My daily exploration of the Bible, taking it one chapter at a time. If I do it everyday, it'll take 1189 days.



Wednesday, October 31, 2007

2 Corinthians 1

Yes and Amen!

Summary:
From Paul and Tim. Praise God, our comforter. When he comforts, it overflows. So you share in our comfort and our sufferings! We've had a hard time in Asia, but it's okay. It makes us rely on God more.

We're stoked because we've done everything right, and hopefully you can be stoked about that too! I said I was coming to see you, but I wasn't able. I don't change my mind lightly. God doesn't break his promises. Jesus is always 'Yes'.

Key verse:
20. For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.

My thoughts:
The promises of God are 'Yes' and 'Amen'! Is a quote I have often heard, but now having read the accompanying passage, I suspect that this is simply referring to the fact that when God makes a promise he keeps it! Will he keep it? Yes! and Amen!

So yea. Timothy helped write this letter.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

1 Corinthians 16

Bye

Summary:
Make sure you sort our the gifts for Jerusalem before I get there, okay?

I might come to you later, but I want to do it properly, so we'll see. Be good to Timothy if you see him. Apollos might come later. Be loving. Take Stephanas as an example.

Everyone greets you. Cursed be those who don't love God.

Bye.

Key verse:
13. Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.

My thoughts:
So this is mostly just the final salutations. Stephanas is perhaps the jailer from Acts 16:33. Notice the mention of Aquila and Priscilla. Aquila is mentioned first here. The whole letter was probably scribed by someone other than Paul, but it is likely that he personally wrote verse 21 to prove that he is actually the author.

Obviously the practice of the early church was to give gifts to the Apostles, which is nice.

Monday, October 29, 2007

1 Corinthians 15

The truth about resurrection

Summary:
Don't forget the first thing we know. Jesus died, was buried, and was raised. He then appeared to the Apostles, and finally to me, the least of the Apostles, chosen purely by grace.

So don't think there is no resurrection, cos then Jesus wasn't either. Our faith is pointless without resurrection. We are still slaves to sin then, and why would be baptise for the dead? But instead, Jesus' resurrection is a promise of ours at the end of time when Jesus wins and gives all authority to God, including death being absolutely submissive to God.

The heavenly body will be completely different. You don't plant a plant to grow, you plant a seed. Our current bodies are like seeds which are unlike the body God will grow for us. Our physical body is mortal, but our spiritual body will be made to last forever. They are different. Mortality has died. Death has lost its power. Our spiritual bodies, unlike our physical ones, will be able to enter the Kingdom.

Key verse:
14. if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

My thoughts:
My goodness there is so much in this chapter!

Okay, so we need to be absolutely clear that Christ's death and resurrection is absolutely central to our faith. So often Christians try to defend their faith from a standpoint which isn't centred on the cross and empty tomb, and I don't think that that ultimately satisfies. If Christ was not truly raised, then we should not expect anything in our faith to make sense.

The first few verses are very important for recognising the earliest and most basic beliefs of the Church. Paul here is reciting what is, in essence, a creed. It tells of Jesus' death, resurrection and appearances. He is reciting something which he learnt elsewhere. There is significant indications that the content of this creed are very early; perhaps within 5 years of the events it speaks of. This would be an unparalleled historical documentation of the ancient world. Some believe that Jesus' resurrection was a legendary addition to history, but for legendary material to develop within 5 years is unheard of.

So Jehovah's Witnesses like to point to verses 24-28 to show Jesus' inferiority of Jahweh, and he gives all authority to God. For me, it's a bit of a straw man, because I don't think anyone is seriously contending that Jesus doesn't have some sort of submissive role to the Father. Trinitarians would happily agree that Jesus only does what he sees his Father doing. We don't have a problem with the Son glorifying the Father.

What's all this baptising for the dead anyway? That's a bit weird. Can you save those who are dead by doing some baptism ritual on their behalf? I wouldn't've thought so, though something perhaps along those lines is referenced here. I doubt if anyone is really sure what Paul was talking about here.

So Paul here is addressing the fact that some Corinthians were trying to say that there is no resurrection. They might've used arguments about the idea that human bodies get damaged, so how could such a body be resurrected into the Kingdom if they were not perfect? Paul is very clear that it is a different body that we receive. The language he uses makes his comments come very close to dualism, the idea that matter is evil, but spirit is good. I think a better way to view it is that the current and temporal is imperfect, but the eternal will be perfect.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

1 Corinthians 14

Following orders

Summary:
Desire prophecy. No-one but God understands tongues, but prophecies strengthen everyone. Tongues just helps you, unless it's interpreted. Everyone should speak tongues, but it's more important that people say intelligible words to the church.

Tongues is praying with your Spirit, but don't let that stop you praying with your mind too! Praying with your mind builds others up. Be innocent but wise. You need to say meaningful things.

Tongues are a sign for non-believers. Prophecy is for believers. Unbelievers will think tongues is nuts, but prophecy will bring them conviction.

Everyone should bring a word or something for the church to help the church. Only 2 or 3 should speak in tongues and there must be an interpretation. 2 or 3 people should bring prophecies, and their words should be weighed. Only one person should talk at a time. Prophets can control the prophecies that come over them. God is not a God of chaos.

Women should keep quiet and ask any questions to their husbands later. Just make sure everything is orderly.

Key verse:
26. When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.

My thoughts:
Paul's key points here are that firstly if you choose to do something in church, have a reason to do it at church rather than just by yourself, and secondly moving in the Spirit means order and peace not chaos and loss of control.

This chapter provides very practical instructions for Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches. I don't think people should speak tongues into the mic at church, or say it in any way which is intended for the church to hear, unless an interpretation is definitely expected.

Also there's just general good advice in here. The freedom of the Spirit doesn't mean a chaotic service. One person should talk at a time. At the same time, however, there is the clear expectation that people should bring words to church. These days we expect the leaders to do this, but this clearly isn't Paul's expectation. Anyway, control and restraint are not signs that someone isn't truly submissive to the Spirit.

So yea... Paul says that women shouldn't speak in church. Let's just put this down to the fact that the Corinthian church was having issues with over-zealous and uninformed women causing chaos in the meetings. I'm sure it was the best advice for the situation.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

1 Corinthians 13

All you need is love! Bah buh bababaaah!

Summary:
I can do all great things, and move in all great gifts, but it's pointless if I do it without love. Love waits, isn't jealous or insecure or proud. It's got self-control, hopes and perseveres. It never fails. All gifts are temporary; like toys for our childhood. When everything is truly perfect only faith, hope and love will remain but mostly love.

Key verse:
4. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

My thoughts:
The truth is, this whole freaken chapter is a big fat key verse. It's actually quite short, so you should just read it for yourself.

This is possibly the most famous chapter in the Bible. It's recited at weddings ad nauseum, but it is freaken brilliant. It's point is actually simple. No matter how spiritual or 'religious' we get, no matter how passionate we are about God and our faith, it is absolutely useless and wrong without love. The Bible covers a lot of points, and it can get complicated and compassionless if we forget that the context of all things in our faith is love.

This is cool wee interlude whilst Paul is talking about spiritual gifts in chapters 12 and 14. It's a brief aside, but it is also the centre of what he's trying to say about the gifts.

Love has an excellent description in this chapter. The adjectives given to describe it are good indicators of how we should be living. Read verses 4-7 but replace love with "I". See if it holds true for you. If not, then you FAIL at LIFE.

Friday, October 26, 2007

1 Corinthians 12

Climb the ladder

Summary:
You can curse Jesus with the Spirit, and you can't praise him without!

God gives different gifts to different people, but it's from the same Spirit. It's all for the common good. We're all part of the same body. You can't just start throwing out body parts! (Except for the Presbyterians... they're the appendix). You're all part of the body, but there's a hierarchy of gifts. First there's me, an Apostle, then Prophets, Teachers etc down to measily ol' tongues. We're not all the same, but we should seek greater gifts.

Key verse:
7. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

My thoughts:
Please don't take this as an exhaustive list of gifts! It's not!

The concept of a hierarchy of gifts is an interesting one, though it seems to be consistent with other places where Paul calls prophesy a greater gift than tongues. Are gifts then given based on merit? Or is it simply a practise thing, and some are just simply more useful?

Anyway, tongues always seems to be at the bottom, which makes you wonder why Pentecostals rate it so highly. Or do they? Maybe it is in a special position for the Pentecostals because it is the least important, and therefore easiest to get, therefore if someone has any gifts, then they will have that one. This is the closest thing I've ever felt to a real reason why it could be believed that if you cannot speak in tongues, then you cannot operate in the gifts of the spirit. It is simply, perhaps, less of a focus on the fact that the Spirit gives gifts as he chooses, and more on that we should eagerly desire the greater gifts. Like it is a ladder to climb.

So this would've been a response to some people claiming a superior spirit to others because they are a teacher or something. Gosh! This is what happens when a church doesn't have a good Jewish base!

Ever since I've started [not even thinking about] writing these at work, they seem to have gotten longer and more involved.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

1 Corinthians 11

First in, first served!

Summary:
Congrats on doing what I've said. Remember that God heads Jesus who heads men who head women. So women should pray with covered heads, and men with uncovered. If not, it's like having a man with long hair or a woman with short. That's just weird! Man was made first, biartch!

But then, under God, men and women are equally interdependent. Just be normal, like everyone else. Men has short uncovered hair, women have long or covered heads. Don't be weird.

But no congrats on your communion taking! This isn't something to fill you up! Why are you rushing trying to get food first, while other go hungry. Look, before he died, Jesus gave bread as his body and wine as his blood both to remember him. You are proclaiming Jesus' death until his return! You can't do that in an disrespectful way. We need to judge ourselves before taking this supper. If you don't do this spiritual thing, then there are very real physical consequences - sickness and death.

So wait for each other when you eat the Lord's supper. Be patient. Don't use it to satisfy your gluttony.

Key verses:
11. In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
26. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes

My thoughts:
What a chapter.

Let's look at some of Paul's reasoning in the first half of this chapter.

"A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God"
"For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head."

Please enlighten me if you have more wisdom, but neither of these reasons appear to make any sense to me. They just seem to lack any logical value. Aristotle would be very upset. Most of all, I love the cast-away reasoning "because of the angels". It just seems to be a generic 'Don't ask more questions' reason.

Anywho, I'd like to suggest that Paul is being noticably less clear in his arguments here. He is saying statements with big qualifications, such as though man was made first, we are interdependent. He calls on the Corinthians to judge for themselves, but his ultimate conclusion was that the Corinthians should just do what everyone else does, perhaps because it's not worth the potential controversy being weird might cause. I just get the feeling that Paul himself isn't thoroughly convinced by his theological reasonings, but is just trying to stop the Corinthians from arbitrarily odd.

Anyway, I think there is a significant argument to be made that when you take into account the context of the Corinthian church, the early church, ancient society, and the context of the entire teachings of the Bible, there is little mandate that Paul's specific demands of verses 1-16 be comprehensively met as modern Biblical Christians.

Whew...

So. The second half of the chapter... It seems that the rich who didn't really need to work during the day were starting the Lord's supper during the day, and thoroughly enjoying themselves, and there was little or no food left for the workers who only got there after work. This was not a wafer and a sip, this was a meal, but Paul is clear that the Lord's supper's role as a nutritious meal is secondary to the remembrance of Jesus and the equal community of all believers.

Much of the Anglican prayer book regarding the Eucharist is taken from here, so I find it all very familiar.

This is another passage which shows Paul's interest in the physical earthly life and ministry of Jesus. He is relating an early creed of the Lord's Supper as is shown by his words, "For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you".

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

1 Corinthians 10

Corinthian Idol

Summary:
We are like Moses' companions in the desert. We have been looked after. We've been given food and drink and safety. They died in their sin, and that it a warning to us. Don't fall to temptation! It is never irresistable.

We eat of Christ's cup and meal. We can't share that with idols. Idols are demons. Don't test God like that!

You have a freedom in Christ. You can eat anything offered by anyone without worry, but you should probably hold back if someone makes a big deal out of it.
Whatever you do, glorify God.


Key verses:
13. God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
31. So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

My thoughts:
Nothing is irresistable. Seriously, nothing is. Whatever you're struggling with, you can overcome it. That's God's promise to you. Pretty sweet.

Either that or it makes you feel heinously guilty because now you feel that you should get over your sins. Whatever floats your boat.

Yea... so Paul's main point is, don't muck around with idols. This is truly basic stuff for Christians, but that really is the theme for 1 Corinthians. Giving some babies some milk.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

1 Corinthians 9

Everything we can

Summary:
I am your Apostle. I've seen Jesus, and I made you. I'm free to work or not work, marry or stay single. Don't I deserve some provision for my work as an Apostle? Anyone else would. Most people intend to share their harvest.

We deserved something from you, but whether we got it or not, we still were determined to give you the Gospel.

But I don't demand what I deserve, I quite enjoy boasting about that! It's simply much more important that I preach teh Gospel.

I use my freedom to win more people. I am anyone to anyone. It's like we're in a race. We have to train and do everything we can to win.

Key verses:
14. In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
19. Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.

My thoughts:
So... yea... verse 14. I have a friend who believes that no-one should be employed as a minister. Paul here (admittedly in the context of being content not to receive payment) says that full time ministers should live off it. So screw you, Tim. Screw you.

Paul seems to be having a bit of a cry about the fact that he doesn't get paid, though he seems to enjoy the ability to moan about it, without really feeling the need to be paid. I sense that many serious church volunteers may feel a similar way!

Anyway, the point I mostly get out of this chapter is that we shouldn't be scared to be really practical and deliberate in how we do evangelism. We can plan how we approach people purely for the purpose of getting them saved. It truly is a high purpose to call people to, so we shouldn't be scared about being shrewd to see it happen. Most Christians who are hesitant to share the Gospel are that way because they don't truly believe that it's good.

Monday, October 22, 2007

1 Corinthians 8

Stupid knowledge

Summary:
First realise that we must love God rather than know things, but nevertheless know that idols are nothing, and there is one true God. It doesn't matter, then, whether we eat food sacrificed to idols. But some people don't have that knowledge and their faith will stumble if they see us eating. Don't let your knowledge cause others to stumble.

Key verse:
11. So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.

My thoughts:
Knowledge is okay, but it breeds arrogance, and if it is misused it can destroy others.

An example could be that some Christians will hold passionately to a seven-day creationism. I would believe, perhaps, that I have enough knowledge to know that there are other ways to understand Genesis 1-3. But if I have no desire to shatter someone's faith by saying that I don't think that seven-day creationism is necessarily correct, because it's not really important. There are few reasons to do it, and many reasons why not to.I must stress, however, that I wouldn't want to take this too far. I know plenty of people who would express so-called 'knowledge' of the Bible which leads them to believe that it is entirely inappropriate for basing one's life on. They may see my statement above as a reason to permit me in my lack of knowledge to go around living by the Bible and that's okay, wrong though it is. That isn't right, because your 'knowledge' may not be correct in the first place, and that's a whole other question.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

1 Corinthians 7

Chill out. It's just marriage.

Summary:
Celibacy is good, but in the midst of such immorality, you should probably marry. And if you're married, then you belong to each other, so don't be celibate, unless it's like a temporary 'fast'. I still reckon not marrying in the first place is preferred.

A woman can leave her husband but cannot remarry anyone else. A man simply cannot leave his wife. Don't divorce if your spouse isn't Christian. One spouse can sanctify the other, so that the kids are sanctified too. If your unbelieving spouse leaves you, then don't stress. You are free from them.

Slave or free, married or unmarried, circumcised or uncircumcised. There is no particular mandate for you to change your situation when you come to God. If you're young, then I don't think you should seek a wife. They're all sorts of trouble. Realise this: This world is about to pass away. All these matters need to be brushed to the side. They aren't as relevant as they once seemed to be. A spouse divides your attention. But just don't what you've decided to do and don't stress too much.

If a woman's husband dies then she can remarry if she really wants.

Key verse:
4. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.

My thoughts:
The reality is that this flies in the face of what most modern Christians want to believe. There seems to be such a high purpose in young people's lives to get married, and I know so often it seems like a priority in my mind. Churches even develop theologies which actively push for the (happy and appropriate) marriage of their young men and women. Paul is decidedly not decisive in this passage, and from that the main point I get is that the whole marriage thing shouldn't be a big deal for a person. I think if young Christians today caught a hold of this point, then we could just all get on with our lives! If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, then you're probably better off anyway! I'm really just speaking to myself here!

Also flowing through this passage is the clear belief, as I have stated before, that a married man and woman are bound to one another despite separation or divorce. Remarriage isn't appropriate then, unless the bound is broken by death. In the midst of this, however, is the clear acceptability of a woman to leave her husband provided that she doesn't remarry. In my mind the reason why Paul specifies this is because he supports women's right to leave an abusive relationship, which is good. The only thing in this passage which challenges this entire concept is that Paul says that remarriage is okay if your faithless spouse leaves you. Hmmm... Okay... here are Pete's three ways to understand this:

1. Such a separation in that situation simply disconnects the spiritual bind between a man and woman. It is simply an exception that Jesus forgot to specify.
2. When Jesus said that the only acceptable means for separation was unfaithfulness, he wasn't referring to marriagal unfaithfulness, but unfaithfulness to God. It is, then, still an exception, but a different one. A word study on Jesus' word for unfaithfulness could shed some light on this.
3. Paul is wrong. All scripture is God-breathed except for 1 Corinthians 12-16. This is less ridiculous (and less likely to destroy your faith in God's word) when you realise that Paul says in verse 12 "To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord)". Perhaps we can take such advise provisionally, when it has such a qualifier.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

1 Corinthians 6

Sex and law

Summary:
Why would you take personal cases before a secular court? They don't know God! We are much more qualified as judges! We will judge the angels one day! Taking each other to court truly shows what a sorry state you've gotten yourself into. Don't forget that without Jesus you were just sinners, completely inappropriate people to inherit God's Kingdom.

Just because you can do everything, doesn't mean that you should! Your body isn't made for sexual immorality. It's made for God. He raised the Lord, and will raise you too. You are members of Christ's body, and anyone you sleep with is in you. Do you think prostitutes should be united with Jesus? Sexual sin is against your own body. Flee from it. God owns you, so honour him with your body.

Key verses:
19-20. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

My thoughts:
Why not sexual sin? Because you don't actually own yourself. God does, and he says that despite the 'natural' desires you have, your body isn't made for that.

The world has a screwed up view of sex. The world doesn't realise the unification of two bodies that happens when people have sex together. To separate what is unified simply screws stuff up spiritually, emotionally, and physically. That is why Christians don't sleep with people if they aren't married. Sex only works when you have made a commitment to be united to that person for life. Safe sex is when you don't leave the person you've slept with. This is why divorce is so abhorrent to God.

Man, so many Christians get into tiffs, and it's ridiculous. Church politics must the be most petty thing out. I've heard many stories of people in a church threatening legal action, and sometimes (usually in America) the threats are acted on. It's ridiculous. We need to grow up and sort things out outselves peacefully and lovingly. We need to set an example for the world, not learn from it.

What Paul is doing in 1 Corinthians is simply reminding them of the truthes of what God has done for them, but then clarifying the implications it has on their lives, which they seem to be ignoring. These are some of the most powerful words for the Christian lifestyle: "You are not your own; you were bought at a price."

Friday, October 19, 2007

1 Corinthians 5

You must purge the sin from amongst you. Purge. Puuuuuurrrge...

Summary:
Why are you proud of a man who sleeps with his step-mum? I have made a judgement. He must be given to the devil for punishment, then maybe his soul could be saved. You have to get rid of sin that is amongst you. A small amount of yeast goes through all the bread. You cannot associate with this man, because he claims to be a Christian. You can still associate with the worldly people who don't know Jesus. You can judge and expel those amongst you, but not those without.

Key verse:
11. I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

My thoughts:
Some good ol' fashioned excommunication going on here! All of this need to be read in the context of Paul's next letter, in particular 2 Corinthians 2, which calls for forgiveness for the repentant brother.

Paul is, of course, addressing a specific issue and a specific person here. He is absolutely clear on the fact that someone who is openly sinning cannot be part of them. That does not mean that someone has to stop sinning before they can come to God. Paul also makes it very clear that those who have not met God yet should be reached out to despite of any immorality they are involved in. I also don't think that Paul expect that new followers would instantly rid themselves of all parts of their former life, though they should be striving to. Paul here is talking of someone who is well within the church and is well known who is clearly and openly sinning but no-one is willing to discipline him. He cannot be associated with.I think in this day and age, this is practised at a leadership level, which I think is appropriate. People can passively pew sit no matter how sinful they are, but as soon as they wish to take some sort of leadership level in the church, then the church is associated with them, and they in some way represent the church. They must then represent the values of the community.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

1 Corinthians 4

Fools for Christ

Summary:
So see yourself as a servant of Jesus entrusted with his secrets. Prove yourself worthy, but don't rush in to judge others. When God judges, then there'll be no more secrets.

You have everything you need, but us Apostles have been left behind. The world despises us.

I just want you to be careful, because you have lots of peers, but not many mentors. Timothy will come and be a mentor.

It's up to you. I'll either be disciplining or caring when I come. That depends on what sort of arrogant people I find there.

Key verse:
9-10. or it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ

My thoughts:
Paul isn't really that easy to follow sometimes!

Paul really is treating the Corinthians as children, which is quite amusing.

I wonder what Paul means when he says the Corinthians have everything they need and are like Kings, with the Apostles despised. I certainly understand the concept of becoming a fool for Christ. Shamelessness is a key virtue in my book. I mean God's book.

Perhaps he is referring to the fact that the Corinthians are spoonfed, and have everything they need, while the Apostles, their fathers, have to do the hard humiliating work to support their faith. I dunno.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

1 Corinthians 3

Pre-pubescent Christians

Summary:
I've had to take my time with you. You're not quite ready yet. You'll still quarreling like everyone else. Remember: There is no Paul or Apollos. Only God. I may've laid a foundation, which is Jesus, but others are building on it which is fine so long as they are keeping to the same foundation. If you cut corners when building, then it will become clear one day.

You are God's temple, so stop destroying yourself! Don't take any pride in earthly wisdom. Everything is yours already, because you are in Jesus and Jesus is in God.

Key verse:
16. Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?

My thoughts:
I don't quite get his point at the end, but that's okay. Basically this is a big call for the Corinthians to grow up. You can't trick God.

So yea, we're God's temple. So be holy etc. Yea.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

1 Corinthians 2

Dumb words, powerful God

Summary:
Look, I don't sound smart. I don't use big arguments, I just tell of Jesus and how he was crucified, then let's the Spirit's power do the rest. Your faith doesn't depend on me. The wisdom we use is unrecognised on earth. It's a secret wisdom. No-one has known God's plans, but we know through the Spirit. The Spirit alone knows God's thoughts. Without the Spirit we cannot understand, luckily we have Christ's mind.

Key verse:
4. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power

My thoughts:
Paul is saying all this to get rid of the divisions they have. The issue, as Paul sees it, is that they all have different views based on the words and 'wisdom' of different passing Apostles. The Corinthians need to realise that the human words mean nothing, and their faith must be dependant on God and his power alone. I think this is a good principle to practise in evangelism.

As Paul starts talking about secret wisdom, you can start to see where some of the Gnostics got their ideas from. They really liked Paul. Gnostics believed that secret knowledge was the key to salvation, and the knowledge came from revelation through the Christ. Or something along those lines. They believed a lot of other things too. That is, of course, not what Paul is referring to here. The 'secret wisdom' is in fact the widely proclaimed truth of Jesus' sacrifice. The 'secretness' comes in the fact that only those who God allows can truly understand it through the Spirit, or else it is nonsense.

Monday, October 15, 2007

1 Corinthians 1

A new way of thinking

Summary:
From Paul and Sosthenes to the Corinthian Christians. You guys rock. But you keep on quarrelling. It doesn't matter if Peter, Apollos or I baptised you, you are all under Christ who is not divided. I just bring a message.

This message is ridiculous if you don't know God. Those who appear smart don't get it. Jews want one thing, Gentiles want another. What we say frustrated them both. But the chosen get it. God's foolishness is better than any person's wisdom.

You guys aren't particularly smart. You aren't the top of society, but God chose you to prove everyone else wrong. That way, no-one deserves to boast.

Key verse:
18. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

My thoughts:
I could choose so many more key verses, because there's heaps here! 1 Corinthians 1-3 are awesome passages for the relationship between intellectual academia and faith. It basically is a big call to revise priorities in some people's thinkings. It is especially relevant in our society, where many people still follow the view that humanity and science can and will figure it all out. God, and these passages, call for a different approach. It is a humbling view of human abilities. It call all our greatest wisdom comparative foolishness in light of faith. That is a radically different way of thinking.

Anywho, Sosthenes co-authors this letter. He was beaten by his colleagues for refusing to testify against Paul. It appears that he has become a convert to Christianity, and a significant one at that.

These are going up a bit out of order due to my stupidity. Who knew there was a Romans 16?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Romans 16

For the ladies. Eastern Indochinian. Republic of Dominican. Amphibian. Presbyterian.

Summary:
Be nice to Phoebe the deaconess and Priscilla and Aquila who have a housechurch. Also Andronicus and Junias - some of the best Apostles. Say hi to everyone who I know. Be welcoming to one another.

We wary of divisive people that might sprout up. Be wise and innocent. God will crush evil soon.

We all love you. Glory to God.

Key verse:
7. Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles

My thoughts:
This is a chapter of salutations, but there are some cool things to be picked out, but most significant is the clear and authoratitive roles women appear to be playing in the early church! Phoebe is mentioned first, and she's a deaconess. Priscilla is mentioned before her husband, and leads a housechurch. Junias could well actually refer to the wife of Andronicus, Junia or Julia, which would perhaps imply that a woman was counted among the Apostle.

Pretty exciting stuff. It's not as clear as it could be, but it certainly goes a long way to showing the context of Paul's statements regarding women in other passages.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Romans 15

Travel plans

Summary:
We shouldn't seek to please ourselves. We should help the weak. Be unified and accepting. I know that you're awesome. I speak from what I know from Jesus, and I've spoken in many many places. But not you yet, because I've been busy. But I'll come visit you on the way to Spain.

Keep praying and be blessed.

Key verse:
18. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me

My thoughts:
Did Paul ever make it to Spain? We'll never know, this side of eternity. The Spanish think he did. But they would. Freaken Spanish... get your own Apostle...Anywho, realise that Paul's theology and speech comes from experience, not from his ever-creative mind or other extra-Biblical sources or traditions.

Paul did, of course, eventually make it to Rome, but he was mostly imprisoned there.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Romans 14

Mountainous molehills

Summary:
Be accepting of those who are learning. Don't make mountains of molehills. Some aren't ready to completely free themselves, and let them take their time. For trivial things, like holy days and food requirements, everyone should do whatever they think is right without being judged. They certainly shouldn't do something if they still think it's wrong! In reality, it doesn't matter. Even if we live or we die, we are still God's.

Don't let these little things become stumbling blocks. All food is clean, but if someone doesn't agree, then don't eat 'unclean' food around them. Some parts of your faith are actually best kept private

Key verse:
14. I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.

My thoughts:
There is a small amount of space within Christianity for relative morality, ie. you only do wrong if you do something you believe to be wrong. This appears to be the case on 'disputable matters', however defining disputable matters poses a significant problem.

As always, it's best to understand things in context. Paul's issue is that many people believed they still had to follow parts of Jewish law to be a Christian. Paul is showing that if someone is a big confused on the more ceremonial laws, then they should do what they think it right. If they don't do what they think is right, then they have still done something out of a heart of disobedience. What is not referred to here it an attitude of 'if you can justify it, you can do it'. You can justify everything, and lots of things are not disputable matters.

Most churches split over disputable matters, I would contend.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Romans 13

Shopocolypse

Summary:
Don't go against the world authorities. You'll be fine if you do what you should. Pay your taxes. God put them there, and they aren't our enemies.

Love and don't let debts build up, either for yourself or those in debt to you. Let' get ready for Christs' return. Let's step our of the darkness and sinful acts and step into the light. Cover yourself in Jesus.

Key verse:
14. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

My thoughts:
I do like this last verse of the chapter. It simply puts everything in it's right context. The holy life we are to lead can be described as simply clothing ourselves with Jesus. Sweet. Stop living like the world.

Here's one way to stop living like the world - stop selling out to consumerism. Fair call. For a genius in his (very exclusive) field, go onto youtube and search "What would Jesus buy". It's pretty freaken' awesome. Prepare for the Shopocolypse.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Romans 12

Living the sacrifice

Summary:

So let your life be an offering to God as your worship. Don't follow this world's lead, but God's will. Be humble in your own opinion. We're all parts of the same body, with different roles and gifts, be they prophesy, serving, treaching, giving, mercy or whatever.

Have genuine love for one another. Be good to all, even if it isn't returned. Don't be too cool. All do right and be seen to do right. Don't seek revenge. God'll sort that out. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Key verses:

2. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

5. in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

My thoughts:

So this is basically a chapter on how to live as a Christian. Paul urges us to be living sacrifices, and opposed to the normal dead ones at the temple. He then goes on to describe how we are like this, and basically we are to be humble, loving, and not vengeful. The whole talk of gifts is purely in the context of explaining that for all our gifts and abilities, we are all just cogs in the deep clockwork of Christ. I'm not really convinced that there's really a Biblical distinction between abilities and spiritual gifts. It's all mixed together like a good trifle with mince and everything. Anyway, lots of good philiosophies on which to base your life here.

Oh, and also! Don't conform! Just don't. Be really really noticably different as a Christian. Don't try to be relevant. Try to follow God.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Romans 11

The Gentile spin-off show!

Summary:
So did God ditch the Jews? No. I’m a Jew. God has saved a remnant by grace. God chose some to believe, and some not to.

God hasn’t given up on the rest though. God is being good to the Gentiles to make the Jews jealous. The Jew’s unbelief has saved the world, and their belief will only bring more life! Gentiles are like other plants living of the sap of the broken branches of Israel. They can’t boast over the tree whose brokenness gave them life! You can’t deny your root. They broke, and you golly well could too. God is both kind and stern.

God’s promise is still secure though. He will come one day to save all Israel. That’s just not now.
God is freaken’ awesome.

Key verse:
12. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!

My thoughts:
The reality is that this chapter has a higher view of the Jews in regard to salvation than most Christians will be willing to admit. God’s promise to them is still valid. The fact that we non-Jews have received mercy can only be understood in terms of the ultimate salvation of the Jews. What as awesome side-story we are to God’s plan!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Romans 10

Preach it!

Summary:
I want the Jews to be saved, but they just don’t know. Faith is different. You can be saved if you confess and believe. It’s a matter of your heart and your mouth. There’s no difference between Jews and non-Jews.


But they can’t believe if no-one tells them! Faith comes from hearing, and they have heard, but some still don’t believe.

Key verses:
9. if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved
14. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?


My thoughts:
I don’t understand verses 5-8. They are officially weird. So faith doesn’t try to guess people’s destinies? Fair enough, I guess!


Anyway, Paul’s point here is that the Jews need to be preached to so that they come to God with faith in Jesus.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Romans 9

Father Abraham has many sons

Summary:
Paul is gutted for his own people, but they aren't all Abraham's children. Being a child of Abraham is a spiritual heirship which many Jews have rejected. Similarly, for not particular reason, Jacob the younger was heir over Esau.

God is still just. If he has no compassion, we would all have a bad fate. If he chooses to have mercy on some, then fine! He doesn't need to do it to all people. You might not understand, but that doesn't give you right to blame the God who made you. Maybe he's just building anticipation to show his mercy more greatly. We just don't know.

Israel fell into living by works. That's why Gentiles are being saved. They are doing it by faith.

Key verse:
20. But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' "

My thoughts:
Though many people will see it as a cop out, I do feel that at the end of the day some things we will not understand and we just have to trust God, even if by our understanding he seems unjust.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Romans 8

Key Chapter

Summary:
So we who live by the Spirit are not condemned. Living by the Spirit of Christ/God we can please God, are we will be resurrected like Jesus. We are then children of God, not born in fear.

The future glory will make up for current problems. The world has been waiting for that glory to come. As we wait, the Spirit helps. It prays on our behalf.

But God is on our side, working for our benefit. If he's on our side, no-one can take away our salvation.

Key verses:
1. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
9. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
15. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."
26. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
28. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him
31. If God is for us, who can be against us?
37-39. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

My thoughts:
So yea, I pretty much quoted the entire chapter in my key verses, but there's so many memorable parts of this chapter. It is very familiar. I could say so much, but I'll just make a couple of points.

The Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ seem to be one in the same. So Christ is God. Take that JWs!

If you ever feel unsure of your salvation read through this and the previous chapter. God is for you, and wants good for you.

Paul's use of 'Abba' is an indication a) that he did take an interest in Jesus' actual life and words, and b) that Abba was a distinctive word of Jesus indicating something to do with how we should relate to God. Otherwise, Paul wouldn't've written in Aramaic here.

Cool to know that being uncertain what to pray for is normal, and we should just have faith that the Spirit is praying more correctly through us. I feel that this relates to the gift of tongues.

It appears that predestination, at some level, is a Christian belief.

We are more than conquerors so we should invade non-Christian countries and give them the gospel, which we will conquer them into accepting.

Yea... that'll do.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Romans 7

What I do do, I do not want to do, but that through which I did not do, I do too, for the voodoo I do do, I do by the doodoo I threw too, for what is done is deja vu and not what I am to do. Too. Do.

Summary:
It's like marriage. A woman is bound to a man for life, and if she goes off with another man, she is committing adultery. If the husband dies, however, she can have another husband.

Similarly, we have died to the law, so that we can belong to a new Spirit.

The law isn't sin, but it recognises sin, which incidentally allows sin to live and kills us, though the law was good.

I'm very confused and can't control myself. It doesn't matter what good I want to do, I keep sinning from my sinful nature. There's an internal battle within me. How on earth am I saved? Praise Jesus! That's all I say. My mind is God's, but my nature is sin's.

Key verse:
15. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

My thoughts:
And they say the Bible is hard to read! But it's sweet hearing that Paul struggles with sin and his sinful nature too. Makes us all feel better!

But anyway, let's talk about marriage for a bit. Someone I was talking to recently said that you couldn't remarry even if your spouse died, which I disagreed with, and, as always, I was right, as is clearly shown at the beginning of this passage. My view is that divorce is not legitimate except for martial unfaithfulness, and so you should not remarry unless your spouse dies.

Of course I know many people who have remarried, and it doesn't have to be a big deal, but my views will definitely guide how I live my life.

So yeah.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Romans 6

Slaves for life!

Summary:
We don't keep sinning because that part of us died. We die with Jesus at baptism, and start a new life. But Jesus was risen and now lives for God, and so shall we. Sin has no control any more.

Don't be a slave to sin. Become a slave to righteousness. It's a much better master! Sin leads to death. God leads to life.

Key verse:
23. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

My thoughts:
I remember sensing from God in a prayer time, and I said what I felt, that we were slaves no matter what. It was just a matter of who we wanted to be slaves to. I remember feeling awkward as I felt like the others in the room thought it was a weird thing to say, but I was right! It's right here!

We have to be slaves to righteousness. We need to carry a burden to do what is right. It's not popular, but who cares.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Romans 5

Two one mans

Summary:
We can have peace through Jesus now, even in sufferings, because our hope is justified. When we were screwed and sinful, Jesus died for us. That's love. We are saved!

Sin came through one man, Adam, and even the good after him had to live in a society of death because of the sin of one. But now we have a gift from one man, Jesus, which brings life instead of death. It has more authority than Adam's 'gift'. So now grace reigns instead of death.

Key verse:
8. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

My thoughts:
So here Paul is describing how Jesus has solved the human condition, as started with Adam. It's actually quite profound that this little Christian sect really did consider it's message to be truly global. It was for and about all people at all times.

So yea, as I've been saying, these passages are probably the clearest presentation of the Gospel in the Bible.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Romans 4

When God promised to bless Jabez, he promised to bless me.

Summary:
Even Abraham has righteousness credited to him because of his faith. It's like getting paid without doing work. You can't really boast about how much you deserve it! Heck! Abraham had righteousness credited to him before he was circumcised! Abraham then represents the circumcised and the uncircumcised. He's the father of us all, so we should have faith too. At 100 years old with no heir, he had every right to doubt, but he didn't. We too can be credited with righteousness.

Key verses:
23-24. The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us

My thoughts:
Paul likes to base Christianity in pre-Mosaic Judaism. Many at his time would've scorned him based on Moses, so Paul go back before Moses and gets a lot of his truths from Abraham and Adam. He is appealing to a more basic state of reality.

Abraham is a good candidate for this context because he, as the first Jew in some senses, bridges the gap between the uncircumcised and the circumcised. He is like many of the Gentiles coming to God.

Interestingly Paul states, without justification, that the words said to Abraham apply to us. This obviously isn't a blanket statement for everything said to people in the Bible, but does show us that sometime statements in the Bible have a wider context than their immediate and first one. That, of course, leaves all sorts of interpreting issues.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Romans 3

Something and nothing

Summary:
So it's still nice to be a Jew. God's trusted the Jews, and God will remain faithful if they are faithless. Should we then be faithless to emphasise God's faithfulness? No. That's dumb.

We all sinners. Jews and Gentiles. It's in the scriptures. The law just makes us know that we're sinners.

But the new righteousness comes through faith in Jesus. We are all sinners, but we can all be redeemed by Jesus' sacrifice. So there's no boasting. We're all saved by the same faith.

Somehow this doesn't make the law irrelevant.

Key verses:
23-25. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.

My thoughts:
What Paul's saying here is quite confusing. He seems to be saying that being Jewish means nothing but it means something. I'm going to make a sweeping statement that Paul's main point is that Jews shouldn't feel any superiority over Gentiles or inherent rights to salvation.

Anywho, verses 23-25 are pretty well known. Possibly the most succinct presentation of the Gospel in the Bible. So that's good. Tell people about it.