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Shall we turn now in our Bibles to the seventh chapter of I Corinthians.
The Corinthian church was a mess. There were just a lot of problems, a problem with carnality. There were divisions in the church, some saying that they were of Cephas, or Peter, and others saying that they were of Paul, and some saying that they were of Apollos. They were suing each other at law, going to the earthly courts. And Paul had received the report, so he wrote to them about these things. But basically his purpose of writing was to answer a letter that they had sent to him with certain questions. So, Paul beginning with chapter 7 is responding now to their letter and the questions that they had asked in their letter to him.
Now, it is important that we understand, really, the background of this situation in Corinth. Corinth was an extremely pagan city. On the acropolis above Corinth there was a great temple to Aphrodite, and the temple priestesses would come down into Corinth each evening. They were prostitutes, and the worship of the goddess was supported by the earnings of the prostitutes.
In this city God had many people. For when Paul was there in Corinth, the Lord encouraged him, and said, "I have many people in this city." So, Paul established the church there. But, as I say, the church was a mess.
They had a lot of weird kind of teachings, doctrines that had spread. They felt that the body was completely evil, and so that left a twofold kind of an attitude. First, there were those who said because the body is totally evil it doesn't matter what you do with your body; your body doesn't count. It is your spirit that counts, so you can do with your body what ever you want. It doesn't matter. You can use your body for fornication or whatever you desire, the body is totally evil anyhow, so it doesn't matter what you do with your body. Others coming from that same base that the body is totally evil said you shouldn't then do any of those naturals things in the body. Even if you are married you should restrain from relations with your wife, because everything of the body is evil, all of the urges or desires or whatever are evil. And so there was this second tendency toward asceticism.
So Paul is dealing here, beginning in chapter 7, with this concept of whether or not as a Christian I should be married, or if I am married should I have intimate relationships with my wife. So, he begins the seventh chapter by saying:
Now concerning the things whereof you wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband (1Cr 7:1-2).
Trying to live a celibate life is unnatural, and Paul recognizes it as such. It is good if you can not touch a woman, but yet, that is an unnatural condition. Therefore, every man should have a wife, and every wife should have a husband.
It is interesting that nothing is ever said in the scripture about Paul being married, but I feel that he obviously was. Number one, he was a rabbi. And according to Jewish law, every man should be married and have children, because God said be fruitful and multiply. And they felt that that was a divine injunction that every man should fulfill, and that if you did not have children you were killing, actually, your progeny. So being a rabbi, and as he said concerning the righteousness of the law, "I was blameless," he no doubt was married. Also, it is indicated that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, and a requirement of the Sanhedrin, who was a judge of sorts, was that he be married, because they figured if a man is married he is more merciful. I think he at least has greater understanding.
Now, the question arises: What happened to Paul's wife? And there are two speculations. One that she died. But the other, which is probably more correct, is that when Paul embraced Christianity, she left him. That is the general tradition that is carried through the church.
Now, the seventh chapter here is written with an overlying thought, which he brings out in verse 29, and that is, time is short. Paul felt that the Lord was coming very, very soon, and so because time is short, he is giving these instructions concerning marriage. It would seem to be that he is discouraging getting married, but if so, it is only because of his concept that time is so very short. We really don't have time to get married. But, to avoid fornication, every man should have his own wife and every woman have her own husband, especially in the conditions that existed there in Corinth.
And let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise the wife to the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not the power of his own body, but the wife. Therefore do not withhold the sexual rights from each other, unless it be with consent for a time, that you might give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency (1Cr 7:3-5).
So, Paul here is declaring that the sexual relationships within marriage are proper, and that the wife should seek to satisfy the husband and the husband should seek to satisfy the wife. And that you should not withhold from each other unless it be by a mutual consent, and then only in a specified period of time as you're giving yourselves to fasting and praying, because the temptations are apt to be too great. The pressure is too great on each other.
But I speak this by permission, and not by commandment. For I would that all men were even as myself. But every man has his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I (1Cr 7:6-8).
Now, Paul, of course, at this point was unmarried, and he is advocating his status of not being married, but he recognizes that there is a gift of God in a sense for this position.
Now, Jesus talked about those who were eunuchs by birth. Some were called of God for this, others became such for the kingdom of God's sake. But Paul having that gift and recognizing that it was something that God had done, because the normal, natural physical drives promote marriage. It is not natural not to have a sex drive. It is the fourth strongest drive that we have, following the air, thirst, and hunger. It ranks right there near the top. And if a person doesn't have a strong sex drive it means that perhaps God has taken it away in order that this person might be a special instrument for God freed from the... well, as Paul said, the cares that come upon a person when they get married.
Marriage does present a whole different situation. Before I was married, I could travel freely across the United States. All I needed was a sack of apricots and I could go. I only stopped at service stations for gasoline. I never stopped at restaurants. When I was going I like just to get there. After I got married it became different.
We were coming home from Phoenix and my wife said, "Honey, I would like to have a cup of coffee." And I kept going past the coffee shops. She said, "Honey, I would like to have a cup of coffee!" "Sure, who wouldn't?" And I went by another coffee shop, and boy, I felt her foot go on the floor that had she had a brake there I would have been thrown through the windshield. I got the message, and we stopped at a coffee shop. But, that is a waste of time.
But, as Paul said, if you are married you don't really care so much for the things of the Lord, you care for your wife, how you are going to please her, since you have to live with her. And thus, you want to please her proper. That is correct.
So, Paul said, "If you have the gift, that is good. Live like I do. For the unmarried and the widows, stay like I am."
But if you don't have this gift: but it is better that you marry than [to have a burning compassion or a burning lust] to burn with lust. Now to the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife (1Cr 7:9-11).
This, of course, was the teaching of Jesus Christ. So Paul said, "This is not my command, it's the Lord's."
But to the rest I will speak (1Cr 7:12),
Now, the Lord didn't speak specifically in these issues, so now Paul speaks as an apostle.
But to the rest I speak, not the Lord [dealing now with a special situation]: If a brother has a wife that does not believe, and she is content to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And if the woman which has a husband that believes not, and if he is pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy (1Cr 7:12-14).
So, either the husband or the wife believing, bring into the home a holy environment by which the children are covered.
Many times I am questioned as to the fate of children who die. Or more often, the question arises if the church is raptured, or when the church is raptured will the little children all go up in the rapture. I can speak for surety on the children of a saved parent, either one or both, that they are protected and covered by the believing parent. I do not have that same surety where the parents are unbelievers. I personally feel that because they are not at an age of responsibility, God will be gracious and merciful unto them. And I believe strongly in the justice and the fairness of God. Though I do not have a sound scriptural base, I don't have any scripture that says that all children are going to go up in the rapture, or all children that die are saved. We do know that it is so if there is a believing husband or wife.
Now, my feeling is, why live under the cloud of a question? Why even worry about it? Just receive the Lord and know. But, we do know as far as a believing parent that the house is sanctified by either one being a believer.
But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God has called us to peace (1Cr 7:15).
So, if on your receiving Jesus Christ your husband or your wife just can't handle you anymore, they say, "Look, I didn't bargain for this. I can't stand you. I can't live with you like this," then let them depart. You are not under bondage. You are not under bondage to remain with them in such cases. Let them depart. God has called us to peace, not to warfare in marriage.
For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how do you know, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all churches (1Cr 7:16-17).
Now he deals with what condition you were in when God called you.
Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. Therefore let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called (1Cr 7:18-20).
When God saved you, were you an uncircumcised Gentile? Then don't bother about going through the Jewish rite of circumcision. Remain as you were when God called you.
Now, if you were a servant when God called you, don't worry about it if you can be free, then use your freedom rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman (1Cr 7:21-22):
Now, you may still be a servant as far as man is concerned, but you are free now and you are God's freeman.
also he that is called, being free, becomes Christ's servant (1Cr 7:22).
So, the calling in where I was called, abide in that calling. Don't try to change things radically after you've become a Christian, unless the life that you were living, or the occupation that you had is so totally antagonistic towards Christian principals that you have got to get out.
You were bought with a price; therefore don't be the servants of men (1Cr 7:23).
If you are a servant of man, realize that you are a servant of Jesus Christ. And so that is basically where we all are, servants of Jesus Christ.
Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God. Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful (1Cr 7:24-25).
Now we are dealing with an interesting area here, and there are three possible interpretations. There are those that say that Paul is talking now to the fathers who have daughters who are virgins. And that he is dealing with the situation of whether or not you allow your daughter to get married.
There is the second that, again, takes in the cultural aspects. There were those people who were living together and even sleeping in the same bed, but not having conjugal relationship. And even... they were just sort of... the trial marriage kind of thing but without the sex aspect of it, seeing if you get along living together, yet not entering into a physical relationship. This was a common practice in those days there in Corinth.
The third thought is that there were also those who did get married, but felt it was more spiritual not to have sex even in marriage. And I personally feel that Paul is probably referring to this third category. The language sort of precludes a father having a daughter who is a virgin and giving her in marriage, the language sort of precludes that. I think that it probably is referring to this third concept of "we are more spiritual because we don't have sex. Yes, we are married, but my wife is still a virgin." Weird! I couldn't handle that, but this is what I feel was the issue that Paul was addressing in this part. "Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I'll give my judgment, as one who has obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful."
I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, it is good for a man so to be. Are you bound unto a wife? Don't then seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Then don't seek a wife (1Cr 7:26-27).
Again, Paul is saying this under the whole umbrella of time is so short. Later on, when he wrote to the church of Ephesus, realizing that the coming of Jesus evidently wasn't going to be immediate, he used the marriage relationship as a beautiful example of the deep relationship that exists between Christ and His church, and uses it in one of the most beautiful illustrations of relationship that can exist.
So, are you married? Don't seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Don't seek a wife.
But and if you married, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: and I would just spare you (1Cr 7:28).
He is saying, "Hey, marriage is not always what it is trumped up to be. You can have difficulties in marriage."
This I say, brethren, the time is short: it remains, that both they that have wives be as though they had none (1Cr 7:29);
Now, that has to be interpreted in the context. For in the context he said, "He that is married cares for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. He that is not married actually just seeks to please God." So, when he says that they that are married should be as though they are not married, he is just saying that you should be concerned in pleasing God. That should be your primary concern.
And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoice not; and they that buy, as though possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passes away (1Cr 7:30-31).
Time is short. He is actually saying, "We don't have time, really, to get involved in marital relationships. We don't have time to indulge in grief or sorrow. We don't have time for partying and revelry. We don't have time to amass possessions. We are in the world, but let's not abuse it. Let us use it; we have got to live. We have got to eat so do what you have to, but don't get overly involved, for the fashion of the world is passing away, or is rapidly passing away."
So, as Paul was looking at the situation in his day, at the deterioration of the whole social scene of the things taking place, he gives these warnings. Time is short, things are rapidly passing away, we really don't have time for the extraneous.
But I would have you without this carefulness (1Cr 7:32).
Full of care is a better way... we understand that better. I would keep you freed from that fullness of care, worry.
He that is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married cares for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married cares for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, that you may attend upon the Lord without distraction (1Cr 7:32-35).
So he is just saying that in giving yourself completely to serving the Lord, a wife can be an encumbrance, can be a hindrance. You have to now take her into consideration, and your real interest is pleasing her. That is proper. We should be concerned, fellows, in how to please our wives. And you wives should be concerned in how to please your husbands. And we need to take careful consideration of these things. It is proper. It is right.
I think that, again, a man has to be gifted to live a single life. And that if God has not gifted you, as the scripture says, he who has found a wife has found a good thing and favor of the Lord. Paul is talking out of the concept that time is so short; we don't have time for these things now. And it could be that we are approaching that kind of a situation again as we come to the end of the age. However, the Bible does not speak despairingly of marriage, but does hold it up as God's plan and God's purpose for man. It is the natural thing. It is unnatural not to be married.
But if a man thinks that he behaving himself uncomely towards his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sins not: let them marry. Nevertheless he that stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity (1Cr 7:36-37),
Having no necessity is an important clause.
but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, he does well. So then he that gives her in marriage does well; but he that gives her not in marriage does better. The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. But she is happier if she so abides, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God (1Cr 7:37-40).
Now, in my judgment, she would be happier to remain unmarried. It is an interesting situation. It must be looked at in the light of the conditions in Corinth and in the light of Paul's concept that time was short and it was almost over.
Now, the second issue:
Now as touching the things offered unto idols, we know that we have all knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1Cr 8:1).
A contrast between knowledge and love. We know we have all knowledge. Now, there was a problem in those days, because idolatry was so prevalent, most of the meat that you would buy in the marketplace had first a portion of it been offered unto the idols, the pagan gods. When they would butcher their meat they would take portions of it and offer it as a burnt offering unto their gods, and then the priests would get their part and the rest would be given back to the person, and oftentimes it would be taken to the market and sold in the market.
Now, many Christians had great difficulty with their own conscience in eating meat that had been offered as a sacrifice to a pagan god. This really troubled them. But there were others in Corinth who boasted of their knowledge, "Well, that is nothing. That is just a stone and not a god, so it doesn't make any difference. I have enough knowledge to realize that that is nothing at all and therefore I can eat the meat without being troubled in my conscience over it."
Now, Paul is sort of addressing himself to these that are taking that liberty, because of their knowledge, and offending the weaker brethren.
So touching those things offered to idols, we know that we all have knowledge (1Cr 8:1).
We know that the idol is nothing.
Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1Cr 8:1).
One is filled with air, the other has something solid.
And if any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know (1Cr 8:2).
And this is so true. The man who thinks he knows the most usually knows the least, because the more you know, the more you know you don't know.
Shakespeare said, "Man, poor man, so ignorant in that which he knows best." What do you know best? What area of knowledge are you most proficient in? Sciences, mathematics, linguistics? Say your area of proficiency is the area of science. How much of all that can be known in science do you know? Say your proficiency is in mathematics. Of all that can be known in mathematics, how much do you know? My proficiency is the Bible, but I will tell you what, there is much more about the Bible that I don't know than I do know. I know enough to know that I don't know. I know enough to know that there is so much to be known I will never know it all.
Now, the person who comes along and sort of puffed up and says, "Hey, I'm an expert and I can give you all the answers," he knows the least. If any man thinks he knows anything, he knows nothing as he ought to know, because if you really know, you know you don't know. So, if you think you know, it is a pretty good indication that you don't know very much about it. Man, poor man, so ignorant in that which he knows best.
But if any man loves God (1Cr 8:3),
Remember, knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
the same is known of him. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered and sacrificed unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be many that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him (1Cr 8:3-6).
So we know that these idols are nothing. We know that there is only one true living God, one Lord.
Howbeit there is not in every man this knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled (1Cr 8:7).
Now, coming in Corinth, growing up in Corinth, you grew up in a pagan situation. You grew up worshipping this idol. You grew up eating meat in the temple of the idol. They would have restaurants there, and they would offer meat in a ceremony and sacrifice to the idol, and then they would roast it and you would go in and eat the meat in the temple and fellowship, or worship, the idol or the god. Now, you have embraced Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, but having come out of the pagan practice of eating the meat offered in sacrifices to these idols, you have great difficulty continuing that, because for so long you did eat it thinking you were eating in worship to this particular idol, so that as a Christian now it offends your conscience. It bothers you to do it. It gets your conscience. So, Paul said, "Unto this time there are those that are having trouble with this in their conscience, and because their conscience is weak, they are defiled."
But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we any the better; neither, if we eat not, are we any the worse (1Cr 8:8).
Eating meat or not eating meat has absolutely nothing to do with my spirituality or my relationship with God. And we can carry this further.
But let us take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to those that are weak. For if any man sees thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idols temple, shall not the conscience of him that is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols (1Cr 8:9-10);
Now, let us say that I felt that there was absolutely nothing wrong with my having an occasional martini. Now, that is a hypothesis, because I do feel that there is something wrong, even with an occasional. For me, very wrong. My conscience would wipe me out. I have a weak conscience in that regard. But, let us say that I had one, for it is not what goes in that defiles a man, but what comes out. And so I felt that I could drink. And unfortunately, there are many prominent ministers that do feel this, they have the liberty to drink if they so desire. But, let us say that I was one of those fellows and I felt a great liberty to drink, if I so desired. And here is a fellow who has been an alcoholic, has accepted Christ, has been delivered from his alcoholism, and he goes into a restaurant. And there sitting at the bar is Chuck drinking. "Hey, he's my pastor. And if he can drink, then I guess it is all right for me to drink." But yet, he knows it is wrong, because he knows the problem he has with it, but he is emboldened to go ahead and do it, because he sees my liberty. And yet, when he does it, he has this conscience that is just tormenting him. And I say, "Well, I have superior spiritual knowledge. I understand the scriptures. And I understand this," and I go on and say, "Hey, look, I have the freedom to do it," and so on. I could actually be an instrument to destroy this weaker brother because of my exercising of my knowledge or liberty that I have.
And through thy knowledge [Paul said] shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you are actually sinning against Christ. Wherefore, if meat makes my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I would be an offense to my brother (1Cr 8:11-13).
Now, that is love, and that is walking in love. And love seeks to build up. Knowledge puffs up. And here were these Corinthians, and it was that kind of a situation. They said, "Hey, the idols are nothing." And they were going into the idols' temples and there they had good prices and good barbecues. And so they were saying, "The idol is nothing. So what! It is nothing. We can go in there and eat." They were going in and eating. But the weak brothers who were really troubled over this issue would see them sitting there in the idols eating the meat, and it would bother them. But they thought, "He's the deacon in the church, or he's an elder in the church, and if he can do it then I guess I can do it," but they couldn't.
This thing called conscience, you really can't violate it. I don't care what a person may tell you. To him that esteems the thing to be wrong, to him it is wrong. And you better obey that conscience that you have, because if you don't, it can get you into serious trouble.
The psychologists are mistaken when they think that they can talk a person out of a particular conviction. I do not seek to talk people out of their honest convictions. I'll sometimes seek to determine whether or not it is an honest conviction of their own, or something someone else has put on them. If it is an honest conviction of their own, though it be weird, I will not try and talk them out of it. I won't say, "Hey, that is stupid. That is weird. Nothing wrong with that!"
If a person has a true conscience against doing something, then they better not do it, because you can't violate your conscience without paying the consequences. And thus, I should not flaunt my liberties, emboldening other people to do the same things because they saw him do it. And yet, as they do it, they do it and it bothers their conscience and drives them away from the Lord. Then I am really destroying this weaker brother, because of my insistence of exercising my great freedom and liberty in Jesus. That is not walking in love. And as Paul said the loving thing is not to even eat meat as long as the world stands, if it causes a weaker brother to be offended.
So, in walking in love, I seek not to offend.
Now, there are limitations to this. Some people are offended with the fact that there is mixed bathing at the beach. And they feel that it is a sin to go down to the beach, because of the mixed bathing there. They have a strong conscience against it. Now, does that mean then that I should never go surfing because there are people who get offended? No, it means that they shouldn't go there if it bothers them, and then they will never see me there. But the thing is that open flaunting of your liberty, that is not walking in love. The deliberate flaunting of that freedom.
Paul said, "Do you have freedom? Have it to yourself. Don't use it as a stumblingblock to a weak brother, but walk in love." Knowledge is good to have, it is good to know, it is good to be freed, but knowledge can puff up, and we should seek to build up. Love builds up. Seek to build up one another in the love of Jesus Christ.
So next week we'll continue into chapters 9 and 10 as we continue through this first epistle of Corinthians.
Father, we ask Your help that we might walk in love, in consideration for those who are weaker in the faith. That we would seek, Lord, to help one another, to build up one another. And so, Lord, help us to put into practice the injunctions given to us in Your Word. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen!
May the Lord be with you, bless and keep you in His love, fill you with His Spirit, guide you with His counsels, strengthen you in your walk and in your fellowship with Him. May you go in the love and the power of the Spirit to do His work this week, knowing that we are all servants of Jesus Christ. May we render unto Him pleasing service.