Showing posts with label 1 Corinthians. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1 Corinthians. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Flyover Country: 1 Corinthians

No genuine Christian sets out deliberately to displease God or mislead his fellow believers. Nevertheless, as James puts it, “We all stumble in many ways”, and the Lord often graciously uses the errors of others to help us find the right path, rather than requiring us to learn Christlikeness through hard personal experience of its opposite.

Many New Testament letters were written in response to doctrinal errors or bad practice, but the church in Corinth seems to have had more than their fair share.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

What We CAN Say

I am anticipating an interesting Bible study this afternoon. Our little house group has been doing an overview of the books of the New Testament in the order they were written (as best we are able to determine), rather than the order they are found in our English Bibles, and we have reached 1 Corinthians.

Because it is an overview, looking at main themes and ideas rather than granular detail, we usually try to cover an entire book in roughly an hour or so. That works well for Galatians, James and 1 and 2 Thessalonians. It doesn’t work quite so well for a book like 1 Corinthians, which has sixteen chapters on a variety of subjects, so we have had to split the book into five sessions. The section we are studying today begins with chapter 11, and the much-maligned headcovering passage.

Wish me luck. Or grace. Or something.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Thought Flow in 1 Corinthians 1-4

“There are some things in them that are hard to understand …”

Paul could be a difficult writer. Peter says as much, while affirming that the Holy Spirit carried along his fellow apostle throughout the authorial process.

It’s all too easy to point to examples in Paul’s epistles. The run-on sentences. The apparent digressions and rabbit trails. The practical instruction that turns out to be theology as well, and operates on two levels. It’s not exactly Christianity 101, but this is how God chose to reveal the mystery of Christ and the mystery of his church to the world. Who are we to say he should have done it differently?

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Not That Difficult

“Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

There are actually two different Greek terms translated into English here with the phrase “men who practice homosexuality”. The first is malakos and the second is arsenokoitai. In recent years repeated attempts have been made to redefine the meanings of these words in order to explain away what the apostle Paul is saying in the clearest possible terms.

Short version: the allegation is that Paul is condemning abusive, coercive or recreational sexual relations between men, but not loving, faithful same-sex relationships.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

A Syllogism That Isn’t

“Love … believes all things.”

“Love your enemies.”

Do not believe them, though they speak friendly words to you.”

The three verses quoted above create a syllogism that isn’t.

First, we have Paul’s statement that love manifests in “believing all things”, whatever that might mean. Secondly, we have the Lord’s command to love one’s enemies, and it follows that if one is to love them, one must “believe all things” while doing so, because that is what Paul says love does. Finally, we have God’s instructions to Jeremiah, emotionally drained by the disloyalty and dishonesty of his own family members, whom he was surely obligated to love even under the Old Covenant … but in this case, Jeremiah’s love was not to manifest in belief. In fact, he was to exercise discernment and see through the lies of his siblings.

Something is wrong with the logic here, and we know it’s not that God has contradicted himself, since that never happens.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: See You in Court, Brother

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Wow. Christians going to court with one another.

You’d think this issue would be put to bed speedily by even the most cursory glance at Matthew 5:25-26 or 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. But no, believers are keeping their lawyers on speed-dial in significant numbers. It used to be the primary reason was child abuse, but last year it was something new: property rights.

Tom: Here I thought we’d all be meeting in cell groups in homes sooner than later as a result of lawfare trial balloons from the transgender, feminist or gay lobbies. But no, this is even stranger: we’re doing it to ourselves, Immanuel Can; not just as individuals, but whole congregations. And most of it involves issues related to church buildings.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Theological Triage and Hills to Die On

“It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”
— Johnny Cash

Two recent posts at Stand to Reason nicely illustrate the difficulties that confront Christians in working out which theological “hills” are worth dying on when witnessing to unbelievers.

In fact, both posts use that very expression (“hill to die on”) to describe a non-negotiable; something we absolutely cannot concede in our ongoing dialogue with those outside of Christ.

Maybe we can get a little something out of setting the two posts against each other.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Straddling the Fence

The blogosphere is forever.

Well, maybe not forever exactly. Writers whose posts I would be happy to share with the world are being deplatformed every day, it seems, to the point where I have taken to archiving anything I really enjoy, fully expecting it to disappear the moment it attracts the attention of our new, self-appointed internet censors. And sometimes it does.

That said, when you post something online you had better be very sure you stand behind it, because there is a better than average chance it will never go away, Exhibit A being this much-maligned effort by Doug Wilson from 2018 counseling a (hypothetical) church elder’s wife about how to leave her husband.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Incidentally …

An idle remark made in passing may tell us considerably more about its speaker than listening to him lecture for an hour on a prepared topic.

Likewise, it is often the case that the little “asides” made by the writers of the New Testament in the process of teaching are as interesting as — and sometime even more interesting than — the subjects themselves.

Nothing in scripture is simply there to fill up space. Even incidental comments are full of important truth.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

No Standing

The argument may be made that John Glover Roberts Jr. is the most powerful man in America.

As the 17th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, when Roberts says no, even the current president reluctantly backs down. For that matter, lower court judges have blocked, delayed or nullified Mr. Trump’s initiatives over the last four years on any number of fronts.

Surprising, no?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Forgotten Virtue of Shame

“You’re body-shaming me,” lectures the tubby, well-propagandized primary school girl, heading off her mother’s forlorn attempts to get her to order a salad instead of yet another side of large fries.

“Fat shaming is dangerous,” opine the editors of Psychology Today. Well, we can certainly concede that certain forms of it are impolite.

Wikipedia says the term “slut-shaming” is a derogatory expression used by feminists to “reclaim the word slut and empower women and girls to have agency over their own sexuality.” I’m not sure that’s world’s most helpful agenda, but there you are.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Biblical Procedure for Church Discipline?

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

From time to time we come across believers referring to this famous passage in Matthew as the “biblical procedure for church discipline”.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Acting Like Men

“Act like men.”

Yesterday I watched a few seconds of video from the recent attempted mass shooting at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas. It’s all up there on YouTube, of course. The church was livestreaming its service when the incident occurred.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Anonymous Asks (68)

“Can Christians use essential oils and aromatherapy?”

Today’s question is about a couple of modern trends, but could well be about almost anything that is not intrinsically evil. “Can Christians dance?” “Can Christians listen to popular music?” “Can Christian girls wear Lululemons?” “Can Christians eat pork?”

The same biblical principles will help us with answering just about any “Can Christians [fill in the blank]?” question.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

More Teaching Won’t Help

Yesterday I drew attention to what at first glance might appear to be an imbalance in the teaching of the book of Proverbs. Solomon gives many dire warnings about “women on the make” to young men, but no warnings at all to young women concerning the dangers of lustful men.

This was not because God is uninterested in maintaining the virtue of women, as we will see shortly. However, ancient Eastern societies, and especially Israel, had a culture of built-in familial and legal protections for ordinary women which made them difficult for men on the prowl to access or seduce, and this without imposing on them pillbox-style face-coverings and body bags.

And of course there was no internet in those days. Where temptation is concerned, that was far from a negative.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Agents and Automatons

“Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.”

Not at all his will, despite strong urging.

Apollos had precisely zero interest in doing things the way Paul, with all his godliness and experience, thought they should be done. The two took opposite stances.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Two Kinds of Anxiety

“I want you to be free from anxieties.”

Now, you may or may not remember this, but it wasn’t the apostle Paul who wrote those famous words “casting all your anxieties upon [God], because he cares for you.” That was another apostle whose name begins with ‘P’.

All the same, many — maybe most — Christians have at one time or other heard these words appropriated to remind them to let go of all their cares and concerns, and hand their worries over to God, who loves us. Some of us heard the line from our mothers, and so the idea comes with a boatload of sentiment attached to it.

What it should not become is an excuse for passivity.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Criticism and Grace

The apostle Paul (and Timothy) to the church of God in Corinth:

“For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it — though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.”

You may already know the background here …

Sunday, August 12, 2018


“If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.”

This is Paul’s fourth-last sentence in his first letter to the Corinthians. It’s a pretty decisive concluding statement, and I’ve always wondered about it just a little.

I mean, it’s awfully strong language, making it difficult to argue that the apostle is merely using rhetoric to make his point. It is literally, “Let him be anathema,” meaning “doomed to destruction”.

One might well ask the question, “Is that exactly fair?” For a lack of love?

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Let the Others Weigh

Not too long ago, a grand old Bible teacher I remember fondly from my youth posted a rare thought on Facebook about teaching scripture on the Web. His concern: that the haphazard slinging of tangentially Bible-related opinion is a potential threat to the unity of local churches. Some form of oversight by seasoned teachers of the word of God is preferable. He cited Paul’s command to the Corinthian church: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said” in support of the principle.

Now, he’s not wrong here, and he’s not the first to note the problem.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Not With A Ten-Foot Pole

You can tell a fair bit about where modern evangelical culture is headed by the sorts of questions it asks and answers, and perhaps even more about it from those it doesn’t.

There are verses of scripture with which nearly everyone engages. Google-search a question related to one of these and you come up with pages and pages of links to discussions of the subject; more than anyone would ever have time to read. For example, the question “What is the sin unto death?” returns hundreds of possible answers based on what must be thousands of hours of Bible study.

Which is great if you’re concerned you might not yet have committed it and wish to avoid doing so.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Things Prepared

To have had truth made known to you is not the same as understanding truth.

Parents will grasp this instantly. You’re correcting your five-year old, and he asks why, so you explain. He can process the words. He can retain the words. They have been “made known” to him, and they have become part of his experience. They reside in his memory, where he can access them and make use of them when he grows into them.

But your words are not of much practical use to him in the moment, because he doesn’t yet fully comprehend them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Who’s Got the Microphone?

One natural follow-up question from Saturday’s post on the subject of roles is this: “Did women ever prophesy in New Testament church meetings?”

I ask it largely out of curiosity: even a crystal-clear scriptural example of a prophetess addressing both men and women in a congregation (assuming we could find one, and we can’t) would not really help us toward working out our own roles in a day in which we are no longer able to prophesy in the specific sense in which Paul uses the word.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Subhumanity and Satisfaction

“Deliver my soul … from men of the world whose portion is in this life. You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants.

As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.”

David spends a portion of the 17th Psalm asking God to deliver him from wicked men and deadly enemies. But he finishes his meditation by asking for deliverance from a third, arguably less offensive group.

This last crowd sounds awfully familiar. Basically, it’s everyone who simply doesn’t appreciate the value of knowing God.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: See You in Court, Brother

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

God on the Hot Seat

Cheryl Schatz on the subject of calling God to account:

“So the question we need to ask is, should we call God to account for gifting women in areas that men say God has ‘disallowed’ or ‘disqualified’ women from using their gifts for the benefit of all?”

Now we all trust Cheryl’s answer is going to be no, right? I mean, the idea of calling God to account for anything at all is actually pretty funny, and it’s especially odd to see a professing Christian use the phrase. After all, those who make the public claim that it is God who created and God who sustains them ought to be the first to recognize our relative place in the universe.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Sometimes Burning is Better

My mother had all but given up on being married when she met my father. At very least she had determined to walk with the Lord and serve him with a whole heart whether or not she ended up doing it alone. Or so I remember hearing the story told.

My father, to the best of my knowledge, wasn’t really looking for a wife when he met my mother. He was busy preaching and teaching and seizing whatever opportunities to serve that the Lord put in his way. My take on it is that he was seeking first the kingdom of God and found to his delight that some other things got “added unto” him along the way, so to speak.

With such ambivalence about actively pursuing marriage on both sides, it’s a wonder I’m here to type this today. They might well have missed each other. And yet ... here we are.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Letters from the Best Man (7)

The following is absolutely fictional and increasingly common. There is no Brad and definitely no Jill, in case that is not obvious. There are, however, way too many people in their position.

Dear Dorothy,

I haven’t had much of a chance to work through what you shared with me in your email, nor an opportunity to pray about it the way I intend to, but I figure it’s better to get back to you sooner than later.

You’re right, I must confess: I never in a million years expected to hear from you. I’m almost positive the last time we saw each other was at Brad and Jill’s wedding, which makes it over a decade now. And I agree: discussing my best friend’s failing marriage with his mother-in-law puts me in almost as awkward a position as it puts you to discuss your daughter’s current relationship problems with me. I expect neither of us will be at our best as we are both working with understandable biases and with only partial information. But I think if we are careful and Christian about it we may be able to do some good for two people we love without breaking any confidences or meddling in their lives.


Wednesday, May 03, 2017

The Stuff That Matters

The human heart (interior view)
To believe you have been known and understood is simultaneously the most exhilarating and terrifying sensation in the universe.

The terror is the reason most of us avoid it. To be known is to expose the worst about ourselves, so we market a more palatable package of “alternative facts” to the public, withholding information or spinning it as required.

Man, it’s an awful lot of work.