P. 1
Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

|Views: 129|Likes:
Published by miltonsenior
A study in 1 Corinthians
A study in 1 Corinthians

More info:

Published by: miltonsenior on Jan 05, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

07/26/2014

pdf

text

original

Sections

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

A Study in First Corinthians

Milton Stanley

Transforming Publishing http://transformingpublishing.net 2009

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified: A Study in First Corinthians Copyright © 2006, 2007, 2009 by A. Milton Stanley All Rights Reserved (except as noted below)

The copyright holder hereby grants permission for the non-commercial download, adaptation, copying, and distribution of this work with the following conditions: that all copies or adaptations of this work acknowledge the copyright holder as author of the original work; that if any material referenced from another source in this work be used in a copy or adaptation, the original author or authors be acknowledged as author(s) of that source material; that the publisher be informed in writing of any substantial adaptation or republication; and that no copies or adaptations of this work may be distributed commercially or for-profit without the expicit, written consent of the copyright holder.

Where noted, Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Library of Congress Control Number: 2009931146 ISBN: 978-0-9841152-0-4

Published by Transforming Publishing P.O. Box 308, Morrison, TN 37357 http://transformingpublishing.net

Front cover: Text of 1 Cor 2:11-3:1, Greek manuscript and English translation

ii

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

For Milton and Shelly

iii

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

iv

Preface
All of the Apostle Paul’s letters are relevant for the church today, but 1 Corinthians is especially relevant for a very simple reason: the letter is addressed not only to the Corinthians, but to us. Although the letter was written specifically to Christians in first-century Corinth, Paul adds a salutation to “all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours” (1 Cor 1:2). For the twenty-first century church, Paul’s salutation is particularly apt, because the church of 1 Corinthians bears many resemblances to the Western church today: urbane, worldly, and surrounded by every kind of sin. Jesus Christ and Him Crucified interacts both with Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians and the implications of those instructions for the church today. This book has been written to help Christians better understand both the historic context of 1 Corinthians and our own lives of discipleship. I have tried to write in a style appealing to the general Christian reader but with an emphasis on overall themes and big-picture issues of interest for preachers and Bible study leaders. I have endeavored to ground this book on sound exegesis and scholarly integrity while still keeping the practical demands of congregational life and ministry in mind. Each chapter in its earliest form was the text of a sermon I delivered to a local congregation. In adapting these lessons for a wider readership, I have worked to make each example and illustration applicable to a general audience while maintaining the style of the spoken word. I have approached Paul’s letter from the perspective of one faithful to the Restoration heritage of Churches of Christ. At the same time, I have tried to look at the text with fresh eyes rather than simply following wellworn paths of Restoration scholarship. My own doctrinal position is neither “conservative” nor “progressive” but, I pray, simply faithful. In offering this work in book form, I hope to engage each reader in a way that will bring about not only knowledge or devotional warmth, but transformation of heart and mind. My prayer for you is that the present volume helps bring to life in your own heart the reality of Jesus Christ and him crucified. Milton Stanley Mud Creek, Tennessee

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

vi

Contents
Preface Saints by Calling (1:1-9) United in Mind and Judgment (1:10-17) The Word of the Cross (1:18-31) But We Have the Mind of Christ (2:1-16) Building a Strong Church (3:1-23) Servants and Stewards of God’s Mysteries (4:1-5) The Folly of Ignoring God’s Gift (4:6-21) Deliver Such a One to Satan (5:1-13) Preparing Ourselves to Judge Angels (6:1-11) Bought with a Price—So Glorify God! (6:12-20) Our Bodies are Not Our Own (7:1-12) Remaining as We Are (7:12-24) Free from Concern (7:25-40) But Love Builds Up (8:1-13) Slave to All (9:1-27) So That We Would Not Crave Evil (10:1-13) All to the Glory of God (10:14-11:1) Holding Firmly to the Traditions (11:2-16) His Body, His Blood (11:17-34) One Body, One Spirit (12:1-31) A Still More Excellent Way (13:1-13) Spiritual Gifts and the Great Commission (14:1-25) Decently and In Order (14:26-40) v 1 7 11 17 23 29 35 39 45 49 53 59 65 69 73 77 81 87 93 99 105 109 115

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

The Reality of the Resurrection (15:1-11) The Church’s Treasure (15:12-34) The Glory of Resurrection (15:35-58) Each a Part of One Another (16:1-24) End Notes Bibliography About the Author

121 125 129 135 139 145 147

viii

Saints by Calling 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
It’s hard to imagine a first-century document more relevant to the church today than 1 Corinthians. Like the early Christians in Corinth, the North American church is strongly influenced by the surrounding culture. Like the Corinthians, we are far too prone to smugness, too sure of our own strength and wisdom. And like the Corinthian Christians, believers today desperately need the gospel in its most basic form: Jesus Christ and him crucified. In terms of the themes and problems it addresses, 1 Corinthians could have been written to us. And in fact it was. In 1 Cor 1:2 Paul addresses his letter not only to the church in Corinth, but to “all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours” (1 Cor 1:2). It’s good that Paul addressed this letter to all Christians, for its truth is fundamental for Christian living in every nation and every age. Paul liked to begin his letters by first describing the wonderful gifts of God to Christians, and then showing how those gifts provide perspective and inspiration to their current situation. The first few verses of 1 Corinthians are the foundation of all that follows and for Christian living in general. They are loaded with meaning and shine light on God's relationship with Christians in the past, present, and future.1 Paul begins by calling Christians saints (v. 2). The word “saint” isn’t reserved for only the super-holy. Saints don’t necessarily hold special positions in the church, and “saint” is not a title awarded to Christians after they die. Saint simply means someone who has been sanctified, set aside, made holy. And who are these sanctified ones? Every Christian in every age, from Peter and Paul to you and me. It's an amazing thought, really, that the folks sitting next to us in the pews every Lord’s Day are saints, made holy by the blood of a crucified Savior and empowered for good works. “Well,” you may be thinking, “there's one more example of a preacher being out of touch with the real world. If only he know about old so-and-so, he wouldn't be talking about saints. I know the man sitting next to me every Sunday morning. He may be a Christian, but he's no saint!”

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Yes he is. If he's a Christian, he's been made holy by the blood of Jesus through his death on the cross and resurrection. Why are Christians saints? The answer is right there in 1 Cor 1:2: God has called us to sainthood, and we confirm that calling when we ourselves call on the name of the Lord. As we'll see in 1 Corinthians, that calling is not with our lips only. It's not only with our doctrine, but with our hearts and with our lives. Here at the beginning of the letter, let's not bog down on the details of what we have to do to become Christians. At the very heart of being a Christian, at the very foundation of every life sanctified by God, is God's first of all calling to us. “True,” you may say, “But there's a pattern and a plan of how we have to respond: hear, believe, repent, confess and be baptized.” Of course. If 1 Corinthians shows Christians anything, it is the need for us to respond to God's truth and love. But let's never try to equate God's role in salvation with our own. Yes, God calls us and we call on him, but the equation is not balanced. It’s not an equal exchange. Comparing our work to God’s in salvation is like comparing a lightening bug to the noonday sun. Why belabor this point? For the same reason, I suspect, that Paul does. In our own day men talk far too much about what we have to do to be saved and not enough about what God has already done to save us. When we direct most of our attention to man's role in salvation, we are in danger, like the Corinthians, of becoming haughty: “I called! I repented! I was baptized! Look what I did! Thank God I'm not like that other sinner!” Yes, Christians have called on the Lord, but we call only because we have first been called. And as we’ll see in 1 Corinthians, God calls us because he loves us. By God's grace Christians have been made holy, have been sanctified, have been transformed from sinners into saints. A big part of Christian discipleship, as the Apostle shows us in many of his letters, is putting off the ways of a sinner and taking up the ways of a saint. But as much as we struggle—and we should struggle—to put off sin in our own lives, let’s always remember that if we are Christians we have already been made holy in God's sight. How? By the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross to pay the debt of our sin. That's what the death and resurrection of Jesus accomplished. We have already been made holy through the love of God. Holiness and love, as we shall see, are the foundations of Christian behavior. So as Christians we have already received sanctification through Jesus Christ crucified. That is the grace we receive when we first come to Christ. But that is by no means the end of God's gifts to us. We enjoy the blessings of God's grace through being enriched in everything (v. 5). Paul lists the ways the Corinthians have been enriched by God: utterance and
2

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

knowledge (v. 5), confirmation of the testimony of Christ (v. 6) with nothing lacking (v. 7). The irony of the Corinthian church is that the Corinthians have turned those very blessings into problems. They have been given everything they need, but they break into factions and promote disorder in worship. They are holy, yet some practice sexual immorality. They have been given great knowledge but are selfish and lacking in love. From looking at the problems facing the Corinthian church, it's striking that Paul would ever say the testimony of Christ is confirmed in them. The church in Corinth, quite simply, is a mess. But they're still saints, pure and holy before God. Even though their actions indicate they are sinners, the Apostle still calls them saints. As bad as they’ve been behaving, they’re still a holy people. You may think that sounds too good to be true. Yes it does. “How can they have so many problems and still be saints,” we may ask. “That sounds like an unrealistically good deal for the Corinthians.” Yes it does. But that's the way it is. This is one of those cases where it helps, as Jesus told us, to have the heart of a child (Matt 18:3). Unlike adults, children have no problem accepting unbelievably good deals. If you offer a child a new car in exchange for an apple, he’s much less likely than an adult to be suspicious and turn you down. A small child has the ability to accept a wildly good deal without hesitation. And a child has the ability to lean back faithfully into the loving arms of a Father who shares the best he has with his children. Can you relate to this image of the church—equipped and strong in gifts but still weak in practice? It was certainly not a condition unique to the Corinthians. Paul told the Colossians, for example, that our lives have been “hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). Christians may not look particularly strong or holy. When the world looks at us, we may not appear on the surface to be much different from other human beings. But the world is mistaken, and it's important that the church not make the same mistake. We are, in fact, different at the very depths of our hearts. We have been made new, made holy. Through the blood of Christ Jesus we have become saints. Our challenge as Christians is to remember who we really are in Christ. And once we do, we also remember the power we have from God. In any age, one of the most pressing challenges before the church is to remember Jesus Christ crucified. As the Apostle shows us in 1 Corinthians, that historical and spiritual reality should be at the center of our hearts and minds. And once Jesus Christ is central to our thinking, we have access to his power. In fact, that’s the only power worth having: the strength that comes through Jesus Christ. It’s true that we may prefer the strength of our own moral superiority. After all, our moral strength is our own, something we’ve earned through our good behavior. But Christ
3

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

didn’t come to make us moral; he came to make us his. Paul tells Christians we are enriched in God and “don’t lack any spiritual gift” (1:7). What blessings! We have every gift we need. When Christians come to realize we have been blessed so richly, we don’t have to be afraid of what’s going on around us. We begin welcoming others into the church, without fear that they will compete with us for God’s blessings. There’s plenty of his love and grace to go around. Christians also have a promise for the future: that Jesus will sustain us to the end (1:8). What a promise! Not only has God kept us going in the past, but he will continue to sustain us in the days ahead. It’s easy to talk about keeping our grip on God. The Bible contains many promises of blessings for those who hold fast to the Lord. Yes, Christians must hold on to God. But let’s never forget a much more important truth: he’s keeping his grip on us. And he’s not holding us just to see if we blow it so he can drop us on our heads. Do you know the attitude I’m talking about? Some Christians seem to believe God is just waiting for us to mess up so he can let us fall into the pit. That image of God, however, is a lie. God doesn’t want his disciples to fail. He will sustain us to the end. The Apostle talks about God’s sustaining us as we wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:8). That refers to the “second coming” of Jesus Christ, when the King of Kings will come in glory to receive his own people into an eternal reward. As we see elsewhere in the New Testament, it is an event Christians should be waiting for expectantly. Wishing for the end of the world may seem like an unlikely desire, but our attitude toward the coming of Jesus may be the best single indication of whose side we’re really on. Do we anticipate Christ’s return with eagerness or fear? Are we terrified at the prospect of meeting Jesus face-to-face, or do we long for him to come and reclaim his creation? What we believe about the return of Jesus isn’t a head-in-the-clouds subject. If we really believe Jesus is returning to set the world right, and that we are his, then we can put up with a lot in this life. What’s more, we can do a lot in this life. Here in these first nine verses of 1 Corinthians, we see the richness of Christian discipleship, of the blessings from God to those he has called and who call upon him. In the very next verse, Paul begins to show the Corinthians their failures, how they haven’t lived up to their calling. But first, he gives them a clear picture of that calling and what their response should be. As we’ll see, the solution to problems in the Kingdom of God doesn’t come from dwelling on our failures. Do you notice that Paul mentions Jesus Christ five times in these opening verses? The solution to problems in the church is looking to Jesus Christ and the Father who sent him to save the world—for “God is faithful” (1:9). As we study 1 Corinthians, let’s
4

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

allow that truth to sink into our minds and hearts. Later in this letter Paul will begin talking about particular problems with the Corinthians’ behavior. But in the process he always discusses our failures in the light of God’s faithfulness. In some parts of this letter, Paul’s words may make us squirm. But let’s remember that God is faithful. Holding onto that truth is the difference between frustration and hope. We’ve been graced by God. In first century Corinth as well as today, Christians have been informed, equipped, prepared. We’ve been freed from sin, bondage, and fear. We’re saints. Let’s start living like we really are. We can, you know.

5

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

6

United in Mind and Judgment 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
First Corinthians is especially timely for the church today. The firstcentury Corinthian Christians were facing many of the same problems as Christians in our own culture. As was his custom, Paul began this epistle by reminding the church of the great things God has done for us. We saw in the first nine verses of 1 Corinthians how, despite our problems, Christians are saints gifted by God for good work. After laying that foundation Paul quickly turns to the many and severe problems facing the church at Corinth. The first problem is factionalism. It’s easy to fall into this sin and for it to become the root of many more. Factionalism is particularly destructive in the church because it arises from pride: not the pride in a job well done, but pride in feeling superior to others. It’s especially important to recognize pride if we’re trying to do Bible things in Bible ways. Pride causes factions, even if the factions consider themselves antifaction! Pride is a constant temptation for Christians who care about doing things right. Fortunately, the cure for pride does not revolve around doing things right! Division has a certain allure. When the Apostle Paul wrote this letter, the Corinthians had begun forming cliques around various teachers. We don’t know if the names Paul gives here are those of the actual factions or if he’s merely using them as examples. In any case, dividing the church into parties was as sinful then as it is today. The danger of division, by the way, is inherent in Protestantism. When each congregation is independent of every other, it becomes too easy for birds of a feather to flock together. Romans 14 has a lot to say about differences of opinion among brothers and sisters in Christ. But even today, Christians form competing factions and congregations over issues that should be matters of individual conscience. We see these factions in our own midst not only among denominations, but among conservatives and liberals, mainstream and non-institutionals in Churches of Christ. During the last century, Churches of Christ formed factions around the so-called “editor bishops” of various brotherhood papers: David Lipscomb, Austin McGary, Foy Wallace Jr., etc. A hundred years ago you could tell where a man stood by whether he read Lipscomb’s Gospel

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Advocate or McGary’s Firm Foundation. In the same vein we now form factions around publications such as New Wineskins and Seek the Old Paths. There's nothing wrong with publications themselves. It's simply that many Christians choose to use them as rallying points for their own selfishness and pride. One writer has called factionalism focused around prominent preachers and writers “a vicarious ego trip.”1 No Christian is exempt from the temptation of forming into these factions. It’s a way of puffing ourselves up by hitching our wagons to our favorite doctrinal hotshots. Unfortunately, when our pride becomes more important than our risen Savior, we’re practicing a form of idolatry.2 Factions, with their foundations of pride, are dangerous places to be. “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6, NASB). Factionalism threatens to destroy fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. And as the Apostle John reminded us, if we do not have loving fellowship with our brother, we cannot love God (1 John 4). There is, however a cure for division, and it’s right here in Paul’s appeal to the Corinthians. The cure lies not in who wins—conservative, liberal, whatever. The cure for factionalism is found in the name of Jesus Christ.3 Let’s be very careful here. We won’t reach unity in the church simply by calling it by the right name. Of course, the church should not take factional names; that’s a sinful, proud approach. But simply calling ourselves “Church of Christ” doesn’t put us above the fray, even if we write “church” with a little “c.” It sickens me how much selfish pride some Christians take in the name Church of Christ. The unity of the church must come from more than words. Togetherness must rise not from letters on a sign, but from hearts turned toward God.4 The Christian community is not a place for rivalry but unity. When you think about it, God exists in a community of Father, Son, and Spirit. Our Lord calls the church to testify to the world what true community can be.5 If Churches of Christ truly care about Christian unity, we must to be very careful in approaching denominations, lest the cure we present becomes worse than the ailment. We must proclaim the truth, but let us choose our battles carefully. Unity in Christ is more important than having our way. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be willing to stand up for God’s way; clear sin needs to be called by name. But a dash of humility is always in order. For example, I for one am convinced that the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated with one cup of fermented wine. That’s the way every Church of Christ celebrated the supper until the mid-1800s. Our practice of using little individual cups of unfermented juice is an innovation of the nineteenth century. Well, you may ask, why not join a one-cup, fermented wine congregation? Simple. I choose to continue worshipping with manycuppers because breaking fellowship over what kind of cups to use for the
8

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Lord’s Supper is absurd. It reminds me of a factional Church of Christ known by the other congregations in town as the “One Cup With a Handle Church of Christ.”6 I’m willing not to have my way on this matter in order to stay in fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. But how can we tell what’s actually worth dividing over and what’s merely a matter of choice or pride? Well, let’s begin with Jesus’ call for his disciples to take up our crosses daily and follow him (Luke 9:23). If we truly begin denying ourselves and taking up our crosses, then we begin to see the main idea emerging here in Paul’s letter. And what is that main idea? The cross of Jesus Christ. Paul came to preach so that the cross of Christ would not be made empty (v. 17). The power of the church is found in a crucified Savior. The cross is where Jesus paid the price for our sin. It is where we gain access to the presence of God. And it is where Christians’ sight should always be focused. Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of the faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2) In short, Jesus Christ crucified is at the heart of Christian unity. In service to a crucified and risen savior Christians find unity as well as answers to the tough questions of faith. We don’t please God by insisting on our way, by playing the big shot or by puffing ourselves up. Some of the Corinthians were acting that way, to the harm of themselves and the church. Christian discipleship is an exercise in service, in sacrifice, in humility. It is the discipline of following the One who has already accomplished the great work of salvation for us. When we begin to follow Christ in sacrifice and service, we walk in the power and wisdom of God. The power of the cross is why God entrusted his work to the church. God didn’t give the job of proclaiming the gospel to the wisest, the most educated, or the religious professionals. Through the power of Jesus Christ, the most important tasks of the Kingdom are entrusted to the most ordinary men—but men who deny themselves so that Christ may be proclaimed. Unity in the church comes from dying to ourselves and focusing our energies and attention on our Savior. Unity comes from actually caring about peace with God. If our goal is simply to get along with one another, whatever the cost, then we will drift away from God and, eventually, each other too. But if our goal is pleasing God and proclaiming Christ, then we will get along with one another in the
9

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

process. The Corinthians had been enriched in all wisdom and knowledge (1:5). So have we. Your congregation may harbor great pools of talent, knowledge, and skill. But what matters most comes not from what we have but from what Christ has given us; from looking not at ourselves, but at the cross of Christ.

10

The Word of the Cross 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Shakespeare wrote, “The sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds/Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.”1 How true, especially in the church. There may be something uglier than a proud Christian, but I don’t know what it is. And if pride is the measure, the Corinthian Christians were pretty ugly. Saints gone to seed are not pretty to contemplate. But as sad as it may be to consider, we have to face that there are still seedy Christians among the Lord’s church today. Pride is a sad condition. Second Timothy 3:2 includes pride among a long list of ugliness, including those who are abusive, disobedient, ungrateful, heartless, unholy, brutal, reckless, treacherous, and denying God’s power. Jas 4:6 says that “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble” (NASB). Those are pretty strong words for an attitude that almost all Christians deal with in one form or another. But then, pride will tear a church to pieces. When pride rules, Christians become more concerned with jockeying for position than with rejoicing in serving God and one another. We begin feathering our own nests rather than welcoming the lost. We look down and bask in our own spiritual superiority while sinners barrel headlong into hell. At best a proud church will stagnate. At worst, it will slide into hell alongside the lost. What can we do about it? Pride, after all, is one of the hardest sins to lose. Many people try to fake humility, often by putting themselves down in conversation. Of course, those folks may secretly be the proudest of all. But then, if we really do begin to overcome our pride, we run the risk of becoming proud of our humility! And of course, selfish pride in any form is 180 degrees opposed to real godliness. The first-century Corinthians were a proud church, but the apostle Paul had a word for them that twenty-first century Christians would do well to hear. I’ll tell you right up front what it is: the cross. This word of the cross is foolishness to those perishing and to the world (vv. 18-24). Compared to the cross, the best wisdom the world has to offer is foolishness. If that’s really true, have you stopped to think how much of life that reality impacts? It applies to everything, not just what we commonly call worldly persons—drinkers, gamblers, sexual sinners. The world isn’t just the filthy rich, the irreligious, the conspicuous sinner. The

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

word Paul uses here is kosmos, a Greek word meaning adornment, order, everything. Everything! “The world” is most of our own lives, even for Christians: twelfth grade economics, eight grade physical science, sixth grade social studies, long division and multiplication and subtraction, cooking tips grandma gave you and dad’s instructions on how to change the oil in the car, how to drive a bargain when buying a car, tying your shoelaces, how to hold your knife and fork. Everything. And the best we’ve learned from all that kind of instruction is foolishness. Oh sure, it’s good as far as it goes. There’s no “biblical” way to do long division, to tune up a car. But the ways of the world (in other words, most of what the world thinks and does) has no place for the cross. The cross simply doesn’t fit into the picture of the great, wide world of our daily lives. And that makes the world foolish for what really matters: eternity, life, the King’s business. The greatest dangers to the church are not so much blatant sins (which the Bible clearly describes) but worldly thinking, which creeps into the church in ways we least expect. How does the world creep in? It infiltrates the church when we come to believe that the rules of the world apply to the Kingdom of God. The rules we learn in our everyday lives work fine for worldly things, but when it comes to the Kingdom, we have a whole new way of operating. Worldly thinking is creeping into the church when we try to run it like a business. Worldly thinking is heaping doctrine on top of doctrine until we lose sight of the Word of God. In Churches of Christ, for example, we say we have no creed but the Bible. That’s a good approach, because when the church stands on the doctrines of men, we get in trouble. Of course, “no creed but the Bible” is easier said than done, especially when we approach the Word of God with worldly thinking. Let me give you one, hypothetical example. In Matt 19:9, Jesus says that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery. But remember that in Matt 5:28 Jesus has said if a man lusts in his heart for a woman, he’s already committed adultery. Therefore, following strict but ironclad logic, if a wife finds a Playboy in her husband’s golf bag she has grounds for divorce because he’s committed adultery through his lust. Mature Christians, of course, understand that scenario is bogus. However, by the wisdom of the world, it makes literal, logical sense. Unfortunately Christians sometimes use that same kind of worldly logic on other matters of doctrine. Wisdom that works for the world, you see, doesn’t always work in the Kingdom. It’s simply a matter of using the wrong tool. It’s like trying to cut a two-by-four with a see-saw; like trying to seal a moving box with recording tape; like trying to cut your steak with a putty knife. The tools
12

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

just don’t work. Kingdom rules are different at a most basic level. The first are last and the last first (Matt 19:30). The one who leads must be a servant (Mark 9:35). The humblest are the greatest (Matt 18:4). Shame is honor (Heb 12:2). Wealth and power are dangerous and deadly not so much to the weak as to the powerful (Matt 19:24). The Gospel is foolishness to all we've been taught! Our logic itself simply doesn't hold up. Wait a minute. If our logic itself doesn't hold up, what leg do we have to stand on? If not logic, then what? Didn't God create us in his image, and give us minds? Yes, he did. Well then if everything we've learned is foolishness, how can we believe? Belief, after all, is the first and most important step to salvation. Again, our minds are good as far as they go, but our wits can't save us. So what hope do we have? The answer is here in 1 Cor 1, and it gives us no room to be proud of ourselves. Read verses 27-31 and please notice these words: “He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus.” We're in Christ Jesus because we're called (v. 24), because we're chosen (v. 27). That's the biblical picture: what God has done for us. Wait a minute. You say we shouldn't depend on the doctrines of men, but what you’re saying sounds like Calvinism! No, it's the Word of God. You find it here and elsewhere in the New Testament. When it comes to who does the choosing, Christians divide into two main groups. Calvinists say God does the choosing. Arminians say that man does the choosing. Which one is right? Neither. And both. How's that? First, both approaches lead to pride. Whether we believe God rejected others and chose me, or simply believe we were smart enough to make the right choice, either doctrine can serve to puff us up. Of course, that pride is our own fault. But the doctrines themselves are flawed. Both doctrines, you see, are trying to explain God's purposes in worldly terms. And both ignore the big picture: the cross is foolishness to the world. Of course, the world is foolishness to the cross, too. So choose your foolishness. Do you want the foolishness of the world, so that you can have a logical answer to every question? Or do you want the foolishness of the cross, which is the power of God? The fact is that worldly, ordinary thinking can't comprehend the cross. The New Testament clearly says: God alone chooses those who are saved. Yet the thrust of the whole Bible is that we must choose our own course. How can it be both? I have no idea. And maybe that's the point. When God's ways confound our minds so that we can't answer the big questions logically,
13

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

then we learn to depend not on our own wisdom, but on the power of the cross. Look at what Paul tells the Corinthians: to us who are being saved, the word of the cross is the power of God. I spend a lot of time on sermons, but sometimes when I'm standing up telling the story of the cross, it hits me: “This makes no sense. I haven't explained this idea of the cross well enough. The lost aren't going to understand any of this.” Yet sometimes they do. Sinners repent, come forward in faith for baptism. You know what I've found in preaching? People like to hear well-crafted, well-delivered sermons. But there doesn’t seem to be any relationship between good rhetoric and transformation of the heart. That's because real heart change doesn't depend on the preacher's words. It depends on the word of the cross. OK, so what does it look like, this power of God in the cross? I'd like to offer three ideas: the cross behind us, the cross upon us, and the cross before us. The cross behind us is the work God has already done for Christians. Christ was crucified to pay the debt of our sins and bring us into new life (Rom 4:25). In Rom 6:6 Paul writes that “our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (NASB) So the cross set us free from sin. And how do we benefit from that freedom? Romans 6:4 tells us: “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (NASB). A new life—the old life is gone, behind us, left behind at the cross, and now Christians live a new life in Christ. Isn't that encouraging? We don't have to keep reliving our past mistakes. Now we can live a new life with Christ. Of course that new life isn't all sweetness and light. It's hard work. And that brings us to the next image of discipleship: the cross upon us. Christians are called to share in Christ's sufferings. As Jesus told us, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Christians haven't been saved simply to kick back and celebrate (at least not yet). We certainly shouldn't be patting ourselves on the back for being wise enough to accept the gospel. We're saved to join the battle for souls, for the Kingdom! That means we have do deny ourselves, not insist on our own way. It means not having our own way at all, because we have something much better. And that much better is the cross before us. The author of the book of Hebrews put it beautifully: Christians are to keep the cross in sight, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2, NASB). When we focus on Christ and his cross, everything begins to look different. Things that
14

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

are big to the world—money, comfort, prestige—begin to look small. We ourselves begin to look small too, and Christ and his Kingdom grow to become all in all. Wait a minute. There's only one cross. How can it be behind us, on us and in front of us at the same time? Now, that's worldly thinking, isn't it? Jesus didn't come to make us better thinkers. He came to give us new minds. That's what repentance is: a new mind, a new way of thinking. That's what Christians are learning in worship and study and fellowship. The power of the cross is going back to square one in our “cosmos.” It's learning a new way of thinking; a new language of faith; a new way to walk, to talk, to love, to rejoice. And the only way we can learn and live that new way is to keep our eyes on the cross of Jesus Christ. Do we dare? Do we have the courage to give up everything but Jesus Christ and him crucified? Living a cross-centered life is dangerous to our worldly way of thinking. But it opens our lives to the Kingdom, and to the King.

15

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

16

“But We Have the Mind of Christ” 1 Corinthians 2
One of the most frustrating situations in Christian ministry is trying to help Christians in whose lives the gospel has never seemed to take hold. It’s a problem in nearly every congregation: how to motivate carnal or worldly members to service. Why are some men and women baptized into Christ but then go on living as if they’re still part of the world? This second chapter of 1 Corinthians gives us part of the answer. It also shines light on how to make discipleship more real. Here’s a clue up front to the answer: weakness. Notice how Paul describes himself during his earlier visit to Corinth? Some parts of Paul’s letters are hard to understand (2 Pe 3:15-16). But not here. How much plainer could his words be? When Paul came to the Corinthian Christians he didn’t impress them with the quality of his speaking skills (v. 1). He came to them in weakness, fear, and a lot of trembling (v. 3). What’s more, his message had no eloquence, no nuance, no systematic rigor. All he preached when he came among them was Jesus Christ crucified (v. 2). What kind of picture is that of a Christian leader? A fool. A weakling. And Paul wasn’t afraid to admit it. In fact, Jesus’ apostles, the first leaders of the church after the Lord himself, were all weaklings of one sort or another. When Jesus was with them, they didn’t understand what he was talking about. After he was arrested, they ran away from him to save their own skins. After Jesus was resurrected, they did great works, but always deflected credit from themselves and gave glory to God. They were, quite simply, weak men. So today why do we expect our leaders to be strong? Why do our elders and especially our preachers have to speak well, look good, carry themselves confidently, have a firm handshake, be well educated, sensible, and drive a nice car? That’s not the picture Paul presents. He doesn’t brag about his Ivy-League resume, but about his foolishness and weakness. That attitude isn’t sour grapes on Paul’s part. He wasn’t one of those men who never bothered to study and then went around saying knowledge isn’t important. No, Paul had been one of the Pharisees, a group of Jews who committed their lives to knowing and doing the Law of God. Paul had studied under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), one of the most famous Pharisees of the time, a man whose teachings on the Scripture

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

scholars study to this day. Paul told the Galatians, “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my countrymen, being extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Gal 1:14). Paul could probably even quote Scripture from memory better than our best brotherhood preachers. And we see from his sermons in Acts that Paul could use classical rhetoric when he wanted to. Yet he wanted to be known for his weakness. Do you have any idea why Paul would brag about his weakness? Wouldn’t it be better to brag about his accomplishments? Wouldn’t the good things on his resume make a bigger impression on the Corinthians and cause them to pay more attention to his words? You would think so. It certainly makes sense. Yet Paul knows what he’s doing. He’s putting into practice what he wrote about in the last chapter: the foolishness and weakness of God’s Kingdom. Paul is willing to count himself as nothing because he has something much better to tell the world about than himself. Paul has the mind of Christ (v. 16). There’s a wonderful, supernatural power in sharing Christ’s mind, Christ’s heart. It’s power in fellowship. And the wonderful news is that it’s available to every Christian. Like Paul, we don’t find that strength by puffing ourselves up. Only when we confess our own weakness and quit making ourselves the message can we proclaim Christ not only in our words but in our lives. That’s true, healthy, godly humility. That’s the kind of discipleship God wants of his people. That’s the way we ought to live. And we shouldn’t expect anyone to praise us for it. There’s a great deal of misunderstanding about Christian discipleship. A lot of folks think living like a Christian is a feather in their cap socially. Being in church becomes part of a good life: making good money, dressing well, being polite, going to church, volunteering for the United Way. In that scenario, being a Christian is part of showing the world we have our act together. But that good-life approach is only a half-truth that neglects a very important fact: living like a Christian will expose our weakness and make us misunderstood by the world. If we really live like disciples of Christ, many of those around us will think we’re weak, naive, unrealistic. Some may even think we’re crazy or dangerous. And why would they think that? Because the wisdom of Christ is not the wisdom of the powers-thatbe. As we read in verses 7-8, but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (NASB) The wisdom of God looks like foolishness to the world. Most people in
18

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

the world can’t understand the wisdom of God any more than they can speak ancient Anatolian or Hittite. It’s really ironic that Christians want to be seen as respectable. It was the respectable folk, after all, who crucified the Lord of Glory (v. 8). God calls Christians to live differently from the rest of the world. We are called to take on the discipline of a Kingdom where the rules are different from the world around us. I struggle as a preacher to know how to motivate people to want to accept that discipline: to want to draw near to God, to become fruitful disciples of Christ. If we already want to draw near, then the Word we proclaim will help us. But if we don’t have a heart’s desire to draw near to God, we won’t even hear or understand the Word. We’ll only notice how bald or fat the preacher is, how he sometimes makes a mistake in grammar or stumbles over his words. Maybe we’ll listen to the sermon only to find fault with whatever the preacher phrases poorly. We’ll notice the clothes and the perfume of those around us. Or maybe we’ll be thinking only about how many minutes till the closing prayer and lunch with the family. In other words, if we don’t have the Spirit of God, then the Word is only words. Christians, don’t be complacent on this matter. Yes, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit at our baptism. But we can grieve that Spirit if we choose to let our hearts be shaped by the lord of this world rather than the King of kings (Eph 4:30; 6:12). Woe be unto us if we become complacent in hearing the Word of God. The Spirit comes only by faith (Gal 3:2), and that faith is a whole lot more than intellectual belief. It’s more than simply saying at some point, “Well, this gospel business may be right. I don’t want to go to hell, so I think I’ll be baptized to be on the safe side.” Don’t be one of those who goes to get baptized and only gets wet. It’s faith that opens our lives to the Spirit of God. It’s faith and the Spirit that open our minds to the Scriptures. It’s faith that makes us want to do the things of God. It’s faith that saves us. You’re probably familiar with the verse, “Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). That’s how hearts change: the Word of Christ crucified. For years I preached, “be baptized, stop doing these things and start doing these other things.” All that has its place, of course, but we’d better take care where we place our emphasis. We don’t need the Spirit of God to manipulate people to do what we want. We can use guilt and fear just fine to persuade folks to be baptized and come to church. But you can get in the water, attend the assembly every week, give up a thousand sinful practices and still be lost. That’s because if you have no faith, you have no Holy Spirit and therefore no hunger for righteousness, no joy, no hope. The only way we’ll have any of the blessings of salvation is through faith, and faith comes from this illogical idea: Jesus Christ crucified.
19

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Christ crucified was the word of life in Corinth, and it’s still the word of life today. The church isn’t called to preach a tame message, a polite salvation. Recently a news magazine ran a picture of a teenage boy wounded by a terrorist bombing. One side of this young man’s body had taken the force of a bomb. His shoulder was badly injured, and blood had turned one of his shirt sleeves from white to red. While that photograph is of a young man many miles away in a situation strange to us, in many ways it is a picture of souls all around us, in our own congregations. Our souls, in varying degrees, have been wounded by the world around us: by what we’ve done, by what others have done to us. In many cases those wounds are filled with dirt and infection, with the pus and swelling of bitterness and unforgiveness. All around us are wounded souls. Yet we try to live our lives as if the wounds weren’t there. We smile and say, “I’m fine” while infection oozes from our souls. And nothing will heal our souls but the power of the Word. Each Lord’s day I stand before a congregation and try to bring the word of life, of healing, of salvation through Jesus Christ. Sometimes I feel like I’m holding a fire hose just spraying out the Word of God, the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified. But as poorly as I or any preacher proclaim that message, it has the power to change hearts. What can wash away my sin? Jesus Christ and him crucified. What can clean the damage and infection of my soul? Jesus Christ crucified. What can help me lay aside rage and anger, bitterness and resentment, spite and revenge? Christ crucified. The word of the cross is the power of our message, and it is the power to change lives. Look at 1 Cor 2:12: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God” (NASB). Christians have received God’s Spirit. Does that prospect excite you, encourage you, comfort you? If the Spirit of God is working in you, it should. If not, then all I know to do is keep aiming the hose! If we have received the Spirit of God, we have the power to do what we never could before. We can understand the Scripture (with effort, of course). We can better understand life, the world, ourselves and others. We have the wisdom to discern right choices. Developing the mind of Christ is not simply a matter of being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit and then, “Whoo-hoo! I got all the answers now!” No. Having the mind of Christ is not automatic. Look again at verse 12. It doesn’t say Christians have received the Spirit and so now we understand. It says we have received the Spirit “so that we might understand.” The Corinthians were Christians, but they still needed instruction to begin thinking and acting like they were. And they needed more than just facts. Paul, after all, knew the facts when he was still a Pharisee, but those facts didn’t help him until God broke into his life.
20

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Even after that event, Paul spent years studying and growing in faith before he began writing the letters we still read today. So, like Paul, we develop the mind of Christ first of all by receiving the revelation of God’s Word. If we have heard the Word proclaimed, it has to break into our lives to quicken our hearts toward God (That breaking in, by the way, is a gift from God through his Word). And once our hearts have been inclined toward God, we have to know the Word so much that it becomes part of us. Most Christians don’t study the Bible as much as they’d like. If the Scriptures aren’t a joy for you to read, then please pray they will be. And then read them! Get to know the Word. Set aside time each day to read the Scriptures. If you have trouble understanding what you read, then get copies of the Bible on tape. Set aside time not only to read the Bible, but to consider in prayer and meditation what it means. Get to know the Word, not so that God will love you more, but so that you will love him more. And take time to worship God in the communion of saints. Worship is a duty that’s good for the soul. It’s a rehearsal for eternity—when the saved will worship in the presence of the Lord forever (Rev 22). I sometimes hear worship taught as an obligation but with no mention of its blessings: “Don’t miss worship or you’ll lose your salvation.” That’s a fear approach, not a faith approach. It’s forcing behavior rather than encouraging faith. Prayer, Bible study, worship, obedience are not only commands, they’re blessings to those who do them. And yet why do so many Christians not participate in them with joyful hearts? Simple. Many Christians still have a worldly mind, not the mind of Christ. One more point to consider: If we do have the mind of Christ, we’ll have his life as well. Christ’s life is one of obedience and joy. It’s also a life of persecution. As Paul told his spiritual son Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). That’s another side of the cross: not only did Christ die on the cross for our sins, he calls us to take up our crosses daily and follow him (Luke 9:23). In other words, Christ died to save us from our sins, not to save us from the cross.1 If you’ve been fighting a successful battle to keep the Spirit from working in your heart, the idea of carrying a cross is foolishness. But if we have the mind of Christ, it’s pure joy.

21

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

22

Building a Strong Church 1 Corinthians 3
In 1 Cor 2 we saw how Paul came to the Corinthians in weakness and fear. Although he had been a man of great learning and honor among his countrymen, Paul chose to rely not on his own power but on Christ, the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24). Christians can have that power, too, that mind of Christ. It is given by the Spirit through the Word (2:1416), and we can begin to develop it at our baptism. But it’s not automatic. We grow into the mind of Christ through prayer, study, meditation, worship to God, and service to others. And the world around us won’t appreciate our efforts, because the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world. Quite simply, there is a different logic at work in the Kingdom of God than in the world around us. So Paul—and all mature Christians, all who dare to stand weak and fearful before the lordship of God—have the mind of Christ. That mind brings not only wisdom, but power. Paul had it, but he wasn’t able to use that power and wisdom very effectively with the Corinthians. He had it, but they couldn’t understand it. Why not? The answer is here in 1 Cor 3, where Paul uses three images to describe the situation at Corinth: a nursery, a farm, and a construction site. In all three illustrations, the case is the same; the Christians at Corinth are babies. They are what Paul calls “fleshly” (3:3). The church is full of strife and jealousy. The Corinthians had formed little parties and fiefdoms around their favorite teachers. Apparently each party was struggling for control rather than living and acting like Christians. Parties or factions in a church lead to that kind of mess: looking at the congregation as “our” church to control. It’s a danger to any church, especially during times of change or growth. Whatever the makeup of our own congregations, every Christian should remember: a congregation isn’t a long-timers’ church (or newcomers’ church, either). It’s the Lord’s church, and when any group of Christians begins to think and act otherwise, they’re on the dangerous ground of factionalism. In Corinth the factions centered around the names of Paul and Apollos. What about today? What kinds of factions do Churches of Christ divide into? Naturally, we try to avoid that sin. We reject creeds that divide Christians and lean on the Scriptures in the hope that all Christians

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

will be unified on the foundation of Jesus Christ. We claim the Bible as our only creed. Good! But that’s a whole lot easier said than done. Historically, Churches of Christ have divided along “paper” lines: Firm Foundation or Gospel Advocate, Christian Courier or New Wineskins, Seek the Old Paths, Gospel Minutes, you name it. If there’s a paper, there’s probably a faction built around it. Not that the Christians who publish these papers want to form factions, any more than Paul did. That’s just the way people behave when they’re fleshly. Some Christians today want to hold onto the religious ideas written in the papers of the 1930s and 1940s. There’s enormous irony to that position: what we may think of today as “old paths doctrine” is in many cases the new teachings and innovations from the 1930s and 1940s. Today other Christians reject the so-called conservative or “old-paths” approach while grabbing hold of the latest religious fad. One group calls the other group “liberal” while pushing ideas the church got along without just fine for 1900 years. Another group calls the other “old school” while missing the fact that the most important truths are much older than either faction! The problem with all forms of factionalism is that ego and power issues get in the way of the Word. Notice 1 Cor 3:5-7: Those who sow the seed, the men who do the teaching and evangelism, aren’t anything—even if they’re big names like Apollos and Paul. In the big picture, they’re nothing. Well then, if a man who writes thirteen books of the New Testament is nothing, who is something? God is. He’s the one who causes things to grow, whether it’s a squash plant, a baby boy, or a congregation of the Lord’s church. We can do all kinds of things to make the church swell, but only God can make it grow. And while God desires for “all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4), he is less concerned with numbers than with hearts. It’s hearts that Paul is writing about here in 1 Cor 3. After moving from the nursery to the field, Paul shifts the metaphor again in 1 Cor 3:9 from farming to construction. Here he gets closer to the heart of what the church really is: the temple of God. Paul’s not talking about the building, but about the people. See verse 16: “Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you?” It’s not the building but we ourselves who are the temple—saints redeemed at the cross of Christ and raised with Christ to walk in newness of life. Later in 1 Corinthians, Paul will explain that in another sense the body of each individual Christian is a temple as well. But this passage isn’t talking about individual Christians; it’s addressed to the church. The “you” in these verses is plural. Paul isn’t talking to individuals but to the whole church. The assembly of believers is the temple of God. When that truth sinks into our minds, we begin to see how horrible factions in the church really are.
24

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Factionalism threatens to destroy the temple. That’s no small crime. See verse 17: “if anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and such are you.” We take a wrecking ball to the temple every time we let factions overtake unity and loving service. We run a dozer through the temple wall whenever we give more importance to personal control than to pleasing God. We plant explosive charges around the framework whenever we start to think we deserve to be in the temple and when we depend on our own power and wisdom to do God’s work. Every church sins to a degree. But woe be unto anyone who allows spiritual childishness to destroy the temple. A lot depends on how we build. Do we build the temple with wood, straw, silver, gold, precious stones? We build with wood and straw when we use ordinary thinking to make decisions for the church. Wood and straw may look strong, but they can’t withstand fire. Notice verse 13: “each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work” (NASB). Those words aren’t about the fires of purgatory or hell but the refining fire of God’s judgment. Will what each congregation has built stand or will it all be burnt up? There are so many ways to build wrongly but only one way to build right. And how’s that? From the ground up, of course, from the foundation. That seems simple enough, but there’s a catch. The foundation itself is something we can’t comprehend by the ordinary, everyday thinking of the world. So how do we build a strong temple? By being fools! By being weak! Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, ‘He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness’” (3:18-19, NASB). We start to build a strong temple by being fools to everything the world believes: how to treat people, how to spend money, how to lead and follow. We build well only when we become fools to everything but the Kingdom of God. As we’ve seen, that involves unlearning worldly wisdom. I’ve read plenty of books advising churches on how to grow. Leaders of megachurches are usually very good planners and businessmen. They implement plans for bringing people in, following up on their visits, hooking them up with existing ministries, and training them for the work. All of those activities are good as far as they go. But in building what really counts—hearts transformed to Christian maturity—the wisdom of the world is useless. That worldly wisdom is sometimes known as
25

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

common or good sense, and we learn it all our lives through our various interactions: family, school, business, military, college, the school of hard knocks. Good sense has its place, but it won’t build a fire-proof church. Ordinary, sensible thinking on our part won’t build a strong church. Well then, what will? I hesitate to say it, because it sounds so foolish to the worldly side of my mind. But the answer is as plain as it is challenging: Jesus Christ and him crucified. What? Of course that’s good theory, but there are a thousand practical details for building a church. There are only so many hours in a day. How do we set priorities? Jesus Christ and him crucified. There’s so much Bible truth to teach. We have new Christians who don’t know the Bible at all. And it’s not always easy to interpret the Bible correctly. It’s so easy to twist Scripture, to selectively choose the passages that prove whatever we may want to prove. How can we learn to read the Bible faithfully? Jesus Christ and him crucified. But what if my soul hurts, and my family is a wreck? What if my health is on the skids? What if I’m struggling to overcome sin? I’ve got worries the Apostle Paul never dreamed of! What kind of help can a 1900-year-old letter written to a bunch of foreigners give me? Jesus Christ and him crucified. Jesus Christ and him crucified. That means choosing the cross over the world. It means choosing to read the Bible or pray with our families rather than watching television. It means arguing less with one’s husband or wife and praying with each other more. It means spending our money like Christians, not only putting more in the plate but also not wasting it in a culture that values entertainment and self-fulfillment as the greatest goods. It’s serving others. It’s confessing our own weakness and sin and admitting that the only righteousness we’ll ever have comes from Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and his glorious resurrection. It’s denying our own wants and doing what God wants. When congregations build with the stones of truth, love and obedience on the Rock of Jesus Christ, then hell itself won’t be able to burn us. We’ll have power, wisdom, and hope. Why? Because we don’t depend on our own hope, wisdom, and power. When the cross of Jesus Christ is at the center of our assembly, his power shines through us to bring about great results. That power is all the strength we need, all we can have. And yet we never have reason to brag. When we, like Paul, admit we are nothing, then something begins to come clear to us: everything is ours! Look at 1 Cor 3:21: Everything belongs to Christians. Yes, that’s what it says, there and in the next verse, too. Everything belongs to us, we belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. The church is as close as we come in this life to the world as God created it to be. God gave mankind dominion over all life on earth (Gen 1:26-28). The first couple blew it through disobedience, but Christ came
26

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

to earth in flesh to begin setting right the world and mankind’s place in it. He didn’t come just to save you and me, but to save creation. That’s why the gospel is more than “Fly to the sweet by-and-by when you die.” Jesus is fixing a broken world, and in its place he’s setting up a Kingdom. And he allows believers who have been washed in his blood and raised with him in baptism to share in his glory. This chapter began with a downer: you’re babies. But it ends in hope: everything is yours! Although Paul doesn’t use the word in this passage, the concept is here: Christians are heirs. We’re heirs of the Kingdom (Luke 12:32; Rom 8:17)—heirs to the mind of Christ, heirs through weakness and fear. Having the mind of Christ is a promise to Christians, although those who insist on remaining fleshly little babies may never grow to have that mind. But when we admit our weakness and foolishness and start depending on God’s wisdom and strength, we begin to see the power of denying ourselves and the glory in faithful obedience. We find that we already have everything worth having on the foundation of Jesus Christ, our rock and our redeemer.

27

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

28

Servants and Stewards of God’s Mysteries 1 Corinthians 4:1-5
In 1 Cor 3 we saw how the Corinthian Christians were troubled with strife and jealousy. Paul called them “fleshly” (3:3). He wanted them to grow up into the mind of Christ, but they were still babies (3:1-2). That’s still true for any Christians who think of a congregation as “our” church and so divide up and contend for control. Paul reminded the Corinthians that the assembly of believers is the temple of God (3:17), and that God alone causes the church to be built up (3:6). That temple is built strong when we keep our focus on God. It’s built up when we become fools to our own wisdom and proclaim not ourselves, but Jesus Christ and him crucified (3:18; 2:2). Church leaders—evangelists, elders and teachers— who would build on that foundation of Jesus Christ may use various materials: wood, straw, jewels or precious metals (3:11-12). Paul mentions those materials as metaphors for the quality of teaching and edification that leaders bring to the church. Here in 1 Cor 4 Paul continues his discussion of those who evangelize and teach the saints. What he reveals is not only a lesson for leaders in every congregation, but an important encouragement for every Christian. Let’s remember what we’ve just learned in 1 Cor 3: that as Christians, everything is ours in Christ (3:21-22). Yet if our minds are fleshly, then our thinking is futile (3:20). It’s ironic, really. A fleshly mind can look highly spiritual, but only when we cast worldly thinking aside do we really begin to have the mind of Christ. So let’s begin our study of 1 Cor 4 with Paul’s example for preachers and teachers. Specifically Paul is speaking here about himself, Peter (Cephas), and Apollos, but the truths he reveals are valid not only for leaders, but for all Christians. Paul begins by telling how the Corinthians ought to view him, Peter, and Apollos. In terms of Christian leadership, that’s pretty strong company. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, Peter had been one of his closest friends, and in the early days of the church, Peter often acted as spokesman for all the apostles. Paul, although he had not been a disciple before the Resurrection, had been a Pharisee, a diligent student of the Scriptures. What’s more, Paul had received a special vision and commission from the Lord, and he was the chief apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; Rom 11:13; 1 Tim 2:7). Apollos, although not one of the

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

inspired apostles, was a Jew from Alexandria, a world-famous center of learning and scholarship. He was a fervent leader, eloquent speaker, and had competent knowledge of the Scriptures (Acts 18:24-25). These three men were the best the church had to offer. So how should the church consider them? As servants and stewards of the mysteries of God (4:1-2). Servants and stewards—let’s think about that for a minute, because the words Paul uses here are full of meaning. That first word, translated servant or minister, means a helper, a subordinate to a more important person. An English word that captures the shades of meaning might be underling. The next word, steward, means someone who takes care of something that belongs to someone else. The word literally means household manager. In our day, we might say butler. Ministers and stewards—underlings and butlers—do you see how those descriptions take the emphasis off of where the Corinthians had been putting it? The Corinthians had evidently formed rival groups in the name of their respective teachers. Each group no doubt considered themselves to share in the prestige of whichever leader they chose. So Paul has already told them that he and Apollos are nothing (3:7), and here he chooses words to describe their ministry that take the emphasis off them and place it squarely on the One they’re working for. That’s a lesson every Christian leader ought to remember. There is no greater privilege than proclaiming the Word of God. That applies to the man who speaks to millions through television, dozens from the pulpit, or a single friend at home. All who preach and teach the Word of God are to a greater or lesser degree servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. And if we dare to take on that responsibility, it’s vital we remember whom we’re serving. It’s all too easy to consider evangelism “our” work, to fall into the dangerous trap of pride: “Look how many people I’ve led to Christ! Look how many I’ve baptized!” No matter how hard we work in the name of God, let’s never forget who does the real work. We present the Word to ears and eyes, but God alone works in the heart. Our mission is to be worthy of the trust God has put in us as his underlings. If churches are organized in line with examples in the New Testament, we can benefit from an arrangement that discourages some of the kinds of problems facing the Corinthians. For example, in Churches of Christ, we don’t call our preachers Father, Reverend, or Pastor. Jesus specifically cautioned us not to call earthly men father (Matt 23:9), and no one in the Bible is called Reverend except God (Ps 111:9). Pastor is the role of elders or overseers. A preacher may also be an elder, and preachers typically fill the teaching role of elders. But churches in the New Testament were never led by a single elder but by groups of elders. The books of Acts, 1 Timothy and Titus give us the best pictures of this
30

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

arrangement. Even when a congregation is being led by a single evangelist, it must be working toward having elders (Titus 1:5). Of course, simply having the right organizational structure won’t save Christians from proud or arrogant hearts. Notice that Paul doesn’t take issue with the Corinthians’ leadership structure. He takes issue with their attitudes. The Corinthians, it seems, had been taking issue with Paul. And notice how Paul responded? He’s just told them he puts a small value on himself, and now he does the same to their judgment against him: “But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself” (4:3, NASB). Notice that Paul doesn’t say he ignores the Corinthians. There are two mistakes Christians can make when dealing with our critics. The first is to ignore them completely (they might be right, after all). The second is to get too wrapped up in what they say.1 Paul sets a good example for any Christian, especially those who teach and lead a congregation. If we don’t listen at all to our brothers and sisters in Christ, we’re arrogant. We are part of one body, and the Holy Spirit reveals wisdom to a congregation in ways he may not reveal to any one of us individually. If we don’t pay any attention to criticisms from our fellow Christians, then trouble will follow. But if we pay too much attention, it will tear us apart. On my office wall I have hung a framed quotation from Dr. Bill Cosby. It says, “I don’t know the secret of success, but the secret of failure is trying to please everybody.” I keep that quote as a reminder, because when we serve others it’s easy to begin craving their approval. That’s natural, but it’s not Christian. As Paul said, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” You can’t please everybody (sometimes, it seems, you can’t please anybody). So live to please God. I once read of an old preacher who helped a younger preacher learn this lesson. The elders had called the young man in and told him that he needed to understand a few things. This was their church, not his: “We were here before you came, and we are going to be here when you leave; therefore, we expect you to do what we want you to do and not what you think you ought to do.” The younger man asked for advice from the older preacher, and here’s what the old preacher said: “Well, I would call together the elders of the church and I would say to them, ‘Brothers, I think you are suffering from two very serious theological errors: One, you think this is your church, but this is not your church. This is the Lord's church. All churches belong only to him; they do not belong to the people; they are not a democracy owned by the congregation. Jesus said, “On this rock I
31

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” {cf, Matt 16:18}. So all of us are under the authority of the Lord of this church, and it is his job to tell us what he wants the church to be, and not our job to tell him what we think it ought to be. “‘The second error is that you think you hired me to work in this church, but you have not. I did not come on that basis. I have joined you to share the ministry with you. I appreciate the fact that you have set me aside, and given me support from the congregation so that I do not have to spend time earning a living, but can devote my full time to the ministry of teaching and preaching. If you will not accept those terms then I will have to look elsewhere. I cannot work on any other terms because that is what the New Testament says.’”2 Any preacher or teacher must bring the Word of God to both the saints and the lost. A man who would preach must not shrink from bringing the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). That, by the way, is one reason it helps to preach texts more than topics. Preaching through books of the Bible gives the preacher less opportunity to keep trudging over his favorite paths again and again. By preaching through books, the church over time hears teachings from the whole Bible. And if any preacher is doing his job faithfully, bringing the whole counsel of God, he’ll step on everyone’s toes at one time or another. Often what we least want to hear is what we most need. None of this is to say preachers or teachers should be above criticism. “Don’t judge” is one of the most abused ideas in churches today. There is a time to criticize, a time to judge. In the case of Paul’s letter, it’s not that the Corinthians should never judge; it’s just that they weren’t any good at judging! They were still spiritual babies, and they didn’t have the mind for judgment. As we’ll see here and elsewhere, Christians must indeed judge some things: sexual immorality (1 Cor 5:3), right and wrong (1 Cor 6), truth (Acts 17:10-11; Gal 2:4, 2 Tim 2:15ff). But we mustn’t have an arrogant attitude about it. The Corinthians were in essence placing themselves above Paul. It’s their arrogance that Paul is speaking against, and he reminds them that he—and all of us—are ultimately subject to God alone, the only one who can see our hearts and will one day reveal their innermost secrets. That’s a lesson for all Christians: that God alone is our judge (4:4). With that truth in mind, let’s now look at something with the potential to change our lives dramatically. Notice what Paul says in the second part of
32

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

4:3? Paul is an inspired apostle who can say with confidence that he has the mind of Christ. And yet he doesn’t even judge himself! That’s humility. That’s faithfulness and trust in God’s wisdom. As Paul goes on to say, Christians are to examine ourselves (1 Cor 11:28) and test ourselves (2 Cor 13:5). But we are not to judge ourselves. I meet so many Christians who do try to judge themselves—whether or not they’re really living good enough lives to be Christians. And as a result of this constant, internal evaluation, they’re simply eaten up by guilt. They may be blessed to know God’s standards of righteousness and have the courage to look at their own weaknesses. But then they jump to faulty conclusions: “I’m pathetic. I’m worthless. If I’m this bad, I can’t really be a Christian.” It’s a terrible trap, judging ourselves, because if we’re honest we’ll all find plenty to judge! When we do give in to self judgment, one of two things usually happens: either we go on the offensive and begin judging others as harshly as we judge ourselves, or we just sit down in quiet hopelessness. But here’s something to remember. We’re not qualified to judge ourselves.3 We can’t fathom the depths of our own hearts, let alone God’s. God is the only one qualified to judge us. In the right context, we can and should examine ourselves and do what we can to live like Christians. But it’s not our job to judge ourselves, especially when, through our Savior Jesus Christ, we’ve passed from judgment to life (John 5:24). You may feel inadequate to be a Christian. And, if God judged us simply by who we are and what we do, none of us would have a place in his holy kingdom. But when a Christian begins looking at himself with eyes of judgment, it’s time to see with eyes of faith. That’s when it’s time to look to the Word for our identity. And we’ve already seen in 1 Corinthians what that identity is. Christians, those who call on the name of the Lord, have been given grace from God (1:4). Grace is a gift we don’t deserve. We receive the gift through faith, repentance, confession, and baptism. But even those actions on our part don’t cause us to deserve God’s blessings. Discipleship is not a transaction, as if we do something for God, and he blesses us as repayment. No. Grace is a gift from God, and nothing we do causes us to deserve it. So we ought to give up the idea right now that we ever deserve the blessings God offers. And what are those blessings? Everything (1:5; 3:21-23). Everything. Everything is ours in Christ: forgiveness and sanctification (1:2), peace (1:3), knowledge and wisdom (1:4, 24), fellowship (1:9), power (1:18), salvation (1:18), righteousness (1:30), glory (2:7), truth (2:13), God’s own Spirit (3:16). God has enriched us in everything. And remember this: those gifts are not to individuals alone, but to the church, the body of Christ. We find those blessings in the community of saints—as messed up
33

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

and dysfunctional as the church may be, that’s where God blesses us with these gifts. There’s one more gift, perhaps the most precious of all: God is faithful toward us. The Christians in yours and every congregation, as messed up in many ways as the Corinthians—these are the ones God will confirm to the end, “blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:8). Whatever we may feel, whatever we may see when we look down into our own hearts, is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter; it doesn’t count. The only thing that counts is what God has done, and he is faithful to keep and save weak, broken vessels like us. As Paul told the Corinthians, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor 5:17, NASB). If we have put on Christ we have forgiveness, new life, new standing. And God is holding onto his own, because he is faithful (1 Cor 1:9). Who are you to judge yourself when God has forgiven your sins through Jesus Christ? This whole idea of judgment requires wisdom to grasp; it’s not an easy topic. It’s very easy to misunderstand, especially if we don’t have the mind of Christ. Why does Paul speak against judging in chapter 4 and then tell the Corinthians to judge in the very next chapter? Why does Paul tell them to be foolish in one place and wise in another? Why does he praise weakness and then tell them to be strong? To really understand the answers to these questions we have to know God and his commandments. And knowing God takes time and effort and a heart open to the Word. It takes obedience to God, and it takes getting our spiritual hands and feet dirty, so to speak, in worship, fellowship, and service with the church. We need a strong sense of God’s holiness. There is no place in his Kingdom for wickedness. God does judge—and it’s a fearsome thing to be under his judgment. Hell is real. But knowing God also means knowing his mercy. He’s infinitely more holy than any of us, yet he looks upon us with more mercy than we show ourselves. He isn’t waiting for us to mess up so he can prove he’s better than we are. God is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth” (Exod 34:6, NASB). When we come to know him, there’s no greater joy than being butler, underling to our great and loving Lord.

34

The Folly of Ignoring God’s Gift 1 Corinthians 4:6-21
The opening section of 1 Corinthians comes to an end here in chapter 4. In his epistles, Paul begins by telling Christians who God is and what he’s done for the church. After laying that foundation, Paul moves on to exhorting Christians to practice godly behavior. That approach provokes gratitude and repentance, and it changes lives. In the next chapter, Paul will begin addressing particular issues of Christian behavior among the Corinthians. But first he has had to deal with a large, fundamental problem within the church: Christian leadership. The Corinthian Christians are gifted from God, but they’ve begun to think far too highly of themselves, and now they’re following human leaders at the expense of following God. Paul doesn’t give the names of these Corinthian leaders, but he does show how their lives stack up to his own life and the lives of true leaders in the church. In the process Paul shows not only leaders but all Christians how to live: by having faith in our crucified Savior, putting that faith into practice, and exercising the power it brings. This section, in which Paul urges the Corinthians not to be arrogant, begins with a challenging exhortation: “that in us you might learn not to go beyond what is written” (v. 6). That phrase, by the way, is a pillar of biblical interpretation and practice in Churches of Christ. Throughout the centuries the church has fallen into troubles and foolishness when Christians go beyond what the Word of God teaches. Putting Paul’s exhortation into practice, without doing things the Scriptures prohibit or prohibiting things the Scriptures allow, takes wisdom. Paul will deal with this issue in more detail in chapter 8. In this context, however, the issue is not interpretation but arrogance. The Corinthian leaders are arrogant, and their worldly thinking has turned the church away from the simple gospel of Jesus Christ.1 Paul has already reminded them that the gospel is not eloquent or complicated. It’s simply Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2). Whatever else the Corinthian leaders were teaching apparently looked good by worldly standards, but they had forgotten the most important truth. Although some were educated, wealthy, and gifted, the Corinthians had drifted from the heart of the gospel and needed to relearn the basics. Although they believed

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

they’d arrived,2 they were in fact babies in Christ (1 Cor 3:1). These worldly little babies thought highly of their own abilities and poorly of Paul. Not only is such an approach silly, it’s dangerous. The real danger with an arrogant attitude is that depending on one’s own strength and abilities is a denial of grace.3 That’s why arrogance is such a serious sin. Paul asks the Corinthians why they take credit for a gift (1 Cor 4:7). The Corinthians are sorely deceived in taking credit for God’s work in redeeming and empowering them. What about the church today? Do we depend on God’s grace or on our own strength? Do we try to grasp what we can reach or what God has in store for us? If we are depending on our own power, then we deserve Paul’s scathing sarcasm: You’re already filled! You’ve already become rich! You’ve begun to reign without us! Yes, and I wish that you did reign, so that we might rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us, the apostles, last of all, as men sentenced to death, because we are made a spectacle to the world, and angels, and men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we have dishonor. (1 Cor 4:8-10) Why does Paul call the Corinthians kings? He’s mocking their arrogance. They’ve been acting as if they’re kings, and Paul calls them on it. In looking at Paul, by the way, it’s good to be reminded that Christian leaders can still have both a sense of humor and a hard edge. Too often Christians are solemn about all the wrong things and lack the passion we should bring to the work of the gospel. If we bring passion and truth to bear on that work, some folks will get their feelings hurt. That’s the way it should be, because the Kingdom of God isn’t about being nice and making people feel good. It’s about redeeming sinners from the world and transforming them to live by the values of heaven. That transformation hurts, especially when we think we’ve already arrived. The Corinthians certainly thought they had, so Paul mocks their attitudes: these little babies think they’re kings, that they’re rich, smart, and strong. But Paul saves the fiercest sarcasm for last: they are held in honor. These worldly, first-century Corinthians seem to have forgotten that taking a position of honor is exactly opposite of how Christians are called to live.4 Let’s not forget today. During the twentieth century Churches of Christ steadily moved from being mostly modest, rural congregations toward being more wealthy, educated, and respectable. Today, more and more churches are on the “right side of the tracks.”
36

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Increasingly, Churches of Christ appear respectable to the wider world. The desire among Christians to be accepted in society at large is perfectly natural. It’s also perfectly deadly to our souls. Paul warns Christians here and elsewhere that the world will reject Christians who live their faith. And as he told Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim 3:12). Let’s not forget how foolish the gospel looks to the world at large. What kind of sense does it make that the creator of heaven and earth would take on flesh and become a human being? How could it possibly be true that Jesus was both God and man at the same time? How can Jesus’ death on the cross pay the debt for our sin? How can baptism put us in union with Christ’s resurrection? As someone has said, “Grace isn't just amazing; it's ridiculous.”5 It doesn’t make sense to the world, and sometimes it doesn’t even make sense to Christians. The Corinthians didn’t properly comprehend grace, or else they wouldn’t have been bragging about their own strength. On the other hand, look at Paul and the other apostles. They were willing to give up comforts (v. 11) and work with their hands (v. 12). As we’ll see in chapter 9, evangelists deserve to be paid and make their living from proclaiming the gospel. But Paul and his fellow workers had given up their privileges. That’s exactly what Jesus exhorted Christians to do (Matt 5:38-42). The apostles endured persecution (v. 12), and when they were slandered, they looked for reconciliation, not revenge (v. 13). They were willing to be less than nothing to the world (v. 13). All of these things—money, comfort, prestige—were nothing compared to the glory of God’s grace. The apostles would rather do the work of God than claim all the world has to offer. “For what does it profit a man, having gained the whole world and losing or forfeited his own self?” (Luke 9:25). What about us? Which are our churches aiming for, the world or the will of God? Paul concludes this section by further discussing the role of a Christian leader. He calls himself a father to the Corinthians. This is not a title of honor but a practical role. Paul preached and taught in Corinth for a year and a half (Acts 18:11). He has led the Corinthians to God and worked at building them up in Christ. At this point they’ve fallen pretty seriously away. But you notice Paul doesn’t simply reject them: “You worthless bunch of sinners! You’re no sons of mine!” No. What does he do? He expresses his love for them. He encourages them not with shame but with love (1 Cor 4:14).6 Are we listening? As a little boy grows by imitating his father, so the Corinthians were to grow by imitating Paul. That’s how discipleship works, not only with Paul, but with any Christian leader. We lead the church not only with our words but with our actions. Although he proclaimed the very Word of
37

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

God, Paul wasn’t a man of words alone. He put the Word into action. Many Christian leaders are ineffective because they preach a good word but don’t live it. And if we don’t really live the Word, we don’t really believe it (Jas 2:17, 26). But the Word came alive in Paul’s life, to change his heart and give him the proclamation that changes others. Paul had gifts we do not have today. But he did have something we can have: the power of the Word in action. After encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul never lived the same again. His purpose in life changed from one of destroying the church to one of building it up. He went throughout the world with the good news and suffered agony in the process. Paul had the power of the Word in action. We do, too, when we really believe enough to live differently from the world. The Kingdom of God is not words alone, but the power of a new life, a new allegiance, a new citizenship. Too often a church falls into saying the right words but not living the life. Many churches have the right words of doctrine but lack the power that comes from believing. Today, do we show our faith is real by giving up comfort, financial security, and personal pleasure to do the work of the Kingdom? Have we repented of being strong, respectable, and important? Are we willing to move beyond the power of our own minds and wills to find the power of repentance and obedience? These first four chapters of 1 Corinthians are a treasure chest of godly wisdom. They offer a glimpse of what God expects from Christians and how the church deals with its own shortcomings. But the letter is of little value if we look at it only historically. The Corinthians were more like us than we may care to admit. If what you’ve read so far doesn’t prick your heart, you may need to have your pulse taken! Remember, Paul is not talking here to the Corinthians alone (1 Cor 1:2). He’s also talking to us. And let’s remember too that the Corinthians’ greatest sin was the arrogance of neglecting God’s grace. Remember: grace is a gift we don’t deserve. Grace is God loving and blessing those who have been defiled by sin—and that’s all of us (Rom 3:23). Grace is sending Jesus Christ, the Word of God, to earth as a man (John 1:14; Phil 2:8). It’s Jesus dying on a cross to pay the price of our sin (Eph 2:16). It’s allowing us to join Jesus Christ in faith and baptism (Rom 6:4). Grace is the power that charges our lives (Rom 12:2; Eph 3:7). Every day we are choosing to live either by God’s grace or by our own power. The one we choose will determine what kind of disciples we become, either like the Corinthians or like the apostles. Will we be babies pretending to be kings? Or will we be butlers and underlings serving a King who shares his own glory with us?

38

Deliver Such a One to Satan 1 Corinthians 5
Up until this point in 1 Corinthians we have been looking primarily at factionalism and Christian leadership. We’ve seen that faithful leaders in Christ don’t operate on their own power but on God’s. Faithful leaders don’t build personal followings or puff themselves up. Faithful leaders are butlers and underlings who give glory to God. Now, in chapter five, we see what happens to a congregation without good leadership. In short, that church falls into sin—and not only individual sinners, but the whole congregation suffers. In the case of the Corinthians, Paul begins by addressing three types of sin: incest (ch. 5), lawsuits (6:1-11), and prostitution (6:12-20).1 Notice that two of these deal directly with sexual immorality—as we might expect in a city widely known for its licentious behavior. This chapter begins with an example of both incest and adultery—a case as extreme for first-century Christians as it would be today. What does such an unlikely case have to do with the twenty-first-century church? Simply this: for a congregation to approve of sin—any sin— corrupts the church. The congregation in Corinth had become lax toward sin, and as a result the church was rotting from the inside. This section of 1 Corinthians shows us how to take sin seriously, and it gives us a glimpse of how church discipline ought to work. There is a time, place, and context for Christians to judge sin—and we must! The Corinthian church was experiencing a sin so gross that even the Gentiles wouldn’t do such a thing: a man had taken up with his father’s wife (5:1). Literally, Paul says the man “has” his father’s wife—a verb signifying a continuous relationship. And rather than condemn such sinful behavior, the Corinthians are proud of it (5:2-6). Someone has likened the maturity of a church to the quality of an automobile. Spiritually speaking, the Corinthians were driving a wreck of a church— and they were proud of it!2 It seems they understood something about the freedom of God’s grace, but nothing of the duties it brings. One of the Corinthian Christians was committing a sin that even the pagans didn’t do, and the church was proud. Does that sound anything like our day? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard preachers talk about “unconditional love” or

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

“unconditional acceptance” when it comes to sinners in their midst.3 Let’s say someone calling himself a Christian practices a sinful behavior, and rather than simply calling the behavior sin, members of that person’s church talk about the sinner’s need for unconditional love and acceptance. In our day that kind of thinking is prevalent on the issue of homosexual relationships, but we can find it in many other contexts. Words about unconditional love sound very spiritual, and of course there is some truth to them. Far too many Christians cause their love for others to be dependent on the other person’s behavior. Conditional love is especially harmful when parents use it on their children, and it can turn a family or a church into a favor exchange club. On the other hand, if we focus so much on unconditional love that we forget love’s stern side, then before long we allow the most sinful behaviors to go unchallenged. The example of the Corinthian church is a case in point. Yes, the Corinthians should love the man who is living with his father’s wife. But the man is under judgment (5:3), and it’s time to take action. Looking back over the epistle so far, we might wonder how this talk of passing judgment jibes with Paul’s warning in 4:5 against judging other Christians. That’s a question worth exploring. In our day, for example, the most often repeated words of Jesus may well be, “Judge not” (Matt 7:1). Those are the very words of the Lord, so we’d better give them some attention. But let’s be clear: if “Judge not” is all we know about judgment in the church, then before long we’ll be in as bad shape as the Corinthians. In 1 Cor 4:3-5 Paul is warning the Corinthian Christians against judging the quality of another Christian’s work and the sincerity of his effort. Those are realities only God knows. But here in chapter 5, the topic is clear, unambiguous sins—incest and adultery—that are already judged evil in God’s Word.4 The issue is not so much judgment as obedience. If a church shies away from being obedient about matters that the Word of God has already judged, then we lose our anchor of what is right and what is wrong. Before long, anything goes. So what is a church to do with entrenched sin? What do we do when someone continues to do wrong and shows no desire to repent? The instructions here in 1 Corinthians are clear—throw out the sinner. This chapter contains a passage that is much debated among interpreters. What exactly did Paul mean when he wrote for the Corinthians “to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (5:5)? Theories abound, from the idea that the man was to be physically killed to the concept of sin simply taking its toll on him through the years. There’s no way to be sure exactly what Paul had in mind in those words—although it hasn’t stopped many interpreters from arguing their cases. People naturally like to spend time debating hard verses like these (and the Bible has plenty of them). To a degree, these efforts to better understand the Bible are good, and they
40

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

help us go deeper into the Word. On the other hand, it’s more fun to debate verses we can’t fully understand than to simply obey the ones we do. We can spend all day discussing what it means to deliver a Christian to Satan, but the action that needs to be taken is very plain (vv. 2 & 13): kick the man out of the church! In Churches of Christ, we call this kind of action disfellowshipping. It used to be much more common than it is today. When I preached in East Tennessee I once spent the better part of an afternoon going through the congregation’s file of disfellowship letters. After disfellowshipping a man or woman (usually for sexual sin), the elders of a congregation would send letters to nearby churches explaining the reasons for disfellowshipping. These letters went back decades, but they stopped rather abruptly in the mid-1980s. That was about the time a woman out West won a lawsuit against the elders of her congregation for sending disfellowship letters regarding her refusal to repent of sexually immoral behavior. At my church in Tennessee, as well as congregations all over the country, disfellowship letters soon became rare. It seems very little outside pressure is required for Christians to go soft on sin. Ignoring sin is easy, but the church is called to confront it. In Matt 18:15-21, for example, Jesus spells out the process of how Christians are to address sinful behavior in a series of escalating steps from individual confrontation through congregational action. How much stronger the church would be if we followed that pattern—less gossip, less sin, more tough love and brotherhood. The church would never shrug off sin. Correction hurts, but it’s necessary, as Paul explained earlier in his metaphor of the leaven, to keep sin from multiplying and infecting the whole congregation (5:6-8). Sometimes a Christian’s behavior deteriorates to the point where disfellowshipping is called for. The overall picture of that process is fairly simple: treat that person as an unbeliever. While the procedure is plain enough, putting it into practice correctly can be tough. Unless the person causes serious disruptions, he or she should be allowed to continue attending worship assemblies. A tougher question is exactly what Paul means when he admonishes the Corinthians not to eat with a sinning brother (5:11). Some take this verse to refer to the Lord’s Supper while others see it as fellowship meals or even social eating. Certainly there are times when a brother’s sin is so pervasive that we need to stay away from that person entirely so we don’t fall into it with him. But here is where we need to make an important distinction. Whenever the church is forced to expel a sinning brother, it must be done with a right attitude. There is never a place in the church for attitudes of superiority and aloofness. Neither Paul nor Jesus Christ treated sinners in such a way. It’s terrible to see Christians delighting in others’ sin. I’m
41

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

talking about those in the church who love to tell about their brothers’ and sisters’ failures. Gossiping apparently gives folks something to talk about and makes them feel superior. But gossipers are, in effect, rejecting God’s love. As we’ll see in 1 Cor 13:6, “Love...does not rejoice in wrongdoing.” What should our attitude be when a sinner falls? Look at what Paul says in 5:2. We should mourn! It ought to break our hearts when a fellow Christian sins. We ought to be full of sorrow. Why are our attitudes on this matter so important? For one thing, if a sinner goes to the point where he needs to be disfellowshipped, the whole congregation has failed.5 Disfellowship is an action of last resort, and a whole series of steps would have to fail before the situation deteriorates to that point. In every case where a Christian falls, the whole church suffers. Throwing out a brother or sister shows that all of us have failed to provoke that Christian to love and good works (Heb 10:24). For another thing, sin is not usually isolated in a church. The Corinthian living with his father’s wife is not the only Christian committing sexual sin. Sinful actions arise from a sinful attitude, and the whole church at Corinth needed an attitude adjustment. Hearts right with God and mature obedience to Christ are the goals of discipleship (Matt 28:19, 20). To have that kind of heart, it’s simply fundamental to realize our own weakness in the face of God’s holiness. God’s nature is to forgive and restore those who repent (Exod 34:6-7). Let’s not forget that the goal of church discipline is not punishment, but repentance (see 2 Cor 7). Let’s also keep in mind that Paul’s words here on judgment are limited to behavior among Christians. We are never called to judge the behavior of those outside the church. In a previous letter Paul had told the church at Corinth not to associate with immoral people. But he doesn’t mean the lost. He’s talking about so-called brothers who practice the kinds of sins described in 1 Cor 5:11: sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, slander, drunkenness, swindling. Does the mention of any of those sins make you nervous? Notice that greed and bad-talking are right there with idolatry, sexual sin, and theft. Now why are Christians told to stay away from brothers who persist in their sins? For one thing, their sins may permeate the church like yeast in dough. For another, there’s no help for a Christian who rejects the grace of God. The writer of Hebrews said, As for those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the coming age, and then fell away—it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, for they crucify to themselves the Son of God again, and put him to open shame. (Heb 6:4-6)

42

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

It’s easy to abuse the practice of disfellowshipping. A church had better be very sure before it takes such a drastic step. But when the action is called for, we sin if we don’t do it. Even so, Christians have to continue associating with sinners outside the church—even those whose sins we find especially ugly. See the list in 1 Cor 5:10? We have to do business with sexual sinners, greedy people, and idolaters. Those are precisely the kind of people Jesus sat down and ate with, and they’re the kind of people Jesus came to save. They’re the sort of people we need to invite into our assemblies and into our homes. I’m tired of hearing preachers and other Christians ranting and raving about how sinful the world is, as if the latest sin on television is something novel or new. Complaining that the world is sinful is like complaining that the ocean is wet. That’s the way the world is. Our task as Christians is not to expose gross sin in the world but in the church. That doesn’t mean we go on witch hunts on matters of performance or opinion. I went to school with a man whose wife was once threatened with disfellowship because the leaders of her church thought she wasn’t doing enough personal Bible studies in the evenings. Christians are not to judge one another’s’ performance or sincerity. We are not to judge the salvation of a brother who struggles with sin and falls, even if he falls over and over (Matt 18:22). But when someone willfully, repeatedly, and shamelessly engages in behavior judged sinful in the Scriptures, he is already under judgment. The church simply needs to act. God takes sin and judgment seriously. He is holy and expects his people to be holy, too. The church is a holy nation, a royal priesthood (1 Pe 2:9). Our task is not only to preach for convicting the world of sin, but to act as mediators between God and mankind. That’s why it’s critical for the church to always, always, always proclaim Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2). The cross is necessary because God takes sin seriously.6 The cross is the place where Jesus paid the price for our sin. We didn’t pay it; Jesus did. In all this talk about the need for expelling evil, we need to keep something clear. Christians aren’t holy because we behave ourselves; we behave ourselves because we’ve been made holy. And the only way we’re made holy is by the blood of Jesus Christ. That’s the glorious good news of salvation: Jesus Christ crucified. Because we all sin (Rom 3:23), we fall short of God’s standard of holiness and glory, and we deserve only death. Yet God’s gift of grace through Jesus Christ is to all who really believe in Christ. By faith we repent and take on Christ in baptism (Rom 6:3-5, 23; Acts 2:38). Christ is our Passover lamb, sacrificed for our sins (1 Cor 5:7). By living day by day in humility, by living lives of holiness and gratitude to the one who makes us holy, we keep the feast of joyful redemption. It’s a gift beyond measure. Let’s live like we believe it.
43

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

44

Preparing Ourselves to Judge Angels 1 Corinthians 6:1-11
After dealing with the overall problems of factionalism and poor leadership, Paul now turns to specific sins of the Corinthian Christians. The previous section dealt with a particularly bad case of sexual immorality; the next will consider another of its manifestations. But right here in the middle of Paul’s discussions of immorality we have a section on lawsuits among believers. In one sense, the discussion of lawsuits seems like an interruption from the theme of immorality. Why does Paul include that subject here? For one thing, Christians taking other Christians to court is a serious offense. As with the sins of immorality, suing one another is a terrible testimony to the world. Like many sins in the church, believers fighting one another in court is a failure not only of those directly involved, but of the whole church. The fact that one Christian dares to sue another in public court shows just how deeply sin has taken root in the church. Paul’s response to the situation is, first of all, a slap in the face to the Corinthians’ arrogance. They are a proud people, big-city sophisticates puffed up with a sense of their own knowledge and worldly wisdom. In this section the Apostle uses fairly harsh language to show them the absurdity of their sin. And at the same time he reveals a profound image of the church in showing all Christians what our testimony should be, who our testimony should be, and how we ought to live our lives as the church. The Apostle begins by emphasizing the shame that falls on the church when one Christian sues another. Notice the strong choice of words: “Do you dare...,” “Do you not know...” Ten times in this letter to the Corinthian, and six times in this chapter, Paul uses the phrase, “Do you not know...” That question is a challenge to the so-called wisdom the Corinthians believed they possessed.1 It also reminds them what a serious offense suing one another really is. Why is it so serious? Because one day Christians will judge the world, and angels. This is the “how much more” argument sometimes used by Jesus. If Christians one day will judge angels in heaven, how much more should we be able to arbitrate disputes among one another today. The Corinthians presumed to judge Paul (4:3-5), but they cannot even resolve

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

their own problems. In the mean time, the world around sees Christians bickering and fighting. Naturally, the world will see their conflict and conclude: That’s who Christians are. Two believers who are supposed to be united in Christ can’t keep from fighting over matters of personal property and so are divided against one another. Even Satan knows better than to do that (Matt 12:24-27). How much more should the church be able to handle its own disputes? Even the least qualified Christian ought to be better able to judge these disputes than anyone outside (1 Cor 6:4). As Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians earlier in the letter, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1:25). And even if the Christian never obtains justice, it’s better to be cheated than to fight it out in a way that brings public shame on the church. It’s always a defeat when the saints of God fight each other in court, but we should not take Paul’s words here as an absolute prohibition against going to court. Paul himself appeared in Roman court several times to defend himself against charges arising from his proclamation of the gospel. What the Apostle is writing against here is Christians taking their in-house grievances into a public forum. The church should not air its dirty laundry in front of the world simply for the selfish benefit of a few. My wife once worked at a small business owned by a rather dysfunctional family. For some reason this family was divided into factions with the dad and his sons on one side and the mother and daughters on the other. After the father died, the whole community came to learn just how dysfunctional this family really was. The mother and daughters sued the sons over the conditions of the old man’s will. Flesh and blood, immediate family, dragged each other to court and began speaking to one another only through lawyers. What a shame that a fleshand-blood family was split over business and money. How much more shame falls on the family of God when we fight one another in court. Exercising good judgment in disputes requires wisdom. When should Christians turn the other cheek, and when should we take action? When is it time to encourage a wayward brother, and when is it time to throw him out of the assembly? The church needs the deep-down wisdom of the Word and the Spirit to help us in these situations (Deut 6:6; Ps 119:11). Once we’re in the heat of conflict, it may well be too late to discover the wisdom God has in store for us. We have to take in God’s wisdom before we need it so that its principles have already shaped us when we do. For example, here’s a principle that Christians in the United States need to keep in mind: there are no rights in the Kingdom of God. That truth may be hard for Christians in the U.S. to swallow. We want both our rights and our salvation. But that’s not the way it works in the
46

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Kingdom of God. We’re so fond of our rights we may not realize that the whole idea of rights is not a biblical concept. Yes, the word “rights” has crept into some twentieth and twenty-first century translations of the Bible, but you won’t find it in the words of Jesus, Paul, or the other apostles. God is certainly concerned with justice and mercy and righteousness. He wants his people to be concerned about those things, too. But rights simply don’t enter the picture. Rights are all about what others owe us. Discipleship is about what we owe others—especially God. I read recently about a conflict at a church business meeting. Some issue had caused a division among members of the congregation, and at one point a man stood up. “All I want is my rights!” he said with indignation. “I just want my rights!” After seeing the one brother’s impassioned plea, an older saint made this reply: “Your rights, brother, is that what you want, your rights? Why the Lord Jesus didn't come to get his rights. He came to get his wrongs, and he got them.”2 Wrongs are what we sign on to as the church. Some folks have the mistaken idea that the church is a self-improvement society: a place to get my life on track, a way to live more “abundantly,” a means of getting what’s coming to me. But the church is not here to improve our lot in the world. In fact, after we become Christians, we may find ourselves sicker, poorer, more heavily oppressed, at least in the short term. Many Christians have found that after their baptism the Devil runs away for a short time but that he soon returns with a powerful counterattack. Let’s not forget that the devil pulls the strings in this world (John 12:31; 14:30: 16:11). When you’re lost, the Devil wants to keep you happy. But when you’re saved, you can be sure he’ll come after you (1 Pe 5:8). The Bible makes it clear that we should expect trouble simply because we are Christians: “Indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Ti 3:12). And God won’t always bail us out of trouble this side of the Resurrection. Sometimes it really is true that “no good deed will go unpunished.” Yet it is the way Jesus told us to live. We are to go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). For Christians it is often better to be hurt than to hurt the cause of Christ. We are on a mission to proclaim the Kingdom and to glorify God. We have orders from the King to do right. But for members of the Kingdom there are no such thing as “rights.” There’s no place for wrongs, either. Paul begins this section by blistering those bringing lawsuits against other Christians. Their selfishness caused them to fight over money, power, and standing. As the Apostle tells them, it would be better to be hurt than to damage the testimony of the church (1 Cor 6:7). That is, however, only one side of the problem.
47

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

The other side are the ones doing things to be sued about. Some of those in the Corinthian church were defrauding and doing wrong to their fellow Christians (6:8). They were called Christians but were living like pagans, sinners. They were numbered among the Christians but were committing theft, adultery, idolatry, and other sins. Now, in verse 8, Paul directs his fire onto them. If his words to the whole church are harsh in this chapter, his words to these wrongdoers are absolutely withering: there is no inheritance for you. He’s addressing the “Lord, Lord!” folks, those who call on the name of Jesus but don’t do the will of the Father to turn away from sin (Matt 7:21). Christians are saved by faith, not worthy behavior, but God nevertheless expects obedience. A Christian may still sin on occasion, but if he simply goes on sinning as he did before he was saved, then clearly there is no true repentance in his life. And if there is no repentance, there is no salvation, no place in the Kingdom. To be Christians, we have to have a new mind toward sin. We have to renounce it, give it up, abandon following the spirit of sin and live by the Spirit of God. Paul gives examples of the behaviors Christians must abandon: both homosexual and heterosexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, thieving, drunkenness, greed, and speaking ill of others. If we’re honest with ourselves, everyone of us has been guilty of at least one of those sins. As Christians, we should be in the life-long process of repentance, of ridding our lives of every vestige of sin. We sometimes fail in our efforts to live holy lives—and some of us fall more often than others. But if there is no repentance in our lives, if we simply go on sinning, then we have no redemption and no inheritance. That’s the bad news—what we’ve done. The good news, on the other hand, is what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. As Paul told the Corinthians, “but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (6:11). That's what we receive when we are joined to Christ in the church. Those words about washing and sanctification recall our baptism into Christ, where we joined Christ in his death and resurrection to eternal life (Rom 6:3-4). We've just seen the need for repentance—for taking on the mind of Christ and giving up a mind committed to sin. And of course, without a life-changing faith in Jesus Christ, all our actions are worthless. Thus Paul ends this section reminding Christians of the wonderful grace with which God has blessed his people, and of the new life we have in Christ Jesus our Lord.

48

Bought With a Price—So Glorify God! 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
In our study of 1 Corinthians we’ve now entered the section of “body sins.” Earlier we saw the problem with a man in the Corinthian church committing adultery and incest—and the even bigger problem of the church approving of his actions. The church didn’t appreciate that they were a body with a need to protect against the cancer of evil. We then saw the issue of Christians cheating and suing one another. The Corinthians were fighting themselves, and a body which does that is definitely sick, perhaps mortally ill. In this section, the Apostle Paul looks again at sexual sins among the Corinthians and relates it to the entire body of Christ at Corinth. It should come as no surprise that Christians living in first-century Corinth had given in to sexual sins. In fact, first century Corinth may have been one of the few ancient cities as over-sexualized as Western civilization today. Corinth was a port city, with all the vices that go along with such a place. What’s more, the city was known the world over for its temple to Aphrodite, the goddess of fertility. In Aphrodite’s temple, sexual relations with temple prostitutes was considered worship. In the Greek world, the term “Corinthian girl” was slang for a prostitute, and to “Corinthianize” meant to commit sexual sin. The reason these issues were a problem for the Corinthians is that, like Christians today, the Corinthian Christians too often took their cues not from the Word but from the world. Each church Paul ministered to had its own set of problems. The Galatians understood the need for holy living but tried to reintroduce the old law as bondage on Christians. The Corinthians understood freedom in Christ but thought freedom gave them a license to sin. In this case Paul had a difficult task: teaching the Corinthians to turn away from sin without setting up a new dependence on the law. And the way the Apostle solved this problem sheds light on how we ought to live as Christians today. Let’s begin by looking first at the problem itself. Quite simply, the Corinthian Christians had an overly permissive attitude toward sexual immorality. In 6:12-13, Paul seems to be quoting their excuses for committing these sins: “All things are lawful for me,” and “Foods for the belly, and the belly for foods.” By extension, the Corinthians are

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

associating sexual appetite with the natural appetite for food. Just as we feed one appetite, they seem to be reasoning, we ought to satisfy the other. It’s only a physical thing. In visiting a prostitute, so the reasoning goes, one is simply feeding an appetite for sexual fulfillment. Isn’t it amazing how easily Christians find reasons to sin, to live like the world around us? Today Christians still try to justify sexual sins such as watching sexually charged movies and viewing outright pornography. But as Jesus reminded us, even these transgressions of the mind are sins in the eyes of God (Matt 5:28). So as soon as Paul begins quoting his opponents, he responds to their reasoning: All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.” (6:12, 13; NASB). Paul urges these sinners to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor 6:18). Yet he never comes out and quotes one of the many passages in the Old Testament forbidding immorality. Why not? Paul, being a learned Jew of his day, found answers to questions about proper sexual behavior in the book of Leviticus. In fact, several passages in 1 Cor 6 echo similar topics and phrases in Lev 18.1 Keeping one’s body pure is part of living a holy life unto the Lord. But how can Christians have holiness without the rules of the old law? It’s tempting for Christians simply to go back to keeping the old law—in fact Christians have shown time and time again a desire to simply be told how to behave. We’d rather suck in the milk of spiritual infancy than eat the meat of maturity. But we need to grow up and accept the responsibility that comes with mature discipleship. Paul wants Christians to maintain their freedom, but he also wants us to understand that freedom is not the same as simply doing as we please. The Corinthians remind me of little children who discover the freedom adults have. Recently my wife and sons and I had the privilege for the first time in our lives of moving into a brand new house. When we moved into the house it was pristine—the inside was clean and white and empty. Although our boys were too old to ask such things now, I still remember the kinds of questions six-year-olds ask: “Is this our house?” Yes. “Can we do anything we want to with it?” Well, yes, I suppose we can. “How about having mud ball fights in the kitchen!” Now let’s keep in mind, we have the freedom to have a mud ball fight in our house. But we would be fools to do it. In fact, you might even say we would be sinning
50

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

against our house to abuse and despise such a wonderful gift from God. It was a similar situation with the Corinthians. In mistaking freedom for doing as they please, they sinned against their own bodies. They needed not only to change their behavior, but to change the attitudes that got them into such a bad position. That’s what Paul wants to help the Corinthians do—not only to behave themselves in their actions, but more importantly to have changed hearts. That’s what God wants, too. We can change our behavior, at least for short periods, and still have hearts turned away from God. But when our hearts are inclined toward God, then our behavior follows. Paul, then, is not only urging the Corinthians to give up sinful behavior, but sinful thinking as well. Let’s look at how he does that. The Apostle begins in 6:14 by reminding Christians that we will one day be raised up with Christ at the Resurrection. Isn’t that an amazing approach? Here the Corinthian Christians are living in sexual sin, and Paul doesn’t threaten them with hell but rather reminds them of heaven. Even to these erring Christians, Paul offers hope. He’ll have much more to say on the Resurrection in chapter 15, but right now he simply reminds us of the joyful gift of resurrection life that God has in store for Christians. Then in 6:15 Paul reminds the Corinthian church that they are members of Christ. As he’s already said, Jesus Christ is himself our righteousness (1 Cor 1:30). What place does sexual sin have in Christ’s body? None at all! Visiting a prostitute is totally incompatible with life in Christ. Paul also reminds the Corinthians of what is really at stake in sexual intimacy. It’s much more than simply meeting a need of the body. Sexual union between a man and a woman is unique among human interactions. As we read in Gen 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (NASB). In harlotry, a man becomes one flesh with a prostitute. Yet Christians are one body in Christ. So what will it be? Christ or sin? Paul urges the Corinthians to “flee sexual immorality.” That’s more than simply avoiding it—that’s staying totally away from any temptation toward it. Finally, the Apostle tells the Corinthians one more, grand truth: the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Now the full import of what Paul is saying here is lost in most twentieth and twenty-first century English translations, because they don’t make a distinction between “thy” and “your.” In this case, Paul doesn’t say “your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.” He says, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” Why would he phrase his statement that way, as if there is only one body? Quite simply, Paul has shifted here from talking about bodies to talking about the body, the church. In chapter 12 he will talk about Christ’s body, the church, having many members. But here Paul simply reminds Christians that the
51

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

church—the assembly of saints, not the building—is the temple of the Holy Spirit. In the body of Christ there is no sense of “my body, my choice.” Individual Christians are members of Christ, and as such we have given up any claims on our own bodies. This applies, by the way, not only to issues like sexual immorality but to abortion and a host of other matters. What each individual Christian does with his or her body affects the whole body of the church. And of course, if sexual sin pollutes the whole church, how much more does it harm the Christian committing the sin? Every individual Christian is part of something larger than ourselves. We are members of the body of Christ. There is no such thing as a “private” sin. Whether we’re talking about adultery, fornication, lust, or pornography, the sins we commit in private weaken and pollute the whole body of Christ. In even our most secret sins we harm our fellow Christians and bring dishonor to Christ. Despite warnings against sexual transgression, this section ends on a positive note. Let’s look at verse 20 where Paul says, “you were bought with a price, so glorify God in your body.” The church was indeed bought with a very high price. All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23), and we deserve death for our sin (Rom 6:23). Jesus, on the other hand, never sinned and so never deserved to die (Heb 4:15). Yet he allowed himself to be killed on the cross to pay the price for our sin (1 John 2:2). In believing in Christ, repenting of our sins, and being baptized into Christ, Christians have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:11). Therefore our calling is not to weaken the body, but to glorify God in our bodies (1 Cor 6:20). Glorifying God—that’s the highest purpose for the Lord’s church, and that’s where this passage takes us. Rather than simply ordering the Corinthians to stop misbehaving, Paul has reminded them of the church’s highest purpose: to give God glory in everything they do. It’s a reminder to us as well.

52

Our Bodies Are Not Our Own 1 Corinthians 7:1-12
In chapters 5 and 6 we saw some of the problems the Corinthian Christians had with sexual immorality. The Apostle Paul explained that in sexual union, two become one flesh. We were reminded that the church is the Body of Christ with no place for sexual sin. Immorality, even of what is commonly considered a personal or private nature, pollutes the whole body. In chapter 7 we are told that there is a proper place for expressing human sexuality. Paul is once again correcting misunderstanding among the Corinthians. Just as some thought that any sexual activity was permissible, others seem to have gone to the other extreme and thought that no sexuality, even in marriage, was right. It’s understandable that people would go to such extremes in Corinth, a city where sexual immorality was considered worship by pagan religions. Some Christians apparently wanted to do away with sex altogether. But, like other bodily functions, sex has its place—and its boundaries. In explaining this idea to the Corinthians, Paul once again answers theologically, with Christ in mind. And once again, his teaching is supremely practical. It’s ironic that these worldly Corinthians are receiving advice on sex and marriage from a single man, but Paul writes with wisdom and with the Word of the Lord. It’s also ironic today that many people think preachers are somehow out of touch when we try to help people look at sexual issues from a biblical perspective. Let me tell you, preachers who have been ministering much time at all have heard just about every kind of sexual problem from members. And if a preacher is worth much at all, then like Paul he’ll help Christians to look at sexuality and sin in the light of God’s Word. So Paul’s answer to the Corinthians’ problem is both theological and practical. Sex in marriage is good, he says. And, as we’ll study later in this letter, marriage is an image and symbol of Christ and the church. The Corinthians were drawn to extremes when it came to sexuality: some believed visiting prostitutes was acceptable while others thought they ought not to visit even their own wives. Perhaps these attitudes were part of the factionalism we read about in this letter’s early chapters. In any case, the Apostle sets the Corinthian Christians straight very simply. He’s

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

already reminded them of Gen 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his woman, and they shall be one flesh.” So both sexuality and marriage go back to creation in the Garden of Eden. Sex was created by God and is not necessarily shameful or wrong. But as we just saw in chapters 5 and 6, it is indeed shameful if done outside the bounds God created for its expression. But within proper bounds, it’s good. We’re given those bounds in 1 Cor 7:2: “let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.” This is simply restating what Paul has already told the Corinthians and what God said in Gen 2:24: one man, one woman, one marriage. During certain periods of Old Testament history God permitted men to marry more than one woman. But the ideal has remained the same since the beginning: one man and one woman. It’s a shame, really, that our culture today is so morally sick and confused that some persons would challenge that definition of marriage. For the lost and disobedient the matter is open to debate. But for Christians the matter should be resolved and the matter clear. A marriage consists of one man and one woman for the very simple reason that God created human beings to live that way. So marriage is the proper place for sexual intimacy. In fact, it is the only proper place. Christians are not ignorant or naive for upholding and defending this standard. Many Christians know first-hand the damage and hurt that comes from disobeying God on this matter. Others know the joy of spending all their lives faithfully committed to one husband or one wife. The church has a fully mature view of marriage and sexuality. Paul does a lot to explain that view in this chapter. And here’s his next point: sex is not only acceptable; sometimes it’s necessary. First, however, let’s be clear that Paul prefers celibacy for Christians. Notice 1 Cor 7:6-8. Paul would rather that all Christian could prosper in singleness as he did. As we’ll see when we study verses 32-34, marriage and families take up our time and attention and complicate our discipleship. Could you imagine Paul trying to travel around the empire preaching with a wife and children? Preachers with families know something about that struggle: how much are we willing to allow our families to suffer for the work we’ve committed to do? As Paul reminds us, some tasks in the church are better done by a single person. Isn’t it ironic that even though Paul wrote of the value of Christian singleness, there is a bias in some of our churches against the unmarried? Some congregations will not allow an unmarried man to preach, and many Christians are suspicious of those who remain unmarried throughout life. Yet both the Apostle Paul and Jesus himself were unmarried—and look at the ministries they had! So singleness is good. But the Bible is clear that singleness is by no means for everyone.
54

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Why? Because sexual deprivation opens the door to Satan. Paul explains this principle in two circumstances: spouses depriving one another sexually, and singles burning with lust. First, married couples are not to deprive one another of sex. Look at what the Apostle writes in verses 4 and 5: “The wife doesn’t have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise the husband doesn’t have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Don’t deprive each other.” Did you catch that? In a marriage each partner does not have authority over his or her own body. As we’ll see in chapter 11, the husband is head of the wife in one sense. But in matters of sexuality what we see is mutual submission: the husband considers his wife’s needs and vice-versa. In other words, it works both ways! Mutual submission—it’s simple in principle but hard in practice. For example, I once knew a young man who confided in me that his wife had slept with him only once in the past twelve months. Not long afterwards, he had an affair with a woman at work. Looking in from the outside, we might be quick to judge this young man (and of course he was wrong in what he did). We could say that, because he committed adultery, his wife was the innocent party in their breakup. But in the months before their breakup, that wife’s behavior toward her husband had been anything but blameless. It is not an option for a Christian wife—or husband—to bargain with her body. Your bodies are not your own. In marriage, a Christian is required to put the needs and desires of the other spouse before one’s own. Again, that works both ways. By keeping each other satisfied sexually, you resist the devil. A similar principle applies to single Christians—although not while they’re still single. Let’s look at verses 8 and 9: “And I say to the unmarried and to the widows: it is good for them to remain even as I am. But if they don’t have control over themselves, let them marry, for it’s better to marry than to burn.” It’s better to marry than to be consumed by lust. That’s a pretty frank and realistic acknowledgment of human sexuality, don’t you think? All of us need to pay attention to those instructions. Singleness and lust is an especially critical topic in our North American culture today. In fact, it may be one of the most important moral issues facing our society. Here’s why. In the past hundred and fifty years, nutrition has caused each generation to reach sexual maturity earlier and earlier. For example, in mid-nineteenth century America, girls on average reached sexual maturity at age seventeen. Today, girls typically reach puberty as pre-teens. Yet the age at which young people marry has not dropped correspondingly. In fact, young people are marrying later and later. What is the result? A wide gap between sexual maturity and marriage for most young people, and increasingly long years of sexual temptation.
55

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

In this situation of prolonged sexual temptation, two groups of Christians need to pay careful attention to Paul’s words. First is unmarried young adults and teenagers. The temptation our youth are under is enormous. In a million subtle and not-so-subtle ways, the world around urges young people to give in to their sexual urges. Yet as Paul reminds us, marriage and marriage alone is the proper place for sexual expression. The other group who needs to hear this message are older Christians who try to help our youth uphold the biblical instructions to “flee immorality.” It’s good that we encourage our children and grandchildren not to engage in sex outside marriage. But in the process of saying, “Just wait,” are we asking for more self-control out of our teenagers and young adults than we have ever shown in our own lives? The Apostle reminds us that “it’s better to marry than to burn.” That leaves older, married Christians no room to look down on the strong urges of young, single brothers and sisters. When we give young people advice on waiting to get married— finish school, settle down, pay off your car, get your finances in order— we seem to forget the power of sex in these decisions. The fact is, as we see in 1 Corinthians, sex is a valid reason for Christians to marry— provided we keep one very important fact squarely in mind. That fact is this: Marriage is for life. Let’s look at verses 10 and 11: “But to the married I charge (not I, but the Lord): let not a wife separate from a husband (but if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and a husband not divorce his wife.” Pretty clear, isn’t it? For Christians, the husband or wife we have is ours for life. Even if we separate, we are not free to remarry. This applies to both man and woman: we may not divorce our spouse. How could we, really? As we’ve seen already, our bodies are not our own; if we divorce, we’re losing our own bodies! That’s the circumstances we enter into in marriage: we become one flesh, one body. Christians do not divorce one another. As we’ll see later in this letter, the husband and wife are an image and symbol of Christ and the church. Christ will never abandon his church. In fact, he gave his own perfect, sinless life to pay for the sins of the church. His own lifeblood washes us clean and opens the way for the church to enter the heavenly banquet. Because Christ has purified the church, those of us who belong to Christ may enter God’s own presence pure and spotless. Without our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ, the church would no longer be the church. Christian marriage proclaims this union of Christ and the church, which is why divorce among Christians is shameful and profoundly sad. So that is the basic rule: Christian marriage is for life. As we’ll see later in this chapter, there are circumstances and exceptions. But marriage as God created it is always one man, one woman, one lifetime. If Christians really believe that truth going into a marriage, it becomes the pillar of a
56

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

strong, happy lifetime together. When we became engaged as Christian teenagers, Carolyn and I knew what we were committing to: becoming one flesh, one body for life. We have spent the past twenty-five years building up that body. I suppose we have built up our individual bodies a little too much, but our commitment to the permanence of our marriage has made us take it seriously. Knowing that you’re in for the long haul helps a couple to prosper. Not only are you forced to be more forgiving, but you’re also less likely to give offense in the first place. I once worked with a young man in his mid-twenties who simply couldn’t see himself staying with one woman all his life. “Even if I wait till I’m thirty-five or forty to marry, that’s still thirty-five or forty years with the same person,” he said mournfully. I wanted to tell him I look forward to the prospect of spending decades with one woman (the first two have certainly been blessed). There was a couple in a church where I used to minister who were grade-school sweethearts in Alabama. After more than seventy years together, they were both approaching the end of their earthly journey. I’m not sure I’ve ever met two people more in love. Oh, what a blessing when a man and woman marry—and live—as Christians. There’s one more point worth noting. You don’t see anything in Paul’s writing about waiting for The Right One. Somehow many Christians have developed a romantic notion that there’s One Right Person out there somewhere and that if I only find him or her, my life will be complete. There’s something appealing in that idea, but it’s certainly not a biblical notion. In fact, the search for The Right One has probably led to more divorces than happy marriages. If we really believe God’s Word, we can expect to be blessed in our marriages if we choose well— not necessarily perfectly. There’s much more to say on this topic, but that’s enough for now. As we bring our study of this section to a close, let’s remember a couple of things. First, sexuality, like a river, is good as long as it stays within its bounds. Second, Marriage is an image of Jesus Christ and his church. As Paul reminded Ephesian Christians: Husbands, love your wives even as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order that he might sanctify her, having cleansed by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself glorious, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:25-27) That’s an image not only of happiness in this life, but in the life to come.

57

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

58

Remaining As We Are 1 Corinthians 7:12-24
In our study of 1 Corinthians, we have entered what might be called a practical section of Paul’s letter. The Apostle is addressing specific problems in the church. Then, as now, many of those problems had to do with human sexuality. As we’ve seen, there appears to have been two factions with conflicting but equally wrong ideas about sexual practice: one group approved of prostitution and fornication while another taught that all sexual activity is bad. First Corinthians 7:12-24 is part of a larger section in which Paul says no to both factions. Sex is good, Paul tells them, within proper bounds—the bounds of marriage as established by God. In studying this passage we’ll see how the Apostle expands his explanation. He begins with practical questions but ends with a profound truth. In our study of 1 Cor 7:1-11, we saw how God has created marriage. His plan goes back to his instructions in Gen 2:24 in which he establishes marriage as one man, one woman, one lifetime. When people really believe that standard, that God intends for men and women to marry only once, and for life, we begin to take our marriages more seriously. In the first part of this chapter we also saw—although Paul does not deal explicitly with the subject in 1 Cor 7—that the marriage of a Christian man and woman is an image of Christ and the church. Here, in this middle portion of the chapter, the Apostle reminds us of wider implications in a specific circumstance: what if a Christian is married to a non-believer? Should that Christian remain married? The answer Paul gives is simple: don’t try to change your status. Our lesson text begins with the topic of marriages between Christians and unbelievers. While the idea of divorce and remarriage is only one part of this passage, it has been the focus of much heat in recent years. What this passage does or does not say about divorce and remarriage is currently the focus of a great deal of debate and even division in Churches of Christ. For that reason, it makes sense to take a few minutes and examine the debate. Christians in Churches of Christ hold four basic positions regarding divorce and remarriage; three of those positions have at least some support from the New Testament. Before we begin looking at those

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

positions, however, let’s remember that this topic has been the focus of serious division in many churches. So let’s approach the Word with faith, discipline, peace, and a willingness to sacrifice anything for the Kingdom of God. Generally speaking, those who look to the New Testament for determining God’s will on divorce and remarriage rely on different “ruling texts” to determine what is permitted and prohibited by God. The most restrictive text gives the words of Jesus in Mark 10:11-12: “And he said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if she herself divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’” Some Christians interpret that passage in its simplest form: those who have been divorced commit adultery if they remarry. Period. There are Christians who still hold to that principle, although it is a minority view. What we might call the middle position takes its cue from Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel, either Matt 5:31-32 or 19:3-9. In Matt 19:9, Jesus says, “Now I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another commits adultery” (emphasis added). Matthew includes words Mark does not record: except for immorality. Christians disagree on what exactly immorality involves in this case. Most Churches of Christ interpret it to mean adultery. By this reasoning, if a man or woman cheats on his or her spouse, then the offended spouse has grounds for remarrying after a divorce. The third, most permissive position is found in this chapter of 1 Corinthians. Here Paul talks about marriages in which one spouse is a Christian and the other is not. The Apostle tells Christian spouses to remain married to unbelievers as long as the unbelieving spouse wants to stay married. Then Paul says in 7:15, “But if the unbeliever separates, let him separate. The brother or sister in such cases is not bound” (emphasis added). A growing number of Christians look to this verse, particularly in light of Paul’s later words in 7:27-28, as a ruling text on divorce and remarriage. According to this position, a Christian may remarry after a divorce, even if it did not occur on the grounds of adultery, provided the other spouse was not a Christian. A fourth view, also increasingly found in churches today, puts no restrictions at all on remarriage after divorce. There is no reasonable support for this view, however, in the New Testament. So what are Christians who hold to the authority of the Scriptures to do? As much as we may cherish our own position on this matter, how are we to determine which is truly most faithful and obedient? Typically, when the New Testament is ambiguous on a certain item of doctrine and practice, we can look to church history for help in interpreting the text. The church has done this, for example, in developing our doctrines of baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and praising God without using instrumental
60

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

music. As we look back at the early centuries of the church, we see that our doctrines on these matters are in line with both the New Testament and church history. So what about divorce and remarriage? What does history tell us about this matter? Before I tell you, I want to say that I for one was very surprised with what I found. Looking back to the earliest generations of the church after the New Testament, we find that Christians were instructed not to remarry after a divorce regardless of the reasons for the divorce. In other words, Christians, at least in the second century and after, held that Jesus’ teaching in Mark was the ruling text for divorce and remarriage. In fact, it was not until the sixteenth century that a Roman Catholic theologian named Erasmus first proposed that Jesus’ words in Matt 5 and Matt 19 allow a Christian to remarry if a divorce was on the grounds of adultery. So history, it seems, gives little support to the position most of us hold on the issue of divorce and remarriage. In fact, the position that most of us hold to be traditional goes back only about a quarter of the way to New Testament times. At this point we’ve gone far afield from the text we’re supposed to be studying. The topic of divorce and remarriage is an important one, and one that each congregation must address. What’s more, every Christian must be aware of Scriptural teaching on this matter, and each of us is answerable to God. So, you may ask, why this big explanation? Why not simply come out and tell you which position you ought to take? Well, a preacher or writer’s job is not to think for you, but to present the Word that leads you to think with the mind of Christ. If a congregation will commit our lives to God and allow his Word to transform us, then we will come to a right knowledge and practice on divorce and remarriage. So, now that we’ve made a side trip across the very hot sands of divorce and remarriage, let’s look at the broader message of this passage. As we saw earlier, God’s plan for marriage is one man, one woman, one lifetime. Most Christians agree that God provides for remarriage in certain circumstances; we argue mostly about exactly what those circumstances are. But the main point in our text today is not remarriage. In our culture today, it seems more time is spent on how to divorce and remarry than on keeping marriages together in the first place. Paul’s message to the Corinthians is that it’s better to stay together, and he gives at least one reason why. First, however, let’s work through another difficult verse. In studying 1 Cor 7:12-24, many Christians have trouble understanding verse 14: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the brother. Otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.” To understand this verse, it helps to remember that Paul wrote in a less literal time. He’s not saying that a spouse or child of a
61

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Christian can be saved by having a Christian family member. He’s simply saying that having a non-Christian parent doesn’t make a child dirty or spiritually defiled. In other words, a Christian may not use the welfare of his or her children to divorce an unbelieving spouse. In fact, there may be an eternal benefit in staying with an unbelieving spouse: the Christian may be a vehicle for saving that person’s soul (7:16). I hope Paul’s words here are an encouragement to all brothers and sisters who are married to unbelievers. God may use you to save their souls. Next Paul shines light on an even bigger picture. His words here go beyond marriage to illuminate all life in the Kingdom of God. And what he has to say has the potential to rock our whole world. In verse 17, Paul tells the Corinthians to stay in the position in which they were called. Initially he is writing about marriage. A Christian is not to spend time looking for a way out, even if he or she is married to a non-Christian. Don’t you think the church would be better off if more Christians followed Paul’s instructions? How much better would Christian marriages be if we spent more time looking for ways to stay together than to break apart? Christians are called to stay in the marriages in which we find ourselves. In the following verses, Paul expands his instructions on staying as we were called to include circumcision and slavery. Both of these conditions were issues in Corinth. Circumcision is used in 7:18 as a symbol for Jewishness. Some Jews in the first century were ashamed of their ethnicity and tried to hide it; Paul tells them to be content with being Jewish. Being a slave was considered shameful, not on the grounds of lacking freedom, but because slaves usually had little or no status in the Roman world. So despite a Christian’s marital status, ethnicity, or social class, we are called to stay as we are. By extension, the list doesn’t end with those three situations but can be applied to nearly any condition in life. Paul urges Christians not to work on changing our worldly status because ultimately these statuses are not important. Our status in the world has no meaning compared to our citizenship in the Kingdom of God. How strong would the church be if Christians really believed and followed that principle? Instead, we tend to approach the issue backwards. We care more about improving our position in the world than about growing in God’s Kingdom. We try to “get ahead” by earthly standards while stagnating in our discipleship. We take the attitude of, “Well, I’ve been baptized. I’m saved. Now I can devote my attention to getting a promotion and earning more money.” Do you see how completely backward that attitude is? Our attention should not be on our place in the world but on growing in the Kingdom. As Paul told the Romans, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2, NASB). Paul also
62

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

told the Corinthians, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:17-18, NASB). While we are not to care about getting ahead in the world, we are called to grow in discipleship and in the Spirit. Caring more about our social status than our spiritual status is worldliness. It’s investing time and energy in something that will pass away—it’s like investing eternal capital in a big, fine house that’s already on fire when we pay for it. Worldliness is a waste of our limited time and resources on this planet. A recent Time magazine featured the cover story titled, “Does God want you to be rich?” If Christians have any doubt as to the answer, we should remember Paul’s words about earthly status here in 1 Cor 7. And these verses are by no means the only ones on the subject. Jesus himself told his disciples, “Sell your goods, and give alms. Make for yourselves moneybags that don’t grow old, a treasure in the heavens that doesn’t fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys” (Luke 12:33). Things of this world are a waste of time, because they’re already passing away. But the Kingdom of God endures forever. So let’s stay as we are in the world and focus our minds on Kingdom business! Of course, Paul’s words here are not an absolute prohibition about caring for worldly matters (as we’ll see in the next chapter). Concentrating on the Kingdom is no excuse for abuse. It’s acceptable for slaves to seek their freedom. It’s permissible for Christians to marry. The church should help the poor in the church and not allow them to continue suffering. In all cases we are called to give up our sin, and sometimes that involves taking up new work, as Paul did when he became an apostle. But we should ask ourselves some hard questions on how we’re using our earthly resources. Are we investing as much on our eternal future as we are on our earthly retirement? Are we spending as much on our spiritual home as on our earthly dwelling? Are we entertaining strangers in the name of Jesus Christ as much as we’re entertaining ourselves? As we think on these questions, it helps to keep a vital truth in mind. Let’s look at verse 23: “You were bought with a price.” In the Bible, repetition is a key to what’s most important. Paul has already reminded the Corinthians of this vitally important fact (1 Cor 6:20), and now he tells them again: You were bought with a price. The Apostle has been writing about practical matters, issues of faith in practice. Now he goes back to the heart of Christian discipleship: “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.” He’s not talking here about physical slavery. “Men” here is a symbol for worldliness, and Paul does not want Christians to be enslaved by the world.
63

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Paul’s instructions here bring to mind something similar he told the Romans: Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Rom 6:16-18—NASB) The Book of Romans tells Christians that we have a choice of whose slave we will be. We really don’t have a choice of being a slave or not. As the Apostle Peter said, “whatever overcomes someone, to that he is brought into bondage” (2 Pet 2:19). Will we be overcome by the world or the Word? Will we serve the King of Heaven or prince of this world? Every human being is a slave of one or the other domain. One is eternal; the other will be destroyed. In those simple words, “You were bought with a price,” Paul reminds the Corinthians of what saves Christians from a perishing world. It’s not our wisdom, our obedience, or anything we can do for ourselves. What saves Christians is the grace of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). The consequence of our sin is eternal death (Rom 6:23). But Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and died on the cross to pay the price for our sin (Heb 4:15). We are washed clean by the blood of Christ and saved through faith in him (Rom 3:24-25). In baptism we join Christ in his death and resurrection, to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:3-6). Our old lives have been crucified with Christ, and we have been given new lives in him (Gal 2:20). That’s why even in the most practical discussions, Paul always reminded Christians of Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2). “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). If we truly remember the cross and how we came to be saved, then every aspect of our lives will be changed: no more looking for reasons to get the upper hand over others; no using doctrine as an excuse to bite and devour one another; no mining Scripture for excuses to sin. Instead, we will humble ourselves, glorify God in our lives and love one another with pure and faithful hearts. We will invest our lives in the only truths that really matter.

64

Free from Concern 1 Corinthians 7:25-40
In our study of 1 Corinthians we now enter our third and final section of chapter 7. We've already seen that the Corinthian Christians suffered from two wrong views about sexuality: first, that fornication and prostitution are compatible with Christian living; and second, that all sexual activity, even in marriage, is wrong. Paul showed that both extremes were incorrect. Sex is a good thing, within the limits of marriage. The Apostle prefers singleness for Christians, but we do not sin if we marry. Once Christians are married, however, we must stay that way— particularly if the Christian's husband or wife is an unbeliever. If the unbeliever wants to leave the Christian, then the believer should not try to stop him or her. In general, however, a Christian should stay in whatever circumstances he is called. We have been bought with a price (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23); that is a glorious truth we should remember even when we consider the most earthly and ordinary choices before us. Paul reminds Christians of this great truth repeatedly: we have been bought with a price, through Jesus' sacrifice of his own life on the cross. Thus Jesus Christ crucified is not merely the subject of Paul's preaching (1 Cor 2:2); Christ is always at the center of the Apostle's thinking. Would that he were at the center of ours, too. In 1 Cor 7:25-40 Paul again tells Christians that it's good to remain as we are, whether married or single. Yes, Christians are permitted to marry or not marry, and a widow may remarry as long as she marries another Christian. When a Christian does have a spouse, however, his or her mind and heart becomes anchored in a special way to the day-to-day concerns of the world. Paul sincerely wants believers to be free from worry and anxiety about a world that is passing away (v. 32). Married Christians must take a certain amount of attention from the Lord's work to fulfill their earthly duties. Doing so is not sinning; it’s simply the way things work. When we take on earthly responsibilities, we are obligated to fulfill them. That principle applies to more than marriage, by the way, which is why Christians must be careful of what we take upon ourselves. Whatever our earthly obligations, all Christians must concern ourselves first of all with the Kingdom of God. In verse 28, Paul reminds the Corinthians that those who marry will,

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

literally, “have tribulation in the flesh.” Most congregational ministers in Churches of Christ face this issue every day. Congregations expect their ministers to devote long hours to Kingdom work, yet they usually expect us also to be married and have families. Giving due attention to both family and church is not an easy task. I for one can't imagine being effective in ministry without a Christian wife. Much of the work we do in the church, Carolyn and I do together. If my wife were not a Christian, I simply couldn't do a lot of what I do now for the church. A fellow minister once told me about being brought in to preach with a new congregation. As he walked out of the meeting where he had agreed to work with that church, one of the elders asked my friend if his wife might be able to lead a women's Bible study. “Oh,” this preacher said, “my wife is not a Christian. In fact, she's an alcoholic and spends quite a bit of time in rehab.” The elders asked the man if he would come back into the room and discuss the matter further. “No,” he said. “I'm only kidding. My wife really is a Christian, and she doesn't even drink. But next time you might want to ask those kinds of questions before you hire a preacher.” As any preacher knows, having a wife and children takes time from Kingdom work. But a believing spouse helps bridge the gap between our two sets of obligations. The same is true for every Christian, of course. Marriage and family take time from Kingdom work, but being married to a Christian makes the task easier. If you are married to an unbeliever, don't expect to spend as much time serving in congregational activities. You must never let your husband or wife keep you from worship, from the Lord's Supper, praise, fellowship, and growth in the Word. But a large part of your service will be winning your spouse to faith and obedience in the Lord: “For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” (1 Cor 7:16). And all of us, married or single, need to remember what Jesus said about balancing faith and family: The one who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and the one who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. The one who finds his life will lose it, and the one who loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matt 10:37-39) As families continue to be under assault by the culture around us, Christians need to remember that families are important, and that God himself ordained them. But in some religious circles the family has taken such an important place that it comes close to idolatry. As important as the family is, our focus needs to be first of all on the cross—on Jesus
66

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2). The family is the most important of our earthly commitments. But it's not where our first obligation lies. Jesus told us, “But seek first the Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). Our first citizenship is to the Kingdom of God. First and foremost we are not husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, grandparents, as important as those roles may be. We are not primarily what we do for a living: teacher, skilled craftsman, salesman, manager, nurse, student. We are not first of all Americans, or Canadians, or Brits, or any other nationality. Christians are first of all disciples and servants of the King. God’s Kingdom is fundamentally different from the world around us. The Kingdom has a different mission: first to worship and glorify God (1 Cor 6:20; Rom 15:6-9), and second, to go into the world and make disciples (Matt 28:19-20). The Kingdom has different rules of operation: the first are last and the last are first (Matt 20:16). A man who would save his life must lose it (Matt 16:26). A true leader must be a servant of all (Mark 9:35). The Kingdom has a different wisdom: “For the word of the cross is foolishness to the ones perishing, but to us, the ones being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). And finally, the Kingdom offers very different rewards—ultimate rewards—from what the world offers. So for Christians our first obligation is to the Kingdom of God. But Kingdom work is no excuse for neglecting our earthly obligations. Christians are not Eastern ascetics who believe our earthly existence is unreal. We are not called to be detached emotionally from the world and the everyday affairs of it. In fact, we sin if we neglect our families. Jesus, for example, blasted the scribes and Pharisees for giving money to the Temple while neglecting their earthly parents (Mark 7:9-13). Paul told Timothy, “if anyone doesn’t provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim 5:8). So Christians are called to provide and care for our own flesh and blood. And in practice, isn’t that where we worry most: in caring for our families? Sometimes people quote Jesus’ words in Matt 6 as being “don’t worry.” But in fact, Jesus’ teaching on worry was that we should not worry about our own food, clothes, and health. Families bring a whole new collection of worries into a believer’s life: for the health and safety of children and for their souls’ development. These are legitimate concerns for Christians—and all the more reason to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17). The challenge for the faithful is to rightly balance our commitments to family and to God. We must give proper care and attention to our families, but we must not make them idols. Marriage, after all, is only temporary, even if we’re blessed with a marriage that lasts most of a lifetime. Some religious groups teach that marriage is eternal; that idea has
67

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

a certain appeal if you enjoy a happy marriage. But Jesus specifically said it’s not true: “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as angels in heaven” (Matt 22:30). The form of this world is passing away (1 Cor 7:31). We have to live in it, but if our highest value is our families, then we’ve invested in something that will soon be gone. A family can be a wonderful shelter and rest by the ocean of eternity. But the tide is coming in and one day will sweep this old world away. The Apostle hoped all Christians could provide undistracted service to the Lord. That’s challenging to do for every believer. Single Christians have to make a point of it, those with spouses have to work even harder, and those with children harder still. Yet how could we better spend our resources than honoring and worshiping God? Here’s a reminder: All of this advice in 1 Cor 7 is simply foolishness if we don’t live it by faith. We can simply follow the letter of Paul’s instructions and become Pharisees, clean on the outside but dirty at the heart. As we’ve seen, Paul’s thinking, even on what we call practical matters, always begins with Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2). It’s Jesus’ sacrifice that Paul reminds the Corinthians—and us—to keep in mind (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23). “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of David’s seed, according to my gospel” (2 Ti 2:8).

68

But Love Builds Up 1 Corinthians 8
In our study of 1 Corinthians we now move from teachings on human sexuality into another major section of the letter. A serious question facing the Corinthian Christians was whether or not it’s permissible to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. That question may not seem relevant to Christians today, but I hope we will come to see just how timely the issue really is. Once again, the trouble in Corinth came from those who believe they have superior knowledge. Maybe they did. But as much as that group may have known about things, they still had a lot to learn about how to get along in the Kingdom of God. But Paul’s answer to this group is more than simply a lesson in getting along: it is a vital reminder of how Christians ought to value God and one another. Let’s begin with a little historical context. In first-century Corinth, all meat was probably tainted by the stain of idol worship. Corinth was a large, cosmopolitan city with its share of pagan temples. Animal sacrifices were made in these temples, and the leftover meat was then sold in markets and restaurants. If a Christian wanted to eat a good piece of meat, he either had to buy meat that had been sacrificed or actually eat in a temple restaurant. More knowledgeable Christians understood that pagan gods were nothing, and that sacrifices to false gods were meaningless. As a consequence, they had no problem attending pagan temples to simply enjoy a good meal. Other Christians, however, had trouble watching their brothers and sisters in Christ sit down to eat food sacrificed to idols. These Christians had grown up in a pagan environment hearing about the false gods as if they were real. Gentile Christians’ fathers, grandfathers, and greatgrandfathers had worshiped these false gods, and they were real in the minds of many young converts. So when they saw their fellow Christians eating meat sacrificed to idols, they naturally assumed their brothers and sisters in Christ were worshiping those idols. And, their reasoning went, if other Christians worshiped idols, why shouldn’t they? The knowledgeable Christians were right in their assessment that idols are nothing, but their actions were causing their brothers and sisters in Christ to fall away from the faith. What was the Apostle to do? Paul begins by disarming the haughtiness of those who knew better. He writes

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

on what “we all know,” that “All of us possess knowledge.”1 Whatever the in-the-know Christians may have thought about their own private insights, knowledge for God’s people is public, for all to see. In Prov 8, for example, Wisdom is represented as a woman proclaiming her truth on the street.2 Paul goes on to say that “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” That assertion takes him back once again to the theme that opens this epistle: the Kingdom of God is not about the wisdom of our minds, but about the foolishness of the cross. So from his opening words Paul is implicitly putting the emphasis where it belongs: on Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a sacrifice for the church. Already, at the beginning of his argument, the Apostle is setting the standard regarding what really matters. Yes, those eating this meat have knowledge, but if they had love they wouldn’t be eating pagan offerings. If eating such meat makes other Christians stumble away from serving the one true God, then it would be better not to eat meat at all. That’s because discipleship is not about exercising one’s rights; it’s about serving in the Kingdom. And in that Kingdom every servant matters, from the wisest, most mature to the weakest, most frail.3 That principle is by no means limited to Corinth or to the idea of eating meat sacrificed to idols. Anything that makes a brother fall away from God is something we ought to sacrifice for the good of that brother. Now, let’s be very clear about something. Paul is talking about not making a fellow Christian fall away from the faith. He doesn’t say anything about simply giving offense or hurting other peoples’ feelings. Both the Apostle and the Savior made it clear that sometimes being a faithful Christian will give offense and hurt people’s feelings.4 The very act of preaching the truth ought to hurt people’s feelings if they’ve been living a life of sin. That’s how Christians come to repent, by hearing the truth. Most people in the world—and some in the church itself—will hate us for telling the truth (John 15). Living like a Christian will offend the lost. Jesus gave so much offense that sinners killed him. So let’s be clear that we aren’t called to stop doing something simply because it might hurt somebody’s feelings, either inside or outside the church. If we begin limiting ourselves in that way, pretty soon we find ourselves practicing a lowest-common-denominator discipleship in which we’re afraid to do much of anything for fear we’ll hurt someone’s feelings. Christians aren’t called to play it safe. I speak from experience on this matter. Early in my college years, I developed the notion that the little alligator on the front of those expensive, preppy golf shirts was somehow the very mark of Satan himself. I literally did not understand how a man could be a Christian and wear such a mark of worldly materialism. You can imagine, then, how I felt when one of our young ministers began wearing shirts—and even a
70

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

belt—with that little alligator on them. Even then I was not one to gossip behind someone’s back, so I went in person to Scott and asked him to stop dishonoring God by wearing those worldly little alligators. He listened patiently to my case, and then told me why he would not stop. He explained that when he had finished his ministerial training and was preparing to come to work at our church, he had spent most of his money on his education and had very few nice clothes to wear. On the day he went to visit his parents on the way to his new congregation, he was surprised to find waiting for him a dozen full sets of clothes—shirts, pants, and belts. It seems a neighbor had wanted Scott to have them before he went to his new church and had made sure they were waiting for him. To that young minister, those clothes were not the mark of Satan—they were a bountiful gift from God. He hoped I wouldn’t continue to be offended, but he wasn’t about to despise God’s gift in an effort to please one immature little brother. No, Christians are not called to limit our behavior to please the whims of every immature brother or sister in Christ. But we are called to give up our own privileges before allowing another Christian to be lost. That’s the bigger message in the story of meat sacrificed to idols. Our knowledge of what we’re allowed to do is not as important as keeping our fellow Christians in mind for what we ought to do. Discipleship is never a matter of entitlement or superiority. Even if we have a knowledge of God beyond that of our brothers and sisters, we need to remember that getting our doctrine right is only one wing of discipleship. Someone has said, “Where getting it right is foremost, people usually get relationships wrong.”5 Relationships are the other wing of discipleship. Discipleship is not merely a matter of being right but doing right to our brothers and sisters and to God. We have duties not only to God but to each other. Remember Jesus' summary of the law in Matt 22:37-40? You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment—and a second like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. The law and the prophets, the will of God, are summed up in loving not only God but our fellow human beings. Putting faith into practice requires that we take into account our duties to each. That's why Paul's emphasis in this letter is on love rather than shame. We love others because God first loved us. We give in to others because Christ gave up his place in heaven for us. Heartfelt discipleship arises
71

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

from gratitude for the bounteous gifts of God's grace. Those who appreciate what they have received are the ones most willing to give. An appreciative discipleship is a giving discipleship. At this point we've arrived at a bigger idea in this passage: that true discipleship recognizes the Savior. The Corinthians were faced with a very practical issue: is it permissible to eat food that has been sacrificed to idols? Now that sounds like a simple question that requires a simple, practical answer of yes or no. But the Apostle doesn't look at the issue through the eyes of practicality, but through the eyes of faith. Paul takes the opportunity to remind his Christian brothers and sisters of God’s love. Paul reminds the Corinthians that, as Jesus told his disciples (John 17:21), the Savior and the Father are one.6 The Apostle calls on the Corinthians to sacrifice for their brothers and sisters as Christ has sacrificed his very life for the church. That's denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Jesus (Matt 16:24). In 1 Cor 9 Paul will show how he puts these instructions in practice in his own life by not insisting on his own privileges. That's the way for the Apostle, that's the way for us, as it was the way for Christ. Jesus of all men did not demand what he had coming to him. Instead Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:6-8, NASB) Even so-called practical issues are for Christians a reminder of Jesus Christ crucified. He gave up his glory in the presence of the Father to be born into the realm of darkness on the earth. He was born in order to suffer and die a death that we, not he, deserved. And in dying and rising again he saved his church and began ushering in his pure and holy Kingdom. In chapters 10 & 11 we'll begin to see what the feast of that Kingdom looks like. It's not a meal of food sacrificed to appease a false god. No, not at all. In the real Kingdom feast the only true God sacrificed himself to feed his people. Wow. Doesn't that make you want to serve him?

72

Slave to All 1 Corinthians 9
This chapter is the middle of a section in which Paul instructs the Corinthians on giving up their rights or privileges. In chapter 8 he urged Christians not to eat meat if it causes a brother in Christ to stumble. In the last verse of that chapter Paul said he would rather eat no meat at all than to enjoy meat and cause a brother to fall away. Now, this whole chapter is an elaboration of how Paul is making that very kind of sacrifice and more in his own life.1 Chapter 10, as we'll begin to see next week, contains more practical advice on how Christians should deny ourselves—because the Kingdom of God is not about rights but about indentured service. First, let's make sure we understand one of the words Paul uses over and over in this section. The word rendered “right” or “rights” in many English translations can be very misleading to twenty-first century Christians in our culture. The word Paul originally wrote in Greek is exousia, a word having more to do with privilege and authority than what we usually associate with the word “right.” Exousia refers to the prerogative that goes with power. In fact, it is the same word Paul used in Eph 6:12 to refer to heavenly powers when he told the Ephesians that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers (exousia) over this present darkness.” In other words, a so-called right is not something we're entitled to have simply because we're breathing. It has to do with power and privilege. In that sense, the King James Version is more accurate than more recent versions when it translates exousia as “power.” Why does it matter how we translate that one word? It matters because, to put it bluntly, our culture treats rights as gods. In the United States, laws and public morality are based not on what we owe others (duties) but on what others owe us (rights). Although we may simply take the concept of rights for granted, it's hard to imagine a more corrosive environment for developing true Christian discipleship than a culture teaching everyone to stand up for his or her rights. Standing up for his rights is precisely what Paul refuses to do, and it's a lesson he tries to teach the Corinthians. They needed to learn that lesson, and so does the

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

church today. The heart of the Gospel is Jesus emptying himself of his power and rights. If we follow Jesus, we must do the same. So let's look at what the Apostle has to say on this issue, and let's consider its implications for Christians today. Paul has just told the Corinthians that they should be willing to give up their own privileges for the sake of fellow Christians. In this passage, Paul goes on to demonstrate that he has already done that very thing himself. Paul is not in the apostle business for his own benefit, but for the church’s. He begins here by asking the Corinthians if he isn't entitled to the privilege of making his living by the gospel. In light of what he has just written in chapter 8, Paul's words in 1 Cor 9:4 are a sort of pun: “Do we not have the power [exousia] to eat and drink?” Paul lets the Corinthians know just what he has given up for the privilege of proclaiming the gospel. He has not insisted that the church provide for his needs. What's more, he has chosen not to have a wife and family in order to devote his life fully to the apostolic ministry. And rather than taking the church's money and resources, Paul chooses to work in his trade as a tentmaker (Acts 18:3) and pay his own way. Paul then goes on to demonstrate that his lifestyle is a choice for his particular life and not the pattern that all must follow. In fact verses 7-12 are a string of analogies to show why the church should be willing to support Paul materially. A soldier doesn't have to pay his own way on the battlefield. Workers among the vineyard, flocks, fields, and threshing floor are entitled to some of the food they help produce. Those who work in the temple and at the alter are entitled to receive portions of the sacrifice. Paul even goes so far as comparing himself to an ox, who is allowed to eat some of the grain it treads! He also uses the familiar less-to-more argument: If he sows spiritual blessings among the Corinthians, shouldn’t he at least be entitled to a little physical support? If the Corinthians support other teachers financially, how much more should they support Paul, who brought the gospel to them and preached among them for eighteen months (Acts 18). But Paul saves his strongest argument for last. In verse 14, the Apostle shares the words of Jesus himself: “Even so, the Lord ordered that the ones who proclaim the gospel should live from the gospel.” However you look at it, Paul is entitled to make his living from preaching. But he will have none of it. His preaching, Paul tells the Corinthians, is not for money, but from compulsion (v. 16). Paul's reward is not money or material support, but the privilege of presenting the gospel without charge (v. 18). He would rather work as a tentmaker than demand what by every right is due him. In this way Paul is following his calling to deny himself, take up his cross and follow Christ. Does he have to spell it out any more clearly? It's the same calling for the Corinthians, and for us. There's a word for someone who works under compulsion, without
74

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

pay. The word is “slave.” Paul has made himself a slave, willingly, to everyone in order to win more for the Kingdom (v. 19). Paul becomes all things to all men so that by all means some might be saved (v. 22). He gives it all he has, like an athlete preparing for a big event. And if glory in athletic competition is worth the effort that athletes both then and now put into their sport, how much more are the eternal rewards of heaven worth any sacrifice we must make today. The final verse in 1 Cor 9 is the subject of a great deal of interpretation. It's also the source of worry for many Christians. If the Apostle Paul runs the risk of being lost, considering all he did for the gospel, what hope do Christians like you and me possibly have? Well, Paul shows elsewhere that he is not concerned about being lost from the Kingdom (1 Cor 3:15). But he does not want to bring shame on his Lord by failing in his apostolic ministry. Paul was willing to give all he had to receive the reward that comes from faithful service to God. So this chapter is not so much about paying ministers as it is an example of the call to deny ourselves. But the issue of paying ministers is important, too. Some religious groups teach that Christians ought not to pay their preachers, and from a purely worldly standpoint there is logic behind that position. All kinds of wickedness, or example, can enter a church when it begins dividing itself between “clergy” and the rest of the congregation. In such an environment, ministers can all too easily begin thinking of themselves as superior to ordinary Christians, and members can become lazy from expecting the preacher to do their ministry for them. The world—and many Christians—is quick to accuse paid preachers of greed: “He's only in it for the money.” Refusing to take money for preaching demonstrates sincerity and credibility. But the Lord Jesus Christ intends for evangelists to be paid. I recently spoke with a woman from another religious group about my work with the Church of Christ. She told me how her father did the same work I do in his church yet maintains a full-time job as a business executive. This young woman was polite and gentle, but it was clear that she considered her father to be doing a better work by virtue of his not accepting pay. “That's commendable that he's chosen that course,” I told her. “Especially since, as you're aware, Paul told Christians in 1 Cor 9 that a preacher ought to be paid.” I could tell by the look on her face that she had, in fact, not been aware of that information. But that is precisely the kind of support Paul renounced. Many preachers through the centuries have followed Paul's lead in renouncing their claim to financial support. But Jesus' instructions nevertheless are clear: full support for full-time service. Again, the main point of 1 Cor 9 is not paying ministers but renouncing privilege. Paul introduces the topic of paying preachers not so
75

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

that he might be paid (v. 15), but to let the Corinthians know what he's renouncing for their sake. He's given up having a wife, children, and even a home. Can the Corinthians at least give up a little meat? In denying himself, Paul is following Christ, who took the form of a servant and became obedient all the way to death on a cross (Phil 2:8). Jesus calls all his disciples to take up our crosses, too (Luke 9:23). Paul answered that call in everything he did. Whenever Paul wrote to Christians, he had the cross clearly in mind for himself and the church. If we long to be close to Christ, there is no other way than through the cross—the cross where Jesus paid the price for our sins, and the cross he calls us to carry. The call to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus is something each of us puts into practice in different ways. It may be working a second job for the privilege of proclaiming the gospel. It may be joining the saints in the worship assembly even when we're tired and hurting. It's being diligent in studying the Word and lifting up others regularly in prayer before God. It's service to the Kingdom and to our friends and neighbors, including the lost. In all those ways we follow Jesus Christ, who gave up his glory in heaven and came down to earth to teach stone-hearted human beings, to be misunderstood and slandered, beaten and killed, to be a slave to all. And in that suffering and humiliation Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom is salvation, yes, for those who call upon his name in faith, repentance, and obedience. But it's much more than individual salvation. The Kingdom is the redemption of all creation. It's putting this messed up world right; it's every knee in heaven and on earth bending to acknowledge the lordship of God the Son. So ultimately 1 Cor 9 is not so much about Paul as about Jesus, our ultimate example of denying self. But even more than he is our example, Jesus is our Savior. He became like us in the flesh, he endured every temptation we do, yet he did not sin. And as much as Jesus is our Savior, he is our King. Christians eagerly await the day when “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and. . . every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11, NASB). That day is coming. When it does, will we be ready for it? Are we in the habit of trying to be our own lords or of acknowledging Jesus as the only true Lord? Is bending the knee a comfortable posture for our souls? Are we skilled at bowing down under the weight of the cross, or in bowing up in pride about our “rights”? When the Lord returns, will we bow our knee in joy or by force? We are answering those questions every day in a thousand decisions, large and small. In every one of those decision we are answering the question of whether or not we will take up our crosses and follow Jesus.
76

So That We Would Not Crave Evil 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Over the past thirty-five years or so a fascinating phenomenon has grown up around marriage in the United States. As the number of divorces has exploded, the extravagance of weddings has grown in proportion. Weddings have become grander and grander productions while marriages are becoming bigger and bigger wrecks. That trend goes to show it's not the wedding but the work that determines the quality of a marriage. Marriages, in fact, are very much like the race described by the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor 9:24-27. It's not how well you start that wins the race; it's how well you run. That's the lesson Paul was trying to teach the Corinthians in the first century, and it's a lesson we need to understand today. We’re still in a long section on denying ourselves for the sake of our fellow Christians (1 Cor 8-10). In chapter 8 Paul warns the Corinthians against eating meat sacrificed to idols. In chapter 9 the Apostle explains how he himself chose to give up his own privileges—finances and a family—for the sake of his fellow Christians. Chapter 10 is a conclusion of that section. Unlike the original writings of the New Testament, modern editions of the Bible contain chapters and verses. Those chapter headings can make this section of the letter appear to be several different sets of teaching, but in fact they are all one. For manageability, we're looking at chapters 8-10 in four parts, but only one main idea runs through all three chapters. So let's see how Paul's words in 1 Cor 10:1-13 fit into the big picture of 1 Corinthians. Paul begins here to summarize his argument. Writing to Christians in the first century A.D., the Apostle brings to mind the wandering of the people of Israel some 1400 years earlier. The Israelites had been delivered from slavery in Egypt and were on their way to the Promised Land. But during their wanderings in the wilderness, Israel sinned and paid the price. These first five verses contain several points that are hard to understand. What, for example, does the Apostle mean in v. 2 when he talks about the Israelites being “baptized into Moses”? And what about v. 4, where we hear of a rock following the Israelites through the desert, and it turns out the rock is Christ? To understand what Paul is saying, it helps to lay aside our modern literalist glasses for a moment. Paul is simply

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

reminding Christians of the blessings God gave the Israelites in the wilderness. When the Egyptian army pursued them in the desert, God miraculously parted the sea to allow the Israelites (but not the Egyptians) to pass. That's the baptism Paul is talking about here. And while the Israelites traveled through the desert, God miraculously provided them with food and water. The Apostle is pointing out that the living water nourishing the Israelites was in reality Christ, who was already ministering to his people centuries before he came to earth in the flesh. The Israelites started well, but they didn't run well at all. In telling of ancient Israel, Paul is reminding Christians of the blessings we have received in Christ Jesus, “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8). Even when Paul talks about ancient history, before the birth of Christ, the Savior is always at the center of his teaching. Christ—not idols, wisdom, or pleasure—is the source of life and nourishment for the Christian. Stone idols and all they represent are nothing, but Jesus Christ is the solid rock of our salvation and our nourishment in the faith. He is the source of living water for our souls. And he is Savior by virtue of the blood that flowed from his body, sacrificed for our sake on the cross. In vv. 6-12 Paul tells the Corinthians that the misadventures of the Israelites happened “so that we would not lust for evil things as they also lusted.” Israel learned the hard way that simply starting well is not enough. On the way from Egypt to the Promised Land they grumbled against the Lord's servant, they worshiped idols, practiced immorality and did not trust in the Lord's protection. As a result the Lord caused the people to wander in the wilderness forty years, and only two men out of the hundreds of thousands who left Egypt were allowed to enter the Promised Land. The story of an entire generation of Israelites rejected by the Lord is especially sad because they knew the blessings God had given them. They had been delivered from their oppressors. They had been nourished with food and water from God. They were off to such a good start. Yet they reveled in idolatry and immorality. They chose fellowship with idols over fellowship with God. That's a key element of salvation—fellowship. Salvation is not simply our individual souls going to heaven after we die; it's also a relationship with God here and now as God's covenant people. That relationship is meant to be a living one; it’s either growing or dead.1 So the mistakes of the Israelites under the Old Covenant are examples for Christians in the New. Do you notice the examples given here of mistakes the Israelites made? In v. 7 Paul mentions that they were idolaters and thus brings to mind his words on that subject in 1 Cor 8. Next, he mentions their immorality (v. 7), thus pointing back to his warnings in 1 Cor 5. The Israelites also grumbled (v. 10) in ways similar to how the Corinthians were grumbling against Paul (1 Cor 1 & 2). Grumbling, immorality and idolatry are temptations for God's people in
78

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

every age. Today those temptations wear different clothes, but they are still very much among us. We may call our idols by different names— health, money, career, nation—but they are idols all the same. We can still practice immorality the old fashioned way, or we can choose from a variety of new methods via the Internet. We have ample opportunity to be armchair quarterbacks and grumble against the Lord's servants. But let him who stands take heed lest he fall (v. 12). The Israelites were off to such a good start. They enjoyed a baptism of deliverance and feasts provided by the Lord himself. The parallels between those experiences on the one hand and Christian baptism and the Lord's Supper on the other should be as obvious today as they must have been for the Corinthians. Starting well doesn't get the job done.2 God doesn't lavish his blessings on us so we can rest—at least not on this earth—but so we can run. With the privileges of God's blessings come the responsibility of being God's people.3 And that means running! How can we run the race as God intends? By not craving evil as the Israelites did. Righteousness is not only a matter of what we do but of what we crave. What we crave, after all, is what we reach for. So if we want to change our lives we have to change our cravings. And how do we do that? By taking in the truth of God's Word. The process works like this: what we believe determines what we value. What we value determines our goals and what we strive for. And what we strive for determines what we do. If we believe that the things of the flesh—money, pleasure, power—make us secure, that is what we will crave. And if that’s what Christians crave, then we must change our beliefs. We change our beliefs in turn through submitting to the Word of God. Changing our beliefs and desires through the Word of God is a key to escaping from the temptation mentioned in v. 13. This is one of the most strangely ambivalent passages in the New Testament: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (NASB). The good news of that passage is that, even when we're tempted, we don't have to sin. The hard news is that although God gives us a way out, he leaves it up to us to take it! We still have a part to play, and there's no getting around the hard work of actually resisting temptation. Christians are not saved by good works, but we certainly are saved to good works. We are saved by grace through Jesus Christ. Paul made this truth clear in the early chapters of this epistle when he reminded the Corinthians that “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). Christ and Christ alone saves us. His death paid the bill that we owe God for our sins. Jesus' blood washes away our sins. In baptism we join Jesus Christ in both his death and resurrection. We are
79

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

saved by grace, yet we are saved not to stay the same but to grow in service. Righteous living is evidence of our salvation. The Apostle John reminded Christians, Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 2:28-3:3, NASB) If we call ourselves Christians and our lives aren't demonstrating righteous and faithful living, then what are our lives really saying? If our lives are not characterized by righteousness, what do we do to change them? Quite simply, we need new cravings. Remember the process? Beliefs affect values, values affect desires, and desires affect actions. The only cure for unrighteous living is the transforming power of the Word and the Spirit. We are nurtured by the Word in Scripture, in prayer, in fellowship, and in feast. And our lives will change if we meditate on this truth: We were bought with a price (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23). So once again, as Paul addresses the most practical problems in the Corinthian church, Jesus Christ is behind, under, over, and at the center of the message. Idols are nothing, but Christ is the solid rock who nourishes and refreshes his people with living water (John 4:10-12). He's also our Lord crucified to save us and lead us into lives of service and sacrifice. Do we think we're something? If we are, it is only because of what Christ has given us. On our own we are as weak as the Israelites. Through the nourishing grace of Jesus Christ, however, we have life. But I must warn you; life in Christ is death: death to the idolatry of the familiar, death to the idolatry of greed and financial security, death to the pleasures of comfortable slavery, death to having things and status and cool. New life in Christ is following God through the desert, with nothing more than the food and drink he gives us new each day. What more could we want? As someone has said, if we have Christ and everything in the world, we don't have any more than if we have only Christ. And if we do have Christ Jesus, our lives will show it.
80

All to the Glory of God 1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1
In our study of 1 Corinthians we’ve now come to the conclusion of a long section on liberty and love. This section began in chapter 8 with a discussion about meat sacrificed to idols. Sure, Paul says, idols are nothing, and it really means nothing if someone has sacrificed meat to one of these non-existent gods. But at the same time it would be better not to eat meat at all rather than to cause a less-informed Christian to think communing with idols is acceptable. In chapter 9 Paul uses himself as an example of denying self for the sake of the gospel. At the beginning of chapter 10 Paul warns the Corinthians to beware lest they fall. The section we’ll be looking at here has two main parts. In 10:14-22 the Apostle addresses a group that might be called the liberated Christians, those who have thought the matter over logically and know that sacrificing meat to an idol really doesn’t cause the meat to be contaminated. Paul talks to this group about idol meat in the context of relationship to God and warns them to flee from idolatry. In 10:33-11:1, Paul speaks primarily to the weaker brethren who think the meat itself is somehow contaminated. Here the argument is framed in terms of the consciences of the meat eaters and their fellow Christians. As the Word of God often does, Paul's words probably offended those on both sides of the argument. But Paul’s teaching offered a way through a controversy that was harming the church. The church today would do well to pay attention both to Paul’s method of handling the controversy and the underlying principles it reveals. Notice how this part begins? “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” Let’s look at one point right off the bat: the surprising way Paul addresses the Corinthian Christians. Consider the way these Christians have treated Paul. They’ve questioned his apostolic authority and broken into factions (chapters 1-4), they’ve arrogantly asserted their so-called wisdom (chapters 1-2), they’ve approved of sexual immorality (chapters 5-7), and they’ve joined in feasts dedicated to false gods (chapters 8-10). Yet the Apostle calls them “my beloved.” Let’s think about that for a moment. Even as he corrects them for their wrong attitudes, Paul is beginning to show the Corinthians something about love; he will teach them more fully about that quality in chapter 13. As we look over this section, let’s remember

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Paul’s basic attitude toward his erring brethren: love. Paul’s words here clearly tie back to chapter 8. After going far afield, with discussions of the Exodus, sports, and Paul’s own apostleship, he comes back now with a simple warning: flee from idolatry. Notice the irony in Paul’s words of v. 15: “I speak as to wise [or sensible] men.” As we saw earlier in the letter, many of the Corinthians thought they were wise when in fact they had a lot to learn. Paul is speaking primarily to the intellectually strong group here, the ones who understand the emptiness of idolatry. The problem is that they may know doctrine about meat and idols, but they’ve missed the heart of the matter. And what is the heart of the matter? Communion. Communion is a term we avoid in Churches of Christ, but it's the word Paul uses in verse 16 to talk of the body and blood of the Lord's Supper. Communion is at the heart of table fellowship in the name of a god. The question is, with whom will he have fellowship: Christ or demons? In the Old Testament the Israelites learned that meals are a special way to commune with either false gods or the one true God (i.e. Deut 32:21; Isa 65:11). As Jesus himself reminded us, you can't serve two masters (Matt 6:24). The problem with eating at feasts dedicated to idols is not the meat itself but the implied fellowship with false gods. Christians have a table of divine fellowship, and it has nothing to do with the pagan gods worshiped in Corinth. The Corinthian Christians appear to have known better than to keep idols of stone, wood, or metal in their homes, but some were nevertheless at risk of practicing idolatry in their hearts and actions. Just as obedience begins in the heart, so does idolatry. The prophet Samuel revealed that truth a thousand years before Christ when he told King Saul, “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as wickedness and idolatry. . .” (1 Sam 15:23, NASB). The Apostle Paul also equated idolatry with the heart when he wrote to Colossian Christians about “sexual immorality, uncleanliness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5). Are you confident that you or your congregation would never commit idolatry? Well, before becoming too smug, bear in mind that following the Exodus, the whole nation of Israel fell into idolatry. They had God himself in their presence visibly day and night, and only two men out of hundreds of thousands resisted the allure of disobedience and idolatry. Before we begin patting ourselves on the back for not having physical idols in our lives, consider the temptations to set up idols in our hearts. False gods have not gone away; they only go by different names. Few if any of us bow down to statues of Aphrodite. But are you guilty of logging onto a computer and looking at pornography on the Internet? Do you allow yourself to be titillated by images on movies and television? We
82

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

no longer worship the Olympian gods, but how many of us have made idols of our favorite entertainers, athletes, or sports teams? We don't offer burnt offerings to Mammon, but have our infatuations with earning, spending, and hoarding money become idols in our hearts? Do we place love for our biological families before love for God and his church? If we have, that is idolatry. Do we think of ourselves more as Americans than as Christians? That’s idolatry too. Down the street from where I used to preach, a church placed a flag pole in front of the church house. Two flags fly on that pole: the Christian flag (whatever that's supposed to be) and the American flag. Which one holds the place of honor on top of the pole? The American flag. What does that say about a church's priorities? And don't think idolatry of the nation is a denominational problem. In a congregation where my family used to worship, Independence Day fell one year on a Sunday. One of the songs that day was “America,” and as we began to sing, one of the older sisters, an elder's wife, jumped to her feet. Most of the congregation followed. How strange that our congregation had no trouble sitting on our backsides for “Stand Up for Jesus,” “Holy, Holy, Holy,” or other songs of praise to Jehovah, but we felt the need to stand at attention for a patriotic hymn. We can even commit idolatry in the name of the church. Human beings, every one of us, have been created in the image of God (Gen 1:2628). Yet we are always tempted to get the relationship backward: to view God as no more than a super-human being, a god created in our image. As someone has said, “Satan is the master counterfeiter” with the ability to make evil look good to eyes untrained in spiritual discernment.1 Trying to reshape God in our own image is idolatry of a very serious nature, especially when it’s possible to fall into it without even knowing. That's all the more reason to know who God really is as revealed in Scripture. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, Christians choose every day between the tables of demons and the table of the Lord. It's very sobering to read about the Corinthians, because the so-called stronger brothers don't seem to have realized the danger they faced from communing with demons. They didn't realize the choice before them, but they were choosing nevertheless. So are we. In 1 Cor 10:23-30, Paul reminds the Corinthians that “all things are lawful.” Here Paul repeats what he told them in 6:12-13. In the earlier case Paul used the example of food in making his case against sexual morality. Here he refers to food in making a case against idolatry. In both cases he urges Christians to flee temptation. In this section Paul specifically addresses the weaker brethren who believe there's a problem with eating the meat itself. Paul tells them the problem is not with the food but with the effect. The food itself is fine, as Paul reminded Timothy: “. . . every
83

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy through the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim 4:4-5). The problem with these idol feasts is not the food but the danger of making a weak brother stumble back into idolatry. Christians are not to avoid going out and associating with nonChristians (1 Cor 5:10). And when Christians do sit down to eat with pagans, Paul tells those of weaker consciences, simply don't ask if the meat you're eating has been sacrificed to an idol. It won't hurt you even if it has been. However, if someone brings up the fact that it has, then he or she probably has a problem or wouldn't have mentioned it.2 In that case, it's better to do without the meat so that no one could reasonably think a Christian supports worship of pagan gods. Although Christians were entitled to eat the meat, it was better not to eat than to cause others to think a Christian supports worship of false gods. What about today? The particulars are different, but the risks are quite similar. What kinds of privileges should Christians renounce in order to glorify God and distance ourselves from idolatry? Perhaps the use of alcohol or tobacco cast a poor light on our commitment to Christ. Perhaps it's R-rated movies and other dirty entertainment. Perhaps we’re showing off our money in conspicuous ways—jewelry, fancy cars, expensive watches—while allowing our brothers and sisters in Christ to suffer. Yes, some of these things are not bad in and of themselves; if everyone had a fully understanding mind we wouldn't have to give some of them up. But what privileges and pleasures are you willing to give up for the sake of someone else's soul? The irony in the case of the Corinthians is that the stronger brothers are right. There's nothing really wrong with eating meat sacrificed to idols. But in this case, being right is not as important as being loving.3 What good is it for one set of Christians to be right in their privileges while another group falls into hell? The brothers with superior knowledge need to add superior sacrifice for the sake of their brethren. How can we have communion with our brothers and sisters if our lives drive them away from Jesus Christ? Right relationships— with God and one another—are as important as right doctrine. That's not to say truth is unimportant; we must never compromise the truth simply to get along. But if we say we have the truth and don't have communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we've missed something of first importance. But if we’re willing to sacrifice our privilege and pleasures for the sake of the Kingdom, we bring glory to God. Somehow Christians in our culture have come to view discipleship as self-fulfillment. Preachers are sometimes guilty of presenting the gospel something like this: “Become a Christian and your life will be full of fun, happiness, and prosperity!” Wrong. Christian discipleship is not about self-fulfillment; it's about self84

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

sacrifice (Luke 9:23; Rom 12:1). We may have entered the Kingdom looking for self-fulfillment, but there comes a time for Christians to grow up and begin honoring God not by what we take in but by what we give up. Paul reminds the Corinthians that activities as ordinary as eating and drinking have the potential to bring God glory. If Christians eat and drink in ways that not only fill their bellies, but take into account the souls of others, then we bring glory to God in the simple act of eating. And if eating glorifies God, what else can? How about loving our families and spending time with them? How about working our jobs honorably without whining or complaining. How about doing the everyday work of the Kingdom: visiting the sick, calling the hurting, sending cards and notes of fellowship. Christians glorify God in large and small ways when we give up some of our money, our time, and our pleasure to help those who cannot repay us. It's one thing to do good when we expect to be patted on the back. It's another when we serve those who cannot repay us, any more than we can repay Jesus Christ for buying our salvation on the cross. What have you done today to glorify God? What has your congregation done? Have we worshiped God not only in five acts of worship, but in spirit and in truth? Have we glorified God by proclaiming the truth in love? Have we done the work of the Kingdom without falling prey to the idols of arrogance and self-importance? If so, then we have forsaken the idols that threaten to rule our hearts, and we have glorified God. We in twenty-first century North America live in a culture of selfindulgence. We have a level of prosperity unequaled in any other place or time on earth. We have more things and more privilege than any other culture in history. Yet all around us, hundreds of times a day, we are bombarded with advertising persuading us to covet more, to buy more, and to indulge our every whim. The Devil is such a proficient sneak that most Christians today seem unaware of idolatry’s dangers. Can we learn from the Corinthians’ mistakes before it's too late? Flee from idolatry. That means we worship the only true God. It means we don't seek our own advantage but rather pursue the advantage of our brothers and sisters in Christ for the glory of God. It means denying our own benefits and privileges, taking up our crosses daily, and following Jesus Christ.

85

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

86

Holding Firmly to the Traditions 1 Corinthians 11:2-16
In Churches of Christ we hold to the biblical idea of male-only eldership and preaching. That’s a fact the New Testament presents and the early church followed. Here’s another fact: you cannot have a strong church without spiritually strong women, working together. That’s an important truth to remember in the context of the passage we’re studying today, because the concepts of 1 Cor 11 are easily misunderstood in our own culture. In fact, quite a bit of the Apostle Paul’s language here about authority and head coverings is difficult to appreciate today. But at the heart of the text is this truth: Christ is the head over every man, and man is head of the woman (v. 3). Man is the glory of God, and woman is the glory of man. These truths have consequences for worship: men must not cover their heads while praying or prophesying, but women must. The question this passage poses to Christians today is simple to ask but difficult to answer: are Paul’s instructions here primarily cultural, so that they do not apply to Christians today? Or is he speaking of eternal principles for Christian worship, so that we must obey the letter of his instruction? To find answers, it helps to look at the history of the first century Roman empire. In Paul’s day, for example, it was considered scandalous for a woman to appear publicly without a head covering; to do so made her look like a prostitute.1 But what about in a private home? Was a Christian woman allowed to appear bare-headed when the church met in the houses of members to pray and worship? In the first century, Roman men wore head coverings while praying, but Greeks worshiped bare-headed.2 Although in later centuries Jewish men came to cover their heads in prayer, during the first century it seems they did not.3 All of these historical details help us better understand what Paul was referring to in the first century. But history will take us only so far in deciding how best to interpret this passage for today. For example we won’t be able to answer certain questions strictly by looking at history and the New Testament. Knowing precisely how Paul’s words apply to us today hinges on understanding complex cultural practices for which we simply don’t have adequate information. What, for example, do the angels in v. 10 have to do with head coverings? Is Paul speaking in this passage strictly of the assembly or also of Christian

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

women’s appearance in public? Given Paul’s instructions in 1 Cor 14 about women keeping silent in the worship assemblies, why does he mention them praying and prophesying here? At least some of these issues are cultural, and we don’t fully understand them today. But the underlying themes of the Apostle’s message are clear enough: traditions are important for the church; men and women are both under authority, and neither man nor woman is independent of the other. Let’s begin our study by looking at the issue of tradition. Paul opens this section by complimenting the Corinthian Christians on their faithfulness to Christian tradition: “Now I praise you that in everything you remember me and hold fast the traditions even as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:2). It may seem a little strange for Paul to commend the Corinthians’ faithfulness to tradition when he immediately follows these words of praise with criticism for ways they are in fact not following Christian tradition. But, in general, they must have been following the tradition; after all, Paul was with them for eighteen months teaching Jesus Christ and him crucified. More important for us today than precisely which traditions the Corinthians did or did not follow is Paul’s implicit statement on the importance of Christian tradition. In short, we learn both at the beginning and end of this passage that traditions are good and important for the church. In our culture today, few men or women appreciate what a tradition really is. Literally, it is a practice handed down from generation to generation. You can’t make up a new tradition; it takes generations of fellowship to create a real tradition, whether those generations are in a family or in a church. For the church, traditions are dangerous matters. Once a belief or practice has been handed down for a generation or two, the tradition has a way of taking on a life of its own. Once a particular practice has been in place for as long as anyone in the church can remember, we are inclined to feel it was handed down not only by men, but by God. The church today, for example, is struggling with innovations introduced not by God, but by Christians seventy-five or a hundred years ago. Our practice on head coverings is a good example. As much as we claim to follow only the Bible without the introduction of human tradition, if we’ve always been taught a particular doctrine or practice, we almost never give it up, even if it’s wrong. Once a teaching, however imperfect, becomes a tradition in the church, it’s terribly difficult to get rid of it. So traditions can be harmful. Right traditions, of course, are very good. As Paul told the Thessalonians, “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold the traditions that you were taught, whether by word or by our letter” (2 Thess 2:15). The lineage of a true Christian tradition shows its value: Jesus to the apostles to the church,
88

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

either in spoken or scriptural teaching. The church practices this proper reliance on tradition all the time. Why, for example, do we celebrate the Lord’s Supper each week but not foot washing, even though Jesus commanded Christians to practice the latter (John 13:15-17)? Why do churches take a collection every week but not practice the holy kiss, even though the Apostle Paul commands Christians four times in the New Testament to greet each other in this way? The answer is tradition. We look back over how Christians from the earliest days of the church interpreted these biblical instructions in their day, and we gain insight into how we ought to interpret them today. Without tradition, Christians become too confident in our own cleverness. Eccentric, oddball interpretations often arise when Christians do not listen to tradition. Tradition is learning not only from the wisest Christians of our own day, but from the wise and faithful Christians of past generations. It’s a wonderful relationship, really: tradition helps us interpret Scripture, and Scripture keeps tradition from straying too far from the truth. From this perspective, the Apostle Paul begins this section of instruction with a reminder on the importance of Christian tradition. He then goes immediately to the heart of his instruction: “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of a wife is the man, and the head of Christ is God” (11:3). Paul goes on to say in vv. 8-9 that man is not made for woman, but woman for man. That’s certainly not a politically correct saying in our day, but it is biblically sound. In the very first book of the Bible, for example, we see that woman was created out of man to be his helper (Gen 2:20-23). That’s Scripture, tradition, and truth. Thus Paul instructs women to cover their heads as a symbol of authority: “For this cause a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels” (11:10). The word Paul uses here for “authority,” by the way, is the same word sometimes translated “right” in 1 Cor 9. That word usage reflects a problem of our own day. We want rights without submitting to authority—men as well as women. But Paul writes that women are to cover their heads as a sign of male authority. Our culture and even the church at times want to deny these different roles for men and women. Today we live in a very sick time spiritually. The politically correct position is that men and women are equal with no real difference between them. We thus see a strange mixing of gender roles today. Some of these gender distinctions are indeed cultural, but many are intrinsic to the way God created men and women to function. In many cases, the distinction between cultural and intrinsic difference in a given role may not be clear. But here is one place where it is. Churches faithful to the Bible teach the distinction between men’s and women’s roles. Regardless of what cynical voices may proclaim, these distinctions
89

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

are not for the advantage of males. It’s much easier to roll with the tide than to stand up for biblical manhood and womanhood. But being faithful to the Word is being faithful to the way God created things. The church’s mission on earth is to work at re-establishing God’s order that was damaged by the fall of mankind. The Kingdom of God is a society that calls its citizens to live a radically different lifestyle from the world around us. Yet some members aren’t willing even to change what they wear to conform to God’s instructions. Yes, women in the church are essentially in the same state as men. As Paul himself told the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you all are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). All men and women have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All of us are unable to save ourselves. All of us must depend on the blood of the Savior for redemption. Spiritually men and women are in exactly the same boat. But in the created order we have different roles—thus the need for a symbol of authority. How this truth ought to be demonstrated in the church today is not necessarily easy to understand. Man is made in the image of God for God’s glory and adornment. Woman is created for man and placed in a subordinate position; we’ll see in 1 Cor 14 that a woman is to keep silent in the Christian assembly. Thus congregations that conform their practices to New Testament teaching do not allow women to be preachers or to teach men (1 Tim 2). This teaching is hard for many to accept, because it runs totally contrary to our contemporary way of thinking. I don’t mean in any way to qualify or soften this biblical teaching. But there is another side to the issue. Let’s look at 1 Cor 11:11-12: “Nevertheless, neither is woman without man nor man without woman in the Lord; for as the woman was from the man, even so the man is through the woman. And all things are from God.” So woman is created for man, but man is created through woman. That is a qualitative power women have that men do not: bearing and nursing children. I don’t know if God gave women this power to balance the authority of men or not. That might be a “fair” distribution of power and authority, but God is not “fair.” He is, however, just and loving, and his created order is good and perfect. This teaching in 1 Cor 11 about the different roles of men and women raises a broader question. How do we reconcile Paul’s teaching here with what he told the Galatians about their being “neither male nor female” in the Kingdom of God? A clue to the nature of men and women can be found in what the Scripture tells us about the nature of God. Let’s look at the relationship of Jesus, the Son of God, to the Father.4 If we skip ahead in 1 Corinthians, we find these words:

90

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under his feet. But when He says, ‘All things are put in subjection,’ it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all. (15:22-28, NASB) Do you see the situation Paul describes here? Christ is in subjection to the Father, even as woman is in subjection to man. Yet Jesus and the Father are in essence one (John 1; 8:58; 17:21). In essential nature, the Father and Son (along with the Spirit) are one God, yet in function they are different. The analogy to men and women is simple: in essence we are the same, but in function different. And as we can see from Jesus’ subjection to the Father, there is no shame in submission. Now, all this theology still hasn’t answered a basic question raised by this text: should women wear hats in the worship assembly today? Well, I don’t know. Culturally, first-century women covered their heads in public and were instructed to cover them in their Christian assemblies, too. But more than social conventions are at stake here. Paul’s instructions in 1 Cor 11 are about God’s created order. In that order, male authority should be demonstrated in some way. For the church today, the question of how to be faithful to this biblical teaching is not up to a single preacher or writer alone to decide. For this kind of submission to mean anything, it’s the women who must decide to submit. Let’s all, men and women, pray and meditate on this teaching to find the best way to do God’s will in this matter. Whatever we decide, one thing is clear: Christian women should be women, and men should be men. Each has a different role, whether headship or support. Those who have served in the military may see the analogy here with commissioned and non-commissioned officers. The commissioned officers have the authority, but it’s the NCOs who keep things running. If you don’t think support roles are vital, see how long the Army could function without sergeants. One role—officers or enlisted— is not better; it’s just the roles we play. The same is true for men and women in the church. Once we get that matter settled, we can get down to what really matters. And what really matters in the church? The answer is found in Paul’s original message to the Corinthians: Jesus Christ and
91

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

him crucified (1 Cor 2:20). In that simple teaching is everything we need to know about submission: Jesus Christ to the Father, and us to God. The roles we play as men and women on this earth are for a short time in the context of eternity. But the roles Christians will one day play in the Kingdom of God are forever.

92

His Body, His Blood 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
First Corinthians is a letter to a church with problems. The Corinthian church had gathered into factions around worldly-wise, arrogant leaders (chapters 1 & 2). Some practiced and condoned sexual immorality while others taught abstinence for married couples (chapter 5). The Corinthian Christians wronged one another, dragged one another into pagan courts (chapter 6), and flirted with idolatry (chapters 8-10). The Apostle Paul treats each of those problems in turn. But not until chapter 11 does Paul mention a problem so serious, a sin so great, that it has caused some of the Corinthians to grow sick and even die. What could be such a serious offense? What kind of transgression is so shameful that it would literally cause Christians to die? Murder? Treachery? Lying to God? No. The grave sin for which the Corinthians were guilty is a bad attitude toward the Lord’s Supper. What? Yes, as Paul tells the Corinthians, their attitude and practice of the Lord’s Supper is deeply sinful: “For the one who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment on himself if he doesn’t discern the body. That is why many among you are weak and ill, and many sleep” (1 Cor 11:29-30). It seems the Lord’s Supper is a much more serious event than the Corinthians realized. It’s probably more than we realize today as well. Throughout twenty centuries of the church, Christians have celebrated the table of fellowship with God and one another. At the Lord’s Supper we are called to recognize the body of Christ—in both senses of that term. Failing to discern the body was one of several problems the Corinthians were having with the Lord’s Supper. It seems the divisions Paul discussed in the opening chapters of 1 Corinthians were manifested even at the Lord’s table. Some Christians, perhaps the well-to-do, were eating their own food while others went hungry (v. 21). The sinful way the Corinthians approached the Lord’s table was so serious that Paul tells them they are not actually sharing the supper of the Lord (v. 20). If Christians approach the table in an unworthy manner, then we are guilty of the blood of Jesus Christ (v. 27). Sharing the Lord’s Supper in these sinful ways brings about judgment on Christians so that some have become sick and died as a consequence. Again, why such harsh

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

punishment for such a seemingly small sin? We can begin to find the answer when we consider what a serious matter table fellowship is.1 In the Old Testament, the most important covenants with God typically involved an element of eating. God commanded the Israelites to commemorate their deliverance from Egypt with the annual Passover meal (Exod 12). Later, God confirmed his covenant with Israel by inviting Moses, Aaron, his sons and seventy Israelite elders to come into God’s presence on the mountain, where they shared food and drink (Exod 24). The importance of table fellowship continues as a theme in the New Testament. Jesus promised his closest disciples that they would sit at a heavenly banquet with him (Luke 22:30). The early church met together daily and shared meals (Acts 2:42-46). The book of Revelation describes the end-times glory of those invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:6-9). For the church on earth the Lord’s supper is a remembrance of Jesus’ death and resurrection and a proclamation of his coming return. It is a celebration of the salvation available to all who turn to him in faith. In these most important acts of remembrance, all Christians stand equally convicted and redeemed before God: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:23-24, NASB). Christians all stand equally condemned before God but equally and communally redeemed by the blood of Christ. At the deepest level, we’re in the same boat in terms of sin and redemption. But the Corinthians had turned the Supper into an expression of individual wealth and class distinctions. It’s dangerous to make distinctions in the body where God does not. If Jesus gave his body for the church, could not some church members give up a little food for the sake of brothers and sisters in Christ? So if the Table of the Lord is a remembrance and proclamation of Jesus Christ, the author of our common salvation, then there is no room for proclaiming ourselves through selfish indulgence and neglect of our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Table is a place of love, sharing, and sacrifice. It is a living example of the love that gives and shares. It’s a proclamation of redemption for all Christians through Jesus Christ crucified. It’s an example of unity through one Savior and one body of believers. The church is the body of Christ, and when Christians come together we are called to discern the body as a fellowship both with Christ and with one another. To do anything else is to celebrate something other than the Lord’s Supper. Do we discern the body when we eat the Lord’s Supper today? The practice of celebrating not a common meal but merely the bread and wine of the supper invites the problem of ritualism. Where, for example, did we come by the idea that the Lord’s Supper is about eating a little pinch of
94

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

bread and taking a tiny sip of juice? Our language often gives us away; how have we come to think of communion as something to “take” instead of something to share? What do our actions speak when we eat only the tiniest pinch of cracker and each take a sip from a different cup, each one large enough only to wet our tongues with the contents? Did our doctrine bring us to this place where the Lord’s Supper is a brief, meager, individualistic event? If so, it may be time to re-evaluate our doctrine. Of course, the most serious problems with the Lord’s Supper come not so much from its external forms but from the hearts of those who gather to celebrate it. Do we think our congregations don’t have the kinds of problems faced by the Corinthians? If not, then we’re either in an exceptional congregation, or we’re not looking very deep into our own lives. What do our tables away from the church building look like? Do some members of our churches live comfortably while others struggle simply to pay bills? We may share the elements of the Lord’s Supper, but do we share our lives? First Corinthians is not the only book of the New Testament to challenge Christians in this regard. Consider the book of Acts. In Churches of Christ we like Acts 2, at least up through v. 38. But what about six verses later? And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. (Acts 2:44-47a, NASB) Sharing their meals and all things in common—was this a unique situation for Christians, one limited to that first church in Jerusalem? If we read the book of Acts we can’t honestly come to that conclusion. Two chapters later Luke tells us the same thing: The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul. Not one of them claimed that anything of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. With great power, the apostles gave their testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Great grace was on them all. For neither was there among them any who lacked, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold (Acts 4:32-34). So twice we are told that Christians shared their possessions with one
95

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

another, not considering anything their own. And notice that in neither case did the wealthy dole out gifts to the poor. That would be sharing wealth as the world does. In New Testament times, wealthy Romans would give money and food to the poor, but not so much to help the poor as to build up their own reputations. No, wealthy Christians didn’t give money to the poor to make the poor beholden to them and to glorify themselves; they gave to the church to bring glory to God. How can any group of believers claim to be the New Testament church without following this fundamental New Testament example? What can we do to live like God intends for his church to live? The natural solution, of course, is to simply run off the poor, in subtle or notso-subtle ways. If there aren’t any poor people in the church, then the comfortable Christians don’t have to share what we have. Of course, the natural solution is sin. The Corinthians brought their own food to the Lord’s Supper and did not share. Why should they? They worked for that food and considered it their own. In the same way we consider our money our own. Who will be the first Christian in your congregation who dares to take a biblical view toward possessions? When Christians begin sharing fellowship in our hearts and actions, then our table of fellowship will be the true Supper of the Lord. The Lord’s Table is more than simply a place where we obey Jesus’ command to share bread and wine. It is the place where we celebrate our membership with Christ and one another. We are called to discern the body—both in the supper and in the assembly. The church is the body of Christ, and the bread is the body of the Lord. Now please don’t start chasing rats over my choice of words here. You’ve probably heard the old foolish arguments about how the supper can’t really be the body of Christ because when Jesus said, “This is my body,” his real body was sitting there in front of the disciples. Please don’t get bogged down with hyper-literalism. Applying that same logic, we could say the church is not literally the body of Christ because Jesus’ resurrected body ascended into heaven, not into the church house. The language Jesus used to institute the supper is called metaphor. Jesus didn’t say “This represents my body.” He simply said, “This is my body,” and trusted the body of believers to understand what he was saying without adding to or qualifying his words. When we celebrate both the bread and the church as the body of Christ, we identify ourselves with the one in whom we receive forgiveness, righteousness, and power. In the Lord’s Supper, quite simply, the church celebrates being one with Jesus Christ (John 17:21-24). So the question before us is the same one the Corinthian Christians faced: This supper of the Lord, is it real or pretend? Are we willing to consider everything we have as belonging to God and his church? Who
96

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

dares to believe that truth, and put it into practice? Do we truly discern the body, or are we simply looking out for ourselves? Are we willing to examine ourselves lest we become sick and die over our attitude toward the Lord’s Table? Do we discern the body in all we do? Churches today are very much like the church in Corinth—more, perhaps, than we care to admit. The Lord’s Supper is not our little ceremony but is rather a focal point of our lives in relation to our Savior. It is a celebration of Jesus Christ, crucified, resurrected, ascended—and of his coming again. When he comes, where will he find us?

97

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

98

One Body, One Spirit 1 Corinthians 12
Here in chapter 12 we enter a new section in 1 Corinthians. The Apostle Paul begins writing about spiritual gifts, especially the gift of miraculously speaking in unknown tongues or languages. And as Paul does with everything he discusses with the Corinthians, he writes with an eye to unity in Christ’s body. As we’ve seen throughout our study, the Corinthian Christians had trouble with divisions—over favorite teachers, over sexuality, over suing one another, over idolatry, and, worst of all, over the Lord’s Supper. Some of the very issues that should have brought Christians together were the subject of contention. Sad to say, these are still subjects of contention today. Paul begins this section with a reference to “spirituals,” a term usually thought in this case to refer to spiritual gifts but one equally as descriptive of spiritual persons. Paul reminds the Corinthians that not all spirituality is necessarily good: “You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led” (1 Cor 12:2, NASB). In other words, we can be led by false spirits or by the Holy Spirit. Paul’s words here about either cursing or affirming the lordship of Jesus are not a formula but a guide. They remind us that true spiritual gifts are received and exercised under the lordship of Jesus Christ. Paul goes on to make some important points about these gifts: where they come from, what they’re given for, and how each gift and each member fit into the body of Christ. In verses 7-11 we learn that spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit as the Spirit chooses. The gifts Paul describes here—wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, and interpretations—are more than merely natural abilities. God certainly intends us to use our natural abilities, but what we see here is much more than what comes to us naturally. They are gifts from God to his people, with supernatural power, for the common good of the church. They may not be razzle-dazzle displays, but they allow us to do more than we could without the Spirit’s gifts. Looking back over church history, it seems that miraculous gifts dwindled and went away from the church around the end of the second century, about the time the New Testament took shape. We should not be surprised that miraculous gifts passed from the scene, because the Holy

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Spirit blows where it will (John 3:8), and throughout the history of God’s people miraculous gifts have waxed and waned. But simply because we don’t enjoy a profusion of miraculous gifts today doesn’t mean God has quit gifting his people. Again, our gifts today may not have the razzledazzle of first-century gifts, but they are nevertheless real and powerful. We may not feel much different at our baptism, but we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Of course, if we refuse to acknowledge we have that powerful gift, then neither we nor anyone else will see it in our lives. At the end of 1 Cor 2, the Apostle refers to all Christians as spiritual, as having received the Holy Spirit. But many of the Corinthians were walking in the flesh rather than the Spirit.1 If, like the Corinthians, we live according to the spirits of the world around us, we will not manifest the power of God’s spiritual gifts. Paul wanted all Christians to walk spiritually, because when we do we accomplish God’s work with God’s power. Notice in this passage that spiritual gifts are given to every Christian.2 As Paul tells the Corinthians, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. . . . But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (1 Cor 12:7, 11, NASB). Every Christian is gifted by God for the good of the church. As we’ll see, we’re gifted not simply to hold onto the gifts, but to exercise them. The Spirit gives gifts as he wills—not necessarily as we would like. We may not particularly desire the gifts or roles God gives us. Moses didn’t want to be a prophet; Saul didn’t want to be king. God may equip us to do work we would rather not do. But all Christians are called to do the Lord’s work with his power and his authority. And if the power is not our own, then we have no reason to be proud of it.3 And when we are given this incredible power from God, we are equipped to serve the body in the way God has prepared us. Paul says, For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. (1 Cor 12:8-10, NASB) The gifts mentioned here are not an exhaustive list, but merely examples. How do we know? We know because Paul lists spiritual gifts elsewhere (e.g. Rom 12, Eph 4), and the lists are not identical. In fact, spiritual gifts are as different as the needs of the church. They also cover widely different functions, from speaking knowledge to working miracles.
100

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

The length to which Paul goes in writing to the Corinthians about spiritual gifts suggests that they were having serious trouble with them. For one thing, it seems many of the Corinthian Christians didn’t appreciate one another’s gifts. For another, the Corinthians assigned too much value to speaking in tongues. So Paul goes on to remind them that every gift is given to serve the body. What good would a body be that were nothing but eyes? Nothing but hands or feet? Each member has a different function in the body. God has given his people a variety of gifts and wants all those gifts used. The temptation for every Christian is to play up the importance of our own gift at the expense of the gifts God has given others. I know a retired pipe fitter, a man who fought with the Marines in World War II. God has blessed this brother with an ability to see all of life in light of the cross. Even in his eighties, he continues to help many brothers and sisters in Christ and even unbelievers. He knows the Bible and sees life in the light of the Word. But he's not much of a public speaker. Although he often has spiritual insights to offer, it may take him a while to get those ideas out of his mouth. The preacher didn't have much patience with this older brother and used to show it during mid-week Bible study whenever this brother stuttered and struggled to get his ideas across. Some members of the congregation, in turn, didn't have much respect for the preacher, because he had never done any work other than preach and live off the contributions of the saints. The congregation had been blessed with gifts from God, but members needed to appreciate not only their own, but each others’ gifts. Each gift is given to the church for edification. We may have the role of facilities maintenance, cooking, or greeting visitors. We may be writers, musicians, teachers, scholars, or administrators. We may be gifted in nurturing, encouraging, helping, or serving where needed. Each one of us is gifted in different ways, and we must never despise a fellow child of God for being gifted differently, or for using their gifts in ways other than how we think they should. Paul addressed this very issue in his letter to Christians in Rome when he wrote, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Rom 14:4, NASB). We have each been gifted by God and charged to be fruitful for the Kingdom. And as someone said long ago, not one of us has been given the gift of fruit inspector. Christians often ask, “How do I know what gifts God has given me?” That's a good question, because if we understand our gifts we can better understand our mission. People have come up with ways for helping Christians discover their gifts. In my office I have a “Spiritual Gifts Inventory,” and I use it from time to time in helping people discover their own gifts. But it’s really not necessary to take a test to find out what our
101

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

gifts are. The church has plenty of work for each member to do. The best way to discover our gifts is simply to jump into that work! The more we involve ourselves in the church’s work, the more our gifts begin to manifest themselves. So if you see something that needs to be done, do it! That's where we discover our gifts. And when each member is doing the work God has given him or her to do, then all parts of the church are working together—for the common good (vv. 7, 11). The Corinthian Christians were treating spiritual gifts as they had teachers: as the subject of positioning for prestige, of oneupsmanship.4 They failed to see that the gifts were given for all, and that the gifts themselves are not more important than the giver.5 But if Christians do use our gifts for God, we will have unity in the Body of Christ. The exhortation here is that there be no division in the body, but that Christians care for one another (vv. 25-27). Spiritual gifts are given for the unity of the body, but the Corinthians’ focus on the gifts themselves and personal power had led to disunity.6 They were supposed to be depending on one another, but instead they were trying to outdo each other with their spiritual gifts.7 Unfortunately, spiritual gifts can still be a point of division in the church. Christians argue over whether or not God gives spiritual gifts outside the Bible while others argue over the relative values of gifts. The foot wishes everyone would help carry some of the load, while the eyes wish they didn't have to do all the spotting. The fact is, though, God gives each member gifts for the good of the whole body. And as we'll see in the next chapter, he also gave us love to appreciate the gifts he's given every other member. Whether we want to admit it or not, we Christians are bound together as a body just as organic and interdependent as a physical organism. When one Christian suffers, we all suffer; when one is honored, we’re all honored. On the one hand, that’s a picture of how the church should be. On the other hand it’s a picture of how the church is, whether we act like it or not. One member’s sickness is the church's sickness. The sin of one member is the sin of the body. Coldness between members of the church makes a part of the body become numb and useless. So every Christian is gifted by God. You have the power, I have the power to benefit the church, to do the wondrous work God has set before us for the common good of the whole body. And we are a body, whether we acknowledge it or not. When one of us suffers, we all suffer. But we all benefit when one obeys. And here's a final thought. The Body of Christ is the only place we can really be who God created each one of us to be. We live in a culture of self-sufficiency and individualism. We may want a relationship with God, but perhaps only with our own personal Jesus. But God does not
102

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

call us to have a generic relationship with Christ where he and I are on equal terms. God calls us into a relationship in which we are each one part of something much bigger than ourselves, and in which Christ is the head over all. That's the church—the only place to be in fellowship with Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Head, the one who died and then rose alive to win our forgiveness and equip us in power for whatever comes our way.

103

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

104

A Still More Excellent Way 1 Corinthians 13
Although 1 Cor 13 is best known for its lyrical phrases on love, Paul is still dealing here with pride among the Corinthians. Throughout the letter Paul gives clues on the various ways the Corinthians were proud of themselves. In chapter 12, for example, it was their spiritual gifts. The first century church was blessed with miraculous gifts such as prophecy and speaking in tongues, but the Corinthians were far too proud of these powers they had simply been given by God. Pride is one of the easiest sins for Christians to fall into, and one of the toughest to overcome. One reason is that the standard antidote for pride doesn’t work for Christians. I’m talking about the old idea of “You really ain’t nothing special.” Yes, Christians really are something special. We’ve been adopted into the royal family and given God’s own Spirit. Some of what the Corinthians were proud of was clearly evil (such as sexual sin). Others were good in and of themselves. For example, knowledge is good, but the Corinthians used knowledge as an occasion for puffing up and dividing. Prophecy is good but must be kept disciplined and in order. Tongues are good but should be used for building up, not showing off. Paul therefore counters their pride with a little perspective. Earlier, in response to their pride in knowledge, Paul gave them Jesus Christ crucified. Here, when they are puffed up over their gifts, Paul reminds them of the ultimate gift from God: not spiritual performance, but love. The solution for the Corinthians’ problems is by no means unique. Whenever the church is in trouble, a little perspective and a little love usually do the trick. But if we look carefully at this chapter, we may find that neither love nor perspective are the same for Christians as for the world. First of all, love is more than a sentiment or emotion. Love in reality is the big picture because, rightly understood, it summarizes the whole Word of God. As Paul told the Galatians, “all the law is fulfilled in one saying, in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”’ (Gal 5:14) Or, as he told the Romans, Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one loving another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and whatever other commandment, are summed up in this saying: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fullness of the law. (Rom 13:8-10) We can focus all our attention on strictly following the hundreds of instructions in the Bible and still miss the central point of discipleship. We can focus on obedience and still be lost, or we can love God and each other and so truly fulfill the law. When a lawyer asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, our Savior pointed to love: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second likewise is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40) Jesus’ words were nothing new. God had revealed these same truths to the Israelites through Moses more than a thousand years earlier (Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18). God has always called his people to love more than anything else. With our modern-day understanding of what love is, this exaltation of love may not make a lot of sense. Why is love the foundation of discipleship? What about repentance? What about right doctrine? What about obedience? Well, in God’s eyes, it seems, loving hearts are more important than either words or actions. That’s the whole thrust of 1 Cor 13:1-3; without love, all the good and even miraculous works we may do are worth nothing. Paul’s strong words in these verses bring to mind Jesus’ teaching in Matt 7:21-23: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 7:21).1 And what is that will? To love God and our neighbors. Did we prophesy, cast out demons, do mighty works? God really doesn’t care what we do if our hearts are empty of love. Jesus explained what love in action looks like in his parable of the sheep and goats (Matt 25:31-46). Every soul will one day face fire or feast, depending on how we put love into action: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, healing the sick, visiting the oppressed. As Jesus showed us in Matt 7, it’s love in our hearts, not our grand works, that he cares about. But as he reminds us in Matt 25, love does take action in good works. Love is not simply a friendly feeling or a pleasing emotion. It’s the
106

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

heart of the Word–in the sense of both Scripture and Savior. In other words, it’s about as important as you can get—so important, in fact, that the Apostle John was so bold as to say, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). In our culture, of course, “love” can be a frivolous word. We associate love with desire, sexuality, and sentimentality. But if we’re paying attention to what the Bible says, particularly here in 1 Cor 13, we find a radically different idea of what love really is. Love is much, much more than a sentimental emotion. It’s more than “Kumbaya” Christianity or “Precious Moments” faith. In fact, real love is not at all sentimental. Sentimentalism makes love out to be about niceness rather than gentleness, acceptance rather than kindness, cowardice rather than patience. Sentimentalism is deadly to the church. It means looking to God not for service and truth, but for a good-vibe feeling, for everybody to just be happy and get along. But who says discipleship will make us feel good and happy? Do you think Paul felt good and happy being flogged? Was Jesus all warm and cozy while hanging on the cross? Love takes action, and sometimes that action isn’t pretty. At the same time, love is not all will and work, either. Love will warm our hearts. Notice how many of Paul’s descriptions of love involve peacefulness? If we really love our neighbor as ourselves, we’ll have peace like nothing else could give us: not cheap and fragile but deep, world-changing peace. As Jesus told his disciples, by our love the world will know we belong to God (John 13:35). God’s love is an identifying characteristic of Christians. Everybody, saint or sinner, can have warm sentiments. Radical jihadists get along with one another and feel warmly toward their friends and family. The most vicious gangsters can be very affectionate toward their own flesh and blood. But not everyone has the Holy Spirit of God. It is the Spirit Christians each receive at our baptism (re. Acts 2:38) and the presence among us when we gather (Matt 18:20; John 14:17). Love is fruit of that Spirit (Gal 5:22). Christians don’t receive God’s love just by acting patient, kind, etc. Yes, we do need to act like we love one another. But love doesn’t come into our hearts through pretending; that’s hypocrisy. Love is a gift from God, and it wells up from the heart to energize us for good works. At this point, a reasonable question is how Christians can cultivate love in our hearts and in our midst. Of course, acting loving isn’t enough, but it may be the first step in priming the pump, getting the habit of love going. If we are truly the church, we have the loving Spirit of God among us. But we may simply be out of the habit of letting the light of that Spirit shine. So we must start giving up old habits and begin acting loving. Love rises up from the heart and enlightens our actions, but sometimes we have to stop blocking the flow. Second, let’s remember that love is the first fruit of the Spirit (Gal
107

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

5:22). We can’t force our hearts to love any more than we can force a piece of fruit to grow. Love is the sweetest and best fruit the Spirit grows in our hearts. The Corinthians seem to have been distracted by the razzledazzle of miraculous gifts. But they needed to learn that love trumps the gifts of prophecy or tongues or any other gift of the Spirit. We don’t talk much of the Holy Spirit in Churches of Christ. Maybe that’s because other Christians group think about the Spirit entirely too much. But don’t let the excess of others lead us to neglect the Holy Spirit. As the Corinthians Christians needed to remember, God doesn’t give the church his Spirit just so we ourselves can be saved, or to give us power in spiritual manifestations. The Church has been given the Spirit to protect and build us up, to serve God and our neighbor. Putting God’s love into practice is not automatic. It’s something we learn and practice. There’s no shortcut to discipleship. Paul’s words here about love are really a description of Christian maturity. And there’s no secret to it. Maturity arises from the same kinds of things we do from the very first steps of discipleship: studying the Scriptures alone and in the community of faith, worshiping God in the assembly, giving up selfish and sinful practices, beginning to do good for others. Those may be boring activities, but they bring about very unboring results: joy, peace, patience, kindness, and most importantly, love. Love is the preeminent quality of God himself. Therefore when the world looks at a loving church, they don’t merely see a bunch of flawed disciples. In a very real sense, when the world looks at a church that loves, they see God. And what they see has the power to change the church and the world. Therefore, let us pursue love. That’s what the Apostle calls us to do. And as our Lord Jesus told us, what we pursue, we’ll find (Matt 7:7).

108

Spiritual Gifts and the Great Commission 1 Corinthians 14:1-25
In our journey through 1 Corinthians, we are still in a part of the letter dealing with spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12-14). But even though the immediate topic at hand is speaking in tongues, throughout this section Paul manages to turn the discussion to larger issues. In chapter 12, for example, the Apostle uses the topic of spiritual gifts to teach a lesson on the unity of the body. In chapter 13, he reminds Christians of the centrality of love. Here, in chapter 14, we learn that prophecy is superior to speaking in tongues. By way of reminder, let's look back over the teaching in this section so far. Some Christians in Corinth apparently had the gift of tongues and had let the gift go to their heads. Spiritual gifts, given by God to edify the church, had instead become the subject of pride and one-upsmanship. The result was further divisions in the body. Paul reminded the Corinthians that the gift is not more important than the giver, God's Holy Spirit. That Spirit is love, not simply the sentimental kind, but love that changes thoughts and actions. In chapter 14 we see how love looks in practice. And if we look carefully, we will find powerful implications for discipleship and evangelism. The first lesson we learn here is that the gift of prophecy is superior to the gift of speaking in unknown tongues. Paul makes that point repeatedly in this chapter. In 1 Cor 14:1 he urges Christians to desire the gift of prophecy, and in v. 5 he tells them that he himself wishes it for them. The rest of the chapter then shows why prophecy is superior to tongues. At this point you may well be asking why it really matters which is superior, because we don't have these miraculous gifts today in the church, right? Well, looking back through biblical history we see that miraculous gifts come upon God's servants differently in different generations. The first two centuries of the church were a time when these miraculous gifts were active in force, but around the time churches began to have copies of the New Testament, these gifts began to fade from the scene. When it comes to tongues, that situation should be easy enough for us to accept. Paul speaks well here of the gift of tongues, but he clearly sees prophecy as having a more important role to play in the

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

congregation. And exactly what is that role? The answer is in 1 Cor 14:3. Prophecy is given to the church for edification, exhortation, and consolation. Edification is a term meaning to build up. So prophecy is given to build up the church. Exhortation means to stir up to action. Therefore prophecy is intended to urge us on to good works. The word used for consolation here means to comfort the depressed and grieving. All of these qualities of prophecy, Paul reminds the Corinthians in vv. 4 & 5, are to build up the church. And while the church no longer has miraculous prophecy as in the days of Paul, we still have ways to edify, exhort, and comfort the church. The primary way the church brings that kind of edification about today is through preaching the Word of God. God is not giving us new revelations as in the days of Paul, but today preaching takes the role prophecy played in the days of the New Testament. In fact, some modern versions of 1 Cor 14 translate the Greek word in this chapter not as prophecy but as preaching, proclaiming, or instruction.1 In any case, today preaching the Word of God fills a role once accomplished by prophecy. An even bigger principle than prophecy itself is involved here: prophecy is superior to tongues not for what it is, but for what it does. Let’s look again at v. 3: “But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation” (NASB). These results are far more important than someone flexing his spiritual muscles through the exercise of a spiritual gift. Prophecy is important for what it does. Speaking in unknown tongues is not as useful to the church because it doesn't necessarily build up the body. Unless someone in the assembly has the gift to interpret tongues, the tongues-speaker is only making noise as far as the rest of the congregation is concerned. As Paul says, it's better to speak a few words that minds can understand than ten thousand words that have no meaning to the hearers. Tongues are a vehicle for the Spirit to work, but they may not be a good way to edify the church. The lesson here, then, is that the vehicle for the Spirit's working is not as important as the results. Edification is more important than spiritual razzle-dazzle. The Lord wants the church to be built up through prophecy or preaching. And do you notice here that the prophecy, the building up, is directed inward, to the saints? This is not preaching or prophecy to the lost, but to the saints in the assembly. So the Apostle gives priority here not for reaching out to the lost, but to building up the saints. On the other hand, let’s look at vv. 24 and 25: “But if all prophesy, and an unbelieving or ignorant person enters, he is reproved by all, he is judged by all; the secrets of his heart are manifested; and so he will fall down on his face and worship God, declaring that God is indeed among you.” Did you catch that? Prophecy is directed to the assembly of Christians, but in the process, it may lead to
110

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

converting the unbeliever! Remember the purposes of prophecy: edification, exhortation, and consolation. Not only do those qualities build up the church, those are the qualities of God's Word that convert the lost. So even when we direct our attentions to building up the saints, the lost may still come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Have you noticed, as we’ve made our way through 1 Corinthians, that Paul never tells Christians to go out and try to convert sinners? That’s right. The message is not to convert the lost, but to convert themselves. The Christians in Corinth needed to come together in unity. And in the process, sinners might be saved. The Corinthians enjoyed speaking it tongues—but in doing so, they ran the risk of looking crazy to unbelievers. But if they were doing what they should—building up one another—then visitors to their assemblies might be saved. So Paul doesn’t tell the Corinthians to go evangelize. Yes, he does say that tongues are for the benefit unbelievers, but he also says they are not as important as prophecy, which is for believers. As we’ll see, it’s not that unbelievers aren’t important; it’s simply that the edification, the building up, of believers is more important. Do we have the same emphasis in the church today? Do we keep the emphasis where it belongs? Remember, 1 Corinthians is written not only to Christians in Corinth, but to us as well (1 Cor 1:2). Have we made building up the church a priority over bringing in the lost? If we’ve read our marching orders we know that we need to do both. We call those marching orders The Great Commission: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt 28:19 & 20, NASB). That’s the church’s mission in relation to humanity: to baptize new disciples and teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded. In other words, we are to bring in the lost and build up the saved. That’s the twofold message of the Great Commission. The problem is, we Christians naturally prefer the “semi-Great Commission.” And what would that be? Simply this. Left to our own devices, we will naturally gravitate to fulfilling only one of the “folds” of our two-fold mission. Christians are commissioned to bring in the lost and build up the saved, but if we're not careful, we'll favor one over the other. The problem is that following only half of the Great Commission is like buying half a horse. Can you imagine wanting to save money so badly you would do that? In a way it makes sense. We put the harness on the
111

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

front of the horse, and it’s the back end that gives us the most trouble. So why not save money and buy only the front end? The problem is that half a horse won’t pull a load, because it’s dead. And pretty soon, it stinks! Sad to say, all too often a congregation wants to follow only half of the Great Commission. In fact, most congregations lean one way or another. Either they focus too little effort on saving the lost or too little on building up the saints. That kind of lopsided work is as natural as gravity. Some congregations, for example, are good at going and making disciples. They baptize soul after soul. But if they don’t build up those disciples, teaching them to follow Jesus, then pretty soon the congregation becomes arrogant. Discipleship becomes simply a matter of “We’re in, but you’re out. You’re lost, but we’re on God's good side.” Congregations that turn too much attention outward always become numbers-oriented. Why always? Because if a church doesn’t care to build up the saved, then they don’t really love the ones that are being saved. Baptism becomes a way not to build disciples, but attendance. If we aren’t building up souls, teaching them to obey Jesus’ commands, then we’re not really making disciples. And that stinks. Some congregations are good at teaching one another. The members work hard on being better and better Christians, more and more obedient to Jesus Christ. They may develop a very comfortable fellowship, and they may work hard on keeping it that way. But all their attention is focused inward, on their own behavior, and they never seem to give a thought to the thousands of lost souls all around. Those congregations become smug, thinking they are better than the lost. Church becomes “our thing,” a little mafia. The problem is, if a church isn’t going out to the world and baptizing the lost into Christ, then they don’t really love them. And that stinks. But when a congregation fulfills both aspects of the Great Commission—to baptize new Christians and edify the saints—then we are following our marching orders. And here’s the wonderful lesson from 1 Cor 14: when a congregation truly edifies one another by the Word of God, the lost are saved. That’s right. As Paul says in 1 Cor 14:24-25, when edification abounds in the assembly, the lost may well end up worshiping God. That’s why building up the saints is more important than impressing the lost. Am I saying churches don’t need to evangelize? Of course not. If we don’t seek the lost, then we have only half a horse. But if we edify one another, the lost will see the Holy Spirit among us and glorify God. There’s another important lesson in these verses of 1 Cor 14. Evangelism and discipleship are done by congregations. We need to ground new Christians in the Word to build them up. But where does that
112

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

grounding take place? In the assembly of believers. Yes, it’s important that Christians pray and study the Bible on our own. But where does the building up of Christians take place? In the church. There's no way around this process; it's part of enculturation into the Kingdom. Imagine if football teams worked the way some congregations try to do church. Let’s say a professional football team drafts a rookie quarterback, fresh from college. Do the coaches go to that quarterback and say, “Welcome to the NFL! Here’s the play book, now go back to your house and practice patterns in your front yard!” No. They take that young man and throw him into practice with the rest of the team. Sure, there’s an orientation for rookies, but the real learning comes when the new player starts hanging with the big guys, when he learns what it means to scramble and pass and get hit by 350-pound defensive tackles in the National Football League. Football is a team activity. So is discipleship. It’s significant that the only time converting the lost is mentioned in 1 Corinthians is in the context of a whole congregation. A whole congregation! Conversion is not primarily the job for the preacher or the talented brother with rows of notches in the cover of his Bible. Evangelism is a congregational mission. Are we edifying each other in such a way that the lost see us and want to praise God? Do we spend more time building each other up or tearing each other down? The way we build up the church is through edifying, exhorting, and comforting one another. Edification doesn’t arise out of pride, bragging or big-dog syndrome; not from criticizing our brothers and sisters when they’re not around; not with blaming the preacher or anyone else for our problems; not with grudges or the silent treatment. But with love. When a congregation begins to love so that our words and our works are sincere, then we can begin to build the Lord’s church like he intends. That’s what the Corinthian church needed, and that’s what the church needs today. We already have the gifts to do it. Remember how 1 Corinthians begins? I thank my God always concerning you, for God’s grace which was given you in Christ Jesus; that in everything you were enriched in him, in every word and all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you don’t lack any gift, waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you until the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 1:4-8). Enriched in everything, not lacking anything—remember that Paul is not talking here strictly to the Corinthians, but also to “all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours” (1 Cor 1:2).
113

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

So if we already have those gifts, how do we use them effectively? By trying harder? No. God’s Word seldom if ever calls for us to work harder. The only way we can learn to use God’s gifts to his glory is through repentance: through admitting our own weakness and God’s power in the Holy Spirit. Repentance, remember, is not simply turning from our sins at conversion. It’s the process of conversion that goes on throughout the life of Christians as we learn more and more to observe everything Jesus commands. It’s turning to his wisdom, his power, his strength. It’s remembering the message Paul preached day-in and day-out for eighteen months in Corinth: Jesus Christ and him crucified.

114

Decently and In Order 1 Corinthians 14:26-40
As we look at this passage about prophecy and speaking in tongues, let’s remember that the Corinthians seem to have been infatuated with the latter. Can you blame them? Wouldn’t you be fascinated with the Spiritgiven ability to speak in a language you had never learned? Clearly, they thoroughly enjoyed the gift. But they were even more infatuated with something else: themselves. They were proud of their Spiritual power, their worldly wisdom. Their pride and knowledge had puffed them up, but the Corinthians were worldly, and so they were in fact small children in the Kingdom of God. Remember that the Corinthians were a church with a pocket full of problems. In Churches of Christ we strive for the simplicity of the firstcentury church. Yes, the early church didn’t have all the centuries of trivial additions and harmful tradition that we struggle with today. But the church of the first century was by no means free from error. The Corinthians were split into factions, prone to bringing lawsuits against one another, plagued with sexual sin, disorderly in worship, and confused about gender roles. Come to think of it, they were very much like the North American church today. The immediate context is Paul’s discussion about prophecy and tongues. At the beginning of chapter 14 we saw that prophecy is superior to tongues because it edifies believers and convicts the lost. Prophecy does not necessarily involve predicting the future but rather is proclaiming revealed truth from God. It’s not exactly the same as preaching today, but that’s the closest equivalent we now have. In this passage, Paul wants to make sure the Christian assemblies in Corinth are proper and orderly in three areas: prophecy, tongues, and the role of women. The overall theme is expressed in verse 26: “Let all things be done toward building up.” Building up, or edification—let everything done in the church be for building up the Kingdom of God. OK, that’s simple enough. But here’s a question. Why does Paul describe the purpose of the assembly as edification of each other rather than worship of God? No one would argue that building up isn’t important, but isn’t worshiping God more important than serving each other? If we’ll take a moment to see what’s being said here, not only will we better understand Paul’s message to the

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Corinthians, but we’ll gain an insight into interpreting all the Bible. First of all, it’s understood—to Paul, the Corinthians, and Christians today—that the assembly is where Christians gather to worship God. Remember that 1 Cor 14:25 mentions worshiping God in the assembly. And here’s the point that helps us understand not only this passage but many other passages in the Bible: Paul is addressing an immediate concern with a particular set of believers. It should be clear from Paul’s emphasis on edification that the Corinthians were not doing a very good job of building one another up. So that’s what Paul reminds them to do: edify. Paul is not trying to write a theological monograph here, so he doesn’t mention every possible purpose of the worship assembly. He’s trying to help Christians in a specific place solve a specific problem. Remembering that truth helps us interpret Scripture: every passage of the Bible doesn’t necessarily address every possible issue on a given topic. That truth also helps us see how teaching for the Corinthian congregation still benefits the church today. The focus of these verses reminds us of our two main emphases and obligations in the Kingdom of God. First is the obligation to love and worship God. Jesus told us that loving God with all our being is the first and greatest commandment (Matt 22:36-38). Of course, Jesus was quoting a Word given by God on Sinai (Deut 6:5). Paul echoes that emphasis in verse 25 when he mentions unbelievers falling down and worshiping God. Second is our obligation to love and edify one another. Jesus called loving our neighbor the second great commandment (Matt 22:39-40). That commandment, too, goes all the way back to Sinai (Lev 19:18). Paul reminds the Corinthians of that commandment when he tells them that worship must edify one another. We’ll look at a few particulars of that edification in a moment. First, though, let’s face perhaps the most controversial element of this chapter in our day. In verses 34 and 35 Paul declares, “let women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but let them be in submission, as the Law also says.” That’s clear enough. The more difficult question is, what does Paul actually mean? What exactly does keeping silent involve? Before we try to answer that question we need to acknowledge up front that our North American culture is very unwell right now on matters of gender. As a civilization, we’re culturally sick. That sickness affects everyone’s judgment in one way or another, whatever our position on these types of matters may be. Let us then approach the text humbly as well as faithfully, remembering that cultural biases are just as real in our day as they were in Paul’s. Some of what Paul has to say may be directed strictly to firstcentury Corinthians, while much of what he tells them should be shaping our behavior as well. The challenge, of course, is knowing the difference. For example, when Paul says that the women should “keep silent,” to
116

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

what degree is he speaking literally? Consider our own day. When we tell someone, “Be quiet,” what exactly do we mean? Depending on the context, that two-word sentence could convey several similar but slightly different meanings: “Stop talking so much,” “Stop talking so loudly,” “Stop talking about a certain topic,” or “Stop talking at all.” How literally, then, do we take “keep silent” in 1 Cor 14:34? Should women be allowed to preach and teach in the church? To say “Amen” at the end of a prayer? To speak before and after services as they’re entering or leaving the building? To lead prayer in the assembly? To sing in church? To shuffle in the pew? Christians have interpreted these two verses in a wide range of ways through the years. Some simply take the passage rather literally—that women are simply not to talk at all during worship services. Some limit the silence to judging prophecies as in verse 29. Some think the command is for women to worship in an orderly way and stop chattering to one another during the assembly.1 Others think the instructions here are purely cultural and have no bearing on Christians today. With so many widely varying interpretations, how can we be sure which is correct? To arrive at a valid interpretation, we must look at passages like this one with the logic of God’s Kingdom. And to do that we must be thoroughly familiar with the values of the Kingdom are, as those values are revealed in the Word and the church. As a first step, we look at the rest of Scripture and the practice of the church. And what do we find when we look at this passage in the contexts of 1 Corinthians, the New Testament, and church history? Well, we know that Christian women did prophesy in the firstcentury. First Corinthians 11 suggests that women prophesied and prayed in the assembly, and we read unambiguously in Acts 21 that Phillip’s daughters were prophetesses. As Acts 2:18 tells us, God declares that “even on my bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of my Spirit and they shall prophesy” (NASB). Yet we also know that men and women have always had different roles in the church. The same chapter in 1 Corinthians that suggests women used to pray and prophesy tells us without any doubt that the male is head of the female (1 Cor 11). What’s more, Paul tells Timothy that he does not allow a woman to teach or have authority over a man (see 1 Tim 2:8-15). We also know from history that the church made it through its first nineteen centuries without women preachers or elders. Beyond these general principles, I’m not sure we can definitively say much more about exactly what Paul meant by “keep silent.” There’s a name, by the way, for the view that men and women have different roles in the church: complementarianism, from the idea that men and women’s roles are different but complementary. That is not a popular view today in
117

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

many circles. Modernity has produced what is known as the egalitarian view—that men’s and women’s roles are equal and essentially the same. But because women’s authority has typically been exercised in the private sphere of the family while men’s has been in the public spheres of business and politics, the egalitarian view is based on an underlying devaluation of femininity. Some will say it is unjust that women are not allowed to be preachers. One could equally respond that it’s unfair that men are not allowed to be mothers. You might say that one is physically possible while the other is not. But simply because something is possible doesn’t make it acceptable to God. Keeping a couple of principles in mind can help us better understand the complementarian view. First, even though our roles are different in the church, in a more important sense men’s and women’s natures are the same. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). We all stand in need of a Savior. All Christians are accepted as living members of the Body of Christ, in which there is no male and female, for we are all one in Christ (Gal 3:28). What’s more, the pattern of men and women being essentially the same but functionally different reflects an important characteristic of God himself. In John’s Gospel we see that Jesus and the Father are essentially one (John 1:1; 10:30), yet Jesus is in subjection to the Father (John 12:49-50).2 Jesus was sent not to exalt himself, but to deny himself all the way to the cross. God calls Christians to do the same (Luke 9:23), and that applies to men as much as to women. In North American culture, self-denial is heretical to the most basic values of the Zeitgeist: Denying myself? That’s un-American! But in truth the concept of denying ourselves lies at the heart of the Apostle’s call for worship to be decent and in order (1 Cor 14:40). Worship is not about expressing ourselves or satisfying our own needs. It’s for glorifying God and edifying one another. In this section Paul gives a list of activities that should be done in a proper and orderly manner. Not all Christians should be speaking in tongues at once (v. 27). Believers should speak in tongues only if an interpreter is present (v. 28). Christians should consider, distinguish, or weigh what is said (v. 29), and those prophesying should take turns speaking (vv. 30-31). To those of us used to a single sermon at the worship service, Paul’s instructions for two or three to prophesy at one meeting may seem a little unusual. But keep in mind that the Corinthian church was plagued by big-shot syndrome. Paul is simply telling Christians not to let anyone monopolize the meetings by talking on and on; and no one could honestly say he couldn’t stop talking because he was swept away by the Holy Spirit (v. 32). At the same time, that there’s nothing in this passage about Christian worship being buttoned-down and solemn. Worship should be orderly,
118

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

but not hung-up! There’s nothing wrong with becoming excited, laughing, or generally showing emotion in church. In fact, the glimpses of Christian worship we find in the New Testament are far from quiet or solemn. The disciples at Pentecost were so emotional that some folks thought they were drunk (Acts 2:13). Paul wanted men to lift up holy hands in worship (1 Tim 2:8). Even in this chapter, we have a picture of persons falling on their faces to worship God (14:25). So let’s be sure not to write too many twenty-first century ideas into the words of this chapter. Simply put, Christian worship should be orderly, rather than wild and chaotic, because God is not the Lord of confusion, but of peace (v. 33). In that respect, worship assemblies reflect the character of God’s Kingdom. Before they received this letter from Paul, the Corinthians may not have realized how unlike the Kingdom their assemblies really were. Pride, it seems, had damaged relationships, reputations, and even their worship gatherings.3 But a well-ordered assembly not only allows Christians to worship more freely, it is a reminder of God’s own order. God is, after all, the one who orders the sun, moon, stars, oceans, and all life. He is the creator and sustainer of heaven and earth. And he loves us. The old order all around us, where sin spoils everything, is passing away. And this world order is being replaced by the new order of God’s Kingdom. When the church gathers together, we are called to reflect and proclaim the order of that new Kingdom. That’s good news—not only that each of us individually can be saved, but that God is renewing all creation (2 Pe 3:13; Rev 21:1). So when we gather for worship, let’s remember the one who lived and died for us and for all creation. Let’s die to ourselves, and in the process, truly live.

119

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

120

The Reality of the Resurrection 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Corinth was located between Athens and Sparta on a crossroads of land and sea routes. Like prominent port cities of the day, Corinth was brimming over with sailors, money, idolatry, and sin. Like many big-city dwellers, Corinthians fancied themselves to be sophisticates, wise in the ways of the world. As we’ve seen, the Corinthian church had a wide array of problems: worldliness and pride, factionalism, cheating and disputes among Christians, disordered worship. In this section, Paul reminds Christians of the cure for all those problems. Amid all the Corinthians’ wisdom and sophistication, the Apostle holds up a very simple truth, one he introduced in the first two chapters of this letter: Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the grave. That simple but profound truth, as Paul reminded the saints at Corinth, is foolishness to Greeks, a stumbling block to Jews, but the power and wisdom of God to those called to belief in Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:23-24). Some of the Corinthians apparently did not believe in the reality of the resurrection but chose instead to lean upon what they considered a higher spirituality. These believers focused on the power they had in the here and now: miraculous gifts of tongues and prophecy—Holy Spirit power! They were right, of course, to look to the Holy Spirit, but their focus on power seems to have left no room for the cross.1 But Paul explained that the death and resurrection of Jesus are the heart of the Gospel. The underlying problem for the Corinthians, it seems, is a failure to fully appreciate that resurrection.2 So Paul shines the light on those very events. And that light shines not only on the Greeks, but to us as well. Paul writes that the message he brings is about “matters of first importance” (v. 3). Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised from the dead. Paul had been among the Corinthians for eighteen months preaching and teaching. And these basic truths about Jesus, Paul told them, is all he preached (1 Cor 2:2). The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ: that’s the heart of the gospel, and every other Christian truth arises from that heart. The gospel is not that Christians are better than unbelievers; it’s that a Savior died to pay the debt for our sins. The gospel is not primarily about

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

making society better; it’s about Jesus Christ crucified, the end and fulfillment of the law. The gospel is not about building bigger or fancier church buildings. It’s about a new King and Kingdom breaking through the shadow-realm of this world and preparing the way for a glorious eternity. That’s the gospel. It’s not a new thing, Paul reminds us. All these truths—Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection—are “according to the Scriptures” (vv. 4&5). In Paul’s day the Scriptures meant the Old Testament. The gospel was not some new doctrine Paul was pushing. Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms all testified to Christ. That’s the message we see Paul and the other apostles bringing to the lost: the older, Jewish Scriptures proclaim Jesus Christ. The gospel is not something new, disconnected from the Old Testament. It’s the unified fulfillment, through Jesus Christ, of the whole Word of God. The Scriptures, from start to finish, testify in one way or another to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And not only do the Scriptures testify, but so do human witnesses, many of whom were still living in Paul’s day. In our day, we may not appreciate how critical this point is. Bear in mind that in the first century there was no such thing as photographic evidence or proving anything with video. If you wanted to prove something, you couldn’t whip out a photograph or DVD. The only thing you had was personal testimony. Paul makes a point of saying that more than 500 persons saw Jesus resurrected. Why does that number matter? Because it’s proof that the resurrection of Jesus really happened! Jesus resurrected is a historical fact as real as any action by Plato or Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar. Today some scholars try to spiritualize Jesus’ resurrection with phrases like, “Even though Jesus was murdered, he was spiritually resurrected in the memories of his followers” or “The image of a risen Jesus, whether true or not, is a symbol of rebirth in all of us.” Wrong. Five hundred people saw Jesus alive from the grave. His apostles, who ran away when he was killed, rallied again and eventually died proclaiming his resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus is as well or better attested as any event in ancient history. It really happened. And that, by the way, is why claims that Jesus really didn’t die on the cross don’t make any sense. Still, no matter how many people testified to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, respectable Greeks in Paul’s day simply would not accept the idea of a resurrected body. Some, like the Epicurean philosophers, taught that death was simply the end of existence. Others, like the Stoics and practitioners of the mystery religions, taught that the soul was immortal and broke free of the body at death to rise to the celestial realms. But only a fool would believe in a body coming back from the grave. Only a fool— which is, in fact, what Paul called himself (1 Cor 1:25-27; 4:10). Paul never
122

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

expected proclaiming the gospel to make him popular with the world. We shouldn’t, either. The world today is not very different from the first-century in its view of the resurrection. Materialists deny a resurrection, and Eastern religionists believe in the immortal, disembodied soul. Even in the church today, many Christians seem to believe heaven is purely spiritual, that each individual soul simply floats up to heaven after death. In that picture, though, eternity becomes a “private affair of the immortal soul” and faith a purely private matter.3 As we’ll see later in 1 Cor 15, however, Christians have a resurrection of our own to look forward to. And that resurrection, like our worship, is something Christians do together. Just as we worship together today, on the last day we will rise together to meet Jesus in the air. How could it be any other way in the Kingdom of God? It’s a kingdom of more than simply personal salvation. The Kingdom is also “community, justice, reconciliation, an inclusive meal, a transformed world.”4 When the time comes to be resurrected, Christians will rise together. What an exciting thought! What a joyful word. As Paul reminds the Corinthians, the word of the gospel is not something we simply hear. God wants us to receive it, to stand in it, and be saved in it (vv. 1&2). Salvation comes from hearing the gospel and receiving it. Receiving the Good News changes our beliefs, and those beliefs change our actions. Believing in Jesus Christ is where discipleship begins. And when that belief is real, obedience—baptism and every other good work—flows from it. As Paul himself shows, obedience arises from a grateful heart. Perhaps because of that gratitude, God’s grace was not wasted on Paul (v. 10). You don’t have to look very far beneath the surface of Paul’s letters to see in every word his gratitude to God for saving him. When Paul says he least deserves to be an apostle (v. 9), he’s not showing false modesty. The other apostles had walked with Jesus for three years, but Paul had come late to the faith, and then only after persecuting the church. He calls himself, literally, a miscarriage, a freakish thing (v. 8). Paul knew his own weakness and ugliness. But that knowledge was actually a conduit of strength for the Apostle. It can be one for us, too. When we are weak in ourselves, we can be strong in Christ. When we quit trying to fool ourselves and others on how good and strong we are, then we can let Jesus Christ be our strength. Paul knew that his only real power and wisdom was Jesus Christ. For Paul, Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected oozes from every word he writes. Paul was who he was, start to finish, by the grace of God. Brothers and sisters, that’s true for every Christian. Grace is God’s gift, undeserved, of forgiveness, acceptance, and love. It’s a major heresy when Christians start to believe we deserve the good things we receive from God. It’s also the besetting problem of those trying to strictly obey God. That’s because
123

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

no matter how well we may obey God in some ways, we each and all fail him in others. Each Christian is at least as undeserving as Paul of God’s approval. But through God’s loving grace in the cross and resurrection, we have been given a place at God’s own banqueting table. We don’t deserve it, but God gives it to us anyway. That’s the way God is. It’s his nature to show love and mercy. So God’s grace was not wasted on Paul. It spurred him to labor for the gospel–not that he might be loved, forgiven, and saved by God—but because he already was. And that leads us to another truth flowing from the gospel: Real knowledge of God’s grace moves Christians to action. Paul least deserved to be an apostle, but he worked harder than any other. It’s no coincidence those two facts go together. After telling the parable of the moneylender who forgave his debtors, Jesus asked: Which one loved the moneylender more? The answer, of course, is the one who had the bigger debt cancelled (Luke 7:43-47). The same was true for Paul, and for us today. When we come to know how great God’s gift is to us, and how little we deserve it, we find the power to reach out to anyone and everyone with the Good News of Jesus Christ. When we start appreciating God’s grace for us, we are able to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, visit the sick, and bring the Good News to those who look, talk, dress, and smell different from us. Grace comes to fruition in service. One of the hardest tasks in ministry is helping Christians cross the bridge from salvation to service. How do we help Christians see discipleship as more than simply receiving benefits from God and his church? How do we encourage one another to see the church as a community where we don’t so much receive as give? The church can come up with all variety of methods to involve members in service, and many of those methods are helpful to a degree. But only the Good News of Jesus Christ transforms hearts for joyful and willing service. When we know what God has done for us through Jesus Christ, when we see how he loves us, we’ll do anything for the King. That’s why we never outgrow the Word of the Cross and the Resurrection. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus paid the price for our sin and won for us a glorious salvation. At the cross Jesus paid the price not only for our past sins, but for sin–past, present, and future.5 Christians who have believed and received Christ in baptism are now washed from our sins, made acceptable to God, and given new life in him. Through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, Christians have salvation and much more. We have peace with God, fellowship in his family, a place at God’s table, and the promise of a transformed world.6 The Kingdom of God is breaking through the defenses of this rebellious world. The King is mustering his army for battle—and for celebration.
124

The Church’s Treasure 1 Corinthians 15:12-34
Paul begins concluding this letter the way he concluded its beginning: with a reminder of Jesus Christ crucified. As we saw last time, the fact of the crucified and resurrected Savior is the heart of the good news, of our faith, and of God’s Kingdom. Paul spends some time on the resurrection in this section, so we will too. In fact Chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians is concerned from start to finish with resurrection. Verses 1-11 tell about the fact of Jesus’ resurrection. It really happened. Five hundred sets of eyes saw Jesus resurrected in the body. Our faith is built not merely on hopes but on facts. Later in the chapter, verses 35-58 describe the process of the saints’ coming resurrection. In between, Paul tells about the value of the resurrection. Without it, everything the church does is useless. But as we’ll see, through hope in the coming resurrection, we have meaning and purpose and life today. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the church would be less than nothing. Our preaching would be pointless and our faith worthless (v. 14). We would be liars (v. 15). And if we really did believe in a resurrection that didn’t actually exist, then we would be most pathetic of all (v. 19). If clinging to the resurrection meant believing in a delusion, then we wouldn’t even get to enjoy living it up here and now. Imagine if Christians denied themselves pleasures and took up our crosses for a savior who never rose from the grave. The church without the resurrection is like an airplane without wings. The same is true for a church that forgets the resurrection’s reality. How, you may ask, could the church forget the resurrection? Any time a congregation begins to focus on good ideas other than the Savior, we run that very risk. Anyone can preach good, spiritual-sounding ideas: stop your self-destructive behavior, be nice and treat others well, be good stewards of the planet. Those are all worthwhile, moral ideas. But any Jew, Moslem, Wiccan, or atheist could preach the same thing. What makes the church the church is something no one else can proclaim: Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead. The further the church drifts from that central truth, the weaker and more sinful we inevitably become. But when the church embraces the amazing reality of our risen Savior, we enjoy the generous benefits lavished on us through our Lord

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

and King. Just as one man brought death to all creation in the Fall, one man brings life to all creation through the resurrection (v. 21). Because Jesus was raised to new life, we who have faith in him may share in that life (v. 22). In one sense Christians have already begun to share in those benefits, and we have hope in even more. That hope doesn’t come from being good, nice people. It doesn’t come from following the Bible correctly in every point of doctrine. It certainly doesn’t come from the belief that everyone is really kind and good deep down inside. No, our hope is in a wet, bloody cross, in an empty tomb and a resurrected body. Remember that Jesus is not only our Savior, but our King. The resurrected Christ will one day abolish all other rule and authority, including death (vv. 24-26). Let’s think about that for a minute. Jesus will do away with all other lesser powers that now exercise authority in the cosmos: nations, governments, wealth, corporations, families, good works. All those lesser authorities demand our attention and allegiance in the here and now. But one day they will be destroyed, done away with under the authority of Jesus the Christ. Do you see why putting our hope in any of those things is idolatry? However powerful these lesser authorities may be, they are ultimately subject to the King of kings. Our allegiance must be to nothing and no one less. Thus Christians celebrate not only our own salvation but the authority of the King. Paul mentions baptism in v. 29. Through baptism we share not only in Christ’s life but in his kingly authority. That’s clear not only here but elsewhere in the New Testament. It’s amazing how much Christians squabble on the subject of baptism: procedures on how to go about it, fights over what moment we’re saved, even debates on whether Christians must be baptized at all. Elaborate doctrines have been built around defending each position, and most depend more on speculation than evidence from within the pages of the New Testament. But isn’t what the Bible says enough? In baptism we join Christ in going down into the grave and rising up into new life (Rom 6:3-4; 1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27; Col 2:12; 1 Pe 3:21). Some of the Corinthians were apparently being baptized for those who had already died. If so, that practice didn’t continue long. Other than this reference, baptism for the dead never seems to have been practiced by the apostolic church. Paul mentions it here, but he doesn’t actually express approval of it. He refers to the practice as an illustration, much as he quotes the pagan poet Menander in v. 33. Let’s not allow this one somewhat confusing reference in v. 29 to take away from the bigger picture: Because Christ was resurrected from the dead, those who have been joined with Christ through faith will one day be resurrected as well. That’s good news. And amid this section about new life in Christ, Paul says something rather shocking in v. 31: “I die every day.” As we saw in the beginning of
126

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

our 1 Corinthians study, this is another example of the amazing irony and paradox in the Kingdom of God. Even as we speak of resurrection life, death is always part of the picture. Jesus told his disciples to take up their crosses daily and follow him (Luke 9:23), and Paul reminds the Corinthians that he does that very thing. It’s what all Christians are called to do, because death to self is part of life in the Kingdom of God. Death and new life go together like cob and corn. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). But all his life Jesus did nothing deserving death. He died to pay for our sin. And death couldn’t hold him down, so he rose from the grave on the third day. You can’t have resurrection without death. And in Jesus’ case, you couldn’t have death without resurrection. Consider what Jesus said on the topic: “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the good news will save it” (Mark 8:35). Jesus is not talking about physical death, but about dying to our own desires. That means not insisting on having our way, not demanding we get what we want, but thinking of what others need. Even more, it’s thinking about what pleases God. Western civilization is dominated by commercialism. Every day thousands of commercials bombard us with a message, phrased as convincingly and cunningly as only a multi-billiondollar empire can: “YOU DESERVE WHAT WE ARE SELLING. DO NOT DENY YOURSELF ANYTHING.” Commercial interests have done an amazing job of convincing an entire culture to believe that lie, and as a result we are surrounded by millions of adults acting like little children in the pursuit of their own pleasures. The underlying world view goes by different names: materialism, consumerism, worldliness. Whatever we choose to call it, the view is agonizingly difficult to preach and teach against, especially when those under its oppression won’t even admit it exists. Overcoming worldliness has always been challenging, and it’s becoming harder every day. But among the deafening roar of messages calling us to indulge ourselves, the voice of Jesus Christ cannot be silenced: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). Again, what we lose is not necessarily our physical life (although it may be). It is simply a matter of resisting the idolatry of indulgence. It’s well worth the effort. We’ll see as we conclude our study of 1 Cor 15 that the bodies we’re inhabiting today are destined to die and decay. But those who share in the resurrection of Jesus Christ will one day have new bodies that will never grow old or die. That’s not wishful thinking; it’s a promise backed up by Jesus Christ, risen from the grave. Does Paul’s message of resurrection ring true in our hearts? If so,
127

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

then give glory to God that he has blessed us with a faith not in ourselves but in a risen Savior. If not, then pray for submission to the transforming power of God’s Word. The risen Christ is the single most important truth and focus of our faith. The church may spend time discussing how we ought to do church: how best to evangelize, what worship style to use, how best to involve members. We’re very good at talking about how to do things. But the real issue is not how but who: Jesus Christ crucified for our sins and resurrected for our rebirth. Without a risen Savior, no matter what else we may hold onto, we have nothing. With him, we have it all.

128

The Glory of Resurrection 1 Corinthians 15:35-58
We’re coming to the end of 1 Corinthians, and the Apostle Paul has saved the best for last. At the very beginning of this letter he wrote of Jesus Christ crucified. Now he concludes with Christ’s resurrection—and ours. In writing of resurrection, the Apostle is running counter to the wisdom of his day. Earlier he called the crucifixion of Christ “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” If the crucifixion was folly to Gentiles, then resurrection was doubly foolish. Not only was Jesus’ death by crucifixion shameful, but Greeks simply didn’t believe in bodily resurrection. But resurrection is the heart of Christians’ faith and hope. At the beginning of the “resurrection section” of 1 Cor 15, Paul goes to some length in explaining that the resurrection of Jesus actually happened. Now in this section he spends even more time describing when and how Christians will be resurrected. He also shows why the coming resurrection is Christians’ hope not only for the future, but for today. The questions Paul quotes in v. 35 indicate that some Christians doubted a bodily resurrection. Considering what Paul said at the beginning of the letter about worldly wisdom, that kind of doubt is what we would expect from those immersed in Corinthian culture. Let’s remember that Corinth was at the heart of Greek civilization—located between Athens and Sparta on major land and sea routes. The Corinthians were saturated with Greek thinking, and resurrection of the dead had no place in Greek thought. Sure, some religious groups, such as Mithraism and initiates into the mysteries, believed in an immortality of the spirit. But immortality of the body was ridiculous. Paul’s experiences with the Athenians (Acts 17) gives a good picture of how sophisticated Greeks viewed the idea of resurrection—as silly and superstitious. So in v. 35 Paul is apparently repeating questions raised by worldlywise Greek Christians. They seem reasonable enough: How are the dead raised, and what kind of body will they have? After all, resurrection of the body is not easy to understand. You may have heard the old scenario about a man who drowns at sea. The elements of his body are eaten by fish and become part of those fish. Later, fishermen come along and catch the fish, and the elements that once constituted the drowned man’s body enter the bodies of many other men. If there’s a resurrection, whose body

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

will get those elements?1 Haven’t you wondered those kinds of things yourself? I certainly have. But Paul doesn’t have much patience for those kinds of questions: “You fools!” he says. The questioners, it seems, were asking not from a desire for knowledge, but from an attitude of doubt. People today still doubt the resurrection, even in the church. Like sophisticated Greeks of the first century, many Christians claim a belief in the resurrection of the body when in fact they believe in the immortality of the soul. But the two beliefs are different, and those differences are important. Immortality of the soul means that our souls or spirits break free from our bodies at death and float up to be with God. That’s pretty much the same as some Greek philosophers taught in New Testament times. But it’s not a Christian picture. How many times have you been at a funeral and heard a preacher say, “Well, the departed is with the Lord now.” That’s an appealing thought for those who’ve just lost a loved one. It would be nice, for example, to think my mother has been in the heavenly throne room since she died in 1999. But it’s not the picture we see in God’s Word. Here in 1 Cor 15 and in 1 Thess 4, we learn that Christians will be taken up to heaven at the end of time. And it won’t just be our souls. We will have new, resurrection bodies. Paul describes that resurrection in some detail here at the end of 1 Cor 15. He compares our earthly and resurrection bodies to a seed and the plant that springs forth from it. The seed has to die for a new growth to spring forth. Unless the Lord returns first, these earthly bodies have to die in order for us to inherit our heavenly bodies. The bodies we live in right now have a sort of earthly glory, but not the kind suited for eternity. But our heavenly bodies will be glorious indeed. Notice that we still haven’t answered the question: how can rot and decay turn into glory? The simple but complete answer is that God does it. He created the world out of nothing and mankind out of dust. If he wants to do so, rest assured he can create heavenly bodies out of the dust and decay of this earth.2 Our bodies will be sown as perishable, subject to decay, but they will be raised as imperishable bodies, immune to rot and wear (v. 42). When we are raised for heaven we’ll have bodies, but heavenly ones. At the end of time we’ll not dissolve into the cosmic mind or evaporate into Nirvana. We will have individual, bodily existence forever. As we see elsewhere in the New Testament, that existence will be in the very presence of God (Rev 21:3). As Paul continues with the seed analogy, please notice that our bodies will be sown in dishonor but raised in glory (v. 43). This description is important. Why will our bodies be sown in dishonor? Because they will have died! Remember that human beings were not created to die, but that death entered the world when Adam and Eve sinned. As every human being shares in the sin of the first man, so every one of us shares in his
130

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

death. Every death, therefore, is a testimony of sin and dishonor. But one day we will have bodies untouched by sin and full of glory. Our bodies will be sown in weakness but raised in power (v. 43). These earthen bodies wear out, grow sick, and die. But our heavenly bodies will never grow weak or decay. Christians will be sown as natural bodies but raised as spiritual bodies (vv. 44-50). In death all humans identify with Adam, but in resurrection Christians identify with Christ. Jesus came to earth in weakness to suffer, die, and be resurrected so that those who believe in him might be forgiven and saved for the Kingdom of God. He came down to share our weakness so that we may rise up to share in his strength. In our baptism, Christians become one with Christ (1 Cor 6). And when we are one with him, we have to take the bad with the good. Yes, on the cross Jesus paid the price for our sin, but he invites us to suffer and die, too (Luke 9:2324). Some Corinthians seem to have forgotten this truth.3 They wanted the glory of spiritual wisdom and power. Perhaps because they expected to slough off their bodies in the future, they believed they could indulge their appetites today. But Christians are called to identify not only with Christ’s glory, but with his weakness in the body and his dishonor on the cross. And if we’re willing to be one with Christ through thick and thin, then one day we’ll be given bodies fit for a new heaven and new earth. Paul describes the transformation from mortal to immortal as a mystery (vv. 51-53). Here we have a small glimpse of when and how we will receive our new bodies. Not all Christians will die, but all will be changed (v. 51). When? At the end of time, when the last trumpet sounds (v. 52). At that point the dead in Christ will rise from the dead, and all Christians, living and dead, will be changed instantly from mortal to immortal bodies—even the Corinthians who thought they’d already arrived.4 The word Paul uses here for “change” can also mean “exchange” or “trade-up.”5 What a thought, that we’ll trade in our weak, rotting carcasses for bodies that will never decay or die—bodies specially designed for life in eternity. And when we receive those new bodies, we will be lifted up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess 4). Some Christians are concerned about the time between death and resurrection. It’s hard for some of us not to know where our loved ones who have died are right now. I’ve heard people say they can’t accept, for example, that their loved one is in the dark, or in the wet ground. I’ve had people ask me if their loved ones might be frightened in the grave. Whenever someone asks me this type of question, I tell them what the Bible explicitly says about the time between death and resurrection— nothing! For reasons that only God knows, he has decided not to give us specific, unambiguous details about what awaits us in that period of time. Apparently we don’t need to know. But let me ask you a question: Don’t
131

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

you think the one who makes us out of dust can take care of us in the grave? If we trust him for our eternity and for our now, don’t you think we can trust him with our in-between? Whatever may happen to us in the grave, we know that the resurrection makes our future glorious and our present much better than it would be without that hope. The resurrection is hope and triumph for Christians, and its glory enlightens our present. Notice how Paul ends this section? “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (15:58, NASB). Notice the emphasis on work? After so many words on what could be called theoretical or future reality, Paul brings it down to the practical work at hand. Knowing the truth about the resurrection enlightens our minds and gives us power to do God’s work with abundance and steadfastness. As someone has said, “False doctrine leads to passivity,” while “true doctrine inspires diligent service.”6 False doctrine can give us a thousand reasons not to do God’s work, but true teaching from the Word will inspire us abundantly. How? First of all, when we see clearly what God has in store for his own children, then we lose our fear of dying. Do you know what I’m talking about? During my youth I spent years running from God and terrified of death. In the daytime I was able to keep my mind distracted from the emptiness and lostness of my soul with a thousand diversions: television, music, friends, food, family. But every night I awoke in silence and darkness and faced the terror of how nearby death and judgment really were. I sometimes lay in bed till dawn considering the many ways I might die, no matter how far-fetched: rabies, tornado, house fire, plane crash. The problem, of course, wasn’t in the thousand ways I might die, but in ignoring the one way I might live. Steadfast hope in the risen Savior frees us from fear. As the author of Hebrews wrote: Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Heb 2:14-15, NASB) Christians are no longer enslaved to fear of death. Facing up to death with hope of the resurrection frees up huge amounts of energy in our lives. Like Paul, we can confidently say, “Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” (vv. 54b-55). Now that’s motivation. Through the resurrection of Jesus we are also freed from the power of sin. Notice the connection in v. 56: “The sting of death is sin, and the power
132

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

of sin is the law.” Death comes as a result of sin, and sin from violating God’s law. Here on earth we have victory over sin through Jesus Christ, but we still struggle in the flesh to overcome it (re. 1 Cor 7). But when our mortal bodies are transformed to immortal bodies, we won’t struggle anymore to overcome sin in the flesh. We’ll be ready for the presence of God. The hope of resurrection also frees Christians for purposeful service. The coming resurrection of the dead is a landmark of the Christian walk. If you’ve ever practiced orienteering or navigating with a compass, you know the value of a landmark. If you take a bearing and simply try walking in a straight line, it doesn’t take much error to end up far away from your intended target. But if you shoot an azimuth and find a landmark—a tree, a hill, a building—then you can walk confidently in that direction without swerving to the right or left. The landmark keeps you focused. In the same way, the glory of the coming resurrection through Christ Jesus is a landmark for discipleship. Our work is not in vain, no matter how painful or frustrating life on earth may be. That’s because we’re headed for glory. Steadfast service is a whole lot easier when we know the rewards are not all in the here and now. The Christian walk is a long haul, not a sprint. The burdens of discipleship are far, far easier to bear when we know what’s been done for us—Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected—and what’s still in store—our sharing his resurrection in glory. So, Christians, be encouraged. Jesus Christ has done the great work of salvation for us. He has joined us in weakness so that we might join him in glory. Like Jesus, we will suffer right here and now. But oh, the glory ahead!

133

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

134

Each a Part of One Another 1 Corinthians 16
At last we arrive at the end of 1 Corinthians. The letter began with Paul’s addressing the “carnalities” or fleshly problems facing the Corinthians: factions, cheating and suing one another, sexual sin, and idolatry. Paul then moved on to the “spiritualities”: arrogance, abusing spiritual gifts, and disorder in worship. After addressing those problems, Paul went on to the solution to all of them: Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected. Then, immediately after his long treatment of resurrection— both Christ’s and ours—Paul moves on to the “practicalities” of greetings and final instructions.1 At first glance, this ending of 1 Corinthians might appear mundane, in contrast to the previous section’s soaring picture of eternity and resurrection. It’s tempting to say that because letters in Paul’s day simply contained this type of practical information, then here it has no special relationship to what has gone before. But the more we look at this “practical” ending, the more we see that the Apostle couldn’t have chosen a better way both to conclude the letter and to teach a few much-needed spiritual lessons for the Corinthians. To a group of Christians far too involved in their own selves, Paul gives a snapshot of the wider church throughout the world. He reminds the Corinthians that Christians in diverse regions and cultures make up the one church, and that all these Christians are part of one another. This concluding section has something to teach us, too, if we’re paying attention. In Paul’s place and time, the Roman Empire was synonymous with the world. Notice how many regions around the Empire Paul mentions in his conclusion: Galatia in Asia, Jerusalem near Africa, Macedonia in Europe, Ephesus in Asia Minor, and Achaia, the area in Greece around Corinth itself. These areas are all related to Paul’s work as an apostle and remind us of this important truth: the church of God exists in all nations and is composed of all peoples. Some of the Corinthians were apparently unable to see beyond their own local biases to the wisdom of the church universal. As big and important as the Corinthians may have thought themselves to be, they were only one city in a very large empire and one congregation in the universal church. Christians, let’s never make that mistake ourselves: to see the beliefs and biases of our little corner of the

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

world as the way it is everywhere. The Kingdom of God is composed of all types. The church of Christ is not exclusively rural or big city, sophisticated or rustic, working class or white collar, educated or down-home. The church is composed of all peoples, everywhere, called to take up our crosses and follow Jesus Christ. And we are not each carrying our crosses individually and alone. As we see in this final chapter of 1 Corinthians, every Christian and every church are part of one another. In this section those relationships of one to another are expressed in several ways. Notice, for example, that Paul begins with an exhortation for the Corinthians to share with one another by giving some of their money to the church at Jerusalem (16:1-4). When you stop to think that Paul wrote this letter without chapter divisions (which were added to the Bible centuries later), these instructions come at a fascinating place in the letter. The Apostle has just shared an account of glories in the coming resurrection, how Christians will one day, in the twinkling of an eye, be given new bodies suited for eternity. And then, right after that uplifting description of the glorious future, Paul moves right into talking about money. And that move couldn’t be more appropriate. When Christians are transformed by the hope of resurrection, everything about our lives changes, even matters as everyday as how we spend our money.2 Paul’s instructions apparently come while Jerusalem has been suffering a famine (Acts 11:28). The saints at Corinth are able to help. Paul reminds the Corinthians that in this regard, they are in the same boat as those the Corinthians may have considered country bumpkins—the Galatians. Christians are also called to help and serve one another (16:5-12). Paul hopes to visit the Corinthians so they may help him on his journey. But in the mean time he plans to stay in Ephesus in order to pursue the opportunities for ministry there. He urges the Corinthians also to welcome and support Timothy and Apollos when he eventually does come. Notice how Paul reminds the Corinthians that, while these men serve the church in positions of leadership, the church as a whole has the power and purpose to serve and support them as well. That mutual support is at the heart of Christian discipleship. Service works both ways—between preacher and congregation, between teacher and student. We are all called and equipped to serve. And we’re called to encourage one another (16:13-14). Paul says something very interesting here: “Act like men. Be strong!” It may seem strange for the Apostle to write such a thing after earlier writing at length about his own weakness. What does he really mean here by urging Christians to be strong? The answer can be found in considering where this exhortation falls in the letter: after Paul has shown the Corinthians
136

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

the true source of power for Christians. In the Bible, godly strength never arises from our own power or self-confidence.3 As we’ve seen in 1 Corinthians, our glory is from a risen Savior (ch. 15), and our true strength comes from the power of love (ch. 13). In the light of that true strength, Paul’s encouragement and instructions in these two verses could be called the central exhortation of the epistle.4 But however strong Christians may become, we are never too powerful or important to submit to one another. Notice how Paul follows his call for courage with a call for submission (16:15-18). Stephanas and his family have devoted their lives to serving the church, and Paul urges the Corinthians to be subject to them. We know Paul doesn’t expect Stephanas to rule over the Corinthians any more than Paul himself ruled over Apollos, who was free not to follow Paul’s urging (v. 12). But the Corinthians are to subject themselves to Stephanas, Fortunatas, Achaias, and other fellow workers and laborers who are wise and worthy of honor. The Corinthians should recognize those more mature brothers in the faith and follow their lead. Submission, of course, was particularly hard for the Corinthians.5 As we saw earlier in the letter, they were puffed up in their worldly wisdom and in having aligned themselves with the best teachers. Yet here, as one writer has noted, Paul encourages the Corinthians “to appreciate some less flashy servants of the Lord.”6 Finally, we see here that Christians are to greet one another (16:1920). What a wonderful, heart-warming ending for those with ears to hear: greetings from Aquila and Priscilla, all the believers in Ephesus, and from the churches of Asia. Greetings! Welcome! Long-distance wishes of love. That’s what Christians do, for we are all—Greeks, Jews, Asians, Africans, Arabs, Latinos, North Americans—part of one another. Christ died and rose for us all, and he will come again in glory to take us with him, resurrected and transformed, into the presence of the Father. The Apostle ends this epistle where it began–with Christ at the center (16:21-24). But as Paul closes this letter in his own handwriting, he still has a surprise or two. Notice the rather harsh words in verse 22: “If anyone doesn’t love the Lord, let him be cursed.” That may seem vindictive and cruel, but it’s actually vital. Those words are the negative side of what Paul has been saying all through the letter. If by now the Corinthians are still trying to stand on their own, if they’re still putting their own wills above God’s, then there’s no hope for them. Let there be no mistake. We show our love for God not only through warm feelings, but by obedient actions. If anyone doesn’t love God, he or she is choosing curse over blessing. It’s only appropriate that Paul close the epistle with a clear picture of what not loving God really means.7 Paul follows that warning with a play on words. In Greek “accursed”
137

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

is anathema, a word some English versions leave untranslated. The very next word, also often untranslated, has a similar sound: maranatha, an Aramaic word meaning “Come Lord,” “Our Lord comes,” or “The Lord is at hand.”8 To those who believe, this word should be as encouraging as the one before it was terrifying to those who do not. Jesus Christ is coming again to set things right, make things new, and reclaim his own— not because we have earned such an honor, but because God loves us enough to give us that gift, by grace. The letter ends as it began, with the words “Grace to you.”9 Grace is the heart of the gospel: not what we do, but what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. And so we’ve come full-circle in 1 Corinthians: from grace to grace, from weakness to strength, from the fallen world to the new earth and back again. In the process, the epistle has followed the pattern of the Gospel: It begins with the cross, proceeds through a call to bury fleshly sins, and closes with hope in a future resurrection that changes our lives even now.10

138

End Notes
Saints by Calling (1:1-9)
1John Piper, “Sustained by the Faithfulness of God,” n.p. [cited 1 July 2006]. Online: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1988/622_Sustained_by _the_Faithfulness_of_God/.

United in Mind and Judgment (1:10-17)
1John Piper, “Christian Unity and the Cross: 1 Corinthians 1:10-17,” n.p. [cited 6 July 2006]. Online: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1988/624_Christian_U nity_and_the_Cross/. 2William Loader, “First Thoughts on Year A Epistle Passages from the Lectionary, Epiphany 3,” n.p. [cited 6 July 2006]. Online: http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/AEpEpiphany3.htm. 3Verse 10. See Ray Stedman, “Behind Divisions,” n.p. [cited 6 July 2006]. Online: http://www.pbc.org/messages/map_old_file/3572.html. 4John Chrysostom, “Homily III,” Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series I, Vol. XII, n.p. [cited 6 July 2006]. Online: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf112.iv.iv.html. 5Paul Neuchterlein, “Epiphany 3A,” n.p. [cited 6 July 2006]. Online: http://girardianlectionary.net/year_a/epiphany3a.html. 6Carl Ketcherside, According to the Pattern, n.p. [cited 24 November 2008]. Online: http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/wcketcherside/attp/chap1.html.

The Word of the Cross (1:18-31)
Shakespeare, “Sonnet 94,” n.p. Online: http://www.shakespearessonnets.com/94comm.htm.
1William

But We Have the Mind of Christ (2:1-16)
1John Piper, “The Present Power of Christ Crucified,” n.p. [cited 17 July 2006]. Online: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1988/626_The_Present _Power_of_Christ_Crucified/.

Servants and Stewards of God’s Mysteries (4:1-5)
1Lewis Smedes, “Coping With Our Critics,” n.p. [cited 30 July 2006]. Online: http://www.csec.org/csec/sermon/smedes_4508.htm. 2Ray C. Stedman, “The True Minister,” n.p. [cited 30 July 2006]. Online: http://www.pbc.org/files/messages/4823/3581.html. 3Smedes.

The Folly of Ignoring God’s Gift (4:6-21)
1Bob Deffinbaugh, “Follow the Leader (1 Cor. 4:1-21),” n.p. [cited 30 July 2006]. Online: http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=787.

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified
2Ray C. Stedman, “A Father in Action,” n.p. [cited 30 July 2006]. Online: http://www.pbc.org/files/messages/4827/3582.html. 3Deffinbaugh. 4See, for example, Luke 14:10. 5Jared Wilson, “The Scandal of Grace,” weblog post of 10 August 2006 [cited 12 August 2006], Shizuka Blog: http://shizukagarden.blogspot.com/2006/08/scandal-ofgrace.html. 6Stedman.

Deliver Such a One to Satan (5:1-13)
1Thomas L. Constable, Notes on 1 Corinthians, 2004 ed., 44. Cited 15 September 2004. Online: http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/1corinthians.pdf. 2Bob Deffinbaugh, “Church Discipline: Taking Sin Seriously (1 Cor. 5:1-13),” n.p. [cited 13 August 2006]. Online: http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=788. 3See Deffinbaugh. 4See, for example, Lev 18:8; 20:11; Deut 22:30; Acts 15:20. 5Deffinbaugh. 6Ibid.

Preparing Ourselves to Judge Angels (6:1-11)
1Bob Deffinbaugh, “Courting Sin (1 Cor. 6:1-11),” n.p. [cited 22 August 2006]. Online: http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=789. 2Ray C. Stedman, “The Wrong Way to Right Wrongs,” n.p. [cited 22 August 2006]. Online: http://www.pbc.org/messages/map_old_file/3584.html.

Bought with a Price—So Glorify God! (6:12-20)
1Mark Gravrock, “Why Won’t Paul Just Say No? Purity and Sex in 1 Corinthians 6,” Word & World, 16.4 (F 1996): 444-55.

But Love Builds Up (8:1-13)
1John Chrysostom, “Homily XX,” n.p. [cited 25 September 06]. Online: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf112.iv.xxi.html. 2Bob Deffinbaugh, “The Great Divorce—Separating ‘Truth from Love' (1 Cor. 8:113),” n.p. [cited 25 September 2006]. Online: http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=795. 3N.T. Wright, “One God, One Lord, One People: Incarnational Christology for a Church in a Pagan Environment,” Ex Auditu 7, n.p. [cited 25 September 2006]. Online: http://www.northpark.edu/sem/exauditu/papers/wright.html. Also available at http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/18656.htm. 4William Loader, “First Thoughts on Year B Epistle Passages from the Lectionary,” n.p. [cited 25 September 2006]. Online: http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/BEpEpiphany4.htm. 5Ibid. 6Wright.

Slave to All (9:1-27)
1Thomas Constable, Notes on 1 Corinthians, 2004 ed., 88. Cited 15 September 2004. Online: http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/1corinthians.pdf.

140

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

So That We Would Not Crave Evil (10:1-13)
1William Loader, “First Thoughts on Year B Epistle Passages from the Lectionary— Lent 3: 14 March. 1 Corinthians 10:1-13,” n.p. [cited 10 October 2006]. Online: http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/CEpLent3.htm. 2Katherine Grieb, “Limited-Time Offer,” The Christian Century (March 9, 2004): 30. Cited 10 October 2006. Online: http://www.religiononline.org/showarticle.asp?title=2968. 3J. Hampton Keathley III, “The Peril of Abusing Our Spiritual Privileges (1 Corinthians 10:1-13),” n.p. [cited 10 October 2006]. Online: http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=852.

All to the Glory of God (10:14-11:1)
1Dannette Tucker, “Idols and Idolatry Today,” n.p. [cited 17 October 2006]. Online: http://www.titus2menandwomen.org/Articles/DanetteTucker/Idols/PrinterFriendly.sht ml. 2Bob Deffinbaugh, “Table Talk (1 Cor. 10:14-33),” n.p. [cited 17 October 2006]. Online: http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=799. 3Lawrence Richards, The Teacher’s Commentary (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1987), 851.

Holding Firmly to the Traditions (11:2-16)
1Lawrence

Richards, The Teacher’s Commentary (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1987),

2Norman Hillyer, “1 Corinthians,” in The New Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 1065. See also Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 10 (New York: Abingdon, 1953), 125. 3Interpreter’s Bible, 125. 4The ideas on this subject come from Wayne A. Grudem, “Wives Like Sarah, and the Husbands Who Honor Them: 1 Peter 3:1-7,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (ed. Wayne Grudem and John Piper; Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1991), 194-208, 499-503. Cited 15 October 2006. Online: http://www.bible.org/docs/splife/chrhome/manwoman/chap10.htm.

867.

His Body, His Blood (11:17-34)
1For a brief but thorough treatment of the significance of table fellowship in the Bible, see Bob Deffinbaugh, “Corrections for Communion (1 Cor. 11:17-34),” n.p. Online: http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=803.

One Body, One Spirit (12:1-31)
1Thomas Constable, Notes on 1 Corinthians, 2004 ed., 126. Cited 15 September 2004. Online: http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/1corinthians.pdf. 2Bob Deffinbaugh, “Spirituality and Spiritual Gifts—Part 2 (1 Cor. 12:4-11),” n.p. [cited 6 November 2006]. Online: http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=805. 3Deffinbaugh. 4Constable, 127. 5William Loader, “First Thoughts on Passages on Year C Epistle Passages in the Lectionary: Epiphany 2,” n.p. [cited 6 November 2006]. Online: http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/CEpEpiphany2.htm. 6William Loader, “First Thoughts on Year A Epistles Passages in the Lectionary: Pentecost,” n.p. [cited 6 November 2006]. Online: http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/AEpPentecost.htm.

141

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified
7Deffinbaugh.

A Still More Excellent Way (13:1-13)
1William Loader, “First Thoughts on Year C Epistle Passages from the Lectionary: Epiphany 4,” n.p. [cited 18 November 2006]. Online: http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/CEpEpiphany4.htm.

Spiritual Gifts and the Great Commission (14:1-25)
1See, for example, the New English Bible, the New Testament in the Language of Today, the New Testament: An American Translation, the Twentieth Century New Testament, and The Message.

Decently and In Order (14:26-40)
1Ray Stedman, “When You Come Together,” n.p. [cited 12 December 2006]. Online: http://www.pbc.org/messages/map_old_file/3601.html. 2Wayne A. Grudem, “Wives Like Sarah, and the Husbands Who Honor Them: 1 Peter 3:1-7,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (ed. Wayne Grudem and John Piper; Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1991), 194-208, 499503. Cited 2 February 2007. Online: http://www.bible.org/docs/splife/chrhome/manwoman/chap10.htm. Also available at http://www.cbmw.org/Recovering-Biblical-Manhood-and-Womanhood/. 3David J. Hoke, “Doing Church: The Place of Order in Worship,” in What’s a Church to Do? Studies in First Corinthians, 34, n.p. [cited 2 February 2007]. Online: http://www.horizonsnet.org/sermons/1cor34.html.

The Reality of the Resurrection (15:1-11)
1Bryan Findlayson, “The Faith Once Delivered to the Saints,” n.p. [cited 31 January 2007]. Online: http://www.lectionarystudies.com/sunday5ce.html. 2Bob Deffinbaugh, “Refresher Course on the Resurrection of the Dead (1 Cor. 15),” n.p. [cited 31 January 2007]. Online: http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=810. 3William Loader, “First Thoughts on Year C Epistle Passages from the Lectionary: Epiphany 5,” n.p. [cited 31 January 2007]. Online: http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/CEpEpiphany5.htm. 4William Loader, “First Thoughts on Passages on Year B Epistle Passages in the Lectionary: Easter Day,” n.p. [cited 31 January 2007]. Online: http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/BEpEasterDay.htm. 5Findlayson. 6Loader, “Year B.”

The Glory of Resurrection (15:35-58)
1Thomas Constable, Notes on 1 Corinthians, 2004 ed., 171-72. Cited 15 September 2004. Online: http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/1corinthians.pdf. 2Bob Deffinbaugh, “A Refresher Course in the Resurrection of the Dead (1 Cor. 15),” n.p. [cited 27 February 2007]. Online: http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=810. 3Ibid. 4Bryan Findlayson, “Victory Though Jesus Christ,” n.p. [cited 27 February 2007]. Online: http://www.lectionarystudies.com/sunday8ce.html. 5Deffinbaugh. See also Frederick William Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 46. 6Deffinbaugh.

142

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Each a Part of One Another (16:1-24)
1The terms carnalities, spiritualities and practicalities come from Ray C. Stedman, “Giving and Living,” n.p. [cited 25 April 2007]. Online: http://www.pbc.org/messages/map_old_file/3608.html. 2Ibid. 3Ray C. Stedman, “The Care and Feeding of Fellow Workers,” n.p. [cited 25 April 2007]. Online: http://www.pbc.org/messages/map_old_file/3609.html. 4Thomas Constable, Notes on 1 Corinthians, 2004 ed., 182. Cited 15 September 2004. Online: http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/1corinthians.pdf. 5Ibid. 6Ibid. 7Albert Barnes, Barnes' New Testament Notes, electronic version available online from The Sword Project, www.crosswire.com. 8Stedman, “Care.” 9Constable, 184. 10Stedman, “Giving.”

143

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

144

Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. Barnes’ New Testament Notes. Electronic version for The Sword Project. Online: http://www.crosswire.org/sword/modules/ModDisp.jsp?modType=Comment aries. Chrysostom, John. Homilies on First and Second Corinthians. In vol. 12 of The Nicene and PostNicene Fathers, Series 1. No pages. Cited 6 July-25 September 2006. Online: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf112.html. Constable, Thomas L. Notes on 1 Corinthians, 2004 ed. Cited 15 September 2004. Online: http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/1corinthians.pdf. Danker, Frederick William. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. Chicago: University Press, 2000. Deffinbaugh, Bob. True Spirituality: A Study in First Corinthians. Biblical Studies Press, 1999. No pages. Cited 30 July 2006-27 February 2007. Online: http://www.bible.org/series.php?series_id=24. Findlayson, Bryan. Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons. No pages. Cited 31 January, 27 February 2007. Online: http://www.lectionarystudies.com/. Gravrock, Mark. “Why Won't Paul Just Say No? Purity and Sex in 1 Corinthians 6.” Word & World, 16.4 (F 1996): 444-55. Grieb, Katherine. “Limited-Time Offer.” The Christian Century (9 March 2004): 30. Online: http://religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=2968. Grudem, Wayne A. “Wives Like Sarah, and the Husbands Who Honor Them: 1 Peter 3:17.” In Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, ed. Wayne Grudem and John Piper, 194-208, 499-503. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991. Online: http://www.bible.org/docs/splife/chrhome/manwoman/chap10.htm. Also available at http://www.cbmw.org/Recovering-Biblical-Manhood-andWomanhood/. Hillyer, Norman. “1 Corinthians.” In The New Bible Commentary, rev. ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970, 1052-74. Hoke, David J. “Doing Church: The Place of Order in Worship.” In What's a Church to Do? Studies in First Corinthians, 34. No pages. Online: http://www.horizonsnet.org/sermons/1cor34.html. Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 10. New York: Abingdon, 1953.

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified
Keathley, J. Hampton III. “The Peril of Abusing Spiritual Privileges (1 Corinthians 10:113).” No pages. Cited 10 October 2006. Online: http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=852. Loader, William. Lectionary Resources. No pages. Cited 6 July 2006-31 January 2007. Online: http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/lectionaryindex.html. Neuchterlein, Paul. “Epiphany 3A.” Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary. No pages. Cited 6 July 2006. Online: http://girardianlectionary.net/year_a/epiphany3a.html. Piper, John. Desiring God Resource Library, Resources on 1 Corinthians. No pages. Cited 1-17 July 2006. Online: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ScriptureIndex/19/. Richards, Lawrence O. The Teacher's Commentary. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1987. Shakespeare, William. “Sonnet 94.” No pages. Online: http://www.shakespearessonnets.com/94comm.htm. Smedes, Lewis. “Coping With Our Critics.” No pages. Cited 30 July 2006. Online: http://www.csec.org/csec/sermon/smedes_4508.htm. Stedman, Ray C. Expository Studies in 1 Corinthians. Palo Alto, CA: Discovery Books, 1981. No pages. Cited 6 July 2006-25 April 2007. Online: http://www.raystedman.org/1corinthians/index.html. Tucker, Dannette. “Idols and Idolatry Today.” No pages. Cited 17 October 2006. Online: http://www.titus2menandwomen.org/Articles/DanetteTucker/Idols/PrinterFr iendly.shtml. Wilson, Jared. “The Scandal of Grace.” Posted 10 August 2006 at Shizuka Blog. No pages. Cited 12 August 2006. Online: http://shizukagarden.blogspot.com/2006/08/scandal-of-grace.html. Wright, N.T. “One God, One Lord, One People: Incarnational Christology for a Church in a Pagan Environment.” Ex Auditu 7. Cited 25 September 2006. Online: http://www.northpark.edu/sem/exauditu/papers/wright.html. Also available at http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/18656.htm.

146

About the Author
A. Milton Stanley Sr. has worked as a preacher, writer, and teacher in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and his native Tennessee. He earned the Master of Divinity degree from Harding University Graduate School of Religion and the Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College of Norwich University. He is the author of numerous works and currently posts on several web sites, including Transforming Sermons. Jesus Christ and Him Crucified is the first publication for Transforming Publishing, which Mr. Stanley founded earlier this year. He and his family live in Mud Creek, Tennessee.

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

148

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
scribd
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->