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.