The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Category: 1 Corinthians (page 2 of 5)

Love Behaves

1 Corinthians 13 is not about love as a valued Christian virtue.  It is Paul rebuking and correcting the Corinthian church about the way they’re seeking and using spiritual gifts.  That’s why chapter 13 falls between chapters 12 and 14.

Chapter 12.  Paul points out the Jesus-centeredness of spiritual gifts, identifies the variety of gifts given by the one Spirit for the common good, and reminds the Corinthians that this diversity of gifts function within the unity of the body of Christ.  He concludes the chapter:  “But earnestly desire the higher gifts.  And I will show you a still more excellent way” (12:31).

Chapter 13.  Paul presents love as that most excellent way.  Way to what?  In context, way to seek and serve with spiritual gifts.

Chapter 14.  Paul ties chapter 13 to chapter 14 by starting this chapter with these words:  “Pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.”

Paul begins the famous “love chapter” by clearly connecting love to spiritual gifts (13:1-3).  In short, if I offer spiritual gifts without love I’m just an irritating noise, amount to nothing and profit nothing.

In 13:4-7 Paul tells the Corinthians the way love behaves.  Question:  is he describing love in general or love particularly in relation to spiritual gifts.  The ten or so commentators and preachers I’ve read all infer Paul is describing the way love behaves in general.  But I stubbornly insist he is describing the way love acts, particularly in relation to spiritual gifts.

Let’s see, first, what Paul writes about how love acts . . .

Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud;  love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth.  Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, GNT)

Admittedly, love in general behaves this way.  But Paul is writing about the way love acts in relation to spiritual gifts.  So I infer Paul is rebuking the Corinthians for behaving the opposite way, particularly about gifts.

The Corinthians are annoyed and inconsiderate.  They are jealous, conceited and proud.  They are ill-mannered, selfish and irritable.  They keep a “wrongs-record”.  They’re happy with evil and unhappy with truth.  They give up on others.  Their faith fails.  Their hope fails. Their patience fails.  They are not acting in love toward one another.

Reading chapter 14. I think “confusion” is a telling description of the Corinthian church at worship.  In 14:26 Paul writes, “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.  Let all things be done for building up.”  Paul isn’t affirming their contributions.  His exhortation implies they are offering a hymn, a lesson and so on not for building up (that is, not in love) but out of conceit  and pride and selfishness.  They’re acting rudely, clamoring for their hymn, their revelation, etc.

When it comes to tongues many are speaking (some all at once) without interpretation.  Hence worship is nothing more than “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (see monkey, http://theoldpreacher.com/gifts-no-lovenothing/). 

When it comes to prophesy, a second speaker starts before the first ends.  Soon a half-dozen or more are speaking at once.  Intelligible prophetic speech becomes unintelligible (see same monkey).

All this confusion is committed by people proud of their spirituality and lording it over those with lesser gifts.  This is why Paul writes about the excellency of love as a way.  And why he describes in 13:4-7 the way love acts. He wants the Corinthians to love one another in how they seek and serve their spiritual gifts.  He wants them to be patient and kind toward one another.  Not envious.  Not conceited.  Not proud.  Not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable.  Not keeping a “wrongs record”.  Not happy when evil wins, but happy when truth prevails.  He wants them to bear with one another.  To believe the best about one another.  To have hope in one another.  To endure one another.

In this way, he wants spiritual gifts, not to become an occasion for self-centered confusion, but an occasion for building up one another as the church.

* * * * *

I don’t know of any contemporary church that mimics Corinth.  In fact, I can’t be sure I’ve painted a true picture of that Corinthian church.  But I’m guessing my imagination is pretty close to reality.

What, though,  does it mean to us?  I assume most churches struggle to live up to love-acts in general.  But I don’t know any who blow love-acts as badly as Corinth.  So what’s the lesson for us?

If I’m interpreting these chapters correctly, spiritual gifts are a way for us to love one another by building up one another.  Therefore, we should seek them.

Of course, cessationists (who believe the gifts ended when apostle John breathed his last) will have nothing to do with any of this.  Spiritual gifts are not for today (more about that next time).  Then there are those Pentecostals or Charismatics who believe gifts are for today, but view their gift as their gift.  They prophesy or speak in tongues without one thought of the good of those who hear.  (That’s not true of all, just some.)  And then there are those who believe the gifts are for today (or have no reason not to believe they are), but who don’t desire or pursue them.

And so we come to my take-away:  we ought to pursue them, not so we can say we have a spiritual gift and certainly not so we can show it off.  But we ought to pursue them in prayer so we can help build up the church in love.

That’s why the Holy Spirit gives them.

And it’s why we should prayerfully seek them.

Please like & share:

Gifts + No Love=Nothing

Commentator Leon Morris writes:  “The commentator cannot finish writing on this chapter (13) without a sense that soiled and clumsy hands have touched a thing of exquisite beauty and holiness” (The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians).

Indeed, the “love chapter” stands incomparably above any passage on the subject in Scripture.  But its position between 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 means it’s not a chapter about love per se, but love in the context of spiritual gifts and the Corinthian misuse of them.

Let’s first dispense with the mistaken notion that Paul is setting love against spiritual gifts.  As is clear from 12:31(“But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.”) and 14:1 (“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.”) Paul is admonishing the Corinthians to seek spiritual gifts in love. The “way” is the manner in which the church should exercise gifts.

Second, let’s note that Paul urges upon the Corinthians “the way of love” because (as chapter 14 will make clear) they have self-interest in the gift of tongues instead of a “common good” interest.

Third, let’s realize that for Paul love is an act.  Not an ethical concept or motivation for certain behavior.  It is behavior.

Finally, “love”  is the Greek agapayn—not romantic or friendship love, but love that wills the best for the unlovable.  This is especially pertinent for the Corinthians where some are parading their gifts as marking their spiritual superiority over those “less” gifted.

This isn’t soft language.  Though beautiful in its cadence, Paul means it to cut the Corinthians down to size.  He mentions tongues first, because that’s where the Corinthian abuse lies.  And this abuse affects the person (“I am a noisy gong . . . I am nothing . . . I gain nothing . . . “)  Without love these activities are merely performance, and performance is an act of pride and God opposes the proud (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).

Clearly, the Corinthians and Paul were at odds about the meaning of being “spiritual”.  To the Corinthians it meant spiritual gifts.  To Paul it meant holiness (the Holy Spirit) with love as its primary expression.  Without love the Corinthians’ gifts were nothing more than irritating noise, made them nothing and profited them nothing . . .

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

”  . . . [T]ongues of mortals” refers to unknown human speech inspired by the Spirit.  “Tongues of angels” refers to a heavenly language.  Do the Corinthians (and Paul) believe that some messages in tongues are languages of angels or is Paul saying, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and even of angels . . . “?  Either way, if they don’t speak in love, they are just irritating noise.

To “have love” is to treat others the way God in Christ has treated us . . .

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).

In this second sentence Paul includes three gifts from 12:8-10–prophecy, knowledge and faith.  Dr. Gordon Fee (Professor Emeritus at Regent College) says Paul means  “understand all mysteries and all knowledge”  to refer to ” God’s revelation of his ways, especially in the form of special revelation by means of the eschatological Spirit”.  Even with this great revelation, if it’s not used in love, the speaking is “nothing”.  The

Paul’s third reproof reaches far beyond spiritual gifts . . .

“If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3).

To give all possession is to make the ultimate possessions-sacrifice.  How could such a sacrifice for the poors’ sake not be love?  If it’s done to impress others.

An alternative reading in the Greek is ” . . .if I hand over my body so that I may boast . . . “.  I mention this only because your Bible version may translate it that way.  Though good reasons support this reading, I go with the NIV, ESV and NKJ among others.

Paul here names the ultimate sacrifice in which he gives his body to the flames for someone else.  If not done in love, he profits nothing.

This statement makes it plain Paul isn’t pitting love against spiritual gifts.  Even the greatest personal sacrifice gains nothing if not done in love.

* * * * *

The question  is obvious:  do I love the people among whom I offer my spiritual gifts?  Do I offer my gifts in love?

It seems to me that offering gifts in love requires two changes.  First, a change in the church.  We need to know one another to truly love one another.  Sunday-morning-whole-church-gathering isn’t enough, even if the church is only 50 or so people.  Our solution in the last several decades has been small groups.  But we banged our heads against a wall:  so many people want only Sunday morning.  Therefore, maybe we have to change how we “do” Sunday morning church.  (I know:  easy for me to say; I’m not pastoring any more!)  Maybe we have to lengthen the service a little and make time for small groups within the service.  Obstacles to that too, I know.  But, if we’re going to really love one another and offer our gifts in love, we have to develop meaningful relationships with one another . . .

Second, a change in our hearts.  All the outward changes accomplish nothing, if we’re not changed inwardly.  That, of course, takes time, because the Spirit’s fruit is love–and fruit takes time to grow.  But, in this case, it also takes prayer . . .

“Lord, even after all these years, my heart still bends toward myself.  Too often I’m more concerned about how I look and sound, how I feel, what I need or want.  Change my heart.  Fill it with love, so I really care about what others need.  As impossible as it sounds, baptize me in love so I can love as you do . . . “.

 

 

 

Please like & share:

I Don’t Have It All

Many professing Christians don’t “go to church”.  I don’t have poll numbers; I’m just guessing.  But, based on people I know (including me!), it’s educated guessing.  Why don’t they/we go?

Well, I don’t, because my disability makes it difficult.  If we asked around, we’d hear “hypocrites” or “the preaching” or “the music” or “time” or a dozen other reasons.  But lurking beneath them all lies that notion that church isn’t really necessary.  Or to say it another way, I can do fine, just Jesus and me.

With that in mind, here’s today’s text . . .

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:27-31).

WHO WE ARE

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (12:27).

A stunning statement this.  The church is the earthly,  visible expression of the heavenly, unseen Christ.  Paul’s not painting an idealized, romantic view of the church.  He’s proclaiming what the church actually is. The Spirit lives in every believer who comprises the church.  He literally “connects” the church to Christ.  We can even dare to say the church is the “incarnation” of Christ.

GOD’S APPOINTMENTS

“And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues” (12:28).

“Appointed” translates the Greek etheto, which means “put in place”.  Paul uses it of money he wants the Corinthians to “put aside” as part of his collection for the poor (16:2).  Thus God has “put in place” particular persons with particular gifts for the good of church, Christ’s body.

So now we see the church not only as the body of Christ (his visible “incarnation” on earth “connected” to him by the Holy Spirit.  But we see the church as the “body” in which God has put in place persons with particular spiritual gifts for the common good (“To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good”–12:7).

For the first time he names persons as gifts:  apostles, prophets, and teachers.  Then he reverts to gifts (despite the NIV making them all persons):  miracles, gifts of healing, helping, administration and various kinds of tongues.  These represent a wide range of ministries of the body of Christ.

ARE ALL ALL?

“Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?”  (12:29,30).

Literally the Greek asks, “All are not apostles, are they?  All are not prophets, are they? (Etc . . .) ”  Grammatically his questions  expect a “No” answer.  And Paul wants them  to apply this to themselves and to their enthusiasm for tongues (chapter 14).

All are not all.  Christ’s body has been given a diversity of gifts.  No one member has them all.

GREATER GIFTS, EXCELLENT WAY

“But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way” (12:31).

If we understand Paul to be previously ranking gifts, then “eagerly desire the greater gifts” makes sense.  But, except for “first, second, third” in 12:28 which may be ranking, Paul continually points, not to the ranking of gifts, but to their diversity.  If so, how are we to understand this imperative about desiring (Greek zayloute–to set one’s heart on, to eagerly seek) the greater gifts?

Again, Paul is confronting the Corinthians’ abuse of tongues.  “Greater gifts” are intelligible gifts, not a gift no one can understand (tongues without interpretation).  Paul will make that clear in chapter 14.

Since his second exhortation in 14:1 is “eagerly desire the spiritual gifts”, chapter 13 is something of a self-interruption.  However, Paul isn’t showing them a better gift, but a better way  to use those gifts.  This he will do in chapter 13.

In 12:27-31, then, Paul mostly repeats himself by way of concluding what he wants to tell the Corinthians in this part of his letter.  The church is the one body of Christ.  Each of them belongs.  And not all have all gifts.  Desire gifts, yes.  But let it be the greater ones.

TAKE-AWAY

Earlier this morning I read the news and commentaries–plenty of politics, too much about transgenderism, woeful reports about Middle East wars and global terrorism and so on.  The jump to spiritual-gifts-talk feels like a jump to irrelevance.  An escape to religious talk that has little to do with life in today’s world.

Then I think: not so.  While we can wander into the weeds of spiritual minutiae, spiritual gifts are very much relevant–not just to the church, but the church in the world.  One might argue that the church in America has little influence on public life (such as in the universities).  And how are we doing making converts?  The church needs to be stronger, more robust in getting out the gospel and in living it before a watching world.

And God gives spiritual gifts for the strengthening of the church.  (“ . . . since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church”–14:12).

But, as noted in the opening paragraph above, many of us aren’t part of the church.  This not only weakens the church, it weakens us.  Of course we can study the Scripture and worship alone.  But we can’t have all the Spirit’s gifts alone.  Many of those gifts reside in my fellow believers.  I have mine, but I don’t have theirs.  I don’t have it all.

Paul is reminding Corinthians within the church:  “The Spirit gives a diversity of gifts.  No one believer has them all.”  Implication:  we need one another to enjoy the benefits of all the Spirit’s gifts.

I’m extending that to say, “Believers who exclude church miss much of what the Spirit gives for our common good.”  For the church to be strongest for Christ in world, we all need to participate, because we each bring our giftedness.  And for the single believer to be strongest for Christ, he/she needs to participate, because we can receive others’ giftedness.

Otherwise, the church is like a body missing a foot or a finger.  And the believer is like a foot or a finger floating alone against the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

Please like & share:

Made By the Spirit

Cultivating a sense of community in the church has probably never been a greater challenge.  Even greater is cultivating an environment where every member contributes to the spiritual health of the whole.  And, the bigger the church the higher the challenge.

Should the church even be a community with each member giving something to it?  The question underscores the challenge.  Despite what I see as gains in recent years, the church is still largely viewed as a meeting to attend.  The Bible (read “God”) sees it differently:  the church is what believers in Christ together are.  More radically, the church is the body of Christ.

Before I run on pontificating, let’s get to today’s text in our journey through 1 Corinthians (which, more extensively, is a journey through the New Testament).

ONE BODY, MANY MEMBERS

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit.  For the body does not consist of one member but of many (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).

With “[f]or”, Paul compares the diversity of spiritual gifts in the one church with the human body.  The many-membered human body is one body.  “ . . . so it is with Christ”; that is, with the church, the body of Christ.

How do diverse people–“Jews or Greeks, slaves or free”–become members of one church?  Well, by completing a membership application and being approved by the elders. Right?  Not really.  Churches do that for legal reasons, but it’s not how people spiritually become members.

Well, then,  by agreeing to the church’s doctrine?  That’s crucial, but not according to Paul.

” . . . in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body . . . and all were made to drink of the one Spirit.”

By”baptism”–not in water, but “in one Spirit”.  By “drinking” (or being filled with) that one Spirit.  These are not two different experiences, but one, and refers to conversion or being born again.

God the Holy Spirit is the dynamic force of conversion.  He  “immerses” converts into the one body of Christ and is the one Spirit who fills (“drink”) all converts.  For Paul, the unity of many members doesn’t center in doctrinal agreement (as important as that is) but in their common experience in the Holy Spirit.  Yet, it is the same Holy Spirit who creates diversity:  “For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”

DIVERSITY

 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?   But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? (1 Corinthians 12:15-19).

 Paul uses the diversity of the human body to point to the diversity of the body of Christ.  Foot, hand, ear, eye–each has its different function, but all belong.  Nor is the whole body composed of one member.  Members differ, arranged as God willed.

Implication:  so the body of Christ isn’t all tongues (the Corinthians exalted that gift above all others–see Chapter 14).  Members of the body of Christ have diverse gifts as God chooses.

Sadly, talk like this seems irrelevant to many churches today.  If they don’t deny spiritual gifts altogether, little time or place exists for them to be expressed.  Thus the church is weakened, as is the human body if the legs are paralyzed or eyes blind.  Or if, like the Corinthians, the church majors in one or two gifts to the exclusion of the others.

UNITY

As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.  The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1 Corinthians 12:20-26).

 The human body–with diverse parts, each necessary, including unpresentable parts treated with modesty–is a unity.  Diversity (which Paul has just stressed) isn’t an end in itself; diversity must function in essential unity.

Paul personifies body-members.  They “talk”!  But none can say, “I don’t need you.”  Perhaps certain church members with certain gifts oozed that attitude.  “But God has so composed the body . . . ”  He’s made no hierarchy of persons or of gifts.

Such hierarchy divides.  “But God has so composed the body” so that there be no division.  Here is where Paul draws the net tighter around the Corinthians.  While it’s true a bad toothache makes you hurt all over or headache-relief makes you feel better all over, Paul is clearly implying that this should be true of the body of Christ–that  ” . . . the members may have the same care for one another.”

SOUND-DOCTRINE CHURCHES

Sadly, what Paul appeals to as the church’s source of unity (namely, members’ common experience in the Holy Spirit) has become a source of division. The gulf between “charismatic” churches and non-charismatic churches is wide, with each largely caracituring the other.

That being said, I think it’s safe to observe that typically, “sound-doctrine churches” minimize the role of the Spirit.  As if the Spirit only “gifts” intellectually, they “center-stage” preaching to the exclusion of Spirit-led worship and the expression of spiritual gifts.  They find unity in doctrinal agreement, not experience in the Spirit (as Paul did).

So they often pass over an astounding miracle to be celebrated:  God the Holy Spirit actually lives inside Christ’s converts to express himself through those converts for their common strengthening.

That upbuilding–that unity–can’t be programmed.  Not by “professional” worship teams.  Not by doctrinal statements.  Certainly not by ecumenical movements.  Only the Holy Spirit can do that.  It’s up to us, then, to pray for the Spirit to sovereignly move upon us . . .

Please like & share:

Different Gifts, Same Spirit, Common Good

Without openness to the Holy Spirit, gathered worship becomes a pep rally (the worship team as cheerleaders) or a classroom (the pastor as professor).  Expectations center almost entirely on the “up-front” people.  Welcome to today’s typical evangelical church.

Different scenario with the Corinthians.  Spiritual gifts fascinated them to the point that Paul wrote to rein them in.  He writes 1 Corinthians 12-14, not to offer comprehensive spiritual-gifts-theology, but to pastorally correct the church’s abuse of them.

Paul had reminded them that all spiritual utterances do not come from the Holy Spirit, only those that acknowledge Jesus as Lord (12:1-3).  Now, in 12:4-11, he lists a variety of gifts, so the church will learn that the one Holy Spirit gives a diversity of gifts (not just tongues–the Corinthians’ gift of choice) for the good of all.

GOD-ROOTED DIVERSITY (12:4-6)

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

Gifts (charismaton), service (diakoniown), and working (energown) are different ways of expressing what Paul in 12:7 calls the “manifestation” (phanerosis) or “expression, demonstration” or “display” of the Spirit.  The distributions of the Spirit are many, but all come from the same Spirit, Lord and God.

Thus Paul pictures the Trinity.  But “Lord” (Jesus) has special significance since the Corinthians exuded spiritual pride over certain spiritual gifts.  “Lord” and “service” remind them that the spiritually-gifted are servants of all.

DIVERSE GIFTS TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE FOR THE GOOD OF ALL (12:7)

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

By one sentence Paul captures the heart of chapter 12.  Each one can participate.  What are called “gifts” Paul here calls “the manifestation of the Spirit”–an expression of the Spirit’s presence among them.  And these Spirit-manifestations to each one are given, not for the good of the recipient, but for the good of all.

DIVERSE GIFT-LIST (12:8-10)

To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,  to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

Other gifts in other lists (1 Corinthians 12:28,29, Romans 12:6-8, Ephesians 4:8-14 and 1 Peter 4:10,11) show that this list isn’t exhaustive.  And who know how many more ways the Holy Spirit might manifest himself not identified in Scripture?

Looking at Paul’s list here, we want a technical explanation for what each gift is.  Paul doesn’t explain, so we’re left to deduce from what he does say elsewhere about some gifts and just plain guess about others.

The message of wisdom and the message of knowledge.  These are mentioned nowhere else, so welcome to educated-guessing!  Wayne Grudem (theologian, professor, author) suggests the first may be the ability to speak the right word at the right time, the second the ability to impart timely insight, both to others for their sake (Systematic Theology).

Faith.  Not saving faith (Ephesians 2:8,9), this is probably a supernatural “certainty” that God will reveal his power in a special way for a particular circumstance.

Gifts of healing(s).   Even a quick-read of the New Testament reveals that Jesus, Paul and first century Christians regularly expected God would heal physical bodies.  These gifts are Holy Spirit-manifestations to do just that.  The plural probably implies a variety of gifts and healings for a variety of illness.

Miraculous powers.  This probably refers to other kinds of miraculous workings apart from healing.

Prophecy.  “ . . . the evidence in [1 Corinthians 14) indicates that it consists of spontaneous, Spirit-inspired, intelligible messages, orally delivered in the gathered assembly, intended for the edification or encouragement of the people” (Gordon Fee, theologian and Professor Emeritus at Regent College).  It is not telling the future!

Distinguishing between spirits.  In 14:29, Paul writes, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.”  Perhaps this (the ability to discern the spirit/Spirit source of a prophetic utterance is what Paul means by this gift.  On the other hand, Grudem defines it as “the ability to recognize the influence of the Holy Spirit or of demonic spirits in a person” (Systematic Theology, p. 1082).

Different kinds of tongues. The Greek word, glosa, means the physical tongue or language. Unfortunately, translators have stuck with “tongues” when “languages” might have been more appropriate.  Grudem defines:  “ . . . a prayer or praise spoken (spontaneously) in syllables not understood by the speaker.”  Thus it is speech directed to God,whereas prophecy is directed to the people.   

The interpretation of tongues.  Hermayneea can mean “translation” or “interpretation”.  The latter is better here, since we have no indication that the “interpreter” is giving a word-for-word translation of the message in tongues.  Rather he is explaining what the tongues-speaker has said.  Together with interpretation, the gift of tongues “builds up” the church (14:5), functioning similar to prophecy.  Without interpretation, the message in tongues is unintelligible and useless for the church (14:28).

Sovereign Distribution (12:11)

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

Giftedness doesn’t depend on the recipient.  The Spirit is sovereign and he gives gifts/manifestations as he chooses.  But, whatever the gift, it is the work of the same Spirit.  Thus, Paul puts the spiritually-proud Corinthians in their “place”, humbled under the sovereign Spirit.

* * * *

Most of our churches today don’t share the Corinthians’ problem.  We don’t need to be told, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good . . . All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines”(12:7,11). 

Why?  Because most of our worship gatherings are packed with singing, preaching, maybe praying, announcements and offerings.  The focus is “up front” and there’s no quiet time to “reach out” for what the Spirit may choose to do.  How sad when he has so much to give for the good of the church and the glory of the Lord Jesus!

So my conclusion today is a prayer-worship song.  What might the Spirit do if the church (even some members) faithfully prayed it?  And if we made time for the Spirit to “rain down”?

 

 

 

 

Please like & share:

About “Spirituals”

I’m not referring to a music genre.  I’m using Paul’s word in 1 Corinthians 12:1—“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.”  The word “gifts” is absent from the Greek (showing up in 12:4); hence, “spirituals” (pneumatikown).

Before we embark (the spiritual gifts topic continues through chapter 14), we should note the cessationist/continuationist debate.  Cessantionists believe spiritual gifts ceased with the death of the last of the twelve apostles.  Continuationists believe (duh) gifts continue and will until Jesus comes again.

This is more than counting angels on a pinhead.  If the gifts have ceased, 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 have no meaning for us today (nor do Romans 12:5-8 or 1 Peter 4:10,11)—unless the cessationist is eliminating only the “spectacular” gifts like prophecy, healing and tongues (gets confusing, doesn’t it).

The links below present both positions well and are worth reading.  If the first one convinces you, no need to continue reading this post.

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-i-am-a-cessationisthttps://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-i-am-a-continuationist

We don’t know if the Corinthians had asked about spiritual gifts (7:1), but we do know Paul wants them “in the know” about pneumatikown. 

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed (1 Corinthians 12:1).

 What he first wants them to know comes unexpectedly . . .

You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak (1 Corinthians 12:2).

Paul has in view their former experiences of “inspired utterances” as pagans.  Even though idols are “mute”, demons lurk behind them (10:20) and inspire the utterances featured in idol-worship.

Why, though, did Paul bring that up?  He wants the Corinthians to know that “inspired” speech in itself is not evidence of the Holy Spirit.

In one church I pastored, a dear old saintly woman invariably gave a message in tongues at the end of our worship singing. It came like clockwork and eventually distracted.  When I cautioned her about it, she left the church.  Were her messages from the Holy Spirit?  I don’t know.  But inspired speaking in and of itself is not necessarily Spirit-prompted.

Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3).

Paul is saying, “Since I don’t want you to be uninformed about things of the Spirit, and since you’re familiar with inspired utterances from your pagan days, I want you to understand ‘that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says, “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.’”

Did anyone, purportedly influenced by the Spirit, actually say, “Let Jesus be cursed”?  We’re not told.  But we can agree Paul is making at least three assertions.  One, the content of “Spirit-speaking” is crucial. Not its length or volume or “theatrics”, but its content.  And, by implication, the content must harmonize with the gospel.

Two, it follows, then, that the content of the utterance determines its source. If it harmonizes with the gospel, it’s Spirit-given.  If it doesn’t, it isn’t (no matter how it feels!).

And, three, only the Holy Spirit can inspire anyone to confess “Jesus is Lord”.  Anybody can merely mouth the words.  But only by the Spirit can a sinful human profess absolute allegiance to Jesus as his God and Master of the universe.

* * * * *

I’m a continuationist (or I wouldn’t waste time commenting on 1 Corinthians 12-14).  However, I’m not ignorant of excess and abuse in the charismatic camp.  Growing up in a Pentecostal church, for example, I saw the reverential place accorded a message in tongues, and how it sometimes became an automatic part of the worship order.  Worse abuses have occurred; but I’ve seen them mostly on TV, rarely in person.

I’m convinced some Christians are cessationist because of these abuses.  A second reason (in my opinion) is that some cessationist pastors actually fear giving people freedom in worship to respond to the Spirit (but I digress).

The important take-away for us is this:  the Holy Spirit will always exalt the Lord Jesus.  In fact, as Paul says, the Holy Spirit will enable one to say, “Jesus is Lord”.  This is astounding.  To say “Jesus is Lord” is to say he is the Yahweh (LORD) of the Old Testament.  To say “Jesus is Lord” is to say he is God.  To say “Jesus is Lord” is to say he is worthy of absolute allegiance.  To say “Jesus is Lord” is to say what every human will be finally compelled to acknowledge.  And only the Holy Spirit can enable a self-seeking, self-centered sinner to utter that confession.

Someone has said, “The Holy Spirit is the shy member of the Trinity.”  In other words, he doesn’t draw attention to himself, but to Jesus.  Spiritual gifts are another way God the Father has given us to glorify his Son.  They weren’t given to stir up controversy.  Nor were they given for a mere 70 years.  They were given to glorify Jesus in his church until he comes for us.

So, as we embark on Paul’s words about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14, we don’t want to pursue them for their own sake.  We want to seek them for Jesus’ sake:  that he might be glorified in his church as we experience the dynamic of his presence among his gathered people.

 

 

Please like & share:

The Lord’s Supper: the Unworthy Way

Some believers vehemently bar unbelievers from the Lord’s Supper.  That, however, isn’t “the unworthy way” Paul discusses here.

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:27).

Paul now applies to the Corinthians what he’s just said concerning the words Jesus spoke about the Lord’s Supper.

Bottom line warning: they’re eating and drinking “in an unworthy manner”–the manner he’d described a few sentences earlier . . .

So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter (1 Corinthians 11:20-22).

That’s unworthy behavior at the Table where the Lord’s death is proclaimed–the death that brought salvation, the death that united them as the New Covenant people of God.

Thus, they are “guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.”  They’re desecrating the Supper.  They’re as guilty as those who had him killed.

Sound harsh?  That’s how sacred the Supper is.  Therefore, Paul urges . . .

Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup (1 Corinthians 11:28).

Paul begins this sentence with “But” (Greek, de), which the NIV doesn’t translate.  In contrast to eating and drinking unworthily everyone ought to examine themselves . . . “

“Examine” is the Greek dokimazo—“to try to learn the genuineness of something by examination and testing”  (The Greek-English Lexicon by Louw and Nida).  Paul admonishes each one to determine the genuineness of his/her faith by examining his/her attitude and behavior toward others at the Supper.  Paul aims this especially at the wealthy who are humiliating the poor.

For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.  That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians11:29,30).

“For” indicates the reason for self-examination:  judgment!  “ . . . the body of Christ” refers not to Christ’s physical body, but the church.”  But what does he mean by “discerning (or, recognizing) the body of Christ”?  Dr. Gordon Fee answers . . .

The meaning here . . . [is] to distinguish as distinct and different.  The Lord’s Supper is not just any meal; it is the meal, in which at a common table with one loaf and a common cup they proclaimed that through the death of Christ, they were one body, the body of Christ; and therefore they are not just any group of sociologically diverse people who could keep those differences intact at the this table.  Here they must “discern/recognize as distinct” the one body of Christ, of which they all are parts and in which they all are gifts to one another (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 564).

Failure to recognize the body this way and they “eat and drink [God’s] judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.” This judgment takes the form of physical weakness and sickness and even death (“fallen asleep”).

But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world (1 Corinthians 11:31,32).

Paul turns to a positive note.  If they were more discerning (11:29), they would not be judged as they are (11:30). This judgment, however, is not eternal damnation, but discipline (Greek, paiduometha—correction, guidance as moral discipline).

God disciplines (with weakness, sickness, even death) for a purpose: so that we will not be condemned with the world at final judgment.

So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together.  Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions  (1 Corinthians 11:33,34).

Paul offers two practical instructions.  “ . . . you should all eat together” (NIV) is better translated “wait for one another” or “welcome one another”.  In either case, Paul urges them (the rich in particular) to be hospitable to the poor by not feasting on their lavish meals before the poor even arrive.

Second instruction,  “Anyone hungry should eat something at home . . . “  In other words, if you must gorge yourself on your rich food, eat it first at home “so that when you meet together it may not result in {God’s) judgment.”

* * * * *

Unlike the Corinthians, we don’t humiliate the poor at the Lord’s Supper.  Our problem (at least one): we so personalize the “meal” that we hardly think of it as a community experience at all.

Yes we know we’re all being served and all eat and drink together.  But our methodology makes the Lord’s Supper rather like a group going to a Sonic Drive-In.  We all drive in, order our food through the parking space intercom, our food is brought out, and we each eat in the privacy of our car.  Okay, that’s a stretch.  But it makes a point:  our celebration of the Lord’s Supper is far more personal than inter-relational.

In one church I pastored, we tried something different.  Small groups met in various homes on a weeknight.  Once a month each group’s members brought a covered dish.  We climaxed the meal with the Lord’s Supper.  That setting maximized the meal’s community nature.  Not every church can or will do that.  But this text should challenge us to ask, “How can we decrease the privatizing of the Lord’s Supper and increase the community of it?”

Two other considerations.  At the start of the Supper the pastor urges reconciliation for any broken relationship.  Meal participants forgive a brother in personal prayer, then go to the brother afterward to affirm unity.

A second:  ask the Lord whom you should reach out to during the Supper.  Then, quietly go sit next to that person, whispering, “I just want you to know I appreciate you” or “I felt led to share Communion with you.”  (If that person is different from you racially or economically, the more meaningful will be your reaching out.  For only here is our hope for the unity of a violently divided humanity!)

Certainly the Lord’s Supper provides opportunity to reflect on the Lord’s death for us personally.  Apart from his bloody sacrifice, we’re lost, condemned sinners.  But the Supper is a meal at which we must affirm, not only out faith-unity with Christ, but our love-unity with one another.

“Because there is one bread, who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17).

 

 

 

 

Please like & share:

The Lord’s Supper: What HE Said

The wounded God.  A contradiction in terms.  How could God be wounded?  And what does it mean about how we participate in the Lord’s Supper?

In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 Paul reminds the church what the Lord himself said about the Supper.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you . . . (1 Corinthians 11:23a).

 Paul had passed on a sacred tradition.  But how had he “received [it] from the Lord?  He probably doesn’t mean Jesus personally spoke these words to him, rather that Jesus is the source of the tradition.  Either way, the words throb with authority.   Thus when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we are enacting what he commanded.

 The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:23b,24).

 Paul takes us back to “the night [Jesus] was betrayed, back to that upper room in Jerusalem, before Judas’ final act of handing Jesus over to the Jewish authorities.

This is the Jewish Passover, but Jesus reinterpreted the significance of the bread.  “This is my body . . . ” Jesus was speaking what has been called “semitic imagery.”  The bread didn’t substantially change into his physical body any more than the cup changed into the new-covenant blood.  The bread signifies or represents Jesus body which will be given over to death.

” . . . which is for you . . . ” This bread represents my body which will be given over to death for you.”  That is, in behalf of or in place of those eating the bread.  The words echo Isaiah 53:12, where the prophet proclaims, “For he bore the sins of many.”  So by inviting the disciples to eat the bread which represents his body, Jesus calls them to participate in his death’s benefits.

” . . . do this in remembrance of me” hints that the disciples (and the church) are to repeat this Supper.  Passover reminded Israel of rescue from slavery; the Lord’s Supper is to remind Jesus’ followers of the salvation Jesus provided by his death.

Already we see how Paul uses this paragraph to reprove and correct the rich Corinthians who are humiliating the poor at the Lord’s Supper.  All the suffering Jesus endured in his Passion was for others.  So the wealthy Corinthians, feasting on the meal before the Lord’s Supper, must stop corrupting the meaning of the Supper and consider the plight of their poor brothers.

 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25).

 At Passover, bread was eaten early on and this cup of wine “after supper.”  Jesus identified that cup as “the new covenant in my blood.”  The new covenant.  The covenant prophesied by Jeremiah (626-586 B.C.) . . .

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, ” declares the LORD.  “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
The covenant binds together a new community of God’s people in whose minds the Lord writes his law, who belong to God as his people, who will all know him “from the least of them to the greatest” and whose sins the Lord no longer holds against them.

Again, the Lord’s Supper is not to be a one-time or even annual event.  ” . . . whenever you drink it” implies regularly repeating it, as a means of recalling the new covenant ratified by Jesus blood and the community bound together by it.

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).

 “For” indicates the reason given for regularly repeating the Supper.  It is a proclamation of the Lord’s death for them.  When Jesus’ words are read at the Supper, they proclaim his death.  And when they eat the bread and drink from the cup, they proclaim the covenant his death ratified.

The Lord’s Supper words proclaim the salvation of a people.  This makes the division between wealthy and poor participants particularly egregious.  Christ’s body and blood are for them all—rich and poor.  What the Supper signifies is what unites them–and what makes division a corruption of the gospel’s heart.

At the same time the Supper looks back to Jesus’ words and death, it looks ahead to Jesus’ return. Paul is thinking eschatologically.  The church is to do this “until [the Lord] comes.”  They await a glorious future as part of the people of God through Christ.

* * * * *

Jesus’ words remind us how offensive it is to be divided from our brother or sister at the Lord’s Supper.  It’s the place for reconciliation–between us and God and between us and our fellow believer.

Rather than focusing on keeping unbelievers out, perhaps we should focus more on drawing believers together.

For then we will truly honor our Lord whose body was for our benefit and whose blood ratified the new covenant that makes us the new and one people of God.

 

Please like & share:

The Lord’s Supper: Splits

At the church we planted in New Jersey, small groups met weekly in various homes.  Once a month, each shared a covered-dish dinner climaxed by the Lord’s Supper.

That’s what the Corinthians did (though we don’t know how often).  According to Dr. Gordon Fee the church gathered in the homes of the rich.  Archaeology has shown that the dining room (the triclinium) in those homes would accommodate only a few guests.  So most would eat in the entry courtyard (the atrium) which would hold about 30-50,

“It would be sociologically natural for the host to invite those of his/her own class to eat in the triclinium, while the others would eat in the atrium.  It is probable that the language ‘one’s own supper’ (11:21) refers to the eating of ‘private meals’ by the wealthy, in which, at the common meal of the Lord’s Supper, they ate either their own portions or perhaps privileged portions that were not made available to the ‘have-nots’” (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 534).

Therefore, after Paul’s mild reproof of the women without head-coverings in Worship (11:2-16), he sharpens his rhetoric and addresses the Supper abuse . . .

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good 1 Corinthians 11:17).

Paul’s praised them for maintaining the traditions (11:2), but can’t commend them for their gatherings together which are (literally) “not for the better, but for the worse.”

In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it (11:18).

Unlike the division of favorite preachers (1:10-17), these divisions (schismata)  occur when they “come together as a church.”  So scandalous is their behavior, and yet apparently so credible the informants, “to some extent” Paul believes it.

No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk (11:19-21).

Divisions are not unexpected.  Jesus warned, “Many will give up their faith at that time; they will betray one another and hate one another” (Matthew 24:10-12).  These “differences” distinguish the God-approved, God-tested genuine believers from the false.  The distinguishing mark is not their belief system but their behavior in line with the gospel.

The Corinthians supposedly eat the meal and the Lord’s Supper to honor the Lord in the presence of his Spirit.  Instead they’re eating their own “private suppers.”  By “go ahead with your own private suppers” Paul means they start earlier than the poor in the atrium.  They also had larger meals as implied by, “As a result one person remains hungry and another gets drunk.”

The meal is designed to express their oneness in Christ.  “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body . . . “ (1 Corinthians 10:17).  Instead it reveals how separated they really are.

Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter (1 Corinthians 11:22).

Paul’s questions cut.  Don’t you have homes in which to eat and drink your lavish meals?  Therefore, the second question:  Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing?  Their behavior at the meal should show they value the church as one body in Christ.  But by humiliating the poor, they’re showing contempt for God’s church as if it is valueless.

No way can Paul praise them in this!

So the meal represents their unity in Christ.  Paul will remind them what the Lord himself said about that next time.  For now, what can we take away?

* * * * *

We don’t abuse the poor at the Lord’s Supper.  (No chance.  We don’t eat a meal!)  But we have another means of abuse:  a broken relationship with a fellow believer.  How often two feuding brothers in Christ eat and drink at the Table as if they’re not!  Like the Corinthians, they show contempt for God’s church.

Should we, then, not participate?  I’ve got a better way.

The Lord’s Supper is an ideal time for reconciliation.  If I’m in conflict with a fellow believer, in private prayer during the Supper I can ask forgiveness for myself and give forgiveness to my brother.  Then, after, I can go and ask his forgiveness for my blame in the conflict.

Conflicts in the church are inevitable.  Relationships fall into a hard freeze.

But at the Lord’s Table, as we remember his sacrificial love for us, our hearts can soften, conflicts can melt, and we sinners saved by grace can be one again.

 

 

Please like & share:

Head Coverings Redux

I received a reply from a friend about “Women at Worship” (http://theoldpreacher.com/women-at-worship/).  She asked if 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 was just for the Corinthian situation or is there application for us.  I’ll offer what I can.

First, here’s the text . . .

I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.  But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.  For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.  A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.  It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?  Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

In my view, the woman’s head covering was just for the Corinthian situation  (as well as the other churches of God), but not directly applicable to us today.

When Paul writes “we have no  other practice”, he uses the Greek sunaythaya, which is used of an established practice and so is translated “habit, usage, custom”.  In 1 Corinthians 8:7  Paul writes, “Some people are still so accustomed to idols . . . ”   John uses it in John 18:39–“But you have a custom, that I should release one man for you at the Passover.”

I take it to mean, therefore, that the head covering was a custom for them, not a moral law for everyone.  It had significance in that culture, but doesn’t transfer to all cultures.  Historically, this is how the church has interpreted it.

Now, about the more troublesome, “Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?”  I tend to agree with Dr. Gordon Fee who comments, ” . . . by  ‘nature’ Paul meant the natural feelings of their contemporary culture.  After all, according to Acts 18:18 (“Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken.”) implies Paul had long hair.  If Paul meant “nature” literally, he violated his own teaching.

Not all commentators agree, taking “nature” literally as the natural world as God made it.  However, if Paul is establishing a “moral law” based on literal “nature, logic would then demand women wear some type of head covering in worship today.”

The application, as I see it, is that the woman maintain her hair and dress in a way that distinguishes her from the man.  That, of course, will differ from culture to culture and is open to fairly wide interpretation.

Not the most satisfying explanation, I know.  And, of course, our interpretation is hindered by the absence of anything related elsewhere in Scripture and our lack of knowledge of all that was going on in Corinth.

Nevertheless, for what my view is worth, I take 1 Corinthian 11:2-16 to address what was customary in that culture.  Any application is indirect.

Not many Scriptures are “mysterious” like this one.  We can be thankful that Gospel truths are crystal clear . . .

“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles . . . ” (1 Corinthians 15:1-7).

 

 

 

 

Please like & share:
Older posts Newer posts

© 2018 The Old Preacher

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)