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Communion in Corinth (Part 3)

  

II Corinthians 6: 14 – 7: 1 Moffatt Translation
Keep out of all incongruous ties with unbelievers. What have righteousness and iniquity in common, or how can light associate with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and Belial, or what business has a believer with an unbeliever? What compact can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God – as God has said,

I will dwell and move among them, I will be their God and they shall be my people. Therefore come away from these, separate, saith the Lord, touch not what is unclean; then I will receive you, I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord almighty.

Therefore to you, and you shall beAs these promises are ours, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates either flesh or spirit; let us be fully consecrated by reverence for God.

(In this translation, italicized words indicate what is directly quoted from the Old Testament, in this case from Leviticus 26: 12 and Isaiah 52: 11.)

The above passage seems to reiterate something that is seen in very specific ways in I Corinthians. Believers are not to use their freedom regarding food restrictions as a license to eat in direct conjunction with idol worship. This still has a very literal application in many cultural settings today; but in modern, western, secular society, believers need to prayerfully and reverently apply such truth according to God’s guidance.

For example, as a potential opportunity to share the gospel message, a believer might freely eat lunch with a fellow employee who is not a believer. Nevertheless, if invited by fellow workers to a party that is likely to include excessive drinking, the believer would be wise to decline.

I personally believe that walking with God and seeking His guidance while reflecting on the Scriptures is much more honest and effective that inventing a new “Talmud” of religious rules for individuals and groups. I have not observed any real value in manmade theological or philosophical stances about such things as politics (to participate or not), social practices (to dance or not to dance, etc.), and entertainment (to watch the T.V. show/ play the video game, etc., or not.) Motives of heart, degrees of participation, and other real-life factors are often left out of such interpretive models.

There are some practices that are strictly forbidden in Scriptures; they cannot be practiced “in moderation”: i.e. idolatry, sexual immorality, judgmental hypocrisy. It is not the responsibility of Christians to add “taboos” to God’s list. (“Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar:” Proverbs 30: 6.) Certain activities and involvements, when defined in “touch not; taste not; handle not” terms (Colossians 2), can lead to divisiveness, no matter how much theological sophistication is used to argue the points. Paul wrote to Corinth to help believers to overcome divisive trends! … not to foster contentions over opinions! There are activities in life or ways to be involved (not necessarily defined in absolute good/evil terms in the Scriptures) in which careful moderation and godly motives can lead to fruitfulness for God. There are practices in life, like observing special days or not / eating certain meats or not (Romans 14), in which the truly critical issues are: A) honesty of conscience before God and B) loving, non-judgmental acceptance of those who differ in thinking or practice. Each must seek God’s guidance instead of hopping onto the bandwagons of idolized opinions and manmade rules that exalt human traditions above the truth of God: (Matthew 15: 1ff.)

After illustrating the issues at hand (in I Corinthians, chapter 9) with his personal example of keeping God first while lovingly associating with people in order to “save some,” Paul directed some pertinent warnings to the Corinthian believers who struggled with pride, divisiveness, and tendencies to indulge in carnal appetites rooted in pagan practices.

It is seen in chapter 10 of I Corinthians that the ancestors, the Israelites at the time of the exodus from Egypt, were connected to Christians at Corinth in figurative ways to demonstrate vital, spiritual parallels and warn them of real dangers. The ancient Jews were “certified” as believers by symbolic baptism as well as by eating and drinking that which Yahweh provided by supernatural means. They were thus spiritually connected to the anticipated Christ, the anointed one, as represented by the rock from which water was poured. Then, to their extreme detriment, they lapsed into eating and drinking coupled with immorality in association with a pagan idol (i.e. the golden calf.) By comparison, idolatrous associations can be as equally devastating for Christians, even if they have shared by eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper as full partakers of the New Covenant truths (represented by the cup and the bread.) The Christ, the Messiah, anticipated by Jews at the time of Moses and represented by the rock, is the foundational bedrock (I Corinthians 3) of the temple we are and the true, supernatural, spiritual sustenance provided to Christians. Christ as true food and true drink (John 6) is given by the same God who gave food and drink to Israel in the desert.

God is just as zealous or jealous for Christians now as he was for the Israelites to whom He emphasized careful avoidance of idolatry (in Exodus 20 as well as many other Scriptures.) For one to make a New Covenant allegiance to Christ as a full partaker, and then to turn around and plunge back into incongruous ties with idolatry is a tragic treachery deserving of consequences parallel to the death of Israelites in the desert. In this context, understanding how to be careful (humble, instead of arrogant) and to resist temptation (with godly awareness about God’s faithfulness, ability, and willingness to help) is vital.

Furthermore, another figurative parallel is made to these Christians, (plagued with divisive attitudes and practices), in the context of what is represented by the Lord’s Supper; the one bread of which believers partake in the Lord’s Supper shows that Christians comprise one body of believers. Failure to carefully recognize this family oneness from the heart is just as detrimental as eating and drinking in an idolatrous context.

Therefore, as also seen in many other Scriptures, allegiance to God cannot be a matter of mental zeal for partial truth combined with prideful, selfish carelessness in intimate associations and in public practices. By the same token, professing dedication to God cannot be the hypocritical disregard for loving one’s brother in the deeply thoughtful, practical treatment of one another as fellow believers who make up one body.

I John 4: 20
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.

… to be continued.

2 Responses to “Communion in Corinth (Part 3)”

  1. on 07 Apr 2007 at 7:31 amKen

    Please excuse any transmission error.
    The quotation of II Corinthians 7: 1 (at the end of the section quoted to introduce the post) should read:
    As these promises are ours, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates either flesh or spirit; let us be fully consecrated by reverence for God.

  2. on 07 Apr 2007 at 2:03 pmPat

    As in all difficult judgments not specially addressed by scripture, we need to seriously contemplate the matter and ask God to reveal to us what is right for us. Some issues are addressed but not by name, and we stubbornly refuse to receive the instruction. I think that sometimes people make mistakes because they think that the scriptures are a complete set of rules. Walk by the spirit and you shall not fulfill the will of the flesch or something like that. Some answers are clear if you have eyes to see. Let God decide if we should vote or do jury duty and let us ask him after we have with a good conscience , and time considered it. Let us not judge each other for they will stand before God and not us. Let us not put GOD in a box he has done some :unconventional: things that some would have said that cant be right. Let us each seek after righteousness, holiness and love God completely and love each other. Like I say eat fruit and veg, whole grains drink good water and stay away from;bad foods, exercise get just enough sunshine. Well honestly do what it does say to do that may be a challenge by itself.

  

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