Paul, Part 2

Hello, my name is Paul and I am angry.  My intent to wreak havoc on the early church was put to an abrupt end by Christ’s conquering of my heart as I was heading to Damascus.  My passion to destroy was replaced by a passion to establish a beacon of light in dark places.  While my peers ministered to the Jews, my efforts were expended upon Gentiles.  Corinth was one of those places.  Located on the Greek isthmus connecting Achaia in the south to Macedonia in the north, was the location of this pagan metropolis called Corinth.  The city was the epitome of multi-cultural diversity and vice.  As you would guess, the challenge of bringing the Gospel was formidable, but not for Christ.  The real challenge was found in convincing the Corinthians to bring every aspect of life under the Lordship of Christ.  My intentions were met with a worldly skepticism questioning even my motives. 

Now back to 2021…My name is not actually Paul.  I am a pastor and I am angry at the wrong expectations that congregants have placed on their pastors!  Rightfully so.  The Sabbath worship was not established by Moses, but at Creation itself.  Christ saved sinners in order to create worshippers.  If that be the case, then congregational worship should be the main event in the week of the children of God.  What exactly is your motive (guilt or shame) to go to church?  You are to be there to be a participant and not an observer.  What qualifies a great day in the house of God?  Corporate worship is not there to make you feel better than you felt before you arrived.  You should not be one of those concerned individuals caring for their pastor by giving advice to help them better ‘reach the lost’.   Should you not come to have the Word expounded as it was given and explained how to live those truths out in practical ways?  Read Ezra 8 if you have never done so.  The pastor is mandated to hold and present the Word with integrity as God intended the Scriptures to be used in its proper context.  Calvin stated that, “In the faithful preaching of the Word of God the pulpit becomes God’s throne.”  The implication is that the Spirit of God uses the Word of God in sanctifying the Children of God.  But the reality is that only a select few desire faithful preaching that humbles man while exalting Christ. 

No flags or plastic greenery adorning the front of our church.  Just the pulpit and the preacher. Aesthetics aside, the sermon is the heart of New Testament worship.  When people find out I am a pastor, what sometime follows is a short synopsis of their church.  Reasons justifying why they had to leave their church is common as well.  One common denominator is usually something concerning the content or the delivery of his sermon.  While there may be some legitimacy in their complaints, they never ponder another possible reason.  Maybe it is because God has spoken to you through the faithful preaching of your pastor and you just don’t like it.  Consider Paul’s words.
“O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but you are straitened in your own bowels.” 2 Cor. 6:11-12
Granted the wording may be confusing if you don’t understand Paul’s use of the words heart, straitened, and bowels.  The Greeks use of the words heart and bowels are important to understand in order for these verses to unfold for you. 
For the Corinthians the ‘heart’ implies not the organ that pumps blood, but the essence of who you are, and the local of your intellectual ability.  In the West we associate intellectual ability with one’s brain.  To the Greeks, the exercise of the mind was the use of one’s heart. 

For the Greek the center of emotions resonated with the ‘bowels’, (the Greek word implies inward parts, guts to be blunt).  Years ago my bunkmate in basic training got the infamous “Dear John” letter.  What little food he ate at the mess tent ended up on the floor of our barracks.  Doesn’t bad news make your stomach churn?  However, we associate the seat of emotions with our heart in the West.

The use of the word ‘straightened’ is slightly more complicated with all of its nuances.  It is a passive verb implying that the action brings about a certain state.  A persistent state of anxiousness from hearing something difficult.  For those of us old enough to remember the unfolding drama of 9/11, it was the unescapable feeling of anxiety because of an uncertain future.  Don’t conversations of Covid-19 or vaccinations cause a state of perplexity in your heart? 

Now consider all three things (heart, bowels, and the word straighten) in these few verses.  Paul is unpacking to the Corinthians what every Bible-Believing pastor is doing in the context of his call and ministry…to show the reality of how faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is lived out in the context of every culture.  He is sharing objective truth in the ‘how to’ for Christians to live in the context of the Corinthian culture.  “Our heart is open unto you!”  The problem with Paul’s objective teaching was that it was offensive because of the Corinthian’s predisposition to judge everything based upon their subjective minds.  Anxiety flourishes within unchecked emotionalism!  These verses pack a punch in explaining what is going on behind the scenes in 21st Century Christianity.

I live in a gray world with a black and white mind.  All serious-minded stewards of God’s Word should as well.  You should ask yourself this question whether you stand behind a pulpit or not. Is your mind settled that God’s Word is authoritative in a world rocked by every sort of cultural relativism?  American culture is as unstable as water.  The masses are confused as to issues related to gender, race, authority, and ethics (the list is long and demoralizing).  Scripture removes the haze of ambiguity within our culture, clearly addressing right and wrong.  It would seem the church should flourish that the beacon of Scripture is as Peter stated “…a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

I am almost done…bear with me for a few important questions.  Is your pastor honest with the Word of God?  Does he unpack and explain Scripture for your benefit?  Does he honor God in the pulpit?  If you find yourself ‘straighten’ or ‘perplexed’ by the Scriptures, don’t accuse your pastor of being mean-spirited.  Maybe you have anxiety for a reason.  Objective truth forces you to make changes in your life to conform yourself to Christ’s image.  You may consider that too difficult, so you choose to remain emotionally subjective. In time your heart will simply become calloused to the Word of God.   Paul gave 18 months of his life to a congregation of second guessers. They affirmed his value on common agreements and questioned his authority when he made them feel bad.  No doubt Paul was angry, and if your pastor is constantly busy un-ruffling the feathers of emotional charged congregants, I bet you he is angry as well.

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