Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Orderly Gatherings: 1 Corinthians 14

In Summary:
After feeling the love in 1 Corinthians 13, we’re right back into tongues and prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14. Keep in mind that Paul is not obsessed with this topic—rather he is having to respond to the Corinthian questions and their obsession with the topic. This is why there is more in 1 Corinthians about tongues and spiritual gifts than there is in the rest of the New Testament combined.

This chapter specifically compares tongues and prophecy as spiritual gifts and discusses the value of the two. In doing so, Paul highlights the value of prophecy while acknowledging the use of tongues. One of the major problems we have today, though, is that the definitions of “prophecy” and “tongues” are debated by many churches and New Testament scholars. 

For example, the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (mine is the Logos version, so I don’t know what volume), runs through a variety of uses for the Greek word that gets translated as “prophesy” and the real summary is that it is words spoken by one who is a prophet. Seriously. Then it leaves the reader to determine the theology of who is (and isn’t) a “prophet.”

We also see this in theological works today. Grudem’s Systematic Theology places “prophecy” for the New Testament era as similar to Old Testament prophecy, but not exactly alike (and not as perfect). Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith identifies “prophecy” as more akin to preaching, Spirit illumined but not inspired (contrasted with Scripture, which is inspired). He does not come out and say so, but I would suspect he would accept a different translation than “prophecy” because of this. The term comes from simply transliterating the Greek (and Latin) into an English word rather than trying to find the right term. (Same thing happened to “baptize,” from the Greek word meaning “to immerse.”)

So, then, we have two different challenges here. The first is to sort through what “prophecy” and “tongues” are, Scripturally speaking. The second is what to do with them. 

In Focus:
Let’s focus on what to do with prophecy and tongues. 

Paul instructs the church that “all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.” (1 Corinthians 14:40). This is a key concept: church worship is not meant to be sheer chaos. The reason for this can be seen as the chapter unfolds. The gathered times of the church are meant to be three things:

1.) Glorifying to God;
2.) Edifying to the body of Christ, the church;
3.) Explicable to outsiders who come into the church.

Therefore, Paul reminds the Corinthians to ensure their gatherings fall within this parameter.

In Practice:
What does that mean for us?

Well, our worship services, the times we are gathered as a church should fall within the same pattern given to the Corinthians. Not necessarily the exact order and structure, but the concept. Every gathering of the church should aim to be:

1.) Glorifying to God: it should be clear that the focus of the time is the Lord Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Triune God. If a gathering of “worship” leaves one wondering who that service was about, then the primary purpose has been missed.

2.) Edifying to the body of Christ: we should build up one another, not tear one another down. Every gathering should equip, strengthen, and challenge the church to do the things which the church ought to do. Otherwise, why are we together? 

3.) Explicable to outsiders who come into the church: not fully accepted by outsiders, but explicable. We should be able to explain what is happening, why it is happening, and who the focus is on. In short, we should be able to point others back to points 1 and 2! 

If everything is chaos, if the service is full of people trying to be seen and known for what they do, then the point of gathering together is missed. The Corinthians seemed to have trouble with this, and I know that at times, it seems we have trouble too. Let us strive to keep the focus in the right direction!

In Nerdiness:
I am not going into 1 Corinthians 14:34 about women being silent except to say: study the context, understand the point. 

The idea that God is not a God of confusion but of peace does not mean that church is always peaceful—this is no call to go along just to get along. Rather, that the gathering of people requires some planning and thought, so put it in and work through it. At times, the Holy Spirit may just interrupt your plan. That’s okay, but you will not be worse off for having prayed and prepared anyway.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Sermon Recap for August 27

Here is what you'll find: after each sermon title, there's an "audio" link that allows you to play or download that sermon's audio file. Then there should be an embedded Youtube Link to the sermon.

If you'd like, you can subscribe to the audio feed here: for iTunes users. Other audio feeds go here:

The video is linked on my personal Youtube Page here:

Sermons are stockpiled here:


We had morning service only as we celebrated our church’s 81st anniversary. I think we’re going to shift the way we do that next year, but that’s a long way away.

Morning Sermon:

Now, some ‘insider information:’

I deviated significantly from my original outline. But here’s the original one if you want to see where I was initially going:

August 27 AM
Passage: 1 Corinthians 15:58
Letter to Corinth, a troubled church--
Not everything has gone right in their years as a church
Conclusion to Paul's extended exaltation of Christ's victory over death---key verse starts with a therefore! Always check what is said before the "therefore"
Keep to the work--when we get off the work, we become divided and focus on lesser things.
Keep on working---even death has been defeated!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Wuv. True Wuv: 1 Corinthians 13

In Summary:
We’ve made it to the “Love Chapter” of 1 Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 13 contains an extended description of what love should look like. First off for the summary, though, make sure you take note of the context of the chapter as a whole. It’s in the middle of Paul’s discussion of unity in the body of Christ, even as the body works out the spiritual gifts that have been given. 1 Corinthians 11 dealt also with worship services, as 1 Corinthians 14 will also deal with. The entire book of 1 Corinthians addresses division in the body and fighting off the infection of sin and division.

So keep that context in mind for the famous chapter on love. While we read it at weddings, it would also most likely fit into the top ten most commonly ripped from context passages of Scripture. It’s behind “Judge not” and “I can do all things through Christ,” but it would give “I know the plans I have for you (plural)…” and “Train up a child…” a run for third. Now, on to the chapter as a whole: 

First, you see the importance of love. It’s more important than any one gift. Why? Because all of us can, and must, love. That’s why. You are responsible for not loving—you are not responsible for not speaking in tongues or not being a martyr.

Second, you see the characteristics of love. Love rejoices in truth, in righteousness, but not in evil or arrogance. Love is kind and forbearing, and it endures many trials thrown at it. This should not be taken that love puts up with abuse, either from within or without, but rather that when the world comes apart, one does not stop loving. Remember, this chapter comes after Paul has stressed the importance of truth—which love “rejoices in” (v. 6). There should be no taking this chapter to indicate love is more important than truth. Love is more important than being right about who the greatest country singer of all time is—those are trifling matters. 

But love does not exist if the Truth (John 14:6) is removed.

Finally, the chapter ends with a reminder which people may do fails, but their character, their love, remains. Paul illustrates by speaking of childhood, how he (and we) was initially childish, but then he grew up. Growing up moved him from selfishness toward love—and that should be true of all of us.

In Focus:
Then, we will take the last verse in focus. It features what is called (by several New Testament scholars, I don’t remember where it originated but I heard it from Dr. Duvall years ago) the “Pauline Triad,” referring to “faith, hope, and love.” Paul uses these three together somewhere around seven or eight times (depends on the search syntax in Logos). Like most good preachers, I think he had some favorite sayings and ideas he returned to, and here we find a good idea that’s worth repeating.

In focusing on this, we should look at what these three are. Faith and hope are linked in their connection to the future—both see and act on the assumption that the world is not as it will be. Love looks at the world and sees that it is not as it should be now, and acts on that. 

In Practice:
What does that mean, practically?

Faith and hope act based on seeing the future which God has called us to. We grow in Christlike-ness. We act in obedience, trusting that God will answer that. We do not lose heart because Jesus is coming again and will judge the living and the dead. All of these are driven by hope and faith, a view of a God-saturated future and conviction that it will happen.

Love, meanwhile, looks at the world right now and sees that it is wrong. Things are not as they should be, and something should be done about it. Love builds bridges between people, strengthens relationships among the distant, and relieves the suffering of those in need. And then, love does even greater: in love, we draw others to a right relationship with God. We do not stop, for love never fails until people are reconciled to God through Jesus. We are not satisfied to feed the hungry, though we see the need to do so. 

This is what love does: it is the willful choice to treat someone as God would treat them. Love is self-sacrificial, love is caring, and love prioritizes the long-term benefit of others. 

So let’s go love.

In Nerdiness:
Nerd stuff?

1. The Greek word for “hope” is “elpis.” Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek suggested that one could remember this vocabulary word by knowing that “Elvis fans have ‘elpis’ that Elvis is alive.” And thus it has stuck. I’ve struggled with agape and philadelphia and kerusso… (love, brotherly love, preaching) but never with elpis. (Words transliterated rather than trying a Greek font.)

2. If you use 1 Corinthians 13:1 to claim that there is a spiritual gift of speaking in “angelic languages” (or the “tongues of angels”), then consistency requires that you take 1 Corinthians 13:2 to claim there is a spiritual gift of knowing all mysteries, all knowledge, and actually, physically, removing mountains. If v. 1 is completely literal, then v. 2 is as well. If, however, v. 2 speaks of exaggerated giftedness that is out of reach, then consistency suggests that v. 1 speaks of the same idea.

3. There is a significant difference in “not keeping a record of wrongs” from v. 5 and allowing continued abuse. Do not go back to an abuser based on “not keeping a record of wrongs.” That wrenches that line out of God’s expressed concerned for justice and righteousness which permeates the whole Bible.

4. Paul is still looking forward at the return of Jesus when he hits “the perfect comes…” in verse 10. Then, we will know God as fully as God already knows us.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Book: 40 Questions about Church Membership and Discipline

Let us take a look today at the latest in the 40 Questions series from Kregel Academic. This one is 40 Questions about Church Membership and Discipline, and it’s by Jeremy M. Kimble. Kimble is an assistant professor at Cedarville College, and his background is Baptist. Southern Baptist, if you’d like to be precise.

40 Questions about Church Membership and Discipline (40QaCMaD) is 272 pages, trade paperback size, and all text. It is published by Kregel Academic, and the series editor for the 40 Questions series is Benjamin L. Merkle. I personally own several entries in this series and have appreciated all of them.

On to 40QaCMaD: First, the overall format of questions/answers is a good way to explore a topic. The primary drawback is that the same person provides the questions and the answers. That means the author is never stumped by a question and gets to dodge the troublesome ones.

Which, unfortunately, does happen in this work. I’ll start with the drawback, the missing questions, and then end on the positives. The missing questions deal with protecting against abuse in a church discipline system. While not advocating an excessive discipline, it is a legitimate question to ask: How does a church prevent its disciplinary system from becoming a tool of abuse? No guardrails are suggested, and in fact, the chapter on why some churches do not practice discipline seems to acknowledge and then dismiss the concern of abuse.

That being said, this book is still a valuable tool for understanding church membership. First, note that Kimble, the author, and Merkle, the editor, are Baptists. The assumptions underlying church membership and discipline include congregational involvement and independent local churches. Keep that in mind if you’re inclined toward a hierarchal church structure.

The opening half of the book is focused on church membership. The 20 questions involved cover everything from qualifications to benefits to responsibilities of church members. These are good, though brief. Keep in mind that whole papers and books are written about subjects such as what age a child should be a church member.

The second half, of course, then deals with discipline. This is also good and deals well with practical ideas about keeping the church on-course through discipline. It also deals with the specific question of handling church leaders who need discipline.

As with all books, the presence of footnotes is pleasing to the eye, so that I’m not flipping around trying to find the references.

In all, a useful guidebook for those considering what church membership should mean and how that relates to church discipline.

(Book received from the publisher in exchange for the review.)

Sermon Recap for August 20

Here is what you'll find: after each sermon title, there's an "audio" link that allows you to play or download that sermon's audio file. Then there should be an embedded Youtube Link to the sermon.

If you'd like, you can subscribe to the audio feed here: for iTunes users. Other audio feeds go here:

The video is linked on my personal Youtube Page here:

Sermons are stockpiled here:


Sunday Morning, August 20

August 20 AM
Passage: 1 Corinthians 10:23-33
Letter to Corinth--a troubled church
Addressing issues of Christian liberty--what are we free to do as living under grace? While addressing the need for personal holiness in life.
Deal with backgrounds of idol-sacrifice-meat and such....
Specifically dealing with questions of food sacrificed to idols but ultimately addressing how we decide what to do with our liberty: do we use it for our good or for God's glory?
Whatever you do--everything for the glory of God
Your work? The Glory of God--not your paycheck but the glory of God
Your family? Not for your glory and legacy, but for the glory of God
Your wisdom, your wealth, your influence....
Your vote. Your political power. Your freedom in this nation....
For the Glory of God.

August 20 Evening Service

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Varieties of Gifts: 1 Corinthians 12

In Summary:
Spiritual gifts. Oh boy. Here we go, down the rabbit hole into strange behaviors that people blame God for—which are not spiritual gifts at all but just people acting strange. 

So, let us look at 1 Corinthians 12 and try to actually understand what Paul is talking about here, because otherwise we’re going to get deep in the weeds and have a very difficult time getting back. One portion of the context to keep in mind is that both letters to the Corinthians are clearly written to a church with a much higher level of dysfunction than is healthy. Ephesus had troubles and so did Rome, Thessalonica had its difficulties and Colossae its heresy, but Corinth seems to have had the most wrong at the same time. (Except maybe the churches of Galatia, but “better off than the foolish, bewitched Galatians” isn’t exactly high praise.)

Given that background, the summary of 1 Corinthians needs to be read as corrective prescription rather than a positive how-to manual. Each gift that is mentioned is brought up in a list, highlighting that it is one of many rather than exalting any particular gift.

The primary illustration of the chapter is the comparison of the church as a whole to a body—and the holders of spiritual gifts are likened to body parts. That’s an important thing to take note of: the gifts are not compared to parts of the body. The people who have spiritual gifts are part of the body.

You are part of the body of Christ. Not your spiritual gift—and you are not your giftedness.

In Focus:
To understand the rest of the chapter, cast a hard glance at the first 6 verses. 1 Corinthians 12:1-6 unlocks the concepts that follow. Here’s how:

1. Paul is concerned that the church not be ignorant of how God works in their lives—he contrasts this with how they behaved as pagans. An understanding of how God works will help keep the Corinthians from being led astray.

2. It is apparent that the oddities of behavior from paganism were bleeding over into the church, where there was not even clarity that the Spirit of God would never curse Jesus and that the Holy Spirit will always support that Jesus is Lord!! Whatever manifestation of alleged “spiritual gifts” the Corinthians were having, apparently some were cursing the Lord and claiming to be spiritual for it.

That’s nonsense.

3. The emphasis is placed on the unity of the church behind one Lord, Jesus Christ. The differences are in people, not in the Lord Himself. And whatever is different about us, we are to be unified in following Christ.

In Practice:

1. Ignorance is not a virtue. Especially ignorance that does not discern between truth and falsehood. Learn the difference between Christianity and false religion.

2. Copying the behavior of the pagan world into the church is not a shortcut to anywhere worth going.

3. Whatever you think makes you special in the Kingdom of God, remember that it’s His Kingdom. Any gifts, talents, abilities that you have are from Him in the first place, so perhaps a word is in order about who has the right to tell you what to do with “your” gifts. The use of anything that is allegedly spiritual in a manner that disrupts the right unity of the church (note, right unity—unity based on the truth of Scripture, not false unity based on lies) is counter to the work of the one Lord of the church. If someone comes away from encountering your gift and your use of it and does not respond with “Jesus is Lord!” then you’re doing it wrong. End of story.

We have varieties of gifts in the church, true—but there is one Lord, and so one purpose for all of the gifts: the glory of God.

In Nerdiness:
We can’t get away from spiritual gifts without a couple of nerd terms. These are “cessationism” and “continuationism.” “Cessationism,” which is sometimes called “sufficientism,” views spiritual gifts in the Scripture as falling into differing categories and that some of those categories have ceased, or stopped. These gifts were used by God to affirm the truth of the words of the Apostles (big A Apostles, eyewitnesses to the Gospel…) Now that the complete, sufficient Scriptures are available, these gifts are unnecessary and therefore not given. 

“Continuationism” views all of the gifts as continuing through to today. This view holds that every spiritual gift seen in the New Testament should be seen in the church today just as it was then.

There are believers who take the text of Scripture seriously who fall on both sides of this discussion, and I have friends on both sides. The primary difficulty, to my view, is the purpose of some of the gifts—if their only purpose was to provide support to the “Word of the Lord” then they by necessity must have ceased—no one speaks today with that authority. The authority of an unmistakable “Word from God” is reserved to the inerrant Scripture, the Word of God.

And I find that the text of Scripture is complete and done—John speaks well in summary in Revelation 22 about adding to or taking away. However, if there were other purposes for those gifts, then those purposes may not be complete, and therefore the gifts would remain. It comes back to discerning God’s purposes.

The other thing that must be spoken of is “tongues.” This is a case of translators letting us down—if you look at the one place in Scripture where “tongues” are described in practice, Acts 2, then you see that “tongues” are other earthly languages. Therefore, “tongues” should be read as “languages” and understood as the supernatural gifting of the ability to speak in another language. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sermon Recap for August 13

Good afternoon!

Today, you'll find yesterday morning's sermon and last night's Peru trip slideshow. I'm still waiting on a good video cut of our nine baptisms yesterday, but those will likely get their own post.

The background music for the slideshow is Christy Nockel's "My Anchor." I first heard that song on the trip to Peru, and overall it spoke clearly about how to hold it together those couple of weeks.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Imitators of Christ: 1 Corinthians 11

In Summary:

1 Corinthians 11 contains some interesting and challenging passages. We get, for example, the culturally relevant (at the time) instructions about head-coverings and hair length. Most likely, one could write several pages trying to address that issue and how it works out in modern times. I would suggest that it also works out differently in differing cultures, but we will not thread that needle here and now. Grab a good, modern commentary on 1 Corinthians (I like the Teach the Text volume from Preben Vang) and consult a few experts.

The other primary theme of this chapter addresses the Lord’s Supper. Or, Communion, for those of you whose tradition uses that title. Paul addresses the habit of the Corinthian church when they got together for worship. At the time, it appears that the church had a significant problem with their worship gatherings. The church would gather, but then behave as if they were just there for themselves. Some of what we understand about the early church era’s worship services come from this chapter, as it is apparent that the church met for a meal and then observed the Lord’s Supper.

A major point that Paul addresses is this: the church’s failure to be truly together as they observed Communion led to God’s judgment on the church. How we behave as the body of Christ is important to Jesus—and He does not take lightly a group which reflects on His sacrifice by intense selfishness.

In Focus:
For a focal point, take the first verse of the chapter. Paul challenges the Corinthians to “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Now, first of all, we need to see that this sentence would close out 1 Corinthians 10 just as easily as it opens 1 Corinthians 11. That’s the beauty of a well-written imperative: it crosses boundary lines and links sections.

Throughout this chapter, it is evident that Paul’s concern is that the Corinthians put their effort into being like Jesus. This is true of the head covering issues—whatever the cultural issues affixed, the primary point is about identifying more with Jesus than with the world around them. The worship issues are about being focused on Jesus and not themselves. The Lord’s Supper is a marker of the cost of sin and imitating Christ will require being more like Him in that matter: counting the cost of the sin of others.

And the church is to imitate Paul just as he is imitating Jesus, rather than imitating anyone else.

In Practice:
What does this look like for us, then?

First, our heroes are defined for us. It is those who imitate Christ who we ought to imitate. Rather than pursuing a life just like this rockstar or that scientist, our life should be patterned on those who follow Jesus.

Second, this extends to how we interact with our culture—down to the nitpicking details of hairstyles and fashion trends. Now, I do not think this boils down into a simple to wear/not-to-wear list, but I think we have to think about whether what we do in relationship with our public appearance is imitating Jesus or not. Again, this takes some effort, otherwise the answer would be long hair, robes, sandals. That’s not the idea.

Third, this stretches our own interaction with others. How many of us are comfortable with our walk with Jesus enough to say “follow me?” Ultimately, it must reconnect to “as I follow Christ,” but really, are you confident that people will follow Jesus if they follow you? That’s a challenge for any of us to live up to.

In Nerdiness:
Okay, let’s take a quick pass at the hair thing: to deal with this, the best answers are going to be found in Corinth in the first century. That’s where you need to look.

Next, the Lord’s Supper: examining oneself does not mean guaranteeing you are without sin. It should be understood as examine your heart and purposes in taking the bread and the cup. Are you unified with the body? Are you humbling accepting God’s grace?

Then you are taking the bread and cup in a worthy manner. Otherwise, who ever could? None of us.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Sermon Recap August 6

Well, we had something go wrong with the video camera this week, so there’s no video to share. The audio came through fine, so that’s what we’ve got. There’s nothing in the way of outline, either, because I did it by hand this week.

Maybe next week I’ll have more blog-worthy sermons :)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sermon Recap for July 23 and 30

Well, out of personal privilege, you're going to get July 30 first. Why? It's my sermon, that's why. Brad and Walter handled the Sunday I was in Peru, and theirs are here, too.

I'll go you one better: first you'll get the audio player, which I still haven't figured out how to configure to prefer one sermon over another, so you can click "next" to get to whomever you're looking for. If you, too, can't find what you're looking for, it's there. Run through all the fields in the player.

Now, on to the videos:

Sermon from May 19 2024

 Good morning! Yesterday we talked about Simon Magus. Didn't actually hit on the sin of simony, because we don't really see it that ...