Sunday, March 26, 2006

Here is the rest of the chapter 7 study (1 Corinthians)

7:17-24 More on the Status Quo

17Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts. 20Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. 21Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave. 23You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.

Paul makes an interesting statement here, that a person should stay in the situation they are in. The need for this statement might come from the fact that Jesus taught the equality of people before God, which might have given rise to the desire to escape slavery. For example, Galatians 3:28 says “There is either Jew nor Greek, there is neither salve nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” He says this is the place God assigned to him and to which God called him. Curtis Vaughn said the word translated “assign” here means to be apportioned his share in something. This idea is pretty counter cultural for America, where almost everyone wants to live somewhere else, work somewhere else, look like someone else and be married to someone else.

Do you think your situation is accidental? Here Paul said you were called to it and assigned it. If that is the case, then God has a purpose for you in your present situation. It is not so important that you try to change your situation as that you live for the glory of God while in this situation. Paul said “keeping God’s command is what counts”.

When we are in a difficult situation, we usually cry out to God for deliverance. We say “please get me out of here”. But God may want you there. You are where you are on assignment for Him. So, obey his commands and live for him in your situation. Your witness will shine brighter in a difficult situation than in an easy one. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus said “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” In Ephesians 6:6-8, Paul specifically says “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye service, as people pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as t the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.”

Paul does say a couple of interesting things concerning freedom from slavery. He said if you were able to become free, to do so. That is probably because the free man may serve God without restrictions. But, he did not advocate running away or violating the law. Remember that he intervened for Onesimus by writing a letter to his master, Philemon, but he still made Onesimus return to Philemon even though Paul had become attached to him and benefited from him. In Philemon 12 he said “I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion, but of your own free will.”

Some people criticize Paul because he did not condemn slavery. But, what you see is that Paul was not interested in politics or changing the world order any way other than winning men and women to Christ and teaching them to live for him. It is a lesson we could learn today, as many churches and ministers are spending more time on politics than on evangelism and ministry. Fred Fisher wrote “The gospel will work and has worked its social reformations, but it has done so in the manner of leaven rather than by revolution.” +++++

Paul also said not to become a slave if you are free. He did this on theological grounds, though, not political, for he said you had already been bought with a price, paid for by Christ, so not to submit yourself to bondage.

Paul also applied this principle to circumcision, saying the circumcised man need not change and neither should the uncircumcised man. For circumcision is not a sign of belief in Christ and no longer matters. In Galatians 5:6, Paul said “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, buy only faith working through love.” In Galatians 6:15, he said “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision but a new creation.”

I think this again points out the Christ often calls us as believers, not to exercise our rights, but to sacrifice our rights for the sake of the gospel. God will often exalt us as believers. Plus the good habits of Godly living often translate into success. But God may also call us to stay in a difficult job for his purposes. He may also bring us financial challenges for his glory and for our good.

7:25-29 The Time Is Short

25Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. 26Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. 27Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. 28But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

29What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; 30those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

32I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

This sounds like the answer to another question submitted by the Corinthians. Paul here reiterates his advice about marriage. It would be good to stay single, but it is not a sin to marry. Why does he value singleness so much? He based it on “the present crisis” or “distress”. He did not tell us what the crises was, but the Corinthians were living or were about to live in a time that was difficult for believers in some way. Because of the times, he felt the single person better able to cope. What is the crisis?

Paul felt the time is short. In verse 31, he said the world in its present form is passing away. He lived in expectation of the return of Christ and the end of Earth in its present form, so he wanted to make every moment count for Christ. He had a real sense of urgency. He wanted to impart that sense of urgency to the Corinthians, so that they would live for Christ and the gospel as their first priority.

Paul also realized that a married person’s interests are divided. Married people must be concerned about their spouses, it is their duty. Single people can devote themselves totally to the Lord. Paul prized undivided devotion to the Lord.

Jesus made similar statements, so Paul is not really going out on a limb here. For example, in Matthew 8:21, another of the disciples said to him [Jesus], “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their won dead.”

In Matthew 10:37, Jesus said “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” As much as the Bible extols the worth of the family and the duty to preserve it, he says it must not eclipse our love for and devotion to Christ.

7:36-38 More Rules For Marriage

36If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. 37But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. 38So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better.

There are different approaches to the interpretation of this passage regarding who the virgin is and who it is addressed to. I read it to you in the English Standard Version, and it appears here to address a man who is engaged to a virgin. But, the NASB adds the word daughter, and interprets the passage as addressing the father about his duty toward his virgin daughter. The word “daughter” is in italics, meaning the word in not in the original Hebrew, but is implied. The NIV makes the opposite assumption, and says the “virgin he is engaged to.”

Paul here says that it is good to get married for those who want to get married, and good for the one who does not want to get married. I think Paul is speaking in the context of serving Christ, not extolling bachelorhood. It is better not to marry if you are doing it to devote yourself to the service of Christ, conditioned on the premise that you can do it without being consumed with passion or lust. It is not saying it is better to forgo marriage so you can cat around or indulge yourself on your income with no responsibilities. The Bible clearly sets forth the Godly pattern of a marriage between a man and a woman, producing Godly children.

7:39-40 Marriage Ended By Death

A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. 40In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

Paul shows us that the rule that marriage is permanent is ended with the death of a spouse. The remaining spouse is released from the bond of marriage and may remarry, as long as she marries a believer. Paul would still prefer the widow to remain single.

Finally, Paul claims to have the Spirit of God, so we do not treat his advice as a private opinion or conjecture, it is still the inspired word of God.
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