Is Christ Divided? session 2

Week two, beginning Sunday 22 April: 1 Corinthians 1.18 – 2.5
Click ‘full post’ for text.

Introduction of major theme: the folly of the cross
cross is absolutely counter-cultural – it is the verdict on the culture, judgement on the world (Jn 12.31) – three sections

  • the message (1.18-1.25): a reversal of worldly values – consider Psalm 37.25; Deut 28.1-8 – how does this link with the ‘prosperity gospel’ (God’s rewards are in this life)?
  • the recipients (1.26-31): gospel is for the marginalised and weak, not for the high and mighty; the things which are not – we are the ‘nobodies’ – are we nobodies who still want to be ‘somebodies’?
  • its proper medium (2.1-5): not by worldly power but by spiritual – what is spiritual power or God’s power? how do we know what is of God?

what is the ‘wisdom’ of the Corinthians? wisdom of the world? wisdom of Mersea?
issue of eloquence – what is the effect of Paul’s own rhetoric?
what is rhetoric? in philosophy, contrasted with ‘dialectic’ – big argument in ancient philosophy, which is the background for Paul’s own argument here – can truth be discerned solely by logical analysis (dialectic – Plato, ‘philosophy’) or is it important to consider the context (rhetoric – the poets, the ‘sophists’)? rhetoric is concern with the form of an argument, the eloquence of the words
was Paul effective as a person (charismatic)? as a speaker? see 2 Cor 11.6

why counter cultural? what is being opposed, ie what wisdom – Greek ‘sensibility’ (moderation, balance, beauty) – Jewish law(?) ‘cursed be he that hangs on a tree’?
in what ways can we see the church pursuing worldly renown? when in history? when today?
1.18 – those who are perishing/ those who are being saved – what does it mean to be _being_ saved? (NB Paul doesn’t talk of those who have _been_ saved)

1.23 – the stumbling block – crucial Christian concept – consistency often obscured by being translated in different language each time – we’ll return to this!

  • compare Ps 118.22 (quoted in Mk 12.10/Lk 20) Isaiah 8.12-15, 1 Peter 2 4-10
  • literally ‘skandalon’ in Greek – something which causes offence (scandal)
  • if we can be ‘not offended’ by the cross – then we are saved
  • Mt 11.6 – “blessed is the one who takes no offence at me” – ie is not scandalised by Jesus
  • Jn 6.53-61 – teaching about communion – “Does this offend you?” – communion shares in the scandal of the cross
  • Mt 5.29 – if your right eye causes you to sin, literally ‘if your eye causes you to be scandalised’ pluck it out
  • Mt 9.42 – whoever causes one of these little ones to be scandalised….
  • Jn 16.1 – “these things I have told you so that you will not be scandalised” (go astray)

scandal is the expression of worldly values – Satanic – Jn 12.31 – consider the nature of gossip – devil is literally ‘the accuser’ – contrast with the spirit, the ‘paraclete’ – the defender (both legal terms)

1.29 – so that no-one may boast – priority of grace – to boast is to boast in the Lord, not in anything human, especially wisdom, power, wealth – in what do we rest our own sense of self? what is it that matters the most to each of us – worldly value, or God’s scale of value?