Christianity 201

July 7, 2019

Worshiping God vs. Worshiping Government

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Last Sunday, my wife, myself, and each of our two sons were at four different worship services; four different churches. Though the following day was Canada Day, the national anthem was not sung at any of them this year, which is especially interesting when you consider that the Canadian national anthem is a prayer. (“God keep our land, glorious and free…”)

In the U.S., where statistically, most of the people will be reading this, it’s highly probable that your Sunday morning worship service contained some mention of the 4th of July or some other element involving nation, government, the President, etc. You probably have a U.S. flag at the front of your worship space. I’m not here to say whether that’s right or wrong, it simply is.

So this week I was especially struck by this verse:

“So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours”
~ 1 Corinthians 3:21

I might be reading something into the verse that readers even a few decades ago would not recognize. Still, let’s look at the larger principles.

At the web forum ebible.com the answer given juxtaposes different spiritual leaders; not the conflict between spiritual and civic/federal leaders:

This is not an easy passage to understand simply by looking at v. 21 alone. We need to look at the context of Paul’s argument and how “all things are yours” fit in it.

The larger context is Paul’s rebuke of the Corinthian church’s division between those who claim to follow Paul or Apollos (v. 4-6). This is natural considering the prominent roles both men play in the life of the Corinthian church. Paul uses the building analogy, more specifically temple, to remind the believers that the foundation is Christ and they are the temple. Paul reminds them of the futility of the worldly wisdom in v. 18 and the foolishness of men’s wisdom since the division is the result of boasting on certain man’s wisdom. So Paul writes, “Let no one boast in men.” The underlying reason is “All things are yours.” Starting with teachers, Paul, Apollos, and Cephas. They are “yours.” They are in the ministry to help the believers to grow in Christ. The believers do not belong to these teachers but rather they do. Paul then goes on to include everything in all sense (world, life, death, present and future) ringing with the truths in Romans 8 where all things work together for our good. The crux of the argument is that all these are ours because we belong to Christ who belongs to the Father. All this to say, therefore, there is no boasting anything but in Christ with whom we are co-heirs. Their ownership of everything should quiet all boasting based on to whom they owe their allegiance.

At VerseByVerseCommentary.com, the emphasis is the similar, but could be read in terms of different people in the same congregation having different opinions politically. (But of course that would never happen, would it?)

No Christian should put ultimate truth in the authority of man. This always causes divisions in the local church. All of God’s revelation is at our disposal so why should we get caught up in the wisdom of men?

Human wisdom is not permanent but temporal. There are two essential approaches to truth today: the natural and the supernatural. The one believes that all that one can know is bound within nature; the other believes that there is a God and that He has spoken. The person who believes that the natural is all that there is can never come to an ultimate certainty about anything, for he has delimited himself to finiteness. The believer who knows this can claim his status and assets to live the Christian life.

At Ellicott’s Bible Commentary at BibleHub.com, the emphasis is also on the danger of following spiritual teacher “A” or spiritual teacher “B”, but again, look at the language used in the first sentence:

Let party-spirit cease. Do not degrade yourselves by calling yourselves after the names of any man, for everything is yours—then teachers only exist for you. The enthusiasm of the Apostle, as he speaks of the privileges of Christians, leads him on beyond the bare assertion necessary to the logical conclusion of the argument, and enlarging the idea he dwells, in a few brief and impressive utterances, on the limitless possessions—in life and in death, in the present life and that which is future—which belong to those who are united with Christ. But they must remember that all this is theirs because they “are Christ’s.” They are possessors because possessed by Him.

Matthew Henry’s commentary on this passage, at Christianity.com, shows a different emphasis.

All this should teach us to be humble, and make us willing to be taught of God, so as not to be led away, by pretenses to human wisdom and skill, from the simple truths revealed by Christ. Mankind are very apt to oppose the design of the mercies of God.

But where Henry expresses the key in terms of humility, the Reformation Study Bible at BibleGateway.com looks at the phrase “all things are yours” in terms of jealousy:

This principle demonstrates the pettiness and absurdity of the Corinthians’ quarreling. If we belong to Christ, then because of Him all things belong to us (Rom. 8:17, 38, 39; Heb. 1:2), and jealousy can have no place in our lives.

Conclusion

Commentators over the years have found different applications in this verse, even looking contextually at the larger passage.

  • worldly vs. human wisdom
  • quarreling vs. peace
  • unity vs. division
  • identification with a “party” vs. identification “in Christ”
  • humility vs. reliance on human skills and abilities

They could not have anticipated political discussions and divisions in the church lobby, or coming from the pulpit. Those writers could not have anticipated the climate of our day, especially in the United States, where political opinion overshadows everything including our fellowship at church.

Is it time for a spiritual reset in our local churches and denominations in terms of how everything is polarized and everything is either black or white?