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Posts Tagged ‘1 Corinthians’

The mission’s Bible class has been studying 1 Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 5: 1ff, the Apostle has to address a major pastoral problem:

“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.”  

How did things get to this? Yes, people do wrong. This is the reason God sent His only-begotten Son.  The Apostle most assuredly knew that:1 Timothy 1:11!  The Apostle quotes back to the Corinthians one of their theological slogans twice:  “All things are lawful for me” (1 Cor. 6: 12 and 1. Cor. 10: 23).  In chapter 6 Paul addresses another pastoral and theological problem:  prostitution.  By the time the Apostle is constrained to write to the Church in Corinth, they had justified all sorts of immorality, sexual and otherwise. 

How did they get to that point?  My guess is that the Church in Corinth did nothing about it when they  first began to hear about the wrongs and that was the problem.  They saw their brother sin and did nothing.  They were living by a dubious ‘virtue’:  they were “nice”.

 So many have queried in the Church:  “How did we get to the point of same-sex marriage?!?!”  Back in the ’60s, we accepted divorce and remarriage as “no-fault”,  and also masturbation, our children living together, restricting gestation, etc. to the point that these “new moralities” were also justified by theological jargon within the denominations and became dogma.  The old saying is true:  “If I give an inch, you’ll take a mile”.   For instance,  “Living together will make for stronger marriages”  and so less divorce.  It has not. Christians in Corinth utilized what  had become a heretical dogma when intoned by itself, “All things are lawful”, or the Greek can be rendered: “All things are in my  power” (sounds like televangelists!) or “I am free to do anything” (sounds like Americans!).  Yes, Paul says, all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful (1. Cor. 6) nor do they build up (1 Cor. 10).  

“…they failed to understand that Christian freedom from sin and the Law’s condemnation is not freedom to sin, but instead is freedom to live by the power of the Spirit in accord with God’s Law (e. g. Romans 6; 13:10). (Concordia Commentary, CPH, Gregory Lockwood).  

As Luther wrote in  The Freedom of the Christian as his central thesis:

A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.

The editorial cartoon above is descriptive of this process of little by little we allow a wrong until it gets too late.  Politically free  and/or spiritually freed people have to be alert.  Another old saying is true:  The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

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The way the Church is built and builds has been a disputed topic for some time now. The many and sundry blueprints for the Church at corporate (district and synodical offices) have been promulgated to “grow the church”, e.g. church growth.  There are as many ‘new’ ideas to ‘grow the Church’ put forward as there are many fears that we are not growing and we are going to die.   This ‘new’ plan will save the Church!  Wrong.  The Church is saved and is being saved by the One Who alone finally builds His Church: ” And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (St. Matthew 16: 18)  Anything else is the beginning of sheer unbelief, just as Peter wanted to prevent the Lord from the Cross.

The Scriptures contain the building plans, building materials and the identity of the builders for the Church:

Builders :  The Lord is clear He is the builder of His Church.  The Lord also calls builders, such as the Apostles and then pastors and He calls, instructs and encourages the  builders to use the best materials available.

Building materials: The gold, silver and precious stones of His Word:  the Word of the Bible, Law and Promise, the Word of God in the Sacraments, the Word in prayer, the Word of rebuke and consolation.

Building plans, blueprint: The Scripture is quite clear on the Lord’s blueprint as He He builds His Church:    a Temple formed, reformed and conformed (see  1 Corinthians 6:19,1 Peter 2:5 Romans 8:29, to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ (see Luke 24:46-48). 

The past two Sundays after the Epiphany the Epistle readings are  1 Corinthians 3:1-9  and 1 Corinthians 3:10-23.

The following passage from 1 Corinthians is quite illustrative of the Lord’s builders, building materials, and blueprint for His Church and I will be exploring this Text with you:

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—  13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

 16 Do you not know that YOU are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in YOU17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and YOU are that temple.

In  verse 15 the translation “skilled” is in Greek, sophia, as “wise”, e.g. as in philosophy, literally “love of wisdom”.  The Apostle clearly identifies the “wisdom” given him:  the wisdom of  the Crucified (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:21 ). God’s wisdom is most assuredly not human wisdom.  The Medieval Ages could not have been simply the “dark ages”, as they developed the architectural plan of a sanctuary that proclaims clearly the Cross of Jesus Christ:

The Greek word for “master builder” is the one from which we have our word, “architect”.  Paul, Apollos and many others build. Paul laid the foundation of the Church in Corinth which is the cornerstone of Jesus Christ, not religious experience, human wisdom, man’s plans and the like.  Jesus Christ, the cornerstone rejected by the original builders (Israel) and men, cast out, has become the chief cornerstone (cf. Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11 Ephesians 2:20).  The Apostle laid this foundation by the only means Christ gave to His Apostles and His apostolic Church:   preaching “Christ and Him crucified”, 1 Corinthians 1:23.  Our preaching is cross-shaped as missionary work and evangelism:  

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2: 2)

and

It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. (Galatians 3: 1)

The Sacraments are likewise cruciform, see  Romans 6:3-5;   1 Corinthians 11:26.  The stones for His Church are not quarried out of granite, but out of Jesus Christ, now “living stones” , see 1 Peter 2:5. Peter (Rock) from Christ, not Christ from Peter.

The two lists of construction materials that the Apostle lays out side by side,

gold, silver, precious stones”

and

“wood, hay and straw” .

Those two contractors’ lists are strikingly different  The first list is obviously more valuable than the second and it is clear from the text, the desirable materials.  Gregory Lockwood in the Concordia Publishing House Commentary on 1 Corinthians notes that the first list were the building materials for the Temple.  It is so obvious in the Apostle’s comparison that the Temple building materials endure because they are non-combustible.  Fire will not burn them but  fire will test everyone’s work.  Further, it is plain to see that the Temple of which St. Paul writes is the Church.  The Greek pronoun “you” is plural, as we say here in the South: y’all.  There is no Church of one, no ‘super-Christians’, but a communion, a “spiritual house” being built  Lockwood comments:

In addition (and this is most important in the context), these three more valuable items are noncombustible, whereas the materials in the second group are all combustible. The OT refers to gold, silver, and precious stones as building materials used in the tabernacle and the temple. Thus Paul anticipates the temple imagery of 3:16-17.7

The precious, noncombustible materials represent preaching, teaching, and pastoral care that rest upon the Gospel. The combustible items signify teaching and methods motivated by human “wisdom” (1:17-22; 2:1-5, 13; 3:19) and therefore at odds with God’s “wisdom” (1:24, 30; 2:6-7)—the doctrine of Christ.

Wood, hay, straw…one match, it’s ablaze and gone.  Let’s say that synodical and district offices are akin to a contractor’s office, then the only task for which they are to oversee is to see that the building materials are the gold, silver and precious stones of His Word and Sacraments of His Church, as outlined in Scripture and the Confessions. The Word endures to eternity and from eternity and in time and space, flesh and bone.  The Word  is not ephemeral like wood, hay and straw of human wisdom, plans, schemes, techniques and tactics.  We point to the Word of promise, not to church programs.  Episcopos, or bishop, the role of district president, literally means “oversight”, not “overlook”. Bishops, pastors and district presidents are not to be designing new blueprints,nor using substandard building materials.

We cannot keep on using substandard building materials as we have done now for decades, quick let’s have a ministry, get some funding and 5 piece band.  The Lord builds His house, not a coffee house, to sell people a little Christ with their capuccino.   We do not package and sell the Word of God, peddling it, then the Word becomes  a commodity and the Lord’s House becomes  a whore house:

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.(2 Corinthians 2: 17)

We are not messing around with a weekend carpentry job finishing the basement.  One reason to use easier materials is that the “job gets done” and many a weekend carpenter has worked with wood and that’s fine for finishing a basement.  Using the inferior “plans of mice and men”, of human wisdom and that work will not last.  Building by using substandard materials and they tend to collapse and people die.    Yet, it makes pastors feel useful and the job is done quickly.   The basement, the foundation has been laid and it is precious in God’s sight.  The original builders rejected the cornerstone, Jesus Christ.  what the Lord is building and which is precious in His sight.  “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.”  The Law of God is frightening as well it should be. We are using sound building materials, that is “sound doctrine”.

The other aspect of the two groups of building materials is this:  I opine that “gold, silver and precious stones” not only are more costly, but harder to work with than wood, hay and straw.  Gold and silver take time to smelt and burn the dross. Pearls were not cultivated then, but one had to dive into the depths of the ocean to find them. In fact finding one, one sells all he has to buy it.  This triumvirate lasts as the Word of the Lord  endures forever.

Our calling is not to master the public but to make public the Master.  What is the Church to do?  Like seed, cast His Word to all (see St. Matthew 13: 1-23).  Ours is not to figure out how it will work but to trust He is at work in His Word according to His Word.  We are to confess Christ.  

Pastor Bonhoeffer preached it well in 1933, in Berlin, about building the Church and confession Jesus Christ:

…it is not we who build. He builds the church. No human being builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever intends to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess-he builds. We must proclaim—he builds. We must pray to him-that he may build. We do not know his plan. ‘We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great timesof construction. It may be that from a human point of view great times for the church are actually times of demolition. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions, don’t ask for judgments, don’t always be calculating what will happen, don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Let the church remain the church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord, from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.

 

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Introduction:  Our Bible class at the Mission is  studying in these Sundays after the Epiphany the Epistle Readings, which are all from  1 Corinthians.  The reading for this Sunday (2/23/14) is 1 Corinthians 3:10-23 in which the Apostle flat out wrote to them, You are a temple of the Holy Spirit which he identifies as their  bodies in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.

Below is a quote from Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Temple of the Holy Ghost” which I think is  great illustration of the Scripture verses cited above.   The quote is from the beginning of the story in which a mother and her daughter go to pick-up two two younger female cousins from the convent school, Mount St. Scholastica where the cousins are students. The girls are into boys and clothes and are quite silly, all the while they keep on giggling as they keep on calling each other, “Temple One” and “Temple Two”.  When the daughter and her cousins are now laughing at someone else, finally the Mother has enough with this silliness:         

                 “Her mother thought this was funny too but she said, “That’ll be about enough out of you,” and changed the subject. She asked them why they called each other Temple One and Temple Two and this sent them off into gales of giggles. Finally they managed to explain. Sister Perpetua, the oldest nun at the Sisters of Mercy in Mayville, had given them a lecture on what to do if a young man should—here they laughed so hard they were not able to go on without going back to the beginning—on what to do if a young man should—they put their heads in their laps—on what to do if —they finally managed to shout it out—if he should “behave in an ungentlemanly manner with them in the back of an automobile.” Sister Perpetua said they were to say, “Stop sir! I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost!” and that would put an end to it. The child sat up off the floor with a blank face. She didn’t see anything so funny in this. What was really funny was the idea of Mr. Cheatam or Alonzo Myers beauing them around. That killed her.

            Her mother didn’t laugh at what they had said. “I think you girls are pretty silly,” she said. “After all, that’s what you are—Temples of the Holy Ghost.”

           The two of them looked up at her, politely concealing their giggles, but with astonished faces as if they were beginning to realize that she was made of the same stuff as Sister Perpetua.  Miss Kirby preserved her set expression and the child thought, it’s all over her head anyhow. I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost, she said to herself, and was pleased with the phrase. It made her feel as if somebody had given her a present.”

 1)      In the New Testament, “present” is called by another name:  what is that name?

2)      Is the Apostle saying that being “temple of the Holy Ghost” is a gift?  If so, how?  Why?

3)    Anthropology is the study of man, human beings.  What is the Lord’s anthropology in 1 Corinthians and as dramatized in O’Connor’s short story above? What is our own view of man  and how does it compare with the Lord’s?

 Almighty and everlasting God,  You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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Aquila and his wife, Priscilla (Prisca), Jewish contemporaries of St. Paul, traveled widely. Because of persecution in Rome, they went to Corinth where they met the apostle Paul, who joined them in their trade of tent-making, as the Apostle was likewise trained in that trade:

Acts 18:  1After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tent makers by trade. 4And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Please note that the Roman persecution and exile of the Jews was the historical cause by which Paul met this faithful couple in the Lord. The three of them met in Corinth where the Apostle evangelized.  The author of Acts, Luke, tells us that the three of them met because of their vocation, “tent makers by trade” (This means they were leather workers and as Paul was a trained Pharisee, it was customary for a Pharisee to have a trade).   Was it a historical accident that Paul met this Christian husband and wife?  We do not know in this concrete event in the Church’s history but we do know that the Lord is,

“…making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1)

The Lord brings about His plan in ways that to the human eye are hidden but He is working to bring us His salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ.  

Later Luke tells us in his history of the early Church, Acts, that Silas and Timothy came to Corinth,  and so the Church was there in Corinth:  Apostle Paul,  Aquilla and Priscilla, Silas and Timothy.  There were not a “team”as this was not a sport’s game.  Our Lord promised where 2 or 3 are gathered in His Name, so He is there.  It was not 5 of them in Corinth but also the Lord, the Temple of His Body to be revealed in the preaching and teaching of His Word, as the Apostle evangelized first  in the Corinthian synagogue.   Our Lord sent out the disciples two by two to preach and heal. Further, the Apostle Paul mentions Apollos eight times in 1 Corinthians.  Paul wrote the Corinthians that their following of human leaders, however ‘charismatic’, is fleshly.  Paul and Apollos worked in concert in the ministry of the Gospel:  

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3)

Dr. Lockwood in his commentary on 1 Corinthians (Concordia Publishing House) points out:  “…Apollos and Paul did not work independently of each other;  they formed a harmonious unit, one in purpose, one in fellowship      (Gal. 2: 9).”   In the Scriptures, evangelism is not a solo activity, but the mission of the Church in concert under her Lord (see 1 Corinthians 12: 1-26).  

The Apostle supported himself by making tents so he would not be a burden on the congregations he was called to serve (cf. 1 Corinthians 9: 18), though, he was by no means against preachers receiving a salary so that their time could be fully devoted to freely preach and teach the word (cf. 1 Corinthians 9: 1-8). In turn, Aquila and Priscilla  joined Paul in his mission of proclaiming the Gospel. The couple later traveled with Paul from Corinth to Ephesus:

Acts 18: 18: After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila

Priscilla and Aquila established a home in Ephesus that served as hospitality headquarters for new converts to Christianity. Paul left them there as he went to  Caesarea, then Galatia and Phyrgia.  It was good that Priscilla and Aquila stayed in  Ephesus because of a visitor:

Acts 18: 24Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

This faithful couple taught the talented and highly educated Apollos regarding Baptism according to Christ’s command and promise.  The Christians in Corinth were so fleshly proud that many of them boasted they followed Apollos  and others(see 1 Corinthians 1:11-13), whereas   Apollos, with all his erudition, was obviously humble and had an ear as one being taught (see Isaiah 50:4). It is also important to note that the clear implication in the verses above that,  “the way of God”  to us all  is Baptism:  “…though he knew only the baptism of John”, which was  for repentance whereas Baptism commanded by Christ Jesus is for forgiveness, until He comes again (see St. Matthew 28:  18-20).  Priscilla and Aquila were in business.  Business is a vocation in this world for people to serve their neighbor, but this is also a clear narrative demonstrating that in your daily vocation you may so teach the “…way of God” to those who want to know.  Priscilla and Aquila knew their catechism.

Then later, Apollos:

…wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.(Acts 18)

Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos are all remembered and honored for their great missionary zeal in the unity, the concord, of the Church.  No matter the greatness nor humility of the talent, we all need to be catechized and preached Christ and Him crucified, “…  showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”  This day is especially good to remember to always pray for all businessmen, tradesmen, day-laborers and to  pray for the Church’s mission and her missionaries in daily life that the Lord’s salvation be brought to many a listening,“poor in spirit”, ear and heart.

Let us pray…

Triune God, whose very Name is holy, teach us to be faithful hearers and learners of Your Word , fervent in the Spirit as Apollos was, that we may teach it correctly against those who have been led astray into false and error and that we might follow the example of Aquila and Priscilla for the good the Church You established here and entrusted into our humble care;  for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

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