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Bill Samuel, August 4, 2002
Bill Samuel

Three Levels of
"vocal ministry"

by Michael Fondanova
Part 2 of 4

God's Radiant Splendor

Glory is an important theological term in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Greek. The most important Hebrew word for glory, kabod, means "weight" or "importance." Kabod is Yahweh's power and standing, his honor perceptible in the world in the most varied of ways. The symbol of kabod and its synonyms, especially tiph'ereth, "splendor" and hod and hadhar, "majesty" translate in the Septuagintal Greek by the word doxa; therefore the Vulgate rendering gloria. The idea of kabod, "heaviness" from kahbed, "heavy" and "liver" does not seem to have played a part here. Applied to God, kabod does not suggest heaviness by human standards but His radiant splendor.

Paul in 2 Cor 3:7-18 gives an exposition of Ex. 34:29-35 where he proceeds to equate allegorically the Spirit with Yahweh as the source of glory. The main point of this story has to do with Moses' ongoing practice of speaking with God and communicating his words to the people. The seven occurrences of the word 'to speak' in this brief passage show the attention. However, there is a certain parallelism to Ex. 20:18ff. In this story, God terrifies the people before the thunder and lightning of the theophany. In 34:30, they are fearful before the mere reflection from Moses' face. Moses had acquired a divine glow because of his long speaking with God. God removes the veil when He speaks with Moses. The veil covers his face only in the period in which he is not in his office of receiving/communicating God's word. The whole point of the story emphasizes that Moses' was only a reflection of God's glory. Paul contributed revelation when he referred to Christians as mirrors of that glory: And all of us, with unveiled face, while reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transfigured into the same image, from glory to glory, by the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)

Sharing His Glory

The preceding context is clear enough. Some members of the Corinthian ecclesia, "called out," probably of Jewish origin, have challenged the apostle's credentials. In particular, they must have insisted that the revelation, the law, given through Moses remained binding and normative for Christians (3:3, 6ff.). In response, Paul insists that Christianity is essentially a religion of Spirit not law (vv. 3, 6), the fulfillment of the prophetic hope of Jer. 31:31ff. Man is participating in the divine Light.

In the OT, people are not participating in the divine light. Moses, whose skin qaran, shines after his meeting with the Lord (Ex. 34:29f. 35), is an exception. It is not explicitly that this shining originated with God, but the writer assumes it (kabhodh in 33:18). The contrast here is twofold: under the old covenant only Moses had direct access to the divine presence, and its effect on Moses was transient (the glory soon faded).

Now Christians (2 Cor. 3:18), can experience the divine presence directly in the Spirit, and the effect of the Spirit on their lives sustains and increases (transforming them into the likeness of the Lord from one degree of glory to another - v. 18). In addition, God said, "let us make human beings according to our image, after our likeness, and let them rule over the fish in the sea and over the birds in the heavens and over the cattle and over all 'wild animals' and over every living thing that moves." (Gen. 1:26).

Sharing the Imago dei

Only that power which reproduces the image of Christos, "anointing" is recognizable as the power of God. This is the testimony of two accounts of the creation in Genesis, and of related assertions (Gen. 9:6), such as Psalm 8. This narrative reduces the special position of man in the world to the concise formula of him who receives creation and protection as selem elohim, "God's image." There is an important consequence to understanding Gen. 1:26. If it is a question of human existence as such and not of something beyond it, then it is valid for all people. God has created all people "to correspond to him," so something can happen between Creator and creature. God does not add the relationship to human existence; he creates humans so their very existence depends on their relationship to God.

Why is this relationship of correspondence described as God's image? Here we have to notice that special relationship to the rest of creation in which God sets man. In the blessing in 1:28, before God commands rule over the animals, God orders to subdue the earth generally. Similarly, we see the meaning of man is 'crowning' in Ps. 8:5 in msl, "ruling" over the world and that 'all things are put under his feet.' It is precisely in his function as ruler that he is God's image. In the ancient Near East, the setting up of the king's statue was equivalent to the proclamation of his dominion over the sphere in which the king erects the statue (Daniel 3:1,5f.). The image meant that he was the ruler of this area. God accordingly sets man in the midst of his creation as God's statue. He is evidence that God is the Lord of creation; but as God's steward, he also exerts his rule, fulfilling his task not in arbitrary despotism but as a responsible agent. His rule and his duty to rule are not autonomous they are copies.

Gifts in the Community

In virtue of the grace given to me I direct everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with soberness, each according to the measure of faith which God has allotted to him. For as we in one body have many members, and all members do not fulfill the same function, so we, the many, are one body in Christ, but individually are members in our mutual relationship. We have charismata that differ according to the grace given to us. If "vocal ministry" (let it remain) in agreement with the faith, if service (let it be truly) in service, who teaches in teaching, who has the cure of souls in assistance, who gives alms impartially, who leads the community with zealous concern, who cares for others cheerfully. (Rom. 12:3-8)

In this passage, Paul is giving direction in respect to ecclesia, "called out" order. The issue here is soberness, which keeps to the right measure. One might say that the entire exhortation of this chapter decisively directs against frenzy and explains in detail from this perspective. On this view it is understandable that at the very outset there is a warning against arrogance and apparently also against dissatisfaction with one's own gift. The writer takes up the themes of the charismata and unity, as in 1 Cor. 12. The writer gives prominence here to the functions which no community can live without. Consequently, they involve greater dangers and have to be set under the test of soberness.

We have in 1 Cor. the start of a first community order, while the Pastoral letters offer a picture of a more mature stage in relation to public functions in the community. When the kinship to 1 Cor. 12-14 is considered, it would be appropriate to speak of a doctrine of charisma. According to 1 Cor. 12:1, 4ff. the community had asked Paul, under this catchword pneumatika, what the community attitude should be to these manifestations at worship. Paul is not opposing these gifts; he claims them for himself. He cannot think of the manifestation of the Spirit apart from miraculous energamata, "operations" with which the Risen Lord finds a place for expression in the earthly. However, their use in service of the community guarantees the validity of the use of gifts. Not their presence but only their proper use is the criterion of their Christian nature.

Charisma is the "spirituals" taken into the service of Christ. Against the background of the reign of Christ, they are the effects of grace. Paul does not want to eliminate the "supernatural" but he will not isolate it from the common service of the community. The writer gives earthly responsibility to the pneumatic. While the charisma is a divinely given distinction for the individual, it is also the limit, which he cannot pass. Paul places him within the call of 1 Cor. 7:20 that he should remain in the state assigned to him. "Each should remain in the call(ing) in which he receives the call." In the position allotted him by the divine gift, each has no replacement and thus possesses an authority, which is to be recognized by the community. This authority may not reduce while he remains in this place as the possibility of service assigned to him. To the extent that his gift sets him in a concrete place, and equips him for a specific service, he has his "measure of faith."

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