It's been a joy, and at times a challenge, to preach right through the letter of 1 Corinthians. It's healthy to take a long epistle like this, and to tackle it in a single sermon series, so we don't lose the train of Paul's thought by interrupting the series midway through. The challenge, then, is to decide how fast to go. Too fast, and you get such long blocks that the details get lost and the series is bland. Too slow, and the series simply takes too long, and we actually do lose Paul's train of thought because it's so long since we began.
One of the most glorious truths is the real hope that God offers his people. It's a real, substantial hope of a future on a renewed earth, with renewed bodies, free of suffering, with God himself living among us.
But many Christians are brought up to believe that when we die we "go to heaven".
Sometimes, the language of "heaven" is a short-hand for this earth-bound future that God promises. But other times, people picture something far more ethereal, and the language is "heaven" is actually quite unhelpful - it sells us short.
A number of us heard an extremely helpful talk this morning from Hugh Palmer, rector of All Souls Langham Place in London. He reminded a group of us, all in church leadership or pastoral ministry of some kind, to keep first things first.
Bailey’s article can be found here: http://www.theologymatters.com/TMIssues/JanFeb00.pdf. Significant because of the respect Bailey is increasingly commanding in Britain. Bailey has worked for 40 years in the Middle East, mainly in Syria. He has extensively studied contemporary Middle Eastern culture with a view to shedding light on the cultural background to the teaching of the New Testament.
Also N T Wright claims his own indebtedness to Bailey for the interpretation he adopts in his paper (see previous post).
“The Corinthians are not those to whom the ministry and word of reconciliation have been given. Rather, they are to submit to that ministry and word, given to God’s minister, Paul (6:3-4), which is directed to them.” (Barnett, op. cit., 304)
If I'm right about 2 Corinthians 5-6, there are big implications.
A lot of people today make 3 moves. 1. Jesus is more important than Paul. I trust in Jesus. I'm saved. 2. Paul is misogynistic, 1st century, badly phrased, and slightly above his station. 3. But that is a secondary issue because of #1.
Instead, 2 Corinthians 5 says that a view such as #2 requires reconciliation to God. It is to turn your back on the offer of new creation, of sins not counted against oneself, of dying, of new life not to oneself but to Christ etc. To write off Paul's ministry in that fashion is not a secondary issue, but a central and gospel issue.