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NT Survey 111 Seminar 9 1+2 Corinthians

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Andrew Hodge                                                                                                      20th April 2007

New Testament Survey NTES 111

Seminar 9

The Corinthian Epistles

1 and 2 Corinthians; Libronix DLS; Irving L. Jensen Jensen’s Survey of the New Testament 1981, Moody Press, Chicago Ch 12; Guthrie, Donald  New Testament Introduction  Apollos, Leicester, England 4th Ed  1990 Ch 10

Analyse the Church at Corinth:

            See below under “Paul’s relationship with the Church at Corinth”.

 

 

Examine Paul’s opposition in the Church:

            See below - multiple places.

Although opposition may not be attributable to a specific group(s) of individuals it is “undeniable that he (Paul) had to deal with various groups of Christians with tendencies which were leading to an inadequate view of Christianity. Among these may be noted such groups as libertines, who had misunderstood Christian freedom, ascetics who had adopted too rigid an approach to Christian behaviour, and ecstatics who were allowing their spiritual experiences to lead to disorderliness.”[1]

“It has been suggested that the Corinthians had adopted a kind of realized eschatology in which they had imagined that the parousia had already taken place. This inevitably led to a confused view of the resurrection.”[2]

 

Trace Paul’s relationship with the Church at Corinth:

            The word church(es) is used 30 times in these two Books, almost half of all the use of this word that Paul makes in all of his Epistles (62). Jensen (p 263) states that this word is used in the NT in three different ways:

  • Invisible Church - all believers, alive or dead, members of Christ’s body (Ephesians 1:22-23; Eph 5:23, 25-27) = Kingdom of Heaven/God?
  • Visible Church at large - a constituency of all believers living at any one time (Romans 16:16; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 4:15) = Universal Church?
  • Visible local Church - a fellowship of believers who worship in a given locality (eg Corinth: 1 Corinthians 1:2).

Note that Paul uses the word in all of these ways. An important verse is 1 Corinthians 10:32 “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:” This verse breaks up humanity into three parts, not the two based on salvation (ie saved/unsaved), and indicates the fundamental nature of the Church - equal to, but added onto two supposedly globally inclusive groupings - Jew and Gentile. The addition of this third group was made possible by the Cross (Jensen Chart 69 p 264).

            Not all Jews were believers, just as not all Gentiles were unbelievers; this makes necessary the third category and distinguishes the three kinds of Church (as above, containing only believers) from the rest of humanity (unbelievers - whether Jew or Gentile). Of course this definition treats ‘Church’ in the narrowest sense of containing only believers. Even in Paul’s time the local Churches had ‘members’ who were not believers.

            Given this background, Paul addresses the “the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:1-9). He calls them ‘saints’ because he knows that in Christ that is what they are, even though in themselves he knows they are dirty, rotten, public and private sinners who are spoiling the testimony of Christ.

            These evil activities of Church members - believers - should not surprise the readers of this Book. Corinth was a major trading city similar to our mega-cities today, and full of the same kinds of sinners expected in such a place.

            When we sin we reap what we sow; when we are saved we are not made sinlessly perfect; change takes time. The Corinthian Church was not only young in itself and possibly had no mature leadership, but also it existed in the infancy of Christianity and had little idea of what was expected of it. The concepts of “salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” and the standards of the ‘Sermon on the Mount/Plain’ were not yet even written down; even if they were and were available to all, not every believer would have immediately fallen into line.

            This concept of Corinth makes it easy to apply the teachings of 1 and 2 Corinthians to the Churches and Christians of today. We are no less sinful, and as will be seen, the Church and the world around it are subject to the same sins.

            Paul visits Corinth about 50 AD on his second journey, when he himself was in his early 50’s. It is a koine-speaking Greek city, but acknowledged as the hub of the Roman Empire’s commerce, having been rebuilt by Julius Caesar in 46 BC after being razed by Rome in 146 BC for an anti-Roman uprising.1a This commercial advantage gave it particular importance as a centre for the propagation of the Gospel (Jensen p 265).

            The Greek Korinthos means “ornament” (Jensen p 265) or “satiated” (Strong’s Concordance in Libronix although this is qualified by being ‘of uncertain derivation’). Perhaps at one time Corinth was the “Jewel of the Aegean” but in 55 AD it bore all the hallmarks of being morally bankrupt, if the Corinthian congregation is anything to go by ie some were satiated by sin.

            The city was strategically located between the Ionian and Aegean seas, with two ports, and was largely established so that cargo and small ships sent between these two regions could be carried over the 4 mile isthmus between the Peloponnese and the rest of Greece, instead of enduring the long and dangerous journey around the west and south coasts. A canal for all ships was not built until 1881-1893, along the route originally planned for it by Nero (66 AD).2a Jensen’s Map R p 266 implies that the canal was already in place in Paul’s time.

           

1aThe International Standard Bible Encyclopedia  G.W.Bromiley General Editor, Fully Revised 1988, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company  Grand Rapids, Michigan I, 773

2aibid

In 55 AD the city had between 100,000 and 700,000 inhabitants, polyglot, transient, with many slaves (Jensen p 266). Rome had made it the capital of Achaia, and in Paul’s day it was ruled by the proconsul Gallio (Acts 18:12). It did not acquire the fame of Athens in art or philosophy[3]a, but its sinful profligacy put it on an inevitable collision course with Christianity.

            There was a mountain near Corinth (Acrocorinth to the south of the city) on the summit of which was built the Temple to Aphrodite/Venus. It is said that much wealth came into the city in addition to its primary trading role, by the activity of the temple prostitutes who numbered up to 1000 (stated by Strabo who was in Corinth in 29 BC and who thought that prostitution was the primary means of Corinthian income3). A common saying at the time “to act the Corinthian” or to “Corinthianise” meant to fornicate. “A seaman’s paradise, a drunkard’s heaven, and a virtuous woman’s hell”.4a The implication from Jensen p 273 is that the pinnacle of religious superiority was to be celibate (supreme self-control in the midst of an ocean of temptation?)

            Corinth had some of its own manufacturing businesses - pottery and brass - but these were small in comparison to shipping movement and prostitution. Apparently study of the arts and sciences flourished (Jensen p 267).

This is another parallel to our situation today where man’s pursuit of knowledge substitutes for the real spiritual knowledge of God which actually does bring wisdom. Paul had attended tertiary institutions in Tarsus and Jerusalem - in terms of education he was up there amongst the best. But he makes it clear that he does not compete with the Corinthians on their philosophies or intellects.

Instead, (1 Corinthians 2:2) “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”[4] and (1 Corinthians 2:7-8) “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”[5] See also 1 Corinthians 1:20-21, 27. Jensen calls the intellectualism of the Corinthians “smug and superficial” (p 267).

Corinth accented sports - as we do - holding Isthmian Games similar to our Olympics, every two years. Paul uses this interest to demonstrate a point (1 Corinthians 9:24-27), but Jensen notes that in sport, as in most other aspects of Corinthian life, corruption was rife.

Corinth was not short on religion and worshipped many gods within many cults. There was at least one synagogue (near the northern entrance to the city 5a) which, after Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:1-4) was Paul’s first port of call.

3aibid

4aJoseph M. Gettys  How to study 1 Corinthians  p 10 quoted in Irving L. Jensen Jensen’s Survey of the New Testament 1981, Moody Press, Chicago p 266 footnote 7

5aThe International Standard Bible Encyclopedia  G.W.Bromiley General Editor, Fully Revised 1988, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company  Grand Rapids, Michigan  I, 774

Paul ministers to Jews and Greeks in the synagogue every sabbath (1 Corinthians 2:4) but was substantially encouraged when Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia (1 Corinthians 2:5) to preach to hard-core Jews. When they vigorously opposed his doctrine, Paul gives them up to reap what they sowed, and determines to witness primarily to the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 2:6).

He goes to live with Justus - a Christian whose house was right next door to the synagogue (!) - and as a consequence (perhaps after some seeds were sown by Justus?) Paul leads the chief ruler of the synagogue, Crispus, to Christ. At this point Jesus chooses to encourage Paul with direct verbal revelation (1 Corinthians 2:9-10) for God does not want to have Paul’s ministry in Corinth short-circuited - there are many conversions to be made (1 Corinthians 2:10). Paul stays 18 months (v 11).

It can be assumed that the nucleus of the church at Corinth was initially small (migrants from elsewhere and inter-city business folk eg Aquila and Priscilla, Justus, Crispus, their families and converts that were possibly from lower socio-economic groups 1 Corinthians 1:26) and probably meeting in a house (Aquila’s?). This is in considerable contrast to the beginnings of the Jerusalem Church, but is much closer to experience today. Apollos was the Church pastor-teacher during Paul’s absence between the second and third journeys (Acts 18:24-19:1).

There were 5 years between Paul’s first visit to Corinth and the writing of 1 Corinthians. There may have been two more possible contacts during these years - “to combat an incipient opposition….and to correct other evils” (2 Corinthians 2:1; 12:14; 13:1-2 - note reference to ‘third’ visit - Jensen p 268). The first visit apparently was ineffective. In 1 Corinthians 5:9 a letter is referred to, now lost, also written to correct existing evils in the Corinthian Church and presumably likewise ineffective. It is obvious that Paul wrote a lot during his ministry but only a portion was accepted as canonical. See below re ‘compilation’.

Paul writes 1 Corinthians from Ephesus in 55 AD, where he was enjoying a fruitful ministry. It is a testimony to his relationship with the Corinthians and the burden he took upon himself as the ‘founder’ of numerous Churches that he takes time out to assist the Corinthians with their difficulties.

Compare and contrast Paul’s two canonical letters to the Church at Corinth:

            1 Corinthians: Problems of a local Church. ~55 AD. From Paul and Sosthenes at Ephesus. Who is Sosthenes? Same as in Acts 18:17? Why not just Paul?

            2 Corinthians: Primarily Paul’s defence of his apostolic ministry. ~56 AD. From Paul and Timothy in Macedonia. Why not just Paul? Timothy is referred to in 1 Corinthians twice when Paul is urging the Corinthians to accept him when he arrives among them. In 2 Corinthians, Paul places Timothy more or less on an equal level with himself (2 Cor 1:19).

Also in brief, Jensen summarises W. Graham Scroggie in a table, p 285 6, in a comparison of these two Books, together with his primary survey Charts (70 and 73).

           

6 W. Graham Scroggie  Know your Bible  2:142-143 quoted in Irving L. Jensen Jensen’s Survey of the New Testament 1981, Moody Press, Chicago footnote 27 p 284.

1 Corinthians has been called “The Book of Sanctification”. An equally appropriate title might be “Victory in Jesus” using 1 Corinthians 15:57 as the key verse: “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”[6] This verse comes at the end of a long description of divisions, depravities, disorders and difficulties concerning problems of the congregation, personal problems and worship service problems, and a specific problem which the Church had asked Paul about, the Resurrection (Jensen Chart 70 p 272), showing that in the end the walk of the Christian in the power and direction of the Holy Spirit gives the same victory over the world as Christ had (1 Corinthians 15:58).

            Jensen also states (p 279) that personal application of 1 Corinthians gives us a mirror in which we see our own personal maladies, learning God’s own personal prescriptions for cure.

            2 Corinthians  is primarily the Holy Spirit’s apologetic in defence of the ministry given by God to Paul. Paul has had successful ministries in Ephesus during both the second and third journeys, but the burden he carried for sinful Corinth weighed heavily on his heart and he purposed to visit Corinth again, from Ephesus (2 Corinthians 1:12-2:13), although this second Book was written in Philippi (by tradition. In fact from “Macedonia” 2 Corinthians 7:5).

He wished to prepare the way for his next visit because of the hard time he had given the Church with 1 Corinthians, although 2 Corinthians is addressed not only to the saints at Corinth but also those in “all Achaia” (2 Corinthians 1:1), perhaps because he wanted anyone ‘contaminated’ by opposition to his apostleship to hear his defence as well.

            In addition, Paul’s original plan - which he must have told them about - was to come directly to them by sea, visit Macedonia, then travel to Jerusalem back through Corinth so that the Church there could have a ‘second benefit’ (2 Corinthians 1:15-16). In the event, his plans had to change and he could only go to Corinth once. He was accused by them of telling a lie (2 Corinthians 1:17-18).

            Titus probably took 1 Corinthians (and other subsequent letter[s]?) to Corinth from Ephesus and on his return to Paul he told him of developments. There were two: a significant spiritual awakening (2 Corinthians 7:6 ff) and persistent problems (2 Corinthians 10:2, 10, 12; 11:4; 12:16, 20-21). Titus delivers 2 Corinthians to Corinth and then Paul finally makes it there for a ministry of 3 months (Acts 20:2-3). He escapes a plot against his life and leaves for Jerusalem (Acts 20:3-21:17).

            Jensen (p 284) gives three reasons why Paul was inspired to write 2 Corinthians:

  1. to give instruction in doctrine with practical exhortations
  2. to give further instructions for the offering being gathered for the poor saints in Jerusalem (eg 2 Corinthians 9:1-5)
  3. to make an extended defence of his apostleship in view of false accusations from some of the members in the Corinthian Church (2 Corinthians 10:10; 11:13-15; 13:3).

2 Corinthians is the only book to describe some of Paul’s experiences (Jensen

p 291): escape from Damascus (11:32-33), revelations and visions (12:1-6), his thorn in the flesh (12:7), five Jewish and two Roman scourgings, 3 shipwrecks, many perils (11:23-27). Other topics covered and not mentioned above or below are the OT and NT contrasted (Ch 3), Christ’s substitutionary atonement (5:21), the gospel of reconciliation (5:18-20) and separation from worldliness (6:14-7:1).

“More is learned about the character and life of an apostle from this epistle than from any other portion of the New Testament” (Jensen p 284). His first love was to preach the Gospel, and this was a task given him by God (Acts 9:15) rather than being on his own initiative.

           

Discuss the compilation and date of writing of the Epistles:

            See above and below.

Both written approximately one year before the Book of Romans (56 AD), in 55 AD (Jensen Chart 1 p 20) during the third missionary journey, from Ephesus (1 Corinthians) and Macedonia (2 Corinthians) with possibly a 7 month gap (Guthrie p 458).

The unity of 1 Corinthians is one of the best attested (Jensen p 269).

The unity of 2 Corinthians has been challenged by modern critics that Chh 10-13 were not part of the original (Jensen p 284). A straightforward reading of the Book discredits this for “feeling cannot be reduced to system; it vanishes under the dissecting knife” (Jensen p 286).

Nevertheless, there are some broad divisions eg 2 Corinthians 1:3-7:16 which is biographical of Paul’s journeys, interrupted by a topical parenthesis on his ministry (2:14-7:3  Jensen Chart 74 p 288 and Chart 75 p 289); a central division on giving (chh 8-9); and a final division as apologetic (10:1-13:10), followed by an Epilogue.

How the books came to be written is conjecture, only partly elucidated by inference. Guthrie’s scheme is as follows:

1. Paul wrote a letter, known now as the ‘previous letter’, in which he warned the Corinthians not to associate with immoral persons (1 Cor. 5:9), but this appears to have been misunderstood (1 Cor. 5:10–11).

2. At the same time as hearing of their misunderstanding of his previous letter Paul heard reports of certain disorders in the Corinthian church from the household of Chloe. He possibly then received a delegation from the church in the persons of Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus who brought a number of questions which needed answering. As a result he sent 1 Corinthians.

3. Timothy, who was apparently not sent with this letter but who had proceeded to Macedonia with Erastus (Acts 22), may never have reached Corinth, for he is not mentioned in the body of 2 Corinthians but is linked with Paul in the salutation.

4. Paul probably heard other adverse reports and decided to pay a visit which was a painful experience, and from which he was obliged to withdraw in haste (known as the ‘painful visit’).

5. On his return he sent a letter ‘out of great distress and anguish of heart’ (2 Cor. 2:4) in an attempt to rectify the matter. This letter, which was probably carried by Titus, is known as the ‘sorrowful letter’.

6. Paul had in the meantime left Ephesus and was awaiting the arrival of Titus at Troas with news of the reception of the ‘sorrowful letter’. He failed to meet him there, but after he had moved to Macedonia Titus arrived with good news of the Corinthian situation.

7. Paul wrote 2 Corinthians to express his relief at the success of his severe letter and Titus’ mission.

8. He later spent the winter at Corinth prior to proceeding by way of Macedonia to Jerusalem with the collection for the poverty stricken Christians.

If this reconstruction is correct it means that the apostle paid three visits and wrote at least four letters to the Corinthian church. But there are several problems in interpreting the data and these must next be considered.[7]

Guthrie then goes on to discuss the issues of the ‘previous letter’, how

1 Corinthians supports this chronology, the alternatives to a ‘painful visit’, the ‘sorrowful letter’, how 2 Corinthians supports it, and how Paul hoped not to have to use severity at his next visit.

 

 

Articulate the disorders with the Church reported to Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:10-6:20:

            Four main problems in five passages (Jensen p 271):

  • Divisions within the membership (1:10-6:20)
  • The Church’s’ neglect of the problem of fornication (5:1-8)
  • Evil fellowship (5:9-13)
  • Lawsuits in the public courts (6:1-11)
  • Libertine attitude concerning fornication (6:12-20)

Paul’s attitude toward these is stated in 1 Corinthians 6:5 “I say this to your shame”.

           

Guthrie treats these in just three headings:

  1. The spirit of divisiveness (1:10-4:21). Factions had developed as to who an individual ‘followed’ - determined by his baptiser. Paul points out the fallacy of such ‘wisdom’ by comparing it with the folly of the Cross. Real Christianity is illustrated from husbandry and building, concluding that boasting in men is utterly vain. In acting as their spiritual father he hopes that when he comes, he will not have to bring a rod with him.
  2. The problems of moral lapses (5:1–13; 6:12–20). Incest is serious and the offender should be expelled lest, like leaven, his sin should contaminate the whole Church. There is the issue of delivering a saved person to Satan - discuss.  Paul needs to clarify his position (stated in a previous letter) with regard to immorality and “to reaffirm the necessity to excommunicate any professing Christian guilty of immorality (5:9–13).”[8]  Paul also needs to remind the Corinthians of discernment in moral judgments - determining what to do with food (expedience) is different from sins against the Holy Spirit (immorality).
  3. Appeals to heathen law courts (6:1–11). Spiritual problems can only be dealt with by the spiritual, not the worldly.

 

 

Discuss the various problems raised by the Church in 1 Corinthians 7:1-15:58:

            That the Church raised several issues with Paul by letter is clear from 7:1. This verse also implies that the Church members were concerned about these issues, that they knew Paul well enough to approach him in the first place and that they were likely to take notice of what he might say.

Marriage (7:1-40)

Jensen is careful to state that he agrees with G. Campbell Morgan (quote p 273) that 1 Corinthians makes “no attempt …to state the Christian doctrine of marriage in its fullness and completeness”, and further that “false conclusions are easily made from Chapter 7 if the local Corinthian situation and the larger context of Paul’s epistles are not recognised”.

            The letter from the Corinthian Church is lost, therefore it is not possible to know exactly how their query concerning celibacy was worded. From the character of Paul’s reply in 7:1-2, they may have suggested to him that to be a “real” Christian was to be celibate along the lines of the celibacy practised by the heathen idolatrous hierarchy in Corinth (= Catholic Church!).

            In context, the ‘distress’ of 7:26 also concerns marriage but the specific concern is not known. It may have been that there were more pressing external persecutions that threatened and were more important to deal with, hence Paul’s personal advice is not to get married at the moment (7:26-27). Jensen makes the point (p 273) that sexual immorality was threatening the very existence of the Church (Ch 5); Paul’s advice may therefore be seen as the first step toward Church survival rather than a dogma concerning marriage.

            Paul’s epistles do contain a full treatment of marriage, in multiple places including 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, 1 Timothy.

            Guthrie notes (p 461) that Paul is careful to distinguish his own opinion from direct Godly revelation.

Christian liberty (8:1-11:1)

Here Paul addresses a specific question “Do we eat meat that has been offered to idols?” (8:4). Paul’s answer is lengthy but his approach is summarised in Jensen Chart 71 p 275, plus Thompson’s marginal notes. There are three steps:

  • Principles stated (ch 8). Love for a neighbour or brother is better than having mere knowledge about something; idols are nothing to those who know God (8:1-6), Christian liberty must have limits (8:7-9), all Christians are responsible for the influence they have on others (8:10-13)
  • Principles illustrated (chh 9 and 10). Paul asserts his authority to be an apostolic example by his own selflessness (9:1-11), it is necessary at times to be publicly sacrificial in subservience and subjection in order to promote the Gospel (9:12-23), these principles illustrated by sporting contests (9:24-27) and by the history of Israel (10:1-10)
  • Principles applied (ch 10). The Christian life is not unlike the trials in the wilderness (10:11-15), the Lord’s Supper is a sanctified event (10:16-18), the worship of idols is empty (10:19-22); specifics concerning the idol offerings sold in the markets (10:23-27), specifics concerning what to do if offered heathen meat and the attitudes of respecting others’ consciences and weaknesses (10:28-33), the fundamental being “do all to the glory of God…that they may be saved” cf 11:1.

Spiritual Gifts (11:2-14:40).

Paul deals first with the proper attitudes toward head coverings (11:2-16) and abuses in the service of the Lord’s Table (11:17-34).

Chapter 12 lists spiritual gifts but it is not exhaustive (cf Romans 12:6-8, 1:11, 12:26; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Timothy 1:6; Hebrews 2:4; 1 Peter 4:10).

Chapter 14 compares prophecy (revealing the will of God) and tongues (when an interpreter expresses praise to God, after being given in a foreign language by another). Jensen summarises Ch 14 in Chart 72 p 277. The keynote is “let all things be done unto edifying” (1 Corinthians 14:26).

Chapter 13 expounds love as the grace that makes the spiritual gifts useful and fruitful.

Lord’s Supper (11:17-34)

This is a Church problem noted by Paul (11:18), not asked about by the Church.

Love (12:31b-13:13)

This passage also appears to be originating with Paul as a symptom of the potential for Church division (11:30-34) which he will set in order when he comes. The Holy Spirit eloquently expounds on the fundamental natures of love and its related virtues.

Resurrection Body (15:1-58). This passage on the doctrine of bodily resurrection probably arose from a Church query (15:33), and is a fundamental to the perspective in which all the preceding problems should be placed.

            The context of this problem was likely to have been rooted in the prevailing Greek philosophy which ascribed man’s weakness and sin to the physical. The release of the soul from the physical at death was therefore welcome as it was then no longer tainted by the body. Resurrection of the body together with the soul did not allow such relief.

            In effect, the Church posed two questions (Jensen p 278):

  • “Is there a resurrection from the dead?” (15:12)

Paul says “Yes”. Christ was raised (15:1-11) and saints shall be raised (15:12-19) therefore giving hope for the believers’ future (15:20-28) and the believers’ present (15:29-34)

  • “With what body are the dead raised?” (15:35)

Paul describes the nature of the resurrected body - it is supernatural (15:35-38), it reflects the heavenly image (15:39-49), it is incorruptible (15:50-57), and therefore in conclusion “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (15:58).

           

 

Appraise Paul’s dealings with disorder in public worship 1 Corinthians 11:2-34:

            Two problems:

  1. Demeanour and dress of women. Christianity, as with no other religion of the day, gave women freedom from the shackles of tradition and society (cf the bondage endured by Muslim women today). Paul sustains the significant rise of women within the Christian community, but within appropriate modest and role-defined bounds.
  2. Divisions and disorder at the Lord’s Supper. Given that there were as yet no written instructions for this, it is not surprising that the Corinthians regarded it as a communal meal. Disorder was inevitable, destroying the sanctity of the occasion. Each believer is responsible for examining himself so that he does not dishonour the ordinance.

 

 

Differentiate between the use of spiritual gifts in the Church then and now 1 Corinthians 12:1-14:40:

            Thompson summarises Ch 12: “Spiritual gifts are diverse, yet all to profit withal, and to that end are diversely bestowed of God for the general good”.8

In my view this was a necessary state for the early Church, which was spiritually struggling - not just to stay alive but to be an effective witness to the heathen around them. As the Church matured and the written Word became available, the ‘props’ of outward manifestations of the Holy Spirit became less and less necessary as the indwelling Holy Spirit assumed more control of individuals and Churches.

            Does this mean that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are lost? No. To those who have their spiritual eyes open, the activity of the Holy Spirit is no less obvious and miraculous today as it was then, but this clearly applies only to the saved who are spiritually awake.

           

8Thompson Chain Reference Bible  Fifth Improved Edition B.B.Kirkbride Bible Co., Inc.  Indianapolis, Indiana 1988 chapter heading for 1 Corinthians 12

Does it mean that witnessing and Christian fellowship today are different from that in the early Church? Yes. Witnessing is now by preaching and hearing the Word (Romans 10:17). Fellowship centres around the worship of God, not in the expression of miraculous gifts.

            Inevitably, the “possession” of a miraculous gift puffs up the pride of the individual through whom it is expressed and we have today’s perversions as a result, where some believe that - at their own command - a gift of God is manifested (often for the “benefit” of another eg healings, miracles, etc), using the convenient logic that “God is the same yesterday, today and forever” therefore His gifts are still ‘available’ today as they were during the specific, limited need of the early Church.

Nevertheless, God promises at least one spiritual gift to each believer (1 Corinthians 12:6-7) which is still used - not just for the benefit of the individual and his/her relationship with God - but also for the benefit of the Body eg faith, ministry, wisdom, knowledge, etc.

           

Review the application of true faith and the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:1-58:

            See above for Jensen’s view.

Guthrie’s approach is fourfold:

  • To deny a believer’s resurrection is to deny Christ’s and therefore to deny the Christian faith
  • On the basis of Christ’s resurrection, a believer can guarantee his own
  • The principle of resurrection runs through the natural world eg seeds ‘dead’ in the ground grow up to produce more fruit ie having more glory than they had before they ‘died’
  • Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul states that the resurrection will happen in the fullness of time, therefore the victory will be had. Live accordingly.

 

 

Outline Paul’s “collection scheme” 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15:

            The setting is that of a fund-raising project that the Corinthians had begun in the year before Paul’s final visit, after 55 AD. Guthrie (p 453) wonders whether their efforts were flagging and that Titus bringing 2 Corinthians to them before Paul’s visit will have sorted things out (2 Cor 8:6). This would have been part-reason why he needed to establish his apostolic credentials so that Titus would have authority to act on Paul’s behalf.

In 1 Corinthians Paul called this a “collection for the saints” (16:1) - the poverty-stricken Christians in the Jerusalem Church. Paul was also spiritually-savvy enough to realise that the benefits for the Corinthian Christians would be greater than the financial benefit to Jerusalem.

            The scheme reminds all Christians of how the grace of God can work, and how important it is to be an effective part of the universal Church - the “communion of saints”.

            Does this state of poverty mean that the ‘democratic socialism’ in Jerusalem of Acts 4:32 was an abject failure? It is only about 20 years down the track.

            The basis for Christian giving is founded upon Christ’s gift (2 Corinthians 8:9) and God’s gift (9:15).

 

 

 

 

Quantify Paul’s ministry 2 Corinthians 1:12-7:16:

            Guthrie treats this under two headings - Paul’s plans, and the character of his ministry. Paul’s plans had been upset - possibly by opposition to him from a Corinthian church member during a previous visit - and Paul needed to defend himself against an assumption of lying, which he does by appealing to his ministry and the trustworthiness of the God whom he represents. I do not agree with Guthrie that Paul gets out of this “by showing that the change was due to the Corinthians themselves”.[9]

            Guthrie’s outline of Paul’s ministry is reproduced in full - I could not do better:

1. The ministry is in the service of a new covenant (ch. 3). This makes it superior to the old, and since the old was so glorious that Moses, its chief minister, had to veil his face, how much more glorious is the ministry of the new. This glory is, moreover, guaranteed by the lordship of the Spirit.

2. The ministry imposes tremendous responsibilities (4:1–15). Although it is of divine origin, its ministers are compared to earthen vessels. Yet the life of Jesus is manifested in these.

3. The ministry must be carried out in the light of the judgment seat of Christ (4:16–6:2). It involves both hope, focusing on an eternal weight of glory, and fear, resulting in the persuasion of men. The minister of Christ is an ambassador of reconciliation between man and God.

4. Paul’s own ministry has involved much hardship and suffering (6:3–13). Yet his heart is enlarged towards them and he exhorts them to enlarge their hearts towards him.

5. A digression occurs (6:14–7:1) in which the readers are urged to cleanse themselves from all uncleanness since righteousness and iniquity can have no fellowship together.

6. An account then follows of Titus’ meeting with Paul in Macedonia and the apostle expresses the peculiar joy with which the tidings brought by Titus were received (7:2–16). He is greatly comforted on hearing of their grief unto repentance.[10]

           

Summarise Paul’s vindication of his apostleship 2 Corinthians 10:1-13:10:

            This takes up four chapters of the Book and he states why this is necessary: “since ye seek a proof of Christ working in me” (2 Corinthians 13:3). This was not so of everyone in Corinth, some of whom actively supported him (7:16). Those who opposed him were possibly from outside Corinth (11:4), Gnostics [11] (?) or Judaisers(?) who followed him around seeking to discredit him and his doctrines.

“A more likely view is that the opponents were not prepared to accept the full gospel preached by Paul. They may have believed in Christ crucified, but not Christ risen. They may also have added some kind of ecstatic experiences which would nullify Paul’s gospel.”[12]

            It was therefore necessary to preserve the integrity of the Gospel; Paul was not concerned about himself unless a bad opinion of him meant a bad opinion of the gospel. We see a lot of Gospel-denigration today, especially where preaching ministries are tied to the preacher rather than to God. To have any community believing a false Gospel would be a supreme disaster - as multiple movements have demonstrated since Paul, the most recent being the Emerging Church of today - and external attacks were already active in Paul’s day eg 2 Corinthians 11:3-4; 12:20-21; 13:5-7, 11.

            These four chapters - 10 to 13 - give the credentials of a true witness for Christ.

            I must disagree with Guthrie in his statement “Being the first to preach the gospel to them, he claims the right to boast of his authority over them (ch. 10).”[13] Paul may well have not been the first to preach the Gospel to the founders of the Church as they were likely saved elsewhere and baptised by a number of different individuals. Paul claims the right to boast on account of his qualities of apostleship given him by God, not on any quality of his own.


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[1]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 435 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[2]ibid 436

[3]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 432 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[4]  The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

[5] ibid

[6]  The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

[7]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 437 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[8]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 460 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[9]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 463 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[10]ibid  

[11]ibid 434

[12]ibid 435

[13]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 464 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

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