TODAY’S READING: 1 Corinthians 5–8
Evidently, a delegation of Corinthians visited Paul in Ephesus bringing a letter of concerns from the church plant back home. And what a messy church plant it was: incest, lawsuits, prostitution, food offered to idols. Paul wrote back addressing each issue. His transition to a new topic usually indicated by his saying, “Now concerning….” Cross-cultural church planting is indeed messy.
Several missions points are clear from Corinthians. First of all, didactic teaching is central to our approach. Discovery Bible Study is in vogue, but we must take seriously the clear pattern of Paul who point by point addressed specific issues with pointed opinion. Second, short-term pain through discipline and judgment is preferred to a sloppy grace approach that never deals with difficult issues head on. There are times in which brothers need to be turned over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh so that their eternal souls might be rescued. An overreaction to paternalistic and colonial approaches in missions history has led some missionaries to abdicate their clear biblical responsibilities to rebuke and correct. Let us not avoid one abuse by careening to the extreme and being afraid to confront in love. Do you not know that the saints will judge the world and angels (1 Cor. 6:2–3)? Our inability or insecurity to correct in grace and judge in love does not remove the biblical responsibility to do so. Third, to live as we are called (7:17) does not refer to staying in demonic false religions as some social science-oriented missiologists errantly advocate. The second half of that verse reveals Paul saying: “So I ordain in all the churches.” He was clearly talking to people of varied economic or marital status who were in the church, associated with the church, and belonging to the church.
Paul also took immorality head on, addressing the obvious wrongs by providing the overarching principle: We are to glorify God in our body and in our spirit (6:20). The clear abuse of this is sexual sin, while the less obvious abuse is either the neglect or the worship of our physical body. Simply stated, missionary Paul told his converts that their body was to be used to glorify God. It is not enough that our body not de-glorify God by sexual sin; our bodies must actively glorify God by healthy living. When was the last time you prayed that God would glorify Himself in your mortal, physical body? The body is for the Lord and the Lord for the body, and the Lord will raise our physical bodies on that glorious day. Pastors, Christians, missionaries, and new converts are expected to glorify God with their physical bodies. We can falter in this assignment in two directions. First, we can work hard at physical exercise and healthy eating because we revel in the glory (attention, compliments) that others give us. This does not glorify God; this is self-glorifying the body. Second, we can neglect the body by lack of exercise, indulgence, laziness, or eating too much or too little. This does not glorify God; this is the body glorifying self by destroying itself prematurely. God’s glory is besmirched if we make our bodies the attraction, and not the gospel, or if our bodies break down so we can’t remain in context to further preach the gospel.