What do you see there?

This was the lead in question at a bible study I go to. We had only the week before been assigned a small part 1 Corinthians chapter one to read. To be honest I did not read it, but next week is coming and we will start at verse 10.

How quickly we forget the beginnings of the church. I am not as interested in history as I should be, but it might play into Paul’s angst. You quickly notice the fact that Paul is troubled by what he heard. You can make an assumption based upon the overall context of this letter. The problem with an assumption like this is that you may not have read the entire letter. The other aspect of history would be environment. That is great if you have the resources to assess that, but you may not have a study bible, or a good commentary. Without resources, how would you determine the motivation behind Paul’s writing? You have to pay attention to details.

Paul founded this church, assisted by two Jewish believers, Priscilla and Aquila, with whom he lived for a while. Eventually Silas and Timothy joined them and Paul begins preaching even more intensely in the synagogue. When most of the Jews resisted the gospel, he left the synagogue, but not before Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, his family, and many others were converted.

Because I have recently pondered this idea of “calling”, I see where Paul spoke along the lines of circumcision being a calling too. I had no choice, and it was common for babies to be circumcised, but circumcision falls under the category of law (legalism) and has nothing to do with your relationship with God. Christ became the law, freeing us from it, because it did not bring life. We are free from the law; free to no longer live according to the desires of the flesh and operate contrary to the law.

Note the variation between these two translations. While they may be conveying the same idea, one gives the idea of being robotic in actions, while demonstrates the possibility that they are not getting along.

1 Corinthians 1:10 NET.   (10) I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose.

1 Corinthians 1:10 KJV Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

I opened this comment by noting the Jewish influence that would have played heavily in thought and deed, even if they had been converts. I sometimes wish I had received a deep understanding of Jewish thought and tradition and then come to know Jesus. There are things I read now, that I know would make so much more sense to me.

Sadly, I think because of a Jewish acquaintance and her non-thinking responses based in a Jewish tradition that by admission she barely clings to, I would be horribly resistant to someone telling me to throw aside things that have such depth and beauty to me. I do not believe Paul did that. The man was like a Doctoral candidate; he knew the Talmud and the Torah inside out and backward. However, he did not know the Messiah. It does not take much thought to figure out that he walked with the Pharisees as they confronted Jesus. Why he may have been the most vocal of the group, God used who and what he was to flesh out all the freedoms that we believers hold so dear.

When I look at John McArthur’s commentary, he is saying, Paul is emphasizing the unity of doctrine in the local assembly of believers. John McArthur goes on to say, “Doctrinal unity, clearly and completely based on Scripture, must be the foundation of all church life.” I agree, doctrine, based in scripture, makes for our foundations, but most of us really do not have a clue what our doctrine are. Having looked these up, I can tell you that there are no two that agree. Some foundational truths that are shared are that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; he died on the cross for our sins, and he rose again to give us life. I have moments when I think these are the only things that should be taught, because, based upon conversations, most do not even know this. If they do, they do not act like it.

Doesn’t it make you comfortable knowing that Paul was able to rely upon the scriptures to convey these truths to the newly forming church. I am being facetious, because, as you should know, the closest thing Paul had to scripture was the Talmud and Torah on scrolls. These were so time-consuming to create that they were treated as sacred and kept in the synagogues. No one had a copy in their home, and learning was primarily done on an oral basis. This oral tradition, memorized, was the basis for Paul’s doctrine, and the basis for what he passed on to the church.

For me to read McArthur there is an immediate sense of legalism. This is enforced by a friend of mine who loves to use the term as well. With him, it is always used as a ploy to avoid talking about things he apparently does not understand or makes him uncomfortable. When he uses the term “doctrine”, it is always with volume and emphasis. I guess that is supposed to make us feel small and guilty, as though what we are talking about is not a part of church doctrine.

Webster’s dictionary defines doctrine as: 1. In a general sense, whatever is taught. Hence, a principle or position in any science; whatever is laid down as true by an instructor or master. The doctrines of the gospel are the principles or truths taught by Christ and his apostles.

Church history records that Paul spent over a year in Corinth; he taught in the synagogue. That may mean he was there every Saturday (Sabbath). However, it can also mean that he was there at other times as well, using whatever venue was available. What he taught then was considered the principles or position of our freedoms in Christ – the God-man that fulfilled the law, because he knew we could not.

I talked about how Saul/Paul exceeded his brethren in learning and zealousness for the law. Goofing around I said, he was a Doctoral candidate. Perhaps, in a sense, he might have been the equivalent of a Doctor of Theology, and yet he did not know God. Having been knocked off his horse, and blinded by the light, he asked who was talking to him.

I do not know if you are aware of this, but you do not have to receive the baptism in Holy Spirit to have God talk to you. I suspect you could even know whom it is that is talking. Having read testimonies of converted Muslims, many have said that Jesus came to them in a dream or a vision. They have never seen Jesus, and if they had, he most likely would have presented himself in a manner that fit their understanding. Did he do that? Not at all, Jesus shows up dressed in white and blazing with light; and they know immediately whom he is. Did you get that? They recognized him.

Does that seem odd to you; perhaps this will help with your understanding. When Jesus was transfigured on the mount and Moses and Elijah appeared to him. Peter saw this and knew it was Moses and Elijah. Does that make any sense? Surely, someone must have painted a picture of the two that truly captured their profile and essence. Hogwash, all Peter has is a verbal learning of the law and prophets. At best, his mind has created images, just as mine has, and yet he knew who they were.

Let us get back to this idea of doctrine. Therefore, Paul teaches them freedoms, pulled from the only place known to a Jew, the law and the prophets. If you take the time, you will find that everything Paul taught can be traced back there. Paul told us that Jesus himself taught him. Be it ever so brief, Paul describes a time he was caught up into heaven. What I am trying to convey, and I am struggling to paint it, because I am not grasping it, is that the magnificence and character of God emanate from his word. This is what Paul taught. This is what the keepers of the covenant were missing, a relational and true image of God. Adam knew this kind of relationship and he taught it Enoch. Enoch took this understanding and walked off the earth, into God’s presence.

Doctrine, doctrine should give us the entire basis for light and life, but what do we do? We scrap with each other; deny others their freedom; accost those that live in freedom; and lambaste any one that is not an attendee of the same denomination as them. We use the term like a baseball bat. We use it to control and subdue; we use it to divert people from truth.

Were we there when Paul spoke? No, we only have the letters that he wrote encouraging believers to stick with the truth. What was truth? What Paul had delivered to them. God must have entrusted Paul with the souls of the world if that is the case.

Paul emphasized that they all speak the same thing. Foundational truths were only the things he taught them, but in those foundations were hidden mysteries pulled from the law and the prophets. We are told that had Satan known these mysteries, he would not have slain the Son of God. This tells me it is all there like that pearl of great price, but who do you know that is willing to buy the field in order to find it? Did Paul teach heresy, going off script, pointing people to things other than the truth found in scripture, no way? I have to wonder, are we pulling people off track, and teaching heresy when we shut them down because we do not like what they are saying, while we adamantly berate them for not sticking to doctrine.

An acquaintance of mine, because of a moral lapse, that only had conversational aspects to it turned into him being forced to step down from a leadership position at church. He was now, over a year later, there at one of our Band of Brothers boot camps. He saw me in action, not integrating well and isolating, and almost a year later had to make a comment to me about it. He said, I noticed how you did not assimilate. Having enough Star Trek to understand how the Borg operate, I take assimilation as a bad thing. Ponder the definition of the word with me.

ASSIM’ILATE, v.t. [L. assimilo, of ad and similis, like. See Similar.]

To bring to a likeness; to cause to resemble.

Because of the dysfunction within my home as a youth, I have essentially no knowledge nor interest in football. I used to be up on baseball, but that was twenty years ago. Because of my own failures, I have lost everything and never been able to regain any aspect of it again. I am not successful, I am poor; I was shy as a teen, and yet I come alive now if you give me a microphone; my weakness has only proven to now be my strength, because I can get real excited about the changes God has made in me, and should you want to hear about those changes I will be glad to talk to you. All I know is Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Assimilate, no thank you, but I would love to have a few good friends that will not turn their backs on me, especially when I am hurting. Jesus is all I know. If you think about how well Paul was initially received by those that knew of him, what kind of conversations do you think he had?

There is only one thing that matters to me, my hope in Jesus.

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