1 Corinthians 7:1-7 – As a man with the gift of celibacy, he has a remarkable grasp on the power that sexual temptation has over men and women. Perhaps it wasn’t so much a gift as a devotion or a commitment, in which case his fighting to remain true to it would have given him insight into the problem. Of course, watching as many a man or woman fell into the sin of adultery would educate one as to the power of these desires.
So, though he would prefer that everyone were able to devote themselves to the Lord as he did, he refuses to allow for abstinence to be treated as some kind of higher position. Just the opposite, actually, he says that, because of the strength of the temptation, men and women should seek to marry and should not deny each other. He goes as far as to give each spouse authority over the other’s body. Does that give the partner with the stronger desire free reign over the other? Absolutely not. How does that jive with the rest of Paul’s teaching on marriage, namely respect for one another and mutual submission? No, it means that the one who is less interested must submit to more and the one with the stronger desire must temper it with self control. The main idea here, however, is one of neutralizing temptation with fulfillment, so the burden is more on the one with less desire, but one who truly loves their spouse will not force themselves on them.
1 Corinthians 7:10-16 – It’s interesting how Paul says verse 10 (a blanket prohibition on divorce) is from God, not him but verse 12 (freedom to divorce the non believer who wants to leave) is from him, not God. Should we take verse 12, then, as optional or discount it somehow, or because it is now in the scriptures (and not simply a letter), is it now from God? Is Paul saying that he disagrees with God here? No, I think he’s simply stating his opinion and that he has no instructions from God on the matter. He certainly wouldn’t hold the belief if he knew God was against it.
1 Corinthians 7:27-28, 32-35 – After starting this chapter with a strong suggestion that men and women should seek to marry, here in verse 27 he says not to. In verse 28, though, he says it isn’t a sin if you do. Why? The answer comes in the next paragraph – the married have divided interests and more worries. It’s not just them and the Lord, it’s them, the Lord and their spouse. Paul is looking ahead, to the Lord’s return. He says that the present form of the world, including marriages evidently, is passing away and he would have us all looking ahead to that day instead of having ties in this present world.
1 Corinthians 6:1-8 – How far it seems that the church is from this spirit today. While perhaps not in lawsuits, though those certainly happen, but in terms of bickering and fighting amongst each other. We look no different than the world! Paul says “Why not rather be defrauded?” than to drag our disputes before a worldly court. Once we’ve taken them public, we’ve already lost the battle for their souls.
Jesus says that we will be known as His by our love, so if we trot out our disputes outside the church either in the media or the courts, we are now known as folks who cannot get along and can’t settle our own disputes. If we are no better off than the world, what attraction is there in Christ to those on the outside looking in?
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – Paul finishes his rebuke of their public disputes by reminding them, as he does so often, of who they were and who they now are and why. Jesus has washed you and pulled you out of the wicked, greedy and swindlers, yet you return to them to settle your disputes? Have you forgotten the transformation Christ made in you?
1 Corinthians 6:12-20 – Here Paul implores them to flee sexual sin, making a distinction between it and any other sin. This is a sin against his own body, others are outside the body. Keep things in perspective, your body is made for the Lord, it is a member of Christ himself. Would you bring Christ into the bedroom with you along with one who is not your spouse? Would you invite Jesus along for your tryst? Certainly not, but yet he is there, you are part of him so He comes along.
This has ramifications beyond immorality, I think. If that is who we are, if we really understand that we not only belong to Christ but are members of Christ, how then would we live? What would you view (He Jesus, take a look at this video …), how would you speak (He Jesus, tell that so and so …), how would you act (that’s it, hit him Jesus …)?
If we are members of Christ, then every act should be seen as an act of Jesus. What would Jesus do? Whatever you’re doing, he’s doing it.
1 Corinthians 5:1-5 – In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul stressed that it is the Lord who judges, imploring them not to judge before the proper time. Yet here in verse 3 he says he has already passed judgment on the immoral brother. I suspect that he’s referring to two different kinds of judgment, one eternal and final which will only be done by God and not until the appointed time. The other, however, is entirely appropriate for church leadership, which is what he’s talking about here. In fact, he rebukes them for essentially not doing it yet. Leaders should judge what is proper behavior for those in the church. It’s certainly a sticky matter, fraught with peril and ripe for leadership to be criticized. It should be done with the utmost care and lots of input from others. But the situation Paul describes, immorality between a man and his stepmother, is a severe and clear cut case and should be dealt with swiftly. We are not talking about disputable matters.
I can’t help but draw a parallel between this passage and the current news of the Catholic church. These situations, assuming they are verified, are not disputable matters, they are grave and hideous sins involving some of the most vulnerable in the church. Yet, the church leadership did not act decisively on behalf of justice or righteousness, instead it seems they acted to protect the church first. I’m certainly not privy to details or facts of each and every case, however, from the news accounts a pattern of cover up and protection the church structure over the innocent victims or even God’s honor seems to be emerging. Rather than standing for His righteousness, they’ve stood to protect their own.
Paul instructed the Corinthians to publicly deliver the man in an adulterous relationship to Satan. The Catholic church ought to do the same to the men involved in these sinful relationships instead of quietly shuffling them off to another location.
1 Corinthians 5:7 – Why remove the evil men from among you? “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” If Jesus was willing to sacrifice himself for us, we ought to be purely devoted to him.
1 Corinthians 5:9-13 – Paul clarifies that his judgment is not for everyone, only for those within the church, going as far as proclaiming that they (and by extension, we) should not associate with a man who claims Christ but blatantly persists in sin with no intention of repentance. I think the church today holds a much lower standards, we tolerate sin with the false platitude that everyone is a sinner. Certainly, that is true, however a man who knows his sin, is confronted by it and refuses to do anything about it has no place in the church. It is far easier to look the other way, or even not dig very deeply in each others lives so we don’t uncover anything we might have to deal with.
Being the church of Jesus is a messy business at times, but not dealing with the mess means not being His church after all.
1 Corinthians 4:1-5 – Paul reiterates, it is the Lord who Judges and we should not pronounce judgment before the time that the Lord comes. But it is so tempting to do so. If I don’t agree with your doctrine, or I draw the line on a disputable matter differently than you do, it’s oh-so-easy to proclaim that you are not a disciple of Jesus. I find it very hard to settle these things in my mind. I tend to want there to be a single way to be, a single ‘right’ choice for every situation. It’s hard for me to imagine that you and I can disagree profoundly and both be fine in the eyes of God. I must continue to remind myself to leave room for the grace of God and leave judgment to Him. After all,if I trust in His grace to cover my mistakes in discernment or line drawings, I must allow the same for my brother.
Paul also shares a liberating perspective here on human judgment. In verse 3 he says “with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court“. In other words, it’s no big deal what man says about me, what matters is the Lord’s judgment. What you or anyone else thinks is “a very small thing”. I make too much of what others think. Far, far too much.
1 Corinthians 4:6-13 – Paul uses sarcasm here to rebuke the Corinthians for taking credit for what they’ve become. What they were came from Paul and others and ultimately from Christ, they were nothing until they received Jesus. This is true for me as well. I stand because my parents raised me to fear God, because men in college shared the gospel with me, because men fought to make the Bible accessible, because other men wrote of Jesus from their hearts in books and blogs and on and on. I would have never found Christ from my own seeking alone, I’m convinced of that. Nor would I have grown in Him by myself.
1 Corinthians 3:1-4 – Paul criticizes them for being “merely human”, calling them above that to be “spiritual people”. As followers of Jesus we should rise above the petty, human disputes of who to follow or jealousy or strife. To our shame, those who identify as Christians are just as bad, if not worse, as those in Corinth. Paul would rebuke us harshly I bet for the way we behave just like “mere humans”.
Think about the implication of that for a minute. In Christ we are no longer “mere humans”, we have been elevated above that. Not by some Darwinian process of natural selection, but by something that could possibly be called unnatural selection. Jesus chose us and called us above mere humanity not based on our superiority but based on His. We are no longer mere humans, we are Gods own chosen ones, chosen not for our fitness or superiority, but out of His love and grace. We are no mere humans, we are His. Should we act like it?
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 – I traditionally looked at this passage as referring to the end, judgment day. That day will test what we’ve built on the foundation of Christ. But, now that I’m in my 40’s with teenagers and whatnot, it seems to me that life tests what we’ve built. As we go on, things are thrown our way and how we’ve built on the foundation of Christ given us determines if we will be able to stand or simply escape the flames. Sometimes I don’t know which camp I’m in, frankly.
1 Corinthians 3:17 – God’s temple is holy and we are His temple. That means that we are holy, that I am holy, according to God. Wow, God has decreed me holy.