Up from the Grave with the Knows!

November 20, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | Leave a comment
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Some of the church members in Corinth were denying the bodily resurrection of believers. This was the last major problem that Paul addressed in his letter to them, which we know as I Corinthians.

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

I Corinthians 15:12

How had this error infiltrated the church? The Greeks did not believe in resurrection, as shown in the teachings of Gnosticism. Other notable groups which rejected the idea of bodily resurrection included pagan religions, the Jewish sect known as the Sadducees, and the followers of the heretic, Marcion. The reason that the Holy Spirit had Paul begin his discussion with Jesus’s Resurrection is that the Corinthian Christians couldn’t have really become Christians without believing that Jesus Himself had risen from the grave. They would still be “Know-Nots” if they did not know this basic tenet of the Gospel message.

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

I Corinthians 15:1-4

After addressing their denial of resurrection, Paul went on to give a demonstration of the evidence for resurrection. Jesus had appeared after His death in His own body to Peter and the 12 Apostles (v. 5), and had even appeared to over 500 brethren at one time, most of whom were still alive when Paul wrote this (v. 6). Jesus had appeared to James (v. 7) and even to Paul himself, and nobody had been more changed by Christ’s Resurrection than Paul.

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:

I Corinthians 15:13

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:

I Corinthians 15:16

After dealing with the denial and the demonstration of resurrection, Paul addressed the drama of resurrection.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

I Corinthians 15:20

“Firstfruits” is both an agricultural reference, and a reference to the Old Testament practice of giving to God the first part of a crop as a dedicatory sacrifice. Christ came from the grave (the ground) first, and we who are in Him shall be the “crop” which God has promised to bless with growth and harvest afterwards.

For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

I Corinthians 15:21-22

Here we see the principle of “federal headship.” Just as Adam was our accurate representative as a disobedient sinner, so shall Christ be the accurate representative of obedience and righteousness for all who are in Him.

But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.

I Corinthians 15:23

Christ’s Resurrection was a dramatic victory over sin, death, and the grave, and it has eschatological consequences, too.

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

I Corinthians 15:26-28

This is our victory over death in Christ. Nothing shall be lost for the victorious God – even our decayed and sin-sick and death-sleeping bodies – shall be redeemed and regenerated.

In addition to the denial, demonstration, and drama of resurrection, Paul had to make sure and emphasize the demands of resurrection. First of all, the knowledge of our future resurrection should motivate us to be baptized.

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

I Corinthians 15:29

Second, the knowledge of our future resurrection should motivate us to endure persecution.

And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.

I Corinthians 15:30-32

Third, future bodily resurrection demands that we live a holy life and avoid sin.

Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.

I Corinthians 15:34

Fourth, it demands that we be prepared for Christ to come back.

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

I Corinthians 15:51-52

Fifth, it forces us to remember that a life spent serving Christ is not in vain.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

I Corinthians 15:58

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Practical Principles for Policing the Exercise of Spiritual Gifts in Church

November 6, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | Leave a comment
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In I Corinthians Chapter 14 the Holy Spirit through Paul addressed some of the confusion and even chaos caused by the misuse of spiritual gifts in the church services at Corinth. First of all, he stressed that spiritual gifts are supposed to be used for edification.

Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

I Corinthians 14:1

The gift of prophesying would be better than being able to speak supernaturally in a different language because the speaker would be understood, and people would be edified and exhorted, rather than merely amazed.

But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

I Corinthians 14:3-4

Remember, these gifts are primarily for the edification of people who are already SAVED – the “Church.”

Spiritual gifts are also supposed to be educational.

Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?

I Corinthians 14:6

The gift itself might sound cool when demonstrated, but unless it has some spiritual truth or value to it that can be UNDERSTOOD, who is going to learn anything from it?

And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?

I Corinthians 14:7

Musical sounds only amount to cacophony unless they have rhythmic breaks, and some pattern to the notes and sounds.

For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

I Corinthians 14:8

We recognize “tunes,” and can be educated by them, if they are organized and orderly.

So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.

I Corinthians 14:9

My wife’s grandmother used to have a piano in her home, and she hated it when, at family gatherings, the little kids would sit down and begin banging away at the keys without any understanding of how to play the instrument. “That’s not music; that’s noise!” she would yell. Random sounds don’t educate anyone, but there is also an allusion in this passage of Scripture to the pagan practice of loud cacophonous music which played on the emotions, but did not appeal to the intellect. The Corinthian believers had been saved out of idolatry, so they would have been familiar with the reference.

Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.

I Corinthians 14:20

Christians are to be child-like, yes, but not childISH. We must grow up into maturity in the use of our spiritual gifts. We should be “Knows” about our spiritual gifts, but be “Know-nots” about “malice” – evil, selfish intentions and motivations.

In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

I Corinthians 14:21-22

If the believers used tongues for the purpose of NOT being understood, it would be a sign of judgment against unbelievers.

If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

I Corinthians 14:23

Again, these gifts were given for the CHURCH, not unbelievers; whereas, when the Word of God is spoken for the purpose of educating, even the uneducated can be convinced that there is something worth learning here.

But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

I Corinthians 14:24-25

Babbling and gibberish would not impress a Corinthian pagan. He would think, “This is no different than the temple of Aphrodite – pass the wine and bring me a hooker.”

So, while the spiritual gifts were to be sought and used in the church, they also needed to be given the proper esteem. They were to be given the correct place in the organized church service, and practiced with decency and order.

If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

I Corinthians 14:27-28

There were rules for this sort of thing, and while the specific precepts may not be applicable to us today, certainly the principles of having orderly church services still apply.

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

I Corinthians 14:33

The gift of tongues in the institution of the New Testament church was, in one sense, a reversal of the confounding of languages at the tower of Babel – for Christianity is an inclusive faith. It is for all nations, tribes, and tongues – there is diversity and unity.

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

I Corinthians 14:34-35

The prohibition on women to keep “silent” was addressing a specific problem in 1st Century Corinth, and is a general prohibition against chaos and defiance of authority, but it is not a literal injunction against women uttering a word in church

Let all things be done decently and in order.

I Corinthians 12:40

“All things” include the exercise of spiritual gifts, which are for edification, edification, and are to be rightly esteemed.

Love and Order

October 24, 2017 at 10:25 am | Posted in I Corinthians | 1 Comment
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Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

I Corinthians 13:1

The reference to speaking with the tongues of angels appears to be hyperbole, which is a common device used in Paul’s letters, although it is taken by some as evidence of a heavenly language spoken by angels and unknown on earth except by people with a gift for ecstatic utterances. The mention of sounding brass and tinkling cymbals is a warning against the cacophonous sounds and the disorder that would result from people speaking different languages all at once. It is also an allusion to the pagan practice of using percussive sounds or instruments in worship.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

I Corinthians 13:2

Paul, being an Apostle, surely did have the gift of prophecy, but he continued in the vein of hyperbole when discussing the understanding of “all” mysteries, “all” knowledge, and “all” faith. Even if someone had all these gifts, and all this wisdom, it would be useless without Christian love (“charity,” agape).

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

I Corinthians 13:2

The gifts that he went on about in Chapter 12 are important, but they must be handled with maturity, and the definition of maturity in New Testament Christianity cannot be separated from grace, knowledge, and love. Christian love puts up with wrongdoing for a long time, and it is not puffy with pride. It is not rude or impolite or discourteous, and it is not overly touchy. It gives the benefit of the doubt; it doesn’t assume the worst; it makes charitable judgments. It does not get happy when it is proven wrong and finds iniquity when it was hoping not to, and it rejoices in objective reality with a contagious joy, because things are being done out in the open and are being given value because of their truthfulness.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

I Corinthians 13:8

Christian love is shown to be superior to the spiritual gifts because of its endurance.

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

I Corinthians 13:10

The “perfect” which is to come could be referring the completion of the canon of Scripture, although this is rejected by most recent scholars. It could be referring to the complete maturity of the Church – the Body of Christ. Or it could be referring to the return of Christ for His Church and our entry into Heaven. We tend to associate the term “perfect” with the idea of being sinless or faultless, but usually in the Bible it means “complete” or “lacking nothing.” Certainly the Church will not be “perfect” in either sense of the word until we are glorified with Christ at our departure from this world.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

I Corinthians 13:11

This indicates that “sign” gifts like tongues and healing were “childish” gifts in the sense that they were needed for a very young church. It was anticipated that the Church would “outgrow” the need for signs and wonders.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

I Corinthians 13:12

The image of looking through a glass, darkly, might mean that we see things now the way things are seen through a dirty window, but, more likely, Paul means for the reader to imagine a “looking-glass” (mirror), which would not have given as accurate a reflection in those days as mirrors do in ours. This analogy is often misinterpreted, but the correct meaning is that, once we see Jesus face to face, we will know Him “immediately.” We will see Him personally, the way He is able to see us now.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

I Corinthians 13:13

Christian love is not the only Christian grace that will endure, but it is greater than these others because faith will become sight, and hope will be fulfilled. Love (I John 4:8) will still be needed in Heaven. Christian maturity equals Christian love, and we can “grow” and become more spiritually mature by practicing it (even when we might not necessarily “feel” it) NOW.

The Determination, Demonstration, Distribution, and Designation of the Spiritual Gifts

October 2, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 4 Comments
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But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

I Corinthians 12:7

The spiritual gifts are demonstrated by their manifestation and display within the Body of Christ. This means that no Christian should feel left out or “giftless,” but it also means that you are depriving the Body of Christ of something that God wants it to have if you are neglecting to exercise your spiritual gift or gifts.

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

I Corinthians 12:8

The word of wisdom is the gift of being able to apply knowledge or truth to a situation and to discern a course of action. The word of knowledge was a gift of direct divine revelation. It was a truly supernatural gift, and arguably no longer available or needed since we have a closed cannon of Scripture.

To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

I Corinthians 12:9

Every true Christian has a gift of faith for salvation, but some Christians are able to believe the promises of God with a greater certainty, and to stand upon them in times of difficulty, hardship, or persecution in special ways. The gift of miraculous healing is not operational today in the way that it was during the time of the Apostles. If it were, then it should be put into practice at the nursing homes, pediatric cancer wards, and burn treatment centers, rather than only at the big event centers where money is being collected.

To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

I Corinthians 12:10

The gift of miracles probably included healings, although it would have been more comprehensive. The gift of prophecy today would be a gift for the effective proclaiming of God’s Word, or what we could call preaching. The gift of discerning of spirits was an ability to spot false prophets and charlatans. The gift of divers kinds of tongues allowed certain believers to supernaturally speak in a language or languages not naturally known to the speaker. The gift of the interpretation of tongues was the ability to understand what was being said in other languages without prior knowledge.

These gifts do not comprise an exhaustive list, and they need to be discovered through practical service more than an analytical or a psychological test.

But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

I Corinthians 12:11

The spiritual gifts are distributed among a body of believers according to the will of the Holy Spirit.

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

I Corinthians 12:11

The analogy of the human body is used to help us understand this distribution.

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

I Corinthians 12:13-18

This reminds us that the Holy Spirit is also God, and perhaps God the Father has placed you into the part of the Body that He wants, and then the Holy Spirit determines which gift(s) you will need to function in that capacity. Just as there is diversity in a human body, there are a diversity of gifts in the Body of Christ, and certain members may need multiple gifts. A hand needs the gift of catching, but also the gifts of throwing, grasping and holding, and caressing. A person acting as the hand of the Body of Christ may not need a speaking gift, but he may need a discerning gift or a gift of mercy.

And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

I Corinthians 12:19-21

The emphasis here is on the importance of working together. Otherwise, the gifts become things to brag about, or to fight with, rather than tools given for building.

Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.

I Corinthians 12:22-24

Everybody likes to look at pretty hair or an attractive face. We like to hear winsome words and see graceful movement. Nobody wants to see your pancreas, your lungs, or even your brain, but no one could reasonably assert that these “parts” are less important.

That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

I Corinthians 12:25-26

A body at war with itself will die, or at least not function properly. It will limp along, and it will suffer. The body is an organism, not an organization, but an unorganized organism will die.

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

I Corinthians 12:27

Once again, the Holy Spirit stresses unity AND diversity.

What is the purpose of the spiritual gifts? How are they to be exercised? To what end?

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

I Corinthians 12:28

The designation of the gifts is for the edification of the Church.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:11-12

Therefore, it makes no sense to be bitter about someone else’s gift. If we do that, we are criticizing God, and, really, committing another form of idolatry – thinking we know better than Him.

Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?

I Corinthians 12:29

The obvious answer to this is no.

Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

I Corinthians 12:30

Once again, the obvious answer is no, although this is very much overlooked by some Pentecostals and Charismatics who make speaking in tongues a test of salvation or a measuring stick for Holy Spirit-anointing.

Now another, even more important, factor is added to the equation of unity and diversity: maturity.

But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

I Corinthians 12:31

Too many people assume that this means everyone should desire the more visible gifts, but the “best” gift for you is whichever gift(s) that God has chosen, in His perfect will, to give you. Covet what He wants you to have. He will give you the desire of your heart if your desire is to know and serve Him. The more excellent way is (as will be shown in I Corinthians Chapter 13) “charity” – agapeChristian love.

How the Knows are Gifted

August 31, 2017 at 2:53 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 2 Comments
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Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

I Corinthians 12:1

This, to me, is the unifying theme of I Corinthians: The Holy Spirit, through Paul, did not want the Corinthians Christians to be ignorant. He wanted them to be “Knows,” not “Know-Nots.” Their single most identifying negative mark, as a church, was their squabbling and factionalism. Their single most identifying positive mark was their richness in spiritual gifts.

Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

I Corinthians 12:2

Here, “dumb” means unable to speak, rather than foolish. Formerly idol-worshipers – so deeply entrenched that they were still possibly weak in their consciences in this area – they had been miraculously delivered by divine revelation.

Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

I Corinthians 12:3

The Holy Spirit is identified as the Person of the Trinity that reveals to us that Jesus – despite His treatment as the vilest of criminals – is actually God incarnate.

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

I Corinthians 12:4

Among the Persons of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the One Who delivers the spiritual gifts and determines who gets which ones. There is diversity AND unity.

And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

I Corinthians 12:5

The gifts are given with the intent that they will be used to minister to the Lord Jesus. Again there is diversity AND unity.

And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

I Corinthians 12:6

God the Father empowers the gifts so that His power is working in us as we use the gifts. Once again, we see the principle of diversity AND unity. The gifts are given by the living God in the Person of the Holy Spirit because of the victory and Ascension of Jesus Christ.

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

Ephesians 4:3-8

The Cause, Confusion, and Consequences: Problems with the Lord’s Supper

August 18, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 2 Comments
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In I Corinthians Chapter 11 the Apostle Paul, after addressing some issues concerning head coverings in church services, also addressed abusive practices pertaining to the Lord’s Supper.

Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

I Corinthians 11:17-18

Like many of their problems, the cause of the Corinthian Christians’ problems with their observance of the Lord’s Supper was disunity. The nature of the disunity was made clear:

When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.

I Corinthians 11:20-21

The whole point of the Lord’s Supper was supposed to be fellowship and communion, but the rich church members were eating their own meals instead of sharing with the poor members, and apparently some of the poor were looking forward to a free buffet instead of an opportunity to remember Christ’s death. People were using the occasion as a reason for physical excess rather than spiritual worship.

The Holy Spirit through Paul identified their confusion: Worship must involve sacrifice. It is antithetical to selfishness.

Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.

I Corinthians 33-34

Furthermore, this is an ordinance of the Church commanded by the Lord, so naturally there are consequences for doing it unworthily.

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

I Corinthians 11:26

Jesus is the reason for the whole affair – to remember that He instituted the New Covenant in His blood – so it is obvious that it should be a joyous but also a solemn affair.

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

I Corinthians 11:27

“Unworthily” is often said to said to mean that someone with unconfessed sin should not participate in the Lord’s Supper, but none of us are worthy – only Christ is. The context seems to plead for understanding “unworthily” as meaning something done without the proper dignity or motivation for being there, although the next verse does lend support to the idea that we must take an inventory of any sins which are keeping us from fellowshipping with the Lord with a clean conscience:

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

I Corinthians 11:28-29

“Damnation” here refers to consequential judgment, not eternal damnation.

For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

I Corinthians 11:30

The consequences of eating and drinking unworthily in remembrance of Christ’s shed blood and broken body are revealed to be sickness and potential death.

Head Knowledge

August 2, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 2 Comments
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I Corinthians Chapter 11 begins with a compliment (“now I praise you”) to offset the criticism of the previous chapters.

Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.

I Corinthians 11:1-2

Paul could exhort people to follow him because He followed Christ. The Holy Spirit had him praise the Corinthian Christians for remembering the ecclesiastical practices that he put in place among them when he was in Corinth, but he was also aware of a problem concerning what the women were wearing on their heads during church meetings.

But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

I Corinthians 11:5

The women that were “prophesying” were not necessarily giving new revelation, but rather “proclaiming” the Word. Short hair on a woman in 1st Century Corinth was disgraceful. It was the sign of a prostitute or of a woman who had been sanctioned for immoral behavior. For Christian women, it showed a defiance of authority – of getting out of rank.

For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

I Corinthians 11:6

“Shorn” referred to a short, manly haircut; “shaven” meant completely bald. The women in church were not forbidden from prophesying OR praying. They were forbidden from getting out of rank. Men and women have equal standing before God, but different roles in church.

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

I Corinthians 11:3

Head coverings symbolized their submission. God is the head of Christ; Christ is the head of the man; the man is the head of the woman – in marriage and in church. Head coverings in Bible times symbolized submission and purity. Going to church without a head covering, for women, and especially daring to pray aloud or prophesy without it, was a show of defiance.

For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

I Corinthians 11:7

There were symbols of the proper rank for BOTH men and women.

Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

I Corinthians 11:13-15

The symbol for men: short hair and no head covering. The symbol for women: long hair and head covering. Head coverings – either in the form of veils or hats – do not carry the same stigma today; they do not have the same symbolic meanings, although I would argue that hairstyles do carry symbolic meanings, and that it would be wise for men and women not to distort God’s ordained roles with hairstyles that are confusing. What a person has to say about his or her gender, these days, is more important than actual hair length. Modesty and distinction (Deuteronomy 22:5) should be the main criteria in our choices about our outward appearance.

Adiaphora and Analyzing Ambiguous Activities

July 24, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 1 Comment
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Adiaphora is a word used in Christian theology to describe activities about which it would be questionable for Christians to participate, even if such activities are not explicitly condemned or forbidden in Scripture. The word had a connotation in its original Greek and Latin contexts of things about which it “makes no difference.” It should be noted that, when it comes to a Christian’s conscience, and the the principles and precepts about which the Bible speaks, Scripture is not as silent on as many behaviors as most people think. And while there are certainly things which are what we would call “morally neutral,” especially things having to do with purely personal preferences and tastes (such as whether a church building should have chairs or pews, and whether a man’s hair should be parted on the side, in the middle, or at all), there are other matters (whether a Christian should get a tattoo or buy a raffle ticket) about which we should think (and pray!) carefully, and do an exhaustive study on what the Bible might or might not have to say about them, before making a decision. One danger when dealing with adiaphora is that we fall into the trap of legalism, condemning things which are permissible under our Christian liberty, but another danger is that we seek to justify behavior that we happen to like in our flesh on the basis that it is not spelled out word-for-word as sinful in the Bible.

We looked last time at some important considerations in this regard in I Corinthians Chapter 10. Now we will continue with some specific steps that can be utilized in analyzing whether we, as Christians, should participate in ambiguous activities.

1. Will this activity capture my heart or mind, or create a physical addiction?

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

I Corinthians 6:12

2. Will my participation in this activity cause someone else to stumble, or will it build someone else up?

Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

I Corinthians 8:13

3. Will it make ME stumble, or will it build up MY testimony or fellowship with God?

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

I Corinthians 10:23

4. Will this activity bring glory to God, no matter how much I enjoy it?

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

I Corinthian 10:31

5. Will this activity help or hinder my evangelistic efforts?

Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

I Corinthians 10:33

Know Your Limits

July 10, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 3 Comments
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Having used the example of foregoing the right to be paid for ministry in I Corinthians Chapter 9, the Apostle Paul then returned to the question concerning eating meat offered to idols and attending feasts or services in idolatrous temples.

There is an emphasis on the word “all” in I Corinthians 10.

Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

I Corinthians 10:1

The statement, “I would not that ye should be ignorant” is similar to the the expression, “Know ye not..?” that is so common throughout I Corinthians, and here it expresses the same idea. The Holy Spirit through Paul was referencing the narrative account of Exodus, where God’s people had passed through the parted Red Sea, and were guided by the cloud-by-day/pillar-of-fire-by-night. These were very obvious reminders of the presence of God with them.

And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

I Corinthians 10:2

They not only had immediate reminders of God’s presence, but they had his mediated reminder in the person of the mediator Moses.

And did all eat the same spiritual meat;

I Corinthians 10:3

For the Israelites in the wilderness, their “spiritual meat” was manna. It was spiritual in the sense that it came supernaturally, but also in that it was a spiritual reminder of God and His Spirit.

And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

I Corinthians 10:4

There is much confusion among the commentators about this verse, with some thinking that an actual rock followed the Israelites around, but I think the better view is that the verse is teaching that the pre-incarnate Christ was with them spiritually, and that He was their provider of living water as well as physical water.

But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

I Corinthians 10:5

This verse deviates from the pattern by saying “many” instead of “all,” but we know that all but two (Joshua and Caleb) of that generation that left Egypt were overthrown in the wilderness. Being a “Know” is really about being a believer, but belief is something that is unsafe to take for granted. We need to demonstrate our knowledge and belief with action.

The Old Testament stories are true historical events, but they were also designed by God as types and learning tools. There are a number of things that we need to learn from the wilderness wandering of our spiritual forbears:

1. Be careful about lusting.

Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

I Corinthians 10:6

We were made by God to have strong desires, but our tendency is to forget that God gave us those desires to yearn for Him and to glorify Him. Instead, we usurp them and aim them at that which is evil.

2. Remember that you must not become involved again with idolatry.

Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

I Corinthians 10:7

This is a reference to Exodus 32. All the Know-Nots are idolators in some sense, and our own hearts, apart from Christ, are idol factories.

Nor does idolatry tend to remain dormant in hearts. Just as true worship of God expresses itself in outward actions, so false worship of anything other than God tends to express itself in manifestations of sinful behavior.

3. Do not fornicate.

Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

I Corinthians 10:8

This is a reference to Numbers 25. The people joined themselves to Baal, the worship of which involved the prostitution of virgins. The temple of Venus in Corinth was also a place where fornication was deemed a method of worship.

4. Do not tempt Christ.

Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.

I Corinthians 10:9

This is a reference to Numbers 21. The idea of tempting Christ, in the context, only makes sense if He is truly God (which He is), and it is something that we are prone to do when we hear His Word but fail to obey it. I hope that you find reading the Bible and listening to sound Biblical preaching and teaching enjoyable, but you also need to know that it is dangerous.

5. Do not get involved in murmuring (grumbling and complaining).

Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

I Corinthians 10:10

This is a reference to the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 14. Murmuring is a danger for overconfident Knows. We must not be overconfident in our “Know-Ness.”

Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

I Corinthians 10:11-12

These things weren’t just recorded for our knowledge. They were recorded to keep us from being overconfident. Temptation will always be present, but there is always a way to escape.

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

I Corinthians 10:13

Fellowship with the Lord is safe and it keeps us safe.

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

I Corinthians 10:16-17

The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is an important time of memorializing our fellowship with Him. If you are married, you still have fellowship with your spouse when you are doing other things, and even when you are physically apart from each other, but the relationship will suffer if you do not spend concentrated periods of time and attentiveness together.

What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?

I Corinthians 10:19

Meat sold in the market was okay for the Corinthian Christians to purchase and eat, even knowing the possibility that it had originally been used in some type of pagan ceremony. Likewise, they were not required to give their pagan hosts the third degree about where the food had come from if they were invited over for a meal.

However, it was still very important that they flee from any actual idolatry, because the worship of some idols is demonic.

But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.

I Corinthians 10:20-21

Idolatry is still idolatry, even when it is more particularly classified as syncretism, as was illustrated by the case of the golden calf.

Paul had taken great care to answer the Corinthians’ question about how they should deal with their dietary choices as they related to their consciences. He came to the conclusion that they were under no obligation to inquire too closely concerning the questionable source of hospitality offered by others, but when the thing offered is important to others, it must become important to us. So, if the host considers the meal idolatrous worship, then the Christians must not partake, or, if others perceive that you are participating in idolatry, it would be better not to participate.

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, this is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof:

I Corinthians 10:23-28

Know Your Rights

June 20, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 2 Comments
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I. The Right to Establish a Legacy

Am I am not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?

I Corinthians 9:1

This is part of Paul’s extended argument for why we should be willing and motivated to forego the exercise of our Christian liberties for the sake of our love for other, weaker believers, and for the sake of Christ’s love for them. Before he went into into his own willingness to do this, he asked his audience to concede the obvious fact of his own Apostleship. You and I are not capital-A Apostles, obviously (despite what you see in the Charismatic movement these days), but are we not, in some sense, little-a apostles? Are we not “sent ones,ambassadors for Christ in the world? Are we not free? Paul was a Roman citizen, in bondage to Christ, but still free from the curse of the Law. Are not we free from the penalty and power of sin? We have not seen Jesus personally with our physical eyes, but I pray that you have seen Him with eyes of faith, and are fully convinced that He is real and that you know Him personally.

The fact of the Corinthians’ conversion and changed lives were evidence of Paul’s Apostolic authority, but do you have people whose lives you have influenced? People who could today testify of the genuineness of your profession? If so, you have a “right” to point to these people as supporting witnesses (although not conclusive proof) of the authenticity of your walk with the Lord. You may not be the founder of a church like Paul was, but surely there are a group of people who see you as a spiritual mentor or at least a Godly influence in their lives. If not, this is a goal to strive for: make a legacy of faithfulness and influence.

If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.

I Corinthians 9:2

Yet there were some who challenged Paul’s credentials:

Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,

I Corinthians 9:3

II. The right to Earn a Living

Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

I Corinthians 9:5

The idea of “leading about” our wives, who are also our sisters in Christ, is awkwardly worded to us, as if a husband had a rope through his wife’s nose, or as if she was unable to see and needed to be led through life like a blind person. What it really refers to, though, is the type of servant-leadership and leading-in-love that the Bible gives to husbands as a fearful and Christ-honoring responsibility. Paul was not married, as far as we can tell, but there was nothing about his full-time service as an Apostle that prohibited him from being married. (I Corinthians 9:3 also refutes the Roman Catholic policy of unmarried priests – especially since it uses Peter as the specific example of a married Apostle.)

Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?

I Corinthians 9:6

It is not wrong for full-time ministers to be supported financially by the Church, and through charitable and required giving.

Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

I Corinthians 9:7

Just like in the secular world, people expect to be paid for serving others, and people who are in the business of caring for livestock and crops also draw their own livelihood from some of the very supply they produce for others.

Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?

I Corinthians 9:8

The Bible is very specific in giving authority to working people to eat from the fruits of their own labor.

III. The Right to Eat Leftovers

Have we not power to eat and to drink?

I Corinthians 9:4

The word for “power” here means authority.

For it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

I Corinthians 9:9-11

The principle of reaping and sowing is both material and spiritual. If we accept the spiritual side of it, the material side really ought to be a no-brainer. Ministers have the right to eat the leftovers from what is given into their hands as part of their service to the Lord.

Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?

I Corinthians 9:13

However, it is important to remember that the having of a right does not dictate the necessity of exercising that right.

IV. The Right to Eschew Liberty

But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.

I Corinthians 9:15

So, the Apostle Paul, while in Corinth, did not get paid for ministry; he would have rather die than be accused of greed or scamming.

For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

I Corinthians 9:16-18

In fact, he was called to preach the Gospel whether or not he was paid, and he considered the privilege of preaching it to be its own reward. I hope you and I would have this attitude in ministry, because it is often a thankless task, and a motivation of “giving to get” will all too often result in discouragement and even bitterness.

For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

I Corinthians 9:19-22

Please understand the context of the foregoing verses, because an out-of-context reading of the statement, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some,” was the “seeker movement’s” life verse during the heyday of Rick Warren’s purpose-driven campaign to see Christian churches run like service-industry corporations. It was a verse twisted to justify all manner of pragmatic shenanigans that ultimately destroyed many formerly-sound local churches, and – according to many reports – led to vast numbers of false converts. What the verse is really about is the adoption of non-sinful but foreign cultural norms, for the sake of the Gospel. He did not mean for “all means” to include sinful means, nor a “bait and switch” ministry method. And, while it is true that Paul’s evangelistic methods were pragmatic in a sense, what he practiced was a holy and honest pragmatism with all cards on the table, not so that he might spring the truth like a trap once he had gained people’s trust, but so that he could honestly portray the ethic of Christian love in building genuine – GENUINE – relationships and share the Gospel with “all men.”

Paul was willing to forfeit certain rights and privileges, and was unwilling to flaunt his liberty to encourage comfort with sin, or to stunt the strengthening of conscience.

V. The Right to Exercise Laboriously

This is the one part of I Corinthians Chapter Chapter 9 – an otherwise very clear chapter – which is somewhat difficult to grasp. There is not a whole lot of agreement among commentators about the precise details of what is being conveyed.

It helps to understand the Isthmian Games, a popular sporting event in Paul’s day, that would have been known to all Corinthians. It also seems likely from the biographical information we can glean about Paul from the Bible that he may have actually competed in these games (possibly in racing events and/or fighting matches featuring a combination of wrestling and striking similar to what is known as “MMA” today), which were a smaller version of the Olympic games.

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

I Corinthians 9:24

The main idea in this passage of Scripture is that an athlete who really wants to win, not only takes the event itself seriously, but the training leading up to the event.

And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

I Corinthians 9:25

However, the “competition” (which is a competition within ourselves and against spiritual enemies, not against each other) is far more important than any earthly sporting event.

I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

I Corinthians 9:26

This probably refers to strategic blows – not flailing wildly hoping to hit the opponent by chance.

But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

I Corinthians 9:27

When we, as Christians, set aside our rights and freedoms in favor of temperance for the sake of weaker believers, we not only help them, but we help ourselves by working hard toward the right goal, which is mortifying: (1) our flesh; (2) our desires; and (3) any part of our makeup that has a bent toward anything sinful.

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