Random Ramblings

Reflections on my walk with God


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Freedom to Obey

When I suggested that we might follow the hugely enjoyable #luke2acts Twitter Bible study by reading the rest of the New Testament,  I think I really didn’t know what I was letting myself in for!  The original plan was to read a chapter a day and so finish by mid-December as outlined here. After our Struggles with Romans, we are now reading and commenting on #Rom2Rev at a much more relaxed pace ;-), may finish sometime next year….   I keep getting behind due to “inconvenient” family health issues and spending a lot of time at hospitals. This is my second catch up blog. My first, Time to grow up and be foolish, had thoughts on 1 Corinthians 1-4. This post is my thoughts on chapters 7-9.

These 3 chapters are very much about rights and responsibilities. As believers we are not bound to the Mosaic law, Paul was very concerned that the Corinthians understood that Salvation is absolutely not dependant on works and cannot be earned by obedience to the old covenant. However, freedom in Christ is not freedom to do what we want, and so Paul laid out the way that believers should act. When they were saved they became part of the Church, which is the body of Christ, as such the Corinthians should behave appropriately. Chapters 7&8 deal with the specific issues of sexual behaviour and dietary laws. The Corinthians apparently thought that sexual relationships should be avoided even within marriage, Paul corrects this idea:

The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5 NASB)

We notice that husbands are not given absolute authority over their wives, they are considered equal and must not “deprive each other”. Sex is considered to be a right within marriage but as directed in chapter 5, believers must not indulge in sex outside marriage. We must remember that Paul and the other Apostles expected Christ to return very soon. His admonitions that it was better for the Corinthians to stay single than to marry were to encourage them to prepare for the second coming.

Couples should not divorce because one is saved and one unsaved. Hopefully, the witness of the believer will bring the unsaved spouse into a saving knowledge of Christ [certainly my hope!]. In many ways Paul’s ideas were radical for the time. Men and women were expected to marry. Single women were pitied and widows often looked down on (despite Levitical laws, which required that widows and orphans be taken care of). Paul was in effect saying that all are equal in Christ and their chief concerns should be devotion to the Lord; married people will be distracted (rightly) by their devotion to each other.

This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:35 NASB)

One of the key messages in this letter was that believers should remain as they were when they were saved.

Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches. Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called. (1 Corinthians 7:17, 20 NASB)

Just as believers should remain in the same marital state that they were in when they were saved, so slaves should remain with their earthly master. In all cases they actually only have one master, Christ himself. As stated in the HCSB study Bible “Regardless of a person’s situation, he should live for the Lord. Two realities should heighten our emphasis on such a lifestyle of devotion: the time is limited and the world . . . is passing away.”

Chapter 8 deals with the vexing issues of food laws. The Jews were bound by the Levitical laws, which are incredibly strict. Some Jews thought that hey must continue to keep all of the laws and that gentile converts must also conform to this practise. Paul himself had to receive a direct message from God to be persuaded that all foods can be eaten (Acts 10 and 11). As with other freedoms, just because we can eat anything doesn’t mean that we should! Paul instructs the Corinthians that they should respect the behaviours of others, not criticising them for having certain ideas about food, not antagonising them. We can apply this to today, not only to remind us to accept the restrictions that others place upon themselves with regard to e.g. meat and alcohol; but also to be aware that as part of the body of Christ, we should respect our own bodies. This idea was explored with regard to giving up smoking by Christine.

In chapter 9, Paul seems to be answering direct questions which challenge his rights as an apostle. Again really he is very much focusing on the freedom that we have in Christ. Like the other Apostles, Paul and Barnabas had the right “to eat and drink, ….take along a believing wife,….and …refrain from working..” (1 Corinthians 9:4-6 NASB). Paul did not insist on these rights, he was not married (probably!) and did work to support himself (Acts 18:3); however he and the other Apostles should be free to evangelise and not have to worry about bed & board.

And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; (Luke 10:2-8 NASB).

It is important to remember that Paul is apeaking to believers in all his letters and therefore the behaviours expected of the Corinthians (and us) are not the same as for unbelievers. We must live in the world but we are not of the world. We must work at whatever God have given us to do, as if competing in a race. We must train hard and try to do our best in all things, at all times.

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“Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit that is in you” a Guest Blog

I am really happy to host my first guest blog! Christine is one of the regular contributors to the #Rom2Rev Twitter Bible study that I’m participating in. We are currently reading 1 Corinthians and are being challenged once again by Paul’s writing, but Christine tells us how Paul’s words inspired her in this short testimony. 

“Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit that is in you”
1 Corinthians 6:19

Paul wrote these words in a passage about sexual immorality but for me these words were my ‘Get out of jail free’ card in my struggle with my addiction to cigarette-smoking.

Like several smokers, I had several smoke-free ‘seasons’ in my life and I thought I’d given up for good, only to get ‘hooked’ again when the going got really tough.

I realise now that that my earlier efforts to give up failed in the long-term because of my main motivation: pride. I didn’t want to be beaten by ‘Lady Nicotine’.

Another thing I found hard, when I was a smoker, was the condemning attitude of some (but by no means all) Christians I knew, despite the fact that I did not smoke in their presence and they were not affected by ‘passive smoking’. However, their condemnation was not my greatest problem. I had a far greater problem with the way I responded to the condemnation – in my heart and sometimes verbally. I became embattled, trying to think of ways of defending myself and giving people subtle and less-than-subtle reminders that they weren’t saints either: pride, again! This preoccupation was turning me away from God in that I was becoming self-righteous and judgemental myself.

1 Corinthians 6:19 won where my pride lost because – probably thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit in me – I became overwhelmingly thankful for God’s gift of life and overwhelmingly heart-broken that I had treated my body so badly by invading it with cigarette toxins. This was not what God had in mind when he created me. Yet I knew that God had forgiven me and I was overwhelmed by that, too.

I wept many tears of remorse.

I wept many tears of joy and relief.

I have not smoked since. I was set free from my ‘prison’ of addiction.

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives…’
Luke 4:18,19

‘For you were bought at a price;
Therefore glorify God in your body
And in your spirit,
Which are God’s.’
1 Corinthians 6:20

Christine Quinn-Jones 17-08-2014


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Time to grow up and be foolish

After our struggles with Romans we are now reading 1 Corinthians in the Twitter Bible study #Rom2Rev.  Due to family health issues, I have gotten behind the discussion, though not the reading.  Here are some (non-theological) thoughts on 1 Corinthians 1-4.

Throughout these chapters Paul is instructing the Corinthians to be wise and foolish! They are to follow the wisdom of the Gospel message which seems to be foolishness to non-believers.

I once read an article in which the writer discussed our “strange dead God”.  He had been questioned by someone of another faith who could not understand why we worship a dead God.  From his perspective this was beyond understanding and probably “foolish”. Paul preached Christ crucified – this was the centre of his message and in isolation would indeed be foolish. However, as we know, Christ did not stay dead – He rose and is alive. This is absolutely fundamental to our faith, as Paul explains later in this letter:

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is without foundation, and so is your faith. In addition, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified about God that He raised up Christ — whom He did not raise up if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:13-17 HCSB)

Paul’s message to the Corinthians, and to us, is that Jesus is not what the world expects. The Jews looked for a great warrior king who would sweep away the Romans and other conquerors for ever. The gentiles, while having no messianic expectations, had pretty definite ideas of what a diety should look like. The crucified Christ was, and is, offensive. He does not meet worldly expectations. Chapters 1 and 2 exhort the readers to follow Christ, not Paul, Apollos or any other leader/teacher. The readers are urged to be spiritually wise, not worldly wise. How many of our unsaved friends and family shake their heads and roll their eyes at us? As saved, Christ-followers we are deemed to be foolish by the world’s standards. Paul emphasises that this foolishness is wisdom in God’s eyes.

The Corinthians were so busy following particular leaders and worrying about looking wise in the eyes of the world that they were not spiritual, their faith was superficial. They were really no different from the non-believers around them. In fact they were much worse because they had heard the truth, had acepted it but were not living it. Chapter 2 going into 3 tells the believers that they should be spirit-lead and as such they cannot be judged by the world, which does not understand God’s wisdom. The book of Proverbs gives much advice on the importance of wisdom and understanding:

Get wisdom, get understanding; don’t forget or turn away from the words of my mouth. Don’t abandon wisdom, and she will watch over you; love her, and she will guard you. Wisdom is supreme — so get wisdom. And whatever else you get, get understanding.(Prov 4:5-7 HCSB)

Knowledge is not enough, we can know all things but if we are not wise and can understand the knowledge, then we cannot apply it to our lives.

Paul leads on from his instructions about wisdom to being spiritual (we had an interesting discussion about this on Twitter). The spiritual person is one who has accepted Jesus as her/his saviour and is living life accordingly. The Corinthians were still living in the same way as the gentiles who knew no better, they were not mature as Paul expected that they should be.

The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. For who has known the Lord’s mind, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ.  I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, because you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready,  because you are still fleshly. For since there is envy   and strife among you, are you not fleshly and living like unbelievers?  For whenever someone says, “I’m with Paul,” and another, “I’m with Apollos,” are you not unspiritual people? (1Cor 2:16-3:4)

How this resonates with today’s church. People follow “famous” (and sometimes infamous) preachers/pastors/leaders etc. and are distracted from the central Gospel message of Christ crucified.  Paul, Apollos, Peter etc were “co-cworkers with God”. Paul uses two anologies referring to the Corinthians as a field which Paul and Apollos have planted and as a building for which they have laid the foundation. I find these comparisons rather confusing. The field is the Corinthian congregation which Paul has planted, Apollos has watered but the growth is completely attributed to God. In the building analogy, Paul has laid the foundation, which is Christ, but the church are the builders. I understand both analogies, but they seem to be very different to me (thoughts appreciated). Confusion not withstanding, the message is that it isn’t enough to simply say “I follow X, and therefore I’m Ok”. Our wisdom and understanding must grow and keep growing. Paul was dissapointed that the Corinthians had not matured beyond petty disputes. They should have been taking in meat but were still on milk, they were still spiritual babies.

Chapters 3 going into 4 again appeals again for the Corinthians be “foolish” in the world’s eyes in order to be truly wise. They must avoid worrying about looking good and being the best, it is enough to know and follow Christ. Apparently the leaders were acting in a superior manner, Paul reminds them that they should be servant leaders, just as he and Apollos were. I’m very much reminded of the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people — greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me — a sinner! ’ I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14 HCSB)

When I first read Paul’s letters, it seemed to me that in places he was terribly arrogant, I think that parts of this letter give that impression.
However as always, context is essential. Paul is their spiritual father, he knows what is best for them and loves them. He does not want to chastise them, but will if it is necessary. Paul concludes this section of his letter with the words:
What do you want? Should I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness? (1 Cor 4:21 HCSB)