New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 34: “Keep the Ordinances, As I Delivered Them”
1 Corinthians 11-15
Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, as discussed in lesson 33, focuses on the many problems the Christians in Corinth faced due to differing teachings and beliefs entering in from many factions. These included issues regarding chastity, idols, the resurrection of Christ, and many other issues. In this second lesson on First Corinthians, we focus on more of the issues Paul covers.
“Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth” (1 Cor 10:24).
The Corinthians were seeking their own. They had personal agendas, with which they sought to change the church to meet their own desires. They were selfish to the point that it was affecting their relationships within the church, and even within their families.
Paul was forced to give them guidance on the roles of husbands and wives, according to Jewish tradition. That tradition was that all should wear a covering, symbolizing that men are subject to God, and women to their husbands. Such guidance is still followed by some Christian religions, while others have adapted it some to modern times. The LDS belief is that the man and woman are equal, and can also be found in chapter 11:
“11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.”
The LDS Church teaches they are equal, yet there is still a hierarchy in the family to ensure order prevails. The parents make a presidency, with the father presiding and the wife as his counselor. The husband should ensure his wife’s counsel is listened to, considered, and generally heeded in many cases. From the Proclamation on the Family, we read:
“By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.”
The Lord’s Supper
There seems to have been a tradition in Corinth, where people would attend the religious meetings of the various temples primarily for a free meal. The Lord’s supper seemed to have been used as a meal by many, and so was causing dissensions.
Paul complained that some were coming to the Lord’s supper only to fill their bodies or get drunk. He insisted they eat at home, and attend the Lord’s supper for the purpose of renewing the covenant with Christ.
“27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”
The focus here is: those who partake of the bread and cup must be remembering the Lord’s sacrifice, and not their bellies. To partake of the blessed sacraments with no thought to the covenant one makes with God causes condemnation, for such a person does not take his covenants with God seriously. For the Corinthians, it became a very serious issue, because many were using the Lord’s supper as a place for food and wine, just as they did with at the pagan temples. Many in our day partake of the divine without first making themselves holy. They profane the sacrifice of Christ’s flesh and blood by their insincere actions and indifference.
Gifts of the Spirit
1 Cor 12
That Paul had to explain to the Corinthians how the Holy Ghost worked with people is telling of how far they drifted from the core Christian teachings. The pagan religions, which led people to worship “dumb idols” also encouraged many to believe Jesus was accursed: the common assumption of people who were crucified. Yet, Paul insisted that only through the Holy Ghost can a person know that “Jesus is Lord” (vs 3).
With such an understanding, we can see that most Christians have been touched by the Holy Ghost with at least one gift: a testimony of the Savior.
Yet, Paul exclaims there are many different gifts available, all from the same Holy Spirit. And not only Christians, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” (vs 7). All mankind is touched on some level by the Holy Spirit. This is not the same as the “Gift of the Holy Ghost” which in its fullest regard means the Spirit becomes a constant companion and guide in all aspects of a person’s life. It does mean that God inspires all mankind, giving them special abilities. And all of these special gifts come from the Holy Ghost.
Most of us know people who seem inspired with wisdom or knowledge. Did Einstein figure out his theories of relativity on his own? Or did God inspire him, enlightening his mind so he could figure out such amazing theories? The ancient Greeks believed mankind was inspired by the muses. We know mankind is inspired by the Holy Ghost.
For those who embrace Christ, Paul seems to suggest a greater level of such gifts of the Spirit. Whether a person is Jew or Gentile, when they embrace Christ, are baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:18, 19:6), they become a vessel able to receive a greater portion of the Holy Ghost and its powerful gifts.
“28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”
There is a pattern set forth from Adam on down that helps us see how the Spirit and God’s power work. The pattern begins with apostles and prophets, those holding the priesthood authority to perform ordinances of salvation (baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, Lord’s supper, etc), establish doctrine, and guide the Church in all things, even as the apostle Paul was now doing for Corinth.
Next, are teachers to explain the doctrines of the church to the believers and those investigating the claims of Christ as Lord. Paul sent this epistle to Corinth with teachers to correct the wrong occurring among the Christians there. Only after the foundation of leadership is established can the miracles and gifts occur in an orderly fashion.
“29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?”
Not all are apostles or prophets. Not all have the gifts mentioned. These are important and necessary things in the Church of Jesus Christ. Without these holy men and gifts of the Spirit, the Church cannot function properly. Both are needed. As apostle Dallin Oaks recently noted, there are both formal and informal lines of power in the Church of Christ. The informal line is often called by the Protestants the “priesthood of all believers”, or the personal inspiration and guidance given each of us through the Holy Spirit. This is extremely important to our personal salvation and personal growth in Christ.
Yet the formal line of power and authority through apostles and prophets is also extremely important. Paul notes the struggle the Corinthian church was going through, precisely because they were listening to many claims of teachings by a variety of speakers. Yet none of these were apostles and prophets. No Christian prophet or apostle taught the Corinthian Christians to be unchaste, to eat the food of idols, or to be selfish. The key doctrines of salvation had to be established and preached by living prophets and apostles, or as in Corinth, they would sink into apostasy.
“ 31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.”
Many believe that the “more excellent way” is a rejection of the Gifts of the Spirit, a rejection of prophets and apostles, a rejection of miracles. Some even believe it to be a rejection of the commandments. But Paul’s original epistle was not divided into chapters. His most excellent way is found in chapter 13: charity.
Faith, Hope and Charity
1 Corinthians 13
Paul now teaches of the greatest gifts we can aspire to as a priesthood of all believers. There are three great gifts, greater than all the others: faith, hope and charity. Of these, Paul explains that faith and hope lead to charity, which is the pure love of Christ (Moroni 7:47-48). When it comes to spiritual things, if we do not have charity, we are nothing.
In this world we often confuse the things of most worth for the things that glitter. The Corinthians had their focus on the things of the flesh: sex, food, drink, selfishness and the philosophies of the Greek idol worshipers. None of these things would make a real positive difference in the world. None would make any difference in the world to come.
Even to give all ones belongings to feed the poor did not mean anything without charity. Why would someone give everything up, if that person did not have charity? What would be the motivation in doing so? Power? Fame? Glory?
Charity is everything the Corinthian Christians are not. It is longsuffering, not selfish, loves truth, hates sin, not given to anger. Only in developing our faith, hope and charity can we ever hope to have our works truly mean something here on earth and in the eternities.
Gifts of Prophecy and Tongues
1 Corinthians 14
In this chapter, Paul explains that not all gifts are of equal importance. The gift of tongues is a good gift for the individual. But without an interpreter, it means nothing to others listening. Only in the instance where the gift of tongues is used to let a prophet speak in someone else’s language is it of great worth to all who listen, such as what happened with the apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
But prophesying, whether of current truths or future events, benefits all who listen. So important is prophesy that an angel told the apostle John, “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). As Paul explained with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, without this special witness from above, we cannot know that “Jesus is Lord”.
1 Corinthians 15
Obviously there were also contentions in Corinth over the resurrection of Jesus and all people. Paul begins by reminding them of the witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. This physical witness is very important in establishing the things he is about to explain, because for the Greeks, the concept of a man being ignominiously crucified as a traitor to the state, then resurrecting, seemed foolish.
If there is no resurrection, there was no need for Jesus to ever be sent down to save us. With death, all would end. We would only be worm food, forever non-existent. If there is no resurrection, then our hope in Christ would make us the most miserable of all people, because we would place our faith in a false hope. But Paul shows there was a resurrection, and how it applies to all mankind from Adam til now.
Paul explained in depth how the resurrection of Jesus overcomes death. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (vs 22). Jesus became the second Adam. The first Adam brought about death, so that we may have the experience of mortality, of learning, and of building faith in God. Christ came to overcome the affects of the first and second deaths (Alma 11-12), that we may all live again. The resurrection means that Jesus and all mortals who have ever lived, will have their bodies and spirits restored again, only this time in an incorruptible form. We will never die, be sick, injured, or suffer physical ailments again.
As to the resurrection, we find that there is not one level of resurrection, but levels of resurrected glory:
“40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead.”
In the next lesson, we’ll expound more on what this means, as Paul explains it in 2 Corinthians 10:1-4. What we find here is that God has different levels of reward or glory for those who resurrect. This is also reflected in the ancient Christian prophecy of the Shepherd of Hermas, who saw that each person was given a willow twig to care for. On the day of judgment, each twig was reviewed. They differed in quality: some had not changed, others had buds, some had grown branches and leaves, while a few had also sweet fruit growing. For each there was a place given. For those who produced nothing, they were left out of the castle. For those who produced, they were given different rewards within the castle.
The rods or twigs represented the laws of God. As one obeyed the laws, they changed into ever growing rods of life and beauty. So it is with us. As we seek to know Jesus, follow his example, and learn to be Christ-like, we too can receive a glorious resurrection.
Proclamation on the Family: http://lds.org/library/display/0,4945,161-1-11-1,FF.html
Dallin Oaks, “Two Lines of Communication”, October 2010 General Conference: http://lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/two-lines-of-communication?lang=eng
Shepherd of Hermas, (see Parable 8): http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/shepherd-lightfoot.html