1 Corinthians #8 – The Single Adult Christian and Sexuality


Up to this point, Paul had been dealing with the sins reported to be known in the Corinthian congregation. Now he takes up the questions about which they had written to him.

Some liberal critics have accused Paul of being against both marriage and women. These accusations are not true, of course.

Nor is it true that in 1 Corinthians 7:6, 10, 12, and 25 Paul is disclaiming divine inspiration for what he wrote. Rather, he is referring to what Jesus taught when He was on earth (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12; Luke 16:18).

Paul had to answer some questions that Jesus never discussed; but when a question arose that the Lord had dealt with, Paul referred to His words. Instead of disclaiming inspiration, Paul claimed that what he wrote was equal in authority to what Christ taught.

Christians Married to Christians (1 Cor. 7:1-11)

Apparently one of the questions the church asked was, “Is celibacy [remaining unmarried] more spiritual than marriage?” Paul replied that it is good for a man or a woman to have the gift of celibacy, but the celibate state is not better than marriage, nor is it the best state for everybody. Dr. Kenneth Wuest translates Paul’s reply, “It is perfectly proper, honorable, morally befitting for a man to live in strict celibacy.”

1 First Corinthians 7:6 makes it clear that celibacy is permitted, but it is not commanded; and 1 Corinthians 7:7 informs us that not everybody has the gift of remaining celibate. This ties in with our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 19:10-12, where “eunuchs” refers to those who abstain from marriage. “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18) is generally true for most people; but some have been called to a life of singleness for one reason or another.

One purpose for marriage is “to avoid fornication.” First Corinthians 7:2 makes it clear that God does not approve either of polygamy or homosexual “marriages.” One man married to one woman has been God’s pattern from the first. However, the husband and wife must not abuse the privilege of sexual love that is a normal part of marriage.

The wife’s body belongs to the husband, and the husband’s body to the wife; and each must be considerate of the other. Sexual love is a beautiful tool to build with, not a weapon to fight with. To refuse each other is to commit robbery (see 1 Thes. 4:6) and to invite Satan to tempt the partners to seek their satisfaction elsewhere.

As in all things, the spiritual must govern the physical; for our bodies are God’s temples. The husband and wife may abstain in order to devote their full interest to prayer and fasting (1 Cor. 7:5); but they must not use this as an excuse for prolonged separation. Paul is encouraging Christian partners to be “in tune” with each other in matters both spiritual and physical.

In 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, Paul applied the principle stated in 1 Corinthians 7:1 to single believers and widows: If you cannot control yourself, then marry.

The Responsibilities of Marriage Partners (7:2-6)

  1. Because of fornication it is better for every man to have a wife.”
  2. Sexual drive is God given; but must be fulfilled within the bounds of marriage.
  3. Love is something which is expressed by seeking the best for another even when the emotional enthusiasm has diminished.
  4. Paul’s inspired judgment is that man has the right of choice in the question of marriage.

 

  1. Obligations in marriage.
  2. Sexual intercourse in marriage is not just permitted; it is commanded.
  3. The husband and wife belong to each other.
  4. Deprive not one another except by mutual consent.

1) Could relate to temporary separation during a time of religious involvement.

2) Without the consent, separation should not take place.

3) Agreement based on a time of prayer.

4) Such prayer was not commanded.

5) Generally thought of during specific needs and times.

  1. The necessity is there to come back together to avoid Satan’s temptation which is ever present.
  2. The idea of separation between husband and wife is a concession, not a command.

 

Paul’s Personal Example (7:7-8)

  1. Paul possessed self control with regard to sexual desires.
  2. He credited his self control in sexual desire to a gift from God. Paul wished everyone possessed that gift as he did 1 Corinthians 7:9.
  3. Better to marry than to burn.”
  4. “Burn” – Has to do with present sexual feelings or desire.
  5. Does not mean burn in torment.
  6. Paul stresses the need for marriage as the means of controlling sexual desires.

 

  1. Marriage should be exercised before sex; not as a result of having sexual encounters.
  2. Sexual desire is God given and therefore, not impure if placed in the context of marriage (Hebrews 13:4).
  3. In spite of the distress, marriage is better than being overtaken by temptation.

 

All covenants with God have a visible sign.

Sex is the Marriage Covenant’s Visible Sign

And sex is a sign of the marriage covenant between a man and a woman and God. Sex is a visible sign that makes visible the invisible reality of the union of the two people. The sign of the marriage covenant is sex.

According to the Bible, every other woman in the world a man relates to as a sister or a mother, but only one does he relate to as a wife. The sign between you and that only other person who you relate to as your spouse is sex.

It is designed to be a sign of permanence, safety, security, faithfulness.

Implicit in having sex is the promise of faithfulness. Sex communicates to the other person’s heart and to God the father: “I am touching you because I promise never to leave you nor forsake you. The exchange of our most intimate gifts communicates permanence. That is why sex belongs in marriage.

In this context, we are able to see why sex as a single adult is so damaging. When you have sex with someone as a single adult you are doing two things:

1) you are making permanent promises to the other person’s soul while you have temporary intentions. This creates confusion, anxiety, and insecurity.

2) Sex as a single adult makes a mockery out of the covenant between a man and a woman before the Lord and brings you into a state of spiritual disconnection. It doesn’t matter how brief the hookup or how strictly physical it is, sex outside of marriage leaves devastation emotional and spiritual devastation in its wake.

1 Corinthians 6:18: Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.

The way we typically see things is as commitment increases so does physical intimacy. We basically earn the right to be more intimate as we stay with the person longer. If you haven’t been allowed to have a kiss after three dates then you might get a little upset because you have the right to have a kiss. That’s what dating people do. “We are dating, come on. I’m going to go find someone else.”

However, what the Bible indicates is that if there are only two types of relationships, those you relate to as brothers/sisters/fathers/mothers or husbands/wives, then there are only two levels of sexual intimacy. No sexual intimacy or total sexual intimacy. Please don’t tune this out because it’s some preacher guy who is out of touch. There is no middle ground. No “friends with benefits”. No “hook-up buddies”. No dating and doing everything but intercourse. Because sex includes more than the act of intercourse.

I am not trying to draw a new set of rules for you. I am trying to get you to think about your sexuality in a new way. The way you relate to the opposite sex. Relating sexually as if you were married to that person you are dating brings incredible relational, emotional, physical, and spiritual confusion.

And you are setting yourself up for failure.

Sex as not a birthright or a mile-marker needed after so many days in a relationship. The damage from sex as a single adult comes not because you don’t have the right person, but because it is in the wrong context. The truth

is that the only place where sex is going to be satisfying to your soul is when it is the visible sign of the invisible covenant you have made with that one person of the opposite sex. It is the way we demonstrate our commitment to the covenant to that one person for the rest of our lives.

Managing your Sexuality as a Single Adult

So how does a single person resist the temptation? Sometimes the sex drive seems almost overwhelming especially for those single adults who are single again after being in a marriage relationship where they enjoyed sex in its rightful context.

Here are some practical steps to managing your sexuality as a single adult:

  1. Do not seek sexual satisfaction through touching or being touched by another person, even if you stop short of sexual intercourse.

A lot of single adults will draw a line at not having intercourse but will do everything else. They call it messing around. For married people, “messing around” is the onramp onto the freeway.

Single adults consistently operate in this realm of “messing around” doing everything but the final act and then they wonder why they cannot manage their sexuality.

  1. Do not seek sexual gratification through self stimulation.

Self stimulation does not solve sexual pressure. Many Christians believe that it is a healthy way to deal with their sexual desires. But it is not. Not only can self gratification become habitual, but it produces guilt, is accompanied by lust, and, most importantly, contradicts the God-given design of sexuality.

The sexual act is not designed to be done alone for selfish gratification. Sex is created for relationship with the opposite sex in a marriage covenant. When you gratify yourself, you are training yourself to not need another person physically, emotionally, and mentally, to satisfy yourself. It is pseudo sex.

The more you train yourself to satisfy yourself physically before marriage, the more likely you are to satisfy yourself physically after you are married. Because it’s not really about sex. It is about our lazy, self-centered desire, to satisfy ourselves rather than give ourselves to and for another person. The answer to your pent up  sexual desires is not gratifying yourself, but resisting temptation

  1. Resist and avoid sexual stimulation.

James 4:6a & 7 (New Living Translation) 6 But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil  desires…

7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

It is a no-brainer that pornography is destructive and works against you in your quest to be sexually pure. But the real test is what you do with the more common sources of sexual stimulation. R-rated movies, Men’s Health magazine, the newspaper, television, music videos.

In our society you cannot escape sexual stimulation, but you can refuse to seek it. And you can avoid it often when you see it coming. This will tell you whether you are enslaved or free. Can we say no to our bodies that want us to keep looking?

This becomes easier the more we focus on Christ and pure things. There is no better way to overcome a bad desire than to push it out with a new one. It is in prayer that we summon the divine help to produce in us that new desire for God. Fill your mind in God’s Word.

There is nothing that renews the mind like regular meditation on the Scriptures.

  1. Embrace Christian Community

Hebrews 10:24 (New Living Translation)

24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.

The struggle to resist temptation and manage your sexuality must be done in with the help of others seeking the same goals. For some of you the odds are not in your favor of having a lot of success with this because you are surrounded by people who do not believe the same things as you. Every conversation and outing is focused on sex and hooking up. Christian community gives you strength and support. Others will join to help you get to where you want to go instead of trying to rip you off course. You can pray for each other and hold each other accountable.

  1. Make Spiritual Compatibly the Highest Requirement for Romantic Relationships

2 Corinthians 6:14 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

14 Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and  awlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?

The Bible clearly teaches that it is not appropriate for Christians to be in a relationship where an unbeliever has control over their life. This is especially true for dating relationships. It is hard enough to stay sexually pure as a dating couple when you are both spiritually aligned  with Christ as the center of the relationship. But when the  people is not in agreement and one is trying to remain sexually pure and the other does not have the same goal, guess which one will eventually win? You must make spiritual compatibility your highest priority.

  1. Don’t get Desperate.

Desperate people make poor choices. Desperation begins when faith in God’s future and the enjoyment of the present disappears. When you believe that it will never happen unless you begin to take steps to make it happen yourself because you are just sick and tired of waiting.

When you get desperate you make mistakes. You will make compromises you never intended, date people you should never have dated, marry someone that is not a good fit.

As a single adult, the Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 7 that it is a special time in life where you can pour yourself into ministry and serving others more than at any other time in life. It is a time to live for God boldly, to grow close to him and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Do not become desperate. Desperate people make desperate decisions and pay drastic consequences.

Conclusion

Many want that sexual experience because we believe that that is the pinnacle of feeling loved by someone as a human. But we can learn to replace that with the love that can only be found in the total abandonment to Jesus then we can begin to be loved completely by him and him  alone.

There is going to come a day that even though you are  in a great marriage that there are areas that your spouse can never satisfy.

Inside the covenant of marriage sex is like a great meal, satisfying and nourishing. Outside of marriage it is more like candy. It might give you a short rush, but is full of empty calories with no nourishment. And a steady diet of it will make you sick. It will make you sick in your relationships with the opposite sex and it will make you sick in your relationship with God. Jesus has given us a choice. Now what are you going to do with it?

How a fish story may help your marriage

16472951_1534275359935562_6600254523845811070_nDid it ever occur to you that we can learn a lot about having a better marriage by thinking about fish? You’re probably thinking that I’ve lost my rocker. But bear with me for a moment.

It’s been said fish don’t know that they live in water. How could it be otherwise? Water is their universe and the only environment they’ll ever live in. Their world view is dictated by the limits of their perceptions.

And except for that rare and insightful fish that may occasionally stick his head above the surface of the water and wonder about the world above, the vast majority of fish naively swim around their entire lives, blindly accepting the water as the only reality there is.

We humans also tend to blindly accept our perceptions as the only reality there is. This is important to understand if you’re concerned about having a harmonious marriage. Why, you ask? Because “control issues” often drive a couple apart and toward divorce.

In these cases, one partner may be passionately opinionated that his (or her) perceptions constitute the only reality there is. This person may believe so strongly his viewpoint equals “The Truth” or “Reality,” he can’t imagine that anyone having a different opinion can be right.

Furthermore, this dominant spouse is uncomfortable with any differing opinion, often due to a subconscious insecurity and fear that a challenge will diminish his worth in some way. And when the dominant spouse refuses to look at the partner’s point of view, it’s a source of conflict—whether acknowledged or not by either spouse.

When the more assertive mate imposes his will over and over, and the submissive partner gives in repeatedly, the sad result is an unhealthy dynamic in which both partners share responsibility for the marriage going downhill due to these control issues in the relationship.

A little-known fact is that both spouses behave the way they do basically out of fear of facing change and growth.

For the controlling spouse, the mode of command and control is viewed as a path to security. He may feel this way because confronting differences in opinion may seem frightening to him and he feels more secure if the spouse is in agreement. If confronted, he may use anger to cover up his fear of change.

For the submissive partner, giving in is seen as the path of least resistance because it avoids the frightening discomfort of facing the spouse’s anger. This is especially true when the submissive partner never learned to appropriately deal with anger growing up. Being submissive is often habit learned as a child and is carried into the marriage.

Both of these viewpoints don’t see the bigger picture. The truth is, both spouses have set up the control situation—one by dominating, the other by agreeing to be dominated. And in the short term, the marriage may seem stable and relatively happy. But long term, the control issues can be a recipe for marital disaster.

Instead, what can help is when one or both spouses have a revelation—an “ah ha” moment of realization in which they realize:

  1. The status quo is leading to an unsatisfactory partnership. The likelihood of divorce is increased if nothing changes the trajectory of the marriage.
  2. There is a much better way for two people to coexist within a marriage. True love, passion, mutual respect, and fun are not only possible, but they are readily attainable, as difficult as that seems, to many distressed spouses.
  3. That positive change is possible even if only one spouse is willing to take small steps. This can be true because changing one partner almost always forces the other mate to adapt in some way. And if the change is positive, then the adaptation is likely to also be positive.

So how can one or both proactive partners initiate positive change in a marriage? A few of the things you can do are:

  1. Be willing to grow, to change, to learn. This requires courage, because it means looking at yourself and being honest with what you see. And it requires getting out of your comfort zone to proactively try new behavior.
  2. Maintain respect for each other. This includes adherence to fair fighting rules—no name calling or put downs. This becomes easier if you actively and intentionally focus on the qualities in your mate worthy of respect.
  3. Be willing to embrace authenticity. This means sharing your real feelings. It implies being honest with yourself and with your spouse. It requires getting past facades and exposing the real you to your partner.
  4. Admit when you are wrong. Have the humility to accept that to err is human and to admit that we all make mistakes. This implies being open minded to other points of view or opinions.

For the most part we define our individual world view based on the way we’ve been programmed by our past—the unique and personal history that each of us take into a relationship.

And as you work on opening up your perceptions and awareness, you will open the portal of your heart to improving your marriage. You now hold in your grasp the boundless possibility of starting today. (Borrowed from Lee Hefner)

 

1 Corinthians #9 – The Limits of Christian Liberty 1 Cor. 8:1-13

After answering their questions about marriage, Paul turned to one of the most controversial subjects in the letter he received from the Corinthian church: “Can Christians eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols?”

Many behaviors are not commanded, commended, or forbidden in Scripture. They are neither black nor white, but gray. Such issues in one age or area may not be the same as those in other times or places; but every age and every place has had to deal with the gray areas of Christian living.

The first major council of the church, reported in Acts 15, was called primarily to deal with such issues. Some Jewish believers were insisting that all male Gentile converts be circumcised (v. 1) and others were afraid to socialize with believing Gentiles, especially over a meal, for fear they would break Jewish dietary laws. These issues were ‘real’ for that time when Christianity for both Jewish and Gentile believers was involved.

The apostles were represented and the council decided that Gentiles need not be circumcised (v. 19) but that believers “abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood” (v. 20). By following those policies they would “do well” (v. 29).

The practices mentioned were not in themselves sinful, but the council advised the churches to abstain from them in order not to needlessly offend Jewish brothers who had strong convictions about them.

Two common extremes are often followed in regard to doubtful things. One is legalism; the other is license.

Legalism believes that every act, every habit, every type of behavior is either black or white. Legalists live by rules rather than by the Spirit. They classify everything as either good or bad, whether the Bible mentions it or not. They develop exhaustive lists of do’s and don’ts. Doing the things on the good list and avoiding the things on the bad list is their idea of spirituality, no matter what the inner person is like.

Their lives are law controlled, not Spirit controlled. But refraining from doing things is not spirituality; walking in the Spirit is spirituality. Legalism stifles liberty, stifles conscience, stifles the Word, and stifles the Holy Spirit.

License is the opposite extreme. It is like legalism in that it too has no gray areas—but neither does it have much black. Almost everything is white; everything is acceptable as long as it is not strictly forbidden in Scripture. Such advocates believe that Christian freedom is virtually absolute and unqualified.

As long as your own conscience is free you can do as you please. That seems to have been the philosophy of the group Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 8. They probably agreed with him that believers should “maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Acts 24:16). Beyond that, however, they wanted no restrictions.

But Paul teaches that it can also be wrong to offend the consciences of fellow believers when they are less mature (“weak”) and when what we are doing is not necessary in our service to the Lord.

In preparation for giving the principle, Paul responds to three reasons some of the Corinthians gave for feeling completely free to act as they pleased in regard to practices not specifically forbidden by God.

The reasons were: (1) We know we all have knowledge; (2) We know that an idol is nothing; and (3) We know that food is not an issue with God.

The apostle agrees that each reason is basically valid, but then goes on to show how none of those reasons should be applied to practices that might cause someone else to stumble spiritually.

There were two sources of meat in this ancient world: the regular market (where the prices were higher) and the local temples (where meat from the sacrifices was always available).

Idol offerings were divided into three parts. One part was burned on an altar as the sacrifice proper. The second part was given as payment to the priests who served at the temple, and the remaining part was kept by the offerer. Because of the large number of offerings, the priests were not able to eat all of their portion, and they sold in the marketplace what they did not need. That meat was highly valued because it was cleansed of evil spirits, and was thus the meat served at feasts and to guests.

The eating of meat offered to idols therefore had the same two associations for Christians, especially for those who had grown up in that religious atmosphere. The meat was associated with pagan gods and goddesses, having been part of an offering to them, and it was associated with the superstition that it had once been contaminated by evil spirits.

Some sensitive Gentile believers refused to buy such meat because it brought back memories of their previous pagan lives or because those who saw them buy it might think they had reverted to paganism. Also many believers, both Gentile and Jewish, were reluctant to eat at the homes of pagan Gentiles—and even of some Christian Gentiles—because they were afraid of being served that meat. Such food could only be doubly unclean according to Jewish dietary law—from which many Jewish Christians found it hard to separate themselves.

On the other hand, some Christians were not bothered. To them, meat was meat. They knew pagan deities did not really exist and that evil spirits did not contaminate food. They were mature, well-grounded in God’s truth, and their consciences were clear in the matter. That group gave Paul the three reasons for freely exercising their liberty.

The strong members of the church realized that idols could not contaminate food, so they saved money by purchasing the cheaper meat available from the temples. Furthermore, if unconverted friends invited them to a feast at which sacrificial meat was served, the strong Christians attended it whether at the temple or in the home.

All of this offended the weaker Christians. Many of them had been saved out of pagan idolatry and they could not understand why their fellow believers would want to have anything to do with meat sacrificed to idols. (In Rom. 14-15, the weak Christians had problems over diets and holy days, but it was the same basic issue.)

In the present passage he uses a simple argument. He says that in Corinth there were men who all their lives, up until now, had believed in the heathen gods; and these men could not quite rid themselves of a lingering belief that an idol really was something, although it was a false something. Whenever they ate meat offered to idols, they had qualms of conscience. They could not help it; instinctively they felt that it was wrong.

So Paul argues that if you say that there is absolutely no harm in eating meat offered to idols you are really hurting and bewildering the conscience of these souls. His final argument is that, even if a thing is harmless for you, when it hurts someone else, it must be a consideration and given up, for a Christian must never do anything which causes his brother to stumble.

Nothing ought to be judged solely from the point of view of knowledge; everything ought to be judged from the point of view of love. The argument of the advanced Corinthians was that they knew better than to regard an idol as anything; their knowledge had taken them far past that.

There is always a certain danger in knowledge. It tends to make a man arrogant and feel superior and look down unsympathetically on the man who is not as far advanced as himself. Knowledge which does that is not true knowledge. But the consciousness of intellectual superiority is a dangerous thing. Our conduct should always be guided not by the thought of our own superior knowledge, but by sympathetic and considerate love for our fellow man. And it may well be that for his sake we must refrain from doing and saying certain otherwise legitimate things.

This leads to the greatest truth of all. No man has any right to indulge in a pleasure or to demand a liberty which may be the ruination of someone else. He may have the strength of mind and will to keep that pleasure in its proper place; that course of action may be safe enough for him; but he has not only himself to think about, he must think of the weaker brother. An indulgence which may be the ruin of someone else is not a pleasure but a sin.

So far, it is the strong Christians who are ahead. Why, then, are the weak Christians upset with them when their position is so logical? Because you don’t always solve every problem with logic.

The little child who is afraid of the dark will not be assured by arguments, especially if the adult (or older brother) adopts a superior attitude. Knowledge can be a weapon to fight with or a tool to build with, depending on how it is used. If it “puffs up” then it cannot “build up [edify].”

Paul’s responses to the reasons were directed to that group of more mature believers. But his responses centered on the other group. He told the mature believers not to focus on their liberty but on the spiritual welfare of those who were less mature. He was saying, “Don’t look at your freedom; look at their need. Your own freedom should be limited by your love for fellow believers. If you love them as God calls you to love, you will not use your liberty in any way that will offend, confuse, or weaken their faith.”

Among the many spiritual problems of the Corinthian Christians was arrogance, a word Paul uses six times in relation to them. They were proud and self-satisfied. They had knowledge without love. As they are reminded several chapters later, a person who has all sorts of abilities and virtues but has no love is “nothing,” and “love does not brag and is not arrogant”(1 Cor. 13:1-4).

Division in the church may be caused by problems of behavior as well as problems of doctrine. When some believers insist on exercising their liberty without regard for the feelings and standards of fellow believers, the church is weakened and frequently divided.

Love is the key to behavior. Knowing what is not forbidden is not enough. When we “do not merely look out for [our] own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4), we are on the road to mature, loving Christian behavior.

Love sets the limits of Christian liberty.

You cannot force-feed immature believers and transform them into giants. Knowledge must be mixed with love; otherwise, the saints will end up with “big heads” instead of enlarged hearts. A famous preacher used to say, “Some Christians grow; others just swell.”

Conscience (vv. 7-13). The word conscience simply means “to know with,” and it is used thirty-two times in the New Testament. Conscience is that internal court where our actions are judged and are either approved or condemned (Rom. 2:14-15). Conscience is not the law;, it bears witness, to God’s moral law. But the important thing is this: conscience depends on knowledge. The more spiritual knowledge we know and act on, the stronger the conscience will become.

Some Christians have weak consciences because they have been saved only a short time and have not had opportunity to grow. Like little babes in the home, they must be guarded carefully.

Other saints have weak consciences because they will not grow. They ignore their Bibles and Christian fellowship and remain in a state of infancy.

Some believers remain weak because they are afraid of freedom They are like a child old enough to go to school, who is afraid to leave home and must be taken to school each day.

The conscience of a weak Christian is easily defiled (1 Cor. 8:7), wounded (1 Cor. 8:12), and offended (1 Cor. 8:13). For this reason, the stronger saints must defer to the weaker saints and do nothing that would harm them.

It is important to note that the stronger believer defers to the weaker believer in love only that he might help him to mature. He does not “pamper” him; he seeks to edify him, to help him grow. Otherwise, both will become weak.

It is also true that some fall into the category of being “willfully weak.” What does that mean? It is that person(s) who has had plenty of teaching and time to know God’s will in a matter…and they choose to use the “weak argument” to get their way or hold back a congregation. This person also keeps the congregation “weak” when they refuse to grow up!

The voice of a Christian’s conscience is the instrument of the Holy Spirit. If a believer’s conscience is weak it is because he is spiritually weak and immature, not because the leading of his conscience is weak. Conscience is God’s doorkeeper to keep us out of places where we could be harmed. As we mature, conscience allows us to go more places and to do more things because we will have more spiritual strength and better spiritual judgment.

A small child is not allowed to play with sharp tools, to go into the street, or to go where there are dangerous machines or electrical appliances. The restrictions are gradually removed as he grows older and learns for himself what is dangerous and what is not.

In deciding about whether or not to participate in any behavior that is doubtful, the following principles make a good checklist to follow.

Excess. Is the activity or habit necessary, or is it merely an extra that is not really important? Is it only an encumbrance that we should willingly give up (Heb. 12:1)?

Expediency. “All things are lawful for me,” Paul says, “but not all things are profitable,” or expedient (1 Cor. 6:12). Is what I want to do helpful and useful, or only desirable?

Emulation. “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). If we are doing what Christ would do, our action should not only be permissible but also good and right.

Example. Are we setting the right example for others, especially for weaker brothers and sisters? If we emulate Christ, others will be able to emulate us, to follow our example.

Evangelism. Is my testimony going to be helped or hindered? Will unbelievers be drawn to Christ or turned away from Him by what I am doing?

Edification. Will I be built up and matured in Christ; will I become spiritually stronger? “All things are lawful, but not all things edify” (1 Cor. 10:23).

Exaltation. Will the Lord be lifted up and glorified in what I do? God’s glory and exaltation should be the supreme purpose behind everything we do.

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

 

1 Corinthians #7 – Christian Liberty and Sexual Freedom 1 Cor. 6:12-20

As we begin, we should remember that prostitution in Corinth was a “religious act of worship.”

Corinth took pride in the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, which had 1,000 cult prostitutes. In the name of religion, men can indulge their fleshly appetites. The Greeks have a proverb about the city of Corinth, which tells us much of its moral decay: “It is not every man who can afford a journey to Corinth.”[1]

Those who are worldly wise use the verb “to corinthianize” to describe an act of immorality. “Corinthian girl” was a synonym for a prostitute.[2] For a Corinthian saint, concluding that whatever is legal is also moral leaves him a great deal of latitude. There isn’t much he can’t do under this definition of morality.

Freedom in Christ was a truth Paul never tired of emphasizing. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.… For you were called to freedom, brethren” (Gal. 5:1, 13).

The Corinthian church had been taught this truth many times while Paul was among them, but they were using it as a theological excuse for sin. They ignored the truth, “only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal. 5:13), which he surely had also taught them.

The use of any Christian liberty should be subject to the following questions:

(1) Does this practice contribute to my own spiritual growth and maturity?

(2) Does this practice contribute to the growth and maturity of fellow-believers?

(3) Does this practice further the gospel?

(4) Does this practice glorify God?

     The Corinthians had perverted this truth to justify their sinning. They possibly used the same argument that Paul anticipated when he was explaining grace to the Roman church: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” (Rom. 6:1). They pretended to have theological justification for living as they wanted.

They may have had a philosophical argument for their sin as well, perhaps implied in 6:13, “Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food.”

Much Greek philosophy considered everything physical, including the body, to be basically evil and therefore of no value. What was done with or to the body did not matter. Food was food, the stomach was the stomach, and sex was sex. Sex was just a biological function like eating, to be used just as food was used, to satisfy their appetites. The argument sounds remarkably modern.

Like many people today, the Corinthian Christians rationalized their sinful thinking and habits. They were clever at coming up with seemingly good reasons for doing wrong things. They also lived in a society that was notoriously immoral, a society that, in the temple prostitution and other ways, actually glorified promiscuous sex.

To have sexual relations with a prostitute was so common in Corinth that the practice came to be called “Corinthianizing.” Many believers had formerly been involved in such immorality, and it was hard for them to break with the old ways and easy to fall back into them. Just as it was hard for them to give up their love of human wisdom, their worldliness, their pride, their divisive spirit, and their love for suing, it was also hard for them to give up their sexual immorality.

The Law of Expediency (v. 12)

  1. All things are lawful.”
  2. Must be considered in context.
  3. 1 Corinthians 9:21 – We are always under law to God and Christ.
  4. 1 Corinthians 10:23 – All things are lawful, but not everything edifies.
  5. Paul is discussing those things which are morally neutral.
  1. All things are not expedient. Three considerations regarding expediency.
  2. It must be lawful – Command, example or necessary inference.
  3. It must be edifying or that which builds up.
  4. It must not be enslaving.
  1. Things which are morally indifferent.
  2. Eating meat.
  3. Eating meat offered to an idol; but stay away from the idol temple because of one’s influence.

In 6:12-20 Paul shows three of the evils of sexual sin: it is harmful to everyone involved; it gains control over those who indulge in it; and it perverts God’s purpose for the body.

Sexual Sin Harms

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything (NASB).

“Everything is permissible, for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything (NIV).

“I am free to do anything,” you say. Yes, but not everything is for my good (New English Bible).

“For me there are no forbidden things”; maybe, but not everything does good (New Jerusalem Bible).

In this passage Paul is up against a whole series of problems. It ends with the summons, “Glorify God with your body.” This is Paul’s battle cry here.

The Greeks always looked down on the body. There was a proverbial saying, “The body is a tomb.” Epictetus said, “I am a poor soul shackled to a corpse.” The important thing was the soul, the spirit of a man; the body was a thing that did not matter. That produced one of two attitudes. Either it issued in the most rigorous asceticism in which everything was done to subject and humiliate the desires and instincts of the body. Or—and in Corinth it was this second outlook which was prevalent—it was taken to mean that, since the body was of no importance, you could do what you liked with it; you could let it sate its appetites. What complicated this was the doctrine of Christian freedom which Paul preached. If the Christian man is the freest of all men, then is he not free to do what he likes, especially with this completely unimportant body of his?

The particular type of sin Paul has in mind here (vv. 13-20) is sexual sin. No sin that a person commits has more built-in pitfalls, problems, and destructiveness than sexual sin. It has broken more marriages, shattered more homes, caused more heartache and disease, and destroyed more lives than alcohol and drugs combined. It causes lying, stealing, cheating, and killing, as well as bitterness, hatred, slander, gossip, and unforgivingness.

The dangers and harm of sexual sin are nowhere presented more vividly and forcefully than in Proverbs. “The lips of an adulteress drip honey, and smoother than oil is her speech” (Prov. 5:3).

The basic truth applies to a prostitute or to any other woman who tries to seduce a man. It also applies to a man who tries to seduce a woman. The point is that sexual allurement is extremely enticing and powerful. It seems nice, enjoyable, and good. It promises nothing but pleasure and satisfaction. But what it ends up giving “is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, her steps lay hold of Sheol. She does not ponder the path of life; her ways are unstable, she does not know it” (vv. 4-6).

The first characteristic of sexual sin is deceit. It never delivers what it promises. It offers great satisfaction but gives great disappointment. It claims to be real living but is really the way to death. Illicit sexual relationships are always “unstable.” Nothing binds those involved except the temporary and impersonal gratification of physical impulses.

Another tragedy of sexual sin is that often those involved do “not know it” is unstable, do not realize perhaps for a long time that their relationship cannot be lasting. Thus they fall deeper and deeper into the pit of their doomed relationship, which makes the dissolution all the more devastating and painful.

Those who consider all sex to be basically evil, however, are as far from the truth as those who consider all sex to be basically good and permissible. God is not against sex. He created and blessed it. When used exclusively within marriage, as the Lord intends, sex is beautiful, satisfying, and stabilizing. “Let your fountain he blessed,” Scripture says, “and rejoice in the wife of your youth.… exhilarated always with her love” (Prov. 5:18-19).

The Bible’s advice for avoiding sexual involvement outside marriage is simple: stay as far away as possible from the persons and places likely to get you in trouble. “Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Prov. 5:8).

When we unavoidably get caught in such a situation, the only sensible thing to do is to get away from it as quickly as we can. Passion is not rational or sensible, and sexually dangerous situations should be avoided or fled, not debated.

Involvement in illicit sex leads to loss of health, loss of possessions, and loss of honor and respect. Every person who continues in such sins does not necessarily suffer all of those losses, but those are the types of loss that persistent sexual sin produces. The sex indulger will come to discover that he has lost his “years to the cruel one,” that his “hard-earned goods” have gone “to the house of an alien,” and that he will “groan” in his latter years and find his “flesh and [his] body are consumed” (Prov. 5:9-11). The “stolen water” of sexual relations outside of marriage “is sweet; and bread eaten in secret is pleasant”; but “the dead are there” (Prov. 9:17-18). Sexual sin is a “no win” situation. It is never profitable and always harmful.

Sexual Sin Controls

“Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything.

Paul was free in the grace of Christ to do as he pleased, but he refused to allow himself to be mastered by anything or anyone but Christ. He would not become enslaved to any habit or custom and certainly not to any sin. “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).

No sin is more enslaving than sexual sin. The more it is indulged, the more it controls the indulger. Often it begins with small indiscretions, which lead to greater ones and finally to flagrant vice. The progression of sin is reflected in Psalm 1: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers” (v. 1). When we willingly associate with sin, we will soon come to tolerate it and then to practice it. Like all other sins that are not resisted, sins of sex will grow and eventually they will corrupt and destroy not only the persons directly involved but many innocent persons besides.

The Corinthians were no strangers to sins of sex, and unfortunately many believers there had gone back to them. In the name of Christian freedom they had become controlled by their own fleshly desires.

Paul wrote the Thessalonians, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thess. 4:3-5). The context argues that “vessel” is here a synonym for body rather than for wife, as many interpreters hold. Every believer is to rightly possess, rightly control, his own body. If we are living in the Spirit, we “are putting to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13).

It is not as easy to be in control of ourselves as we sometimes think. Many people are deceived in thinking they are perfectly in control of their thoughts and actions, simply because they always do what they want. The fact, however, is that their desires and passions are telling them what to do, and they are going along. They are not masters of their desires, but are willing slaves. Their flesh is controlling their minds.

Paul himself testifies that he had to “buffet [his] body and make it [his] slave, lest possibly, after [he had] preached to others, [he himself] should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). Buffet (hupōpiazō) means literally, “to give a black eye, or to beat the face black and blue.” To keep his body from enslaving him, he had to enslave his body. Otherwise he could become disqualified, not for salvation but for holy living and useful service to God.

Sexual Sin Perverts

Paul’s teaching in our text is but an abbreviated version of what he has taught in Romans 6. The Christian dare not feel free to “live in sin,” because he or she has “died to sin” when joined by faith to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Dying to sin is symbolized in Christian baptism. By going under the water, we proclaim in a symbolic way that we died in Christ, and were buried. By coming forth from the water, we proclaim that we have been raised from the dead, in Christ, now enabled to live an entirely new life. To continue to live in sin is to deny everything we believed when we were saved, and everything we symbolically proclaim when we were baptized.

Sexual sin not only harms and controls but also perverts. It especially perverts God’s plan and purpose for the bodies of His people. A Christian’s body is for the Lord; it is a member of Christ; and it is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The Body Is for the Lord

13  “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”–but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14  By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

Food and the stomach were created by God for each other. Their relationship is purely biological. It is likely the Corinthians were using this truth as an analogy to justify sexual immorality. The Greek text says literally, “The foods the belly, the belly the foods.” Perhaps this was popular proverb meant to celebrate the idea that “Sex is no different from eating: the stomach was made for food, and the body was made for sex.” But Paul stops them short. “It is true that food and the stomach were made for each other,” he is saying, “but it is also true that that relationship is purely temporal.” One day, when their purpose has been fulfilled, God will do away with both of them. That biological process has no place in the eternal state.

Not so with the body itself. The bodies of believers are designed by God for much more than biological functions. The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body. Paul had a better proverb in mind with that statement. The body is to be the instrument of the Lord, for His use and glory.

Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. Our bodies are designed not only to serve in this life but in the life to come. They will be changed bodies, resurrected bodies, glorified bodies, heavenly bodies—but they will still he our own bodies.

The stomach and food have only a horizontal, temporal relationship. At death the relationship ceases. But our bodies are far more than biological. For believers they also have a spiritual, vertical relationship. They belong to God and they will forever endure with God. That is why Paul says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:20-21). We need to take serious care of this body because it will rise in glory to be the instrument that carries our eternally glorious and pure spirit throughout eternity.

The Body Is a Member of Christ

15  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16  Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17  But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18  Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.

Paul referred to the Creation account (Gen. 2:24) to explain the seriousness of sexual sin. When a man and woman join their bodies, the entire personality is involved. There is a much deeper experience, a “oneness” that brings with it deep and lasting consequences. Paul warned that sexual sin is the most serious sin a person can commit against his body, for it involves the whole person (1 Cor. 6:18). Sex is not just a part of the body. Being “male” and “female” involves the total person. Therefore, sexual experience affects the total personality.

Paul’s next point follows logically. For a Christian to commit sexual immorality is to make the members of Christ… members of a harlot. It is to use a part of Christ’s own body in an act of fornication or adultery. The idea is incomprehensible to Paul, as it should be to every believer. May it never be!

Sexual relations involve a union; the man and woman become one flesh. This indicates that the most essential meaning of the phrase one flesh (see Gen. 2:24; etc.) is sexual union. God takes sexual sin seriously because it corrupts and shatters spiritual relationships, both human and divine.

Christ’s people are one spirit with Him. That statement is filled with profound meaning and wondrous implications. But for his purpose here, Paul uses it to show that a Christian who commits sexual immorality involves his Lord. All sex outside of marriage is sin, but when it is committed by believers it is especially reprehensible, because it profanes Jesus Christ, with whom the believer is one (cf. John 14:18-23; 15:4, 7; 17:20-23). Since we are one with Christ, and the sex sinner is one with his partner, Christ is placed in an unthinkable position in Paul’s reasoning. Christ is not personally tainted with the sin, any more than the sunbeam that shines on a garbage dump is polluted. But His reputation is dirtied because of the association.

Paul’s counsel regarding sexual sin is the same as Solomon’s in the book of Proverbs: Flee immorality. The present imperative of the Greek indicates the idea is to flee continually and to keep fleeing until the danger is past. When we are in danger of such immorality, we should not argue or debate or explain, and we certainly should not try to rationalize. We are not to consider it a spiritual challenge to be met but a spiritual trap to be escaped. We should get away as fast as we can.

Paul does not elucidate on what he means by Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. I believe he is saying that, although sexual sin is not necessarily the worst sin, it is the most unique in its character. It rises from within the body bent on personal gratification. It drives like no other impute and when fulfilled affects the body like no other sin. It has a way of internally destroying a person that no other sin has. Because sexual intimacy is the deepest uniting of two persons, its misuse corrupts on the deepest human level. That is not a psychological analysis but a divinely revealed fact. Sexual immorality is far more destructive than alcohol, far more destructive than drugs, far more destructive than crime.

The Body Is a Temple of the Holy Spirit

19  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

God the Father created our bodies; God the Son redeemed them and made them part of His body; and God the Spirit indwells our bodies and makes them the very temple of God. How can we defile God’s temple by using our bodies for immorality?

As Christians our bodies are not our own. Paul puts sting into this verse by framing it as a sarcastic question. They are the Lord’s, members of Christ, and temples of the Holy Spirit, who has been given by God to indwell us. So Paul calls for sexual purity not only because of the way sexual sin affects the body, but because the body it affects is not even the believer’s own. Understanding the reality of the phrase the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God should give us as much commitment to purity as any knowledge of divine truth could.

To commit sexual sin in a church auditorium, disgusting as that would be, would be no worse than committing the sin anywhere else. Offense is made within God’s sanctuary wherever and whenever sexual immorality is committed by believers. Every act of fornication, every act of adultery by Christians, is committed in God’s sanctuary: their own bodies. “For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:16). The fact that Christians are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit is indicated in passages such as John 7:38-39; 20:22; Acts 1:8; Romans 8:9; and 1 Corinthians 12:3. The fact that God sent the Holy Spirit is clear from John 14:16-17; 15:26; and Acts 2:17, 33, 38.

We no longer belong to ourselves because we have been bought with a price. We were not “redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from [our] futile way of life inherited from [our] forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

Christians’ bodies are God’s temple, and a temple is for worship. Our bodies, therefore, have one supreme purpose: to glorify God. This is a call to live so as to bring honor to the person of God, who alone is worthy of our obedience and adoration.

A very popular word today used even in Christian circles is the psychological word, “addiction.” Virtually every malady known to man is described as an “addiction.” Men and women, under the bondage of sexual immorality are said to have a “sexual addiction.” Alcoholism is spoken of as an addiction, one for which the individual under bondage is hardly seen to be responsible (after all, it was genetically predestined). Food is an addiction. And now, co-dependency is an addiction. Where will these addictions end? I think I know. They end with a new Master, Jesus Christ. We can serve but one master. When that Master is our Lord Jesus Christ, all other “masters” must be set aside.

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[1] William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), p. 3.

[2] D. H. Madvig, “Corinth,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, rev. ed., Geoffrey W. Bromiley, General Editor (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), vol. I, p. 773.

1 Corinthians #6 – Christians and the Courts 1 Cor. 6:1-11

The church at Corinth was rapidly losing its testimony in the city. Not only did the unsaved know about the immorality in the assembly, but they were also aware of the lawsuits involving members of the church.

The legal situation in Corinth was much as it was in Athens, where litigation was a part of everyday life. It had become a form of challenge and even entertainment.

One ancient writer claimed that, in a manner of speaking, every Athenian was a lawyer. When a problem arose between two parties that they could not settle between themselves, the first recourse was private arbitration. Each party was assigned a disinterested private citizen as an arbitrator, and the two arbitrators, along with a neutral third person, would attempt to resolve the problem. If they failed, the case was turned over to a court of forty, who assigned a public arbitrator to each party.

Interestingly, every citizen had to serve as a public arbitrator during the sixtieth year of his life. If public arbitration failed, the case went to a jury court, composed of from several hundred to several thousand jurors. Every citizen over thirty years of age was subject to serving as a juror. Either as a party to a lawsuit, as an arbitrator, or as a juror, most citizens regularly were involved in legal proceedings of one sort or another.

For centuries Jews had settled all their disputes either privately or in a synagogue court. They refused to take their problems before a pagan court, believing that to do so would imply that God, through His own people using His own scriptural principles, was not competent to solve every problem. It was considered a form of blasphemy to go to court before Gentiles.

Both Greek and Roman rulers had allowed the Jews to continue that practice, even outside Palestine. Under Roman law Jews could try virtually every offense and give almost any sentence, except that of death. As we know from Jesus’ trial, the Sanhedrin was free to imprison and beat Jesus as they pleased, but they required the permission of Rome, represented by Pilate, in order to put Him to death.

The Corinthian believers had been so used to arguing, disputing, and taking one another to court before they were saved that they carried those selfish attitudes and habits over into their new lives as Christians. That course not only was spiritually wrong but practically unnecessary.

However, the United States is rapidly getting a similar reputation: over 250,000 civil suits were filed in the federal courts in one recent twelve-month period. Nearly 1.5 million lawyers (their number is increasing) are handling them. In one year, more than 13 million suits were filed in the state courts.

1 Corinthians 6:1 (NIV) If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? 

Are the Christians in Corinth thinking and behaving in terms of civil law? Then Paul will present them with an indictment. Paul is becoming very specific and reveals that he is most distressed.

First, disputes are erupting between believers in the church. The saints are at odds with one another. The term “neighbor” in verse 1 may appear to be general, but in the context of the entire passage it is clear that Paul is speaking specifically of Christians who are taking fellow-believers to court (see verse 6).

Second, these disputes between believers are being taken to the secular courts by these Corinthian believers.

Third, unrighteous (that is, unbelieving) judges are being asked to arbitrate between Christians.

Fourth, when these disputes are taken before unbelieving judges, the whole ugly ordeal is carried out before the curious eyes of unbelieving spectators. The world gets to watch these Christians fight with one another in court.

Fifth, these disputes have not been taken to the church, where they belong.

Matthew 18 teaches that if a brother has a dispute or an offense with another brother, this should first be addressed personally and privately, one to one. If this does not bring about reconciliation and harmony, then one or two witnesses must be brought along. If this does not result in repentance and reconciliation, then the matter should be taken to the whole church. If the belligerent party does not heed the admonition of the whole church, the wayward saint must be expelled from the fellowship of the church.

The Church, Not the Courts 1 Corinthians 6:2-6 (NIV) 
2  Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3  Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4  Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! 5  I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6  But instead, one brother goes to law against another–and this in front of unbelievers! Paul asks a sequence of questions of the Corinthians, which indirectly expose the pathetic condition of the saints at Corinth. Five times in this chapter Paul asks the question, “Do you not know … ?” This strikes a very hard blow at the pride of the Corinthians, who think themselves so very wise, and Paul so very naive and provincial in his thinking.

Paul begins, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” If these saints are going to reign with Christ and participate in the judgment of the world, how in the world can these Corinthians turn now to the unsaved for judgment? If the righteous will judge the unrighteous at the second coming, how can the Corinthian Christians now be looking to a heathen to judge the righteous?

Paul asks a second question in verse 3: “Do the Corinthians not know that they will be judging the angels? And, if so, why is it that they are not now able to judge in the trivial matters of this life?”

Verse 4 is understood in a number of different ways, depending upon the translation.[1] I prefer the translation (paraphrase) of J. B. Phillips: “In any case, if you find you have to judge matters of this world, why choose as judges those who count for nothing in the church?”

Given their inability to comprehend or appraise spiritual things, the judgment of worldlings cannot count for much in the church. If this is true, why would church members turn to them for judgment in spiritual things?

Now, in chapter 6, Paul does try to shame them, and rightly so! They should be ashamed of themselves for taking their disputes before unbelieving judges, as unbelievers look on in amazement, or amusement.

Paul asks the Corinthians if there is not one wise person among them who is qualified to judge the dispute between these two Corinthian saints. What a blow to their pride! These are the ones who are so wise, so very wise. These are the ones so quick to judge Paul and find him wanting. These very saints can proudly follow one leader and condemn the rest. Where are these Corinthian critics when they are needed? Why is no one able to judge such mundane matters? Instead, the saints are at one another’s throats, all the while as the world looks on. The Corinthians are great at being judgmental; they are absent when there is a need for judges.

About Winning and Losing 1 Corinthians 6:7-11 (NIV) 

7  The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8  Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers..

9  Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10  nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11  And that is what some of you were. 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. 

The tendency to divorce religion from morality has manifested itself in all ages of the world, and under all forms of religion.  The pagan, the Jew, the Muslim, the nominal Christian, have all been exact in the performance of religious services, and zealous in the assertion and defense of what they regard as religious truth, while unrestrained in the indulgence of every evil passion.

This arises from looking upon religion as an outward service, and God as a being to be feared and propitiated, but not to be loved and obeyed.

According to the Gospel, all moral duties are religious services; and piety is the conformity of the soul to the image and will of God.

So, to be religious and yet immoral is, according to the Christian system, as palpable a contradiction as to be good and wicked.

It is evident that among the members of the Corinthian church there were some who retained their pagan notion of religion, and who professed Christianity as a system of doctrine and as a form of worship, but not as a rule of life. The apostle warned all such people of their fatal mistake.

He assures them that no immoral man – no one who allows himself the indulgence of any known sin – can be saved. This is one of the first principles of the Gospel, and therefore the apostle asks, Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Are you Christians at all, and yet ignorant of this first principle of the religion you profess?

The wrongdoers in this immediate context means the ‘unjust’ – those who violate the principles of justice in their dealings with their fellow men. It is not the unjust alone, however, who are to be debarred from the Redeemer’s kingdom like this; it is also those who break any of God’s commandments, as this and other passages of Scripture distinctly teach.

For the competitive Corinthians, life is all about winning and losing. Lawsuits are certainly about winning and losing. Paul makes a most troubling announcement: any Corinthian Christian who takes another believer to court has already lost. Going to court with a fellow-believer is a no-win situation. The better way is to take the loss. Imagine Paul telling us that it is better to be a victim than a victor. Is Paul saying that it is better to be wronged, better to be defrauded?

How can this be? Looking at Paul’s words from the dark side, just what keeps the Corinthian saints from taking the loss, from being the victim? The only reasons I can think of are all bad ones. We don’t want to take a loss because of our pride. We don’t want to let the other person get the better of us. We don’t want to lose. If we are materialistic, we don’t want to lose money or possessions, which are more precious to us than our relationships with fellow-believers. Those who are self-centered and self-serving do not want to have any of their rights violated. We protect and exercise our rights, no matter what the cost to others.

Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian Christians can only be understood in terms of the utterly different value system of the Christian, as opposed to that of the unbeliever.

The Corinthian church includes those who are characterized by all of these sins. But when they were saved, this became a past, which should be forgotten and forsaken. Salvation includes repentance. Repentance means that we not only agree with God that we are sinners, doomed to eternal torment, and that Christ’s righteousness will save us, but also that we turn from a life of sin to a life of righteousness.

This is a sobering thought, is it not? The gospel is about sinners who are turned from sin to righteousness. The gospel is about turning away from the sins which once dominated us. It is one of the greatest comforts for the Christian. What we were as unbelievers, we are not now as Christians. Our sins of the past are not only forgiven, they are forgotten by God. When men and women are released from prison, they are often thought of as criminals, even though they have paid their debt to society.

Regretfully, many are still criminals because prison has not produced repentance. At best, former prisoners are ex-offenders. But the Christian who was once a thief is not just an ex-thief; he is a new creation. The old things have passed away, replaced by what is new (2 Corinthians 5:17). What we once were as an unbeliever, we will never be again. There are no second-class citizens in heaven, based upon what was once one’s practice as a sinner.

We find another great comfort here in Paul’s words: no sinner is too far gone for God to save.

When we were saved, we were completely saved, severed from our past identity and given a new identity. We were washed, cleansed of our sin and our guilt. We were sanctified, set apart from sin unto holiness. We were justified, legally declared righteous through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, imputed to us by faith. All of this transpired in the name of Jesus Christ.

Christians who take fellow Christians to court lose spiritually before the case is heard. The fact that they have lawsuits at all is a sign of moral and spiritual defeat (hēttēma, a word used of defeat in court). A believer who takes a fellow believer to court for any reason always loses the case in God’s sight. He has already suffered a spiritual defeat. He is selfish, and he discredits the power, wisdom, and work of God, when he tries to get what he wants through the judgment of unbelievers.

The right attitude of a Christian is to rather be wronged or defrauded, than to sue a fellow Christian. It is far better to lose financially than to lose spiritually. Even when we are clearly in the legal right, we do not have the moral and spiritual right to insist on our legal right in a public court. If the brother has wronged us in any way, our response should be to forgive him and to leave the outcome of the matter in God’s hands.

Who Inherits the Kingdom?

After reading 1 Cor. 6:9-10, some people breathe a sigh of relief. They see that they are not included in this list of vices that disqualify from membership in the kingdom of God. Others read this list and even though they are not guilty of the major sexual sins and criminal activities listed, they recognize that they are sometimes dishonest, or want more things than they need, or have said things which hurt other people, or have an alcohol problem.

The question “Who inherits the kingdom?” becomes even more acute when we recognize that the list of sins enumerated here is only representative and not exhaustive. Paul catalogs several other vices that exclude people from kingdom membership.

In Galatians 5:19-21, in addition to sexual immorality, idolatry and drunkenness (which are in the 1 Corinthians text), Paul lists the following: impurity, debauchery, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, orgies. He closes the list with these words: “Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

The lists in Ephes. 5:3-5 and Col. 3:5-9 share some of those already in the other two and add a few more: obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking, evil desire, anger, malice, lying.

Once we have read all of Paul’s lists, we become painfully aware that even those among us who breathed a sigh of relief after reading 1 Cor. 6:9-10 are also tainted and, as such, disqualified from kingdom membership. And so we are tempted to ask, with Jesus’ disciples, “Who then can be saved?” (Luke 18:26).

Conclusion

Let us be clear on what Paul says here. Paul rebukes the Corinthian saints for failing (or refusing) to resolve their disputes with one another within the church. Paul wants his readers to see the folly of taking spiritual matters before unbelievers, who can have no grasp of the real issues. Paul knows, as the Corinthians should, that the legal system deals with the protection of men’s rights and the seeking of one’s self-interest, while the gospel is about the surrender of one’s rights and the seeking of the best interests of others.

If the dispute cannot be resolved within the church, Paul advocates that the offended party suffer the loss, for the sake of the gospel.

Reconciliation is the goal of the Christian. Retribution or restitution is the goal of litigation. Reconciliation can be commenced immediately; litigation drags on endlessly. Reconciliation is pursued privately, and becomes no more public than is necessary. Litigation is public.

Several principles are either taught or assumed in our text, which I shall enumerate.

(1) The Christian’s values and guiding principles are diametrically opposed to those of the world, and thus they are incomprehensible to the unbeliever. Christians march to the beat of a different drum. We do not live for the present, but for the future. Our actions in time are governed by the future certain realities of the kingdom of God, as declared in the Scriptures.

(2) Unbelievers are unable to judge spiritual matters, and they should not be asked to do so. Because the views and values of the unbeliever and the Christian are so vastly different, non-believers are simply not suited to the task of judging believers in spiritual matters.

(3) The Christian’s citizenship is not in this world, but in the next. The values and guiding principles of the Bible must take priority over the values and guiding principles of this age. The “wisdom” of the Christian must be the wisdom of God, the wisdom of the cross of Christ, the wisdom of the Bible, and not the wisdom of this age. We are therefore guided and governed by the Scriptures.

(4) The litigation process does not facilitate reconciliation and harmony, but is counter-productive to it. This is the reason we are urged to avoid litigation, if at all possible.

Behaviors for Husbands to Love their Wives

Husbands-love-your-wives-well(1) He observes the hidden person of her heart

1 Peter 3:4 (ESV) 4  but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

(2) He lives with his wife in an understanding way and honors her

1 Peter 3:7 (ESV) 7  Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (3) He honors his wife

(3) He does not act bitterly to his wife

Colossians 3:19 (ESV) 19  Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.

(4) He encourages his wife’s godly and chaste behavior

1 Timothy 2:10 (ESV) 10  but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

1 Peter 3:2 (ESV) 2  when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

(5) He supports her good works

1 Timothy 2:10 (ESV) 10  but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

1 Corinthians #5 Church Discipline: Taking Sin Seriously — 1 Cor. 5:1-13

In the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul introduces a shameful problem in the church. The Corinthians proudly attach themselves to certain leaders, whose teaching seems to disclose a “wisdom” not known or taught by other teachers, and certainly not by Paul or his fellow-apostles. These cliques and factions are undermining the unity of the church and are a denial of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Chapter 5 is not actually about the immorality of one church member, as much as it is about the pride and passivity of the entire church in response to this sinner.

The church at Corinth was not only a divided church, but it was also a disgraced church. There was sin in the assembly and everybody knew about it.  But the church was slow to do anything about it.

No church is perfect, but human imperfection must never be an excuse for sin. Just as parents must discipline their children in love, so local churches must exercise discipline over the members of the assembly. Church discipline is not a group of “pious policemen” out to catch a criminal. Rather, it is a group of brokenhearted brothers and sisters seeking to restore an erring member of the family.

The first things the Corinthians needed to see was the need for discipline. Because they apparently had rationalized or minimized the immorality in their midst, they saw no need for discipline. Paul presented to the church three important considerations.

Consider the church: “What will this sin do to the church?” is certainly an important consideration. Christians are “called to be saints” (1 Cor. 1:2), and this means holy living to the glory of God. If a Christian loves his church, he will not stand by and permit sin to weaken it and perhaps ruin its testimony.

How should we respond? Paul gave three specific instructions for the church to follow.

Mourn over the sin (vv. 1-2). It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. 2  And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?

This is the word used for mourning over the dead, which is perhaps the deepest and most painful kind of personal sorrow possible. Instead of mourning, the people at Corinth were puffed up. They were boasting of the fact that their church was so “open-minded” that even fornicators could be members in good standing!

The sin in question was a form of incest: a professed Christian (and a member of the church) was living with his stepmother in a permanent alliance. While Paul is distressed by the sin of this one man, he is even more disturbed by the sinful response of the church. They have “become arrogant,” and at the same time, are virtually doing nothing to correct this matter. Paul is distressed by the arrogance of the saints at Corinth.

Pride is the result of turning from the truth. Pride keeps one from seeing the truth. The Corinthians maintain an attitude of pride when the situation should produce mourning.

Paul shamed the church by saying, “Even the unsaved Gentiles don’t practice this kind of sin!”

In this therapeutic age when the church is often looked upon more as a “support group” than a “holy temple,” church members refuse to discipline members and continue to embrace sinning saints, even when it is clear they have no intention of repenting of their sins, and even when they publicly persist in their sinful ways. If this is the case in Corinth, they would love the expression of our day, “unconditional acceptance.”

An easy-going attitude to sin is always dangerous. It has been said that our one security against sin lies in our being shocked at it. Carlyle said that men must see the infinite beauty of holiness and the infinite damnability of sin. When we cease to take a serious view of sin we are in a perilous position. It is not a question of being critical and condemnatory; it is a question of being wounded and shocked. It was sin that crucified Jesus Christ; it was to free men from sin that he died. No Christian man can take an easy-going view of it.

Christians are not to tolerate sin within the church any more than they are to tolerate it within their own lives. “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints.… And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Eph. 5:3, 11).

Judge the sin (vv. 3-5). Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. 4  When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5  hand this man over to Satan, so that the fleshly nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

While Christians are not to judge one another’s motives (Matt. 7:1-5) or ministries (1 Cor. 4:5), we are certainly expected to be honest about each other’s conduct.

Paul wants to be absolutely clear that the arrogance of the Corinthians is not good. Why not? Because it is destructive. We surely know it is harmful to the man living in sin. But now Paul seeks to show us how destructive failing to deal with sin is to the church.

Paul described here an official church meeting at which the offender was dealt with according to divine instructions. Public sin must be publicly judged and condemned. The sin was not to be “swept under the rug”; for, after all, it was known far and wide even among the unsaved who were outside the church.

The church was to gather together and expel the offender. Note the strong words that Paul used to instruct them: “taken away from among you” (1 Cor. 5:2), “deliver such an one unto Satan” (1 Cor. 5:5), “purge out” (1 Cor. 5:7), and “put away” (1 Cor. 5:13). Paul did not suggest that they handle the offender gently.

This was to be done by the authority of Jesus Christ—in His name—and not simply on the authority of the local church. Church membership is a serious thing and must not be treated carelessly or lightly.

To put the professed believer out of their fellowship, to excommunicate him, would be to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. Satan is the ruler of this world, and turning a believer over to Satan, therefore, thrusts the believer back into the world on his own, apart from the care and support of Christian fellowship. That person has forfeited his right to participation in the church of Jesus Christ, which He intends to keep pure at all costs. The word deliver (paradidōmi) is a strong term indicating the judicial act of sentencing, of handing over for punishment. The sentence passed on a sinning believer is to be given to Satan.

Purge the sin (vv. 6-13). Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? 7  Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

8  Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

 9  I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– 10  not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11  But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. 12  What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13  God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”

Paul turns his readers to imagery of leaven, and the way a little bit of leaven can change the whole lump of dough in which it is found. The sinner whom the Corinthians embrace and fail to put out of the church is likened to a little leaven placed in a lump of dough. If left there for long, it changes the whole batch of dough.

By removing this man from their midst, the church at Corinth not only seeks the sinner’s restoration, they also promote their own purity.

The image here is that of the Passover supper (Ex. 12). Jesus is the Lamb of God who shed His blood to deliver us from sin (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:18-25). The Jews in Egypt were delivered from death by the application of the blood of the lamb. Following the application of the blood, the Jewish families ate the Passover supper. One of the requirements was that no yeast (leaven) be found anywhere in their dwellings. Even the bread at the feast was to be unleavened.

Leaven is a picture of sin. It is small but powerful; it works secretly; it “puffs up” the dough; it spreads. The sinning church member in Corinth was like a piece of yeast: he was defiling the entire loaf of bread (the congregation). It was like a cancer in the body that needed to be removed by drastic surgery.

The church must purge itself of “old leaven.” However, the church must not judge and condemn those who are outside the faith. That judgment is future, and God will take care of it. In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, Paul emphasized once again the importance of separation from the world. Christians are not to be isolated, but separated. We cannot avoid contact with sinners, but we can avoid contamination by sinners.

Paul does not mean for the Corinthians to try to keep the church out of the world, but to keep the world out of the church. He means that those who profess to be saved must live like one who is saved. A person should not be embraced as a believer whose profession and practice are in contradiction.

If a professed Christian is guilty of the sins named here, the church must deal with him. Individual members are not to “company” with him (1 Cor. 5:9—”get mixed up with, associate intimately”). They are not to eat with him, which could refer to private hospitality or more likely the public observance of the Lord’s Supper (see 1 Cor. 11:23-34).

Church discipline is not easy or popular, but it is important. If it is done properly, God can use it to convict and restore an erring believer. Second Corinthians 2:1-11 indicates that this man did repent and was restored to fellowship.

Conclusion

Whatever happened to sin? Years ago, a secular psychiatrist, Dr. Karl Menninger, wrote a book entitled, Whatever Became of Sin. Even this man realized that evils have become too “psychologized,” and that a simple diagnosis of “sin” is needed. I can imagine the kinds of diagnosis we would have today for the malady of this Corinthian man, living with his father’s wife.

For Paul, the diagnosis is simple, and so is the prescription. The problem is the sin of immorality, and the prescription is to remove him from the church. When the Bible is the standard for conduct, and it is viewed and used for defining sin and righteousness, the diagnosis of this man’s problem is not that difficult.

Whatever has happened to church discipline? I have seen very little of it. Even when such discipline is taken, all too many church members are tempted to second-guess the church and to privately continue to fellowship with the one under discipline. This is a most serious matter, for if I understand the Scriptures correctly, to do so is to become a partner with that person in the sin.

Church discipline is one of those very clear duties of the church and of the individual Christian. Why, then, is it not practiced more often? These verses suggest that arrogance or pride can be one cause.

I would also suggest that these days fear may now be a cause for not taking disciplinary action. We may be afraid to take a stand against sin because we are afraid of rejection. We may be afraid of appearing to be narrow and unloving. We may be unwilling to lose the friendship and the fellowship of those we love. Some church leaders are afraid of being sued for taking disciplinary action against a church member. It can and does happen. I suspect that it will happen more and more in the coming days.

Sinful men and women should not and cannot be comfortable in the presence of a holy God, save through the cleansing of their sins by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Men and women cannot come to faith without first becoming uncomfortable about their sin and God’s judgment. That is what being saved is all about—being saved from the wrath of God upon sinners.

God takes sin seriously. That is why the cross of Calvary was necessary. God took our sin so seriously that He sent His Son to die in our place, to suffer the punishment for our sins.

The good news of the gospel is that while God takes our sin seriously, and while our sin must be judged, He has judged our sins in Christ. To enter into this forgiveness, all we need do is to receive the gift of salvation which God offers to us by faith in His Son. Believe that Christ is the Savior and be willing to repent of the sin and confess that you want Christ to be both Savior and Lord. And be immersed in water so you wins can be forgiven.

When we see how seriously God has taken our sins, we see how serious we must be about sin as well.

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