Day 335 (Dec. 1): Paul cautions about false apostles, Paul tells of his persecution, Paul boasts of his weakness, Paul’s vision and his thorn, Paul is concerned about the Corinthians, Paul encourages church to rid themselves of sin and he is coming soon, Paul revives Eutychus

Countdown: 30 days!

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

2 Corinthians 11-13:14

Acts 20:7-12

Questions & Observations

Q. For most of this whole reading Paul is on the church in Corinth with some corruption of some kind.  But, we don’t know what it is, or why is it important to include their scuffles in the Bible?  Paul also defends his character of not being a burden to the church.  It sounds like maybe some false apostles were influencing the church and bad-mouthing Paul?

A. The major thrust of Paul’s argument is that the people were not being faithful to their call, which is certainly something we can understand today — allowing sin to creep into our lives, even as believers.  Yes, it sounds like Paul’s enemies were slandering him in his absence.

Q. (2 Corinthians 11:13): How can false apostles be differentiated from true ones?

A. By their fruit (Matthew 7:16).  Are your teachers sewing unity, love, compassion, etc?  If so, then most likely they are a genuine follower of Christ (though deceit is surely possible, it can and does happen to the best).  But if the major “fruit” of a teacher is false doctrine, compromises in orthodoxy, disunity, division, then your church might be in danger, though I freely admit that the power of grace can change hearts if there is a genuine desire for a false teacher to repent.

Q. (2 Corinthians 11:30): I understand what Paul is saying in that he becomes strong when he thinks about his human person being weak, because then he relies on God’s strength which makes him a stronger person.  But, I don’t understand what Paul is saying his weaknesses are.

A. Paul does not explicitly tell us, even the one he mentions — the thorn — is a bit of an unknown.  Speaking of…

Q. (12:7): The thorn in his flesh is Satan’s torment?  Or, is he talking about an actual physical pain here?  We know that Paul has his share of ailments from the amount of physical persecution he has endured.

A. The best guess we have is it is some sort of physical aliment.  It is not a literal torment of Satan, but a metaphorical torment.  Other people think it is some sort of “pet” sin that Paul had, or a regular temptation that he faced, though these seem like a bit more of a stretch to me.

Q. (12:11): Why would Paul need to apologize to the church for not becoming a financial burden on them?  Is he saying that if they had financially supported him more that they would feel a stronger connection to him — and feel more responsible for his well being?

A. He’s being sarcastic by saying that he’s “apologizing” for not being a burden to them.  That’s all.

Q. (13:7): What is this “demonstrating authority” that Paul is threatening the church with?

A. It appears he is saying that he will discern between those who are right and those who are in sin, and he does not want to have to use his God-given authority this way.  He would rather that the people repent of their sin and turn back to God, that he visit can be joyful.

Day 327 (Nov. 23): Collecting money for Jerusalem, greetings from Paul, riot in Ephesus, Paul goes to Macedonia and Greece, God’s good news, God’s anger against sin and notably homosexuality

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

1 Corinthians 16:1-24

Acts 19:21-20:6

Romans 1:1-32

Questions & Observations

O. Paul is such a perfect role model!  He has taken his charge from God seriously, and not faltered.

Q. (1 Corinthians 16:21): Did Paul use a scribe to write his letters?  I just don’t know why he makes it a point to say he is signing his letters in his own handwriting.

A. Yes, Paul used a scribe — he won’t always leave his signature at the end — to write his letters.  It was common practice in the day to have the “genuine” signature of the true author of the letter.  We don’t really know why he did this, but one theory is that his writing hand was injured in his various traumas, and he is “signing” the letter with his non-writing hand, which is why the letters are so big.

Q. (Acts 19:23): What does “the Way” mean here?

A. That is the way that Luke refers to the Gospel, it was the primary way that the early believers referred to the message of Christianity.  Remember that this is the way that Jesus himself referred to Himself in John 14:6, so it is little surprise that the earliest believers took up this way of referring to their message.

O. (Romans 1:8:17): Paul is really great at building awesome, genuine rapport with whomever he visits or writes.

Q. (1:18-32): God is obviously against homosexuality.  He says in v. 26 that homosexuality is not the “natural way to have sex.”  Could we apply this to other subjects, like food, in particular?  Artificial colors and flavors, preservatives and GMOs are not natural.  I would think that God would not be to keen on those either.  You?  I know the Bible says to not worry about what we will eat, but I think It means “clean” and “unclean” food, not food that comes from a lab.

A. Paul is definitely condemning homosexual conduct (remember that being attracted to people of the same sex is NOT a sin, just acting on it!).  This type of conduct would have been commonplace in Rome at this time, and would have involved exploitation of young men by older men (you don’t want to know the details), and public bath houses (only for men) that frequently involved sex.  As to the other “unnatural” things like food or dyes, since those things did not exist at the time, I have a suspicion that Paul did not have such things in mind.  We might think of such regulations as being wise, but Paul is describing sin, and I would stop short of eating artificial foods as being a sinful action.

Day 326 (Nov. 22): Speaking in tongues and prophesying, worship should be orderly, resurrection review, resurrection of the dead, Christ will come again and defeat His enemies, physical bodies are seed for immortal being, work enthusiastically for God

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

1 Corinthians 14-15

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Corinthians 14:1-25): Rob, do you know if anyone today has the gift of speaking in tongues or prophesying?  To me, this passage speaks out for the gift of prophesying or preaching and not so much for speaking in tongues because the latter can only benefit the person speaking in a unique language.

A. That is a highly debated topic with no consensus.  Though I have not personally witnessed either speaking in tongues (or interpretation) or prophecy, I am surely open to the possibility that the Spirit can do as He pleases.

Q. (14:34-35): OK, Rob, talk about this one.  This is a hard one for me to swallow.  I feel like God is saying that women have no understanding of His word.  I had counseling when I was in high school because I had held my feelings in for so long because I didn’t think what I thought really mattered.  Now, God is telling me that I don’t matter because I’m a woman!  Besides, this says because the law says to be submissive.  The Law is no longer valid.

A. Ok, here goes.  The entire point of this passage is Paul’s instructions is NOT to keep women in their “place,” but rather to maintain an orderly worship.  Since in this society, it would have been improper for women to speak in public, Paul instructions are about preventing a “scene” in worship — the worship experience should present order, not disorder for non-believers.  There are other places (like Acts 11:5) where Paul would appear to go against his own instructions and expect women to pray and prophecy in church, so we’re clearly not talking about a universal, ironclad standard here.  If you examine 1 Cor 11:5, Paul himself indicates that there were times when women were permitted to speak at church.  So, I leave it to you to decide from there what he meant.

O. (15:8-11): I like what Paul says here about him being the least of the apostles.  He says he does not even deserve to be called an apostle.  Nevertheless, He has let God work through him and been more effective than the others.  But, it doesn’t matter because as long as people are preaching as God instructs them, their word is all solid.

A. God has the amazing ability to bring light out of the darkest places, even those in the human heart.  His ability to change lives, even of those closest to me, is a powerful testimony, and I believe it is the very best witness to the truth of the Gospel.

Q. (15:35-58): This is an amazing description of life after physical death that I’ve never read.  Our old bodies being a seed to our immortal spirits shows how God continues to use the same ways of life over again and again.

A. It is one of the least read and understood passages of scripture, and it does a lot of damage to the idea of the afterlife as being where disembodied souls play harps on clouds for all eternity.  That is certainly not the record of Scripture!  Wait until we wrap up with Revelation!

O. (15:58) Love this one!

Day 323 (Nov. 19): Paul tells church not to judge others, God’s apostles are not showy, Paul condemns spiritual pride, Christians should settle their own disputes, avoid sexual immorality, marriage instructions

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

1 Corinthians 4-7

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Corinthians 4:9): I was almost going to say that God continues to use humble people to spread His word and now He has allowed them to be tattered, according to Paul’s letter.  However, it wasn’t really God who made them dirty, hungry, thirsty, tired, weak, bruised, etc., it was the people treating them that way.

A. That doesn’t make the people like Paul spreading the message of the Gospel less humble; if anything, through humility they are able to withstand the mistreatment of others.  I certainly think the things that Paul and his companions experienced — and will experience, including martyrdom — will only increase the power of their witness.

Q. (4:15): I don’t understand Paul saying that He became the church’s spiritual father.

A. He’s the one who founded the church at Corinth, so that makes him their spiritual father.  He’s not really bragging about this, but is rather attempting to get the Corinthians to follow his example the way that a child often tries to imitate their earthly father.

Q. (5:3-5): I don’t understand v. 5.  I think what Paul is trying to say here is that we want to save this man who is disrupting the church.

A. Paul’s order is to expel the man from the church — a form of church justice, something that is sadly rarely practiced today due to our “winking” attitude to sin.  So if the man is kicked out of “God’s” territory (the church), then he is given over to the realm that is not of God, or Satan.  This isn’t a literal punishment: Paul is not saying a demon will get him, but rather he is hoping that being expelled from the community by his friends will cause him such anguish that he will repent of his sin and return to the community a new man.

Q. (6:2): What does Paul mean by the believers will judge the world and the angels?

A. As those who will rule with Christ as heirs, we have the implication that we will have some role in judging (the Greek can also mean “rule” or “command”) the world and angels.  It is a unique passage, frankly, and Paul does not expand on what he means here, so we do not exactly know.  It is possible that Paul is sharing something that he assumes his audience will already be familiar with — i.e. something they understood in their culture that has been lost to history.  Ultimately, we don’t know for sure what he means, but I think it is safe to assume that our role in the next world will be as some sort of ruler or leader of some sort.  Interesting thought, isn’t it?

Q. (6:1-8): I think many people use the justice system to resolve disputes because it is easier than facing each other and figuring it out among themselves.  But, if believers are coming together to form the body of a church, they should be able to settle their own disputes, which I think would actually make them closer.

A. I couldn’t agree more, and I suspect that is what Paul has in mind.

Q. (6:9-11): One of my best friends growing up became gay after a couple years of college.  He has an awesome, but struggling, heart and considering what he has been through — a dad that beat and threatened him on a regular basis, a mom who also suffered physical and verbal abuse and dealt with her husband’s cheating, and had been molested by many men close to him.  With attention from these men, it’s no wonder that he leaned toward homosexuality.  I do wonder how his judgment will fair, but I know that God is God and He is the judge.  I just wish he could get pulled out of that lifestyle.  Pray, right?  I need to call him more often too.

A. There is nothing sinful about being attracted to people of the same gender, but I feel the Bible is pretty clear about sexual relationships among people of the same gender (though I am aware that not everyone feels that way).  We all have our temptations that we must face, and that honestly makes it hard for me to want to pass judgment on homosexuals as a person who has never experienced a sexual attraction to a man.  God knows our hearts, and also knows our past and difficulties, and will judge us accordingly.

Q. (7:8): By Paul saying that it’s better to stay single than married, it sounds so against the way God designed humans and the world.  He made man and woman so they could come together and create more humans.  If everyone were single, the world would die off, well … if they abstained from sex unless they were married.

A. It is interesting to me that Paul brings such a different mindset to the situation then we are used to, and that God — and the Bible — are big enough to handle multiple ideas in tension.  As you well say, without marriage and children, there is no future.  But Paul is probably looking at the situation as a man who wanted to fully devote himself to doing God’s will (as Jesus, who was also never married, did before him).  So it is certainly fascinating that the two men most responsible for the Christian faith were unmarried and celibate — a tradition that is carried to this day by priests, nuns, and monks all over the world.  God can make either way for us work, but I think that Paul at least makes it clear that there are pros and cons to being single or married.  And in a society that is literally OBSESSED with weddings (less so marriages, but anyway…), I bet there are some interesting insights about celibacy in the reading.

Q. (7:10): This verse just makes me think of the spiritual parallel that God created between man and woman should be like the relationship between God and believers, only even more devoted.

A. Yes, I would agree with that.

Q. (7:25-28): What is Paul talking about here?  Why is he advising everyone to stay single?  And, honestly, I feel that some of these letters sound like personal problems of the church way back then that isn’t really our business.  Maybe this is an example of how our secret desires and motivations will be revealed on judgment day?

A. Something I didn’t mention in my above responses was that the early church went through varying degrees of persecution, and that would certainly shade his thinking about being married and having a spouse depend on you.  Imagine the heartache of dying for your faith (or being thrown in jail or sold into slavery) with a wife, or husband, women were martyrs too, you can read about some 3rd Century women martyrs here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetua_and_Felicity)- or even children at home.  I could see why Paul would say, “that’s not a great idea.”

I would also point out, that as a married person, it would naturally be harder for you to see the benefits of being able to give every waking moment over to God as Paul was able to do — and I’m sure his being single shaded his thinking as well.  But note that even in the midst of his thoughts on staying single, he argues that there is no sin in being married (which I realize is a “duh” to us, but anyway).  As I mentioned above, I appreciate that the Bible presents a perspective so radically different than my own.

Q. (7:31b): There are several references we have seen that alludes me to the conclusion that judgment day should have been during these times.  Paul makes the end of days sound imminent.  Yet, we have also read where Jesus isn’t coming until the most evil person rises up.

A. It hasn’t happened yet is all I can tell you.  Paul goes back and forth on the matter- some places he makes it sound immenent, other places not so much, you’ll see.

Q. (7:40): Paul doesn’t sound 100 percent sure that his advice is coming from the Holy Spirit here … or God (not sure who he is referring to).

A. Same difference.  I think he is clearly stating that God has not told him explicitly either way, which is just fine with me.  If God desires to leave the matter open, and clearly He did, then Paul is willing to say so.  That sounds about right to me.