TODAY’S READING: I CORINTHIANS 7-11
Marriage and divorce (chapter 7); Christian liberty (chapter 8); the purpose of our liberty (chapter 9); lessons from Israel (chapter 10); issues regarding communion (chapter 11).
HIGHLIGHTS & INSIGHTS:
We now begin the section of I Corinthians in which Paul answers the questions the Corinthians had sent to him. The first issue he addresses is marriage. Apparently, the Corinthians were wondering if it was better for a man never to marry. In one sense it is. Verse 1 of chapter 7 says, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. In 7:8 Paul says he wishes all men were like him (single). 7:8 says it is good for the unmarried and widows to remain single. 7:27 advises men if they are loosed from a wife (single) not to seek a wife. The reason is found in 7:32-34. An unmarried person may give their service more wholly to the Lord. Everyone that is married understands the point, because there are restraints on our time, resources, and service because of our families. For example, it’s more difficult for a husband/wife, father/mother to go on a six month or one year mission trip than it is for a single person. That is just common sense. What often happens, however, is si!
ngles sometimes mistakenly believe if they can just be spiritual enough, they can remain single for life. God makes clear in 7:7 that singleness is a gift, and that marriage is certainly good and honorable, and what is right for most.
Space does not allow for an exhaustive look at chapter 7, but there are some key principles God establishes in this chapter that need to be noted:
Intimacy is not an option in marriage. The husband and wife are to give themselves to each other. A marriage that lacks intimacy distorts the picture of Christ and the church revealed in Ephesians 5:25-33.
Do not seek divorce. If there is a split, God desires reconciliation. However, if an unbelieving spouse departs, the believer is free.
Learn to be content. If you can improve your circumstances, go for it, but learn to be content.
Realize your marriage requires time, effort, and care.
In chapter 8, the next question the Corinthians posed was about meat offered to idols. They were asking this question in a way to get the answer they wanted — almost an “It’s okay to eat, right?” You can see by the development of the chapter that they already had their well-thought-through reasons it was okay, and were simply looking for Paul to agree with them, or condone their wishes. The Corinthians said, “We have knowledge! We know an idol is nothing”. God responds, “Knowledge is vain. It puffs up! The key is, do you have charity?” Chapter 8 is a redirecting of the question from, “Because we have knowledge and we know an idol is nothing we can eat this meat offered to idols even though it offends our brothers, right?” to “Do you love your brother enough not to eat it?” Notice the shift from, “What are my rights?” to “How can I care for my brother?” Yes, an idol is nothing, and no, there is nothing wrong in and of itself in eating meat offered to an idol. However, t!
he overarching concern must be verse 9 – “Am I using my liberty in a way that causes others to stumble?” If so, I’m using my liberty as an occasion to the flesh and not only sinning against my brother, I am sinning against Christ (8:12).
In chapter 9, Paul illustrates from his own life, the principle of chapter 8. Verses 1-14 establish the authority and right that Paul and Barnabas had to be compensated for their work in the Lord. However, they chose not to exercise this right for the sake of the gospel. Paul had the right to be compensated, but he chose not to do this so that nobody would or could ever accuse him of doing what he did for money, and thereby hurt the cause of Christ. Rather, 9:20-23 reveals he chose to live as others to try and reach them with the gospel. In fact, he brings himself under control that he might be an effective messenger of the gospel. The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Do I place the priority on being as an effective minister of the gospel as I can be?” or “Do I place the priority on my rights and liberty?”
In chapter 10, God illustrates why we all need to have the mindset Paul just described in chapter 9. The illustration comes from the Old Testament and has to do with the Nation of Israel. Verse 1-4 reveal that all Israel experienced the same supernatural deliverance from Egypt, in the same way every true believer has experienced supernatural deliverance from sin and the world. However, most of them were overthrown in the wilderness. They are an example to us. Five areas did them in: lust, idolatry, fornication, tempting God, and murmuring. Verse 12 gives us a solemn warning. Sometimes we think we’re immune to certain sins. God says we better constantly be taking heed to His Word lest we fall. 10:13 is a very popular verse, however, don’t forget the context. The temptations that are common to man are the very things he just listed that the Nation of Israel faced. We need to be on guard, taking heed to what God’s Word says about the five areas that caused most of I!
srael to be overthrown.
Then, Paul comes all the way back to dealing with the issue he started discussing in Chapter 8 – meat offered to idols. Verses 14-22 deal with actually participating in the religious experiences of those sacrificing to idols. Some Corinthians probably thought that since an idol is nothing what’s the big deal if I go to my neighbor’s religious service and participate with him. It’s no big deal, right? Wrong! False religious services are actually a worship of Satan. They certainly don’t look that way, but that is the spiritual reality. However, the meat that is sold afterwards is permissible to eat, just don’t defile your conscience or the conscience of your brother. The key principles to apply to our life are found in 10:23-24. I’m free to do what I want, but just because I’m free to do it doesn’t mean I should! There are other issues involved, not the least of which is regarding my brother and not just my own selfish wants. This is also the context for 10:31-33. T!
he glory of God is what should be the motivation for all we do. However, we’re Laodiceans, and usually we are motivated by what profits us, not what profits others.
Think of the boldness of Paul to write verse 1 of chapter 11. This verse is often misquoted as if it says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” He doesn’t say that. Paul says the very bold, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am [a follower] of Christ”. Notice the difference – “I’m a follower of Christ, you be a follower of me.” He was telling these immature believers to start following him. God understands we that sometimes need a model to follow. Young or immature believers need a mature Christian to follow. However, God’s desire is not for that to continue indefinitely. As a believer matures, they need to learn to stand (Gal. 5:1), and walk (Gal. 5:16) on their own two spiritual feet.
The next part, 11:2-16, is quite an interesting portion of scripture. Remember how the Corinthians asked that question to try and get the response they wanted? We typically do the same thing when we approach the issue of women wearing a covering on their head. We tend to approach this issue with the question, “Women don’t really have to wear something on their head when they pray, do they?” Isn’t it interesting how that is our first question. There are a couple of key points that help make this passage easier to understand. First, God is a God of order. That is clearly revealed in verses 3, 8-9. Second, Paul is dealing with a cultural issue. How do we know that? Let me answer that by asking another question – is hair the covering? Well, verse 15 says it is the covering given to a woman. But, is that the teaching of scripture? No, nature teaches us that. Is it wrong for a man to have long hair? Some say that it is because of verse 14. But again, keep in mind!
that that is a reference to nature, not to scripture. Different cultures have different customs. That brings us to the third point. Notice verse 16. Paul is not instituting any biblical requirement upon these people or upon us. So the answer is no, women don’t have to wear something on their head when they pray, unless, of course, the culture dictates it. Remember; don’t seek your own profit, but the profit of others.
As Paul continues on in chapter 11, he rebukes them for their abuse of the Lord’s Supper. They were using this time as a time to party and do what they wanted instead of remembering our Lord’s death. God uses this passage as a reminder of the purpose of communion, and shows us:
*This is a very important and meaningful time to God. (11:27)
*We should examine ourselves before participating. (11:28)
*There are extreme consequences to not judging ourselves. (11:30)