Tag Archives: 1 Corinthians

A String Theory

English: Steel wire rope of the the German col...
Steel wire rope (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Church is merely a string connecting heaven and earth. I might have designed it as a stout steel cable or a strong chain for its task is urgent and many would seek to cut it or stretch to breaking.

Yet, the Church needs to be a light string so the breath of heaven can lift it from the earth, where God’s people might dance with angels. But it must also remain connected firmly to the earth, reminding people of God’s constancy in the midst of struggle and strife.

A man and a woman performing a modern dance.
A man and a woman performing a modern dance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Church links people together so some might grasp firmly on to the past with long-held beliefs anchoring it deeply and solidly in tradition. The Church also links people who dare to dance among the angels, inspiring others to ascend to new heights. But mostly the Church needs people to connect with others for we cannot both dance upon the winds and hold firmly to the rock.

Throughout history those who dance upon the wind have teased those who cling to tradition. While those who keep the string firmly anchored warn dancers of dangers should they stray to far from where the Church has always believed.

Mostly the Church needs people in the middle, holding hand with dancers and with anchors. People more solidly grounded and people daring to venture into the winds of culture where they might connect with those who have ventured too far and been blown away.

Fortunately, the Church has many strands, connecting people in many ways, so individuals might dance in one dimension, yet remain near to those who solidly anchored in another. Interconnections within the Church forms a web connecting dancers with anchors, connecting those who dare with those who warn. So that should a strand stretch too thin and snap, another keeps the dancers from floating away until a new strand can form new connections.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this.
— 1 Corinthians 12:21-24 (NRSV)

Where are you in the web that we call Church?

On Being Human

Over the past thirty years each computer I have purchased is a little faster than the previous one. Computer scientists predict that within the next twenty years a desktop computer may achieve parity with the processing power of the human brain. Already research computers can emulate human speech even conversations.

But is there more to being uniquely human than mere processing power? If brain size indicates intelligence, we would be out classed by many larger animals as brain mass is generally proportional to body mass.

When we ordain and install pastors, elder, or deacons, we ask them to promise to “seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love?” I believe that imagination and sacrificial love differentiate people from machines and other creatures.

People have a unique ability to contemplate the unknown and then act on ideas about the future extending and creating new relationships. Humans do more than merely build on past trends but envision new possibilities and participate in creation.

And most importantly people have an immeasurable spiritual connection with one another and with God; a connection we can confirm only by its unpredictable indirect effects, by serendipity.

 For what human being knows what is truly human
except the human spirit that is within?
So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s
except the Spirit of God.
Now we have received not the spirit of the world,
but the Spirit that is from God,
so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.
And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom
but taught by the Spirit,
interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.

— 1 Corinthians 2:11-13 (NRSV)

E Pluribus Unum

“Out of Many, One”

Official rendering of the obverse side of the ...
The Great Seal of the United States.

The motto on the Great Seal of the United States of America, embossed on every US coin, describes the American conundrum: are we a federation of independent states or a unified people?

While originally used to explain the various nationalities who emigrated to become these United States, and later the union of thirteen colonies, now it seems to describe the question: Are we a collection of people, with strong individual rights? Or are we one people with one purpose, united behind one mission? Is citizenship an individual event or a team sport?

A driver passing me on a quiet country road reminded me of this question. Much of this road has a posted speed limit of 40 miles per hour, but while this road passes through a small town and over a series of hills the speed limit drops to 30. Should the speed we drive be limited by how fast each person perceives they can drive or at least get away with, or should the speed we drive be governed by concern with those who live on the road and who, through their representatives, set those speed limits?

God put our bodies together in such a way that even the parts that seem the least important are valuable. He did this to make all parts of the body work together smoothly, with each part caring about the others. If one part of our body hurts, we hurt all over. If one part of our body is honored, the whole body will be happy.
Together you are the body of Christ. Each one of you is part of his body.

1 Corinthians 12:24b-27 (Contemporary English Version)

Spiritual On-Ramps

English: Spherical coordinate surfaces
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Life is a journey, a journey in multiple dimensions, and seldom in a straight line. In life the dimensions have familiar names: Family, health, career, friends, hobbies, faith, and so forth. As we mature, different dimensions claim more of our attention or at least more of our energy, others at times get aside until later or ignored.

Sooner or later people explore dimensions set aside and ask ultimate questions: Is there a big picture? How do I fit into the big picture? Why does evil exist? Is this all there is?

Faith provides some answers or at least different questions. What is God calling me to do and to be? How am I to respond to evil in the world? Where is God in all this?

Faith communities give people with ways to connect with God and pursue answers in the multiple dimensions we call life. I perceive that God has given us a variety of faith communities: congregations and diverse denominations, to meet the diverse needs of diverse people.

Three stepsWe once lived in a house with three steps to ascend the eighteen inches up from the garage to the kitchen. For most of our time in that house those steps were sufficient for us to go inside. But for a few months our daughter needed a wheel chair and those steps became insurmountable for her. So I built a temporary ramp. To save space and costs, I built that ramp four feet long. Although twice as long as the space occupied by the stairs, it was a less than a quarter as long as recommended for wheel chair ramp. For our purpose it was sufficient, although still limiting as to who could push the wheel chair up that ramp. A couple of years later we again needed a ramp. This time I tripled the length of the ramp. While the added length improved accessibility, we still needed to use it carefully. Now I understand why accessibility ramps should have a foot of length for each inch of rise and hand rails. I have come to recognize how merely a one inch high door sill can block some people.

For many people worship and Sunday School are sufficient steps to begin a life long journey exploring life’s dimension of faith. For much of human history church and religious rituals were the major if not the only social media and entertainment. Today social opportunities are virtually inescapable, effectively making the traditional first steps to one’s faith journey more difficult or at least more difficult than alternative opportunities to discuss issues in life’s other dimensions and set aside the faith dimension. Now more than ever people of faith need to imaginatively create alternative on-ramps for those just beginning to consider the dimension of faith in their lives.

Could a baseball team become a spiritual on-ramp? A community service project? What might connect to these ramps?

How might you give access to your neighbors to faith in the one true God?

To those outside the law I became as one outside the law
(though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law)
so that I might win those outside the law.
To the weak I became weak,
so that I might win the weak.
I have become all things to all people,
that I might by all means save some.
— 1 Corinthians 9:21-22

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Temple Keeping

For most of my life I have had a twinge in my big toe. Most days it feels no worse that a few grains of sand in one’s shoe, an annoyance I can easily ignore. But occasionally, especially if I have not made time to exercise or if I have gained a little weight, the pain becomes annoying, demanding my attention, adversely affecting everything else I might do, including prayer.

Muscles connecting the upper extremity to the spineI’ve been told that the twinge in my toe results from a spur on my spine that presses on a nerve at about where my belt encircles my waist. Thus if I eat too much, my pants get tighter and press that nerve against that spur, and the small twinge in my toe demands my attention.

On the other hand doing a few exercises several times a week strengthens my back, protecting that nerve. Similarly, eating sensibly reduces stresses on my spine.

The human body is an amazing machine with highly connected parts. So that the health of one part of the body affects the entire body and even our souls. For when our bodies are our of tune, the physical discord affects our ability to think and to pray. When my toe hurts, and usually my back at the same time, creative reflection becomes difficult at best.

Thus the first step to loving God and connecting with the Holy Spirit is to take care of the amazing body that God has given you.

You surely know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives.
The Spirit is in you and is a gift from God.
You are no longer your own. God paid a great price for you.
So use your body to honor God.
— 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (CEV)

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Duty with Others

I had no idea what I was getting into when I first recited the Boy Scout Oath:

On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country …

But should this read: “my duty with God and my country”? For I have done nothing entirely by myself. In the Navy I was but one of over a hundred sailors needed to put a ship to sea. As a pastor I am but one of several people needed to lead an effective worship service. Even when I visit someone in the hospital, I am nothing unless I am doing my duty with the Holy Spirit.

For just as the body is one and has many members,
and all the members of the body, though many, are one body,
so it is with Christ.
– 1 Corinthians 12:12

Thus my robe and stole remind me each Sunday morning that many people have ministered with me, preparing me for my duties with God. Thus each morning I pray and listen for God with me as I seek to do my duty.

This Monday I again wore my navy blue suit. The “scars” where stripes once encircled its sleeves and pock marks where ribbons once pierced it remind me of those with whom I did my duty to country and those on patrol this day and those eternally on patrol.

For with the continued efforts of others to do their duty with God and with our country, my efforts continue to have meaning.

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February 5th: “Being A Chameleon for God”

This Week’s Passage: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

Highlights: “Paul goes to people, where they are, on their own terms. … But becoming all things to all people does not involve losing or giving up one’s own center, becoming gelatin-molded to whatever form appears, or losing track of what is truly important.” How do we free and contextualize the gospel so that Christ might win all people?

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for Sunday, February 5thin Ordinary Time

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

17 In which category are pastors: volunteers or discharging a trust? I suppose some Sunday’s we are commissioned to preaching (c.f. joke about mother reminding her son (the senior pastor) to get up and go to church). Most Sundays, the sermon is the high point of my week.

18 Our Terms of Call start with the statement: “So that you may be free to devote yourself full time to the ministry of the Word and Sacrament, we promise and obligate ourselves to …” Thus our pay is not a reward for preaching, but a stipend to free Teaching Elders from the constraints of living to devote all of their time to promoting the gospel.

19 In church service, those more involved, demonstrate greater the servanthood. As a Synod Commissioner I recall correcting the Synod Executive that I was not a volunteer, but a conscriptee.

20-22 How can we be more like those around us who do not come to Church? First we must understand those around us.

23 Sharing the gospel must take precedence to, must inform, and must infuse all other forms of service and duties.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • If considering payments to church professionals, the passage should be expanded to at least verse 11 if not to verse 3. These verses address the right of preachers to participate in the fruit of their labors.
  • Alternately, the passage might be divided between verses 18 & 19. Verses 1-18 deal with payment of a preacher and 19-27 with how to proclaim the gospel to others.
  • Focusing on 17-23 would allow a preacher to address how congregants support one another to share the gospel at all times and with all people.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

  • Paul answered a variety of questions from the Corinthians.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

Question: Paul answered why he did not demand payment for preaching and his style of preaching.

Music: “I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • How can one appear to be under or outside of the law and model a consistent life giving relationship with God?
  • Need to recognize that Paul was defending his tent-making so his preaching would not be under the control of the wealthy members of the congregation. It is from those people that Paul is free.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

Without vv 3-16, some hearers may question the need to pay the preacher, if the preacher is compelled by God to preach.

Verses 19-22 need translation to modern culture.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Roy A Harrisville (Augsburg Commentary: I Corinthians, 1987) opines: “There was more afoot in Corinth than dismemberment of the congregation through party spirit, more than laying claim to a superior knowledge which spurns corporeal alignment, more than libertinism. … went a challenge to his apostleship, thus to his authority.” He translates the closing phrase of verse 15 (“no one will deprive me of my ground for boasting!”) as “No one shall rob me of my thanks!” Emphasizing that he did not require payment for preaching despite his apostleship. He cautions against misusing verses 19-22 to rationalize separate but equal status.

J. Paul Sampley (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “First Letter to the Corinthians”. Abingdon, 2002) cautions that Paul did not give up his freedom and rights, but chose not to exercise them. He notes Paul use of commercial terms in verses 15- 18 to convey his profiting by preaching. In verses 19-23 Paul continues using kerdaino (win / make a profit). “Paul knows that it is not he who saves, but God.” He reflects: “Paul relates one of the secrets of his evangelistic prowess: He goes to people, where they are, on their own terms. … But becoming all things to all people does not involve losing or giving up one’s own center, becoming gelatin-molded to whatever form appears, or losing track of what is truly important.”

William Baird (Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Corinthians | 2 Corinthians. John Knox Press, 1980) notes that Paul demonstrated his willingness to become weak by giving up his right to eat meat sacrificed to idols (8:13). He believes “that winning the weak means to save them from the arrogance of those who can destroy (8:11).”

Craig Blomberg (The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians. Zondervan Publishing House, 1995.) divides the chapter into two passages 1-18 & 19-27. He states (citing Acts 18:1-4) that refused to accept money from powerful patrons in Corinth, implying freedom from deferring to and politically supporting these patrons resulting in these patrons charging he was less of an apostle because he refused payment for his preaching. He sees Paul contextualizing the gospel – changing the forms of the message precisely in order to preserve its content. “Sadly, Christians of many eras have instead tended to be more sensitive to the legalism of fellow church members and have too quickly censured contemporary social customs, alienating themselves from the very people they should have been trying to win to Christ.” “Paul’s model far more closely approximates ‘friendship evangelism’ – coming alongside and getting to know unbelievers, valuing them as God’s creation in his image in and of themselves, and not just as potential objects of conversion.”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

“Paul goes to people, where they are, on their own terms. … But becoming all things to all people does not involve losing or giving up one’s own center, becoming gelatin-molded to whatever form appears, or losing track of what is truly important.”

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

How should we free and contextualize the gospel so that Christ might win all people?

January 29th: “Church Building”

This Week’s Passage: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Highlights: In answering a question about eating meat offered to idols, Paul gave the church a method for resolving theological conundrums: Does it merely puff up those who know what is right, or does it build up the whole church?

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for Sunday January 29thin Ordinary Time

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1-3 The opening phrase alludes that Paul is about to answer a question from the Corinthians. The preamble about knowledge puffing up hints that Paul is about to give a nuanced answer to the presenting problem by declaring that love trumps knowledge of right from wrong.

4-6 This follows the rhetoric style of the previous sentences, yet agrees with the presenting premise.

7-9 Could a modern theological conundrum be inserted for “food offered to idols;” e.g. abortion or homosexuality? I perceived both sides could use this pericope to support their position. Would the Corinthians have found Paul’s answer equally vexing?

10-13 Paul opts to err towards abstaining from eating, as doing so might be perceived by new believers as worshiping pagan idols. Yet, does not eating meat validate the pagan ritual, as atheists would also eat meat, even in the temple? And if the pagan ritual is validated, does not eating meat deny the supremacy of Christ?

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • This is the entire chapter. Adjacent chapters address unrelated topics.

F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

  • Some translations add quotation marks to delineate possible phrases from the Corinthians’ letter. There is little agreement among the translators as to how much Paul has used keywords or loaded phrases from the Corinthians’ letter. Some credit all or none of verse 8 to the Corinthians with some affect on the intended meaning.

II. Literary Study.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

  • Meat offered to idols was readily available and cheap following pagan rituals. Although left-overs from the ritual were sold in the market place, consuming meat could connote participation in or at least approval of the ritual.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

  • Paul uses buzz words and phrases from the Corinthians in his reply to highlight weaknesses in their theology.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Believers must look beyond theological right/wrong and consider how new believers and unbelievers would perceive a behavior.
  • Emotional Center: Our love for a new believers should trump our concern for theological purity.
  • Music: “Help Us Accept Each Other”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • A cursory reading of the passage obscures the complexities potential of Eating/Not eating.
  • Would the faction supporting eating note that the lower cost of this meat was a loving support of believers?

E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?

  • A broader discussion of the complexities would help readers unfamiliar with the Corinthian community apply this to other theological conundrums.
  • An authoritative solution allowed the Corinthians to set aside this issue aside so they might focus on making disciples.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Paul demonstrates a method for dispensing theological conundrums: Look for what encourages those with weak faith/conscience in right behavior, rather than merely balancing theological points. A moral decision must be weighed out with the ramifications on all of life including the lives of the affected community.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Roy A Harrisville (Augsburg Commentary: I Corinthians, 1987) adds a complexity to the decision of eating or not eating by noting that only the viscera were preserved for the Greek gods, while the muscles were sent to the market for human consumption. He clarifies the conflict as not between knowing and love but between types of knowing: Human knowing that requires and object to be loved, and Divine knowing that creates the object of its love. He places the conflict between the libertarian party, who knew that idols are meaningless and what was sold was only meat thus each could do as they saw fit, and the the fellowship party, who were concerned that new believers might be mislead into idolatry. He looks to Romans 14:3-4 & 17 for the conclusion of this conflict where Paul admonished those who eat not to despise those who abstain, and those who abstain were not to despise those who eat, for the kingdom of God is more than food and drink.

J. Paul Sampley (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “First Letter to the Corinthians”. Abingdon, 2002) notes that Paul uses the larger section (chapters 8 – 11) to address how a believer should conduct oneself among a community of non-believers while honoring having been set apart as a Christian. He notes that Paul confronts the maxim proposed by the Corinthians with three of his own maxims. By this point in the letter, Paul has already pointed eight times to their puff boastfulness. He reflects that “Love builds up” is Paul’s most important concept in describing how believers relate to one another. Sampley assigns all of verse 8 to Paul’s expanding of the question from meat offered to idols to all food. When love is properly applied, it encourages appropriate behavior.

William Baird (Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Corinthians | 2 Corinthians. John Knox Press, 1980) hints that the issue of eating meat may have affected Corinthian worship as their celebration of the Lord’s Supper included a meal (see 11:21). He concludes: “In Christian ethics, persons are more important than precepts. … Why is the brother or sister important? – because he or she is the person “for whom Christ died” (v. 11).”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Paul proposed a method for resolving theological conundrums: Does it merely puff up the one who knows what is right, or does it build up the church?

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

Those who love God, build up their neighbors.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Moral decisions must be consider implications for all of life, including the lives of the community.

June 19th: “Glorifying God with quality worship”

This week and the next three weeks, the sermon will consider one of the four facets of the congregation’s vision statement. The notes below lift up exemplifying passages from the Bible and the Book of Confessions.

Exemplifying Scripture

Matthew 4:10 – You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.

Ephesians 4:4-6 – There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

The Second Helvetic Confession:

5.023 GOD ALONE IS TO BE ADORED AND WORSHIPPED. We teach that the true God alone is to be adored and worshipped. This honor we impart to none other, according to the commandment of the Lord, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matt. 4:10). Indeed, all the prophets severely inveighed against the people of Israel whenever they adored and worshipped strange gods, and not the only true God. But we teach that God is to be adored and worshipped as he himself has taught us to worship, namely, “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23 f.), not with any superstition, but with sincerity, according to his Word; lest at any time he should say to us: “Who has required these things from your hands?” (Isa. 1:12; Jer. 6:20). For Paul also says: “God is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything,” etc. (Acts 17:25).

5.135 And those who are such in the Church have one faith and one spirit; and therefore they worship but one God, and him alone they worship in spirit and in truth, loving him alone with all their hearts and with all their strength, praying unto him alone through Jesus Christ, the only Mediator and Intercessor; and they do not seek righteousness and life outside Christ and faith in him. Because they acknowledge Christ the only head and foundation of the Church, and, resting on him, daily renew themselves by repentance, and patiently bear the cross laid upon them. Moreover, joined together with all the members of Christ by an unfeigned love, they show that they are Christ’s disciples by persevering in the bond of peace and holy unity. At the same time they participate in the sacraments instituted by Christ, and delivered unto us by his apostles, using them in no other way than as they received them from the Lord. That saying of the apostle Paul is well known to all: “I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you” (I Cor. 11:23 ff.). Accordingly, we condemn all such churches as strangers from the true Church of Christ, which are not such as we have heard they ought to be, no matter how much they brag of a succession of bishops, of unity, and of antiquity. Moreover, we have a charge from the apostles of Christ “to shun the worship of idols” (I Cor. 10:14; I John 5:21), and “to come out of Babylon,” and to have no fellowship with her, unless we want to be partakers with her of all God’s plagues (Rev. 18:4; II Cor. 6:17).

5.220 THE METHOD TO BE EMPLOYED IN PUBLIC PRAYERS. As in everything, so also in public prayers there is to be a standard lest they be excessively long and irksome. The greatest part of meetings for worship is therefore to be given to evangelical teaching, and care is to be taken lest the congregation is wearied by too lengthy prayers and when they are to hear the preaching of the Gospel they either leave the meeting or, having been exhausted, want to do away with it altogether. To such people the sermon seems to be overlong, which otherwise is brief enough. And therefore it is appropriate for preachers to keep to a standard.

The Westminster Confession of Faith:

6.012 2. God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself;(23) and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them:(24) he is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things;(25) and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, ori upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth.(26) In his sight all things are open and manifest;(27) his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature;(28) so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain.(29) He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands.(30) To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them.(31)

6.112 1. The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is good, and doeth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might.(1) But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.(2)

6.113 2. Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to him alone:(3) not to angels, saints, or any other creature:(4) and since the Fall, not without a Mediator; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone.(5)

6.114 3. Prayer with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship,(6) is by God required of all men;(7) and that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son,(8) by the help of his Spirit,(9) according to his will,(10) with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance;(11) and, if vocal, in a known tongue.(12)

6.115 4. Prayer is to be made for things lawful,(13) and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter,(14) but not for the dead.i (15, 16)

6.116 5. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear;(17) the sound preaching,(18) and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God with understanding, faith, and reverence;(19) singing of psalms with grace in the heart;(20) as, also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God:(21) besides religious oaths,(22) and vows,(23) solemn fastings,(24) and thanksgivings upon special occasion;(25) which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.(26)

The Larger Catechism:

7.214 Q. 104. What are the duties required in the First Commandment?
A. The duties required in the First Commandment(1) are: the knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God;(2) and to worship and glorify him accordingly;(3) by thinking,(4) meditating,(5) remembering,(6) highly esteeming,(7) honoring,(8) adoring,(9) choosing,(10) loving,(11) desiring,(12) fearing of him;(13) believing him;(14) trusting,(15) hoping,(16) delighting,(17) rejoicing in him;(18) being zealous for him;(19) calling upon him, giving all praise and thanks,(20) and yielding all obedience and submission to him with the whole man;(21) being careful in all things to please him,(22) and sorrowful when in anything he is offended;(23) and walking humbly with him.(24)

The Confession of 1967:

9.36 The church gathers to praise God, to hear his word for mankind, to baptize and to join in the Lord’s Supper, to pray for and present the world to him in worship, to enjoy fellowship, to receive instruction, strength, and comfort, to order and organize its own corporate life, to be tested, renewed, and reformed, and to speak and act in the world’s affairs as may be appropriate to the needs of the time.

June 12th: “A Full Toolbox”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: 1 Corinthians 12:1-13

B. Establish translation: Review NIV, NRSV, TEV, BHS/NA26, …

C. Other texts for Year A for Pentecost

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1. Presuming that the Corinthians’ question was how to “test pneumatics for gifts of the Spirit” (Harper’s Commentary), is this significantly different from today’s discussion discerning who should be ordained on the basis of what constitutes repentance from sins.

2 How are we still lead astray by “mute idols”?

4/5/6 Is Paul telling us about the natures of each person of the Trinity: Gifts from Spirit, Service from Christ, Activities from God?

5/6. Does Paul mean to differentiate “service” and “activities” differ? Or is Paul only expanding on the presence of God?

7. The Spirit is distributed universally for the common good, and by which each person might ultimately be saved.

8. Wisdom: The application of knowledge. Knowledge: Awareness of data/facts.

9. faith, healing, miraculous powers [how different from healing?], prophecy,

10. These represent lost gifts in the Main Line denominations: Potent activities, Prophecy, Distinguishing between spirits, Speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues.

12/13 Metaphors often used by Paul. But were they used by others also?

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Preceded by a question on serving the Lord’s Supper.
  • Verse 1 starts the discussion on spiritual gifts.
  • The preceding chapter is about the right ordering of worship. Here Paul enumerates various gifts for the right ordering of the life of the community of faith.
  • In the next chapter Paul moves into the proper use of the gifts of the Spirit by noting their uselessness without love.
  • Beginning with verse 14 Paul makes the metaphor of comparing gifts with a human body more specific.
  • Paul continues to expound on the variety of gifts of the Spirit in the famous chapter on love then in chapter 14 Paul expounds on speaking in tongues and the right ordering of worship. Chapter 15 seems to move on to a new question, possibly about the veracity of being raised from the dead.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

  • Letter to a conflicted church answering several questions that the church asked. Paul wrote this with Sosthenes (?) in ??.
  • The interest of the Corinthians in matters of sex, marriage, conscience, and church order, make this letter very applicable to the Church today.
  • Roy Harrisville (Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: I Corinthians, 1987) muses if this letter was written to a church that created a structure to deal with glossolalia or if to a church trying to understand Christian glossolalia in the context of pagan rants.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

  • Romans 12:4-8 focuses on coordination of gifts within the Church, while 1 Corinthians focuses on recognition of the variety of gifts and not to expect that everyone has the same gifts while having the same spirit.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

  • /Peri de twn pneumatikwn …/ (verse 1) can be translated as either “Now concerning spiritual things …” or as “Now concerning spiritual persons …” The former is favored as the reminder of the paragraph deals with spiritual gifts rather than people. But earlier Paul designated spiritualists as mature Christians. If this was intended, then Paul might have been dealing with an hierarchy of Christians based on the gifts they had been given.
  • /diakoniwn/ (v. 5) – NIV & NRSV translate as “services”. Root of “deacon”. Brown and Comfort suggest “ministries”.
  • /energhmatwn/ and /energwn/ (v. 6) – variously translated as “activities” and “active”, “operations” and “operating”, or “working” and “at work”.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

  • This is a polemic piece. Designed to cast a vision beyond what might be easily achieved.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Presuming that Paul is responding to a letter from the Corinthians, their question might be: “You kept us in the dark about spiritual gifts. What spiritual gifts should we look for to tell who has been accepted by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • The letter implies a conflict between Paul and the church at Corinth. Paul is arguing that receiving the Spirit is not noted by a particular set of gifts, but rather that the Spirit endows several with unique gifts for the up building of the entire body.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • It may raise the question: “What are my particular gifts?”

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Roy Harrisville (Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: I Corinthians, 1987) notes Paul provided in verse 7 a test for discerning between spirits, namely: “for the common good.” He thoroughly refutes speculation of a hierarchy of gifts, emphasizing vv. 6 & 11: “the same God who inspires them all in everyone” and “all these are inspired by one and the same Spirit.” He analyzes the impact of glossolalia and other charismatic gifts (NB: carismata = spiritual gifts which is etymologically related to caris = grace).

J. Paul Sampley (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “First Letter to the Corinthians”, 2002) notes the confession “Jesus is Lord” had daily implications for early Christians in all matters in contrast to separating sacred and secular matters or presuming self autonomy. None-the-less, confessing and living “Jesus is Lord” is a gift from God. Building on divisiveness noted in other portions of 1 Corinthians, Sampley interprets this section as confronting a heresy of ranking various gifts, especially glossolalia, and those who practice those gifts, above the gifts given to other Christians.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

God gives gifts by the Spirit for service to the Lord.

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

All divine spiritual gifts contribute to the common good without preference.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Reconsider a place for prophecy, spiritual acts of power, and speaking in tongues.