Basics of New Testament Worship (1)


A Brief Introduction to 1 Corinthians

Christ is the Wisdom and Power of God

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

1 Corinthians 1:18-19

In verse 17 Paul began to take a turn into a discussion of the contrast between human wisdom, and the wisdom of God. Keeping context in mind, this comes as Paul’s explanation for why the division is taking place in the Corinthian church community. In this subsection, Paul appears to be making the case that wisdom in this world brings about a great social divide between the wise and the unwise; the strong and the weak. This may seem like a rather strange line of reasoning for many of us today, but let’s pause a moment and consider…

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Paul Opens His Letter

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philemon 1-3

In his customary manner, Paul begins this letter by saying who the senders are, and to whom it is written. Since we have inferred that it was sent at the same time as his letter to the Colossians, it is very interesting to compare the two openings:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

Colossians 1:1-2

Aside from the obvious difference in recipients, it appears identical… well, almost. Notice that in his letter to the Colossian church, Paul describes himself as “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”, and in Philemon, he describes himself as “Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus”.

Why do they differ?

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An Introduction to Philemon

Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here. Colossians 4:7-9

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Reason for Concern

Acts 5:17-26

While the followers of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit, the priests and teachers of the law were full of something quite different: jealousy. Consequently, they ordered that the apostles be arrested and thrown into jail. At some point during the night, the angel of the Lord came to the apostles and released them from custody, and commanded that they resume their teaching in the temple courts the next morning.

When morning came, they were once again in the temple courts teaching about the “new life”. As the Sanhedrin assembled, none of them had noticed what was going in the courts outside, and they sent for the apostles to be brought in, only to discover that the jail was locked up tight, the guards still posted at the door… and the cells were empty. Suddenly someone comes running in with the shocking news that their prisoners were out in the temple courts teaching another crowd of people!


The Curious Affair of Ananias and Sapphira

Acts 5:1-11

Two things are vital to the understanding of this most curious little affair: First, we must recognize that this is a part of the same narrative as 4:32-37. We must not be confused by the chapter break which is entirely arbitrary and added centuries later. Second, we must properly understand what is meant by “kept back” in verse 2.

Luke has just given his readers the example of Barnabas in 4:35-36, an example of sincere giving that recognized both the authority of the apostles and the legitimate needs of some of the community of believers. In this passage, Luke provides an example of something that was not so sincere. It would appear that Ananias and Sapphira were rich enough to own real property and that they have announced their intention to sell it and give the entire proceeds of the sale to the apostles to be used in their ministry of benevolence, but when the sale had been completed and Ananias had delivered the sale proceeds, he did not set all at the apostles’ feet, having “Kept back” some of the money.

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