Lecture 10: 1st Corinthians Part 4 | Free Online Biblical Library

Lecture 10: 1st Corinthians Part 4

Course: New Testament Survey, Acts to Revelation

Lecture 10: 1st Corinthians Part 4

This is the 10th lecture in the online series of lectures on New Testament Survey by Dr Thomas Schreiner. Recommended Reading includes: Article on Divorce and Remarriage – Craig Blomberg, Trinity Journal, 1990; The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross by Leon Morris; Are there Two Will in God by John Piper; Two views on Women in Ministry by James Beck and Craig Blomberg; Word Bible Commentary: Pastoral Epistles, Volume 46, by William D. Mounce and Recovering Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood, by Wayne Gudem and John Piper (article by Vern Poythress entitled, ‘The Church as a Family’)

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Flow 2nd Corinthians 2:14-17

This next passage is a little more difficult. So we have a thanksgiving section which is usually at the beginning of letters. How does the ‘who in Christ’ function in this sentence? The key word in verse 15 is at the beginning, the word ‘for’. ‘But thanks be to God, who in Ghrist always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.’

III. Theology of the Cross Applied to contemporary issues in Church. I Corinthians 7:1-16:4

C. Idol Meats: Edification and Danger 8:1-11:1 (continued)

Those Who Know and Those Who are Weak: We have the knowers, who think it is okay to eat everything, whether in the temple or the food sold in the market place that was offered to idols. Then you have the weaker people who seem to come from a non-Christian pagan background. The weak are not Jews here in 1st Corinthians. By the way, in Romans 14 and 15 the weak do seem to be Jews. But here they are not, as they seem to believe that idols are real from 1st Corinthians 8:7. So it seems that they come from a pagan background. They feel defiled by idols, so they think it is wrong to eat food from idols in every situation. Paul’s answer is complicated because he is more allied with the knowers, yet he is concerned because they down seem to care about or love the weak. They are even putting the weak people in danger. So this is his main concern in chapter 8. The knowers are substantially correct theologically. Idols don’t exist, idols food can’t contaminate you. There is only one God but they are not loving and caring for these weaker brothers and sisters.

Receiving Pay for Ministry: We have a long interlude in chapter 9 that seems to be almost off the subject compared to what he was speaking on earlier. This is Paul’s example in terms of receiving pay as an apostle. He deserves payment and gives quite a few illustrations, from the natural world such as being a farmer and not eating the food you make and the priest who work in the temple, get the food of the temple. Jesus commanded those who preached the Gospel should be paid. But his point is that he deserves payment but I forgo payment for the sake of the Gospel. For the sake of the Gospel, I don’t avail myself of the rights that I have. So this is the function of chapter 9. So he is saying that you knowers ought to be like me, you have a right to eat this but you should not avail yourselves of it. I don’t receive pay to help others in spreading the Gospel. Verses 19 – 23 are a great principle for all of us. Paul talks about flexibility. You can see that people might accuse him hypocrisy. He says, when he is with the Jew, he acts like a Jew. When I am with those under the law, I live as if I am under the law. When I live with those outside the law, I don’t live under the law. When I am with the weak, I live like the weak and when I am with the strong, I live like the strong. We are not talking about moral norms here, are we? Paul is not saying that when he is with drunkards, he gets drunk. He is speaking of cultural flexibility. Paul believed in contextualization long before missionary studies. So it may look like hypocrisy or inconsistency, but there is a higher consistency isn’t there? It is the desire to live for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and so to be flexible in every situation. And that’s what Paul is saying to the strong or knowers, to be flexible. Adapt yourself in every situation for the sake of the Gospel. So Paul clearly thinks that the knowers are correct here. And almost all of the admonition’s come to the knowers.

The Race for Salvation

Then the passage changes, fairly remarkably in chapter 9:24 where Paul looks at a different way of what is going on. We have, ‘do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. He is not arguing that only one Christian will receive the prize, he is only using the illustration of a race. So run that you many obtain that prize. I would argue here that the prize is eternal life. There is now reward above and beyond eternal life. The prize that we are trying to obtain, even though it is a gift, is eternal life. We run in an intentional manner. I bring myself under subjection lest after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified. There is the Greek word, adocuma, which has its meaning everywhere in Paul. But Paul is not fearful that he is going to go to hell, not full of tremble or worry. Paul realizes that how he lives his life is important. He doesn’t say, ‘well, I’m saved so it doesn’t matter what I do.’ Paul doesn’t think that at all, does he? He is saved, but he must run to obtain salvation; this is a paradox. I am saved and I must live in a way to be saved. When we come to chapter 10, he applies this lesson also to the Corinthians. And he tells them the story of Israel in the wilderness. He uses this in reference to the knowers who think they are so sure that they are ok and that nothing can touch them. Remember when Israel came out of Egypt, they had spiritual food and water, like the Lord’s Supper. They had a baptism, so to speak, in going through the Red Sea. But God destroyed them, didn’t he? He destroyed them in the wilderness. They didn’t make it to the Land of promise. I don’t think that Paul is arguing that they have actually lost their salvation. I don’t think he is saying that. I actually think those who were saved from Egypt were not physically regenerated and thus not saved at all. As a whole, the nation was destroyed and went to hell. The unbelieving generation did not go into the land of promise.

Still, he warns the Corinthians about these things. He says that they are not to be like that. (Chapter 10:12) ‘Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.’ Don’t presume upon God’s grace. Remember what Paul said, ‘I run that I might receive eternal life.’ Now he warns them to be careful. Don’t presume upon God’s grace. Don’t just think that you have started the race that you are going to finish it without running. You must run. Don’t think that somehow, you have been baptized and taken part in the Lord’s Supper that you are magically protected, no matter what you do. You must take heed; you must be aware lest you fall, lest you be destroyed. So that is one side of it, but then verse 13 comes to the other side. There is this tension that must maintained, but God is faithful. Where these text are that say that God is faithful, it has something to do with God preserving us to the end. God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength. But with the temptation, he will also provide a way of escape. Most Christians take this to be the individual sins that we face in our daily lives. There is truth in this, but in the context, Paul is thinking especially of apostasy, a falling away. I think what Paul is saying, God is faithful. You can read 10:1-12 and become very fearful and think that in that may you are going to be dammed. Maybe, you are going to go to hell. We do have the warning, right here. The danger with the knowers, they are presuming on God’s grace. They are spared from apostasy because of God’s grace.

Partaking in the Lord’s Supper

Paul is getting down to specifics in chapter 10:14. Where has all this been going? He says in verse 14, beloved, flee idolatry. Interesting, why does this idea come up in food offered to idols? He continues, ‘I speak as to wise people; judge for yourselves what I say.’ Then Paul starts talking about the Lord’s Supper. ‘The cup of blessing that we bless, it is not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break is it not a participation in the body of Christ?’ In partaking of the Lord’s Supper, we partake of the benefit of Christ’s death on our behalf. Then he emphasizes that we are all one body when we take of these things. In verse 18, he says consider the people of Israel, are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? In the Old Testament, those who offered sacrifices, they could partake of the food and get some of the benefits of the sacrifice. That is the case he is building here. So, is food offered to idols, anything? He has just said that if you partake of the Lord’s Supper, you are partaking of the Lord’s death. So, they are beginning to see that the same thing could be applied to idol food. So at first, he says that idols are nothing and food offered to them is nothing but then in verse 20 food offered to idols is food committed to demons and the devil, I do not want you to partner with such. You can’t partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Paul argues something that he didn’t say in chapter 8.

In chapter 8, he says that idols are nothing, but now he tells us something new; behind the idols are demons. And if you partake of this food, you are opening yourself up to demonic activity and that is idolatry. And thus you are in danger of apostasy, so don’t just think that as a Christian, you can just go into these temples and eat this food in a worship context of another god and think that it is okay. Paul says that this is wrong. Paul doesn’t have any problem with eating the food sold in the market place, but never in the temple, because that always involves worship and that is idolatry. Don’t do anything that offends the weaker brothers, especially eating meat that was offered to idols. That is, the meat you buy in the market place. This issue is more difficult for our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world than it is for us. There is more blatant idolatry and I’ve had students to face this very question, going back home in Africa and Asia and participating in certain kinds of feasts. Generally, we don’t have meals in this country devoted to other gods. I don’t think a dinner put on by non-Christians is idolatress just because they are materialistic.

D. Order and Worship 1 Corinthians 11:2-14:40

1. Women’s adornment 11:2-16

This is quite a controversial passage today. We don’t really know the custom going on here. Were they wearing full veils, probably not; you know like the full Islamic type veils; that is what they wear today. Is he talking about hair style here? And whether you let your hair hang loose down on your shoulders or you tie it up on your head. Another view is wearing something like a shawl. We don’t really know what they are talking about. It is written to them in their culture. When I was in Catholic School, the girls had to wear little caps on their heads, but now they don’t have to do that. There was a change in protestant churches years ago. At one time, many of the women would wear a hat and at one time even men used to wear hats but now not. So what about today; let’s look at verse 3. ‘But I want you to understand that the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.’ There is a huge discussion on this word, caperlay which is the word head and what it means. Does it mean authority over or does it mean ‘source’? Lots of studies have been done on this and I think most those studies have shown that it basically means this. However, I don’t think we can eliminate that in some passages it means something else as well. Even if it means source, I think I can argue that it doesn’t really change the meaning. Look at Ephesians 5, the husband is the source of his wife; therefore the argument is that the wife should submit. It ends up being the same thing. Because the husband is the source, women should adorn themselves in a certain way to signify properly her relationship to her husband.

To say that someone is the head over someone does not mean that one person is superior in dignity, worth and value because it says that the head of Christ is God. Surely he is not saying that Christ is inferior to God as a person and in dignity, value and worth. Some people think that a greater position refers to a greater dignity, worth and value. This is simply not true and it is sub-biblical. God is the head of Christ, but Christ is equal in dignity, worth and value to God and so are women to men. A man should have his head uncovered when he prays or prophecies and a woman should have a shawl on. This signifies her relationship to her husband. If she doesn’t do this, she should just shave her head because it is a disgrace. This sounds strange to us, but what is interesting here is that Paul believes that women should pray and prophesy in the assembly. Some people have tried to argue that he is talking about the home and private meeting and not public meetings. But this doesn’t work because they didn’t have such things back then; it was all home groups or churches at homes. This praying and prophesying by women is in the assembly in front of men. It is not the biblical world view that women don’t do anything in the church. They prophesy in the assembly and I don’t think that this is regular preaching of God’s word in the assembly. But it is a declaration of God’s word in the assembly and so there are contexts in which it is appropriate and fitting for women to address the church. We have to be careful that we are not more conservative that the Bible.

What concerns Paul is that the women do this in a way that shows in that culture that they are submissive to male leadership. That is why he is concerned about the shawl. The woman is the glory of man and the man is the glory of God. Man was not made for woman but woman for man. So there is a priority in one sense for male leadership. Eve was specifically created to help Adam. Then we have verse 10, whatever that means, ‘That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of angels.’ Nobody really knows what that verse means. My guess is that angels are observing the church worship. Verses 7-9 emphasize a sort of male leadership. But verses 11-12 emphasize mutuality. He balances it out. In the Lord, woman is not independent of man or man of woman. These two themes should go together. What egalitarians do, they take these verses and then they cancel out the others. There is a danger for complementarians to take these versions and cancel them out also. A balance must be maintained and I think complementarians maintain it better. Paul ends the passage by asking whether or not it is proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Then he switches to, if a man wears long hair, it is a dishonor to him. A woman’s long hair is her glory because it is given to her in place of her covering. I would argue that we have cultural practices and then we have a theological principle. The principle concerns the male and female relationships. It expresses itself in that 1st century culture by veiling and hair length. I think many conservatives really get mixed up here. The Bible doesn’t necessarily call upon us to reinstitute the cultural practices of the 1st century. This has to do with nature and specifically the distinction between male and female which must be maintained. Even in every culture today, men and women present themselves differently. You can distinguish between the two. Paul says that there should be a distinction between men and women.

2. The Lord’s Supper 1st Corinthians 11:17-34

The thing that is bothering Paul with the Lord’s Supper, some are going to it drunk. This usually doesn’t happen in our church today. Paul just doesn’t tell them that they are all going to hell. You might think that he would say this. Well, he is really concerned about it. When they had the Lord’s Supper in those days, they also had a meal. It seems like the rich are discriminating against the poor. The rich are having a great meal and really feasting and the poor are going without and are lacking. Paul is saying you call this the Lord’s Supper? And there is this kind of discrimination going on? This is wrong! The Lord’s Supper symbolized Jesus’ sacrifice for sinners and yet at the very meal this is happening. Paul says that what they are doing isn’t the Lord’s Supper. It is your supper. Remember Jesus’ body was broken for us and in the New Covenant; his blood is shed for us. You are not proclaiming his death if you are living selfishly. So, it is in this context he says, ‘examine yourself before you take the elements so you don’t take it in an unworthy manner. And care for others in the community. But the Lord’s Supper is for those who are sinners, like myself. So Paul is not saying that you have to be sinless to take the Lord’s Supper. He is rather referring to those who are constantly holding on to some sin that they are not committing to the Lord. We need to repent immediately of those sins.

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