Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Reading Through 1 Corinthians #2 (5-8)

schenk 1 CorinthiansThis post will begin a read through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians accompanied by 1 & 2 Corinthians: A Commentary for Bible Students, by Kenneth Schenck. In this section of 1 Corinthians Paul deals with some moral problems in the church that have come to his attention. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In chapters 5 and 6 Paul addresses moral problems in the church that have come to his attention. It seems that there were people in the Corinthian church that misinterpreted Paul's teaching that they were no longer under the law to mean that there were no moral restrictions on what they did with their body. Paul counters that that one cannot separate spirit and body. Both are "slaves" to Christ and ultimately will be completely redeemed. The church should not tolerate the man who was having sex with his step-mother (5), but instead should subject him to church discipline to encourage repentance and restoration. The same was true with the men who were having sex with prostitutes (6.12-20). Sexual immorality is incompatible with kingdom living. Immorality corrupts the individual human body and the collective body of Christ. In between, he addresses law suits in the body. Believers should approach disputes as kingdom people by dealing with them within the body and being willing to give up "rights." This would model Christlike attitudes and behaviors that would honor Christ before outsiders rather than bringing shame to the body of Christ. 

The principles behind Paul’s instructions remain as true as ever: (1) we cannot silently allow sin to continue in the church and (2) we should do everything we can to bring the fallen Christian to repentance. The specific ways we go about these may not be the same as Paul’s, but the principles and goals remain the same. 1 Corinthians 5, 86

Paul’s comments about taking each other to court were not made in a vacuum. He knows the specifics and the attitudes involved in this situation and considers them inappropriate. This is an important element to consider when we apply these verses to today. Just as Paul says not to judge in 4:5 and then judges in 5:3, we must always remember that Paul is not just giving us theory and theology in 1 Corinthians. He is addressing specific situations. 1 Corinthians 6.1-11, 91

We can wonder if the amount of sexual immorality in the church today would decrease if the tempted would “take Christ with them” into such situations. If the Christians tempted to commit adultery were aware that they were taking Christ into that bedroom, would they make a hasty retreat? This principle might change a great many outcomes, not just in terms of our sexual behavior, but in all the areas of our life. 1 Corinthians 6.12-20, 101

In chapters 7 and 8 Paul deals with questions from the church about marriage and eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Again, the principle is to give priority to doing what serves Christ, his gospel and his body (each other). The marriage relationship should exemplify this kind of service. First, Paul deals with the question, "should people get or stay married?" For the unmarried, Paul makes this a matter of personal choice, but emphasizes the need to make the decision based on "what best helps me serve Christ." For the married, Paul says they should stay married and focus their relationships on serving Christ together. If an unbeliever wishes to divorce, the believer should let them go, but stay in such a relationship if the unbeliever desires it. Sexuality should always be submitted to the lordship of Christ whether one is married or unmarried. The issue of eating meat is similar. Most meat sold in Corinth was sacrificed in the local temples. The issue concerned whether Christians should eat this meat. Some in the church taught that since "idols were nothing" and "there is only one God" this was a matter of indifference. Paul does not deny the argument, but argues that eating this meat will embolden other who do not have this view to eat the meat and thus corrupt their faith. It seems some were even eating in the idol's temple and thus taking part in "worship of demons" (10.20). Again, the issue is to use one's freedoms to serve others, not to indulge oneself.  

The fact that Paul can modify and reapply the general principles of marital relationship to different contexts reminds us that Jesus and Paul’s teaching on divorce was never intended to oppress or enslave—it was meant to protect and empower. We violate the spirit of Jesus and Paul when we look at the Bible’s teaching on divorce as rigid rules rather than as examples of God’s love and protection. 1 Corinthians 7.1-24, 114

Paul assumes that a Christian husband or wife will attend to the needs of his or her spouse—even ministry does not take precedence. 1 Corinthians 7.25-38, 120

Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians do not call their freedom into question, nor does he deny their understanding. What he does is reorient their thinking from themselves to others. It is not about your rights, he tells them. It is also about others. 1 Corinthians 8, 129

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