As you were ( 1 Corinthians 7)

How do we live in a messy, chaotic, uncertain world? This is a question we rightly keep coming back to.The Corinthians had written to Paul with their own questions which really were about this theme. What does it mean to be a Christian and to live a godly life in a messy, chaotic, uncertain world.

This week, in chapter 7, we pick up a question about marriage and celibacy -v 1. Paul says that he is going to deal with their question.

“It is good to abstain from sexual relations” may be another  Corinthian slogan or soundbite.For some there seemed to be a desire to escape from present relationships and responsibilities -even a reaction to the actions of others in ch 5-6.

This included:

  1. Husbands and wives abstaining from sex to pursue a spiritual vocation (v2 – 6)
  2. The unmarried (widows and virgins) deciding not to get married at all and breaking off engagements (v7-11, 25-40).
  3. People married to unbelievers – should they get divorced (v 12-16)

So Paul responds to their questions.

 

  1. The secret for godly living in a messy world is neither licence nor legalism but godly wisdom

Note two things

  1. Paul distinguishes between specific commands from the Lord a(v10) and advice he gives (v 12, v 25)

The specific command refers to Jesus’ teaching on earth, recorded in the Gospels (e.g. Matthew 5, Matthew 19, Mark 10, Luke 16:18).

2. Paul’s advice is set in the context of life between Christ’s Resurrection and Christ’s Return (v26, v 29)

Paul still speaks as an apostle under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (v 40). I think the sense here is that this is practical wisdom to be applied to actual situations carefully (similar to Proverbs).

So a big lesson here is about the danger of legalism as the opposite extreme to licence. You end up in a big mess.  Legalism often happens when I look at one person’s wise decision in the circumstances they face with the gifts God has given them and make a rule for everyone.

Paul’s big answer -remain where you are. Faithfulness to your situation comes through trusting God to be faithful to you (v 7)

-Being married is a gift from God -for that time

Being single is a gift from God for that time

I don’t think this is about some magical gift of singleness where you never long for a partner, never feel lonely, never get sexually tempted. Rather.  God provides what you need in those circumstances and gives those circumstances to you so that you can worship him, serve him and enjoy his goodness.

Circumcision and slavery are used as examples. Note very carefully here that Paul is not endorsing slavery or saying accept the status quo – but rebelling and running away are not the answer. Rather, use the lawful means that God has given you to change things (v21) whilst trusting God’s faithfulness and seeing your new status in Christ as free (v22).[1]

God will be faithful to you

This means

a. Husbands and wives should not deny each other sexually.

 

–          There’s a sense of mutual submission here

–          Physical pleasures are good, wholesome and from God. Sex is good if placed in it’s right context of marriage.

–          A wider application involves work, art, leisure -things to enjoy as good gifts from God[2]

 

b. You should stay with your wife/husband (v 13) – note if the unbeliever chooses to leave/desert then that’s a different matter. You are then free.

c. It is okay to choose not to marry (v26, v32) -but it also good and okay to marry (v 36)  but also make sure you marry the right person (v 39)

 

–          The issue here is wisdom. Think through the implications. There are pros and cons. Will marriage enable you to serve God together or will you simply become pre-occupied with the cares and worries of life. Will marriage teach you not to be selfish or encourage selfishness and you look inward. ETC

 

  1. The secret for godly living in a messy world is to seek God’s glory and to put the Gospel first?

V 7 “each person has a special gift from the Lord”

V29, v 31 Time is short

V35 “…whatever will help you serve the Lord best”

So making decisions in life includes asking questions like:

-am I using my God given gifts and talents?

-Is the body of Christ being built up, encouraged and nurtured?

-Is it leading to Gospel opportunities?

– Is God being glorified?

This must apply to all areas of my life

Moving home

Moving job

What to do on my day off

Which course to study at University

How to spend my spare time.

Conclusion

This is a great cure for restless, wandering spirits. Settle down into what God has given you. Recognise this time and these circumstances as his gift for you to enjoy and to use for his glory

This is a great reminder of the value and importance of life now

This is an urgent reminder of the priority of the Gospel.

[1] For more details on this see Dave Williams John Wesley and the Slave Trade, available at https://faithroots.net/resources-2/resources/

[2] Nb the whole matter of divorce and re-marriage is a much bigger subject than we can cover here.  However we have looked at this on Faithroots. See https://faithroots.net/2015/05/17/divorce-and-re-marriage/

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