Showing posts from June, 2009

The one central idea of 1 Corinthians

What is the one central idea of 1 Corinthians? What is the one sentence Paul would most like his readers to know by heart? Here it is:

"Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose" (1:10).

New Testament scholar Ben Witherington is one among many scholars who observe that Paul uses familiar Greco-Roman rhetorical devices to reach the people of the church in Corinth. The Corinthian house churches were predominantly Gentile in demographic, and the Corinthians highly valued a rhetorically skilled presentation. Witherington argues that ancient listeners from a prominent Roman city would have recognized v. 1:10 as the exordium, or the theme sentence of the letter. (Incidentally, Paul's letters were public documents, intended to be read out loud in church gatherings.) All the issues Paul a…

God's love and the iPod

I have long had this burning desire to be utterly transformed by God. I don't want to be a better person. I tried that. At a certain point, I realized that God was not going to be impressed by my attempts to be well behaved. What will impress him? Based on what Jesus had to say, I can think of only one thing: love.

Now left to my own devices, I am not the most loving person. I am self-centered and rather insensitive to other people. I like to think conceptually. I can tune out people and relationships, and then I wake up wondering why I feel disconnected. Thankfully, this kind of ugliness defines me less than it used to. Slowly I am being transformed into the likeness of Christ. But a taste of transformation only makes me hunger for it all the more.

I am realizing more and more that key to being transformed into a person who feels, thinks, and acts like Jesus is to place myself over and over again on the receiving end of God's love. There is nothing I can do to earn divine love,…

The social status of the apostle Paul

I found out some interesting things about the apostle Paul over the last couple of days' reading in a book by Ben Witherington on 1 & 2 Corinthians. I never appreciated that in order to receive the education he did, Paul had to have been raised in a well-to-do family. Paul was trained in Greco-Roman rhetoric, and he was also educated under Gamaliel, one of the most famous rabbis of his day. Witherington states that Paul's education was in the top 1-2% of his day.

Paul came from a wealthy family, and he was well educated. He was also a Roman citizen. Not many Jews enjoyed that status. So, all in all, Paul had a lot of social muscle he could flex. He usually didn't. In fact, in Corinth he chose to take the socially low road of being a tentmaker. This move disappointed some of the more aristocratic Corinthians, who came to see Paul as a disappointment and, ultimately, not really apostolic material.

So... when Paul wrote in Philippians 2 about Jesus denying himself all the r…