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Gadfly Paraphrase: 1 Cor 1:2

03 December 2010 by Frank Turk

It’s weird that Paul should give the name of a Church of God to a mob like the people in Corinth, who were mostly out of control, so much so that you might think Satan was in charge there and not God. For sure: Paul wasn’t trying to butter them up – because he’s speaking to them under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who is not in the habit of buttering people up. But if they were such a mess, how can he say that he saw “the Church” at all? Here’s what I think: the Lord said to Paul, "Fear not: I have many people in this place." (Acts 18:9-10) Keeping that promise in mind, Paul thought it was right to honor the Godly few as a church in spite of all the ungodly trash. Also, in spite of the moral junk yard and the practical and theological unsightliness, there were still signs of the church among these people. And you should think very carefully about this, in order that you will not require of the Church, which is in the world (but not of it), that it shouldn’t have any gravy stains collecting above its paunchy belly or any wrinkles on its polyester pants; we shouldn’t say every community where everything isn't everything it’s cracked up to be, or at least that we think it ought to be, isn't a church. It’s tempting and a little dangerous to think that there’s no church where there’s not a perfect collection of election, and here’s why: someone who is locked up in this notion must necessarily end up isolated from all people in his own tiny self-appointment as the only saint in the world, and he’ll set up a sect which is a posse of fellow hypocrites.

So let’s think about how Paul could recognize the church at Corinth. He looked for and saw that they had the Gospel (because he gave it to them), and they had baptism (because they were baptizing), and they had the Lord’s Supper (even if it was broken). These are the signs that there’s a church there, and how we ought to look for it. Seriously: even though some had doubts about the resurrection, they didn’t all have doubts. Some people being wrong doesn’t make the whole flock into a goat herd. They had faults in administering the Supper, and they didn’t exercise church discipline, and their good manners in general were on the decline. Some of them marched around like they deserves a parade or some kind of celebration because they were in charge – and because of it, their ministry caused cliques to form and opposing parties to stand up.But here’s the thing: as much as they retrained the fundamental doctrine that God was adored among themand Christ was their only savior, the only one they could call upon to be saved, the ministry and family association with the household of God was not lost or wrecked. It was in this way that they were still a Church. In exactly the same way, wherever God is worshipped and not somehow covered up by the stuff we make up or use to dress Him up, and as long as that key matter of Doctrine is not missing, we must without hesitation conclude – as Paul did – that there’s a church in there.

-- John Calvin, Commenary on Corinthians, Chapter 1, Section 2, paraphrased from ccel.org

Comments

David Regier

First! FTW!

Masterful.

Rewriting the Institutes The Message-style won't win you any points with the trolls, but hey, they know better than Calvin, don't they?

Rachael Starke

Oh. My. Goodness.

Are you contextualizing Calvin's Institutes??

I LOVE it.

Rachael Starke

Oh duh, it's not the Institutes. But it's still very cool.

On a (slightly) serious-er note - I have more than one conversation with my Phil recently over a variety of depressing, infuriating and scary things happening at our church. I've been especially discouraged because we picked this church precisely because we were certain these kinds of things would never happen at this church.

But your checklist reminds me that it's still a church. And it's our church. So back into battle we go. Thanks.

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