Category Archives: I Corinthians

One Additional Thought on Paedocommunion

Children belong at the table. I have argued for a decade that children of the covenant are recipients of all the covenant benefits. One significant benefit is the means of grace we call the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper. Baptism opens the ecclesiastical doors to the Lord’s Table.

I have for so long agreed with those simple statements that the more I interact with Reformation-minded Christians on this issue, the stranger and stranger it becomes. Yes, there are those confessional issues at hand, and there is the most famous Pauline passage in I Corinthians 11:17-34 that is used as an argument for opposing paedocommunion, but if the Reformed paedobaptist is open to considering the Bible afresh without his preconceived notions of what Paul meant, or allowing the text to take precedence over our cherished confessions, then I believe there is an opportunity to re-consider this important matter. As Tim Gallant observes, “no tradition and no confession may be treated as irreformable.”

I do not wish here to elaborate on the many exegetical issues involved. Some books like Tim Gallant’s Feed my Lambs and Strawbridge’s The Case for Covenant Communion do a fine job elaborating on the more technical discussions surrounding the issue at hand. My desire is to add just one theological point about the inclusion of children in the Psalter.

The Paedocommunionist position argues that children are to be not only included in the worship of the saints, but also that they are to be participants in the worship of the saints. And part of this participation means eating and drinking at the Lord’s Table with the body. To be in the body means to partake of the body. The Paedocommunion position is the natural consequence of paedobaptism. In fact, many come to paedocommunion by considering the logical necessities of paedobaptism.

The Psalter makes a fine case for the inclusion of little children in the ecclesiastical community of the Old Testament. Those of us who wish to apply a covenantal hermeneutic consistently conclude that they are to be also included in the New Covenant promises. If the New Covenant is more glorious and greater, then the NC continues to show favor to children of believers, and not take away that favor. Assuming that to be the case (and certainly this is a limited discussion among paedobaptists), then it is safe to conclude that the Psalter establishes a model of inclusion and not exclusion.

One text that is often overlooked in this discussion is Psalm 148. Psalm 148 is a doxological description of the celestial and earthly praise. God designs creation to display His excellencies and glory. But this glory can only be complete if children are in the picture. Children are also part of this great choir. Children, then, are involved participants in this cosmic refrain of praise. Creation is also involved and is sacramentally nourished by the hands of God. Far from an uninterested and uninvolved God, our God is deeply invested in the affairs of creation and so He sustains them with every good thing.

But at the heart of this chorus are old men and children (na`ar). Man plays a pivotal role in this worship scene. He is the homo adorans (worshiping being). 

We can then conclude that the Psalmist engages all sorts of people in the responsibility of praise. And if children are called to praise (Psalm 8:2-3), then they are called to be nourished as participants in that praise. In the Bible everyone who praises eats at some time. I am arguing that those who praise eat very early. When? At the moment they can eat and drink at their earthly father’s table, they should be able to eat at their heavenly father’s table. Simple in my estimation.

Sermon: The Empty Threat of Death, Part VIII, I Corinthians 15:58

Prayer: May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock, and our nearest Kinsman, the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

Text: Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

People of God, this is our last sermon on I Corinthians 15. It is never easy to concentrate too long on one subject, but certain subjects like the Resurrection of Jesus and our future resurrection are worth meditating for a longer period of time. The resurrection is the center of our hope. Without the resurrection we are of all people to be most pitied. Without the resurrection Christian funerals are nothing more than a big joke.

But Paul has labored to make the point not only that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, but that we too shall be raised at the last day with an imperishable body.

Some Corinthians struggled greatly to grasp the reality that their physical bodies would not be destroyed or disposed of at the end of history, but actually transformed into an imperishable, never-aging body. They had bought into some of the myths that many people embrace even in our own day. Many evangelicals believe firmly in this myth that our bodies do not matter to God, and that the only reason we have a flesh is because we are earthly people. But when Jesus returns at his Second Coming we will all be transformed into souls that will float away and enjoy the glories of heaven forever and ever. Continue reading Sermon: The Empty Threat of Death, Part VIII, I Corinthians 15:58

Sermon: The Empty Threat of Death, Part VII, I Corinthians 15:50-57

Note: At the request of a parishioner, I will now post my sermon manuscripts on Saturday nights.

People of God, good music tells good stories. Bad music tells bad stories. The Bible is good music, therefore it tells good stories. That is simple enough. Paul’s resurrection theology moves from stanza to stanza beautifully in chapter 15. Paul knows that he needs a bold storyline with a pastoral sensitivity to the false interpretations of the Corinthians. Paul sings his music like an opera. An opera is an extended dramatic composition. Paul uses dramatic speech. He calls them “fools” for not listening to his apostolic teaching, but he is also patient enough to explain Jesus’ resurrection and our future bodily resurrection. In this opera, Paul is filled with theological drama. And—like some operas—sometimes we will be left wondering: “Where is this leading?” Paul recognizes that his distinctions, analogies, boldness have gotten a bit thicker in the last 49 verses, so he is going to summarize his entire argument one last time. And he is going to emphasize the absolute necessity of the transformation of our bodies. Continue reading Sermon: The Empty Threat of Death, Part VII, I Corinthians 15:50-57

Flesh and Blood

This phrase ( I Cor. 15:50) occurs in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, and it has led to a wide level of speculation. But the more common reading is to be preferred. By “flesh and blood” Paul is simply referring to the ordinary, corruptible, and weak. In fact, Paul equates this phrase with perishable on the next line (a rare use of parallelism in Paul’s writing). Paul is saying that flesh and blood are not fit to inherit the kingdom, because our present bodies need to be transformed and glorified before entering eternity.

Sermon: The Empty Threat of Death, Part VI, I Corinthians 15:42-49

People of God, we are persevering through this dynamic and theologically astute response of the Apostle Paul to the skeptical Corinthians. This is Pau’s third and final response to their inquiries. He treats them with a profound conviction that they are in error, but also with a fatherly desire to see that they abandon these false interpretations of the Resurrection. For Paul, thinking and doing go hand in hand. If they think incorrectly about the resurrection they are going to act unethically.

This is why this study is so crucial for all of us. In fact, when we conclude these 58 verses you will most likely have a better understanding of the resurrection than the majority of evangelicals in the world. This is no exaggeration. I interacted with a dear man who is 86 years old, rapidly dying of cancer, and has been a believer for at least 40 years. In the context of our conversation he expressed how much he looked forward to receiving wings as angels, and flying without a body for all eternity. I attempted to offer him a new way of looking at eternity, but in his mind his body was already so scarred by cancer that he could not grasp the idea of God giving him a new body. Another example of a faulty understanding of a future resurrection is often heard at funerals, when people—well-intentioned—talk about how the dead are now in their glorified bodies in heaven. But as Paul says, we will only receive a new body at the end of human history when God completes his work on earth. He will re-unite our bodies and souls, and make us into living bodies filled with life for all eternity. Continue reading Sermon: The Empty Threat of Death, Part VI, I Corinthians 15:42-49

Shameful Bodies

There is a possible misunderstanding of Paul’s use of the word ἀτιμίᾳ in I Corinthians 15:43. Paul is in the process of making four distinctions. In the second distinction he refers to our present bodies as “dishonor.” Some translations may use “shame.” But this is in the context of comparing one condition (present) with another (resurrection). In this sense, as Fee observes, this “is not so much a pejorative term to describe the body as shameful, as it is a description of its present “lowly” state in comparison with its glorified one.”

A Spirit-Body

To paraphrase N.T. Wright, “much of the evangelical world has bought into the Platonic distinctions.” This distinction includes a separation between our earthly bodies and our heavenly spirits. This distinction has vast repercussions for how we are to think about our responsibilities on earth. If this dichotomy persists, then there is a legitimate sense in which we are merely existing, rather than intentionally living out our existence.

Paul is the ultimate Plato-destroyer. He wrestles the Corinthians on these fundamental points, and concludes that the psychikos and pneumatikos are phases of the body, rather than the separation of the body. When Paul speaks of the spiritual, he is not insinuating a ghostly presence, but a body fit for the presence of the Spirit. “Spiritual” is simply a synonym for something animated or dignified by the Spirit’s presence (so too, “spiritual songs” refer to songs of the Spirit, not a synonym for praise choruses).

Gordon Fee summarizes this well:

The transformed body, therefore, is not composed of “spirit”; it is a body adapted to the eschatological existence that is under the ultimate domination of the Spirit.

The spiritual does not mean “immaterial” but “supernatural.” In this sense, every form of our existence is an embodied existence.

Sermon: The Empty Threat of Death, Part V, I Corinthians 15:35-41

People of God, we return to our series on I Corinthians 15. One of the great accomplishments of John Calvin was his preaching ministry in Strasbourg in 1539. Many of us today still look to find brilliant analysis of different passages in Calvin’s commentaries, which were the fruit of many years of careful biblical study. Calvin left Strasbourg in 1539 in the middle of his preaching ministry, and returned in 1541. On his first Sunday back to the pulpit he picked up exactly where he left off a couple years earlier.

Your task is not as complicated. It has been a month since we last discussed I Corinthians 15, and we are going to pick up exactly where I left off in verse 35.

Let’s begin by summarizing our text.

Chapter 15 may appear to be an abrupt change of subject matter of the previous 14 chapters, but Paul is very purposeful. In essence, he is saying: “What is the use of any of these instructions? What is the use of discipline, what is the purpose of tongues in the church, of order and decency, community, love, and gifts if there is no resurrection?” Continue reading Sermon: The Empty Threat of Death, Part V, I Corinthians 15:35-41

The Appeal of the Resurrection

Paul argues through several analogies from nature in verses 35-41. The purpose of going so far to make the point of the resurrection is, according to Hays, “to make the resurrection of the dead seem appealing rather than appalling to the Corinthians.”

 

Resuscitation or Resurrection?

Richard Hays summarizes Paul’s powerful critique of some of the Corinthians in chapter 15. According to Hays:

Paul insists that the concept of “resurrection of the dead” should not be naively understood to refer to the resuscitation of corpses; rather, the concept of the resurrection necessarily entails transformation into a new and glorious state.