THE OLD COVENANT versus THE NEW COVENANT
AND THE PICTURE MOSAIC
(Pursuant of Acts and the Epistles) (Part 1)
Acts of the Apostles
John baptized with water for the sake of reform (old); with Jesus the baptism is based on the Holy Spirit for the sake of cleansing and communion (new).
Curiously, they cast lots (as of old) to make the final choice of the replacement 12th Apostle, as opposed to consulting God directly.
Actual Pentecost fulfillment (new).
In Peter’s discourse, he announces you must reform and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ that your sins may be forgiven; then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Quoting Joel 2:31, the sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon into blood, he bears witness to these prophesied events. The light (of Jesus) was darkened by death; his comforter (the Holy Spirit) was turned into blood. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: opening the path for the Gentiles (new).
Only Luke in Acts (also 4:32-37; 5:12-16) gives some vision of what early Christian communal life was like. The Palestine communities were obviously unique insofar as many of the apostles were still alive and establishing notoriety through their performing of great miracles. Outside of Palestine, away from the temple authorities, the Gentiles were more receptive to the Good News. Unfortunately, the epistles which follow the Book of Acts shed very little light on how the Gentile-Christian converts spent their days or conducted their religious observances, except as noted by Paul and others of their constant discord and the proliferation of false teachers and prophets. They were generally advised (by Paul) not to abide by Jewish customs and holydays. Beyond communion and the Eucharist, much of their time was probably spent working, praying in the spirit, teaching and learning together, as well as holding sessions of prophesying and speaking in tongues. Their counterpart to our daily Mass may have involved serving the community needs of the poor and faithful, while assessing the threats of social and political reactions against them.
Jesus is the fulfillment (new) of what the Lord promised through Moses in Deut 18:18-19. “I will raise up for them a Prophet like Moses from among his people; and I will put my words into his mouth, and he shall tell them all that I command him … If any man will not listen to my words, which he speaks in my name, I will make him answer for it.” Thus Jesus’ words are life (for those who believe) and death (for those who do not).
Old: 10% tithe, plus special giving from time to time for the sanctuary and other needs. New: As cash is donated or as property and other assets are sold, the proceeds are given to the community – to be held in common, and distributed accordingly. This actually corresponds to original intent for sanctuary giving: from every person you shall accept the contribution that his heart prompts him to give (Ex 25:2). Vexation: While this practice is commendable and seems mutually beneficial, is the economics of this a kind of Ponzi scheme? As long as the Church is growing and bringing in new converts, especially wealthy or propertied persons, the treasury is flourishing and self-sustaining. What happens when the outreach stops branching out or when the rich realize that the Parousia is no longer imminent in their lifetimes and the fresh cash stops coming in and there is no more extensive holdings to be sold? Communal living is a utopia state of division, not growth, and certainly not a business dynamic or the blue print for commercial production. In practice, this is a bit like Paul’s declaration never to preach in places where Christ’s name is already known: sooner or later, with enough time and an abundance of missionary effort, he will run out of places to preach.
Communal living implies communal love for one another – oddly disrespected in the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, who were not given the chance to repent of their actions. [Historically, the official explanation has been that they lied to the Holy Spirit, a kind of blasphemy deserving of death.]
Spared from death, the apostles were nevertheless whipped for their prophetic preaching. Persecution against Christianity or the ‘new way’, as it was originally called, would become quite common.
Almost ignoring Christ’s message at the last supper, the Twelve do not think it meet that they should be pulled away from the ministry in order to wait on tables.
Stephen’s martyrdom exemplified the true Christian ideal (filled with the Holy Spirit) and ordeal of dying for Christ’s sake. Saul (Paul) was approving witness to this execution.
In Samaria, a baptism made in the name of the Lord (old) has to be followed by the imposition of hands in order to receive the Holy Spirit (new).
Conversion of (Jewish) Saul into (Christian) Paul. Once a hard-nosed, cruel and ardent tool of the establishment, he was to become the instrument by which Jesus’ name would be made known to the Gentiles, so that they may obtain a portion among God’s people (26:18).
Vision of Peter obliged to eat unclean food (new), rather than ritually prescribed clean food (old). What God has cleansed, let no man call common (15). God has also shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean (28). He plays no favorites, and He alone tells us what is right or wrong (34). Vexingly, they were blessed with the Holy Spirit before being baptized in water (44-48).
Forasmuch as God had given them the same gift as he had given us, who was I to withstand God? Religious strength was shifting from Jerusalem to Antioch, where believers were called ‘Christians’ for the first time.
Peter is rescued from prison through the intervention of an angel.
Through this man is preached the forgiveness of sins: you who believe now have remission from all those charges you could never be acquitted of under the Law of Moses (new).
In past ages, the Lord let all nations walk in their own ways, notwithstanding bestowing benefits on them all.
Elders or presbyters (new) were installed in each church.
For the devout Jew, the Old Law was a blessing; for the incoming Gentiles it was a burden. New: The Council of Jerusalem (circa year 50) decides to remove or delimit previous prohibitions of Jewish customs. Gentile converts would not have to be circumcised or forced to follow strict dietary laws. However, partaking of blood and illicit sex were still prohibited. All are saved by the favor of Jesus.
Paul uses the Athenians shrine ‘To a God Unknown’ to break into his sermon on the one true God. As opposed to one chosen nation (old), God has truly created from one stock and one blood all the nations of the earth, and set their appointed times and boundaries, so that each of them may grope for him in their various ways and each of them personally reach out for him, though he be never far away.
References apparently show the Jewish Paul still practicing or honoring the (Israelite) dedication of the (old) Nazarite vow.
Paul discovers that John had already baptized people as far away as Ephesus (from eastern Turkey).
The group broke bread together on the first day of the week, the day after Sabbath (new).
Remembering the words of Jesus, it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Paul’s constant retelling of his commission to open their eyes and turn them from darkness into light. Through their faith in Jesus, they may obtain forgiveness of sins.
Salvation came first to the Jew, then the Gentiles. In Moses’ time, the just man lived according to the Law, which could convict, but could rarely bless except by living rightly. New: the just man shall live by faith (Hab 2:4 – original intent).
Picture Mosaic: Salvation depends on faith because the justice of God begins and ends with faith.
As a dogmatic curiosity, some Gentiles are herein presumed to have kept the law as if by instinct, as though written in their hearts, despite the earlier convictions in 1:18-32. A real Jew is one who keeps the law and not just is circumcised on the outside (Deut 10:16 – original intent, circumcise the foreskin of your heart).
The Law simply brings a knowledge of sin; no flesh is justified by it. All have sinned, and come short the glory of God. All men are now undeservedly justified by the gift of God, through redemption wrought by Jesus. A celestial conflict now ensues in shades of ‘the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force’ (Matt 11:12). No man may boast of holiness, since it is not by the law or by works (old), but by faith (new). A similarity may be drawn to ‘no, it is not because of your merits or the integrity of your heart that you will take possession of the Promised Land’ (Deut 9:5). Nevertheless, faith does not void the law; it confirms it. Even in Old Testament times, the Israelites kept observance of the Law through their own kind of sincere faith. In the New, that fundamental faith is re-directed toward the Father who gave us the Law and the Son who fulfilled them.
Old: A promise was made that Abraham’s descendants would receive God’s covenant and by faith in God’s word he accepted it.
Picture Mosaic: The ‘salvation’ promise made to Abraham was not directed toward his descendants in general, i.e., all of them will be saved; but that some of them would accept his faith and that one of his descendants (Jesus) would succeed in satisfaction of the law and be accorded heavenly salvation. The descendancy was likewise not restricted by bloodline, since Jesus on his father’s side was not actually of Abraham’s seed.
Were there no law, there would be no transgression, and no need for accommodating ourselves to God’s holy manners or to conform to righteous living. By failing in the law, we seek God’s grace as a way of escaping its harmful consequences. The bridge between sin and grace is another law: the law of faith. Vexation: If the Gentiles could be credited with virtually following the law as if by instinct (above), should they not also, like the Israelites, have failed in that instinct from time to time? Being altogether bereft of Moses’ written laws, should they not have been even more prone to sinning? Or else had God already placed the demands of the law in their hearts prior to its fulfillment for the Jews (I shall write the law on their inward parts)? How is it then that the Canaanites (former Gentiles) were constantly moved by pride and aggression to attack their neighbors and prevent the influx of God’s chosen people?
Old: The failure to follow God’s laws made us godless men, subject to his wrathful punishment. New: While we were still sinners, God died for us. Underlying message: As sinners, we were an offense to righteousness, an enemy of God. Ironically by Christian comportment (to love his enemies), God would then send his son to die for us, and his Holy Spirit to pour forgiveness over us. Vexation: The ‘sin’ of God resides in his global failure to create a perfect man [God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good (Gen 1:31)]. How does the Almighty cleanse himself of this incidental sin? Offering the blood of his only son Jesus is counter to his own law that fathers are not supposed to be put to death for their children, nor children for their fathers (Deut 24:16). A clever and timely solution to this legal dilemma was found in declaring him chosen, but not fully accepted as Christ until after his death and resurrection, being now truly God-like.
Picture Mosaic: God has no (divine) adversaries or anyone who could challenge his plans. Therefore, he creates his own adversaries and conflicting circumstances in order to glorify his name [e.g. Pharaoh’s chariots (Ex 14:4; Rom 9:16-17); healing (John 9:1-41)]. Otherwise some of his actions are important lessons meant to either inspire disciples to greater faith or to confound and/or convict the wicked.
God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And the love of God freely shed through him is now infused into the hearts of all who believe.
Old: The situational ethics of Genesis has determined that ‘man’ as a creature must die. Through one man (Adam) sin entered the world, and with sin death, even upon all of mankind who did not know the law or participate in its transgression. Enough already that the law brought realization of ‘sin’, its full understanding and expression increased our sins until a single offense brought universal condemnation. New: Now through one righteous act – the death of a wholly obedient man on the cross – all men are acquitted. We know sin reigns in life by its signaling forth of death; we believe grace reigns across a symbolic death by opening the way to justice and eternal life.
Christ had to die in order to be resurrected. Those who would follow him must likewise be baptized into his death, like a baby bursting from his mother’s fluids into a new birth. Our old sinful self must continually choose to stay crucified to the slavery of sin by becoming slaves to Christ’s righteous ways. Those living in grace are not unchained in order that they may sin at will, expecting to be (self) justified. The wages of sin is death. To be sure, the Devil never fails to pay out sin’s earnings promptly and painfully; whereas Justice belays or garnishes all wages, upcoming his gift of sacred existence.
Picture Mosaic: Freedom from the law too often is interpreted as a license to sin. Pending the convenience of easy grace and assuming an all-encompassing forgiveness is an affront to the Truth by those seeking to disown any personal responsibility. The Law was not just a legal structure; it was an imposing labor camp of sacrificial commitment to community faith and obligation. That part of the Old Covenant remains in the New.
Old: Under the law, a wife was bound to her husband and withheld herself from adultery while her husband lived. If her husband should die, she was free from that restrictive bond. New: The death of Christ represented the death of the Law (who was your husband), and you are now free to be wedded again in Love and Righteousness. Vexation: Both Jesus and Paul would use marriage as a (convenient) sacred analogy, while often demeaning its value in practice on earth.
It would be wrong to say that the law implicates sin. The law only points out sin and provides counsel to manage your desires. Sin seizes upon any opportunity to waywardly lure you like the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Vexation: If without the law sin is dead or at least unrevealed to us, as stated elsewhere, how could Gentiles ever be judged, since they had no official law, no sin, and lived justified by their instincts? How can anyone abiding thusly ever violate his spiritual conscience?
For the law itself is actually good and even spiritual, insofar as it contests against a weak flesh that is prone to sin. I act against my will. The ‘good’ in me wishes to do right, but my sinful nature as embodied in the flesh fails me. Vexation: No good dwells in my flesh; but who made the human flesh? Then how can I be judged for what I did not create? Is it because I did not contain the flesh? Also, if I do evil, it is not I who does it, rather the sin that dwells in me. Is that just vain reasoning or is Paul really saying that sin is inherent to my flesh (a fault of God in my making)?
The law was just and good, but it was made weak and powerless by the flesh. Therefore the Spirit must disown the flesh. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Picture Mosaic: If you do not have his Spirit, you are not in Christ.
With the Spirit we become Sons of God, hence heirs like him, to the extent his glorification exists in us. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (John 15:26).
All creation groans and is in agony until now. Even those who have the Spirit groan, waiting for the redemption of their bodies. Without the Spirit, we do not even know how to pray; and yet the Spirit given is but the first-fruits or down payment of the much more bountiful harvest to come. Vexation: if even praying is a gift, how does God ever judge our hearts? Moreover, the phrase, ‘Hope is not hope if the object is seen’ is a truism: if something is not known ever to exist, I can still safely hope that it does.
Those whom God foreknew, he predestined, he also called, he also justified, and he also glorified: that sounds like favoritism. If God is for us, who can be against us? But that’s just the point. He has selected those who he pre-planned to be chosen and brought to fruition what he deliberately planted and singularly cultivated. Those who he did not want, he did not call or cure. For his sake, we are being slain all the day long, like sheep for the slaughter (Ps 44:22).
Only God has free-choice and free-will – to do good or ill; hence divine (s)election:
A) He decided while still in the womb to love Jacob and to hate Esau;
B) He raised up Pharaoh, and taunted him, and caused thousands to die, so that his name might be proclaimed;
C) He said to Moses, I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and show mercy to whom I will show mercy (Ex 33:19). [See also the parable of the vineyard laborers (PPI)]
But who can say that God is wrong (Wis 12:12)? And if we remark of God’s unfairness, Paul says, “The potter has the right to mold …” (Is 29:16) which doesn’t really answer the charge. Our cries are turned to recrimination, as of course we are not enough on a reasoning par with God to understand. We must not even decry our situation. Is it beyond us to look around and see how winners are picked, regardless their virtue or warranting? Why were we given minds if we are not allowed to use them? Why grant us the gift of sentience since we are not allowed to use it in assessing fairness or parity of treatment? Our mental capacity is apparently insufficient; even to speak up is to be mocked and shunned. Only God may prejudge, only God may decide to linger long and unaffected. Behold, the wonder of a God who condemns the beholden to a precast fate.
Picture Mosaic: In answer to the Deuteronomy (32:16-21) curse against the Israelites, who would spend centuries trying to honor the law and walk the way of tithing and sacrifice, but equally centuries of rebelling and disobeying His commands (Is 65:1-5), the Lord has chosen as his (new) people, from among those who were not loved, the Gentiles to become the sons of God (Hosea 2:23). While not fully spurning the Israelites, he was spurning their flesh-laden efforts at keeping faith.
Only a remnant will be saved (Is 10:22-23), and that by non-cardinal faith. Vexation: Thanks for the revelation. Review ‘Against Faithless Existence’ (Bearing God and Self in Thought): what will be at the end that was not, or could not have been, from the beginning? The Lord could have granted the Israelites the salving ointment, the purifying Spirit, at the start.
Israel has no case in God’s court because whatever promises he made to those who hearkened to his message of observing the Law have now been fulfilled through Jesus. Christ is the end of the law, having said, by following the law (were it humanly possible) and behaving rightly, you shall live by it and be saved. In Jesus’ personal enactment, this hypothesis has been verified. For the commandment unto sanctification is no longer hidden, that someone must ascend the heavens and bring it down to us, or someone must cross the mysterious waters to bring it back. The Lord is nigh, even in your mouth and in your heart. If we confess with our lips … Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Vexation: How does this square with the predestination cited above? Could Esau or Pharaoh, or for that matter Judas, whose lives were carved in evil even before they were born, ever have been saved?
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by word of the God. What ‘word’ did the Gentiles hear across the centuries? And given ‘faith only’, does this mean that faith is not a willful perspective or a presumptive feeling, merely a free and casual hearing unto all who in manners open listen?
Repeating, the Israelites (old) did not obtain what they were seeking, but the Gentiles (new) did. God gave the non-elect a spirit of stupor, blind eyes, and deaf ears unto this day (Is 29:10; Deut 29:4; Matt 13:14-15). Such was God’s plan from the beginning – the unbelief of Israel would spell salvation for the Gentiles. Still, an accepting heart by Israel in the future would be like watering the root of the tree, which is much more expedient than having it cascade down over the leaves or along the branches. The Gentiles were not born seedlings; rather they were spliced (grafted) onto the stem as replacement for the Jews. But God could do the same to them, as He did to the Canaanites, and then warned the new caretakers, the Israelites, if they went astray.
By His plan the Israelites became at enmity with God for the Gentiles sake. Vexation: Since the Lord wanted to show them mercy, why did it not create the Gentiles’ own version of Moses (as he did for the Israelites and to a lesser extent for the Edomites and the Ammonites)? God’s gifts are irrevocable. The disobedient have now received mercy because of their disobedience. God has imprisoned all in disobedience that he might have mercy on all. Is this not like saying, I want you to break your leg so I can take care of you for some time to come?
Many members but only one body. Abhor (hate) what is evil. What about ‘never hate’, especially the ‘enemy’ (evil)? Then never repay evil for evil (injury for injury). Conquer evil with your burning kindness.
An earthly ruler (government) is God’s sword, bearing his wrath and justice upon the wrongdoer. Give even to harsh authorities the proper tax, revenue, respect, and honor. So much for the American Revolution! Remind them to love their neighbor, as though spiritual creatures need reminding. Love is the fulfillment of the Law.
Picture Mosaic: Love satisfies the means of the Law, it does not annul or vanquish its purpose.
Old: Eat only certain prescribed foods. New: Eat virtually anything: original intent from Genesis. None of us lives as his own master – we are all servants of the Lord. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? The same logic applies to observing holy days and honoring other ritual practices. When in doubt, do not practice; for whatever is not of faith is sin. Knowing the lateness of the time, remind them not to spend their days in carousing and drunkenness or in sexual excess and strife (Holy Spirit?).
In him the Gentiles have hope (Is 11:10). Paul takes up this task from Jesus.
‘Pray that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea’ (my enemies?).
Moreover, watch out for those who cause division (enemies); while God will soon crush his enemy (Satan) under your feet.
Many missionaries were still baptizing, as in olden days.
The message of the cross is absurdity (folly) to some. I will destroy the wisdom of the wise (Is 29:14). Jews demand signs, Greeks look for wisdom, but Christ crucified is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching Christ crucified to save those who come to believe.
Picture Mosaic: Intelligence, even wisdom, is a blessing to all mankind. But knowledge of heavenly things is not set to instructional guidelines nor boxed in model kits. If anyone could grasp the heavens with his thoughts, then everyone from the Ancient scribes to the Hindu mystics to the Greek philosophers would have boasted of measuring out divine sequence and rationalizing forth their own portions of salvation.
In this way the Lord shames the wise and humbles the strong of this world. Also, the lowborn may rise (not of their own benefaction) while the highborn may fall (not of their own accord).
The Holy Spirit searches the deep things of God. Only one’s own spirit can scavenge the depths of the innermost self. The Spirit aids us in interpreting evasive celestial things, which the natural mind considers foolish or unfathomable.
You are God’s temple wherein His Spirit dwells. Becoming ‘fools’ in your faith is actually wise, because the wisdom of this world is absurdity to God.
Everything you have has been given to you, so no boasting. To the extent that you go hungry and thirsty, are persecuted or slandered, you must endure it.
Jesus’ prescription of ‘judge not’ is amended by Paul: judge those inside the community, but not outside. A man is living with his father’s wife. The sentence is to get rid of the offender. Vexation: But did not the offender, an accepted member of the community, have the Spirit, and did it tell him it was okay to sleep with his stepmother? Expel the wicked; hand him over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved. Here we see a reality setting in, as ordinary life plays hard fiddle with the slumbering theoretical. The community has flauntingly encased and even boasted like puffed up yeast about this immoral situation. Get rid of the old thinking (yeast) for the new sacrifice in Christ. All of this comes on the heels of cast-off human wisdom (above), now being accessed as useful to explain reaction to a human predicament. When is everyday intelligence pertinent and necessary and when do we disregard it as ‘wisdom of this world’?
Brothers are taking brothers to court (the Holy Spirit?). We are meant to judge angels; is there not one among you who is capable of deciding cases between brothers? Paul prefers that you be cheated (as Jesus suggested) than fight for the right.
Fornicators, adulterers, idolaters, etc. will not inherit the kingdom unless they are cleansed and sanctified. How would these indictments (e.g. homosexuality, adultery, sadomasochism, etc.) play today on the stage of our amoral, anything-goes society?
Everything is lawful for me by virtue of grace (new ostensibly), but not everything is good for me (old pragmatically). Your body is not your own, but a part of the temple (above). If you join with sinners, then like a prostitute you become adjoined with sin.
Sexual relations for both the husband and the wife are surrendered to the other. Infidelity is never acceptable, and celibacy warranted only as matter of service or devotion. (Despite having the Spirit), Paul warns parishioners about letting Satan seize control of their passion. Continuing the theme of Christ in the Gospels, Paul prefers for them to remain celibate like himself: the unmarried to stay unmarried and for the married to stay faithful and not to divorce. A presumption is made that a marriage between a believer and a non-believer is not fully acknowledged in the eyes of the Lord unless the non-believer submits to this arrangement and by so doing is sanctified by the believing spouse, as are their children. Otherwise, it could be (in the Lord’s plans) that the unbelieving partner will be turned toward the faith. Belief aside, the status of a person, freed or slave, after saving should nevertheless retain his position in service to whatever the Lord intends. Circumcision and other symbols, like measures of religious obedience, count for nothing (new) if your faith is in the Lord.
Paul, like Jesus, seems only to accept marriage begrudgingly as a refrain, even a necessary ‘evil’. His argument rests mainly in the thought that wives and husbands have distracting duties toward each other and together are subject to the demands of the family and the world order. Vexation: Here we see in the disavowal of marriage another divine contradiction – of a Nature created by God and blessed, but who does not hold it in ultimate security. Paul’s perspective may have been somewhat guided, if not marred, by the imminent prospect of the Second Coming, when thereafter marriage becomes obsolete. More practically, how then should this New Faith grow except by extraction (the stealing) from the pagan ranks? And how is this different from the Shakers and the other fading cults who did not believe in sexual reproduction as a natural method of membership expansion? In either case, it is their dissolution that has become imminent, not the Parousia.
Knowledge outside of God’s will is dubious. We gain no favor by selective eating or fasting, or by abiding in any recognized traditional routine. Grace’s new freedom may be a stumbling block for the weak; let not your personal choices be a participant cause in their deception.
Paul lives like a Jew when living with Jews and like a Gentile when living with them. Missionaries deserve a share of the offerings as would those working in the temple (sanctuary). Paul actively works to support himself while traveling in his ministry. In a play of words, Paul declares that he is free from the Law, being subject to the law of Christ, in order to gain merit with the lawless.
Though the Israelites were metaphysically baptized by the cloud and by their passage through the Red Sea, though they drank from a kind of spiritual rock at Massah, though they ate bread from heaven (manna), they still fell dead in the desert because of their sins. Vexation: Their personal faults and grumblings accepted, was not this failure as much God’s failure as human failure on a spiritual level? Was their temptation more than the Israelites could bear (re: verse 13)?
The cup that we drink from now and the flesh that we devour is of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do all for the glory of God.
Whoever partakes of the Lord at Mass in an unworthy manner is guilty of sin. The Eucharist has become a new practicing tradition.
From ancient times, long hair on a man was a military hazard, whereas long hair on a woman is her glory. The uncovering of a man’s head while praying or prophesying depicts an openness to God’s headship and hearing. The covering of a woman’s head while praying or prophesying depicts a graciousness subsumed away from her glory.
No man speaking by the Spirit can curse Jesus; and no man can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit. Vexation: Did not Judas say ‘Jesus is Lord’? Anybody can say anything, if only jesting or lying.
To one is given by the Holy Spirit wisdom, knowledge, faith. Return of circular logic: gifted with faith to make you worthy of forgiveness by faith.
The church is the body of Christ, and its member gifts his body parts. These new charisms include apostleship, prophecy, teaching, and more.
Regardless my gift, if I have not love (charity), I have nothing. Faith, hope, and charity dwell in eternity with God, having demonstrated themselves in ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only son …’
Now we see through a glass, darkly. The imperfect vision of twilight dreams fade in the perfection of morning and lit reality.
Speaking in tongues is a kind of prayer connection to God, but it has limited social upliftance for the community without interpretation. Again two or three is the proper quorum for expressing the gifts of prophesying, speaking in tongues, etc. God is not the author of confusion and disorder, but of peace. Vexation: How is the unbridled movement of the Spirit of God reined in by number and social control? And has the same Christ whose mission was one of division (Luke 12:51) now become an advocate of peace; or in us the belief of foolish worldly thinking (3:19 above) must now be one of order and reason?
Let your women keep silent in Church. These things I write to you are the commandments of the Lord (accepted or appointed vanity?).
Another vanity, Paul says of himself that he is the last of all the apostles to see the resurrected Christ. He recites an order of witness from Peter (first) on through to him, but only Luke (24:12) suggests that Peter witnessed his presence apart from the others, which then numbered only 11, not 12. Some of the parishioners are saying there is no such thing as resurrection while simultaneously supposing to profess that Christ is risen. If Christ is not resurrected, then your faith is worthless. Vexation: Would someone truly having the Spirit deny that Christ has been resurrected and has distributed his Spirit to his believers? Paul’s sudden love of (human) logic comes subsequent to saying, all human wisdom is folly.
In one man, Adam, death was found obsequious with sin; so now in one man, Christ, is life found substantiated with faith. Christ as first-fruits, we afterward at the second coming. Christ will reign until all things, even Death, are placed under his feet.
Picture Mosaic: When everything has been subjected in Christ, then he will subject himself unto God the Father for completion, making all in all. What was once manifested as separate creation (in the beginning) is resumed within divinity at the finish.
Evil communications corrupt good manners: bad company corrupts good morals.
Christ’s parable of a seed which, unless it falls to the ground and ‘dies’, cannot rise again in great abundance, is used to explain the purpose behind (celestial) resurrection and a new body. Adam was just flesh possessed of a living soul (old); Christ is a living Spirit (new). For the natural body is dust; the resurrected body is incorruptible: the natural before the spiritual. As natural creatures, we bore an earthy image; when spiritually complete, we will bear the heavenly image. We shall be changed at the final resurrection, in the twinkling of an eye. The corruptible will take on its immortal form, and finally death will be swallowed up in victory.
If anyone does not love the Lord, let a curse be upon him (do not judge, and love your enemies?).
The Old Covenant was struck in the written law, whence the letter kills. The New Covenant has been convened in faith, whence the Spirit brings life. The divine substance behind the Old Covenant was veiled, just as Moses’ face was veiled whenever he left God’s presence. Only when Moses turned toward the Lord was the veil removed (Ex 34:33-35). Even when the covenant was read out loud, God’s glory was still hidden. Christ has taken away that veil, and in that vision we are being transformed into His image of freedom and glory.
The light that shone out of the darkness, as declared in Genesis (1:3) (old), is now the light of knowledge that shines in our hearts (new).
Living at ease in this natural body, we are necessarily in exile from Christ. In such a weak and mortal state, we must walk by faith, not sight. Like trailing a person in the dark, it is by hearing and the resonance within our hearts (the words of the scriptures and the guidance of the Holy Spirit) that we can follow his footsteps and keep to the righteous path. There is a judgement seat of Christ (new) before which we all will stand. Vexation: Is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit like an internal detector recording our every thought and deed?
Upon acceptance of Christ, the old order has passed away, and one must become a new creation in thinking. All things become new. Yet it would be a mistake to think we understand … even that much is a mistake. As ambassadors of Christ on earth, we must seek only, and preach to others, the message of reconciliation.
Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation.
You are the temple of the living God. More than ‘I will be their God, and they shall be my people’ (old) [Ex 6:7; Jer 7:23], I shall dwell in them (new).
Paul arrives in Macedonia exhausted, stressed, and fearful (even those living in the spirit can be down and depressed). Worldly sorrow brings death, but godly sorrow brings repentance.
Jesus made himself poor so that you might become rich.
The gathering of funds should be as a gracious gift, not an exaction.
Let him who boasts, glory in the Lord; for it is He who commends and approves you (Jer 9:24; also 1 Cor 1:31).
Paul fears that the Corinthians will be seduced like Eve in the Garden (though had they not the Spirit?). There will be false apostles and deceitful missionaries, because Satan can masquerade himself as an angel of light, and his ministers as Christ’s own apostles.
Paul lists all the lashings, beatings, shipwrecks, escapes, and other hardships that he has had to endure for the Lord’s sake (hardly vanity). Yet he realizes his past as once a harsh persecutor.
Paul has also been stricken with some undefined ‘thorn in the flesh’, which the Lord will not remove, despite his prayers (“ask anything in my name”). His pronouncement of ‘when I am weak, then I am strong’ is typical of a God contradiction.
He also boasts (above) of not being a burden on his ‘children’.
Reaffirms old law about two or three witnesses. Paul warns them about their handling of sinners: if I come a third time, I will not spare you. Examine yourselves. If you are in the faith, then Christ is in you.
Anyone who is not preaching what he (Paul) is preaching is foisting another (false) gospel on you. Even if angels preached otherwise, the Lord’s curse would be on them (vanity and judgement on Paul’s part?) For mine is a revelation from Christ himself, and he sought not out any of the other apostles in Jerusalem for counsel until some time after his missionary work had already started.
For 14 years after his conversion, Paul more or less worked apart from the other Apostles. He does acknowledge later, however, that he fancied his work among the uncircumcised to be the counterpart to Peter’s work with the circumcised. Paul’s mixed background and ability to speak several languages aided in this task. Peter, as spiritual leader of the apostles, essentially consented to Paul’s efforts. Even before the Council of Jerusalem findings, he let Paul ‘go his own way’ by not forcing Judaic customs and practices on the fledgling Gentiles.
Apparently the agape (Eucharist) meal (1 Cor 11:17+) offended the Jews who were present, so Peter stopped. Paul considered this hypocritical: it was through the law that I died to the law, to live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and now Christ is living in me. He will not allow his privilege as a Jew to dictate what the Gentiles should do. Let Jesus decide.
A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by his faith in Christ.
Paul calls the Galatians foolish and must be under an evil spell (so much for ‘not judging others’). They started in the spirit and now they have ended in the flesh, which begs the question, did they really have the Spirit in the first place? Beyond physical progeny, those with the faith to believe are the real descendants of Abraham (new). Thus the just man shall live by faith (Hab 2:4).
He expands on the verse in Deut 27:26, which was meant to curse anyone who willfully gainsays or ignores the law, to declare that reliance (dependence) on the law is itself a curse since it brings no justification from God. Only Jesus fulfilled every aspect of the law, and was justified; but he was still cursed by being crucified on the cross, that is, disparagingly hung on a tree (Deut 21:23).
Picture Mosaic: Service to the Law is a vestige of Adam’s curse, who because of his sin made mankind forever ‘service’ the soil in hard labor: turning it over, planting the seeds, working and caring for it, instead of just reaching up and collecting the delicious fruit faithfully provided by the Lord. Nevertheless, farming and managing the environment has also brought blessings, as has obedience to the Law.
Paul continues his thesis from Romans 4:13-16 that the promise made to Abraham and his seed was singular in nature, not universal to all of his descendants. A single line of descendants: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob … Moses … David … was made complete in Jesus, thereby fulfilling the promise and substantiating all laws as a credible means of salvation. Vexation: Either Paul, hence God, is being deceptively technical here or else we must assume the same connotation everywhere, having only one person in each generation confirmed and saved, only one person to ever inherit the Promised Land (as we say of Jesus and heaven).
The Law does not render (absolute) righteousness, thus it does not impart eternal life. It merely locks all things under the constraint of sin (old) so that the granting of remission is supplied through faith in Christ. In other words, all law, all sin, all suffering was just to bring about and glorify the Lord’s grace. Vexation: Again, is Paul being legalistic here? This is like saying, there must be economic slavery so that we could understand the concept of slavery to sin, leaving us in need of a God to break the shackles.
Finally, is Paul’s use of the word ‘seed’ or ‘descendants’ in line 29 limited (as above) to just one person or many? What of God’s promises to Abraham and Hagar (below) to make of them a great ‘nation’; does that have limited meaning as well?
The Israelites living under the law (old) is compared to being underage. You who have now reached the age of consent are no longer slaves, but heirs to the kingdom of heaven. Paul uses the allegory of Hagar and Sarah. In Abraham’s and Sarah’s long childlessness, Abraham sought to bring about future seed through strictly human means by having relations with Hagar who conceived a son. The Lord granted Hagar, the concubine, a limited natural promise (the Law), ultimately expressed in some of the Arab tribes and later Muslims. Only Sarah, the freewoman, received the full spiritual promise.
Picture Mosaic: More prophetically, the written law must always precede the living law (Jesus), otherwise there is no expectancy, and no issues to be addressed in person.
If you circumcise yourselves and try to follow the old law, you will sever your relationship with Christ. Only faith, through love, counts for anything. Love your neighbor as yourself is the one law that remains.
The flesh acts against the spirit. If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law; whereupon Paul lists some of the sins of the flesh. Vexation: Such logic can be inverted. If they do all these lewd things of the flesh, and need to be warned moreover about them, do they really have the Holy Spirit? Likewise for acting vain and provoking one another.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace …
Gently guide your brother who is sinning; help him carry his burdens. Do good for all people, but especially to your own house of believers. All that matters is that you are a new creation.