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Reflections from Scripture_ 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 7:1-5 “HOW CAN WE HONOR ONE ANOTHER IN THE MARRIAGE UNION?”

1-corinthians

CHAPTER 7:1-5 HOW CAN WE HONOR ONE ANOTHER IN THE MARRIAGE UNION?

            In chapter 7 Paul continues the theme of believers walking uprightly in our relationships.  Because of Christ’s atonement (i.e., his sacrificial substitutionary death on the cross and his resurrection for those who trust in him), God is glorified in our bodies but how is that accomplished.  Here it focuses on the marriage union between a man and a woman.  Pail writes:

“Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise, also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.(1 Cor.7:1-5)

Let’s make several observations.  First, it’s good to be single.  Apparently, someone had previously written to Paul from Corinth concerning the state of the church and wrote: “…it is good for a man not to touch a woman.”  Here, he can’t mean that there is to be no physical contact because he would be contradicting his command elsewhere to greet one another with a holy kiss.

Contextually, this has to do with sexual intercourse as the following verses unfold.  What’s “good” about a man not touching a woman?  It seems he’s referring to the virtue of being unmarried for the purpose of glorifying God and being about the business of the kingdom as the rest of the chapter depicts.  That is, singleness in the church is not to be frowned upon, but rather appreciated and lauded.

As the self-existent One, who is the source of all life, the virtue of goodness is necessarily based on God’s ontological status (i.e., the divine nature in all its perfections shared by each member of the trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit) and thus the Creator rather than the creature determines what is good.  Here, to be single is good, but immorality is not and thus a real problem.  Thus, Paul offers a “game changer”, as we say.

Second, it’s good to be married.  While singleness is a good thing, it’s not if immorality is a struggle, thus, marriage is the good option Paul commands:  But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.  The clause, “But because of immoralities” calls attention to sexual sin contextually (6:12-20) and offers the solution “each man is to have his own wife and likewise also the wife to her husband”.  There are several observations that can be noted.

First, each man is to be devoted to the one woman he has entered into covenant with and not another wife.  Second, that being the case, the singular term “wife” not wives, supports monogamy, not polygamy. Third, this is a safeguard for those longing to sexually express themselves within the context of a one flesh union between a man and a woman.  Fourth, this contradicts the in-vogue notion of “same-sex marriage” that many in Western civilization have embraced.  Fifth, the same holds true for women.  Sixth, both male and female have a bent to immorality, both are culpable before Gods’ court of justice, and both are graciously given a solution—marriage.  Now in this covenant relationship there are duties given for flourishing to obtain.

Third, duties obtain for both man and woman.  Paul continues his thought and describes the duties both husband and wife are to fulfill toward each another.  When Paul says; v-3 “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband” he makes abundantly clear that they equally share the responsibility to make the marriage union flourish.

First, Paul grounds his command of duty/fulfillment on the idea and reality that “authority” over the other’s body is a non-negotiable.  What does authority here mean?  On the surface, biblically when one has authority over another they possess the power to command persons (and affect them) to live a certain way, to do certain things.  This attribute of authority again is grounded in God’s being—one way image bearers express the Creators presence, objective reality and His existence.

Second, Paul is sounding the alarm when he states in v-4:  “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” 

The alarm here is that both husband and wife belong to each other, they are distinct persons, but have a one flesh union which forever changes how they are to live.  It seems clear that they are not “free” to make autonomous sexual decisions, but instead are to always submit to the desires of each other within God’s design for sexuality (which clearly exclude bestiality, homosexuality, heterosexual adultery, etc.), but not as clearly when it deals with oral copulation.

When we consider a text that does not give us specifics (e.g., Paul here does not specify what I brought up), a wise approach to get at the meaning of a biblical text, is to consider the entirety of what Scripture teaches (on a given topic) deal first with the clearest texts and then proceed to the more obscure texts.  By this approach, the obscurity, while not completely removed, does have more light shed on it by the clearer passages in scripture.  After Paul describes both duties and authority, he commands both husband and wife to obey.

Fourth, husbands and wives are commanded to stop sinning against each other.  Paul gives a prohibition because then like today, husbands and wives were sinning against each other by depriving each other of sexual intimacy v-5; “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

To deprive means to withhold something good possessed by one for the benefit of another—the covenant spouse here.  That is, if one spouse desires sexual relations the other is to concede.  Only by mutual agreement is the married couple to withhold sexual relations.

This opens up a “can of worms” that’s filled with pain, manipulation, and abuse which reveals our brokenness as people.  Nevertheless, we must understand that what fuels this command is love for God and Christ Jesus (though imperfectly expressed) in the marriage union between a man and a woman.

Men often don’t walk in a loving manner toward their wives and wives accordingly to their husbands.  The reason for such turmoil is the real distinctions between men and women.  The lack of appreciation and understanding of these distinctions has from Adam and Eve unto today been a real problem.   That is, according to God’s design, a man’s greatest need is to be respected, while a woman’s supreme need is to be loved.  And while the needs are distinct, both spouses are commanded to honor one another.

The prohibition to “stop depriving one another” means that if that’s presently the case, it is to cease in the present.  Yet, if mutual consent to withhold obtains, it’s for a very practical purpose; “so that you may devote yourselves to prayer”.  Could it be that Paul is commanding the spouses to entreat God with the same passion with which they sexually pleasure each other?  I don’t see why not, but this activity of intimacy between spouse and God has a “time” or “duration” of activity not specified.

There’s a time for everything under heaven Solomon wrote and here Paul is saying to married couples, “there’s a time for sex and a time to refrain in order to pray”.  Whatever the duration here, the key is that there’s agreement.  So, there’s a time for sex and a time for prayer, but he does not end it there.

Paul finishes the command and provides the reason for it: “and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control”.  Both spouses are addressed because when marriages fail and adultery occurs there’s usually culpability from both parties.  Paul is alluding to the practical need for sexual relations to continue when he says, “come together again” for the purpose of denuding satanic temptation to commit adultery.

The reason for the command is because there’s a lack of self-control, thus the loving act for the spouses to do is to sexually fulfill each other (however imperfectly it may be done).  Obedience here is the path of holiness to the LORD which is our highest good and joy.

These verses unfold the gravity of marriage and their reflection of God’s love and care for His people.  Elsewhere Paul explains that marriage is the mystery unveiled of Christ and His union with the Church (Eph.5).

We live in a time where “sexual liberation” is lauded in a way that actually dishonors God and thus dishonors human beings.  Sexuality expressed according to God’s design is magnificent, when it goes awry, while for a time may be exhilarating, will in the end be another means for human destruction.  God have mercy on our souls and bodies.

(SDG)

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Welcome to Answers To Tough Questions

ANSWERS TO TOUGH QUESTIONS (ATTQ) orbits around and is stirred by the great commandment (Mathew 22: 34-36) and the great commission (Mathew 28:18-20).  It’s these twin pillars which have birthed my vision.  Answers to Tough Questions exists to strengthen and come alongside the local Christian church in its mission to make disciples of the nations.  This is accomplished in the following ways: Through Seminars, Preaching engagements, Theology courses, Apologetics courses, Ethics courses, Comparative Religion courses, and online resources which focus on: apologetics, theology, philosophy, and culture.

I’m often asked why I focus on these areas.  Here are the following reasons: Apologetics strengthens the Christians’ ability to evangelize winsomely and boldly. Theology strengthens the Believers’ capacity to grasp the Bible’s core ideas. Philosophy strengthens the Disciples’ facility to think critically. Culture challenges Christ’s Followers to live authentically in its milieu. I’m glad you have stopped by.  Take some time to look around the site and the resources that are available to you and your church.  Please let me know how I can serve you.

Reflections from 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 8:1-3_ COMMUNITY, KNOWLEDGE & REAL LOVE ARE BASED ON GOD AS CREATOR AND REDEEMER PART 1

CHAPTER 8:1-3_ COMMUNITY, KNOWLEDGE & REAL LOVE ARE BASED ON GOD AS CREATOR AND REDEEMER PART 1

            Paul continues his instruction to the church in how they are to live in community through the knowledge of God constrained by His love.  Knowledge is a key theme in this letter and in chapter eight Paul uses it or a derivative of it eleven times.  Up to this point in 1 Corinthians, he uses the term in three distinct ways.

            First, there’s a knowledge that we ought to have: “do you not know that we will judge angels…?” Second, there’s a knowledge that we can’t have: “or how do you know wife whether you will save your husband?”        Third, there’s the knowledge that we do have: “we know that all have knowledge.”  The object of this knowledge (the third way we know) is first our knowledge of God and secondly our knowledge of the creature which instructs us how we are to live communally as we submit to Christ and his word so that real human flourishing occurs.  This is easier said, then done.                 It seems that in this chapter, the quality of knowledge unfolds in the interplay of the subject/object relationships.  Paul begins with:

“Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.”

The Corinthians were real believers whose lifestyle contradicted the Gospel.  This was dangerous and that’s why the apostle wrote to them.  They were known for not coming behind in any gift but also for their arrogance and pride which forfeited God’s love and thus tore down the people for which Christ Jesus died.

            Devotion to Christ as Paul reveals is fleshed out in the community setting where iron sharpens iron through God’s providential design of diversity expressed through each member of the church.  The purpose for this is vibrant human flourishing as each one contributes to the good of the other.

            Here we have an example of how “not to” wield our knowledge of God so that the weaker member of the church may be raised to new heights of holiness and not razed to sin.

(v.1) Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies

The focus is on worship, “things sacrificed to idols…” who Paul and the Corinthians know are false.  The apostle admits that knowledge is real, but if applied arrogantly rather than moved by love, it becomes self-serving to exalt the knower at the expense of the encouragement of another.

            Paul is not belittling knowledge, but he is mocking knowledge that’s not wielded as Jesus modeled.  This is a major issue in our relationships.  The maxim, “people don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care” should give us pause when we are in any setting.

If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know

            Paul seems to be saying that if God’s love is not the engine driving our dissemination of God’s knowledge, then that knowledge is immoral, sinful and weak.  The reason for this understanding is tied to verse three

            but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.

            When Paul says, “but if anyone loves God…” he is pointing out the difference between perceived knowledge and actual knowledge.  The former is based on subjective feeling, the latter is grounded on objective evidence.  To be known by God (synonymous with new birth, redemption, being “born-again”) precedes our loving God (evidence of new birth, redemption, being “born again”).

            This love and it’s authenticity expresses itself in humble submission to God’s revealed will (Scripture) which causes us to gladly lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters, rather than being self-absorbed with our knowledge.  The test for Christian authenticity is the love Jesus modeled and succinctly expresses in John 13:

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

            Paul is saying the same thing Jesus said.  That if our knowledge of God is real, then it will be authenticated/evidenced in how we imitate Jesus’ love when we relate to our Christian brothers and sisters.  This knowledge is not a perceived knowledge, but an actual knowledge seen in communal living.  (SDG)

Reflections From 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 7:25-31 MARRIAGE, SINGLENESS, & DEVOTION TO CHRIST: CONCERNING VIRGINS Part 4

CHAPTER 7:25-31 MARRIAGE, SINGLENESS, & DEVOTION TO CHRIST: CONCERNING VIRGINS Part 4

Paul in the previous section exhorted believers to find their rest in Christ because of his call on their lives, because of the rescue from God’s wrath. And now that we are the people of God, it is that which defines us, not physical and emotional pain which one day God will eradicate. 

Paul now addresses virgins.  He starts again with the theme of whether or not Christ had previously spoken on the topic and says:    

25 Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy.  

Paul here addresses virgins.  He begins by saying, “I have no command of the Lord” meaning that Christ has not previously spoken on the subject (compare verse 10), but now Paul is giving apostolic insight into the matter and says:

26 I think then that this is good in view of the present distress,

What is he saying here?  What’s the present distress?  We are not certain but we know that he is speaking through the Spirit of God and says: “that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 

27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 

Now this is a difficult passage to accept especially in our culture where a person’s happiness does not take into consideration the good of another nor their honor in the pursuit of personal fulfillment.

            Paul is saying, if you are married “bound”, don’t look for a divorce “released”.   If you are divorced “released”, don’t look for another to get married. 

28 But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you. 

This verse contextually refers to the earlier stipulations in the chapter for divorce and remarriage that Paul addresses.  The apostle’s pastoral concern for the Corinthians well-being is captured by “I am trying to spare you” referring to marriage (which is good but has very challenging aspects to it).

            Paul continues his address with the theme of time and the form of this world (v.29) which is very brief and is passing away.  That is, what we value now in some measure is not what awaits us in the future like “marriage” or “sex” (vv.30-31).  It seems that Paul is wanting to encourage undistracted devotion to Christ regardless of our social status (vv.32-35).  Undistracted devotion, that’s a massive issue today where distractions are not only ubiquitous but lethal and Americans are drowning in it (me included).

            Paul is pointing believers to joy in Christ in ways that are unimaginable to many of us because the kingdom of God is a hazy concept.  He ends the chapter again by giving the boundaries of when one can marry: only after the spouse is dead and only with another believer (vv.36-40).

Personal Conclusion:  the thoughts expressed by Paul are difficult for many believers to bear and are often ignored precisely because we don’t trust that God knows best and actually is out for completing our joy in Him.

            What will we believers do when difficult sayings like those covered in this chapter challenge our devotion to Christ?  May our disposition be as Mary’s was, “Behold the bond servant of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk.1:38).  To follow Christ in this life means that his word has final place in our decisions, attitudes and lifestyles. 

Lord, there are many difficult issues Paul addresses in this chapter, and we trust they are for our good because only you do all things well.  Grant to us a willing heart to follow you regardless of our lot in life (short as it may be) so that when it’s all been said and done we can with one voice say, “To God be the glory great things he has done” (SDG)

Reflections from 1 Corinthian CHAPTER 7:17-24 MARRIAGE, SINGLENESS, & DEVOTION TO CHRIST: CONCERNING THE FREE AND THE SLAVE Part 3

CHAPTER 7:17-24 MARRIAGE, SINGLENESS, & DEVOTION TO CHRIST: CONCERNING THE FREE AND THE SLAVE Part 3

            Paul in the previous section encourages the Corinthians to cling to Christ regardless if they are single, married or divorced.  Now, he turns to the theme of being “called” which is a massive theological concept in the Bible:

17 Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches.

This text is intriguing and multilayered. Paul here points out that the status in life one occupies is ultimately God’s doing, not theirs.  For the believer, the all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good Creator uses hardships to make us more like Christ Jesus the master.

            How often have we been embittered because we are either: single, married, separated, divorced or widowed?  These relationships can be sources of ecstatic joy or valleys of unbearable pain.  In this crucible believers are to remember their lot in life (Ps.16) is God’s doing and that He is accomplishing His good pleasure.  Thus, Paul starts enumerating the diverse situations in which the Corinthian’s were saved by grace: 

18 Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. 20 Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.

            The term “called” points to the rich history of God’s activity in human affairs.  It is principally “word” saturated where God’s pleasure is revealed through saving rebellious souls from His wrath (e.g., the call of Abraham and his descendants) and bringing them into a covenant relationship.  Here, God, not the creature, initiates and provides the necessary means for said relationship to be realized. 

            We really are not alone for behind the activities of man and their progeny neither, fate, chance nor luck obtain, but rather the self-existent God, the author of life is writing our particular stories in ways beyond our understanding.  This process does not eliminate the significance of our choices, but adds to the tension of grasping how a Sovereign God operates His divine hidden will through the activities of sinful human beings without doing anything evil.  This is a puzzle and Paul brings it up.

            The apostle asks if one was a Jew or a Gentile when they were regenerated, converted, saved.  Regardless, one is not to try to make a cultural or situational switch (whether Jew or Gentile) but one is to be consumed with God’s eternal holy word.  The word of God is to govern how we believers live in this present evil age because it comes from He who upholds all things through the power of His word.               

            It’s that word or “commandment” that’s to govern our lives in this present evil age because it’s our life—it’s God breathed, it’s the source of all power and the means through which all things were created (Heb.1:1-3).  We creatures ultimately come to trust either God’s words or man’s words.

            When God said, “Let there be light” it obeyed-He spoke into existence what previously did not obtain (Gen.1).  When God said to our dead souls, “come forth” as Jesus did to Lazarus from the tomb, we like him rose from the dead (i.e., we were saved, we were regenerated, we were justified).  It’s by God’s eternal word that His enemies are rescued from wrath (Eph.2:1-10), become sons and daughters and are sanctified to become more like Jesus (Rom.8:28-29).

            So now that we belong to Christ Jesus because of our calling, we are to live a certain way.  There’s a caveat on the term “called” I want to point out:  it’s used in contexts where heathens are rescued from God’s wrath (e.g., Abraham’s calling), where prophets are called to give God’s law (e.g., Moses calling) or kings are called to lead God’s people (e.g., King David).  In Corinthians, people are “called” to salvation, to service (i.e., through their gifts 1 Cor. 12-14) and also in their social status.  Paul says:

21 Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. 22 For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave.23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.

To reiterate the term “called” in this context seems clearest to be a person that’s born-again, regenerated, one who is God’s friend, no longer His enemy.  Those called have had their greatest need abundantly met—in Christ Jesus (the last Adam) the second person of the Triune Godhead the “called” are part of God’s family no longer under wrath, but under grace.

            So, Paul continues and addresses those who have been saved and starts with the “slave”.  While much can, has, and will continue to be said about slavery and its nuanced contexts of injustice, cruelty, and final eradication in Christ, the following should be noted:

First, men actually don’t own anything; God owns it all by virtue of being Creator and sustainer of all that exists.  Second, mankind is actually the steward of God’s good creation and accountable to Him on how they use it.  Third, when man enslaves another image bearer it reveals a thirst and hunger for power and dominion that alone belongs to God and is not ultimately sanctioned by Yahweh.

Fourth, in the ancient world, depending on the circumstances, a slave could either be in charge of a nation’s wealth (e.g., Joseph over Egypt), be enslaved by another nation (e.g., Israel enslaved by Egypt), be enslaved to a creditor where children and wives were sold off at auction never again to be reunited.  Slavery came into the world as a result of Adam’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden and has been a heinous reality ever since where the strong over power the weaker person, clan, tribe or nation.          So, whether one is in a favorable or horrific situation as a slave, Paul is reminding the Corinthian’s that if God “rescued you” (i.e., called you) from His wrath into His favor, then don’t worry about your temporary position as a slave.  Imagine the anxiety many of these slaves daily endured and Paul says don’t worry?  Is he being heartless? No, Paul continues:

“but if you are able to become free, rather do that”

Paul knows it’s better to be a freed man than to be “owned” by another.  In fact, he uses the word “but” to emphasize the “better-ness” of being freed.  He now provides the reason:

22 For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave.23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men 24 Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.”

Paul is accentuating several truths here:

First, bondage which results from our rebellion against God, Christ has come to liberate the captives.  The slave to men, is now the freedman in Christ, the freedman, is now the slave of Christ. 

Second, the same master that frees us enslaves us.  Christ frees us from darkness and evil and enslaves us to his goodness, beauty and truth.  Believers are in fact “bound to Christ”.

Third, both free and slave (a temporary condition) are now ransomed by the substitutionary sacrifice of Calvary’s cross (an eternal abode) where the greatest injustice in human history (crucifying the sinless Son of God) was the means to free those enslaved to death.

Fourth, because Christ bought believers out of the slave market, we are no longer to be slaves of men.  Contextually, Paul seems to be saying:

Christian, you need to be viewing reality through the lens of Christ’s calling via Calvary’s tree.  Because Christ has freed you from God’s wrath, your fortunes have been reversed, your greatest need has been met, thus peace not anxiety is your lot in life.  Being free is better than being a slave, therefore don’t become slaves of men.

But how do we become slaves of men?  I think it’s when we view and live life contra God’s design.  This is a grave matter.  A reality with which married, single, divorced, widowed, freed and enslaved have to come to terms.  Our condition on this side of eternity is temporal however difficult it may be.  Paul wants believers to see Christ as the treasure and joy in life that has no rival, because in reality, that is true. 

The grass really is never greener on the other side, but we think it is.  Paul is exhorting believers to rest in Christ when they are suffering physical and emotional pain.

Chapter Summaries of: “Archaeology & The Old Testament” by Alfred J. Hoerth

I. Introduction [Pp.13-16]

CHAPTER 1: ARCHAEOLOGY: WHAT IT IS, WHAT IT DOES, WHAT IT DOES NOT DO [pp.13-30]

A DEFINITION THAT EMBRACES PREHISTORIC AND HISTORIC TIMES

Like anything thing else in life, coming to terms with any given subject is the doorway to intelligible discourse.  So, what is archaeology?

 Archaeology is a science or art—or both—which is concerned with the material remains of man’s past. There are two aspects to the archaeologist’s concern.  The first of these is the discovery and reclamation of the ancient remains; this usually involves field excavation or at least surface collecting. 

The second concern is the analysis, interpretation and publication of the findings. [p.14]

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS

An Archaeologist Is not a Geologist: while he knows little about rocks, they are of interest to him when the information in the “rocks” reveal some aspect of an ancient civilization (e.g., regional trade activities)

An Archaeologist Is not a Paleontologist: few archaeologists are trained in fossils, while there are those who know how to recognize bones relative to skeletal human remains.

An Archaeologist Has Geographical Borders:  the fact remains that one has a limited time frame to specialize in a certain part of the globe and the choosing of pre-historic or historic archaeology must be made.

Archaeology is peculiar to Christianity—namely that the biblical issues are foremost in archaeological studies.    [p.15]

An Archaeologist is a historian who is not limited to the written word, but goes beyond and literally digs out remains of ancient peoples.  Through a synthesis of this additional data with the written word, they provide a fuller history of ancient culture than is possible from written sources alone. [p.16]

BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY ILLUMINATES [Pgs.16-18]

The value of archaeology to the understanding of biblical knowledge is how it illumines the various ways cultures, and historical settings of the Bible obtain.

Aids in translation and exegesis and it aids in understanding people, places, things, and events in the Bible.

BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY CONFIRMATION [Pgs.18-21]

Some people mistakenly use archaeology to prove, confirm, or authenticate the Bible.  While archaeology has served Christianity well by taming it’s Liberal Critics, many Conservative Christians have misappropriated the data much to their own detriment [p.18-19]. 

Halley’s Bible Handbook commits this authentication fallacy because it often uses old and erroneous evidences.  A good rule of thumb is never to assume too much

While Archaeology can demonstrate that Solomon was the king of Israel, it does not then follow, that said discipline can prove he was the wisest man to ever have walked the earth.    Again, archaeology can prove that there was a census when Jesus was born but it does not then follow that Jesus was divine from these proofs. 

THE STONES AND THE SCRIPTURES [Pgs.21-22]

The book “The Stones and the Scriptures” put skeptics at bay as author Edwin Yamauchi summarized the relationship of archaeology to the Bible and shows how archaeology has tempered biblical skeptics. Too often he argues, the persistent skepticism is not justified.

Some hold that unless there’s outside confirmation of a Biblical person, it ought not be believed.  Yamauchi basically says that approach is a mistake because what can be known about the past from archaeology is a fraction, of a fraction, of a fraction.

Moreover, he asserts that despite the odds, biblical historicity is supported via archaeology.  The interlocking difficulties that have not yet been so resolved do not alter the overall support of biblical historicity or archaeology.

THE SCIENCE OF ARCHAEOLOGY [Pgs.22-30]

In the near east, the traveler is immediately aware that ancient ruins are all over the place.  These ancient cities in the Near East are called khirbets or tel(l)s.  This is an ancient cite in which some of the ruins remain visible.

Many tells resemble natural hills or low mesas, and in the nineteenth century this clandestine fact became apparent.  The pre-Greeks of Palestine usually settled atop a natural hill.

Excavating an ancient cite is no easy task.  First one must choose a cite (contingent upon the interests of the archaeologist).  To excavate an ancient cite permission must first be granted by the officials in power.  A Modern staff of archaeologists requires many trained specialists (a team is necessary) such as; Photographers, paleontologists, Geologists, botanists, recorders, who also need adequate funding.

Dwellings (tents are common).  Most tells are too large to entirely excavate so the team must only choose a section to dig.  Before digging, a field architect actually draws out a grid system from which to execute the digging.

When digging, an archaeologist actually isolates strata.  A Stratum is a floor level occupation surface together with walls and debris above and below which belong to it in time.

Archaeology is both science and art and is demonstrated as the archaeologist follows the clues that allow accurate separation of occupation.

Today, most archaeologist’s use the baulk method of excavating which gives the cite a checkerboard appearance.

The archaeologist finds artifacts from the past and must determine from what period they come.  Great care must be taken when excavating for much of the past uncovered is destroyed in the process.  If properly done, a piece of human heritage has been recovered and preserved.

Reflections from 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 7:12-16 “MARRIAGE, SINGLENESS, & DEVOTION TO CHRIST: CONCERNING MARRIAGE TO AN UNBELIEVER” Part 2

            Paul now addresses the spouse married to an unbeliever.  The married are to remain married but if there’s desertion or divorce they are to remain as they are and not cling to another.  To the unmarried, they are to remain single, but if they lack self-control, they are to marry.  To the married who are with an unbelieving spouse Paul says:

12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away.

For Paul, when one spouse converts to Christ it’s their duty to stay together and not divorce because of conversion so long as the spouse consents to live together.  This issue was difficult then and remains unto today.  Emotions run high, words are spoken, insults are unleashed, and at times physical abuse occurs.  This can be a difficulty and tricky situation to navigate but there’s a reason for the command:

14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.

Puzzling as it may be, here’s my best shot at getting the point.  Biblically one is not redeemed because of another’s trust in the living God.  For personal repentance is required of each one to be rescued from God’s wrath. 

Second, the allusion to “unclean” and “holy” are OT themes where being set apart is a sign that one is part of the covenant community and thus males were to be circumcised, the people were to eat kosher foods, etc. 

Third, taking part of said activities were signs one was part of the covenant community but did not guarantee one was part of the remnant (i.e., real regenerated believers in heart evidenced by their obedience to Yahweh).  That is, not all Israel was saved evidenced by their recalcitrant lives and while their lineage is Jewish not all were sons of Abraham (i.e., not all had the faith of Abraham).

Fourth, as it was then, so it is today where people partake of the covenant community’s activities but remain unbelievers.  So, what does Paul mean by “unclean and holy”?  Perhaps being around the believing community does offer an opportunity for genuine faith to arise in both spouse and children.  Again, even if they don’ have genuine saving faith, the Christian theist’s worldview has an impact on them that aids mirroring the image of God and somehow they are “clean and holy”

This text is tough to decipher, nevertheless when a text in Scripture is puzzling, the wise way to proceed is to use what is clearest in Scripture to deal with and try to understand the more difficult passages.  Paul continues:

15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. 16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

Paul notes several things here.  First, the previous verses on “clean and holy” can’t mean someone is in the covenant family because he addresses the issue of “saving” one’s spouse.  Personal repentance and faith is a necessary condition for salvation, thus one can’t be “saved” on another’s faith in Christ (e.g., your parents faith).

            Second, Paul wants believers to understand that in this present evil age, believers married to non-believers will at times experience desertion or divorce.

            Third, sometimes spouses believe that if they persevere in the marriage they will be able to save their spouse via example, but Paul reminds them that this is never a guarantee.  It may happen, but it may not.

            Fourth, the bondage that such a believer may experience is not what God has designed for them but instead His peace.  What could this mean?  Minimally, once we were God’s enemies but now are his friends because of Christ, wrath is no longer ours to bear.  This peace is to be mirrored in our relationships.  He’s saying, “If they want to leave, let them go and cling to Christ”.

Reflections from 1 Corinthians 7: 6-11 MARRIAGE, SINGLENESS, & DEVOTION TO CHRIST Part 1

            Paul continues to develop his thought on marriage and singleness and considers: whether one is married to an unbelieving spouse or not, whether one came to Christ from Jewish or Gentile roots, whether they are redeemed being a slave or a freedman, whether they are a virgin or not.  Furthermore, he considers when one is permitted to remarry and by implication when remarriage is prohibited.

            Whatever state in life the believer finds themselves in, they are to primarily concern themselves with pleasing the Lord.  Paul aims to encourage Christians to let the eternal kingdom of God be the governing factor in their lives instead of the temporal situations in which they find themselves.  He starts off by saying:

But this I say by way of concession, not of command.”   

What’s the difference between these two terms?  A concession is permission to do something, or being allowed to act a certain way (L&N §13.141), whereas a command here does not infer the giving of detailed instruction but of having the right and authority to command subjects to obedience (L&N § 37.42).  Paul is making it clear that if what he refers to (the forthcoming concession), the Corinthian believers do not obey, they are not violating God’s decree which the apostles have been distinctly charged to dispense as Christ’s authoritative ambassadors. 

Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.”    

The term “wish” is a way of describing desire which is a state of affairs that does not necessarily exist, one which may even be impossible, but nevertheless it is felt.  When Paul says, “I wish that all men were even as I myself am”, I don’t think he is referring to his apostleship, nor to his character traits, but to him being unmarried where his devotion to Christ is less distracted.

Paul reveals that he is not married (we are not sure if he was married, a widower, abandoned by his spouse because of his conversion to Christ, etc.) and desires that the Corinthian church not only be single but also self-controlled. 

It is not unreasonable to think that Paul was previously married and abandoned because of his conversion to Christ Jesus.  Being a Hebrew of Hebrews, zealous for the Jewish traditions unlike any of his contemporaries, he would have been an amazing “catch” in that culture, the pride of family, wife and nation.  Yet this monotheistic zealot was converted on that appointed day and his world was turned “up-side down”.

If that was the case and more, then may the weightiness of his words not escape us where elsewhere he declares, “I have counted all things as rubbish for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ…”, “to live is Christ and to die is gain…” etc.  Paul’s supreme treasure above all else was truly Christ; above status, possessions and human relationships.

This is who is speaking and we do well to carefully consider what he is saying and what he means.  Thus, while Paul discloses his personal desire, he understands that not everyone is like him because God (the infinite self-existent one and source of all life) gifts us all with varying talents and abilities.  He now addresses the unmarried and widows:

But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.  But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion

Note that in verse 1 Paul affirms that “it is good for a man not to touch a woman” (i.e., not commit sexual immorality), and uses the same phrase “it is good” for the unmarried to remain single.  Paul is not disparaging marriage but rather accentuating something that seems to be counter-intuitive—in an age of sexual immorality, if you are a single believer, then stay single. 

While it’s good to abstain from fornication and adultery God has nevertheless given the human race sexual desire that longs to express itself.  Is Paul encouraging abstinence at all costs?  No.        

While it is good to remain single, if there’s a lack of self-control, Paul says get married.  It’s better than burning in passions and falling into sexual expression that is outside the confines of marriage.  Now Paul addresses those married:

10 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband 11 (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

Several items stand out here.  First, Paul makes a distinction between the Lords instruction and his.  This could be understood to mean that the former is to be obeyed, and the latter can be dismissed.  The problem with that interpretation is that Paul is clearly God’s called apostle, his authoritative spokesman in a way the rest of us are not.  So, to think that Paul’s views are a “take it or leave it” proposition does not logically fit.

            Second, one could see verse 6 linked to this where Paul distinguished between a command and a concession, between what must be obeyed and what may be obeyed.  The problem though is that the Lord’s instructions, as Paul’s instructions, come with authoritative force which a concession does not possess. 

            Third, many understand this distinction between the Lord and Paul to mean that Jesus himself previously addresses the issue and thus taught on it (e.g., Mt.5:32; 19:3-9; Lk.16:18, etc.) and thus Paul gives the Master’s instructions on said topic.  Yet, when the Lord Jesus does not give instruction on a particular topic Paul says, “I not the Lord”. 
That is, the distinction is not one of authority but one of subject.  This third option seems to make the best sense. 

Moving on Paul discourages the immoral act of abandoning one’s husband, and the husband is also commanded not to divorce his own wife.  Both husband and wife are in a position to act immorally by severing the union and both are in a position to honor Christ in their marital union.

Marriage is an amazing gift that like others requires maintenance, care, nurture and sometimes restoration. When the required care and understanding (here time must be invested) are not practiced, like a car needing an oil change before the engine blows, so too the marriage union when it’s neglected the immorality of desertion and divorce seem to follow.   

So, whether we find ourselves, single, widowed, married, or in a troubled union, God calls us Christians to honor Christ Jesus, our faithful savior and redeemer.  Lord, in our weakness show the sufficiency of your strength as you continue the work began in us by the Holy Spirit.  (SDG)   

Reflection From 1 Corinthians 7: PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS ON MARRIAGE & SINGLENESS AS EXPRESSIONS OF LOVE FOR CHRIST

1-corinthians 

            Paul continues his instruction to the called saints who are in the world but not of it.  In chapter 5 the apostle tackles the issue of immorality caused by the Corinthians’ pride and warns of God’s looming judgment as the impetus for repentance.

In chapter 6 Paul continues to address the believers’ immorality and resultant ineptness to wisely judge among themselves when being defrauded by another professing Christian.  He then points to Christ’s atonement as the basis for believers to humble themselves before God and each other.  It’s humility that safeguards God’s people from sexual immorality which is for their, not harm.

In chapter 7 Paul addresses the aspects of marriage, singleness, divorce, separation and remarriage.  These were massive issues then as they are today.  These issues are emotionally charged, often difficult to grapple with, because what can be a joyous relationship too often becomes a miserable existence for image bearers.  Our brokenness has not served us well.

The sexual tension that both married and single experience has not changed and the views in said realities either reflect Gods’ design or rejects it.    Since this letter is for believers and how they are to conduct their lives before the consummation, it’s critical to heed Paul’s teaching (Christ’s authoritative spokesman), and if non-believers mock and contradict what Scripture teaches, God will deal with them.

In the church the sexual confusion over male/female distinctions has adversely impacted our marriages resulting in the divorce of many couples.  Much of this is because God’s people make a habit of ignoring their inheritance—the Word of life, the Scriptures, which bring light to our darkened minds and restoration to our broken dispositions.   Too often (in the name of love) believers unwittingly imbibe a Godless worldview in order to be “relevant” to the culture.  Ironically, the Christian is most relevant when the word of life is spoken and practiced before the watching world not ignored.

In what follows, Paul is going to challenge 21st century believers with what it means to be loving, what it means to be salt and light, what it means to be presently relevant by lauding God’s truth not lies (because we love Christ) in the context of our most cherished relationships.

(SDG)

Considering a Few Who Have Shaped the Church’s Thought: PATRISTIC & MEDIEVAL PERIOD / REFORMATION & MODERN PERIOD

Theological Book Summaries

The writer to the Hebrews wrote: “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” Hebrews 13:7. Too often Christians find themselves imitating the faith of those who actually do not speak the word of God to them in truth. Instead, they listen to teachers who proclaim what their itching ears want to hear to their utter destruction. One way to guard against that is to consider how believers through the centuries understood the Gospel, and treasured Christ as they lived out its implications.

There are two cautions, two extremes, I think are critical to consider if we are to love God with our minds and hearts. First, we must guard against thinking that because something is old (pick a number) it’s irrelevant in the present and for our future. Second, we must guard against thinking that because something is new it’s relevant for the present and future. Both extremes are foolish, irrational, clothed in hubris and blind us from discovering objective truth in order to live it out presently and in the future.

The following summaries are provided to encourage, challenge, comfort and invigorate the follower of Christ to consider how in the last two millennia followers of Christ understood and lived out the implications of their faith. It’s to consider how these believers spent their energies for the glory of God and the cause of the kingdom, and to see where their example is worthy to be emulated.

Some things will seem odd, some things odious, some things onerous, and some things endearing. I trust in no way you will be bored. These summaries are but a taste of their substance that I’ve attempted to capture so that you, the reader will take up and read at the source.  Click the link Theological Book Summaries to download the entire summaries.

(Soli Deo Gloria)

 

 

Reformation/ Modern Period_Summary on John Wesley’s: Christian Perfection

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Wesley: Christian Perfection[1]

In his Christian Perfection, Wesley distinguishes between how Christians are and are not perfect.

How Are Christians Not Perfect? 

Both from experience and the Scriptures it is clear Christians are not perfect in knowledge e.g., our ignorance in God’s workings in different dispensations.  Christians are not perfect in their mistakes (e.g., “we know in part” 1 Cor. 13:12) at handling the Scriptures.  Christians are not free from infirmities (e.g., physical ailments or moral failures).  Moreover, Christians are not free from temptation, such freedom lies ahead in the next life.  Christian perfection is another term for holiness.  Hence, to be perfect one must be holy and the converse obtains.

How Are Christians Perfect?

First, developmentally babes and mature Christians are in different stages, yet perfection applies to both.  Scripture clearly says that those who are justified (be it babe or mature) “do not continue in sin” (Rom. 6:1, 5-7, 14, 18) i.e., all real Christians are free from external sin (1 Pet. 4:1-2; 1 Jn. 3:8-9; 5:18).  Wesley then argues for misinterpreted counter examples from the lives of David, Abraham, even the Proverbs.  Wesley concludes with those opposing the “plain” reading of NT texts, that they need to buttress their arguments and give proofs form the NT clear teaching, rather than an OT vague passage.

Wesley understands that to use arguments that a Christian must sin is unacceptable, for no necessity of sinning obtains for the Christian.  The same grace that was sufficient for Paul is also at our disposal.  Hence, although temptation comes, one is not required to yield to it (1 Cor. 10:13).  Moreover, Wesley addresses the misuse of passages (2 Cor. 12:7-10) that are often used to buttress the above contention that we must sin and challenges such notions with James understanding of faith and works (Jam. 3:2).               

[1] John Wesley, Sermon Forty, Christian Perfection, Edited by Dave Sparks, (1999 by the Wesley Center for Applied Theology, web site: webadmin@wesley.nnu.edu for permission or to report errors)