Having a P.C. Marriage

May 11, 2017 at 11:29 am | Posted in I Corinthians | Leave a comment
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Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.

I Corinthians 7:25-26

“Virgins” in Verse 25 means young women of marriageable age who have not yet married. “I have no Commandment of the Lord” means that Paul did not have a direct quote from Jesus, even though He still wrote with inspired authority. This goes back to the beginning of I Corinthians Chapter 7: given the persecution faced by the Christians in Corinth, and, really, throughout the early chruch, there were definite advantages to being single. And, keeping in mind the previous section on how salvation in Christ Jesus does not automatically change our earthly identity or legal status or career calling, we can say that, even for those who are already married, it is good to:

I. Know Your Present Condition

Use your condition to deal with the present distress. If you are single and facing persecution, consider remaining single. If you are married and facing persecution, remain married. Do not let the present distress change your condition or your commitment.

II. Know Your Permanent Commitment

Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

I Corinthians 7:27

This does not sound like very romantic language. To be “bound” sounds like slavery and to be “loosed” sounds like freedom, and it may feel that way at times, but we are not to be regulated by our feelings. We are to be regulated by the Word of God and our commitments and covenant promises.

III. Know your Painful Circumstances

But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

I Corinthians 7:28

Again, the Holy Spirit through Paul warned the Corinthian Christians about the difficulties of marriage in a time of intense persecution, but the Bible never condemns marriage itself.

But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;

I Corinthians 7:29

This is a sobering thought for unmarried young men and women, but it is also a strong reminder for the married that we are not promised bliss. In a world that hates Christ our Lord things are bound to get rough.

And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

I Corinthians 7:30-31

Marriage ought to be permanent in this life, whether it be joyful or excruciating, but it is not eternal. The good things we do in Christ will be rewarded in eternity, and the suffering we endure at the hands of those who abuse the relationships and institutions of this world ordained by God WILL come to an end.

IV. Know Your Persistent Care

But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

I Corinthians 7:32-34

We know that worry and anxiety can be considered sinful, but there are things about which we are commanded to be concerned. And, the reality is, for those who did not remain single, we have a holy obligation to care for our spouses – to be concerned about them, and to see to their needs as best we can with God’s help.

V. Know Your Profitable Contention

And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

I Corinthians 7:35

These warnings against marriage are not given just to encourage confused or frustrated single people. They are also intended to be heeded by married couples to remind us that there is profit in caring for a sinner, and to remind us that, as a spouse, I too am a sinner that had to be cared for by Jesus. There will always be distractions from the work of the Lord. Those who are unmarried must think carefully before adding another distraction. Those who are married must remember that distractions are given to us by God not to annoy us, but to help sanctify us. Marriage can be seen as snare or it can be seen as a safe workshop.

Know Your Real Identity

May 3, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 1 Comment
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But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

I Corinthians 7:17

Eternal salvation in Christ Jesus changes who you are as a person, but it does not take away your non-sinful abilities. When the Apostle Paul wrote, “… so I ordain in all churches,” he may have been telling the Corinthian Christians that “this is what I say wherever I go,” or, more likely, “I want this command to be given in all the churches,” which would indicate that he knew this letter would be binding on the Church as canonical Scripture.

Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.

I Corinthians 7:18

Salvation doesn’t take away your ethnicity.

Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

I Corinthians 7:19

You can imagine Paul’s secretary gasping as he hears Paul dictate, “Circumcision is nothing,” because circumcision was the most fundamental sign of the Old Covenant. In context, the Holy Spirit through Paul was not really forbidding the practice of circumcision for gentiles; obviously, you can’t become “uncircumcised” (at least not in Paul’s day, though one shudders to think of the extent of “reconstructive” or “reassignment” surgeries they do today). What He was saying is that external marks on our bodies are no longer the signs of belonging to God. Now the sign is our changed hearts and what actions and words and attitudes flow out of them. If you are saved as Jew, you are still a Jew – a Jewish Christian. If you are saved as an Italian, you have to resign from the mafia, but you don’t have to stop eating pasta and saying fuggedaboutit. If you are saved as an Irishman, you have to stop drinking whiskey and starting bar fights, but you can keep wearing green. In fact, you should not try to change the outward too much – God may have called you so you can reach others like you.

Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.

I Corinthians 7:20-23

Salvation does not change your status as a servant. The Holy Spirit told the Corinthian Christians that there was no shame in being a slave, but it is to your advantage if you can obtain your freedom. Christ sets us free, but, because He bought us with a price, we still belong to Him. “Free slavery” is a paradox – and is found only in Christ, because He is the Master Who serves His servants, even as they serve Him. He is the Master Who loves His servants, calls us His brothers and sisters, and wants better things for us than we want for ourselves.

A Knowledgeable Marriage

April 20, 2017 at 4:11 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | Leave a comment
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In a previous post I discussed I Corinthians 7:1-10, and explained that, if you are married, God wants your marriage to be F.I.N.E., meaning that He wants the physical intimacy between you and your spouse to be frequent, inviting, natural, and exciting. He also wants you to know the real reason for your marriage.

But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

I Corinthians 7:11

Marriage was designed by God to be permanent.

But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.

I Corinthians 7:12

This is something which the Lord Jesus did not say in person during His earthly ministry, but it is just as authoritative since it is being said by the Holy Spirit through Paul. Believers should only marry other believers, but the failure to do so is not a ground for divorce, nor is the salvation of one spouse after the wedding, even when the other spouse refuses to get saved. Furthermore, the hostility of the unbelieving spouse toward the believing spouse because of his/her conversion is not a ground for divorce.

And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

I Corinthians 7:13-14

This does not mean that the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the sense of salvation, but that he is set apart as part of a household with a Holy Spirit influence, and possibly the recipient of special blessings due to one-half of the one-flesh relationship being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Also, a nullification of the marriage would make the children illegitimate in a sense, and would damage the blessing of their exposure to strong Christian influence.

But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

I Corinthians 7:15

This does not authorize divorce for abandonment, as many suppose. It simply prohibits hostile and forceful attempts to prevent physical separation.

For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

I Corinthians 7:16

This is an obvious figure of speech, meaning that a Christ-like testimony in the face of opposition and even persecution within the household can often be instrumental in winning an unbelieving spouse to Christ. Remember, your marriage is not primarily for your happiness, for you, or even for your spouse. It is for God to use as a means to illustrate and preach the Gospel in an unbelieving world, and for means of our sanctification.

The Know-Nots view marriage as an institution of convenience or a societal contract. The Knows know that marriage is a holy covenant relationship ordained by God, and that the love between a husband and wife is supposed to be a picture of the love between Christ and His bride, the Church.

Know When to Say Know

April 7, 2017 at 11:35 am | Posted in I Corinthians | Leave a comment
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Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?

I Corinthians 6:1

This was another problem in the Corinthian church. The Knows were taking their legal disputes before the Know-Nots instead of resolving them within the church. This is one of the ways in which we can tell that the letter from Paul to the Corinthians that we call “I Corinthians” was not an instance of Paul simply giving out general information. He was responding to specific situations in Corinth. His reasons for rebuking them remind us, that as Knows, we must:

I. Know our future

Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

I Corinthians 6:2

If we know our future, we will know our privilege. In the regeneration the “saints” (the Knows) will “rule the world.” Having this tremendous privilege, how unworthy it seems of our calling not to be able to handle such relatively petty squabbles.

Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

I Corinthians 6:3

There is some disagreement about the statement that we will “judge angels,” but this is probably referring to ruling over angels, rather than sitting in judgment over the condemnation of the demons. These are eternal responsibilities, but we must demonstrate that we know our responsibility here and now.

If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.

I Corinthians 6:4

This may be a somewhat sarcastic statement, because Paul was not saying that those with the least honor ought to be given this responsibility. He was saying that, in light of their boasting over spiritual gifts (highlighted both earlier and later in the letter), even the least of them should be competent to handle earthly matters.

I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?

I Corinthians 6:5

Paul was trying to make them feel ashamed of hurting their testimony in front of the Know-Nots (the lost world) around them. They were acting as petty as the world acts, when they were supposed to be the ones with the true wisdom. Such behavior was the opposite of glorifying God – it brought shame to His name.

But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?

I Corinthians 6:6-7

The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to use the term “utterly” because this was a clear, without-out-a-doubt, extreme fault. It would be better for them to give up their legal rights and to lose worldly possessions and prestige, than to drag their bickering and evidence of their lack of love out before the sight of those who ought to be impressed with Christians because of how different from this world’s system their attitudes are.

Knows, in addition to knowing our future, ought to:

II. Know our past

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

I Corinthians 6:9

The “unrighteous” is a reference to the behavior listed in the preceding verses on lawsuits. The Knows were appealing to an unjust “justice” system and unjust judges by going before the heathen courts. It is also a reference to their own pre-Christian behavior, delineated in the latter part of the verse, which was “unrighteous” in the sense that it is the type of behavior which you would expect to see practiced by the those who are “unjustified,” theologically speaking. These sins prohibit anyone who commits them from inheriting the Kingdom of God unless the guilty sinners are justified by the receipt of a substituted alien righteousness.

As an aside, note that homosexual activity is explicitly condemned in this verse, both the “effeminate” (the person playing the role of the “woman” in a homosexual relationship) and “abusers of themselves with mankind” (the person playing the role of the “man” in a homosexual relationship).

Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

I Corinthians 6:10

“Extortioners” included swindlers and coercers by intimidation or influence, as well as by force.

And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

I Corinthians 6:11

The Corinthians believers had been “washed” (regenerated), “sanctified” (set apart for God’s use and identification), and “justified” (forensically declared righteous).

Knows know their past. They know who they were and who they are; they do not kid themselves. They are new creatures with their sins forgiven, no longer condemned by their past deeds, but they are allowed to remember where they were without God, how that was working out for them, and where they were headed before He rescued them. These verses remind true believers of what kind of behavior they should not be doing. In fact, they should hate the sins listed in these verses both when they are tempted to engage in them, and when they stumble and find themselves involved in them again, as they are convicted and chastened by the Holy Spirit. This means that we have legitimate grounds for being suspicious about the sincerity of the professions of those who practice these delineated sinful behaviors without repentance.

III. Know our present

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

This indicates that the doctrine of Christian liberty was also an issue in Corinth, or that, possibly, someone had asked a specific question about it. “All things” is an expression referring to non-sinful things. Paul was free in Christ from trying to work for his righteousness, but there were many things which were not at all helpful, convenient, or profitable for him in his walk with Christ, and it is the same for us – especially those things which prove to be addictive or have a propensity to be addictive.

Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

I Corinthians 6:13

“Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats” was probably intended as mockery of one of the Corinthians’ common expressions as they used their “freedom” as an excuse for gluttony or hedonism. So, while it is true that food is given by God to feed the body (meats for the belly), and that He has designed our bodies not only to incorporate and use food, but to enjoy food (the belly for meats), it is likewise true that the human body was never intended by God to be used in the worship of any created thing (such as food). In fact, our bodies have both temporal and eternal purposes, so that, while we have some freedom to experience pleasure with them, they must never be used as tools or instruments of sin. See the distinction between flesh-body (“belly”) and the sanctified body (“body”). The Apostle was criticizing and condemning their faulty logic: “If eating is okay, and if eating feels good to the body, then fornication, which also feels good to the body, is likewise permissible.” He reminded them that:

And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.

I Corinthians 6:14

God has both temporal and eternal plans and uses for the body. We will receive glorified bodies, but they will be resurrected bodies, so they will be “our” bodies – the same ones we dragged through the physical trials, and, sadly, sins of this world. The Knows must know the present – the present importance of how we are living and how we are using our bodies. We are joined together as the body of Christ – not only with each other – but with Christ Himself.

Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.

I Corinthians 6:15

When we join our bodies with other human beings in sinful sexual unions we are, in a sense, bringing part of Christ Himself into this union. This is a horrendous, defiling, blasphemous, sacrilegious, abomination before God. “God forbid” is the strongest rebuke and warning – it is like saying this must never happen.

Continuing in that vein of outrage or at least righteous indignation, Paul says:

What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.

I Corinthians 6:16

Physical intercourse does not make a marriage, although this is sometimes erroneously taught, but it is true that the physical sexual union is only proper within the “one-flesh” joining-together by God in actual marriage.

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

I Corinthians 6:18

“Flee fornication” describes a desperate flight of avoidance or separation. Sexual sin is a special category of sin in which the sinner sins against God, against one of God’s image-bearers, and even against himself – his own body.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

I Corinthians 6:19-20

We have been purchased – by an Owner and for a purpose. We do not “belong to ourselves.” This is a reminder that our bodies must be clean (kept from defilement as typified by the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple), and must be viewed, in a sense, as the place where God lives as Owner and Ruler. My body is where God is to be served – not where I am to be served. I must not connect it to a pagan temple. I must not let pagans enter in and defile it with sin. The consequences are harsh – God does not lightly allow His temple be defiled with unholiness.

Spiritual Body Shaming

March 27, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | Leave a comment
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I Corinthians 5 moves from an up-close view of a specific instance of church discipline to a big-picture view of how pride can infect an entire local church body.

Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

I Corinthians 5:6

Leaven works secretly. It spreads through the whole lump. It puffs up. When Knows get puffy (and true Christians DO struggle with pride), they sometimes have to be purged. This is different from how the Know-Nots are to be treated. False professors do not just contain leaven; they themselves ARE leavened.

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

I Corinthians 5:7

And the only reason the Knows can have it purged is because our Passover was greater than the original Passover (Exodus 12). Our Passover has already been sacrificed, and His sacrifice was spiritual and actual, not partial and figurative.

I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

I Corinthians 5:9

This verse does not teach us never to be in the presence of fornicators, but it does warn us not to form a bond of approval with them.

Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

I Corinthians 5:10

This is one of many of the Bible’s admonitions to Christians, telling us to separate ourselves from this world’s system, while remaining actively involved in hands-on ministry IN the world itself.

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

I Corinthians 5:11

To “eat with” someone in Bible times had a connotation of forming a covenant-type relationship of trust, assistance, and approval. Those who openly and unrepentantly practice fornication, covteousness, idolatry, railing, drunkenness, and extortion must not have their behavior condoned by Christians, even if the people doing these things choose to identify themselves as fellow-Christians.

For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

I Corinthians 5:12-13

The Corinthian believers were proud of being “nonjudgmental” when it came to those within their ranks who lived just like the open sinners without, while at the same time enthusiastically judging the Know-Nots who never claimed to be Knows. Such judgment is hypocritical and pointless. Sinners who sin egregiously are just doing their job, in a sense. They are powerless to stop their behavior. God is the One Who will judge them unless they repent and turn to Christ. When it comes to the Knows judging the other Knows within a church body, such judgment is not wrong IF:

1. It is done in love.
2. It is done in the hope of restoration.
3. It is based on the actions of the offenders, not suppositions or conjecture.

The Know-Bodies

March 13, 2017 at 11:06 am | Posted in I Corinthians | 2 Comments
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Paul had received the true report of gross sin being tolerated in the church at Corinth.

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.

I Corinthians 5:1

This may or may not have been technically considered what we call “incest” (sexual relations between blood-relatives) if the “father’s wife” was not the son’s biological mother, but it was legally considered to be incest, and it was a violation of the law of God.

The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness.

Leviticus 18:7-8

Most Bible commentators believe that this was a a step-mother/step-son relationship, but it was still considered wrong (sinful), even among the gentiles, and the worst thing about this behavior was not even that it was occurring (Paul was not shocked to hear of sinners sinning), nor even even that it was being allowed to go unchecked among the Knows (confusing the Knows and the Know-Nots), but that the church members were PROUD OF IT!

And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

I Corinthians 5:2

They were congratulating themselves on how nonjudgmental they were. They should have been grieved as though someone had died, but instead they were bragging about their liberality and tolerance!

Today’s pop culture Christianity would ask: “So, why is this such a big deal? Shouldn’t a Christian church be just the place for the very worst sinners? Isn’t it a hospital for sinners, not a showplace for saints? Who are we to judge? Jesus didn’t tell anyone to be mean – ever.”

The reason it is so serious is because open undisciplined sin practiced openly by members of a Christian church, and allowed to go unchecked by the leaders and the congregation, affects more than just the specific sinners involved. Consider some of our metaphors for the Church:

1. The body

a. An infected hand must be taken out of general service.
b. It must be especially tended to.
c. It must be watched closely.
d. If the infection can’t be cured quickly, it needs to be cut off to prevent the whole body from becoming infected.
e. Amputation is harsh – mean – no one wants to be the “ax-man.”
f. But it is sometimes necessary for the preservation of the rest of the body.

2. The family

a. A family member must be loved.
b. But also corrected
c. Sometimes not allowed to take part in every family activity
d. If you won’t set the table, you can’t eat with the rest of us.
e. If you are hurting the family, sometimes, for the good of the rest of the family and your own good, you must be kicked out of the house

3. A business enterprise

a. Like a bank teller whose drawer keeps coming up short
b. May have to be demoted to parking lot security guard for a while
c. And, ultimately, may have to be fired

Church discipline can be a tricky and a messy business, but these things are not to be done out of malice, spite, or joy. They are done with broken hearts and trepidation, but they are to be done decisively.

For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,

I Corinthians 5:3-4

The Corinthian church could administer discipline in this particular case by explicit Apostolic authority. Today, in a case like this, where the sin was being indulged openly and unrepentantly, we would have authority to administer the discipline publicly within the church – not hatefully, but harshly, and, yes, decisively: “taken away from you” (V. 2); “purged” (V. 7); “put away” (V. 13).

This is how extreme the matter was:

To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

I Corinthians 5:5

This may sound, upon a superficial reading, like they were trying to take away his salvation, but it was just the opposite (notice the woman is not dealt with at all – because she was apparently not a Christian). This was an attempt to: (1) prove his salvation, for the Holy Spirit’s seal may never be broken; (2) aid in his sanctification by drastic means, knowing that the destruction of the flesh was the most loving thing they could do. The hope was that this man would learn the error of his ways, and it seems to have worked.

For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.

II Corinthians 2:4-8

Ministers Must be Mild

February 27, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 2 Comments
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In I Corinthians 4 the Holy Spirit used the Apostle Paul to teach that Christian ministers must be managers. Paul went on, through the literary device of holy sarcasm, to show that ministers must also be meek. Then he got literal again.

I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

I Corinthians 4:14-15

It is as if Paul was saying, “Despite my harsh and mocking tone in the previous thoughts, I do – I really do – have a special love for you. And you, of all people, should know that I’m not out to shame you, trick you, or lead you astray.”

Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

I Corinthians 4:16

How would such a statement be received today? We are used to Christian leaders (at least orthodox Christian leaders!) emphasizing that only Christ Himself should be our role model, and that men, no matter how blameless or holy they may appear, are unworthy of imitation. However, what Paul says here (being infallible Scripture) is sound. Christian ministers do need to be striving to be able to say this honestly, first of all to our kids, and, for those of us called to servant leadership in a local church body, as leaders in our churches: “Follow me – as I follow Christ.”

For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.

I Corinthians 4:17

Timothy was not Paul’s biological son, but his “spiritual son,” probably having been brought to Christ and personally discipled by him. Paul made a point of saying that Timothy had been “faithful in the Lord,” carrying on the theme of the primacy of faithfulness in ministry. Timothy would remind the Corinthian Christians that Paul was in Christ, and that, as such, he could be and should be followed. The Holy Spirit could inspire Paul to appeal to his own consistency without fear of contradiction.

Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.

I Corinthians 4:18

This was a very pointed accusation – threatening even – as if Paul was saying, “You talk big when I am not around, but I’m coming to face you in person.”

But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.

I Corinthians 4:19

He alludes to God’s sovereignty (“if the Lord will“), and makes it clear that the Knows should be able to recognize the Know-Nots, as he proposes a showdown, almost Elijah-style, for any who would question the Lord’s power upon him.

For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

I Corinthians 4:20

This means not in word ONLY, and, more specifically, not in professions only, but in the power of transforming Truth.

What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?

I Corinthians 4:21

This is the practical equivalent of a dad warning rowdy children in the backseat of the car on a long trip, “Don’t make me come back there. I will pull this car over. I can get everyone an Icee or ice packs. Pucker or duck. Hugging or mugging.

Ministers Must be Meek

January 9, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 4 Comments
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Previously we learned that ministers must be managers.

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

I Corinthians 4:1-2

The word for “ministers” in 4:1 is hyperetes – the under-rowers on a Roman trireme – the lowliest of the low. They are workers who exist only to serve. While it is true that the Apostles were ministers who revealed the mysteries of God, they did not see themselves as overseers rationing out food so that no one gets too much or too little. They saw themselves as slaves driven to reach the destination of greater knowledge and greater intimate relationship with Christ.

And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

I Corinthians 4:6

There were other factions causing division in the church at Corinth, but Paul used himself and Apollos to set an example of humility. Just as the puffiness of pride will destroy a marriage, so it will also destroy a church family. Puffiness is emptiness masquerading as fullness, and it is a symptom of pride. The Holy Spirit here does a better job deflating egos than Tom Brady does deflating footballs.

For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

I Corinthians 4:7

Who made me different from anyone else? God did. What do I have that I did not receive? Nothing. Why am I proud of it if it was purely a gift? Because I forgot I am a Know, and not a Know-Not, and I thought I could steal a little of God’s glory for myself (or at least distribute some of it to somebody I really admire).

fooled-again

The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to engage in some biting sarcasm.

Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.

I Corinthians 4:8

The “us” he referred to was the Apostles. He was suggesting to the Corinthians that, since they seemed to believe they had outgrown their teachers, perhaps they could teach the Apostles. After all, Paul and the Apostles were just out on their mission field, in the world, fighting to the death for Jesus, that’s all.

For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

I Corinthians 4:9

The “spectacle” was the last part of a gladiator show, when only the too-drunk-to-leave or the really poor or the most-depraved stuck around to see slaves and criminals fed to beasts. The main events were “contests” – these were just spectacles

We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

I Corinthians  4:10-13

It’s as if Paul was saying, “We’re just out here putting on a show, being humiliated, laughed at as we suffer, but you’ve got this whole Christianity thing really figured out . It’s really about sitting around trying to show off whose teacher has the most knowledge, and trying to brag about how smart you are.” He was being honest about his own hardships, persecution, and suffering, but he was also driving home the point that meekness is of the utmost importance in managing the knowledge and gifts given by God for the purpose of Christian ministry.

Next time we will see that ministers must be mild.

Wise Watering

January 2, 2017 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Biblical farming, I Corinthians | 5 Comments
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You may have heard the term “church planting.” We tend to describe the work that goes into the establishment of a local Christian church assembly in a new location with this agrarian terminology because this was how the Holy Spirit taught Paul and the first Apostles to think of it.

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

I Corinthians 3:5-6

It makes sense that, in doing the work of ministry – in winning new converts to Christ and in establishing local churches – that the planting comes first, and then the watering. Anyone who knows anything about farming or gardening would know that it makes little sense to water a seed, and then bury it in parched earth. That does not mean, however, that the watering is less important than the planting. Both are vital to the laying-down of foundational roots and new growth.

The word translated as “watered” in I Corinthians 3 is potizo, and it does not mean to simply pour water on something for the purpose of getting it wet. It has the idea of “watering” in the sense that a herdsman “waters” cattle. It is the pouring of water as an offering, invitation, or encouragement to DRINK.

When we are “watering” new converts, we don’t want to blast them with a fire hose in the hopes of getting them clean, and we don’t want to dunk them merely for the purpose of a spiritual bath. We should water them with the Word of God, with kindness, love, fellowship, camaraderie, and encouragement.

watering-can

Our desire is to grow strong trees, drawing their hydration from the life-giving water of Christ Himself, not fleetingly-damp tumbleweeds, who sipped in enough moisture to barely count as vegetation, only to be blown away, out of sight and out of mind.

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

Psalm 1:1-4

Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

Jeremiah 17:5-8

Ministers Must be Managers

December 22, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 3 Comments
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Christian ministers must be managers.

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

I Corinthians 4:1-2

Managers must be faithful. Faithfulness trumps:

1. Appearance
2. Common Sense
3. Style
4. Willingness
and even
5. Ability

Managers must please the owner – even when it makes them unpopular.

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.

I Corinthians 4:3

Managers must be prepared to receive criticism from those under their authority, but a manager must also be answerable to (and judged by) the owner.

For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

I Corinthians 4:4

In the church at Corinth there was no shortage of judging going on, and judgment in itself is not a bad thing, but it was wrong judgment.

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

I Corinthians 4:5

The timing was wrong; they were judging before the time. The motive was wrong; they were judging the hidden counsels of the hearts. The standard was wrong; they were seeking the praise of men rather than the praise of God.

Next time we will see that ministers must be meek.

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