Marcos 11:1-11–Domingo de Ramos

Palm Sunday Donkey
Palm Sunday Donkey

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

אָנָּ֣א יְ֭הוָה הוֹשִׁ֨יעָ֥ה נָּ֑א אָֽנָּ֥א יְ֜הוָ֗ה הַצְלִ֨יחָ֥ה נָּֽא (Salmo 118:25 WTT). Te ruego Señor, líbranos! Te ruego Señor, haganos prosperar! (Salmo 118:25 SWH).

Hosanna (הוֹשִׁ֨יעָ֥הנָּ֑א): ¿Qué hay en una palabra?

El relato de Marcos de Domingo de Ramos es asombrosamente fácil: Los discípulos cazar alrededor para un burro; tienen un pequeño desfile; algunas personas comienzan a gritar; después ellos alcance el templo e ir a casa. No palmas!  No hay fariseos. Ninguna profecía.

Sin embargo, esto no es un desfile común.  France[1] toma nota de que en ningún otro lugar en los evangelios leemos de Jesús montado.  El desfile cumple la profecía: ¡Alégrate mucho, hija de Sión! ¡Grita de alegría, hija de Jerusalén! Mira, tu rey viene hacia ti, justo, salvador y humilde. Viene montado en un asno, en un pollino, cría de asna (Zacarías 9:9 NVI).

Toda la historia se acumula a v. 9 y los gritos:  ¡Hosanna!—¡Bendito el que viene en el nombre del Señor! (Marcos 11:9). Hosanna es una transliteración de una frase hebrea que aparece sólo en el Salmo 118:25 antes citada. El resto de la frase se cita en el siguiente versículo (Salmos 118:26). Beale y Carson[2] describir el Salmo 118 como una “canción real de acción de gracias por la victoria militar” cantado regularmente en la Pascua. El truncamiento del Salmo 118:25 para excluir la segunda mitad de la frase (Te ruego Señor, haganos prosperar), pone de relieve las intenciones militares de la multitud Domingo de Ramos. El siguiente verso hace este punto muy claro: ¡Bendito el reino venidero de nuestro padre David!  (Marcos 11:10).

¿Quién realmente está siendo bendecido en esta lista?

El griego en el versículo 9 admite una segunda traducción:  Bendito la persona que viene en nombre del Señor.

Madre Teresa una vez describió a sí misma como burro de Cristo. Cuando venimos humildemente en el nombre del Señor, en cierto sentido, nosotros también somos burro de Cristo. Y nosotros también estamos bendecidos.


[1]R.T. France.  The New International Greek Testament Commentary:  The Gospel of Mark.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans.  P. 428.

[2]G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson [Editors].  2007.  Commentary on the NT Use of the OT.  Grand Rapids:  Baker Academic.   Pp. 206-207.

Continue Reading

Vote on a Book Cover for A Christian Guide to Spirituality

Hagia Sophia (
Hagia Sophia (

A Christian Guide to Spirituality will hopefully be published in early summer.  These editions are anticipated: electronic, paperback, and hardcover.  Each edition can have the same front cover or a different cover.  This survey will help decide.

Please help by letting me know your preferences.  Thanks in advance!

Click here to take survey


A Christian Guide to Spirituality (tentative Back cover)

Spirituality is lived belief.  When we pray, worship, or reach out to our neighbors, we live out our beliefs. Our beliefs structure our spirituality like skin stretched over the bones of our bodies.  Christian spirituality starts with God, not with us.

You have my blessing. It’s book that needed to be written. It will do a lot of good.
– Peter John Kreeft, Boston College

Stephen provides a helpful, accessible guide using the classic catechetical structure of the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles’ Creed.
– David A. Currie, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

This is a book for those who want to understand how best to have a living faith and an ever deepening devotional and experiential knowledge of God.
– Stephen Macchia, Pierce Center for Disciple-Building

Forward written by Neal D. Presa, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Continue Reading

1 Corinthians 7: Don’t Be Anxious

Maryam and Stephen Hiemstra, 1984
Maryam and Stephen Hiemstra, 1984

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (v16)

Do you believe in salvation?

Because my father married at age 21, I spent of most of my 20s anxious that I had missed the boat.  My consolation was that my grandfather married at age 28.

My anxiety was misplaced.  For example, in my first visit to a lock-down, psychiatric ward in college, I was shocked to run into the president of my senior class in high school—I was not there to visit her!  Two years out of high school, she had had two children and attempted suicide when her husband divorced her.  While I envied my peers in graduate school who were married, many of them were divorced only a few years later.  By the time I married at age 30, many of the people I knew had been divorced and remarried one or more times.

The Apostle Paul seems aware of this problem of unstable relationships and advises us not to be anxious about our marital status.  He writes:  Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called (v 20).  Elsewhere, he advises:  I wish that all were as I myself am [single]. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another (v 7).  Do you think of your marital status as a gift of God?

Paul expands on this thought.  Before God, neither male nor female, neither circumcised nor un-circumcised, neither slave nor free, counts for anything (vv 17-22).  In case you were thinking Paul was having a bad hair day, he repeats this point in Galatians 3:28.  Why is Paul adamant about this issue?  He gives at least 2 reasons:

  • For the present form of this world is passing away (v 31).  In other words, don’t be rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titantic!
  • But the married man [woman] is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife [her husband], and his [her] interests are divided (vv 33-34).

In fact, Paul maintains a balanced view of relationships, not favoring the married or the single (vv 7-9), the man or the woman (v 4).  He also gives his motivation for this balanced view:  I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord (v 35).

This brings us back to the question about salvation.  If your identity is in Christ and you sincerely believe in salvation, then it will bear fruit in your relationships.  For example, how patient are you?  Are you willing to wait on God’s timing for your marriage?

Paul sees marriage as a formative institution instituted by God himself.  It is interesting that the Kellers[1] describe the Bible as a book that begins with a wedding! Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24 ESV). It is interesting that Jesus’ first miracle was saving a wedding (John 2) and the book of Revelations reaches a climax in the wedding feast of the Lamb (Revelations 19:9). God cares about marriage: it was His idea!

If marriage is instituted by God, then how is it formative?  It is formative because spouses care about the health and well-being of their spouses.  What is one of the signs that the person you are dating is serious about your relationship?  They start working on your bad habits—if you smoke, they ask you to stop—that kind of thing.  In marriage God gives us someone who cares enough to tell us things we do not want to hear.

The photograph above is of my wife, Maryam, and I when we were engaged.  We will celebrate our 30th anniversary in November.


[1] Timothy and Kathy Keller. 2011.  The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York: Dutton. page 13.


  1. How was your week? Did anything special happen?
  2. What questions or thoughts do you have about 1 Corinthians 6?
  3. What is Paul’s purpose in writing this chapter? (v 1)
  4. What does Paul advise about marriage? What are his main points? What strikes you as unusual about his comments? (vv 1-6)
  5. Who is in charge of what? Why is this unusual? Why? (v 4)
  6. What is Paul’s marital status? (vv 7-8)
  7. What is Paul’s advice to single people? (vv 8-9)
  8. What is one purpose in marriage according to Paul? (v 9)
  9. What does Paul say to people in troubled marriages? (vv 10-11)
  10. What advice does Paul give to people in mixed marriages? (vv 13-16,39)
  11. What is the relationship between marriage and salvation? (v 16)
  12. Should we be in a hurry to marry? (v 17)
  13. What three things does Paul compare our marital status to? What does he advise?  Why (vv 17-24)
  14. Why does Paul advise to be content with one’s status? (vv 26-31)
  15. How does Paul advise those who are engaged? Why does he spend some much time taking about engagement? (vv 25-38)
  16. How does Paul advise widows? (vv 39-40)

1 Corinthians 7: Don’t Be Anxious

First Corinthians 8

First Corinthians 6

Continue Reading

1 Corintios 7: No Se Inquieten

Maryam and Stephen Hiemstra, 1984
Maryam and Stephen Hiemstra, 1984

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

¿Cómo sabes tú, mujer, si acaso salvarás a tu esposo? ¿O cómo sabes tú, hombre, si acaso salvarás a tu esposa? (v16)

¿Usted cree en la salvación?

Debido a que mi padre se casó a los 21 años, pasé la mayor parte de mis 20 años de ansiedad que había perdido el tren. Mi consuelo es que mi abuelo se casó a los 28 años.

Mi ansiedad estaba fuera de lugar. Por ejemplo, en mi primera visita a un lock-down, sala de psiquiatría en la universidad, me sorprendió encontrarse con el presidente de mi clase en la escuela secundaria—yo no estaba allí para visitar a su! Dos años de la escuela secundaria, que había tenido dos hijos e intentó suicidarse cuando su marido se divorció de ella. Mientras que yo envidiaba a mis compañeros en la escuela de posgrado que se casaron, muchos de ellos se divorciaron sólo unos pocos años más tarde. En el momento en que me casé a los 30 años, muchas de las personas que conocía habían divorciado y vuelto a casar una o más veces.

Apóstol Pablo parece conoce este problema relaciones inestables y nos aconseja no estéis afanosos nuestra Soltero. Él escribe: Que cada uno permanezca en la condición en que estaba cuando Dios lo llamó (v 20). Por otra parte, aconseja:  En realidad, preferiría que todos fueran como yo [soltero]. No obstante, cada uno tiene de Dios su propio don: éste posee uno; aquél, otro (v 7). ¿Cree usted que de su estado civil como un don de Dios?

Paul se extiende en este pensamiento. Ante Dios, circuncidados sin ni hombre ni mujer, ni circuncisión ni, ni esclavo ni libre, no cuenta para nada (vv 17-22). En caso de que usted pensaba Pablo estaba teniendo un mal día, repite este punto en Gálatas 3:28. ¿Por qué es firme sobre esta cuestión Pau ? Él da al menos 2 razones:

  • … este mundo, en su forma actual, está por desaparecer (v 31). Es decir, no se la reordenación de las sillas en la cubierta del Titanic!
  • Pero el casado [mujer] se preocupa de las cosas de este mundo y de cómo agradar a su esposa [esposo]; sus intereses están divididos. La mujer [hombre] no casada, lo mismo que la [el] joven soltera, se preocupa de las cosas del Señor (vv 33-34).

De hecho, Paul mantiene una visión equilibrada de las relaciones, que no favorece el matrimonio o el soltero (vv 7-9), el hombre o la mujer (v 4). También da su motivación para esta visión equilibrada: Les digo esto por su propio bien, no para ponerles restricciones sino para que vivan con decoro y plenamente dedicados al Señor (v 35).

Esto nos lleva de nuevo a la pregunta acerca de la salvación. Si su identidad está en Cristo y que sinceramente creen en la salvación, entonces se da fruto en sus relaciones. Por ejemplo, cuan paciente es usted? ¿Está dispuesto a esperar el tiempo de Dios para su matrimonio?

Paul ve el matrimonio, como institución formativa instituido por Dios mismo. Es interesante que los Keller [1] describe la Biblia como un libro que comienza con una boda! Por eso el hombre deja a su padre y a su madre, y se une a su mujer, y los dos se funden en un solo ser (Génesis 2:24 NVI). Es interesante que el primer milagro de Jesús estaba salvando una boda (Juan 2) y el libro del Apocalipsis alcanza un punto culminante en la fiesta de bodas del Cordero (Apocalipsis 19:9). A Dios le importa sobre el matrimonio: fue su idea!

Si el matrimonio es instituido por Dios, entonces ¿cómo es formativo? Es formativa, porque los esposos preocupan por la salud y bienestar de sus parejas. ¿Cuál es uno de los signos de que la persona que está saliendo es serio sobre su relación? Comienzan a trabajar en sus malos hábitos—si fuma, se le pedirá que deje de—ese tipo de cosas. En matrimonio que Dios nos da a alguien que se preocupa lo suficiente como para decirnos cosas que no queremos oír.

La fotografía de arriba es de mi mujer, Maryam, y yo cuando éramos novios. Vamos a celebrar nuestro 30 aniversario en noviembre.


[1]Timothy and Kathy Keller. 2011.  The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York: Dutton. page 13.

Continue Reading

The Potter’s House Ministry by Chris Looker

First Presbyterian Church of Annandale, VA
First Presbyterian Church of Annandale, VA

Our guest blogger today, Pastor Chris Looker, invites us to consider the potter’s work by learning the fine art of pottery throwing on the pottery wheel.

Potter’s House Ministry

The Potter’s House ministry began at First Presbyterian Church of Annandale this past September as a pilot program for 8 weeks.  The objectives of the program were to learn more about pottery, each other, and the Lord through prayer, listening to Taize music, and breaking out into small groups to throw, trim, glaze, and fire ceramic forms. Before it was over, we produced more than 100 finished and glazed pottery pieces.

The Original Potter

When God created the heavens and earth, God was like a potter at the wheel.  The Prophet Jeremiah wrote about a vision that he had saying:

[The Lord said] Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words. So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel (Jeremiah 18:2-7 ESV).

But pottery is not just the prophet’s imagination.  We are told in the Book of Genesis that:  the LORD God formed the man of clay [dust] from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature (Genesis 2:7).  From that which was formless, God created many beautiful things. From the clay of the ground, God created and formed life!

But God did not stop there!  God’s Holy Spirit formed Jesus in Mary’s womb out of nothing!  In Luke’s Gospel we read:

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus … And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God (Luke 1:30-31, 34-35 ESV).

This is our potter at work.  God formed Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  It was not an accident; nothing was left to chance.  God was involved in each and every step.  He was born as the perfect Savior, fully human and fully God, all because the Creator himself was perfect.  Jesus Christ was and is and will always be a miracle of God’s handiwork–and so are each of you!  In Jesus Christ, God has shown Himself to be the greatest Artist of all.

God formed us from the clay of the ground.  We know this because in Hebrew the word, Adam ( הָֽאָדָ֜ם (Genesis 2:20 WTT)), means alternatively: Adam, man, or clay (soil, dust, dirt, or ground).  At funerals we are reminded of Adam’s curse for his sin:  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are clay, and to clay you shall return (Genesis 3:19).

What do we say?  Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  We live in certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.


Chris Looker in Jerusalem
Chris Looker in Jerusalem

Dr. Chris Looker is the Senior Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Annandale, Virginia ( where he has served for the past 8 years.  He and his wife, Genny, live with their two boys, Ben and Sam, in Vienna, VA.

In the 50 plus years since FPCA was chartered, the community has morphed from being a Caucasian suburban community into an ethnically diverse, urban community.  FPCA has risen to meet this challenge by forming a partnership agreement with the First Korean Presbyterian Church of Virginia (FKPCV). This partnership involves a growing number of people in decision-making, financial support, mission, and worship.  FPCA and FKPCV have worked together to renovate the main sanctuary and much of the physical infrastructure. FPCA and FKPCV are also active in Christian Mission Service jointly supported the building of a 50 kilowatt hydroelectric dam in Lubondai, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the building of a Mission School in Catamayo, Ecuador.

First Presbyterian Church of Annandale (FPCA) is located in Annandale, VA off of Little River Turnpike (route 236) adjacent to Annandale High School ( at 7610 Newcastle Drive, Annandale, VA 22003-5422.

FPCA prides itself on its commitment to musical excellence.  On Sunday April 13, 2014 at 7:00 P.M., the Mormon Choir of Washington, DC ( will perform a concert in our sanctuary, as the second concert in our concert series.




Continue Reading

Whom Do You Seek?


By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Narrative sermon given at Riverside Presbyterian Church (, Sterling, VA on Sunday, April 6, 2014.  The narrative of Jesus’s arrest in John 18 is told from the perspective of the Apostle Peter who leans on a shepherd’s staff as he speaks.


Good morning!  Welcome to Riverside Presbyterian Church.  This morning we continue our preparation for Easter with the account of the arrest of Jesus in John Gospel.


Heavenly father, thank you for your presence among us this morning.  Grant us mouths that speak and ears that listen.  In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Sermon Text:  John 18:1-12


Why did he lead us to that place?

He must known. Why?  Why?  Why?

My mind plays tricks on me when I remember that evening.  The sun had gone down but the moon was so bright that it cast a shadow [1]; yet, I keep thinking that it was dark and stormy—it’s that brook Kidron—outside the camp—with all those tombs.  It is no wonder that the priests have thrown unholy things there since ancient times [2].  Some think that Ezekiel, in his vision of the valley of dead bones [3], had this place in mind.

Why did the teacher lead us to that cursed place?

Oh yeah, I know. It was the garden. Why did he love that garden so much?  It is like it reminded him of Eden.  Of course, Eden had its beauty; it was peaceful and God was with us.  But, Eden was also had a betrayer.  Death began because of what happened in Eden [4].

Oh, but he must have known and he must have seen that cohort of soldiers with lanterns, torches, and weapons (v 3) walking down from temple mount and back up the ravine.  That tribune loves his cohort.  Five hundred men [5] lit up at night cannot hide in a place like that.

Yes, he must have known, but all he asked us was to wake up and keep watch while he prayed.  Yet, all we did was doze after that big meal [6].  Who doesn’t want to sleep after feasting at Passover?


Guess who was leading that parade? (v 3)

I should have known he was unreliable.  His name, Judas Iscariot, says it all.   He’s not a Galilean, but a Judean.  People said he came from Kerioth;  people called him a zealot [7].  The teacher had words with him about that woman crying and wiping her hair with the perfume the week before [8].  Seemed that guy only cared about money [9].

Yeah, it was Judas leading the parade.  Such a sight to see Judas leading that pack to the garden in the middle of the night.


Still, Jesus was fearless—I will never forget.  How could someone who healed people and talked so much of peace speak with such authority?  How could someone like that so remind me of the Judah’s blessing—the lion’s cub and ruler over his brothers [10].  Jesus was fearless.

Jesus asked them:  who do you seek?  (2X; v 4)

The words still ring in my ears.  The words swept over the parade like a hurricane.  The tribune was so startled that he fell to his knees on the ground like a man in deep prayer.  The whole cohort followed him down.  Even Judas and the Jews with him fell to their knees (v 6).  All he asked was:  who do you seek?

Meekly, someone answered:  Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus responded:  ἐγώ εἰμι. I am.

They said nothing; they did nothing.  They were looking back and forth at one another like lost sheep.  Did Judas think that he could force God’s Messiah [11] to do his bidding; force God’s Messiah to pick up a sword; force God’s Messiah to assume a crown?

Jesus asked again:  who do you seek?

This time the answer was more convincing:  Jesus of Nazareth.

To this Jesus responded:  I told you that I am he.  If it is me that you want, then send these other men away (v 8).


When I heard those words, I just lost it—Jesus was surrendering to these hooligans.  I drew my sword and attacked Malchus, the leader of the Jews.  But he saw me coming and got out of the way.  Oh, my goodness.  What does a fisherman [12] known about swords?  Well, he did not get completely away—I did chop off his right ear! (v 10)

Jesus said:  Rock, put the sword away (v 11).

What?!!!  Why would God’s Messiah give up without a fight?  I could not believe it.  Later, I remembered how Jesus washed my feet earlier in the evening [13].  Later, I thought, How could my feet be clean if my hands were covered with blood?  Later, later, why is it always later than we think about what we are doing?

The sword is Satan’s tool—even the tribune and his mighty cohort did not yield the sword that night. Why did I?


Then, Jesus said to me: shall I not drink from the cup given me? (v 11)

Jesus knew my future that night—I would deny him three times before it was over [14]—why now did I insist on resisting God’s will for my life?  Why?  I survived that fateful evening only because Jesus prayed for me.

Judas, he was not so lucky—after he tried to force God’s hand and failed, he killed himself [15].  How could he know that in obedience, Jesus would vanquish the betrayer; vanquish death itself?  Maybe that is why he returned to the garden—may be Ezekiel was right:  the dead do rise again.

Why was it so hard to answer Jesus’ question that night: who do you seek?  Funny, Jesus asked us the same question when we first met him—first followed him—by the lake in Galilee.  Who do you seek? [16]  Who do you seek?

Closing Prayer

Let’s pray.

Heavenly father, beloved Son, Spirit of all Truth.  Guard our hearts from the temptation to try to force our will on you rather than accept your will for us.  Grant us a spirit of contentment to allow you to remain in control of our lives.  In Jesus’ precious name.  Amen.


Lowry, Eugene L.  2001.  The Homiletical Plot:  The Sermon as a Narrative Art Form.  Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press.


[1] At the First Counsel of Nicaea (325 AD), Easter was determined to be the first Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox (

[2] 2 Kings 23:6, 12.

[3] Ezekiel 37.

[4] Genesis 2-3.

[5] BDAG (σπεῖρα 6759)In our lit. prob. always cohort, the tenth part of a legion (the σπ. thus normally had 600 men, but the number varied.

[6] Matthew 26:38-45.

[7] BDAG(Ἰσκαριώθ 3742) The mng. of the word is obscure; s. Wlh. on Mk 3:19; Dalman, Jesus 26 (Eng. tr. 51f). It is usu. taken to refer to the place of his origin, from Kerioth )in southern Judea; …Another interpr. connects it w. σικάριος (q.v.), ‘assassin, bandit’. 

[8] John 12:3-8.

[9] John 12:6.

[10] Genesis 49:8-10.

[11] Matthew 16:16.

[12] Matthew 4:18.

[13] John 13:6-10.

[14] John 13:37-38.

[15] Matthew 27:5.

[16] John 1:38.


Continue Reading

Prayer Day 23: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Available on
Available on

God of all compassion. You are the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. We praise you for your example of humility. We thank you for your sacrifice. Help us to confess our sins and forgive those who sin against us. In the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts, illumine our minds, and strengthen our hands in your service. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Continue Reading

1 Corinthians 6: Growing into Our Identity in Christ

The Crucifixion
The Crucifixion

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV).

Where is your identity?

A friend of mine was involved in special operations as a professional soldier and spent time in places like Vietnam.  Here was a man who had engaged in fierce combat operations.  When I first met him and heard him talk, I thought that he was delusional—he talked about things that I would never have done; never could do.  What was normal for him, most of us would look on in horror in the movie theater.  But he was a soldier doing what soldiers are expected to do.  Out his identity as a soldier, he was able to bear those burdens years after year.  For him, the hard part was transitioning back into the life of a civilian and leaving the burdens of military life behind.  Now, as a civilian he has a new identity.

Our identities define both who we are and how we are expected to behave.

The Corinthian church had an identity problem.  In Corinth before Paul arrived, the rich exploited the poor, in part, through legal proceedings (vv 1-8).  In Corinth before Paul arrived, hard partying routinely included drunkenness, orgies, and prostitution—male and female (vv 9-10).  And the Corinthians even had proverbs to support their wild behavior.  Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food (v 13) is a proverb thought to be used analogously to condone sexual promiscuity.  When Paul established a church in Corinth, these attributes of the Corinthian identity did not change like one would turn on a light switch.  The Corinthians needed help in growing into their new identities in Christ.

What about us?  Is our primary identity in Christ?  Or is it in our profession, our ethnicity, our gender, our nationality, our social class or some other activity?  If our primarily identity is something other than Christ, we practice idolatry and suffer an idolater’s fate—an existential crisis when our idols fail us.  The unemployed workaholic is not only out of a paycheck; the workaholic has lost their primary source of identity—an idol has been crushed.  This causes an existential crisis.  If we act out of an identity that has been crushed, then our lives appear meaningless without direction or value.  Is it any wonder that drug use, suicide, and mass shootings are so common today?  The problem is not psychiatric; it is spiritual—God will not take second place in our lives; God is a jealous god (Exodus 20:3-8).

Much like the commandments in Exodus 20, Paul’s vice list in verses 9-10 is used to establish Christian identity through contrast.  If you are a Christian, then by definition you avoid doing these things.  Paul readily admits that some of the Corinthians used to do these things (v 11).  All sins are forgivable (other than denying salvation); lifestyles of sin call into question one’s true identity.  Paul’s guidance is interesting:  All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything (v 12).  Do we let sin dominate us?  If we do, we have a problem with a sinful lifestyle.

In closing chapter 6, Paul makes three arguments against sexual immorality:

  1. Since we are united with Christ, sexual immorality unites Christ with a prostitute—unthinkable! (v 15);
  2. Sexual immorality is sin against one’s own body—in other words, stupid (v 18); and
  3. Our bodies are the temple of God purchased at a price—we are not our own (vv 19-20).

But, our identities are in Jesus Christ.  As Paul puts it:  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (v 11).

Where is your identity?


Sande, Ken . 2005. Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.  Review at:


  1. How was your week? Did anything special happen?
  2. What questions or thoughts do you have about 1 Corinthians 5?
  3. How were the Corinthians handling their grievances? Where did they go?  Where do we go? (v 1; Matthew 5:22-24; Luke 17:3-5)
  4. Sande describes peacemakers are people who breathe grace. He outlines four broad principles of peacemaking:
    1. Glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31),
    2. Get the log out of your eye (Matthew 7:5),
    3. Gently restore (Galatians 6:1),
    4. Go and be reconciled (Matthew 5:24) (12-13).

These four principles structure Sande’s book.

How does Sande’s list compare to Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8?

  1. Where does Paul get the idea that Christians will judge angels? Why is this fact interesting in his argument? (v 2; Hint:  Daniel 7:22)
  2. Why does Paul disparage the wise in the Corinthian church? (v 5) How does this relate to the church today?
  3. Compare the vice list in verses 9-10 with the vice list in 1 Corinthians 5:11. What items are common to both lists?  Why add the additional items?  Is this a random list of vices?
  4. What is the process of discipleship in the Corinthian church? (v 11) What is it today?
  5. What is Paul’s point in verse 12?
  6. How does resurrection (v 14) affect your interpretation of verse 13?
  7. Paul makes three arguments against sexual immorality in verses 15-20. What are they? Can you think of any others?
  8. What story comes to mind in reading the first clause in verse 18?

1 Corinthians 6: Growing into Our Identity in Christ

First Corinthians 5

First Corinthians 7

Continue Reading

1 Corintios 6 : Creciendo en Nuestras identidades en Cristo

The Crucifixion
The Crucifixion

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

¿Acaso no saben que su cuerpo es templo del Espíritu Santo, quien está en ustedes y al que han recibido de parte de Dios? Ustedes no son sus propios dueños; fueron comprados por un precio. Por tanto, honren con su cuerpo a Dios (1Corintios 6:19-20 NVI).

¿Dónde está tu identidad?

Un amigo mío estuvo involucrado en operaciones especiales como un soldado profesional y pasó un tiempo en lugares como Vietnam. Aquí estaba un hombre que participen en operaciones de combate feroz. Cuando lo conocí y le oí hablar, pensé que era delirante—habló de las cosas que yo nunca he hecho; nunca podría hacer. Lo que era normal para él, la mayoría de nosotros se vería con horror en el sala de cine. Pero él era un soldado haciendo lo que se espera que los soldados que hacer. Sin su identidad como un soldado, fue capaz de soportar esas cargas año tras año. Para él, la parte más difícil fue la transición de vuelta a la vida de un civil y dejando a las cargas de la vida militar atrás. Ahora, como un civil que tiene una nueva identidad.

Nuestras identidades definen tanto lo que somos y cómo nos espera que se comporten.

La iglesia de Corinto tenía un problema de identidad. En Corinto antes de la llegada de Pablo, los ricos explotan a los pobres, en parte, a través de procedimientos legales (vv 1-8). En Corinto antes de Pablo, la fiesta dura incluye rutinariamente borracheras, orgías, y la prostitución masculina y femenina (vv 9-10). Y a los corintios incluso tenía proverbios que apoyaron su comportamiento salvaje. Los alimentos son para el estómago y el estómago para los alimentos (v 13) es un proverbio pensado para ser utilizado de forma análoga a condonar la promiscuidad sexual. Cuando Pablo estableció una iglesia en Corinto, estos atributos de la identidad de Corinto no cambiaron como se podría encender un interruptor de luz. Los corintios necesitaban ayuda en el crecimiento en sus nuevas identidades en Cristo.

¿Qué pasa con nosotros? Es nuestra identidad primaria en Cristo? ¿O es que en nuestra profesión, nuestra etnia, nuestro género, nuestra nacionalidad, o la clase social? Si nuestra identidad principalmente es algo que no sea Cristo, practicamos la idolatría y sufrimos destino de la idolatría—una crisis existencial cuando nuestros ídolos nos fallan. El adicto al trabajo, cuyo trabajo se pierde no es sólo de un cheque de pago, el adicto al trabajo ha perdido su principal fuente de identidad—un ídolo ha sido aplastado. Aquí está la raíz de una crisis existencial. Si actuamos de una identidad que ha sido aplastado, entonces nuestras vidas parecen sin futuro y sin sentido o valor. No es de extrañar que de consumo de drogas, suicidio, y los tiroteos de masas son tan frecuentes hoy en día? El problema no es psiquiátrica; es spiritual—Dios no va a ocupar el segundo lugar en nuestras vidas; Dios es un dios celoso (Éxodo 20:3-8).

Vice lista de Pablo en los versículos 9-10, al igual que los mandamientos en Éxodo 20, se utilizan para establecer la identidad cristiana a través del contraste. Si usted es un cristiano, entonces usted va a evitar hacer estas cosas. Pablo admite que algunos de los Corintios usa para hacer estas cosas (v 11). Todos los pecados son perdonables (aparte de negar la salvación); estilos de vida de pecado ponen en duda la identidad verdadera. Orientación de Pablo es interesante: Todo me está permitido», pero no todo es para mi bien. «Todo me está permitido», pero no dejaré que nada me domine (v 12). ¿Dejamos que el pecado nos domina? Este es el problema de un estilo de vida pecaminoso.

Pablo hace tres argumentos en contra de la inmoralidad sexual:

  1. Ya que estamos unidos a Cristo, la inmoralidad sexual une a Cristo con una prostitute—impensable! (v 15);
  2. La inmoralidad sexual es un pecado contra el propio cuerpo—en otras palabras, estúpido (v 18); y
  3. Nuestros cuerpos son el templo de Dios comprados a un precio que no somos nuestro propio (vv 19-20).

Nuestras identidades están en Cristo Jesús. Como dice Pablo: Pero ya han sido lavados, ya han sido santificados, ya han sido justificados en el nombre del Señor Jesucristo y por el Espíritu de nuestro Dios (v 11).

¿Dónde es su identidad?

Continue Reading

A New Life in an Old Land by Thomas Smith

King Tomislav
King Tomislav, Zagreb, Croatia

By Thomas Smith

Our guest blogger this week is Pastor Thomas Smith who works with his family as a missionary to the reformed churches in Croatia, a part of the former communist country of Yugoslavia.

A New Life in an Old Land

Sparkling crystal clean water along pristine beaches on hundreds of islands and inlets loom large on the tourist promotions for Croatia.  Rightly so, Croatia’s Dalmatian and Istrian regions really are spectacular.  If you have not yet visited Croatia, you should. Visiting a country like Croatia for vacation is one thing, living and working here year round is a different experience.

Over much of the past two years, I have lived in Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia where I have been a theology lecturer and helper to a Protestant church.  This is the first time I have lived outside the United States.  I am still adjusting to the culture and rhythm of life here.


Croatian culture puts more value on family, traditions, and relationships than does American culture.  While Croatians value convenience, pragmatism, efficiency, and quality, they do not rate these quite as highly as Americans.  So as an American living here, I find myself feeling frustrated at times with products, services and rules because they are different than in America.  So, I am learning to change my expectations and my ways of thinking and doing.

I remind myself that I want to be here, I am called to be here to help the evangelical community in general and the Protestant Reformed Christian Church ( in particular.  The Protestant community is small, less than one percent.  Roman Catholicism is woven into the fabric of society.

Identity Issues

Here church membership is about identity. Church membership is not about being a disciple of Christ. If you are Orthodox, then you must be Serbian. Or if you are Muslim, then you must be a Bosnian. Croats are Catholic. But, Protestants are just odd and don’t fit any hole–it would better if you were an atheist.

The Croatian people are wonderful friends.  They are kind, helpful, generous and hardworking.  Most work at their jobs and are paid very little. The transition from communism to capitalism has been rough and inhumane.  My friends tell me life under Tito’s communism was better than conditions today.

While there is plenty of despair to go around, the people are great and love life. They love children, dogs, a good cup of coffee, conversation, and a good story. They appreciate home-made food, fine wine, music, and dance.  Enjoying the same things, I feel at home here. Like death and taxes, frustration and bureaucracy are unavoidable no matter where you live.

Croatian History

Croatians are primarily a Slavic people, but through the centuries they have absorbed the Illyrians, Romans, Celts, Germans, and other ethnicities.  The Slavic tribes came to this part of Europe in the early 600’s.  The first united kingdom arrived in 925 AD, but the royal line died out by 1100 AD.  They later merged their kingdom with Hungary until the 1500’s when they joined the Austro-Hungarian Empire to avoid being overrun by the Turks.


During the 1500’s Luther’s ideas about reforming the Roman Catholic church across Europe because of Gutenberg’s printing press.  The Protestant Reformation came to the edges of the country. In this time period, Croatia was a battleground between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Turkish Empire.  Due to the military and political situation, the Protestant Reformation was unable to penetrate Croatia. During the 16th and 17th centuries diffe

rent Popes assembled Catholic nations to battle the Ottoman Turks and, as a consequence, the Croatians saw the Vatican as their best defender and friend.  Catholicism became an important part of their identity and Croatians remained loyal to the Roman church. The Counter-Reformation led by the Jesuits effectively reduced and eliminated the Protestant presence.

Reformation in Croatia

Nevertheless, during the Reformation in eastern Croatia a priest named Michael Starin embraced Luther’s ideas. He introduced people to Christ; spread the idea that the Bible alone is the highest authority in the church; and proclaimed “Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone” in the region.  A total of 130 parishes converted.  For example, in the village of Tordinci, a Protestant church was created in 1551 and remains active today–despite the Counter Reformation and persecution–463 years later!  In 2001, it voted to leave the Reformed Calvinist Church (which is mostly Hungarian), along with some other parishes.

Friends in Christ

The pastor at Tordinci, Dr. Jasmin Milic, is a close friend and he invited me to join him as a church planter in Zagreb. Much like Paul’s vision of the Macedonian begging him to “come over … and help us” (Acts 16:9), I prayed and felt God’s call to join this church.  In 2011 and 2012, I transitioned from being a Pennsylvania pastor to working as an evangelist inside the church in Croatia.

My task here is to preach, teach and do outreach, but I also mentor young church leaders and teach seminary classes.  Friends, family and churches in America feel called to support my family and work through contributions to the International Theological Education Ministry (ITEM).  As our expenses grow and our savings shrink, new partners in Christ step forward to support my wife and I in this work.  The crystal clear waters of the Adriatic remind me of the waters flowing from the throne of God (Revelation 22:1).  Here is the crystal sea and before it are every tongue, tribe, and nation worshiping the Lord!  The Lord beckons:  come to Croatia; see the crystal sea; make disciples; join the new life in Christ!

Tom and Anna Smith
Tom and Ana Smith


Rev. Thomas J. Smith grew up in York, PA.  A graduate of Penn State University and Covenant Theological Seminary, he has been an ordained Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America since 2004.  He is married to Ana with whom he has three daughters, Katherine, Kristina, and Evelyn.  Tom and his family have been living and working in Croatia since 2012.

Financial contributions (designated for Tom Smith) may be sent to ITEM, Inc., P.O. Box 31456, St. Louis, MO 63131-0456  or through PayPal at .

A New Life in an Old Land by Thomas Smith

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site:, Publisher site:

Newsletter at:


Continue Reading