Spiritual maturity has little to do with doctrine | 1 Corinthians 3.1-3


And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?

1 Corinthians 3.1-3

Firstly: Oh. Snap. Knowing the issues this church deals with, that’s got to be so insulting to them in the highest degree. “You are not spiritually mature.” But notice what makes them immature: not doctrine. Paul says time and time again throughout this letter: they’ve got wisdom and doctrine. And yet they are “infants”. Why? Jealousy. Wow.

Think: Do we think that we are “spiritually immature” when we’re “simply” jealous? What of other emotional, heart things? Do we use those things to judge our “spiritual maturity”? Or do we look more to doctrinal knowledge, what podcasts we listen to, what books we read, or how good our “quiet times” are?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

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Righteous Works; Wicked People | Romans 6.20


When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
Romans 6.20

those that are not Christians can still do righteousness. But when they do it, it is from a place that is not there essence. I can’t think of an analogy right now. But, they are free to do righteous sings even though they are not considered righteous people. Is that a good way to put it?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Does Paul Not Believe in Original Sin? | Romans 7.9-11


I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
Romans 7.9-11

Hmm…is it just me, or does this does seem to go against the idea of Original Sin? It sounds like Paul is saying that he was born in purity and “alive-ness”, and it was only later that the law killed him. He does not seem to be saying here that he thinks he was born in death (yes, yes, I know Ephesians says otherwise, but I’m trying to stick to the text in question!)

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Does St. Paul Believe in a Hell that Saves? | 1 Corinthians 3.10-17


According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 3.10-17

Part of the problem with how we talk about Hell is the confusing diversity of images and language used to talk about it in the Bible. This is true here.

I don’t want to read too much into this few words, but at least in the first part, Paul seems to be saying that what gets burned in the fires of judgment are more the works of someone than the person themselves. In fact, it seems that the wicked come out the other side of the fire “saved”, with all their useless works and such having been burned away.

But then, the next section clearly says that God destroys “that person” (not just their works). But because it comes right after the statement of the person being saved by their wicked works being burned away, I wonder if this isn’t Paul saying, “yeah, that refining, restorative, salvific fire I just talked about? God will take each person through that destruction–the one that saves.”

Man, the more I’m on the lookout to see any universalistic statements by Paul, the more I’m starting to see things that could definitely be taken that way.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Paul: The Second Coming of Jonah?


Jonah-Preaching-in-Nineveh-1923sIt’s always odd when you see something in a text that seems incredibly out of place. I took a lot of Latin in high school and college. I remember the first time I was doing some translation and ran across the word Britannia. I looked up the word in the Latin dictionary to see that it was the Roman word for Great Britain.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of ancient Rome, I somehow don’t think of Great Britain having been a thing. Or maybe I thought they would have been familiar with the region, but that it would have had a different name or something. I don’t know. It was just a really unexpected thing to come across.

A similar experience happened when I was going through the book of Galatians for the first time. In the opening chapter, Paul is telling the story of his conversion, and he randomly says that after he became a Christian, he went down to “Arabia” for three years to, in a sense, figure out what this Gospel was that he would bring to the Gentiles. This is a very odd gap in the understanding of Paul’s life, and no scholar has any idea what he was doing in this time. But, more oddly, Arabia? Again, another regional name I wasn’t expecting to see casually thrown into a Mediterranean-based ancient biblical text.

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A method for humility, according to St. Paul | 1 Corinthians 3:18-19


Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. For it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”
1 Corinthians 3.18-19

What a method for humility. Whenever we feel wise or smart, the best thing we can do is put ourselves in a situation where this is not valued. We must be “simplified” and lose the wisdom, else lose Christ in the process. Here I think of Lesslie Newbigin, who left his lucrative writing and tenured prestige and teaching to work with those who would never know or appreciate his brilliance. This can be a discipline that we do.

For example: Perhaps I should consider ways to stop blogging or cutting it out of my routine in those moments or seasons that I feel it is building me up too much.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Corinthian Fragments on Church Leadership & Growth | 1 Corinthians 3 & 4


What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
1 Corinthians 3.5-7

There is no such thing as “church growth” methods or strategies. Just a “church growing God”. This should correct our hubris and encourage us: when a church “fails”, it need not be because of a failure of method, leadership, vision, strategy, preaching, planning, or obedience. A lot of times, it’s just that God did not give the growth, and we should move on.

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3.11

Would that we embraced this as our ultimate Church “growth” philosophy!

So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God..
1 Corinthians 3:21-23

Is it just me or is this an incredibly Protestant view of Church leadership?

Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.
1 Corinthians 4:1

Oh what a beautiful picture of what Church leadership is! “Stewards of the mysteries of God”. I love that.

I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.
1 Corinthians 4:14

What a model for leader-congregant relationships.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

You don’t own your Baptism. Jesus does. | Romans 6.3-4


Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6.3-4

Technically, there is only one baptism that has ever taken place. Christ’s. All other baptisms are baptisms in his own. He is the one that walked in newness of life. He is the one who was baptized. He is the forerunner for all of Christian life–even it’s Covenantal participation by baptism. How beautiful is that?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Timothy’s Tears: A Holy Week Pre-Game [CASUAL FRI]


paul-and-timothy

This is part of our Lent series, “The Weeping Word“, where we look at different moments of crying, lament, and tears in the Scriptures.

To Timothy, my beloved child…

I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. (2Tim1.2-4)

Next week is Holy Week, the high (or low?) point of Lent, leading to the crescendo of Easter. It will be a time of darkness, reflection, lament, and meditation. But we’re not there yet. Before the seriousness of Holy Week arrives, I thought I’d share with you a funny memory that’s connected to our Lent series on tears in the Bible.

I was sitting in the little campus ministry Bible Study my junior year of college. Our style of Bible Study was simply sitting down with an eloquent, wise, and gifted pastor, and then walking verse-by-verse through a given book of the Christian Scriptures.

Having just finished nearly a year in the book of Romans, we were just starting our next book: 2 Timothy. Many scholars believe it was Paul’s last letter he wrote before he died. And he wrote it to the man he mentored more than any other we know about: Timothy, a young elder at the church in Ephesus who was still struggling to get this little church plant off the ground.
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A Random Romans Miscellany | vignettes from Romans 2


There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.
Romans 2.9-11

Okay, this is a little funny, right? “God shows no partiality…to the Jews first, and then to the Gentile”. Haha.

All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.
Romans 2.12

Regarding the New Perspective on Paul. See, here: “The law” is an ethnic marker, not a bunch of stuff to do. (Otherwise, how might someone be “apart from the law”?)

When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.
Romans 2.14-16

What the Hell? (Literally.) This definitely seems to talk about an almost salvific dimension to some people’s natural consciences, as if they’re consciences will ultimately judge them. I don’t know how you can pull anything differently from a plain reading of this.

Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?
Romans 2.25-26

Sorry to stop and point this out every time see something like this, but again, here’s another thing in line with some of the basic ideas of the New Perspective on Paul. But here: Circumcision (ethnic markers, not legalism) = Law

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

We worship Christ and…. the Resurrection? | Acts 17 & 24


Also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with him. Some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign divinities.” (This was because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.)

Acts 17:18

One of the funniest moments in Acts. Notice they accuse him of preaching foreign “divinities” (plural). The Greek word for Resurrection is Anastasis. Paul has rolled in preaching “ton Iesous kai thn Anastasin”, or “the Jesus and the Resurrection”. The Philosophers think that Paul is preaching about two gods: “Jesus” and his wife, “Resurrection”.

I have a hope in God—a hope that they themselves also accept—that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. Therefore I do my best always to have a clear conscience toward God and all people.

Acts 24:15-16

Paul is obsessed with the resurrection. Well technically, Luke is. If you see the charge against Paul earlier, it was that he was preaching Christ and the Resurrection. They thought he was teaching two gods. Apparently, he must have been talking about the Resurrection so passionately. Almost as passionately as Christ.

They did not accuse him of preaching Jesus and the Cross, Jesus and the Tomb, Jesus and the Jews, Jesus and Grace through Faith, or even Jesus and the New Creation! It was Jesus and the Resurrection. The Resurrection is Paul’s way out of trouble. It’s his way of telling his story. Of causing divisions between himself and some Jews, and to show his solidarity with others. It’s everything to who Paul is and what he’s come to do.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

God sometimes might send His people to Hell | Romans 2.1-8


Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.
Romans 2.1-8

Fundamentalists always read stuff like this and think it’s talking about “those people” outside of the Church. But this passage is talking to Jewish Christians! It’s talking to the very people who would presume their security and election (*cough* like many fundamentalists *cough*) . But you know what? Paul never says they’re wrong in their security and election! And yet he still says there will be wrath and fury. Might those things not be mutually-exclusive? An important theme here is that God’s people bear the brunt of God’s judgment, not the rest of the world. These verses are speaking to Christians, not “those people”. God’s people will face the possibility of God’s fire (but might it be refining fire?). This is very much what Lesslie Newbigin wrote about when he talked about election.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

“How to rail against sex stuff” by St. Paul | 1 Corinthians 5.9–13


I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”
1 Corinthians 5.9–13

Oh what a loving and common sense principal for how to engage the sexual immorality of others. Paul sounds like such a liberal (or the Pope, haha) here when he says that it is not his place to judge or condemn those outside the church. He in essence says that they are acting exactly as they should act. There should be no shock, surprise, or offence at “the culture” acting like “the culture”. No railing against the immorality of society. Instead, work to foster purity among the people of God. We are to be more eager to spend time with the “immoral” outside the church then the immoral inside the church.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Phillip the Baptizing Magician?| Acts 8.39-40


When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Acts 8.39-40

What the heck? This happens and the eunuch just goes on his merry way? This is unlike most things in the book of Acts.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

In Acts, Paul = Jesus | Acts 27.35-36


After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves.
Acts 27.35-36

Here is an obvious parallel between Jesus and Paul. I don’t know if these features are meant to hearken to the feeding of the 5,000, or the Last Supper. Actually, it’s probably not a parallel of the 5,000, because there is no multiplication or anything miraculous about this meal. But, Paul does the same thing with the bread that Jesus does elsewhere, and others are similarly encouraged by what he does. If I had to vote, I would say that this is a parallel of the Last Supper. Or, it is like the road to Emmaus passage, where Jesus is seen in the breaking of the bread.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.