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1 Corinthians 8:4-6; One God and One Lord

02/23 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 One God and One Lord; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140223_1cor8_4-6.mp3

1 Corinthians 8 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων, οἴδαμεν ὅτι πάντες γνῶσιν ἔχομεν. ἡ γνῶσις φυσιοῖ, ἡ δὲ ἀγάπη οἰκοδομεῖ. 2 εἴ τις δοκεῖ ἐγνωκέναι τι, οὔπω ἔγνω καθὼς δεῖ γνῶναι· 3 εἰ δέ τις ἀγαπᾷ τὸν θεόν, οὗτος ἔγνωσται ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ. 4 Περὶ τῆς βρώσεως οὖν τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὐδὲν εἴδωλον ἐν κόσμῳ, καὶ ὅτι οὐδεὶς θεὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς. 5 καὶ γὰρ εἴπερ εἰσὶν λεγόμενοι θεοὶ εἴτε ἐν οὐρανῷ εἴτε ἐπὶ γῆς, ὥσπερ εἰσὶν θεοὶ πολλοὶ καὶ κύριοι πολλοί, 6 ἀλλ’ ἡμῖν εἷς θεὸς ὁ πατήρ, ἐξ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς αὐτόν, καὶ εἷς κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, δι’ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς δι’ αὐτοῦ.

1 Corinthians 8 [ESV2011]

1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Paul is building his case in chapters 8-10 against any participation in idolatry for the follower of Jesus. The Jerusalem decree was clear; Gentile believers were not obligated to conform to Jewish laws. They wrote:

Acts 15:28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

Paul has already confronted issues of sexual immorality in this church. Now he delicately handles the issue of involvement in pagan idolatry. The Corinthians had built their case for Christian liberty something like this: “all of us possess knowledge” (v.1); and “an idol has no real existence” because “there is no God but one” (v.4), and we know that “food will not commend us to God” (v.8), therefore “all things are lawful” (10:23) so we have the right to eat whatever we want wherever we want.

Paul starts by pointing out the inadequacy of knowledge without love (8:1-3). Those who think they have arrived at complete knowledge have not yet even begun on the path to real knowledge. ‘Where pride is, is ignorance of God’ [Calvin]. In true knowledge, it is God who takes the first step. He knew us. He loved us and gave himself up for us. We respond in humility to his love by turning from self to love him and to love others.

No God But One

In verses 4-6 he affirms their claim that ‘an idol has no real existence’ and ‘there is no God but one’. In chapter 10 he will come back around to this issue, and point to the fact that although an idol is nothing, there are real demonic powers behind the pagan idols that we must not involve ourselves with. But at this point in his argument, he is willing to assent that an idol is nothing.

When Paul came to Athens,

Acts 17:16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.

…22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

…29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Paul was clear to communicate that the true God who made everything is not like any image that anyone could ever dream up. He cannot be accurately represented by anything. He does not live in temples and he does not need anything. This is what got Paul in trouble in Ephesus.

Acts 19:24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

Paul’s reputation preceded him; that he turned people away from images saying that gods made with hands are no gods. The gods that people worshiped he counted as nothing.

This is in line with what God said repeatedly in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 41, God challenges the idols of the people

Isaiah 41:23 Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; do good, or do harm, that we may be dismayed and terrified. 24 Behold, you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing; an abomination is he who chooses you.

God says to the idols ‘you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing.’ He displays their total inability to do good or to do harm. They are nothing. In chapter 44 he declares:

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. 8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” 9 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. 10 Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? 11 Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

Besides me there is no god. Idols are profitable for nothing. He goes further to talk about the ones who fashion the idols and says they are nothing, and will be put to shame. In chapter 46, he says an idol is a heavy burden that cannot save itself or the one who carries it.

Isaiah 46:1 Bel bows down; Nebo stoops; their idols are on beasts and livestock; these things you carry are borne as burdens on weary beasts. 2 They stoop; they bow down together; they cannot save the burden, but themselves go into captivity. 3 “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; 4 even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. 5 “To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike? 6 Those who lavish gold from the purse, and weigh out silver in the scales, hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; then they fall down and worship! 7 They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it, they set it in its place, and it stands there; it cannot move from its place. If one cries to it, it does not answer or save him from his trouble.

God is the one who made his people, who is faithful to carry his people, who will save his people. Idols are incapable of helping others or even moving themselves. Jeremiah says the same:

Jeremiah 10:3 for the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. 4 They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. 5 Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.” 6 There is none like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might. 7 Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you.

Jeremiah tells us not to fear idols for they cannot do evil, and it is not in them to do good. Only the true God is to be feared. All glory belongs to God alone. Psalm 115 says:

Psalm 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! 2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” 3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. 6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. 7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. 8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.

The psalmist paints a picture of total nothingness, total inability. Idols cannot speak, cannot see, cannot hear, cannot smell, cannot feel, cannot walk, they cannot even make a sound. And he insults those who make them and those who trust in them. Those who make them, anyone who trusts in them will become like them, incompetent, impotent, worthless, useless.

Mocking The False Gods and their Prophets

Did you notice the tone of these passages? We have this mistaken notion that we owe it to everyone to be nice to them and to not offend anyone. What God says in these passages is downright offensive. God calls all who fashion idols ‘nothing’, and he calls anyone who chooses to worship a false god an ‘abomination’. That’s not very nice. Demetrius didn’t think it was nice when Paul said that the idols he made his living by were no gods. He was offended, his business was hurt, and he started a riot. I don’t know of anywhere in the bible that we are told to be nice to everybody and not to offend anyone. We are told to love. We are told to do to others what we would have them do to us. And if my house is on fire, I would have you yell and scream and throw rocks through my window and break down my door and wake me up and get me out of there. I don’t think it is loving to see someone who is following a false god that will lead them to hell and not try to wake them up and tell them that their house is on fire. Elijah was not very gentle with the people who were following false gods in his day.

1 Kings 18:21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

Elijah challenged the false prophets to prove their claims.

26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

Elijah mocked the false gods and the false prophets of that false god. He asked them if their god was sleeping and they should shout louder to wake him, maybe he was busy thinking, maybe he took a vacation, maybe he was on the toilet. That’s not very respectful, but a false god who is no god but leads people astray from the true God does not deserve any respect. Paul refers to the things people follow and calls them ‘so called’ gods, things people give devotion to that are not worthy of it, things people trust in and serve and pursue that are impotent to give anything back.

Christian Monotheism

There are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’ so called, yet for us there is only one God. Deuteronomy 6 says:

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

…13 It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God— lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.

Deuteronomy 6:4; the ‘Shema’ was what every good Jewish girl and boy was brought up on. Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad. Hear, Israel, YHWH is our God, YHWH is One. Saul was passionately monotheistic. Saul was persecuting followers of Jesus because they claimed that Jesus was God and there is only one God. That is until Saul was knocked to the ground by a blazing light from heaven.

Acts 9:5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Saul, now Paul, still unwaveringly monotheistic, learns that Jesus is YHWH, the Lord. Here, writing to the Corinthians, Paul interprets the Shema with a Christian lens. ‘The Lord our God, the Lord is one’; he says ‘for us there is one God, the Father and one Lord, Jesus Christ’. There is no question that in Paul’s understanding, there is no other God but one. There is only one supreme being in the universe. The Father is that supreme being, and Jesus Christ is that supreme being. Two distinct persons, not confusing the Father with the Son, yet not two gods but one Supreme self-existent God. ‘For us there is one God, the Father and one Lord, Jesus Christ’. This reminds us of Isaiah 44:6

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.

YHWH the King and YHWH his Redeemer. The King and his Redeemer together say ‘besides me there is no god’.

Jesus himself pushed the Jews to examine their conception of God, challenging them from their own scriptures.

Matthew 22:41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, 44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’ [Ps.110:1]? 45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Jesus asks, ‘if the promised Messiah is merely a human son of David, then why does King David call him ‘my Lord’? This promised Messiah is to be more than a man; he is the Son of God. Notice Jesus brings in the Spirit. David, in the Spirit calls him Lord. The Psalmist, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, writes YHWH [the Father] said to Adon [the Son] ‘sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet’.

Ephesians 4 says:

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

One Spirit, one Lord, one God and Father of all.

1 Corinthians 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

Out Of, Into, Through

The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, eternally distinct personalities within the one being of God. One God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ. Paul describes unique and distinct roles to the Father and the Son. Literally it reads ‘one God, the Father, out of whom all things and we into him, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things and we through him.’

The Father is the origin and destiny of all things. He is the source and goal. All things, all things, everything that exists finds its cause, finds its design in God the Father, and we find our purpose in him. We are to him. We exist for him. We belong in him. All things flow out of him, and our purpose is in him.

The Son is the means through whom all creation and redemption come. All things are through our Lord Jesus Christ. Colossians 1 says of the beloved Son

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

All things seen and unseen, physical and spiritual, were brought into being through him and to him. He is the agent through whom all things were made. Jesus is the means of all creation, and Jesus is the means of our redemption. We through him. Colossians again puts it this way:

Colossians 1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. …19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

Jesus, the Son, is the one who made all things, and who rescues his sheep. It is distinctly the work of the Son to be the substitute for sinners. It is through the blood of his cross that Jesus brings us stray sheep back into a right relationship with his Father.

Of the triune God, Paul says in Romans

Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

There is only one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ. Everything finds its origin and destiny in this one God. All creation and our redemption come through our one Lord Jesus. It is to this one God that we owe all our allegiance. This one God is a jealous God who will not share his glory with another. For our authentic happiness, for our eternal good, for our unquenchable joy, he demands that we not go after idols which are empty and worthless nothings, burdens that cannot save, false gods that will take and take and give nothing back. Our God is the one who needs nothing and offers us everything freely to enjoy. Outside of him is nothing. Everything, everything we need originates in him, comes through him, and resounds back to him in glorious praise. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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February 23, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 8:1-3; Love and Knowledge

02/16 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 Love and Knowledge; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140216_1cor8_1-3.mp3

1 Corinthians 8 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων, οἴδαμεν ὅτι πάντες γνῶσιν ἔχομεν. ἡ γνῶσις φυσιοῖ, ἡ δὲ ἀγάπη οἰκοδομεῖ. 2 εἴ τις δοκεῖ ἐγνωκέναι τι, οὔπω ἔγνω καθὼς δεῖ γνῶναι· 3 εἰ δέ τις ἀγαπᾷ τὸν θεόν, οὗτος ἔγνωσται ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ.

1 Corinthians 8 [ESV2011]

1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

In chapters 8-10, Paul tackles another issue brought to him by the church in Corinth. In chapter 7, he says ‘now concerning the matters about which you wrote’, and he addresses issues of relationships, marriage, celibacy, the divorced and widowed, remarriage and betrothal. Here in chapter 8, he begins ‘now concerning food offered to idols’, and he engages this topic at length through the next three chapters. In our effort to understand the details of the passage before us, it will be helpful to look at the background of this issue culturally, theologically, and historically, and to look at some of the conclusions Paul draws in chapter 10, so we can understand where he is going with his logic.

Cultural Background

First of all, the cultural background. Corinth, like much of the Graeco-Roman world, was a culture immersed in idolatry. Some of the deities that were revered in Corinth would include Chronos, Poseidon, the Sun, the Calm, the Sea, Aphrodite, Artemis, Isis, Dionysus, a tree, Fortune, Apollo, Hermes, Zeus, Asclepius, Bunaea, and others (R.Collins, 1999: 314, cited in BECNT, p.373).

Three distinct issues would face a resident in Corinth, and Paul addresses each of these: eating in the temple of an idol (8:7-13; 10:1-22); eating food bought in the market (10:23-27); and eating food in private homes of unbelievers (10:28-31).

The problem of idolatry was pervasive, because pagan religion was inextricably linked to every area of life. Civic and political life included emperor worship and idolatry. Each trade guild would typically be associated with a pagan deity, company parties would be held in the idol’s temple, and everyone employed in this trade would be expected to participate. Excavations at the Asclepion revealed multiple dining rooms and a large courtyard that could be used to host large banquets. Temple dining rooms could be rented out to commemorate weddings, birthdays, the birth of a child, coming of age parties, election victories, funerals, and the like (Kim, 1975, cited in BECNT p.348). Idolatry was even linked to sports; the Isthmian games hosted by Corinth included pagan sacrifices. If you went to the market to buy meat, it was likely to have been sacrificed to or dedicated to some pagan god. There was a fear that bad spirits would enter the body through food, so food was dedicated to a deity in hopes that that deity would protect the consumer from harmful spirits. Animals that were offered in these temples would end up in three places. Some of the meat was burned to the god. Some was given to the priests as their portion. If they had more than they could consume, they would sell it in the market. A portion was given to the person who offered the sacrifice, either to be eaten in one of the temple dining rooms for a celebration, or to be taken home and consumed with family and friends. This was a major issue for someone who believed in Christ, because a refusal to participate in a work party could cost you your job. A refusal to eat food served at an unbelieving friend’s home could end the relationship. A refusal to attend family celebrations would alienate you from your unbelieving family. This is the kind of dilemma facing the church in Corinth.

Theological Background

Now let’s look at the theological and historical background of this issue. The whole bible is clear that there is only one true God. The bible opens with the declaration that in the beginning God created all that exists.

Psalm 96:4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

When God gave his commandments to his people he said:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Throughout the history of Israel, idolatry was a problem. We might not realize how relevant this issue is to us today. I would guess that not many of us have an image that we worship or a temple that we visit. But idolatry extends beyond images to anything that takes priority over God’s absolute right to first place, whether family or pleasure or work or power or pride. God described his people as “They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways” (Heb.3:10).

Historical Background

When we come to the historical background of this issue in the church in Corinth, we find that it had already been settled. When the good news of Jesus was believed by non-Jewish people, the question arose as to what parts of the Jewish law must be followed for a Gentile to become a genuine follower of Jesus, particularly, must they be circumcised. The early church discussed this issue and affirmed that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. They wrote a letter to the Gentile churches stating:

Acts 15:28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

This decision was delivered to the churches in Gentile regions by Paul and Barnabas. That was Acts 15. In Acts 18, Paul arrives in Corinth and spends a year and a half preaching the gospel and establishing the church there. Certainly the issue of idolatry would have come up in a city like Corinth, and the Apostle certainly would not have withheld this decision from the Jerusalem church about this important issue. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians while he was in Corinth, and he wrote this:

1 Thessalonians 1:7 …you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

Corinth is in the region of Achaia. Paul, writing from Corinth, commends the believers in Thessalonica that they turned to God from idols. There is no such thing as turning to the one living and true God and continuing to worship idols. This is not a gray area, this is black and white. They had the decision of the Jerusalem church on it. It appears that the believers in Corinth were feeling the pressure of their culture and questioning this decision. They wrote to Paul giving their reasons why they felt that they could as Christians partake of food sacrificed to idols and attend social functions in the pagan temples. Paul could have simply hammered them with the Jerusalem edict and demanded that they comply. Instead he lays out careful reasoning to to lead them to the proper conclusion. We can see some of his conclusions if we jump ahead to chapter 10. He says in 10:7 “Do not be idolaters as some of them were…” and in verse 14 “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” He equates idolatry with making sacrifices to demons and says in verse 20 “..I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” Addressing the question of meat of unknown origin, he says in verse 28 “But if someone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice,’ then do not eat it…”

Flow of Argument

Seeing the conclusions Paul draws, let’s back up and follow his argumentation through these chapters. Apparently the Corinthian logic ran something like this: “all of us possess knowledge” (v.1) that “an idol has no real existence” because “there is no God but one” (v.4), and we know that “food will not commend us to God” (v.8), therefore “all things are lawful” (10:23) so we have the right to eat whatever we want wherever we want. Paul starts by pointing out the inadequacy of knowledge without love (8:1-3). He reminds them that because there is truly only one God, we exist for him and must obey him (8:4-6). He warns that their behavior may destroy a brother for whom Christ died (8:7-13). In chapter 9, he uses himself as an example of what it looks like to lay down your own rights for the sake of the gospel and the good of others. In chapter 10, he illustrates the danger of idolatry from the Old Testament example of Israel in the wilderness (10:1-13). He shows the incompatibility of idolatry and the Lord’s supper (10:14-22), and he concludes with some practical instructions on how to handle different situations in pagan society (10:23-11:1).

Knowledge

Now that we seeing where he is going with his flow of thought, let’s back up and examine his first point about knowledge and love. He introduces the topic ‘now concerning food offered to idols’ and then he quotes the Corinthians, possibly a line from their letter: ‘we know that all of us possess knowledge’, and then he begins to interact with their assertion. The kind of ‘knowledge’ they claim to have may cause more harm than good. He says ‘this knowledge puffs up’. He has talked quite a bit about knowledge already in this letter. At the opening of the letter, he:

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—

He reminds them that any knowledge they do have is an undeserved gift from God. In chapters 1-3 he contrasts the foolish wisdom of this world with the powerful foolishness of the message of the cross. He points out that this is supernatural wisdom, revealed by God to the foolish, weak, low, despised nothings. God’s true wisdom is meant to humble us, not to puff us up. This word ‘puffed up’ is found in the New Testament 7 times, 6 of them in this letter (4:6, 18, 19; 5:2; 8:1; 13:4). The Corinthians had a problem with pride. Their egos were over-inflated.

Paul says here that ‘knowledge puffs up, but love builds up’. Is Paul pitting love against knowledge? Is he promoting anti-intellectual ignorance? Love without knowledge? Heavens NO! You have to pay attention and think clearly and carefully to follow Paul’s logic in these chapters. In writing this letter he assumes that they will have to use knowledge. When Paul thanked God for their being enriched in knowledge, he was not joking. Knowledge is a gift from God. In verse 2, he says:

8:2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.

There is a way that we ought to know. He does not say ‘you should just turn off your brains and start loving people.’ No, the Corinthians ought to know, but in a different way than they did. Ten times in this letter, Paul asks the question ‘do you not know?’ and each time he is rebuking them for their ignorance of a basic truth of Christianity that they ought to know. In Ephesians 1:8, Paul says that God lavishes the riches of his grace on us ‘in all wisdom and insight’. When Paul prays for the Colossians, he says:

Colossians 1:9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Fruitfulness comes in connection with an increase in the knowledge of God, not a decrease in knowledge. Paul’s concern for his unbelieving Jewish brothers is that:

Romans 10:2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

Their danger was that they had a passionate love for God, but it was not according to knowledge. They were ignorant of the righteousness of God that comes through faith in Christ. Love without knowledge does not save. Paul tells Timothy that God

1 Timothy 2:4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Coming to the knowledge of the truth is equated with being saved. In Romans 1, the wrath of God comes on those who ‘exchange the truth about God for a lie’ (1:25). In the Old Testament, God says ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge’ (Hosea 4:6; Is.5:13) and they have ‘rejected knowledge’.

Jesus was clear on this. He said:

John 8:31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

In knowing the truth, there is freedom. Knowing the truth comes from abiding in the word of Jesus.

Inflating Self or Building Others

Paul is not arguing for less knowledge and more love. It is not that they know too much, but they don’t know in the right way. Paul rebukes this knowledge that is characterized by pride. This kind of knowledge shows itself by an inflated ego, by a feeling of superiority, looking down on others. The goal of true knowledge is not inflating self but building others up. Paul will have more to say in chapters 12 and 14 about using our gifts, even gifts like knowledge, to build up others, to build up the body of Christ. He will have more to say about the essential nature of love, real selfless love that the Corinthians lacked, in chapter 13. In the issue of idolatry, Paul is bringing the Corinthian church back to first principles. The first and greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to love God and love neighbor. Any participation in idolatry is a blatant failure to love God above all else, and as he will show in the rest of this chapter, participation in idolatry is a failure to love our neighbor for whom Christ died.

Know that You Don’t Know

The Corinthians asserted ‘all of us possess knowledge’; Paul warns

8:1 … This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.

The one who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. There is a self-confident knowing that Paul says is not yet knowing, and there is the way we ought to know, which is characterized by a humble awareness of our own weakness and limitations. Socrates said “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Paul warned in chapter 3:

1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

In Romans 11, he pushes us beyond the human limits of knowledge:

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

True knowledge is beginning to comprehend that God is incomprehensible, unsearchable, inscrutable. God is infinitely beyond what a finite human being could ever know.

Ephesians 3:17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

When we begin to know that the love of Christ goes beyond measurable dimensions, goes far beyond our knowledge, we begin to know as we ought to know.

8:2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Here again we see true knowledge defined by love. Loving God is set in contrast to thinking you know something. Paul is bringing them back to first principles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with heart and soul and mind and strength. Wisdom would be to start with the greatest command, the command to love God. To love God is to put him first in everything. So if the ‘knowledge’ of the Corinthians is allowing them to participate in idolatry, then that knowledge is really foolishness.

Known By God

The one who thinks he knows is contrasted with the one who loves God. This one is said, not to know God, but to be known by God. Why does he turn this around? Paul could have said ‘the one who loves God is the one who truly knows him’; but instead he says ‘the one who loves God is the one who is known by him.’ To be known by God is to belong to God, to experience his unmerited grace, to be chosen by him. In Amos 3, God says of Israel “You only have I known of all the families of the earth”.

Exodus 33:17 And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”

All the people in a kingdom know their king. Some may love him and some may hate him, but they all know him. But to say that the king knows me is to say much more. In most kingdoms, very few could claim that they are known by the king.

Galatians 4:9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, …

The greatest thing is not that we know God. The greatest think is that he knows us.

2 Timothy 2:19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” …

For God to know us is sheer undeserved mercy.

Ephesians 2:3 … were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

God loves us not because of, but in spite of what we are. It is undeserved favor. If anyone loves God, it is because he is first known and loved by God.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

This is a powerful antidote for idolatry. To know that the incomprehensible love of Christ has been lavished on me, to know that Christ loved me and gave himself for me, to know that I am known, intimately known and loved by the King of kings, stirs in my heart an affection for God, a deep love for God, a desire to put him first over everything else. This is not ‘I am under the authority of the Jerusalem decree, I am prohibited from eating food sacrificed to idols’; this is ‘I am known by God, loved by God! Wonder of wonders! How could I possibly give any hint that my allegiance or my affections are toward anything else besides God? Come what may, I will worship the Lord my God and him only will I serve.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

February 16, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Live to Please Him

02/09 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 Live to Please Him; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140209_1cor7_29-31.mp3

 1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

29 τοῦτο δέ φημι, ἀδελφοί, ὁ καιρὸς συνεσταλμένος ἐστίν· τὸ λοιπὸν ἵνα καὶ οἱ ἔχοντες γυναῖκας ὡς μὴ ἔχοντες ὦσιν, 30 καὶ οἱ κλαίοντες ὡς μὴ κλαίοντες, καὶ οἱ χαίροντες ὡς μὴ χαίροντες, καὶ οἱ ἀγοράζοντες ὡς μὴ κατέχοντες, 31 καὶ οἱ χρώμενοι τὸν κόσμον ὡς μὴ καταχρώμενοι· παράγει γὰρ τὸ σχῆμα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου. 32 Θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς ἀμερίμνους εἶναι. ὁ ἄγαμος μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῷ κυρίῳ· 33 ὁ δὲ γαμήσας μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κόσμου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῇ γυναικί, 34 καὶ μεμέρισται. καὶ ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἄγαμος καὶ ἡ παρθένος μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου, ἵνα ᾖ ἁγία καὶ τῷ σώματι καὶ τῷ πνεύματι· ἡ δὲ γαμήσασα μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κόσμου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῷ ἀνδρί. 35 τοῦτο δὲ πρὸς τὸ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν σύμφορον λέγω, οὐχ ἵνα βρόχον ὑμῖν ἐπιβάλω, ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὸ εὔσχημον καὶ εὐπάρεδρον τῷ κυρίῳ ἀπερισπάστως.

1 Corinthians 7:29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. 32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

Last time we looked with a wide angle lens at 1 Corinthians 7. Paul is answering questions put to him by the church in Corinth on celibacy and marriage. He says it is best, considering the present distress to remain as you are. If married, remain married, do not seek a way out. If single, widowed, or divorced, there are advantages to remaining single, and each person must weigh those carefully, but without the gift of celibacy, it would be dangerous to remain single, and it is no sin to marry. In the middle of listing his advantages of remaining single, he gives this shocking instruction:

29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

Contradiction

‘From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none.’ This is shocking because this is only verse 29 of 1 Corinthians 7. The apostle spent the first 5 verses of this chapter laying out the mutual obligations of husband to wife and wife to husband, forbidding them to defraud one another by acting like they were not married. So in verses 1-5 he demands that married people faithfully fulfill every marital obligation and live like married people, and then in verse 29 of the same chapter, he says that those who have wives should live as though they had none. For all those bible critics out there, here is a real live contradiction. You could point to this and say ‘see, the bible doesn’t make any sense. It is full of contradictions’. And you could walk away. Or, if you are influenced by German higher criticism, you could come up with a creative theory that these two verses are so different that they had to be written by different people. The earlier part of this chapter was written by the same pro-marriage Paul who wrote Ephesians 5, but the latter part of the chapter was written by the bitter angry celibate male chauvinist Paul. Or, we could say ‘all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable’ and so both the first and last parts of this chapter are true (and therefore by definition not ultimately contradictory) and they necessary and helpful for me, and I want to listen to what God wants to say to me. By God’s grace, that is the approach we will take today.

What is Paul saying, that those who have wives should live as though they had none? Clearly, based on the first verses of this chapter, he intends that every married man (and woman) continue to fulfill their marital obligations to one another, but here he exhorts married people to imitate single people in some very specific ways. He makes this explicitly clear in the context. Look again at the following verses:

32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

So, married people, live as though you were not married in these specific ways: the unmarried man in anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. The unmarried woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. The purpose is to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. The single person has the opportunity for single-minded devotion to the Lord and the things of the Lord, holiness in body and spirit.

Exhortation to Singles

Let me start out by exhorting our singles here today. Are you living up to your full potential as a single person? Are you making use of the advantages of singleness for wholehearted devotion to the Lord? Are you ordering your life in such a way that those who are married would do well to imitate you? When Paul says to married people that they should live as though they were single, he is not telling me to sleep in until noon or after, live on junk food and energy drinks, stop cleaning up after myself or providing for myself, start depending on mom more, spend more time on social media and become an expert gamer. If you are married and that describes you, shame on you! Grow up! If you are single and this describes you, stop wasting the precious gift that God has given you! Paul’s point here is that single people have a unique opportunity to live in undivided devotion to the Lord. Single people, this text says that you have the opportunity to set an example for married people on how to live an undistracted purposeful passionate life for the glory of Christ in the world. You have the freedom to sacrifice and serve and give like no other. The data says that a greater percentage of your income is discretionary, which means you can spend it however you please, on new clothes and accessories, entertainment, transportation and leisure, or you can sacrifice and give it away for the glory of God. A greater percentage of your time is discretionary, you can spend it on sleeping, leisure and sports, surfing, socializing, or you can lay your life down and seize every moment for the cause of the gospel. I would invite you, I would challenge you to make your singleness count for the kingdom of Christ. I exhort you to make me jealous by your facebook status (not that I would ever look at that) but make the married people in the church jealous that you are utilizing every resource God has entrusted you with in undistracted devotion to the Lord.

Exhortation to Married People

I would exhort you married people, look at the advantages of undivided single-minded devotion to the Lord, and re-order your life in such a way that, while continuing to meet your obligations, you are living to please your one Master and Lord. By all means seek to please your wife, to train and bless your children, but make it your aim to please the Lord. We so often prioritize and categorize our lives. Of course God comes first. But then comes family, and then work, and then church and then leisure (or vice-versa). What does ‘God comes first’ look like? What does that mean in how you spend your time? Your money? Your energy? Does ‘God comes first’ mean that you carve out five or ten or twenty minutes to ‘do devotions’ each day and give him one or two hours of the weekend? Our service to God is not categorized and separated from all the other areas of our lives. Devotion is not something you can ‘do’ for ten minutes in the morning. Devotion is what you are. Be devoted to God throughout every moment; allow your devotion to God shape the way you live and how you choose to spend your time and your talent and your money. Allow your relationship with Jesus to so penetrate and infiltrate and permeate every area of your life that everything you do resonates to the glory of God. In your work, do it all to please him. In your relationships with co-workers, point them to Jesus. Redeem your free time to count for eternity. Saturate your family with the gospel.

There is in our culture an unhealthy focus on the family as if family were of ultimate importance. It was Jesus who said ‘whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me’ (Mt.10:37) and ‘if anyone comes to me and does not hate his own …wife and children …he cannot be my disciple (Lk.14:26). Families are not forever (unless you are talking about God’s family, all those who follow Jesus). If you care at all about your wife and your children, recognize that how you ‘do devotions’ is training them. You are teaching what is most important by the way you order your life, by how you spend your time. Saturate your own soul in God’s word. Spend focused time training your children. Avail yourself of opportunities to become equipped; you wouldn’t skip all the practices and then show up on game day expecting to play. The gathering of the church is for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry. It is amazing how we flex and adapt and adjust our lives and our calendars and our meal times and bend heaven and earth so that our kids can be involved in sports or music or drama or recreation or some other hobby or activity, but gathering with the saints for worship seems to be such an inconvenience. Be aware of what you are teaching by the way you order your life. Be devoted to God in your conversation ‘when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way (or drive in the car), and when you lie down, and when you rise (Deut.6:7). Let all of life be transposed into the key of glory to God. Married people, learn from the single people what life is all about, and live in undivided undistracted soul satisfying devotion to our Lord Jesus.

29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

Mourning, Rejoicing and Possessing

Paul tells those who mourn to live in undivided devotion to Christ as if they were not mourning. Is your life filled with pain? Heartache? Loss? Grief? Depression? Discouragement? Doubt? Fear? Do not let that define you. Grieve, yes, but grieve in such a way as to live with undivided devotion to our Lord.

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Use your hurt, use your pain, use your grief as a megaphone to proclaim to the world ‘the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord’

Are you rejoicing? Are you blessed? Are things going well for you? Rejoice as though you were not rejoicing. Rejoice in such a way that the world sees that this world is not all about the pursuit of happiness. Rejoice in this life in such a way that you declare that this world’s greatest joys are like a root canal without anesthetic compared to the joy of being in the presence of Jesus.

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Do you have possessions? Do you like to shop? Find a discount or a good deal? Do you have stuff? What food do you eat? What kind of car do you drive? What do you wear? How do you present yourself? How do people see you? Let those who buy live as though they were not holding on. Do your possessions possess you? Buy what you need, but do not be defined by what you have. What do you treasure? Have in such a way that your greatest treasure is Christ.

Do you deal with this world? Do you use the things of this world? Do you interact with the world? Can that be avoided? Use in such a way that you do not overuse. Do you go to the bank, the grocery store, drive on the roads, pay taxes, talk on the phone (or text), use the internet? Let those who deal with the world (and we all must), live as though they had no dealings with it. Do not let your interaction with the world become your identity. Use this world and the things in this world, smell the flowers, breathe the air, write a note, for the glory of God.

This World is Passing Away

29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

The time has grown very short. The present form of this world is passing away. James warns:

James 4:14 …you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

Isaiah cries out:

Isaiah 40:6 …All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

The Psalmist reminds us that only God is eternal:

Psalm 90:1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 3 You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” 4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. 5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: 6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. 7 For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. 9 For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. 10 The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. 11 Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? 12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. 13 Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

Our time here is so short. Grass that withers, a flower that fades, mist that vanishes. This world is not our home. We are aliens and strangers here, we do not belong. This is not our ultimate reality. Whatever your status, whatever your role, whatever you have been given, live in undivided devotion to the Lord. This world is passing away. Hold nothing back. With every fiber of your being, strain forward, press on toward the goal (Phil.3:13-14). Make it your sole aim to please Jesus.

Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

 

Two little lines I heard one day, Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart, And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgment seat;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave, And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years, Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its days I must fulfill, living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore, When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way, Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep, In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife, Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn, And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone, Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Now let me say, “Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call, I know I’ll say “’twas worth it all”;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last. 

-C.T. Studd (1860 – 1931) English Missionary to China, India, and Africa

 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

February 9, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 7:25-40; Undivided

02/02 1 Corinthians 7:25-40 Undivided; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140202_1cor7_25-40.mp3

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:25 Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26 I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. 29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. 32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. 36 If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin. 37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. 38 So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better. 39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

 1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

25 Περὶ δὲ τῶν παρθένων ἐπιταγὴν κυρίου οὐκ ἔχω, γνώμην δὲ δίδωμι ὡς ἠλεημένος ὑπὸ κυρίου πιστὸς εἶναι. 26 νομίζω οὖν τοῦτο καλὸν ὑπάρχειν διὰ τὴν ἐνεστῶσαν ἀνάγκην, ὅτι καλὸν ἀνθρώπῳ τὸ οὕτως εἶναι. 27 δέδεσαι γυναικί ; μὴ ζήτει λύσιν· λέλυσαι ἀπὸ γυναικός ; μὴ ζήτει γυναῖκα· 28 ἐὰν δὲ καὶ γαμήσῃς, οὐχ ἥμαρτες. καὶ ἐὰν γήμῃ ἡ παρθένος, οὐχ ἥμαρτεν. θλῖψιν δὲ τῇ σαρκὶ ἕξουσιν οἱ τοιοῦτοι, ἐγὼ δὲ ὑμῶν φείδομαι. 29 τοῦτο δέ φημι, ἀδελφοί, ὁ καιρὸς συνεσταλμένος ἐστίν· τὸ λοιπὸν ἵνα καὶ οἱ ἔχοντες γυναῖκας ὡς μὴ ἔχοντες ὦσιν, 30 καὶ οἱ κλαίοντες ὡς μὴ κλαίοντες, καὶ οἱ χαίροντες ὡς μὴ χαίροντες, καὶ οἱ ἀγοράζοντες ὡς μὴ κατέχοντες, 31 καὶ οἱ χρώμενοι τὸν κόσμον ὡς μὴ καταχρώμενοι· παράγει γὰρ τὸ σχῆμα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου. 32 Θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς ἀμερίμνους εἶναι. ὁ ἄγαμος μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῷ κυρίῳ· 33 ὁ δὲ γαμήσας μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κόσμου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῇ γυναικί, 34 καὶ μεμέρισται. καὶ ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἄγαμος καὶ ἡ παρθένος μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου, ἵνα ᾖ ἁγία καὶ τῷ σώματι καὶ τῷ πνεύματι· ἡ δὲ γαμήσασα μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κόσμου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῷ ἀνδρί. 35 τοῦτο δὲ πρὸς τὸ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν σύμφορον λέγω, οὐχ ἵνα βρόχον ὑμῖν ἐπιβάλω, ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὸ εὔσχημον καὶ εὐπάρεδρον τῷ κυρίῳ ἀπερισπάστως. 36 Εἰ δέ τις ἀσχημονεῖν ἐπὶ τὴν παρθένον αὐτοῦ νομίζει ἐὰν ᾖ ὑπέρακμος, καὶ οὕτως ὀφείλει γίνεσθαι, ὃ θέλει ποιείτω· οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει· γαμείτωσαν. 37 ὃς δὲ ἕστηκεν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ ἑδραῖος μὴ ἔχων ἀνάγκην, ἐξουσίαν δὲ ἔχει περὶ τοῦ ἰδίου θελήματος, καὶ τοῦτο κέκρικεν ἐν τῇ ἰδίᾳ καρδίᾳ, τηρεῖν τὴν ἑαυτοῦ παρθένον, καλῶς ποιήσει· 38 ὥστε καὶ ὁ γαμίζων τὴν παρθένον ἑαυτοῦ καλῶς ποιεῖ, καὶ ὁ μὴ γαμίζων κρεῖσσον ποιήσει. 39 Γυνὴ δέδεται ἐφ’ ὅσον χρόνον ζῇ ὁ ἀνὴρ αὐτῆς· ἐὰν δὲ κοιμηθῇ ὁ ἀνήρ, ἐλευθέρα ἐστὶν ᾧ θέλει γαμηθῆναι, μόνον ἐν κυρίῳ· 40 μακαριωτέρα δέ ἐστιν ἐὰν οὕτως μείνῃ, κατὰ τὴν ἐμὴν γνώμην, δοκῶ δὲ κἀγὼ πνεῦμα θεοῦ ἔχειν.

Review

Today we are going to jump back in to our verse by verse study of 1 Corinthians. We left off in the middle of chapter 7, so before we pick back up, it will be helpful for us to review where we are in this ruthlessly practical New Testament letter.

Paul addresses the church in Corinth, those called to be saints. He thanks God for the grace that was given to them in Christ Jesus. He expresses his confidence in the faithfulness of God that God will sustain them to the end guiltless.

Then he gets right to work addressing some of the major problems in this church. First on his list is division. There were some in the church who claimed to be wise, super-spiritual, mature, and who needed a sound rebuke from the apostle to level their pride and divisive party spirit. He points them to the fact that God chose the foolish, the weak, the low and despised, the nobodies, so that no human being might boast in his presence. He brings them back to the foolish simplicity of the good news of a crucified Messiah. He outlines the role of leadership in the church as a role of service; a field-hand laboring in God’s field, a brick-layer constructing a building on the one foundation, a custodian of God’s truth who must be found trustworthy by his Master. In chapter 5, he addresses other issues that he heard were happening in the church. Open sexual immorality was being tolerated, and he demands that the church step up and exercise church discipline to purge the evil person from among them. Chapter 6 addresses believers airing their grievances with other believers in the secular courts. He tells them that the church is fully equipped to settle minor disputes and says that they would be better off to be be defrauded than to take a brother to court.

Toward the end of chapter 6 he holds up the value of the physical body, that it is meant for the Lord, was purchased by the Lord, that our bodies are members of Christ, that our purpose is to glorify God in our bodies, that our physical bodies are to be a temple for the Holy Spirit, and that these physical bodies will be resurrected. In light of this, sexual immorality is absolutely incompatible with the Christian life.

In chapter 7, he takes up some questions that the Corinthians had sent to him in a letter. It seems that the governing principle the church in Corinth was attempting to apply to every relationship situation was ‘It is good for a man not to touch a woman’. Some in Corinth were pushing celibacy on everyone as the more spiritual way to live.

Paul gives them a new principle ‘remain as you are’, and he gives them advice on how to carefully and sensitively apply this differently to different people in different situations. Paul begins by addressing those who are married, and says that it is not only good, but mandatory that they have regular sexual relations. Celibacy is not an option if you are already married. He mentions that singleness as also good, but the deciding factor is the unique way in which God has gifted each one.

Addressing formerly married people he tells them it is good to remain single, but if they do not have the gift of celibacy, then it is better to remarry. To believers married to believers, his instruction is not to separate, but if they do, to remain unmarried and pursue reconciliation. To those with an unbelieving spouse he says it is best to remain with them, but if the unbelieving spouse separates, to peacefully cooperate with the separation. In verses 17-24 he uses the radical scenarios of circumcision and slavery to illustrate his principle ‘remain as you were called’. Our identity comes from Christ, not from social or marital status. Our contentment comes from the gospel, not from external circumstances. That catches us up to where we are.

In verse 25, he addresses another category of people in relation to the marriage question, the betrothed, literally the virgins, and then in verses 39-40 the widows. Let’s look at what he says.

No Command From The Lord

25 Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.

Some have taken this to mean that what Paul says in this passage is merely his own private opinion and we are free to disagree with him. He clearly is giving advice that differs with different circumstances, and he does clearly allow latitude within bounds for each person to make their own decisions. But he is not saying that this chapter is not inspired scripture. Back in verse 10 he said ‘not I but the Lord’, meaning that he could point to specific sayings of Jesus as the basis for his teaching. In verse 12 he says ‘I, not the Lord’, meaning that this issue is something Jesus did not speak to directly, so Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is giving authoritative teaching on something Jesus did not address. That is what he re-states here. ‘I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.’ Paul’s judgment is trustworthy. He ends this passage with a sarcastic statement pointed at those in Corinth who think of themselves as super-spiritual; “And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” As an apostle of the Lord Jesus, he speaks authoritatively. In verse 17 he says ‘This is my rule in all the churches.’ But notice, Paul is acutely aware that he is who he is by the mercy of God. Paul is a recipient of mercy. It is by the Lord’s mercy that he, a former persecutor of the church, found himself in the dirt, blinded physically, but with eyes finally opened to see Jesus for who he really is. Paul never forgot that he is who he is by the unmerited mercy of God.

The Present Distress

25 Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26 I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned.

Paul’s judgment is that it is good to remain as you are. His judgment comes in view of the present distress. This is critically important to understand, otherwise we would make scripture contradict scripture. When God created man in Genesis, he said ‘it is not good that the man should be alone’ (2:18). Paul himself, writing to Timothy, said “I would have younger widows marry” (1Tim.5:14). But to the Corinthians, in view of the present distress, he says ‘remain as you are’. What is the present distress? We don’t know. Some think that the present distress is what began with the crucifixion of Jesus and will last until he comes again. Jesus told his followers ‘in the world you will have tribulation’ (Jn.16:33). But that would not account for the difference in his instruction between 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy. Some think that he is referring to the persecution under emperor Nero that would be unleashed within 15 years of writing this letter, where Erastus, chamberlain of Corinth would be among the first to be martyred. (AD.67, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs). There is evidence of famines that would have affected Corinth. Acts 11:28 predicts a great famine that took place in the days of Claudius (AD 41-54), shortly before the writing of this letter. Whatever the situation, there was some present distress that made singleness a wise option. As Leon Morris put it ‘when high seas are raging it is no time for changing ships’. Jesus, speaking of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, said:

Luke 21:23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people.

If your daughter’s fiancee is about to be shipped off to war, and the likelihood is that he will not return, do you advise them to hurry up and get married before he leaves? These are difficult questions. Paul’s advice is ‘Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife.’ Remain as you are. But he makes it clear ‘if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned’. Although it may not be wise to marry under distressful circumstances, it is not a sin.

Worldly Troubles

He goes on to give another reason for remaining single:

28 …Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.

Paul says that those who marry will have worldly trouble. His desire is to spare them trouble. The word means pressure, affliction, anguish, burden. This is a verse that is seldom used in wedding ceremonies, a promise not often memorized or held dearly. ‘Those who marry will have worldly trouble.’ You need to know this if you are contemplating marriage. Marriage means trouble. Two sinners placed in intimate proximity with one another means trouble. Marriage is blessed, sanctifying, stretching, maturing, healthy trouble, but in times of distress, it may be more trouble than you need.

29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

These instructions from the apostle are deeply challenging. I want to come back to some of these verses next week so that we can give them the time they deserve.

Divided Interests

Paul gives a third reason for remaining unmarried.

32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

Keep in mind as you read these verses what Paul has said earlier; if you do marry you have not sinned. It is not a sin to marry. It is not a sin to seek to please your spouse. If you are married, you must seek to please your wife. The married woman must seek to please her husband. What Paul said at the beginning of the chapter lays out the mutual obligation of husband to wife and wife to husband. It is sin to deprive one another. It is good and right for married people to seek to please each other. Paul’s concern is that with marriage comes divided interests, divided devotions, divided cares. If you are married, you have obligated yourself to care for your spouse, to meet her needs, to seek her pleasure. As a follower of Jesus, our primary aim is to please our Master. These two can come into tension. Devotion to Christ is primary. The responsibilities of marriage can dilute devotion to Christ. Marriage divides time and energy and resources between serving Jesus and serving your spouse. This is not necessarily sinful. It may be. But it does not have to be. It is right to expend those things in your marriage. But because none of us have unlimited resources, what you give to your mate you take away from the Lord. Paul is promoting undivided devotion to the Lord. ‘His interests are divided.’ But he is careful to say that this is for your benefit,not to lay a noose around your neck. Carefully consider your own calling, your gifting. If you have been given the gift of celibacy, whether temporarily or long-term, praise God! Use that gift in undivided devotion to the Lord. If you have not been given the gift of celibacy, do not attempt to live single long term. That would be a noose around your neck, and it would not result in undivided devotion to Christ.

To Marry or Not To Marry

Paul comes back from exploring the advantages of singleness to the question at hand and gives specific instructions to the betrothed. There is some ambiguity in the original that has caused translators to translate this passage differently. The question is who is the ‘he’ and who is ‘his virgin’. There are three main ways this passage has been understood. One runs so counter to everything Paul says in this passage, and is so anachronistic that I won’t waste your time with it. Some view the ‘he’ as the father of ‘his virgin daughter’ and the question is whether he should give her away in marriage, or keep her celibate for her whole life. There are some major problems with this understanding. It seems to make the most sense of the language and fit the context best to see the ‘he’ as the man who is betrothed, and ‘his virgin’ as the woman he is betrothed to. In view of the present distress, because of worldly troubles and divided interests, the betrothed couple is contemplating whether or not to follow through with marriage.

36 If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin. 37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. 38 So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.

Paul again points to God’s gifting as determinative on what they should do. ‘If his (or her) passions are strong and it has to be’ would indicate that they do not have the gift of celibacy. This would increase the temptation to ‘not behave properly toward his betrothed’, and Paul’s advice is ‘let them marry – it is no sin’.

On the other side, if he is ‘firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined in his heart’; this would tend to indicate the gift of celibacy. He does well to keep her as his virgin. Paul sums up ‘So then, he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage (assuming the gift of celibacy) will do even better. It is better, if you are able, to remain single. But you do well if you marry.

Widows

Paul concludes with specific instructions for widows.

39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

The marriage bond is ’till death do us part’ or ‘as long as we both shall live’. In Romans 7, Paul uses the temporary earthly nature of marriage as an illustration of freedom from the law to bear fruit for God through our crucifixion with Christ.

Romans 7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

Marriage is binding until the death of the spouse. Some have promoted singleness for widows as a higher plane of spirituality. But Paul says she is free. She is free to be married to whom she wishes. The only constraint he places on a widow is ‘only in the Lord’. A widow must not willingly enter into the dilemma of verses 12-16 where there is a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever. The only reason to ever be in a marriage between an unbeliever and a believer is that both of you were unbelievers when you married, and then one of you heard the good news about Jesus and believed, and the other has not yet believed. For any believer looking toward marriage this one rule applies: ‘only in the Lord’.

Paul holds up the value of single-minded devotion to Christ one last time. “Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” There is unique joy to be found in undivided devotion to our Lord Jesus.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

February 2, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment