Full Salvation (Part 7)

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Something happens when we gather in one place ‘as the church’ (as Paul frequently expresses it).  In a way that happens nowhere else and at no other time the world is seen with GOD as the throbbing center and Lord over all that is. His Holy Son is proclaimed to be the gallant young Knight of God who fought with and conquered the predatory powers, Sin and Death and the rulers of the darkness that make themselves real and present through the nations and the Satan-serving power-wielders who are also the captives of these invisible powers. With one heart, mind and voice we announce this truth to one another: “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.”

It matters not that we don’t feel the pulsing truth of this each time we meet–it only matters that we genuinely believe it because we ‘Live’ by faith and not by sight, sound or feeling.

When Paul lived, suffered, wrote and preached to establish and mature ‘assemblies of Christ’ this is who he had in mind. He spoke, of course, to such congregations about the specific behaviors in mortal life that become “congregations of Christ” (that is, the indwelling Christ who takes congregational form, making Himself present in His People–Rom. 16:16). And when needed he confronted and exposed heresies and issues that created serious pastoral problems. Still, it is to the ‘People of God;’ God’s ‘nation’ that he writes. When Balam finally purposes to speak God’s identifying truth about Israel (Num. 23:8), this is what we hear of the tribes poised down in the valley of Moab:

From the top of the crags I see him

From the hills I gaze down on him

                                               Look! A nation that abides alone

                                               A people not numbered among the nations

It matters profoundly that those called by their Lord and Master to minister the Word of God to this ‘called- out-of-the ‘world’ nation “fully carry out their ministry.” This assembly that sits before the minister as he rises to speak or sits to write is not a number of free-standing persons that happens to share similar convictions. Paul (without malice or mockery) differentiates them from Jews and Greeks (non-Jews) and calls them ‘the Church of God’ (1 Cor. 1:2; 10:32). Once more this is a nation, the ‘end time’ people who in Christ—only in Christ and by faith in Him—are a new creation; a People ‘not of the world’ yet not taken out of it. In it because their Lord wants them in it as He was in it (John 17:14-19) to show forth the excellences of GOD, the ONLY GOD, the ONE TRUE GOD who created and called them.

It is these people to whom Paul writes 1 COR. 11; to an assembly where many were mired in and being conned by idolatry as were father and mother Adam and Eve. (More on that later, God enabling).
Paul, the personally chosen teacher for the Lord Jesus, writes to us who right now who watch or (for many who are experiencing) in unbelief the worship of the gods and goddesses; he vicious and wilderness-creating Sekhmet, the war-mongering Mars, the self-adoring Narcissus or Aesculapius, the god of healing. And given some relief we will go back to worshiping ourselves in whom these gods live and move and have their being.



“Three men are at the door…”

“Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, the men sent…stood before the gate.. The Spirit said, ‘Behold, three men are seeking you’…to hear words by which they can be saved.’” Acts 10:17, 19; 11:14.

Truth never seems so sacred as when we begin to see its true uses and the poor souls that are robbed and kept in crippling ignorance never seem so well worth living for, as when we see how much they need His truth (Brooks).

Truth is for storing up within to prepare us, making us wise when the evil days with their lies, half-truths and misinformation masquerade as liberating friends and as angels of light when in fact they are ministers of confusion, gloom and then complete darkness.

Truth is for singing, praying, teaching and for doing! If it is hoarded for self-protection, self-aggrandizement and enrichment then ‘truth’ is not His truth and if it is not His truth it is not truth at all or at least, not worth gaining because it had bred maggots.

If it is ‘truth’ that is only for a few, for specialists who share it with other specialists who alone can grasp it and be able to repeat it to an elite academy then it is not His truth! Alasdair McIntyre, the highly esteemed Aristotelian academic who fervently believed in stern peer-review and in philosophy as a grand enterprise still maintained that any philosophy that is not linked to life, that doesn’t affect and enable life is not worth engaging in. 

If it is ‘truth’ that leads only to other truths that lead to other truths that lead to endless questions rather than to a Person in whom ceaseless questioning can come to a holy, trust-filled contentment and life then it is not Christian truth, not His truth—HIS, who said of Himself, “I am the truth!” His truth that leads to Life now and beyond, ‘now’ to eternal LIFE that is more than life that lasts forever but to LIFE that is of such a nature that it is suited to going on beyond “life in the flesh” which ends with death. Eternal life that begins in fullness in relationship with God beyond this phase of mortal human existence. It is life that is brimful of life; life that is saturated with adventure, mystery, glory, joy, righteousness and where people are always saying ‘hello’ rather than ‘goodbye’. It is resurrection life in the Lord and Savior and doesn’t apologize for existing, that doesn’t timidly ask permission to exist.

What truth do we seek; an understanding of the teaching of Gadamer, Bultmann, Barth or Moltmann? Even if we shared that would it help the struggling individuals, congregations, the oppressed and blinded needy of the world?

What vision do we seek? Who is it for? When it reaches a wall it can’t climb, where has it brought us to?

Three men are at the gate, seeking us. What is it they want? Beyond what they want, what do they need? AND Who sent them?

The vision we have nurtured the information we have gathered, will it impress our hearers, our colleagues, our equally educated ‘competitors’? Do we now know more than they do? And as a teacher of people—which class of people? What has it made of us this truth? What have we made of it? Do we now see that the vision we longed for was the kind that showed God as more relentless in His loving and saving pursuit of more people, of people blinded by the gods of this world and in the direst need for light? And what have we done with that vision if it has been given to us? While we are dreaming on our housetop does there come the whisper?

“Three men seek you; to speak to you.”

Our child comes to us with some child’s joy and wants a rich explanation; some confused and troubled neighbor cries across to us, from her life to ours, and wants to know if we have any sense to make of this baffling and painful tangle of life, any hopeful response to it? And we, dreaming on a housetop or in a classroom or in our private study, are somehow wakened and find that:

“Three men are down at the door.”

But the vision is yours, it was given to you and it is pleasing, it fills your heart and mind with soft light that drives gloom and doubt from your life. So, stay, dream in the warmth that such a vision was meant to bring while:

“Three men are seeking to speak to you.”

Yes, but—others might have seen the vision or heard the whisper of truth—that you may not know but you know this: it was given to you! Clearly it was given to you to enjoy, for you to be enriched and empowered to live with more assurance and peace. Nevertheless:

“Three men are down at the door.”

No doubt true but I have my own needs that must be met, my own struggles that must be faced, my own weaknesses that must be overcome and new strength that must be gained and I must spend much time examining this exciting, promising and complex truth that I have now been blessed with. I must embrace the truths that urge me to: “Take heed to yourself…” (Acts 20:28), “Save yourself from his perverse generation.” (Acts 2:41) No doubt that’s true but this also is true:

“Three men are at the gate.”

While Peter thought about the vision the Spirit said to him, ‘Behold three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them doubting nothing for I have sent them.’

The same Spirit that sent Peter the enriched vision of
God said:
‘Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore. Go down…doubt nothing for I have sent them.’ (Acts 10:19-20)

We who know that God is merciful because of the mercy He has shown and is showing to us will be further blessed and enriched when we allow Him to make our lives interpreters of His goodness to others—to those He has sent to us to speak to us and to hear from us “words by which they can be saved.” Will we not? Can it be otherwise? When we generously share our food and other material and social blessings to the poor souls in need, we know it is right and Christ-like but is it not more? Is it not a lift to our own hearts, does it not assure us that we are not as selfish as we sometimes fear we are? And might it not be a part of what Jesus meant when He said, “It is more blessed to give than receive”? And if we give vision as well as bread, truth as well as a job, the assured hope of eternal life in God as well as clothes to fight off the cold might we not someday in that better world meet a family that thanks us profusely for being the medium of the ultimate gift of the blessed Savior Jesus Christ?
Holy Father help us to show people a fine and upright life but remind us that a host that ignores our faith in the Lord Jesus live fine and morally upright lives. And energize and sustain us to SPEAK the truth about the incomparable and life-giving Lord Jesus. Help us to remember that people don’t LIVE by material bread alone. Convict us that we have been privileged with the Bread of LIFE and give us boldness and warmth that we might SPEAK. In Jesus’ lovely name, this prayer.


So how should we read 1 Cor. 11:1-16? 

Half a chapter is devoted to it so the problem isn’t trivial.

It’s written by the Paul the exalted apostle of Jesus Christ so it cannot be a trivial issue. 

It’s written to an assembly living in a hotbed of idolatry and where the most popular mother goddess in the Greco-Roman world was worshiped. Isis! She was originally from Egypt but worshiped everywhere in Paul’s day. She was worshiped in Corinth along with Aphrodite whose images now and then were male and female (Google).

It is written to a congregation where Isis (“the goddess of many names,” was worshiped with stories, stage-plays that told she raised her brother and husband, Osiris, from the dead and gave him immortality. This was Isis of whom the Oxyrhynchus Papyri said, “she made women equal to men” and empowered them.”

(See https://search.aol.com/aol/search?s_it=webmail-searchbox&q=isis%20goddess&s_qt=ac (accessed 2/1/2022)

1 Cor. 11:1–16 was written to a congregation where men attended idolatrous feasts and lay with the prostitutes there (1 Cor. 6).

It was written to an assembly that enjoyed the debate, sought the limelight and the flamboyant gifts and especially the miraculous gift of speaking various languages and did it even at the expense of the  assembled Christians (1 Cor. 14)..

It was written to an assembly greatly troubled with how Christians should live in relation to eating food that was left over after idolatrous feasts and sold to the city butchers—(Chapters 8–10). The entire 10th chapter is devoted to idolatry and the public engagement at temples that fostered the support of demons (junior gods) and then we chapter 11.

All this to say the Church (temple) of God lived in a city super-saturated by goddesses and Zeus worship. This situation was very like the situation in Ephesus (see Acts 19) where the mother goddess was Diana/Artemis and there too there was a problem in the congregation that included both women and men. There were men who enjoyed the debate, there was a problem with authority and there were widows who were abused by younger widows and Paul vigorously speaks on  behalf of the widows and has Timothy to see to the matter. Numerous other things needed to be set in order by appointed leaders. See Paul’s commission to Timothy in 1 Timothy!

It’s particularly interesting that Paul sends the Ephesian readers to the same text (Genesis 1-3) he sent the Corinthians to much earlier. 

I think the problem in Cor.11 is a problem involving idolatry and is nothing as trivial (of course) as an exhortation to women to abide by dress customs in Corinth in case they offended local customs. I think idolatry is seducing women as it was and had been seducing men; a glance through the entire book will show. I think the forsaking of head-coverings by women in public gatherings where they prophesied and led in prayer was an expression of a growing desire to align themselves with Isis and to reject the truth about GOD in the Genesis 1-3; truth about creation and humans seeking ‘godhood’ rather than living in the image of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:1; Gen. 1:26-27). This I believe is why Paul opens this chapter with 11:1-3 and makes use of the Holy Scriptures at Genesis 1-3. See what you think.

To be continued,  d.v.  

jim McGuiggan