Monday, December 29, 2008

In Search Of Truth, 1st Corinthians 1:10-16


After his greeting, Paul "exhorts" his readers to agree with each other. Let's pick apart verse 10 a little bit, because there is room for this verse to be misunderstood. It also helps set the context for the upcoming verses.

The Greek word used for "exhort" here is "Parakaleo". This word is stronger than a request, but less than a command. We might say that Paul is "urging" his readers toward different behavior. He wants them to "agree". More literally, this idea of agreeing would be translated "speak the same thing". Paul further clarifies his desire by urging them to avoid "divisions". This Greek word is where we get the word schism and implies social factions. He wants them to be "Katartizo", the Greek word used here for "made complete". This word means to "fit together" perfectly. Both in mind and judgment. The two words used for "mind" and "judgment" are similar, but with some key differences. One refers to opinion or thought, the other is more closely tied to the will and refers to discernment that determines conduct.

So if we take all these puzzle peices and put them back together, we can come to a few conclusions about what this verse is telling us.

First off, this verse, like the whole book, is directed to believers and should be read in that context. God wants us to agree whenever possible in our conversations. It's okay to disagree about whether or not the new Star Trek movie will be "better" than the classic continuity. (In any case, movies are art. Their quality is subjective.) Still, God wants us to focus more on our points of agreement than disagreement. He doesn't want any relational division, spoken or unspoken, to develop among his followers. So whether it's your favorite style of music, or a doctrinal issue, God wants us to strive for agreement. He wants us to be united in our love for him and in our view of him.

That said, remember that "Parakaleo" means "urge" and not "command". God knows we will disagree on things. Some disagreement is good! After all, it doesn't honor God if we all "agree" to rebel against him. Later in this book, God will give instruction on how we can live together even with very large differences in our personalities, cultural backgrounds, and Biblical views. He knows that being a unified community that believes the right things requires two complex elements (unity and right belief) that present an ongoing challenge.

The Corinthians were struggling with both sides of this coin. They had factions developing, motivated by personal pride. Some wanted to be identified with one Apostle or another teacher. Some very "piously" wanted to be identified with Christ. We can hear the same echoes of this today as people cling to one denomination or the other. One church style or the other. Or from those non-denominationalists, or those who don't attend church, who become prideful, believing they are more intelligent and open-minded because of their independence. We pit organizations, authors and speakers against each other who never asked to be a part of our debate.

Paul's response is a little sarcastic: "Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"

We can go beyond respect for good teachers and leaders and make them our source of truth, when that position belongs only to God!

We might pride ourselves on being signed up for Rob Bell or James Dobson's newsletter, but it is Christ that we follow, and God wants us to follow him in community, working toward unity despite our differences.

Next Week: The "packaging" of the Truth.

Coffee House Question- When have you experienced or witnessed division in a community of Christians and what did it look like?

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