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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…
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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 …

The Divine Yes!

The word which is really the first and the last word is undoubtedly that the man Jesus, like God himself, is not against men but for men-even for men in all the impossibility of their perversion, in their form as the men of the old world of Adam. The decisive point to which we now turn is that the royal man Jesus is the image and reflection of the divine Yes to man and his cosmos. It is God's critical Yes, dividing and disclosing and punishing with all the power of the sword. And in this respect too, as we shall see, there corresponds to it the Yes spoken in the existence of the man Jesus. But, like the Yes of God, it is really a Yes and not a No, even though it includes and is accompanied by a powerful No. It is the image and reflection of the love in which God has loved, and loves, and will love the world; of the faithfulness which he has sworn and will maintain; of the solidarity with it into which He has entered and in which He persists; of the hope of salvation and glory whi…

1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1

You can read the text here.

Paul concludes his lengthy discussion of the rights and freedom of the Christian in community while clarifying his basic position on eating meat sacrificed to idols. Freedom from the law does not entail freedom to worship idols. It must be avoided at all costs and so must eating cultic meals in a pagan temple. The basic argument is that participating in the Lord's Supper is an act which collective binds us together as the body of Christ, bringing us into union with him. While idols themselves are not real, there are demons/demonic forces behind them to enslave people.[1] Eating at cultic meals similarly binds one in union with the demon/demonic force. That kind of union is incommensurate with union with Christ. God cannot be brought into union with a demon. Why would an individual Christian think they could do so? Underlying all of this is the covenantal background. The Last Supper which the Lord's Supper reenacts was a Passover meal and provoking t…

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

You can read the text here.

Paul continues to issue a dire warning, mostly to the strong. He continues with another set of examples, however, these are examples to avoid imitating, drawn from Israel's time wandering in the wilderness. Their status before God, from a superficial perspective would seem to be clear. They had been baptized and had been consumed spiritual food and drink just as the Corinthians had.[1] Nevertheless, God judged them (and implicitly he could judge the Corinthians depending on their conduct).

In fact there were a series of judgments for a series of failures. Idolatry, sexual immorality, putting God to the test, and complaining. The first two have obvious import to the Corinthian situation as they are the concerns addressed in the past few sections. The other two may be forward looking, especially the issue of complaining, as Paul may anticipate grumbling at his advice to strong leave off eating meat in temples.[2] Paul urges the Corinthians to heed their n…