Monday, May 28, 2018

Reading Through 1 Corinthians #3 (9-11)

schenk 1 CorinthiansThis post continues a read through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians accompanied by 1 & 2 Corinthians: A Commentary for Bible Students, by Kenneth Schenck. In this section of 1 Corinthians Paul deals with some issues about worship, conduct and freedom in the church that have come to his attention. The bottom line in all these is the unity of God’s people and the priority of the gospel mission. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Paul continues the discussion on how to handle controversial issues in the church in 9-10. In chapter 9 he uses himself, how he handles ministry finances, as an example. Paul asserts that he has the right to receive ministry donations to finance his ministry. However, he does not use that right in Corinth because he believes it will hurt his gospel mission. It is likely that ministry in Corinth was financed by "benefactors" who could then control their "clients." Paul wants to be able to preach the gospel unhindered by other loyalties. In chapter 10 Paul applies this to eating meat offered to idols. One has freedom to eat this meat because God owns everything. But many people, coming out of paganism, still were drawn to the idol temples, which in reality were worshiping demons. It is also possible that Christians were drawn to dinners in the idol temples for advancement in society. The meat is nothing, but to eat in an idol temple was idolatry so it should be avoided. The principle is that Christians should not use freedoms selfishly but always act in a way that glorifies God, helps others grow closer to God and advances the mission of the gospel. I think many seeming contradictions in what Paul says are explained by this principle.

Christians often will find themselves in disagreement on various issues with other Christians. Paul makes it clear what our attitude should be in such circumstances. There is a place for standing up for the truth of the gospel. Paul models this kind of protest when he stood up before the church at Antioch and opposed Peter. But standing up for our own rights is not such a situation. If it does not hurt you and it helps others, why not become a “Jew to the Jews”? Why not become weak to the weak, so you can win and preserve the weak? 1 Corinthians 9, 138–139

Act from faith and conviction...Being a Christian is not about getting your rights or exercising your freedom. It is about glorifying God and building up others. 1 Corinthians 10, 150

In chapter 11 he applies the above principle to public worship in the church gathering. The first half of the chapter is very difficult to understand because it deals with cultural understandings and practices (11.16) unique to the 1st century church. Schenk sees the issue as inappropriate expression of the new freedoms for women to pray and prophesy. Paul is saying that the women, especially married women, should exercise their freedom in a way that was culturally appropriate and was not sexually provocative to the men that were there and to the angels (see Genesis 6.1-4, Jude 6, 2 Peter 2.4). In the last half of the chapter Paul scolds the church for turning communion into a party in which the privileged ate gluttonously and got drunk while the poor were left out and hungry. The sacrament which was supposed to celebrate the provision of Christ and unity of the body had become a selfish indulgence which produced division. Paul rebukes this and commands that communion be done in a way that honors Christ and builds the unity of all in the church.

For a woman to pray or prophesy in this context was for her to play an unusual role of prominence. It automatically created social tension and awkwardness...In this setting, the head covering brought stability to a socially tense situation. 1 Corinthians 11.3-16, 161

Communion is much more than a good time to hit the “reset” button on our personal walk with God, although it is certainly that. But we do even better to think of it as a time to hit the reset button of the whole congregation in its walk with God too, a time for us to remember where we are going together and that we are to bear each other’s burdens along the way. 1 Corinthians 11.17-34, 170

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