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

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            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.  How?  Let’s read:

“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, 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 the spouses are in 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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Reflections From 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 7: PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS ON MARRIAGE & SINGLENESS AS EXPRESSIONS OF LOVE FOR CHRIST

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             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 good, 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, and 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)

Now Available in Summary “A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF THE WEST” by Francis Schaeffer

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Now available in summary form Volume 5_A Chrsitian View of the West .  In volume 5 Francis Schaeffer considers Western civilization: its roots, its glories and horrors.

This is followed by the issue of our planet’s pollution, and what can be done, the abortion of untold millions in America, and the generation that has been lost.

He concludes with the issue of truth and the decaying ramifications of morality, law and civility in a society that has embraced relativism.  We are there now in 2018.

POSTSCRIPT: Francis Schaeffer’s writings are uncannily relevant today 36 years after their publication.  His insight into the Scriptures and engaging Culture with it are a wonderful model of a believer who is in the world, but not of it.  His passion for Christ and reaching people with the gospel is refreshingly substantive and raw, it is direct and compassionate, it is rational and heart felt.  In my view, he is among the company whom the writer of Hebrews describes:  “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”    (Heb. 13:7)

Reflections From 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 6: WHY OBEY GOD’S COMMAND TO SEXUAL PURITY? (Vvs.12-20)

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Paul continues his exhortation to holiness to the Corinthians.  In the previous section the apostle shames the Corinthians for their lack of wisdom before the watching world, and their ignorance of their inheritance as saints evidenced by the lawsuits brought against one another.  He challenges their profession of faith (those who will not enter the kingdom) and reminds them that this described some of them but now they belonged to Christ.

Thus, Paul now brings up the issue between what is lawful compared to what’s profitable.  That is (my understanding), what is not sinful versus what does not contribute to kingdom of God flourishing.  Now, while this state of affairs is true (lawful/profitable) he refuses to be mastered by anything.

12 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. 

When Paul says, “12 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable” he may be referring to a refrain the Corinthians proudly touted where their freedom in Christ was correct concerning food (e.g., Jesus did make all foods clean) but mistaken regarding sexual practices (e.g., Jesus demanded “…you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”).

And the second part of the clause, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”  Paul can’t be excluding being mastered by Christ, (which was their problem and ours) for in verse 20 he rounds off his command to the Corinthians to glorify God in their bodies (the implication here is to submit to Christ in your sexuality).

Paul explains that the purpose of food (v.13) is to feed the stomach, and the purpose of the body is for holy purposes, not immorality.  Both food and immorality are temporal “God will do away with both of them”.  The former is good, the latter is bad, “Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.”  Contextually, the Corinthian’s were not living according to God’s design.  They misused their capacities for knowledge (i.e., warped thinking, caused by their pride, and thus they acted like fools) which resulted in their misuse of the body (i.e., sexual immorality).  God has called believers to be Holy even as He is holy (i.e., live in accord with God’s design) because they belong to Him.

It is God’s holiness where our deepest joy resides and the age old satanic lie that it’s not presently remains.  When things cease to operate according to their design, disintegration occurs, and when this obtains what is true beautiful and good dies.  Immorality is not the purpose for why God created our bodies, but rather they were made to glorify and enjoy Him forever.

God is always about our highest Good which necessarily puts Him at the center of all reality, the implication of which is kingdom flourishing because of His favorable presence on the Christian community.  Thus, just like food and the stomach are temporal (even though they are good) so is immorality (which is bad, part of this evil age, unlawful and it is passing away).

Paul seems to be exhorting the Corinthians to live in light of the future coming eternal kingdom of the new heavens and the new earth with an emphasis on the resurrection of our bodies: 14 Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.”  Thus, in light of future resurrection where death no longer reigns, and because of new birth and the indwelling power of the Spirit within believers, Paul buttresses the following question with the emphasis on the believers’ union with Christ:

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.”

 When Paul asks, “Do you not know…” implying they should know, he exposes their lack of knowledge and wisdom. Their comfort with immorality (Chapter 5-6:11) is shameful and reveals their ignorance of both who they are and who they serve.  Paul is not saying that the body is bad for God created all things good, Christ’s incarnation affirms that, and both body and soul will experience final salvation at the resurrection.

Again, Paul is not saying that sex is bad, for He created and designed it to consummate its’ full expression within the confines of marriage between one man and one woman.

Paul is saying that there’s a spiritual union that occurs when bodies through intercourse are united.  However, when this union occurs outside the marital borders, it goes contra God’s design and thus does not promote human flourishing, as in the case of prostitution.  Moreover, said acts of immorality take the Name of the LORD our God in vain because His nature as Holy is not represented, but rather a distortion of His being is placarded for the watching world to observe and critique.

Paul asks: “16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.”  He again leads with the question, “Or do you not know”, implying that they should.  When illicit physical intercourse occurs, there’s an immaterial union that damages the soul, and if left un-repented, it will lead to utter destruction (one shall not inherit the kingdom of God 6:9).

This one flesh union began in the Garden of Eden where conjugal purposes where designed by God not only to procreate and enjoy the wonder of sexual union, but ultimately it was to mirror the intimacy and covenant fidelity God  demonstrates to His people ultimately in Jesus Christ (Eph. 5: 22-33).  That’s why I think Paul says, “17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

Now Paul gives this command in light of verses 12-17:

18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” 

 This command to holiness is based on Christ’s atonement “20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body”.  Believers are not to “be good“, as an end in itself (biblically that’s unattainable and contra the Gospel).  Instead, believers are to reflect the reality of new birth in their sexuality.  This is a command, not a suggestion, based on God’s fidelity toward His bride, the Church.

When Paul says, “Flee immorality”, I’m reminded of Joseph who fled from Potiphar’s wife who wanted to sexually seduce him, but he refused her.  She then falsely accused joseph of making advances on her, which resulted in his unjust imprisonment.  He suffered for righteousness sake.  When we stand for sexual purity because of Christ, we may suffer great harm as Joseph did, but our fidelity to God is revealed.  We must nevertheless follow said example, if in fact we are wed to Him.

Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.  Note that sexual immorality is distinct from every other sin for it somehow “pollutes the body”.  Here, Paul places supreme value on the body.  As image bearers we are soul and body both of which are to honor God, both of which are to love God.  To obey this it would include ceasing from engaging with temple prostitutes (a popular practice in Greek culture).  In our day, it would mean refraining from “same-sex marriage”, from internet pornography, from “hooking-up”, from having “friends with benefits”, etc.

Why obey this command?  Because Jesus Christ purchased you believer out of the slave market with his precious blood, thus God’s just holy righteous wrath no longer is yours to bear.  Because through Christ’s substitutionary atonement, death has been defeated on Calvary’s cross, because if we actually belong to him, it will show up in our sexuality and if it does not, it may be evidence we have a “said faith” not a real “saving faith”.  That’s why!

(SDG)

 

 

Reflections From ISAIAH 3: THE LORD GOD OF HOSTS…FEAR HIM

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The topic of, “fearing God” from texts of the Old Testament are a puzzle to many of us for many reasons chief among which is the tendency to pick and choose what we like and we confuse the continuity and discontinuity of the Old and New Testament.

Preference not objective truth is often our guiding “compass”.

What I mean is that many professing believers happily embrace a God of love but one of fear and judgment they utterly reject.  If that’s you, friend, then how do you make sense out of the Gospel of Christ?

Why then was he brutally murdered on that bloody cross?  Is it not because God’s love and justice demanded it?  Is it not because the first Adam rebelled against the Holy One of Israel and plunged mankind into an eternal death sentence where the Creator became our enemy?  And was it not necessary for the last Adam to rectify this mess to redeem us from God’s holy just wrath?

To fear God, among other things, means that we rightly relate to Him as Creator and understand that we are the creature (i.e., contingent, needy, and therefore dependent).  The pride in humanity pushes back and says, “I will be god, I’m self-sufficient”.  That’s the reason for wrath and the reason for judgment.

Moreover, to fear God means that those redeemed by His great mercy live according to His revealed truth because of His great love.  His word is their delight (even when it’s hard to understand and reconcile with life’s tragic experiences and they are real).  Again, according to Solomon, the fear of the LORD is the pathway to knowledge and wisdom (See the proverbs).  But who is this one we are commanded to fear?

He is the changeless One (i.e., the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) in the perfections of His being.  God’s attributes of being (self-existent, omni-present, omniscient, omnipotent, omnisapient, holy, loving, etc.) are simultaneously held.  This means that because God is holy and just, the judge will rightly deal with all wrongs and make them right.  Thus, when we His followers “pigeon hole” Him and reduce the Holy One to a one-dimensional being (God is love, and He is) we miss it and misrepresent the Savior.  He is the God of love, but He is also the Holy One who will judge the living and the dead.

Misunderstanding the continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments also plagues believers.

We also have difficulty with the topic of fearing God because of a gross disconnect believers have between the Old Testament and New Testament.  What for example applied to God’s people under the old covenant that now does not apply under the new covenant?

Christ’s atoning sacrifice on Calvary did away with the sacrificial system.  From the book of Hebrews we know that the sacrifices once performed under the old covenant are now obsolete because they pointed to the reality which is Christ our “Passover Lamb”, the “Lamb of God”.  Yet, as the Law of Moses forbade adultery, God still forbids it today.   And yes for His people.  To fear the LORD under the new covenant, the keeping of said law is evidence that we love God and fear His name (in word and deed).

Hear the Isaiah’s warning:

For behold, the Lord God of hosts is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah
Both supply and support, the whole supply of bread
And the whole supply of water;
The mighty man and the warrior,
The judge and the prophet,
The diviner and the elder,
The captain of fifty and the honorable man,
The counselor and the expert artisan,
And the skillful enchanter.
And I will make mere lads their princes,
And capricious children will rule over them,
And the people will be oppressed,
Each one by another, and each one by his neighbor;
The youth will storm against the elder
And the inferior against the honorable.
When a man lays hold of his brother in his father’s house, saying,
“You have a cloak, you shall be our ruler,
And these ruins will be under your charge,”
He will protest on that day, saying,
“I will not be your healer,
For in my house there is neither bread nor cloak;
You should not appoint me ruler of the people.”
For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen,
Because their speech and their actions are against the Lord,
To rebel against His glorious presence.  (vvs.1-8)

When we cease to fear the LORD God of hosts, we put ourselves in a position to bear his wrath generally and his discipline specifically.  God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  In this passage God’s opposition is weighty seen through His removal of supply for sustenance (bread & water), His removal of support for safety (the warrior and mighty man), His removal of guidance (prophet and judge), and His removal of industry (the counselor and expert artisan) is simply devastating.

Solomon says that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and understanding and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding,” yet God’s people lacked both and the consequences were ruinous.  Brazen rebellion will always result in the Creator being against the creature.  In verses (16-24) God declares to the gorgeous women who seduce their prey that their beauty He will reduce to an ugliness that reflects their hearts toward Him:

Moreover, the Lord said, “Because the daughters of Zion are proud
And walk with heads held high and seductive eyes, And go along with mincing steps And tinkle the bangles on their feet,
17 Therefore the Lord will afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs, And the Lord will make their foreheads bare.”

18 In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, 19 dangling earrings, bracelets, veils,20 headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, 21 finger rings, nose rings, 22 festal robes, outer tunics, cloaks, money purses,23 hand mirrors, undergarments, turbans and veils.

24 Now it will come about that instead of sweet perfume there will be putrefaction; Instead of a belt, a rope; Instead of well-set hair, a plucked-out scalp; Instead of fine clothes, a donning of sackcloth;
And branding instead of beauty.

While we’re not Israel in America, we nevertheless reflect the bold rebellion of Jerusalem and Judah in our age.  So when the supplies run out and our support is no more and our humiliation is realized, will God act to bring His people back to Himself?  Absolutely He will but not before a severe administration of His discipline.

LORD be merciful to us, grant your people repentance, renew our love for You so that our character, holiness, love, wisdom, knowledge, beauty, judgments, compassion, ingenuity, etc. may find their true expression, the purpose for why we exist.

(SDG)

Reflections From 1st Corinthians Chapter 6: HOW IS INEPT JUDGMENT BASED ON IGNORANCE and WHAT MAY RESULT? (Vs. 1-11)

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In this chapter Paul continues the theme of how believers are to properly judge one another in the church.  He does this by; first shaming those who don’t judge (for they will even judge angels), and secondly by warning those who live cavalierly of the shaky ground they are on:

“Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?

Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren.  Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

First, Paul uses an “a fortiori argument” (from the lesser to the greater, or with greater force all the more[1]) in order to point out the gravity of what’s occurring with believers, namely they are “suing each other”.

These whom the apostle calls; “saints” are acting like “aint’s”.  Those whom Paul describes as “called” are living like the “not called”.  Their inability to properly make judgments within the church (Chapter 5) spills over into the court of a heathen judge.  Their moral ineptness to make righteous distinctions was lamentable and occurred because of their ignorance regarding final salvation (e.g., the future judgment of angelic beings and the world they were to execute).  Thus, if the forthcoming judgments are weightier, these present judgments should be much simpler.  But for them it was not the case.

Paul here seems to undermine (perhaps mock) their (lack of) “knowledge and wisdom” about ultimate issues and say something that may seem to be contradictory.  In chapter 5:12-13 Paul says that believers judge insiders and God judges outsiders:  “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges,” yet in chapter 6:2 he says that believers will judge the world.

If world means angelic and human beings (v.3)—supporting said notion, then the issue is not if, but when we are to judge these beings—in the future.  Thus, presently, we are to focus on our own, God will deal with the non-believer.  But I’m still puzzled about future judgement.

Presently we are judging whether or not something is in accord with godliness or not, whether it is sinful or righteous.  In the future, sin will be no more, so what then will we judge?  I think the answer is that we will judge not over what is righteous or wicked, but on how righteousness will inform our distinctions (e.g. the wiser way to rule and reign perhaps?).

That is, the present judgments we are to presently make have a moral texture to them.  Distinguishing between what is good and evil.  However, in the future (in the new heaven and the new earth) these judgments will have an application to righteousness alone, for the former world of sin death and corruption will be no more.

I think this makes sense because God is the fountain and eternal source of just judgments before creation and after it.  As the redeemed creation and community of God, in the future there will no longer be slavery to wickedness, only the freedom to make righteous judgments.  I’m aware of the weightiness and nuanced intricacies of the aforesaid, but that seems to me a reasonable view.  So, Paul uses an argument from the lessor (i.e., judge among yourselves) to the greater (i.e., since, or because you will judge angels and the world).

Second, Paul shames the Corinthians because of their ignorance (i.e., they are the redeemed community of God the Righteous Judge) and subsequent ungodly dealings with one another.  These people thought more highly of themselves then they should have, blinded by their own pride, instead of being wronged or defrauded, they executed lawsuits against each other before unrighteous judges.  Both parties (the perpetrators and the victims) were guilty of unrighteousness according to the apostle.  This state of affairs was a bad sign of the genuineness of their faith.

Third, Paul warns them to not be deceived, and then describes those who will not enter God’s kingdom (neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers).  Paul reminds the Corinthians that once they were practiced these things, but now exhorts them to leave it all behind, and embrace Christ in their life, in how they live.

I see Paul alluding to the topic of new birth which brings about new life, and includes the real battle of sin each believer contends with (Romans 6-7).  Paul confronts the Corinthians wickedness with gospel truth and he calls them back to live in light of their identity.  The real followers of Christ will eventually return to Christ, the hypocrites ultimately won’t.

So, it could be said that inept judgment is based on ignorance.  That is, ignorance of our identity in Christ and our inheritance in Him inevitably results in a community that flounders rather than flourishes.

God give your church the grace to courageously, compassionately and swiftly deal with the strays within our own ranks as we entrust those outside the fold to You; the Just Judge who always does what is good beautiful and true.

(SDG)

[1] Peter Angeles, The Harper Collins Dictionary of Philosophy, pg.5, © 1992 by Peter A. Angeles

Reflections From 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 5: WHO ARE BELIEVERS COMMANDED TO JUDGE? (Vvs.9-13)

1-corinthians

Up to this point in the chapter, Paul explains that adultery far from being an act of love (whose ground is God not man) is actually an act of hate, rooted in arrogance it is the—“wisdom” of this world vs. the “foolishness” of God.  This circumstance like all others must be handled with loving discipline, not indifferent neglect, because of the eternal peril it presents to the community God has redeemed by Christ’s cross.

Now Paul turns his gaze on what it means to be God’s people in this present evil age as those who await final redemption (i.e., in theology this is referred to as “the now and the not yet”):

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges.”

Here Paul explains that association with non-believers is unavoidable.    Contextually and as modeled by Jesus (a friend of tax collectors and sinners), association is not discouraged but assumed as a means of being salt and light in the world.  Thus, as Christ influenced those around him with righteousness, we too his people are to follow suit.

Thus, the command to not associate (share our lives with the person) was not with those outside Christ, but with those professing to love God with their lips (“so-called brother”) whose heart (revealed through lifestyle) is far from Him.  Paul, like Christ, refused to tolerate hypocrisy and thus God’s people must do likewise.

Paul concludes the command to not associate with the “so-called brother” to “not even to eat with such a one” which probably includes the table fellowship (i.e., the communion table) of the Lord.  Thus, to prohibit communion serves to tangibly illustrate the persons’ broken fellowship with God, the need for self-examination, and the need for repentance so that the fractured relationship between God and this man may mended.

Paul by this command for church discipline is commanding that righteous judgment be practiced.  This must be done humbly and lovingly before the God who is there.  Thus, the duty of believers is to judge their own ranks, not outsiders (i.e., those outside Christ, nonbelievers).  But why do this, it seems so “unloving” and “antiquated” and “intolerant”.  Far from God being a “kill-joy”, He delights in our joy and that is why He invites His people to share in his holiness—the fountain of everlasting joy.  Paul is commanding and entreating the Corinthians to fight for each other’s joy in God, rather than not love one another by letting sin pollute their assembly.

Paul reminds the church that it’s God’s job to judge outsiders, and their job to judge insiders.  The command from verse two to remove the wicked man from their midst is rooted in the holiness principle found in the Old Testament.

This is where the covenant people of God who have been redeemed from the slavery of Egypt (which included the false worship of many gods) are to safeguard their ranks from being enslaved once again by removing the false prophets who encouraged Israel to revert to the bondage of worshipping other gods.  At times, even stoning was commanded.  That seems extremely harsh to us “enlightened” people, but could it be that said action is only a shadow of the reality when God judges a people?

Could it be that we have it all wrong when judging non-believers?  Too often we don’t gaze at our own iniquity, but instead target those outside our ranks and are the worse off for it.

Paul is not prohibiting on occasion the need to speak up within the culture and humbly but firmly challenge it’s presuppositions by exposing their false ideas of what is good, beautiful, and true through reason (as clearly the Old Testament prophets demonstrate).

Paul is not stating that there will be times (as in his own life before Felix) where believers will stand before rulers and give an account of righteousness.  It seems that Paul is rather in this instance, saying that the church needs to clean house when the occasion calls for it.  When the uncomfortable reprimand is warranted, for loves sake, the church, not just its leaders, must act.

In the Corinthian situation like in our day, the cultural voice of “wisdom” had to be corrected with the “foolishness” of God’s Word.  It had to be corrected with the orthodox voice of Scripture, and while it may be increasingly uncomfortable, it’s absolutely necessary for the LORD’s sake and our joy in Him.

(SDG)

Reflections From 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 5: HOW IS ADULTERY AN EXPRESSION OF ARROGANCE RATHER THAN LOVE?  Part 2 (Vvs.6-8)

1-corinthians

We boast in many things, the majority of which tends to be sinful.  Paul indicts the Corinthian church of boasting in immorality (e.g., the son committing adultery with his mother) because they did not discipline this immoral act.  This is perhaps grounded in their perverted view of what it means to have “freedom in Christ” (1 Cor.6:12-20).  The point here is their boasting is sinful because it glorifies sin and Paul uses the metaphor of leaven to explain it:

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.

The apostle here reminds the Gentile Corinthian church of their roots in the Passover meal which Christ came to personify and fulfill through his death as the Passover Lamb (his body represented in the unleavened bread) holy and pure.

In the beginning of this letter, Paul describes the Corinthians as the “called” and as “saints” even though their lives were imbibing the world’s “wisdom” and its darkness.  The apostle (as God’s divinely appointed spokesman) is commanding zero tolerance for compromise to the Church because like a virus it will spread and eventually destroy the whole body (e.g., leaven, lump, dough).  Moreover, just as Christ is the Passover Lamb who died to sin and is now alive to God, so to the Corinthian’s are to emulate the Master in their sexuality (E.g., Rom.6:1-14), not the wisdom of this world with its’ “enlightened” and “liberated” views of sexual expression that is often praised among the unregenerate.  Paul continues:

Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

So, since we belong to Christ and are in this world that’s “leavened-sinful”, we’re to celebrate that feast (i.e., rejoice in God’s holiness that believers partake in) and not go back to “Egypt” into the slavery of the world with it’s greed, malice, wickedness, immorality, etc.  We are to ground our actions in what is sincere (i.e., un-hypocritical) and in the truth (i.e., what’s objectively true—Christ our Passover Lamb, risen from the grave).

The relevance of this passage can’t be overstated.  Adultery, fornication, and all kinds of sexual expression contra God’s design for human flourishing, not human misery, as some contend, are leaving image bearers empty, confused, unfulfilled, and eventually if un-repented of, will take them into a Christ-less eternity (i.e., Hell).

When believers buy into the prevailing “Same-sex” marriage and “Transgender” rhetoric of legitimizing its’ position which is blatantly contra design, are we not drinking in the “wisdom” of this world?  Yes, we are and far from being an expression of love, it’s an expression of treason against the self-existent Creator, who alone is the ground of what is beautiful, good and true, not the finite, feeble, dependent creature.

(SDG)

“MORAL CHOICES: An Introductory Course in Ethics” By Sergio Tangari

definition-of-morality

 It seems that today we’re bombarded with declarations of how we “should” or “should not live”.  The voices are loud and often belligerent.  Consider the latest headlines and moral pronouncements forcefully come through the page, screen, or I-phone.   These assertions come from a variety of sectors (e.g., universities, the media, politics, and friends and family) that operate under a particular worldview which guides how people think and live.

Moral demands and judgments are placed on us all, but how do we determine whether or not they are true and thus ought to be obeyed?   Populace opinions often lack substance yet the views of those that are loudest and strongest, too often mute the voices of those who are not.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to be salt and light in the world, not retreat from it.  We have a rich tradition of knowledge in in ethics and moral reasoning, so cowering need not be our legacy.  Instead through a little bit of instruction and effort, we can confidently, courageously, compassionately and courteously engage the issues of our day.

Thus, this course is structured to equip believers: to understand worldviews and how they inform moral deliberation, to understand the systems of ethics that people practice, and to engage current issues that are dear to so many.  The goal here is to enrich our personal lives, inform our disciple making and embolden our evangelism so that we can more wisely and confidently navigate the shoals of the cultural landscape.  Click for the notes A2TQ 1_MORAL CHOICES_Considering the Alternatives

Reflections From 1 Corinthians Chapter 5: HOW IS ADULTERY AN EXPRESSION OF ARROGANCE RATHER THAN LOVE? (Vvs.1-5)

 

1-corinthians

When it comes to any subject today, we either ground it ultimately on the creature or the Creator.  That is, someone’s “world-view” finally influences the way what is true, beautiful, and good is determined.  Today, the “same-sex marriage” is a case in point.  Two contradictory views are affirmed with this idea.  It boldly denies design on the one hand (i.e., marriage is what I the creature say it is a-la-moral relativism) but simultaneously invokes an immaterial “ought” of live and let live with those that disagree with said position.  This is problematic so I’ll try to explain.

First, “same-sex marriage” affirms that there’s no ultimate design to marriage, thus we make of it what the creature says and by implication affirm naturalism/materialsim which holds that human beings are nothing more than a body, not a mind/soul.  If humans are merely physical entities, than we have no meaning in life, since meaning is not physical, but immaterial.

Second, if one opposes the “same-sex marriage” position, they are labeled as haters, bigots, non-progressive idiots, etc.  The situation now slides into the world of “ought” of right and wrong, the immaterial world from where meaning comes.  Here in is the dilemma, on the one hand naturalism (i.e., physicalism) is affirmed which opposes any notion of mind, spirit, etcetera and simultaneously there’s the affirmation of an immaterial reality, which affirms humans are both mind and body (i.e., dualism, or substance dualism).  Whenever a contradiction arises, as in this case, we know there’s a falsehood and the “buyer” should beware.

In this world of ideas precious human beings are entangled, this is the field where life is lived and rules have far reaching consequences.  For example, naturalism affirms that there’s no God or gods, no design, and our existence is accidental and thus purposeless.  It’s the worldview that supports Darwinian evolutionary thought and the perch on which atheism rests.  If this is true why all the fuss over whether or not there’s any agreement over someone’s sexual orientation?

Again, there’s Monism which affirms among other things that everything is one, mind is core, distinctions are eradicated, and life is essentially illusory or “maya”.  This is the worldview under which Buddhism and much of Hinduism exists.  If this existence is illusory, then our experiences are essentially meaningless.  If this is true why all the fuss over whether or not there’s any agreement over someone’s sexual orientation?

Then there’s monotheism and specifically Christian Trinitarian theism that affirms a designer “God” the creator, sustainer, and author of life who grounds the meaning of what is good, beautiful and true.  This worldview affirms the physical and immaterial, it understands that we are body and soul, and it also affirms the world of “ought” of what is right and wrong, all of which are based on the Creator, not the creature.   If this is true, then all the fuss over whether or not there’s any agreement over someone’s sexual orientation is warranted.

I say these things because from the biblical standpoint, love is grounded in the Creator, never the creature.  Thus, the designer determines what real love is, not a culture that is seriously broken because of its arrogance.

In Paul’s day, he had to deal with a similar issue of making the creature the measure of all things and by default the Creator is pushed aside, slighted, minimized, scorned and belittled by the creature’s “arrogance” “pride”.  This human trait sets itself up against God, becomes his judge, and shamelessly spits on the brow of He who gives us life.  Consider what the apostle says:

“It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”

Like Israel, the Corinthian church had crossed a line of sexual immorality that even the pagans (i.e., Gentiles) in their day would not, that is, a son had sexual relations with his fathers’ wife.  This could be a step-mother or actual, the text does not say.  The moral compass here is shattered as God’s design of sexuality is ignored and shamefully the church did nothing.

The church failed to discipline the perpetrators and thus allowed the situation to continue.  Paul says this is a lamentable occasion fueled by the Corinthians apathy caused by their pride.  This is a recurring theme in the first letter where false knowledge actually produces death in the practitioners, not life.  And this false knowledge (i.e., which is contra Christ, the gospel, and held to be true), is fueled by human pride.

Church discipline while painful to receive and weighty to administer is absolutely necessary for the health of the church, the individuals involved in the transgression, and mostly God’s honor and glory.  Several thoughts to consider:

First, the text does not say whether or not the father is alive when this act occurred, but for Paul (i.e., God’s authoritative spokesman) it seems to not matter because he passed judgment on the action and ordered the man to be removed from the assembly.  This stroke of discipline illustrates the urgency needed to act on behalf of the transgressor, for the sin reveals the grave rift that obtains between he and God.

Second, not only is the man to be removed from the local church, his body is to be “delivered over to Satan” for the destruction of his flesh (v.5), this is severe, yet the purpose has final salvation in view, not momentary grief.  The “flesh” is what needs to be destroyed so that his spirit may be saved.

Does he mean by “flesh” his sinful nature as in other places in Paul’s writings, or his physical body, or perhaps both his body and sinful nature?  It seems that it’s his body which is what Satan is to work on destroying so that he won’t be lost.  Perhaps this may be akin to the pummeling Job received from Satan.  The difference though is that Job was a humble upright and righteous man, whereas this man is immoral revealed by his arrogance and wickedness.  What we today take so lightly and as a right of self-expression Paul’s attitude is that it will damn the perpetrator, sexual immorality is lethal to the soul.

Third, Paul says that he has “decided to deliver” this man to Satan, but how is that accomplished?  Is this something only the apostle has the authority to do or for the church as well?  Contextually, I would say the latter not the former.  Could it be that ex-communicating someone from the church actually makes them vulnerable to Satanic attack and destruction?  Sometimes it seems to be the case.

This hearkens back to Romans chapter 1 where God gave over rebellious mankind to their lusts and passions because they exchanged the truth of God’s glory as Creator for a lie and worshipped the creature instead.  This state of affairs came from humanity’s futile speculations which darkened their hearts evidenced in this church goers adultery with his mother.  It’s not according to God’s design, but a perversion of His good gifts.

Fourth, note that this discipline is to be done in Paul’s absence and in the power and name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is a sobering solemn act, not one where song and rejoicing is expressed.  It is Jesus who is brought to center attention since it’s His church which He has purchased with his blood and is continuously building.

We have here a model for church discipline done by the church, the Body of Christ Jesus, so that the Head of the Body (Christ Jesus) may be honored through His people’s holiness, rather than ravaged by its wickedness.

It’s not loving to commit adultery but arrogant because its contra God’s design and plan for human flourishing.  What we believe is either grounded on what the Creator has revealed or what the creature says.  Thus, if God has spoken, how then shall we live?

(SDG)