Paul’s words concerning the return of the Lord were a comfort to the grieving Thessalonians, but they have caused protracted strife among theologians. Perhaps the solution lies in his use of Covenant-literary structure.
While we must avoid extracting verses from Paul’s epistles as if they were theological fortune cookies, an analysis of his systematic reasoning without reference to Covenant-literary structure is still prone to missing much of the meaning, beauty and wit.
The book of Galatians, like all Scripture, is composed in “Covenant cycles.” Identifying the placement of words and phrases in relation to each other is often the only means of perceiving their full meaning. The location of Paul’s mention of “no male and female” in Galatians 3:28 is a perfect example.
A face value reading of 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 provides us with practical advice for dealing with disputes between Christians. But Paul (or the Holy Spirit inspiring Him) presents his case in the familiar Covenantal pattern, which allows the author to ground it in some fundamental biblical events, revealing the universal context of every one of our own day-to-day decisions. Every dispute places us in the courts of God as His ministers. Paul’s unique argument and its allusions are easily explained once this structure is discerned.
Reading the Bible through the lens of the Bible Matrix is a manipulation of the text — unless of course the patterns I rave about are actually inherent in the text. Based on the Covenant-literary analysis below, am I putting a foreign spin on the text, or is the text already spinning? You be the judge.
TRANSCENDENCE – The Seat of Moses
Creation / Genesis / Ark of the Covenant
that the saints will judge the world? (GLORIFICATION – REPRESENTATION – NATIONS)
In the big picture of Covenant history, the Apostolic Church was “Maturity,” the establishing of a prophetic body comprised of all nations. Following Jethro’s advice (Exodus 18), Moses chose able men from among all the people, men who knew the law and who could judge the lesser cases, while Moses represented them all before God. In Acts 6, it is Spirit-filled men who are chosen to fulfil lesser duties, but nevertheless the same Spirit shared by all saints, including the apostles. Since the saints have one mind in Christ, His judgment in all matters can be made clear through submission to the Spirit. The inability of saints to deal with disputes among themselves is a sign of a deeper problem.
HIERARCHY – The Heavenly Court
Division / Exodus / Veils
that we are to judge angels? (GLORIFICATION – REPRESENTATION – NATIONS)
Architecturally, Paul begins in the Garden, the Sanctuary where Adam is willing to defraud, well, everybody who has ever lived since, over a simple matter, a small thing. Instead of judging according to the revelation of God, Adam listens to a satanic “judge” who will tell him exactly what he wants to hear. We know that being “gods” includes sitting in wise judgment. The Ark-throne is the light of God’s law, and Adam is the veil of flesh which must be torn to avoid a history of darkness on earth. It is interesting that in both stanzas the phrase “Do you not know…” appears at Conquest/Atonement, corresponding to the opening of the veil for the High Priest, ministering to avert judgment on behalf of all humanity.
ETHICS – The Triune Office
Ascension / Leviticus / Bronze Altar
PRIESTHOOD: Aaron & Moses
(No glory) (GLORIFICATION – REPRESENTATION – NATIONS)
This Stanza concerns the location of the presentation of the case, alluding to the bringing of sacrifices to the Bronze Altar. In this world, there are no blameless parties. No case is cut and dried, at least on the surface of things, which is why wise judgment is required. Once again their lack of Spirit-filled wisdom is highlighted in the fifth line, and the shame of naked Adam is alluded to in line six.
Testing / Numbers / Lampstand
KINGDOM: David and Solomon
and that before unbelievers? (GLORIFICATION – BOOTHS)
Israel’s festal calendar comes to the fore in this stanza. Just as there was no man to till the Garden at Creation, so there is no one with kingly wisdom among the Corinthians. There is no one worthy to open the scroll at Ascension, alluding to the exaltation of Joseph, Daniel and Christ as wise men in the courts of the king. The dispute appears at the centre of the central stanza in the entire construct, the Testing of Testing, and the disputing brothers at Maturity allude to the sons of Jacob, willing to murder their brother at Atonement and sell him into the service of Gentiles at Booths. Of course, now Paul, like Joseph, is putting his brothers through the fire to test their hearts.
Maturity / Deuteronomy / Incense Altar
PROPHECY: Jeremiah and Zedekiah
even your own brothers! (GLORIFICATION – REPRESENTATION – NATIONS)
Working his way out from the centre, Paul now alludes to the martyroi as legal witnesses who are willing to suffer for the sake of righteousness. The mention of defeat might be a reference to Israel’s failure to maintain possession of the Land. Indeed, the Land eventually vomited Israel out due to her idolatries, but the last straw was the double-mindedness of the people concerning their Hebrew slaves, their own brothers (perhaps the referent of Jesus’ “least of my brethren” in Matthew 25) under the rule of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 34:8-22).
OATH/SANCTIONS – The Day of the Lord
Conquest / Joshua / Laver: High Priest & Sacrifices
neither fornicators, (TRANSCENDENCE)
will inherit. (GLORIFICATION – DAY 7 – REST & RULE)
This is a beautiful construct. The entire Stanza corresponds to Oath/Sanctions, the Covenant blessings and curses, and the possession of the Land by Israel in the book of Joshua. You might notice that the first instance of “will not inherit” corresponds to the Levites, who were themselves considered as God’s inheritance, His “firstborn” (Numbers 3:12), and were thus not allotted any Land.2Indeed, the structure of the book of Leviticus is basically six-fold, ending with Covenant curses and no Succession, since unlike Melchizedekian priest-kings, Aaronic priests were forbidden from drinking wine before God.
Just as “Do you not know…?” appeared at line 6 in the first two Stanzas, now it begins Stanza 6. Paul’s voice is also the prophet Noah, cutting off the inheritance of a race of false gods, who think it is their right not only to sin, but also to execute vengeance in God’s place.
At the Deuteronomy step, we have “ten words,” both apparently describing the progression of corruption, fornication and theft leading to greater sins, both ending in the loss of inheritance at Succession. Disregarding this fractal expansion of line 5 for a moment, the repeated mentions of inheritance of the kingdom in the double line 3 (Land and firstfruits) and in line 7 reveal this to be a recapitulation of Creation.
|Forming (Days 1-3)
||Filling (Days 4-7)
|Do you not know
|Do not be deceived:
|that the unrighteous
|[unrepentant sinners – Ten Words]
|the kingdom of God
|the kingdom of God
Land Animals and Man
|will not inherit?
Grain & Grape Bearers
|will not inherit.
Rest & Rule: Bread & Wine
SUCCESSION – Elohim
Glorification / Judges / Shekinah
and by the Spirit of our God. (SUCCESSION – SUPERNATURE)
Finally, Paul reminds these saints of their own legal standing before God, whose own Son suffered wrong and was defrauded by all, that all might be released from their legal debt.
The process of salvation appears here in the three Ethics lines: washed, sanctified and justified–all referring to the sacrificial procedure in the court of the Tabernacle. It is the move from external law (childhood) to internal law (maturity) through the indwelling of the Spirit. The Covenant Oath at line 6 is the confession of the name of Christ on their lips, and the Spirit is the presence of God in the household of faith, the New Covenant Shekinah. The saints are already “gods,” judging between light and darkness by the Spirit, as long as they do not walk in the flesh.
History began with a man who failed to judge an angel, and will end with a redeemed race where even the least is indeed truly a “god,” able to discern between the light and the darkness in every realm. And we are already seated with Christ in whom are all the riches of wisdom and knowledge.
Being defrauded by Christians is distressing – for both those inside and outside the Church. Those who are hurt by Christians are often the most bitter towards God of all people. Being wronged and defrauded is not easy (I am self-employed, and I can get very snaky when clients fail to pay!) but the Bible gives us a long history of men mistreated by their brothers, beginning with Abel, and it was they who changed the world.
IMAGE: Throne of Tutankhamun
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||The ESV misguidedly combines 2 Greek words into one, the “soft ones” and “those who lie with men.” Crudely, Paul is talking about bottoms and tops, false bodies and false heads. The effeminate are a perversion of marriage, and the homosexual act is the perversion of the marriage bed.|
|2.||↑||Indeed, the structure of the book of Leviticus is basically six-fold, ending with Covenant curses and no Succession, since unlike Melchizedekian priest-kings, Aaronic priests were forbidden from drinking wine before God.|