Stephen Cook Again

Another quotable bit from Cook (The Apocalyptic Literature):

“Many Bible readers today awkwardly find themselves kindred spirits of the wayward Corinthian recipients of Paul’s letter. They treat the resurrection of the body as a metphor for spiritual transformation rather than something concrete. They comfort the bereaved with the notions of ethereal, heavenly joys, whitewashing the cold, hard tragedy of the grave. Such thinking fits ancient Hellenistic dualism well, but not the witness of biblical literature. (174)

Yep, I’m pretty sure he’s right on.

Αυτω η δοξα

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More Wisdom from Fee

I thought this gem from Fee was worth sharing.

“It is hardly possible in a day like ours that one will not have denominational, theological, or ideological preferences. The difficulty lies in allowing that it might really be true that ‘all things are ours,’ including those whom we think God would do better to be without. But God is full of surprises; and he may choose to minister to us from the ‘strangest’ of sources, if we were but more truly ‘in Christ’ and therefore free in him to learn and to love…But to be ‘of Christ’ is also to be free from the tyrannies of one’s own narrowness, free to learn even from those with whom one may disagree.” – Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT, 156.

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Whose church?

My sermon series through 1 Corinthians has been a very beneficial one for me for various reasons, not the least of which concerns my role as pastor. I wanted to share the following quote from Fee:

“All too often those ‘in charge,’ be they clergy, boards, vestry, sessions, or what have you, tend to think of the church as ‘theirs.’ They pay lip-service to it being ‘Christ’s church, after all,’ then proceed to operate on the basis of very pagan, secular structures, and regularly speak of ‘my’ or ‘our’ church. Nor does the church belong to the people, especially those who have ‘attended all their lives,’ or who have ‘supported it with great sums of money,’ as though that gave them special privileges. The church belongs to Christ, and all other things–structures, attitudes, decisions, nature of ministry, everything–should flow out of that singular realization.” – 1 Corinthians, NICNT, 135

I imagine a few feathers may be ruffled should that be read aloud in any congregation. Hmmmm…perhaps I shall incorporate this quote into the sermon!

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Milk and Meat

In preparing for this Sunday’s message (1 Cor. 3:1-4), I find myself still not totally convinced of an interpretation in the passage. The question I had was/is, “What exactly does Paul mean in his reference to milk and meat in 3:2?” Here’s the verse: “I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were not yet able to receive it. In fact, you are still not able” (HCSB).

My initial reading was a reference to the level of teaching Paul sought to impart to the Corinthians. Upon their conversion Paul would have started them on some of the basic truths of the faith, and, as they matured, they would be taught more advanced concepts. After all, Paul says that they were not ready and are still not ready. Persuing the notes in the NET in BibleWorks, the same interpretation was given there.

However, both Fee and Garland argue for a different interpretaion. Rather than seeing a reference to beginner vs. advanced teachings of Christian faith, they read a misperception of Paul’s teaching on the part of the Corinthians. Essentially, both Fee and Garland see “milk” and “meat” as synonymous; it was only the Corinthians’ misperception of Paul’s teaching that led him to say this. The Corinthians, then, perceived Paul’s teaching as “milk” due to their spiritual immaturity, when it was spiritual “meat” all along.

Sorry for not posting reference info (works cited, contextual indicators, etc.), but it’s late and I wanted to post this before I retired for the evening.

I’d be interested in your thoughts. Have a blessed Lord’s Day!

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Hope in the Foolishness of the Cross

I love David Garland’s commentary on 1 Corinthians (perhaps as well, maybe more than, Fee’s!). He comments on the foolishness of the cross as God’s means of salvation.

The evil that sustains the domination system appears on the surface to be stronger than good. Evil, however, contains the seeds of its own destruction, especially when it unwittingly undoes itself at the moment of what appears to be its greatest triumph, when Jesus is crucified. The cross is the decisive event in a cosmic struggle that unmasks and overthrows the powers of this world” – David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, 95.

It is indeed ironic that the Corinthian Christians so swiftly pursued the world’s wisdom while having experienced the saving wisdom of God in Christ. With so great a salvation as that wrought by the Christ, why return to the mire of worldly pursuits? Why indeed.

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Pastoral Reflections on 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Pastoral Reflections on 1 Corinthians 1-2
I recently began preaching through Paul’s first canonical letter to the Corinthians. Thus far I have preached through 2:5 and I have found these opening passages to be very instructive concerning the daily task of shepherding a church. To say the least, the church at Corinth was a mess due to their lapse back into their pagan ways. Paul, certain of their salvation, seeks to bring a spirit of repentance back to the wayward congregation by exhorting them to consider the circumstances in which they were called to salvation. Paul reminded they came from no stock that was desirable in their own culture, much less in the measure of God’s righteousness. They had sought to enhance their spirituality by seeking the world’s wisdom, and in doing so, were denigrating the Christ and his gospel, the very gospel they had heard and believed (Acts 18:8). It was because of God that they were in Christ (1:30); therefore, they no grounds on which to boast.

Paul continues his corrective in chapter two (specifically I have 2:1-5 in mind) by addressing his own person and preaching, and the truths found in these verses gave me pause. The gist of these verses is that the proclamation of the gospel and any resultant success (salvation) is not predicated on the proclaimer’s oratory or homiletical know-how; rather, it’s entirely dependent on the Spirit of God. The reason these verses gave me pause is because I have been guilty of self-dependence in preparation and delivery of God’s word. I think that any honest pastor/preacher would confess this. When I first surrendered to preach God’s word, I was as ignorant of exegesis and hermeneutics as anything. I never considered the various strata that affected the meaning of a verse/passage, i.e. historical setting, cultural norms, grammar and syntax, religious climate, etc. I would just grab my bible, sit down with a pen and pad and try to come up with a decent outline. Thankfully, this only lasted a little more than a year (and I pray the Spirit protected me from disseminating any error) before my wife and I moved to attend seminary.
To say that seminary changed my outlook on studying and proclaiming/teaching Scripture is an understatement at best. After my introductory hermeneutics class and several exegesis classes in Greek and Hebrew, my entire method of study and delivery was overhauled. By seminary’s end, I felt I had a firm grasp of what I needed to be a solid biblical expositor. I began pastoring my last semester of school and I am currently serving in the same position. Over 5 years I have studied a lot of texts and have preached a lot of sermons and rarely had I been more contemplative concerning the preparation of a sermon than I was this week. Preaching through the first chapter of 1 Corinthians is a challenging yet rewarding exercise. Who doesn’t want to thunder from the pulpit Paul’s words on the “message of the cross?” As preachers around here say, “That’ll preach!”

However, when I finished my exegesis of 1 Cor. 2:1-5, I yielded to introspection and asked myself, “Am I guilty of self-reliance in preparing a text to preach?” “Do I depend completely upon the Holy Spirit for illumination of the truths of a text?” These questions were answered with a resounding “Yes,” at least some of the time. I certainly believe that God intends for us to prepare and preach/teach a text/passage in such a way that our style in infused, but certainly we should not yield to our wisdom as the sole means of interpretation. As a student trained in biblical exegesis and with numerous volumes at my disposal, the temptation is certainly great to depend upon the instruments of study rather than the one who gives understanding. We must always be mindful of this: we are merely the messengers and communicators of truth, not its originators.
Spurgeon aptly said, “The power that is in the gospel does not lie in the eloquence of the preacher; otherwise men would be the converters of souls. Nor does it lie in the preacher’s learning; otherwise it would consist in the wisdom of men. We might preach until our tongues rotted, till we would exhaust our lungs and die, but never a soul would be converted unless the Holy Spirit be with the Word of God to give it power to convert the soul.”