Thursday, May 31, 2018

Reading Through 1 Corinthians #4 (12-16)

schenk 1 CorinthiansThis post concludes a read through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians accompanied by 1 & 2 Corinthians: A Commentary for Bible Students, by Kenneth Schenck (although we will stay in the same book for 2 Corinthians). In this final section of 1 Corinthians Paul deals with some issues about spiritual gifts and their use within the body in 12-14, questions about the resurrection and nature of the eternal body in 15 and then ends in 16 with some instruction about an offering for the poor in Jerusalem and some personal greetings. 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.

In 12-14 Paul answers questions from the Corinthians dealing with the exercise of spiritual gifts in the church. The bottom line is that spiritual expression that is really from God is motivated by love, reflects the lordship of Jesus Christ, and results in the building up of other members of the church body into the image of God - Jesus Christ. In chapter 12 Paul makes the point that spiritual gifts are distributed by God to everyone in the church body for the purpose of mutual growth into Christ. Not everyone has the same gift but this diversity should contribute to the unified good of all. All gifts are needed and all are valuable. But it seems that some of the Corinthians were arrogantly using their gifts for personal benefit. Paul counters this with the "love chapter" in 13. The point is that the motive for the use of all gifts should be love. If gifts are exercised without love, as Paul describes in 13.4-7, their source is not God and their results will not last. Love is superior because its results are eternal and complete. Christian maturity is demonstrated in love. Finally, Paul deals with gifts in the public assembly in chapter 14. Here he focuses on the greater authority of prophecy and inspired proclamation. He does not dismiss tongues (I think there is an ecstatic quality to the tongues Paul describes in this chapter), especially in a private setting, but seems to discourage their use in a public setting. Paul wants the worship service to be "decent and in order" so that it will teach and build up all the attendees through worship and Spirit inspired teaching and preaching.

The culture of the Mediterranean tended to function with the idea of “limited good.” The idea is that there is only so much good in the world, so if someone gains, then someone else somewhere else must lose. Someone else’s misfortune was thus a possible boon to you, and your success meant someone else’s loss. Paul rejects this idea within the body of Christ. The success of other Christians is your success, because they are you—you are both part of the same body. Similarly, their pain is also your pain, because you are both the same body. 1 Corinthians 12, 179

If patience is victory, venting your anger at someone else’s expense is defeat in the Christian contest. If forgiveness is Christ-like (Matt. 18), then holding grudges is Satan-like...The highest love works for the greater and ultimate good of the beloved. Our love of God itself leads us to hate the evil and love the good. 1 Corinthians 13, 185

How often do we treat church as a one-on-one between me and God without even thinking about it? Sometimes it seems during contemporary worship that the whole church is just a sea of individuals each in his or her own world talking one-on-one with God, waiting for an individual zap from heaven. Paul implies that worship should involve the body building up the body. 1 Corinthians 14, 194

In chapter 15 Paul deals with the question of the resurrection of the body. It is likely that there was a teacher or faction in the church there that, while affirming the spirit would live eternally, denied that the dead would be raised bodily. Paul responds by affirming the bodily resurrection of Christ as an integral part of the Gospel message. Christ's resurrection is a precursor and guarantee of the resurrection of all believers. Paul then affirms that the bodies that will be raised, while having continuity with the bodies we have now, will be different, spiritual, bodies. This will happen at the return of Christ when the cosmos is renewed and placed back under submission to the rule of Christ. Chapter 16 ends the letter with a reminder about the Corinthians' participation in the offering for the Jerusalem church and the greetings of Paul and his ministry team to the church leaders. At the end of the letter Paul comes back to the key idea of the unity of the church in Christ.

The early Christians focused much more on the idea that we would come back from the dead in a body. They were very vague about where or what we would be in the meantime. They did not focus on heaven or hell and had very little to say about the state of the dead—both righteous and wicked—between death and the resurrection. What they preached was that God would bring wrath on the earth at some point in the near future. 1 Corinthians 15.1-11, 210

But in 1 Corinthians 15, he has in mind the ultimate victory over death and sin that we will have at the resurrection. Then we will no longer be made of the flesh that dies. Then we will no longer be made of the flesh over which sin can have such awesome power. In the prospect of that day, thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (15:57). 1 Corinthians 15, 228

Related to the idea of fuller reconciliation with Jerusalem is a theological concept Paul valued: the unity of the church universal. While he knew tensions are an inevitable part of human interrelationships, Paul’s theology could not live with unending disunity...The offering was thus likely an expression of the unity of Jew and Gentile for Paul. 1 Corinthians 16, 232–233

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