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Today’s commentary is a repost of St Paul’s verses on marriage, which I wrote in 2010:

1 Corinthians 7:1-16 – marriage, marriage to non-Christians

Paul discusses the reasons for marriage and preserving a marriage between a Christian and a non-Christian.

Last week’s post on unrighteousness is here.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 7:17-19

Bible oldThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Or do you not know that the unrighteous[a] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[b] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

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Last week’s verses were about Paul’s censure of the Corinthians for going to civil courts to settle personal grievances, some of which were petty. He exhorted them to resolve their differences within their church community.

It is no surprise that today’s verses are not in the three-year Lectionary, although 1 Corinthians 12-20, condemning fornication, are in the readings for the Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year B, which happens to be today, January 17, 2021. Serendipitous, one might say.

Students of the three-year Lectionary know that the editors have been ever anxious not to offend.

A few years ago, I asked a fellow Anglican, who comes from a family of clergymen and who knows a lot about St Paul’s Epistles, about today’s verses with regard to church unions regardless of sexual persuasion. He said that Paul’s verses no longer apply, therefore, same-sex unions are okay in the Church of England and other denominations.

I replied that I am ever wary of people who say certain verses in Scripture no longer apply, unless there is a good explanation for it through scholarly hermeneutics. He told me I was dated and really should get up to speed on these things.

At this point, readers can take his word for it or they can read on … noting that not all of what is stated below is my opinion, but that of Scripture.

After Paul finishes with the subject of civil lawsuits, he goes on to list a number of serious sins, all of which are highly popular today (verses 9 and 10). We can substitute ‘wrongdoers’ for ‘unrighteous’ in verse 9.

As I’ve been reading through 1 Corinthians, Paul could have been writing it for us. Millions of Christians, myself included in a past life, are/were like the Corinthians. We can rationalise anything, because we live in an environment which thrives on and condones sinful behaviour. Respectability and godliness began going out the window at the end of the 1960s with a popular slogan, ‘Let it all hang out’. In the 1970s, another saying, ‘If it feels good, do it’, was all the rage.

Need I say more?

Like the Corinthians, many of us are ruled by carnal compulsion, which, if not corrected through repentance, leads to the road of perdition.

Matthew Henry, whose commentary was published in 1706, put it rather tersely (italics in the original, bold emphases mine):

Those who knew any thing of religion must know that heaven could never be intended for these. The scum of the earth are no ways fit to fill the heavenly mansions. Those who do the devil’s work can never receive God’s wages, at least no other than death, the just wages of sin, Romans 6:23.

John MacArthur wrote today’s sermon in 1975. He has lived all his life in southern California. I do wonder how he copes. Anyway, he introduced his sermon with these words:

I teach you the Word of God not just to teach it, but so that you’ll respond to it. We talk about the authority of the Word of God in order that you might come under that authority. The objective of the ministry then, as I see it, is to ring a people to a place of submission to the Word of God. Then you can solve every problem by simply introducing a biblical principle that deals with it and the people will conform to the principle.

So often I talk to ministers, and they don’t do that. They don’t teach the Word of God, and they don’t build into their people a submission to the Word of God. And then when a problem comes, and they offer a biblical solution, the people can’t relate to that. They assume it’s just another opinion, because they don’t have the mind of submissiveness to the Word of God.

That is so true.

In his wisdom, MacArthur begins not by censuring but by saying that God — through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross — can forgive all our sins through our repentance. Therefore, because of that, we should forgive our brothers and sisters their sins against us:

there is nothing that you have ever done in your life that is outside the forgiveness of God, and that’s the standard. Right? You’re to forgive one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven you. When you come to Christ and believe in me and receive Jesus Christ, is there any sin at that point that is unforgivable? Absolutely not. It doesn’t matter what it was: whether it was a moral issue; whether you were the vilest, rottenest, lowest reprobate on the earth; whether it was a religious issue and you were the world’s worst false teacher; it doesn’t matter what it is, if you come and kneel at the cross to receive Christ, there is nothing that is unforgivable.

If you were a soldier who pounded a nail into the hand of Jesus Christ, if you were a soldier who rammed the spear into his side, if you were a mocker who spit in His face, that is all forgivable. All of it is forgivable. “And as Christ has forgiven you” – 1 John 2:12, “all your trespasses”that’s the standard by which you forgive one another. There is nothing that is unforgivable. Nothing. Now, that’s a high standard, isn’t it?

You say, “But you don’t know what he did to me.”

I don’t care. There is nothing. You don’t know what you did to God either, and He forgave that, and that’s the standard.

MacArthur gives us more insights on the Corinthians:

Now, sadly, the Corinthians were openly disobeying this principle. Look at 1 Corinthians chapter 6. This is a simple principle, frankly, people. It just really isn’t that tough. But the Corinthians were absolutely ignoring it. Instead of forgiving each other, every time somebody did something wrong, they’d sue them. And they were dragging them into court all the time over every petty little thing. They were gouging each other; they had a gross lack of life, bitterness, vengeance, recompense, self-seeking, unforgiving spirit, robbery; they were extorting and swindling each other. All of this going on within the church, just gouging each other. Instead of forgiving, every little thing became a case for the courts.

And so, Paul writes 1 Corinthians chapter 6 to the beleaguered Corinthian church that has managed to manifest about every sin conceivable. And in 6, he deals with the sin of suing each other instead of forgiving each other. The New Testament principle is very clear, people; we are to forgive one another, and it couldn’t be more clear than that.

This ties in with today’s verses because the Corinthians, like many of today’s Christians (myself included, at one time), falsely distinguished between their salvation and their sinfulness. In other words, they thought that, because they were Christians and had freedom in Christ, they could sin in serious ways and they would still be redeemed.

Paul kicks that notion into touch.

MacArthur elaborates:

what he does here is really a potent thing. Look at verse 9, and we’ll start there. “Don’t you know” – he says – “that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?”

Don’t you realize that you who are sons of the kingdom are on the opposite end of everything from the unregenerate? They don’t even inherit the kingdom. They’re not even a part of the same dimension. They’re not even in the same sphere. They don’t even exist in the same world. They don’t breathe the same air. They don’t have the capacities that you have. There are two completely different groups. The unrighteous do not inherit the kingdom of God. They have no part with you. You have no business acting like them, and you have no business taking your problems to them. How could those who are not even in the kingdom judge the subjects of the kingdom. Ridiculous. The unrighteous won’t have any part in the kingdom in the future; they don’t belong in God’s kingdom. Why do you go for them to give you judgment, and why are you behaving like those who aren’t in the kingdom when you are?

And then he gives this catalog that’s just potent. He says, “Be not deceived” – that is, don’t think your salvation and your lifestyle are two different things. Don’t be deceived. The kind of activities that the world does have no place with you. You can’t get away [with] that.

As for the sins Paul lists, MacArthur gives a flavour of the world in 1975. I was in school then. He’s got it spot on, no exaggeration. I remember it well:

here’s the world’s lifestyle. Number one, fornicators, sexually immoral. I don’t think anybody even has to make a comment about that today. Immorality is absolutely incredible. In some of the airports where I was stopping this week, you know, I would go in to get a magazine or to get some gum or something, and you know you can hardly walk in and out of the place without seeing this plethora of sex splattered all over the magazine rack. It’s just indulged to the point where you can’t believe that people are so tolerant. Fornicators, that’s characteristic of our world. Sexual immorality. And it’s always been that way, and today it seems more blatant than ever.

Then idolaters, false religion. I read all the time that the false systems of religion are growing more rapidly today than they ever have in their history. There are statistics to show that the cults are growing at an all-time rate. Idolatry. Worshipping false Gods and false religious systems.

Next, adulterers. Unfaithful in marriage. Wife swapping. Unfaithfulness. All of this kind of activity goes on incessantly in our world. No different than then.

That is what the 1960s sexual revolution, as it was called, ‘achieved’, for lack of a better word.

MacArthur has a fulsome description of another aspect of what the Bible considers to be sexual immorality and swapping gender roles. Parts of what he has to say were okay to express in 1975, less so now. Just to clarify, he is talking about the sin not the sinner in biblical terms. However, he offers a historical perspective from ancient times to the Bible to the Greek language to the present day:

Then you have a very interesting word, the word “effeminate.” Effeminate is only – that word malakos is only used once in the New Testament, and that’s right here. A very unusual word. And it has to do with perversion. And the best that we can understand what it means, it means this: to exchange one sexual role for another.

One of the characteristics of the ungodly is to exchange sexual roles. Now, it seems to be general enough to include almost anything. It could be something perhaps as simple as a transvestite, somebody who wears the clothes of the opposite sex, which is very common. Interesting, I read an article that said in the Southern California area, one out of every ten women that you see aren’t. Now, I don’t – I can’t verify those statistics, and I don’t know how they did when they made the test, but that’s what the thing said.

But it can go further than that. It can go to the place of sexual changes and all kinds of sexual aberrations. It can even include any kind of exchange, any kind of exchange of the roles of the sexes.

An interesting comment on this I find in Deuteronomy 22:5, that we’ve commented before in several of our discussions, but I would just point – you don’t need to look it up – Deuteronomy 22:5 says this, “The woman shall not wear that which pertains unto a man. Neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” God does not want anything that even smacks of an exchange of the roles of the sexes. This is forbidden. This is characteristic of unregenerate, unrighteous, ungodly people who are not a part of the kingdom of God. And it was a part of the society of that day. And I think even women’s lib and that kind of thing borders on this, where you are exchanging the roles.

You see, if you can start to do that, you can break it down, you make everybody dress alike, and then you take away the authority submission principle in the home, and you wipe out the family. You destroy the whole basis of a home. And you’ve destroyed the nation and the – and the pattern of passing on the revelation of God is really wiped out, because it’s to be passed from parents to children – and destroy the family and the chain of revelation can be broken at that point.

So, you know Satan wants to wipe out sex roles. They are illustrative – aren’t they? – of the church and Christ. And so, that illustration is muddied and destroyed, and away Satan goes to this area. And so, here, characteristic of unregenerate people, they are effeminate. That is they exchange their true identity sexually for the opposite role.

For the next two paragraphs, church membership of those of other sexual persuasions was a big deal in many conservative Protestant churches. However, at the same time — 1975 — the Catholic church my family and I belonged to had a young, gay, atheist organist. The nun who was in charge of pastoral care hired him. But I digress. MacArthur says:

Another word, it says in verse 9 at the end, “abusers of themselves with mankind,” which is a long phrase for homosexuals. You people are always today, in the church – you know, I just read where the Methodist Church has now decided that they’re going to admit homosexuals and all of this. This goes on all the time, just a rather incessant situation today of, “Oh, we’ve got to take these people in; they’re wonderful people; they just have a little different slant on things, and so forth and so on, and that we need to be very tolerant of them. It’s one of those things that doesn’t really matter; it’s only a biological factor, blah-blah; we have to minster to them and so forth and so on.”

And, of course, right here in L.A., we have a homosexual church, Metropolitan something Church … We’re not saying that this is unforgiveable, and we’re not saying that we don’t love these people. We’re saying this is a sin that God hates and that characterizes unregenerate people.

MacArthur discusses what went on at Sodom, and, contrary to what we read today, what went on there had nothing to do with ‘hospitality’, which is today’s modern theme about Sodom and Gomorrah:

The word that is used in the Bible is frequently connected with sodomy. 1 Timothy 1:10 talks about it. Sodomy. The word “sodomy” comes from Sodom. The sin of Sodom, which was destroyed, you know, by fire – the sin of Sodom was the sin of homosexuality. The people lusted after the angels that appeared at Lot’s house, and that became the first biblical illustration of homosexuality, that terrible perversion.

By the time of the writing of the Corinthian letter, homosexuality was so widespread that it was unbelievable. Fourteen out of the first 15 Roman emperors were homosexuals. Socrates was a homosexual. Plato was most likely a homosexual. He wrote his dialogue called “The Symposium on Love,” and the basis of it is homosexual love. Nero, who was reigning around this period, took a boy named Sporus and had him castrated and lived with him as wife. And when Nero died, Sporus was then passed on to Otho, who was the next emperor. So, this was just pattern of living in those days. This is characteristic of their former life.

I’ll continue with MacArthur’s sermon, because, in Henry’s era, people were still God-fearing, for the most part. Yes, there was sexual immorality, along with a depraved underground men’s movement that appeared in London during the subsequent Georgian era, but nothing that was mainstream.

Today, gays and lesbians can start their own families — as appropriate — by adoption, artificial insemination or surrogacy. Surrogacy is still very controversial in many countries. I have more of a problem with that than I do adoption or artificial insemination.

Personally, I would rather have gays and lesbians in the Church than outside of it. However, that goes against Paul’s teachings, too.

That said, never mind me. Let’s focus on Scripture here. 

Moving along, has anyone noticed how certain acts of theft, especially shoplifting, are no longer considered crimes? The police in Britain don’t even want to know. A few weeks ago, I read of a proposed law in Seattle whereby anything that is not a felony would be decriminalised. That’s pretty serious, because you could be maimed permanently in a mugging or have your house robbed and be ignored by the police. What are we coming to as a society?

MacArthur looks at theft and greed as it was 46 years ago:

verse 10 says they also are characterized as “thieves” – and the word here means petty theft; this is crime. It could refer to just kind of street crime. And then it – this is characteristic of today, there’s no need to even give you statistics on that, it’s apparent to everybody that crime keeps getting higher and higher and higher and higher statistically speaking.

And then it says the characteristic of the worlds is that they’re “greedy” or “covetous,” and I don’t know that any of us are unaware of this. We see it in the paper, people demanding more and more, more and more, more and more, never enough, never enough. It’s incredible the amount of money that people are demanding. Greed is just taking over our society

He looks at drunkenness. I’m surprised he did not tie drug abuse in with this, because, even in the 1970s, there were a lot of young people who said they didn’t drink but they definitely used drugs instead. I knew several. To them, drugs were better, ‘less addictive’, so they claimed:

“Drunkenness.” Some of you may have seen on television the other night the terrible story that they gave, a documentary about people beginning to be drunkards when they’re eight years old, alcoholic children. And all the way through life we just keep producing more and more of these kinds of people.

He goes on to the other sins:

And then he goes to talk about slanderers or “revilers,” people who abuse with the tongue. And our society is loaded with those kind of people. No question about that.

And then “extortioners,” swindlers, people who are rip-off artists, con artists, people who are able to swindle.

All of these things are categories in which the world is defined by the Word of God. We have a world full of those people.

Paul ends this section of his letter with a reprimand that contains hope, eternal hope (verse 11).

Paul tells the Corinthians that some of them came from these groups of sinners, but that since they found Christ, they have been symbolically washed in His blood and became sanctified. As such, they were justified in God through His Son and the Holy Spirit.

Henry explains:

How glorious a change does grace make! It changes the vilest of men into saints and the children of God. Such were some of you, but you are not what you were. You are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified in the name of Christ, and by the Spirit of our God. Note, The wickedness of men before conversion is no bar to their regeneration and reconciliation to God. The blood of Christ, and the washing of regeneration, can purge away all guilt and defilement. Here is a rhetorical change of the natural order: You are sanctified, you are justified. Sanctification is mentioned before justification: and yet the name of Christ, by which we are justified, is placed before the Spirit of God, by whom we are sanctified. Our justification is owing to the merit of Christ; our sanctification to the operation of the Spirit: but both go together. Note, None are cleansed from the guilt of sin, and reconciled to God through Christ, but those who are also sanctified by his Spirit. All who are made righteous in the sight of God are made holy by the grace of God.

The last word goes to Henry, with a highly practical application of today’s verses:

Note, It is very much the concern of mankind that they do not cheat themselves in the matters of their souls. We cannot hope to sow to the flesh and yet reap everlasting life.

That is something to truly ponder and apply to our own lives.

It is much easier to live under the light yoke of holiness than the millstone of sin.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 7:1-16

Bible read me 2The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Corinthians 6:1-8

Lawsuits Against Believers

When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers![a]

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s conclusion on church discipline in order to keep the congregation pure.

In this week’s verses, Paul rebukes the Corinthians for taking out vexatious and trivial lawsuits against each other in secular courts rather than try and resolve their differences in Christian love and wisdom.

The Corinthians were troubled and troublesome people. It is not surprising, considering that they lived in a city known throughout the Ancient World for its iniquity.

Paul was keen to get the Corinthian church back on track.

In 1 Corinthians 6, he begins by chiding them for suing each other.

He asks why the Corinthians go to civil courts to resolve their differences rather than seek reconciliation within their church community (verse 1). He rewords the same question in verse 2.

John MacArthur explains the gravity of their situation (emphases mine):

Now, the problem in the church at Corinth was that Christians were suing each other. Now, the Corinthian church, to which Paul wrote this letter, had a lot of problems. The letter was written as kind of a problem solver.

He deals with problems of their divergence of human philosophies resulting in their inability to get along together, problems such as incest, somebody having a sexual relationship with his father’s wife, problems of pagan worship, problems of drunkenness, all kinds of problems that the Corinthians had, and each chapter deals with a different one of them. Well, one of the problems they had was the problem of suing each other. They were very busy taking each other to court and really, their motives became very impure. It got to the place where they were even doing it in order to rob each other.

By contrast, the Jews, who were widespread even during that time, were known for settling their differences within their own congregations. They did not take each other to a civil court:

the Jews did not ordinarily go to law in a public law court. That just wasn’t something they did. And if they ever had a problem – and in every city where there were Jews, there was usually a Jewish synagogue. If you had eleven men, you could have a synagogue, and they would start one, and so the synagogue would become kind of the court, and the deciding process would be carried on right within that little framework of the Jewish family, and they never would take their problems into the pagan world.

They were trying to show the world their unity. They were trying to show the world their love. They were trying to settle their own problems, and they also felt that God’s Word, the revelation of God, the law of God, the Old Testament, had all the answers to the problems of their life. It had answers to all the family problems, all the problems on a social level, cultural and economic level, and why would they need to go to a pagan court?

And it was an interesting thing, too, that the Roman and the Greek world accommodated this Jewish attitude. They allowed them the right to decide their own cases. In fact, even in the case of Jesus Christ, you know, it was their own decision to do what they wanted with Jesus Christ. They had that right, short of the right of execution, to decide their own cases, and the Romans and the Greeks were very tolerant in that regard. And Roman law was somewhat advanced and – and very, very tolerant in allowing the Jews to do what they wanted in terms of their own decisions.

What is interesting about this, too, is that it translated over into Christianity because the Romans and the Greeks saw Christianity as a form of Judaism, and since they saw it as a form of Judaism, they allowed Christians the same rights they’d always allowed Jews; that is, they could decide their own issues. So there was absolutely no reason for them to wind up in a pagan court. They had no reason to go there because the courts would’ve accepted the decisions they had made in their own community and granted them sanction by the government. So it was ridiculous for them to even wind up in court, but here they were, always going to court.

But that was not enough for the Corinthians:

… the reason primarily was they didn’t want to settle it in their own community because they couldn’t get what they wanted and they wanted to gouge each other. So they wanted to drag it into a pagan court and see if they can get more money out of it or more whatever they were after. And in addition to that, in the community in which they lived, particularly in Athens, the law system and the process of litigation was so much a part of life that it became the chief entertainment.

Let me tell you why. In Athens, there were suits and law problems going on continuously. In fact, one historian said everybody in the city of Athens was a lawyer, more or less. I’ll show you why. Let’s say you had a problem with a guy and you wanted to settle it. The first process you followed was known as private arbitration. A private arbitrator was given to you, a private arbitrator was given to him, and a neutral third party was chosen, and those three people were supposed to resolve the problem.

If those three people couldn’t come to any agreement and couldn’t solve the problem, then your case was turned over to a court known as the Forty, and the Forty would appoint another arbitrator. There were certain public arbitrators, not private, now, but public like a public defender. Everybody 60 years old, for the duration of his 60th year, served the community as a public arbitrator. And so if you couldn’t get your thing settled by private arbitration, then public arbitrators were assigned to your case.

Now, if that didn’t do it, there was a multiple-jury court in Athens made up of 201 people for small cases, and we have records of anywhere from 1,000 to 6,000 people for big cases. You could have a jury of 6,000 people in your court case. Talk about a hung jury. How’d you like to try to convince all them? Well, it was a majority situation but the idea simply being this: that with juries that big, and with the process this involved, everybody got into it.

Everybody in his 60th year, knowing he’d have to be a public arbitrator, would have some sense of knowledge about the courtroom process, and all the jurors in those large juries were 30 years and older, so by the time you hit 30, you’d be involved in all of that. Law was a big deal and as I said, everybody was more or less a lawyer. If you weren’t really in on the case, you were in on it in terms of sharing your opinion, discussion, and everything else because it was so much a way of life.

Well, here are these people in the Corinthian system. They are so used to doing this kind of a thing as a process of life, they get saved, they become Christians, they enter the church, and just like they did with everything else, they dragged that whole deal into the church, too. They dragged their philosophies into the church. They dragged their immoralities into the church. They dragged their litigation attitudes into the church. The whole style of life that they used to have just kept coming into the church with them. They never really knew how to make the break.

Paul was looking ahead to the afterlife by reminding them by asking about saints being able to judge angels (verse 3). Therefore, he says, the same principle should apply in this temporal life.

MacArthur explains:

there’s no article. Doesn’t say “the” angels or which angels or what kind of angels, just says angels, and that gives it a qualitative sense. Angels as beings. In other words, he’s saying we’re going to be put above superior beings. We’re going to be placed above the angels.

Now, there are two kinds of angels, good ones and bad ones. Evil angels and holy angels. Does this mean we’re going to judge the evil angels? Well, there is going to be a judgment of evil angels. There’s no doubt about that. 2 Peter 2:4 says that “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them to hell, delivered them to chains to be reserved unto judgment.” Says the same thing in Jude verse 6. “The angels who kept not there first estate, he reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment.”

So there’s going to be a judgment of evil angels. Will we be a part of that? Could be. Doesn’t say which angels here, but it might be that we’ll be co-reigning with Christ and judging – ruling over – fallen angels. Now, others say, “No, it means good angels. It means good angels because if it meant bad angels, it probably would say that, so it probably means good angels.” Well, that could be. If it means good angels, what are we going to judge them for? They didn’t do anything.

Well, then you’d have to say, “Well, the word ‘judge’ is used synonymously with the word ‘rule’” and that’s true. To judge in Israel and to rule in Israel meant the same thing in the Old Testament, so maybe he’s just saying generally we’re going to rule over them. You say, “Which view do you take?” Well, I’m sort of a theological packrat, so I’ll take both, and I’ll assume that what he’s saying here is he’s collecting everything up and saying, “You’re going to rule the world, and you’re going to rule angels. You may be in on the judgment of evil ones, and you will certainly be part of the rule of the good ones.”

Just think about it. In heaven someday, we’ll have a position to rule over angels. And, of course, their submission to us will be voluntary. Now, I don’t understand all the implications of that. I just – I just kind of feel that’s kind of interesting to think about. But if we can judge the world someday with the equipment that we have in the power of the Spirit of God and the knowledge of His Word, and if we can judge angels, then we ought to be able to settle our own matters down here. That’s a fairly good argument, isn’t it? That’s what he’s arguing here.

Paul asks whether believers should be placing their grievances before a civil authority, those who have no standing in the church (verse 4).

MacArthur interprets that verse for us:

the least esteemed Christian is better equipped to handle a family matter within the framework of Christianity than the most competent pagan judge.

Paul points out that they should be ashamed of going to a civil court to resolve matters that could be done within the context of the church family (verses 5, 6).

Matthew Henry offers this analysis:

It is a shame that little quarrels should grow to such a head among Christians, that they cannot be determined by arbitration of the brethren …

Note, Christians should never engage in law-suits till all other remedies have been tried in vain. Prudent Christians should prevent, if possible, their disputes, and not courts of judicature decide them, especially in matters of no great importance.

Paul criticises the Corinthians for suing each other, calling such behaviour a ‘defeat’ for them (verse 7). Clearly, they were not showing Christian love for their neighbour. Furthermore, they were demonstrating that lack of love before the pagan world.

Paul goes further, asking them if it were not better for them to be defrauded rather than to engage in unloving behaviour.

MacArthur points out that even pagans believed it was worth being defrauded from time to time, quoting Plato:

… even a – a non-Christian like Plato said this – Plato said, “The really good man will always choose to suffer wrong rather than to do wrong.” The truly good man will always choose to suffer wrong rather than to do wrong.

Now listen, I’ll apply that to this. Even the pagan man knew that. It’s a sin to sue a Christian. It’s better to suffer wrong than to sue a Christian, right? It’s better. You say, “But he took a lot of money.” It’s better to suffer wrong than to sue a Christian. You never sue a Christian. That’s wrong.

For a Christian with the love of Christ in his heart, he would rather suffer insult, injury, loss, damage, rather than inflict it on somebody else, especially a brother. Vengeance, for a Christian, is absolutely absurd. It is absolutely absurd. A Christian does not order his acts by recompense, by a desire for revenge. A Christian orders his acts by love and forgiveness, doesn’t he? And a Christian will seek peace at any cost. Paul says, “I can’t believe it. Suing each other.”

Paul ends this series of questions with a sharp statement about the Corinthians’ preference for doing wrong and defrauding each other rather than loving their brethren (verse 8).

Henry explains:

It is utterly a fault to wrong and defraud any; but it is an aggravation of this fault to defraud our Christian brethren. The ties of mutual love ought to be stronger between them than between others. And love worketh no ill to his neighbour, Rom. 13:10. Those who love the brotherhood can never, under the influence of this principle, hurt or injure them.

Paul has much more to say to the Christians of Corinth. This is but the tip of the iceberg.

Next time: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

bible-wornThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church[a] whom you are to judge? 13 God judges[b] those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

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My previous post discussed the first five verses of 1 Corinthians 5 wherein Paul said that church discipline was necessary to keep the congregation holy. Those guilty of sexual sin needed to be excluded from the congregation until they had repented.

Paul reprises this in verse 9. It is a sin to have a sexually immoral person in the congregation. Paul mentions ‘my letter’, which Matthew Henry’s commentary says could refer to a previous letter of his or this particular one (emphases mine below):

Some think this was an epistle written to them before, which is lost. Yet we have lost nothing by it, the Christian revelation being entire in those books of scripture which have come down to us, which are all that were intended by God for the general use of Christians, or he could and would in his providence have preserved more of the writings of inspired men. Some think it is to be understood of this very epistle, that he had written this advice before he had full information of their whole case, but thought it needful now to be more particular.

Paul then writes something interesting, clarifying that exclusion pertains to someone in the congregation but not from the world in general, because one would then need to leave the world altogether (verse 10). What is our purpose? To spread the Good News in whatever way we are able. Therefore, we must have contact with the world as it is.

John MacArthur explains:

You’ve got to get in the world, let your light shine in the world. You’re to be in the middle of the system. You’re to be contacting it, up against it, hearing what it’s thinking, seeing what it’s doing, and winning the people that are in it and loving them in the love of Jesus Christ without conforming to them

MacArthur points out that Paul names all the major sins in verse 10:

notice he classifies the sinners of the world in three primary categories: fornicators – or immoral – covetous – and extortioner ties right in with covetous – and idolaters. If you notice those three sins, you pretty well sum up the whole of human philosophy. Immorality is hedonism, covetousness is materialism, and idolatry is religionism, and it’s pretty well all there.

The sin of fornication is the sin against the body. Covetousness and extortion is the sin against others where you regard people as objects to be exploited, and the sin of idolatry is a sin against God where you allow something to substitute for God. So here you have all of the sins possible, against self, against others, against God. All of the kinds of philosophies, whether they be hedonism, the libertarian philosophy of the expression of the body, or covetousness, materialism, idolatry, religionism, it’s all there.

Verse 11, in which Paul tells the Corinthians not to associate with such people, might appear to contradict the previous verse. However, Paul is speaking of those in the Church, not the wider world. We know because he clarifies it with the words ‘anyone who bears the name of brother’.

Paul says that he is in no position to judge those outside the Church (verse 12). However, inside the church, judgement is another matter.

MacArthur says:

“What have I to do with outsiders?” Nothing. The literal way to translate the last part of verse 12 is this: “Is it not those within the church you are to judge?” Is it not those within the church you are to judge? And the answer is yes.

Now you say, “John, does this mean that everybody in the church has to be perfect?” No. No, because then there wouldn’t be a church. People always say, “Well, I don’t go to church. There’s so many imperfect people there.” The church never claimed to be the society of the perfection. The church is a hospital with people who at least know they’re sick, and they’re there because they seek to be what God wants them to be, and that’s all God’s asking. He’s not asking for perfection; He’s asking for the desire for it.

Think of it this way. Imagine a hospital had doctors and nurses who practised poor hygiene and infected patients causing them to become sicker and maybe die. That is an intolerable situation, wouldn’t you say? Think of the purity of the Church in the same way as you would a hospital. We should want the best of spiritual care in a church in the same way we would expect hygienic physical care in a hospital. High standards, all the time.

Paul concludes by saying that God is the only one capable of judging those outside the Church (verse 13).

MacArthur thinks that these verses must have had a huge impact on the Corinthians:

that must have hit like an absolute bomb in the Corinthian assembly when that was read. You know why? Every one of those sins can be found in 1 Corinthians. They were immoral, right here in chapter 5, that was the start. They were covetous, chapter 10:24, he tells them to quit being greedy for things and seek other people’s wealth. They were also idolatrous in chapter 10, 20, and 21. They were going to the assembly of the believers, and they were going to worship at the pagan temple, and they were having fellowship with demons.

Not only that, they were slanderers. They had these little factions, and one group was slandering another group. Even when Paul sends Timothy in 16:11, he tells them, “Now, you be easy on Timothy, and don’t speak evil of him” because this is what they were doing. They were drunkards. In 11:21, it says they would come to the Lord’s supper and get drunk at the Lord’s supper. They were extortioners, according to chapter 6. They were taking each other to court and they were taking money from each other, and it caused all kinds of conflicts and problems. Every single one of those sins that are mentioned there was characteristic of the Corinthian assembly.

And he says, “Look, you find all those people and put them out.” You know, they probably would have had a handful of people left if they’d really done it. You say, “Isn’t that the opposite of church growth?” That’s really part of it if your growth is on the right basis. You can’t just accept everybody who calls himself a Christian, no matter what he does.

We expect the world to be imperfect. However, the Church should be synonymous with purity. These days, we have some work to do in that regard. Pray for our clergy and for our people.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 6:1-8

Back in 2010, before I began a formal book-by-book exegesis of Bible verses omitted from the three-year Lectionary used in public worship, I chose random verses about which to write based on sermons I’d read that week.

One of those is the next set of verses in 1 Corinthians (see last week’s entry here):

1 Corinthians 5:1-5 – incest, porneia, church discipline, indifference, sin

Paul has strong words for the Christians in Corinth who take pride in the incest that one of their prominent members commits.  Paul instructs them to publicly discipline this member for the health of the Church.

Given the subject matter, I’m not surprised the Lectionary editors never included it. After all, we wouldn’t want to offend anyone, would we?

Next week’s verses continue the same theme.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

Bible ancient-futurenetThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Corinthians 4:17-21

17 That is why I sent[a] you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ,[b] as I teach them everywhere in every church. 18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s stern yet heartfelt plea to the Corinthians to follow his Christian example.

His reprimand continues throughout the chapter. Today’s verses are the conclusion.

Paul had sent Timothy to the Corinthians to help them improve their ways (verse 17). Timothy had not yet arrived, but he was en route.

Paul considered all the converts and helpers his spiritual children. Timothy was among their number.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says (emphases mine):

To render their regard to Timothy the greater, he gives them his character. He was his beloved son, a spiritual child of his, as well as themselves. Note, Spiritual brotherhood should engage affection as well as what is common and natural. The children of one father should have one heart. But he adds, “He is faithful in the Lord–trustworthy, as one that feared the Lord. He will be faithful in the particular office he has now received of the Lord, the particular errand on which he comes; not only from me, but from Christ. He knows what I have taught, and what my conversation has been in all places, and, you may depend upon it, he will make a faithful report.” Note, It is a great commendation of any minister that he is faithful in the Lord, faithful to his soul, to his light, to his trust from God; this must go a great way in procuring regard to his message with those that fear God.

The Corinthians were so full of pride that they thought they could get away with their various divisions within their church. So Paul warns them of their arrogance, saying that he could make a return visit to Corinth (verse 18).

Furthermore, he planned — if God willed it — a return visit to confront the ‘arrogant people’, the false teachers, in that congregation (verse 19).

The ‘power’ which Paul associates with the kingdom of God (verse 20) is the divine power of the Holy Spirit rather than human discourse. The Corinthians loved their discourse and their philosophy.

Henry explains:

He would bring the great pretenders among them to a trial, would know what they were, not by their rhetoric or philosophy, but by the authority and efficacy of what they taught, whether they could confirm it by miraculous operations, and whether it was accompanied with divine influences and saving effects on the minds of men. For, adds he, the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. It is not set up, nor propagated, nor established, in the hearts of men, by plausible reasonings nor florid discourses, but by the external power of the Holy Spirit in miraculous operations at first, and the powerful influence of divine truth on the minds and manners of men. Note, It is a good way in the general to judge of a preacher’s doctrine, to see whether the effects of it upon men’s hearts to be truly divine. That is most likely to come from God which in its own nature is most fit, and in event is found to produce most likeness to God, to spread piety and virtue, to change men’s hearts and mend their manners.

Paul ends by laying down the law: he can visit them as an angry father would or in a spirit of kindness; it was up to them (verse 21).

MacArthur tells us:

And so he says, “Some of you are puffed up, you don’t think I’m coming, but I will come shortly” – then he throws this in – “if the Lord will.” He knew to throw that in because a lot of times when he planned to go somewhere, he never got there. “And I’ll find out then not the speech of them who are puffed up but the power.” “I’ll find out who’s talk and who’s real when I get there. You people talk a great game but I’m going to find out who’s real, not who’s just talking.”

Discipline is important. Paul says, “When I come there, I’m going to check some things out” …

So he says, “I’m going to come and find out which of you are all talk and which of you really manifest the power of God because the Kingdom of God is not word but power.” “This isn’t an issue of words. I’m going to come and find out who is genuine.” The man’s true character is determined not by his words but the divine power exhibited in his life because if he’s a member of the Kingdom of God, if God rules in his life, then there’s going to be power in his life, not just verbiage

Now watch – verse 21 – “What are you going to do about it? What are you going to do?” “Shall I come unto you with a rod” – if you don’t change, that’s what’s going to be – “or in love and the spirit of gentleness?” “How do you want me to come? I’m coming and I’m coming shortly and how do you want me to come?” Did you notice there’s no answer there in verse 21? Why isn’t there any answer? Who had to make the answer? Corinthians. Choice is yours. “I’ll come, and if it needs to be a rod, it’s going to be a rod, and some heads are going to roll. That’s right. “But I could come in love and gentleness, it’s up to you.”

Paul’s words sound harsh. There are few godly preachers who would use such words today, but he really did love the errant Corinthians. He wanted to make sure they were on the right Christian path.

MacArthur concludes his sermon with this:

And so the spiritual father unbares his heart. “I care about you,” he says. “I begot you. I love you. I seek to see a change in your evil behavior. I want the pattern of my life to be the example for you.” Paul cared about them, so much so that he was willing not only to teach them but to discipline them, to bring them into conformity to that pattern. That is as it should be. My prayer for us – for me, for you, for all of us – is that we would become in the fullest sense spiritual fathers.

MacArthur says we should be begetting disciples for Christ:

Wouldn’t that be exciting? Why aren’t we busy reproducing? There may be 10,000 instructors, all kinds of people that are teaching and giving input, not many fathers. A Christian who isn’t spiritually fathering somebody is a contradiction. My prayer for us is that we would all become spiritual fathers.

Sometimes, that is through preaching or teaching Scripture. Sometimes, it is through setting a godly example in all things. The Lord gives us various gifts, according to our ability. Let us put those gifts to good use through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 5:1-5

Bible penngrovechurchofchristorgThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Corinthians 4:14-16

14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless[a] guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

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Last week’s post featured Paul’s reproof of the errant Corinthians for their pride as their church leaders, principally Paul himself, were putting their lives at risk for Christ and His bride, the Church.

His correction of their behaviour continues throughout the rest of the chapter.

John MacArthur gives us a précis of Paul’s intentions for the Christians of Corinth (emphases mine):

He’s struggling against their weaknesses and their sins and trying to bring them into conformity to the truth of God. They’re Christian people for the most part but behaving as if they weren’t, and he’s very, very zealous and he’s very, very earnest as he writes this epistle to solve their problems. And while in the epistle he is dealing with their problems, such as the problem of division in the first section, the first four chapters, while he’s dealing with their problems, he is constantly explaining his relationship to them.

He’ll say, “I’m saying this because of this and this,” “I’m saying this because I am your servant,” or “I’m saying this because I am the slave of God and I want to carry out His orders,” or “I’m saying this because I’m a steward of God’s mysteries and I must tell you the truth.” And he uses many different metaphors in describing his own ministry so that 1 Corinthians not only becomes a letter dealing with problems in the church, but it becomes a letter that maps out the patterns of the ministry. For we see a church being attacked and we also see a minister attacking the problems in the church, so we get both sides of it.

And as we study the book, we’re going to see a lot about the church and we’re going to see a lot about the ministry in the church, the pastor, the teacher, the leader of the church, as well as things applicable to every Christian’s life. Now, already in 1 Corinthians we’ve been introduced to different metaphors to speak of the minister or the pastor or the apostle or the prophet, the one who leads the church. For example, in chapter 3, verse 5, he is called a servant. In chapter 4, verse 1, the minister is called a slave, a slave of Christ. In chapter 4, verse 1, again he is called a steward of the mysteries of God. And so already we’ve seen the pastor as a slave and a servant and a steward.

We found, too, that in chapter 3, verse 6, the metaphor of a farmer is used. He says, “I have planted and Apollos has watered.” So you not only have domestic metaphors like servant, slave, steward, but you have actually a farming metaphor in farmer and you have a building metaphor in verse 10 of chapter 3, he calls himself a wise master builder. So many metaphors in 1 Corinthians are used to describe the ministry, and all of them taken in a composite would give a tremendous study of what the pastor is, what the leader is, what the elder in the church is …

So you have domestic metaphors to speak of the ministry. You have agricultural metaphors, you have building metaphors, you have what you’d call political metaphors in the herald and the ambassador. There is also a legal metaphor used to describe the preacher. He is called a witness, somebody who gives testimony, somebody who witnesses to the truth, as it were, in a court.

Now, all of these metaphors describe the preacher, but there is one other metaphor that perhaps sums up in a very unique way the intimacy between the pastor and his people and that is in verse 15 of chapter 4. “Though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, you have not many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” And this is the metaphor of a father. One way that God describes the relationship between a preacher and his converts, a pastor and his people, is the relationship between a father and his child, and therein lies the personal metaphor, the intimate metaphor. And that is the theme of our study for today.

Now remember, for the four chapters we’ve been studying, Paul has really been firing all barrels. He’s really unloaded on them against their carnality, against their pride, against their love of human wisdom, against their sectarian spirit, their splits and quarrels over whichever preacher they like the best. They were fractioned into division, and he’s really been wailing on them. And even at the end of the last passage we studied, he became very sarcastic. And when you get to the place of sarcasm, you’re really dealing in strong language.

Paul wants the Corinthians to know that he does not want to humiliate them but to correct their behaviour as a loving father would act towards his own children (verse 14).

Matthew Henry’s commentary explains:

When the affections of a father mingle with the admonitions of a minister, it is to be hoped that they may at once melt and mend; but to lash like an enemy or executioner will provoke and render obstinate.

Paul then makes reference to their love of their many teachers — ‘countless guides in Christ’ — which has created the divisions among them (verse 15). He reminds them that he is their spiritual father, the one who brought them up in the faith.

Henry says:

They were made Christians by his ministry. He had laid the foundation of a church among them. Others could only build upon it. Whatever other teachers they had, he was their spiritual father. He first brought them off from pagan idolatry to the faith of the gospel and the worship of the true and living God. He was the instrument of their new birth, and therefore claimed the relation of a father to them, and felt the bowels of a father towards them. Note, There commonly is, and always ought to be, an endeared affection between faithful ministers and those they beget in Christ Jesus through the gospel. They should love like parents and children.

He urges them to imitate his example in the way he follows Christ (verse 16).

MacArthur says that Paul felt responsible for them in a loving way, in the manner that a father has for his own offspring:

And therein really lies the depth and the compassion of his heart. He was not indifferent to them. He was not just merely carrying out orders as a servant. He was sensitive to them as a father.

Paul did not have a wife and family of his own. However, his ministry produced countless spiritual children whom he fathered in the faith. He wanted them to imitate Christ’s example, and what better way then through imitating his own spiritual behaviours and taking on his scriptural beliefs.

MacArthur points out:

God does do the saving and God does have the Word of God as the instrument, but God does use the human agent.

For the Corinthians, Paul was that exemplary human agent.

Paul was not finished with his reproof of the Corinthians. There will be more to come next week.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 4:17-21

Bible treehuggercomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Corinthians 4:8-13

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

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Last week’s verses illustrated why pride is a sin. The Corinthians were ‘puffed up’ one against another in their church divisions.

Paul continues his correction of this behaviour in today’s reading.

The Corinthians were proud of themselves, thinking they had it all — materially and spiritually — as if they ruled the world and did not need Paul (verse 8). Paul adds a bit of sarcasm: would it were so, then he and the other church leaders there (e.g. Apollos) could share in that glory.

Matthew Henry’s commentary explains (emphases mine):

There is a very elegant gradation from sufficiency to wealth, and thence to royalty, to intimate how much the Corinthians were elated by the abundance of their wisdom and spiritual gifts, which was a humour that prevailed among them while the apostle was away from them, and made them forget what an interest he had in all. See how apt pride is to overrate benefits and overlook the benefactor, to swell upon its possessions and forget from whom they come; nay, it is apt to behold them in a magnifying-glass: “You have reigned as kings,” says the apostle, “that is, in your own conceit; and I would to God you did reign, that we also might reign with you. I wish you had as much of the true glory of a Christian church upon you as you arrogate to yourselves. I should come in then for a share of the honour: I should reign with you: I should not be overlooked by you as now I am, but valued and regarded as a minister of Christ, and a very useful instrument among you.” Note, Those do not commonly know themselves best who think best of themselves, who have the highest opinion of themselves. The Corinthians might have reigned, and the apostle with them, if they had not been blown up with an imaginary royalty. Note, Pride is a great prejudice to our improvement. He is stopped from growing wiser or better who thinks himself at the height; not only full, but rich, nay, a king.

John MacArthur has a somewhat different outlook. He thinks that the Corinthians were boasting in their good teachers, including Paul:

They weren’t boasting in themselves so much, they were boasting in this good man, Paul, and you’d almost think that’s all right, but that’s how subtle Satan is when he takes a good thing, twists it into a pride issue, and then Paul unmasks it as something very vile. Satan is very deceptive.

MacArthur explains that the Greek and Roman languages had no words for ‘humility’, although they did have words for ‘pride’:

The Roman language, you know, and the Greek language had no word for humility. Had a word for pride, alazoneia, for one. Had no word for humility. You know why? They had no conception of that. It was nothing even to be thought of that a man would be humble. Christianity and the Old Testament Judaism really invented that word. Because humility comes with a proper perspective of God in Christ. If you don’t have God in Christ and all you can do is compare yourself with other people, there’s grounds for thinking you’re better.

Paul says that the Lord chose His Apostles to be the least of all people: ‘a spectacle to the world’ (verse 9).

MacArthur tells us what ‘spectacle’ meant in that era:

He says, “We’re spectacles for I think that God has set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death, for we are made a spectacle unto the world and to angels and to men.” He says, “You people are really something. You’re the heroes, we’re the criminals.”

He chose a very vivid picture. When a Roman General won a victory, they had a procession they called a Triumph, capital T. And what they did was the Roman general would come into the city and he would parade his victorious army through the streets and in would come the army with all the falderal and all the pomp and the whole bit. They would come parading into the city. He would demonstrate his triumph and his achievement by showing off his troops.

Way at the end of the line of troops there would be a little band of captives. They would probably be the best of the captives. They would be all chained together. They were sentenced to death, and they would die in the arena when they would fight the beasts. Following the great Triumph, the people would move to the arena. In would come the little captives. At the end of everything, they would fight and be consumed by the beasts.

History tells us that there was a common phrase, te morituri salutamus. We who are about to die salute you. And in would come the captives and they would die. And Paul says the word “spectacle” and that’s what it refers to. “We are the spectacles, you are the great generals, you Corinthians, conquering everything, parading with all the falderal, showing off your trophies, and we’re the little group of chained captives who have to go and die.” Boy, that’s sharp language, isn’t it? “You’ve arrived. You’re the heroes, we’re the spectacles. You flaunt your pride, your privileges. You reckon your achievements and we just serve and die.”

Henry has more:

Note, The office of an apostle was, as an honourable, so a hard and hazardous one: “For we are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men, 1 Corinthians 4:9. A show. We are brought into the theatre, brought out to the public view of the world. Angels and men are witnesses to our persecutions, sufferings, patience, and magnanimity. They all see that we suffer for our fidelity to Christ, and how we suffer; how great and imminent are our dangers, and how bravely we encounter them; how sharp our sufferings, and how patiently we endure them, by the power of divine grace and our Christian principles. Ours is hard work, but honourable; it is hazardous, but glorious. God will have honour from us, religion will be credited by us. The world cannot but see and wonder at our undaunted resolution, our invincible patience and constancy.” And how contentedly could they be exposed, both to sufferings and scorn, for the honour of their Master! Note, The faithful ministers and disciples of Christ should contentedly undergo any thing for his sake and honour.

Pursuing that thought, Paul says that the Corinthian laity could reap the rewards of honour while church leaders such as Paul were held in disrepute (verse 10).

MacArthur notes the sarcasm in that verse:

Look at it, verse 10. “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise,” sarcasm again. “We are weak, but you are strong. You are honorable, but we are despised.” Oh, the sarcasm there. “We go through the world and what does the world think of us? They think we’re fools,” and they did. In chapter 17 of Acts in verse 18, the Athenians who were the brilliant people, the Athenians who had all the philosophies, the Athenians who knew everything in terms of a solution to man’s problem, they heard Paul and they said, “What does this babbler know?”

And Paul said in 1 Corinthians earlier that “the preaching of the cross is to the world” – what? – “foolishness.” “They think we’re fools.” Back in Acts chapter 5, Peter and John preached and the Sanhedrin said, “What do these people know? They’re hicks from Galilee. They’re not even from uptown, Jerusalem.” And then the apostles were considered weak. Paul said he had a thorn in the flesh, that his body was constantly infirm.

You read 2 Corinthians 11:23 and all the things he endured. The pain, weariness, watchings, hunger, thirst, shipwrecked, being stoned, being beaten with rods, all of the things that he endured, he was weak and he was a beaten man physically so many, many times. And then he was despised. You remember he went into Lystra and Iconium and Derbe and Antioch and Pisidia and in those towns, he was thrown out of town. He was stoned and left for dead. He was chased all over Macedonia. That’s how the world treated them, “But you Corinthians, why, you’re wise and strong and honored.” Sarcasm, sarcasm.

Henry says:

The Corinthians may think themselves, and be esteemed by others, as wiser and stronger men in Christ than the apostles themselves. But O! how gross is the mistake!

Paul continues, saying that he and the other church leaders had poor attire and could never be assured of their next meal or lodgings (verse 11). Furthermore, they were manual labourers, earning just enough to get by (verse 12).

No self-respecting Greek (e.g. Corinthian) would perform manual labour. Their slaves took care of that.

As such, Paul and other church leaders were looked down upon as the lowest of the low.

MacArthur tells us:

“We’ve been beaten up. We have no home, no dwelling place. We labor, working with our own hands.” And, of course, to a Greek, working with your hands was dishonorable. That’s why they had slaves.

Henry reminds us that Christians in that era were also blamed for natural disasters, with their leaders being the first to carry that opprobrium:

It is reasonably thought by the critics that an allusion is here made to a common custom of many heathen nations, to offer men in sacrifice in a time of pestilence, or other like grievous calamity. These were ordinarily the vilest of men, persons of the lowest rank and worst character. Thus, in the first ages, Christians were counted the source of all public calamities, and were sacrificed to the people’s rage, if not to appease their angry deities. And apostles could not meet with better usage.

The leaders’ behaviour, in obedience to Christ, demanded that they bless those who curse and persecute them (verse 12). Because they appeared outwardly weak, society treated them as if they were filth, the sort one might scrape off a shoe in disgust (verse 13).

Henry notes that such men were imitating Christ, who suffered similarly, and ultimately through His horrifying death:

They were the common-sewer into which all the reproaches of the world were to be poured. To be the off-scouring of any thing is bad, but what is it to be the off-scouring of all things! How much did the apostles resemble their Master, and fill up that which was behind of his afflictions, for his body’s sake, which is the church! Colossians 1:24. They suffered for him, and they suffered after his example. Thus poor and despised was he in his life and ministry. And every one who would be faithful in Christ Jesus must prepare for the same poverty and contempt. Note, Those may be very dear to God, and honourable in his esteem, whom men may think unworthy to live, and use and scorn as the very dirt and refuse of the world. God seeth not as man seeth, 1 Samuel 16:7

Note, The disciples of Christ, and especially his ministers, should hold fast their integrity, and keep a good conscience, whatever opposition of hardships they meet with from the world. Whatever they suffer from men, they must follow the example, and fulfil the will and precepts, of their Lord. They must be content, with him and for him, to be despised and abused.

That has been true since the earliest days of the Church and is still true today.

MacArthur says:

It’s easy to get along in the world if you don’t speak the truth. But, boy, when you start hitting the world with the truth, you’re going to get a reaction because the world doesn’t want to hear. And since Satan is the god of this world, the prince of the age, he’s got the system to the place where it won’t tolerate the Word of truth. And somebody who boldly proclaims the Word of truth is going to be set apart and they’re going to be considered as filth and offscouring. There’s no place for exalting ourselves, people. We are in this world as pilgrims. Man, we’re on a journey.

Paul’s reprimand continues next week.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 4:14-16

bible-wornThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry.

1 Corinthians 4:6-7

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers,[a] that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Last week’s post introduced 1 Corinthians, explaining more about Corinth and the Christians there.

Unlike the Thessalonians, who were devout, the Corinthians had shortcomings in their beliefs and conduct. Paul counselled and corrected them in this letter.

One of the big issues with the Corinthians involved the divisions within their church. Groups of them followed certain leaders. One faction aligned itself with Paul, another with Apollos, yet another with Cephas as well as one group claiming to follow Christ alone.

Paul addressed this factionalism in 1 Corinthians 3, excerpts from which follow (emphases mine):

2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled[b] master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

As we know, continuing squabbles lead to genuine strife and destructive division that can put an end to a church — or any other organisation for that matter.

Paul warned the Corinthians about the end result:

16 Do you not know that you[c] are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

He also took issue with their notional wisdom. Philosophy was very popular in Corinth:

18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

1 Corinthians 4 is about the role of Apostles (i.e. Paul) and ministers in the church (e.g. Apollos) and how the congregation should treat them.

He begins by saying that ministers of the church should be faithful, above all. Paul said he was not concerned if the Corinthians judged him, because only the Lord could judge him:

Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

Paul knew that the divisions among them were causing them to be full of pride, each faction believing it was better than the other.

Therefore, he wrote that he and Apollos were faithful stewards of the church and, as such, just as they did not go beyond what Paul had taught them (‘beyond what is written’) or in Scripture, nor should the Corinthians in esteeming their respective faction over another (verse 6).

Matthew Henry explains:

The advice the apostle would by this means inculcate was that they might learn not to think of men above what is written (above what he had been writing), nor be puffed up for one against another (1 Corinthians 4:6). Apostles were not to be esteemed other than planters or waterers in God’s husbandry, master-builders in his building, stewards of his mysteries, and servants of Christ. And common ministers cannot bear these characters in the same sense that apostles did. Note, We must be very careful not to transfer the honour and authority of the Master to his servant. We must call no man Master on earth; one is our Master, even Christ, Matthew 23:8,10. We must not think of them above what is written. Note, The word of God is the best rule by which to judge concerning men. And again, judging rightly concerning men, and not judging more highly of them than is fit, is one way to prevent quarrels and contentions in the churches.

This is a perfect illustration of why pride is a sin. It destroys, never heals:

Pride commonly lies at the bottom of these quarrels. Self-conceit contributes very much to our immoderate esteem of our teachers, as well as ourselves. Our commendation of our own taste and judgment commonly goes along with our unreasonable applause, and always with a factious adherence to one teacher, in opposition to others that may be equally faithful and well qualified. But to think modestly of ourselves, and not above what is written of our teachers, is the most effectual means to prevent quarrels and contests, sidings and parties, in the church. We shall not be puffed up for one against another if we remember that they are all instruments employed by God in his husbandry and building, and endowed by him with their various talents and qualifications.

Verse 7 seems obscure, but Paul is really asking what makes everyone have such a high opinion of themselves, when everything they have with regard to gifts or talent comes from God.

Henry says that verse 7 also includes the ministers in their midst who headed the various factions. Those ministers were false teachers:

Here the apostle turns his discourse to the ministers who set themselves at the head of these factions, and did but too much encourage and abet the people in those feuds. What had they to glory in, when all their peculiar gifts were from God? They had received them, and could not glory in them as their own, without wronging God. At the time when they reflected on them to feed their vanity, they should have considered them as so many debts and obligations to divine bounty and grace. But it may be taken as a general maxim: We have no reason to be proud of our attainments, enjoyments, or performances; all that we have, or are, or do, that is good, is owing to the free and rich grace of God. Boasting is for ever excluded.

This is very important:

There is nothing we have that we can properly call our own: all is received from God. It is foolish in us therefore, and injurious to him, to boast of it; those who receive all should be proud of nothing, Psalms 115:1. Beggars and dependents may glory in their supports; but to glory in themselves is to be proud at once of meanness, impotence, and want. Note, Due attention to our obligations to divine grace would cure us of arrogance and self-conceit.

More will follow on this subject next week.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 4:8-13

Bible ancient-futurenetThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur as cited below.

1 Corinthians 2:13-16

13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.[a]

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

—————————————————————————————————–

Today, having finished a study of Romans, we begin exploring the Lectionary verses omitted from 1 Corinthians.

I have included today’s verses, even though they are optional in the Epistle read on the Fifth Sunday of Epiphany in Year A. One wonders how often these important verses are included in the Epistle read in churches on that day.

The church in Corinth, which Paul founded, had particular challenges because of the cosmopolitan mindset of that city. The people of Corinth were similar to the residents of many major cities of our time. They were noted for their promiscuity, lax morality and litigious tendencies.

John MacArthur’s Grace To You (GTY) site has an introduction to 1 Corinthians, excerpted below (emphases mine).

The early Church fathers authenticated this letter — epistle — as belonging to Paul:

… the epistle was written by the Apostle Paul, whose authorship cannot be seriously questioned. Pauline authorship has been universally accepted by the church since the first century, when 1 Corinthians was penned. Internally, the apostle claimed to have written the epistle (1:1, 13; 3:4–6; 4:15; 16:21). Externally, this correspondence has been acknowledged as genuine since A.D. 95 by Clement of Rome, who was writing to the Corinthian church. Other early Christian leaders who authenticated Paul as author include Ignatius (ca. A.D. 110), Polycarp (ca. A.D. 135), and Tertullian (ca. A.D. 200).

Here is the timeline:

This epistle was most likely written in the first half of A.D. 55 from Ephesus (16:8, 9, 19) while Paul was on his third missionary journey. The apostle intended to remain on at Ephesus to complete his 3 year stay (Acts 20:31) until Pentecost (May/June) A.D. 55 (16:8). Then he hoped to winter (A.D. 55–56) at Corinth (16:6; Acts 20:2). His departure for Corinth was anticipated even as he wrote (4:19; 11:34; 16:8).

As Acts 18 is not in the Lectionary, you can read more in my posts below:

Acts 18:1-4 — Paul, Corinth, Aquila, Priscilla

Acts 18:5-11: Paul, Corinth, Silas, Timothy, election, predestination

Acts 18:12-17 – St Paul, Corinth, Gallio, Sosthenes, tribunal

Acts 18:18-23 — Paul, Priscilla and Aquila, Ephesus, Syria, Nazirite vow, churches in Syria, Galatia and Phyrgia

Acts 18:24-28 – Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila, Ephesus, Achaia

Corinth was a thriving city by any standard:

The city of Corinth was located in southern Greece, in what was the Roman province of Achaia, ca. 45 miles W from Athens. This lower part, the Peloponnesus, is connected to the rest of Greece by a 4-mile-wide isthmus, which is bounded on the E by the Saronic Gulf and on the W by the Gulf of Corinth. Corinth is near the middle of the isthmus and is prominently situated on a high plateau. For many centuries, all N-S land traffic in that area had to pass through or near this ancient city. Since travel by sea around the Peloponnesus involved a 250 mile voyage that was dangerous and obviously time consuming, most captains carried their ships on skids or rollers across the isthmus directly past Corinth. Corinth understandably prospered as a major trade city, not only for most of Greece but for much of the Mediterranean area, including North Africa, Italy, and Asia Minor. A canal across the isthmus was begun by the emperor Nero during the first century A.D., but was not completed until near the end of the nineteenth century.

In addition to its flourishing trade, Corinth was well known for hosting the Isthmian games, which attracted great audiences from near and far.

Morally, the Corinthians stood out as being debauched people:

Even by the pagan standards of its own culture, Corinth became so morally corrupt that its very name became synonymous with debauchery and moral depravity. To “corinthianize” came to represent gross immorality and drunken debauchery. In 6:9, 10, Paul lists some of the specific sins for which the city was noted and which formerly had characterized many believers in the church there. Tragically, some of the worst sins were still found among some church members. One of those sins, incest, was condemned even by most pagan Gentiles (5:1).

Matthew Henry’s introduction makes a similar observation:

It was in a particular manner noted for fornication, insomuch that a Corinthian woman was a proverbial phrase for a strumpet, and korinthiazein, korinthiasesthai–to play the Corinthian, is to play the whore, or indulge whorish inclinations.

The city had an acropolis — ‘a high city’ — which the Corinthians used both for defence and for worship. The acropolis had a temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. At night, the temple’s priestesses offered their services to men in the city. GTY‘s introduction tells us:

Some 1, 000 priestesses, who were “religious” prostitutes, lived and worked there and came down into the city in the evening to offer their services to male citizens and foreign visitors.

Acts 18 tells us how Paul founded the church in Corinth:

The church in Corinth was founded by Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1ff.). As usual, his ministry began in the synagogue, where he was assisted by two Jewish believers, Priscilla and Aquila, with whom he lived for a while and who were fellow tradesmen. Soon after, Silas and Timothy joined them and Paul began preaching even more intensely in the synagogue. When most of the Jews resisted the gospel, he left the synagogue, but not before Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, his family, and many other Corinthians were converted (Acts 18:5–8).

After ministering in Corinth for over a year and a half (Acts 18:11), Paul was brought before a Roman tribunal by some of the Jewish leaders. Because the charges were strictly religious and not civil, the proconsul, Gallio, dismissed the case. Shortly thereafter, Paul took Priscilla and Aquila with him to Ephesus. From there he returned to Israel (vv. 18–22).

Unable to fully break with the culture from which it came, the church at Corinth was exceptionally factional, showing its carnality and immaturity. After the gifted Apollos had ministered in the church for some time, a group of his admirers established a clique and had little to do with the rest of the church. Another group developed that was loyal to Paul, another claimed special allegiance to Peter (Cephas), and still another to Christ alone (see 1:10–13; 3:1–9).

Both commentators agree that Paul wrote this epistle to the Corinthians to correct their faults, both spiritual and moral. Henry has this take, which includes their penchant for adult incest because of a false teacher in their midst:

Some time after he left them he wrote this epistle to them, to water what he had planted and rectify some gross disorders which during his absence had been introduced, partly from the interest some false teacher or teachers had obtained amongst them, and partly from the leaven of their old maxims and manners, that had not been thoroughly purged out by the Christian principles they had entertained. And it is but too visible how much their wealth had helped to corrupt their manners, from the several faults for which the apostle reprehends them. Pride, avarice, luxury, lust (the natural offspring of a carnal and corrupt mind), are all fed and prompted by outward affluence. And with all these either the body of this people or some particular persons among them are here charged by the apostle. Their pride discovered itself in their parties and factions, and the notorious disorders they committed in the exercise of their spiritual gifts. And this vice was not wholly fed by their wealth, but by the insight they had into the Greek learning and philosophy. Some of the ancients tell us that the city abounded with rhetoricians and philosophers. And these were men naturally vain, full of self-conceit, and apt to despise the plain doctrine of the gospel, because it did not feed the curiosity of an inquisitive and disputing temper, nor please the ear with artful speeches and a flow of fine words. Their avarice was manifest in their law-suits and litigations … before heathen judges. Their luxury appeared in more instances than one, in their dress, in their debauching themselves even at the Lord’s table, when the rich, who were most faulty on this account, were guilty also of a very proud and criminal contempt of their poor brethren. Their lust broke out in a most flagrant and infamous instance, such as had not been named among the Gentiles, not spoken of without detestation–that a man should have his father’s wife, either as his wife, or so as to commit fornication with her. This indeed seems to be the fault of a particular person; but the whole church were to blame that they had his crime in no greater abhorrence, that they could endure one of such very corrupt morals and of so flagitious a behaviour among them. But their participation in his sin was yet greater, if, as some of the ancients tell us, they were puffed up on behalf of the great learning and eloquence of this incestuous person.

The abhorrent false teaching about incest was the main reason why Paul insisted the faithful implement a system of church discipline (1 Corinthians 5), verses which are notably not in the Lectionary.

The Corinthians were in a very bad way.

In addition to addressing their immorality, Paul calls for church unity around Christ, not various factions (1 Corinthians 1). He also gives them several lessons on doctrine, reverence and godly living.

In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul tells them that wisdom comes not from man, i.e. philosophy, but from God.

The context to today’s passage can be seen in the two preceding verses:

11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

One also does not need to be a towering genius to understand God’s wisdom or to be edified by it. This is why gnosticism was declared a heresy; it relies on unnecessary esoteric ‘knowledge’ and interpretations of the Gospel.

Paul tells the Corinthians that Christians receive their wisdom from the Holy Spirit rather than mankind (verse 13). Only the Holy Spirit can enable us to understand God’s wisdom. Furthermore, only those filled with the Spirit can understand God’s spiritual truth.

MacArthur explains:

The poor, the uneducated, simple people, for the most part, have always in history constituted the make-up of the church. The reason is they stand then collectively as a testimonial as a rebuke against the world. As the Gentiles stand to make Israel jealous, so do the foolish, the simple stand as redeemed people to make the wise of this world jealous.

As we saw last time, the simplest person without any education who knows God knows more than the greatest philosopher in the world who doesn’t know God. And what a rebuke that is to human wisdom.

Also:

As soon as you became Christian, the first thing you received was wisdom. Who are the truly wise in this world but those who know God. Who are the truly wise in this world but those who know salvation. We are the wise, and we stand as a testimony for all time that God took simple, humble people who didn’t know enough to do anything to redeem themselves, to transform themselves, who didn’t even have the mind and the mental abilities of the best of the world, and He made us the wisest in existence; and His is the glory.

Because only those whom the Spirit has enlightened can understand God’s truth, that truth appears as ‘folly’ — foolishness — to others (verse 14). Is this not something we are surrounded by today? So many people puff themselves up because of their earthly knowledge, particularly when it comes to technology and other scientific endeavours. The vast majority of them openly ridicule a belief in God. They deride us as fools or chumps.

Paul refers frequently to unbelievers as ‘natural’, meaning of an unspiritual, carnal nature, interested merely in self-gratification.

Henry tells us that the ‘natural man’ was very much in vogue in Paul’s era. Natural men viewed each other as being wise, hence the popularity of human philosophy:

The natural man, that is, the wise man of the world (1 Corinthians 1:19,20), the wise man after the flesh, or according to the flesh (1 Corinthians 2:26), one who hath the wisdom of the world, man’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:4-6), a man, as some of the ancients, that would learn all truth by his own ratiocinations, receive nothing by faith, nor own any need of supernatural assistance. This was very much the character of the pretenders to philosophy and the Grecian learning and wisdom in that day. Such a man receives not the things of the Spirit of God. Revelation is not with him a principle of science; he looks upon it as delirium and dotage, the extravagant thought of some deluded dreamer. It is no way to wisdom among the famous masters of the world; and for that reason he can have no knowledge of things revealed, because they are only spiritually discerned, or made known by the revelation of the Spirit, which is a principle of science or knowledge that he will not admit.

It is the same in our time.

Paul goes on to say that the spiritual person can judge all things but can be judged by no one (verse 15). Substitute ‘discern’ and ‘discerned’ for a better context.

Those enlightened by the Spirit can discern not only worldly but also spiritual things. The natural man cannot discern the spiritual. Therefore, he is incapable of understanding those whom the Spirit governs.

Henry says:

In short, he who founds all his knowledge upon principles of science, and the mere light of reason, can never be a judge of the truth or falsehood of what is received by revelation.

I highlighted ‘all’ because philosophy and science certainly have their place. St Thomas Aquinas, who lived during the Middle Ages, is undoubtedly the greatest Christian philosopher. This is because the Spirit governed his mind. Some of our greatest scientists from the age of Enlightenment through to the 19th century were Christian. Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian monk who lived during the 19th century, is the father of genetics. Thanks to his painstaking experiments with pea plants, he discovered dominant and recessive genes, which he called ‘factors’. Of course, farmers had known since the dawn of time how to cross-breed plants and animals successfully, but they did not know the rules as to why. Mendel’s extensive work firmly established those rules.

But I digress.

In verse 16, Paul cites Isaiah 40:13. One can substitute ‘directed’ for ‘measured’ below:

Who has measured[a] the Spirit of the Lord,
    or what man shows him his counsel?

Man is incapable of measuring or directing the Triune God, however, as Paul affirms, believers have the mind of Christ. The Spirit governs our minds.

Henry explains:

Very few have known any thing of the mind of God by a natural power. But, adds the apostle, we have the mind of Christ; and the mind of Christ is the mind of God. He is God, and the principal messenger and prophet of God. And the apostles were empowered by his Spirit to make known his mind to us. And in the holy scriptures the mind of Christ, and the mind of God in Christ, are fully revealed to us. Observe, It is the great privilege of Christians that they have the mind of Christ revealed to them by his Spirit.

What a marvellous thought on which to end.

This theme continues in next week’s reading, which is not in the Lectionary.

Next time –1 Corinthians 4:6-7

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