Christ or Cocaine

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #186

And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:30–32).

Paul then advances another argument for the resurrection of Jesus. The apostles were witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus, and they understood that resurrection to be a guarantee of their own resurrection. It would therefore make no sense for them to establish a fraudulent faith that did nothing but jeopardize their health and safety if they knew that the dead were not raised.

By putting this argument forward, Paul is confirming a standard argument for the resurrection of Jesus, which is the fearlessness of the apostles—in contrast to their behavior prior to the crucifixion—in proclaiming that resurrection. The apostles had all seen the resurrected Jesus, and their subsequent behavior makes no sense unless they had seen the resurrected Jesus.

Paul is in danger every hour. Every knock on the door could be a raid. Paul avows, with his right hand on his pride in the Corinthians, that he dies every day. This is the meaning of taking up your cross daily, and following Jesus. Why would Paul have fought the way he did at Ephesus if the dead are not raised. He is very blunt about it. If there is no resurrection, then the only sensible option is to party on the lip of the abyss. In the Pauline logic, it is either Christ or cocaine.

Surveying the Text: 2 Corinthians

Introduction:

We are called to great glory, but we are called to great glory out of a great mess. God is in the process of restoring a remarkable ruin—say of a cathedral—and the greatness of this undertaking is seen when we consider how great the ruin is. Man was created as the image bearer of God, and the fall shattered his ability to reflect that image accurately. It still does so—you can still make it out—but the image of God in man must be restored. This image is the face of Jesus Christ, and this face is manifested in the preaching of the gospel.

The Text:

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:3–6).

Brief Background:

You should remember from our treatment of 1 Corinthians that this letter was probably written in the autumn of 56 A.D. A severe letter had been sent to the Corinthians in between 1 Corinthians and this one, and it is apparent from all the issues being addressed that no Christian in his right mind should want to belong to “a New Testament church.” Paul is still addressing the problem of factions that plagued the church at Corinth.

The Politics of Sodomy 4: Remember Lot’s Wife

Introduction:

How do we as individuals respond to the situation we find ourselves in? How can we be faithful in our generation? These very practical questions, and they require answers that are equally practical. What are we to do? How are we to live?

The Texts:

“And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly” (Gen. 13:10-13)

“And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways” (Gen. 19:1-2).

“Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (Gen. 19:24-26).

“Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).

Overview:

The outline of the story goes this way, and it is a story that the Lord Jesus commanded us to remember. When Abraham and Lot came into conflict through their herdsmen, Abraham gave Lot the first choice on which land he could have. Lot made that choice on carnal principles (seeing the main chance), and he took up residence near Sodom. The men there were already renowned for their wickedness. In our next passage, Lot is living in Sodom, and he knows what a foul place it is. He tries to get the angels to stay with him for the night, and be on their way first thing in the morning. When the judgment finally fell, even that was inadequate evidence for Lot’s wife, and she looked longingly back at all the malls and restaurants, and she was destroyed. Remember her, Jesus said.

Baptism for the Dead

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #185

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? (1 Cor. 15:29).

This now brings us to a cryptic argument that Paul advances in favor of the resurrection, an argument that he advances in his famous aside about baptism for the dead. There are (at least) several ways to take this.

First, the heretical group in Corinth that was disputing the resurrection of the dead (and who made this section of the letter necessary) could have been a group that was also practicing baptism for the dead. Paul doesn’t say “we” are baptized for the dead. He says that “they” are. And so Paul’s mild rejoinder to them is this—what kind of sense does that make? If the dead are not raised, then why bother getting baptized for them?

A second view is that advanced by R.L. Dabney, which is that this “baptism” refers to the ritual purification undertaken by someone who had recently buried someone. This is referred to in Num. 19:11-13, and we know from Mark 7:4 and Heb. 9:10 that these ritual washings were called baptisms. If there is no resurrection, then why all the Hebraic fuss over burials and cleansing from burials? In this understanding, the “they” who still do this are Jewish Christians who are allowed to continue their ancient practices (although not for justification) so long as the Temple still stood.

This second view has the advantage of not constructing an imaginary world from a few passing comments. In addition, the second view limits itself to the raw material of scriptural possibilities.

Praying Jalapeños

Okay, I love Logos Bible Software, and so that means this is in no way a complaint. They do great things. It is just that a graphic that appeared on their home page today reminded me of Pet Peeve #48.

I can’t show you the graphic because they must have crammed too many pixels into it. But their graphic is by no means alone in the world of such renditions. I don’t think I have ever seen an accurate rendition of the ark of the covenant in my life. The cherubim are invariably represented as kneeling human figures, with big sweeping wings curving upwards, making them look for all the world like jalapeños at prayer.

That is not a cherub. Neither is a cherub to be thought of the way some Renaissance painters did, as flying chubby babies with wings that wouldn’t keep a pigeon up. You want a cherub? I’ll show you a cherub. Put one your next Valentine card and see what happens.

Winged Cherub

The most famous of the cherubim. His name is Pete.

 

 

Surveying the Text: 1 Corinthians

Introduction:

The theme of this book is the battle between division and unity. But we must follow the wisdom of God. Not only are false division and true unity at odds, so also are true division and false unity at odds. Unity with idols is division. Division from evil is righteousness and real unity.

The Text:

For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Cor. 1:21–25).

Brief Background:

Around 50 A.D. the apostle Paul left Macedonia (northern Greece) and came to Corinth. An ancient city on that spot had been leveled by the Romans in 146 B.C., and was a pile of rubble for a century. In 44 B.C. Julius Caesar re-founded the city as a colony. The replanted city prospered, and by the time of Paul’s arrival there it was five times bigger than Athens, and was the capital of the province. The ancient travel writer Strabo (64/63 B.C.—24 A.D.) was the source of the report that the temple to Aphrodite there was staffed by a thousand sacred prostitutes.

When Paul arrived in Corinth, he moved in with Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:1-4). He was not confident when he first got there (1 Cor. 2:3). Silas and Timothy then arrived with good news from Macedonia (1 Thess. 3:6), which strengthened Paul’s preaching. At some point in their time here, Priscilla and Aquila risked their lives for Paul’s sake (Rom. 16:3). There apparently had been some significant trouble, such that God made a point of reassuring Paul in a vision (Acts 18:9ff).

The most likely reconstruction of Paul’s dealings with the Corinthians is this. What we know as 1 & 2 Corinthians are probably 2 & 4 Corinthians. A lost communication to the Corinthians precedes 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 5:9ff), and another lost letter, a “severe letter,” was sent before our 2 Corinthians (2 Cor. 2:4. 1 Corinthians was probably written in 55 A.D. and 2 Corinthians was written in the autumn of the year after.

Running From Honest Confession

A man who confesses his sins is doing something like this. In prayer to God, he names the sin he has committed, and he takes care to use the same name that the Bible uses. He does this because he is repentant and has turned away from that sin, rejecting it entirely. He thanks God for His promised forgiveness, and resolves by God’s grace to make restitution where restitution is appropriate. Restitution is necessary with sins like lying, theft, open bitterness, and sexual infidelity.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).

We must first consider what confession of sin is and is not. Unless we think properly about this, we will stumble, and instead of receiving help from our confession, we will get ourselves into a horrible mess.

Confession of sins is not meritorious: to confess sins as a way of placing God in your debt is not dealing with sin; it is committing another sin. The context of all confession must be the free grace of justification.

Confession of sin is agreement: the word for confess in 1 John 1:9 is homologeo, which means that we are to agree with God about our sin. Adultery is adultery and not “an inappropriate relationship.” Lying is lying and not “creative diplomacy.”

All Things Under His Feet

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #184

For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:27–28).

This section begins with a quotation from Psalm 8:6, and the citation is applied to Christ. But if we look at Psalm 8 generally, and see how it is quoted in Hebrews, we know that the psalm is about mankind and, as the New Testament teaches us, about the new mankind in Christ. This treatment needs to be quoted at length.

For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb. 2:5–9).

The world to come is not subjected to angels, but rather to man—even though the psalmist wonders at how kind God has been to man. Man was initially lower than the angels, but has now been promoted past the angels. All things on earth in principle have therefore been subjected to man, but it has to be man in Christ. This happens gradually—we do not yet see all things subject to man. But we do see Jesus, made lower than the angels for a time, but now exalted to the right hand of the Father. Because Jesus has been exalted in this way, we know that all enemies of Christ will be gradually subdued through the power of the gospel, from tornadoes to thistles, from cancer to crabgrass.