Posts Tagged ‘Corinthians’

The apostle Paul speaks most eloquently when his soaring prose contemplates the Lord’s limitless mercy.

Yet he can be short and almost savage when he sees the community’s integrity threatened by behavior that presumes upon that grace. Faced with reports of sexual chaos in the Corinthian church, Paul proposes radical surgery:

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked man from among you.’

Two clarifications are in order. (more…)


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For partisans of language practice that erases the gendered aspects of the way people speak and write, the apostle Paul’s vocabulary as he wraps up his first letter to the Corinthians could be embarrassing.

Be courageous, he tells them. His word is andrizesthe, a verb associated with the noun aner, for ‘man/male’. A less circumspect translation in times before such matters had become part of our consciousness might have rendered this ‘Be men!’, or ‘Play the man!’. Readers female and male would have known what he meant and felt themselves called to a common response. (more…)

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Biblical realism is not given to flights of fancy. The biblical understanding of the human creature is tenaciously realistic about both his frailty and his enormous capacity for evil. The first chapters of the biblical anthology tell us that man and woman are glorious creatures, saturated with qualities that affiliate them more with the Creator than with the creation of which they are undeniably a part. It is this very grandeur that frames the fracturing of the divine image in humankind as tragedy rather than a merely regrettable accident.

If, as the old table prayer puts it, ‘God is great … God is good …’, the biblical witness might be paraphrased as claiming that ‘Humans are great … but humans are not good …’ (more…)

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It is common to imagine that Paul’s discussion with the Corinthians in this place is about spiritual gifts or even about glossolalia, the phenomenon of speaking in an unknown language.

It is not.

Paul’s intense concern to help the Corinthian church get the thing right is about selfishness over against a concern for the integrity and maturation of the community. ‘Speaking in tongues’ is merely the occasion. (more…)

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Freedom and self-restraint are not often seen walking hand-in-hand. Yet they make the most compelling couple.

When the apostle Paul turns to instructing the Corinthian Christians regarding the best path though the thorn-filled gardens into which they been summoned, he is clear on the matter of freedom. Seldom has a writer who cannot be described as libertine written so lucidly about liberty. One of the astonishing outrages of Christian history is that Paul has so often been fronted as the poster child and enforcer of complex moral hang-ups. In truth, he proves an outlandish failure at those roles. (more…)

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The apostle Paul’s relationship with the Corinthian Christians was complex, even prickly. There is more pathos in his letters to this church than in all the others combined, a product of the wrestling for clarity on matters of authority, doctrinal clarity, and appropriate behavior. (more…)

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John Stott has helpfully observed that ‘(a)ll progress in the Christian life depends upon a recapitulation of the original terms of one’s acceptance with God.’ Indeed, Christian faith does not feed itself upon novelty—though it has a respectable appetite for surprise—but rather is nourished by recurrent turning to the cross of Christ. That place, the apostle Paul is quick to recognize, represents a platform of the utmost foolishness when measured by the logic of this world. Yet he is sure that the cross’ shadow casts itself upon the firmest of ground, anchored as it is in bedrock that undergirds and will eventually loom large over the less enduring landscapes of this age. (more…)

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Anyone inclined to doubt that the apostle Paul was a complex man who enmeshed himself in the most complicated relational webs need only peruse 2 Corinthians 12 to be set right. In a discourse impregnanted with the most dazzling emotional transparency, Paul struggles to articulate the relationship that makes restoration of equilibrium between him and the Corinthians a non-negotiable objective. (more…)

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