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LESSON 33

Beware, The Voice of Old Testament History

(I Cor. 10:1-6)

 

Paul re-broadcasts the voice of Old Testament history for our benefit, that is for our warning, admonition and instruction. They who are sincere will take it to heart, others will disregard it. By the trail of dead men’s bones you can trace the path of the disobedient through the desert. How real are those dead bodies scattered across the desert. Paul makes those dead bodies speak. They tell the story of the Israelites, in the peculiar and favored position of living under the Word and the Sacraments and meanwhile lusting after world-conformity. Calvin says: “on their abusing their privileges they did not escape the judgment of God. Be afraid, for the same thing is impending over you.” The Corinthians were surrounded by idolatry and idolatrous practices. Paul uses Israel’s history to warn and instruct the brethren.

Paul speaks in all these verses of the FATHERS. And they were the fathers whose dead bodies were scattered along the burning sands (vs. 5). He speaks of them as fathers in a wide, national sense as heads of the covenant generation. (Cf. Acts 22:1 and often). The Jews to whom Paul writes in Corinth are children of these fathers, and in a sense we are too. If that happened to the fathers, don’t boast as if it could not happen to the children. It will if they walk as their fathers walked. God remains unchangeable.

Paul emphasizes the word ALL. Nationally they all had in common that they had contact with the things of Christ, for they ate of the Manna and they drank of water from the rock. What nation was there like Israel who had God living so close to them? All were under the cloud (Ex. 13:21, Nu. 9:15, Deut. 1:33, etc.) that is, they were all under the sheltering position of the presence of God. All passed through the Red Sea and thus they were led out of Egypt and were headed toward Canaan. All were baptized unto (into) Moses and by that passing through the Sea and by dwelling under the cloud they were nationally attached to the Mediator of the Old Testament. Moses led them. Moses prayed for them. Moses pointed them to the Christ. What a peculiar and responsible position they held. They all ate angel’s food which the Lord sent them six days per week. They all drank from the rock. Christ Himself was the Rock and the demonstration of Christ’s presence followed them through all the desert wanderings.

Hence Israel as a nation had the peculiar privilege of being in constant contact with the things of Christ. Something of which we are reminded in Heb. 6:4-6, Jude 5 as well as Romans 3:1-2. Never a day went by or they had to confess: Christ is all around us.

And how did they conduct themselves amid such covenantal demonstrations?

Vs. 5 tells us. “With the greater part of them God was not well pleased” (cf the Dutch translation). And God showed His anger by scattering their dead bodies along the desert path. Do not say now that God’s Word or Promise has failed, for Romans 9 will convince you that behind these scenes we have election and reprobation, and the election has obtained it. It is beside the point to argue that all had grace and all partook of Christ, for “the sacraments are connected with the thing signified, nevertheless both are not received by (all) men”, (find it in the Belgic Conf.) In fact the wicked receives the sacrament to his own condemnation but he doth not receive the truth of the sacrament, he receives the sacrament but not the Christ signified thereby.

The point Paul establishes in this passage is to show Israel’s conduct amid the demonstrations surrounding them. How did they behave themselves? They lived in unbelief. They were idolatrous. They lived in the Christ-contact but in the meantime they lusted after things contrary to Christ. They professed to be God’s people, presumed that they could live complacently. They loved not God but they loved sin. And in them sin comes to its most horrible manifestation.

These things happened to them as types for us; examples of what unbelief is, what it does, and how God punishes it. Beware then ye Corinthians that ye lust not after evil things as Israel did. Your streets are lined with idols and heathen practices. Be admonished. And so the Word is carried to us also. For the Kingdom of heaven is .shut to those who under the name of Christians maintain practices or doctrines inconsistent therewith and will not, after having been admonished, renounce their errors.

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. All passed through the Sea. Ex.l4:12 (States that many would rather have remained in Egypt. Did they go thru the Sea against their own will? perhaps? or what?
  2. Sin is sin, but what difference would you say there is between the sin of those who live in contact with Christ’s things and those who do not?
  3. What do you think about the reasoning: we are children of God, warnings, exhortations and threatenings are out of place? (Cf. Canons V: 14).
  4. We should evidently keep lively contact with the Old Testament. How best to do that?

 

 

LESSON 34

For Our Admonition

(I Cor. 10:7-14)

 

In this passage we find four examples of the conduct of a people come through the Sea, baptized into Moses, eating of the manna. Idolatry, fornication, murmuring. . .all manifestations of unbelief. There is a remnant according to the election, but even the word remnant indicates the process of sin, judgment and righteousness.

Paul says he cites these historical events because they happened to them as examples for us. What happened to that Israel will happen to unbelievers in our day. May we have faith to see the examples.

Written for our admonition.

The event recorded in vs. 7 comes from Ex. 32:6 where the people, once led out of Egypt, kept the lust of sin in their hearts and engaged in a pagan feast of idolatry around the golden calf. The eating and drinking and dancing went hand in hand with burnt offerings and peace offerings to their gods, imagine Israel doing that. What is called Israel today can do the same.

Corinth at that time had its streets lined with gods and theatres for pagan feasts. Our world has the subtler form of idolatry. Israel corrupted itself. Eating, drinking, playing and singing (Ex. 32:18) can be elements entering into the service of God if the heart is right, but where lust is these things degenerate into idolatrous revelry. Witness our modern world and its revelry. In the case of Israel judgment followed.

The second example is taken from Num. 25:1. At Balaam’s advice Moab invites Israel to come and play with them. Israel goes. Revelry and fornication follow, of which Num. 25 presents one shameless scene and we know the rest. Judgment followed quickly for twenty-three thousand were slain. Num. 25:9 says twenty-four thousand were slain. Both figures are correct. Such variations only prove how accurate the Scripture is. How easily Israel was led to world-conformity. Example.

The third, recorded in vs. 9, comes from Nu. 21:4-6. The people are discouraged at the detour on the already too-long journey to a Canaan they did not care about. Some readings state that they tempted Christ, some say they tempted the Lord. Both are true of course. Christ is the Bread of Life. When in Nu. 21:5 they speak of the manna as worthless bread they grievously blaspheme the Christ. They tried the Lord land found that He was faithful. The serpents came at them from bush and hedge and sand dune, serpents that otherwise harmlessly crawled at their feet now slashed them with their fangs. So once more, says Paul, judgment followed.

In vs. 10 the reference is, I think, to the rebellion of Korah and his company in Nu. 16, the murmuring in 16:12-14 and the judgment in vs. 49. The destroyer is the earth-opening, the fire and the plague. Instruments of God’s righteous judgment.

These things happened to them as types to you, Corinthians. Written for our admonition who live in the end times. There is mercy in these admonitions. Thousands died, that we might be admonished. We profit by their loss. There is finality in these admonitions, and beware, lest you despise them.

We err if we think that we are free of the sins which brought the rebels of old time to ruin. We are not better. Christ has come and He has taken upon Himself the judgments of the sins of His children. Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. This is not to undermine our Christian assurance, but to rid us of complacency. Israel after the flesh lived puffed up and conceited, it lived recklessly, boasting that they were the people and that they were beyond danger. If you stand on such conceit. . .the fall will come.

And don’t say that God is at fault, as if He tempts (tries) His people so that the fall is inevitable. No, no, it is not His fault but yours. Lust leads to sin and sin leads to death. With God is grace abundant to endure every trial. If you lust (after evil things you incur judgment. God keeps His people, for His election never falls (cf. Canons V: 1-8) and His saving grace never ends. Don’t tempt Him then, but instead FLEE from idolatry and flee to Christ Who has overcome all that we might enjoy His victory by faith. Wherefore, dearly beloved, instead of seeking and exposing yourself to idolatry, flee from it.

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. Young people often spend more time meditating on how they may engage in idolatry, than how they may flee from it. Is that statement true in your life?
  2. What prevented ALL Israel from being destroyed by sin?
  3. God punishes the idolaters, our lesson tells us. What punishment is there on idolatry today? Or does it wait until the final day of reckoning?
  4. Upon us the “ends of the world are come” (vs. 11). Literally it says that the “ends of the ages are arrived upon us”. What does that mean for the days in which we live? Cf. also Rev. 22:10-12.
  5. Suggestions for an after-recess paper next week: Modern Idolatry—I. Confronting our Covenant Youth, II. Discerned by our Covenant Youth, III. Our Covenant Youth Fleeing from it.

 

LESSON 35

Fellowshipping With God and With Devils?

(I Cor. 10:15-22)

 

This is what Israel after the flesh had been doing. Chap. 10:1-14 illustrates that very clearly. Professing to be sacramentally joined to God, eating the Manna and drinking from the Rock, etc. they nevertheless also joined themselves to pagan nations and attended their feasts.

You have seen how this, provoked the Lord to anger and how in His jealousy He destroyed them; showing you how holy and different He is.

Will you, Corinthians, repeat the sin of profaning the covenant? You stand in danger of it because you profess to have communion with Christ… you partake of the Communion. And a little way down the street from where you profess to have fellowship with God stands an idol temple. You go there to partake in that heathen feast? Can you fellowship with God and with devils?

Nay, brethren, says Paul, let me patiently and firmly instruct you.

I speak as to people who have been instructed in the Apostolic doctrines and as people who can give intelligent answers. I ask you: The wine which Christ blessed and ordained into a sacrament, is it not the fellowship of Christ’s blood? And the bread, is it not fellowship with Christ’s body? Answer that. Your answer is: YES. You are enlightened enough to know that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament signifying union between believers mutually and between believers and Christ. As out of many kernels of wheat one bread is baked, so out of many believers who eat that bread Christ makes a unity, a communion.

You know that. That is the way it was in Israel’s days too. They which ate of the sacrifices were partakers of a communion. And if they touched an unclean thing and ate of the offering, they were cut off. (Lev. 7:21) You know that, for I speak to such as have been catechized in Apostolic doctrine.

Professing therefore to have fellowship with Christ, would you attempt to have fellowship with devils, also?

Paul has reference to the pagan feasts which were held in Corinth. The heathens had their “mysteries” and celebrations to their gods. All the Corinthians used to attend these feasts. But the power of grace through the Gospel had come and some had been converted. Yet there was a tendency among some to back-slide. They professed to be joined to Christ but they also attended the heathen feasts. Against this sin of backsliding the Apostle warns both them and us today.

You cannot, says Paul in vs. 21, you cannot do both. An idol is nothing (vs. 19) The gods they serve at the feasts do not even exist. But behind their feasting there is the devil. He is REAL. He DOES exist. And when you attend these feasts you join with pagans to sacrifice to devils.

You cannot do that. Not only that; you MAY not. You cannot do that without denying God and incurring the wrath of this Jealous God. Provoking the Lord, is that what you want to do? He is jealous and would you tempt Him to show His holy jealousy? Israel did and they found that He was stronger than they and they were destroyed.

So Paul instructs them and us to live holily, as those who are joined to the Lord and therefore must be separated from all that the Lord hates. God is the God of the antithesis. Faith and sanctification cannot be separated. As we are united to Christ by a living, obedient faith, so shall we be a peculiar people on the streets of Corinth and everywhere. They in Corinth had their pagan feasts, we have refined paganism all about us.

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. Notice how essential is the knowledge of the Apostolic Doctrine. Our God view determines our view of all things. His jealousy, for instance.
  2. Someone says: I will escape the rigors of the antithesis by not making confession of faith, hence not a communicant at His Table, hence free to attend pagan feasts? How would you answer such an one?
  3. Do heathens knowingly “sacrifice to devils?” Vs. 20. Ignorantly then?
  4. II Cor. 7:1 speaks of “perfecting holiness” —what does that mean in our lives as young people?

 

LESSON 36

For Edification of Another

(I Cor. 10:23-11:1)

 

Much of Scripture comes to us as the inspired answer to real problems in the church. Our passage is such an answer to the question of whether it was right or wrong to eat meat once offered to the idol but now sold at the butcher shop. Such petty things, you would say. But a principle is involved. And principles are eternal, as the Truth, unchangeable.

In the Corinthian congregation one says: we have Christian liberty and we may eat all meats. Paul had enunciated this principle of Christian liberty in 6:12 and 8:10 (cf. especially Outline 30). Another says: no, if we eat meat offered to an idol we establish contact again with idolatry. So this one says it is not lawful.

Says Paul: eating of all kinds of meats is lawful (permissible). We have that liberty. But our liberty is not a selfish thing (vs. 24), it comes up out of brotherly love and must be used for the edification of the brother. If your weaker brother is offended at the ease with which you eat all kinds of meat, don’t press the point of liberty, but rather reach for edification.

If it is a matter of your own conscience, feel free to stop at the butcher shop and order meat. And don’t be disturbed as to whether it is tainted or untainted meat. Psalm 24 says that the earth is the Lord’s and all its meat, and the Lord gives me that meat. Every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer (I Tim. 4:4). So meat-eating is lawful and a non-existent idol can do nothing to the meat to taint it.

That is your freedom. Whether that meat is set before you in the butcher shop (vs. 25) or whether you happen to be invited to the home of an unbeliever and it is served at his table (vs. 27). Ask no questions, that is, don’t inquire about what kind of meat it is. Your knowledge of the Apostolic Doctrine (should be strong enough to free your conscience from the need of asking questions.

You are so right. You have liberty. It’s a luxury to enjoy the freedom which we have in Christ.

But wait, says Paul. There is such a thing as giving up your luxury for another’s edification. Some in the church probably are not as far advanced as you are. They might be offended when they see you so “carelessly” buying and eating meats. Give them time to catch up with you. Your liberty has limitations. You may be technically correct, but brotherly love is something too. In vs. 24, Paul reminds them that none should selfishly seek his own advantage. If at the private table certain meat is pointed out as being tainted, for the sake of him that made the remark, refrain from eating meat. Your own conscience does not accuse you, and neither will you let your liberty be judged by another’s conscience. Conscience is not your guide. God’s Word is. If you eat and drink in recognition of God, who can find fault with you?

But the law of brotherly love requires that we give no offence in such indifferent things as these. I will eat no meat, says Paul, I will forego living in the luxury of my Christian freedom if by so doing I can seek the profit of many, that they may be saved. The edification and salvation of others is more to me than freely eating meat. And you, be followers of me as I also am an imitator of Christ. He came, not to serve Himself nor to please Himself. He gave up all things for our sakes. Can we give up some?

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. Touch everyday life with the principle enunciated above and what do you have? Someone always being offended by something someone else does. Someone says: I’m not going to give up my lawful freedom, let the other fellow learn to quit being offended and learn my freedom too. What would you say about it?
  1. Why the three groups in vs, 32. Or is it one group or two?
  2. In vs. 27 does Paul sanction social intercourse with unbelievers?
  3. Why is the salvation of others (vs. 33) so important to Paul? Do we give evidence of it being important to us? How?

It has been said by Christ, and afterwards by his apostles, that false prophets would arise and would deceive many, that is, that many would follow them. One of these great false prophets was Mohammed, he was indeed the great prophet of the lie.

Mohammed was born about 569, in Mecca, Arabia. In early childhood he already showed that he possessed a keen mind and at an early date showed a religious bent of mind. At the age of 13 he visited the bazaars of Damascus where he came into contact with the various streams of religion which at that time criss-crossed through Eurasia. He despised polytheism (the worship of many gods) and desired a “religion” which had but one god instead of many. And no doubt, his active mind was much attracted to this subject.

During the fast of Ramadan, Mohammed is supposed to have spent a few weeks in a cave near Mecca for religious exercises. And here he is supposed to have seen a vision which from that moment on fired his mind to fanatical excesses. The angel Gabriel is supposed to have appeared to him and to have said to him, “There is but one God and Mohammed is his prophet.” Notice, by the way, that as true as the first part of the quotation is, so false is the last part. A mixture of truth and lie—ever antichrist’s most powerful weapon.

Mohammed now turned to the world as her great prophet. Moses and Jesus were great prophets, but Mohammed was the greatest of them all. He alone would and could bring them the knowledge of God (but, indeed, their god was Allah), so he pretended. After much labor he managed to convert his wife. At the end of three years of oratory and persuasion he had won but forty converts. Besides, the “guardians of the national idols” would not allow a one-god system. Persecution developed, and the fanatical prophet had to flee to Medina (the Hegira). Here, however, he was received as an accredited messenger from heaven. Mohammed was gaining success. But thirsty for more success than oratory and persuasion could produce, he turned to the sword and decided to spread the faith by means of war. Early he had incorporated into the Koran (their man-made bible) that to whomever died on the battle-field, fighting for Mohammed, heaven’s doors would open wide. Yes, and in proportion to the number of “enemies” the mohammedan soldier killed, his joy in heaven would increase.

Spurred on by such wicked and preposterous ideas, the armies of Mohammed soon took to the field, bent now on forcing the faith upon all nations and peoples, baptizing them in their own blood if indeed they did not accept the new religion, otherwise baptizing them in the name of the great Allah and his prophet.

In the meantime Mohammed died, but others arose to lead the inflamed armies. With the inverted half-moon on their banners, riding on Arabian steeds to speed them on, the Moslem hordes pressed first into Syria (which at one time was the center of Christianity). Nothing could hold them. Damascus fell, the walls of Jerusalem toppled, Antioch’s power crumbled under their onslaughts, and in a short time the hordes overran Mesopotamia, leaving behind them a crippled if not paralyzed Christianity.

From there the success-mad armies swept on into Persia, they soon conquered the religion of Zoroaster and sacked the Persian empire. Next their war steeds carried them over central Asia, headed now for another citadel of ancient religion, Egypt. After a year of offense and assault Alexandria fell and the mighty Egypt toppled with her. In due time Carthage was razed and North Africa succumbed to the emblem of the inverted moon.

They then turned to Constantinople. But here they failed most miserably. They turned again to the west. Through treachery Spain fell into Moslem hands. Now the way was open for a direct attack upon the mainland of Europe and with that an attack upon Christianity in its new house. With the one tip of the inverted moon on the Gibralter, the other touching the Bosphorus, they sought now to round its arch and overspread all Europe.

Northward they went, toward what is now Germany, France, Netherlands and finally England.

On their way through France they met the army of the Franks (Germans) under the leadership of Charles Martel. In a pitched battle they met at Tours and here the Moslem army was not only defeated but routed and was sent back to confinement on the shores of the Mediterranean. This marked the end of the Moslem march.

Almost the dragon, the beast and the false prophet had destroyed the woman fleeing in the desert, but God keeps watch. So far could the Moslem danger go and no further. His Moslem armies had done his bidding, and as an ax which has done its work, were cast away. But God’s church was kept safe. None can destroy her.

Eleven centuries have passed—it is still his church, beloved in his Son, and he is the same God.

 

LESSON 61

TENT HOUSE AND THE BETTER

II Cor. 5:1-5

 

Chapter 5 begins with the word “for” and indicates that Paul is motivating what he had just said in the end of chap. 4. He spoke of fainting not, of being of good courage, even in the face of death. Because we look at the things which are not seen. The unseen things are eternal.

To the unseen things belong the heavenly, new and resurrected life in the glorified body. So in our lesson we have the contrast between the “tent-house” which is the present state of existence, and the “heaven-house” which is the new life of the resurrection. The regenerate lives now in the tent-house of this tabernacle, he will move to the heaven-house by and by.

The great mystery of faith leads us to say, “We know” (vs. 1) that when the earthly house in which we live at present is folded up or taken down, or collapses, we know that there awaits us a new life, called: the building of God. It is a house untouched by human hands, eternal in the heavens. The contrast is therefore between the present earthly life which is (1) temporary, (2) destructible and (3) uncertain, and the new order of things after this life. Paul had spoken in chapter 4 of his suffering as Christ’s missionary and of the death to which this persecution would likely lead (4:11). At that point the earthly tent is destroyed. But what then? Then we know that we enter upon a new life, not of the tent-type but permanent and eternal. Therefore we faint not. What if the enemies of the Cross succeed in breaking down this present tent-life, they cannot touch the “building which we have of God.”

Not only do we have good courage therefore in the face of imminent death, but (vs. 2) we groan with intent longing to put on this new life. Some might want to die to escape the present distress. Not so we, who have the Spirit, we know that there is a new order waiting in glory, and we do long for. Do you ever long for heaven and its glory? We do not long to be unclothed and be found naked, but we groan longingly for that great act of God in which we shall put on the new man as it is created in Christ Jesus. The condition which Paul calls nakedness, I take it, refers to this temporal death. The soul is then unclothed. It lacks its dwelling place. Immediately after death the ‘soul shall be taken up to Christ its head’ (Catechism, Q. 57) but the body reposes in the cemetery. There is a first resurrection (Rev. 20:1-5). But the final act of being clothed upon does not occur until the soul and body are reunited (Catechism Q. 57 and Phil 3:21). Then we have our heavenly House. And death is swallowed up.

Of all this God has given us the guarantee by giving us His Spirit (vs. 5). The Spirit is the first fruit. It is God Who has worked this out for us for He has prepared all this for us and it is

God Who has promised us all this. But it is also God Who has worked the hope of this in our hearts and it is God Who has set us to longing for it. Therefore we, His missionaries, are not afraid of the threatening’s of the persecutors since we are more than conquerors. Paul is assured of the immortal glory. With less than this assured hope who would be missionary? Who could be?

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. What does the word “eternal” mean in vs. 1?
  2. That our bodies here and now are called “earthly house of this tabernacle” (vs. 1) what world-and-life view does this give us?
  3. What about the souls of the saints between the time of their death and the moment of resurrection? Are they “naked”?

 

LESSON 62

LIVING UNTO CHRIST

II Cor. 5:6-15

Paul is still emphasizing that he has every reason to carry on his missionary work with high courage and fortitude. He is servant of His Lord. His aim is to labor sincerely, as in the presence of the Lord, living unto His Lord. Assured, moreover, of the coming judgment and the immortal glory which awaits. As Paul had also said, in his examination before Felix: “There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. And herein do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.” Acts 24:15-16). As every Christian should say: I live in the presence of the Lord.

In vs. 6-9 there is the contrast between being “at home in the body . . . and then being absent from the Lord” and being “absent from the body and being present with the Lord.” In the roll-call, “present” here on earth in the tent-house means “absent” over there in heaven. And absent here on earth means present over there. All the while that we are “at home in the body” we are “out of home, away from the Lord.” What the intermediate state is, I cannot fully say, but this much is plain from Scripture that as soon as we are “absent” in the roll-call on earth, we are “present” over there. Phil. 1:23 also speaks of departing and “being with Christ.” This is a conscious state of bliss.

If we understand this we will think of the death of the righteous as an arrival (in glory, not as a departure (from our world). Something that ought to be emphasized at the funeral also.

“We are confident” says Paul, since we walk by faith, that we are never forsaken of God. When death comes we go to be present with the Lord. Therefore it even attracts us. By faith we understand mysteries, also the mystery of death. It becomes an act of faith to die. Animals die as animals, wicked as wicked, but righteous die as those who love to “be at home” with the Lord Blessed mystery. In vs. 9 Paul adds that, in view of this blessed outlook, we labor. This word, I believe, means to be ambitions, to strive with earnest endeavor (I Thess. 4:11). I should probably give a paragraph explaining this word, so beautiful it is. Suffice it to say that it indicates a burning desire on the part of Paul to be well-pleasing to God. Whether present or absent, to live in justification by faith and good works and have the consciousness of God’s approval.

How significant too. There is a public judgment coming (vs. 10). God judges every day, every day we live in His presence. But there will be a public judgment, when all the public shall see what each one of us has done. Every secret of everyone’s life shall be manifest to everyone. Everyone shall be judged before the judgment seat of the exalted Christ. And each one shall receive what was done through the body, whether it was good or evil (Cf. Romans 2:6-11). Men may pass judgments, courts and judges try cases, but Christ tries every man and every trial. And each shall carry away that perfect justice requires shall come to him. God’s people are not glorified on the basis of their works, neither apart from their works. Here is that mystery of grace by which the works of Christ become our works before the Father. We are called therefore to walk in those works.

Vs. 11 knowing therefore the fear of the Lord we persuade men, we preach to them. God sees us and He knows our hearts . . . why we preach and what we preach. Even if sometimes we seem to you to be “beside ourselves” (as they also said of Jesus in Mark 3:21) or whether we seem to you to be sober, we are motivated by love of the Christ. He died for us and we died (vs 14) in order that we should live unto Him now. We have died to carnal and selfish ambitions. Christ died and was raised. We have died. The world is crucified to us and we to the world. We live not unto ourselves. Therefore we preach. We are not lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God . . . . be that your confession too.

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. In vs 9 Paul gives the motive of his laboring. Heretics have corrupted the doctrine of and the value of good works. To keep you reformed in your thinking on this subject watch also the Confessions on this point (Catechism L.D. 23; L.D. 32, Belgic Conf. 241. Apply Paul’s motive to yourself and what do you find?
  2. What is it to “glory in appearance” in vs 12?
  3. “Not living unto ourselves but unto Him” what a glorious world-and-life view (vs 15) and don’t forget the word “henceforth.”

 

LESSON 63

RECONCILIATION AND NEWNESS

II Cor. 5:16-21

 

Christ died for us. We died with Him in order that we should hen’ forth live unto Him, so Paul has said in Vs 15.

Then, in vs 16, Paul says “wherefore” . . . . we think, preach and live in terms of this newness of life. We do not glory in appearance nor consider men on carnal bases, but we come to know each other as children of God, as being raised with Christ in newness of life. Paul once knew Christ after the flesh i.e. had carnal ambitions concerning Him (as before his experience enroute to Damascus) but now he knew Christ in a new light. He had been raised from the dead with Christ and had entered into the newness. For being in Christ (vs 17) by a living faith, we are new creatures. We have gone from death into life. Old things are passed away. Newness is come. If anyone is in Christ he is a new creature. If your life does not bespeak newness, it is because you are not living in Christ. Probably the Corinthians, with their bickering admonish other and their suspicions of Paul –“needed to be reminded that they must break with the “old things”.

In vs 18 Paul declares that all this newness has come from God. It is God Who brought it about. And how did He do this? God reconciled us unto Himself, through the Cross of the Lord. Through that Cross indeed, the world died unto me and I unto the world. The new relationship of reconciliation has entered. The enmity of sin has been put away in Christ and the embrace of God’s eternal mercy a genuine experience. And this newness becomes ours through the Gospel of Reconciliation. The new grace relationship between us and God is effected through the preaching of (about . . . concerning) the reconciliation. As the Form says: “without this Word of reconciliation faith in Christ and consequently salvation is and remains forever impossible” (Ord. of Missionaries), God has given to his ministers the ministry (or service or the administration) of the reconciliation. Vs 19 declares the contents of the Gospel ministry. God’s ministers are called to “explain . . . apply . . . instruct, admonish, comfort and reprove . . . preaching repentance toward God and reconciliation with Him through faith in Christ . . . refuting all heresies repugnant to the pure doctrine.” They must therefore proclaim that God sent His Son into the world, and that God Himself “in Christ” was bringing the world into reconciliation unto Himself. God was forgiving our trespasses, imputing our trespasses unto Christ. And upon the Cross God bruised His Own Son for our sakes and thus cleansing away our enmity and judgment. This Word of reconciliation God has entrusted unto His legally called ministers, in fact God put that word in His ministers (vs 19) and sent them out into the world to proclaim what God had been doing on the behalf of His people. While we had been ignorant of God and sinning against Him, while we had been enemies and fighting against Him, God was in Christ going about to reconcile us. That makes us feel ashamed. As the believing sinner sits under that kind of preaching it gives him hope. He is reminded from what great Authority this Word comes and is commanded to believe it, to obey it. And he enters into the newness with the experience of Ps. 116.

God mercifully calls them into this reconciliation (vs 20). Now the Corinthians, and the churches today, must know that Paul and his fellow-ministers are legally appointed of God to be “ambassadors”. They speak in God’s Name, in Christ’s Name. So much so that it is as though God Himself exhorts and beseeches them through His ministers. We pray you, by the authority of God, be ye reconciled to God. This is very personal. The address is to the believer. It must be said to him (vs 21) that God has made Christ to be sin for him. Christ Who had no sin became guilty in our stead, that we might have the righteousness which can be approved of God. Come then . . . He beseeches, we pray you, enter into the reconciliation. Have boldness. God Himself beseeches you.

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. What are the new things in Vs 17?
  2. “God was IN CHRIST . . . .” what does that mean? Why “world” in vs 19?
  3. Why does God have the ministers preach beseechingly? Vs 20.

LESSON 57

PAUL’S LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION

II Cor. 3:1-6

 

You are Our Letters of Recommendation.

The apostle opens this chapter with the accusation which some of those in Corinth will make when they receive this letter, that the apostle is beginning again to commend himself to them. That is, that he is boasting in order that he may be the more readily received by the congregation in Corinth.

It may be that there were some in Corinth who set themselves up as teachers and leaders by virtue of certain letters of recommendation which they had received from others, either other churches or other men well-known and well-thought of in the churches. It is also very likely that when such men left they desired and received letters of recommendation which could be presented wherever they moved. The apostle denies the intention of this or the need of it, not only as far as his own recommendation to the church of Corinth is concerned but also as far as his contact with other churches is concerned. He needs no letters of commendation for them nor from them as others evidently did. Neither must this letter be interpreted as a self-written letter of recommendation.

Boldly the apostle states that he needs no letters of recommendation for them or from them because they, the Corinthian Christians, are the living letters of recommendation to which not only he can and does refer but which are also to all men an evident proof of his apostleship and of the authority with which he spoke and speaks.

 

Letters of Recommendation Written on Tablets of Flesh.

A beautiful figure the apostle uses here in defense of his God-given ministry when he refers to letters of recommendation, written on tables of flesh. The idea is that a pen and paper letter is not necessary because Christ has done his own writing upon their hearts, writing through the Holy Spirit, his message of salvation. Through this writing, ministered indeed by the apostle Paul, the church of Corinth and the individual believers are evidently set forth as the living testimony to the power and efficacy and authority of the preaching of the apostle Paul. He need only refer to that work of Christ, through the Spirit, wrought by the ministry of Paul and those who worked with him, to stop the mouths of those who wickedly and perversely brought his apostleship and his authority to speak the Word of God into dispute.

The contrast between tables of stone and fleshly tables of the heart is that between marble inscriptions which are well-nigh indestructible and yet which are of far less value and permanence than the living testimony of the converted heart. There may be here already a reference to the law engraved upon stones. Where could the apostle find a better, more glorious and also more permanent recommendation to those in Corinth, than that work of the Spirit, wrought through his ministry but also what greater recommendation to those outside in his contacts with them than the living witness of the work of Christ in the hearts of the Corinthian Christians? “Your faith speaks my praise as being the seal of my apostleship.” (Calvin).

 

All is from God!

Lest the Corinthians should after all receive the idea that the apostle is boasting in his own authority and ability, the apostle adds the thought of verses 5 and 6. Very definitely the apostle wishes to impress upon the minds of the Corinthians this fact, that all the beautiful, testimonial, work in Corinth, which he claims as his letter of recommendation, is after all, and in the final instance, only the work of God thru him. His sufficiency is of God. The apostle stresses the fact that they have no sufficiency whatsoever and hence can reckon and claim absolutely nothing as their own product. All their sufficiency is from God. He is its source. And in that glorious work of the ministry and its blessed fruit, the apostle would be last to claim an independent share, but is very conscious of the fact that it is all of the Lord.

Now while we must not lose sight of the fact that the apostle is here speaking of the glorious work of the ministry, yet it is at the same time an indication of the source and operation of every Christian good work. Even though this example of the apostle, as a minister of the blessed gospel, may not fit us directly, still we must say every day and again—our sufficiency is of God. All the work of salvation in our hearts, all the work of God’s grace, yea, even the good works in which we walk, are of the Lord our God through our Saviour Jesus Christ working by the outpoured Spirit.

And that is also the idea of verse 6 in which the apostle presents the beauty of the New Testament ministry as not of the letter of the law which cannot but bring death, but which is through the Spirit of the resurrected Christ which gives us life.

 

Questions for Discussion

1.   In the church of Christ are letters of recommendation right or wrong? You may discuss here the whole idea of calling and transferring ministers and members from one local church to another.

2.   What is the authority of a legally called minister when he speaks officially? Does he speak “ex cathedra” and therefore infallibly? If not, what authority does he and his words have?

3.   What is the relationship between Paul’s sufficiency being of God and the fact that he is nevertheless the apostle through whom Christ ministered to the Corinthians? What is the relationship between Christ’s working as children of God?

 

LESSON 58

THE GLORY OF PAUL’S MINISTRY

 

Our Ministry Exceeds in Glory! (7-11).

The contrast which the apostle introduces between the ministry of the law and that of the gospel, between the old, typical ministry of Moses and its beautiful fulfillment in Christ, had been introduced already in verse 6. Now the apostle takes this subject up more in order to point out by way of contrast the glory of that ministry, entrusted to him, and which was ministered unto the Corinthians whereby they were saved.

The reference is undoubtedly to Exodus 34:30-35. “And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone and they were afraid to come nigh him . . . and till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.” etc. Now this awe, inspired by the shining of Moses’ face, must not be ascribed first of all to sin. Rather I believe Paul uses this as a symbol of the whole nature of that old nature of that old covenant and that Old Testament ministry. That ministry and that law was one written on tables of stone. That is, it presented the law as something external, engraven on stones—that was its essential character. Therefore also it was a ministration unto condemnation. That law written on the tables of stone could not but condemn. And for Aaron and the children of Israel, standing before the face of Moses as the minister of and the living reflection of God’s righteousness displayed in the glory of his shining face, it could not but engender fear. Therefore Moses wore the mask over his face to cover that glory so they could receive the revelation.

Now all this is done away in the New Testament. No longer is the law the external code written upon the tables of stone—engendering to fear and to condemnation. Christ who is the end of the law, has fulfilled it and thru the Spirit of Christ, that law is written in our hearts. It is no longer then the outward brilliance of the Old Testament and its ministration but it is the inner brilliance of the New Testament righteousness of Christ—the law written in our hearts.

Now certainly, even in its temporary character and in its ministry unto condemnation, that ministry of Moses is glorious. Evidently so because its brilliance necessitated the veil before Moses’ face. But how much more glorious is that ministry of the N. T. which is eternal in Christ Jesus and which is unto righteousness and life and peace. Happy indeed may we be in the glory of that revelation of God in the N. T. thru the ministry of the apostles, an abiding, a life-giving, an inner-spirit not an outer-letter ministration. That ministry is more glorious even as the Christ is more glorious than Moses.

 

Our Ministry Bestows Glory! (12-18)

Having the hope of this more glorious but especially of this lasting revelation we use great plainness of speech the apostle says. Exactly because this ministry is more glorious, is free in Christ, is the gospel of salvation, we need not the covering up of the glory of God. But it bestows on us the ability to read and to understand and to stand before the glory of God’s revelation and God’s law through Jesus Christ our Lord. Because the condemning character of that old ministry is done away in the new we do not need a veil upon the word and glory of God. So standing in the glory of the liberty of the children of God, the apostle can speak openly and we can hear that glorious gospel of the God of our salvation.

“The point of this paragraph is not the hope of Paul and of his assistants, not the openness of speech they use, nor the liberty with which they operate; all these are subordinate. The point is that the glory inherent in their ministry is one that brings glory upon glory upon us all, upon those who are served by this ministry as well as upon those serving it.” (Lenski).

This is in striking contrast to the Jews of Paul’s day and even today who stubbornly hold the veil upon their hearts. That veil is once again the condemning sentence of the law—which alone can be lifted in the freedom of the gospel of Christ Jesus. But there is hope—for in the way of turning to the Lord that veil is lifted even today.

Through that Spirit of the Lord, working that liberty in us, we all stand as unveiled before the revelatory face of God. That is the glory of the New Testament ministry, and its blessed fruit. Turning to the Lord, that is thru the Spirit of the Lord, gives, not only to the Jews, but us that perfect liberty.

And so standing with unveiled faces, not only the ministers, but we all, reflecting constantly that glory of the Lord in His revelation are changed from glory into glory. And this is the ultimate glory in that the glory of the grace of Christ enters into us, transforms us, changes us into His glorious image. And that work of the Spirit in us, wrought through the gospel, manifested in all of our lives as children of God, is indeed glory unto glory. Superabundant glory of the blessed Gospel of Jesus Christ!

 

Questions for Discussion

1.   Was the purpose of the law to bring condemnation? What was the relationship between the law and condemnation?

2.   To what extent did sin necessitate the veil over Moses’ face?

3.   How does this transcendent glory become manifest now? How in heaven?

 

LESSON 59

EXHAUSTED, BUT VICTORIOUS

II Cor. 4:1-10

 

Paul and Timothy are, as it were, in the arena. Enduring, waiting it out, as ministers of God. The whole Christ despising world against them. Many in Corinth also against them. Beaten, pushed, chased, felled, dragged out for dead (Acts 14:19). God’s servants they. The offense of the cross. Exhausted, but always victorious. Because it must be seen that the power is “not of us but of God.”

We faint not (vs. 1). Luke 18:1 explains what this word faint means. Seeing God has put them in trust with the preaching of the glorious Gospel, it is His mercy which keeps them from giving up in discouragement. They might become “popular” ministers as they of 2:17, but, says Paul, then we should be traitors to our Sender. Instead, we have renounced all deceitful handling of the Word of God. Rather, we bear the odium of the Cross and are honest before God and men, than to seek popularity by preaching a gospel which natural man would find palatable. False preachers may hawk the Christ and make a bid for popularity, but we would rather lie exhausted on the arena floor than arrive at the popularity of pseudo-ministers. (Vs. 2)

And some of you have urged us to change our preaching because people just cannot “see it” and “accept it”, because a Christ crucified makes no sense. Says Paul, rather than change the Gospel of Christ, if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost (vs. 3). That men, who have for some time heard the plain and simple preaching of Christ, should say “it is too deep” or “it does not make sense”, only indicates that they are blinded. Signs of reprobation. The god of this world has blinded them. Satan, by means of sophistry, love of popularity, false philosophy, etc. has blinded the eyes of the unbelieving. The sun is there and it is shining, but they cannot see it. The light-giving power which emanates from the Gospel, emitting the radiant glory of Christ, the glory of the image of God, that glory-light shines from the Word we preach. But Satan has blinded the eyes of the infidels so that it should not shine forth into their minds. Thinking themselves to be wise they are fools, and God gives them up to reprobate minds in His just judgment (Rom. 1). That some men stumble at this Gospel must not discourage us. Satan is busy blinding the eyes of men. God judges them that believe not and slays them with blindness. And forget not that God’s ways are ways of election and reprobation. (vs. 4).

We preach not ourselves (vs. 5). We do not aim at using the Gospel to get ourselves a name or fame among men. But we preach Christ Jesus the Lord, and towards you we are your servants for His sake. We preach and teach, not to BE something, or to GET something, but we preach to glorify Christ and thus bring you something. The God who in Gen. 1 brought light out of darkness by the Word of His power, (vs. 6) is the same almighty God who shone into our hearts, giving us to know Jesus Christ, in His light we see light. And carry forth that light to you. That is our service.

We have this treasure (of preaching Christ) in earthen vessels (vs. 7). We are not super-men. We are plain, weak, frail human beings, who can be chased, persecuted, pummeled, beaten, felled, exhausted. God would have it so. For God would have the world to know that the beyond-all-human-endurance power is not of men but of God. God proceeds to preach His Christ, even when we become expendable, (vs. 7.). So we are troubled, hated, persecuted, given up to die. But Christ always wins out. For even if these things lead to our death, His power becomes evident in our weakness. His Word goes on even if enmity beats us unconscious and our mouths go shut (as with Stephen). Therefore we are resembling the dead but we live. For our Christ lives. Therefore we faint not.

 

Questions for discussion

1.   The god of this world blinded the minds of them which believe not we read in vs. 4. Does Scripture teach also that God blinds men’s eyes and minds? Compare.

2.   In verse 5 Paul speaks of men who preach themselves. What does that imply?

3.   Seeing all the hardship it cost, why was Paul so zealous to preach the Lord? Cf. I Cor. 16ff.

LESSON 60

DYING, WE LIVE

II Cor. 4:11-18

 

Paul is still reminding the Corinthians what manner of thing the ministry of the Gospel is and how the Lord, for the greater glory of His omnipotent grace, has His work done through “earthen vessels”. Let not the Corinthians be ashamed of this divine wisdom.

Vs. 11. We, apostles, are walking examples of the fact that the world hates Christ. It has murdered Him, and it continues after us who preach the Christ. Always again being delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake. Meantime however, though we are constantly being hounded by death, the life of Christ becomes manifest in us. Though we are chased from city to city, escape one prison to be anon cast into another… we poor derelicts … we preach Christ. Christ uses us to bring men life through the Gospel. In our dying Christ becomes evident as the Life-giver. So then, de works in us but through it all we brouginr you Corinthians the Gospel of Christ. And His Life works in you. (vs. 12).

The same faith-giving Spirit which made the psalmist of 116:10 say: “I believed, therefore I spoke.” makes Paul say “we also believe, therefore we speak.” (vs. 13) Paul believes in the Living Christ, therefore He cannot but confess Him in preaching. Whatever persecutions there he, he is confident in Christ and as he believes, so he speaks … until the enemy destroy his body and shut his mouth.

Paul’s confidence is not that Christ will save him from being killed by hounding persecutors (vs. 14). In fact Paul envisions death at the hands of Christ’s enemies. But this is his confidence that the God Who raised up Jesus from the dead, will raise up and bring to glory His confessors. What can the enemies do to us who have the life everlasting? t only will he raise up us, His preach- but He will raise also you with us who have received the gift of faith. The minister is not selfishly interested in his own glorification, he wants the congregation standing with him in the final presentation.

In fact, all that has come upon us preachers, has come upon us for your sakes, for all things are for your sakes (vs. 15). that the Gospel might come to you. The farther God’s grace reached, the greater became the number of those that expressed thanks, to the glory of God. Our struggling and dying is not in vain. Through us, earthen vessels, God recruits the multitude which after while shall praise Him for His grace. Paul wants to have the grace and glory of God magnified.

Vs. 16 again, as in vs. 1, therefore we do not give up in discouragement. Paul then speaks of the dying of the outward man, by which he means everything of us that belongs to this temporal life. It can be brought to decay.

The present relationships of this life can terminate. Then Paul speaks also of an “inward man”, which, I believe, refers to that which we have by regeneration, such as hope, confidence, faith, courage, etc. These things after all constitute life. As often as the present earthly relationships threaten to, or actually do break down, the hope and confidence in Christ rises up with renewed vigor. So the outward man perishes but the inward man is renewed from day to day. Vs 17 gives the reason for this. Our afflictions are “light” he says, and momentary, compared to the exceeding and eternal weight of glory which is our by promise. Besides, the afflictions “work out” this weight of glory, they are not in vain. Our afflictions are not the meritorious cause of coming glory, but they are the way to glory and effectuate it. We do not suffer in vain. Weighing the one against the other, we have every reason to be of good courage. Vs. 18 tells us that this comes about through that seeing of faith whereby we look at the things unseen. We see and feel our afflictions, but we keep our eyes of faith on “what is not seen” (with natural eyes) for the things we see are passing but the things which are not seen (except by faith) are eternal. So we faint not.

 

Questions for Discussion

1.   Christian Science says that suffering etc. are not real, they say that “unrealities seem real to human, erring belief, until God strips off their disguise.” and “the punishment for sin lasts as long as belief in sin endures.” ‘In the actual reality of the Christian’s life how could forty years of affliction, for instance, be called “light” and “for a moment.”? Discuss.

2.   In vs. 14 what does it mean that God shall raise us up “by Jesus”?

LESSON 53

GOOD NEWS, THANK GOD

II Cor. 1:1-14

 

In II Cor. you see the infathomable love of Christ for His Church. Especially for a Church as infantile as Corinth. Christ, walking among the seven golden candlesticks.

That infathomable love reflects itself from the heart of Paul, the Apostle. As parents lavish the more cate upon an invalid child, so Paul, it seems was the more lavish in his affection for Corinth.

Paul has written them the letter we now have as I Cor. It was necessarily sharp, pertinent, corrective, because Corinth revealed waywardness. Having written the letter Paul did not proudly say: “There, I told them off, ”they can take it or leave it.” Instead, he was highly concerned. Would they receive his letter? Would they obey it? Would they correct their errors? It’s the love of God pulsating in Paul.

Paul had no rest. (II Cor. 2:13). How truly human. He trusted that God could and would do with the preaching what pleases Him, but Paul is anxious.

He had sent Timothy to Corinth (I Cor. 16:10). The time is not ripe yet that he go there himself (1:23) but he has no rest. Timothy goes and he returns. Still no rest. That is the toil and labor of a true minister of the Gospel.

Then he sends Titus. And he instructs Titus to visit Corinth and then come back and meet him at Troas. At which time Titus can report on the conditions prevailing in Corinth. Meanwhile Paul travels on his missionary journeys. He comes to Troas. But, alas, Titus is not there as per the appointment. (2:13). Now what has happened? Paul is still restless.

So Paul travels on to Macedonia, and there he meets Titus (7:5-7). Glory to God. Titus has come. And he has generally good news about how things stand in Corinth. Thanks be to God. So we get II Corinthians. I pass by the various arguments about the how and what and when of this Second Epistle and assert it as my conviction that Paul wrote II Cor. as a re-action to the effect of I Cor., and it was written a few months afterwards. Calvin says that Paul writes II Cor., in order that he might perfect what he had begun in I Cor.

In our present passage we find Paul rejoicing. In all his sufferings, this comforts him that the Gospel triumphs. Paul is the minister concerned about his church, rejoices and is comforted by the tidings that God ha’s been pleased to make his former letter effective toward strengthening of that which is weak.

Against that background I think we are to see the present passage.

Paul begins with the salutation (vs. 1-2) emphasizing that he is not an apostle by his own initiative, but the will of God sends him. Timothy is writing, while Paul is dictating and all the saints in Asia are to read this letter also. The Church is interested in the Church everywhere. Peace and grace proceed from the Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ (vs. 3). How can there be peace without grace, or grace without peace? Both come from God. Blessed be God, Father of the Lord Jesus and hence Father of all mercies and compassions to usward; and of comfort.

That last word, comfort, Paul will emphasize. Paul has had experience of tribulations, griefs, tortures. Recall his missionary journeys. God has comforted him (vs 4). God gave him relief. Was he not suffering these things as an apostle of Christ, in order that the Corinthians might have the Gospel? Was Paul not their “father” by the gospel? (I Cor. 4:15), A great factor in Paul’s consolation was that his suffering and preaching (the two are combined) was effective for the salvation of many, including the Corinthian’s. He in turn can comfort the Corinthians now. Paul has steadfast hope for them (vs. 7). They suffer, they too shall be comforted. I have been comforted and I channel the comfort to you. I have rebuked you in God’s Name, I comfort you too in God’s Name. Remember, says Paul, I have been in many deaths (II Cor. 11:23 on). He was in extremity. Had the death sentence pronounced over him (vs. 9). That he should trust in God who raises the dead. And the Corinthians were praying for him (vs. 11). Paul rejoices. He has a good and clear conscience. God knows that he has preached and walked and lived and suffered that the Corinthians might come to hear about the great salvation (vs. 12). Ye acknowledge me as such an apostle of the Lord. Ye rejoice (or boast) in what God has made me to be for you; and I rejoice (or boast) in what God has made you to be for me. (vs. 14). In the day of the Lord we meet each other.

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. For the proper approach to the comfort of which Paul speaks here see II Cor. 7:4-11. He is not writing about comfort in general, but about a very particular experience of our comfort. What is a minister’s comfort today?
  2. What are the “sufferings of Christ” in verse 5?
  3. In vs. 14 he says to the Corinthians, that they are Paul’s rejoicing in the day of the Lord. In I Thess. 2:19 there is a like passage. Discuss this.

LESSON 54

NOT FICKLENESS, BUT SINCERITY

II Cor. 1:15-24

 

Paul has had to change his plans about visiting the Corinthians. He is on that account charged by some in the Corinthian church of being unreliable . . . you cannot depend on what that minister says. Paul could have dismissed these charges (as later he proves that they are unfounded) but an attack upon the minister’s sincerity in this case constitutes an attack upon the sincerity of God, Christ and the Gospel which he preaches. Paul cannot allow that to happen. Therefore our present passage. Read it against that background.

In the confidence that the Corinthians would acknowledge him as of vs. 13,14 Paul had intended to bring them a second visit (Cf. I Cor. 16:5-6) and thus bring them a second grace, a benefit in grace (vs. 15). If Paul came he came as an apostle, not merely as a caller. The past tense in vs. 15 indicates that such had been his plan but he did not carry it out. Consequently Paul admits that vs. 16 had not been carried out either. It was this change of plans which some Corinthians used to accuse Paul of variableness.

I changed my plans, says Paul (vs. 17). I did it purposely. In vs. 23 he will explain the reason for this conduct. There is however something much more important. He can easily enough clear himself but the Gospel must be kept above reproach. I did not use lightness (levity) when I changed my plans; I was not fickle nor frivolous, neither did I have carnal motives. I did not say yea, yea and nay, nay at the same time. Paul’s yes is not also a no. In that case you could scramble them because his words would be unreliable anyway.

Paul declares himself to be a preacher of God. Timothy, Silas and he have been put in trust with the Gospel. The God we preach is true and reliable and our word to you has been true and reliable. The promises of God in Christ are reliable and sincere (18-20). And we who carry such sincere things as these have to be reliable and sincere. We are sincere. Notice how clear is Paul’s conscience when in vs. 18 he says that the truth of his preaching is as reliable as God is faithful and true. Paul said something about his conscience and preaching in vs. 12. He repeats that now. God would not let Paul carry His beautiful Word if he were a flatterer or liar. The Christ Whom we preached among you (vs. 19) is not a Christ Who assumes one form today and another tomorrow but He is the Christ in Whom whatever promises God has given they have also been fulfilled (vs. 20). God has, made many promises, not one of which He has not fulfilled, not one but it was fulfilled in the Christ of Golgotha. Because the promises are “yea” in Christ, therefore also through Him they are AMEN( Cf. Rev. 3:14). God promises salvation to all who come and believe, (Canons IV:8, Heb. 11:11) God accomplishes that salvation also without fail (Canons 11:5-9, Rom. 4:21). We preach these immoveable things in order that through us and our sincere preaching the children of God may find their refuge in God and bring Him the glory. As Abraham who believed God—giving God the glory (Rom. 4:20).

And we know and experience the veracity of God, for the Triune God who makes the promises accomplishes them in Christ and confirms us in them through His Spirit (vs. 21-22). Not only we, preachers, but also you believing Corinthians, experience that God establishes us in these reliable things. And to make this all the more real for us God anoints us, seals us and gives us the earnest of the Spirit. Thus the promises are made sure to all the seed and we have the anchor of Heb. 6:19.

And, says Paul, as far as changing my plans is concerned, God was my counsellor (vs. 23-24). I did it to spare you. Shall I come with the rod? he had asked in I Cor. 4:8-21. No, says Paul, I delayed my trip that I might observe whether you correct your evils yourself. We are not tyrants (vs. 24) we preachers bring you the Gospel, admonish and correct you, then pray and wait for its effect. We further your joy, we come not to tyrannize you. By faith you stand, and Paul’s desire is to confirm them in that faith.

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. That God is TRUE is frequently emphasized in Scripture. Cf. also II Tim. 2:13, Rev. 1:5, Heb. 6:18. Canons and IV:8, Heb. 10:23, etc. Discuss: the word “true” means trusted, faithful, trustworthy etc.
  2. In vs. 20, which promises? (II Cor. 7:1, Acts 13;32-41) etc.
  3. “Helpers of your joy” vs. 24 literally “co-workers of your joy” What does that mean?

 

LESSON 55

RECEIVING THE PENITENT

II Cor. 2:1-11

 

Study this passage against the background of I Cor. 5:1-5, the case of ince’st in the Corinthian Church. Paul s not mention the man by name, but ”the, “such a man” in vs. 6, and the pronouns following, refer to the man who committed fornication and concerning whom Paul had written in the previous letter. And I conclude that this man has been disciplined by the church, than come to repentance, and now the Corinthians must finish discipline by receiving this penitent one again.

The opening of Chap. 2 joins with the verses 23, 24 of Chap. 1 to explain, to the Corinthians why Paul had not kept his original travel-schedule.

Paul has made up his mind that he does not want to come to them again in grief (vs. 1). If the Corinthians did not straighten out the evils in their Church, he would have to whip-lash them again when he came. He would that they walked the way of the Lord (vs. 2, 3) then he could come to them in happiness and scatter happiness among them. Here you see the heart of a pastor. He willingly rebukes the wayward, for that is the work His Lord gave him to do, but how eager he is to be made glad by discovering that the rebukes have led to repentance. Paul was anxious to come in joy, and to bring joy.

He reminds them in vs 4-5 how deeply distressed he was when he heard about the fornicator in the Church (I Cor. 5) and how great was his tribulation when, he had to write them about this case and their neglected discipline. And how he would have to institute discipline when he came. Paul grieved them by that letter. But his love for them compelled him. The man who committed the sin, and you who winked at it, you both have caused me deep grief, and caused grief to you all. Sin brings grief along the entire church-front.

Now, say? Paul let the case be closed. Titus had brought information about the fact that the Church at Corinth had used discipline (vs. 6). The word translated “punishment” in vs. 6 indicates that the fornicator had been brought to church trial by the “many” (or the greater part) i.e. by the congregation itself. The erring member had also come to grief (vs. 7) i.e. he had come to repentance. THAT IS ENOUGH. Discipline has carried through. Now be careful that it does not miscarry. Says Paul: (1) Do not crush the man with the weight of your inflated egos. Forgive him who has done this deed. Let him know that Christ has forgiven the penitent. Assure him that Christ has come seeking the lost. (2) Comfort the man by good words, words which indicate that you are ready to restore him to a place in the midst of the saints. (3) Confirm your love toward the man (vs. 8). Let him know that as Christ and the church forgives, I too have forgiven him (vs. 10). That is Paul’s apostolic authority. Christ forgives, and in Christ’s Name Paul forgives (Cf. Matt. 18:17- 18). The man has repented. It is sufficient. Show now that discipline is wholly a matter of love not of revenge.

It is the more necessary that the Corinthians conduct themselves thus toward the erring one. Because Satan is standing on the jump, eager to get an advantage of us. (vs. 11). That’s how real Satan is. If it was his strategy to slay the Church through the incest of that one person, and if he has failed in this point, it is now his strategy to have you Corinthians act the part of pride against the man and thus shut him out from your fellowship. For we are not unaware of Satan’s scheme. Be on your guard therefore, lest the Name of Christ be defamed because of your conduct and Satan overreach us.

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. In vs. 3 Paul says that his joy is “the joy of you all”. Cf. Heb. 13:17. Compare the two and find the instruction.
  2. My interpretation of the penitent one in this Lesson, is based also on the Form for Readmitting Excommunicated Persons. Look it up for your edification.
  3. About Satan see also I Pet. 5:8. How does it apply in our church-life today?

LESSON 56

ALWAYS TRIUMPHING

II Cor. 2:12-17

 

The theme refers to the true and honest ministers of the Gospel, not to hucksters and peddlers of the same.

We have in our present passage another glimpse into the deeply concerned heart of the minister, Paul; another display of how anxiously he loved the Corinthian Church (vss. 12, 13). Paul had come to Troas, and here a door had been opened to him. A church was probably organized (Acts 20:6). But he has no rest in his spirit because Titus does not come as per the appointment. In concern about meeting Titus and thus getting information on how things are going in Corinth, Paul takes leave of the brethren at Troas and comes on to Macedonia. When it says that he took leave of them at Troas I conclude that Paul could still profitably have labored here for some time, and they needed him here. But he goes to Macedonia, and there he finds Titus, and Paul rejoices in the good news coming from there.

The minister of the Lord is not therefore a feelingless creature. He is concerned about the welfare of the Church of God over which he has been placed a shepherd. God’s ministers ought not be anxious in selfishness, but they should anxious; in Christ. Paul was restless. And the sad conditions in the church can bring anxiety, tears and prayers.

But yet, Paul and his fellow-preachers are always triumphing (vs. 14). They may be anxious and concerned about how the Gospel fares in Corinth but however it fares, God leads forth triumphantly. Christ is forever victorious, in them that are co-victorious, in the procession as well as in them that are led on behind in chains to the place of execution. Christ is forever victorious over all. And they that believe in Him, preach Him, are by the grace of God led forth to conquer with Him (Cf. Rev. 19, Psalm 149:6-9, Rev. 2:26 etc.). Therefore Paul thanks God, for all things are of Him and through Him. God makes all this a reality by letting ministers spread the savour (smell, aroma) of the knowledge of Christ everywhere it pleases Him. It is the smell of the Conqueror and Conquering Christ which sweeps over the country when the Gospel is preached. Always victorious too, (vs. 15) because the preaching of Christ IS a sweet savour to God. God rejoices in His Own wisdom. It is savory to God always, in them that are saved (believing and being saved), the elect as well as in them that are lost (disbelieving and perishing Mark 16:16). The reprobate. Faith or unbelief does not determine who Christ is. Christ IS a savour well-pleasing to God. To some a savour from death to death, to others an aroma of life unto life. Christ triumphs always, both in them that are led forth to glory as well as the captives led forth to the execution. Calvin well says. “Whatever may be the issue of our preaching it is notwithstanding well-pleasing to God . . . and also that it does not detract in any degree from the dignity of the Gospel that it does not do good to all; for God is glorified even in this, that the Gospel becomes an occasion of ruin to the wicked, nay, it must turn out so.”

A far cry from Point I of 1924, this passage from II Cor.

And since we have such a Gospel, we ministers are not “hucksters” or “peddlers” who “mix wine with water” Isa. 1:22. We do not adulterate the Gospel in trying to make it palatable to wicked people (vs. 17). We preach not a Christ Whose glory hangs in the balance of our endeavors, nor a Christ Who has victory only when people believe but goes down defeated when people do not believe. We do not need to help Him come to victory. We are .sent to preach the Christ, not to hawk Him.

We preach a Gospel that God recognizes as commissioned by Him, a Gospel that can stand the sun-light; a Gospel with which we dare to stand before His face. Speaking what Christ taught us and commanded us. (Vs. 17)

Who is capable of preaching this? (vs. 16). God makes us capable.

Whatever transpires in Corinth and anywhere else, we follow the White Horse and are triumphers with Him in preaching the unadulterated Gospel.

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why was Paul restless then at Titus’ absence (vs. 13) and so comforted at his coming (II Cor. 7:6 sq.)?
  2. Discuss Point I of 1924 in this connection (cf. Standard Bearer, XXIX, pages 167, 168).
  3. There is a confrontation here: Woe to us if we preach another Gospel (Gal. 1:8, 9) and woe unto us if we want another Christ preached to us than the Christ of God.

 

LESSON 49

“With What Body do They Come?”

I Cor. 15:35-44

It is perhaps the skeptic asking: if there is a resurrection, what kind of bodies will men have as Philosophers now as the Sadducees then, ridiculed the idea of a resurrection by such questions. Paul ushers the question to the front (vs. 35). Fool, says Paul, our bodies will be changed. They will be raised, but CHANGED, (vs. 36-44).

The leading answer to the question is therefore: our bodies will come forth from the grave. They will be our bodies but yet they will be vastly different. It is improper to ask inquisitively about what manner of bodies we will have afterwhile. We receive what God wants to tell us about the hereafter. For the rest we wait until we ourselves are changed. We have no further answer to the skeptic than the answer of our faith, and over against their ridicule we set up the “thanks be to God”. So there will be a change.

You see it before your very eyes in the seed. (vs 36). You sow IT, them IT dies and finally IT is made alive, that is, it rises above the ground as a plant. The change is evident (vs 37-38). You sow a kernel of wheat, not the stalk. The stalk comes later for God gives to each seed a body as it pleases Him. Hence out of the wheat seed comes the wheat plant. Plant a tulip bulb and out comes a beautiful flower. Out of the cozy creek bottom a lily bulb changes into a beautiful white blossom. God does this. The botanist and the horticulturist look on while the park custodian plants the bulbs, but God works the change. (Thou fool, cannot that same God effect the resurrection change?)

We shall have changed bodies, for look a moment at the varieties God has on hand. Round about us we see not the monotony but amazing variety (vs. 39- 42). Every flesh is not the same as every other. When God crested things He was not limited. He made men, He made beasts, He made fishes and He made birds, and He gave each a body as it pleased Him. Then there are the heavenly bodies, such as mountains and trees, etc. They differ in appearance and brilliance. Even the sun, moon and stars differ in glory.

And why should it be thought ridiculous then that the body we have now will be changed into something else, something different, something more glorious?

So also is the resurrection (vs 42).

It looks like this when it is put into the ground: corrupt, repulsive, powerless. It looks quite different when the power of God through the resurrected Christ raises it from the grave. Then it is incorruptible, glorious and strong. Now it is exposed to disease, is perishable, in the coffin it is repulsive and powerless. In the resurrection it is beautiful, imperishable, attractive, like unto the glorious body of Christ (vs 43). Into the grave it goes, a natural body, i.e. a physical body, adapted to serve as an instrument of our present soul. Bound to the earth, needing food, clothing and medicines. But it is raised a spiritual body. Delivered from the present bondage, it will be wholly quickened and made subservient to the glorified spirit. Eyes, ears, minds, everything, CHANGED. It will be our present body that is raised. We will not be spirits, but body and soul, to make us perfect image-bearers of the glorified Christ. “Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29). So Christ is raised. Changed. And the children of God shall be changed with Him after Him. This reaches its fulfilment in the final resurrection. And nothing is too wonderful for the Lord. Let men prate about: how are they raised, or ask: how can it? If men ask this question in sincerity and modesty there is plenty of answer in these words of God. But if men ask impudently we shall testify of what God has taught us to believe and give account of the hope that is in us. Regeneration has already effected in our lives a tremendous change, for we are said to be “new creatures”. But when the regeneration of all things has come, our present bodies too shall become “new”. God HAS raised Christ and we, who believe in Him, shall follow Him into the Renewal of all things.

 

Questions for Discussion

1.   Vs. 42 speaks about “sowing” the body. What do you think about the practice of cremation?

2.   Why is the questioner of Vs 35 called “fool” in Vs 36? This holds for all impudent questions concerning the how and the what manner of the resurrected bodies. We have but one answer to the “wisdom of the world” and that is “fool”.

3.   How does faith in this coming resurrection effect your walk an daily life? E.g. at the death-bed, at the grave side, etc.

 

LESSON 50

Thanks be to God.

I Cor. 15:45-58

 

In our present passage we are going to reach the Doxology. A doxology which we sing among the graves. We can talk with Death. We are more than conquerors. Thanks be to God. In infinite wisdom and goodness He has made known to us His Counsel. The great Purpose, from before the foundations of the world, according to which He ordained the Fall, had us bear the image of the earthly, gave us unto Christ raised Him from the dead and raise the elect with and in Him. So that we shall move on from the first things to the last things, from the earthly to the heavenly. All of it through the great grace of God. That heaven might resound with a doxology. That doxology must begin here, while we still face the last enemy.

 

The excellence of Christ (vs 45, 47).

It is written in Gen. 2:7 that Adam came forth from the hands of God a living soul. Earthy therefore and made for the earthy scheme of things. Not so the last Adam, Christ. Both are Adams because they stand at the head of things but while the first Adam can bring us no more than what is “dustly’ the Other brings what is spiritual to His people. Christ as the living soul would not profit us, seeing that because of sin we have died. Christ regenerates us and brings us a life which is spiritual. Cf. Romans 8:10-11. Adam is out of the earth, earthy, Christ is from out of heaven. Not only is Christ thus but God raises us up with and in Christ. Head and Body cannot be separated. The natural is first (vs 46, 49). Regeneration has come. We bear the image of the earthly but in due time we shall shed that which is earthly and have bodies like unto the glorious Body of Christ Jesus. Then we shall bear the image of the heavenly. (vs 49). But since he speaks here of the one being first and the other coming later, it is evident again that Paul indicates that there must be a change. Flesh and blood, that is, corrupted bodies such as we now have, cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. They would not fit into the heavenly scheme of things. Corruption may not enter. We are heirs of the Kingdom, not by virtue of our flesh and blood, but by the virtue of Christ’s merit. Inheritance is always a gift, coming to us by testament. The Testator is Christ, the heirs are the elect-regenerate. They must be changed therefore, or the inheritance would fail.

 

And we shall be changed (51-53).

Even those who are still alive when the Lord finally stages His return. I show you a mystery, says Paul, I tell you something which until now has been hid from the ages . . . there will be some still alive when Christ returns. But, together with the dead, they shall be changed. In a moment. The trumpet shall sound (men shall hear the Voice of the Son of God, John 5:28) and the omnipotence of grace will reveal itself as perhaps never before, for in the twinkling of an eye, the Church shall be raised. God will raise individuals, indeed, but, as members of the Body. It is the Body that shall be raised. (John 6:39). The wicked shall also be raised but Paul is not bringing that into view here. He speaks about the Church. To take the place which God has ordained for His children, the corruptible must put on incorruption. When that shall be accomplished, then shall be fulfilled and consummated the saying of Isa. 25:8 that the Lord shall make a banquet for His people, tears shall be wiped away and death shall be swallowed up in victory.

Then comes the challenge (vs 55). Standing in that Grace and Promise we can talk to death instead of flee before him. Talking with the enemy in the gates. How dare we. Christ has conquered death, and we conquer. Death, where is thy sting, grave, where thy victory? Has not Christ condemned sin in the flesh, freed us from the condemnation of the law? (vs 56). What then can death do? The Catechism says something about this too. (Ques. 42)

Thanks be to God! Christ has the victory and it pleases Him to give us that victory through the living faith.

Therefore, Corinthians (vs 58) and Christians everywhere, endure persecution, hold fast the sound doctrine, abound in the work of the Lord (confessing His Name, etc.) Your toil, your travail is not in vain. There is the reward of grace. If death ended all things your labor would be vain, but now we run with patience the race which is set before us.

 

Questions for Discussion

1.   “The image of the earthly” in vs 49 is that our creaturliness-insin, or what? When we are made to bear the image of the heavenly, will we still be creatures?

2.   From the First Adam to the last Adam, cf Belg. Conf. Art. 17,18.

3.   Considering the Whole Plan of God as passing before us in this chapter, and the promises herein contained, what does it mean that we are to “abound in the work of the Lord”?

 

LESSON 51

The Care of all the Churches

I Cor. 16:1-12

 

“Now concerning the collection for the saints.” so begins Chap. 16. And there-with Paul touches upon another matter in which the Corinthian church needed instruction.

Likely the collection is for the church in Jerusalem, the Mother Church. Some suggest that their attempt at community-living (Acts 4:34-37) soon proved impractical, and poverty followed on the heels of an impractical theory. But why jump to such conclusions? I think Palestine was visited by a famine, a persecution or any such disaster. At least the Mother Church was in great need and not too ashamed to look for “charity”. Although the Jews, as a whole had little respect for Paul, and eventually persecute him, notice that the Paul who writes I Cor. 13, lives it. He seeks the welfare of the Jews, however much they seek his ruin. Love, in action. Paul alone does what Consistories, Classes and Synods do nowadays, he prescribes a collection for the needy church. He had already arranged such a collection to be gathered from among the Galatians (vs 1) and the Macedonians were to join in it. Now the Corinthians ought to put their shoulders to the task of charity also by actually giving of their increase for the poor in Jerusalem. As the doctrine of salvation has been carried to the Gentiles by Jerusalem, so now the Gentiles ought to carry back bread and clothes to Jerusalem. What unity. A collection is much more than a bag of money; it is an expression of love.

As for arranging this general collection, Paul directs that each Christian lay aside a little of what he has gained (in his business, etc.) to keep it with himself, and when the Sabbath comes to put it into the general treasury (vs 2). The Sabbath comes on the first day of the week, by New Testament reckoning, and on each such “first of sabbath” the children of God are to bring forward their liberality. Notice that Paul does not prescribe tithing. In due time Paul will come to Corinth and he wants the collection to be ready at that time (vs 3). Then they may send a committee to carry their liberality (original uses the word grace here) to the poor in Jerusalem. If the collection warrants it Paul will be ready to travel with them to Jerusalem (vs 4). And so the saints in need will have food, not only, but also a vivid demonstration or love and unity in the Body of Christ.

Paul is also coming to visit the Corinthians (vs. 5). Paul carries the care of all the churches (II Cor. 11:28). How readily you feel that in this passage. First there is the collection, for Paul concerned about all the churches. No he will come to pay hem an official visit. There were no trains and planes at that time, neither automobiles. He carried the care of all the churches, on foot. Sometimes he comes with the rod, sometimes with excommunication (I Cor. 4:21) but always as an ambassador of Christ. Originally, it seems Paul intended to go to Corinth first and then to Macedonia (II Cor. 1:16) but for one reason or the other he changed his mind and tells them that he will come to them when he has finished his tour through Macedonia (vs. 5). He intends to stay with them for a while (vs. 6) if the Lord permits. For the Lord has opened to him a great door (vs. 9) consisting probably in that the Lord has opened a way for him to Ephesus (vs. 8). Cf. Acts 19:1. The Lord gathers His Church and sends His Gospel and Paul rejoices to see a door opened. God must give the door-opening. We must seek and that requires great spirituality. Paul seems to desire to reach Ephesus soon for there are many “adversaries” trying to bar the door and prevent Paul’s preaching the Gospel there.

Paul is also sending Timothy (vs. 10. Cf. I Cor. 4:17). He wanted Apollos to go also, but Apollos did not wish to go at this time (vs. 12). He will come when his present labor allows it. Timothy is working the Lord’s work, receive him as such (vs. 10). Everybody is engaged in the work of the Lord, everybody is busy. God has given ready and willing servants and entrusted to them the care of the churches. And they are busy.

 

Questions for Discussion

1.  There was a collection for the impoverished saints in a far-away place at that time. Do we have its equivalent in our worship today? Observe that the Catechism in Ans. 103 presents the “contribution for the relief of the poor” as something that “becomes the Christian” and is part of Sabbath observance. Discuss.

2.  What is the meaning of the opened door in vs. 9? Is there such a thing in our day? Respecting our churches?

3.  What is that: working the Lord’s work (vs. 10)?

 

LESSON 52

Conclusion

I Cor. 16:13-End.

 

Exhortations, threatenings, greetings and salutations form the close of this letter to the Corinthians. Three times Paul refers to the element of love. He has devoted much of his epistle to

that factor, and the Spirit directs Paul to conclude with reminders. The greetings show how real is the communion of saints.

“Be strong.” So says Paul in vs. 13. Watch ye. Beware, keep your eyes open, be on your guard against error in doctrine or life. There is danger on all sides of us. We are on duty. Stand guard then and do not fall asleep. Stand fast in the faith. Not like a concrete post, but like a living tree; stand fast. Some in the congregation entertain errors. Do not be moved away from the certainty of the Christian faith. Quit yourselves like men, reveal that you are MEN, having the courage of your convictions and manliness to endure the consequences of taking such a position. Children are, as a rule, unstable, but you, be men. Be strong, exercise your faith by maintaining, defending and advancing the truth against every onslaught of evil. “And let all things be done in love.” So Paul reminds them of I Cor. 13 and exhorts that in their watching and standing, their manliness and aggressiveness they exercise love. Otherwise even these things cease to be virtuous and become hateful to the Lord.

You have a family in your church, writes Paul now, by the name of Stephanas (vs. 15), they are the first converts in Achaia. Paul had baptized this family (I Cor. 1:16). In Romans 16:5 Epaenetus is said to be the first-fruits of Achaia. Figure it out. Paul exhorts the church to submit themselves to such because they have set themselves to minister to the saints. In fact (vs. 16) they are to submit themselves to all who manifestly have the welfare of the church at heart. Good advice for our days too.

Several men from Corinth have called on Paul (vs. 17). They evidently carried the news from Corinth to Paul and they, as it were, represented the Corinthians. In that sense they supplied what was lacking. They brought personal contact. Paul was always vitally interested in how the churches were faring.

Then come the greetings. The churches of Asia salute you (vs. 19). This is not mere formality. This is communion of the saints. The saints of the Asiatic world are interested in and pray for the saints in the European world. They are one with them. They would gladly congregate with them but distance does not allow. Distance is the only thing keeping them apart. They send their greetings along with Paul. True ecumenicity. How ecumenical are we? Does your church ever send greetings?

Aquilla and Priscilla have a church in their house. At Rome as well as at Ephesus they opened their house to the saints. It evidently is not a large church but a church is not judged by its numbers.

In vs. 20 all the brethren are greeting you. All are at one with you in the faith. If they all greet you, you Corinthians must also greet each other with a holy kiss. Surprising how often Paul speaks of this fraternal kiss. It bespeaks love. There were party lines and dissensions in the church. Let the fraternal kiss indicate that the dissensions are gone. Then Paul salutes them by adding his personal signature to the letter. Before he closes he says: “cursed be anyone who does not love the Lord Jesus Christ” (vs. 22). Anathema, that is, cursed be he. Maranatha, the Lord comes. He will judge them after Paul’s word and He will read them the sentence wherewith Paul had sentenced. That is the Key of the Kingdom. Grace be with you. My love be with you all.

So be it. Amen.

 

Questions for Discussion

1.  What does the submitting mean in vs. 16?

2.  Have we an equivalent of the “holy kiss” in our modern church life?

3.  What benefit is it to the Corinthians to know that Paul’s love be with them all? (vs. 24).

 

End I Corinthians

LESSON 45

Not Confusion But Order

I Cor. 14:20-40

 

The remainder of this chapter deals with the dignity and decorum of the Divine Service. Speaking with tongues (vss. 20-28) prophets (vss. 29-33) women (vss. 34-35) these all have their place. Let them take their place so that the Service may be what it ought to be.

 

Tongues need an interpreter, Vss. 20-28

Are you so excited about speaking in tongues? (vss. 21, 22). Then read Isa. 28:11. In the Captivity, Judah became subject to the Assyrians and they heard foreign language a plenty. The curse of Jeremiah 5:15 had come. God spake to the rebels in Captivity, through the foreign tongues, but for all that they did not listen to the Lord. Here tongues are a sign of the curse upon the unbelieving (vs. 22). Prophecy is for them that believe. How arrogant then to boast about your ability to speak a foreign language.

If then the Church comes together for Divine Service, and suppose that you all stood there muttering and mumbling in foreign languages, and suppose a stranger (an uninstructed or an unbeliever) came to your service. Would they not say of you that you were drunk or insane (vs. 23)? Is that the effect which the Divine Service ought to have? If, instead of muttering foreign languages, you prophecy and speak plainly about the Truth, and if then there comes to your meeting some unbeliever or uninstructed (24-25) he will be seized by the power of the Word of God which you preach. Instead of calling you fanatics he will be convicted by the Word of God. The Word of God will convict him of sin and unbelief, it will .try to stir up his conscience with the result that he will fall down before you. conquered. He will bend his knees before God and testify that this is holy ground. I take it that this man is brought to repentance and the conquering power of the Word of God shines forth brilliantly. When you congregate let there be order (vss. 2 28). Take turns speaking and let the man speaking in tongues be careful to have an interpreter standing beside him. If not, let him be still.

 

Prophets are to speak by turns, Vss. 29-33

Paul defends the dignity of the Divine Service against all disorder. Let two or three speak, says Paul. That will be enough for one service. Let them patiently await their turns so that there are not two of them speaking at once. God is a God of order and His Service must be dignified. Let your Service testify that God is among you; that all may learn and all may be comforted (or exhorted) (vs. 31).

 

Women to be silent, Vss. 34, 35

Good order requires that men carry the Revelation. Women are to submit to the Law from Gen. 3:16 and forward. Even asking questions (perhaps to criticize and examine what the prophets had said) would constitute an infringement upon the task which God gave to the man cf. vs. 29. If she has anything to ask, let her ask her husband at home. The reason why the woman shall not prophesy in the Church is that it is a shame, it is ugly and disorderly.

Paul concludes by rebuking the arrogance of some (vs. 36) he asks them: do you originate the Word? Are you not but carriers of the Word? If you are a prophet you will recognize that what I have said to you comes from the Lord (vs. 37). Be energetic therefore to handle the gifts and let the Service testify that God is sovereign and that He dictates the Service. Principles do not change. When today the Church comes together in Divine Service the prophecy of Joel (Acts 2:17,18) has come to its fulfillment, all prophesy, but in order. For God has set up one to preach in the Name of God, and the rest to say “amen” in the Name of God. That congregation may be edified and all who gather in the Service may testify that God is among us with His Word.

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. Vs 25 says something about the secrets of that man’s heart being made manifest. To whom? To himself or to others? Cf. Heb. 4:12, 13.
  2. Our Divine Service today is quite different from e.g. vs. 26 of that time. Several men took part in the Service, each contributed what he had “received”. Men, women and all believers have the Spirit (Acts 2:17,18) how explain that just the Minister preaches?
  3. Miriam was a prophetess (Ex. 15:20) Deborah was (Judges 4:4) Huldah (II Kings 22:14) and Anna was (Luke 2: 36). How explain?

 

LESSON 46

Beyond All Doubt, Christ Arose

I Cor. 15:1-11

 

Besides all the other errors in the Corinthian Church there was above all this fatal heresy that there were some among them who denied the resurrection of the dead. How wide-spread this heresy was, or how many followed, I do not know. It was present. That certain ones could have confessed the Apostolic Doctrine, been baptized, received into the Church, and them deny the very foundation upon which the church stands! How subtle is Satan. How inclined are we to all evil. How dreadful is the judgment of God upon those who, with Eve, give ear to the deceiver.

Influenced by, perhaps, the Sadducees, or perhaps the Greeks, there had arisen an element in the Corinthian Church which repudiated the resurrection of the body. I suppose, if you had asked them: do you believe that Christ arose, they would have said: indeed, we believe that. But wait, says Paul, Doctrine is ONE. You cannot deny it at one place and accept it at the other. If you deny the resurrection of the dead, you deny the resurrection of Christ. You are denying the resurrection of Christ and as a result of your error you have come to deny the resurrection of the dead. The two are intertwined. They stand and fall together.

Since then this is the issue at stake Paul rises to the defense of the Gospel and if it please God to the conversion of those who are departing from it. In the first eleven verses of this marvelous chapter Paul establishes beyond all doubt that Christ has arisen from the dead, in the sequence he will show that the Church arises WITH Christ and IN Christ. You deny one, you deny both.

Paul had labored in Corinth for more than eighteen months and the theme of his preaching was the theme of the Whole Scripture: CHRIST IS RISEN, HALLELUJAH. Now, must he prove to them once more that Christ is risen? How arduous is the task of the minister. What patience he must possess. God had told Paul in a night vision “I have much people in this city.” God has His people here in the Corinthian Church, and for their sakes he is ready to do any amount of work, even if he has to repeat what he had so fervently preached and what should have been understood by this time.

I preached it to you, says Paul (vs. 1) you also received it, in it you stand. I had no other Gospel than this one. If you heard anything from me you heard that Christ was raised. If you let slip that Word, your faith is vain. Any faith which springs not from the resurrection of Christ, nor roots in it is imitation. Beware then. (vs. 2).

Neither did Paul contrive this doctrine. Christ sent him with it (vs. 3). All the Scriptures. Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms (Lu. 24:44) all converge on this most blessed mystery that Christ is risen. Christ died for our sins (Isa. 53) He was buried, but saw no corruption (Ps. 16) and He arose on the third day, (Matt. 12:40) as also the event of Jonah teaches us. The Scriptures that went before spake of these things. Those Scriptures I preached unto you (vs 3, 4).

Besides that, we have seen the Risen Lord with our own eyes. Many of us have seen Him (vss. 5-8). Peter saw Him, the Peter who one time denied Him, the Peter who is the rock upon which Christ builds His Church. He saw Him and he preached this risen Christ with great zeal. Then the “twelve” saw Him. Judas not being with it, the number being indicative of the group. This Group saw Him toward the close of the very first day (Mark 16:14). Then Jesus was seen of some five hundred at one time, many of whom are alive and among us today (vs 6). James saw Him. This is that James you have all heard about, how he was a martyr for the Christian Faith. He died for believing in the resurrected Christ. Then all the apostles saw Jesus (vs. 7). I take it this refers to the wider circle of preachers. These all saw Him and their testimony has been believed by the Church.

Then, last of all, I saw Him too. En-route to Damascus. I am as one “born out of due time” (vs. 8) or as an abortion. Paul uses this horrible word in referring to himself as one that is dead, not worthy to be looked upon. He stoops in deep humility. That Christ should have looked upon him. He persecuted the Church of God (vs. 9) and was worthy to be cast aside. But God’s grace appeared and it made him an Apostle He saw the Lord and the Lord gave him grace to believe. Then Paul went out into the world, farther than any of the Apostles had gone and he preached this wonderful, life-and-grace-giving Christ. So he had also come to Corinth.

So, Corinthians, there is the eye-witness testimony preached by every one of us. We never preached but what we preached this risen Christ, and you never believed our preaching but what you believed the Risen Christ.

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why does Modernism etc. want to deny the Resurrection of Christ? What is there about it that makes the human nature so avid to denounce it?
  2. That Christ arose on the third day, according to the Scriptures (vs. 4). Can you show that from the Old Testament?
  3. To believe that Christ arose is much more than mere assent to some historical fact. It is a persuasion and a conviction concerning the great Work of Salvation wrought by God, in Christ first and then in all who are in Christ.
  4. What does it mean in vs. 2 “unless ye have believed in vain?”

 

LESSON 47

Christ Arose, We Follow

I Cor. 15: 12-22

 

From vss. 12-19 Paul says, as it were: some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead. On your assumption now that there is no resurrection, let us see what happens, what conclusions must follow. Five of them:

  1. Then Christ is not raised (vss.13,16). Christ was among the dead. If the dead are not raised, the conclusion is simple, and as inescapable as simple: Christ was not raised. Then Modernism wins out and history marches us down a blind alley from which there is no retreat.
  2. If Christ is not raised we have preached empty words, your faith has caught hold of empty words (vs. 14) and if Christ is not raised your faith is without blessed result, it doesn’t lead you anywhere (vs. 17). We preached forgiveness of sins, justification, evidenced by Christ’s resurrection. But, if He is not raised, you face your sin and the damnation of death that must follow.
  3. If Christ is not raised then we stand forth like culprits, deceivers, who testified of things that do not even exist. We have borne false witness, we have lied against God (vs. 15). False witnesses are we, all of us . . .Apostles, prophets, all the way back to Enoch. From the days that men began to call upon the name of the Lord, in the day of Seth, until now, we all testified falsely. That is if Christ did not rise.
  4. If Christ has not been raised, then Abraham (and how he longed to see the day of Christ) and Isaac, Jacob . . . .the thousands who died in the faith of the coming Christ, the thousands of Hebrews 11, they are all perished (vs. 18). Instead of arriving in the City that has foundations, they discovered too late that they had been deceived. And they now gnash their teeth in hell. In your congregation there have some fallen martyr. They died in hope. But, if Christ is not raised they died in delusion.
  5. If Christ is not raised (vs 19) we are more miserable than all men. For then our hope in Christ is confined to what we have in this life. We suffer for believing in Him, that is what we have in this life. Hope for anything beyond this life is dashed to pieces against the rocks of hard reality.

Paul skillfully leads their error to its only possible conclusion. Do you want us, do you want people in your congregation to follow your awful philosophy and arrive at these terrible conclusions? Repent of it. Wonderful is it not, how God “reasons” with us to lead us away from the false reasoning of sin into the knowledge of faith?

But now, says Paul in vs. 19-22. But now I testify truth. CHRIST IS RISEN. Not only that Christ is risen from the dead, He brings His people along with Him (vs. 20). Christ is the first one that is raised (cf. Acts 26:23 and II Tim. 1:10). Christ first broke the shackles of death. He led the way. He brings us after Him. Vs. 21 proves that Christ was the first fruits. By man is death, by man is also the resurrection, this man being the Lord Jesus Christ. In Adam we all die (vs. 22), speaking of what the believers received through Adam. In Christ we shall all be made alive, speaking again of the believers, and what they receive through Christ. As all God’s people died in Adam, so shall they all be made alive through Christ. Adam stood not alone, neither did he fall alone. Christ arose not alone. He is the first-fruits, evidence of the subsequent harvest, author of eternal salvation, captain of our salvation, first-born from the dead (Cor. 1:19), leading the elect to the destined glory. This is the hope of the Christian. Persecutions and sufferings of this life exercise us in that hope. Walk in sin and the hope fades, walk in sanctification and the hope of faith shines on until the perfect day.

 

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Vs. 18 why is the word “fallen asleep” used instead of the term “dead”? In I Thess. 4:14 the word “sleep” is used, while in I Thess. 4:16 the word “dead in Christ” is used. Why?
  2. Vs. 22 gives Arminianism a nice text, someone said one time. Consider, however, that you can prove most anything from the Bible if you tear it out of its context. Establish the context (e.g. vs. 23).
  3. If Christ is not risen, our faith is vain. He IS risen, and our faith is fruitful, or result-ful (vs. 17). What then is faith? An activity, a non-activity or what?

 

LESSON 48

BECOME SOBER

I Cor. 15:23-34

 

In choosing this caption I attempt to express that we should keep seeing the trees but also the forest. I mean, we must not lose ourselves in details in this passage and miss Paul’s argument against the anti-resurrectionists. What are the conclusions if Christ is not risen? We came upon five of them in the previous Outline. But, says Paul, after he gave those five, Christ IS risen. Then Paul broadens out on the power of the Conquering Christ (23-28). But in vs 29-33 Paul is back again destroying the philosophy of the heretics. And ends this pericope with the summons: wake up, sober up, shame on you. Let this be enough.

 

The All-conquering Christ, Vss. 23-28.

When will this resurrection be? Some heretics were saying that it had been already (II Tim. 2:18). No. the resurrection lies ahead of us. But there is order in the affairs of Christ’s Kingdom (vs. 23). First Christ arose, then, when Christ comes back, we shall arise. It marks the end of this dispensation (vs. 24). Vs. 24-28 are best explained in the light of the Commentary we have in the Catechism, Lord’s Days 19 and especially 48. As sitting at God’s Right Hand, the exalted Christ is King. As God’s covenant Servant (Isa. 53:12) He delivers— up the Kingdom to God by reducing the powers-that-be, to prisoners. He strips the enemy (the devil, antichristian world and all who devise wicked counsels against Christ’s Word) he strips them of their power and puts His heel on their necks. This is a process. Ps. 8 and Ps. 110 have prophesied of these things, and Rev. 19:11-16 see it fulfilled. We are today living in the process indicated by the Catechism when the Kingdom is reaching its “full perfection”. Vs. 25, 28 place the enemies under Christ’s footstool. Then Christ has brought the Church to the Day of Victory. God, in Christ is become King of kings and Lord of lords. The battlefields is cleared the divinely ordained conflict of Gen. 3:15 is consummated.

Vs. 26. Behind all the enemies, forever pushing them on against us, is the power called death. He is with us until the end, for the saints are dying one by one. Death has been conquered at Jesus’ resurrection, but not formally dispatched. That will come at Jesus’ return. Then, after all this history is accomplished, God, in Christ, will bring about the resurrection of our bodies. There will be ore resurrection. That explains the “order” of vs. 23.

In vs. 29 Paul returns to annihilate the error of the anti-resurrectionists. If there is no resurrection, what shall they do who are (being) baptized for the dead? (vs. 29). I do not know what this means. I offer the opinion that vs. 29 ought to be explained in the light of vs. 30. In Corinth particularly baptism marked them off as Christians, and thereby marked them off as targets of persecution. Their baptism pointed the martyrs to the hope of life after death. But, if Christ is not raised, what a predicament. They faced martyrdom for baptism gave nothing “for the dead”. Why expose ourselves to dangers (of Christ’s enemies) every hour, if Christ Himself capitulated to the enemy i.e. is not raised, is still dead? I die daily, says Paul (vs. 31) as in Romans 8:36. I do it rejoicing in the doctrine which I taught you.

And, ye Corinthians, I fought with beasts at Ephesus (vs 32). I tend to explain this literally. But I realize Nero is called a lion in II Tim. 4:17 and the wicked men in Ephesus could by that same token be called “beasts”. In either case, Paul was threatened with death. If there is no resurrection men might say: let us live voluptuously, the present we have, the future is insecure. Awake, says Paul sober up in a righteous way. Shame on you that I have to go to such lengths to prove a fundamental of our faith. Let it be enough. And they that have the Spirit of Christ will say: it is enough, we have erred, we shall obey the Word of the Lord.

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. Our present Outline is drawn against the back ground of persecution. That easily becomes an abstraction to us in our modern day. Discuss the reality of persecution today.
  2. Discuss the danger, especially co youth today (in the Service and at home) of living out of the philosophy of “let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”. That is a way of life and it is diametrically opposed to the Faith-life.
  3. How do you avoid Dualism in vs. 25? If you avoid that, how do you avoid abstraction?
  4. “God may be all in all” vs. 28. What does that mean?

LESSON 41

Each Serving All

I Cor. 12:20-31

 

This section continues the thought of the former lesson but now directs it toward an application needful in the Corinthian church. There was danger that some envied the gifts others had, there was danger of the ‘greater’ proudly disdaining the ‘lesser’, and there was the danger of using whatever gift one had for selfish display. All of this is wrong. Therefore Paul concludes this chapter with the exhortation to promote edification with all the gifts. Each serving the whole. And then proceeds in Chapter 13 to say that Love is the excellent thing while using the gifts in love is the excellent way.

In the vss. 21-26 Paul instructs them how the members should live toward each other in the church, but illustrates it by the figure of the human body. The human body is an earthly replica of the heavenly reality. The eye is a beautiful member of the body, can see much farther than the hand can reach; the head too, holds a position quite above the feet and, truly, without a head your feet would be useless. But it is impossible for the eye to boast that it needs no hands, or of the head to boast it needs no feet (vs. 21). God has created the body symmetrically, so that there is a relation of interdependence among the members. All have need of all. So God made it, because it must reflect the heavenly.

Some members of the body seem to you (who consider yourself strong members) to be weaker, and therefore dispensable. Much to the contrary. All members are vitally necessary (vs. 22). If we have a certain member of the body lacking in honor, i.e. (I think) if a certain member of your body lacks in beauty you go about to make it beautiful. At least if your nose is disfigured you think of plastic surgery rather than amputation. And the secret parts of your body you cover with clothes, making the whole beautiful (vs. 23). All the members of the body agree to clothe one member, enhance the beauty of another and help strengthen a third. Such cooperation, such symmetry, such interdependence.

God has co-mingled the bodily members (vs. 24) that there should be no schism, but that the members should be concerned about each other (vs.25). So closely has God knit them together that if your tooth hurts, your whole person is in pain; if one remarks about what a keen mind you have, your whole person rejoices in it (vs. 26).

If such is the case in the body (and who does not cherish his own body Eph. 5:29) how horrible if in the church an opposite rule applies. Then Paul advances to say: “Ye are (the) Body of Christ” (vs. 27). There you have it. This is what Paul had in mind all the while but he came to it by masterful steps. The Corinthian congregation is Christ’s Body. All the elect are members of that Body. There is an adequate manifestation of it wherever a church is organized according to God’s Word. The Corinthian should BE what it IS. Everything God said about the human body, the Corinthians should take to heart. Ye are members “in particular” i.e. each of you believers has his own membership place and his own membership part in the Body. And so you ought to function. How grievous it is that sin destroys this ideal, mutilates the Body, and how great the wrath of God against any who disfigure the Body. We are not ignorant of Satan’s devices. He rejoices to see anything that has the Name of Christ written over it, fall into mutiny and chaos.

As God has set members in the body, so He has set some in the Church as first Apostles, then Prophets, then Teachers (vs. 28). Here we have gifts but also the peculiar offices into which God has ordained them whom He has furnished with those gifts. But each does not have everything. What a confusion if all were Apostles etc. There is difference of gifts and each must serve for edification of all. And let Love be under and behind it all. That is the excellent way. With all your gifts, forget not the great gift, LOVE. Let LOVE function in truth and righteousness and thus the whole Body grows. (Eph. 4).

 

Questions for Discussion

1.   Such gifts as skill and art and aptitude in business are not mentioned. Wonder why? Are they valueless for the welfare of the Body? E.g. a Christian businessman has great skill and profit in his business. Is that useable for the church welfare? Discuss.

2.   The Unity of the Body roots in the “election in Christ”. How?

3.   If Corinth is the Body of Christ, is not also Philippi, and Ephesus etc.? Are there then many “bodies”? Or is the Denomination the Body and each Congregation a part? Or what?

LESSON 42

What Without Love?

(I Cor. 13:1-6)

 

Chap. 13 is not merely a methodical dissertation on love (I prefer the word love to charity) but rather it is an instruction to the Corinthians and to us, as to how the believers should use the gifts God gave them. As almost all instruction in the New Testament is suggested by some occasion, and adapted to it, so Chap 13 still treats of the special gifts which the Corinthians had. Chap. 14 carries it forward. God has ordained Christ the FULLNESS of the Church. When the Spirit distributes this fullness in the Church, He gives “gifts” but what if He had not given LOVE? What a chaos the church would be if men had gifts, but not love to use those gifts to mutual edification. The gifts are vain, they are like a skeleton if you in your use of them are not motivated by the love of God and the love of the saints of God. If God has so marvelously knit the Body together, and graced each member with a peculiar gift, the life of the Body lies in LOVE. Neither is Paul speaking of some intangible thing. God has so loved us that He gave His only Begotten. So much He has forgiven us. Would not we love much? And John says: “for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

Starting out with the gift most popular in the Corinthian church namely—-speaking in tongues—(vs. 1) Paul says even if I spoke in a language utterly out of this world, if I spoke angel-language, and used it as not having love, what would I be? I would be making loud shrill and discordant noises like brass beat against brass, but nothing more. No benefit in it for others, no edification. Just sounds and noises.

Or take the next popular gift. . .prophecy. In 14:5 Paul ranks prophecy as greater than speaking in tongues. But bring prophecy even to its superlative and say you could understand mysteries. What a prophet you would be. And then suppose you had all knowledge, and were really initiated into the realm of things hidden from others. And suppose you had a miraculous faith so that you could do what no saints have ever been capacitated to do, say you could move mountains. What a figure you would be. The entire church world would take notice of you and the denomination would glory in your skill. . .But, says Paul, if you had all this and no love, what would you be? What would I be, says Paul. Zero, that’s what I’d be. (vs.2)

And suppose I should give away, in food, all my possessions, and I would welcome martyrdom, even giving my body to be burned. Even such display is profitless if I have not love (vs.3). However magnificent our deeds may seem to men, they are odious to God if love be absent. What is not of faith is sin. We use this text to beat down the false theory of “the good that reprobate do,” and that is well. Provided on our part our righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees.

Having shown that the ultimate in gifts is worthless if love be absent, Paul now proceeds to show us LOVE itself. He personifies her and declares her beauty. It is the supreme gift of God to His people, given that they might walk in it.

Love is longsuffering or patient (vs. 4). The very first description tells us that we live our love-life in the midst of a hard, cruel world and an imperfect church. It is over against others who lack in this love that love shows itself in you as being patient. Here it is from Paul himself: “the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” (II Cor. 12:15). Love is kind, unselfishly helpful, bountiful, not only takes the opportunities to do good, but looks for such opportunities. Love envies not. Envy is the effect of ill-will, of pride, love “vaunteth not itself”, it does not brag about itself, detests arrogance and insolence because it seeks not the glory of men. (vs. 4) Love is not ill-mannered and tactless, does not put its own ego in the center. Is not quickly provoked since it is quick to forgive. Anger rests in the bosom of fools. Love thinketh no evil. The meaning, I think, is that love does not think in terms of revenge for evil done to it. “Avenge not yourselves, dearly beloved.” Love does not take pleasure in the doing, hearing or seeing of what is contrary to the Word of God (vs. 6) but rejoices with the truth, i.e. when the truth reigns. It hates dissembling, it loves sincerity; hates apostasy, loves constancy and Word-purity.

And, oh we say, where is the man who has such love? By nature prone to hate God and the neighbor, we confess this love as a gift of God through Jesus Christ. And this gift too is calculated to be exercised by us who profess to be of Christ.

 

Questions for Discussion

1. The law is fulfilled in one word, namely, LOVE. What does that mean?

2.   Someone says: God commands us to love each other, but then we must also want to be “loveable”. What do you think about that reasoning?

3.   In Matt. 5:46 I read: “If ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the Publicans the same?” How shall we exceed the Publican?

 

LESSON 43

Love, All-excelling

I Cor. 13:7-13

 

There is much more to say about love, more than our books could contain. Our words cannot exhaust its riches, it exhausts our words.

So Paul goes on: love beareth all things (vs. 7). It reaches beyond the limits. Peter asked about forgiving seven times and Jesus said something about forgiving seventy times seven times. Love meets obstacles, it has to put up with horrible imperfections which also reveal themselves in us who say that we have this love. It bears all things, that is, it suffers affliction without complaining about its lot. It believes all things. Not as if it were blind to fact or careless about righteousness and truth, but it mixes kindness with its every judgment of others. Love hopeth all things, and, rather than suspect the brother, it can pray for him. It endureth all things, it is not quickly exhausted even as Paul in this very letter to the Corinthians shows. They showed so many imperfections, they were even telling around that Paul’s letters were weighty and powerful but his bodily presence was weak, and his “oratory” was actually contemptible. Yet his love for them went on, enough so he would admonish them still. He received no salary while at work here, the more he loved the less he was loved. . .yet Paul loved them enough to write them what we are studying in this lesson.

In the vs. 8-13 Paul testifies that love excels all gifts, even faith and hope. For love never faileth (vs. 8). Prophecies, tongues and knowledge are for the duration and calculated for this imperfect state. Sooner or later the prophet, the teacher, the speaker will no more be needed, for in the glory-state we all reach the manhood of Christ (Eph. 4:13). These shall cease, therefore, but love never ceases.

Vs. 9 proves what had been said in vs. 8. Prophecies etc. are adapted to the present, imperfect state of knowing “in part” i.e. because we are not yet perfect. Our knowledge of God is NOT incorrect or faulty. By no means. God does not give us a distorted picture of Himself in the Scripture. God’s Revelation is perfect and sufficient. But our knowledge is imperfect, incomplete, compared to the state of perfection which awaits. Therefore in vs. 10 the Lord tells us that when that which God has prepared for us, when that End has been reached, then all that which leads to that End shall be put away. So the prophet, the teacher, the missionary shall cease; even our Bible in its present printed form, our pulpit, our communion table and our baptism font, all of it has served its good purpose and it is needed no more, Not so with love. It is the difference between the child and the man (vs. 11). Things suitable to children are put away when they reach their maturity. As yet immature, earthly, sinful children we need things fit for infants, but when perfection comes such things, as prophecy and speaking with tongues, shall cease. For now we see imperfectly (as in a mirror) and we know imperfectly, but the time comes that we shall see face to face and shall know in the highest possible degree, (vs. 12)

Faith shall cease, hope ceases (vs. 13) because it belongs to the “not seeing.” Scripture speaks of not seeing but believing (I Pet. 1:8) and of hoping for what we see not (Rom. 8:24). If then we finally SEE God, faith and hope in that sense make way for the perfected covenant fellowship. When all this ceases, love goes on and on. Everything in the glory-life throbs with love. The love wherewith God loved us before the world was, our love reflected toward Him and toward all who with us have been glorified by His love.

See then, ye Corinthians, that ye hold high the gift of love for without it your boasted “gifts” are all in vain. And to us Paul says: see that ye love one another with unfeigned love, for whosoever loveth is born of God.

 

Questions for Discussion

1.   In Numbers 12:8 God asserts that He speaks with Moses face to face and not in dark speeches. Yet Paul asserts in I Cor. 13:12 that we now see through a glass, darkly. How explain this?

2.   Someone says: we always know only in part and therefore we can never be absolutely sure about any doctrinal proposition. What would you answer to that?

3.   “He that hateth his brother is a murderer” (I John 3:15). If now he have the “gift” of prophecy, tongues etc. and uses them as hating the brother, how great a murderer he will be. Is that correct?

4.   Why does Scripture warn us so much, to love one another? Even husbands ‘’ must be exhorted to love their wives (Eph. 5:25) wives, to love their husbands and even mothers to love their children (Titus 2:4) Why is that?

 

LESSON 44

But Do You Edify

I Cor. 14:1-19

 

Having exhorted the Corinthians concerning the excellency of Love the conclusion is not: loving one another is everything, the gifts are nothing. Instead, the conclusion is: exercise yourselves to love one-another, and let the gifts be the tools with which love works.

As one glaring example of this Paul devotes a good part of this chapter to the gift the Corinthians seemed most excited about, namely, the speaking in foreign languages. It does not edify anyone, says Paul, if the church members do not understand the language. You speak foreign languages indeed, but do you edify? And what comes of love if you are not edifying each other while you live next to each other in the Body of Christ?

It were better you prophesied (vs .l). That is, it were better you spoke so that men could grasp what you say. From vs. 26 I conclude that at that time, when the Revelation of Scripture was still in the making, saints would receive revelations from God on high. That revelation was valuable to the one and to all. Suppose now that this saint would speak this ‘revelation in an utterly “foreign and incomprehensible language,” he would speak, to God, only God could understand what he Was saying. Only the man himself knew what he meant, but the fellow-man stood by, enthralled but ignorant. Of what benefit is this? (vs. 2) It is better that you prophesy, for he that prophesies (explains his words as he goes) speaks so that men can grasp it, and then he builds up, encourages and comforts the church (vs. 3). Prophesying’s and speaking in tongues are not opposites. Vs. 4 wants the speaking in tongues to be understandable to the hearers. Then it IS prophesying (vs. 5). Let all of you speak in tongues, it is a gift of God, but let him that does such speaking interpret (give hermaneutics) what he says. Then the church receives edification and isn’t that the all important thing? Isn’t that how love works?

From vss. 6-13 Paul emphasizes how useless is the boasted gift of tongues if it be not accompanied with an explanation. Vs. 9 underscores this futility. Except you, by means of your tongue, give speech that man can readily understand you will be speaking into the air. You can probably make a great show of learning, but what comes of edification? Paul uses three examples. The example of his own conduct in vs. 6. What if I had come to you with a language none of you could understand? But I did not do that. Again, if a musical instrument make no melody, who will appreciate, the sounds coming from reeds and strings? (vs 7) Again, if the trumpet gives an obscure sound, who of the older will know that it is a call to battle? (vs. 8). O Corinthians, let us not come with meaningless sounds, with showing off of our own skill and learning, but let us speak so that Christ’s glory may be enhanced, to the edification of the saints.

Paul will make it still plainer. The edification of the church is important enough to repeat a thing several times, and make it plainer with each repetition. There are many sounds (of voices) in our world and they all have their meaning (vs. 10). If therefore we do not understand the meaning of the other’s voice we are barbarians to each other, we stand looking at each other as foreigners (vs 11). Use the languages to edification, abound in edification (vs 12) and let him that speaks in foreign languages, before he utters any sound, let him pray that he may explain as he goes. If not, it were better he did not begin, (vs 13).

I speak with tongues more than you all (thank God) but you must know that I would rather speak five words that can edify the church than ten thousand foreign words, (vs 19). In speaking, and praying and singing (vss. 14-16) the things must be understood by learned and unlearned alike. If not, thou performest ably, but the brother is not edified. And then what have you? Then where is the love of Chap. 13?

 

Questions for Discussion

1.   The edification of the church is the primary thing. Neglect that and the church becomes the world, where each performs for the glory and advantage of himself, instead of the Christ. This applies to office bearers especially. Also to the singer, the organist, Sunday School teacher, Men’s Soc. Ladies’ Aid etc., the janitor and the ushers.

2.   By virtue of his office the minister must do most of the speaking in the church. Is there the possibility still that he speaks in an “unknown tongue” If so, how?

3.   Of what value to the church at the time was the speaking in tongues?

 

LESSON 37

The Woman’s Place in the Assembly of Saints

I Cor. 11:2-16

 

In the following chapters Paul gives infallible direction to the Church concerning matters of order in divine assembly. Chap. 11 touches on two of these namely: the woman’s place in the service and, the proper observance of the Lord’s Supper. Our present lesson treats the first of these two. God’s Word deals with living issues. Let scientists argue what the other side of the moon looks like, God’s Word touches actual life.

In studying this lesson bear in mind the peculiar situation in Corinth. The purpose of these verses is not to bind women today to veil-wearing nor to stipulate how long her hair should be. The purpose of these verses is to remind women of all ages that God in the beginning made the woman subject to man (her own husband in particular) and she is to observe that in the church. In Corinth an unveiled woman meant an emancipated woman, and therefore the present passage emphasizes it as a woman’s task to let her subjection be known.

After commending the Corinthians for keeping the Apostolic ordinances and being concerned about the Truth, (vs. 2) Paul proceeds to re-emphasize a point of that Truth. The point is (vs. 3) that salvation is an orderly thing. Christ is the head of every man, man is the head of the woman, God is the head of Christ. Headship here refers to authority, government. Christ came to earth to do God’s will (not His own) and thus subjected Himself to God. Redeemed man is subjected to Christ. And now the woman must be subjected, to the man. This principle is binding for all ages. A point of divine order.

If a man has a covering (or a veil) over his head (vs. 4) he denies the position God originally gave him, puts himself on the level of the woman and brings shame upon himself. If a woman appears in the assembly with her head unveiled (vs. 5) she puts herself on the level of the man. She might as well be shaved, have her hair cut, so everyone could despise her (vs. 6). Then we have disorder.

What is the relation of man to woman?

Man is the image and glory of God (vs. 7). God put man in the glory-position of being “first”, having government and authority from God. In that sense he is the image and glory of God. The woman was “second”. She is (to reveal by her conduct) the glory of the man (vs. 7). If she lords it over the man she simply says that man has no glory. She is to take her proper place toward him and enhance his glory position. Therefore the man ought to have an uncovered head, the woman a covering.

How was it in the beginning? Yes, beginnings are important with God. Christ went back to beginnings too in the matter of divorce. Man was first (vs. 8). Eve was created out of Adam. First in time but also in purpose. Eve was created a helpmeet for Adam, not vice versa (vs. 9). Because of this creation ordinance the woman ought to have a covering upon her head to declare that she is under the power of the man (vs. 10). The angels respect authority, and they (as present in the assembly) rejoice to see respect for authority in the church. Women, let the angels see your respect for authority.

Don’t conclude now that the woman is inferior. Neither man nor woman is complete without the other (vs. 11-12). In the Lord all are alike inheritors of glory. They need each other. As the woman is of the man, so in turn the man is also by (that is, born of) the woman. So God made the relationships. What is a king without subjects, and what are subjects without a king? God created the sexes for (toward) one another. Let each take the assigned place. And while, in Corinth, it is necessary to show this by wearing a veil, wear a veil.

Even nature teaches you that the woman’s long hair suggests a covering, the man’s shorter hair suggests his authority (vs. 13-15). But we want no contentions in the church (vs. 16). Let each take the place Christ has assigned, that is good for you and for the reputation of the church.

 

Questions for Discussion

1.   Does vs. 5 suggest that at that time women prayed and prophesied? Cf. I Tim. 2:8-15. Also I Cor. 14:34.

2.   Women have ability to teach and they did teach (cf. Lois and Eunice, Priscilla, etc.). What are the restrictions? Which are the opportunities left? I Cor. 14:34 is evidently a restriction.

3.   Abraham had to hearken to Sarah once upon a time (Cf. Gen. 21:12).

 

 

LESSON 38

The Lord’s Supper as Christ Instituted It

(I Cor. 11:17-34)

 

In the first part of the chapter Paul has dealt with the place of women in the church. In this part he deals with the Lord’s Supper and how it is to be observed when the church comes together. Paul cannot praise them. They profane the Lord’s Supper. They celebrate it after their own whims. So Paul has to say to them: (vs 20) as for the way you are celebrating it, it is not the Lord’s Supper at all. Christ would not recognize it. I have received from the Lord what the Lord’s Supper is (vs. 23) and you must hold yourself to Christ’s institution (vs. 26-28). Because you are not doing it, God is manifestly judging you (vs. 30).

To understand this situation, it seems that the congregation came together weekly to eat and drink religiously. They had, what we might call, the “love-feasts”. Each brought a basket, together they ate. After the meal they likely took some of the bread and the wine and went right on into a celebration of the Holy Supper. When Paul says in vs. 17 that they come together for worse, sin must have crept into this church custom, as sin has a way of creeping into everything we do. It’s in vs. 21 that Paul points his finger at the sin. He says: every one of you just goes ahead to get his hands on as much of the food as he can. Instead of waiting for (and’ on, vs. 33) one another, the rich men with their big baskets of food got all they wanted, and their few select friends got enough too. They became drunk. But the Christian slaves, and other poor people, who had no baskets, just went hungry and looked on while the others ate. So, while some were stuffed with food, and others hungry, they commenced to celebrate the Communion.

That is not the Lord’s Supper (vs. 20).

I heard, says Paul, that there are schisms among you (vs. 18, divisions). Worse yet, these schisms reveal that you have heresies. A schism is a heresy coming out into the open. A heresy is a departure from the revealed faith. There must be heresies among you (vs. 19). When heretics stand out, the faithful stand out too. God uses them for the purification of the church and for underscoring what grace the faithful have. The approved of God become manifest.

To return to the matter of the Lord’s Supper then, if you are hungry, eat at home (vs. 22, 34). You despise the church of God by treading upon the poor and you glory as a “have” over against a “have-not”. The Lord’s Supper as Christ commanded me to institute it in the churches is quite a different thing (23-26). There Christ, on the night when He stood with His face toward the Cross, hesitated not to give Himself for His Church. You people bring baskets of food and each seizes what he can, selfishly. But not so with Christ. Christ GAVE His own Body, His Blood, His Life. He did not serve Himself. He GAVE Himself for His people.

Beware of partaking unworthily, as an unfit, (vs. 27). If you profess to be proclaiming the death of Christ, but in the meantime deny His death by your selfish conduct, you profane the Communion Table. You make it seem as if Christ’s death is calculated to support you in your wickedness. Paul condemns not only the particular sin of these Corinthians but all profanation (Catechism Ques. 82).

Examine yourself (vs. 28). Instead of stuffing yourself with worldly lusts and then casually going to the Table, examine yourself, know your sins, be truly

penitent and so come to the table. In Corinth God had evidently made very plain His judgment against profaners. God sent judgments (vs. 30). Some became sick, some impotent, some had actually died. God was literally judging among them. It is better that we judge (or scrutinize) ourselves and conclude that we are being disciplined of the Lord for our wrong doing. God chastises those Whom He loves, to deliver them from the condemnation under which the world lies (vs. 32). So holy is, then, the Communion. God stands guard over it with great jealousy. He knows you and me. Let our self-examination lead, not to Phariseeism, but to richer faith in Christ’s meritorious work, and to give ourselves for one another as Christ gave Himself for us.

 

Questions for Discussion

1.   Acts 2:42 and 2:46, Acts 20:11 speak about breaking of bread. Discuss. Did they do it every day, every week, or what? Could we conclude that Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper to be observed as often as the faithful came together?

2.   “Discerning the Lord’s Body.” (vs. 29). Did they fail to see the Lord’s Body IN the bread, as connected with the bread, or what? John. 6:54.

3.   Wherein does the self-examination consist? (Cf. Lord’s Supper Form). Cf. also Catechism Ques. 81.

 

 

LESSON 39

Flood of Spiritual Gifts

(I Cor. 12:1-11)

The lake was far too small. The flooding rains came. The rising waters burst through gates and dams, swirled over piers and beaches and covered the country for miles around. That thought comes to me ag. I approach chapter 12 of Corinthians about how the Spirit flooded the Church with gifts. A river flows from the throne of God (Ezek. 47). A fountain is opened (Joel 3:18). The Spirit of the ascended Christ comes into the Church and it floods the church with the riches of Him, “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Cf. 2:3).

I Cor. 12 is evidence of how the Spirit of Christ has come, how it saturates, as it were, the believers, runs over the hearts and lips of the faithful and becomes a grand display of what God can do for them that fear Him. Gifts of healing, of interpretation, of miracles, all kinds of gifts. Joel had spoken of it that sons and daughters would prophesy, that old men, young men, servants and maidens would be energized (Joel 2). Pentecost was proof of it (Acts 2). Signs shall follow them said Jesus (Mk. 16:17-18) and here in Corinth it still rained “charismata” — (special gifts). Where such energizing powers filled the early church it is needful that there be order. The Corinthians must know the why and the wherefore of these gifts, be careful in using them in dedication and humility. Where there is so much energy, order is extremely necessary.

So in vs. 1 Paul begins his directive concerning these gifts and their use unto edification. I do not want you to be ignorant about these things, says Paul, neither do I want you to become sectarian or superstitious with what you have. Formerly many of the Corinthians were heathens, blindly letting Satan and his heathen priests lead them to idols (vs. 2). And what could a dumb idol do for his devotees.  A dumb idol cannot speak, nor give gifts. But the God we worship can speak and, speaking, He can bless us with gifts from the sky and you see these gifts in the church. Even to open our mouths to confess Jesus, that is a gift of God (Matt. 16:17). If anyone in the church claims to have the “gift” but meanwhile says: let Jesus be cursed, mark that man as a liar. Where the Spirit of God is, there you hear the good confession. The greatest gift we have from heaven is this: that we have grace to confess Him.

From vs. 4 forward, Paul enumerates or rather takes inventory of the gifts God gave unto the believers. There are varieties of gifts (vs. 4) and Paul will explain that in just a moment, but he wants first to emphasize that they all come to the believers and are distributed to them, parceled out to them, by the same Holy Spirit. Paul, in vs. 4-6, points the Church to the Triune God as the “overflowing fountain of all good.” What have we that we have not received?

With these gifts we must serve the general good (vs. 7). God gives to each as he pleases, and each is to use his gift unto the profit of others. That is the communion of saints (Catechism 55). The Corinthians are in danger of abusing the gifts and using them for selfish designs. Grieve not the Holy Spirit, brethren. Remember the communion of saints. Let each church member today too discover the gift he has of God and then use that gift “for the advantage and salvation of other members.” So Paul enumerates the various gifts which they had in the early church. Notice the sovereign distribution; the diversity. Nine kinds of gifts are mentioned. Here is a brother in the church who has the “word of wisdom”, i.e., he receives special revelations and sees things others do not see (I Cor. 14:26). Here is one who has a word of knowledge, i.e., he can exegete, explain and expound revelation. This one has the gift of faith, i.e. special ability to testify of the Christian doctrine so that no man can resist him (Acts 6:10). Another has the power to heal the sick, another to work such miracles as raising the dead, still another can give prophecy (Acts 21:11), another is a genius at judging whether a given message comes from God or from the imagination of some unstable person. Another speaks in foreign languages and still another translates and applies what was said (vs. 8-10).

And all this gift-display is worked by the Spirit. There is ONE God. The gifts reveal that unity and the communion of saints must reflect a unity also. All these things come from God, in service to the brotherhood, they must return to God.

 

Questions for Discussion

1. Is it correct to say that the early church had these special gifts, but we have lost them? Is the church poorer today than it was then, or richer?

2. Some have the work of special office in the church, same hold general duties, but how will all function? Or what does the communion of saints (Cat. Q. 55) mean in practical church life today?

3. Would you speak of unbelievers as being “talented” or having gifts to do certain things?

 

 

LESSON 40

Many Members, One Body

(I Cor. 12:12-20)

 

As in Ephesians 4 and Romans 12, here too the Scripture distinguishes the church from anything there is in the world. It is unique. It is His new creation in Christ. Paul is still speaking in this connection of the “gifts” which God has sovereignly given to His Church. THE gift is the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit divides to every man severally as He will (vs. 11). If therefore every believer has a gift, what then? Shall they live along side of each other, or compete with each other, or be jealous of and envious toward one another? By no means. Christ is ONE. Is Christ divided?, Paul had earlier asked in this epistle to the Corinthians?

Vs. 12 starts out, not with an “and” but with a “for”, explaining Vs. 11. Unity amid variety. The Church of Christ is presented under the figure of a human body. As the body has many members, yet all the members are one body. . .so also is Christ. You might have expected Scripture to say: so also is the Church, but it says: so also is Christ. Pointing up, I think, the mystical union between Christ and the saints. We have something of this also in Joh. 17:21 and again when that voice from heaven says to the church-persecuting Saul: “why persecutest thou me” (I underscore the word ‘me’) Acts 9:4. Christ is ONE, and this glorious unity is seen in the Spirit-united saints.

This glorious unity is further elucidated in vs. 13. By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, rubbing out the racial and social distinctions. In Christ all become one. The baptism refers to that mighty work of the Spirit in the elect whereby they are engrafted into Christ and all are made to drink into one Spirit, i.e., became genuinely partakers of that One Spirit. Our unity therefore lies in our being engrafted into Christ. A thing the believers in Corinth did actually experience.

“For the body is not one member, but many.” vs. 14. There are Jews, Gentiles, bond, free and there are differences of gifts, etc. As in the human body there are feet, hands, ayes and ears, so in the church there are many members and all members of the body are useful. Paul speaks of this also in Eph. 4:16 and Rom. 12.

In vs. 15-17 he emphasizes unity and cooperation between the believers. Suppose the foot should complain that since it is not the hand, it is not of the body. Is that a correct conclusion? By no means. And suppose the ear should get the notion that since it is not the eye, it is of no use to the body. That too would be the wrong conclusion. The body needs ears as well as eyes. The body needs the many members and its welfare depends on these members functioning according to the gift. What would you have if the whole body were an eye, what would it do for hearing? If the whole body were hearing, what would it do for smelling? Would that not be chaos?

Very wisely and sovereignly God has set each individual member in the body so that it can carry its peculiar function toward the welfare of the entire body. If there were but one member there could be no body, neither could it be a body if there were not various members.

All this the Corinthians must remember. Some coveted the gifts others had, some sought to outreach others, some compared themselves to others and concluded that they were useless. Let it not be so in the church. God has “set” the members in the body, and they must be neither proud nor envious. The primary thing is to be so filled with the Spirit and so united in that Spirit, that they may function as servants of Christ.

That is the communion of saints. God Himself creates that communion in Christ and the believers are exhorted to reveal it in their congregational living. Let there be no schism, no jealousy, no selfish ambitions, but unity.

 

Questions for Discussion

1.   What is the pluriformity of the Church?

2.   “I baptize with water” said John in John 1:26, 33, but Christ baptizeth with the Holy Spirit (Joh. 1:33). Distinguish.

3.   Bear in mind Eph. 4:7-16 in discussion of the present lesson.

This is intended to be a short, introductory outline to a series of after-recess discussions in our Young People’s Societies. I believe the idea is that the societies are in­vited to use one of these each month. Various writers will con­tribute to this column.

Perhaps it would be best to have two members of the society render each a paper concerning this sub­ject, at least we’ll set up the sketch that way.

One paper could be on the gener­al theme:

God Reveals His Glory.

In this paper the writer could build his article around the follow­ing general hints:

  1. That God makes a display of His glory in nature (Ps. 19:1). In the created things, each crea­ture in its own way expressing something concerning God. The variety of creatures also ex­pressing something. In ruling the affairs of men and of na­tions God shows His power, His wisdom, His wrath, His good­ness, His mercy (Heid. Cate­chism, Qu. 122; Rom. 1:20 and Belgic Confession, art. 2).
  2. That God makes a special revel­ation of His glory in the Scrip­tures. We see the glory of God in Christ (John 1:14), in Christ His glory comes close to us. Christ is in heaven but we have the mirror of His glory in the Bible. Every page of it sets forth His glory, power, majesty, wisdom, justice. His glory is set in contrast to our shame, our brevity of life (Ps. 103) our be­ing dust, our corruption, etc.
  3. Seeing this glory. Could any­one escape from, that is, shut his eyes so as not to see this glory? We see by faith, with enlightened eyes, with renewed minds. Do the wicked also see God’s glory?

This could be followed by a sec­ond paper on the theme:

Glorifying God.

In this paper the following hints could be incorporated:

  1. It is a capital sin not to glorify God (Rom. 1:21: Acts 12:23. Rev. 16:9). If God’s purpose is Self-glorification, surely we are called to engage in this mighty task of glorifying God.
  2. How all-embracing is this pre­cept, for in 1 Cor. 10 we read “whether we eat or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God”. (In later out­lines perhaps the matter will be treated of HOW we can glorify God in eating, in drinking, in laboring, etc.)
  3. We must not be deceived to seek the glory of self. . . . this con­flicts with the God-glorifying program, neither must we seek the glory of men, that is, to at­tract their praise to ourselves, neither may we glory in our shame (1 Thess. 2:6, Matt. 6:2, and Phil. 3:19).
  4. Christ glorified God on the earth. How? (John 17:4). His Spirit in us enables and inclines us to God-centered living and in John 15:8 we read ‘‘herein is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit. . . .”

Around these two general themes a further discussion could be built when we consider:

  1. What glory should Herod have given God, (Acts 12:23).
  2. What different things lead us away from a God-centered and God-glorifying life?
  3. Is any special legitimate occupa­tion more God-glorifying than some other, e.g., is a Christian missionary’s occupation neces­sarily more God-glorifying than say, the occupation of a Chris­tian street-cleaner?
  4. If a gentle breeze of a sum­mer’s day displays God’s glory, how about a devastating cy­clone? With what difference?
  5. How can we glorify God before men. … if we are rich? poor? healthy? sick?
  6. Why do we fail so miserably in glorifying God? What causes this and what ought we do to effect improvement?

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Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

At the point that this edition of Beacon Lights arrives in the homes of our subscribers, most young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches will have been sitting under the catechism instruction of their pastor or elders for more than a month. If our readers are honest, that observation probably comes with a (quiet) sigh […]

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