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Lessons from 1 Corinthians

What a privilege it is to learn from Gordon Fee. His commentary on 1 Corinthians is a standard on the biblical letter. He wrote it in 1987, and it is quoted by every major work on Paul's letter since then. Reading an author is one thing, hearing and seeing his passion and knowledge is another.

Here are some things that sitting in Fee's class has either reminded me or taught me about Paul's message to this culturally entrenched group of people who were at odds with their founding pastor because he would not conform to their values or expectations of him or the message he preached to them while he lived there for 18 months.
  • everything in 1 Corinthians revolves around and flows out of 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 because what was at stake was the very essence of the gospel, which Paul preached and the Corinthian leaders no longer seemed to accept as adequate. Divisions in the church was only one issue that resulted from their perversion of the gospel.
  • the essence of the Christian message is: a risen crucified Messiah. Each word is a reason for wise, sophisticated, religious people to reject. Resurrection challenged the Greek view of the afterlife (Acts 17:18, 29-32) as well as some Jewish sects (Acts 4:1, 2) . Crucifixion was an offense to Romans for whom such an act was reserved for only run away slaves and insurrectionists, and the act was foolishness to the Greeks whose gods were known for their capricious power, not their sacrificial love. And, a crucified Messiah was a scandal to the Jew who always trusted that "when Messiah came" God would reveal Himself in glory and power. All of this is Paul's point exactly: God's "foolishness" and "weakness" in the crucified Messiah is wiser and stronger than anything humanly imagined because we always choose the opposite values--just like the Corinthians.
  • Paul sought to recalibrate the church's idea of what it meant to be "spiritual." They wanted their new life in Christ to match the values of their culture or be some elitist experience like the mystery cults some of the came out of. Paul would have none of it. Spiritual meant a life lived in the Spirit of Christ Jesus, nothing more, nothing less.
  • this may seem simple, but Paul wrestled to let them know they were the church, the temple of God's presence in a city that had 26 major temples to gods. They were the only "temple" of the one true God, and God dwelt among them when they came together as the church. There was no shrine or building that housed God. They were that temple (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17 TNIV). We need to remember this in our culture of equating buildings with the church and also that when Christians gather, they are the living presence of the Living God in that locale.
  • leadership in the church was to follow Jesus' model and teachings of servant leadership, not match that of what the culture defined or expected a leader to be. Paul refused to be the kind of leader they expected him to be, a Roman citizen or Greek philosopher with status and prowess. He considered himself a "servant" (1 Cor. 3:5 TNIV), a "house slave of Christ," and "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1 NASB). Paul called the church leaders who opposed him to become servant leaders like Jesus.
  • finally, for now, we are to "live cruciform." I love Fee's concept of discipleship derived from Paul. Simply put, we are to live lives "formed by the crucified one;" Cruciform. In the Middle Ages they built cathedrals in cruciform to mimic the shape of the cross. In the same way we are to build our lives that way. Rich stuff.
I could go on, but will stop for now. I love walking to the class each day and find that my trust in God deepens as I spend more time in this real life letter from one who immersed himself in the person of Jesus.

Kim and I continue to enjoy the culinary delights and sites of Vancouver. We rode through Stanley Park yesterday afternoon. It was sad to see the damage the windstorm last December had done to the majestic trees. It rained most of yesterday and all day into the evening, so, we've stayed indoors except to drive to lunch and dinner. I wrote. Kim read. Nice change of pace for us.

PS I've had a blast running the trails in the Pacific Spirit Regional Park. The forests are thick and lush and the trails are soft and well groomed; a trail runner's heaven. Some are very steep, which is good for my prep to climb Wheeler Peak next week.