We continue our look at the First Book of Corinthians with Chapters 9-12.
Notes on Chapters 9-12
- Like Paul, we should make ourselves servants to all, that is we should relate to others as they are (without compromising ourselves) instead of being rigid; to the Jews Paul became a Jew and put himself “under the law” (I believe he was so strong in faith and free that he could put himself under the law for the purposes of evangelism without falling under the curse of the law because he was secure in his faith) (1 Corinthians 9:19-20). Paul continues, “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.” (1 Corinthians 9:22). So too should we, so long as we can do so without compromising ourselves.
- Every Christian is a spiritual athlete who must exercise self-control in all matters (1 Corinthians 9:25). This is something I had difficulty with at first as of course I rebelled against keeping myself under discipline (and still struggle in a variety of ways) but this is what God willing I want to build to, to be a Christian “athlete”, trained up in all matters of godliness, righteousness and holiness (Lord please help me to get there). I think for those of us who are athletes it’s helpful to have that background to carry over into the Christian faith (or really any practice that requires self-discipline, such as being a musician). It is important that we keep our bodily appetites under control at all times, no matter how advanced we are in our spiritual walks, because a lack of self-control breeds hypocrisy and compromises our witness and our walks with God. I have found fasting (primarily from food but it can be tv, types of entertainment, etc.) to be helpful to keep me under discipline.
The Book of Exodus serves as an example to all Christians of the types of things that can bring us down, just for some examples: idolatry, complaining, gluttony, partying, etc. (1 Corinthians 10:6-12).
- No one undergoes any special temptations that are not generally applicable to all mankind and, additionally, God will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability to bear it but will provide a means of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). I will confess that I at times have felt subjected to temptations that I feel like most people are not subjected to but this is simply narrowness on my part (and spiritual pride).
- If you feel trapped by a temptation ask the Lord to show where/what the escape is. I do think I have often found that my major mistake when yielding to a temptation was putting myself in the place of the temptation in the first place, so that resistance becomes much more difficult as proximity to the temptation increases, almost like the force of gravity pulling you in.
- Paul goes on after speaking of temptation to warn us to “flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14). It’s interesting that the specific sin of idolatry is mentioned right after temptation, perhaps it is a particularly pernicious one. I pray the Lord reveals the idols of our hearts and guides us away from their paths that we may escape such temptations. Paul goes on to say that eating food offered to idols (demons) makes one a participant with demons (1 Corinthians 10:20).
- Seek the good of your neighbor and not your own good (1 Corinthians 10:24).
- There is no need to ask questions about what you’re eating (provided you have a strong conscience), whether out in the market or eating with an unbeliever, unless you are told the food is offered to idols (1 Corinthians 10:25-29) (I have put a broader application of the rule than a strict interpretation so please check for yourself in case you disagree). Our liberties are not compromised by the defiled consciences of another, so long as we eat with thankfulness (1 Corinthians 10:29-30).
- Do all for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). When it comes to eating and drinking I take this to mean one should eat with thankfulness and in an unhurried manner, appreciating whatever is being partaken of.
- Give no offense to those of the world, to the Church or to God (1 Corinthians 10:32-33).
- Paul commends the Corinthians for maintaining the traditions, which is something that I believe is practiced in the Greek Orthodox Church (and other denominations but this is the one I am familiar with). I do believe ritual is important but I think it’s hard to know what the “traditions” of the collective early church were, although I have not done an in-depth study on this. I defer to those more expert than I on this but raise it because the keeping of traditions is one of those dividing issues in the Church today.
- Chapter 11 contains certain commands in regards to head coverings that I think modern commentators have difficulty with, that is that a woman should wear a head covering (1 Corinthians 11:3-10). I think it’s pretty clear that Paul wants women to cover their heads when communing in a spiritual way (prayer or prophesy) while a man should have his head uncovered (id). I think this is just something that modern society feels is unfashionable so they don’t conform. On hair in general, per Paul women should not have short hair nor should men have long hair (1 Corinthians 11:6, 14), but this is also something that we find is prevalent in this day and age.
- There will be factions in the Church, to prove who is a true believer and who is of the Adversary (1 Corinthians 11:19).
- When coming together for a meal (specifically the Eucharist), where the presence of Christ is all things should be done in an orderly manner and we should wait on each other (I believe our Eucharist now (people coming up a few at a time for communion) is taken in a different matter generally than it was in the Church of Corinth, at least from my reading of what Paul is describing) (1 Corinthians 11:21-22,33).
- Examine yourself before you eat the Lord’s Supper so you don’t take it unworthily (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).
- Judge yourselves and you will not be judged (I believe this translates to “discipline yourselves”) (1 Corinthians 11:31).
- Only the Holy Spirit can say Jesus is the Lord and the Holy Spirit cannot blaspheme Christ (1 Corinthians 12:3). This doesn’t mean in my interpretation that Christians can’t do this, but they can’t do it while in the Spirit.
- All gifts of the Holy Spirit are to be used for the good of the Church at large (1 Corinthians 12:7).
- If one Christians suffers, all Christians suffer, and if one Christian rejoices, the whole body rejoices with him (1 Corinthians 12:26).
- There is an order of spiritual gifts: 1) Apostles, 2) Prophets, 3) Teachers, 4) Miracles, 5) Healings, 6) Helping, 7) Administration and 8) Tongues. We should first seek out the higher gifts (1 Corinthians 12:28-31).