Judges of the World and of Angels

Paul is upset by what the Corinthians have been doing in bringing their grievances before the secular courts. He mentions that having lawsuits is already a failure, but to then take such cases before unbelievers makes it all the worse.

Why does he say this?

In verses 7-8 he is lifting up the love, sacrifice, and humility that should instead be the character of a Christian community. Paul writes, “Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?” He wants the body to endure the suffering, but instead it is getting caught up with the ways of the world, wronging and defrauding fellow believers in the courts. Earlier in chapter four Paul wrote, “When reviled we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” This is not the attitude of someone always seeking to prove themselves, to seek retribution, to fight it out before the world in the courts.

These battles in the courts are a public witness and they do not witness to the unity of the church or to the pattern of life that should be based on Christ’s crucifixion. It is to their shame, as Paul says.

After spending so much time in the preceding chapters speaking about the wisdom of God in the cross of Jesus Christ and a wisdom that we have received by the Holy Spirit, Paul is confronted with a church that appeals to the wisdom of the world to determine its verdict. God’s wisdom is greater and he has granted it to his people, so isn’t there even just one person wise enough to settle dispute in the church? Paul then reminds them that the judges of the world are no real authority on these matters, instead the saints are ones who will be given great authority. In Christ we will reign with him and we will judge the world.

Paul then makes his arguments as he moves from the greater to the lesser. If you will judge the world, can’t you then judge a smaller issue? (Not to say that this is trivial in the sense that it doesn’t matter, it is just of lesser significance than judging the world.) If you are to judge angels–creatures that are otherworldly, heavenly–can’t you judge matters of this life?

This is a call for the church to remember its calling. And it is a high calling. The Corinthians need to live into it, to see themselves for what they are and what they are going to be. If they are judges of the world, what does it say if they bring matters of the church before mere human (1 Cor 3:4) courts? If the church has been entrusted with the mysteries and wisdom of God, matters that the rulers did not understand (2:8, 4:1), what is the witness to the world if such wisdom is inadequate to discern issues within the Christian body? Who then is the real authority in the life of the church? If God’s wisdom is to rule in their church, they must change course and stop acting as though the law of the unrighteous is their judge.

Why Does Paul Instruct the Church in Corinth to Expel the Sinner in Chapter 5?

When Paul says to cast the man out of the church who is sleeping with his father’s wife, it is important to remember everything that he says, lest we miss his point. He begins in verse four with:

Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

But that is not all. A couple verses later he adds:

When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

This is not punishment for no purpose. Paul instructs the church in a way to enact discipline on this man for two reasons. What we see in the verse quoted above is “so that his spirit may be saved.” It is the difference between a strictly punitive action and a restorative one. Paul wants the church to, by their expulsion of him, restore his soul. If he wants to be part of the body again, he’ll have to turn from this sin. He can’t just go to the more open-minded church around the block in Corinth. This is his fellowship to which he would seek to restored.

Dough

The other purpose in casting out this man, a man who has sinned in such a way that even the extremely permissive Roman society would condemn him, is to guard the body of believers. His sin is not harmless. It is like a leaven that makes it way into the whole dough. Paul wants to protect this people who he cares greatly about. He’s already compared himself to a mother and a father in his relationship to them. He knows that if this influence remains it will affect the whole church.

So rather than recommend what may have been a Jewish judgment of incest, stoning, or delivering this man before Roman courts for the Roman law he has broken, Paul instructs the body to do something that may save the man’s spirit on the day of the Lord and will protect the life and witness of the church in Corinth.

How Can We Act Like Royalty?

From Deuteronomy 17:18-20

And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

It is required of Israel’s kings to write out their very own copy of the law and to then keep it with them all the days of their life. And not just to make their office bookshelf look impressive. They are to learn from it and act on it, not turning from it in the least. This is a prescription for success in the eyes of God.

We may not be writing out our own text, but make your Bible your own. As you read it, mark it up and make notes. Keep it with you all the days of your life. Let God keep you humble by it, may God also bless you as you dedicate such time and attention to his Word. We are reading all of it because the entirety of the Bible is written for us, and doing so is a kingly pursuit.

Story So Far, Week 8

If you go back and read through Leviticus 14 you’ll see the lengths the priests had to go to make clean those afflicted with leprosy. The priest required the sacrifice of birds, hyssop, scarlet yarn, and cedarwood, and the process involved sprinkling of blood, shaving off hair, and washing. And that was only the beginning.

Compare that to the power and authority that Jesus has in Luke 17. Jesus meets not one, but ten lepers on his travels. They cry out to him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” He tells them to do what seems to follow the order of Leviticus, “Go and show yourself to the priests.” But what should amaze the reader is that they are not cleansed after the priest heal them. Luke says, “as they went they were cleansed.” Their faith in Jesus’ words and their obedience was enough and they were clean. They did not need a week of sacrifices and ritual. Christ has greater power.

Sadly only one of the ten, upon finding out he was healed, turned right around to fall at Jesus’ feet and give thanks. If this Samaritan did not fully understand it before, Jesus then makes it explicit, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

In Jesus Christ, God has done so much to make us well, and because Christ has lived the righteous life for us, we need only to place our trust in him to be clean.

Having now finished Leviticus, and knowing that Christ has come to fulfill the whole law (Matt 5), not abolish it, isn’t it amazing that he could do so? All of Leviticus deals with the laws for the priests and much of Exodus directs people how to live in accord with God’s law. Jesus Christ came and perfectly fulfilled it. All that the law could not do, Christ did for us. What the law could never be for us, Christ is. He has fulfilled it and he has made us clean before God.

I hope by reading through these books of law you gain greater appreciation for the perfect work of Christ that he accomplished for us. He fulfilled the law and went beyond what it could ever offer us. “For if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Gal 2:21b). By his death we are saved and made righteous, and we can take no credit for such a gracious act.

Grace Precedes Law

We finally come to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, a codified law for God’s people. To many, the law characterizes the Old Testament and the old covenant, and given its prominence not only here, but throughout the many books of the Old Testament, it isn’t hard to understand that view. But do not forget the preceding chapters and stories in Exodus and Genesis.

God graciously created this world and placed us in it. God has provided for a people that he chose for himself, not based on their superiority as a people, but because of his grace. God called Abraham out to be the father of many nations, made a covenant with him, and while Abraham struggles in his faith, God remains ever faithful. He protects his people, provides for them, and in Exodus we see how God set them free from the oppression in Egypt.

God did not come to Moses and deliver two tablets of stone and say, “Moses, deliver these to the people. Gather all the elders and proclaim this law to them, and let it be known that whoever keeps it perfectly will be rewarded. In five years, I’ll be back, and if you were good, I’ll have a chat with Pharaoh about letting you go.”

Instead God hears the cries of his people and frees them from Egypt. He sets them free, parts waters, gives manna from Heaven, and also as an act of grace, he then gives them this law. Grace precedes the law. The Israelites were never a people who earned or deserved God’s favor. They did not merit it. God chose them for himself, and in his grace saves them. The law follows as a way to live as God’s people, and a way to live well.

Be careful when simplistically dividing the Old and New Testaments as though one were law and the other grace, as though grace were absent in the beginning. The Bible is a book that reveals to us who our God is, and we see he is and always has been a God of grace.