Lecture 8: 1st Corinthians Part 2
Lecture 8: 1st Corinthians Part 2
This is the 8th 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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I. "Flow" Romans 2:6-11
‘He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life, but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.’
Okay, we come to Romans chapter 2. I just split it up per the verses. In the first sentence the subject and verb are not even stated, he will give eternal life. This is only one proposition. He will give eternal life to those seek him and obey him. Another way to look at it, he will give eternal life to people. The subject and verb are implied. We start with the indirect object in this sentence. Verse 8 is the same, ‘but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.’ Wrath and indignation is the subject; all the rest of it is an indirect object clause. Another way to see it, ‘wrath and indignation are to bad people.’ It really is only one proposition. It is just a matter of grammar isn’t it? So he will give eternal life to good people and wrath and indignation will be given to bad people. That is basically all that is going on here. The main idea comes in verse 9, ‘there will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek.’ The last part is modifying the indirect object clause. Part of the main idea continues in verse 10, ‘but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good.’ There is no key words linking these except for the conjunction ‘but’.
II. Root problem: arrogance 1:10-6:20 (cont)
A. Exhortation for church unity 1:10-4:21 (cont)
The Promises of God
Paul has just finished talking about three kinds of ministers. Good ministers will be rewarded, defected ministers will be judged but they will be saved but bad ministers will be destroyed and go to hell. But in all of this time, he is thinking about this wisdom issue. ‘Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, he catches the wise in their craftiness.’ In their wisdom of the world, God destroys them in it. ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise are futile.’ It doesn’t mean that he perceives that their thoughts are futile but he ordains that their thoughts are futile. He knows it in the sense that he chooses it to be futile. So what is the Corinthians main problem that underlies everything else? It is their pride and their arrogance and their boasting. He says in verses 21, ‘let no one boast in men.’ Don’t do that and actually argues that it is too little. He says, ‘for all things are yours.’ Everything is yours and by boasting in these people you are going lower rather than higher. Everything belongs to you whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, for they are all on your side. You don’t have to pick sides. They are all on your side and for your benefit. The world or life or death or the present or the future, all is yours and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.
God is in sovereign control. Death here isn’t a good thing but what he is saying is that God turns what is evil for our benefit. He is not saying these things are pleasant. We believe his promises and this is the fight of faith. The present and the future are for our benefit. These are God’s great promises no matter how difficult they are to believe. Everything in this world is used for our benefit to make us more like Christ and to increase our joy. All things are yours, Paul says, because you belong to Christ. You have God and when you have God, you have everything. Nothing can threaten us, nothing can destroy us, ultimately; no matter how bad it is. That is an amazing promise. It gives us security and strength and confidence and joy and hope, if we believe the promises that God has given us.
We are Servants and Stewards
In chapter 4, ministers, Paul says that we are servants and stewards. We have a responsibility as ministers and he says to be servants and good stewards of God’s mysteries. We have a responsibility to be faithful and to work hard and diligently. 4:3, ‘but with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself.’ These verses could be so misunderstood. What if someone comes and criticizes me as I am pastoring and I say, ‘I don’t care what you think of me.’ We have to be careful and be open to good criticism. Paul is not saying that no one can tell him what to do; he is not saying that he is never open to any criticism. He is saying that it is a very small thing how you assess me in terms of my final reward. That is what he is talking about. He is not saying that no one can criticize us in any situation. He is telling the Corinthians that he doesn’t care how spiritual you think I am. It is meaningless to me if you think Apollos is more spiritual or I am more spiritual or Peter is more spiritual. That is insignificant to me. I have confessed everything that I have done wrong and I have brought it out in the open and I have lived a good public ministry. It is the Lord who judges me. The Lord will bring to light the things that are hidden in the darkness. How can I judge any of you, I don’t know you and even with people we know well, we can’t do that because there are things in the darkness that are hidden from us. And then there are motives of the heart that are hidden from us. Only God can judge us and we wait for that day. That’s why he says it is then that every man will receive his commendation from God. So let us not try to judge people in advance on how spiritual they are. We just can’t say can we? Only God knows how people have lived. Apollos and I are fine with each other; we are not having any disagreements. We don’t disagree theologically.
But You Are Arrogant and Puffed Up
There is no indication that these divisions relate to theological disagreements. Do not go beyond what is written so that none of you will be proud. For who judges you that are superior; what do you have that you did not receive? The answer is nothing. The faith that you received, why do you boast as if it is not a gift? If we boast, we have then forgotten that it is a gift. We are starting to take credit for it ourselves. Everything good that is happening in your lives is a gift of God. But the Corinthian church is deceived; they think they are great, they hold to over realized eschatology. We see this in the next paragraph. So Paul gets a little sarcastic with them. ‘Already you have become rich. Already you have all you want?’ See the already, this is over realized. They think they practically have heaven on earth. God wants us healthy and wealthy. ‘And we wish that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. So you are doing so great; we are dying. We are in the arena being put to death. We are fools for Christ’s sake; ah, but you are so wise for Christ’s sake. You are held in honor but we are in disrepute’. Paul is telling them that they are out of touch with reality. ‘We hunger and thirst, we are ill clad and labor and work with our own hands and get tired. People criticize us and slander us and they consider us like the junk you wash down the sink.’ Something is wrong; you are full of pride and arrogance. This is really strong.
These are people that Paul converted and he is really slamming them here. He is telling them off as such. Then in verse 14 he says, ‘I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.’ Here, Paul is saying that he is writing this because he loves them, but you really need a strong word because you are becoming so proud. After all, Paul is their father in the Gospel; they got converted because of him. Some of you are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. Paul asks, ‘should he come with a rod or with love in a spirit of gentleness?’
B. Problems of church purity: arrogance 5:1-6:20
1. Church Discipline
We have talked about church discipline before; what is the situation here. There is a problem of sexual immorality of incest where a man has his father’s wife. This is probably a step mother, not his physical mother. So Paul says and you are arrogant! You should be mourning. The one who has done this should be removed from you. Whoever has done this is so above ethical norm; they so live in grace that they don’t worry about things like that. The person who is doing this is unrepentant. Paul has already pronounced judgment on the one who is doing this. Paul says that when you are gathered together, you are gathered in the name of the Lord as a community. Paul doesn’t make the final decision, he tells the church to do this. They should hand this person over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. This means to throw him out of the church. We dare to discipline so that someone will ultimately be saved. Notice how salvation is future here. We pray for people to be restored, we cry our hearts out over people who are living in sin. But when people are not convicted of their sins and don’t repent, what can we do? Sometimes we just have to give them over to Satan. You discipline because you love; it is the loving thing to do. We all sin and all sins are the same to God but some sins require rebuke and discipline; those that have not repented over it, but there are sins that show a lack of maturity where a believer needs time to be understand church guidance and discipline. It is one thing to get angry with someone but another thing to hit them in the face or to murder them. There are consequences to that. Committing adultery shows that someone has lost the battle with lust significantly. It is one thing to covet but another thing to go and steal. This is basic but some people have a hard time understanding this. In repenting they have to show remorse and stop doing what they are doing. There is a standard for pastors where they should be removed from their church if they don’t repent but a repented pastor isn’t kicked out of the church; they are just removed from their position. Keep in mind that his passage is talking about an unrepentant church member.
But this doesn’t happen too often; most people repent when they have sinned. Why is this done? If you start to let sin go in the congregation, it will spread everywhere. If people don’t know, they just go on as if nothing has happened. That is not right or good or healthy for the church. In verse 7, Paul says to clean out the old leaven that you may be a new lump and you have become unleavened. This new lump will be pure, clean and holy. Paul says, just like you are unleavened, you are a new lump, in Christ you are new. But clean out the old leaven so that you will be a new lump. Let us there celebrate the feast of the new life and so we remove the old leaven out of our lives of insincerity and truth and wickedness. The Christian life is a cerebration of goodness. Paul had originally written to them not to associate with sexually immoral people (this letter was lost). From that letter the Corinthians must have concluded that it was impossible not to hang around with sinful people. Paul was talking about brothers and sisters; I know that you have to hang around with immoral people. It is brothers and sisters that we are to discipline. We have nothing to do with judging unbelievers; God will judge them on the last day. But those in the church; those who have sinned are the ones you are to judge. If they are evil, purge them from among you. There is a sense which it is right to judge and then there is a sense where it isn’t. But people must be restored in the spirit of gentleness. People who committed adultery in the Old Testament were stoned. They were excluded from the community by death but today they are to be excluded by expulsion. This shows us that Paul is applying Old Testament law to the church. You deal with unbelievers differently than you deal with believers who are living in sin. Paul is talking about a judgement with love and Jesus himself says in that very paragraph, ‘take the log out of your own eye and then you can help the other person with respect.’ If we don’t take the log out, we can’t deal with the person in the right manner.
1st Corinthians 6:1-8, they are having law suits, not criminal law suits but civil lawsuits. This is important. People are not killing each other. These are civil cases that are more trivial as Paul says. If these cases were criminal they would be dealt with by Roman law, but these are cases that come up between people. What bother’s Paul is the conflict among Christians, but he acknowledges when people get together there will be conflicts. But the issue for Christians is how we work it out. We need to work things out and talk things out and resolve things. They are going to unbelievers to solve their problems. Remember they are so proud of being wise. They are supposedly so wise but they have to turn to unbelievers to solve these problems. I don’t understand this. Paul says that it is better to be cheated! It is better to be defrauded in this situation. It is better just to give in, otherwise you are doing injury and wrong to other people. Even in our society, it is always better not to go to court. The ideal is that we work it out in our churches. Obviously there are all kinds of difficult applications in a society like ours. And there are cases which it is justified and right although not ideal for Christians to go to court. Nearly all of the time, if you just leave things, they will be forgotten and no one will know the wiser.