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1 Corinthians 14:1-25

You can read the text here.

Apparently intent on making his point, Paul now applies his point from chapter 13 to the issues raised in chapter 12. He sees it as a both/and situation. The Corinthians shouldn't be choosing between the spiritual gifts and love, they should want both, especially gifts that build up the body like prophecy. Tongues are fine, but they build up the individual only since only God understands what is uttered.[1]

Failure to speak intelligibly prevents you from being understood and serving any true purpose. In its essence turns everyone into a foreigner or an outsider. This comes back to the main theme of the whole letter since it undermines the unity of the body. Paul's wants them to seek gifts that build the body and not destroy its unity through misuse of other, more personal gifts.

Thus for those who pray in tongues, Paul wants them to also pray for the gift of interpretation. Even for just their own sake this is good since it can involve the whole per…
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1 Corinthians 13:1-13

You can read the text here.

Here Paul defines 'the better way,' the way of love. For Paul, love is the enactment of a disposition or inward orientation, an orientation focused outward towards others and their benefit. Whatever one does whether speaking in tongues, great deeds of faith, giving away one's money, no matter how hyperbolic,[1] if it isn't rooted in love, in other regard, it's worthless. It does not make one pleasing God, especially if its done to draw attention to oneself.

Paul then explicates what is at the heart of love. Here I will cite Thiselton's translation of the paragraph as it captures it so well:
Love waits patiently; love shows kindness. Love does not burn with envy; does not brag - is not inflated with its own importance. It does not behave with ill-mannered impropriety; it is not preoccupied with the interests of the self; does not become exasperated into pique; does not keep a reckoning up with evil. Love does not take pleasure in wron…

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

You can read the text here.

In this section Paul continues to hammer home the need for unity and for valuing every member of the church using a well known philosophical trope, that of a community forming a body. However, Paul turns the usual analogy, aimed at reinforcing the current social hierarchy, on its head.[1] Whether they like it or not, they are one body. All who have been baptized into Christ, are, by his Spirit, joined into one body.

The one body is made up of a variety of individuals with a variety of gifts. Just because one feels that that don't have any special role to play in the church's mission doesn't make them extraneous. Nor should they obsess over their "lack" of gifts. Every part has a role to play and every member is essential. If everyone had the same gifts the body would be a monstrosity, only through unified diversity can the body be healthy and whole. In fact, God has given those whose stature in the body may be small special honor. When…

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

You can read the text here.

The next topic Paul tackles, still with an eye towards unity, is spiritual gifts. The opening is a bit enigmatic, but at the core Paul wants to make clear the basic dichotomy of the Christian life compared to their former lives as pagans. It's about where one stands in relation to Jesus, whether one submits to his lordship or rejects it. The gifts given by the Spirit will be similarly identifiable, they will be Christomorphic.[1] Also, to set the stage for later discussion, Paul makes clear that their God is a living God who can speak for himself. He does not need humans to speak for him and hence possessing showy speaking gifts does not make one more necessary or of higher status.[2] In a nutshell, do the "gifts" one possesses point towards Jesus or towards oneself?

God has given the church a variety of gifts. They all have the same source, the Spirit, and the same giver, God. He activates them as he sees fit. There is no indication in the te…

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

You can read the text here.

Paul, continuing to address issues of unity, now issues a stern rebuke to Corinthians practices concerning the Lord's Supper. Their meetings were doing more harm than good. Rather than bringing unity, their practices related to the Lord's Supper were dividing the church, shaming poorer members of the church and those of whom the host was not a patron by excluding them from the prime eating and fellowship area.[1] This deepened fault lines already present in the church.[2] Paul is understandably outraged.[3]

At this point Paul goes back to basics and reminds them of the tradition he handed down to them, of the meaning of the meal they were celebrating. It was a meal in which Jesus and his sacrifice for the sake of the church was to be remembered. And by remembered, he does not mean that events were to be recalled to ones mind. It meant that it required commitment to Jesus and engagement in worship, trust, and obedience.[4] It is a covenant meal where…

Minimizing Self-Deception

Over the past few months I have read two novels by Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum and The Name of the Rose. Both are interesting if not quite easy reads, but there is one strand that is common between them (besides the obvious, of religious themes touched upon in both) that I think warrants discussion, and that is the ability of the human mind to see patterns in evidence that are not really there.

In Foucault's Pendulum, a group of men make up a historical narrative stringing together a series of facts to make an argument for a great Templar plan. They don't believe it and know the plan is fake but, the whole thing backfires when a key person who isn't in on the deception hears and believes the plan.

In the Name of the Rose a monk named William of Baskerville (reference to Sherlock Holmes was intentional) investigates a series of murders. He sees a series of coincidences as evidence of an elegant plan on the part of the murderer. The murderer learns of William's …

1 Corinthians 11:2-16

You can read the text here.

We have a significant shift in tone as we find ourselves at the opening of a new section. Paul opens with the strongest praise he has uttered thus far in the letter. Paul had given them instruction on how to worship and apparently they had worked hard at following it. However, Paul's instructions apparently had some gaps or there were misunderstandings at some points so Paul proceeded to address some issues he had not foreseen in this and subsequent sections. While the theme of rights and building up the body has not completely disappeared we move on to a new topic: order and gender distinctions in worship.

Paul begins by affirming a series of relationships where Christ is the head of man and man is the head of woman and God is the head of Christ. While 'head' is the most literal translation of the underlying Greek word, Paul is emphasizing a relationship of preeminence and public representation.[1] Paul begins by addressing the behavior of men …