The Bible in 10 Weeks – Week 9 Review

"And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Although the reading plan only took us 10 weeks, it seems I’m stretching it out a little further with review. We’re almost finished as we now look back to week nine, The Body of Christ.

God had chosen for himself a people a long time ago and there were always particular traits for that community. There were themes and practices and boundaries. But in the history of God’s people certain events would shake the foundation of the community and alter its makeup.

God chooses Abraham and gives him a great number of descendants whose names were synonymous with their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When God frees the people from slavery in Egypt the people reconstitute themselves to a certain degree around the practice of Passover, always remembering that their God is the God of the Exodus. When Moses receives the law it organizes the people differently giving them new practices and understandings of how to relate to God. The twelves tribes look one way in the time of wandering and another when they settle in the promised land. There is another shift when Israel becomes a kingdom, when the temple is built, when they are in exile, and when they return.

If those events determined new ways for the people of God to exist, then there is no doubt that the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ would be nothing less than transformative. God came to earth and revealed himself most perfectly in Jesus Christ, his son. If the church believes this then everything is different. The people of God need to look to Jesus to find its foundations for all practices. To build upon anything else would be folly.

As we read the letters of the New Testament you see this concern about the basic question, “How do we live now in light of Jesus?” People question old covenant practices. They wonder about pagan practices. What does this mean for Jews and Gentiles? How does Jesus’ life come to bear upon my relationships?

People like Paul seek to draw their attention in all his answers to Jesus, pushing for the nature and character of the church to correspond to Christ. The church should be a place of humility, seeking others needs above our own. And why does Paul say this in Philippians 2? Because of Jesus. Because Jesus is the one who instead of pride humbled himself even to the point of death on the cross. The church should be a place of love because Christ has loved us, even while we were enemies! The church should join in the work and rule of the kingdom, for Christ is our king and he is reigning now.

It is challenging to know the church should seek to be Christ-like because his life on this earth led to the cross. Likewise the church should be a people willing to suffer and sacrifice, just as Jesus Christ did for us all. Not just as individuals but as worshipping communities we need to be able to heed the call of Jesus Christ, pick up our cross, and follow him.

As it was the question during the time of the New Testament, it should still be the question today. How do we live in light of Jesus Christ? Are our churches living out his mission? Are we doing those things he calls us to do? Are we willing to suffer? Do we seek, like Paul, to point others to Jesus at every opportunity? Or do we answer the questions of how to do church apart from the life and work of Jesus Christ? Thankfully these New Testament books and letters offer us guidance today by the Holy Spirit just as they did thousands of years ago. We needed it then and we still need it today as our default seems to be a subtle drift away from Jesus’ mission and character. We always need to turn to God’s word to be called back to faithful ministry done in the name of Jesus Christ.

Should I speak in tongues? If I can’t is there something wrong with me?

Personally, I believe there is much I could learn about speaking in tongues. I’m not part of a tradition nor am I from a part of the world that embraces it as much as others. That said, I think I can still understand some of what Paul wants us to learn in 1 Corinthians 14 in regards to the practice.

I think it’s clear from Paul’s writing in this chapter and in the ones preceding that speaking in tongues does has a place and a function in the body of Christ. But that place is not primarily in public worship and its function isn’t for boasting and it’s not to be a litmus test as to whether or not you have the Spirit. After all, it is just one of many gifts of the Spirit, and each is gifted according to God’s will.

Unfortunately this is how tongues is presented in some churches. To those churches whether or not your speak in tongues is the sign of if you have the Spirit of God. It is treated as the sign and the gift above others. That is not building up the body and instead it’s dividing it between the haves and have-nots. That is not the reason we’ve been given these gifts by God.

That reason, the building up, is so important and it is why Paul placed prophecy above speaking in tongues in this section. Speaking in tongues is a more personal, private gift, but prophecy is one that builds up the body, believer and even unbeliever. He doesn’t want to demean speaking in tongues, and he mentions that he does it himself. But he does want to focus more on the goal behind these gifts, that is, of building up the body.

Why is the foot jealous of the hand?

You’ve most likely read or heard about Paul’s illustration of how the church is the body of Christ. We are the body which, while made up of many parts, is one. While it is one, it has many members. The problem that Paul sees in the church is that some parts are thinking of themselves as lesser than others (or being made to feel as though they are less). Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

His illustration makes sense to us without any further cultural insights, but his point is even stronger when we learn how certain body parts were viewed. His example of a foot is not chosen randomly. The foot, being the very bottom of the body, was (and still is in some cultures in the Middle East) seen as dishonorable. It would be offensive to show the sole of your foot to someone if you were to travel to certain countries. So what Paul is doing here is picking the part of the body that would most likely be seen as a lesser part and using it as the example of that which should be kept in high esteem.

But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

Using the foot Paul makes his point that even those that may be seen as the lowest should be valued in the church body. There is no exception. The body is one and should live with unity, not stratification or divisions.