ an obscure verse from Isaiah that says God used ‘the languages of foreigners’ as a sign of judgment against unbelief. This verse has been used by the strong anti charismatic crowd to kind of say that the whole tongues thing is ‘of the devil’. Basically Paul was applying this Old Testament verse to show that when languages are spoken that people don’t understand, then unbelievers and judgment can be present. In Acts 2 there were those who said ‘what is this strange thing [tongues] are they drunk or what’. Yet others heard the ‘wonderful works of God’ in their native tongue. The lack of spiritual discernment among those who thought they were drunk was a sign showing their ignorance of Gods Spirit at work. Grant it, you could hardly blame them for thinking this, but the point Paul is making is that unknown languages being used in a setting where unbelievers can walk in does act as a sign of judgment. Paul wasn’t teaching that the gift of tongues was itself a false gift. I think this chapter is important for the present day because very few places in scripture actually deal with the way believers should meet. This chapter gives some of the basic guidelines of what our meetings should look like. I think we could all learn from the Corinthian experience.
(1008)CORINTHIANS 14:34-40 ‘Let your women keep silent in the gathering, for it is not permitted for them to speak. If they have any questions let them ask their husbands at home’. As a practical matter, when me and my wife attend church, I bring one of those little note pads with me. You never know when your wife has a question! [This is a Joke! But now you can see why I don’t take offerings]. What is Paul saying here? In chapter 11, verse 5, he also told the women not to ‘prophesy’ with uncovered heads. Some think Paul is forbidding women to operate in the speaking gifts, specifically tongues. Here he seems to be addressing a specific issue at Corinth. He says ‘if they have questions let them ask their husbands’. It’s possible that the wives were interrupting the meetings, or taking an authoritative role that was beyond their calling. I already discussed how Corinth had a form of idolatry that incorporated ‘temple prostitution’. Paul did not want the churches to go the way of the culture at Corinth! Paul is not forbidding women in general to never ‘talk in church’. He closes this chapter with the admonition to do all things decently and in order. Paul has a special relationship with these believers. He spent quite a long time in their city [18 months] he launched another very effective ministry while at Corinth. Do you know what that was? He began his ‘writing ministry’ while at Corinth. He wrote his first 2 letters to the Thessalonians from the city. Paul was very hard on this church, but he did not yet challenge their basic identity as believers because of all their misgivings, he still treated them as Gods holy people. In the next chapter he will question whether or not ‘they are in the faith’. He will challenge them on their unbelief in the resurrection of Christ.
(1010)CORINTHIANS 15:1-19 Paul will deal with the greatest threat yet to the Corinthian church, their doubt over the physical resurrection of the body. Various ‘Christian’ groups over the years have doubted the physical resurrection. Now, some have done this out of a sincere attempt at trying to defend the faith! [their view of it] In the 1900’s you had one of the most popular theologians by the name of Rudolf Bultman [most of his career was spent at the University of Marburg, Germany. Much of the higher criticism of the day originated from Germany] He wrote a book called ‘Kerygma and Myth’. What he tried to say was that any modern man living in the 20th century, with all the breakthroughs in science and knowledge, could not ‘literally’ believe the miraculous stories in scripture. Or even the way scripture spoke of heaven and hell and used limited terms to describe spiritual truths. He used the bibles terminology on Cosmology as an example. How could man believe in a Cosmos where ‘heaven is up there, with the stars and all’ and he felt that enlightened man needed to ‘re-tool’ the bible and cleanse it from all these mythical images, but yet keep the spiritual aspects of it. The moral teachings of Christ and stuff like that. So you have had sincere men doubt the truth claims of scripture. The problem with this attempt [higher criticism] is it throws out the baby with the bathwater. The resurrection of Jesus is presented by the apostles as a real event. The fact of this resurrection can also be attested to by examining the historical events of the day. Simply put, there is a ton of proof for the real resurrection of Christ. Bultman and others meant well, but some of the ‘facts’ that they were using were later proven to be false. Bultman used a model of cosmology that would later be rejected by science. Yet the testimony from scripture would remain sure. Paul told the Corinthian's that they needed to reject any attempts at spiritualizing the resurrection of Christ. Sometimes believers grasp hold of limited proof’s for certain doctrines. For instance, the New Testament does speak of a spiritual resurrection. In Ephesians Paul says we are presently raised with Christ. In Romans chapter 6 we have all ready been raised with Jesus. This reality does not mean there will be no future resurrection of the saints. In Johns gospel Jesus speaks of the resurrection as being a future real event, as well as a present reality. Those in the graves will hear his voice and be raised from the dead. And those who were presently ‘dead in sins’ would ‘come alive’ [spiritually] when they heard and believed the testimony of Jesus. It is important for the believer to be familiar with the various theories and ideas that theologians and believers have grasped over the years. It is a mistake to simply see all higher learning as ‘liberalism’. There are some very important things that we have learned thru the great intellectuals of the church. But we also need to stick with the ancient traditions as seen in the creeds, as well as the plain testimony of scripture. If Christ ‘be not raised from the dead, then we are of all men most miserable’.
(1011)CORINTHIANS 15:20-28 here we see the guarantee of mans resurrection based on Christ's resurrection. ‘As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall ALL be made alive’. Is Paul teaching a form of universalism [all being saved]? He is showing us that all men will someday be raised from the dead. Now, does Paul leave room here for a type of Pre-millennial resurrection? A ‘raising’ of the dead prior to a thousand year literal reign of Jesus. Then another resurrection at the end? Yes he does. If you read Revelation you will see this type of scenario play out. Also Jesus speaks of the resurrection of the just and the unjust. Historically the church has held 3 basic views on this. Pre-millennialism says Jesus returns first [pre] before the literal thousand year rule occurs. ‘Post’ says the thousand year rule is literal, and after that Jesus comes back. Those who held to this view were excited at the turn of the first millennium [1000 ad] they thought it possible for Jesus to have returned after the first thousand years since his death and resurrection. And then you have A-millennial, they spiritualize the thousand year reign spoken of in the book of Revelation as being a symbol of Christ’s present rule and kingdom. Now, today’s most popular form of Pre-millennialism is not historic, it dates back to the 19th century. Today’s form is called ‘Pre-tribulational, Pre-millennial’ this teaching [dispensationalism] says Jesus comes back 2 more times. One is called ‘the rapture’ the other is the second coming [revealing]. The proponents of this form find little [or no] early Christians who believed this. There is one early writing by a Syrian brother who speaks very clearly about a rapture type event. Some think he speaks a little too clearly! The writing is believed to have been a fake. Either way we do have Paul teaching stages involved with the coming of the Lord and the kingdom. It is possible to have 2 future resurrections, this would not mean you need two future ‘second comings’. The first resurrection takes place at Christ’s return. He rules a literal thousand years and ‘the dead are raised again’ at the end of the literal rule on earth [ a literal reading of Revelation]. Also Paul does use the language of Jesus submitting to the Father at the end so ‘God will be all in all’. I feel believers have been confused and at times contradictory while trying to explain the nature of God and the Trinity. I recently read a teaching on the Trinity that tried to compare the Trinity to the nature of the organic church. It seemed confusing to me, they tried to say that just like in the Trinity you have no one ‘being’ having authority over the other, but instead you see all three persons equally submitting to one another [Father, Son and Spirit] so in the church you have equality. Now, I do believe that there is equality in the church, but I felt the example was way off. The New Testament clearly teaches the willful ‘submission’ of the Son to the Father. God [the father] is clearly the one ‘in charge’. Now, I admit it’s difficult and brothers have spent years trying to explain all the ins and outs of this. Here Paul shows us that the Son has willingly submitted to the Father so the father can put all things under him. Then once again at the culmination of the kingdom the Son submits to the father and God receives the glory. We will praise and worship Jesus thru out all eternity, it is his willful submission to the father’s plan that makes this happen. NOTE- Some believers spiritualize the first resurrection spoken of in Revelation, they relate it to those who have been ‘born again’ spiritually. Modern ‘Preterism’ holds to this view.
(1013)CORINTHIANS 15:29-49 the resurrection body is a real ‘spiritual’ body. Paul describes the natural body [us now] as fleshly and like Adams body. He then describes the promised resurrection body as being like Jesus in his raised state. These verses can be a little confusing. When Paul says the resurrection body is ‘spiritual’ as compared to earthy, is he saying it is not real? No. But you can see how some early sects could use these verses and teach a ‘phantom’ type resurrection [Gnostic, Docetist type groups]. I was once asked by a Catholic believer if the church taught the physical resurrection. I assured the person that both Catholic and Protestant [and Orthodox] expressions of Christianity embrace the real future resurrection of the body. Now, is it the same body? Well, the way Paul describes it is by comparing the planting of seeds. When you plant a seed you don’t simply get a bigger seed! But you get various types of growth, whether it’s a tree or plant or whatever. So Paul says our future bodies will be new and glorious in this way, but if it weren’t really you, then it wouldn’t be a resurrection! So you will come back, but it will be a ‘new you’. Over the years I have studied various theologians [Christian ones] and I have seen the penchant for various groups to focus in on a certain doctrine and to stray somewhat from the faith. Now, they aren’t always cults, some of them are highly knowledgeable Christians who seem to be testing the boundaries of orthodoxy. I like N.T. Wright, the famous Bishop of Durham [Church of England] but you need to be grounded in what you believe before you can really read him. I feel at times he is helpful in bringing new perspectives to things, I have seen some of the things he teaches myself. But there is also a danger of ‘re-thinking’ stuff a little too much. By the way Wright has written on the resurrection and has done a great job at defending the historic churches position. He’s in somewhat of a theological controversy at the moment, some of the strong reformed brothers have come out and challenged his view on Justification. Wright teaches that the historic reformers kind of missed what Paul was saying. Wright ‘extends’ the doctrine to mean ‘a sign/badge of those who are already in Gods covenant community’. The historic reformers taught a more forensic meaning of the doctrine. That justification is primarily saying that God imputes the righteousness of Jesus to the believer. That Jesus took our sins, and we get his righteousness. Now, I feel there is some truth to Wrights view. But I would be careful to throw out the reformed view all together. There certainly is much truth to the reformed view. John Piper [a reformed Baptist] just released a book on the reformed view, Wright has one coming out pretty soon [Wrights is already published overseas, but the states wont get it for a few months]. So, the point is I believe the historic church and the ancient creeds ‘got it right’ on the resurrection. It is real, it will happen to all people some day. Those who have ‘done good’ [wow- these are Jesus actual words when describing the final judgment!] will be ‘raised to life’. Those who have done evil will be raised to face judgment. We can all escape the coming judgment, Jesus died for us. If we believe and accept his death, burial and resurrection, then we will be raised to a new life some day. 378- (I stuck this entry in here because it deals with the ‘baptism for the dead’, I didn’t want you to think that I just skipped over the verse) Let me give a little example of the ‘overriding act of redemption’ trumping any little verse or experience. Paul actually tells the Corinthians ‘if the dead are not raised, then why are you baptizing people in ‘proxy’ for the dead?’ This is tough stuff. Let me give you one way to see this. The ‘baptism for the dead’ seems to have been a real cultural thing that took place in a specific time and setting [like the slavery verses I mentioned earlier]. There seems to have been a concern specifically to the 1st century church that said ‘this new doctrine of Jesus is great, but being its only been around a few years, and you are telling us [Paul] that you must embrace it to be saved. Then we have a problem. A lot of our loved ones never got a chance to hear. How do you expect us to quell these concerns?’ And it’s possible that the ‘baptism’ by proxy [like a father or son getting baptized in the place of the loved one who died] was a 1st century cultural thing that grew out of this. The fact that they were doing this does not mean that Paul the Apostle was condoning it. Paul was simply saying ‘if you guys really don’t believe in life after death, then why are you bothering with this rite?’ Its like Paul was using their own cultural thing to show them the inconsistency of their thinking. He wasn’t really teaching the baptism for the dead. [This is my view, Mormons believe different. They do practice this today and they use this verse as justification].
(1014)CORINTHIANS 15:50-58 Okay, let’s wrap up this chapter. ‘Flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom’ Paul speaks a little on the nature of the resurrected body. It is real, but not mortal [flesh and blood] without getting lost in the technical aspects of the actual body, Paul does make a distinction between the natural life of man [blood gives life to the mortal man] and the supernatural life of the resurrected body [spiritual life]. Then Paul shows us a mystery [something that was hidden up until the time God reveals it- here thru Paul!] that ‘we shall not all experience death, but we shall all get new bodies’. Paul teaches that some believers will not face natural death, they will be the generation that is alive at Christ’s coming. Paul says this happens at the ‘last trumpet’. For those of you not familiar with some of the silly stuff that passes under the heading of ‘theology’, let me explain some stuff. In the world of ‘dispensationalism’ there is an entire body of teaching that deals with the trumpets in scripture. Basically if Paul is teaching that this event, getting raised from the dead and being transformed, if this takes place at ‘the last trump’ then it is pretty clear that this event is not some type of rapture that takes place 7 years prior to Gods ‘last trump’ [last day, when God wraps things up]. But if you read the portions of scripture that speak about Christ’s return and the resurrection [Thessalonians 4, John 14, Matthew 25] you will see that all these scriptures teach that the resurrection takes place at the end, when Christ returns. So anyway a whole lotta time is spent by the rapture guys to explain that when you are in school, you might say ‘hey, that’s the last bell [trump] before class starts’ and that ‘last bell’ doesn’t mean ‘last bell’, but it means the ‘last bell for now’. It’s kind of silly stuff that preachers do in order to back up their theories. If scriptures ‘last trump’ isn’t really the ‘last trump’ then you can fit the rapture in as a separate event from the second coming. I think doing doctrine like this is silly and hairsplitting. The first century believers who were reading these letters [not all at once, but as they were slowly being penned and sent] simply saw all of the references on the second coming as one event. It’s silly to try and make two separate lists of the New testament verses on Christ’s coming and then place some verses under a rapture heading, and others under a ‘second coming’ heading, especially when the rapture brothers themselves cant agree on which ones belong to which list! Well any way we have a glorious promise of a future resurrection body, the last enemy that Jesus destroys is death. Revelation says ‘death and hell are cast into the lake of fire’ Jesus has power over death, hell and the grave. He will totally eradicate all death some day, Jesus tasted death for every man [Hebrews] so that man does not have to be in bondage under its fear any more.
(1019)CORINTHIANS 16:1-4 ‘When you come together on the first day of the week, let every one of you put some money aside as God has provided for you. So when I come we won’t have to waste any time taking offerings. And we will use this money for the purpose of meeting the needs of the poor saints at Jerusalem. Whoever you approve to take the money to Jerusalem can do it, I might also go with them if the Lord permits. I gave this same order to all the churches in the Galatian province’ [my own paraphrase]. These verses are usually used to justify the Sunday morning offering. They are also used to teach ‘Sunday as the Lords special day’. Let’s talk a little. Paul gave these instructions to at least this church and all the churches of Galatia. We have no idea if all the first century churches actually did this. But let’s say they did. What exactly are they doing? They are taking a Sunday offering and using it 100 percent for charitable purposes. Remember how I have taught in the past that the main teaching from Jesus on giving dealt with the poor? So if we want to use this text to command believers to give on Sunday, then we need to use ALL THE MONEY for helping poor people. Paul also says ‘do it before I arrive, I don’t want to have to spend time messing around with collections’. I find it interesting that it is common today to spend a good portion of the Sunday service [any church U.S.A.] to kind of do a celebratory offering thing. Lots of time to stop and emphasize the importance of worshiping God with our money. The point I would make is Paul did none of this. He actually said he did not want to have to set aside time for the collecting of money when he arrived, and for this very reason he said take up the offering on Sunday! One more thing; it is obvious that the early believers began a tradition of meeting on Sunday. Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection on 2 consecutive Sundays. Acts 20 has believers meeting on Sunday. Jesus of course rose from the dead on Sunday. But there is no indication from scripture that believers are under some type of New Testament Sabbath law. Sort of like Sunday is now the ‘special day’ just like Saturday for Judaism. Various groups argue over this issue, I have taught on it before. In the New Covenant we have tremendous freedom to meet or not meet on Sunday. Or to meet or not meet on Saturday for that matter! But doctrinally we are free from the law and all of its observances. I appreciate the work that has been done by various scholars [Especially some catholic ones] on showing how Sunday became the special day of observance for believers. But we need to be careful when we read what the believers did in the New Testament and then proclaim it as law. I believe its fine to meet on Sunday, to take offerings and to do all of these types of things. But when we grasp hold of limited ideas, and then exalt them to a place of law, we err. Paul was simply telling this church to collect some money on the first day of the week for the sole purpose of charity. If modern day believers want to apply these scriptures literally, then we should use all of the Sunday offering for charity. If we apply them literally, then there is absolutely no sense of a tithe system to pay for salaries, building upkeep, insurance, on and on. For modern day believers to engage in such things is fine. If these expenses seem needed for the overall purpose of Gods work, then fine. But to use these verses and actually tell believers they are robbing God if they don’t tithe on Sunday is absolutely not true. I have written a lot about these things over the years [you can find stuff on my ‘statement of faith’ section and ‘what in the world is the church’ section] I do not condemn all the churches who practice these things, it’s just we need to be careful when we take examples from scripture, lift them out of context, add a few verses from Malachi and then teach some air tight system that if not obeyed brings the curse of God on someone. Do all things in grace, remember THE POOR, and you will do well.
(1020)CORINTHIANS CONCLUSION- Paul concludes this long letter with a bunch of personal notes. He tells them that the Lord has opened up a great effective door for him at Ephesus and there are many adversaries. He wanted Apollos to make a visit but he did not want to at this time. He told them to go easy on Timothy because he was a fellow worker in the Lord. Overall Paul’s message to this church was one of true grace. I want to emphasize again [like we did when studying Romans and the other epistles so far] that one of the main themes of the first century apostles was belief in the gospel. Paul told these believers that it was believing in the message of the Cross that saves them. He defined the gospel as Jesus death, burial and resurrection. He encouraged them to live free as Gods community and to help each other out. Paul did not lay on them some type of guilt trip to become some high powered institution in order to ‘change their world’. He believed that the simple lifestyle of love and purity would be able to do the job. I see a contrast from the first century church and its simple gospel and today’s idea of church. Also notice how Paul was ‘planting’ these churches. He visited them, spent time with them, LEFT THEM, and continued corresponding with them thru letters and friends. In essence, first century church planting was simply establishing groups of people on the foundation of Christ. They were not organizing under some type of 501c3 model [I do realize they didn’t have this back then!] they didn’t see ‘church’ as some type of social group that you joined [Elks lodge type thing]. They actually were the church! I want to stress this theme as we continue teaching thru out the New Testament. Many times believers hold on to and embrace ideas that seem to be biblical [you can find a verse here and there type thing- proof texting] but when you see the whole story you get a better picture of what’s going on. Well I hope you guys got something out of this brief study, try and keep in mind the things that challenged you as we read thru this book. Did you see some things differently than before? Did some stuff get you mad? Did we challenge your belief system in some way? My goal is to encourage reformation in the church, not disorder! Take the new things you might have seen and implement them in Gods time. Those of your starting from scratch [first time church planters] can start with a clean slate and implement many of these ideas from day one, others who are already in ministry will have to take a more measured approach. Do all things as God leads and in his time. To all you ‘church members’ don’t take the stuff that you learned and use it to come against your ‘church’. Let God lead you on your journey and reform as God directs. It’s easy for some young rebels [or old!] to take the stuff on tithing and use it against your current church, that’s not our goal. Be patient with your pastors and leaders and allow God to use you as a force for change, not destruction. Well that's it for now; I am not sure what study we will jump into next. Recently got some good emails and phone calls from some of our friends laboring in other towns, people I did not even know of, but who follow the ministry. Those of you out there who are following along, send me an email every now and then so I can see what type of growth we are having, the different regions we are impacting. Those of you who have launched home groups, let me know how things are going. God bless till next time, John.
(1192) ARE WE SUPPOSED TO BE DUMMIES? Still in Luke 18, the disciples forbid the young children from coming to Jesus; Jesus rebukes the disciples and tells them that the Kingdom of God is made up of little children. There is a theme in the New Testament that goes like this ‘become childlike in your faith and trust in me, but be mature in your thinking and understanding’. Often times these two things are confused. Why? In the letter to the Corinthians Paul will rebuke the wisdom of the world, he states that when he was among them he did not use men’s wisdom to convince them of the message of the Cross. Paul also encourages believers to be ‘child like’ as well. Many confuse Paul’s teaching with an idea that says Christians should not be engaged in the development of the mind. Paul was not rebuking all wisdom and forms of knowledge, but a specific kind of wisdom. In Acts 17 we read of Paul at Athens, the Greek intellectual city of his day [Alexandria was the philosophical center in Egypt]. As Paul disputes with the philosophers of his day he actually quotes their own poets/philosophers in his sermon, he does not quote from the Old Testament, but uses the sources that they are familiar with. Right after Athens Paul goes to Corinth, the cites are very close geographically. There was a form of philosophy at Corinth that was very popular, you had the Sophists and the professional speakers [Rhetoric] operating out of Corinth. The Sophists were the philosophers that came right before Socrates in the Greek cultural world, around 6 centuries or so before Christ. Their form of philosophy was what you would describe as the first Relativists [or post modern thinkers who appeal to subjective knowledge as opposed to objective] they taught that philosophy and arguing were simply things you do ‘just for the heck of it’. Sort of like a hobby of simply disputing things while never being able to arrive at truth, something Paul will rebuke in the New Testament by saying some people were ‘always learning and never being able to come to the knowledge of the truth’ Paul himself tells the Corinthians ‘where is the disputer of this world’. So the Sophists were famous for this type of thing. Now the great philosopher Socrates disagreed with the Sophists, Socrates taught that thru the practice of thorough debate and the art of constantly asking questions, that you could arrive at truth [seek and ye shall find type of a system]. He believed real knowledge could be found thru seeking after it. Socrates stirred the waters too much, he was put to death by being made to drink the famous hemlock, the city where this happened was Athens. So Paul more than likely is disputing the system of thought that said you could not arrive at objective truth. It’s no secret that his letter to the Corinthians has one of the strongest statements of factual [objective] belief found in the New Testament. The great chapter 15 reads like an early creed to the church ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures…’ It’s very probable that this chapter was used as a sort of creed in the early Pauline churches. So, what exactly was Paul saying [and Jesus] when they taught us to be like children, to reject the wisdom of the world for the wisdom of Christ? Simply that our approach to God and the things of God should be done in a humble manner, being childlike and open to God all throughout our lives. Paul was not teaching us that the following ages of great Christian thinkers was wrong; men like Anselm, Aquinas, C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. It is perfectly acceptable for the believer to become well versed in the field of philosophy, to argue the Christian worldview from a biblical perspective. While it is true that no church was founded by Paul after his Athens visit, and some feel he abandoned his use of ‘worldly wisdom’ at Corinth because of this failure, but I think Paul continued to appeal to the intellectual world thru his great wisdom [God given] thru out his life [read Galatians and Romans!]. Ultimately it is the wisdom of the Cross that saves people, a wisdom that Paul said he communicated not in the words of mans intellect, but in the direct ability of the Spirit to speak. Sometimes that ability came thru a sermon that quoted the philosophers of old [Athens] sometimes thru the simple sharing of the message of Christ. Jesus grew in wisdom and stature with God and man, he knew the ideas of his day, so did Paul. Do you?
(1223) INTRO, CHAPTER 1- Out of all of Paul’s letters, this one is the most autobiographical. This is Paul’s 3rd letter [some think 4th] to the Church at Corinth. There is a missing letter that we don’t have. Some scholars feel parts of the missing letter are in this letter [chapters 6, 10-13] either way, we know the letter is inspired and part of the canon of scripture. In chapter one Paul recounts the difficulties he went thru [and continues to go thru] for the sake of the gospel. Paul sees both his sufferings AND his deliverance as beneficial for the communities [churches] he is relating to. He says ‘God establishes/strengthens us and anoints us together with you’. Paul’s view of the church [his ecclesiology] is that God works with corporate groups of believers. His view on discipline is seen from this angle. In 1st Corinthians he says because we do not live to ourselves, therefore if one is in open, unrepentant sin, then commit him to judgment. Why? Because everything that one member does affects the others. I would not go so far and say that Paul taught ‘no salvation outside of the church’ but he sees salvation and Gods working with humans as a corporate experience. The Catholic Church for the first time in her history accepted other Protestant churches who confess Christ and his deity as ‘separated brethren’. This happened at Vatican 2 [1962-65]. The council explicitly taught the other churches were actually ‘churches’. They specifically used the word ‘subsists’ when describing their view of the church. They said the church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church in it’s fullness. They still believe that the fullest expression of Christ’s church on earth is contained within her, but they rejected the hard line doctrine that the church exclusively resides within her. They realized that God was working with all Christian groups/churches, not just one. I recently saw an ad in my local paper from one of the traditional Latin churches, these are the old ‘tridentine’ churches who observe the mass in Latin. The ad said that salvation is only in the Catholic expression of the church. I hate to correct my Catholic brothers [being I am a Protestant] but this language is not in keeping with the spirit of Vatican 2. Paul understood that God was working with him along with the corporate groups of people that he was relating to as an apostle. He will even teach that this dynamic can take place when they are physically separated, i.e.; he did not have to be in the same room/city for God to be working with them as a community. This is very important to see, it comes against certain expressions of local church. It also opens the door for other expressions of church, like ‘on-line’ communities. There are passages of scripture where Paul does say that whether he is with them in body or not, yet he is present in spirit joying and beholding their growth in Christ. Or he says word got back to him about their growth and he rejoiced in it. While believers should physically meet together as a testimony of their faith, yet the fact that there are occasions where this might not be possible does not mean that they can’t be joined together in spirit and truth. Peter says ‘you who were not a people are now the people of God. You who did not obtain mercy have now obtained it’. God ‘birthed’ churches [communities of believers] thru the apostolic ministry of Paul, these groups were both birthed and received mercy as a corporate event, they understood that they were brothers and sisters in Christ.
(1224) 2nd CORINTHIANS 2- Paul instructs the church to forgive the brother who was excommunicated earlier on [1st Corinthians] he tells them just as they were zealous to carry out the previous judgment, so now they should be willing to forgive. He says it’s possible for people to be overcome with too much sorrow. The other day I wrote a post on Obama’s green jobs czar, I felt [and still feel!] that he needed to resign, he resigned 2 days after I wrote the post. I have also seen some conservatives say good things about the man [Van Jones] that in essence he has also done some good things. But they feared that he will be tagged as this nut case who signed the 911 ‘truthers’ petition [well, he really should not have signed the thing]. The point was it’s possible to over do an attack on an individual like this, to not stop until all the czars fall type of a thing. Paul reminds us that there are times of being hard with people, but the purpose for it is too bring them to their senses. Here Paul warns against being unforgiving. He also says that when he shared Gods word with them he did not do it like others; he said they were ‘peddling/corrupting’ Gods word. This carries with it the idea that certain people/ministers were preaching for profit. Paul is not saying ‘too much profit’ he is simply saying those who were sharing the word and taking money in return. We already know that Paul's mode of operation was to support himself when with the churches [see Acts 20] and at times he even paid the way for his fellow workers. Paul carried out the greatest apostolic ministry known to man [apart from Christ] and he did it free of charge at his own expense. Paul tells them that when he wrote to them he did it thru much affliction and difficulty. He previously spoke about God opening up great opportunities for him, but along with the gift came a great price. Let me share a little personal stuff with you guys. My wife went to the E.R. the other day with some serious problems; she has been admitted into the hospital. We do not have health care insurance. When I retired I couldn’t afford to keep it. I managed to get my kids insurance, but me and my wife are on our own. Out of the 2 of us I have a few more serious health problems than she does. Some have been self inflicted [past mistakes] others just happened. The way I ‘self-treat’ is I go on line and do ‘home cures’- this my friends is not good. Some have helped, others I am not sure of. But this past year I had some things that needed to be checked [like bleeding from places where you shouldn’t be] and frankly, I haven’t done it. But I needed my wife to stay healthy, so this has been pretty awful for me. At the same time we had some serious problems with one of our daughters, and we were/are in a real bind over this. During this whole time I started this new bible study [2nd Corinthians] and whenever I start a study I just do a chapter a day and it doesn’t take long at all to finish. But I wonder how many I’ll be able to do over the course of my life. I would like to do the whole bible, but I realize that it’s thru ‘much affliction and suffering’ that I have written to many of you. Paul said he had the ‘sentence of death within himself’ so he would learn not to trust in himself, but in God who raises the dead. As we read thru these letters, see the real problems and difficulties they were facing; hear Paul when he says ‘I am not peddling Gods word’ he was not taking offerings or collecting money for his own well being. He collected only for the poor saints at Jerusalem. Watch the give and take, the beliefs of the early church. We need an overhaul in our thinking and acting, ‘ministry/preaching/church’ all need to be re looked at, we need to teach/train the upcoming ‘crop’ of pastors in a new way. Don’t see these things as jobs, or opportunities for self advancement, see these things as opportunities to lay your life down for others, to cling to the death experiences and not run from them. Paul said we are the sweet fragrance of Christ to the nations; in both them who are dieing and those who are being saved. God reveals his knowledge thru us to all people groups, we die daily so this fragrance can go forth.
(1225) 2ND CORINTHIANS 3- Paul defends his apostleship, he states he needs no letters of approval for them or from them. They are his ‘letter of proof’ written on their hearts. Paul puts more weight on the work of the Spirit in them as a church, than on written letters. I find this interesting; the historic church has been divided over the issue of how much weight should be placed on tradition versus scripture. There is some confusion on the matter; lets clear it up. First, the Catholic Church does not teach that there are 2 words from God, sort of like tradition is one word and the bible is the other. They believe Gods word comes to us in two forms/ways- both scripture and tradition. The Protestant reformers did not totally reject tradition, they are creedal churches! They simply taught that Gods word was the final arbiter in issues of faith and morals. I do find it interesting that Paul put more weight on the ‘fleshly letters’ [the church] than written ones. He also contrasts the Law of Moses [10 commandments] with the New Covenant in Jesus Blood. He says if the glory of the old law, which was fading away, was so strong that Moses had to put a veil on his face. Then how much more glorious is the New Law in Christ! Some feel that Paul was saying that Moses veil was covering up the glory on his face that was fading away. When Moses went to get the law, on his return from the mountain his face shown, some feel this glory/shining was beginning to fade and Moses put the veil on so the people wouldn’t see it fading. In context I don’t think this is what Paul was saying. The thing that was fading [passing away] was the law itself [see Hebrews]. Moses was not a vain man; I don’t think he was hiding the fact that the glory was leaving his face. All in all Paul says this New Covenant of Gods grace is much greater than the Old Covenant of condemnation. That in this New Covenant we behold Gods face openly, by the ministry of the Spirit. No more veil, we are changed by the Spirit of God and the work of Jesus. Paul says these two covenants are like comparing apples and oranges; they are in a whole different class.
(1226) 2ND CORINTHIANS 4- In chapter 3 Paul said we are beholding/seeing God in an open way as compared to the old covenant. In this chapter he shows us how we ‘see God’. We see him in his Son. God has chosen to reveal himself to us thru his Son. One of the first Christian councils [after the one at Jerusalem in Acts 15!] was held in the 4th century under the Roman emperor Constantine. The reason was to bring unity to the church on the issue of Christ’s divinity. These councils played political roles as well as theological. After Constantine became emperor he established the great city in the eastern empire called Constantinople. This city [named after him] became both the theological and political seat in the eastern half of the empire. So you had both a religious and political competition going on in the empire. Rome, situated in the west, was feeling like she would lose her position if the eastern half started gaining too much influence. So you had differing reasons for these councils. But you also had sincere men who held to various beliefs at the time. The bishop Arius came to teach that Jesus was the Son of God, but not God himself. This created a stir in the empire and Constantine called a council to settle the question. The debates went forth, both views were discussed and classic Orthodoxy came down on the side of Jesus being God. Now, there would be more councils dealing with Gods nature and Christ’s role, but this was a defining moment in Christian history. The church [and the scriptures] teach that God became man [incarnation] and thru Jesus we ‘see God’. Paul also relates the many sufferings and trials he was going thru. He says he tastes death and bears in his body the death of Jesus. He simply does not give a picture of the Christian life that is common in today’s world. Many believers are taught that these types of difficulties and sufferings are a result of their lack of faith, or their inability to rightfully ‘access their covenant rights’. Paul refutes this doctrine strongly. Paul has already mentioned those who ‘peddle Gods word’ or who twist the scriptures for their own benefit. It always amazes me to see well meaning believers/teachers go thru the entire corpus of the New Testament and never see these things. It’s so easy for preachers/teachers to read the scriptures with blinders on. Here Paul taught that the many sufferings [both physical and spiritual] were an honorable thing, they were his way of sharing in the sufferings and death of Christ. They were ‘death in him, but life in you’ he saw his difficulties thru a redemptive lens. He says the present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us. The first verse of this chapter says seeing we have received this great ministry, we don’t faint. I like Eugene Petersons Message version, he says ‘just because times get hard, we don’t throw up our hands and walk off the job’ I like that.
(1227) 2ND CORITNHIANS 5- Paul speaks of the Christian hope- resurrection! This chapter can be confusing if not taken in context. You could think that Paul is saying when we die we have a house/room in heaven ‘waiting for us’ and this seems true enough. But he is really saying something more along the lines of ‘in heaven [Gods realm] we have a promise of a new body. The Spirit in us is the down payment, but full redemption will be complete when we are raised from the dead’ the hope is a new body, not our souls living some type of disembodied existence in a heavenly mansion. Now, Paul teaches us that this new covenant [last chapter] is one of reconciliation, not condemnation. That because of the work of the Cross, all men have been reconciled to God! It is therefore our job to tell them. In the field of Christian thought there have been thinkers [Origen, Carlton Pearson, etc.] who have dabbled with the doctrine of universalism. They believe that ultimately all people will be saved. I do not believe in this doctrine myself [though I wished it were true- I mean wouldn’t you want everyone forgiven and with God?] but those who embrace it find there reasoning in these types of verses. The New Testament teaches a theme of redemption that says ‘all men have been reconciled to God; Jesus has died for all men. God wills for all to be saved’ and it is because of this theme that some have held to universalism. The point I do want to make to all my orthodox friends is the New Testament message is one of total acceptance based on Christ’s death for us. Sometimes Christians ‘make it hard’ for people to ‘get saved’. The bible doesn’t make it hard, it says it’s a free gift that anyone can have [I know my Calvinist friends are upset right now, but heck I cant please all the people all of the time]. We want the world to know that ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself’. These major themes need to be engrained into the mind of the church and the world. I am not talking ‘easy believism’ in the sense that God requires no repentance, but I am talking the reality of the free gift based upon what Jesus has done. There are so many people struggling with so many things, many have prayed and pleaded with God for change. Many have given up; they see God as a demanding judge whom they could never please. The message of the Cross is ‘you can’t please God, make up for your own sins. God placed those sins on Jesus, that’s why you can be accepted’. He was made sin for us, who knew no sin. That we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Once you see this truth, God will set you free. You will change, you will become ‘righteous’ but it’s a result of the Cross, not your own efforts.
(1228) 2ND CORINTHIANS 6- Paul tells them to not receive Gods grace ‘in vain’. He quotes a very popular verse among Evangelicals ‘now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation’. He says the Lord heard their prayer and ‘accepted/saved them’. Paul is referring to salvation in the sense that after his first letter, they repented, asked God for forgiveness and responded in the right way. Now in this letter he’s saying ‘look, God heard your heart. He has received you. Don’t keep repenting over the thing’. Paul also gives another list of his trials. He gave one in chapter 4, will give another one in chapter 11. I like the part where he says ‘we are unknown, yet well known’. In today’s Protestant/Evangelical churches, we are often ‘well know, yet unknown’. Let me explain. In Paul’s day he raised up quite a stir. In the book of Acts we see how when he was at the temple in Jerusalem someone finally recognized him and accused him. He wasn’t’ well recognized/known like we are today. Yet his writings and the communities of believers he was establishing were well known. People knew his message and gospel. Yet today, we have so many Christians who follow a cult of personality. They associate ‘the church they attend’ with the main leader. Often these men are well meaning, in some cases their public persona is known world wide. Yet the average viewing audience has no grasp on what they are teaching. They see our famous images [well known] yet what we are speaking is often irrelevant [unknown]. And last but not least Paul teaches what I like to call ‘an incarnational ecclesiology’- in simple terms, God lives in his people in a real way. The real presence of God in society is manifest thru his actual people. Often times the historic churches will emphasize the Eucharist as the way Gods presence is in the world. Some argue for ‘an incarnational sacramental’ view of Christianity. They teach that because God manifested himself in a material way thru Christ [the incarnation] that this principle continues today thru the sacraments that the churches practice. I respond this way; while this is true that God has/does manifest himself in real ways in the world, the primary method of him dwelling in the world in a real way is thru the people of God. Paul refers to us as Gods temple in the world. While the history of Israel in the Old Testament is somewhat liturgical, I feel to carry sacramental theology too far into the New Covenant misses the point. Jesus did give us the communion meal, and we do ‘show his death’ while celebrating it. But Gods primary means of ‘showing’ himself to the world is thru the charitable deeds of his saints. They will ‘know we are Christians by our love, by our love’. This theme is woven thru out the entire New Testament. Its’ fine for believers to have ‘sacred space’ [church buildings] to celebrate liturgy and traditional forms of Christian worship, but to keep in mind that we are the actual dwelling place of God in the world, we are his temple. During the first millennia of Christian history the church developed an idea that said because Jesus did come in the flesh, therefore it is now permitted to have Icons [special religious paintings that have special meaning in the Greek/Eastern Orthodox churches] and physical ways for Gods presence to manifest. The western church [Catholic] would struggle over this issue. One of the Popes would condemn iconography and some would destroy these religious paintings from the church buildings. Eventually an Orthodox theologian [I think John of Damascus?] would develop the theology that I explained above and the church would accept the practice of God manifesting himself in a special way thru religious objects. I personally enjoy the Catholic/Orthodox and traditional expressions of Christianity, but I think they over did it in this area.
(1229) 2ND CORINTHIANS 7- Paul tells them that at first he regretted being so hard on them in his 1st letter. But now he rejoices that he was so hard, because they fully heard him out and came to their senses. I have found over the years that many people initially ‘hate’ me for some of the stuff I write. But sometimes they really reconsider certain beliefs that they picked up along the way and they make adjustments, this is the purpose. So Paul was glad he did it. Now when he was in Macedonia he was in distress 'without were fighting’s, within were fears’ he struggled daily with difficulty. But in all these troubles he rejoiced when the good report came back to him from Titus, his co worker who was sent to check up on the Corinthians. Titus came back and told Paul how they listened to him and repented. This was Paul’s reason to rejoice. I want you to see the give and take between Paul and these churches/communities. In the next chapter we will deal with money issues, but for now he is giving his life away for the benefit of these churches. He preaches the pure gospel of Jesus, he does not view ‘being a child of the king’ thru the lens of making wealth or having no problems, to the contrary he will teach that these doctrines are not from the Lord [see 1st Timothy 6]. Paul’s intent was to establish these churches on the reality of Christ and what the Cross meant in their lives. He urges them to separate from idolatrous and sinful practices and for them to be holy [set apart] for Gods work. He warns his churches not to come under the influence of false teachers, people who were bringing in ‘damnable heresies’ even denying the faith of Jesus. All in all Paul made plain the reality of Jesus and how we as believers do not pursue the desires of the world, he tells Timothy ‘we came into the world without wealth and material goods, when we die we can’t take it with us. So lets be happy with what we have’ no doctrine of seeking extreme wealth to advance the kingdom, but to live soberly and righteously in the present world. These letters that we are covering [all the studies we have done so far on this blog] are the foundational documents of the church, we need to read and hear what they are saying. Too many churches are built upon proof texts found all over the bible, but when you read the actual story in context, they tell a different story. Paul rebuked this church in a strong way; they were sorry and broken over the things he said. Then after a period of time they humbled themselves and made some changes. That’s all Paul wanted, for his converts to stay on course.
(1231) 2ND CORINTHIANS 8- Paul talks about giving in these next 2 chapters. It’s important to see the context in which he is speaking. Many fine men [pastors] and believers will use a verse or two out of these chapters and apply them in a wrong, or out of context way. We find verses like ‘he that sows [plants] sparingly will reap sparingly’ or ‘God shall supply all your needs according to his riches and glory’. These verses [as well as a few others] are to be seen in the context of giving in a charitable way, doing it by ‘choice’ and not by force, and giving freely to help the poor saints that were living at Jerusalem. But too often these verses are used to tell believers if they do not tithe 10 percent of their income into a Sunday morning offering, they will be cursed. Or appeals are made by the TV preachers that say ‘sow into this ministry and reap a harvest’ in many of these scenarios there is tremendous force and manipulation used to get the saints to give money for all types of projects, or to fund the rich lifestyles of charismatic figures. These things ‘ought not to be done’. In this chapter Paul says he that gathered little had ‘no lack’ how often have we taught believers to ‘get a full harvest’ and said it in a way that says unless you ‘gather much’ you will be in lack? Here Paul says those who gathered ‘just enough’ those who were satisfied with the basics ‘had no lack’. Or ‘give according to what you have, not according to what you don’t have’ how many appeals are made all the time telling believers ‘if you don’t have it, make a vow anyway’? We tell people to give according to what they don’t have all the time. And the churches of Macedonia did give ‘out of their poverty and great affliction’ you do not measure the success or spirituality of believers by the amount of financial wealth they have, these giving churches had ‘poverty’. All in all we need to rethink much of what the contemporary church/ministry does when it comes to money. In these chapters Paul teaches voluntary giving along the lines of helping the poor, we often use all these verses and simply apply them to our ‘churches’ ministries or personal callings. We err. In the next chapter Paul will quote Psalms ‘he hath dispersed abroad, HE HATH GIVEN TO THE POOR, his righteousness remains forever’ again, the whole context is giving to the poor. I know we mean well as believers, but we need to get back to really reading what the text is saying and applying it in that way. To give to churches, or ministries is fine. To give 10 % of your income is fine. To meet the needs of laboring elders/pastors is fine, but we should not use these types of scriptures in a condemning way when exhorting the saints to give, doing that is ‘not fine’.
(1232) 2ND CORINTHIANS 9- Paul encourages the church to be generous ‘give much, and you will be blessed much’. The principle is clear. The other day I wrote on the verse ‘he hath distributed and given to the poor, his good works will endure’ [my paraphrase] let me give you what the message bible says- ‘he throws caution to the wind, giving to the needy with reckless abandon’. Yesterday my friend John David came by. He’s the friend I wrote about a few weeks ago, one of the local homeless guys. John is doing well; he made it thru the local drug rehab and is attending the aa/na meetings. John is really excited about the lord, even though he is an older brother  he really wants to do things for God. I gave him a few old copies of some of my original books I wrote years ago, and I gave him all the cash I had [around 15 dollars from my wallet]. He didn’t ask for it, I just felt ‘what the heck, if I don’t give it I’ll just spend it’. Later my wife asked me if I could take my daughter to get her I.D. at the driver’s license place. You need cash, it’s around 16 dollars. I thought ‘geez, maybe I’m too reckless in giving to my buddies’ and then I read this verse this morning. Paul exhorts these believers to give themselves and their goods away for the gospel. He challenges us to live with ‘reckless abandon’ knowing that our lives are like a vapor that appear for a little while and then vanish away [James]. If you give yourself away, God will increase ‘your seed’ and multiply the results 100 times, but you must lay down your life first. Jesus said unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abideth alone. But if it dies it will bring forth much fruit. He was speaking of his impending death, how he saw it as a necessary event for the purposes of God. Paul also says in his letter ‘if Jesus died for everyone, then we are all dead. He then that lives should now live for God.’ We are not here to please ourselves, to derive some type of fulfillment through our Christian experience. That is to ‘seek to save our lives’ we are here to lay them down for a greater cause, Jesus showed us how this must be done.
(1233) 2ND CORINTHIANS 10- Paul defends himself once again, he says ‘the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but mighty thru God to the pulling down of strongholds. Casting down imaginations [arguments] and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God’. Contrary to popular opinion, Paul is not speaking about ‘spiritual warfare’ in the sense of casting demons out of the sky, but he is talking about refuting false opinions and ideas that the false teachers were popularizing. In essence true spiritual warfare is presenting the truth of Christ in its purist form and undoing false/popular ideas that don’t line up with scripture. Paul also defends his right to speak into their lives/location. He says he has been given a sphere/place of authority by God, and this area did indeed cover Corinth. He also claims authority for other regions. In scripture Apostles do have more of a regional authority/influence than other types of callings. Paul did not exercise his authority in a way that said ‘you guys must only listen to me’ in the sense that ‘submitting’ to authority meant actually listening to him preach every Sunday. The New Testament churches had tremendous freedom and sharing in their corporate get togethers. It actually was the false teachers who tried to cause these early believers to come under their control. In Galatians Paul says ‘who hath bewitched you’ or cast a spell on you. Paul would only come in and use his authority in a strong way when the churches strayed from the simplicity that was in Christ. In this chapter he says the authority that he had was for the purpose of building them up, not tearing them down. The main way Paul ‘did battle’ was thru the refuting of the false teachers thru the scripture [Old Testament] and presenting the fullness of Gods grace in Christ. Paul often used examples from urban life to help him get his point across- things like sports, arenas, military, etc. Jesus used more of an agrarian type setting in his parables- fishing, seed planting, etc... Of course they both used other symbols as well, but the point was they spoke and argued their ideas in ways that their hearers would be familiar with. When Paul refuted the philosophers at the Areopagus [Mars Hill, Acts 17] he made use of the public forum to get his points across. Paul operated in an intellectual world, as opposed to Peters fishing background. But they all presented Christ in his fullness, whether the message came from a fisherman or a theologian. Paul simply had a little better equipment when it came to refuting the false philosophies of his day. He didn’t buy the argument that ‘they were not in his sphere’ sort of like religion belongs ‘in the church building’ but leave the science and philosophy to us. He had authority from God to function in those spheres.
(1234) 2ND CORINTHIANS 11- Paul fears that the church will be drawn away from the simplicity that is in Christ. He warns of false teachers/apostles and defends his own calling. He says he espoused them to Christ in marriage, yet the false teachers were bringing in a different gospel, spirit and Jesus. He uses this same language in his letter to the Galatians. Who were these false teachers? Probably the Judaisers, the main instigators of Paul. Over the years many well meaning believers who are members of various churches have used verses like this to describe the ‘church down the block’. Whether it was over the gifts of the Spirit, water baptism, or a host of other doctrines. Often times these verses on ‘false teachers’ would be used to strike fear into the hearts of their members. In context these types of verses are speaking of those who reject historic Christianity, the reality of grace and other Christian teaching. Those who were trying to supplant the true gospel and bring the churches under legalism. Now, in this chapter we see Paul make a defense by saying he did not take financial support from the Corinthians, but ‘robbed other churches’ instead. Meaning he did receive financial aid from other believers. He says the churches of Macedonia helped out. We also read in the letter to the Philippians that they too helped Paul with money. I used to think that the only church that Paul did not receive aid from was the Church at Corinth. He does seem to say that he used this style of ‘taking no offerings’ only when at Corinth. Many believers are under the same impression. A careful reading of the New Testament shows us that this was not the case; in Acts chapter 20 [read my commentary on Acts 20] he teaches us that when he was staying with the church at Ephesus he also worked and provided for himself and those who were with him. He says he did this to give the leaders an example, so the Ephesian elders/pastors would not see ministry thru the lens of a hired profession. Peter says the same when speaking as ‘an elder to fellow elders’ taking the oversight of the believers, willingly, not for ‘filthy lucre’. And Paul says the same to the church at Thessalonica. Now some argue that leaders/elders should never accept financial help. I think that is going too far myself [though I never take a dime!]. The point is it was okay for Christian brothers to help other brothers out when in need. The things that Paul tried to avoid was elders/leaders seeing ministry thru the lens of ‘it’s my job’ type of a thing. But Paul clearly says stuff like ‘they that preach the gospel should live of the gospel’ here he is saying those who are actively giving themselves to teaching the word should be taken care of. I suggest you read the sections ‘what in the world is the church’ and ‘prosperity gospel’ I have many posts in there that deal with this issue. Overall Paul did not forbid fellow believers from helping him, but he certainly did not teach a doctrine of ‘sow into my ministry for a harvest’ type of a thing, in a way where he justified extreme wealth coming from the offerings of the churches. We need to keep the entire story/picture in mind when appealing to these verses in the current day. The New Testament is not a materialistic book, it warns against those who ‘peddle the word’ [taught for money]. It plainly tells leaders ‘don’t do it with financial reward in mind’. In today’s media environment these warnings are mocked and described as ‘that old tradition’ many err because they know not the scriptures.
(1235) 2ND CORINTHIANS 12- Before I get into a long history discussion with you guys, let’s hit a few verses. Paul says ‘when I was with you, did I gain a profit from you, take advantage of you?’ or ‘when I sent Titus, did he gain a profit from you?’ He then goes on and says the fathers lay up money for the kids, not the other way around. He says he has spent out of his own pocket for them, and he will continue to do so. He says he does all this so people won’t have the excuse ‘he’s just in it for the money’. Notice, Paul himself did not have the common mindset we see in ministry today. Often times financial appeals are made from Paul’s writings in Corinthians, these appeals often say ‘we are not asking for ourselves, but for you’ it is put in a way that says it would be wrong to not take money from people. That in some way not taking an offering would violate scripture. Paul flatly said he did not take money from them for personal use, nor would he. When the modern church uses Paul’s other sayings in this letter to appeal to giving, we need to share ‘the whole counsel of God’ not just a few verses that fit in with what we practice. Now, Paul speaks about being caught up into ‘heaven’ [Gods realm-Paradise] and hearing truths from God that were not lawful for men to speak. He states that God gave him truth that came from Divine revelation. If you skip a few pages over in your bible, you will hit Galatians. In the first chapter he says how after he was converted he did not confer with the other leaders at Jerusalem, but received teaching straight from God. Let’s discuss what revelation is, how we come to know things. The last few centuries of the first millennium of Christian history you had the ‘Holy Roman Empire’ which was a political/religious union of church and state. Under the emperor Charlemagne the territories of the empire were vast. Those who came after him did not have the same control over the regions that were vast. Eventually you had a form of rule arise that was called Feudalism; the sections of the empire that were too far to benefit directly from Rome would simply come under the authority of the local strongman [much like the present dilemma in Afghanistan, I think it’s time to get our boys out of that mess]. People would come under the authority of a ruler and he would lease out land to the citizens and they would benefit from his protection. The citizens were called Vassals and the land was called a Fief. At one point king John of England would do public penance in a disagreement he had with the Pope and all of England would become a Fief under the rule of the Pope. Now, this would eventually lead up to the development of the strong nation states, an independent identifying with your state/region as opposed to being under Rome and the papacy. This type of independence would allow for the 16th century reformation to happen under Luther. If it were not for Frederick the Wise, the regional authority in Germany where Luther lived, he would have never had the protection or freedom to launch his reformation. Luther also had the influence of being a scholar at Wittenberg. Around the 12th-13th centuries you had the first university pop up at the great cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. The word university simply meant a co-operative effort from two or more people. It applied to many things besides learning. It was also during this time that the church began to develop a system of harmonizing Christian doctrine; she began to do systematic theology. The writings of the Greek philosophers [Aristotle] were rediscovered after centuries of them being hidden, and the great intellectual Saint Thomas Aquinas would wed Aristotle’s ideas with Christian truth. This became known as Scholasticism. Aquinas believed that men could arrive at a true knowledge of God from pure reason and logic. But man could not know all the truths about God and his nature without ‘special revelation’ [the bible and church tradition]. All Christians did not agree with Aquinas new approach to Christian truth, the very influential bishop Bernard would initially condemn Aquinas over this. Bernard said ‘the faith that believes unto righteousness, believes! It does not doubt’. The Scholastic school taught that the way you arrive at knowledge was thru the continuous questioning and doubting of things until you come to some basic conclusions. These issues would be debated for centuries, and even in the present hour many argue over the issue of Divine revelation versus natural logical reasoning. Tertullian, an early North Afrcian church father, said ‘I believe because it is preposterous, illogical’ he became famous for his saying ‘what does Jerusalem have to do with Athens’ meaning he did not believe that Greek philosophy should have any part with Christian truth. Origen, his contemporary, believed the other way. So the debate rages on. Why talk about this here? Some believers ‘believe’ in a type of knowledge called ‘revelation knowledge’ they mean something different than the historic use of the term. Historically ‘revelation’ meant that which God revealed to us THRU THE BIBLE, not something outside of the bible. For instance, the first canon of scripture put together was by a man called Marcion. His ‘bible’ contained the letters of Paul and parts of :Luke. He believed the revelation God gave Paul was for us today, not the Old Testament or the historical gospels. He was condemned by the church as a heretic. The point being some took Paul’s writings about receiving knowledge from God as an indicator that what God showed Paul was different than what the church got thru the other apostles. In point of fact the things that God revealed to Paul, or to you or me; all truth is consistent, it will not contradict any other part of Gods truth. Paul’s letters are consistent with the gospels, not in contradiction. When believers cling to an idea that their teachers are sharing ‘special revelation’ or a Rhema word that is somehow above the scrutiny of scripture, then they are in dangerous territory. Paul did appeal to his experience with God as a defense of his gospel, but he backed up everything he said with Old Testament scripture. God wasn’t ‘revealing’ things to Paul that were outside of the realm of true knowable ‘truth’. You could examine and test the things Paul was saying, he wasn’t saying ‘because God showed it to me, that’s why I’m correct’. So in today’s church world, we want all the things we learn and believe to be consistent with what the church has believed thru out the centuries. Sure there are always things that are going to be questioned and true reform entails this, but beware of teachers who come to you with ‘revelation knowledge’ or a ‘Rhema word’ that goes against the already revealed word of truth.
(1236) 2ND CORINTHIANS 13- Okay, it took 13 days to do this brief study. Paul finished up his letter by telling them that God gave him authority to build them up, not tear them down. The message bible says ‘to not tear them apart’. Why say this? Because after 13 chapters [yes, I know the chapters are not in the original!] it sure felt like he wrung them thru a wringer. In Jeremiah 1:10 God gives him power to root out, tear down, uproot and also build up. If you read the exact wording Jeremiah does 4 ‘deconstructing acts’ and 2 constructing ones. It is part of leadership to spend more time dealing with the problems than doing the good stuff. Dealing with the problems is actually part of ‘the good stuff’. We spent a few weeks simply trying to look at the context of Paul and his relating to the Corinthians. How many good men and churches spend whole lifetimes quoting a verse or two from this letter, maybe during an offering time. Then applying it in a way that has people focused on money and wealth building [a verse like ‘he became poor so we might be rich’] and yet the verse is totally taken out of context. You might hear it a million times thru out your whole church going experience, and yet never really come to a sober understanding of the text. These types of problems [proof texting] are a major problem in the Protestant/Evangelical churches, good men simply losing their way. Paul was tough on the believers, but when he was thru with them they were much better off for it. The level of correction and reproof in the modern church is very low, we simply do not receive or listen to reproof. Those who wish to excel in their callings and purposes in God are those who listen and make the proper adjustments. Proverbs says reproofs and correction are the path to life. As I finish up another one of our many blog studies, I am not sure what we will do next, but as you read these brief New Testament studies, see them in context. Look at them as whole letters that have meaning, don’t just see individual verses. When you read these letters as a ‘whole’ you will stay on course and avoid the snares and weeds that may prominent preachers and teachers have fallen into, you will avoid the pitfalls of creating a story from a few chopped up sections of a letter. Seeing these wonderful New Testament letters in context will ground you in grace and keep you on course, in the end you will be built up on a good foundation. Like Paul said in his first letter to them ‘if any man build wood, hay, stubble- or precious stones’; the day of judgment will show what you valued the most. Those who take these letters and turn them into moneymaking schemes, or techniques for worldly success, they have built things that will burn up. Those who take these epistles and build their lives on Gods grace and the reality of the Cross, their lives will show good fruit that will not be burned up on the Day of Judgment.