Tag Archives: Ben Witherington III

Was Jesus Okay With Homosexuality? (3 of 5)

If there is one thing that all Americans may agree on about Jesus, it is that he taught us to love. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” are two of our favorite Jesus quotes. “Judge not” and “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone” are often thrown in (or at) for good measure. But how do love and homosexuality fit together for Jesus and his followers? Here there is far less agreement.

This is part of a five-part blog series on Jesus and homosexuality:

    1. Introduction, Explanations, and a Summary of this Series
    2. How Should We Interpret Jesus’ Silence About Homosexuality?
    3. Does “Love Your Neighbor” Mean Jesus Affirmed “Gay Love”?
    4. Why It’s Wrong to Say Jesus Said Nothing About Homosexuality
    5. Conclusions: Was (and Is) Jesus Okay With Homosexuality?

In my last post I argued, based on evidence from Jewish history, that it is virtually certain that rabbi Jesus agreed homosexual behavior is wrong. This is true even if he never explicitly mentioned homosexuality. Overwhelming historical evidence demands that this must be our working hypothesis in any discussion of Jesus and homosexuality, virtually certain unless there is very strong evidence to the contrary. (And then we need to explain how this evidence was somehow missed by all his first listeners.)

Is Jesus’ teaching on love such evidence? Is Jesus’ emphasis on love proof that he approved of loving homosexual relationships? Does “love your neighbor” mean Jesus affirmed “gay love”?

An adaptation of an image I found online. The original message is true, but the question I added at the bottom must also be answered honestly.

Love and Homosexuality:
What Did Jews and Christians Say?

Jesus’ life was marked by unusual compassion and love. He not only taught love of friend and enemy alike; he also modeled it by welcoming and honoring social “nobodies” of all sorts:

  • He welcomed children: “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them” (Luke 18:16).
  • He had compassion on the crowds: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36).
  • He attracted women: “There were also many women there… who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him” (Matt. 27:55).
  • He said nice things about prostitutes: “Truly, I say to you… the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you” (Matt. 21:31).
  • He protected a woman caught in adultery: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).
  • And he was accused of being a friend of the wrong crowd: “Look at him! …A friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Matt. 11:19).

Matthew Vines emphasizes Jesus’ example of love at the climax of his viral video “The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality”:

Jesus placed a particular focus on those others overlooked, on those who were outcast, on mistreated and marginalized minorities. And if we are working to emulate the life of Christ, then that’s where our focus needs to be, too… How fully have you absorbed, not just the existence of gay and lesbian Christians, but the depth of the pain and the hurt that their own brothers and sisters have inflicted on them? Does that pain grieve you as though it were your own?” 1

Vines’ words here about love are true and on point. This is a message that all Christians, myself included, need to consider and act on. As Preston Sprinkle reminds us, when we discuss homosexuality, we are discussing “people to be loved… not just an issue.”2

However, Vines makes these statements about Jesus’ love in the context of arguing that “the Bible never directly addresses, and it certainly does not condemn, loving, committed same-sex relationships.” He claims that those who use the Bible to speak against homosexual behavior are denying gay people love: “You are uniquely unworthy of loving and being loved by another person, and all because you’re different, because you’re gay.” Here, it seems to me, Vines is badly misunderstanding both the nature of love and the significance of Jesus’ example of love.

Jesus’ life of love was truly remarkable, yet it is virtually meaningless as evidence that Jesus approved of homosexual relationships. Here are three reasons, rooted in history, why I can make such a confident claim:

First, ancient Jews saw no contradiction between commanding neighbor-love and condemning homosexual activity. In the Law of Moses, the famous command to love one’s neighbor and the commands against homosexual behavior are found practically shoulder to shoulder:

“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Lev. 18:22).

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).

“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself” (Lev. 19:34).

“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them” (Lev. 20:13).3

It is questionable, at best, to say that because Jesus quoted and affirmed “Love your neighbor” from Leviticus he therefore disagreed with “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman” from the same text. Instead, these passages demonstrate that ancient Jews did not think that affirming homosexual relationships was a logical or necessary outworking of an ethic of love.

Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits confirms this conclusion in his entry on “homosexuality” in the Encyclopaedia Judaica. He contrasts modern liberal Christian attitudes about love with the perspective found in Jewish law:

Whereas the more liberal attitude found in some modern Christian circles is possibly due to the exaggerated importance Christians have traditionally accorded to the term “love,” Jewish law holds that no hedonistic ethic, even if called “love,” can justify the morality of homosexuality any more than it can legitimize adultery, incest, or polygamy, however genuinely such acts may be performed out of love and by mutual consent.4

Second, the apostle Paul did not see any contradiction between urging neighbor love and warning against homosexual practice. Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth contains an entire chapter exalting love—the famous “Love Chapter” (1 Cor. 13). But it also includes this: “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral …nor men who practice homosexuality… will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Similarly, Paul’s letter to the Roman church, which contains the New Testament’s longest passage critiquing homosexual activity (Rom. 1:24-27), also emphasizes that all the commandments “are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Rom. 13:9).

Here we must detour briefly to address a question about which whole chapters have been written: Was Paul really speaking against homosexual behaviors of all kinds in these passages? That is indeed how the church read Paul for nearly 2000 years, but a seemingly unending variety of revisionist readings have been appearing in recent decades. Are we wrong to understand Paul as speaking generally against homosexual behavior in these passages? (See also 1 Timothy 1:9–10.)

The first response to this question must be to remember that Paul was a Jew. He was trained as a Pharisee, and he stood in a longer religious tradition where “for a period of about 2000 years, all Jews everywhere taught that homosexual unions of any sort were sinful and against nature.”5 That historical context was our starting point in interpreting Jesus’ silence (see the last post), and it must also be our starting point in interpreting Paul’s teachings.

That Paul was standing in this Jewish tradition is reinforced by the fact that he apparently drew directly on the Law of Moses to coin an original term for a male homosexual. He apparently created the word ἀρσενοκοῖται (“male-bedders,” found in 1 Cor. 6:9 and 1 Tim. 1:10) from two words found in the Greek translation of Leviticus 20:13, ἄρσενος  (“male”) and κοίτη (“bed”). This word, like its source text, appears to be a very general reference to males who practice same-sex relations.6

In this Jewish context, it is nearly meaningless to argue that Paul’s statements could be understood to leave a loophole for some positive forms of homosexual behavior. In this historical context of prohibiting all same-sex sexual relations and preserving the male-female created order, it is somewhat beside the point to suggest that Paul “doesn’t have long-term, loving same-sex relationships in view.”7 In this context, debates about the precise meanings of the terms Paul used to condemn homosexual behaviors become secondary. To counter centuries of consistent Jewish teaching against all forms of homosexual behavior, we would need to see clear positive endorsement of some sort of homosexual behavior by Paul, not merely a failure to explicitly condemn all forms.

But we don’t see that. Instead, if we read Paul’s statements about homosexuality within the context of previous Jewish writings on the topic, we see that his statements are right at home. Just like them, he builds his case on both Jewish law (“ἀρσενοκοῖται“) and nature/creation (Rom. 1:24-27). And just like them, he speaks against the homosexual union itself (“ἀρσενοκοῖται,” “male-bedders”) and against unions that involved mutual desire (“passion for one another,” Rom. 1:27). He even speaks against female-female unions (Rom. 1:26). In short, there is nothing in Paul’s teaching on the ethics of homosexuality to indicate that he was carving a path contrary to Jewish predecessors.

Kyle Harper, in a recent book published by Harvard University Press, warns against “any hermeneutic roundabout that tries to sanitize or soften Paul’s words” about same-sex relationships:

For Paul, same-sex attraction symbolized the estrangement of men and women, at the very level of their inmost desires, from nature and from the creator of nature… [pg brk] For the historian, any hermeneutic roundabout that tries to sanitize or soften Paul’s words is liable to obscure the inflection point around which attitudes toward same-sex erotics would be forever altered [within Roman culture]… Paul’s overriding sense of gender—rather than age or status—as the prime determinant in the propriety of a sexual act was nurtured by contemporary Jewish attitudes… By reducing the sex act down to the most basic constituents of male and female, Paul was able to redescribe the sexual culture surrounding him in transformative terms.”8

Despite Harper’s warning, there are many current revisionist readings of Paul to consider, and also many interpretive questions to answer.9 For those who wish to dig deeper into Paul, I recommend this transcript of an interview with Robert Gagnon or, for a much more detailed discussion, the book Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition, by Fortson and Grams (especially chapters 16-18).

With apologies, then, both for getting side-tracked with Paul and for giving him such cursory treatment, we return to Jesus.

Here, again, is our take-away point from Paul: Paul did not see any contradiction between urging neighbor love and warning against homosexual practice. Both the Jewish Scriptures (before Jesus) and Paul (after him) condemned homosexual behavior while also teaching the command “love your neighbor as yourself.” On these ethical matters of love and homosexuality, Paul and Moses were in complete agreement.

Jesus was also a Jew. He taught neighbor love using the very same commandment from the Law of Moses that Paul used. This is no reason to conclude he disagreed with Moses and Paul on the ethics of homosexual behavior.

Third, rather than equating love with sexual freedom, the New Testament commonly contrasts love and sexual indulgence. 

Don’t miss how radically different this is from our culture! In fact, this is one of those times when the “culture” of the New Testament (or even just of ancient Jews) is so radically different from our own that it is mind-bending.

Modern Western culture, at least since the 1960’s, typically equates love with sexual freedom. The language of love has been adopted by those promoting LGBTQ+ lifestyle choices, so that banners proclaiming messages such as “Love Wins” or “Love Is Love” are commonplace in Gay Pride marches and on social media. This use of “love” language is so ubiquitous that it is almost automatic for a person to feel they are being unloving if they speak against homosexual behavior.

To step from this mindset into the ethics of the New Testament is akin to jumping into a cold lake on a very hot day. The shock is great enough that most people complain that the water is too cold, rather than considering that the problem may be found in their own overheated bodies.

Rather than equating love with sexual freedom as our culture does, the New Testament specifically contrasts love and sexual immorality. It is not just that the NT sees some “sexual freedom” as loving and some as not; rather, it sees them as polar opposites. You are asked to choose one or the other.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians may contain the clearest example:

Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you (Eph. 5:2-3, emphasis added).

Paul’s letter to the Colossians tells us to “put to death” what we might call “sexual freedom” and to “put on” love instead:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire… Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness… And above all these put on love (Col. 3:5, 12, 14, emphasis added).

Paul’s letter to the Galatians also agrees, essentially saying, “Do not practice sexual immorality, impurity, or sensuality, but instead love each other”:

Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”…  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality… But the fruit of the Spirit is love” (Gal. 5:13-14, 19, 22, emphasis added).

Peter agrees with Paul (see 1 Peter 4:3-8), as does the writer of Hebrews. Near the end of his letter he writes, “Let brotherly love continue.” Then he gives several examples of how to practice brotherly love, including this:

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous (Heb. 13:4).10

Again, it is easy to miss how radical the New Testament ethic is. Remember that these writers are all Jews who agree that homosexual activity of any sort is sinful (see my last post). When they mention “sexual immorality,” they think that term includes homosexual practices (more on this in my next post). We should not imagine that they think some homosexual activity is immoral and some is loving. Rather, as Jewish Christians, they all believe that all homosexual behavior is contrary to God’s will and, therefore, contrary to true love.

An adaptation of an image found online.

Love and the “Most Important” Commandment

How can we explain this radical New Testament idea that sexual freedom and true love are at odds with each other?

One source of this thinking is the Jewish heritage of the New Testament writers. For example, the Jewish philosopher Philo, a contemporary of Jesus, complained about how some people abused the term love in his day:

Seduction is an offence which is similar and nearly related to adultery, as they are both sprung from one common mother, incontinence. But some of those persons who are accustomed to dignify shameful actions by specious names, call this love, blushing to confess the real truth concerning its character.11

Remember also the statement of Rabbi Jakobovits as quoted above:

Jewish law holds that no hedonistic ethic, even if called “love,” can justify the morality of homosexuality.12

Another foundation for this New Testament perspective is Jesus’ teaching on the two great commandments. In Jesus’ view (also the historic Jewish view), love for neighbor is properly understood as the “second” commandment, not the first. It must always be defined in relation to the “most important” commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God”:

One of the scribes… asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31, emphasis added)

Ben Witherington’s helpful definition of neighbor love takes this priority into account: “Love in the NT is not mainly or merely a warm, mushy feeling or sentiment but a decision of the will to do what God commands in regard to the neighbor.13 It is not ultimately loving to help your neighbor violate God’s will.

In Jesus’ and Paul’s eyes, love for someone new was never a valid argument in favor of adultery or divorce—not even if both marriage partners wanted the adultery or divorce to happen. To the contrary, Paul said that the commandment “You shall not commit adultery” is “summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Rom. 13:9). In Paul’s view, to not commit adultery is to love your neighbor. Since neighbor love was “a decision of the will to do what God commands in regard to the neighbor,” this meant that even mutually-desired divorce was prohibited because it violated God’s creation pattern of male-female marriage for life.

The same realities apply to “loving, committed same-sex relationships” (see Vines above). In the ethics of ancient Jews and Christians, neither divorce (“except on the ground of sexual immorality,” Matt. 5:32) nor homosexual activity were considered legitimate expressions of human love, for they both violated what Jesus called the “most important” commandment: love of God.

It is important to keep the “most important” love commandment in mind when listening to perspectives like the following, from a lecture by Ted Grimsrud, Senior Professor of Peace Theology at Eastern Mennonite University:

In terms of their mission, Christian churches should take as their starting point a general stance of welcome or invitation or hospitality toward all people… Jesus’ welcome to sinners included welcoming both people who had violated Torah (for example, the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus the tax collector, and the woman “of the city” who washed his feet) and people who were inappropriately labeled “unclean” (such as poor people, lepers, or menstruating women)…

The Bible does place a high priority on the need for the faith community to sustain a clear identity as God’s people—so we should resist forces within the community that compromise that identity. Not everything goes, but we limit hospitality only in order to serve the vocation of welcome… In relation to same-sex intimacy, same-sex marriage, and “homosexuality” in general, the fundamental call to hospitality does not fully resolve the issues. However, we should see the call to hospitality as the starting point.14

This perspective takes something truly beautiful—“hospitality,” or love of neighbor—and promotes it out of its place as the second commandment to become “the starting point.”  Given this beginning, it is little wonder that Grimsrud goes on to seek a “hermeneutic roundabout” for each biblical prohibition of same-sex relations.15 Making Jesus’ “most important” commandment the starting point for our discussion of love and homosexuality leads to different conclusions.

What Is Love? And Who Gets to Define It?

What, then, is love? What does it truly look like? Who gets to decide if a given action is actually loving? Is it possible to love a person while hating what they do?

It appears to me that it is impossible to agree on what true love is until we also agree in significant measure about what truth is.

What, for example, does it mean to love someone who experiences homosexual desires?

  • Supporting a person in their goals of achieving whatever pleasures, rights, or freedoms they desire?
  • Withholding support, even when it is asked for, if you disagree with their goals?
  • Warning them of the dangers of their goals, based on truth as best you can see it?
  • Withholding warning, even if it may mean their ultimate destruction?

Until we agree on truth, it is pretty much impossible to agree on which of the above (or any other alternative) is actually loving.

Love without truth is like cake batter without a mold. Fortson and Grams explain:

What happens with the criterion of “love” in a culture that highly values “freedom” is that “love” is defined in terms of “freedom.” The “loving thing to do” becomes letting people do what they want to do, as long as the rights of others are not infringed. Like cake batter, love takes the shape of the mold into which it is poured. In the West this mold consists of liberation and equality. No society will stand with so meager a basis for thinking through its great moral challenges. Citizens of Western culture lack a robust enough moral vocabulary and ethic to explain why they object to things their consciences feel are wrong. In the public square they are restricted to the language of freedom and equality in all moral matters.16

What “cake mold” did Jesus use to define true love? Clearly, the mold any ancient Jew used was the commands of God, including his commands about sexual immorality. Nothing could be truly loving unless it was in line with God’s law. As Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

Conclusion

Jesus’ teachings on love, then, do not in any way suggest that he was okay with homosexual relationships. If we conclude this, then we (like Vines above) are importing our own “cake mold” into the first century. We are assuming that Jesus defined love according to our values and our concepts of truth, not by those of ancient Jews or the law of God.

As we have seen, ancient Jews and early Christians alike both taught that one can love one’s neighbor and disapprove of homosexual activity at the same time. In fact, the authors of the New Testament believed that sexual immorality in all forms was diametrically opposed to true love.

Jesus’ emphasis on love is not proof that he approved of “loving homosexual relationships.” If anything, in light of biblical ethics, it shows the opposite.

Thank you for reading. If you have a comment, please leave it below.  And “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2).


Postscript: It is not the purpose of this series to address the important pastoral questions of how to love and bless those of you who have same-sex desires or live homosexual lifestyles. (If that is you, special thanks for reading.) I cannot sign off this post without emphasizing, however, that Jesus’ view of love as described above must never be used to justify violence of any sort (physical or psychological) toward homosexual people. Quite the opposite. What does love look like when offered to a person with homosexual desires? Among other things, it looks like hospitality, as Rosaria Butterfield describes in her book The Gospel Comes With a House Key.


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  1. Matthew Vines, “The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality,” originally a speech given at College Hill United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas, on March 8, 2012; video and transcript available at https://matthewvines.tumblr.com/, transcript accessed September 8, 2019. Vines advertises that his video, which has over 1,112,000 views, “dismantles every Bible-based argument against homosexuality.” That is a bold claim for a speech produced by a 21-year-old. Vines makes a powerful emotional appeal, but I think he falls far short of his claim, though I don’t have time here to respond to most of his arguments.
  2. Sprinkle has written a book with this title: People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue. I have not read the book, only reviews, so this mention is not meant to be an endorsement (nor a critique).
  3. Compare also “Love the sojourner” and “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God,” both from Deuteronomy (10:19; 22:5).
  4. Immanuel Jakobovits, “Homosexuality,” Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 8 (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1971), 961-62, emphasis added. As quoted by Mark F. Rooker in Leviticus, Vol. 3A in The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2000), 247.
  5. S. Donald Fortson III and Rollin G. Grams, Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2016), 248.
  6. Fortson and Grams explain further: “Arsenokoitai is a word not found in Greek literature outside Christian circles… Significantly,  the Greek translation of Leviticus 20:13 offers the words needed to understand how the word arsenokoitai came into being… Not only are the words found together, but a Greek manuscript in Paul’s day would not have separated them with spaces. While Paul would have known the two words were distinct, he would have seen them together in Leviticus 20:13 and apparently chose to keep them that way… Since the word arsenokoitai is not found elsewhere in Greek literature—except where Christian authors use it and usually in reference to 1 Corinthians 6:9—it is apparently a word Paul coined from Leviticus 20:13.” Ibid., 294-95.
  7. “A Brief Biblical Case for LGBTQ Inclusion,” online article, The Reformation Project, founded by Matthew Vines, https://www.reformationproject.org/biblical-case, italics added, accessed September 9, 2019.
  8. Kyle Harper, From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), 94-95. Harper is Professor of Classics and Letters and Senior Vice President and Provost at The University of Oklahoma. According to reviewer Kevin DeYoung, “Harper’s book is a work of academic history. For the most part, he doesn’t comment on the history he presents either to approve it or condemn it.”
  9. Was Paul aware of such a thing as homosexual orientation, or is using the word “homosexual” to translate Paul anachronistic? Was Paul thinking only of pederasty or promiscuity? What exactly does he mean by “contrary to nature” and “natural relations”?
  10. Gareth Lee Cockerill comments on Hebrews 13:1-5: “These four pairs of exhortations are an expansion of the ‘brotherly love’ with which they begin. The first two pairs describe behavior that directly expresses this brotherly love—hospitality to strangers (v. 2), concern for the imprisoned, and aid for the persecuted (v. 3). The last two forbid conduct that violates brotherly love—sexual unfaithfulness (v. 4) and greed (v. 5).” The Epistle to the Hebrews, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012), 678.
  11. Philo, The Special Laws, Book 3, XI. (64) http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/text/philo/book29.html, emphasis added.
  12. Immanuel Jakobovits, “Homosexuality,” Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 8 (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1971), 961-62, emphasis added. As quoted by Mark F. Rooker in Leviticus, Vol. 3A in The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2000), 247.
  13. Ben Witherington III, Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 316, emphasis added.
  14. Ted Grimsrud, “The Bible and Same-Sex Marriage,” lecture presented at Oak Grove Mennonite Church (Smithville, Ohio), January 18, 2015, transcript posted at https://peacetheology.net/2015/01/20/the-bible-and-same-sex-marriage/, accessed September 14, 2019, bold added.
  15. It is beyond the scope of this series to respond to each of Grimsrud’s interpretations in his lecture. However, virtually all of the arguments he uses and more are addressed in the recent book by Fortson and Grams recommended above.
  16. S. Donald Fortson III and Rollin G. Grams, Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition (Nashville, NT: B&H Academic, 2016), pp. 176, emphasis mine.

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Wanted: Weak Christians (5 of 5)

This is the final post of a series called “Wanted: Weak Christians.” Here are the other posts:

Wanted: Weak Christians (1 of 5) — Introduction
Wanted: Weak Christians (2 of 5) — Who Are They?

Wanted: Weak Christians (3 of 5) — How Are They Indispensable?
Wanted: Weak Christians (4 of 5) — Advice to the Strong
Wanted: Weak Christians (5 of 5) — The Power of the Powerless


He is blind and has been blind since birth. He can neither see nor speak, though occasionally he laughs. His head is large, and his hands are small. His legs are twisted, and his feet are as tiny as a five-year-old’s. He can’t learn. He can’t even lift his head. He has to be spoon-fed and sponge-bathed, and someone has to change his diapers. Sometimes he has convulsions, rattling not only the frame of his bed but the hearts of those who love him…

Who would think that in that bed was the power to move presidents? Who would think that muteness could be so eloquent? That blindness could open so many eyes? Who would think that so many lives would be uplifted by someone who couldn’t lift his own head?

You would. You would think those things. If you had been to Oliver’s room…

So writes Ken Gire, in his forward to Christopher de Vinck’s memoir about his brother, Oliver.  Few books have moved me as powerfully as this one.

Gire continues:

From the bed in Oliver’s room comes a glimmer of Bethlehem. If you will not look away, you will see something of what was revealed in the straw and swaddling clothes of the manger.

You will see the power of the powerless.

It is the way God works in a world that idolizes strength and worships the means of attaining it. “His strength is perfected in weakness,” is the way the Bible puts it. And weakness is what you find when you come to Oliver’s room.1

The book is called The Power of the Powerless. Henri J. M. Nouwen writes the introduction:

Chris… writes about… people who by many are considered misfits, vegetables, tragic flaws of nature, people about whom many feel that it would have been better if they had not been born. But for Chris these people are God’s messengers, they are the divine instruments of God’s healing presence, they are the ones who bring truth to a society full of lies, light into the darkness, and life into a death-oriented world.2

If the words of Gire and Nouwen resonate with you, read de Vinck’s book for yourself.   His brother Oliver illustrates the central point of this blog series: “weak” people are indispensable in Jesus’ church.

“In patristic thought the theme recurs that believers need those to whom they can show active care, protection, support, and love,” writes Thiselton. “Otherwise they cannot serve as Christ served ‘for others.’” 3 We need “weak” Christians, and God intentionally composed Christ’s church to include them.

“The church is a school for sinners, not a museum for saints.”4 This witticism, Thiselton notes, “underlines that a church made up only of self-styled ‘gifted’ elite would not be the church of Christ.”5

IS WEAKNESS ALWAYS GOOD?

Weakness and mutual suffering are not the sum total of God’s purposes for us, of course. His eternal design includes much more. That body you inhabit, which is the scene of so much dishonor and weakness? “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power” (1 Cor. 15:43).

Even now, what was true of the blind man in John 9 is also sometimes true of us: He was born blind, not because he or his parents had sinned, true enough, but also not because God intended for him to remain blind his entire life. Rather, he was born blind “that the works of God might be displayed in him”—the works, that is, of God healing him and thus demonstrating that Jesus was sent from God (John 9:3).

If this blind man had resisted being healed by Jesus, his weakness would have missed its purpose. What about us?

And should we really lump all forms of weakness together as equal? Surely it is not only the “strong” who should seek to become skilled physicians of the soul who can distinguish between different soul diseases. Those who are “weak” must likewise seek to be honest about the mix of physical, emotional, and spiritual causes of their weaknesses, submitting to God’s grace for each.

It is also true that, though weaknesses need not destroy our usefulness in the church in general, they may limit our usefulness for specific missions. Well-meaning Christians won’t always agree when this is the case; recall Paul and Barnabas splitting ways over John Mark (Acts 15:37-40).

We do not know what sort of weakness (spiritual? emotional? physical?) caused Mark to “withdraw” from the “work” of Paul’s first missionary trip. Whatever the cause, Paul experienced Mark’s withdrawal as an indication that he could not be trusted to persevere in the hard work of traveling gospel ministry. Yet Mark’s life contains many lessons for both “weak” and “strong” Christians. Consider:

  • Barnabas took Mark with him on a mission trip to Cyprus; quite likely he proved useful there under his cousin Barnabas’s softer leadership.
  • Mark later proved to be “very useful” to Paul “for ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11).
  • Mark was humble enough that, despite having been rejected by Paul, he was willing to again be one of Paul’s “fellow workers” (Phm. 1:24).
  • Paul was humble enough to call Mark “very useful,” to count him as a “fellow worker,” and to make a special point of insisting that others “welcome him” (Col. 4:10).
  • Mark’s great usefulness was revealed most powerfully when he wrote his Gospel.

Was it wise for Paul to refuse to take Mark along on his return missionary trip? We really don’t have enough data to answer that question well. What we do know is that “weak” Mark proved indispensable to the Church for all ages.

Mark’s story also suggests that “weak” Christians may grow in strength and usefulness. Similarly, right after our key passage about God honoring the weak, Paul urges us to “earnestly desire the higher gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31). We should not assume that God intends for us to remain lacking in new gifts that could equip us for new forms of service.

LOVE, WEAKNESS, AND THE GOSPEL

But something is even more important than “the higher gifts.” Something is better even than if all of us possessed all the gifts, better than if we all appeared strong and bursting with honor. “I will show you a still more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31).

That more excellent way is the way of love (1 Cor. 13). And in this broken world, love blossoms most fragrantly in Christ’s body when we do not each possess all the gifts that are most honored among us. Love blooms most fully when some of us appear weak.

And so we rest in God’s design. “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (1 Cor. 12:18).

If simply getting out of bed in the morning to feed your family requires every ounce of your of faith, then perhaps God says of you as Jesus said of the widow who put two small coins into the temple offering box:

Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on. (Luke 21:3-4)

Perhaps this widow overheard Jesus’ words. If so, imagine how honored she felt!

Witherington reminds us that the same sort of honor must be given to the seemingly weak within the church:

Paul’s word about giving more honor to the weaker members of the body of Christ, the less “presentable” ones, needs to be heeded. He believes that even these folk have essential gifts and functions to exercise. It is a mistake to bring the world’s evaluative system into the ekklēsia and to set up an honor roll that favors the more presentable and dignified, or those with the more outwardly showy or dramatic gifts. Paul believes that the body of Christ is only truly strong when it gives special honor and attention to its weakest members. The more presentable members do not need such attention.6

In offering honor to its weakest members, the church displays something that is essential to the gospel message itself. Listen to Paul’s description of those whom God has gathered around the “folly” of cross:

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

Paul was speaking, in part, about himself. Later he contrasts himself and the other authentic apostles with the arrogant Corinthians:

I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless… We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. (1 Cor. 4:9-13, emphasis added)

Again, this “weakness” was not a distraction from Paul’s ministry. Nor was it a mere happenstance, a set of circumstances that was neither here nor there. Rather, this “weakness” was essential to the nature of the gospel Paul was preaching. It was essential for the display of God’s grace.

Jesus’ weakness in the manger was an essential element of the gospel story. His weakness on the cross was crucial for our salvation. Just so, our weakness today remains an indispensable part of the good news of God’s mighty kingdom.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” the Lord assured Paul (2 Cor. 12:9).

The Lord’s assurance is for us, too. Therefore we, like Paul, can respond with courage: “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Are you weak? Do others consider you weak?

Do not despair. Your weakness is exactly what God needs to complete his composition.

He chose you. He placed you. His design is that “the power of Christ” will “rest upon” you.

You may appear weak, dishonorable, and even unpresentable. But you are indispensable.

God needs you. Your weakness is God’s gift to his church.

(Dare I preach this even to myself? “God needs me. My weakness is God’s gift to his church.” I believe. Help thou my unbelief!)

Trust the Artist. Someday we will see that every shadow has enhanced his glory and our joy.


Thank you for reading this blog series. I would love to hear your feedback. What is your experience of strengths and weaknesses in the church? Where have you seen Christians do well or poorly in how we honor the “weak” among us? What have I missed in my exposition? Please share your insights in the comments below. Thank you!

  1. Ken Gire, foreword to The Power of the Powerless, by Christopher de Vinck (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), 9-10. Bold print added.
  2. Henri J. M. Nouwen, introduction to The Power of the Powerless, by Christopher de Vinck (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), 18.
  3. Thiselton, ibid., 1008.
  4. On page 287 of The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015), Thiselton credits this quote to “J.C. Wand.” Though I have not been able to find the original source, my research confirms that this Wand is otherwise known as John William Charles Wand, Anglican bishop of London after World War II.
  5. Thiselton, First Epistle, 1008.
  6. Witherington, ibid., 263.

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Wanted: Weak Christians (3 of 5)

This is part three of a series called “Wanted: Weak Christians.” Here are the other posts:

Wanted: Weak Christians (1 of 5) — Introduction
Wanted: Weak Christians (2 of 5) — Who Are They?

Wanted: Weak Christians (3 of 5) — How Are They Indispensable?
Wanted: Weak Christians (4 of 5) — Advice to the Strong
Wanted: Weak Christians (5 of 5) — The Power of the Powerless


Why, then, does God include seemingly weak members in Christ’s body? Again, the answer is surprising: he includes such people because the rest of the body needs them. In a word, they are “indispensable.”

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. (1 Cor. 12:21-22)

Indispensable. Stop and weigh that word. Consider similar words from other translations, such as necessary or essential.1

Do others consider you a “weaker” person? Do you feel like one? God is speaking to you. He has intentionally included you in the composition of his church. He considers you “indispensable.” He does not look the other way when you walk into the room. He does not wish you weren’t there. He put you there, and he wants you. He needs you. More precisely, he needs you because others in Christ’s body need you. You are indispensable to other Christians.

How might seemingly weak persons be indispensable? Paul does not address this question directly, but the context suggests some answers:

The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (1 Cor. 12:22-25)

HOW DOES GOD HONOR “WEAK” CHRISTIANS?

Let’s begin with God’s action in verse 24. Paul says that God has given “greater honor to the part that lacked it.” When and how did God do this? I see several possibilities.

One possibility recalls that the word “indispensable” is probably a euphemism for reproductive organs. Paul is talking about our “unpresentable” but “necessary” body parts—our “private parts,” to use a contemporary euphemism.  Witherington explains: “God composed the body by giving the parts that were lacking in appearance even more honor, bestowing on them the most crucial of functions, that is, reproduction.2

In this reading, God has honored the seemingly weaker members of Christ’s church by giving them important work to do, work that the church needs for its survival. In Kenneth Bailey’s interpretation of this passage, he concludes that Paul is talking about spiritual reproduction—more specifically, evangelism.3 This is too specific and narrow of an interpretation, though members of Christ’s church who seem to be weak do indeed play important and often overlooked parts in the broader task of promoting the gospel.4 In the history of redemption, we see how God repeatedly chose secondborns over firstborns in the bloodline of the Messiah. He entrusted women who were social outcasts for the same noble task—those who were barren (Sarah), sexually immoral (Tamar and Rahab), foreign (Ruth and Rahab again), or pregnant out of wedlock (Mary). In the New Testament, Jesus chose men like Matthew (a despised tax collector) and Paul (a former persecutor) among his apostles. Today, many of us could tell a story about some overlooked or socially backward church member who, at just the right time, possessed an insight or a gift that helped the church through a crucial moment. Truly, “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:27). “He gives gifts that the body needs to people who might otherwise be thought of as unimportant or dispensible,”5 calling them “indispensable” instead.

Again, when and how has God given “greater honor to the part that lacked it”? Here is another possible answer: Perhaps it happened when he honored it with clothing. God indeed gave “greater honor” to our private parts when he clothed Adam and Eve. He didn’t deck their face or hands with clothing; presumably he clothed their torsos, including their genitals and Eve’s breasts—the parts of their bodies that they used especially for love-making and child-rearing. Whether we consider our private parts to be full of shame or glory (and in this fallen world they bear a potent mix of both), God granted them the privacy they needed, thus honoring them.

Similarly, consider the honor that God has given to the lowly within Christ’s church, quite apart from any work they may or may not do. “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus said. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.” On the contrary, “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:4-6). At the final judgment, our destiny will be determined in part by how we have treated “the least of these my brothers” (Matt. 25:40). Consider the emphasis the early church placed on caring for the poor, the sick, the widows, and the orphans. Consider how, time and again, Paul focused his exhortation primarily on the “strong,” urging the former to lovingly limit their freedoms out of consideration for the “weak.” God, by the teaching and example of Jesus and his apostles, has indeed “clothed” those who seem to be weak with greater honor, giving them the sort of deference that is normally reserved for royalty.

This leads closely to a third possible way that God has given “honor to the part that lacked it”: by God-given instinct, it is the same body parts that God covered in Eden that we are most careful to cover (or adorn in the marriage bed!) today. Martin explains:

The genitals may seem to be the most shameful part of the body, but our very attention to them—our constant care to cover them and shield them from trivializing and vulgarizing public exposure—demonstrates that they are actually the most necessary of the body’s members, those with the highest status.6

In clothing our bodies, we are imitating what God has already done.

In this reading, God grants honor to the seemingly weaker members of Christ’s body through the actions of the other members. Yes, Paul says that it is God who has given the honor. But a couple sentences earlier he also said this: “On those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor.” Clearly, one way God works is through the actions of his people. And when his people are merely imitating what he has already done, then, all the more clearly, it is God who is working through them. We will discuss this more in a minute.

There are at least three ways, then, that God has given “greater honor to the part that lacked it.” First, he entrusts important tasks to them. Second, in his upside-down kingdom he repeatedly exalts the lowly for no apparent reason but to demonstrate his generosity, saying that “the last will be first” (Matt. 20:16). And third, he gives honor to those who need it through the care of their brothers and sisters in Christ.

All three options are related, and all are true. I am not sure how many layers of meaning Paul had in mind as he wrote.7  I suspect, though, that our third option was uppermost in his mind.

It seems to me that Paul is saying something like the following: God designed our physical bodies so that our brains, eyes, and hands instinctively work together to honor our crucial reproductive organs with appropriate clothing. In the same way, God designed Christ’s body so that its true members instinctively work together to give honor to fellow Christians who appear weaker or less presentable, knowing they are valued by God and essential for the vitality of the church. In this way, God is giving “greater honor to the part that lacked it.”

Bessy’s attempt to apply 1 Corinthians 12:23 didn’t produce the results she was hoping for.

 

HOW ARE “WEAK” CHRISTIANS INDISPENSABLE?

We can now propose three answers to our initial question. How might seemingly weak persons be indispensable in Christ’s church? First, God often gives them important abilities and tasks that might be mishandled if left to the more glamorous members. Second, they provide essential opportunity for God to demonstrate his sovereign grace. And third, they draw other body members to participate in God’s work of raising up the lowly.

Let’s consider this third point more closely. We have done some theological guesswork to consider when and how God has given “greater honor to the part that lacked it.” The question that Paul explicitly answers, however, is why:

God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (1 Cor. 12:24-25)

God’s design is that, as honor is given to the weaker members, the body avoids division. Instead of experiencing division, the members care for one another.

Wait a minute. This is ironic. Weakness can help prevent division? How many times have Christians parted ways because one considers another too weak? How many times have they divided over differing definitions of weakness, or differing ideas of how to “care for” those who are weak? How many times have I simply avoided getting too close to someone whose weakness leaves me feeling uncomfortable?

Weakness is supposed to lead to unity? And yet this is part of God’s upside-down master plan. How does it happen? Listen again to Paul:

God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Cor. 12:24-26)

Have you ever noticed that, no matter how much you may fight with your brother at home, you will defend him to the death in public? Something similar was true in the ancient honor-shame culture of Paul’s day. He may have been alluding to such social values here. David deSilva explains:

A principle Plutarch advocates [for sibling relationships] is that, where inequalities are unavoidable (for example, in age and thus seniority), the brother in the senior position must downplay his advantage out of sensitivity to the junior, while the brother in the ‘inferior’ position should respect the difference in status… In doing so, each honors the other and unity is preserved… This is also the ethos we find Paul promoting [in 1 Corinthians 12:22-26] as he considers the various gifts (even degrees of giftedness) within the church —those more visibly gifted must compensate by bestowing honor of [sic? perhaps “on”?] those less gifted in order “that there may be no dissension.”8

This sounds glorious, and glory is indeed the intended outcome. But the process is often painful. Sometimes honoring a “weaker” person means “covering” for them—enduring discomfort of our own in order to preserve their dignity. Thiselton is right: “Paradoxically, our very embarrassment over the so-called ‘less presentable’ parts leads to care and attention in how we cover or even adorn them.”9

Paul is similarly blunt: “If one member suffers, all suffer together.” He does not say this should happen; he says it does happen. Having a person with social difficulties, material needs, mental health challenges, or spiritual limitations in your church not only should cause you suffering; it will.

Chrysostom waxes eloquent on this point:

Often when a thorn has pierced the heel, the whole body feels it and becomes concerned. The back bends over, the abdomen and the legs join in, the hands, running forward like bodyguards and servants, remove the thorn, the head bows down, and the eyes look on with great concern. As a result, even if the foot is at a disadvantage because it cannot raise itself up, it is made equal by the lowering of the head and enjoys equal honor…

Again, if something happens to the eyes, all the members feel pain, all are made idle. The feet do not walk or the hands work, and the stomach does not enjoy its usual foods. Yet the ailment belongs to the eye. Why does your stomach waste away? Why are your feet constrained? Why are your hands fettered? Because they are bound up with the eyes, and the whole body suffers more than it can say. If it did not suffer as a whole, it would not trouble itself with all this care for one part.10

Read that last sentence again: “If it did not suffer as a whole, it would not trouble itself with all this care for one part.” Or, as Thiselton said above, “Our very embarrassment over the so-called ‘less presentable’ parts leads to care.”

This is God’s purpose, a hinge-point in his master plan for using “weak” Christians to produce unity in the church: mutual suffering, even mutual embarrassment, is intended to produce mutual care. Sharing in another’s suffering is divinely-orchestrated motivation. The experience of shared suffering moves us to care for the “weak” person whose suffering we are sharing.

And make no mistake: those who are deemed “weaker” often experience great suffering. It is suffering upon suffering not only to endure whatever weaknesses we possess, but also to be keenly aware that others perceive us as being weak. This awareness is often enough to weaken us still further, threatening a downward spiral of inability and shame. The suffering can be immeasurable.

But God’s design is different: Mutual suffering produces mutual care, and all that mutual sharing strengthens the unity of Christ’s body.

Further, all members are enabled to share together in honor and joy. After all, “we do not say to a victorious runner, ‘I congratulate your legs’; congratulations go to the person.”11 Thus, whether the honor is given to those who seem to more naturally deserve it or to those who seem to more naturally lack it, all share in the joy. Oh, for a greater outworking of this divine plan!

GOD’S COMPOSITION

Again, this is God’s composition. When Paul says that “God… composed the body” in this way, he emphasizes the noun “God”12 and then uses a telling verb. Thiselton explains:

The verb [used here by Paul]… is used of a painter mixing and blending colors, of composing a harmonious work or substance, or of compounding the various elements which together form the human body… The picture is of a craftsman mixing a compound, or of a musician composing a harmony, or of a divine agency creating a body by combining elements to form a compound. At all events, it is God who decides [what honor or function each person is given].13

God’s composition is not something you or I would have dreamed up. We all want to be the one equipped to give. We don’t want the embarrassment of needing someone else’s gift. We want to be the helper in every relationship, or at least not the one needing help. We want the insight, articulation, and charisma to lead convincingly and effectively. We want to be the one making the world better for others.

But what if…? What if your weakness holds a gift that, though unglamorous, is exactly what the church needs? What if your inability to lead well prepares you to be exactly the sort of follower some leader needs? What if your poverty enables someone else to give? What if your helplessness allows another to rely on or give God’s grace more fully? What if your dishonor allows another to share in the sufferings of Christ? What if your needs pull the church together in unity as they care for you?

What if what your world most needs is someone with needs?

What if your weakness is God’s gift to Christ’s church?


This series is nearly done, but we’ll meditate on that last question a little more in our final post. This series is not merely theoretical for me. I suspect it isn’t for you, either. Sometimes it isn’t easy to talk about those parts of our lives that lack honor. Sometimes it isn’t appropriate, either.

If you have something you’d like to share, though, please leave a comment below. And thanks for reading.

  1. Necessary is by far the most common English translation. Indispensable is the second most common, also frequent. Thiselton suggests the following: “Normal we should translate the Greek as necessary, since ἀνάγκη usually means necessity or compulsion. But since the “superior” or “strong” groups see themselves as the essence of the church, the wordplays implicit in vv. 22 and 23 may be best served by rendering it essential” (ibid., 1007). Some translations say something like much more necessary or the most necessary, but the words translated much more probably modify the whole argument rather than just the word necessary: “it is much more the case that the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” After all, though Paul says we give “greater honor” and “greater modesty” to those body parts that need it, he does not seem to be arguing for degrees of necessity (something the Corinthian “elites” affirmed), but that all are needed. (See Thiselton, ibid., 1006.)
  2. Ben Witherington, Conflict and Community in Corinth: Socio-rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 259.
  3. Kenneth E. Bailey, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 344-45. Bailey draws seven parallels between natural and spiritual reproduction, including that each is “a very private affair” that is “sacred and honorable,” involving “deep relations” and “long-term commitments.” These may be true, but almost certainly were not in Paul’s mind when he wrote this passage.
  4. See The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission: Promoting the Gospel with More Than Our Lips, by John Dickson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010) for the distinction between evangelism and gospel promotion and for a helpful discussion of New Testament teachings about how Christians with diverse gifts all play a role in the latter.
  5. Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010), 606.
  6. D. B. Martin, “Tongues of Angels and Other Status Indicators,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 1991, 51:567. Quoted in Garland, ibid., 596.
  7. Gordon D. Fee shares my uncertainty here: “It is less clear, however, precisely what Paul had in mind by ‘greater honor.’ Most likely he means that the parts that appear to be weak and less worthy are in fact accorded the greater honor of having important functions or receiving special attention. See The First Epistle to the Corinthians, rev. ed., NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014), 680.
  8. David A. deSilva, Honor, Patronage, Kinship, & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 167-68, also 168 n. 17.
  9. Thiselton, ibid., 1009.
  10. John Chrysostom, Homily 31, ibid., 209.
  11. Thiselton, 1 Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical & Pastoral Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006), 210.
  12. Thiselton, First Epistle, 1010.
  13. Thiselton, ibid., 1010.

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