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1 Corinthians; The calling and the Spirit

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posted on Sep, 30 2013 @ 05:02 PM
Among the writings of Paul, 1 Corinthians is the letter which teaches the church what it means to be a Christian community.
The opening verses (ch1 vv1-9) have the effect of defining where the church comes from and what it’s based on, and I will want to show how the rest of the teaching follows on from that.
I was drawing out a definition of the church in the attached thread; Defining the church
Part of the definition was that the church has been “called” by God.
So the next concern is how the recognition of this calling comes through the Spirit (ch2 vv6-13).

v6 In the previous chapter, Paul was describing the Wisdom of God in negative terms, as something which was “not the wisdom of the world”.
Since it was not the wisdom of the world, it could not be known by human wisdom.
This also means, as he now adds, that it could not be known by “the rulers of this world”.

There’s a long-standing debate about the meaning of this phrase.
He tells us later that they crucified the Lord of glory.
One school of thought believes that he’s referring to spiritual powers.
These are mentioned in Ephesians, which refers to the ARCHON who dominates the air (Ephesians ch2 v2) and to the different kinds of rulers “in heavenly places” (Ephesians ch6 v12).

But every part of Paul’s description in this verse can also be understood of human rulers.
He calls them the ARCHONS, and Peter tells the crowd in Jerusalem that they and their ARCHONTES acted in ignorance in the killing of Jesus (Acts ch3 v17).
He says they are “of this AEON”, and he says the same thing about the “wise” in the previous chapter, that they are the debaters “of this AEON” (ch1 v20).
He says they will be “brought to nothing”, and he says the same thing in the previous chapter about the “wise and powerful”, in human terms, who are to be displaced by the “low and despised “(ch1 v28).
So there is no real reason why these comments about the “rulers” should not be taken as a continuation of the first chapter’s criticisms of human wisdom and power.

We can test this conclusion by considering what Paul says about them in v8
Why would the rulers not have crucified Jesus if they had understood God’s Wisdom?
For those who take the rulers to be spiritual powers, the traditional explanation is that “understanding” God’s intention would have warned them that the plan was a danger to themselves.
They would have detected the ambush and found a way to escape it.
This explanation might be applicable to human rulers as well, but I think there’s a better alternative.

The immediate cause of the crucifixion was the hostility of the rulers.
But the hostility of human rulers would surely be the consequence of their ignorance of God’s Wisdom.
If they had been capable of understanding God’s Wisdom, then they would have known God.
And if they had known God, they must have ceased to be hostile.
And if they were no longer hostile, it would follow that “they would not have crucified the Lord”

Meanwhile it seems to me that the “spiritual powers” explanation breaks down on the other side of the question;
If they did not recognise the mission of Jesus, why would they bother to put him to death?
There was no obvious reason for them to be taking special action against an unknown human.
Whereas the human rulers had easily understandable human motives (he was getting in the way).

We learn from v9, finally, how their failure illustrates the point that the heart of man cannot conceive the plans of God, which seems to settle the matter.
That comment can only be relevant if the rulers have the hearts of men.

v7 Moving on to the positive understanding of God’s Wisdom;
What has God planned, and how do we know about what God has planned?
On the first point, the purpose of God’s Wisdom was that we should be “glorified”, brought closer to himself.
This was a decision made “before the ages”, but kept “hidden” by the fact that it was inaccessible to human wisdom.
So the disclosure of God’s purpose now is the revelation of a “mystery”.
In the religious language of the time, a “mystery” was a piece of secret knowledge, revealed only to a select few.
In the case of this mystery, the select few are the Christians who understand the message of the gospel.
(In the previous verse, Paul called them “the mature”, “the perfect”, meaning those who are not following the wisdom of this world.)

v10 How can we know about these things?
They’re not accessible to human wisdom, and so not known to the wise and the powerful, but to us (placed emphatically) God has revealed them.
The knowledge comes to us by the Spirit, because the Spirit knows everything about God.

v11 We need to consider carefully how the Spirit acquires this knowledge.
It can be compared with the way that a man’s own spirit knows everything that a man knows.
For in just the same way (HOUTOS KAI) the Spirit knows everything that God knows.
Paul does not mean to say that the two relationships are identical; the Spirit of God is not to God exactly what a man’s spirit is to a man.
But the point is that the two relationships are as close. That is how the Spirit’s knowledge of God can be so complete.

This comparison makes it impossible for us to detach the Spirit from God, dismissing it as a “force” or an agent.
For your own spirit is not a force or an agent. Your spirit is you, and that is how your spirit knows what you know.
If the Spirit of God knows what God knows in the same way that your own spirit knows what you know, then the Spirit must be God.

vv12-13 So our understanding of the gifts of God comes from the fact that we have received the Spirit of God, who knows everything that God knows.
Whereas if we had received a spirit “of the world”, we would only know what the world knows.

This means that the teaching of the gospel is about interpreting “spiritual things to spiritual people” (at least that’s probably the best translation of a slightly ambiguous phrase).
In other words, the understanding of God’s Wisdom is possible because, and only because, the Spirit of God is present at both ends of the transaction; when the teacher is teaching in “words taught by the Spirit”, the truth in the words is recognised by the Spirit already received by the people who hear them.

This would seem to explain what Paul meant at the beginning of the chapter, when he told the Corinthians that his preaching had not been “in plausible words of wisdom”, but had been presented to them “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (vv4-5).
That is, presumably, the Spirit’s power to bring conviction.

v14 Since the knowledge of these things comes through the Spirit, it cannot be known to a man who doesn’t have the Spirit’s help.
And that is why “the wise men of this world”, as Paul was telling us in the previous chapter, can only regard God’s Wisdom as “folly”.

We can now tie together the teaching of these two chapters in this way;
We learn in the first chapter that God called the church, and that he called the church through the event of the Cross, a great paradox which the world cannot understand.
The message of the second chapter is that we cannot(therefore) know about this calling, or gain any understanding of the Cross, except through the Spirit of God.
Therefore the “calling” of the church is something which only becomes possible through the Spirit.

posted on Sep, 30 2013 @ 05:08 PM
Honestly, I"m not a fan of Paul. I"m more of a 'Matthew, Mark, Luke, John' person.
Paul is more ... I don't know ... filtered. The gospels are more direct. IMHO.

posted on Sep, 30 2013 @ 05:12 PM
reply to post by FlyersFan

This particular letter strikes me as more "practical" than some of the others and not quite so doctrinal.
Essentially, it's about advising a Christian community how to behave as a Christian community. These early chapters are just establishing the basis for giving the advice.
"This is what a church ought to be. So live up to it".

edit on 30-9-2013 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 1 2013 @ 10:45 AM
Paul was writing to the jews to show them how to forget the old law, which was written to convict them.
He had a tough job, and Hebrews nails them down hard....and the things he tells them is friggin blaspemy. He tells them they CAN enter the Holy of Holies. wheww. Before, to enter there, the priest had a rope tied around his ankle in case he wasn't perfect, when he was struck dead, they could pull him outta there at least.
The Holy spirit guides those who understand the power of belief. Cool how Jesus said if you don't really believe He is who the book says He is, then at least believe in Him because He could do miracles. how cool.

posted on Oct, 1 2013 @ 11:28 AM
reply to post by GBP/JPY

Thank you for those commenets.
of course, without the Spirit nothing can be done.

posted on Oct, 1 2013 @ 05:33 PM
As I pointed out in the OP. Paul is very forthright in affirming the close relationship between God and the Spirit of God, so much so that this passage is a very important starting point for understanding the connection between them.
We are told that the Spirit searches the depths of God, so that the Spirit, and only the Spirit, can understand his thoughts.

But this passage also affirms another important relationship, in such a casual way that the point might easily pass without being noticed.
He says that the rulers of this age crucified "the Lord of glory".
Obviously this refers to Jesus, because Jesus was the one who was crucified.
But "the Lord of glory" is a title which belongs to God alone (e.g. Psalms 24 v7, Acts ch7 v2).
Nevertheless, Paul does not even try to explain or justify this allusion.
He just takes it for granted that the identity between the Jesus who died on the Cross and the Creator God is an accepted axiom of the Christian faith which none of his readers will be questioning.
In its own way, this casual assumption demonstrates the faith of the early church as effectively as, or even more effectively than, any more explicit statement.
The point is confirmed at the end of the chapter when he answers the question "Who has known the mind of the Lord?" by declaring "But we have the mind of Christ", thus correlating the two minds.
(I was about to say that he identifies the two minds, but ancient heresies lie in that direction)

Thus this chapter implicitly affirms all the necessary relations of the Trinity.

posted on Oct, 1 2013 @ 06:36 PM
This thread follows on from;

The calling and the Cross

posted on Oct, 2 2013 @ 05:27 PM
The sequence of threads in this series is expected to be as foillows;

Defining the church
The calling and the cross
The calling and the Spirit (current thread)
The calling and the teachers
The saint and his holiness
The saints and the sinner
The saints and the idols
The fellowship and the common Spirit
The fellowship and the gifts
The fellowship and the Supper
The fellowship and its love
The waiting and the resurrection

posted on Oct, 10 2013 @ 04:06 PM
The most recent thread in this series is;

The calling and the teachers

posted on Oct, 16 2013 @ 04:01 PM
The most recent thread in this series is;

The saint and his holiness

posted on Oct, 24 2013 @ 03:30 PM
The most recent thread in this series is;

The saints and the sinner

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