Monday, July 16, 2007

Is Christ Divided? session 10

Notes for the house groups on 1 Corinthians.

Week eight, beginning Sunday 15 July: 1 Corinthians 9.1-23

Main themes: The rights of an apostle
Paying ministers

Click 'full post' for text

Questions to prompt discussion

1.What is an apostle? What are their rights and duties?
2.Which Christian ministers should be paid for their work? Why? What issues does this raise in terms of 'clericalisation' (what Rev Sam calls the 'George Herbert model')?
3.Is language of 'human rights' Christian language? Should Christians use that language, or does it embody secular assumptions about who we are as creatures?
4.What does Paul's teaching in vv19-23 tell us about mission? In terms of the practices of our church, what do we need to hang on to, and what is open to change, in order that 'by all means [we] might save some'?

Supplementary thoughts:

The Corinthian church clearly contained elements who rejected Paul's authority, and here - as in chapters 3 and 4 - Paul is asserting his apostolic credentials and identity. Bear in mind the wider context of the argument that Paul is having with the Corinthians, where there is some sense of spiritual elitism. Paul asserts his "highest rights" - but in order to emphasise the importance of service and submission. Paul is trying to undercut the spiritual arrogance of the leaders of the Corinthian church (directly continuing the point of ch 8).

Paul emphasises that he is under a compulsion to preach the gospel, and that being paid for it would undermine his preaching. This may be because it would fit into the cultural expectations in places like Corinth, where there was a tradition of itinerant philosophers being paid for their teaching, and where manual labour was looked down upon.

Notes on verses

v 5 - note that clerical celibacy is unknown! (Celibate clergy are a medieval innovation)
vv 9-11 one of only two examples where Paul uses allegory (the other is Gal 4.21-31)
v 10 - a quotation from Ecclesiasticus, part of the apocrypha, which Paul saw as 'Scripture', 'this was written for us'.
v 14 - compare Matthew 10.10 and Luke 10.7
v 20 -21 - see Galatians 3 (indeed, all of Galatians!)

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