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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 12:19-21; Persistent Upbuilding

03/14_2 Corinthians 12:19-21; Persistent Upbuilding; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210314_2cor12_19-21.mp3

Paul’s Defense?

In 2 Corinthians chapters 10-12, Paul confronts the danger of false apostles spreading a false gospel about a different jesus, receiving a different spirit. He is forced to defend his character, his ministry, his own integrity. At least that is what he appears to be doing. But is it?

2 Corinthians 12:14 Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?

As he said back in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 3:1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. …

Not much has changed over the 2 years since the writing of 1 Corinthians. They are still behaving like children, and Paul, as their father in the faith, is willing to spend and be spent for their sake.

2 Corinthians 12:16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit. 17 Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?

Paul is forced to defend his own integrity by appealing to his accountability and the integrity and character of his co-laborers in the gospel. Paul has been attacked, his character has been maligned, his credentials and authority have been doubted. He has been forced into foolish boasting to defend his character and his apostolic authority. But is that what he has been doing? Defending himself?

Not a Defense to Them

Paul says no, I am not defending myself to you. I don’t need to defend myself to you. You are not my judge and jury.

Children often know so much more than their parents, that their parents are uninformed and clueless; kids think they know better than their parents what is best for them. My wise parents often said to me ‘When you have your own kids, then maybe you’ll understand.’ Have you ever heard that? Have you who are now parents ever said that?

He has already told them in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

Paul says ‘No, I am not defending myself to you. That would give you far too much credit. That would assume that you are competent to critique apostolic ministry.’ They have demonstrated their own incompetence by receiving the false apostles bringing another jesus, a different spirit, a false gospel.

It is not before you that I stand trial. It is before the Lord alone that I am ultimately accountable.

In The Sight Of God

2 Corinthians 12:19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.

Paul says ‘we have been speaking in the sight of God.’ We are not responding to your demands and expectations. All the way back in chapter 1, he started this letter by saying:

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.

His conscience was clear, by God’s grace and before God.

2 Corinthians 2:17 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.

He speaks in Christ. It is ‘not I, but Christ who lives in me.’ And he speaks as commissioned by God and in the sight of God. God sent him on mission to them. And it is to God he is accountable for what he says. He had asked back in chapter 3:

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?

He said in chapter 4:

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Paul lives openly, transparently, in the presence of God. He said in chapter 5:

2 Corinthians 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.

He is not commending himself to them. He doesn’t have to. His integrity is seen by God; he lives in the presence of God, in the fear of the Lord, who sees what is in the heart.

In chapter 7, he invites them in, to also live in awareness of the presence of God in their lives. He writes what he writes:

2 Corinthians 7:12 …in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.

In chapter 8, in matters of financial integrity, he says:

2 Corinthians 8:21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.

And in chapter 10, he says:

2 Corinthians 10:18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

We live in the presence of God, to please God. He is our judge. Before him we stand or fall. Paul is not defending himself to the Corinthians. He was commissioned by God and carries out ministry in the sight of God.

All For Your Upbuilding, Beloved

2 Corinthians 12:19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.

Paul is not defending himself. He is doing ministry in the sight of God. He is seeking to build them up. With his use of biting irony and sharp sarcasm in these chapters, it may not feel or sound like he is seeking to build them up, but that is exactly what he intends to do. And he reminds them, they are dearly beloved. He is not against them, he is for them. But sometimes the He wants to build them up, but the ground must be cleared of debris before building can occur. Sometimes existing structures must be demolished and cleared away before the proposed building can go up. As he said in chapter 10,

2 Corinthians 10:3 …we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Every stronghold, every argument, every proud opinion raised against the knowledge of the real Jesus must be torn down. The ground must be cleared. He wields God’s authority to build up, not to tear you down (10:8), but their false thinking must be demolished.

Apostolic Fear of Continued Division

Paul is ready to clear some ground.

2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

Paul is afraid. He said he was afraid back in 11:3

2 Corinthians 11:3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

He was afraid that they were being led away by satanic deception after another jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel. Here he is afraid that when he arrives, he will find in them a proud divisiveness. He addressed the division, quarreling and strife back in 1 Corinthians (1Cor.1:11; 3:3). He is afraid not much has changed.

Apostolic Fear of Failure to Repent

He is afraid because the gospel changes people. He is afraid that he may not find them as he hopes, as genuine believers, transformed by the gospel. Throughout this letter he has been re-framing for them what authentic ministry is all about. He has reminded them of the gospel he proclaimed, and has implored them ‘be reconciled to God’ (2Cor.5:20). He appealed to them ‘not to receive the grace of God in vain’ (2Cor.6:1). He is afraid that they will have been led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ, to follow a false jesus and a false gospel. He is afraid that when judged by their fruit, their conversion may prove to be false.

2 Corinthians 12:21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

Paul fears that the fruit of repentance will not be demonstrated in their lives. In 1 Corinthians chapters 5-7, Paul confronted them over their immorality. He called them to ‘flee from sexual immorality’ (1Cor.6:18). He called the church, if someone claimed to be a believer yet persisted in immorality unrepentant, to remove them from fellowship with the church (1Cor.5). Repentance is essential in the life of the believer. Repentance is a change of heart and mind, a recognition that sin is sin against a holy God. We have all sinned and gone astray, we have all followed our own way. And every sin can be forgiven when we confess it as sin, when we agree with God that what he thinks about it is true. Paul told the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

We all have sinned. And every sin can be washed away in the blood of Jesus. Repentance is essential in the life of the believer; turning away from sin and back to Jesus; turning away from pride, from performance, from good works, from an ethic of earning.

These are not two distinct issues, divisive pride and sexual immorality, as if he is addressing the gossiping quarreling divisive group who entertained false teachers in verse 20 and the lustful sexually immoral group in verse 21. Bad theology leads to bad ethics. False teaching and immorality go hand in hand. Turning away from a sincere and pure devotion to Jesus leads to wrong thinking, wrong feeling, wrong acting. When our eyes are not fixed on Jesus, our hearts go after every kind of counterfeit.

Grief Over the Sins of Others

Listen to Paul’s heart. He is not self-righteous, gloating, rejoicing over the destruction of the wicked. He is not Jonah, sitting in the shade of his gourd, eager to see God pour out his almighty wrath on sinners.

2 Corinthians 12:21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented…

Paul is broken-hearted at the prospect of sinners who have not found true forgiveness at the foot of the cross. Paul takes the persistent unrepentance of this church personally, as his own responsibility. He will be humbled as having failed to see the gospel take effect in them.

2 Corinthians 5:15 [Jesus] died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. … 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Paul’s pursuit and his heart is to see them built up into the image of Jesus, beholding the glory of Jesus and being transformed into his image by the Spirit (2Cor.3:18). He is willing to do the difficult work of confronting their sin to clear the ground for this building up that he is constantly striving for. He does everything he does and says everything he says for their upbuilding. Because he loves them.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

March 16, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 12:1-6; Visions and Revelations

02/07_2 Corinthians 12:1-6; Visions and Revelations; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210207_2cor12_1-6.mp3

Visions and Revelations

Paul had been in Corinth only a short time and God was blessing. Although he was opposed by those in the Jewish synagogue, he went to a house next door and continued to proclaim Jesus. The ruler of the synagogue and his household believed, and many Corinthians believed and were baptized. But in Acts 18:9 we read:

Acts 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision [ὅραμα], “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

Paul must have been afraid, intimidated, feeling alone. He must have been tempted to back off, to be quiet, to disengage, so the Lord Jesus encouraged him with a vision and a word.

Peter, in Acts 1, when:

Acts 2:3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared [ὀπτάνομαι] to them and rested on each one of them.

Peter proclaimed the good news of Jesus to the questioning crowd, and he said:

Acts 2:17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see [ὀπτάνομαι] visions [ὅρασις], and your old men shall dream dreams;

Visions, dreams, revelations. Paul in 2 Corinthians 11 in confronting the false apostles is boasting (foolish boasting), and in chapter 12 he says:

2 Corinthians 12:1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.

Paul is going to address visions and revelations of the Lord. Visions and revelations are big in some circles of the church today, as they were big in the church in Corinth. Apparently the false apostles would one-up each other with elaborate accounts of their visions and revelations.

Boasting and the Damascus Escape

Paul is meeting the false apostles on their own boastful turf, answering fools according to their folly, and bragging that he has more to boast of than they do. If you remember in 11:21-22 he began by boasting in his ethnic and religious pedigree, claiming the same credentials as anyone else. In verse 23 he takes it up a notch and claims to be a better servant of Christ, but he switches gears and begins to talk about his sufferings in service of Christ and the gospel. He says ‘if I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness’ (11:30).

He brings up his Damascus experience, where everyone knows he had a vision of the risen Jesus who appeared to him and changed the entire direction of his life. But Paul doesn’t recount his life transforming vision here. Rather he recounts his humiliating escape from Damascus, where the persecutor of Christians escaped by night, weak, lowered in a basked through the city wall by the Christians whom he now calls brothers; the mighty persecutor had become the persecuted.

They would have expected him to recount his Damascus vision here, but instead he tells them about his humbling escape.

Nothing To Be Gained

Here it comes. In chapter 12, he says he will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. He’s stringing them along. Finally he’s going to get to the powerful, the supernatural, the good stuff. After all, a true apostle must have had some profound spiritual experiences.

But he prefaces what he is about to say by reminding them that he is boasting, which he has told them in 11:16-18 that he is boasting according to the flesh, he is not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool.

And here he says, ‘there is nothing to be gained by it’. It is not beneficial. It is not profitable. It won’t build anyone up. In Acts 20, he reminded the elders of the church in Ephesus of his service ‘with all humility and with tears and with trials…’

Acts 20:20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,

Paul seeks to be useful, profitable, to do good to all. He said in

1 Corinthians 10:33 …not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

This is his criteria for his own ministry, and for the use of spiritual gifts in the church.

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

In 1 Corinthians 14 he uses a parallel idea – building up:

1 Corinthians 14:12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

And here in 2 Corinthians 10-13, he says it three times

2 Corinthians 10:8 …our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you…

2 Corinthians 12:19 …we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.

2 Corinthians 13:10 …the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

Paul seeks to build up, to be profitable, to seek the common good. But here he says that boasting in visions and revelations does not do that. There’s nothing to be gained by it. It will not benefit you. It will not build up the church. But here I go. I must go on boasting; you’ve driven me to it.

Not a Credential; A Man In Christ

2 Corinthians 12:1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.

What strikes us here is that Paul switches to the third person. He promises to boast of his own visions and revelations, but now he’s talking about some ‘man in Christ’. But when we look ahead to verses 6-10, he switches back to the first person ‘I, I, I, I, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, I, me, me, I, my, me, I, I, I.

What is Paul doing? Paul is boasting about his credentials for ministry, and here he moves on to boast about the category of visions and revelations, his own supernatural experience. He gives one specific example, but he distances himself from the narrative.

He doesn’t say ‘I, the great Apostle to the Gentiles, had this amazing experience, unlike anyone else’. Rather he says ‘I know an average ordinary believer, a man who belongs to Jesus, someone who is in Christ’. It could have been anybody. I had this experience, but not because of who I am, and the experience doesn’t establish my credentials or give me any authority.

So many false teachers, false prophets, false apostles throughout history have built their platform on a vision or a revelation. I had this experience. God appeared to me, God spoke to me, the Lord told me… Paul is careful not to paint a picture of himself in such a way as to make them think that visionary experiences give anyone any authority in the church of Jesus Christ.

Fourteen Years Ago

2 Corinthians 12:2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven…

Fourteen years ago? Fourteen years ago, Paul, and you’re not selling books ‘my trip to the third heaven’. You’re not holding seminars ‘how to have your own personal rapture’? You’ve not been invited to speak at multiple large events? Fourteen years ago and you haven’t told anyone?

If Paul wrote 2 Corinthians around AD 54 or 55, that would put this experience around AD 40, shortly after his escape from Damascus between 37 and 39. We know almost nothing of the years between his departure from Damascus and Barnabas retrieving him from Tarsus around 44 or 45 (Acts 11:25-26), other than what he says in Galatians 1

Galatians 1:17 … I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. …21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.

Paul has known the Corinthians for 5 years. He spent 18 months with them, he made another brief visit to them, this is his fourth letter to them. And only now, when he is forced to, does he bring up this monumental experience. Why?

Raptured (Passive)

2 Corinthians 12:2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—

Twice in these verses Paul says he was caught up; the word is used of seizing. This is the word used of the evil birds in Jesus parable who snatch away what was sown in the heart (Mt.13:19), or of the wolf who snatches the sheep. Jesus reassures us that no one will snatch his sheep from his hand (Jn.10:12,28-29). This is the word used when the people wanted to take Jesus by force and make him king (Jn.6:15). Or in Acts 8:39 when the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away. This is the word that comes to us through the Latin as rapture.

Paul claims to have been raptured, caught up to the third heaven, to paradise. In Jewish thought the first heaven is the day sky or our atmosphere; the second heaven is the night sky or space, the moon, stars, galaxies; the third heaven is the presence of God himself. Paradise connects back to where God walked with the first man and woman in the garden.

Notice, this is something that happened to Paul. The verbs are in the passive voice, which means it is not something Paul did; it was something that was done to Paul by another. This was not an experience Paul was seeking or preparing himself for. It was not a state he worked himself into. Paul can take no credit. God did it. God snatched him, carried him off.

Notice also Paul’s ignorance of the details. He repeats twice his ignorance of his own physical state during this event. He doesn’t know if he was taken bodily or only spiritually. Ancient extra-biblical Jewish apocalyptic literature went into detail on about traveling through the heavens, and entering into the presence of God, and what they claim to have seen there. Paul doesn’t give us any of this. He doesn’t even know where his own body was. God knows.

God gave Paul a foretaste of heaven. And this is the hope of every believer, of all who are in Christ.

1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

What happened to Paul was no doubt incredible. But it happened to ‘a man in Christ’. He brings his experience down and makes it ours. Every believer, all who are in Christ will be caught up to be with the Lord forever.

He Heard Unutterable Utterances

2 Corinthians 12:1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—

Next comes the part where he tells us what he saw and heard. Actually he doesn’t tell us what he saw; he only tells us what he heard.

2 Corinthians 12:4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.

Do you see how anticlimactic this is? How disappointing? Paul was given revelation, he heard words, but they are unutterable, inexpressible. This could mean that what was communicated to him went beyond the limits of human language. But in the next phrase he says that what he heard is not lawful or permitted for a man to speak. Whatever he heard he was not allowed to communicate. This revelation was for him alone. This is one reason he didn’t talk about what happened for 14 years. And he still doesn’t break the silence. Everybody wants to know what Paul heard, but doesn’t let us in on any of it. This is in stark contrast to the false apostles who are all too eager to use their experiences to manipulate people.

Weakness (Suffering in Service to Christ) Establishes Authenticity

Paul concludes

2 Corinthians 12:5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.

Paul is persistent that if he must boast, it will be in his weakness. That is why he frames this whole visionary revelatory experience in the third person. It was a man in Christ. If he wanted to boast in this man’s experience, he wouldn’t be lying, because it was indeed his own experience. But he refuses to boast in it. He refused for 14 years, and he will continue to refuse to use it to leverage authority. It is his weaknesses that he wants to be written large over his life and ministry.

His reason for this is so counter-cultural. We are worried that people will think too little of us, or think of us too little. We love to filter our flaws and inflate our image. We want to be made much of. Paul doesn’t want anyone to think too highly of him. Even in the context of false teachers in the church undermining his authority and integrity, he doesn’t want anyone to think more of him than is warranted by the real verifiable evidence of his life and teaching.

Paul could have easily won a short term victory here by pulling his authority card and his supernatural experience card and leaving the opponents in the dust. But that would have left the door wide open for future generations to seize spiritual authority by unverifiable supernatural experiences.

He is teaching the Corinthians (and us) that supernatural experiences, although real, are not to be used to establish the credibility or authority of anyone as a minister. Those kind of personal experiences aren’t earned, they are given graciously by God. And they can’t be verified.

Paul wisely says no. Don’t think more of me than what you see in me or hear from me. Those are objective, verifiable standards. Judge me by my life, by my weaknesses, my my suffering service for the Savior. Judge me by the content my message, by the gospel I proclaim, by my open statement of the truth.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

February 12, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 10:7b-11; Edifying Authority

09/27_2 Corinthians 10:7b-11; Edifying Authority; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200927_2cor10_7b-11.mp3

2 Corinthians 10:1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. 7 Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. 8 For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. 9 I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters. 10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” 11 Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present.

Paul asserts his authority to beg the Corinthians to respond to his appeal by letter, so that he does not have to be bold when he returns to visit them. He would rather in humility show the meekness and gentleness of Christ. He is equipped to wage war and ready to put down all disobedience of those who persist in rebellion once the obedience of those who are genuine has shown itself. He is on his way to visit them at last, and he wants them to prepare themselves for that visit. They have been looking at appearances. He wants them not to ‘judge by appearances, but with right judgment’ (Jn.7:24).

Self-Confidence or Gospel Confidence?

You are looking at what is before your eyes.

2 Corinthians 10:7 Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we.

There is danger in presumptuous self-confidence. There are some who have persuaded themselves, they have confidence in themselves that they are Christ’s.

Paul challenges them to ask the question, ‘How is it that you belong to Christ?’ What persuades you that you are Christ’s? We only come to identify with Jesus and belong to him when we acknowledge our own sin and our need for a rescuer. We belong to Christ because we have been bought by his blood. We belong to him because we were sinners in need of a Savior and Jesus is the only one who can save. ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom.5:8). It is ‘not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ (1Jn.4:10). This is a reminder of the gospel. Every believer is always only a sinner saved by God’s amazing grace. Jesus pursued Paul and saved him from his open hostility. How did you come to belong to Christ? By your own merits? Is your confidence in yourself or in Jesus?

But what Paul says goes beyond belonging to Christ. The issue at hand is authority. Who had been authorized by Christ to wield Christ’s own authority in the church? There were some in Corinth who were undermining Paul’s authority and seeking to establish themselves as having superior claim to spiritual authority. They were building themselves up by trying to tear Paul down. They pursued power over the church, so Paul asks them ‘how did you come to possess this confident authority over the church?’ Were you called by Christ, commissioned by the resurrected Lord of his church? Did you plant this local church? Where do you get your confidence that you are Christ’s?

Back in 1 Corinthians 3, where Paul addressed the various factions that had developed in Corinth, each lining up behind his favorite preacher, he said:

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Paul planted. In the sovereignty of God, Paul was the first to bring the message of Jesus to Corinth. By God’s grace, Paul laid the foundation, the foundation of Jesus Christ and him crucified (1Cor.2:2). Now others are building on that foundation.

Paul is not saying that no one else has any spiritual authority in Corinth. What he is saying is that if anyone else has authority there, they have to acknowledge at least that he too has claim on that authority.

He exhorts his reader to ‘remind himself’; this word points to taking inventory; to reason, conclude, reckon or account. He used it back in verse 2, where he counts on showing boldness to those who count him as walking according to the flesh. He will use it again in verse 11 ‘let such a person understand’ or ‘count on this’. Count on this; just as you are Christ’s, so also are we.

Boasting and Not Ashamed

If those who are now in Corinth are laying claim to authority, the founding apostle also has that same authority.

2 Corinthians 10:8 For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed.

Paul will go on in this section to boast in his own authority. Well over half of the New Testament uses of both the verb and the noun forms of ‘boast’ occur in 2 Corinthians, and the majority of those are here in chapters 10-12. This section is Paul’s boast. He is about to boast abundantly in his authority, and he tells us up front that he will not be ashamed in his excessive boasting.

Back in 1 Corinthians 1 he told them:

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

God intentionally orchestrated salvation so that our boasting would be excluded. If we boast at all, we must boast in the Lord. Paul is picking up the teaching of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 9:23 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Don’t boast in yourself; boast only in the Lord. Boast in his character. Boast in his amazing grace toward those who don’t deserve it. Celebrate knowing Jesus by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (Eph.2:7-9). Glory only in the cross (Gal.6:14).

Paul sets out here to boast in his own authority, but he prefaces his boasting by the fact that his authority is a gift of God.

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, …

He didn’t earn it. He doesn’t deserve it. He is not sufficient for it. It is all grace. He will boast, but his boast is in the Lord.

Authority for Construction not Demolition

Paul specifies what his authority is for.

2 Corinthians 10:8 For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed.

His authority is for construction not demolition. He just got done saying that he is ready to punish all disobedience, and that he wages spiritual warfare with divine power to demolish strongholds, to demolish arguments and high things raised against the knowledge of God. But his authority is for building up, not tearing down. His ministry is a New Covenant ministry.

Contrast this with Jeremiah’s ministry. When God commissioned Jeremiah, he told him:

Jeremiah 1:10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Jeremiah’s ministry was primarily a ministry of demolition, to pluck up, break down, destroy and overthrow. Secondarily it was a ministry to build and to plant. But in Jeremiah 31, where God promises that he will make a New Covenant with his people, he says:

Jeremiah 31:28 And it shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, declares the LORD.

The New Covenant ministry that Paul was entrusted with is a ministry that is primarily to build up.

Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, …33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

There is a necessary aspect of tearing down everything that is raised up against the knowledge of God, to clear the ground for new construction, but the primary focus of Paul’s mission is to build up. Where the primary focus of the Old Covenant was to level the ground for the coming Messiah, to tear down our pride and show us our need, the New Covenant ministry has greater glory because it is a ministry of the Spirit, that gives life, that brings genuine heart transformation.

Paul’s own ministry, and his heart for the church is that we would engage in building up and not tearing down.

Ephesians 4:7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. …11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

The goal of New Covenant ministry is to build up the church to unity, maturity, until Christ is formed in you (Gal.4:19). There is a necessary demolition aspect to this ministry;

Ephesians 4:14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

But the goal is building up.

Ephesians 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

The Lord gave me this authority for building you up and not for destroying you. There is implied contrast here between the apostle and the false teachers, who are seeking to divide and turn them away from their simple faith in Jesus, which would lead them to destruction.

Consistent Apostolic Ministry

There is a consistency in apostolic ministry.

2 Corinthians 10:9 I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters. 10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” 11 Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present.

Paul has been accused of inconsistency. He had been accused of coming across differently in person than he does in his letters. But his ministry strategy is consistently to use his authority to build them up. He is weighty and strong in his letters so he can exhibit the meekness and gentleness of Christ with them in person. It was to spare them that he refrained from coming again to Corinth (1:23). His kindness and patience and forbearance was meant to lead them to repentance (Rom.2:4).

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

September 28, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, church, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 14:26-40; The God of Peace and Order

03/15 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 The God of Peace and Order; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150315_1cor14_26-40.mp3

1 Corinthians 14 [SBLGNT]

26 Τί οὖν ἐστιν, ἀδελφοί; ὅταν συνέρχησθε, ἕκαστος ψαλμὸν ἔχει, διδαχὴν ἔχει, ἀποκάλυψιν ἔχει, γλῶσσαν ἔχει, ἑρμηνείαν ἔχει· πάντα πρὸς οἰκοδομὴν γινέσθω. 27 εἴτε γλώσσῃ τις λαλεῖ, κατὰ δύο ἢ τὸ πλεῖστον τρεῖς, καὶ ἀνὰ μέρος, καὶ εἷς διερμηνευέτω· 28 ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ᾖ διερμηνευτής, σιγάτω ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ, ἑαυτῷ δὲ λαλείτω καὶ τῷ θεῷ. 29 προφῆται δὲ δύο ἢ τρεῖς λαλείτωσαν, καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι διακρινέτωσαν· 30 ἐὰν δὲ ἄλλῳ ἀποκαλυφθῇ καθημένῳ, ὁ πρῶτος σιγάτω. 31 δύνασθε γὰρ καθ’ ἕνα πάντες προφητεύειν, ἵνα πάντες μανθάνωσιν καὶ πάντες παρακαλῶνται 32 ( καὶ πνεύματα προφητῶν προφήταις ὑποτάσσεται, 33 οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀκαταστασίας ὁ θεὸς ἀλλὰ εἰρήνης ), ὡς ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῶν ἁγίων. 34 Αἱ γυναῖκες ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις σιγάτωσαν, οὐ γὰρ ἐπιτρέπεται αὐταῖς λαλεῖν· ἀλλὰ ὑποτασσέσθωσαν, καθὼς καὶ ὁ νόμος λέγει. 35 εἰ δέ τι μαθεῖν θέλουσιν, ἐν οἴκῳ τοὺς ἰδίους ἄνδρας ἐπερωτάτωσαν, αἰσχρὸν γάρ ἐστιν γυναικὶ λαλεῖν ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ. 36 ἢ ἀφ’ ὑμῶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθεν, ἢ εἰς ὑμᾶς μόνους κατήντησεν; 37 Εἴ τις δοκεῖ προφήτης εἶναι ἢ πνευματικός, ἐπιγινωσκέτω ἃ γράφω ὑμῖν ὅτι κυρίου ἐστὶν· 38 εἰ δέ τις ἀγνοεῖ, ἀγνοεῖται. 39 ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου, ζηλοῦτε τὸ προφητεύειν, καὶ τὸ λαλεῖν μὴ κωλύετε γλώσσαις· 40 πάντα δὲ εὐσχημόνως καὶ κατὰ τάξιν γινέσθω.

1 Corinthians 14 [ESV2011]

26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Definition of Tongues and Prophecy

So far, in this chapter, Paul has argued for the advantages of prophecy over tongues. We have taken our definition of tongues and prophecy from the beginning of this chapter. Tongues, Paul says in verse 2, is speaking mysteries in the Spirit, and no one but God understands. In verses 14-16, we see that tongues can take the form of praying, singing praise, or giving thanks. Prophecy, on the other hand, as defined in verse 3, is speaking intelligibly to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.

Overview

Paul has argued that the one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues because prophecy builds up the church while tongues builds only the self. He has asked the question “how will I benefit you” and said that there is much greater benefit to others in bringing revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching than in speaking in unknown languages. He illustrated the unintelligibility of tongues and demonstrated its failure to communicate but rather to produce irritation and alienation inside the family of faith. He points to the advantage of engaging one’s own mind in worship of God, and says “I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others than a myriad of words in a tongue”. He indicates that eagerness to speak in uninterpreted tongues as a sign of immaturity. Then he points to foreign tongues in the Old Testament as a sign of God’s judgment and rejection of his unbelieving people. He highlights the evangelistic advantages of prophecy over tongues toward visitors and unbelievers in the worship gathering of the church.

Now in the last section of this chapter, he reiterates the underlying principles he has taught and lays down some very specific clear practical apostolic instruction for the church.

Silence and Speaking

What is verbalized in the context of the church gathering is the focus of this chapter. The verb ‘to speak’ [λαλέω] occurs 24 times in this chapter alone. Paul has argued for the advantages of speaking prophecy over speaking in unknown tongues. But this passage is punctuated by silence. There are times when the best thing to build up the body is to refrain from speaking. There are three categories of people discussed in these verses, and each of them are told to be silent at different times for the common good. In verse 28, the tongues speakers are told to be silent. In verse 30 the prophets are told when to be silent. In verse 34 the women or wives are told to be silent.

Coming Together as the Church

What Paul says here is in the context of the gathering of the local church. See it in verse 26? ‘When you come together’. It is good to remind ourselves that the church is not a location that we attend but a people who gathers. Even the word translated ‘church’ [ἐκκλησία] means a called out people, those who have been called out to assemble. This word ‘come together’ [συνέρχομαι] is used here twice and five times in chapter 11 addressing issues when the church gathers to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Building Up

The goal for coming together is to build one another up. Paul said in chapter 3:

1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

In chapter 8 he said:

1 Corinthians 8:1 …This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.

And in chapter 10,

1 Corinthians 10:23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

Here in chapter 14, he says:

1 Corinthians 14:3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 …unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

12 …strive to excel in building up the church.

17 …but the other person is not being built up.

Here he reminds them of the underlying motivation for gathering:

1 Corinthians 14:26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

Each one bringing his gifts to the gathering could be a good or a bad thing. If as a gifted musician I bring a hymn or song I have prepared, and my desire is that everyone is amazed at how talented I am, then my goal is to puff myself up in the eyes of the church. Instead I should come with my song in order to encourage and comfort and strengthen others, to serve them, to deepen their affections for Christ. If as a gifted teacher I bring a teaching I have prepared, and my desire is to impress everyone with my superior insight and eloquence and wisdom and wit, then my goal is to puff myself up in the eyes of the congregation. Instead I ought to bring my teaching with a humble desire to encourage and comfort and strengthen others, to build them up in the most holy faith. Everything that we do is to be done with the clear intent to build others up. Paul is crystal clear; ‘let all things be done for building up.’

Restrictions for Tongues

Paul now gives very specific rules for the vocalization of tongues in the gathering of the local church.

1 Corinthians 14:27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.

He starts this requirement out with ‘if’; ‘if any speak in a tongue’. This may not happen at all. But if it does, there are to be only two, or at the most three. There is never to be someone talking when someone else is talking. Each in turn. Love is not rude, and to talk when someone else is talking is rude. Tongues are never to be uttered without interpretation or explanation. Uninterpreted tongues do not build others up, rather they build walls of alienation. We are not told how the tongues speaker is to know that there will be someone to explain (unless he himself is able to put it into intelligible speech), but before speaking, the tongues speaker is to be certain that his speech will be explained so that others can be built up. Otherwise he is to keep silent in the gathering. The tongues speaker is not at the mercy of his gift. This is not uncontrollable spiritual urges. Paul assumes the speaker has the ability and the good judgment to refrain from speaking if the specific conditions are not met. The tongues speaker can speak to himself and to God. He does not have to have the floor and be heard. He can refrain from exercising his gift for the common good.

Restrictions for Prophecy

Next, Paul gives specific restrictions for prophecy in the church.

1 Corinthians 14:29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,

Paul limits prophecy to two or three as well, but he leaves out the ‘if’ and ‘at most’. Where tongues require interpretation, prophecy requires discernment. The others are to weigh what is said. This applies even to the teaching of the Apostle himself. In Acts 17 the Bereans are commended as

Acts 17:11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

They were listening to Paul’s teaching with eagerness, but they were checking what he said with their Scriptures to be sure it was true. Paul invites the Corinthians to do the same.

1 Corinthians 10:15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. (cf. 11:13)

The Thessalonians are told:

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.

Prophecies are to be weighed. If something is revealed to another who is not speaking, the first is to be silent and give room for another to speak. While one with tongues are to keep silent unless they know the tongue will be interpreted, prophecy is to be spoken unless another has something to say. No one is to monopolize the time or refuse to allow what they have said to be tested. Like tongues, prophecies are to be given one at a time, so no one is speaking over anyone else. This would assume that the one seated would also wait for the first to conclude before interjecting. The goal of edification is again kept in view; so that all may learn and all may be encouraged.

This is possible because of the nature of Christian prophecy. The spirits of prophets are in submission to the prophets. Prophecy, like tongues, is controllable. This is not some ecstatic trance like state where the speaker is overcome by a power that compels him to speak. This may happen in some pagan religions, but that has nothing to do with Christian prophecy or tongues. The speaker is in complete control and able to use wisdom in how and when to speak, and is fully capable of refraining from speaking altogether. There is appropriate obedience and submission of the human spirit to the mind.

This is rooted in the nature of God. We worship the way we worship because God is the way God is. What we do, how we conduct ourselves, should be a reflection of the character of God. God is not a God of chaos, confusion, instability, disorder. Our God is a God who speaks order into the chaos and makes distinctions. God separates light from darkness, separates water from sky and land, separates day from night, distinguishes that everything bears fruit according to its own kind. God is a God of peace, harmony, concord. This is the case in all the churches of the saints.

Restrictions for Wives

1 Corinthians 14:34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

This is a challenging subject, and it probably deserves its own sermon. But I believe it will help us understand it if we keep it in its proper context. Women or wives are not singled out; everyone is to keep silent in the assembly at the appropriate times. Tongues speakers and prophets are to keep silent when it serves to keep proper order and promote building others up. The spirits of the prophets are to be in submission to the prophets. That is the same word here used for the submission of the woman.

To make sure we get the whole picture, we need to recall what Paul said back in chapter 11 concerning the issue of women covering or uncovering their heads in the church meeting.

1 Corinthians 11:5 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.

…13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered?

In chapter 11, Paul has a wife praying or prophesying in the church meeting. He is merely concerned that she do it in a way that will not bring shame to God or to her husband. The issue is what is proper and what is shameful, what brings honor and what brings dishonor.

It is unlikely that Paul pictures a wife praying or prophesying in the congregation with her head covered in chapter 11, then in chapter 14 makes a blanket statement mandating that all women keep silent whenever the church is gathered. The main issue is the issue of submission, being under proper authority, which is taught throughout the New Testament in reference to the creation order. Paul affirms this in 1 Timothy, where he says:

1 Timothy 2:11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

The Law doesn’t say that women must be silent in the assembly; the law teaches that they are to be in proper submission; just like everyone else. Children are to be in submission to their parents, employees are to be in submission to their employers, men are to be in submission to God, Christ is in perfect submission to the Father, and wives are to be in submission to their own husbands. Our tongues are to be in submission to our minds and good judgment. The reason given for the silence of women or wives is that it is shameful for a woman to speak in the assembly. Ciampa and Rosner cite some ancient sources that shed light on the culture of the day.

Writing in the first century, “Plutarch tells us of a woman who accidentally exposed her arm when putting on her cloak: “Somebody exclaimed, ‘A lovely arm.’ ‘But not for the public,’ said she. Not only the arm of the virtuous woman, but her speech as well, ought to be not for the public, and she ought to be modest and guarded about saying anything in the hearing of outsiders, since it is an exposure of herself; for in her talk can be seen her feelings, character, and disposition.… For a woman ought to do her talking either to her husband or through her husband…” [Plutarch, Advice to Bride and Groom, 142 C-D, cited in PNTC, p726]

They also cite the words of Cato (c.195 BC) recorded in Livy’s History of Rome: “Indeed, I blushed when, a short while ago, I walked through the midst of a band of women. Had not respect for the dignity and modesty of certain ones (not them all!) restrained me (so they would not be seen being scolded by a consul), I should have said, ‘What kind of behaviour is this? Running around in public, blocking streets, and speaking to other women’s husbands! Could you not have asked your own husbands the same thing at home? Are you more charming in public with others’ husbands than at home with your own?” [Livy, History of Rome, 34.1, cited in PNTC p.726]

Against this cultural backdrop, Paul’s words make perfect sense.

1 Corinthians 14:34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

It would be considered indecent and disgraceful, and bring reproach on the name of Christ, for a woman in that culture to ask questions of another man in public. While not prohibiting them from praying or prophesying in a way that is culturally appropriate, Paul requires women to show appropriate honor and submission to their husbands, and to God.

Concluding Rebuke

Paul concludes with a rebuke to any who may feel they are exempt from correction or that Paul is out of touch with what he says.

1 Corinthians 14:36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Did God’s word come from you or go only to you? Do you have the arrogance to claim that you are the beginning and then end? Or are you a small part of a bigger story, a small dot on the time-line of God’s history, having inherited a rich heritage from others, with the mission to pass on what you have received to others? The Corinthians were proud, puffed up, and they thought they were spiritual. Paul challenges their claims. If you think you have a prophetic gift or spiritual insight, you ought to at least be able to recognize that the apostolic writings are a command of the Lord. Paul speaks for Jesus, Jesus is speaking through Paul. What Paul writes is not helpful suggestions. It carries the weight of the authority of the Lord Jesus himself. So to disregard this is to be disregarded. To not know this is to give evidence that you are not known by the Lord; ‘depart from me, I never knew you’. This is serious. But Paul believes better about them. He calls them brothers. And he gives one final exhortation on the subject of worship; earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. This is the third time Paul has exhorted them to earnestly desire the best gifts, the most useful to others gifts – especially to prophesy. But to keep them from overreacting to his teaching on the issue, he makes it clear that tongues are to be carefully regulated, but not entirely forbidden. ‘Do not forbid speaking in tongues.’ All things in the worship of the church must be done decently, with propriety, with good form, and in order, with proper arrangement and sequence, so that we reflect in all things the character of our great God.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

March 15, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment