The season of Epiphany this year gives us a continuous reading from the book of 1st Corinthians. Our Sunday morning bible study is using that as a springboard to study at least some of that letter a bit deeper. The context of at least the first four (4) chapters of 1 Corinthians are divisions or arguments in the church. And I’m not writing this up because I think or feel coming a great argument within Mt. Zion. I’m writing this up because the time to think about arguments is when you aren’t having one. When you are having them, all we sinful humans think about is winning them.
What Paul does in the first two chapters of First Corinthians is make a clear distinction between how arguments in the world take place and how they should take place within the church. How they take place in the world is that we run to various forms of power. We make appeals to authority: “I follow Paul…Apollos…Cephas…Christ.” And in making appeals to authority, we seek to trump whoever else has been claimed. But in our claiming of these various authorities, we assert that they would disagree with each other. Within the church this is out of bounds. Paul does not disagree with Christ. We might not yet understand how they actually agree, but the fault is with our understanding, not the scripture or the apostles. “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?” The answer is no. The task is to understand why, repent and reform our lives together.
Anselm would call that “faith seeking understanding.” Paul in 1 Corinthians would just call it life under the cross. In the world, if we do not have an authority to invoke, or if all authorities are hopelessly corrupted, we would turn to a couple of other arguments: reason and practicality. “Jews demand signs and Greeks wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified.” Now signs could be demands for miracles, but they are also just the pragmatic question “does it work?” If it does you should be able to show me something. Likewise, we should be able to reason together. The problem with these things in spiritual matters is that we are sinners and our vision is hopelessly clouded. What is wisdom to us is foolishness to God. Our natural ways will never bring us to God. “No human being might boast in the presence of God.” Instead “we boast in the Lord.” Anything we know spiritually comes first as a revelation of Jesus Christ. And the greatest revelation is that cross. “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” Strength usually works. Wisdom is a good thing. But in spiritual matters? They will fail you. Lean not on your own understanding, but have faith that Christ is the way and the truth.
Why is this the case? Because “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” The indwelling of the Spirit is necessary. Which you have from your baptism. Faith is a prerequisite to arguing with each other correctly in spiritual matters. Why? Because we then share the same Spirit. We then “have the mind of Christ.” If we are worldly, what we want to do is win the argument. And the ultimate way to win is to destroy the other. If we are spiritual we want together to receive the gifts that Christ has given us. You have received the Spirit from God such that under the cross we might together remain reconciled to Christ and to each other. Reconciliation, which is foolishness to those who have the Spirit of the World.
That basically brings you up to where we are in our study. I’d invite you to join us on Sunday morning after snacks.