Incredibly long sentences are among Paul’s specialties. The first seven verses of Ephesians 2 are one example, and today’s chapter contains another one. From the start of 2 Corinthians 6 all the way through verse ten, that’s one sentence. And then Paul says: “Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians” (11). No kidding.
I feel like Paul’s got more going on in these chapters than I can hit in one post without merely skimming the surface. Yesterday, he opened 2 Corinthians 4 with a barrage of metaphors that I didn’t even get to talk about–more of the veil thing from chapter three, then Christ as light and Satan as a blinding agent, and treasure in earthen vessels–because I was digging into the “endurance under persecution” theme from the latter half of the chapter. And now in the fifth chapter, Paul’s starting off with a tent metaphor for the body, like it’s just temporary housing while we wait for God to take us to our actual house, to be present with him. And there’s the famous “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature” verse (17), and Paul’s discussion of the ministry of reconciliation, but it looks like I’m not gonna get to hit that stuff, because I’m zeroing in on a single word in a single verse because that’s what grabbed me today.
I was in high school when I first discovered Sara Groves. If I remember correctly, my dad heard her song “The Word” on the radio and ended up buying her Conversations CD as a result. But the bridge of the song is this litany of scriptural truths…and just this morning, as I was reading today’s chapter, it hit me: almost all of her scripture selections are taken from Paul.
Paul really likes his metaphors. In this chapter, he’s hardly introduced one metaphor when he moves on to another: a metaphor-shark swimming in the stream of consciousness, never stopping. He’s got three metaphors here: a letter of commendation, the stone tablets of the old Law, and Moses’ veil.
I’ve heard it said that when God looks at us as Christians, he sees the righteousness of Christ. Theologically speaking, it’s a way of thinking about substitutionary atonement: Jesus Christ, as sinless substitute, stands in for us and bears the penalty for our sins on the cross, so that God sees him when he looks at us. Now, a couple cursory searches didn’t reveal any verses that explicitly state that God views us as Christ, so the concept is at best a theological inference. However, I can say with confidence that when God smells us, he smells Jesus Christ.
There was a time in my life when I would have tried to introduce 2 Corinthians with a parody of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” centered around the line “Back to Corinthians.” But today I have grown in wisdom to the point where I can recognize that idea as very stupid.
Paul concludes his letter to the Corinthian church with his plans to visit them, words of encouragement, and personal commendations. Amidst Paul’s parting words, a few verses stood out to me, so I wanted to hit ’em real quick in succession.
For better or worse, I have a bias for certain passages, and the first part of 1 Corinthians 15 is one of them. And honestly, approaching my favorite passages can be intimidating. I want to provide a good introduction for those unfamiliar with the passage, supply helpful information to expand others’ understanding of the passage, and show those for whom it might not be a favorite passage why I’m so fond of it. I want to do right by the passage. But my own expectations can be crippling, and here I am searching for pages on Pascal’s Wager when I should be digging into today’s chapter. I can’t cover everything in a single blog post. It’s not gonna be perfect, but let’s get to it.
Back around 2004, whenever I was home from college, a friend and I started going to a home church from time to time. It was a much-needed shot in the arm, as I was going through some rough times back then and needed something fresh and personal. They practiced spiritual gifts there; in particular, I remember them praying in tongues. But I don’t remember anyone interpreting, so I remained clueless as to the meaning of the in-tongues-speakers’ mouth-noises.
The bulk of this chapter details the proper use of spiritual gifts, and its instructions are relatively uncontroversial. But near the end, just when you think we’re going to get through this one without any major issues, Paul drops this bomb on us: “The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church” (14:34-35). Why’d you have to open up that can of worms, Paul? Come on!