Category Archives: I Corinthians

Sermon: I Corinthians 15:29-34, Fifth Sunday of Easter

People of God, this is the fifth Sunday of Resurrection. We are journeying in this Easter glory. But the beauty of the Gospels is that after Easter glory there is more glory in the Ascension, and then Pentecost descends upon us like fire, and Reformed people become Pentecostals for a day.

Every part of this journey is important. We cannot overlook one for the sake of the other. The work of Jesus and His bride are one work. The Bride is not working separately from Jesus, rather Jesus comes along and strengthens the bride/church to fulfill her mission. The story of the world is the Husband and the Bride working together to bring glory to the Father by the work of the Spirit.

These events are all a part of the overall plan of God to redeem the world and his people, but particular events like the Resurrection possesses a certain key to unlock the mysteries of God’s work in the world.

Jesus’ resurrection sets into motion the events that will ultimately lead to his giving the Father the kingdom. The Father raises the Son from the dead, and the Son gives the Father the kingdom. Paul says in verses 24-26 of  I Corinthians 15 that Jesus “must destroy every rule and every authority and power and reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” This is our End-of-the-world map. The Apostle does not enter into speculations about the End, because he knows that the plans of God are higher than his own plans, and what we see is not always a picture of what is truly happening. We have a limited view of what is happening in the world. We tend to view the world through our own erroneous lenses when we are called to read the world through the eyes of faith; to believe that Jesus is doing what he said he would do. Continue reading Sermon: I Corinthians 15:29-34, Fifth Sunday of Easter

Third Sunday of Resurrection: I Corinthians 15:12-19,The Empty Threat of Death, Part II

People of God, this is the Third Sunday of Resurrection! We will continue our study through Paul’s narrative in I Corinthians 15. This is Paul’s resurrection magnum opus; it is the Bible’s greatest treatment of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah.

This new creation, this new Church has its root in this glorious event in history. The Church did not create the resurrection story, the reality is the resurrection of Christ created the Church.[1]As F.F. Bruce once stated:

“The early Christians did not believe in the resurrection because they could not find his dead body. They believed because they did find a living Christ.”[2]

The tomb is empty because the threats of death are empty. In fact, the threats of death are so foolish that Paul goes so far as to taunt and mock death at the end of this chapter: “O Death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting?”[3]  Paul is pushing the idea that if there is no resurrection, then death will have the final word. In fact, I Corinthians 15 is structured in a way that explains this resurrection theme through various perspectives and angles. “Christ is risen, so we have hope.” “Christ is risen, so you may live a resurrected life.” “Christ is risen, so you are no longer in your sins.” These are the implications of the resurrection. This is why Paul takes such time and care to teach this immature congregation in Corinth why the resurrection is central. Continue reading Third Sunday of Resurrection: I Corinthians 15:12-19,The Empty Threat of Death, Part II

A Brief Argument for Weekly Communion

Many of us who practice weekly communion experience the immense joys and communal benefits of this practice. At the same time, I am aware that the vast majority of evangelicals–especially here in the South–view this practice with a certain skepticism rooted in romaphobia. Many modern evangelicals associate any order or structure with the Roman catholic pattern and worship. The reality, however, as I have demonstrated in many places (see brief exhortation as an example) is that weekly communion is a distinctly early church and Protestant practice.

Ryan Van Neste adds another argument for weekly communion when he writes:

Of course the longest discussion of the practice of the Lord’s Supper is in 1 Corinthians. Many issues can be raised here, but the fact that abuse of the Lord’s Supper was such a problem in Corinth strongly suggests the Supper was held frequently. Could it have been such a problem if it only occurred quarterly? Is this the sense that arises from the passage? Notice the wording of 1 Corinthians 11:20: “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat.” It is widely agreed that the terminology “come together” here is used as a technical term for gathering as the church. This wording suggests that when they gathered they ate a meal which they intended to be the Lord’s Supper.[1] Though they are abusing the Supper, their practice (which is not considered odd by Paul) is to celebrate each time they gather. Even the wording in 1 Corinthians 11:25, “As often as you drink,” which is often used to suggest frequency is unimportant, in context actually suggests frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Commenting on this verse, Gordon Fee notes, “This addition in particular implies a frequently repeated action, suggesting that from the beginning the Last Supper was for Christians not an annual Christian Passover, but a regularly repeated meal in ‘honor of the Lord,’ hence the Lord’s Supper.”

The argument is that if there is abuse of a particular practice in Corinth,  then there must be a frequency of the practice for the abuse to become common. Paul’s approach was not to lessen the practice, but to do it well and orderly. The Corinthian abuse of the Lord’s Table implies the frequency of the practice in the Church. Thus, Paul wishes to instruct the Corinthians that when they meet to eat and drink together, they are to celebrate their oneness in love and in good works.

Easter Sermon: The Empty Threat of Death, I Corinthians 15:1-11

People of God, this is the day of Resurrection! From this day to May 20th, we will celebrate the Easter Season. It is a remarkable pity that most evangelicals limit the Easter celebration to one Sunday. The reality is: this season goes all the way to Pentecost. When Jesus rises on the third day, he remains with his disciples until he ascends into the heavens. For the next few weeks we are going to explore the nature of the Resurrection. This day is not like any other day. The exalted and glorified Messiah no longer stands at the mercy of corrupt judges, but now He is the Judge of the world. N.T Wright summarizes well the preeminence of the resurrection:

Take Christmas away, and in biblical terms you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else. Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have Christianity; as Paul says, you are still in your sins.[1]

The resurrection is the proof that we do not live in Lent forever; that a life of glory, celebration, and hope is present here and now. We do not wait until death to experience joy; joy is ours in the resurrection of the Son of God.

I had the opportunity to have lunch with Pastor Mickey Schnider and his successor, Ben Rossell, a few days ago. Pastor Schnider invited our waiter for a sunrise service. The waiter became very defensive, and began to give us a glimpse of his world view. He told us that he is divorced; that he has to work day and night; that he sees his children only on the weekends, and that he believes that his faith is private, and as long as he does good to people, then he will be in heaven when he died. We encouraged him to come and visit, and find a message of hope in the church. But his reaction to our request gave us a distinct sense that he prefers his life as it is. After he left, we reflected, and concluded that this man is living as if Christ had not been raised from the dead. He is living in despair; hopeless. There is no empty tomb of relief in his future, but only death.

What Easter Sunday teaches us is that the gospel is more than an intellectual assent to the empty tomb, the gospel is transformative. It changes us; it is a message of hope to the sinner and the needy; the broken-hearted and the one who despairs.

On this holy day, and the next few weeks, I would like to draw our attention to Paul’s perspective of the resurrection. In previous years, we have seen the women’s perspective on the Easter narrative in the gospels, but today we will delve briefly into Paul’s resurrection magnum opus. And we are drawn immediately to that poetic and powerful chapter in I Corinthians 15.

Chapter 15 may appear to be an abrupt change of subject matter from the previous 14 chapters, but Paul is very purposeful. In essence, he is saying: “What is the use for any of these instructions? What is the use of discipline, what is the purpose for tongues in the church, of order and decency, community, love, and gifts if there is no resurrection?”

So, in 58 verses Paul answers that question. He answers it in three parts:[2]

In verses 1-11, he re-establishes their commonly held belief that Christ was raised from the dead. In verses 12-34 he answers two contradictory ideas: belief in Christ’s resurrection and a denial of their own. Paul says that if you believed Christ was raised from the dead, then you cannot deny the inevitability of your own resurrection at the end of history.  First the head is raised, that is Christ, and then the body, his chosen people.

Finally, in verses 35-58, Paul answers the question: “In what form are we raised?” Paul says our physical bodies are raised at the resurrection.

This Lord’s Day we will focus on the first 11 verses:

Paul begins with a reminder in verses one and two:

 Now I would remind you, brothers,of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

We know that the Corinthian Church is troubled in many levels. There is immorality and a vast abuse of the gifts given. The body is broken and fragmented; the saints have lost a sense of perseverance, and so Paul re-orients their attention. Paul is saying: “Let me tell you where the source of your faithfulness lies?” In chapter 14, Paul rebukes them for their ignorance. Now, he begins by reminding them of “the gospel he preached.” Paul wanted them to embrace and receive this gospel. The apostle says “this gospel is your salvation provided you hold fast to it.” The Corinthians are familiar with the Easter narrative. What Paul is telling the Corinthians is what has been said by Cephas, Apollos, and by others who had visited the Corinthian church.[3] “This is a message you can rely on,” says Paul.

He continues in verses 3-5:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ[4]died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

Paul is arguing that this is no novelty; that this message is rooted in something beyond his words. I Corinthians was written in the early 50’s, and Paul is saying that he is simply carrying this great message of hope that occurred only 20 years earlier. And that this is not simply a message among messages, but a message of first importance: “… that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” This truth was well formed before Paul came on the scene.[5] This is what he received and passed on. Some things needed clarification in the last twenty years: like the new relationship between Jew and Gentiles, or the dispute over circumcision, but the death of Christ and his resurrection, these are the basic elements of the faith.

Would you like proof of this? He appeared to Cephas, and then to the twelve. Paul is saying that Jesus appeared to the foundational characters. This is not hear-say, this is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by those who even doubted our Lord after his death, like Thomas.

But Paul also says that the events—the death and resurrection—had consequences for the entire world order. Notice that Paul does not say “Jesus died for our sins,” rather he says “Christ died for our sins.” Why is this important? It is important because Christos is the word for Messiah. This is very intentional. “Messiah” is a royal designation. When the prophets spoke of a coming Messiah they were making a statement of his worldwide kingly rule.[6] “It is because Jesus is Messiah that his death represents the turning point in history.” In his death, we are rescued from the present evil age; and in his resurrection, we are made new in a new creation; in a new world. The empty tomb is empty because the threats of death are empty threats. Continue reading Easter Sermon: The Empty Threat of Death, I Corinthians 15:1-11

Baptism, Spiritual Rock, and Wilderness Wanderings

Psalm 107 speaks of the many ways in which Israel suffered. Those sufferings had a greater purpose. As Israel meditated on their journey they would remember the many ways God has protected and provided. They were to give thanks to Yahweh (Ps. 107:2) for rescuing them from their hunger and thirst, but also–as Paul says in I Corinthians 10–for providing them a new baptism. God was preparing them to be a royal nation. Ultimately, as Augustine observes, God was preparing them to be baptized so that they might make an end to their enemies. Psalm 107 is a sacramental psalm. It is suffering for the sake of glory; thirst for the sake of living waters.

Thoughts on Women and Silence in I Corinthians 14:34-35

Sermon Excerpt

What are we then to make of this passage? I would like to make three observations, which are not exhaustive, but it will bring us closer to understanding Paul’s words in this letter.

First, Paul is making a qualified statement. He is not saying women should be silent at all times, because biblically there are circumstances in which women take a role of discipling in the body. We see an example in Acts, where Apollos, a very eloquent man, began teaching in the synagogue, but when Aquilla and Priscilla heard him, they both took him in their home and discipled him by explaining him the truth of God’s word. And Paul also says in Titus 2 that older women have a responsibility to teach younger women through the Word how to live wisely in and outside the home. So, we can conclude that Paul is not making a universal statement, but a qualified statement.

Second, remember that Paul’s context is the gathered community; it is the worship service. Paul is referring to the teaching, speaking, instructing part of the service. We could say that this is the consecration part of the service when God’s people hear the word of Yahweh explained and taught. It is very possible that some women in Corinth are seeking to usurp the authority that rightly belongs to ordained men. They are continually debating and confronting the leaders of the church. This is what Paul has in mind. Paul is not silencing women who are seeking information by asking questions, for instance in a Sunday school class; he is exhorting women who are attempting to take over the teaching and instructing responsibility in the worship service, which rightly belongs only to men.

Third, Paul concludes that if a woman desires to learn she must ask her husband at home. Now this goes both ways. Paul assumes that husbands have something to offer. Imagine if husbands today were well equipped theologically to teach their wives and to bring them into maturity? This is hardly the case in our culture. In fact, churches throughout the world are populated with women while husbands remain in a state of biblical infancy. Women have become the de facto spiritual leader in the home. This is the opposite of what God intends for the home. Biblically, the woman is the glory of the man. It is the husband’s duty is to equip his wife, so she becomes even more glorious. On the other hand, this also implies that women desire to learn biblical truth. Sisters, God desires that you grow in biblical wisdom. You are called to grow in knowledge. You are co-heir of grace just as your brothers. Do not be satisfied with milk, but pursue the meat of the word. Imagine a home where husbands lead and teach their wives; where there is mutual learning; one edifying the other by teaching and one being edified by learning. This is Paul’s point in this text.

A Sign for the Unbelieving Jews

In Isaiah 28 God says that He will bring foreign tongues to speak in Israel “as a judgment to wake up his people and turn them from their sins.”The context of Isaiah’s prophecy is about the coming invasion of Israel and Jerusalem by the Babylonians. So what does Paul do? He takes that scene in Isaiah and applies it to his day. He calls tongues a sign for unbelieving Jews just as Isaiah did in his own day.

Corinthian Misunderstanding

The Corinthians do not understand that the world before them is changing. Something radical and cosmic is beginning to take place in their midst. And because of this misunderstanding, they are not living as they ought. Paul’s instruction is a charge to live a New Creation Life. If Christ is bringing a New Creation, you must now conform and harmonize your lives to this New Creation.

Music and Paul

I Corinthians 14 ties some significant themes together. It ties musical instruments with battle; Singing with the mind; Amens with Thanksgiving, etc.; all under Paul’s central theme of intelligibility. Hence, music is intelligible, corporate, joyful, and a call to battle. In short,  music is intelligible warfare.