April 5, 2015.
Daily Reading: I Corinthians 14-16.
Background: I Corinthians 12-13.
Concepts and Connections.
1. Prophecy verses speaking in tongues: The church in Corinth was a church in which many of the members were blessed with spiritual gifts. It seems that this blessing had lead to dispute and chaos in the assembly, which was likely causing problems both inside and outside the church. After writing about the more perfect way (love- see previous chapter), he turns to the two gifts that were causing issues in the assembly to sort things out. Notice Paul’s focus on the intent of the gifts here, claiming that prophecy was better than speaking in tongues because it edified the church. He says that speaking in tongues is no use to anyone who does not understand what the speaker is saying (note that speaking in tongues was speaking different languages). Tongues were a sign for unbelievers (see Isaiah 28:11-12), that they might hear the gospel in their own language and know that the power of God was with the speaker; but prophecy was a sign for believers, edifying one another and giving revelations, and even showing an unbeliever that comes into the assembly that the power of God is amongst the people there. This is probably why Paul asserts that the gift of prophecy was better than the gift of tongues, as it can help both the believer and the unbeliever. Tongues were of little value if there was no one there to interpret what was being said, and if there was no interpreter than the one who spoke in tongues was to keep silent. Note that Paul makes it clear that those who had these signs had complete control over these signs. It seems that the church in Corinth had largely missed the point of spiritual gifts, which was to spread the gospel and edify the church. If that was not what was happening, than the gifts were useless.
2. Orderly worship: This chapter is one of the very few chapters in the New Testament where we get a glimpse into what an assembly of believers looked like in the first century (at least what a mostly gentile assembly would look like). It would seem that Paul’s focus here was that the assembly be done in an orderly fashion, without the chaos that the misuse of the spiritual gifts was causing. Paul did not discourage the use of these gifts in worship, nor anything that they were doing, but rather told them that they should just do it one at a time so that everything could be kept in order. Paul makes the statement that God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. He mentioned earlier about an unbeliever coming into the assembly and seeing everyone speak in tongues at once and thinking that they were out of their minds. This would not be an effective way to spread the gospel, thus it would seem that Paul was giving them a more effective way. If everything is done in order, than outsiders would be more apt to hear and understand. A second driving factor of what should be done in the assembly was that whatever it was, it should be done for building up. If that is not the purpose, then it should not be done.
A rather controversial teaching that is found here is Paul’s command that the women were to keep silent in the church. Though some would write this off as a cultural thing, this logic does not make much sense when you take into account the context of verse 37 where Paul says that the things he is writing to them is a command of the Lord. The word for “speak” here could mean to give a speech, such as what we would know as a sermon today. Paul is likely talking about women taking a leadership role and standing up to preach or teach the assembly, assuming authority over men, who were supposed to take the leadership role (see II Timothy 2:11-12). This reasoning comes from considering what Paul said just a few chapter before, allowing women to pray or prophesy so long as they had their heads covered (see I Corinthians 11:4-5). Thus it would seem that Paul is not talking about literal, complete silence here (for how could the women sing praises in the assembly if this were true?), but rather a teaching/preaching role.
1. The gospel of the resurrected Christ: Amongst the different sects of the Jews in the first century, there was one sect who did not believe in resurrection (or really any other supernatural intervention by God), called the Sadducees (see Matthew 22:23 and Acts 23:8). A similar teaching was being taught in the Corinthian church, though it is not indicated whether this was influenced by the Sadducees or not. There were a group of people in the Corinthian church that was teaching that there was no resurrection of the dead. However, this teaching presented a fundamental flaw in the gospel of Christ, for Christ was indeed raised from the dead. But not only did this teaching contradict the fact that Christ was raised from the dead, but it also undermined the foundation of the Christ, because it was the resurrection that was the key point to salvation. If Christ had not been raised, then sin and death would not have been defeated, we would be baptized for no reason (as baptism is deeply and irreversibly intertwined in the death and resurrection of Christ, see Romans 6:1-11) and there would be no hope of salvation to come. We would still be in our sins, with no redemption possible. Without the resurrection, Christianity is of no value, and we are of all men most to be pitied. The resurrection is an integral part to the Christian faith. Thanks be to God that the tomb was empty! And since Jesus was indeed raised from the dead, so too do we have the hope that one day we will be raised from the dead, to put on a spiritual body just as Christ did, the corruptible being raised incorruptible, purified and bearing the image of the man of heaven. We can look forward to this time because Christ was indeed raised from the dead. This is the gospel of the resurrected Christ.
2. When death is swallowed up in victory: When comes the end, it will stand that flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of God, for flesh and blood are perishable. But on that day, we will be changed, the perishable will put on the imperishable, and we shall be victors in Christ. We shall go on to meet our God, having been given the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord, to the promise of eternal life. Death will be swallowed up in victory and we will live with the Lord forever more (see Isaiah 25:8 and Revelation 21). Oh what a wondrous day that will be. Therefore, let us not prove to have believed in vain, but rather let us be steadfast and unmovable in the kingdom, always abounding to do the work of the Lord.
Plans and salutation: Whenever you read the opening or closing remarks in Paul’s letters you can get a more personal sense of the apostle and his love for his brethren. Here we see that Paul is making plans for a future visit, where he will pick up a special contribution that the church was to be gathering for the saints in Jerusalem (see Acts 24:10-21) and spend some time with the church in Corinth. It is noteworthy that Paul is making plans and organizing visits to the church, as it is indeed good to plan ahead for various things, though not to the point of vexation (see Matthew 6:25-34) or making them overly concrete as we see Paul’s flexibility and commitment to be where he can do the best for the kingdom of God. Note the many personal greetings that the apostle sends to the church at Corinth, implying the strong connections that the early church had with one another. It is refreshing to see the love they had for one another. Let us make this our example to day, that we might come to love and unity throughout the body of Christ (see John 17).
Tomorrow’s Reading: Exodus 1-4.
Love one another.
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