Topic: “1 Corinthians”

The Lord’s Supper and Gospel Unity

I am writing up reflections on my devotions every day for six weeks. This is one of those posts.

On Sundays, I will be using this space as an opportunity to reflect publicly on the sermon presented.


My friend, elder, and professor Dr. Nathan Finn preached the sermon this morning at FBC Durham. His text, 1 Corinthians 11:17–34, is the only text in the New Testament to address specifically the Lord’s Supper outside the gospels—so it was fitting that it was the text for the day in which we partook of Communion together. As Nathan1 walked through these verses and expounded their meaning, he challenged us to evaluate our own congregation in light of the passage’s message, which he summarized:

The Lord’s supper is an ongoing reminder that within the church, the divisions in the world have been done away with.

His points were as follows:

  1. It is a shameful thing for a church to be divided by the priorities of the fallen world. (11:17–22)
    • Paul had been commending the Corinthians believers for some things they were doing well,2 but no more: the way the Corinthians believers acted when they came together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper was awful. They were divided.
      • Nathan suggested that Paul’s comment about the division being “necessary” was one of Paul’s typically sarcastic moves in the epistle—as I put it to Jaimie, one of Paul’s favorite rhetorical flourishes in the book is apparently to embrace the Corinthian position, only to turn around and hit them hard with the truth.
    • These divisions turned the Lord’s Supper—a proclamation of unity!—into an empty ritual.
    • He noted that the Corinthian response simply embodies a common pattern of the day: people were following the natural pattern of their culture, bringing their own food not to share (as in a potluck) but to eat themselves. As such the wealthy had much, along with leisure time, while the poor and working-class types had little to eat and little time. Even if unintentional, the result of following the world’s pattern was to cause a sharp demarkation between the rich and the not-so-rich… followed by a proclamation of unity! The visual hypocrisy is outrageous.
    • Nathan then challenged us: are there places where we unintentionally imitate the priorities and practices of the culture around us in a way that diminishes the unity we have in Christ?
  2. The Lord’s Supper was given to us a corporate proclamation of the gospel by the whole church. (11:23–26)
    • The Lord himself gave Paul these instructions, Paul records. An interesting tidbit, although not one that substantially affects the interpretation of the passage.
    • The church was not failing to practice the Lord’s Supper; it was simply going about it in a bad way. This, at least, is a good thing.
    • Nathan suggested that this suggestion tells us why we should practice the Lord’s Supper: doing so proclaims the Lord’s death. All of us, not just the preacher, are together preaching a visual sermon.
      • A sermon to the believer: a reminder of what Christ has accomplished for us and the shape of our hope.
      • A sermon to the unbeliever: an invitation to enter into faith in Jesus Christ.
    • We should celebrate the Lord’s Supper regularly and frequently3 because it is good news.
  3. We should celebrate the Lord’s Supper in such a way that it shapes our life together and accurately reflects the gospel it is meant to proclaim. (11:27–34)
    • Nathan began his treatment of this section by clearing up some misconceptions about the word “unworthy.” It is not a question of our sinfulness or merit in the time preceding our taking of the Supper: all of us are too sinful to ever merit partaking. Rather, Paul was warning against a very particular sin: taking of the Supper in such a way as to undermine the very meaning of the meal by creating division in the very symbol of Christian unity.
    • Nathan elaborated on his point about worthiness and sinfulness: we do not partake of the Supper because we might have been good enough, but because Christ took all our sins on himself. That is exactly what the Supper is about!
    • Finally, in verse 36 we are urged to self-examination (regardless of how one understands “discern the body”): what does the Supper mean for us individually and corporately?
      • Judgment came on the Corinthian believers because they magnified divisions instead of the unity of Christ. The purity of the church matters. God does not take sin lightly. But this warning should lead us not to despair but to the pursuit of love and good works!
    • Even if we are judged, when we are believers such judgment is not for condemnation but discipline. We should embrace it.

Finally, Nathan challenged the church to continually consider how we can more carefully “bend” on our own approaches to better serve the lost around us. In particular, he exhorted us to consider the ways our church might be unintentionally embracing typical patterns of social, economic, or ethnic divisions in the world around us, and to constantly fight to set those aside and demontrate the unity of Christ.

And then we proclaimed the death of Christ in taking the Lord’s Supper together, and it was good.

Those of you curious about my usual textual notes… they’ll be coming sometime later this week. Courtesy of a killer work week last week, I did not have a chance to get my translation done yet.


  1. He’s “Dr. Finn on campus” but “Nathan” at church; since this is a post about the church I’m referring to him as he prefers in that context. 
  2. Quite the qualified commendation, of course; see my paper here on 1 Corinthians 11:2–16. 
  3. Nathan makes no secret in personal conversation that he’d prefer to partake of Communion weekly, though it is not a hill to die on—a perfect summary of my own position as well. 

Marriage and Sexual Purity

I am writing up reflections on my devotions every day for six weeks. This is one of those posts.

On Sundays, I will be using this space as an opportunity to reflect publicly on the sermon presented.

Today, Ashok Nachnani1 preached through 1 Corinthians 6:12–7:7. Since Paul speaks throughout this section (even across a topic change) about issues related to sexual (im)morality, Ashok, tackled the whole passage together.2 He broke the text down into three major points:

  1. Flee sexual immorality.
  2. Embrace marriage as a protection against sexual immorality.
  3. Recognize that both marriage and singleness/celibacy are gifts from God.

Ashok spent the greatest amount of time addressing the first issue—and he did an excellent job of it. Sexual immorality is a hot-button topic in our culture, and it is easy to talk too much, too harshly, too little, or too passively about it; I think Ashok hit the right balance of preaching both the sinfulness of sexual immorality and the glorious power of God’s grace in Christ. That is precisely the balance that we must always strive for, whatever the topic, and all the more so in areas where our culture is particularly sensitive.

A few gems that particularly stood out to me:

  • Sexual immorality is like a terrible house guest who promises to come for a short, pleasant visit—and instead sticks around indefinitely, destroying everything along the way.
  • Following Matt Chandler: “It is okay not to be okay. It is not okay to stay that way.” The gospel, Ashok reminded us, is for people who are not okay, and we need to welcome people however broken they are. At the same time, the gospel calls us to be transformed—not to remain in that same state of brokenness forever without change.
  • Ashok pointed out that the world tells teens that God made a beautiful garden, and promptly fenced off the nicest part with barbed wire, intimating that extramarital sex is worth violating God’s will. This is, he pointed out, not exactly a new lie… just a repetion of the oldest lie.
  • All of us face temptation in the area of sexuality—whether heterosexual or homosexual. As such, Christians who do not experience same-sex attraction can (at least to some extent) and need to empathize much more with the struggles of their brothers and sisters who do experience same-sex attraction. We must not treat homosexual practice as any worse than any other kind of extramarital sexual practice, but recognize instead that all of us are tempted and fallible in precisely this area, though not in precisely the same ways. For all of us, the call is to place our identity not in our sexuality but in Christ himself—a hard call, but one we are empowered to walk out by the Holy Spirit.3
  • Marriage has many good purposes, including procreation, imaging Christ to the world, and sanctifying us—but Paul makes it clear that, among those many other purposes, it also helps us avoid sexual immorality. That was no less significant a help to the Corinthians than it is to us.
  • Marital sex is not about using your spouse for your own satisfaction, but about giving yourself to your spouse for his/her good pleasure.
  • When considering the gifts of marriage and singleness (and here Ashok was speaking particularly to singles), do not forget who the gift-giver is. He gives no gift out of spite, or ignorance of what is best for us; the gift of singleness is therefore a good thing, however it may feel at the time.
  • Trust God to give you all you need.4

It is always tempting, when dealing with hard sin issues, to either gloss over them or to spend the entire time hammering on that issue. What believers (and non-believers!) need, though, is to hear both the deadly cost of sin, and the price that has already been paid for it. I was blessed today, because Ashok showed us the cost of sexual immorality and showed us the beautiful work of Christ in atoning for any and all our sexual immorality. Hallelujah.


I am also translating the sermon passage from Greek whenever applicable sometime Saturday or Sunday morning for my own profit; I will supply these translations, with some brief commentary, at the end of my reflections in case anyone is curious and wants to see my progress.

My translation:

All is permissible to me, but all is not helpful to me; all is permissible to me but I will not be mastered by anything. “Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food,” but God will do away with both. But the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. Now God both raised the Lord and will raise us by his own power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? So then, a member of Christ cannot become a member of a prosititute, can he? By no means! Or do you not know that the one who is united with a prostitue is one flesh with her? For it says, “The two will become one flesh.” But the one who is united with the Lord is one spirit with him. Flee sexual immorality! Every sin which a person does is outside his body, but the one who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price—so then glorify God in your bodies!

Now concerning that which you wrote, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman”— On account of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. The husband is to give what he owes to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but her husband does; and likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but his wife does. Do not hold back from each other—unless by mutual consent for a time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again—that Satan may not tempt you by your lack of self-control. And I say this as a concession, not as a command—now I wish all men to be even as I myself am, but each one his own gift from God: one of this sort, and another of that.

ESV(2007):

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

NIV(2011):

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

As with last week’s section, the translations overlap substantially. For the most part, the language—both the vocabulary and the syntax—in 1 Corinthians is fairly straightforward. To wit: I was able to translate this passage while only having to look up about five words, and with little to no confusion on the grammar. Even granting that it is a familiar passage, this is pretty straightforward.

Between the NIV and the ESV, I slightly prefer the ESV’s rendering; the NIV (somewhat unusually) adds a lot of interpretive material throughout the text in this case. While the NIV aims for a smoother reading, for the most part it doesn’t add nearly as much interpretation as it does here. The editors are trying to make the consensus interpretation of the otherwise somewhat confusing text apparent: Paul is apparently quoting the Corinthians and then responding to their ideas or questions, so the NIV adds, “You say…” throughout. This is a somewhat reasonable attempt to bring across the semantics of the text, but it’s not a choice I’m particularly comfortable with, because it adds a great deal that simply isn’t present in the original. To be sure, moves like this are inevitable; the question is simply a matter of extent.

On the other hand, the translators of the ESV made a few odd choices of its own. First, the way they chose to word the conclusion of the first paragraph (“Now as a concession, not a command, I say this”) is neither very good English nor even representative of the word order in the original Greek. (My translation represents the word order much more accurately.) In cases like this, the traditional—i.e. the King James Version—reading is usually to blame for odd wordings in modern English, but here the KJV worded it much more like we would. In short, I have no idea why the editors of the ESV made that move. Second, unlike my translation or the NIV, they chose to supply “it is written” before introducing the quote from Genesis—but for a translation that proclaims its aim as using, as often as possible, the same words in English for the same words in Greek, this is strange. The word is not “written,” but “said”; in this case, the NIV is more literal than the ESV.

Again, on the whole I prefer the ESV’s rendering here, but only by a hair. The NIV removes a lot of ambiguity that makes the passage more confusing, but it does so by adding in a great deal of extra material. This is the balance every translation has to juggle constantly, and again, we see that each does better in some areas than in others.


  1. And you thought “Thabiti Anyabwile” was hard to figure out by reading alone. Ha! 
  2. This was a good plan—as I’ve mentioned before, I think taking longer sections generally makes for better preaching. 
  3. I strongly recommend listening to the sermon for this section alone. Ashok nailed it in both content and tone; I hope to be as graciously articulate as him on hard subjects at some point in the future. 
  4. Though this came as part of Ashok’s comments to singles in particular, it is worth bearing in mind no matter what the circumstances. 

Surrendering Everything to Win Something

I am writing up reflections on my devotions every day for six weeks. This is one of those posts.

On Sundays, I will be using this space as an opportunity to reflect publicly on the sermon presented.

Over this summer, our regular teaching pastor, Andy Davis, is on sabbatical, working on a number of writing and ministry projects. As such, the other pastors have been rotating through1 and working through 1 Corinthians. Today, Ron Halbrooks taught through 1 Corinthians 9:19–23, in which Paul famously traces out the ways he surrendered his own rights for the sake of the gospel and encourages the Corinthians to imitate his example. Ron focused on three points:

  1. Paul made himself a slave to all. Paul’s surrender of his own rights was one of the means by which he advanced the gospel: he made sure there was nothing – really nothing! – of his own preferences that he would not give up for the sake of people’s believing in Christ. Though he refused to compromise when people wanted to add requirements to the gospel, he refused to let any non-essential get in the way of his ministry. Ron exhorted us to follow Paul’s example, and especially to consider the preferences we struggle to overcome in reaching out to those who do not yet follow Christ.

  2. The cultural setting: Paul was sensitive to the particular areas in which he needed to make changes. There were plenty of things neither Jews nor Gentiles cared about, and areas where one group was fixated on things the other was not. As Paul went about his ministry, he paid attention to these differences and adapted accordingly. When he was with the Jews, he carefully followed the law; when he was with Gentiles, he had no such concern (how would they have known one way or the other?). Ron pointed out that we need to do the same: do we need to overcome language gaps or be thoughtful of the kinds of food people like? Can we set aside preferences we hold strongly that are merely cultural in order to win others to Christ?

  3. Save some. The goal of Paul’s ministry was to save some. He did not make these sacrifices just because he could (who would want that?), and he did not take the salvation of souls lightly. He aimed to bring about people’s salvation, not merely to educate or inform the world. As such, there was an urgency and an intensity about his actions we would do well to imitate. Because Paul’s goal was not mere education or even cultural change, but eternal salvation, he was moved to take significant or even drastic measures in pursuit of that goal. We, too, ought to consider the goal sufficiently significant as to motivate us so deeply.

Ron concluded by exhorting the congregation to take a number of practical steps forward in response to Paul’s example. First, he challenged the congregation to intensify its efforts in sending members out on mission to the world, whether as international missionaries or as domestic church planters. Second, he exhorted us all to intentionally reach out to those in our community who are unlike us – whether internationals with whom we do not share even language, or simply people from a different cultural background (e.g. white folks having black folks over for dinner and vice versa).


I am also translating the sermon passage from Greek whenever applicable sometime Saturday or Sunday morning for my own profit; I will supply these translations, with some brief commentary, at the end of my reflections in case anyone is curious and wants to see my progress.

1 Corinthians 9:19–23

Chris Krycho’s translation

For, though being myself free from all, I made myself a slave to all, in order that I might gain many. And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to those under the law as under the law (though not myself being under the law), that I might gain those under the law; to those outside the law as one outside the law (though not myself being outside the law with respect to God, but rather subject to Christ) that I might gain those outside the law; I became weak to those who are weak, that I might gain the weak; I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some. And I do all for the sake of the gospel, so that I might become a participant in it.

ESV

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

NIV(2011)2

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

You will note that the translations overlap quite substantially. Both the ESV and NIV add periods and fill in the phrase “I became” where I used semicolons and left the phrase out in most cases. My translation is more “literal,” but it’s not more accurate. The sentence I wrote is better Greek than English; that sort of “piling on” of phrases was good form for them, but it’s what we call a run-on sentence in English. Even with semicolons, it’s just not the best way of putting it; if I were to go back and smooth this out I’d add those in just as the ESV and NIV have.

You can see, though, that this is a pretty straightforward passage, and not particularly contentious. The ESV and NIV, though they have somewhat different translation philosophies, ended up with very similar results here, and even my own rough, first-pass translation came fairly close to their carefully studied work. Some passages are like this – they make for a nice change of pace from those which are difficult or ambiguous.

The final sentence is most interesting: I’ve left it rough on purpose, but it’s clear that something is sort of missing in my translation. Both the NIV and the ESV supply “blessings” and translate the sentence accordingly, with some variations as to the syntax. This is interesting, because it’s being inferred from the text. I’m quite curious about why they’re inferring this, as the UBS4 Greek New Testament simply doesn’t have a word for “blessing” present. I’ll probably go look this up in a commentary somewhere to see, because I’m curious.


  1. I think this is great. Given a choice, I would advocate strongly for much more frequently pulpit rotation, and for that matter against the idea of a “senior pastor” at all. As I often say in these short devotional pieces: more some other time. 
  2. Yes, I know the SBC passed a resolution arguing against the NIV2011. While I have concerns with certain interpretive moves the NIV2011 made, I have nearly identical concerns (albeit in different places and different directions) with some of the translations the ESV has made – and the same with the HCSB, the NASB, the NKJV, and so on. No translation is perfect, and the NIV2011 is in general a very good translation. 

Head Coverings!—An Exegesis of 1 Corinthians 11:2–16

The following paper was prepared for Dr. Steven McKinion’s Hermeneutics class, with the constraints that it be between eight and twelve pages, with at least eight academic sources, two of which had to be journals.

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Overview

First Corinthians 11:2–16 is one of the most controversial passages in modern hermeneutics. The plain meaning of the text is straightforward: Paul argues that men ought to have their heads uncovered and women ought to have their heads covered when praying or prophesying in the church. The interpretive challenge stems from three interwoven issues.

First, the interpreter must decide how to resolve a number of perplexing textual difficulties in the passage. Second, since Paul’s injunction seems to be culturally situated—no one today wears clothing remotely like that of Paul’s day, head coverings included—interpreters must decide how to respond to Paul’s instructions. It is impossible to follow his instructions as the recipients of his letter would, as it is unclear exactly what the “head covering” was. Moreover, as will be seen, Paul’s argument is complex, leaning on a combination of the creation order, and a universal sense of what is appropriate to men and women. Thus, correct interpretation must respect both the creation order and variations in cultural perceptions of propriety. Third, the interpretation of the passage’s comments on the “headship” relationship between men and women have been the subject of much controversy. These difficulties notwithstanding, Paul’s central thesis remains clear: men and women ought to dress in a way that demonstrates the differences between the genders. Read on, intrepid explorer →