Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sin in 1 Corinthians 9-10

No terms for sin are used in these chapters. However, what is to me some key verses on Paul and law in the life of a believer appear in 9:20-21:

To those under law [I became] as under law--although I am not myself under law--so that I might gain those under law. To those without law [I became] as one without law--although I am not without the law of God but am "enlawed" of Christ--so that I might gain those without law.

I hear in these words some of the background to the Corinthian slogan--"All things are permitted to me." But here (and in Romans) Paul makes it clear that not being under the law is not a moral free for all. God forbid! While he may not be judged by the Jewish law in its ethnic particulars, there is a core law of God, law of Christ under which he is still "enlawed." This interpretation of "under law" and "without law" bear further support from other texts, but for now I throw them out for the time being.

So here I would argue Paul believes that there is a law that applied to believers even though they are not "under law" (cf. Rom. 3:31). The remainder of 1 Corinthians 9 demonstrates that it is possible not to attain salvation even after being a believer. Paul talks about how he disciplines his body (note the connection to flesh language elsewhere in connection to sin) so that after preaching to others, he will not be adokimos, disqualified, unworthy.

If anyone has any doubts about what he has in mind, we need only read on into the next chapter, remembering that the chapter divisions are not original to 1 Corinthians. In chapter 10, Paul uses the example of the wilderness generation to show that it is possible to be in the people of God and in fact be overthrown in the desert (10:5). The sins of idolatry and porneia that Paul mentions subsequently are sins he has already said will keep a person from inheriting the kingdom of God. There can be little doubt, therefore, that he is suggesting no one--he or the Corinthians--are guaranteed the kingdom no matter what they do, that neither he nor the Corinthians are "eternally secure."

So Paul implies that sin can disqualify a believer from the kingdom of God, particularly the sins of idolatry and porneia here. He is not arguing from the standpoint of "one sin you're out," however, but his arguments target sustained sinful behavior that goes uncorrected. Such temptation can be avoided, for "no temptation has overcome you but what is of a human sort. But God is able, who will not allow you to be tempted more than you are able to bear, but will make a way of escape with the temptation, that you will be able to bear it" (10:13). This is a plural "you," but it clearly indicates that sins of the sort he mentions are avoidable, indeed that they must be avoided.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Those "under law" are the religious. And I agree that those who are conscientious about certain aspects of "faith" need "consideration". But, some scrupulous people will not be "pleased" as they use their scruples to enslave others and we are not to allow ourselves to become enslaved to rules and regulations. Rules and regulations themselves are "idolatrous" for we can not attain "righteousness" except through faith...that was Luther's contention. On the other hand, Luther "protected" the scrupulous from others "taking advantage of their scruples (convictions)", by those in power positions (in the "know") enslaving other's for monetary gain. So, we must find and be a part of a community that defines faith according to our personal convictions...without there being a "conflict of interest" in our communal "walk of faith"....
Your exegesis of the Corinthian "sex problem" is an excellent example. Sex for some fundamentalist and evangelicals is ONLY for procreation (for a "godly seed" or "creating as the Father"). But, I believe, just as the Corinthians contended that God gave all things to be enjoyed. The "problem" was not pleasure without religious purpose, but the appropriateness of the boundary...God did give everything to be accepted with gratitude to a gracious God. Religious purpose is based on utility, which must be defined on greatest value. And the greatest value is defined differently amongst believers. Virtue ethics is indeed appropriate, but it must then be "interpreted" within the context of the community. The "flesh", I believe, again has been miscontrued in the conservative religious community. I believe that the "flesh" is not the "human" part of man, but the "passions or desires" that would be inappropriate (without boundaries). Anger is one example. Anger is NOT sinful, in and of itself, as God, in Scriptures gets angry. But, the rationale behind the anger is whether it qualifies as "of the flesh" or not...Human beings MUST have individual boundaries otherwise, we cease to exist as individuals. And each individual is created in God's image NOT just the community of believers!

Anonymous said...

unfortunately, i am bringing up an older discussion, unconnected with your post--but am hoping you can shed a little light for me, mr. schenck.

recently i have been involved in a discussion about women in ministry. is the position of the wesleyan church and the theological arguments one of [Women in Ministry including the Pastoral/Shepherding role of a church, or that of Women in Ministry excluding her to be a Shepherd or Pastor of a Church]?

And, I have also been confronted with the question of 'Assurance of Salvation', and the famous Hebrews verse that talks about the unforgiveable sin. If one were to clearly revoke his birthright in Christ, would he still be saved for heaven, because the transfer is supernatural? And if this is the case, then because an enemy (not necessarily a sinner, because we are all enemy's) but one who was first 'saved' and then intentionally removed himself, were able to be accepted into the Kingdom of heaven, would the position of 'universal salvation' as far as the refining of one's soul in hell, to the point of accepting Christ, be more acceptable, than other views?

Thanks for your time, and if my questions seem vague, I apologize. If you cannot answer them, I'd appreciate a recommendation to another source!

Grace and Peace.
-Kris Heiple

Ken Schenck said...

Angie, your posts always make me smile. My Angie says hello...

Wow Kris, I had to read your post a couple times. I'll let you decide if my thoughts are at all helpful.

A woman can hold any ministerial position in The Wesleyan Church including "General Superintendent," which is the highest. Yada, yada, yada with the proviso that she be called, etc, and The Wesleyan Church believes that can happen.

In my interpretation of Hebrews, the author warns the audience that if they cross a certain line, they will never find a place of repentance. These are problematic passages for me and probably about anyone theologically. I console myself with the thought that if the Holy Spirit leads us to God, then no one who has crossed this kind of line will truly want God.

Your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I've got my links handy and am pouring over research; but the blunt argument I'm always coming up against is the male/female roles. Men are spiritual leaders, women are the responders, it's in God design, etc. An excerpt "ROLES DO NOT SPEAK TO ABILITIES. They speak to God's design.."

My view was that once God truly has you, and that truth is in you, you could never get away--I haven't! But then you question, who is really saved? Only God truly knows, but there are those who model Judas..following Jesus for the benefits, who would be considered a Christian, but never really born-again.

I'm specifically thinking though of Christians who are said to have trusted Christ, and then fall-away, accepting alternatives like atheism, satanism, etc, knowledgably denying Christ and pursuing the destruction of God. Although someone cannot lose that birth or salvation (assurance of) surely, one could revoke it? I cannot revoke my biological parents' genes in me, but I can cut myself off from them!

Balancing grace with justice, it makes sense to me God would save the most terrible of us for heaven, but it is not logical that if Satan were a man, who may have been 'born-again' by our standards, later fulfilling everything he is as evil, would be saved for heaven. How would Christ's righteousness be his substitute if he clearly rejected it, after initial salvation?

The argument seems to be, once your physically born, you cannot be therefore once you are spiritualy born alive, you cannot be spiritually born un-alive. There is quite a bit more, but all of this seems messy, and not as cut and dry as people with Scriptural formulaes want them to be, In my opinion.

Ken Schenck said...

With regard to the men and women question, I think there is a lot of filling in the blanks with presuppositions involved in this discussion. For example, in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul uses the husband headship of a wife to argue that a wife should wear a veil when she is praying or prophesying in worship. But notice that Paul assumes that a woman can pray or prophesy in worship even though the husband is her head.

A couple other assumptions that seem unexamined are 1) that these passages are about a woman's relationship to all men, not just her husband and 2) the assumption that it is spiritual headship that is in view rather than blanket headship, in keeping with what most people in ancient culture practiced at that time.

If you want to hear a Mother's Day sermon I preached on these general topics, check out: Sermon on Faithful Women.