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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

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

1 Corinthians 7:6-9; The Un-Married

11/10 1 Corinthians 7:6-9 The Un-Married;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131110_1cor7_6-9.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]

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.

6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. 8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Paul is addressing issues that the church in Corinth had written him about. Chapter 7 deals with sexual relationships between men and women. He had already addressed incest, adultery, homosexuality, prostitution, and other forms of sexual immorality in chapters 5 and 6. His conclusion was that those who continue to practice such things, along with idolaters, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Not that there is no hope for someone who has sinned in any of these ways. He makes it clear that some of the believers in Corinth had fallen into all of these categories. “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (6:11). There is forgiveness and hope for every sinner who turns to Jesus for forgiveness and cleansing.

At the beginning of chapter 7, he addresses the teaching that was circulating in Corinth “it is good for a man not to touch a woman”. This is simply not true in all circumstances. He clarifies that for the married, they have obligated themselves to their spouse. He forbids them to deprive one another and encourages enjoyment of sexual activity within marriage as a defense against Satanic attack.

He will go on to address questions about the unmarried, widows and widowers, the married, those married to an unbeliever, issues of divorce and remarriage, and single people. He gives much practical teaching and pastoral counsel to people who find themselves in various circumstances. This is a difficult passage, not only because the subject matter is very personal, but some of Paul’s vocabulary is open to differing interpretations. With God’s help, we will do our best to work our way through this passage together.

A Concession Not A Command

1 Corinthians 7:6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.

Verse 6 is a difficult verse. We have to try to understand what ‘this’ refers to. What is it that Paul is saying that is not a command but only a concession? Different interpretations have been suggested. Some see ‘this’ as referring to what immediately precedes, the requirement for a married couple to come back together again after a time of abstinence. But he is clearly commanding that they come back together again, and as a defense against Satanic attack. Some have suggested that all of verse 5, where he allows temporary abstinence by mutual agreement for a limited time and for the purpose of prayer is a concession and not a command. In other words, I am not mandating that married couples abstain for prayer, but is conceding to this practice within the stated conditions. This is a possibility, but he has already made it clear that abstaining is not a command by his wording ‘except perhaps’. Some take ‘this’ to refer back to the whole of verses 2-5, that his command that each man should have his own wife and each woman should have her own husband is not a command but a concession. He is not mandating marriage for all; in the next verse he holds up his wish that all would remain single as he himself is. He discusses the value and advantages of singleness in verses 32-35. This is a good possibility. Others take ‘this’ to refer forward to what he is about to say. His following wish that all were single like himself is a concession not a command. He will go on to say that although he wishes that all could be fully devoted to pleasing the Lord as he himself is, he is aware that not all have the same gifting he has and for them this would not be good. Both of these last two interpretations fit well with what Paul says in this passage, and both are true. Not every person is commanded to be married, and not every person is commanded to live a life of celibacy.

Spiritual Gifting in Marriage and Singleness

1 Corinthians 7:6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

Paul will talk quite a bit in 1 Corinthians about spiritual gifts. In chapters 12-14 he will talk about things like speaking in tongues, utterances of wisdom and knowledge, gifts of faith and healing, prophecy, distinguishing spirits, and working miracles. In chapter 1, he thanked God that the Corinthians were “not lacking in any spiritual gift” (1:7). Here in chapter 7, dealing with marriage and singleness, he refers to another kind of grace-gift from God. Each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. The Corinthians were eager to outdo one another with their spirituality. If it was considered more spiritual to live a celibate life, the married people were willing to put away their spouses to win the title of spirituality. Paul says ‘stop it!you’re playing with fire!’ What is more spiritual is to see how God has uniquely gifted you as an individual and use your gifts for the glory of God. Paul here is claiming that the celibate life, which he practices, is a grace-gift from God. And equally so, marriage is a grace-gift from God, each to be used to bring glory to God. Paul was given the gift of contentment in celibacy. Many are given the gift of contentment in marriage. Each has his own gift from God, one of one kind, one of another. Paul will list advantages he sees in singleness, especially considering the circumstances in which they were then living, but he holds both singleness and marriage up as valuable gifts from our good God. If you are gifted by God with singleness, it is better for you to remain single. If you are gifted by God for marriage, it is better that you marry. Going back to the statement of the Corinthians ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’ Paul would say ‘yes!, if you are gifted by God for singleness.’ But if you are gifted by God for marriage, then each one should enjoy his or her own spouse as a good gift of God.

To the Unmarried and the Widows

1 Corinthians 7:8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.

Here is another challenge in interpretation. To whom is Paul referring when he says ‘unmarried’? The word itself can refer to anyone who is currently without a spouse for whatever reason. It can refer to singles who have never been married, or it can refer to widows or widowers or the divorced or separated. If Paul is using the word in this broad general sense, then ‘the widows’ is one subcategory of ‘the unmarried’, and we could translate ‘to the unmarried, especially to the widows.’ Paul uses this word in verse 11 to refer to the wife who is separated from her husband. In verse 34 he uses this word to distinguish the unmarried woman from the virgin. Frequently in this chapter Paul gives equal treatment to the male and female counterpart in each situation, and he will deal specifically with the ‘never been marrieds’ in verses 25 and following, so we could translate verse 8 as ‘to the formerly marrieds’, or ‘to the widowers and the widows’.

Whether he is addressing the broad category of unmarrieds or the specific categories of the formerly marrieds, his advice is ‘it is good for them to remain as I am’. We will see as we work our way through this passage that this is Paul’s repeated advice in a number of different situations given their present circumstances. It is good to remain as you are. If you are married, stay married. If you are single, stay single. Don’t seek to change your status. Not that it is wrong to change your status, but it is good to remain as you are.

Was Paul Married?

This raises an interesting biographical question about the Apostle Paul. It is clear from this and other passages that Paul lived a celibate life. But had he ever been married? That question is more difficult to answer. It is possible that Paul was never married, in which case he tells the widows to remain content in celibacy as he is. It is possible that Paul was married and his wife either died and he never remarried, or that his wife left him, possibly because of his conversion to Christianity. This is speculation, based largely on Jewish tradition. The reasoning goes like this; Paul claimed to be a “Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee” (Phil.3:5). He says “And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers” (Gal.1:14). Later Jewish traditions tell us that men by the age of twenty were expected to be married, so for Paul to have advanced in Judaism as he claims would imply that he must have been married. Some take his statement in Acts 26:10 about his former persecution of Christians, “when they were put to death I cast my vote against them” to mean that he was a voting member of the Sanhedrin, and later laws about Sanhedrin membership require a man to be married. The bottom line is that none of this is conclusive. The bible does not tell us, and we cannot say with certainty whether Paul was ever married or not. All that we are told is that he was not married at the time he wrote his New Testament letters. He says in chapter 9:

1 Corinthians 9:5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

He claims to have the right to be married, but he did not take advantage of that right.

For Those Without Self-Control

1 Corinthians 7:8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

For the unmarried and widows, it is good to remain unmarried. But that is not the only thing permitted, and that may not be the best thing for them. He says that it is good to remain unmarried, but if they are not self-controlled, they must marry. Unfortunately, this verse is difficult to translate without implying that the lack of self-control is negative. May read this and conclude that Paul has a low view of marriage, which is only a vent for the weak who can’t control their sexual urges. But that is to misunderstand the text. The lack of self-control in this verse is not negative or derogatory. We might be better to paraphrase it ‘if they are not predisposed to continence’ or ‘if they don’t have the gift of celibacy’. There is no negativity toward those who have a different gifting. In fact, the strength of sexual drive may be one clear indicator of gifting by God for marriage or celibacy. Each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. Those without the gift of celibacy should not attempt to live as if they had the gift. Paul’s instruction to them is clear. Let them marry. This is a command, in the imperative.

Paul gives extended instructions about the status of widows in the church to the young pastor Timothy.

1 Timothy 5:3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.

It was the obligation first of the family to care for widows. If they had no family, the church would care for their needs. But Timothy was cautioned against placing younger widows in the care of the church. Instead they were encouraged to marry a believing husband and maintain their independence. He has a whole list of the dangers of enrolling younger widows into church charity programs. One major reason is that they may not have the God-given gift of celibacy. Paul says ‘if they are not exercising self-control, let them marry’.

Better To Marry Than To Burn

1 Corinthians 7:8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

He said it is good to remain as they are if they are gifted in that way, but it is better to marry if they are not gifted with celibacy. It is better to marry than to burn. What does Paul mean when he says it is better to marry than to burn? Probably he means that it is better to marry than to be inflamed with passion, so many modern translations add the interpretive phrase ‘with passion’. This would fit well with the first section of this chapter, where marriage is rightfully used as a weapon against Satanic temptation to sexual immorality. Pursue the God-given path to sexual fulfillment in marriage rather than sentencing yourself to a life of temptation and frustration.

Some have understood this burning in a different sense. Two rabbis were walking along a road. (This sounds like the beginning of a good joke, but it is not. It is actually from the Jewish Talmud [TB Qiddusin 81a; cited by Bruce, p.68]) Two rabbis were walking along a road and they see a woman walking ahead of them. Rab says to R. Judah ‘Hurry up and get in front of Gehenna’. Gehenna was a place of idolatry and child sacrifice in the fires outside of Jerusalem. It became a picture of the fires of eternal punishment, often translated ‘hell’ in the Gospels. I think the idea was to put the temptation to lust behind you, a temptation which would send you to hell. Let’s bring this up to date. We often hear an attractive member of the opposite sex referred to as ‘hot’. From now on when you hear ‘hot’ think ‘hot’ as in Gehenna. Paul said that the ‘pornea’, the sexually immoral would not inherit the kingdom of God. It is better to find fulfillment in marriage than to burn with lust that will end up sentencing you to burn in hell. As Jesus said

Matthew 18:9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell [Gehenna] of fire.

Practical Advice

Paul is intensely practical in this passage. He doesn’t say everything there is to say about marriage or singleness here. But what he does say is practical. Let’s end with some practical advice.

What if you are single today and thinking ‘I don’t think I have the gift of celibacy’? First, get your priorities straight. Recognize that your body is not meant for sexual immorality, it is meant for the Lord. So glorify God with your body. Take advantage of the freedoms of your present singleness to bring maximum glory to God.

Next, as Paul said at the end of chapter 6 ‘flee sexual immorality’. Smash your I-phone. Tear out your internet connection. Do whatever it takes to flee sexual immorality. Paul promises in chapter 10

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Then, if you recognize that you are not gifted for singleness, prepare yourself for marriage. Guys, this might mean you need to grow up. Get a job. Start bathing. Stop playing video games all the time. Stop texting and learn to have a real conversation. Be responsible. Learn to put someone else’s needs and desires ahead of your own. Stop making excuses and start following Jesus with all your energy.

What if you realize today that you have blown it big time? Maybe you are seeing for the first time what God has to say about the seriousness of sin. Maybe you’re realizing that based on what you have done you deserve to be cast straight into the fires of Gehenna. Is it too late for you? Jesus said to the woman caught in the act of adultery ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more’ (Jn.8:11). If you run to Jesus, you can be washed, set apart, declared not guilty because Jesus took the punishment you deserve on himself at the cross. He would love to forgive your sins and make you new and transform your desires. Come to him.

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

November 10, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment