Kevin Bauder

The Agent of Illumination

The Holy Spirit must begin a work of illumination before any unbeliever will ever understand and receive the gospel. The Spirit must continue to perform this work for all believers as they wrestle with the text of Scripture. While He does not interpret the Bible for us, He does help us to understand the significance of the text. He shows us the difference that it ought to make in our lives. 

Unsaved people in their natural state do not receive or welcome the things of God (1 Cor 2:14). Divine truth seems foolish to them because it is spiritually discerned. While they can exegete texts and can grasp what the Bible says, they cannot appreciate its relevance or know its significance because they reject the Bible’s frame of reference. The truth that they grasp is useless to them since they do not know it as it ought to be known.
In the opening chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul dwells at length on the contrast between the wisdom of the unsaved world (which is ultimately foolish) and the (ultimately wise) foolishness of God (1:18–31). He states that he explicitly repudiated displays of human wisdom in his presentation of the divine truth (2:1–5). Instead, he affirmed the wisdom of God, the rejection of which led the rulers of this world to crucify the Lord of glory (2:6–8). The divine wisdom focuses upon the crucified Christ (1:17–18; 2:2). This hidden wisdom (i.e., Christ crucified) is what God has ordained before the world to the glory of His people (2:7).
At this point in his discourse, Paul writes one of the most frequently misunderstood statements in all of Scripture: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (2:9). This verse is commonly understood to be talking about the glories of heaven, as if heaven were such a wonderful place that we cannot even imagine it ahead of time. While it is certainly true that we cannot imagine how blessed heaven will be, that idea is completely foreign to this context.
Rather, Paul has been talking about God’s hidden wisdom. It is wisdom that has been rejected by the wise and powerful of this world. It cannot be discerned through natural observation or invented through natural imagination. Nevertheless, God formed His plan according to this eternal wisdom, which comes to a focal point in the cross work of Christ. What God prepared for those who love Him is not merely heaven, but all of salvation and everything that God had to do to secure it.
If this wisdom cannot be known through natural observation or invented through natural imagination, then how could anyone ever receive it? Paul answers this question in only one way: God revealed it. Revelation may be defined as the disclosure by God to humans of truth that they did not know and could not otherwise have known. Paul’s point is that natural observation and imagination cannot arrive at true knowledge of the things that God has prepared for His people, but God has Himself revealed them (2:10).
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I, Not the Lord

 According to Jesus, even the Old Testament procedure for divorce (Deut 24:1–4) was only a concession to the hardness of human hearts. When introducing this teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul used the formula, “I command, yet not I, but the Lord” (7:10). What he was doing was drawing attention to the fact that divorce and remarriage in general was already a matter of settled teaching. Paul did not have to command anything new. All he had to do was to point to the teachings of Jesus, “the Lord.”

The Bible’s claim for itself is that all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16–17) and that Scripture originated in men of God being carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:20–21). These words imply that inspiration extends to the words of Scripture (verbal inspiration) as well as to Scripture in all its parts (plenary inspiration) as originally written. Whatever the Bible affirms, God affirms, and God can neither deceive nor make mistakes. Consequently, Scripture is inerrant.
The objection has been raised, however, that some verses in the Bible disavow their own inspiration. One of these passages is supposed to be 1 Corinthians 7:10, 12. The contrast between these two verses is noteworthy. In verse 10, Paul states that the commandment that he is about to issue does not come from him, but from the Lord. In verse 12, however, he specifically says that in the following verses he is speaking, but not the Lord. Is Paul suggesting that part of his message is divinely inspired, but part of it is just his own good advice? Is he disavowing the inspiration of what he writes from verse 12 onward?
The answer to this question lies in the overall context of Paul’s argument. The believers at Corinth had evidently written to Paul, asking for his instruction about certain matters. Before answering their questions, Paul took advantage of the opportunity to offer a series of admonitions and instructions concerning issues that he saw within the Corinthian congregation. Only at 1 Corinthians 7:1 did he begin to respond to the questions from the church.
The first of those questions involved the value of singleness and the mutual duties between husbands and wives within the marriage relationship (7:1–9). The second question involved the permissibility of divorce and marital separation, particularly in a situation where a believer was married to an unbelieving spouse. The question that Paul was answering probably did not envision believers deliberately marrying unbelievers, but more likely addressed the problems that would arise when one marriage partner came to Christ but the other did not.
Paul’s answer to this question is divided into two parts. The first part lays out general instruction concerning divorces and separations (7:10–11). The second part addresses specifically the question of how a believer who is in a mixed marriage should behave (7:12–16).
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By Permission, and Not of Commandment

A temporary suspension of marital sexual activity is permissible if both partners agree to it, if they use it for a spiritual purpose, and if they resume their normal relations soon. A temporary sexual abstinence was permissible, provided it met the stipulated requirements. But such a temporary sexual abstinence was never required. Paul specified that he was granting permission for a sexual fast, but he was not under any circumstances commanding it.

Critics of verbal inspiration sometimes appeal to verses that appear to disavow a divine origin for themselves. One such verse can be found in 1 Corinthians 7:6, where the apostle Paul writes, “But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.” Read at face value and in isolation, this verse could be understood to imply that Paul, in writing Scripture, wished to insert certain of his own ideas that were not divinely inspired, and that God allowed him to express those ideas as his own, but not as God’s.
Such a reading of the text, however, is badly mistaken. In fact, it only seems possible if the reader ignores the context of the verse. Before citing the verse to disprove biblical inspiration, a thoughtful reader should first ask what the verse is doing within its context. As ever, context is the key to a right understanding of Scripture.
1 Corinthians 7 represents a pivot in the argument of the epistle. Evidently the church at Corinth had sent Paul a series of questions that they wanted him to answer. The letter that we call 1 Corinthians was his reply. Before responding to their question, however, Paul took advantage of the opportunity to correct several errors that he perceived within the church at Corinth. Among other topics, he wrote against factiousness and party spirit, carnality, lax church discipline, sexual immorality, and lawsuits among church members. At the opening of chapter 7 he had covered the subjects that he wanted to address, so he turned his attention to the questions that the church had sent him: “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me…” (7:1).
The first set of questions from the church must have been about marriage and sexual relationships. Here Paul provided an answer that fit the chaotic and sometimes persecuted nature of the church in Corinth: “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (7:1). This advice matches his counsel elsewhere in the chapter. In view of present distress, it is better to remain unmarried (7:25). Marriage comes with concerns and responsibilities that Christians might better avoid (7:32–35).
Paul recognized, however, that not being married can create distractions of its own. For many people, sexual temptation is one of these, and it would have been a genuine pressure in the pornographic city of Corinth. Consequently, the apostle provided practical advice: where sexual temptation is rampant, every man should have a wife and every woman should have a husband (7:2). One of the God-ordained functions of marriage is to provide a way for both men and women to deal with sexual temptation.
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Creation as Foundational

Genesis opens with the accounts of creation, the Fall, the flood, and the division of nations. These stories are in the text to make important theological points. They become the basis of doctrinal reasoning throughout the rest of Scripture. Genuine biblicists should plunder these chapters, not merely to refute false theories about origins, but to be able to answer the most important questions that people can ask.

When it comes to the opening chapters of Genesis, many conservative Christians spend their energy defending the text against the counter-narrative of evolution. That is right and proper: the theory of evolution entails in all its forms an utterly anti-biblical and anti-human philosophy. Nevertheless, the point of these chapters is not to contradict theories of evolution, which only became prevalent during the late Nineteenth Century. Instead, these chapters are valuable for the theological underpinning that they provide for virtually the entire system of faith and belief—including some categories that are rarely mentioned within systematic theologies.
Perhaps the most important function of the early chapters of Genesis is to introduce us to God. They show that God is Creator, and no truth of Scripture is more important than the Creator-creature distinction. Besides depicting God in terms of His power, they also show Him in His benevolence. What He makes is good, and the good is contextually understood as what is good for humans. God knows what is good, and when He knows that a good is absent (as when the man was alone), He provides it. He is also a God who blesses and, when humans sin, a God who promises a deliverer.
The early chapters of Genesis also explain both who humans are and why they were made. They are the image of God, and they were made for dominion. Within His universal kingdom, God created a world that He did not intend to govern directly. Instead, He planned for this world to be ruled mediatorially by godlike creatures. He gave them dominion, and He blessed them with authority to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth, and to subdue it. They were made to be kings and queens. They were also made to be priests, standing in the presence of God and enjoying His companionship.
These narratives also explain what went wrong with this beautiful vision. God imposed a test upon the first man and the first woman. They were forbidden to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. If they ate the fruit, they would be claiming for themselves the prerogative to determine the good. Instead, God wanted them to trust Him for the good, which He abundantly provided. Rather than trusting the Creator, however, the man and woman chose to declare independence of God, choosing what seemed good to themselves. By declaring independence of God, they necessarily separated themselves from life, for their life came from God. They passed under sentence of death, a sentence that lies heavy upon humanity until this day.
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Doing All Things to the Glory of God

When eating and drinking identify us with idols, for example, and thus bring us into fellowship with demons, then we should avoid that kind of eating and drinking. Doing all to the glory of God requires us not simply to examine our hearts (which we certainly should do) but more importantly to examine the implications of what we are doing. Often the activities that we are considering have meanings that go beyond the bare acts themselves.

In 1 Corinthians 8–10 the apostle Paul addresses the question of whether Christians should eat meat that has been offered to idols. In chapter 8 his general answer is that an idol is nothing in the world. If an idol is nothing, then meat that has been offered to idols has literally been offered to nothing. To say that it has been offered to nothing is equivalent to saying that it has not been offered at all. Consequently, meat that has been offered to idols is just meat and may be safely eaten.
Nevertheless, Paul places an important caveat on implementing this conclusion. Even supposing that eating this meat is completely morally innocuous, some Christians still have qualms of conscience about it. Some people are keenly conscious of the idolatrous worship that provoked the offering of the meat. They may perceive eating the meat as idolatry-at-a-distance. For them to eat would be to transgress their consciences, and violating one’s conscience is not a good habit to form.
If it is not possible to eat this meat without transgressing the conscience, then one should not eat the meat. Furthermore, one should not eat the meat if eating would induce fellow believers to violate their consciences. We are responsible not only to protect our own consciences but also the consciences of our sisters and brothers. In view of this principle, Paul makes the radical assertion that if eating meat causes his brother to stumble, he will consume no flesh as long as the world stands.
We might think that this statement was intended as a hyperbole, a fantastic exaggeration to emphasize a point. If that is what we think, then we are wrong. The entire next chapter (1 Cor 9) is Paul’s extended explanation of how he is not hyperbolizing at all. Quite the contrary, he already practices similar disciplines in his ministry. As an example, Paul builds an extended case for why he, in ministering the gospel, has a right to expect compensation. He bases this case on Old Testament examples and principles, on the apostolic pattern, and even on common-sense natural law arguments. Then he makes it clear that, even though he has a right to expect compensation, he refuses to insist upon that right.
Paul’s example implies a principle that we should not insist upon rights and privileges when those rights and privileges get in the way of effective ministry. We should “become all things to all men” in the sense of exerting no privilege that would block our ministry by offending the people to whom we minister.
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Christians and Christmas

Celebrating the incarnation of our Lord is a good and right thing to do, whether as individuals or as churches. The commercial and cultural celebrations are permissible observances for individual Christians, but they represent an unwarranted intrusion when they are introduced into the ministry and services of the local congregation. They are purely secular (and even pagan) events, appropriately enjoyed for the common grace that they embody. But they are nowhere authorized by Christ or His apostles for inclusion in the leitourgia of the church.

I had to work my way through both college and grad school. Over the years I held a variety of jobs. I worked in a woodshop and a metal fabrication plant. I was a lifeguard at a community swimming pool. For several years I worked in warehouses. I ran a stitching machine in a bindery and a Heidelberg GTO printing press in a printing shop. For a short time I worked as a bicycle mechanic. On different occasions I worked jobs in sales. There was a brief stint as a telemarketer (until I figured out what that really meant) and a summer on the floor of an appliance store. One of the more profitable jobs was selling toys in a department store.
My employment in the toy department began in July. From the first day it was clear that we were planning for Christmas. Almost all of the department’s income would come from Christmas sales. By July we were already putting stock on the shelves for the holidays, and the manager had already worked out his pricing strategy.
He was sure that we could not compete for volume with the discount stores. Their pricing was so low that they would drive us out of business. So he deliberately priced his stock high—very high. People would come by, look at our toys, and walk right out the door, sometimes with a snide remark about how overpriced we were. I could barely make my draw in sales every week. I seriously wondered whether the manager knew what he was doing.
He did. Our sales continued to sag into November, which is when the discount stores ran out of the more popular toys. People would walk through our department, shake their heads at our prices, then walk away muttering about finding a lower price somewhere. But they couldn’t, because nobody else had the toys at any price.
Thanksgiving weekend is when panic struck the shopping public. I can remember standing behind a cash register for ten hours straight, servicing a long line of people who were now ready to pay our prices. They were not happy about it. Some of them accused us of inflating our prices at the last moment. But we hadn’t—the prices were right where they had been since July.
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