March 8, 2015.
Daily Reading: I Corinthians 7-8.
Background: I Corinthians 4-6.
Concepts and Connections.
1. Marriage and singleness: In this rather famous chapter, Paul lays out some guidelines for the Corinthians about marriage because they had written to him concerning the matter. It is possible, judging by the quotation that Paul uses that seems to be from their letter (“It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman”), that members of the church were taking the principle of sexual purity to the extreme, either telling people they they couldn’t have sex within the confines of marriage, or more likely simply forbidding people to marry (or strongly teaching against marriage). Paul uses the beginning of this section to straighten this teaching out, making it clear that marriage is not sin, though he might agree with the sentiment that people should not get married because they would have more time for the Lord with their attention undivided. It is interesting that twice in this chapter, Paul makes it clear when he is speaking as opposed to when he has been given instruction from the Lord, once concerning members who have unbelieving spouses and a second time dealing with the betrothed. While it is an interesting distinction, it is perhaps more important to note that this is one of the few times that Paul does this, which would imply that the other things he writes were from the Lord.
Regardless, there are many principles of marriage that are laid out here, most of which have to do with one’s level of self control. While Paul thinks singleness is the best way to go if you are going to use it to serve the Lord (he was single, after all), he recognizes that not everyone is given this level of self control and advises marriage for any who cannot lead a single life without burning with passion. When one gets married, he or she does not have authority over his or her own body, but rather the wife or husband, respectively, does; they should not deprive one another of their conjugal rights, lest they be overcome with temptation (you can almost hear Paul’s outlook on marriage here). He also explains that if a wife or husband has an unbelieving spouse not to divorce them, but remain with them if they are so pleased to stay. This situation likely arose when one member of the married party became a Christian before the other did, probably causing obvious tensions. But in the end, it is possible that they would save their spouse.
2. Living as you are called: In what seems to be a summery, Paul tells everyone to simply live as they were called, for we each have been assigned a different life by the Lord. If we are each assigned a different life, there was no way of imposing a certain set of the same regulations (such as absence) on everyone (such as those who were married), as the Corinthians might have been doing (even through misunderstanding Paul’s words). In this section, Paul tells the Corinthians to live in the state in which they were called, probably in reference to when they became a Christian. When they were washed clean in the blood of Christ, all their sins were removed. Were they circumcised when they became Christians? Don’t seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Not circumcised? Don’t get circumcised. Bondservant? Don’t worry about it. The message isn’t that you are locked into any situation you are in when you become a Christian (as Paul tells the bondservant to be free if he can), but rather don’t force yourself (or force upon other people) a “fix” to remedy some situation that someone might think was sinful (such as uncircumcision, or being married to an unbeliever) that wasn’t needed. Two wrongs don’t make a right. They were to simply lead the life that God had called them to, as He has assigned each one of us. This makes for a great segway into the next part of his letter, chapter 8, where he deals with putting stumbling-blocks in the way of brethren, as it seems like some of the brethren were doing with the concept of marriage.
Stumbling-blocks: The city of Corinth was filled with pagan gods and worship to these gods. When food was sacrificed to idols and people partook of this food, there was a conception that the people were in some way becoming one with whatever they were sacrificing to (see parallel with John 6:22-59). But after they put on Christ, they were taught a higher knowledge, spiritual knowledge such as what Paul references in chapter 2 of this letter, and this knowledge included knowing that the gods of the pagans around them were nothing at all. Thus, they would know that if they ate food that had been part of this sacrifice, it neither harmed them or benefited them (besides the normal benefits of any food), in terms of other gods. They could eat anything with thanksgiving with a clear conscience. However, not everyone possessed this knowledge yet, as there were a lot of immature Christians in the church at Corinth. Instead of guiding young Christians into spiritual maturity, the ‘mature’ Christians were using their knowledge to the detriment of the young Christians. They were putting a stumbling-block in the way of their brethren, for the weaker brethren were seeing the ‘mature’ brethren eating the food that had been sacrificed, and they did so too, but their conscience was weak. The ‘mature’ brethren, however, seemed to have an arrogance due to this new ‘knowledge’. Paul admonishes the ‘mature’ brethren, warning of their pride, and telling them to put on love for their brethren. Though they could ‘legally’ eat the food, they should refrain on account of their weak brother’s conscience. Paul went so far as to say he would never eat meat again if it caused his brother to stumble! It was time for the Corinthian church to put on love instead of pride, as he will make clear in chapter 13. We too can so easily fall into this “spiritual pride,” so to speak, where we cause our brethren to stumble rather than putting on love and helping one another. Sometimes, it might just be that we are the weak bother in the situation (no, no one ever actually thinks that they are the weak brother, which necessitates that someone simply doesn’t know that they are the weak brother). Let us put on love for one another, not holding our “knowledge” over our brethren, but rather seeking to help each other out, studying and maturing together in Christ.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Genesis 36-39.
Love one another.