Tag Archives: Resurrection

Paul at Corinth

 

After setting the background for the city of Corinth a few weeks ago in a previous post, here we’ll work briefly through the context of Acts 18, specifically the first half of this chapter which focuses on Paul’s ministry in Corinth.

The chapter opens with Paul finding two Italian believers who were part of the deportation of Jews from Rome by order of the Emperor Claudius (Acts 18:2), Priscilla and Aquilla.  They, like Paul, were tent makers and their names are familiar among the Apostle’s epistles, so most likely he  developed a good relationship with them.  This encounter is probably where they first met, and it’s clear they became a power-couple for the advancement of the Gospel joining later alongside the Apostle in future cities (Ephesus and Rome).

In Acts 18:4, “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks” we find the strategy of evangelism that Paul employed early on, namely that of preaching in the synagogues and appealing to the light of the Old Testament which the Jews and some of the “God-fearers” likely had.  In time, two familiar names arrive on the scene at Corinth in verse 5, Silas and Timothy, who likely were bringing support (financial?) to the Apostle (2 Cor. 11:7-9).

As we think about the importance that Corinth had in the global advancement of the Gospel, being a large multi-port city of significance in the Roman Empire, we find not only Paul, but Aquilla, Priscilla, Silas, Timothy and soon Apollos will be added to their ministry.  Humanly speaking, if a church was going to be built in a city as idolatrous and pagan as Corinth, there was an evangelistic all-star team in place.

However, because evangelism is not merely a human endeavor, in verses 5-11 we are introduced to the frustrations of preaching the Gospel that the Apostle Paul was experiencing, a sort of narrative within the narrative describing the opposition that Paul faced.

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” I Corinthians 15:5-11

As seen above, Paul responds to this opposition by shaking out his garments, a token symbol for cutting them off along with the reply, “your blood be on your own heads!  I am innocent.  From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

From here we find the apostle entering immediately into the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God.  The Reformation Study Bible footnote is instructive here, “The first home of the Corinthian church.  Titius Justus is a Gentile adherent to the faith at the synagogue, and a Roman citizen.”  Almost inherent within the ministry of Paul you can see him working out his theology of making the Jews jealous by going to the Gentiles (Romans 11:11-14), and here he goes to the one right next door to the synagogue!  Presumably, Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue was in the house of Titius, and it is here he is converted to Christ along with his entire household.  Additionally, “many of the Corinthians” who heard Paul, believed, and were baptized.

In the face of opposition and discouragement that the Apostle must have felt from his own kinsmen, despite the conversion of Crispus, he receives an encouraging word from the Lord in a vision with respect to this difficult and wicked city, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”  Upon that word of God’s sovereignty in salvation, we find that Paul stayed and ministered in the city of Corinth 18 months.

As we move toward the end of Paul’s time at Corinth according to Acts 18, we arrive again at more opposition he faced in preaching the gospel,   But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, saying, ‘This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.’” Acts 18:12-13  In this particular instance, the Apostle was spared, by the grace of God, from further trials or persecutions and from Corinth, Paul begins his journey for Ephesus where he would minister to the saints there and write his epistles to the Corinthian church

All of this is by way of background, i.e. the missionary journey of Paul as recorded in Acts, gives us an introduction to these epistles that Paul wrote to this young, immature church at Corinth as well as providing insight into the investment that he and his team made there and why he so passionately addressed them and pleaded for their pursuit of holiness from a correct understanding of the gospel.

Additionally, we see the complexities of the region, the influx of Jewish refugees, the presence of pagan idolaters, God-fearers, and Christians in the city, the range of backgrounds and religious baggage was diverse and this becomes evident through the numerous topics and errors that he addresses in his letters.

As we read through 1 Corinthians (actually the 2nd epistle that Paul penned to Corinth), we find of a fascinating statement in regards to the people Paul was exhorting, 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

What an amazing display of the power of gospel and a humbling display of the mercy of God that He would condescend Himself to a vile people such as those in Corinth, yet He had many people in that city and as Paul records above.  They were washed from their vileness, sanctified from their corruption, and justified from the condemnation of their sins by the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  Let us not be dismissive of our own wicked regions or individual “sin cities” that we regard as hopeless for the Gospel, but let us labor as the Apostle to minister to a people whom God has set aside for His own glory, calling them to repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Soli Deo Gloria!

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From the Cradle to the Cross

 

5Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

In this passage from Hebrews 10 the author is reaching the crescendo of his argument concerning the death of Christ, namely His Priesthood, the superiority of His sacrifice, the inauguration of the New Covenant, redemption through His blood, and many other key and relevant themes.  As he begins to summarize and draw to a close this section of the epistle, he gives us key insight into an intra-Trinitarian conversation between Father and Son.  Note verse 5 from above, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said.”  The introduction of a quote from Psalm 40 is preceded with this phrase, “He said” in reference to Christ, which immediately grants Him ownership of the citation that follows.  By reading Psalm 40 in its context, we may not immediately conclude that David is transcribing the words of Christ.  However, because Scripture is primarily a divine product, meaning this words are principally the words of God Himself, and because Scripture employs progressive revelation, meaning that latter revelation most often illuminates prior revelation bringing out its fuller meaning, then we may see clearly that the author of Hebrews has neither abused nor allegorized this selection of Scripture, rather he is indeed himself under the divine inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit providing additional context to what had been written 1000 years earlier.

In this citation we see Christ, by way of Psalm 40:6 declare, “a body have you prepared for me.”  This reference to His own body is likely a reference to His incarnation, where the Son of God, fully God in His being added upon Himself the nature of man, thus becoming 100% God and 100% man, the God-man.

Turning to Psalm 40:6 we may not readily see those words cited in our passage from Hebrews.  There we read, “…but you have given me an open ear” literally “ears you have dug for me.”  How then did this come to reference a body in Hebrews 10:5?

Some have concluded that because the New Testament, and especially Hebrews, often references the Septuagint (LXX), or the Greek (Koine) translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, that it must by necessity be the case in this verse and the reason for body instead of ear.  This was the common translation of first century Palestine, the common language of the people, and a familiar translation to both our Lord and His disciples.

However, in his massive commentary on this epistle, John Owen remains unconvinced that the LXX translation is being used here and instead asserts that the author of Hebrews is making an interpretation (albeit under divine inspiration) by employing a device known as a synecdoche, where a part is representative of the whole.  In other words, he is able to convey a larger intention of the passage, especially his own, by using the term body, as represented by a part of the body, the ear, in the original passage from Psalms.  But we must ask, why does he see this as necessary?  Reading through the remainder of the passage cited above we may find our answer.  This section is concluded with the profound statement, “through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Again we are confronted with the word body, though this time not in reference to Christ’s incarnation, but instead with reference to His death.  The reason for the synecdoche device used earlier was to highlight the body of Christ and to develop a full argument of our Lords earthly life from the cradle to the cross.  If we were to summarize the assertion being made here it would simply be that Christ, the Son of God for whom and by whom all things were made, came to earth, assuming the nature and body of humanity, to die on the cross in a shameful undignified manner unworthy of a King, for a sinful, rebellious people who by the shedding of His blood and the breaking of His body He has redeemed for Himself and they are being made sanctified.

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Book Review: Scandalous – The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus

Scandalous, by D.A. Carson (PhD, Cambridge University) and published by Crossway is a well-written, clear exposition of 5 Scripture passages that detail the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  As Carson states in his Preface, “nothing is more central to the Bible than Jesus’ death and resurrection” and this is precisely the focal point of his book.  Dr. Carson begins his book with a look at Matthew 27:27-51 in Chapter 1 entitled: “The Ironies of the Cross.”  In classic Carson style, he brings out the following paradoxes from his look at this passage: 1) The man who is mocked as king – is king 2) The man who is utterly powerless – is powerful 3) The man who can’t save Himself – saves others 4) The man who cries out in despair – trusts God.  Of note in this chapter was John 2:19 “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up’” to which Carson adds:

“The point is that under the terms of the old covenant, the temple was the great meeting place between a holy God and his sinful people.  This was the place of sacrifice, the place of atonement for sin.  But this side of the cross, where Jesus by his sacrifice pays for our sin, Jesus himself becomes the great meeting place between a holy God and his sinful people; thus he becomes the temple, the meeting place between God and his people.  It is not as if Jesus in his incarnation adequately serves as the temple of God.  That is a huge mistake.  Jesus says, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’  It is Jesus’ death, in his destruction, and in his resurrection three days later, that Jesus meets our needs and reconciles us to God, becoming the temple, the supreme meeting place between God and sinners.  To use Paul’s language, we do not simply preach Christ; rather we preach Christ crucified.”

Chapter 2 was most significant for me because it brought to my attention an oft-read passage from Romans 3:21-26, but one which is of supreme importance.  So much so that Carson titled this chapter, “The Center of the Whole Bible.”  Here Dr. Carson does some of his best expositions from the book and he adds a strong statement that “the hardest truth to get across to this generation is what the Bible says about sin.”  The central question of humanity is how a sinful man can be just before a holy God.  In summary, this passage answers that question by detailing the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.  Dr. Carson highlights 2 key terms which are critical to understanding not only this passage, but the centrality of the cross in the entire Bible: Redemption and Propitiation.  To Redemption, Carson states that until recently it was always considered economic language and this is how the Greco-Roman world would have understood the term, as in the redemption of slaves.  Carson points out that Romans 3:24 says Christians have been redeemed from slavery to sin and are now slaves of Jesus Christ (see Romans 6).  But, he asks, “How does this work?  In what sense, then, are we redeemed?  What has freed us?  The answer: God has presented Christ as a propitiation.”     

“Propitiation”, “expiation”, “sacrifice of atonement”, and even “remedy for defilement” are all terms used by various translations, but propitiation is the best.  Carson defines propitiation as the sacrificial act by which someone becomes favorable.  He then takes a paragraph to explain the pagan application of the word, which refers to offering a sacrifice for the purpose of making the gods propitious or favorable.  Carson then sets out to define the other related terms, mentioned above, and follows to expiation.  This term actually stands in contrast to the definition of propitiation of making someone favorable in that it “aims to cancel sin.”  The object of propitiation is God Himself.  The object of expiation is sin, which is cancelled.  Carson concludes, “Expiation refers to the cancelling of sin, and propitiation refers to satisfying or setting aside God’s wrath.  The particular word used in Romans 3:25 is used most commonly in the Old Testament to refer to a propitiating sacrifice that turns aside God’s wrath.”

In this chapter, Carson introduces objections to the meaning of propitiation brought on in the 1930’s by C.H. Dodd.  Dodd argued for the meaning of expiation versus the propitious act of God, because he believed in the pagan nature of propitiation (previously mentioned) and said it could therefore not apply to God.  Carson states that he misunderstood the personal nature of God’s wrath and was wrong to separate the nature of expiation and propitiation, whereas biblically they “hang together.”  As Carson writes, “In Christian propitiation, God the Father sets Jesus forth as the propitiation to make himself propitious; God is both the subject and the object of propitiation.  God is the one who provides the sacrifice precisely as a way of turning aside His own wrath.  God the Father is thus the propitiator and the propitiated, and God the Son is the propitiation”

Chapter 3 is an exposition of Revelation 12 and is entitled, “The Strange Triumph of a Slaughtered Lamb.”  Here Carson seems to approach the cross from an eschatological (end time) point of view encouraging believers in the face of future opposition.  This is a beneficial chapter to help challenge the reader’s view of their millennial position.  The concluding applications drawn by Carson as they relate to society are 1) Analyze culture biblically and theologically, not merely sociologically and psychologically.  2) Use the weapons that Christ has provided, weapons based on Christ’s atoning death.  

In Chapter 4, “A Miracle Full of Surprises” Dr. Carson highlights John 11:1-53.  This is the familiar passage of Lazarus’ resurrection.  The purpose of this chapter is to show that in the midst of despair Christ draws attention to Himself.  “In our deepest loss, we need more than friendship and a listening ear – though they are wonderful.  We need more than mere arguments – though in some cases good arguments stabilize us.  We need the reality of God Himself – God as he has spectacularly and definitely disclosed himself to us in the person of his Son.  He will require of us that we focus our attention on him, both for this life and the one to come.”  Dr. Carson concludes his discussion on the scandalous nature of the cross and resurrection with an exposition of John 20:24-31 in chapter 5, “Doubting the Resurrection of Jesus.”  Here Carson confronts the nature of doubt and counters it with true, genuine belief in Jesus Christ.      

Scandalous is an accessible book, regardless of theological knowledge or background, and is a commendable read to anyone wishing to better understand the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.