Monday, April 29, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to 2nd Corinthians 7-13


Readings for this week


Monday: 2nd Corinthians 7
Tuesday: 2nd Corinthians 8
Wednesday: 2nd Corinthians 9
Thursday: 2nd Corinthians 10
Friday: 2nd Corinthians 11
Saturday: 2nd Corinthians 12
Sunday: 2nd Corinthians 13


Introduction to 2nd Corinthians 7-13

Chapter 7 

Paul then reiterates his request for mutual affection, saying “Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have been frank with you, but I am proud of you.” 

Paul then talks about his meeting with Titus in Macedonia. He says that they had no rest and were constantly harassed when they came to Macedonia, but Titus comforted them when he arrived with his message of how the Corinthians had repented and longed to see them again. Paul says that he no longer regrets sending his previous letter to the Corinthians, even though it caused them great sorrow, because he can now see that their sorrow led them to repentance. He says that Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. He says that this godly sorrow has produced in them:

Earnestness
Eagerness to clear themselves
Indignation
Alarm
Longing
Concern
Readiness to see justice done

He says that they had boasted about the Corinthians to Titus, and when they heard his report about the Corinthians, they were glad that they hadn’t embarrassed them. 

Chapter 8 

Paul then exhorts them to give, bringing up the collection for the believers in Jerusalem. He speaks of the necessity for generosity and points to the example of the Macedonians who gave beyond their ability in the midst of extreme trial and poverty, begging them to participate in giving to the service of the Lord’s people. He says they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to the apostles. He then says that they urged to Titus to encourage them to be like the Macedonians - to give generously in addition to having all those spiritual gifts they excel in. He says he is not commanding them, but he wants to test the sincerity of their love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. He says that “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ was seen in that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Paul says he thinks it best that the Corinthians finish the gift that they started to put together last year. But he adds that an acceptable gift is one given willingly – it’s not about what they have or don’t have. The goal here is equality – not that they provide for everyone else to their own hurt, but that everyone provides for everyone.

Paul again talks about the mission of Titus to Corinth. First, he commends Titus, saying that Titus was excited when they asked him to visit the Corinthians again. Paul says that Titus is being sent back along with two brothers who are praised by all the churches and who were chosen by the churches to help distribute the gifts of offerings among the churches. Paul asks that they Please show these church representatives the proof of their love and the reason for his pride in them. 

Chapter 9 

Paul then talks about the need for readiness. He says that since he has boasted about their generous giving to the Macedonians, he is asking that they please be ready to give when these brothers come to visit them so that they won’t embarrass Paul. And he adds that he may bring some Macedonians with him when he visits, and he wants them to see that they give generously and not grudgingly.

Paul then discusses the results of generosity, starting with the benefit to the giver. He says to remember that:

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly.
Whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

He says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” He says that he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase their store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of their righteousness. He says that they will be enriched in every way so that they can be generous on every occasion, and through the apostles the Corinthians’’ generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 

Chapter 10 

Chapters 10-13 are made up of what is known as the “Severe” Letter… or Paul’s defense of his apostolic authority. This section provides context for the preceding chapters.

The first section of Paul’s defense addresses polemics and is an affirmation of apostolic authority in general. This is argued in spite of what Paul acknowledges is an unimpressive appearance. He says he makes his appeal to them by the humility and gentleness of Christ, saying, “You claim that I’m timid when present but bold when far away, but my hope is that I won’t have to be as ‘bold’ with you when I come to visit as I expect to be.” He says that “we live in the world, but we don’t fight the way the world fights. The world has the power to demolish strongholds, but we have the power to demolish arguments and ignorance, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

He tells the Corinthians that he and the other apostles are ready to punish disobedience, and he accuses them of judging by appearances. He declares that if anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that the apostles also belong to Christ just as much as they do. He says that even if he boasts somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave them for building them up rather than tearing them down, he will not be ashamed of it. But he says that he does not want to seem to be trying to frighten them with his letters. He then accuses some of them of saying, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” He says that these people should realize that what th0ye are in their letters when they are absent, they will be in their actions when they are present.

Paul then brings up an apparent invasion of false apostles into his territory. He says that the apostles do not classify or compare themselves with “those who foolishly compare themselves with themselves and measure themselves by themselves.” And he says that the apostles will confine their boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to them, a sphere that also includes the Corinthians. He says, “We’re not going too far when we boast about you, because we worked with you. We’re not going too far when we boast about the work of others either. We hope that as your faith grows we can spread to the regions beyond you. We don’t want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory.” And he concludes that all boasting should be in the Lord because people can’t approve of themselves – only God can. 

Chapter 11 

Paul then goes on to seek vindication of the authenticity of his own apostleship. And he offers arguments for the justification of his labors in Corinth. He says, “Please put up with my foolishness. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to Christ as a virgin bride. But I’m afraid you’re more like an Eve than a bride, being tricked away from your God by a clever snake.” He tells them that they seem to easily put up with anybody who comes along preaching a different gospel than the one he presented to them. And he says that he doesn’t think he’s in any way inferior to these “super-apostles.” He says, “I may not be a trained speaker, but at least I have knowledge!” And he asks them if it was a sin for him to lower himself in order to elevate them by preaching the gospel of God to them free of charge. And he declares that he feels like he robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve the Corinthians! He declares, “I was never a burden to you when I was with because the Macedonians supplied me with everything I needed! I will never allow myself to be a burden to you! I love you too much! I will continue to cut the ground out from under those who think they are equal to us in the things they boats about!”

He labels these other people as:

False apostles
Deceitful workers
Masquerading as apostles of Christ.

He says that just like their master Satan, they masquerade as angels of light, but their end will be what their actions deserve.

Paul brings up the bragging rights of a true apostle, and he boasts about his own sufferings. He says, “Don’t take me for a fool, but if you do, listen to me the way you listen to fools. I’m about to do a little boasting – but this is not how the Lord talks, but how a fool talks. Since so many are boasting as the world boasts, let me give it a shot. You think you’re being wise when you put up with these fools. But to your credit, you also put up with anyone who enslaves you, cheats you, or slaps you in the face. So all that stuff everybody’s boasting about – I can out-boast them all!”

He then lists off his bragging rights:

I am more…

Hebrew than they are
Israelite than they are
Abraham’s descendant than they are
servant of Christ than they are

I have…

Worked much harder
Been in prison more frequently
Been flogged more severely
Been exposed to death again and again
Received from the Jews five times the forty lashes minus one
Been beaten with rods three times
Been pelted with stones once
Been shipwrecked three times
Spent a night and a day in the open sea
Been constantly on the move
Been in danger from rivers
Been in danger from bandits
Been in danger from my fellow Jews
Been in danger from Gentiles
Been in danger in the city
Been in danger in the country
Been in danger at sea
Been in danger from false believers
Labored and toiled
Often gone without sleep
Known hunger and thirst
Often gone without food
Been cold and naked.

And then he adds that besides everything else, he faces daily the pressure of his concern for all the churches. He asks, “Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” But then he says that if he must boast, I will choose to boast of the things that show his weakness.

And he gives an example:

“In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.” 

Chapter 12 

Paul then boasts about his revelations and vision from the Lord, while acknowledging that he knows full well that it is stupid to brag about such things. First, he says that he knows a man in Christ who fourteen years prior was caught up to “the third heaven.” He adds that he doesn’t know whether it was in the body or out of the body – but God knows. He says the man was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. And he says he will boast about a man like that, but he will not boast about himself …except about his weaknesses. And he adds that even if he should choose to boast, he would not be a fool, because he would be speaking the truth. But he refrains, so no one will think more of him than is warranted by what he does or says… or because of these surpassingly great revelations. 

And Paul continues to boast about his own weaknesses. He says that in order to keep him from becoming conceited, he was given “a thorn” in his flesh, “a messenger of Satan”, to torment him. And he says that he pleaded three times with the Lord to take it away from him, But God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And so Paul concludes that he will boast all the more gladly about his weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on him. He says this is why, for Christ’s sake, he delights in…

Weaknesses
Insults
Hardships
Persecutions
Difficulties 

For when he is weak, then he is strong.

Paul then summarizes his argument by offering the proof of a true apostle. He says, “I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. You ought to have commended me, for even though I am nothing, I am no less than these ‘super-apostles.’ I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles. How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!”

Paul then talks about his planned third visit. He promises not to be a burden, saying that children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. He says he will very gladly spend everything he has on them and expend himself as well. And he asks, “If I love you more, will you love me less? …Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery! Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent to you? I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him. …Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not walk in the same footsteps by the same Spirit?”

Paul then admits his fears about those who are unrepentant. And he asks the Corinthians if they have been thinking all along that the apostles have been defending themselves to them. He says that they have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ, and everything they do is for strengthening their friends, in this case, the Corinthians. He says he’s afraid that when he comes he may not find them as he wants them to be… and vice versa.

He’s afraid there may be…

Discord
Jealousy
Fits of rage
Selfish ambition
Slander
Gossip
Arrogance
Disorder

He says he’s afraid that when he comes again God will humble him before them, and he will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of impurity, sexual sin, and debauchery. 

Chapter 13 

Paul says that this will be his third visit to them, and that he warned them the second time he visited and he is warning them again while he is away that he will not spare anyone who has sinned. He says the reason for this is because they have demanded proof that Christ is speaking through him. He declares that Christ…

Is not weak in dealing with them
Is powerful among them.
Was crucified in weakness
Lives by God’s power.

And he adds that even though the apostles are weak in Christ, they will receive God’s life-giving power through Christ during their dealings with the Corinthians.

Paul then sets an expectation of self-examination. He tells them to examine themselves to see whether they are in the faith, and that they should realize that Jesus Christ lives in them… unless of course they fail the test. And he says they will discover that the apostles have passed the test. He says, “We pray that you don’t mess up – not so that people will think we’re so good, but for your own benefit in spite of what anyone thinks of us.”

He asks, “Why do I write these things to you?” And answers, “Because we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. Because we are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong. Because our prayer is that you may be fully restored. So that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority. Because God gave me authority over you to build you up, not tear you down.”

Paul then offers his final exhortation and greetings. And he gives his final command…

Rejoice!
Strive for full restoration
Encourage one another
Be of one mind
Live in peace

And he blesses them…

“The God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings.”

May these be with you all:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
The love of God
The fellowship of the Holy Spirit






Monday, April 22, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to 2nd Corinthians 1-6


Readings for this week

Monday: Habakkuk 3
Tuesday: 2nd Corinthians 1
Wednesday: 2nd Corinthians 2
Thursday: 2nd Corinthians 3
Friday: 2nd Corinthians 4
Saturday: 2nd Corinthians 5
Sunday: 2nd Corinthians 6


Introduction to 2nd Corinthians 1-6

Context of 2nd Corinthians 

Author: Paul 

Date: Mid-50s A.D. 

Place of composition: The “severe letter” was probably sent from Ephesus, and the letter of reconciliation from Macedonia. 

Audience: The congregation at Corinth, Greece 

Structure of 2nd Corinthians 

The Letter of Reconciliation (1:1–9:15) 
The “Severe” Letter: Paul’s Defense of His Apostolic Authority (10:1–13:14) 

Themes of 2nd Corinthians 

Whereas in 1 Corinthians Paul deals with ethical and doctrinal issues, in 2 Corinthians he struggles to define the qualities and motives that distinguish the Christian ministry. Underlying the writing of 2 Corinthians is a dramatic conflict between Paul and the church he had founded. After he had dispatched 1 Corinthians, several events took place that strained his relationship with the church almost to the breaking point. New opponents, whom Paul satirizes as “super-apostles”, infiltrated the congregation and rapidly gained positions of influence. Paul then made a brief “painful” visit to Corinth, only to suffer a public humiliation there. His visit a failure, he returned to Ephesus, where he wrote the Corinthians a severe reprimand, part of which is preserved in chapters 10-13. Having carried the “severe” letter to Corinth, Titus then rejoins Paul in Macedonia, bringing the good news that the Corinthians are sorry for their behavior and now support the apostle (7:5-7). Paul subsequently writes a joyful letter of reconciliation, included in chapters 1-9. 

Chapter 1 

The first nine chapters of the book are made up of what is known as the Letter of Reconciliation. It begins with a salutation. The letter claims to be written by Paul and Timothy who offer greetings and a blessing of grace and peace to the church at Corinth and the believers throughout the region of Achaia. They then offer thanksgiving for the comfort of God in affliction. They say that God comforts us so that we may comfort others 

Paul says that everything they are is for the sake of the Corinthians:

Our distress for your comfort and salvation
Our comfort for your comfort
This produces perseverance in suffering for you
This produces hope for us in knowing that you share both our comfort and our suffering

Paul then speaks of their deliverance from death, saying that they had many hardships in Asia and were under great pressure. He says that they were unable to endure in their own strength and that they despaired of life, and that they felt as though they had received a death-sentence. He then asks why they experience these things, and his answer is that so they would rely on God who raises the dead, and not on themselves. He says that they have been delivered and they will be delivered again. He also adds that the prayers of the believers are helpful . And he declares that many will give thanks when God answers all their prayers for them

In the next part of the letter Paul offers an apologetic defense of apostleship which serves as an answer to the critics’ charges. First, Paul offers a defense of his conduct starting with an explanation of his altered plans and a claim of a clear conscience in the way they have lived in the world and in the way they have interacted with the Corinthians in particular. He says that this was all by God’s grace, and not by worldly wisdom. He says that he hopes that their partial understanding will grow to complete understanding, so that they can boast about each other in the Day of the Lord Jesus.

Paul then says that he wanted to visit them twice on his way to and from Macedonia, adding that his intentions were not fickle – “I did not say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in the same breath as the fickle world does.” Paul says that the message of Jesus that he and Silas and Timothy have preached to them has never been “yes and no,” but always “yes!” And he adds that no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by the apostles to the glory of God. And he says that it is God who makes all of them stand firm in Christ through his anointing and his seal of ownership on them all. He put his Spirit in their hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Paul then says that the reason he didn’t return to Corinth was to spare them a painful visit. He says that he wrote to them before in the way that he did so that when he would come he would not be distressed by their conduct. He says, “I had confidence in you that you would have shared in my joy. When I wrote to you, I was in anguish and tears. I wasn’t trying to grieve you – I wanted you to know how much I love you!” 

Chapter 2 

Paul then discusses an issue of forgiveness of an offending brother. He says to the Corinthians that If any person among them has caused him grief, that person has caused the Corinthians all the more grief. And he adds that the punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. But then he says that now they ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Then he says that another reason he wrote to them was to see if they would stand the test and be obedient in everything. He says, “Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. We must forgive everyone, so that we will not fall for Satan’s schemes against us.”

Paul then mentions that he had missed Titus while in Troas. Paul says that when Christ opened the door for him to preach at Troas, he still had no peace because he couldn’t find his brother Titus there, so he said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia.

Paul then discusses the nature of a true apostleship. First, he talks about the glory of the ministry through the triumph of Christ. He says they thank God for parading them in Christ’s triumphal procession and for making them the aroma of Christ that is spreading to all. He says, “Our aroma brings death to some, but life to others.” And he adds that they are the best for the task, because they are sincere and do not peddle the word of God for money like so many others do.

Chapter 3 

He then points to the product of the ministry, asking, “Can we speak on our own behalf, or do we need to present letters of recommendation? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

Paul then talks about the superiority of the new covenant, saying that they are confident not in their own competence, but in the competence that God gives them. He says, “God has made us ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” He says that the ministry of Moses was written on stone and brought death, but even that ministry was glorious – to the point that Moses frightened the Israelites with the radiance of his face. If even this temporary ministry was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that lasts forever! He says that this hope they have makes them bold. He says, “We are not like Moses who put on veil to hide from the people the fact that the glory emanating from him was only temporary. They were dimwitted people – and even today they still live as though the covenant in which they read of and partake in is hidden behind a veil.” And he says that only Christ can remove this veil from a person’s heart. He then declares that the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. He says, “And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 

Chapter 4 

Paul then discusses the light of the Gospel. He says that since it is through God’s mercy they have this ministry, they do not lose heart and they renounced secret and shameful ways. He says that they do not use deception, nor do they distort the word of God but rather set forth the truth plainly, and commend themselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And he adds that even if their gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. He says that the god of the age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. He says that what they preach is not themselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and themselves as the Corinthian’s servants for Jesus’ sake. He says that God made his light shine in their hearts to give them the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Paul then discusses the frailty and trials of the ministers, saying that they have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from themselves. He says that they are…

Hard pressed on every side, but not crushed
Perplexed, but not in despair
Persecuted, but not abandoned
Struck down, but not destroyed.

He says that they always carry around in their bodies the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in their bodies. He says that the ones who are truly alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in their mortal bodies. He says that since they have that same spirit of faith, they also believe and therefore speak, because they know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise them with Jesus and present them along with the Corinthians to himself. He says that all of this is for the benefit of the Corinthians, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Paul then speaks of an unseen glory… or the hope of the ministers. He says that though outwardly they are wasting away, yet inwardly they are being renewed day by day, for these light and momentary troubles are achieving for them an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. He declares that they fix their eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 

Chapter 5 

Paul then addresses what called the “earthly tent” and the reason for his confidence in the face of death. He says that they know that if the “earthly tent” they live in is destroyed, they have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. He says that while they are in this tent, they groan and are burdened, because they do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with their heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Paul says that the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. And he adds that he knows if they are at home the body, then they are far from the Lord – for they live by faith, not by sight. And he says that he would rather be with the Lord, than with his body, but whether they make their home in this body or away from it, their goal is to please God. He says that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Paul then proclaims the message of reconciliation as well as their motivation, which is the love of Christ. He says that they try to persuade others because they know what it is to fear God. He says, “God knows what we are – we hope you also know.” He says that they are not trying to show off to the Corinthians, but the Corinthians ought to take pride in who they are in Christ rather than being proud of surface details. He says, “If we are ‘out of our mind,’ as some say, it is for God… If we are in our right mind, it is for you.” He says, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

Paul then delivers the point of the message, which is to be reconciled to God. Paul says that they all used to view Christ and other people from a worldly point of view – but no more! He says, “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation – throw out the old, bring in the new!” And he adds that all of this is from God. God gave us Christ who reconciled us to himself, so that he wouldn’t count our sins against us. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. He says, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” He urges them not to receive God’s grace in vain because today is the day of salvation. 

Chapter 6 

Paul then talks about the hardship of the Apostles. He says that they put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that their ministry will not be discredited. He says that as servants of God they commend themselves in every way:

In great endurance
In troubles
In hardships
In distresses
In beatings
In imprisonments
In riots
In hard work
In sleepless nights
In hunger
In purity
In understanding
In patience
In kindness
In the Holy Spirit
In sincere love
In truthful speech
In the power of God
With weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left
Through glory and dishonor
Through bad report and good report
Genuine, yet regarded as impostors
Known, yet regarded as unknown
Dying, and yet we live on
Beaten, and yet not killed
Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing
Poor, yet making many rich
Having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Paul then makes his appeal to the Corinthians, requesting first their mutual affection. He says that he has spoken freely to the Corinthians, not withholding any affection from them, but he says the Corinthians have not returned the favor.

He then tells them to not be yoked together with unbelievers since righteousness and wickedness have nothing in common… there is no fellowship between light and darkness… there is no harmony between Christ and Belial… there is nothing in common between a believer and an unbeliever… there is no agreement between the temple of God and idols. And he adds that they are the temple of the living God.

And he quotes scripture where God has said:

“’I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.’

Therefore,

‘Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.’

And,

‘I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.’”

And Paul says that since they have these promises, they ought to purify themselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.








Saturday, April 20, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to The Book of Habakkuk



Introduction to The Book of Habakkuk 


Dates 

The Book was probably composed during the late 7th century B. C. ...likely no later than 597 B.C. due to the specific reference to the Babylonians in 1:6.

Habakkuk the Prophet 

The book provides no information about Habakkuk. No references to him in any other book of the Bible. Habakkuk could have been a priest-prophet. He is referenced in the apocryphal work of Bel and the Dragon. 

Historical/Religious Setting 

The Kingdom of Israel has already been exiled. Judah is the only representative of the people of God. The Book is probably a continuation of the warning to Judah that they will be invaded by Babylon. The Chaldean (Neo-Babylonian) Empire is the dominant world power at the time. 

Issues 

In Habakkuk 1, the prophet questions God on all the wickedness in the world and he waits for God’s answer. Habakkuk was dealing with the fact that evil people were getting their way while the righteous were being put down. The age old question of “If God is good, why doesn’t He do something about evil?” Habakkuk was one of the few people that was still following the ways of God and it was getting him nowhere. The people believed that God was no longer involved in their lives and had returned once again to worshiping idols. Habakkuk starts to doubt God Himself because God was not answering him. 

Habakkuk 1:2 says: “How long, O LORD, will I call for help, and you will not hear?” God tells Habakkuk that the evil of the people will be punished, yet He will still use evil people – in this case the Babylonians – to destroy Judah. Habakkuk chooses to accept and trust God’s answer even though he does not like it or completely understand it. 

Chapter 1 

Habakkuk is complaining to God: “How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? O LORD, why do you tolerate evil? God says, "Behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans." Habakkuk asks God, “Your eyes are pure… Why do you look upon the treacherous?” 

Chapter 2 

Habakkuk says: 

“I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint."

The LORD answered: "The just shall live by faith. Woe to him who plunders nations! Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion. Woe to him who builds up his realm by unjust gain. What profit is an idol? The LORD is in his temple." 

Chapter 3 

Habakkuk says, “O LORD, renew your works! He stood and shook the earth. You crushed the head of the wicked. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. You came to deliver your people, to save your anointed one.”







Wednesday, April 17, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to The Book of Zephaniah



Introduction to The Book of Zephaniah 


Background 

The book is estimated to have been written around 640-609 B.C. Zephaniah is introduced as the Son of “Cushi” …which appears to refer to someone of Ethiopian ancestry. However, the book itself traces Zephaniah’s ancestry to King Hezekiah of Judah, so he was a prophet from the Davidic royal family and likely a part of the Jerusalem Aristocracy.

Zephaniah delivered his message during the reign of King Josiah, and his ministry overlapped with the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah. At this time, King Josiah was trying to reverse the evil way started by the previous kings. Zephaniah’s prophecy may have been a motivating factor in Josiah’s desire to change the nation’s ways. 

Message: Doom, Destruction, and Woe 

Judah will see the destruction of all of her foreign gods and all those who worship them. Other nations will also be destroyed for the sins they have committed. Zephaniah seems to indicate that sin will eventually destroy you if you do not turn away from it.

Zephaniah also speaks to the Nature of God and Humanity. God is not without love and compassion. Those who truly repent will be saved. God does not wipe away the righteous with the wicked.

Judah was deeply rooted in sin. The people worshiped Baal and other gods. The people had (for the most part) turned away from God. Zephaniah had to confront the misguided theology of the people who believed there would be no consequences for their sins. 

Three major themes in Zephaniah: 

Day of Judgment
Indifference to God
Day of Cheer 

Chapter 1 

"'I will sweep away everything
from the face of the earth,'
declares the Lord.
'I will sweep away both man and beast;
I will sweep away the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea—
and the idols that cause the wicked to stumble.'" 

“Be silent before the Sovereign Lord,
for the day of the Lord is near.
The Lord has prepared a sacrifice;
he has consecrated those he has invited.” 

“On the day of the Lord’s sacrifice
I will punish the officials
and the king’s sons
and all those clad
in foreign clothes.
On that day I will punish
all who avoid stepping on the threshold,
who fill the temple of their gods
with violence and deceit."

“The great day of the Lord is near—
near and coming quickly.
The cry on the day of the Lord is bitter;
the Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry.
That day will be a day of wrath—
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of trouble and ruin,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness—
a day of trumpet and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the corner towers.” 

“I will bring such distress on all people
that they will grope about like those who are blind,
because they have sinned against the Lord.
Their blood will be poured out like dust
and their entrails like dung.” 

"'Neither their silver nor their gold
will be able to save them
on the day of the Lord’s wrath.'
In the fire of his jealousy
the whole earth will be consumed,
for he will make a sudden end
of all who live on the earth." 

Chapter 2 

"'I have heard the insults of Moab
and the taunts of the Ammonites,
who insulted my people
and made threats against their land.
Therefore, as surely as I live,'
declares the Lord Almighty,
the God of Israel,
'surely Moab will become like Sodom,
the Ammonites like Gomorrah—
a place of weeds and salt pits,
a wasteland forever.
The remnant of my people will plunder them;
the survivors of my nation will inherit their land.'" 

"He will stretch out his hand against the north
and destroy Assyria,
leaving Nineveh utterly desolate
and dry as the desert…
This is the city of revelry
that lived in safety.
She said to herself,
I am the one! And there is none besides me.'
What a ruin she has become,
a lair for wild beasts!
All who pass by her scoff
and shake their fists." 

Chapter 3 

"On that day you, Jerusalem, will not be put to shame
for all the wrongs you have done to me,
because I will remove from you
your arrogant boasters.
Never again will you be haughty
on my holy hill.
But I will leave within you
the meek and humble.
The remnant of Israel
will trust in the name of the Lord.
They will do no wrong;
they will tell no lies.
A deceitful tongue
will not be found in their mouths.
They will eat and lie down
and no one will make them afraid.” 

"Sing, Daughter Zion;
shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
Daughter Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm."








Monday, April 15, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to 1st Corinthians 15-16


Readings for this week


Monday: 1st Corinthians 15
Tuesday: 1st Corinthians 16
Wednesday: Zephaniah 1
Thursday: Zephaniah 2
Friday: Zephaniah 3
Saturday: Habakkuk 1
Sunday: Habakkuk 2


Introduction to 1st Corinthians 15-16

Chapter 15 

Paul then offers to the Corinthians a doctrinal correction regarding the resurrection. First, Paul presents the evidence for Christ’s resurrection. Paul wants to remind them of the Gospel he preached to them, saying that if they have lost this Gospel, then their belief was in vain. He says that what he received he also passed on to them as of first importance:

That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures
That he was buried
That he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures
And that he appeared to Cephas (Peter)
And then appeared to the Twelve
After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, but some have “fallen asleep”
Then he appeared to James
Then he appeared to all the apostles
And last of all he appeared to Paul also, as to one abnormally born.

Paul then presents his own understanding of his own apostleship:

I am the least of the apostles
I do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
But by the grace of God I am what I am
His grace to me was not without effect.
I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

Paul then argues for the necessity of Christ’s resurrection. First, because it is proof of past forgiveness. Paul is shocked that some of them have claimed that there is no resurrection of the dead. He says that since they preach that Christ has been raised from the dead that is evidence that all people are in need of resurrection… or else the conclusion should be that Christ is still dead. He says that without resurrection, the message is pointless. Without resurrection, those who have died in Christ are lost forever. He says that if it’s only for this life that we have hope in Christ, then we are to be pitied above all people.

Paul then speaks of the future reign of Christ. He points out that Christ’s resurrection was allegorized in Scripture:

Christ is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

Adam = death
Christ = life

But each part of the resurrection has its own turn:

Christ, the firstfruits, is resurrected
Then, when Christ comes, those who belong to him are resurrected
Then the end will come when Christ destroys all dominion, authority and power and hands over the kingdom to God the Father, and Christ will reign over all his enemies.
Christ then destroys his last enemy, death itself.

Paul wants to clarify that when he says that everything will be put under Christ, this does not include God the Father, because God the Father gives Christ his authority. And he says that after Christ has done all this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

Paul then offers the proof of the believers’ resurrection. He asks that if the dead are not raised at all, then why are people baptized for them? And he also asks why the apostles would endanger themselves every hour. He asks, “If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained?” And he quotes a proverbs saying that if the dead are not raised, then…

“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”

He tells them that bad company corrupts good character and tells them to come to their senses and stop sinning. He compares them to people who are ignorant of God in order to shame them.

Paul then discusses the nature of the resurrection body. He anticipates that someone will surely ask him, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” Paul declares that this a stupid question. He pulls an example from gardening, saying, “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.

Paul then goes on to compare different types of flesh… or physical existence. He says that people have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another, fish another. There are heavenly bodies with one kind of splendor. There are earthly bodies with another kind of splendor. The sun has one kind of splendor. The moon another. The stars another. And star differs from star in splendor. He says so will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. And If there is a natural body… there is also a spiritual body.

And he quotes from scripture, saying, “The first man Adam became a living being”, but then adds that the “last Adam” (Jesus), became a life-giving spirit. He says that the spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth. The second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth. And as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.

Paul then speaks of the assurance of resurrection. He says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. He then tells them to listen to this mystery:

“We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

Paul says that the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But he gives thanks to God that he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Paul’s conclusion is to stand firm and to give oneself fully to the work of the Lord.

Why?

Because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 

Chapter 16 

Paul then bring his letter to a conclusion. He first brings up the topic of the collection, and he offers instructions on giving. He tells the Corinthians to do what he told the Galatian churches to do:

On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.

Paul then mentions the travel plans of himself and Timothy. He says that after he goes through Macedonia, he will come to Corinth and stay for a while. He says he would like to stay for a longer visit this time rather make a quick stop as he’s passing through. He says he will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to him, and there are many who oppose him. He says that When Timothy comes to them, make sure that he has nothing to fear because the two of them do the same work, and to send him back in peace.

Paul then brings some news about Apollos. He says that he strongly urged him to go to Corinth with the other brothers but he was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.

He then gives his final exhortations:

Be on your guard
Stand firm in the faith
Be courageous
Be strong
Do everything in love.

Paul reminds them of how those from the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achiaia (a nearby town), and he tells them that they should submit to people like them – people devoted to serving the Lord’s people. Paul says that these people were very refreshing to him in comparison with the Corinthians, and that they made up for what the Corinthians lacked. Paul encourages the Corinthians to let their spirit be refreshed by them, just as his own spirit had been.

He then he finally gives his final greetings:

The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings.
Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.
All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.
If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.





Monday, April 8, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to 1st Corinthians 8-14


Readings for this week


Monday: 1st Corinthians 8
Tuesday: 1st Corinthians 9
Wednesday: 1st Corinthians 10
Thursday: 1st Corinthians 11
Friday: 1st Corinthians 12
Saturday: 1st Corinthians 13
Sunday: 1st Corinthians 14


Introduction to 1st Corinthians 8-14

Chapter 8 

Paul then discusses some more issues concerning Christian liberty. First, he discusses the issue of eating meat offered to idols, and he contrasts knowledge with love. He says that “We all possess knowledge… but knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.” First he says that we know that idols are not anything at all, and that we know that there is no God but one. He then adds that other gods do exist in heaven and on earth, but for us, there is only one God who created all things, and we live for him. And there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, who created all things, and we live through him.

He says that some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god… but food does not bring us near to God. He tells them to be careful that the exercise of their rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak… so that they don’t destroy their brother or sister by their knowledge of idols. He says that if their knowledge and actions (eating meat in a pagan temple) would cause someone else’s weak conscience to be wounded, then they are sinning against a person for whom Christ died, and they are sinning against Christ himself. Paul declares that if what he eats causes his brother or sister to fall into sin, he will never eat meat again, so that he will not cause them to fall. 

Chapter 9 

Paul’s then offers himself as a personal example to follow in his willingness to restrict his own rights. First, he defends the rights of an apostle. He starts by offering evidence of his own apostleship:

Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! You are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

Paul’s defense:

Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas (Peter)? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?

Examples to be applied from everyday life:

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk?

Examples to be applied from the Law of Moses:

“Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” …Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.

Paul asks, “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?” But Paul says that even though others have used this right, they have chosen not to because they would rather put up with anything than hinder the gospel of Christ. But he adds that just as temple servants get their food from the temple, so too, God has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

Paul then offers the reason for his willingness to restrict his own rights. He says that he is not writing this in the hope that they will do such things for him, saying that he would rather die than allow anyone to deprive him of this boast, because when he’s preaching the gospel he can’t waste his time with boasting then. And he adds, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” He says that his reward for voluntarily preaching is that in preaching the gospel he may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of his rights as a preacher of the gospel.

Paul then discussed his use of his freedom, saying that even though he is free, he has made himself a slave to win as many as possible. He says, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

He then discusses the need for self-discipline using the Olympics as an example. He says that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize… so run like you want the prize. He says that everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training, but they do it to get a crown that will not last… and we do it to get a crown that will last forever. He tells them not to run like someone running aimlessly, and he that he doesn’t fight like a boxer beating the air but rather he strikes a blow to his body and make it his slave so that after he preaches to others, he himself will not be disqualified for the prize. 

Chapter 10 

Paul then discusses Israel’s failure as an example to believers. He says that God’s discipline resulted in their death. He states that, “Our ancestors were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” He says that these things occurred as examples to keep them from setting their hearts on evil things like they did, like worshiping idols and sexual immorality, which led to the death twenty-three thousand of them in just one day. He says that we should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And we should not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. He concludes: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Paul then goes back to the topic of eating meat in pagan temples, telling them to flee from idolatry because he knows he’s talking to people who have good-sense. He says the cup of thanksgiving for which they give thanks is a participation in the blood of Christ, and the bread that they break is a participation in the body of Christ. And he adds that there is one loaf, and that we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

He then uses the people of Israel as an example again:

The people who ate the sacrifices participated in the altar… this is true of all eat sacrifices. This doesn’t mean that idols or idols’ food is of any substance… but the idols represent demons and we shouldn’t participate with demons. The cup of the Lord and the cup of demons are irreconcilable – you can’t have it both ways. Are you trying to make God jealous, or pretend you’re stronger than he is?

Paul then brings up another dispute in the church regarding freedom.

The Corinthians say, “I have the right to do anything.”
Paul says, “…But not everything is beneficial.”
The Corinthians say, “I have the right to do anything.”
Paul says, “…But not everything is constructive.”

Paul tells them that no one should seek their own good, but instead should seek the good of others. And he offers them some further instructions:

Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, because all of creation was made by God and he owns it. If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience… unless someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then don’t eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of their conscience… but not your conscience… because why should your freedom be judged by someone else’s conscience? …especially if it’s a meal that you’ve thanked God for.

He concludes: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 

Chapter 11 

Paul then discussed issues in the church concerning worship. First, he talks about diversity in worship roles between the sexes. He first presents a theological argument stating that the head of every man is Christ and that the head of the woman is man and that the head of Christ is God. Paul then states that every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered (with hair) dishonors his head. And he also says that Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered (at all) dishonors her head. And he adds that It is the same as having her head shaved… and if there’s no difference, then she should cover her head. He says that the reason that a man ought not to cover his head is because he is the image and glory of God… but that the woman is the glory of man. He says his reasoning for this is because he was taught that man did not come from woman, but woman from man, and that man wasn’t created for woman, but woman for man. He says that the reason that he believes a woman ought to have a sign of authority over her own head is because of the angels.

Paul then turns to making a cultural argument. This time he says that he knows that the way things are supposed to be in the God’s plan is that in Jesus the woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. He says this evident in the fact that just as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman… but everything comes from God. Paul then tells them to judge for themselves if it is proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered. He says that it is only natural to be embarrassed by a man whose hair is too long… but that when a woman has long hair it is a glorious thing… and her hair is also covering for her. He adds that If anyone wants to be contentious about this, this is just the way things are done in the church – none of the other churches have a different opinion!

Huh?

Paul is emphasizing the need for respect in worship services, but he is doing so by providing specific cultural examples for the Corinthians at the time. When Paul is talking about hair, he is saying that worshipers should avoid being flashy or shocking with their fashion styles, so as not to be a distraction to others during worship. Culturally, men in this time and place only wore their hair long if they were showing off, often in a sexual way. In the same way, women in this time and place were thought of as asking for sexual favors if they showed up to worship with their hair uncovered or with very short hair or a shaved head. Also, when Paul says that women should cover their heads when they worship because of the angels, he is referring to an obscure passage in Genesis that says that before the Great Flood, the sons of God looked upon the daughters of men and had sex with them. We don’t know if Paul is saying that being sexually provocative during worship is demonic, or if he is just referring to this passage as a literary device for his argument. Paul is also referring the Creation stories of Genesis 1-2 in this passage when he says that men and women are not independent of each other, but exist for the mutual benefit of each other, and to honor their Creator.

Paul then moves on to discuss diversity in worship roles between the classes. First, he talks about “The Love Feast” and the problems of a rich vs. poor mentality in the church. Paul is angry with the Corinthians because of the way the abuse the Lord’s Supper. First, he says that their meetings do more harm than good, because they are always fighting against each other. Second, he says that when they celebrate the Lord’s Supper, there is division among them, with some people going hungry and other people getting drunk. He tells them to go home if all they care about is eating and drinking, rather than to continue humiliating the poor.

Paul then specifically discusses the Lord’s Supper and discipline from the Lord. He says that what he received from the Lord is what he has passed on to them:

“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Paul says that whoever is disrespectful of this cup that they drink, is drinking judgment upon themselves. Paul says that before partaking in the sacred meal, they ought to examine themselves to see if there is anything offensive within them, and he says that the reason so many of them have gotten sick and why some have died is because they have dishonored God. Paul says that when they come under God’s judgment like this, they are being disciplined in order that ultimately they will not be condemned with the world.

He tells them that when they gather to eat, they should all eat together, and he will give them further directions in person later. 

Chapters 12-13 

Paul then discusses diversity in worship roles because of spiritual gifts. He first speaks of the necessity of diversity of gifts. He talks about how they have undergone a transition from worship of idols to worship of Christ. He says that when they were pagans, they were influenced and led astray to mute idols. He then declares that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

Paul then makes some analogous arguments for diversity within unity. First, he discusses diversity in the Godhead as a reason for diversity of gifts. He says there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. And there are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

To one there is given…

A message of wisdom
A message of knowledge
Faith
Gifts of healing
Miraculous powers
Prophecy
Distinguishing between spirits
Speaking in different kinds of tongues
The interpretation of tongues.

He says that all these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

He then uses an analogy of diversity of body parts to explain diversity of gifts. He says that just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

He says:

“We were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now if the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. And the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty. While our presentable parts need no special treatment.”

He continues:

“But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

Paul then discusses the priority in the gifts. He first confirms that they are the body of Christ, and each one of them is a part of it. And he says that God has placed in the church…

First: Apostles
Second: Prophets
Third: Teachers
Fourth: Miracles
Fifth: Gifts of healing
Sixth: Gifts of helping
Seventh: Gifts of guidance
Eighth: Gifts of different kinds of tongues

Paul says that God didn’t give everyone the same gift, but that all should eagerly desire the greater gifts.

In the next section, we come to “The Hymn to Agape” where Paul sings about the priority of love over all the gifts. He first sings of the necessity of love, saying, “I will show you the most excellent way.”

He sings:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

He then sings of the character of love, saying:

Love…

is patient
is kind
does not envy
does not boast
is not proud
is not dishonoring of others
is not self-seeking
is not easily angered
is not a record-keeper of wrongs
is not delightful of evil
is a celebrator of the truth
is always protecting
is always trusting
is always hoping
is always persevering

He then sings of the permanence of love, saying that “love never fails.”

He sings:

“But where there are prophecies, they will cease
Where there are tongues, they will be stilled
Where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

He says, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

He adds, “And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, Love… But the greatest of these is love.” 

Chapter 14 

Paul then moves on to the priority of prophecy over “tongues” (Greek: glossolalia). He first addresses the issue of edification. He says to “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.” And he says that anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. He says that he would like every one of them to speak in tongues, but that he would rather have them prophesy. He says the reason for this is that the one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues… unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.

Paul then also addresses the issue of intelligibility. He says that that if he comes to them and speaks in tongues, he will be useless to them, unless he also brings them some revelation, knowledge, prophecy, or word of instruction. He then provides them with an example of this from music:

He first asks, “How will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes?” He then asks, “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?”

He then uses an example from human languages:

He says, “Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. He also says, “There are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me.”

He tells the Corinthians that since they are eager for gifts of the Spirit, they should try to excel in those that build up the church. He says that if you speak in tongues you should pray that you can also interpret them. The spirit benefits from tongues but the mind doesn’t. It is best to sing and pray with both your spirit and your mind. He asks who is going to “amen” you if no one knows what you’re talking about? You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified. Paul then admits that he thanks God that he speaks in tongues more than any of them, but he adds that in the church he would “rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

Paul then discusses the concept of Christian community. He first tells them to stop thinking like children… he says to be innocent like babies… but think like adults. And he quotes scripture that predicted that God would speak to his people in the languages of foreigners… but they still wouldn’t listen. Paul points out that tongues are used as a sign of judgment against unbelievers, and so naturally aren’t meant for believers. However, prophecy was meant to be heard by believers. So Paul says, “If the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?” But he says that if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. And he adds that they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

Paul then discusses issues of orderliness in worship. He tells them that when they come together, they should take turns sharing a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. He says that everything must be done so that the church may be built up.

He then specifically addresses tongues in worship. He says that if anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. And he says if there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

He then addresses prophecy in worship. He says that two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. He says that they can all take turns prophesying so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. And he adds that “The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.”

Paul then addresses some women who have been chattering during worship. He says that those women should remain silent in the churches, and that they should not be allowed to chatter, but must be in submission, as the law says. He says that if these women want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home. And he adds that it is disgraceful for any woman to be chattering in the church.

Paul sarcastically asks the Corinthians if they really believe that God’s word originated with them or that God only speaks to them. He says that anyone who thinks they are a prophet, will listen to this instruction, or else be ignored. He tells them to be eager to prophesy, and to not forbid speaking in tongues, but adds that everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.







Monday, April 1, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to 1st Corinthians 1-7


Readings for this week


Monday: 1st Corinthians 1
Tuesday: 1st Corinthians 2
Wednesday: 1st Corinthians 3
Thursday: 1st Corinthians 4
Friday: 1st Corinthians 5
Saturday: 1st Corinthians 6
Sunday: 1st Corinthians 7


Introduction to 1st Corinthians 1-7

Context of 1st Corinthians 

Author: Paul 

Date: Early 50s A.D. 

Place of composition: Ephesus 

Audience: Members of the newly established church at Corinth, Greece. 

Themes of 1st Corinthians 

Basically 1 Corinthians deals with abuses of liberty (just as Galatians deals with the stifling of the Spirit because of legalism). The correction Paul gives is not to question their salvation, but to challenge them in their sanctification. Although the apostle is dealing with several different issues, the general theme of the epistle is “the practical implications of progressive sanctification in the context of the Christian community.” 

Main themes of the letter: 

Avoiding competitiveness and cultivating divine wisdom 
The limits of Christian freedom
Lawsuits among Christians
Marriage, divorce, and celibacy
Freedom of conscience
The Lord’s Supper
Gifts of the Spirit
The Hymn to Love (Agape)
Speaking in tongues (glossolalia)
The resurrection of the dead 

Chapter 1 

The letter claims to be written by the Apostle Paul and a man named Sosthenes whom Paul calls his brother in Christ. 

The letter is addressed to: 

The church of God in Corinth
Those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people
All those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

A blessing of grace and peace is then given.

Paul opens with a declaration of thanksgiving. He thanks God for them because they have received grace in Christ and have been gifted with “all kinds of speech” and with “all knowledge.” And they have all spiritual gifts and they wait eagerly for the Lord Jesus to be revealed. He says that Christ will keep them firm to the end and blameless on the Day of the Lord because God is faithful and has called them into fellowship with His Son.

Paul then addressed the divisions in the Church. He appeals to them in Christ’s name to put an end to division by agreeing with each other and being united in word and thought. He says that some people from Chloe’s household told him about the quarreling. Different groups of them were saying… “I follow Paul” and “I follow Apollos” and “I follow Cephas” (Peter) and “I follow Christ.”

Paul’s questions for the Corinthians:

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Paul says he is grateful that he only baptized a few of the Corinthians (including a few he admits he can’t remember) so that more of them won’t claim to be baptized in Paul’s name. He adds that Christ didn’t send him to baptize but to preach the Gospel. And Paul adds that he is neither wise nor eloquent when he preaches. He avoid that kind of preaching so that the “cross of Christ will not be emptied of its power.”

Paul then addresses the causes of the divisions, beginning with the fact that they have a faulty view of the Christian message. He contrasts “false wisdom” with the Gospel of Christ. He says that the message of the cross is foolishness to the Gentiles who are perishing, but it is the power of God to those who are being saved. Paul sets up his argument with some questions:

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

For in God’s wisdom…

The world through its own wisdom didn’t know God
God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe

What do different groups look for?

Jews demand signs
Greeks look for wisdom
We preach Christ crucified

Christ is…

A stumbling block to Jews
Foolishness to Gentiles
The power and wisdom of God to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks

The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom. The weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Paul tells them to think of what they were when they were called. Not many of them were wise by human standards …or influential …or of noble birth.

But God chose…

The foolish things of the world to shame the wise
The weak things of the world to shame the strong
The lowly things of this world to shame the high
The despised things to shame the honored
The things that are not to nullify the things that are

Why?

So that no one may boast before him

Jesus has become our…

Wisdom from God
Righteousness
Holiness
Redemption

Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 

Chapter 2 

Paul then points to the centrality of the Cross to his Kerygma (Kerygma is the Greek word used in the New Testament for preaching). Paul says that he came to them without eloquence or human wisdom and proclaimed to them the testimony about God.

Paul’s resolution:

To know nothing while he was with them but the crucified Christ
To come in weakness, one afraid and trembling
Not to preach with wise and persuasive words
To demonstrate the Spirit’s power

Why?

“So that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

Paul then discussed true wisdom and the Spirit of God. First, he addresses the maturity of the spiritual man, saying that the message to the mature is not of this or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. He says that God’s wisdom is a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began, and that it is not understood by the rulers of this age. He says the evidence for this is that they crucified the Lord of Glory.

He then quotes Scripture, which says:

"'What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived'—
the things God has prepared for those who love him..."

And he adds that these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

He says that the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God, and is the only one who knows the thoughts of God. He says that what we have received is not the spirit of the world but is the Spirit who is from God. He says that the reason God did this was that we may understand what God has freely given us, speaking words taught us by the Spirit rather than by human wisdom.

Paul then offers some explanations of spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. He says that the person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, and considers these things foolishness. He says that they cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. But the person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, and is not subject to merely human judgments. He points out that people are not capable of knowing the mind of the Lord… and yet we have the mind of Christ. 

Chapter 3 

Paul then discusses the immaturity of the carnal man. Paul addresses the Corinthians not as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly. He calls them infants in Christ who are drinking milk and are not ready for solid food. He says he knows they’re still worldly because they are jealous and quarreling. One says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos.”

Paul then discusses faulty views of Christian ministry and ministers. The first analogy he uses is on farmers and the field. He says that he and Apollos are only servants delivering the Gospel, just like everyone else whom God has called. Paul planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.

The one who plants = nothing
The one who waters = nothing
The who makes things grow = everything
The planter and the waterer = laborers who will be rewarded
The field = God’s Church

The second analogy he uses is on builders and the Temple.

God’s Temple = The Church
The foundation layer = Paul
The one building on the foundation = Apollos
The foundation = Jesus Christ
Builders who build with gold, silver and costly stones = true teachers of Christ
Builders who build with wood, hay and straw = false teachers
The Temple burning = God’s purifying fire
What remains after the fire = the pure truth of God
What is destroyed in the fire = false teachings
The builders whose work survives the fire = the true Apostles
The builders whose work burns = false teachers who barely escape the flames themselves

Paul asks, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwell in your midst?” And he adds, “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.”

Paul then offers a warning about self-deception regarding the ministers. He says that with the wisdom of this world you are better off becoming a fool if you think you’re wise, and you are foolish in God’s sight if you think you’re wise.

So his conclusion is that there should be no more boasting about human leaders… because all these things are yours: Paul, Apollos, Cephas (Peter), The world, Life, Death, The present, The future. He says that this is because we are of Christ and Christ is of God. 

Chapter 4 

Paul then offers some reflections on his own ministry. He says that the apostles ought to be regarded by the church as servants of Christ… as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.

On the issue of judgment, he says that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful, but Paul doesn’t care if he is judged by the Corinthians or by some court because Paul doesn’t even judge himself. He says that his conscience is clear, but he knows that this does not prove innocence. God is Paul’s judge. And he adds that those who want to judge others should wait until the Lord comes because God is the only one who knows the motives of the heart, and God’s praise is the only praise that matters.

Paul then discusses faulty views of the Christian’s blessings. Paul says that he made these analogies about himself and Apollos in order to teach the Corinthians…

To not go beyond what is written
To not be puffed up in being a follower of one over against the other
To teach them that they are no better than anyone else
To remind them that they earned nothing, but received everything
To get them to stop boasting about how well off they are

Paul then sarcastically proclaims how he wishes he were as well off as the Corinthians, and he compares himself and the others apostles to prisoners of war being paraded through the streets and made to fight as gladiators in the arena. Paul then sarcastically describes the life of the apostle in comparison with the “strength” and “wisdom” and “honor” of the Corinthians, saying:

We are fools for Christ!
We are weak!
We are dishonored!
We go hungry and thirsty!
We are in rags!
We are brutally treated!
We are homeless!
We work hard with our own hands!
When we are cursed, we bless!
When we are persecuted, we endure it!
When we are slandered, we answer kindly!
We have become the scum of the earth!
We are the garbage of the world!

Paul then offers the cure for divisions, by saying that they should imitate his own behavior. He says that he’s writing to them not because he wants to shame them, but in order to warn them as his dear children. Paul says to them that he is like a father to them in spite of the “ten thousand guardians in Christ” they may already have. Paul also says he is sending Timothy to them to remind them of the way of life in Christ.

He then offers a rebuke of arrogance. Some of the Corinthians have become arrogant and have declared that Paul will never return. But Paul says that he will return very soon if Christ allows it, and that when he comes he will find out who these “talkers” are and whether or not they have any real power. He declares that the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. And he asks them if they would prefer him to come with a rod of discipline or with love and a gentle spirit. 

Chapter 5 

Paul then discussed disorders in the Church. First he addresses their failure to discipline an immoral brother. Paul responds to a report that a member of the church is sleeping with his father’s wife. Paul is angry that the Corinthians are proud of this, pointing out that even pagans know better. Paul says that they should have gone into mourning and kicked this guy out of the church. Paul says that even though he is absent physically, his spirit is present with them and has already condemned this man in the name of Jesus. He says that while he is with them in spirit, they ought to assemble and hand this man over to Satan in the hopes that he will realize the destructiveness of his acts, and will be saved himself from destruction on the Day of the Lord.

Paul tells them that their boasting is not good, and he compares it to yeast which spreads throughout the dough. He tells them to get rid of the old yeast in order to become a new unleavened batch. Paul points to the Passover Lamb which represents the new life in Christ, and how as part of the Passover ceremony the Jews removed yeast from their homes. Paul says the Corinthians should do the same thing with wickedness that the Jews did with yeast – throw it out, and make something new.

Paul also clarifies that when he says they should avoid sexually immoral people, he is not talking about unbelievers, but only those who claim to be a brother or sister, yet are sexually immoral, greedy, idolaters, slanderers, drunkards, or swindlers. He says to not even eat with believers who act like this, while at the same time affirming interaction with nonbelievers who do the same things. Paul says that it’s none of his business to judge people outside the church, but that they ought to judge those within. It seems that the Corinthians want to judge the world, which is God’s job, but that they can’t even correctly judge one of their own members – the one they ought to have expelled. 

Chapter 6 

Paul then addresses their failure to resolve personal disputes. Paul asks why the Corinthians would even consider having their disputes resolved by a non-believer. He says that believers will be appointed by God to judge the world and so they should be competent enough to judge trivial cases… especially since they will end up judging the angels. Paul is embarrassed that the Corinthians have gone to unbelievers to resolve fights between believers, and in doing so have made a mockery of the church. Paul points out that the very fact that they are suing each other in the first place shows that they are already defeated. He says that it’s better to be wronged and cheated than to cheat and do wrong.

Paul says these types of people will not inherit God’s Kingdom:

Fornicators
Idolaters
Adulterers
Molekos
Arsenokoitēs
Thieves
The greedy
Drunkards
Revilers
Robbers 

He concludes his point by saying that these were the types of people the Corinthians once were. That was before Christ through the Spirit washed them, sanctified them, and justified them. 

Paul on Homosexuality 

Paul tells his readers that fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, malakos, arsenokoitēs, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Interpretation of this passage’s stance on homosexual activity hinges on the translation of the two Greek words that are transliterated above – malakos and arsenokoitēs. The NRSV translates these words respectively as male prostitutes and sodomites. The NIV has male prostitutes and homosexual offenders.

Malakos, the first of those words, the word that is translated in both the NRSV and the NIV as male prostitutes has a basic meaning of soft or delicate. More metaphorically it can mean effeminate, weak, sickly, cowardly, fond of luxury, lazy, lacking in self-control. A man known for willingly taking the passive role in homosexual activity might be labeled malakos. On the other hand, a man known for indulging excessively in heterosexual activity might be labeled malakos because he couldn’t control his passions. He didn’t have self-control. He was weak. In the ancient Greek mind, “weak like a woman.” He was “malakos”. He was a “sissy”.

Arsenokoitēs occurs for the first time in extant Greek literature in 1st Corinthians. We don’t know whether the word existed before Paul wrote 1st Corinthians or not. It may have occurred in numerous texts that are now lost. It may have existed in conversational vernacular. It may be that Paul coined the term – made it up. We have no way of really being sure. It seems likely that the roots of the term lie in Leviticus 18:22 as it’s rendered in the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Old Testament. In Leviticus 18:22, the Septuagint reads in part “Kai meta arsenos koimathasa koitan guinaikos.” A literal translation would run something like “and with a male you shall not lie as the lying of a woman.” A more enigmatic translation “ You shall not lie with a male as you would with a woman.” Clearly Leviticus 18:22 condemns homosexual activity. The terms vital to the discussion today are arsenos and koimathasa and koitan.

Arsenos, a form of arsen, means male or man. Koimathasa is a form of the verb koimaomai, which means to sleep, or metaphorically, to have sex. Koitan, a form of koita, means bed, metaphorically marital relationship or sex. It appears that Paul or another Hellenistic Jew combined the words arsen and koita to form the words arsenokoitēs, meaning one who has sex with a male. Since the statements in Lev. 18:19-23 seem to be directed toward men, arsenokoitēs likely refers to men who have sex with a male.

By using malakos and arsenokoitēs together Paul seems to condemn both the active partner and the willing passive partner in male homosexual activity. I think it may be important to point out the distinction between a willing passive partner and an unwilling passive partner. I don’t think Paul would say to a person who has been homosexually raped “by this abomination you have been defiled.” He’s speaking to people who willingly become malakos or soft, who assume that role which his culture sees as the role of a woman, which is associated with weakness, softness, penetrability, and would be described as the role of the malakos. So in using these two words together I think Paul condemns both the active partner and the willing passive partner in the male homosexual relationship.

In 1 Cor 6:9-10 Paul lists several types of sinners who he says will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Then in verse 11 he says “and this is what some of you used to be, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” He reminds them that some of them were the sorts of wrong-doers on the list, and urges them to live transformed lives in Christ.

So Paul numbers homosexual activity among the sins from which Jesus Christ can free a person.

Paul then discusses their failure to exercise sexual purity. First, he addresses their dispute on freedom and what it means to be “free”.

The Corinthians say, “I have the right to do anything...”
Paul says, “…But not everything is beneficial.”
The Corinthians say, “I have the right to do anything…”
Paul says, “…But I will not be mastered by anything.”
The Corinthians say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both…”
Paul says, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”

He says that by God’s power Christ was raised from the dead and we will also be raised. He says that our bodies are members of Christ himself and should never be united with a prostitute.

Why?

Because he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body, and he quotes from Genesis, saying, “The two will become one flesh.” And he adds that, comparatively, whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit

But why should you flee from sexual immorality?

Because all other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually sins against their own body.

He says that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in us, whom we have received from God. He says, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” 

Chapter 7 

Paul then discusses some more difficulties in the Church. He first discusses some issues concerning marriage, including conjugal duties and celibacy. The Corinthians had written to Paul with questions about sex and marriage, and they had concluded that it was good for men and women not to have sex. Paul agrees but he points out that they are having sex anyway, so he concedes that married couples ought to have sex to avoid being tempted. He says it is the duty of both the husband and the wife to offer themselves sexually to each other because their bodies belong to each other and not just to themselves. He says that they should not deprive each other of sex unless it is to set aside time to pray to the Lord, and even then, this should not be for a lengthy period. Paul tells them that this is just a suggestion; he is not giving them a command from God. He also says that he wishes that everyone was capable of celibacy like he was. To the widows and widowers, Paul says it is better not to get remarried, but that they should go ahead and get remarried if they are unable to control themselves.

He then discussed the issue of divorce. First, he discusses divorce between believers. On the topic of divorce, Paul states that this is not just a suggestion, but a command from the Lord: A wife must not separate from her husband, and if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband… and a husband must not divorce his wife.

Next, he discusses divorce between a believer and an unbeliever. Paul first gives his own opinion on divorce:

“If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. If a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. The unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife. The unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so – The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances. God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?”

Paul then discusses the principle of satisfaction with God’s sovereignty. He says that this is the rule he lays down in all the churches:

“Each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised ...Circumcision is nothing ...Uncircumcision is nothing ...Keeping God’s commands is what counts. Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person. Similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave ...You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings.”

Paul then discusses marriage and ministry. On the topic of virgins, Paul gives his opinion, stating that this is not a command from the Lord:

“Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned. And if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.”

Paul explains his reasoning (echoing the words of the prophet Jeremiah before the kingdom of Judah was exiled to Babylon):

“The time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not. Those who mourn, should live as if they did not. Those who are happy, should live as if they were not. Those who buy something, should live as if it were not theirs to keep. Those who use the things of the world, should live as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”

Paul says that if a man is engaged to a virgin, and he feels as though he is not honoring her virginity, then he ought to marry her, and he shouldn’t feel bad about this because he is not sinning. But Paul also says that if a man is engaged to a virgin and has decided that he doesn’t want to get married, and he has control over his passions, he is right not to marry her. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.

Paul says a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. Paul says that in his judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is. Paul also points out that even though this is just his own opinion, he is after all a man whose words are influenced by the Spirit of God. 

Paul on Heterosexuality 

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul advocates marriage ‘for the purpose of avoiding sexual immorality,’ not ‘for the purpose of procreation.’ For Paul, sexual intercourse need not be procreative, ‘it had real value as a release for sexual desire.’