Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Summer Series on 1st Corinthians: Week 19, “Aligned in Resurrection Living”

  When I was a little kid, I thought that I was pretty sly. I would constantly try to sneak around my parents to see if I could get around them without being seen. One of the most common things I would do, was make my bed look like a mess and then hide in the mess when one of my parents would come in looking for me. Now the key to not being noticed under the covers, is to be completely still, as if you’re dead. There can be no movement from your body whatsoever, and your breathing has to be almost nonexistent. For an extra bonus, if you do it right, you can jump out at just the right time to either re-position yourself and act like your parent just missed you sitting at your desk, or jump out to scare them.

It must be a kid thing, because my kids try the same things with me, accept they’re not good at it because I’m constantly catching them. In fact they have tried to hide under something, like the covers, and I just lay on them, because, “hey, they’re nothing there and it looks comfortable.” And of course I find them, struggling to get free. But I’ve started to think, if they’re so bad at sneaking around, was I? Of course not, I was way better at it then they are.

But while I was under those covers, I pretended I was dead, not in a morbid sense, but in the sense of lying so still, that I was unmoving to the outside world. And then when I would burst forth from my “grave”, my triumph would be great. And without even realizing it, I was acting out the greatest gift I would ever be given in my life, Resurrection.

And it’s this idea of resurrection that brings us back to our study in 1st Corinthians, where we will be looking at the first half of chapter 15 today. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be in 1st Corinthians chapter 15, starting in verse 1. But as we get into 1st Corinthians chapter 15, let’s recap where we are in our summer series.

As we have been walking through Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Corinth, we have found that the central driving purpose of the letter is to restore unity to a Church that was dis-unified. This disunity manifested itself in two parts of the believers’ lives. The first was their personal relationships with each other, which Paul covered in the first 10 chapters. The second was in how the Church worshiped God when they met together, which he began in chapter 11 and carries through to chapter 16. 

And for the last ten weeks, we have been unpacking the different aspects of this corporate worship time. From head coverings, to Communion, to the gifts of the Spirit, to the order of worship, and the role of both men and women in the Church. Now as we transition to chapter 15, we are continuing with Paul as he addresses topics that are causing disunity, except now, we find ourselves with Paul addressing not necessarily practices of the Corinthian Church, but teachings that were being taught within that body of believers.

So let’s read together, starting in verse 1 of chapter 15 in 1st Corinthians.

1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

This chapter is considered to be one of the most important chapters in the New Testament because Paul reminds the people of what the core of the Gospel is: Christ’s death and resurrection. Paul emphasizes the centrality of this message when he states in verse 1 and 2, “…which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved…”

What’s interesting about this passage is it’s significance, not just in the centrality of the Gospel message, but it’s use in validating this key part of the Gospel message for modern day critics of early Christianity. You see, verses 3-4 is one of the oldest creeds of the Church. Creeds are those sayings that we say in Church that have significant basic teachings of the faith. You might have heard what is commonly referred to as the Nicene Creed, that starts off with, “We believe in one God the maker of heaven and earth.…” There are other creeds, like the Doxology that you might have sung in Church. Or the modern song, “I Believe” that we have sung this summer.

Well this is one of the very first creeds that was common to the early Church in it’s worship of God. With scholars like Bart Erhman, a non-Christian scholar, who dates this creed to within five years of the resurrection of Jesus. Other scholars like Daniel Wallace can trace it back to within two years, or maybe even 6 months of the historical event of the Resurrection. This is amazing, because the majority of what we have from the antiquity period comes from decades after events have occurred. Yet, when Paul writes it down for the Corinthians, it has been about 25 years since the Resurrection, and the creed itself has been a core part of the Church since it’s beginning.

It’s then after this creedal statement, that Paul gives us a list of those that were eye witnesses of the Resurrection. Paul mentions Cephas who is Peter, the apostles, James, and 500 others who saw Jesus resurrected at the same time. This gives weight to the Resurrection account, because eye witness testimony is very important when investigating something that has happened.

Paul also adds that he too saw Jesus resurrected, but says of himself that he was “untimely born” or “abnormally born”. This is referring to his late arrival to salvation in the timeline of historical events. He goes on to emphasize this point by saying he is the least of the apostles and unworthy to be called one.

Paul then talks about his hard work in the Gospel, as he has worked harder than any other apostle. This is true, his writings and ministry impact was much wider than any one other apostle.

With this focus on the centrality of the Resurrection and it’s being taught clearly is where Paul will begin to address the problem that was arising in the Corinthian Church. Let’s keep reading in verse 12. 

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

A lot is going on in this part of the passage. The first thing we need to know to help us understand what was taking place is to understand the view of the culture in which this writing takes place. We have been saying over and over again through this study in Corinthians, that the culture in which the Corinthian Church finds itself in, plays a huge role in the issues Paul is addressing. And here it’s no different. 

See, because of the philosopher Plato’s teaching, the common Greek philosophical idea was that the spiritual realm was the source of truth and goodness. Plato emphasized the spiritual over the natural world. And so the idea that the spiritual was better than the natural was very prevalent at the this time. In fact, it would eventually morph into the Gnostic belief that Christ came to show us how to strip off the natural world, which was evil, and to ascend to a high spiritual plain. 

Well, within the Corinthian Church, we see the seeds of this belief begin to take root. And so, there were those that were teaching a spiritual disconnection from the natural world, but not a bodily resurrection.

So Paul puts the resurrection of Christ as the central tenant of the Christian faith. Not just spiritual resurrection, but bodily. In fact the terminology that Paul uses here are the two Greek words, egeiró (eg-i’-ro) and anastasis (an-as'-tas-is) for raised up and resurrection. Both of these words are physical in connotation. Meaning Paul is saying this is a physical occurrence not a merely a spiritual one. 

And so, Paul puts forth the idea that if the physical resurrection of Christ is false, then so is the Christian faith. In other words, if someone can disprove Jesus’ physical resurrection, then the whole of the Christian faith is false and can be dismissed. But if Jesus’ bodily resurrection is true, then it is a guarantee of the bodily resurrection of the believer as well. Not only that but the whole of Scripture then is true as well.

It is here that Paul writes something that has become a bit of a problem verse for the Church. Let’s read it and then talk about it. In verse 29, Paul writes, “Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?”

Now what Paul writes here sounds like he is saying that there was an early Church practice of baptizing living believers on behalf of dead people. This is actually where the Mormon practice has it’s roots. But the reality is, there is no historical practice such as this to have ever taken place as an endorsed Christian practice in the early Church. Instead, listen to how Paul purposefully writes. He writes, “what will those do who are baptized for the dead?” 

Paul separates himself from those who are participating in this practice. Throughout 1st Corinthians we have seen Paul use pagan practices and sayings to emphasize his points. He used the Corinthian saying, “All things are lawful…”, back in chapter 6, he used the practice of women shaving their heads back in chapter 11, and here in chapter 15, he uses a practice that was occurring that was combining Christian and pagan rituals. The idea behind the practice was misunderstanding of how salvation was attained, people who were practicing baptism for the dead, saw in baptism the way to salvation. And so, to attain that salvation for loved ones who had passed on, people began to be baptized on their behalf. But this idea doesn’t line up with other parts of Paul’s writings. 

Take Ephesus 2:8 where Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” The act of baptism isn’t salvation, but rather trusting in the work of Christ culminating in the resurrection is the path to salvation. By talking about those who practiced baptism for the dead, Paul isn’t condoning it, but rather he saying, even if those people over there who don’t know what they’re doing put their hope in a bodily resurrection, why can’t you who actually have the salvation of Christ?

And then Paul gives another reason why he himself believes in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. He writes this, starting in verse 30, “And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’

Paul is making the point that he had put his life on the line time and time again because he believes what he had seen. But then he tells the people, if the bodily resurrection is in fact false, then everyone should just give up. They should instead indulge in this life, because there is no afterlife.

But no, Paul fully trusts in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and he is calling the Corinthians to hold firm in their trust in it as well. And so Paul writes this in verse 33, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.”

Paul calls for the Church to get rid of the bad company, or the association they have with unbiblical ideas, and instead to fully embrace the teachings of Christ’s bodily resurrection and the implications of that in their lives.

Because here’s the thing, if there is not resurrection, if Christ never rose, then all of this that we do is really for naught. Morals are meaningless without the Moral Giver. Hope in eternity is hopeless because there is no God with whom we will walk with in eternity. So without the resurrection of Jesus, we should indulge every hedonist act out there, because nothing is worth it. In fact, human philosophy moves in this direction. First you have Theism, a belief that God interacts with humanity. Then you have Deism, a belief that God created the universe, but has since left it on it’s own. Then you have Agnosticism that asks the question, is there then really a God out there? To which Atheism arises and says, no there isn’t. Which leads us into purposelessness in a belief called Nihilism, which says, then what’s the point.

The historical bodily resurrection of Jesus calls us to the reality of the Creator of the Universe that sees our predicament of eternal death because of our sinful actions that go against the natural order that he created. It calls us to repent of our sin, turning away from our own self-focused path, and respond to him. Giving up ourselves and fully embracing his gift of being cleansed of sin, and living as we were meant to live in relationship with him. The historical and bodily resurrection of Jesus also gives us a glimpse to our own eternal future, where those who accept Jesus as their Savior will be resurrected into a glorious eternal life with unimaginable possibilities to come. But it also puts into perspective that those who reject that free gift of salvation, will be resurrected to a eternity separated from that same loving embrace of God, with unimaginable suffering to come.

And so Paul isn’t just calling the Corinthians to live in a resurrected life, but the Holy Spirit is calling us to it as well. To fully embrace the teachings of the Scriptures and to live our life in such a way that when that day comes, and we are resurrected to stand before God, we will move forward into eternal life because Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross has truly covered us in this life.

My challenge for you today, is to ask yourself, do I seek to live in the reality of Jesus’ resurrected life? Am I seeking to have my motives, my thoughts, my speech, and my actions all align with what they will be like in eternity? If they have not been, let us repent of not seeking to live with a resurrected mindset, and seek the Holy Spirit to move in our lives to draw us ever closer to the God who came to earth as a man, died, resurrected and now calls us into that resurrected life as well.

Let us be a people who live daily the resurrected life, unhindered by the problems of this world, as we call others to that same life. Amen. 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Summer Series on 1st Corinthians: Week 18, “How Women Role”

  Last week we talked about the controversial passage of women being silent in the Church. Hopefully it was made clear the social issues that were being dealt with at the time, and how God’s created order, was to strengthen the spiritual bond within both the Church and the family. Now, one thing I want to make clear if I haven’t already. In chapters 11, through 16, Paul is speaking about the corporate worship time when the Church meets. Paul is not saying that women, or prophets, or those with the gift of tongues, are not allowed to speak at any time. Paul is not saying that in all of life, women are to be silent. That’s not it at all. Instead what  Paul is calling every person to is this: during the time when the Church meets together for worship of God, no one should engage in behavior that would take the focus off God and onto themselves. If something comes across our mind and can wait until after the worship time, then it needs to wait. This isn’t an attack on women, but rather a purposeful effort to make sure the worship time of the Church stays focused on God, and doesn’t devolve into a social hour. This is why Paul speaks not just to women, but to those who speak in tongues, and those who communicate prophecy.

But in doing so, I know it can feel as if passages like the one we covered last week make it seem like women are second class believers in the Church. And so, I asked for your votes to see if you wanted to go a little deeper into the role of women in the Church. The large majority voted to do just that. Now, we will be continuing our study in 1st Corinthians next week, but this is a perfect time to look at the role of women in the Church, because we’re talking about women in the Church.

Now, in order to do that, we have to realize one key factor, that a lot of the time, gets skipped in this area. We have focused heavily in the last several weeks on the gifts of the Spirit, and on the corporate worship time of the Church. But when we start talking about roles in the Church we must recognize first what most people are talking about. When the question is asked, what is the role of women in the Church, the underlining question is actually, should women be pastors. And it’s here that we must recognize that contained within the Scriptures is a blueprint for the leadership structure for the Church. This leadership structure are called Offices. 

To begin to understand the Offices of the Church, let’s compare them to the Spiritual gifts. The gifts of the Spirit are spiritual gifts given to each individual believer that might or might not be utilized in a Church Office. Whereas every believer has a spiritual gift, not all believers are given an Office of the Church.

An Office of the Church is a specifically created role within the Church that is a function of the practical workings of the Church. In other words, an Office of the Church represents a title with specific ministry responsibilities that are attached to it.

To put it simply, gifts are given to believers by the Spirit for his purpose of benefiting and uniting the Church, whereas the Offices are given to a believer by the believers in the Church based on the perceived spiritual maturity of a person.

The two tend to get muddled together because in Ephesians, Paul talks about Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds/Pastors, and Teachers. Now, we have gone into great detail about why these five are gifts, and we do not have time to go into that much detail here. So suffice it to say, these are spiritual gifts and not offices. But if these are spiritual gifts, then what are Offices?

This is a distinction that can’t be underlined enough. A spiritual gift is given by the Sprit for the purpose of benefiting and uniting the Church, whereas an Office is bestowed upon a believer by the Church to maintain and guide the collective body of believers.

The question should then naturally come to us, where then in Scripture would we find these Offices? There are two main passages, 1st Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9, and then there two secondary ones, Acts 6:1-6 and Romans 16:1.

Now in our time today, we will not be able to read through all of these passages and give it the complete deep dive that we could, so I highly encourage you to read through them. Instead today, we’re going to hit the major points of these passages, so as to understand them in the context of the role of women in the Church.

In 1st Timothy 3:1 and 8, we’re given the two Offices clearly. The first is Elders or Overseers. “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task (3:1).”

In Paul’s letter to Titus, Paul writes this about Elders in the first chapter, “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you (1:5).”

What’s interesting about Elders is that no one is specifically given the title of Elder in the New Testament. Peter, in his first letter, refers to himself as a fellow elder, “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed…(5:1)”

But this doesn’t mean that all the Apostles were elders, because in Acts 15 verse 1, were told, “…So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.” IN this passage we see that there is a distinction of Apostle and Elder.

So we are given only one name directly connected to the Office of elder in the New Testament, which is Peter, but we are given three, maybe four, other people who play the role of Elder. These are James the half-brother of Jesus who was an Elder of the Church in Jerusalem, Timothy who was an Elder of the Church in Ephesus, and John who fulfills the role of Elder to several Asian Minor Churches as can be seen in his 2nd and 3rd letters. Titus is possibly another Elder, because he takes on a role of one when picking those that are right for that position. 

The fact that these are the only mentions connected to eldership in the New Testament will be important later.

So what’s the role of the Office of Elder? The Greek word is episkopé (ep-is-kop-ay’), carries with it the idea of being a judge, and in the case of the Church, it’s a judge in spiritual matters. In other words, an Elder’s role is to give spiritual oversight and guidance to the Church, while making decisions on how the Church as a whole is to proceed.

Reading through 1st Timothy 3 and it’s requirements for Eldership, and comparing it to the second office which we’ll cover in a minute, we find that the Office of Elder has two unique requirements. The first is they must be male. This comes from this observation, nowhere in the New Testament are we given a female who takes the role of Elder. Like I said, we are only given one name, and three maybe four other people connected with the Office. All of which are male. So when Paul writes in 1st Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6, “…faithful to his wife…” If we are going to be as true to Scripture as possible, we must stay within that perimeter, of concluding that the Office of Elder is restricted to a male. 

The other unique requirement for the Office of Elder, is that the man must be old in the faith. This is interesting, because age is not the focus here, but rather how long a person has been faithfully walking with God. So, a new believer or even a young believer cannot fulfill this role of Elder. This is why most Elders are older, but in the case of James, Peter, and Timothy, they are relative young men. With Timothy being about 30.

Those in our Church who fulfill this position of Elder are, Jeff, Jim, Del, Ancil, and myself.

But let’s take the Office of Elder and compare it to the second office, which is Deacon. 

Let’s go in reverse here, first what is a deacon? The Greek word we translate as deacon is diakonos (dee-ak’-on-os), which is just the general word for servant throughout the New Testament. But when used in connection with the Office of Deacon, it takes on a more formal role of servanthood. The Office of Deacon really focuses on the everyday hands on work of the Church. Where the Elders tend to be the spiritual guides of the Church, Deacons are setting up chairs, getting food out to people, making sure people’s needs are being met, and more. They are the waiters of the Church.

Now, there are eight people connected with this Office in the New Testament. The first seven are mentioned in Acts chapter 6, verses 1-6. The situation was this, the Apostles were preaching the Gospel and many were coming to Christ, but a group of widows were not being taken care of properly, so the Apostles stopped preaching and began taking care of the widows. This created a problem, because that wasn’t the calling God had for them, so instead, the Apostles called for some men to be appointed to this position. These were people serving steadily in the Church already, who were then given a more formal position of servanthood. This position would eventually be called the Office of Deacon. But even though these seven men were the first to be called to the position of Deacon, they were never called Deacons, much like James and Timothy were never directly called Elders. However there is a person that is directly called a Deacon, and they are named so by Paul himself. This person is Phoebe, and Paul gives her the the title Deacon in Romans 16:1. “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.”

This is the only mention of a woman fulfilling the Office of Deacon in the New Testament, but because we are given a clear mention of a woman fulfilling this office, we can now say that the the office can be fulfilled by either a man or a woman. That’s important because we cannot say the same of the Office of Elder.  

And so, the Office of Deacon is open to both male and female. But, like the Office of Elder, there is a unique guideline for those who fulfill this position: they must be a believer that holds to the faith with a clear conscience (1st Timothy 3:9). This means that they are solid in their faith. This means that they are not struggling with the basic questions of the Bible. They are faithful people that would make great mentors to the young believers of the Church. They are believers who are serving faithfully without the need of formal recognition. And because of their solid faith, they work hard to serve the people around them. In our church, those who serve in formal positions of what the New Testament would call a Deacon are, Dan and Wednesday our youth leaders, Faye, David, Steve, Cookie, Gary, and Laura our Ministry Board,  and Marika our Children’s director. We have many who serve and would make great Deacons and Deaconesses, but these are simply the ones called into a more formal position.

So, we have two Offices of the Church, Elders and Deacons, and if we go through the gifts of the Spirit, we can see how those gifts would aid in those offices. Leadership, administration, discernment, service, hospitality and more, can be seen as being used in those offices to bring benefit and unity to the Church.

Now, in our Basic Beliefs of Christianity class, we pose the question, where does the modern day position of Pastor fit within these two offices. And the answer is both, because the modern day Pastor role is a mixture of many aspects of each office. Yet, if we went with the biblical offices, as our local congregation is structured, the Lead Pastor would be an Elder, while the Youth Pastor would be a Deacon. Not to say, one is greater, but each has their calling and their position to fulfill.

Of course the next question, and the underling question of a woman’s role in the Church, is, can a woman then hold the title of Pastor? Now, today, we’re not going to answer that question, because I think that answer only comes from deeper discussion. 

But I hope that you see that the role of women in the Church is not found in the offices or positions of the Church. These are functions that some are apportioned to, but is not they are not the role in which a believer has in the Church. Some will hold these Offices, and some will not, but these are not our roles within the Church. Instead, I want us to look at a passage that I believe actually speaks to roles both men and woman have in the Church. Paul writes about it, in the second chapter of his letter to Titus.

Paul writes this, “1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (2:1-14).”

In these words to Titus, a person taking the role of an Elder at his Church, Paul directs him to where our focus needs to be. Older men be temperate, be worthy of respect, be self controlled, be sound in the faith, love and endurance. Then turn around and teach the younger men to be the same.

Older woman be reverent, and teach what is good. Then turn around and teach the young woman how to lift up their families. 

To slaves, or those under the command of others (we could say employees here), do what is pleasing for your masters or your bosses. 

These are our roles: each of us are to take our spiritual walks seriously, and each of us are to lift up the people around us so that they can be encouraged and walk in their faith as to how Christ would have them walk. 

When we get bogged down with, what position do I get in the Church, we have missed the point. Instead our focus should be on Christ, and if he calls us to more formal positions we are honored, if not, we continue to serve and lift each other up.

So ladies what is your role in the Church? The same as your role in the family, you are a back bone, without you the unseen things of the workings of the Church would be hard pressed to get done. And just as a body needs it’s bones, so too we need you. You are loved, and we honor you for the work you do in loving, encouraging, and pointing us back to Christ, as you follow him.

So today, I want to challenge both the men and the woman with this simple question, instead of asking what is my role in the Church, ask instead, “have I encouraged and pointed one of my bothers or sisters back to Christ today?” Because as Paul writes in Galatians 5:14, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Let us fulfill our role of people who love God and love people. Amen.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Summer Series on 1st Corinthians: Week 17 - “Order Up”

  When I was coaching baseball at the local high school when it was open, discipline was never a major problem on our team. The reason for this is because I had a simple rule, everyone received the same consequence when one player stepped out of line. 

Case in point, we had a player named Ryan on our team; he was a freshman and pretty disrespectful when he started playing for me. I had a rule on the team that since we were sharing the field with the softball girls, the guys were not allowed to take their shirts off for practice. One hot day, Ryan got fed up with my rule, because he was hot, and wanted to be cooler, so he took off his shirt. I told him to put it back on, and he told me no. Well, when one received a consequence, the whole team received it. 

Now, I never had my players run just to run, instead I had them run basses. They would sprint from home to first, side shuffle from first to second, sprint from second to third, and then side shuffle to home. I told the team that we were going to run the bases until Ryan put his shirt back on. Eight times they went around those base paths non-stop. Finally, one of the older players said to me, “Coach we need water.” I told them, that once Ryan put his shirt back on they could get water. That’s when they started in on Ryan to put his shirt back on, but he wouldn’t budge. A couple more times around the bases, and this time another player asked for water. I told them the same thing, except this time I added, “I’m going to go get me some water for myself, so I’m going to turn my back, and if when I turn back around that shirt is on Ryan, then we’ll stop.” As soon as I turned my back, I heard Ryan scream as ten tired and angry players chased him down and put his shirt back on him. 

I never had another problem with Ryan after that. In order for any team to work well, the first thing that needs to happen is order. The way in which we work with each other for the betterment of the rest is extremely important. 

And it’s this idea of having order, that brings us back to our summer sermon series, where we will be covering another controversial subject in 1st Corinthians 14 starting in verse 26. And as we open up to 1st Corinthians 14:26, let’s recap where we are.

Paul writes the letter to the Corinthian Church because they were physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually tearing each other apart. Paul writes to bring unity back to the Church by calling them to deal with the issues that were causing disunity in both their personal relationships with each other outside and inside the Church gatherings. So the first 10 chapters focuses on the believers’ personal relationships with each other, while the last six chapters deal with the issues in the worship time.

And the major issue that was causing disunity in the worship time was the use of the spiritual gifts, which can be an issue today. And so we walked with Paul as he explained the gifts. Paul lets us know that, the gifts are given by the Holy Spirit, for the uniting of the Church, that we are to desire the gifts, but more importantly we must purse love in everything we do, because it is love that is the greatest uniting force in the Church. 

This brings us to where we are today, as Paul now takes us from understanding the gifts and their role, to how the worship time is to then proceed.

But I want to give two words of warning, first we must remember that we are to purse unity through the love we have for each other. When we get our eyes off of loving each other as Christ loves, then no matter what we do today, we will step in the direction of disunity. Second, the passage we’re going to read today is one of the passages in the Bible that people use to call Paul a misogynist, and it might ruffle some feathers, especially the women in our congregation. I think though, by understating the whole passage as one complete thought, we can work through what Paul writes here.


So let’s read together 1st Corinthians chapter 14, verses 26-40.

26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.

39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

Now, did Paul just say women are not allowed to speak in church? Yes he did, so let’s walk through the whole passage and see what Paul is driving at, and then we’ll deal with that part.

It is here that Paul gives us the skeleton of what a corporate worship time looks like. Paul doesn’t give us a strict liturgy or point by point “this goes here and that goes there” schedule. Rather, he gives us four parts of the worship that should happen. First, people can present a hymn. In the Greek the word is psalmos (psal-mos’) and that should get your spidey sense tingling, because, yes that’s the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word for Psalm in the Old Testament. But it doesn’t just mean a Psalm of the Old Testament, but also the act of making music through instruments. In other words, Paul is telling us to make music. In the the 19th, verse of the 5th chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul adds to this idea of music by writing, “…speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord…”

Psalms represent the Psalms of the Old Testament, hymns represent the theological creeds of the faith, such as the doxology or the song we sing, “I Believe”. Spiritual Songs are those songs that the Spirit moves us to sing or to write; they are modern songs that God gives us. So the song, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” was once a spiritual song, and is now a hymn. 

Next Paul tells us that we need a teaching. In other words, we need the Scriptures to be opened and we need the layers pulled back so we can go deeper in our understanding. Every time we come to the worship gathering of the Church, we should be asking God to show us at least one new thing from the Scriptures that we didn’t know before. This is one thing I ask of God, and no matter how bad the teacher or preacher is, God always delivers, because he himself said, (paraphrased) “My word will not return void.”

Thirdly, we are to have a revelation. This is more spiritual. This can be done, because the Spirit reveals something to us, about our relationship with God, about our relationships with each other, or even an insight into ourselves. Or it can be someone speaking to us, that gives encouragement in an area that needs encouraging. This is a spiritual mystery and the reality is, it’s different from person to person. You know what we’ve come to call such a revelation? Testimony. A sharing of what God has done, or what we have learned from God that we want to share as an encouragement to others.

Then Paul gives us the placement of tongues or more specifically the use of gifts in general. It’s here that we mentioned last week that we know that tongues is not an uncontrollable expression, but in the setting where the church is gathering for worship, it is a purposeful action.

But I want us to notice something about what Paul says about both the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy. 

In verse 28, concerning tongues, Paul says, “If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.”

In verse 29, concerning prophecy, Paul writes, “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.”

You know what that means? It means there is a time and place for tongues, and there is a time and place for prophecy. Both are able to be controlled, both can be silenced or spoken when needed. To put this whole first section into perceptive then, Paul let’s us know that there are times and places for everything in the corporate worship of the Church. And it’s to make this point that Paul in verse 33 writes, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…”

When the Church gathers for worship there’s not suppose to be chaos, but rather orderly and intentional worship. So if you have a gift of tongues, but no interpreter, guess what? Paul is saying be quiet, because that can cause disorder. If you have the gift of prophecy, but won’t be analyzed by other people? Sit down and be quiet. If you don’t have a song to sing, or a teaching to give, or a revelation to be shared, then Paul is telling us to be quiet so that the Church can worship in an orderly fashion. It’s kind of like that old saying, “If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Except in this context it’s, if you have nothing to add to the worship, then be quiet so as not to cause disorder. 

Speaking of being quiet, let’s move onto the subject that everyone is waiting for. How is Jeremiah going to navigate this?

First, this controversial part comes in the context of everyone being told to be quiet unless they have something to add to the worship time. So when Paul writes in verse 34, “Women should remain silent in the churches.” It’s not out of the blue, he’s not picking on women, but rather dealing with another problem that was affecting the Church as a whole. 

Remember when we first started in this letter, we talked about what was happening in the city of Corinth? We compared it to modern cities, like sin city itself, Las Vegas. But it’s not just the sexual sin that was going on. Throughout the Greek and Roman world, pagan priestesses played a major role in the worship of the gods. This practice seems to have been carried over into the Church, because Paul mentions a similar situation in the first letter he sends to Timothy. Paul writes this in 1st Timothy 2:11-12,  “11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”

The most likely situation that Paul is addressing, is that the Greeks and Romans had put women in a place of spiritual authority, this led to the use of sex as a form of worship. This is possibly because women were viewed looked to for their sexuality, rather than their worth as a person. We covered that earlier in the letter to the Corinthians when we looked at how Paul dealt with head coverings, and how to have a shaved head was a sign of prostitution in the ancient world. But since God created a structure by which society was to follow: God, man, woman, and that was being rejected by the people of Paul’s day, Paul gives a way to bring ourselves back to God’s original design. Sometimes we make restrictions to stop a problem dead in it’s tracks. On the high school girls softball team that ran parallel to the baseball team, the coach would have the girls bite their pitcher facing shoulder to keep their head from moving off the ball. I went out and bought a very large bra and told the guys that if they kept taking their eye off the ball, they’d wear the bra until it was fixed. So in Paul’s calling for women to be silent in the Church, to our modern ears it sounds harsh, but let’s look at the words Paul uses to relay this silence in 1st Corinthians 14.

Paul uses two phrases, “keep silent” and “no speaking”. The term “keep silent”, comes from the Greek word sigaó (see-gah’-o). The term means to be silent or to keep secret. It has the connotation of holding one’s peace, or one’s tongue. In other words, having a question answered during the worship time is not the right time to have it answered. This makes sense, because in verse 35, Paul talks about the woman waiting to ask their question of their husband after the worship time. 

In the greater context of keeping the worship time streamlined, this makes sense as well. It’s one of the reasons why, during the winter, we hold our sermon discussions on Sunday nights. That’s a perfect time to discuss the topic of the sermon more in-depth, but in the corporate worship time itself, if we answered every question, we would quickly get bogged down and maybe even find ourselves not talking on subjects that would be uplifting.

We know this to be true in our personal lives. Have you have had a conversation where you started out with one topic, but within a couple of minutes the whole conversation changed and you ask yourself, how did we get here? In a discussion, the topics can switch really fast, and the smaller the group, the better everyone can follow what’s being said. But as the group gets larger, the ability to follow a discussion gets hard, and then multiple conversations begin to happen, and we lose track of where we were going in the first place. And so holding off on asking a question and waiting for a small group to ask the question is a good way to get your question full answered. 

Then there’s the second phrase “no speaking”. The term “no speaking”, comes from the Greek word laleó (lal-eh’-o) which means to talk. This term carries with it the idea of chattering without purpose. In other words, having conversations for the sake of conversations, but not for the benefit of building up the Church. They say that men only speak about 7,000 words a day, while women speak 20,000. And I know ladies that you have to repeat yourselves, ‘cause guys don’t listen, but that still means there’s another 6,000 words unaccounted for.

But seriously, any type of conversation that is not geared toward lifting God up in worship and encouraging each other, in the corporate worship time that would cause disorder, is being rejected here. Paul rejected it from those with the gift of tongues, he rejected it from those with the gift of prophecy, and he is rejecting it from anyone who would just chatter away.

Now I want to focus on the word “disgraceful/shameful” in verse 35, because how could it be disgraceful or shameful for a woman to ask a question? The Greek word aischros (ahee-skhros’) means to be shameful, disgraceful, base, or improper.

When taking into account chapters 11 through where we are in 14, here’s the thrust of everything: Paul is bringing us back to God’s original created order. We know this because of him mentioning the law in verse 34. Paul is calling woman to that submissive role, just as he has been calling the whole Church to it’s submissive role. And when each of us puts themselves in the role God created us to be in, the work of God is unhindered in that area. When we engage in trying to exert our desire over God’s order, we revert to our base sinful desire. We become improper in how we worship. This is a disgrace, not just for the women, but for every believer. 

When we misuse the gifts, we are being disgraceful. When we tear each other down, or extort money from each other, or go behind each other’s backs to cause disunity, we have become disgraceful. Paul is addressing one problem that was facing the Church. Pagan worshipers were bringing into the Church pagan worship practices which were rejected by God, and one of these was using a woman’s sexuality as a way to worship. Paul is then giving a command to be more orderly, this has in it the harsh words of telling women to be silent, but by submitting to this, Paul is calling women into their created role, which as Jesus says, is yoke or burden that is light (Matthew 11:28-30). By submitting in this area, there is a freeing of burden onto God. Not just for woman, but for men as well.

But let’s take a moment and think about the results of what Paul is calling women to in this passage. By the wife or daughter waiting to discuss their question outside of the Church corporate worship time, it would challenge the husband to listen and understand what was said in that time. That means he has to stay awake, he has to take his role of spiritual leader of the family seriously, he has to study the Scriptures as well. One of the greatest weaknesses of the Church is men. We do not take our role of submission to God seriously and look where our society is because of it. If wives and daughters would look to their husbands and fathers as spiritual leaders, that would aid them in fulfilling their roles. 

This would also open family communication. How many families sit and discuss spiritual issues? Not enough. The majority of conversations we have in families revolve around school, chores, TV, and discipline. We need husbands and fathers to speak spiritual truths into our lives. 

The statistics speak to this: If no parent is attending Church, a child has a 6% chance of holding onto their faith when their older. If only the mother attends, it jumps to 15%. If only the faith attends, it jumps to 55%. If both attend, it jumps to 72%. (https://nickcady.org/2016/06/20/the-impact-on-kids-of-dads-faith-and-church-attendance/). Personally, I see the failing of the fathers in spiritual matters, as a continuation of Adam’s original failing with Eve, and our current societal problems as a result. Ladies, help us become the men God intended us to be. Your role is greater than you know.

Now the reality is, in our society husband and fathers might not be around, due to a whole host of reasons or if they are, they might not be spiritual leaders of their household. Ladies, sons, daughters, pray for your husbands, and fathers. They might be jerks, they might be absent, but keep praying for them that God would get a hold on them. 

And if you don’t have a husband or father to be that spiritual leader, it’s a greater time to push into as our Father. It’s interesting that Jesus constantly points us to God the Father. Time and time again Jesus points to the Father, and tells us that the Holy Spirit will remind us and lead us into all truth. And so, if you have questions, I encourage you to always seek God in his Word, that’s why a lot of our challenges are to seek God. But that’s not all, we have each other. In our small groups of friends, in our relationships with each other, we can find answers and encouragement. That’s why we must drive our conversations away from the woe is me mentality and into a focus on Christ and what he has done. In these smaller groups we can find an appropriate time to ask and discuss our spiritual questions. 

Paul isn’t telling women to shut up, he’s calling all of us to worship God in a way that honors him and each other. To not bring into the worship time, things that can be dealt with at other times in our week. 

If you have a question about the sermon, I usually hang around for a while after the service, and I’m available throughout the week. We encourage you to ask for songs to be sung, and to speak encouraging words to each other. We seek to walk through the Scriptures together and make them as clear as possible. We are in this together, each of us needs to work on speaking for the betterment of others, and learning with each other. And a part of that is learning when not to speak, which can be harder than speaking up. 

So today, my challenge for you is to write down one of three things: A song that you would like to sing in the coming weeks, an insight you have about God’s Word, or an encouraging word for the congregation. And next week, I’m going ask those that desire to share, to speak up. Both women and men, and we will seek that time to be an orderly one. 

Let us lift each other up, by knowing when to speak, and speaking words that would up lift each other. So that we can be a people distinct from the world, as a light is in darkness. Amen.