1 Corinthians 10:19-24 (authority, expedience, and edification)

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(1Co 10:19-20 ESV) 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.

Paul denies the reality of Apollo and Zeus and Venus, but he declares that they are false fronts for demons. And this is a little surprising to most Westerners.

In fact, the Bible never claims that there are no spiritual beings other than the Triune God. The Gospels plainly admit the existence of Satan and various personal demons. We covered this in some detail in this brief series: Continue reading

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1 Corinthians 10:13-18 (a participation in the body of Christ)

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(1Co 10:13 ESV) 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Paul immediately transitions from the dire warnings of verses 6 – 13 to words of comfort — some of the most comforting ever spoken. Continue reading

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1 Corinthians 10:5-12 (Falling away over food)

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(1Co 10:5-6 ESV) 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.  6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

We now learn that Paul’s purpose in discussing the Exodus is to compare the church with the children of Israel — especially the fact that not all of Israel made it to the Promised Land. Continue reading

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1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (all were baptized into Moses)

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(1Co 10:1-4 ESV) For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

Weird, huh? I mean, where on earth is Paul coming from? What in the world does being baptized in the Red Sea and following a rock around the desert have to do with the gospel
— much less the weak and the strong?! We’ll get there. But first, let’s sort out the metaphors. Continue reading

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The Church of the Firstborn

the-church-of-the-first-born-hebrews-12-23In the comments, for the last several days there has been discussion over the meaning of Hebrews 12:23, particularly its reference to the “church of the firstborn.” Since I have access to more exegetic resources than most, I thought I’d poke around a bit in the text and the commentaries to see just what this is all about. Continue reading

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1 Corinthians 9:20-27 (“To the weak I became weak”)

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(1Co 9:20-22 ESV) 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

This passage will surely be in album 1 of Paul’s “Greatest Hits.” I mean, this gets quoted all the time for all sorts of reasons. Let’s start in context. Continue reading

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1 Corinthians 9:11-19 (“I have made myself a servant to all”)

corinth-anc-temp-apollo-acro-beyondPaul continues to demonstrate his rights as an apostle in order to give himself as an example of how the strong must sometimes surrender their rights for their weaker brothers.

(1Co 9:11-12a ESV) 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?

There is an attitude among many church goers that those who work for the church have implicitly denied any interest in material things — like a decent salary. But Paul puts the lie to this argument. Those who sow spiritual things are entitled to “reap material things” from the people served. And this is a “rightful” claim. Most translations use the Western “right.” Continue reading

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On Story: Leadership and Family

Several years ago, I wrote a review on Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life. Miller is also the author of Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality. A Million Miles is about story theory. I wrote: Continue reading

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A Class for Middle School Girls

calvinhobbesA reader asked me to suggest materials to teach a Bible class for middle school girls. Really.

I have four children. All boys. I understand boys. Middle school girls are well outside of my expertise. However, this much I know:

Bible class teachers for children get extra stars in their crowns. Middle school teachers get the most.

I’ve taught one middle school class in my life. One. Not one quarter or semester. One. And never again. (I still awaken with nightmares from that dread hour.)

Teens, adults, toddlers — I’m good. Anything but middle school.

So this is what I suggested. And the floor is open for you, dear readers, to do better. My correspondent would be thrilled to have any suggestions you might have — and I’m sure they’ll be better than mine. Continue reading

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On Story: Three Smooth Stones

Let’s talking about congregational leadership. I will, once again, shamelessly rip off the writings of Mark Love, this time from a post “Three Smooth Stones: Action-Reflection-Articulation.” What he describes is absolutely typical of every church everywhere: Continue reading

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