Whoever said the bible was easy?

1 Chronicles 22:2 – 19

David is such an enigmatic character in the Bible. His life is so full of sin: the ongoing saga of Uriah’s wife Bathsheba; the census of the Israelite army contrary to law that we read of yesterday; and now God is unhappy about the amount of human blood that David has spilt. Despite all this and other shortcomings he is often declared to be the pinnacle of the Jewish nation leading them to victory over the promised land, setting up Jerusalem as the capital city and centre of worship, and now we see him preparing the materials for the building of the temple by his son Solomon.

If ever we wondered if the sin in our lives has made us irrevocably abhorrent to God we should be encouraged by God’s ability to forgive David. Not only does God forgive David but He lays out plans for David’s son Solomon to take the helm and steer the nation of Israel and build the temple. This would become the foundation of the civilisation which sprang from God’s promise to Abraham. Yes, David might have done better. He might have been allowed to see the temple built or at least commenced. His other sons might have performed better. It does not mean that we will get off scot free in this life if we trample on the plans that God has for us. If we can see through all the fighting, the leadership ego, the selfishness and the cavalier way David went about his business, we might see the man underneath; the man who loved God and who often repented in anguish of the wrong things he had done. There is definitely hope for all of us who have a heart for being sorry and throwing ourselves on the mercy of God. At the very least we can keep on striving to pass the baton to the next generation.

1 Corinthians 14

I am not going to deliver a theological treatise on this chapter. Tomes have already been written and there is still not a consensus. I will reflect on my personal experiences.

When I first became a Christian, I was perplexed by the actions of other Christians who spoke in tongues or prophesied in the name of God. Indeed even my mother, who was a Christian was troubled by the fact that her sister who was converted at the same time spoke in tongues but she didn’t. I really only found all this out when I became a Christian myself. Eventually they were both comfortable with different gifts.

There were a couple of zealously Pentecostal churches in the Illawarra at that time, where it was preached that you were not fully saved unless you spoke in tongues. I investigated these claims. Firstly I observed that those who claimed to have a special baptism of the Holy Spirit and who spoke in tongues were in fact not “super” Christians but were prone to being just as sinful and faithless as any of us at times. This is exactly what St Paul is telling the Corinthians here. It is not a major gift at all; it’s just something for yourself whereas other gifts are more important in the life of the church.

Secondly, I noticed that these churches were attractive to new people, particularly young people, because they were excited and enthusiastic about Jesus. I was quite attracted myself and if it had not been for the other things I mention, I might have joined one of these churches.

The third thing I observed was that in these Pentecostal churches, they appeared to do what Paul is saying not to do. They spoke in tongues, in public (in church) but there was no interpretation.

The fourth thing I observed was that prophesying was a common practice in these churches. People were encouraged to stand up and prophesy, announcing that they had a “word of knowledge” from God. It transpired that some of these so called prophecies turned out to be false. There seems to be a disconnect between first century prophets whom Paul encourages and modern day claimants who should be viewed with great suspicion if they want to speak in the name of God in church. (This is prophesying, not preaching a sermon from the Bible). I believe that to allow anyone to claim the gift of prophecy and stand up and prophesy in church would open up a can of serpents. We cannot know what a person might say and we certainly cannot afford falsehoods pronounced in the name of God. FAC may be conservative in our approach to these matters but I think we do well to be cautious.

For an analytical person like myself who is not driven by emotion, this was the deal breaker for me. I listened to what they said and then carefully monitored what transpired. They often did not match.

This whole topic is generally left pretty much alone in conservative Anglican churches like FAC but I think we can trust what St Paul says here in the Bible. In any Christian congregation we should expect that some people will speak in tongues, nothing wrong with that, but they should do it in private unless there is another person who can demonstrate that they can interpret.

As for women, it seems clear enough to me that the context here is about “orderly” conduct in church. Don’t chat with with your friends while the sermon is being preached. The idea that women might officiate at a church service would probably not have entered their head. I don’t see this passage as prohibiting women from performing any role in the church. Is it sexist that women are chided for distracting the service and not men? Yes, but given the cultural context of the entire Bible this would be expected and that’s why this is not about women priests.

Advertisements

One thought on “Whoever said the bible was easy?

  1. Thanks for this helpful reflection on an often difficult and misrepresented section of scripture.

Comments are closed.