Category

qanda

14 October 2012

By | qanda

The passage we looked at tonight was 1 Corinthians 14. During the question time, Phil mentioned an article that he’d found helpful in understanding the confusing parts at this chapter.

The first part is an extract of the relevant bits of the article. Grab it here.

The second part is the full article if you want to read it all in context. Grab it here.

16 September 2012

By | qanda

The passage we looked at tonight was 1 Corinthians 7. Lots of questions this week. First, up the link to the talk by Kevin de Young that I spoke about. Find it here.

1 – What are we to make of Paul’s clarification in 1 Cor 7:12 where he says “But I (not the Lord) say to the rest…”?

This seems a bit confusing. Is Paul saying this bit is less the word of God than other bits? Well, I don’t think that’s what he’s trying to say here. Paul is talking about divorce in these verses, and he makes a distinction between what Jesus said in Luke 16:18, Mark 10:2-12 and Matthew 19:3-12. Of these three, it’s only Matthew that records Jesus saying that divorce because of adultery is permissible (not desirable).

So what Paul is saying in these verses is that he’s describing a different situation, another exception, that Jesus did not speak about. So he makes the clarification – “I (not the Lord)…”.

2 – What are we to make of verse 1?

The NIV unhelpfully translates this making it sound like Paul is telling them not to marry. It should read “Now for the matters you wrote about: ‘It is good for a man not to touch (i.e. have sex) with a woman’.”

So in the Corinthian church there were libertines (anything goes) and ascetics (nothing goes), and while the end of 1 Cor 6 is probably a corrective to the former, the latter is a corrective to the latter. You’re not more spiritual if you don’t have sex, and that’s not the way to combat sexual immorality. What you need to do (Paul says) is to have one wife, and give yourself to her. That’s the way you combat sexual immorality.

3 – What would you say to a Christian wanting to marry a non-Christian hoping they ‘convert’?

I’d say it’s crazy. Here’s my reasoning.

1 – Beside our relationship with God (which marriage is a pale imitation of), marriage is the most intimate relationship you can have. If our souls are oriented towards God, and he is the focus of our lives and service – it is going to introduce incredible stress if two people in a ‘one flesh’ relationship are pulling in different directions.

2 – In theses verses (v.12-16) he’s not encouraging Christians to enter into that relationship. He’s acknowledging that many will become Christians after they enter into that relationship and find themselves in that situation. He’s giving people a framework for how to understand that situation, not encouragement to enter it.

3 – In my experience it (generally) doesn’t work and causes enormous grief & strain. Strain both in the marriage, grief in raising kids, struggles with how time is spent and priorities are ordered. Marriage is hard enough – this just introduces a whole ‘nother level of difficulty. Often (not always) it can result in the person who was a Christian walking away from their faith. People entering into the relationship always think they’re the exception…but that’s why they’re called exceptions. Because it’s not the norm.

4 – How come women are described as virgins and men are not?

The word Paul uses here is parthenon which can be used about men (See Rev 14:4), but is more generally used to describe a women of marriageable age who hasn’t had sex. When we see the word, our emphasis is drawn to the ‘not having sex’ part of it, as where Paul’s emphasis here is the ‘not married’ component.

So I think he’s just using the term here to describe women who haven’t been married so as to distinguish from those he deals with elsewhere.

9 September 2012

By | qanda

The passage we looked at tonight was 1 Corinthians 7:17-24. One clarification, one question.

1 – I made a comment last night when I was speaking about Chappo’s comments on 1 Corinthians 7 about Paul stating that marriage was a good option for those struggling with sex, not necessarily for companionship. This may have sounded like me saying that marriage isn’t for companionship also – I believe it is! (and so does Chappo I’m pretty sure). But part of being in God’s family is that strong companionship, friendship and relationships should also be found outside of a marriage relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Anyway, to say what I was saying better, you can read what Chappo was saying for yourself. He’s a wise man, he says some hard things, but they’re some good things. Read it here.

2 – A good question last night about contentment and singleness – how do you find it. One of my friends who’s a Godly guy gave me the answer I’ve pasted below. The Godliness & wisdom of this answer is astounding. If you’re interested, you can also listen to a talk from Jenny Salt (Australian who works at Sydney Missionary & Bible College) on Singleness here.

I’ve found that contentment is something that needs to be worked hard at (maybe a bit ‘same same but different’ as the way a couple need to constantly work at maintaining their marriage(??)). I see pursuing contentment very much as one of those ‘active’ things, not a passive thing that you just wait for it to happen to you.

For me, key has been constantly reminding myself (and thanking God) for his blessings and the many good things I do have. Ephesians 1:3 comes to mind. And aside from the spiritual, there’s other stuff like good health, being born in Australia rather than North Korea or the Sudan (I’m being serious here!), my friends and family, secure job and relative wealth etc.)

Philippians 4:12 has been a key verse for me that I think of often (meditate on … for want of a slightly better term) and use as a springboard for prayer:

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want…

… whether I’m married or single.

Pursuing contentment has taken much prayer over quite some time. I’ve worked hard at (and prayed for) establishing a large group of great friends, Christian and non-Christian. As a general rule I take every invite / opportunity I can to catch up with friends. My church community and bible study group are incredibly valuable to me.

I’ve also learned to enjoy my own company and taken up sports/hobbies I can enjoy doing solo.

I concentrate intently on rejoicing in the blessings that I have in Christ, the hope that awaits in heaven, and how the things I’m ‘missing out on’ in this life now pale in comparison to the greatness of what awaits in heaven.

Along the lines of 1 Corinthians 7:32, I try to make the most of the freedom I have to serve in God’s kingdom in ways I probably couldn’t if I was married and had a family – even if that just means I’ve got more time to go to meetings or can be more generous with my money than my married friends.

26 August 2012

By | qanda

The passage we looked at tonight was 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. Here are the questions.

1 – If your emotions are very strong & you don’t trust what you might do/say, isn’t it sometimes wise to talk to someone else who is wise first to help you decide what to say before approaching the person you’re angry with?

This is a really helpful question. And covers an area of the talk that I skipped last night due to time. Convenient that, isn’t it – when you don’t say something just say you skipped it! Well, it happens to be true this time, so stop being so cynical. I just realised I’m talking to myself. Back to the question.

As the question really helpfully says, in the heat of the moment, when we’re really hurt or fired up, it can be good to bounce it off someone. My encouragement last night was to go God first. I stick by that – I reckon we need to use God as the person we turn to in situations like this.

But God gives us people to help us through these situations as well. And it can be really helpful to have someone to use as a sounding board to ensure you’re in the right headspace, and you’re reacting in a way that is going to be helpful for reconciliation, and God-honouring.

So it’s good to have people you go to. And it’s important that they’re the right people. Choose people who is wise, Godly, won’t just tell you what you want to hear, won’t hold a grudge against the person, and will drive you towards the things God is calling you towards – forgiveness, Godliness, reconciliation.

Great question – thanks for asking it and giving me the chance to fill in the blanks!

2 – In v.11 where it says you are not that kind of person anymore, what happens when people still struggle with that even when they’re Christians?

Yep, that’s a good question, and a question most Christians ask when they read these kinds of lists. Because the reality is we’re not perfect, and even while GOd is working in us we’re still going to struggle with sin. Let me give the short answer, and I’ll follow that by the theological one.

The short answer is this: Paul’s point here is not to say that Christians won’t struggle with this stuff, but that they won’t be defined by it or settle for it being the norm, because it’s not who we are anymore. We have been washed, sanctified (made holy), justified in the name of Jesus and by the Spirit of God (v.12). That is, we are who we are because of Jesus, and so the way in which we want to live should be consistent with who God has made us (our new self), not who we were and the sin that Jesus died for (our old self).

So if you’re a Christian, and you’re still struggling with sin – you’re perfectly normal. We’re always going to struggle within sin in this life. But God, through His Spirit, works in us to make us more like Jesus even through these struggles. We want to make sure that we work out what it looks like to be a Christian while God works these things out in our lives as well (Philippians 2:12-13).

Here’s the theological answer to go with that, so you’ve got some background. Theologians talk about sanctification in two ways, because the New Testament talks about sanctification in two ways.

1) Positional Sanctification. This is the idea that God sees us as Holy, because Jesus is Holy. When God looks at us, He see perfection, not because we are, but because we are In Christ, and therefore gain the benefit of His perfection. It’s positional in the sense that we are “positioned” with Christ.

2) Progressive Sanctification. At the same time, God knows we’re not perfect, so He actively works in us by His Spirit to shape us into the likeness of His Son. It’s progressive over our lifetime.

So sometimes the New Testament talks about God seeing us as perfect (Positional) and sometimes it talks about us being (progressively) sanctified, made Holy – and it sees no inconsistency in that. God knows we’re not perfect…but He chooses to include us In Christ, through faith, so that we can experience the benefits of what Christ has done, instead of the judgement that we deserve. Not a bad deal.

3 – In your talk there was a lot of discussion around conflict resolution however I understand it was largely direct at conflict between christians.

How does what was discussed play out when confronted with conflict between christian and non-christian, or alternatively where else in the bible is this discussed (also whether this passage is irrelevant due to it dealing with a seperate specific issue). I could see some of the principals are still valid however some of them are simply unviable (e.g. have a christian mediate). This could play out two ways as well I suppose, a Christian creating a civil case against a non-christian or vice versa.

Yep, Paul’s outrage in part at the church in Corinth was that they had infighting that spilled out into the wider community, bringing the Gospel into disrepute. But your asking about disputes between Christians & Non-Christians. Some thoughts.

1 – Paul wasn’t afraid to use the legal / political system. In Acts he appeals to Caesar, and pulls the “I’m a Roman citizen” card which afforded him certain rights (Acts 21:39, 22:22-40, 25:10-12). He also talks in Romans 13:1-7 about submitting to the government, as it’s an instrument of God. So there’s no problem with using the “system” in place – we just need to work out whether we’re using it for our benefit or God’s. Paul used the system not for his good, but for the good of the Gospel.

2 – In disputes with those who aren’t Christians, I’m not sure there are too many specific examples like 1 Cor 6 where we see it played out. But I think Romans 12:9-21 is a helpful passages to draw some principles from:
– Christians aren’t trying to “win” conflict. In response to curses, they bless, they love, they forgive. They never repay evil for evil.
– We aren’t driven by pride, or a need to protect our reputation (although this can be good for the gospel), but by a desire to see God glorified & people come to understand the Gospel.
– Christians don’t engage in revenge / retribution. God will take care of that. I don’t think this means not calling people to account for what they do, it’s about us not taking the law into our own hands.
– Our response to being wronged is to love. Never to respond in kind.

We have the balance in the bible of Jesus who submitted to evil for the sake of God. And we have Paul who used the system for the benefit of the Gospel while not abusing it. But the common theme we have in both is this – that their focus was not on themselves, but on what would bring glory to God.

12 August 2012

By | qanda

The passage we looked at tonight was 1 Corinthians 5. Here are the questions.

1 – The same way that we don’t just let someone be destructive to themselves, that’s the same thing that’s done by God himself under “free will” as if you want to go to hell and not follow him you can on judgement day.

This is a tricky question (which is why I let it go through to the keeper last night), and it touches on a number of key doctrines in Christianity. I’ll try to keep the answer short.

I mentioned last night that it’s not loving to let people continue in self-destructive behaviour. And yet (quite rightly) the question puts forward that God does this at points. Romans 1 is a clear example of it where people’s desire to want to ignore God and do-away with him is so great that he leaves them to their own devices (Romans 1:18-32).

When Tim Keller talks about hell, he often puts it in the context of God giving people what they choose (I’m aligning this with “free will” although i don’t use that term because I think it’s pretty loaded). Note here though, that the decision is made in this life, and not on judgement day. We decide for or against, God now, and then we will be judged by God for that decision when we front up to him.

So I think where the question is driving at is how can I say it’s unloving to leave people to their destruction, and yet that’s precisely what God does? (Sorry if it’s not – email me and I’ll correct my answer)

God is both just & merciful. He longs for people to return to him (2 Peter 3:9), and he makes clear his love for us in Christ (1 John 4:9-10). And he gives us a lifetime, and plentiful opportunity to repent…but at some point we need to be called to account, otherwise he wouldn’t be just.

As much as he loves us, we are accountable for our actions. He would much prefer to take the punishment himself…but if we don’t want to hand that over to him, then we need to take responsibility for it.

So does God ultimately leave people to their own choices? Eventually yes – he “respects” people’s decision not to come back to Him. But this is done reluctantly.

2 – Paul seems to say that when the guy in 1 Corinthians 5 gets kicked out of the church fellowship his spirit will be saved. Is that only if he repents and comes back, or is it always? Because how often, when someone is expelled from the church will they actually repent and not fall deeper into sin?

The verse referred to here is 1 Corinthians 5:5. In this verse I’m not sure Paul is drawing a causal link – if you kick him out he WILL be saved. It’s more the hope that when he is kicked out he’ll realise the seriousness of his sin & come back. That’s always the hope (see 2 Corinthians 2:5-11).

In the Corinthian culture there’s two things to not. The Corinthian church was the ONLY church in the city. If he was kicked out of their fellowship, unlike our culture today where you could just pop down to the other church on the corner, there was no other options in Corinth. Because of the practicalities of living in Corinth, the kicking out carries much more weight.

The other thing to remember is that Corinth was an honour-shame culture. If you were kicked out of a community, it brought shame on you and lessened your “status” in the eyes of everyone. We might not care about that today, because we’re not an honour-shame culture, but it was a big deal in the Corinthian culture.

So because of these two things, the sentence of being kicked out of the church, would have been enough to motivate people to reconsider their lifestyle. The argument may also be similar to that of the lost son (Luke 14:11-32) where it’s only when people hit rock-bottom that they realise what they’re excluding themselves from – a loving community that is ready, willing & enthusiastic about forgiving them, just as we all have been forgiven in Christ.

So while we may question whether this method would have the same effect in our culture (for reasons touched on above), they’re some of the reasons behind what Paul says here.

3 – Are there big sins and little sins?

At it’s heart sin is rebellion against God. Our actions that the Bible refers to as sin, are expressions of that rebellion, and the disease that causes these decisions infects every one of us (Romans 3:9-23). So while some sins look less “harmful” than others, the actions reflect an attitude that is opposed to God, where we decide how we will live, and what is right & wrong, independently of Him. Yet there are clearly some actions & behaviours that are more harmful to us, and others. 1 Corinthians 5 is an example of where Paul sees particular behaviour as incredibly destructive, whereas other examples of sin in the Corinthians he deals with less severely, but no less seriously. Christians still struggle with sin, but the call in Corinthians is to not shape our actions around what you used to be, but what God has made us in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:4-9). We’re to live cross-shaped lives.