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Leviticus 15; Bodily Discharges

09/18 Leviticus 15; Bodily Discharges; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160918_leviticus-15.mp3

We are in Leviticus 15, a passage I’ve been looking forward to preaching on for some time now. If you’re new, we believe that all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable, so our normal practice here is to pick a book of the Bible and study our way through it, listening for what God has to say to us. Some of our regulars who know this read ahead in the text, and some of them saw what was coming and decided this would be a good week to be out of town. Others of you who read ahead are here out of a morbid sense of curiosity to see what in the world we are going to do with this chapter. The rest of you who don’t read ahead have no idea what you are in for today! Sometimes the worship team asks me what I am going to be preaching on, so they can pick a song that ties in with the main idea of the message. Leviticus 15 is about unclean bodily discharges from the male and female reproductive organs, so I am eager to hear what song they choose to close our service with today, if we make it that far.

~pray~

Before we read through the passage this morning, I want to put in front of you an outline of the chapter, that I believe will help us make sense of it. The Bible is a brilliant literary masterpiece, and there is structure in the text that we often miss if we do not take the time to look carefully. Just reading through the text we might get lost in the gross details and miss the beautiful symmetry of the passage.

Outline:

A. introduction (1-2)

B. abnormal male discharges (2-15)

C. normal male discharges (16-17)

D. male/female intimacy (18)

‘C. normal female discharges (19-24)

‘B. abnormal female discharges (25-30)

‘A. conclusion (31-33)

This chapter is what is called a chiastic or X shaped structure where two halves of the passage mirror one another to demonstrate the fundamental unity in a double sided event or phenomena. This chapter is about human sexuality and it moves from abnormal to normal and climaxes (!) in the intimacy between male and female. The very structure of this passage reminds us of Genesis 1, where

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…

Keep in mind, as we read this chapter, that God created man as male and female, each uniquely and purposefully designed for intimacy within the marriage relationship, and that everything God created was good, and this specifically was ‘very good.’ Also keep in mind that we rebelled against God’s good authority and brought sin and death and disease and brokenness into God’s good creation.

A. introduction:

Leviticus 15:1 The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them,

B. abnormal male discharges:

When any man has a discharge from his body, his discharge is unclean. 3 And this is the law of his uncleanness for a discharge: whether his body runs with his discharge, or his body is blocked up by his discharge, it is his uncleanness. 4 Every bed on which the one with the discharge lies shall be unclean, and everything on which he sits shall be unclean. 5 And anyone who touches his bed shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 6 And whoever sits on anything on which the one with the discharge has sat shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 7 And whoever touches the body of the one with the discharge shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 8 And if the one with the discharge spits on someone who is clean, then he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 9 And any saddle on which the one with the discharge rides shall be unclean. 10 And whoever touches anything that was under him shall be unclean until the evening. And whoever carries such things shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 11 Anyone whom the one with the discharge touches without having rinsed his hands in water shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 12 And an earthenware vessel that the one with the discharge touches shall be broken, and every vessel of wood shall be rinsed in water. 13 “And when the one with a discharge is cleansed of his discharge, then he shall count for himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes. And he shall bathe his body in fresh water and shall be clean. 14 And on the eighth day he shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons and come before the LORD to the entrance of the tent of meeting and give them to the priest. 15 And the priest shall use them, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD for his discharge.

C. normal male discharges

16 “If a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water and be unclean until the evening. 17 And every garment and every skin on which the semen comes shall be washed with water and be unclean until the evening.

D. male/female intimacy:

18 If a man lies with a woman and has an emission of semen, both of them shall bathe themselves in water and be unclean until the evening.

‘C. normal female discharges:

19 “When a woman has a discharge, and the discharge in her body is blood, she shall be in her menstrual impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. 20 And everything on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean. Everything also on which she sits shall be unclean. 21 And whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 22 And whoever touches anything on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 23 Whether it is the bed or anything on which she sits, when he touches it he shall be unclean until the evening. 24 And if any man lies with her and her menstrual impurity comes upon him, he shall be unclean seven days, and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.

‘B. abnormal female discharges:

25 “If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness. As in the days of her impurity, she shall be unclean. 26 Every bed on which she lies, all the days of her discharge, shall be to her as the bed of her impurity. And everything on which she sits shall be unclean, as in the uncleanness of her menstrual impurity. 27 And whoever touches these things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. 28 But if she is cleansed of her discharge, she shall count for herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean. 29 And on the eighth day she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons and bring them to the priest, to the entrance of the tent of meeting. 30 And the priest shall use one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her before the LORD for her unclean discharge.

‘A conclusion:

31 “Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst.” 32 This is the law for him who has a discharge and for him who has an emission of semen, becoming unclean thereby; 33 also for her who is unwell with her menstrual impurity, that is, for anyone, male or female, who has a discharge, and for the man who lies with a woman who is unclean.

God Involved in All of Life

Notice, first of all, this chapter begins with the now familiar words ‘The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying…’ This is God’s very word. This is the LORD God speaking to his people. This chapter is God breathed and profitable. And God is addressing some very personal, very private, very intimate, uncomfortable issues. This is important for us to grasp. God is involved in all of life. We want to compartmentalize. These are the things I talk about at church with my church friends. This is what I talk about when there are kids in the room. This is what I talk about with my spouse. This is what I talk about with the guys at work or at school. There are things I say in one setting that I would never dare to say in a different setting. We keep everything in its box. I punch the clock and put in my time at work, but I don’t bring my work home with me. I put in my time at church this week, but I don’t want to let God into the other areas of my life. There are public things and private things, and what I do in my private life is none of your business and none of God’s business either. This passage screams out ‘wrong!’ What you do in your private life matters greatly to God. God is intimately involved in every area of your life. Here is a familiar verse from Hebrews that is followed by one maybe less familiar that may make you a bit uncomfortable:

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Not only are we held accountable for every action, whether public or secret, but we are accountable for the thoughts and intentions of the heart. God knows and God cares about every detail of our lives.

Also, there is no problem too personal that we should feel uncomfortable bringing to God. He knows about it already! He cares. He is eager to help.

Distinction Between Sin and Uncleanness

One thing we need to keep clear in our minds that will keep us from misunderstanding and misinterpreting a passage like this is that uncleanness does not equal sin. There are many things that are normal natural essential parts of life that make one unclean, but that does not mean that the activity is sinful. Sexual intimacy between a husband and wife is a good gift given by God, celebrated in the Song of Solomon, commanded in 1 Corinthians 7.

1 Corinthians 7:3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. …5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

As an aside to our single people, if you are engaging in any kind of sexual intimacy, you are sinning against God and against the design of your own body. And to our married people, if you are withholding intimacy from your spouse outside of these very specific circumstances, you are sinning against God and against your spouse.

So if sex is a good gift from God, why did it make you unclean under the old covenant? Remember, clean and unclean are categories which established boundaries of action that kept a person from entering the presence of God in the tabernacle or temple. God was making it very clear that he was not to be worshiped by means of cult prostitution or fertility rites as was common in the religions of Israel’s neighbors. This was another way of drawing a distinction between God’s chosen people and the rest of the world. The danger that Israel constantly battled was the practices of her neighbors creeping in and corrupting the pure worship of God. From the golden calf to the sin with Moab under the direction of Balaam, to the kings of Israel setting up high places, there was a temptation to incorporate sexual practices into the worship of God. This was a way to prevent legitimate normal biological functions from defiling the holy presence of God.

Notice in this text that for the uncleanness caused by intimacy or by normal discharges, there were no sacrifices required, only washing and waiting. For abnormal discharges, a sacrifice was required, demonstrating that the issue was connected with death, decay and the curse, a result of the fall. [See revised outline]

Common Sense Wisdom from God

This passage contains some common sense practical wisdom that we take for granted, but it was way ahead of its time. Notice how frequently this chapter talks about washing in water? This basic hygiene would help prevent the spread of disease. Notice verse 11 stresses the importance of washing ones hands. In 1847 Ignaz Semmelweis made a connection between the high mortality rate in one maternity clinic and doctors who performed autopsies and then delivered babies. He demonstrated that simple hand washing could drastically reduce the mortality rate. His ideas were rejected. And this is some 3,000 years after Leviticus was written!

In this chapter uncleanness can come even through contact with an object that has been in contact with an unclean person. Saliva in verse 8 is seen as something that can convey uncleanness. While being helpful sanitary procedure, this may also help to explain some possible situations that would lead to ‘unintentional sin’ that required sacrifice in the earlier chapters of Leviticus. What if you didn’t know that the place you sat had been made unclean by someone who sat there before you?

Notice also a practical blessing of this passage. A woman during her monthly cycle is unclean for 7 days, which would mean that she was required to take a break and enjoy rest from the normal pressures and responsibilities of daily life.

Jesus Our Healer

But remember, we are not looking to Leviticus to find rules to obey. We are looking to find glimpses of Jesus, because the Bible is all about Jesus. This passage in Leviticus provides the background for an event recorded in Matthew 9, Mark 5 and Luke 8. We will look at Mark’s more detailed account.

Mark 5:24 …And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Some things that Leviticus helps us understand: This woman was not supposed to be in a crowd. Everyone she bumped into in the crowd became unclean until evening. Even Jesus, by her touch would become ceremonially unclean. Her issue was a private thing. No one else knew about it. She apparently did a good job keeping it hidden. But it still affected everyone she came in contact with. They became unclean, and that was dangerous. This explains her ‘fear and trembling’ when she was called out for what she did. Not only fear of how Jesus would respond, but how the whole crowd would respond to her blatant violation of the cleanliness code. This gives greater importance to Jesus’ words ‘go in peace.’

This incident is also a reminder that Leviticus doesn’t give cures for problems. Leviticus identifies the problem and describes the consequences for having the problem, but it doesn’t give any prescription for what to do to fix the problem. If you have the disease, here’s what that means for you in society, and if somehow you get healed here’s the sacrifices you need to offer to be re-connected with God and society. This woman was desperate. She had suffered this chronic condition for 12 years. She was flat broke, having spent all she had seeking some help, but instead she got worse. You see, when we look for help in the wrong places, it often makes things worse.

Jesus is the missing cure for all the diseases in Leviticus. Jesus is the one so powerful that even touching the edge of his clothing in a crowd has transforming power. Jesus,is not defiled by the touch of sinners, but rather reverses the effects of sin. Jesus is YHWH Rapha (Ex.15:26) the Lord our healer.

Jesus ultimately is the one who can bring us back to God.

Leviticus 15:31 “Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst.”

The danger, graphically illustrated back in chapter 10 with Nadab and Abihu, was that entering God’s presence while in and unfit condition would result in death. God placed his tent in the middle of his people because he desires to be with his people, to be in fellowship with his people. But God is holy, and the presence of God for someone who is unclean is dangerous.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…

Jesus died so that without condoning our sin or compromising God’s perfect holiness, we can be welcomed into the very presence of God. Jesus came and took our sin, took our uncleanness, in order to bring us to God.

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

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September 20, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 11:2-16; Shame or honor

07/13 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Shame or Honor; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140713_1cor11_2-16.mp3

 

1 Corinthians 11 [SBLGNT]

2 Ἐπαινῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς ὅτι πάντα μου μέμνησθε καὶ καθὼς παρέδωκα ὑμῖν τὰς παραδόσεις κατέχετε. 3 θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι ὅτι παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἡ κεφαλὴ ὁ Χριστός ἐστιν, κεφαλὴ δὲ γυναικὸς ὁ ἀνήρ, κεφαλὴ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὁ θεός. 4 πᾶς ἀνὴρ προσευχόμενος ἢ προφητεύων κατὰ κεφαλῆς ἔχων καταισχύνει τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ· 5 πᾶσα δὲ γυνὴ προσευχομένη ἢ προφητεύουσα ἀκατακαλύπτῳ τῇ κεφαλῇ καταισχύνει τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτῆς, ἓν γάρ ἐστιν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ τῇ ἐξυρημένῃ. 6 εἰ γὰρ οὐ κατακαλύπτεται γυνή, καὶ κειράσθω· εἰ δὲ αἰσχρὸν γυναικὶ τὸ κείρασθαι ἢ ξυρᾶσθαι, κατακαλυπτέσθω. 7 ἀνὴρ μὲν γὰρ οὐκ ὀφείλει κατακαλύπτεσθαι τὴν κεφαλήν, εἰκὼν καὶ δόξα θεοῦ ὑπάρχων· ἡ γυνὴ δὲ δόξα ἀνδρός ἐστιν. 8 οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀνὴρ ἐκ γυναικός, ἀλλὰ γυνὴ ἐξ ἀνδρός· 9 καὶ γὰρ οὐκ ἐκτίσθη ἀνὴρ διὰ τὴν γυναῖκα, ἀλλὰ γυνὴ διὰ τὸν ἄνδρα. 10 διὰ τοῦτο ὀφείλει ἡ γυνὴ ἐξουσίαν ἔχειν ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς διὰ τοὺς ἀγγέλους. 11 πλὴν οὔτε γυνὴ χωρὶς ἀνδρὸς οὔτε ἀνὴρ χωρὶς γυναικὸς ἐν κυρίῳ· 12 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἡ γυνὴ ἐκ τοῦ ἀνδρός, οὕτως καὶ ὁ ἀνὴρ διὰ τῆς γυναικός· τὰ δὲ πάντα ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ. 13 ἐν ὑμῖν αὐτοῖς κρίνατε· πρέπον ἐστὶν γυναῖκα ἀκατακάλυπτον τῷ θεῷ προσεύχεσθαι; 14 οὐδὲ ἡ φύσις αὐτὴ διδάσκει ὑμᾶς ὅτι ἀνὴρ μὲν ἐὰν κομᾷ, ἀτιμία αὐτῷ ἐστιν, 15 γυνὴ δὲ ἐὰν κομᾷ, δόξα αὐτῇ ἐστιν; ὅτι ἡ κόμη ἀντὶ περιβολαίου δέδοται. 16 εἰ δέ τις δοκεῖ φιλόνεικος εἶναι, ἡμεῖς τοιαύτην συνήθειαν οὐκ ἔχομεν, οὐδὲ αἱ ἐκκλησίαι τοῦ θεοῦ.

 

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 has been called by many the most difficult passage to interpret in all of the Bible. There are about as many different opinions on how it should be understood as there have been commentaries written. There is much debate about what was actually going on in the church in Corinth that Paul was writing to correct, on who specifically is being addressed, on what some of the key words and phrases even mean, on what the cultural and historical background really was, on how this all fits with other verses in 1 Corinthians and in the rest of the New Testament, and maybe most important, on how (or even if) we should apply it to life today. Several people have seen this passage coming in the text and asked me how I plan to handle it, including my own mom. This may be one of the texts Peter was referring to when he said of Paul’s writings:

2 Peter 3:16 …There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

So I think the best thing for us to do is avoid it and go on to the next passage. Skip forward to 11:17 and we will pick up there today. Passing over verses 2-16, we move on to 1 Corinthians 11 verse 17…

 

That was a test. We will study this passage, as difficult as it is, because I believe with all my heart that:

2 Timothy 3:15 … the sacred writings, …are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

All Scripture is profitable. The central issues of Christianity are unmistakably clear. Salvation is through faith in Christ Jesus alone. The good news that salvation comes to us by God’s undeserved grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone rings clear and loud throughout all of Scripture. Other issues, secondary issues, may be more obscure, but I believe they are still breathed out by God and profitable, so it is worth our while to carefully work through this passage. Some of the details we will have to hold loosely, as we simply can’t know for certain. I’m sure the original readers of this passage understood exactly what Paul intended to communicate. I wonder if some new discovery will shed light on the things that we find puzzling. But if we don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees, I believe there will be much here that is encouraging, edifying, and applicable even to us today.

So, by God’s grace and with his help, we will do our best to understand the text before us, to seek to learn what God would teach us through it eager to obey him, and to extend patience and grace to one another when we just see things a different way.

~pray~

1 Corinthians 11:2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 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. 6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

 

The Big Picture

It is essential that we see this passage as a connected section of the letter it is part of. To extract it out of its context and beat each other over the head with it would be to violate some of the very truths it is intended to convey.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul is addressing divisions in the church. The believers are quarreling, they are boasting, they are wise in their own eyes, they think they are spiritual, they are puffed up in favor of one against another. So Paul takes them back to the basic message of the gospel, the simple message of the cross, the foolish message of Christ crucified. He reminds them that everything; life, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption; everything is a gift from God. So if a believer boasts, his boast must only be in the Lord (1:30-31).

We have seen that chapters 8-10 form one unit dealing with idolatry. Now we will see that chapters 8-14 form a unit that deals with the central theme of worship. 8-10 deal with avoiding the false worship of idols, 11:2-16 deals with the way men and women ought to worship together in the church, 11:17-34 addresses the way rich and poor ought to worship together in the church, and chapters 12-14 deal with the role of the Holy Spirit and how spiritual gifts ought to be used in the worship of the church.

As we see the theme of worship throughout these chapters, we can also see some basic principles woven through these chapters. Paul begins in chapter 8 with the Christian principle of love, love for God and love that builds others up. He warns against self-centeredness that harms others by insisting on our own rights. As he sums up in 10:31-33, everything is to be done for the eternal good of others, so that God is glorified and others are benefited. 11:17-34 confronts their lack of love in the Lord’s supper, where they shamed the poor and honored the rich. Chapter 12 addresses their lack of love in the exercise of spiritual gifts, priding themselves in the more spectacular gifts, and shaming others as unnecessary parts of the body. He encourages them to have the same care for one another. In chapter 13, he invites them to rise to a more excellent way, the way of self sacrificial love. In chapter 14, he teaches that the way of love is for the good of others and the glory of God, and our gifts must be used so that believers are built up, unbelievers are saved, and God is honored. It is into this context of loving God and loving others, of glorifying God and seeking the good of others that Paul speaks to the issue of men and women in the church, how they can bring shame or glory to God, and how they can shame or honor one another.

Outline:

Seeing the structure of the passage will be helpful. David Garland in his commentary on 1 Corinthians (BECNT p.511) has detailed the chiastic pattern (or X shaped pattern), like a mirror with a central assertion and the parts on either side reflecting each other. We can start in the center and work out:

 

A. Commendation for maintaining traditions handed on by Paul; basic assertion that everyone has a head (11:2-3)

B. Shame about coverings for men and women (11:4-5)

C. Social impropriety for a woman to be uncovered; theological impropriety for a man to be covered (11:6-7)

D. Theological explanation from the creation account (11:8-9)

E. Central assertion: for this reason a woman ought

to have authority over her head (11:10)

‘D. Theological caveat from procreation (11:11-12)

‘C. Social impropriety for a woman to be uncovered (11:13)

‘B. Shame (and glory): lessons from nature about coverings for men

and women (11:14-15)

‘A. Admonition to conform to Paul’s customs and those of the churches of God (11:16)

 

The only imperative in the text (other than his exhortation to ‘judge for yourselves’ in 11:13) is found in 11:6 ‘let her cover her head’. What is at stake in this passage is honor or dishonor; shame or glory. And this finds expression in covering or uncovering the head. This is a cultural custom that is foreign to us. David Garland describes the cultural issue this way: “The head covering ‘is …worn in public to mark her off as a private person intent on guarding her purity, and so maintaining the honour of her husband and her father.’ …It communicates to others in public that the woman is demure, chaste, and modest, and that she intends to stay that way. …no male wanted his wife or a female in his charge to appear in public in a way that hints, intentionally or unintentionally, that the opposite might be true.” (BECNT, p.509-510).

Commendable

Paul starts off by praising the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 11:2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.

In verse 17, he will say ‘I do not commend you.; But here, he praises them for remembering him and holding on to his teachings. The ‘traditions’ would have been the teaching he delivered when he first came to Corinth to proclaim the gospel and plant the church. We now have his teaching expanded and clarified in the New Testament letters. He may have taught them something like what he wrote in Galatians 3.

Galatians 3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

He may have taught them something like what he will say in 2 Corinthians 3.

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face… 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

In Christ Jesus there is no male or female. When one turns to the Lord the veil is removed. We all with unveiled faces are beholding the glory of the Lord. So throw off your head covering! We are free in Christ! There are no more gender distinctions!

Cultural Shame

Paul says ‘but’. But I want you to understand. You do not yet have the full picture.

3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

There are gender distinctions. There are differences in roles. There are legitimate authority structures in place. Even within the triune God. God, Christ, man, woman. This is huge, what he says here is foundational, and I want to come back to it next week to give it the time it deserves.

4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head,

The word ‘head’ is used with a double meaning. By inappropriately covering or uncovering the head, he or she brings shame on his or her own head, where ‘head’ stands for the person. By acting inappropriately you shame yourself. But ‘head’ also refers back to verse 3, where it says the head of man is Christ and the head of woman is man. There is evidence that at the time, men offering sacrifices to their pagan gods would perform the rituals with their heads covered. For a man to worship the true God with his head covered would bring shame to Christ, his head. There is a clear and essential difference between men and women. The very thing that is shameful for man is essential for woman. For a woman to worship uncovered in that culture would bring great shame on her husband or her father. It would be as shocking as if she showed up with a shaved head.

…since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head.

It is a shame on herself and on her husband or father to be shaven. Paul argues that being uncovered is just as shameful, so ‘let her cover her head’.

An Issue of Glory

Paul gives here the theological reason why a man ought not to cover his head, but the woman ought to cover her head.

7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

Paul goes back to the order of creation in Genesis to defend this principle. Both man and woman were made in the image of God. But Eve was made by God from the side of Adam. She was to be his helper, a companion who corresponds to him, one who completes him. She was made from him and for him. And she is his glory. She is truly his better half.

Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

She has the potential to bring shame or great glory to her husband. But in worship, the glory of God alone is to shine unrivaled, so it is inappropriate for woman, who is the glory of man, to be uncovered. All glory must go to God.

10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

Literally this verse reads ‘on account of this the woman ought to have authority on [or over] her head’. It could be that authority stands for the symbol of authority, the head covering demonstrates that she is under authority, or it could mean that she has authority over her own head, that she has her head under control. She exercises control over her physical head so as not to expose herself or her head to indignity.

Puzzling is the cryptic phrase ‘because of the angels’. Angels who are also under authority, who keep their proper place, angels who cover their faces with one pair wings and their feet with another pair of wings in the presence of God, angels who are unseen guests wherever believers gather to worship, angels who are eager to learn about the salvation we enjoy? We don’t know exactly why the angels are mentioned here.

Nevertheless

11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.

Paul is careful to balance the equation. Woman is from man and for man in creation, but subsequent to creation, every man has been born of woman and dependent on woman. In the Lord woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman. Different genders, distinct roles, but equal value, dignity, and worth. In Christ, there is neither male nor female; every individual must come to God through Jesus. All things are from God. Everyone is dependent on God. God is sovereign over man and woman. God is preeminent.

Paul now invites them to apply their own innate sense of what is proper to the situation.

13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.

He has argued from the relationship between God and Christ, from the created order, from what brings honor and shame, and now he argues from their own culturally conditioned sense of what is appropriate, what is shameful, what brings honor. It is natural for men to appear masculine and women to appear feminine. It would be shameful for a woman to pray uncovered.

He concludes with a warning against an argumentative spirit, and an appeal to the common practice of all the churches.

16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

Application

So what do we do with this? We want to obey God and his word. Does this mean all the men need to cut their hair short and all the women need to grow their hair long and wear a head covering? Some churches do that. I think that would be the easy way around dealing with the real issue. As my mother so wisely said many years ago as my own church was wrestling with some of these issues ‘any problem that can be solved with a pair of scissors is not a very serious problem’. I could have my head shaved in half an hour and it wouldn’t change the state of my heart one little bit.

Where is my heart? What do I most want? Do I want to bring glory to God above all else, to bring honor to God and build up my brothers and sisters? Do I desperately want the lost to hear and believe the gospel and be saved? Or do I insist on my rights, my comfort, my convenience, my preference, my own benefit, even if it dishonors God and shames the people around me? Do I love God and love others and seek to build them up, or do I love self and seek to build myself up?

If my heart is right, if I truly love the glory of God in the gospel more than my own good, then what Paul is saying here is that externals are not irrelevant. Some seemingly trivial superficial things do matter. Is there something in my appearance, in my demeanor, in my attitude, in the way I carry myself, in the way I relate to others, that brings shame to Christ or to his followers, is there anything in me that hinders people from listening to the gospel? Then get rid of it! Cut it off and throw it away! Is there anything, even little things that I could do that would bring glory to God and build up his people? Are there ways I can identify with lost people so that I can bring them the gospel? Am I not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, that they may be saved? Am I doing everything, whether I eat or drink, or whatever I do, to the glory of God?

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

July 13, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 7:17-19; Remain as Called; Circumcision is Nothing

11/24 1 Corinthians 7:17-19 Remain As You Were Called; Circumcision is Nothing;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131124_1cor7_17-19.mp3

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

17 Εἰ μὴ ἑκάστῳ ὡς ἐμέρισεν ὁ κύριος, ἕκαστον ὡς κέκληκεν ὁ θεός, οὕτως περιπατείτω· καὶ οὕτως ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις πάσαις διατάσσομαι. 18 περιτετμημένος τις ἐκλήθη ; μὴ ἐπισπάσθω· ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ κέκληταί τις; μὴ περιτεμνέσθω. 19 ἡ περιτομὴ οὐδέν ἐστιν, καὶ ἡ ἀκροβυστία οὐδέν ἐστιν, ἀλλὰ τήρησις ἐντολῶν θεοῦ. 20 ἕκαστος ἐν τῇ κλήσει ᾗ ἐκλήθη ἐν ταύτῃ μενέτω. 21 Δοῦλος ἐκλήθης ; μή σοι μελέτω· ἀλλ’ εἰ καὶ δύνασαι ἐλεύθερος γενέσθαι, μᾶλλον χρῆσαι. 22 ὁ γὰρ ἐν κυρίῳ κληθεὶς δοῦλος ἀπελεύθερος κυρίου ἐστίν· ὁμοίως ὁ ἐλεύθερος κληθεὶς δοῦλός ἐστιν Χριστοῦ. 23 τιμῆς ἠγοράσθητε· μὴ γίνεσθε δοῦλοι ἀνθρώπων. 24 ἕκαστος ἐν ᾧ ἐκλήθη, ἀδελφοί, ἐν τούτῳ μενέτω παρὰ θεῷ.

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

In chapter 7, Paul has begun to answer questions from the Corinthians. Chapter 7 addresses the hot topics of sex, marriage, divorce, remarriage, and singleness. In verses 17-24 we come to the core of this passage, where Paul gives the underlying principle that he is applying to these various relational situations, and he demonstrates how he is applying it with two extreme scenarios. At first it seems abrupt and out of place to address circumcision and slavery in the middle of a chapter about marriage and singleness, but we will see how this relates to what he is teaching throughout this passage. It will be helpful to look at the broad flow of the passage and see where verses 17-24 form the core of this chapter, where he lays out his guiding principle, remain as you are.

Structure of Chapter 7

In verse 1, he repeats the Corinthian slogan ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’ and he begins to apply a different guiding principle to various relational circumstances; ‘each one should remain in the condition in which he was called’.

2-5 mutual obligations of marriage – remain as you are: do not deprive one another (unless temporarily by agreement for prayer)

6-9 to the unmarried and widows; good to remain as they are, (unless not gifted for celibacy then they must marry)

10-11 to the married where both husband and wife are believers; remain as you are (unless separated; then be reconciled)

12-16 to the married where the husband or wife is not a believer; remain as you are (unless the unbeliever leaves; then you are free)

17 principle: as the Lord has gifted and called, so walk

18-19 circumcised or uncircumcised; remain as you are

20 principle: each remain in your calling

21-23 slave or free; remain as you are (unless you can be free)

24 principle: each remain in your calling

25-26 to the virgins; remain as you are

27-28 remain as you are; free from or bound to a wife (unless you desire to marry – it is not a sin)

29-31 temporality of this world

32-35 advantages of singleness

36-38 virgins free to marry (but better to remain)

39-40 widows free to remarry (but better to remain)

Jesus Overcomes All Ethnic, Social and Gender Barriers

Paul widens his discussion from the roles of men and women in singleness and marriage to include other major societal issues of circumcision/uncircumcision and slavery/freedom. This parallels what he taught to the Galatian believers.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Our relationship to Jesus tears down all major social and cultural barriers. The major ethnic barrier between Jew and Greek (or circumcised and uncircumcised) is nullified in Christ. The major social status barrier between slave and free is abolished in Christ. The major gender barrier between male and female (including all the various sub-categories of single, married, divorced, widowed, remarried) are all made nothing at the foot of the cross. This does not mean that ethnic, social or gender differences no longer exist; those differences are very real, but that they have no bearing on how one is rescued by Jesus. This is the great truth of Revelation 5 and 7 that people from every tribe and language and people and nation will be worshiping Jesus together around his throne. But a person of Jewish descent and a non-Jewish person both enter into a relationship with Jesus in the same way. A slave and free person, or a social outcast and a CEO must both humbly seek forgiveness for their sins at the cross. A man and a woman both equally must believe the good news about Jesus to be saved. The Corinthians were asking if there was a higher spirituality to celibacy over marriage, if abstinence within marriage earned extra points with God, if asceticism was spiritually beneficial. Paul says no, remain as you are. Whether you are male or female, single, married, widowed, divorced, none of this changes your status with God in the smallest degree. There is no spiritual advantage to any ethnic group, any social standing, or any marital status.

Assigned

1 Corinthians 7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

Paul states the foundation principle for everything he has said in this chapter. He says ‘this is my rule in all the churches’. This is not special instructions for a special situation in Corinth, he is not singling them out for unique treatment. This is the same teaching he would give any other church in any other circumstance, including our church in our society today. The principle is universally applicable. He points them and us to walk in the way that the Lord Jesus has assigned and that God has called. This idea behind the word ‘assigned’ is divided or distributed. This connects back to what he said in verse 7.

1 Corinthians 7: 7 … But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

God distributes his gifts as he sees fit. God gifts some for singleness and some for marriage. Each one has his own gift from God. We have a natural tendency toward the greener grass syndrome. We are discontent with who we are and where we are and want to be on the other side of the fence. But Paul tells us to enjoy the grass on your own side of the fence! The Lord Jesus is the one who assigns to each his own particular gifting and situation, and Paul advises us to walk in that.

He says ‘let each person lead the life’ Literally that could be translated ‘let each person walk this way’ Walking is a favorite metaphor of biblical authors for steady progress in Christian living. We are to walk in the pasture that God has placed us in and not seek to unnecessarily jump fences. If you are single, divorced, or widowed, be that for the glory of God. If you are married, be married for the glory of Christ. Don’t always seek something different. Learn to enjoy who you are where you are. Learn contentment. We make steady progress in holiness when we embrace what God has allotted to us.

Called

He adds ‘and to which God has called him’. Calling plays a significant role in this passage. A form of the word ‘called’ shows up 9 times in these 8 verses; we saw it once in verse 15; it showed up 5 times in chapter 1. In 1:1, Paul was called by the will of God to be an apostle. In 1:2, the believers in Corinth were called to be saints. In 1:9, God called us into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. In 1:24, it is God’s call that differentiates between those who hear the gospel, believe, and are being saved; and those who hear the gospel, reject, and are perishing.

1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. …26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 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, …

God’s call cuts across social and ethnic barriers. God called both Jews and Greeks. God’s call came to the foolish, the weak, the low, the despised, the nothings of the world in order to eliminate human boasting. When we get to chapter 7, we find that God called divorced people. God called widows and widowers. God called single people into a relationship with him. God assigns gifts as he wills, and God calls different people who find themselves in different situations. Paul’s instruction is:

1 Corinthians 7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

Circumcision and Uncircumcision

Paul demonstrates this principle by fleshing out its application to two extreme situations; circumcision and slavery. He starts with circumcision, the outward sign of the Old Covenant people of God. In order to become part of God’s people in the Old Testament, you had to be circumcised. Circumcision was a big deal. When the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, was extended to the Gentile nations in Acts, this became a big dispute among the believers. Did Gentiles have to undergo circumcision and become Jews in order to become followers of the Jewish Messiah? In Acts 10, God sends Peter to the house of a Gentile with the instructions “what God has made clean, do not call common” (Acts 10:15). By Acts 15 this had become such a major issue that the first church council was formed to answer the question of circumcision for Gentile believers. Peter relays that God “made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9) and he concludes “…we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Acts 15:11). Paul writes his Galatian letter to adamantly oppose the Judaizers who were insisting on the circumcision of Gentile believers as a requirement for their salvation. He says:

Galatians 5:2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Apparently this legalistic Judaizing influence was not a problem in the church in Corinth. He doesn’t attack the issue like he does in Galatians; instead he uses it as an example.

1 Corinthians 7:18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision.

This sounds strange, because circumcision is an irreversible procedure. But we find in the writings of Celsus documentation of a surgical procedure that was the equivalent of plastic surgery to reverse the appearance of circumcision. In the time of the Maccabees, there were Jewish men under Roman rule that would have this procedure done to hide their Jewish identity when they participated in the Roman gymnasium (the word ‘gymnasium’ literally means to exercise naked; the original Olympic games were carried out naked). Paul applies the principle that we are to remain as we were called to the issue of circumcision. He says that anyone who was uncircumcised at the time of his call should remain uncircumcised, and anyone already circumcised should not seek to reverse the procedure. In the context, Paul is addressing issues of marriage and singleness. We could take circumcision as a metaphor and apply it to his previous discussion on marriage. In the marriage union, two become one flesh, and we should not seek to reverse the irreversible. ‘What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate’ (Mt.19:6).

Circumcision Counts For Nothing

Paul’s statement in verse 19 is amazing.

1 Corinthians 7:19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.

This is amazing, because we could easily argue from the Old Testament that circumcision is clearly a commandment of God (Gen.17; 21:4; Lev.12:3). The requirement for circumcision even superseded the Sabbath laws if the eighth day fell on a Saturday (John 7:21-24). But Paul here says that in our New Covenant relationship with Jesus, whether you are circumcised or not is irrelevant and meaningless. How can Paul contrast circumcision with keeping the commandments of God, when circumcision was one of the commandments of God?

If we look to Jesus teaching in John 6, we begin to gain some clarity. Some people asked Jesus this question in the context of gaining eternal life.

John 6:28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Jesus made it clear that going through the motions of obedience to God was worthless without a relationship with Him. Jesus repeatedly teaches that belief in him is the one thing that is required for eternal life.

In 1 John 3, John teaches us what it looks like as believers in Jesus to keep the commandments.

1 John 3:22 …because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

Jesus taught that the greatest command was to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength (Mt.22:37; Mk.12:30). We cannot truly love God if we do not believe that he is who he says he is. But when we believe in Jesus and experience God’s great love for us which he expressed at the cross of our Lord Jesus, that love can then overflow toward others around us. So love for others becomes the expression and overflow of belief in God and love for him.

God never intended us to view his commandments as a list to check off in order to earn his favor. All the way back in Deuteronomy he says:

Deuteronomy 10:12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

What God requires is a genuine love for him, to love and serve him with all your heart and soul in response to his love for us. Real circumcision is circumcision of the heart.

Deuteronomy 30:6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

This is fulfilled in the New Testament. Paul says in Romans:

Romans 2:28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

It is in this sense that Paul can say to the Corinthians that what counts is not circumcision or uncircumcision but keeping the commandments of God.

He makes parallel statements to this in his letter to the Galatians.

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Paul is saying just what Jesus is saying. Faith or belief in Jesus powerfully expresses itself in love. The inevitable result of genuine belief in Jesus is love for God and love for other people. A chapter later, in Galatians 6, Paul says:

Galatians 6:15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

A new creation is what counts with God. He says ‘I don’t boast in circumcision; I only boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.’ Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I am now a new creation.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

As a new creation, I have new desires, new motives, new loves. My heart has been transformed by God’s love to love God and love others. I no longer seek to earn God’s favor by my performance. Rather I have been transformed by Christ and now naturally do the things that please him. My love for him is a response to his love for me (1Jn.4:19).

When we take these three parallel statements of Paul together and allow them to define each other, we get the full picture of what he is saying. It is not following the letter of the law that gains any standing with God, but becoming a new creation through the new birth. As a new creation we trust Jesus. We believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be, and we believe that at the cross Jesus took all our sins upon himself. Our belief in Jesus expresses itself in love, an overflow of love for God and love for others, which is a genuine keeping of the commandments of God from the heart.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

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

November 24, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment