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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 8:7-13; Obligation to Love

03/02 1 Corinthians 8:7-13 – Obligation to Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140302_1cor8_7-13.mp3

1 Corinthians 8 [SBLGNT]

7 Ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν πᾶσιν ἡ γνῶσις· τινὲς δὲ τῇ συνηθείᾳ ἕως ἄρτι τοῦ εἰδώλου ὡς εἰδωλόθυτον ἐσθίουσιν, καὶ ἡ συνείδησις αὐτῶν ἀσθενὴς οὖσα μολύνεται. 8 βρῶμα δὲ ἡμᾶς οὐ παραστήσει τῷ θεῷ· οὔτε γὰρ ἐὰν φάγωμεν, περισσεύομεν, οὔτε ἐὰν μὴ φάγωμεν, ὑστερούμεθα. 9 βλέπετε δὲ μή πως ἡ ἐξουσία ὑμῶν αὕτη πρόσκομμα γένηται τοῖς ἀσθενέσιν. 10 ἐὰν γάρ τις ἴδῃ σὲ τὸν ἔχοντα γνῶσιν ἐν εἰδωλείῳ κατακείμενον, οὐχὶ ἡ συνείδησις αὐτοῦ ἀσθενοῦς ὄντος οἰκοδομηθήσεται εἰς τὸ τὰ εἰδωλόθυτα ἐσθίειν; 11 ἀπόλλυται γὰρ ὁ ἀσθενῶν ἐν τῇ σῇ γνώσει, ὁ ἀδελφὸς δι’ ὃν Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν. 12 οὕτως δὲ ἁμαρτάνοντες εἰς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τύπτοντες αὐτῶν τὴν συνείδησιν ἀσθενοῦσαν εἰς Χριστὸν ἁμαρτάνετε. 13 διόπερ εἰ βρῶμα σκανδαλίζει τὸν ἀδελφόν μου, οὐ μὴ φάγω κρέα εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, ἵνα μὴ τὸν ἀδελφόν μου σκανδαλίσω.

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.

7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

In chapters 8-11, Paul is addressing the issue of a Christian’s interaction with pagan society. In the pagan culture of Corinth, idolatry permeated every area of life; politics, sports, employment, family, even eating. Almost all meat would have some connection with pagan idolatry. Meat at a friend’s house may be the leftovers from a pagan sacrifice. Meat sold in the market often came from the priest’s portion of the pagan sacrifice. Pagan temples had dining rooms that were rented to celebrate special occasions. Some of the believers in Corinth were claiming the right to eat food that came from the temple, even the right to attend banquets held at the temple, arguing that because there is only one true God, and since food cannot earn for us favor with God, then we have freedom to eat whatever we want wherever we want.

We may think we can safely tune out this whole section as irrelevant because I can’t remember the last time I was invited to a temple for a banquet, or when my neighbor invited me to a barbeque that was dedicated to Asclepius or Aphrodite or Zeus. But if you find yourself in another country or another culture, you may quickly realize how important it is to think carefully through these issues. And when we put these instructions in the context of the broader issues of idolatry as being anything we love or honor or elevate alongside the one true God, then this becomes massively relevant and intensely practical.

The Principles behind the Decree

And we are greatly helped by the way the apostle deals with this issue. This was a settled issue. Paul could have simply laid down the law, cited the Jerusalem decree, and moved on. And that may be what he had done in earlier correspondence or in person with this church. Paul was there at the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. Paul was one of those entrusted with the responsibility to deliver the decision to the Gentile churches. For a non-Jew to become a follower of Jesus, they did not have to become Jewish or come under the burden of Jewish law. But they must turn away from their false gods to the one true God. They cannot add Jesus to the list of gods they worship and serve. In turning to Jesus they must turn away from the worship of false gods, from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, from sexual immorality. Paul could have laid down the law. But instead he lays out the reasons behind the decision to help them (and us) to think more carefully through the issue and lead them to the proper conclusion.

Paul brings them back to first principles. There is only one God, and that one God requires that we love him with all heart and soul and mind and strength, and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Love seeks the genuine good of the other, even if it is costly to us. The Corinthians boasted in a kind of knowledge that set them apart from everyone else; Paul points out that this knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

He points them back to first principles of monotheism; there is no God but one. By saying there is one Lord and God we confess that we owe our undivided allegiance and obedience to this one God. God reveals himself as a jealous God, and demands that we have no other gods besides him. Paul clarifies that this one God is God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, distinct persons with different roles, but God, one eternal being.

The double command of love must govern all of life. Love for God must come first. And this humbles us, because we only love because he first loved us. In verses 7-13, he spells out what love for our brother should look like. Paul does not confront their idolatrous behavior head on, but rather seeks to persuade them. In chapter 10, he will lay out clear conclusions, like 10:14 “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” and that eating idol food is eating at the table of demons (10:16-22). In this chapter Paul assumes for the sake of argument that what they are saying is true, and that their knowledge is accurate. Even if it were true that Christians have legitimate liberty to join in pagan feasts, love would require a different path.

This Knowledge is Not In All

The Corinthians were claiming to have knowledge. They said ‘we know that all of us possess knowledge’. Paul here clarifies ‘but not all possess this knowledge’. This ‘knowledge’ that it is acceptable to participate in pagan feasts because the gods honored are false empty nothings, this is not in everyone.

7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

Before they heard the gospel and believed in Jesus as God, many Corinthians would have regularly participated in these celebrations in honor of the various gods, and upon entering their former place of worship would feel soiled, dirty, defiled. Their conscience is weak, not because they are too easily offended and over-sensitive, but because they cave to the example of those who claim to be wise and eat, even though they don’t themselves have this so-called wisdom that would free them to participate. The weak conscience is a conscience that isn’t sure of itself, that doesn’t have the strength to stand on its own two feet, the moral consciousness that questions if it is permissible but does it anyway. This is a moral consciousness that is swayed by the opinion and example of others. Notice that Paul doesn’t say that they merely feel defiled. He says that their conscience, their moral consciousness is defiled. He says in Romans 14:23

Romans 14:23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Subjective Sin

These verses tell us that there is a subjective reality to sin. Something may not be forbidden by God, let’s stay (to be culturally relevant) drinking a particular beverage. If you have been raised to believe that it is sin to partake, even though you can’t produce the verse that says it is wrong, you are convinced that it is a sin against God. Objectively it is not wrong. No specific command, no general principle in the bible says it is wrong. Your conscience has been misinformed. But if you fill up your cup and drink, believing it is wrong, you are saying in your heart ‘I believe this to be a sin against God, but I am going to do it anyway’. God looks on the heart, and in your heart you have sinned against God. The act is not objectively sinful. It is not sinful in and of itself. But it becomes sin for you when, thinking it is sin, you do it anyway.

There is also an objective reality to sin. If you were not raised to believe that any sexual intimacy outside of a marriage relationship is sin, you may feel no guilt in fornicating with your girlfriend. It may feel so right. But it is still really, objectively, according to God’s absolute standard, wrong. Idolatry is on that list, putting any thing, any tradition, any relationship equal in importance with God is sin, whether it feels sinful or not. Much that we don’t feel guilty about is objectively sin against God. One reason the Holy Spirit is given to believers is to convict us of sin that we are not aware is sin.

Food Does Not Bring Us Before God

The Corinthians argument is that ‘Food does not bring us near to God’. We are presented blameless before God through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial law. In a vision God offered to Peter all kinds of ceremonially unclean things to eat, and God said ‘what God has made clean, do not call common’ (Acts10:15). Jesus declared all foods clean (Mk.7:19). He said that it is not the stuff that goes in, but what comes out that defiles a person. Stuff like evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness that come out of a person’s heart. That is what defiles, not food. Food does not bring us near to God. Keeping various rules like:

Colossians 2:21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Food does not bring us near to God. No list of do’s and dont’s will earn favor with God. Only Jesus can bring us near to the all-holy God. Food has no importance. Notice how Paul frames this: ‘We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do’. I find it interesting that he doesn’t say the opposite. He could have said ‘We are no better off if we do not eat, and no worse off if we do’, but he didn’t because that may not be true. Based on his conclusions in chapter 10, we may be better off not to eat food sacrificed to idols, and we may be worse of if we do. He says forfeiting your liberty to eat the steak does not separate you from God, neither does eating the steak bring you closer to God. Since food does not bring us nearer to God by eating or alienate us by not eating, we can safely forgo our right to eat for the sake of a brother.

Stumbling Block

This is what he says in verse 9

9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

Paul’s language borders on condescending. Paul distances himself from ‘this right of yours’. They are demanding their rights. They have this knowledge. Paul says ‘look out!’ When you start demanding and defending your own rights, you are already on dangerous territory. The problem when I begin to demand my rights, I often end up trampling on the rights of others. Paul alerts them to the existence of others for whom they must be concerned. Watch out that this right you claim does not become a stumbling block to the weak. You who claim to have ‘wisdom’ have an obligation to the weak.

This word ‘stumbling block’ has a clear Old Testament connection to idolatry. God warned in Exodus 34:

Exodus 34:12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods. 17 “You shall not make for yourself any gods of cast metal.

This is exactly what happened to Israel in the wilderness.

Numbers 25:1 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.

Jesus references this when he rebukes the New Testament church in Pergamum and calls them to repentance:

Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.

To draw someone into worship of anything besides the one true God is a stumbling block.

Build Up to Destruction

To put a stumbling block before the weak is a serious issue.

10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?

Paul is somewhat sarcastic here. The word translated ‘encouraged’ is the word usually translated ‘edified’ or ‘built up’. To ‘build up’ a weaker brother so that he participates in idolatry – some kind of building up that is! The conscience is a valuable tool. It is not infallible. The conscience is a delicate instrument, like a compass. Compasses sometimes need to be calibrated. But you do not calibrate the compass of conscience with the sledgehammer of my knowledge and rights, sending it spinning in every direction and rendering it useless to guide. You calibrate the compass of conscience with the precision screwdriver of love.

Listen to how Paul confronts the puffed-up Corinthians.

11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.

Destroyed. Perished. Lost. Who would want that on their hands? Not anyone, but a weak person. You would trip up and destroy someone who can’t even stand on their own? A brother! Not an enemy, not an outsider, a brother, a sibling, part of the family! There ought to be some tender affection in you toward your own brother. And if not for my brother, then surely for Christ. This one who through my supposed knowledge I am leading back into bondage to sin, and into destruction, is one for whom Christ died. To think that I would attempt to nullify the effect of the cross of Jesus! I am a sinner saved only by God’s undeserved grace through the cross. To lead another for whom Christ died back into the sin out of which he was snatched and from which he is set free is unthinkable. Jesus loved that person and gave himself up for them. He made the ultimate sacrifice out of love. But I am so puffed up in my knowledge and concerned about my rights that I cannot sacrifice something so insignificant to love them.

12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

Paul applies this principle of love to his readers. To wound a weak conscience, to lead a weak brother into sin, is to sin against them, and to sin against someone for whom Christ died is to sin against Christ Jesus himself. This lesson would be vivid for Paul, formerly Saul, persecutor of the church. When Jesus confronted him on the road, he asked “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts9:4). To persecute the church is to persecute Jesus. Jesus said ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’ (Mt.25:40). Jesus taught

Matthew 18:6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Jesus takes great offense if we do not love those whom he so loved that he gave up his own life as a substitute for.

Paul concludes with his own personal application.

13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Food, something so insignificant in the context of the substitutionary death of Christ for sinners; my right becomes so trivial in light of Christ Jesus, being in the form of God, who made himself nothing, and died on a cross for sinners like me (Phil.2:5-8). Paul says if food leads a brother for whom Christ died back into idolatry and away from Jesus, I will give up my right to eat meat altogether. I have no right to be rescued from my own sin. That is pure undeserved grace. It is a gift, not a right. I surely have no right to interfere or tamper with the undeserved grace God chooses to extend to another sinner. Rather, I have an obligation to love those whom Christ loved.

March 2, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

1 Corinthians 7:1-5; The Marriage Debt

10/27 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 The Marriage Debt;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131027_1cor7_1-5.mp3

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ ὧν ἐγράψατε, καλὸν ἀνθρώπῳ γυναικὸς μὴ ἅπτεσθαι· 2 διὰ δὲ τὰς πορνείας ἕκαστος τὴν ἑαυτοῦ γυναῖκα ἐχέτω, καὶ ἑκάστη τὸν ἴδιον ἄνδρα ἐχέτω. 3 τῇ γυναικὶ ὁ ἀνὴρ τὴν ὀφειλὴν ἀποδιδότω, ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ἡ γυνὴ τῷ ἀνδρί. 4 ἡ γυνὴ τοῦ ἰδίου σώματος οὐκ ἐξουσιάζει ἀλλὰ ὁ ἀνήρ· ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ὁ ἀνὴρ τοῦ ἰδίου σώματος οὐκ ἐξουσιάζει ἀλλὰ ἡ γυνή. 5 μὴ ἀποστερεῖτε ἀλλήλους, εἰ μήτι ἂν ἐκ συμφώνου πρὸς καιρὸν ἵνα σχολάσητε τῇ προσευχῇ καὶ πάλιν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ἦτε, ἵνα μὴ πειράζῃ ὑμᾶς ὁ Σατανᾶς διὰ τὴν ἀκρασίαν ὑμῶν. 6 τοῦτο δὲ λέγω κατὰ συγγνώμην, οὐ κατ’ ἐπιταγήν. 7 θέλω δὲ πάντας ἀνθρώπους εἶναι ὡς καὶ ἐμαυτόν· ἀλλὰ ἕκαστος ἴδιον ἔχει χάρισμα ἐκ θεοῦ, ὁ μὲν οὕτως, ὁ δὲ οὕτως. 8 Λέγω δὲ τοῖς ἀγάμοις καὶ ταῖς χήραις, καλὸν αὐτοῖς ἐὰν μείνωσιν ὡς κἀγώ· 9 εἰ δὲ οὐκ ἐγκρατεύονται, γαμησάτωσαν, κρεῖττον γάρ ἐστιν γαμῆσαι ἢ πυροῦσθαι.

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

1 Corinthians 6:16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

7:1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

The gospel has implications on all of life. Paul preached Christ crucified, and this message of the cross was, to those who were being called, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. The cross has implications on every area of life. The gospel message is God’s wisdom to make sense of all of life and his power to live life in such a way as to bring glory to God. A major problem in Corinth, and for us today, is understanding the implications of the gospel of Christ crucified on all of life. Paul, in a very down to earth way, helps them and us to make that connection.

In chapters 1-5 he addresses issues that have been brought to his attention;

1 Corinthians 1:11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you…

In chapter 5:9-13 he clarifies their misunderstanding of his previous communication. “I wrote to you in my letter… not at all meaning…” They took what he had written in a way that was not at all what he had meant so he spells out what he had intended.

In chapter 6, he begins to address slogans that they were using to justify all sorts of evil. ‘All things are lawful for me’ ‘Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy both one and the other’. They may have even been things the apostle had said, or summaries of his teaching, but now they were being used to open the door to practices that have no place among those who claim to be followers of Jesus.

Questions?

Here in chapter 7, he begins to address issues raised by the Corinthians in their correspondence to him. He says;

7:1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote:

He will address five more of these matters in the course of this letter. Here he addresses abstinence, celibacy, and marriage; in 7:25 he says ‘now concerning virgins’; in 8:1 ‘now concerning things offered to idols’; in 12:1 ‘now concerning spiritual gifts’; in16:1 ‘now concerning the collection for the saints’; in 16:12 ‘now concerning Apollos’. We don’t know what kind of letter the Corinthians sent Paul. Maybe they were honest questions that had come up since the apostle had left. Maybe they were hotly debated issues in the church, and they were looking for Paul to settle their disputes. Maybe the letter wasn’t asking questions at all; maybe they were stating their conclusions and seeking to impress Paul, or even correct him. We don’t know. Whatever the nature of their letter, Paul was happy to address each issue. None of these topics were off-limits. Paul was not afraid of questions. He was eager to take the wisdom of God in the foolishness of the cross and apply it to any and all of life’s situations.

Pendulum Swing

The issue they raise here has to do with sexual intimacy. ‘It is good for a man not to touch a woman’ was probably another slogan that some in the Corinthian church tried to enforce. Corinth was an immoral city. Temple prostitutes were available, pornographic images were everywhere, it was not uncommon for people to be married and divorced and remarried and divorced many times over, and it was also not uncommon for those who were married to keep mistresses and have affairs. This had even crept into the church. In chapter 5, Paul addresses the man who was having relations with his step-mom. In chapter 6 he has to tell the church that the body is not meant for sexual immorality, and that it is unthinkable for believers to make use of prostitutes. There is a natural human tendency in this kind of setting to swing the pendulum far in the other direction. All we see, all we hear, all we have experienced is sex being misused and perverted and distorted. Paul has told us to flee pornea; flee sexual immorality; so we will flee from sexual intimacy all together. From this passage it appears that there were some who were over-reacting to their culture and coming to the conclusion that all sex is evil and to be avoided, even within marriage.

Paul warns Timothy that there would be false teachers in the early church who among other things would forbid marriage.

1Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

Paul calls this kind of ascetic spirituality a departure from the faith, and the ‘teaching of demons’. God created all things, including marriage, for us to enjoy.

Paul addresses a similar issue in the church in Colossae, where he writes:

Colossians 2:20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

The man-made regulation ‘do not touch’ uses the same word we have in this passage ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’. Paul says that this has the appearance of wisdom, but is powerless in the real battle against the indulgence of the flesh. Over-reacting to sin by promoting self-made religion of asceticism and severity to the body can actually make the problem worse, not better.

Strong Medicine for Sick Souls

You say ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’; I say no, because of the immoralities, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The remedy for rampant immorality is not a pendulum swing to the other extreme to demand a denial of all bodily pleasure. The remedy is a healthy view of human sexuality as it was designed by God. In the last section, Paul referred to the creation narrative, where God said ‘the two shall become one flesh’. The Corinthians are saying ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’. God said ‘it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him” (Gen.2:18). God brought the woman to the man, naked, in paradise, and he blessed them and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. God said this was good, very good. God intended for the man to touch his wife, and for the wife to touch her husband. Marriage is the appropriate context for human sexuality to find its intended fulfillment. The author of Hebrews says:

Hebrews 13:4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

Monogamy

Notice, by his language Paul rules out multiple partners. Each man should have his own wife, singular. And each woman should have her own husband, singular. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life. This is a God-given shield against the fiery darts of the adversary.

Mutual Obligation

I Corinthians 7:2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

Paul unashamedly uses the language of reciprocal belonging. This is shocking for any first century document, where so often men were free to do as they wished and women had no rights. Paul says that each man should have (the language of possession) his own wife, and that each woman should have (the same language of possession) her own man. This is the language of belonging. We can hear echoes from the Song of Songs.

Song of Solomon 2:16 My beloved is mine, and I am his; he grazes among the lilies.

Song of Solomon 6:3 I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he grazes among the lilies.

Song of Solomon 7:10 I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.

This is the language of reciprocal belonging, of ownership. I am his, I belong to my beloved, and he belongs to me, he is mine. When I enter into the marriage relationship, I give myself to my spouse. I surrender my rights and my independence and voluntarily belong to another. To make sure we understand what this means, Paul spells it out for us.

1 Corinthians 7:3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.

This reflects the language of the Old Testament, where the practice of polygamy was not condoned, but regulated.

Exodus 21:10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights.

A husband is obligated to provide for his wife’s physical and emotional needs. The language used here is the language of indebtedness. By entering into marriage, he owes her a debt that he must pay. Everything that it means to be a husband; leader, provider, nurturer, instructor, encourager, strength, support, respect, patience, kindness, tenderness, compassion, intimacy, love; to bring her physical and emotional wholeness and completion is his debt to her.

There is no room here for using the other person merely to gratify one’s own desires. The language here is language of giving, not taking. When I focus on what I am owed and demand my rights, things typically do not go well. When I focus on my debt and give sacrificially and gladly to meet the needs of my wife, things tend to go remarkably better.

Intimacy within the marriage is to be perfectly reciprocal. ‘Likewise the wife to her husband’. As the husband owes a debt he is obligated to give to his wife, so the wife is obligated to give to her husband what she owes to him. Honor, encouragement, respect, help, submission to his godly leadership, intimacy, love; to bring him physical and emotional wholeness and completion is her debt to him.

1 Corinthians 7:4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

This was as staggering a statement in the first century Roman world as it is for us today. To say that the husband has authority over would be expected. But to say that the wife has the exact same authority over her husband’s body as he had over hers was revolutionary in Paul’s day. To say that anybody has authority over anybody else’s body is contrary to our culture, but this is exactly what the Bible says. This is the same word that he used in 6:12.

1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by [brought under the authority of] anything.

You are not your own. You were bought with a price. If you are a follower of Jesus, you belong to God, you are under his authority. And if you are married, you body belongs, first to God, and then to your spouse. And then Paul gives a clear command.

Stop Depriving One Another

1 Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

This could be translated ‘stop depriving one another’ or ‘stop defrauding one another.’ Celibacy, singleness, and abstinence is a legitimate option for believers, but it is not an option if you are married. The Corinthians tried to sound noble and spiritual; ‘my body is devoted to God; therefore I cannot fulfill my spouse’s base desires’. We simply say ‘I have a headache’ or ‘I’m just not in the mood’. Either way, the results are the same. And Paul calls it robbery. You owe your spouse a debt. Stop defrauding one another. Physical intimacy within the marriage is not dirty or defiling, it’s not a reward for good behavior. It is a good God-given gift, to be enjoyed regularly and frequently. Paul gives us three clear conditions that must be met to ever legitimately deprive one another. It must be by mutual agreement, it must be for a limited time, and it must be for the purpose of the couple devoting themselves to prayer. Paul’s reason is powerful. So that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self control. Paul exhorts us to take up this weapon of God against the onslaught of satanic temptation. This is the wisdom of Proverbs; “rejoice in the wife of your youth… be intoxicated always in her love” (Prov.5:18-19). We are commanded to flee sexual immorality. If you are married, the way you flee is to flee into the arms of your spouse.

Paul has reminded us that we are not our own. As believers in Jesus, we belong to God. We have been bought with a price, with the precious blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Our purpose is to glorify God. We were created to bring honor and praise to God. We were redeemed to worship him. So, glorify God in your body. For a married couple, physical intimacy is a way to glorify God with your body. God intends for you to enjoy his good gifts and give thanks to him in everything. Glorify God in your body.

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

October 28, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment