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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.

DEFINING REALITY: PART 3

AN EXAMPLE IN WORLDVIEW COMPARISONS

Truth does not have attached to it; color, genitalia, nor earned degrees.  The reason is because truth is not physical, but rather immaterial like “meaning”. The notion of truth is foundational to this topic of worldviews and defining reality, because if there’s no truth, then there’s no compass to make sense out of reality.  If there’s no truth, then we are relegated to a life of meaningless wandering from moment to moment until we die.  Anyone that denies the notion of truth is presupposing it when they counter the notion of it. 

            Every worldview presupposes truth, but not every worldview meets its own criterion of the truth it claims.  We humans share many things in common; we desire to be loved and accepted for who we are not what we can do; we long for happiness and fulfillment; we don’t like it when people mistreat us; we dislike it when people lie to us; we all try to make sense out of reality as we know it.  These dearly held notions are mainly communicated through words.  

The “Black Lives Matter” notion is a case in point.  The desire to communicate that “we matter” can be put “our lives have meaning” and we should thus be treated a certain way.  But whether or not that’s actually true depends on the worldview held. 

For example, if naturalism is true (a la Atheism), and humans are merely material entities without an immaterial soul, an accident of macro-evolution where there’s no design, purpose or meaning, then “Black Lives” actually don’t matter.  This is true for at least two reasons; first, “meaning” is not something physical—it can’t be tasted, seen, smelled, heard, or touched, but its’ effects (which are immaterial) are constantly seen in the physical world.  Secondly, the basis of naturalism is that there is no “mind”, no “design”, no “better”, no “progress” but “eternal matter that just is”. 

According to this worldview, humans are simply born, live out their meaningless lives, and then die, never to be remembered, cherished or loved again.  It’s a cold reality.  Thus, if this position is true, “Black lives can’t matter”. 

Another example comes from nihilism (naturalism’s child) which reduces all of life to chance plus matter plus time.  This means that human decisions are matter in motion and are thus determined.  This means that human choices are not significant, but a mere illusion.  The reason is because what seems to be “our decisions” is actually, impersonal, mechanistic matter in motion.  According to this worldview, those in favor of or against “Black lives matter” have no choice in the matter, but are simply determined to one “view” or another.  Thus, if this position is true, then really “Black lives can’t matter”. 

Still another example is pantheistic monism (a la Buddhism and certain branches of Hinduism), which among other things teaches that the individual is part of the oneness of the universe, that life is illusory and thus “individuality” is not real, but a fantasy.  Trying to get meaning from this position is an exercise in futility.  Ironically, many Westerners have looked to the East for its wisdom and insight on reality, except that at its core, there’s a denial of reality.  According to this worldview, there’s no real “Black lives that matter” because that whole notion too is an illusion.  Thus, if this position is true, “Black lives can’t matter”.  

Yet another example is moral relativism (a la the University, Media, etc.), which among other things is the self-refuting position that there’s no such thing as absolute truth (i.e. correspondence view of truth) and “we know this to be absolutely true”.  That is, the basis for reality is not any higher power, God, etc., but the individual who creates what is true and right for herself/himself. 

If this worldview is true, then “Black Lives can’t matter” for it means that we can’t tell anyone that they are wrong because the individual decides; we can’t complain about the problem of evil because the individual decides; we can’t blame or praise anyone for deeds they’ve performed because the individual decides; we can’t object to injustice because the individual decides; we can’t improve on our morality because the individual decides; we can’t have meaningful moral discussions nor demand tolerance from the opposition because the individual decides. 

The “Black Lives Matter” position under this worldview is incoherent at best and diabolical at worst.  Under this self-refuting worldview, “Black lives can’t matter”.  

In contradistinction to the aforesaid, theism (a la Judaism or Christianity) holds that the universe—contra naturalism—is not a closed system but one that is open.  This means that both divine and human decisions significantly shape the present and the future.  Moreover, in a theistic world human beings are not chance accidents or illusory entities—contra nihilism and pantheistic monism—but created in God’s image and likeness with the purpose to reflect the wonder of the Creator unlike any other creature.  And in opposition to moral relativism, theism grounds all truth and morality in the Creator not the fading whims of the creature.   

Only in a theistic worldview can one coherently and rationally argue that “Black lives matter”.  For if the God of Scripture (I.e., The Law, Prophets, & Writings, and the New Testament) actually exists, not only do Black lives matter, but every life matters.  The reason is because human meaning under this worldview comes from the Self-existent, Eternal, All-wise, All-powerful, All-knowing God who came near to us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  He is the source of all truth, beauty and goodness. 

And I would further say that only from this theistic worldview can emotions rightly and compassionately be expressed, because they are rationally based on the God who is there, the One to whom all humanity will give account for their lives—which indeed matter. 

See Voddie Baucham concerning BLM and note how he uses his worldview to argue for his position https://disrn.com/news/dean-at-african-christian-university-denounces-black-lives-matter-we-have-to-separate-this-movement-from-the-issues

DEFINING REALITY: PART 2

Worldviews are what humans use to define reality, words are the vehicles used to describe worldviews, and coming to terms with what one says and means about their worldview is the key to understanding each other.

WORLDVIEWS— THEIR IMPORTANCE and THEIR ESSENCE

There’s a wife of a man who thought he was dead and she was trying to convince her husband that he was actually alive.  Regardless of her many persuasions, the man would not be convinced otherwise.  She eventually took him to the doctor who assured him that he was alive.  Nothing worked.  It occurred to the doctor to get the man to agree that dead men don’t bleed, so he pricked his finger with a needle and there was the “evidence.”  The man was certain that he was dead, but the fact was that his finger was bleeding, it was obvious.  For many days after this doctor’s visit, the man was saddened because his “certainty” of the “fact he was dead” was not in touch with reality. He returns to the doctor and exclaims, “Good Lord, dead men do bleed after all!”  At the end of the day, this man’s view of life was so dear to him that the facts did not matter. [1]

The Importance of Worldviews Matter

When our outlook on life—worldview is immune to being revised—as is the case with the, “dead man bleeding” we fail to live a life of integrity, a life where the truth matters even if it hurts.  And as disciples of Christ, this must not be the case.  For if we are honest with ourselves, at times we also don’t want our view to be shown lacking when confronted with the facts.  Herein the “dead man’s” challenge is ours.  Receiving counsel that requires us to adjust our positions in life and the resulting changes that are demanded of us are frankly difficult to hear. 

Still worse, when we hear counsel that we’ve heard before and find it annoying, hostile, dull, silly or something even worse.  Too often, familiarity does breed contempt. 

The Essence of a Worldview 

For centuries mankind has considered the meaning of life and how we came to be.  There’s really nothing new under the sun as Solomon writes.[2]  All people derive meaning from life based on their worldview.  Whether someone is aware of it, or not, they have a worldview.  Now a worldview is[3] a set of beliefs about the most important issues in life, it’s a conceptual scheme by which we either, consciously or unconsciously interpret and judge all of reality.

A worldview is “forged out of beliefs that have the most consequence for a comprehensive vision of reality.  It is an overall conception of reality that touches on the key areas that philosophy and religion have always addressed”[4] The correct worldview is like eyeglasses, which helps us focus more clearly on reality.

That is why putting on the right conceptual scheme can have important repercussions in understanding significant events and ideas.

Worldview and Disagreements

When disagreementsexist between people and societies it’s because there’s a clash between competing worldviews.  These clashes occur between individual people but can also be between nations. 

There are similarities that certain worldviews share on most issues (e.g., Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are monotheistic i.e., the belief in one supreme God)

By contrast other worldviews obtain more dissimilarities than commonalities (e.g., Christians believe in resurrection, Hindus believe in re-incarnation). 

There are still other worldviews where no agreement at all is shared. That is, there’s no overlap in their respective worldview (e.g., Christians believe God exists and has revealed himself to mankind in the person of Christ Jesus, but classic Atheists deny God’s existence). 

Aspects of a Worldview

All worldviews have aspects or characteristics that are foundational to the structure of their existence.  All worldviews minimally have; a theological, metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, and anthropological basis for making sense out of life.    

            First there’s the theological aspect or the view of who or what God is. This is the “ultimate reference point” from where everything else flows.  Thus, the most important aspect of a worldview is to determine if God is actually personal (e.g. Christian position) or impersonal (e.g., Hindu view).  While there are conflicting views about God, it’s interesting to note that even the staunches professing atheist under moments of distress will exclaim “Oh my God! Help!”   

Second, there’s the metaphysical aspect where the issue of ultimate reality comes to play.  Here we consider what the “nature/essence” of a thing is.  This where our beliefs[5] about the nature of a thing is considered and distinctions are made.  For example, we may ask “what is it that categorizes Joe as a human being and Tango as a dog?” 

Third, there’s the epistemological aspect of a worldview (i.e., how we know what we know). Here’s where we consider, for example, the difference between knowing that I love my wife, as opposed to knowing that 2+2=4? Again, here’s where we consider how can we know that this life is an illusion, as opposed to it actually being real.

Fourth, there’s the ethical aspect where moral deliberation takes place.  Here is where the ought-ness of our conduct (morals) is emphasized. This is very practical and considers questions of how we deal with other human beings often in their most vulnerable moments (e.g., abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, etc.)

Lastly, there’s the anthropological aspect of how we come to view other human beings.  These issues concern peoples, civilizations, cultures, classifications, etc.  Today, the unrest in our nation is intrinsically tied to our view of people and how as a result is the best way to deal with the plights before them.

Thus, everyone has a view of who or what God is, what the nature of reality is, how we can or cannot know anything, how we ought or ought not treat people and what it actually means to be human.

Everyone has a worldview, it’s the big ideas that we hold to both judge and make sense out of reality, and if our worldview is not in touch with reality (like the man who believed that “Dead men do bleed!”), then we need to revise it if we care about living authentic lives where the truth matters.   


[1] This section is borrowed from pages 9-10 of, THE GOD QUESTION: An Invitation to a Life of Meaning, ©2009 by J.P. Moreland, (Harvest House Publishers: Eugene, Oregon).

[2] Ecclesiastes 1:9 

[3] The following discussion on worldviews is taken from chapter 1 of Ronald H. Nash, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas, Zondervan Publishing House, © 1992 by Ronald H. Nash

[4] Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, pg.74

[5] A belief is the conviction that something is real and true, and thus we should give intellectual and practical assent to that idea.

DEFINING REALITY: Part 1

DEFINING REALITY: PART 1

Solomon wrote in Proverbs 18:21:  Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.

We ultimately depend on someone’s word (and its meaning) in order to claim to know something and make sense out of life.  It is either the Creators word, or the creatures.  We lean on some one’s authority to believe if something is either true or false, good or bad, right or wrong, just or unjust, tolerant or intolerant, merciful or merciless, beautiful or ugly, humble or prideful, loving or hateful.

WORLDVIEWS DEFINE REALITY

This word that we ultimately rely on to make sense out of life comes under what is called “worldviews”.  When I was exposed to the idea of worldviews and how they help us define reality it was both freeing and arduous.  It was freeing because this helped clarify the differences that we all have and why.  Apprehending worldviews levels the playing field in the exchange of ideas that emboldens us where often we cower.  It helps us clarify what someone says, what they mean, and what are the implications.   

I say the endeavor was and remains arduous, because as a disciple of the Lord Jesus who takes the great commission seriously to disciple the nations, I must come to understand the beliefs of my neighbors that differ from mine in order to more effectively win them over to Jesus (see Acts 17).  This means that I have to invest time, as an expression of love for neighbor, to study and understand different persuasions of reality (i.e. systems of thought that are different and contrary to Biblical Christendom).  

In other words, I would need to come to understand different religious persuasions to understand why people believe what they believe.  This seems to me a very practical way to evangelize the lost and engage the skeptics thoughtfully and courteously.  Confusion tends to cause anxiety in our hearts and minds, clarity can be a source of great comfort.

So friend, what worldview has influenced your thought and life and why?

See link on free speech and rightful protest https://douglasgroothuis.com/

How a Dead Soul Comes to Life: The Cost of Becoming Jesus’ Follower MT 16: 24-28


HOW A DEAD SOUL COMES TO LIFE— The Cost of Becoming Jesus’ Follower (Mt.16:24-28)

The things we value most in life demonstrate where our treasure truly is. In fact what we are willing to live for is a good indication for what we are willing to die. These dispositions come from the ocean of our beliefs which are ingrained into our soul. But if what we are banking our lives on is not grounded in the eternal truth revealed here in Sacred Scripture, eventually we will realize that we wasted our lives and will be justly eternally condemned (Rom.1).

How does a dead soul come to life, is there even such a thing as a “soul”? According to naturalism, we are only a bunch of molecules accidently put together from some miracle of macro-evolution. Thus the idea that there’s anything immaterial about us is irrational superstition. One of the biggest problems with that position is that it fails to meet its own criterion, because that very idea is immaterial, not physical. Can you weigh your thoughts? Can you still know you are having them? Can anyone know them and be aware of them like you? No! Why? Because that type of activity is something called 1st person introspective knowledge and that knowledge, is also not physical.

In fact the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:18: “while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Paul here among other things is stating the fact that the eternal immaterial world which naturalism denies is primary and everlasting, without end; whereas in comparison, the material world is temporal and thus passing away.

Jesus in our text is going to address the soul in such a way that he will attach supreme importance to it over against any temporal possessions. This doesn’t mean that physical goods/things are bad in and of themselves, but rather that their value when compared to an image Bearers soul is incomparable.

Reflections from 1 Corinthians 8:4-6_ COMMUNITY, KNOWLEDGE & REAL LOVE AS IT PERTAINS TO WORSHIP PART 2

Thus far, Paul has dealt with the difference between perceived knowledge (i.e., knowledge that is devoid of God’s love) and actual knowledge (i.e., knowledge that evidences God’s love) in how we live in community.  The former is not real or objective, the latter is the basis for all of creation.

Paul continues the theme of community, knowledge and real love here as it pertains to worship:

Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.

Here, Paul deals with the fundamental issue of worship which is the object of worship.  When people turn to worship what is false—idols, it prevents them from drinking in the real who is God alone. 

            Monotheism, not polytheism is true and believers coming out of worshipping “the gods” i.e., demons, need to be careful in how they view God’s nature and the man Chris Jesus as it pertains to foods.  Paul continues:

 For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

Paul’s not relativizing the believers’ worship, nor is he conceding that “gods” exist, but he is referring to people’s belief systems (i.e., polytheism—the belief in many gods) based on perceived knowledge which plagued the Corinthians.

            When Paul says, “yet for us…” he is not just stating that Christians hold to monotheism (the belief in only one God), but they do so, based on actual knowledge rather than perceived knowledge because of the God who is there.  

The divinity of the Father is always assumed and here Paul ties in the wise Son calling him Lord (i.e., one of God’s names referring to His mastery over all creation and Him as the covenant initiator and keeper).  Both Father and Son are the ground of everything, “by whom are all things and we exist for Him”.

Both Father and Son are the cause of all things and thus Christians “exist for Him” and “exist through Him” referring specifically to Jesus the savior.

As the ground of all reality, knowledge, worship and love we therefore adore this amazing God who in space time history revealed Himself through Messiah.  Thus, to minimize and belittle His existence, power and kindness by worshipping what is false is the highest possible form of treason (i.e., betrayal at the highest level) in the universe.  Sadly, we have all done it.  Lord have mercy on us and teach us your ways.  (SDG)

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”.