Category Archives: Temple

2 Samuel 6

The Rejoicing King

Discussion Question

Make a list as a group of things in your life that you tend to take for granted.

Background (Context)

We’ve come to enjoy watching David now as we, the reader, witness this man of God, whom God has elected to be king over Israel and to shepherd them in peace, illuminate us with regard to the Kingdom of God. He has demonstrated patience and trust in the LORD to deliver him in all situations. He inquires of the LORD no matter how confident he may feel about the outcome. He wrote the laments that the people ought to cry when their king is dead or a faithful man falls at the hand of the wicked. He shows us a kingdom that is gentle, merciful as well as just and able to bring down the enemy and the wicked. This is the kingdom of God under the reign of king David. Will he show us anything new? How else does he illustrate the Kingdom of God under the LORD Jesus Christ?

Michal was David’s wife and daughter of Saul. She was taken from him by Saul and was given to another man. Before David was enthroned, he made sure that Michal was returned to his kingdom. She was torn away from her second husband also.

All Israel have come to their senses and established David as their head. He has driven out the pestering Philistines who dogged Saul all of his reign. He has captured Jerusalem and claimed it as his own. One major event needs repairing. The Philistines had carried away the Ark of God back in 1 Samuel 4. It was passed around like a hot potato until it came to rest in Kiriath Jearim, a town of Israel but not the city of the king (1 Samuel 7:1-2). The Ark of the covenant should be in the Tabernacle. God’s promises to Abraham consisted of his descendants being a great nation named the people of God, residing in the Promised Land with God’s rule and blessing. The great nation now has the land free of enemies and sitting under the rule of a great king. We need to have the Ark returned.

Read 2 Samuel X

David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. 2 He and all his men went to Baalah z in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, b the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart 4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. 5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.

6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.

8 Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah. m

9 David was afraid of the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed him and his entire household.

12 Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • All the King’s horses and men went to get the ark (1-5)
  • David’s mission fails (6-11)
  • David humbles himself before the LORD (12-15)
  • The daughter of Saul does not approve (16)
  • The people are blessed through David (17-19)
  • David explains why the daughter of Saul is wrong (20-23)

All the King’s horses and men went to get the ark (1-5)

“David again brought together all the able young men of Israel – thirty thousand…to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God…” This story begins with the strength of David and his men. It does not take 30,000 young men to carry a box! David is the leader of a great army. His mission: to bring back the ark of God.

“…the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark.” The story does not want us to underestimate the importance of this box. David is tasked to pick up the very worship piece that communicates that the God of all armies is in their midst and for Israel. It is an item of contract between God and Israel. It is not where God literally sits but it may as well be! And what does David equip himself with to pick up such an item? His army? This is not good. He wants to come to God with his own strength. We have come to know David and one who inquires of the LORD before going to battle but here there is no clue that David has inquired of the LORD about the ark mission. It’s as if he is treating the LORD Almighty as an equal.

“They set the ark of God on a new cart….Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab…guiding the new cart…Ahio was walking in front…David and all Israel were celebrating…” What a show. They made a new cart which is highlighted twice for us to stand out. Abinadab had been taking care of the ark. “Sons of” is not usually a title that creates confidence. The sons of Samuel were wicked. The sons of Eli were the same. These two examples come from the beginning of the 1-2 Samuel saga. We don’t expect good things when we here of “sons of”. And David is celebrating with all of Israel. This seems like a good thing but we’ll see that the attitude toward God is flippant. Over familiar.

David’s mission fails (6-11)

“…Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled.” Here is the problem of the story. Is this the right action? Will Uzzah be blessed or cursed because he reached out to aid the ark when it was in distress? Although we have empathy for Uzzah who may just have done by instinct what seemed right, he illustrates for us in this story that the LORD Almighty does not need a lift. The army of David had come to collect their God. They were carting him around like any other idol of the other nations. They did not inquire of the LORD and they are showing off their own strength.

“…God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.” The narrator does not tell us plainly what the error of Uzzah was. We must, firstly, respond in awe at the mystery of God who does not need to explain himself to anybody. But, secondly, we can follow the clues from the narrative that David and his people had approached God with force and might and self-sufficiency and presumption rather than with humility. A seemingly small incident of a bump in the road brought forth the anger of God for how his people were approaching Him. Again, He is not like some dumb idol, but is the living God Almighty.

“Then David was angry…” The response from David may be righteous or selfish. It is hard to pin down. Was he angry at God, at Uzzah or at himself? He was certainly frustrated with something. He renames the location where God’s wrath ‘broke out’ against Uzzah. Remember Baal Perez? Yahweh had broken out against the Philistines but now he has broken out against a priest of the ark. God is not someone whom you can tame.

“David was afraid…” David becomes sober-minded and realises that even he is not worthy to receive the ark. He feared the LORD. This turning point in the story shows us David realising that he had approached the LORD with strength when he should have approached with weakness and humility. But he aborts his plans to take the ark back to Jerusalem, the City of David.

“…he took [the ark] to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite…and the LORD blessed him and his entire household.” The form of the blessings was perhaps prosperity which coincides with many children (1 Chronicles 26:4-5). This Gittite was not an Israelite. The ark was residing with a foreigner and yet he is blessed. This gives David food for thought.

David humbles himself before the LORD (12-15)

“So David went to bring up the ark of God…with rejoicing…he sacrificed…” Verse 12-13 describe David’s mission to collect the ark taken back up again with rejoicing and a large dose of humility. The first being the act of sacrifice after only six steps from its resting place.

“Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might…” In contrast to the military David we saw in Verse 1, we now see a stripped down (literally) version of David. It is clear later that David is making no attempt to look awesome and important because it is the ark of God that he now wants to celebrate and praise with thanksgiving. He leads the humiliating praise and Israel joins with him. The ark is coming to Jerusalem and the people celebrate with shouts and the sound of trumpets. And so God’s people should when they know that the blessing of the LORD is with them. What is self-preservation and pride when God looks for a humble heart? I recall the response of the people of Jerusalem when Jesus came to them lowly and riding on a donkey. They went nuts for him!

The daughter of Saul does not approve (16)

“…Michal daughter of Saul watched…and…she despised [King David] in her heart.” When the ark of the LORD is brought to the City of David, Michal has her eyes and disdain on her husband. What is key here is that Michal is of the house of Saul (by name and by nature in this instance). No king of Israel ought to be parading around like this in her opinion. Leaping and dancing! How degrading for a king. She does more than disapprove of this decision – she despises him.

The people are blessed through David (17-19)

“…inside the tent that David had pitched for it…” This sounds quite shabby but he has placed a home for the ark in a tent as described in the books of Moses. 1 Chronicles 15:1 informs us of this preparation. He had made sure that in his City was the place where God would dwell with His people.

“…and David sacrificed…” David continues in worship before the LORD. Burnt offerings and fellowship offerings are not all for the forgiveness of sins. They are ways of worship and thanksgiving to Yahweh. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”

“…he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty. Then he gave a loaf of bread…to each person in the whole crowd…And all the people went to their homes.” This time, the LORD did not smite anyone but came to rest, and the King blessed the people and distributed food offerings to all the people. Perhaps this is a little symbol of how the LORD would be a blessing to the people through David. He blessed ALL the people and the blessing was in the name of the LORD Almighty. It is not David and his army that is shown as great at this stage of the story but the name of the LORD that has come into the City of David. There is joy in David’s humility.

David explains why the daughter of Saul is wrong (20-23).

“When David returned home…” The blessing on all the people who were free to return to their homes (V19) is followed by what David was met with when he returned to his own home. He comes to bless but he receives contempt.

“…Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him…” She is not described as the husband of David but as the daughter of Saul. Perhaps a clue from the narrator that she is speaking from the philosophy of the old camp. What we hear from her mouth is the language of pride.

“…going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls…as any vulgar fellow would!” Michal’s resentment of David may be many layers deep. But what’s on the surface here is her disapproval of the way David has presented himself before the servants of the land. To the lowly slave girls, David has paraded around in a vulgar manner – according to Michal. He has not distinguished himself from them. To her, David should have displayed an air of importance. But this is the very thing that David started out to do and he was taught, by the wrath of God, to be humble.

“It was before the LORD…I will celebrate before the LORD.” David is not the important part of this kingdom. God is. He chooses who will be king. And they are not first and foremost David’s people but God’s people. As such, David is first and foremost a member of God’s kingdom. If humility before the LORD is required, then let all the house of David show humility.

“…who chose me rather than you father…” It feels a little childish of David to bring Michal’s father into this discussion but, given the way this story ends in Verse 23, it is Michal who needs to be rebuked and David is simply stating the facts. Again, the emphasis is not on how great David is but on how God does the choosing. As for David, he will celebrate before the LORD. He cannot say, like Joshua (Josh 24:15) “as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” But he can say, I will serve the LORD.

“I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! David promises to remain humble before the LORD and not rise above where he has gone today. No matter how large his army (6:1), David will trust in the LORD and forever give praise to Him.

“But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honour.” The proud people will envy the rich and powerful but the lowly in heart and wealth will love the humble and lowly. Jesus said, blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven and the meek will inherit the earth! Michal did not understand this honour. While David experienced the joy of humility, Michal suffered the misery of pride (to paraphrase John Woodhouse, Preaching the Word: 2 Samuel).

“And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.” This is a familiar reference to misery in the Old Testament narratives. Obed-Edom was blessed with many children but Michal was not. Saul’s house is included in this reference to misery. It was the pride of Saul, his disobedience and inability to truly repent that saw his downfall. We must not conclude that anyone without children is cursed by God. That is taking a generalised symbol of the Old Testament too far.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

Our God is not a dumb and passive idol but the living God who blesses those who come to him in humility and in truth. He does not look for strength but a thankful heart that rejoices in His strength. It is not we who carry Him but He who dwells with us. Humility is a virtue that turns our hearts to the true God in rejoicing. Pride is an evil which blinds us to the graciousness of God.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: We must never carry a flippant attitude toward God. This definitely includes a flippant or casual attitude toward the LORD Jesus Christ. David’s power and strength were only the result of waiting on the LORD Almighty for deliverance. Yahweh owes David nothing. We are not equals with Jesus but indebted to him (with a debt that we cannot pay and he does not demand). The church that we build, the reputation that we carry are no comparison to the work that God has done for us at the cross. He is our righteousness. He delivered and called the church into being. He made us a people who were not a people. In our attitude toward God, in church and everywhere else, let us recognise that He is the LORD Almighty who choses to dwell with us out of His great mercy toward us. We only love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Topic B: Sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. If you could inherit the greatest kingdom the world has ever known and all you had to do was give praise and thanks for that – would you do it? As your mother always said (I’m guessing), “Thank you’s don’t cost you anything!” David offered free-will sacrifices to God. They were costly. God has given us an inheritance that will never spoil, perish or fade. He has done this through the sacrifice of His Son who now lives and dwells in our hearts through the Holy Spirit! I often wonder why it is so hard to celebrate the gift of forgiveness and having peace with God. David almost showed the people what it looks like to celebrate and sacrifice with praise. We sing at church because that is what Christians do and have done throughout the centuries. The people of God sang Psalms. The disciples sang with Jesus  (Matthew 26:30). The church in the New Testament sang (Acts 16:25; 1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16). Even as ‘Anglicans’ we could learn to praise genuinely. “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16

Topic C: Pride and humility. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom”. Proverbs 11:2. Of course, we can take pride in something as a job well done. But that is not on display here. Michal wanted David to be distinguished and untouchable. She was bitter toward him because of it. David saw humility as a lesson learned and one that he will learn again. His joy was in praising where the praise was due. Sure, he was the king of Israel and he did have a large army. But heaven forbid that he should rob the LORD Almighty. If David was to show pride it would be in the LORD’s work and not his own. “For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16.

Luke 21:1-4

The truth about generosity

Discussion Question

What is the smallest coin that you would stop and pick up off the ground as you past by? This question opens up the discussion of wealth and value if some say that anything below, say, 20c (or $1) is not worth picking up.

Background

When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem in Chapter 19 he was surrounded by a crowd who praised God for him. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were not happy with the crowd’s reception of him nor the way that Jesus rebuked the practices in the temple. The Jewish leaders wanted Jesus gone but feared the many who loved and respected him.

The church leaders approached Jesus three times in Chapter 19 to challenge him, trap him or mock his theology. Jesus responded to each confrontation with wisdom that was not refuted. He closed Chapter 20 with a description of the teachers of the law as those who like to strut like beautiful birds, loved and praised and respected by all and yet they devour widows’ houses. They are not to be trusted.

Read Luke 20:45-21:4

45 While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

 

21 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

What did you see?

Structure

  • Jesus describes the evil of the teachers of the law (20:45-47)
  • What Jesus saw (21:1-2)
  • What Jesus said about it (21:3-4)

Jesus describes the evil of the teachers of the law (20:45-47)

See the notes from the previous section which both concludes the challenges to Jesus of Chapter 20 and connects us directly to the topic of Luke 21:1-4. Note especially Jesus’ description of their flowing robes and of devouring widows’ houses. Exodus 39 describes the detail of the clothing that was to be worn by those who ministered in the sanctuary, and the robe is mentioned in Verses 22-26. Exodus 35:4-29 describes the instruction for all of Israel who are willing to give, to bring an offering for the construction (and maintenance) of the tabernacle and priestly garments. What the teachers of the law wore, was the byproduct of the free-will gifts of faithful believers.

What ought the teachers of Israel be like? The opposite of course! Their prayers ought to be genuine, an act of faith rather than for show. They ought to be an example of godliness for others to imitate and follow. They ought to love and take care of the widows rather than devouring the vulnerable.

The reason for including these verses are to provide the context for the next 4 Verses. It is not a story in isolation and therefore we need to examine what we are being taught in its context.

What Jesus saw (21:1-2)

“As Jesus looked up, he saw…” It is significant that what follows in these verses is not a parable that Jesus told in order to make a point, but a narrative description of what Jesus actually saw following his dark description of the teachers of the law.

“…he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.” The first question might be, what was the temple treasury and what were the guidelines for giving to it. What was the giving spent on? Luke and the other gospel writers do not expand much on details of the giving. In the earliest years of Israel, taxes or tithes were required for the upkeep of the temple (or tabernacle) and for the Levites since they did not have a land inheritance but were dependant on the produce of the 11 other tribes of Israel. See Deut 18:1-5; 14:22-27, also Neh 10:32-39. We should conclude as little as the text suggests for us to come away with. There was a receptacle (perhaps 13 according to Josephus the Jewish historian) intended for free will offerings going into the temple funds. See Exodus 35 and 39 as mentioned in the previous section. The gifts were meant to be free-will gifts.

What we should not miss is the continuing theme of paying tribute which began in Luke 20:9-16, continued in Luke 20:21 and completes its journey in this passage. God the Father has sent his son who is being rejected by the teachers of the law. These teachers are not working for God’s kingdom but are walking around with flowing robes and devouring widows. While a poor widow is giving all that she has to God.

Note that Jesus is not condemning the rich for giving gifts. They will simply be used as a comparison to the poor widow’s giving later. The fact that the gifts are going into the temple treasury is significant and we’ll reflect more on that later.

“He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.” The key features of this sentence is the emphasis on poor and the very small amount of money that was offered. It is plain to see in the english but ought to be emphasised. They are two lekma which, guess what, are two very small insignificant coins.

So, before we move to what Jesus has to say about this, let’s consider the THREE things that Jesus has seen. 1) a poor widow giving money to the temple treasury, 2) rich people also giving to the same account and 3) the teachers of the law (the priests) strutting around in flowing robes, looking praiseworthy but all the while ripping off widows.

What Jesus said about it (21:3-4)

“Truly I tell you…” Whenever Jesus starts a sentence like this, he means something like, ‘I kid you not’ or ‘let me be quite frank about this.’ He really means for us to listen to what he says and pay attention.

“…this poor widow has put in more than all the others…she [gave] out of her poverty…” This statement from Jesus leads many to conclude that the point of this passage is to encourage generous giving. Giving is not about the actual amount but about the sacrifice made by the giver. This lady represents someone who puts more value in the kingdom of God than she does in her own stomach. In this case, she certainly stands as a mascot for sacrificial giving. In support of this conclusion we recall the teaching of Jesus to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him. We can see that she is denying herself.

In contrast, we see, not only the rich who are giving (and presumably only enough to still be referred to as rich), but those who are walking around in their flowing robes because of the generosity of people like this widow. Where is the kingdom heart of the teachers of the law? Jesus has accused them of devouring widows. Is this what he has in mind? Exodus 22:22; Deut 10:18; 14:29; 24:17, 19-21; 26:12-13 – these verses highlight the importance of looking after widows at the same time as looking after the Levites. This widow ought not to have only two mites to her name. The Law of Moses does not prescribe a system where the poor give their last money to the temple. This is the perfect illustration of how the teachers of the law had no right to be in such positions of power. They were not seeking the kingdom of God and ought to look at that poor widow with shame. She has done infinitely better than any of them.

What did we learn?

The teachers of the law had seen Jesus of Nazareth and made every attempt to derail him, rather than give him the honour he is due. The poor widow demonstrates how corrupt the whole system had become, how unlike the kingdom of God the leaders were behaving and how hypocritical they were for happily taking from the rich and oppressed alike while failing to do their task in humility and justice – especially the task of seeing Jesus as Lord.

Now what?

Topic A: Why do we give? Surely we give because we see a need and believe it to be worth supporting. If it is not something that the world needs, unless by law you are required to give anyway, then perhaps we ought not give to it. In the Old Testament, God instructed Israel to build the tabernacle and described how it would be furnished and how the ministers would be clothed. The centre of the Old Testament faith was obeying God when he knew where and how the forgiveness of sins would take place. The Levites had no means for self-funding and so the community were to provide for them. Widows and orphans and foreigners lacked any land ownership and so they were to be provided for also. The New Testament teaches us that we no longer require a specially furnished place or priests for the forgiveness of sins since Christ is the Temple and the sacrifice! In Galatians 6:1-10, Paul describes the importance of carrying your own load as well as helping others with their load. He draws together the burden of sin and of the cost of living as if it is all part of the same bucket. We are in it together. But not like a commune where everybody shares the wealth. More like an other-person-centred community where we honestly care about one another’s spiritual walk and daily needs. If you see something necessary in this world which does not have the means to support itself, then get behind it.

Topic B: How much should we give? Putting a figure on this is a-kin to declaring that your money is yours except for the bit that you give to God. 1 Timothy 6:6-7 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” These two verses go hand in hand. Living for God and being content with that decision is great gain – we surrender everything knowing that the kingdom of God is greater than anything we have acquired on this earth between cradle and grave.

Topic C: Are we the poor or the wealthy? With so much ‘stuff’ we have all around us, it is easy to feel the weight of money-trouble. We can feel poor because we have debt! Perhaps we gather and own so much because we a) worry about tomorrow as if God is not really in control of it or b) we do not have the resurrection hope in our minds when we live day to day. Luke 21:1-4 does not teach us how much we ought to give but it does illustrate a woman who invested in the kingdom of God over her own kingdom. Jesus spoke clearly about choosing which kingdom to live for in Matthew 6:19-24. The widow may not have seen herself as poor in kingdom currency.

Study 9 – 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Using your temple wisely

Discussion Question

What sort of things do you think every person has a right to?

Background

Let’s not forget how Paul greeted the church in Corinth back in chapter 1. They are the church of God, sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy. Yet the way they are thinking and behaving does not fit with that description. They were quarreling over which leader is the greatest and thinking like people of this world. They were even taking one another to court over matters that could have been resolved with Christian wisdom and unity. And they had somehow allowed sexual immorality to become commendable! Things that even pagans would condemn were being practiced by members of the church. They were not behaving as the people of God.

Paul had instructed them to celebrate and nurture the community of God, cleansed by the blood of the Passover Lamb and love being a community devoted to pursuing holiness – keeping the Festival as though they themselves are unleavened bread. In Chapter 6 Verses 1 to 11, it seems that they were more concerned with their rights than they were with Christian living and forgiveness.

Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”d 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.e

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. They were once sinners but now they have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God. They need to learn to be the people that God has made them to be.

What did you see?

Structure

  • Rejecting hyper spirituality (12-13)
  • The melding of body and soul (14-17)
  • Trashing someone else’s property (18-20)

Rejecting hyper spirituality (12-13)

“I have the right to do anything” This sentiment is quoted twice by Paul to mimic what he believes the Corinthians to be saying. How pointed to the age that we live in. Which comes as no surprise because sin, when left unchecked, grows into a tree of self worth and the rejection of care for others or God. Human rights is an important topic but to say that we have the right to do anything is not thoughtful on the implications on others. What did the Corinthians have in mind? Well, if you have been taught that Christ’s death has paid for your sins completely (Romans 8:1) and that keeping the Jewish laws are no longer included in the New Covenant, (Acts 19:9-15), then this surely gives us liberty and freedom to eat and enjoy the good things in life without concern. “We are free in Christ” has become for them: “We have the right to do anything.”

“…but not everything is beneficial…I will not be mastered by anything.” Paul has two responses to the statement, “I have the right to do anything”, which are both about discipline and wisdom. From the very beginning, mankind has been given the challenge to be wise. Think about the test in the garden of Eden with regards to the fruit. Binge TV watching is a Christian liberty but is it really beneficial? Enjoying the things of this life is excellent but if something becomes an addiction, is that really helpful? Something may begin as a liberty but grow into a demand. Should I mention coffee? Alcohol? Candy-crush? What about TV and movies with nudity/course language and anything that can train us in ungodliness? What other things could fit the category of not beneficial or possibly addictive?

“Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” This local man-made proverb is capturing the idea that we are just inhabiting a temporary body which will disappear one day and so let’s not care about it. Faith and worship are about the spirit. The body is for food (and sex) and they will not be coming to heaven with us – or so the idea goes. What Paul goes on to talk about is a push-back on the idea that the body does not matter.

“The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” Paul has moved from the proverb about food to what he’s really concerned about: sexual immorality. This is the theme of chapters 5 to 7. We are not made in order to abuse sex. All things that are good in this world come from God. Sex, money and power all have their place when used for the glory of God. But all three can be misused and abused to the detriment of ourselves and others. Our bodies – our fleshly, creaturely matter – are meant for the Lord. And Paul will continue to explain what he means by “and the Lord for the body.”

Notice in Verses 12 and 13 how the Corinthians are celebrating a transient life – what they do in the here and now has no effect on eternity. This is an extreme misuse of the doctrine of grace. But pushes back on this hyper-spirituality and says that the body matters!

The melding of body and soul (14-17)

“By his power God raised the Lord from the dead…” In order to place emphasis on the body, Paul goes to the resurrection! It is no light matter that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead! It is also no light matter that Jesus was made flesh to begin with in order to die! Salvation occurred through the body of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“…and he will raise us also.” The bodily resurrection. A Christian doctrine that says we will not be spirits in the sky but, with a new heaven and a new earth, we will also have new bodies. This current passage is putting emphasis on the point of bodies. The body is meant for the Lord and the Lord for the body. When God gave us life, he also gave us bodies. Our flesh and bones mean something to God. When mankind was made, we were described as being in the image of God. When Adam first laid eyes on Eve, he said “Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” This can have multiple implications but he is saying that they are both flesh! As Christ was raised in bodily form, so we will be raised in body. Jesus is described as the firstborn from among the dead (Colossians 1). His resurrection is not the only one, but the body of Christ will rise in Him also. So, I’ve opened a can of worms, I’m sure. Cremation vs burial. Do we sleep when we die or do we rise straight away? How old will we be in the new heaven and earth? Good questions which I will not answer here.

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?” Now Paul introduces a new level of complexity. We are not simply talking about his body was important and so ours is also. Paul now reminds us that, as Christians, we have died with Christ and we rise and live with him (Romans 6)! Being part of the body of Christ is not just an illustration for church life! There is something extremely practical and real about actually being attached or united with Christ.

“Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!” So, the sexual immorality is unveiled a little here and we see that prostitutes are involved. Unfortunately, some people even in our church may need to hear Paul’s words here. Let’s quickly remind one another also that Jesus equated the thoughts of the mind with adultery in Matthew 5:27-28. The Corinthians may have had easy access to prostitutes in temple worship (most commentaries will talk about that) but we have so much access to virtual prostitution through porn.

“Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body?” This is an amazing statement. It’s all too common to here the idea that sex is just biology. Paul is arguing for a deeper connection with the body and the spirit in this passage. We are united with Christ in the body. When we unite with somebody in sex, there is a connection that transcends probably anything else. Paul wants us to hear that it’s not just biology.

“For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”” Paul quotes from Genesis 2:24. Sex is for marriage and marriage is the place for sex. Our society has so cheapened sex and likewise cheapened marriage. In God’s wisdom, he has created us to be united closest through this physical act. That does not mean that every sexual act is a highly spiritual one. Life is messed up because of sin. But, all things being equal, sex is a wonderful gift of God given for the purpose of bonding two human beings together – for life. Does that mean that if someone has engaged in casual sex is now married with that person in the eyes of God? No. But understanding the place, purpose, and origin of sex teaches us that our bodies were made for a reason. We are not spirits, we are flesh and blood. Our bodies are united with Christ and they are also the temple of the Holy Spirit…

“But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” This sounds awfully new agey and quite bold to think that we can say, “I am one with the Lord in spirit!”  Ever thought that? Paul wants us to stop thinking 2-dimensionally (or 3 or 4 for that matter). When we are here in body, we are also one with God in spirit. There is a unity between body and spirit. Paul wants us to understand the link between our bodies and our spirit and the union of our body with the Spirit of God.

Trashing someone else’s property (18-20)

“Flee from sexual immorality.” I love these direct applications in the bible. Get out of there! See some sexual immorality threats? Run the other way. In case of personally engaging in sexual immorality – run for your freaking life. In the positive, cultivate habits and thought patterns that entertain godly living. In the negative or defensive mode, shut out opportunities for sexual immorality, learn to cry out to God for help when tempted and speak to someone about dangers that you might face. Paul continues to stress why sexual immorality is particularly harmful.

“All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” Paul takes his lesson to the next level. And it is quite a curious thing to say. It fits perfectly with the train of thought so far…if sex means that the two will become one flesh…that sounds quite huge. But gluttony might seem similar. Or self-harm? So, sexual sin is categorised as something that changes you. Let’s remember the two things that Paul said to begin with: not everything is beneficial and I won’t be mastered by anything. Two pair oneself with another liberally is by no means beneficial once we’ve heard Paul’s teaching of the union which that creates. Sexual immorality in deed or in thought can be quite dominating and a dangerous master. For Paul to say that it is a sin against your own body! That’s sobering to hear. Then he says:

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” Wow! The great promise of Christ to his disciples was that he must go and he will send the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are not alone because the Spirit of Christ and of the Father are with us (John 14:26; 15:26). I have not the space to talk in detail about the temple and its purpose through the scriptures – except that it is where God dwells with his people. While once it was a physical structure in the centre of Jewish life, Christ declared himself to be the temple when he said, “knock that down and in three days I will rebuild it!” John 2:19-21. Paul has taught us that the Spirit of Christ is in us. This is not to say Christ’s Spirit but the Spirit sent from the Father in the name of Christ. Our bodies are the dwelling place of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. This verse has been abused to teach against smoking cigarettes and eating healthy etc. But clearly the context is about sexual immorality! Can you extend the principal though to smoking? I don’t think you can. Paul said that all other sins are outside the body but sexual sin is different. (it is not a good idea to smoke cigarettes nor eat an unhealthy diet – not all things are beneficial).

“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” This is perhaps the mic-drop moment of Paul’s talk here. We’ve come from the thought that we have the right to do whatever we want with our bodies to this final statement that you don’t even own your own body. Salvation has come to you at a price. It was through the death of Christ physically on the cross. Because of that, we have the Spirit within us. In what sense are we free to do whatever we want? The conclusion, though, is not then to be told what to do with our bodies but to honor God. That is surely what we would want right? If not, then why turn to Christ? We have been given a new life through Christ. Paul is not asking us to become prunes, but to honor God with our lives. Like he says in Colossians 3:17, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

What did we learn?

Freedom in Christ does not mean that we begin to ruin our souls through sin. We are saved by grace and now live sanctified lives through the Spirit of God and our bodies are involved in the plans of God. He created us with bodies and the resurrection will somehow include resurrected bodies. The place of sex is also a sacred thing in the eyes of God. We now live with the Spirit of God within us and we ought to think like the sanctified people of God, thinking and acting with wisdom and self-control.

Now what?

Topic A: Where might we find the freedom we have in Christ being subverted with unwise living? See the notes for examples like TV watching. How do we spot the difference between being wise and being a prune?

Topic B: Live your spiritual life naturally and your natural life spiritually. This is a quote seen on a sign in front of a church somewhere in Australia. What do you think of this saying? Does Paul agree with this statement according to 1 Corinthians 6:12-20?

Topic C: Understanding the balance between grace and discipline. Grace means that we get rewarded despite not deserving nor earning it. Christ paid the price so that we could be rewarded with his righteousness – not what we have done but what Christ has done. Not who we are but who Christ is. We stand uncondemned because of Christ and we can never repay him for what he has given us by grace. Discipline is about choosing wisely and acting with thought and self-control. Making plans and sticking to them. Deciding to do productive and beneficial things and saying no to other things which we could become enslaved to. These could appear contrary to one another. However, all the discipline in the world will not save us – we need the grace and mercy of God. Once saved, we recognise that we do not want to be married to sin any longer and so we must flee. Living a disciplined life does not make us any closer to God than a fish. Living a saved life will spur us on to love and good deeds because of the hope we have for eternity.