Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Is Christ Divided? session 17

Is Christ Divided?
Notes for the house groups on 1 Corinthians.
Week seventeen, beginning Sunday 11 November: 1 Corinthians 14

Main theme: spiritual gifts, and their place in church life

Questions to prompt discussion

1.Have you ever experienced yourself, or been with someone who has experienced, 'speaking in tongues'? How did it make you feel? Inspired? Disturbed?
2.What do you think prophecy is? Is there a difference between the dictionary definition and a biblical understanding?
3.What do you think Paul's over-riding concern is in this passage? How might it apply to our church here in Mersea?
4.What do you make of the description of worship in verse 26? How does it resemble our Sunday mornings? or our house groups? Is Paul being prescriptive here?
5.What is your area of spiritual giftedness?

Supplementary thoughts:
This is a long passage, but with one exception (see below on vv 33b-35) it hangs together as a discussion of the relative place of prophecy and speaking in tongues in the life of the church. Speaking in tongues was not unique to the Christian church in Corinth, it was a part of the 'religious scene' in Greece; there were other 'ecstatic cults' at the time, and the sense is that some in the Corinthian church had become 'puffed up' by the experience of speaking in tongues, and were using these experiences to establish a spiritual hierarchy - which triggers much passion from Paul! Note that Paul never denigrates speaking in tongues as such (see especially v 18) he simply insists that this gift must be used for the 'edification of the church' and not as a badge of individual superiority (see especially v 28). There is a link back to the beginning of chapter 12 and the discussion of spiritual gifts there, as this sequence brings the argument of the last three chapters to a close. There are many sorts of spiritual gifts, including some not mentioned by Paul (there is no suggestion that Paul is giving an exhaustive list).

Verses 13 to 19 contain a consistent emphasis upon the life of the mind in building up the community of the church, and this is not simply about intellectual matters but a more general sense of understanding what is going on, so that the 'Amen' can actually mean an informed assent. Historically this has often led to conflict within church communities, eg over worshipping in the vernacular (ie English rather than Latin). There are issues in our church at the moment that this verse applies to quite specifically! The important thing is to worship as a whole human being, with mind and body, heart and soul.

Notes on verses
vv 33b-35 are highly controversial, and there is a suggestion that they are not originally from Paul (a number of manuscripts place them at the end of this chapter, which may indicate that they were added in by a scribe or one of Paul's followers). Compare with 11.5 which implicitly allows women to speak; the last chapter of Romans which describes a number of women with (public) roles in the church; Phil 4.2,3. Consider also the appeal here in general terms to 'the law' (v34) which is a distinctly odd argument for Paul to make! Compare it with the arguments in Romans and Galatians about reliance on the law.

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