Friday, November 21, 2008
It's A Letter!
Did Paul know that he was writing down the Word of God when he wrote his letters? Could he possibly imagine that one day his letters, along with several others and four Gospels, would be compiled into THE DEFINITIVE MESSAGE OF GOD TO MAN? Maybe that's not important if God was the master designer behind everything, but still, did he think his letter to Corinth, or any of his letters, was anything more than a letter to a family of disciples to help them understand God's will better?
It seems to me that it would be of immeasurable help for any student of the Word to remember that there is a huge difference in writing a letter and writing a document for the express purpose of being studied. Can you imagine a group of people minutely dissecting one of your letters to find hidden truths, implied meanings, and applicable examples to follow? It's a letter! Because it was a letter, there was no need to explain things THEY mutually understood and knew about. Because it was a letter, from people who had an on-going relationship, they knew why he said what he said, and maybe more important, the tone and the love with which he said it. They had a history, and there was no need to clarify, explain, and update readers he/they never expected to read it.
At the very least, as students and honest interpreters of the Word, we need to remember two things. One, don't waste time speculating about stuff we can't and never will know! 1 Corinthians is an excellent illustration of this, with all the division, spiritual gifts abuse, and failure to consistently grow in love for one another - they knew everything Paul was talking about - including their agape meals, their women prophets, and the self-centered tongues speakers. They knew who was messing with their heads about the resurrection. So why are so many so attracted to arguing and trying to figure out what Paul was talking about with these things? It's a letter! Find the principle - move on.
And the second thing, quit looking for patterns to follow. With so much information not being given - because it's a letter - how can we possibly believe that the Holy Spirit was trying to give us a "pattern to follow" to be "faithful Christians"? Since when did God make His will known to His followers by requiring them to discern the hidden pattern and assume it is synonymous with His will/plan? It's a letter! Find the principle - move on!
Again, what irony? Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians to get them to focus on the truly important things and quit getting distracted with stuff that - either isn't as important, or is simply a tool to help them stay focused! And even then, they weren't using the tool for what God intented. So what's his message? Focus on Jesus! Focus on growing in love! Yet, what do with do that that very letter? Argue about the details. It's probably the most fought over battle ground in the Bible. It's a letter! A love letter! Learn the principle and move on.