Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation - Lesson 10

1 Corinthians (Part 2)

Divisions in the Corinthian church were caused by both theology and lifestyle.

Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Lesson 10
Watching Now
1 Corinthians (Part 2)


A. 1 Corinthians Outline

1. Introduction (1:1-9)

2. Paul responds to news from Chloe (1:10-6:20)

a. Divisions in the Church (1:10-4:21)

b. Incest (5:1-13)

c. Lawsuits (6:1-11)

d. Sexual immorality in general (6:12-20)

3. Paul responds to the letter from Corinth (7:1-16:4)

a. Marriage (7:1-40)

b. Food sacrificed to idols (8:1-11:1)

c. Worship (11:2-14:40)

i. Head coverings – men and women (11:2-15)

ii. Lord's Supper – use and abuse (11:17-34)

iii. Spiritual gifts – (12:1-14:40)

d. Resurrection (15:1-58)

e. Offering for Jerusalem (16:1-4)

4. Conclusion (16:5-24)

B. The Results of a too Sharp Division Between Body and Spirit

1. Asceticism – denying desires/humanity

a. False sense of maturity

b. Claims to special wisdom

c. Advocating celibacy

d. Forbidding certain food and drink

e. Believing in only spiritual resurrection

2. Hedonism – indulging desires/humanity

a. Sexual sin

b. Lawsuits

c. Eating food without concern for others

d. Requiring pay for Christian work

e. Drunkenness at the Lord's Table

f. Disrespect for appearance of sexual propriety

g. Worship chaotic

C. Patron/Client (Rich/Poor) Problems Behind 1 Corinthians

1. Factions

2. Incest

3. Lawsuits

4. Prostitution

5. Idol meat

6. Not accepting money for ministry

7. Unruly women leaders

8. Abuse of Lord's Supper

9. Flaunting spiritual gifts

D. Divisions in the Church (1:10-4:17)

1. The problem: rival factions (1:10-17)

a. Exalting certain leaders (1:10-12)

b. The role of baptism (1:13-17)

2. The necessary center of the Gospel: the wise foolishness of the cross (1:18-2:5)

a. Destroying non-Christian "strength" (1:18-25)

b. Exalting Christian "weakness" (1:26-31)

c. Proclaiming Christ crucified (2:1-5)

3. Three kinds of People in 1 Corinthians 2-3

a. Natural

b. Carnal

c. Spiritual

d. But also…

i. Non-Christian

ii. Christian

4. The necessary growth: Christian wisdom (2:6-3:23)

a. Spiritual vs. natural people (2:6-16)

b. Spiritual vs. carnal people (3:1-23)

i. Milk vs. meat (3:1-5)

ii. God's field (3:6-9a)

iii. God's building (3:9b-17)

iv. Summary (3:18-23)

5. The right attitude of and for the Apostles (4:1-21)

a. Faithfully serving (4:1-5)

b. Scripturally based (4:6-7)

c. Unjustly suffering (4:8-13)

d. Specially related (4:14-21)

E. I Corinthians 5-6

1. Church discipline (5:1-13)

a. Presupposes Matthew 18:15-18

b. Hence no list of specially serious sins

c. Application especially requires contextualization

2. Lawsuits (6:1-11)

3. Sexual immorality in general (6:12-20)

F. Paul on Marriage (1 Corinthians 7)

1. To married Ascetics: do not deprive each other sexually (vv. 1-7)

2. To the widowed: remarry rather than lust (vv. 8-9)

3. To the married: don't divorce (vv. 10-16)

4. Preliminary summary (vv. 17-24)

5. To the unmarried: marriage is no sin (vv. 25-38)

6. Conclusion: marriage is a lifelong commitment (vv. 39-40)

7. Notes

a. These are the basic concerns of each section; in each case Paul permits certain exceptions.

b. Paul's own sympathies agree with the ascetics up to a point, but for different reasons.

G. Marriage and Divorce in Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7

1. Forming a marriage

a. Leave and cleave

b. Become one flesh

2. Rupturing a marriage

a. Physical presence but sexual infidelity

b. Sexual presence but physical desertion

c. Other items equivalent in destructiveness

H. On Food Sacrificed to Idols (1 Corinthians 8:1-11:1)

1. The problem: Christian liberty can become license (8:1-3)

2. The main application: food inherently neutral, but avoid hurting weaker brothers (8:4-13)

3. A second application: ministers earning their living by the Gospel (9:1-18)

4. The motive: all things to all men so as to save some (9:19-27)

5. The danger of license: the havoc sin can wreak (10:1-13)

a. The warning (10:1-12)

b. The promise (10:13)

6. An absolute prohibition: no feasts dedicated to idol worship (10:14-22)

7. Summary (10:23-11:1)

a. Freedom from legalism

b. Voluntary curtailment of freedom

c. Only if clear another would be hurt

I. On Spiritual Gifts (1Corinthians 12-14)

1. Recognition: acknowledge Jesus' Lordship (12:1-3)

2. Distribution: diversity in unity (12:4-11)

a. Not all have the same gifts (vv. 4a, 5a, 6a)

b. All come from triune Godhead (vv. 4b, 5b, 6b)

c. All have at least one (v. 7a)

d. To be used for mutual edification (v. 7b)

e. Given by Spirit as He determines (vv. 8-11)

3. Importance of all the gifts (12:12-26)

4. Hierarchy of gifts (12:27-31a)

a. In importance?

b. In chronology?

5. Love: without it the gifts are worthless (12:31b-13:13)

a. Examples (vv. 1-3)

b. Positive and negative qualities (vv. 4-7)

c. Timelessness (vv. 8-13)

6. Comparing tongues and prophecy (14:1-40)

a. The superiority of prophecy (vv. 1-25)

i. Understandable without interpretation (vv. 1-19)

ii. Tongues as a sign of judgment (vv. 20-25)

b. The proper exercise of both (vv. 26-40)

i. Tongues (vv. 27-28)

ii. Prophecy (vv. 29-38)

iii. Conclusions (vv. 39-40)

J. Classification of Spiritual Gifts (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4)

1. Virtues commanded of all Christians

a. Wisdom

b. Knowledge

c. Faith

d. Service

e. Exhortation

f. Giving

g. Sharing

h. Mercy

2. Special roles for leadership

a. Apostles

b. Evangelists

c. Pastors

d. Teachers

e. Administrators

3. "Supernatural" charisma

a. Healing

b. Miracles

c. Prophecy

d. Distinguishing spirits

e. Tongues

f. Interpretation of tongues

K. The Resurrections of Jesus and Believers (1 Corinthians 15)

1. The fact of Christ's bodily resurrection (15:1-11)

a. Support from tradition (vv. 1-7)

b. Support from revelation (vv. 8-11)

2. The implications for the general resurrection (15:12-34)

a. The credibility of Christian faith rests on it (vv. 12-19)

b. The chronology of the coming resurrection is established (vv. 20-28)

c. The concern for those who are dead and dying proves it (vv. 29-34)

3. The nature of Christian resurrection (15:35-58)

a. Continuity and discontinuity (vv. 35-49)

b. The need for this re-creation (vv. 50-58)

Class Resources
  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.


  • Correlation of the accounts in Galatians and Acts on Paul's trip to Jerusalem. 

  • Galatians as a model of apologetics supporting Christianity.

  • Comparing faith and works in Judaism and Christianity. 

  • Paul faced persecution when he preached in Thessalonica. The return of Christ is a central theme in the letters to the Thessalonians.

  • One aspect of the subject of biblical eschatology is the timing and nature of the tribulation. 

  • Paul addresses the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as concerns regarding marriage, spiritiual gifts and the resurrection.

  • Divisions in the Corinthian church were caused by both theology and lifestyle.

  • Whether or not believers should eat food that had been offered to idols was an issue in the Corinthian church. The importance and role of spiritual gifts was a major topic of discussion.

  • Paul updates the people in the church in Corinth about his travels. He also follows up on relationships and defends his apostolic ministry.

  • Paul responds to specific situations in the Corinthian church including emphasizing a correct perspective on giving and encouragement to see God's redemptive purpose in our suffering.

  • Knowing the key places as backgrounds for Romans, the timeline and the outline of the book are helpful to understanding the context and message.

  • Paul wrote Romans as a systematic exposition of the gospel.


  • In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the deity of Christ. Philemon was written to a gentlema Paul knows to encourage him to welcome back Onesimus, his runaway slave, who became a disciple of Christ and was returning.

  • Paul addresses how to live in different roles: husbands and wives, masters and slaves, elders and others in the church.

  • Paul describes the blessings of salvation and encourages believers to live in unity that transcends cultural and racial barriers. 

  • Paul describes to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus, who they are in Christ, and the ethical implications for how they should live their daily lives.

  • Paul contrasts the condescention and the exaltation of Christ, and addresses specific situations in the Philippian church.

  • Paul writes to encourage and instruct Timothy and Titus, both of whom are young pastors. It is important for Titus to identify and train elders and deal effectively with factious people. 

  • Paul instructs Timothy about how to pastor a church and turn it away from heresy.

  • Both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians contain key passages addressing the roles of men and women in the local church. Some of them address conduct when gathering for corporate worship.

  • 1 Timothy 2:11-15 gives some direction for gender roles in a worship service.

  • Key themes and catchwords in James include trials, wisdom, temptation, speech, doubt and perseverance.

  • James discusses the roles of faith and works in a believers life and the importance of prayer.

  • A prominent theme in Hebrews chapters 1-5 is the superiority of Christ to the angels and to Moses.

  • Hebrews 6:4-8 is a key warning passage. Christ's priesthood is superior to both the Levitical priesthood and also to Melchizedek. Chapter 11 remembers the heroes of the faith.

  • A major theme of 1 Peter is perseverance despite persecution.

  • The outline of 1 Peter has similarities to other letters of the first century that emphasize a high view of Christology.

  • Jude and 2 Peter both emphasize refuting false teachers.

  • In his epistles, John emphasizes themes that refute gnostic doctrines. He outlines the tests of life as keeping God’s commandments, loving one another and believing in Jesus as the God-man.

  • As you study and preach from the epistles of John, note the passages that Dr. Blomberg describes as, “gems from John.”

  • Revelation was written by the apostle John in the late first century using apocalyptic, prophetic and epistolary genres. A possible structure by time line would be the past (chapter 1), the present (chapters 2-5) and the future (chapters 6-22). 

  • In addition to the framework of eschatology, Revelation chapters 1-6 develops themes of Christology including a description of Jesus as the lion who is a lamb, as well as the spiritual condition of some of the churches in the first century. 

  • In both of the possible scenarios for the tribulation, believers are exempt from God’s wrath but they are not exempt from Satan’s attacks.

  • Revelation chapters 12-22 cover themes of salvation and judgment of nations, Armageddon, the millennium and the new heavens and new earth.

Using the English New Testament, this course surveys the New Testament epistles and the apocalypse. Issues of introduction and content receive emphasis as well as a continual focus on the theology of evangelism and on the contemporary relevance of the variety of issues these documents raise for contemporary life.


Dr. Craig Blomberg 
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
1 Corinthians (Part 2)
Lesson Transcript

This is the 10th lecture in the online series of lectures on understanding the Epistles and Revelation, in complement with the textbook by Craig Blomberg’s Book, Acts through Revelation, An Introduction and Survey. 


The second antidote to the factions in Corinth begins in chapter 2:6 and continues to the end of chapter 3. There is an appropriate form of wisdom in which Christians must grow but it is not the wisdom of this fallen world that leads no room for God or the Christian Gospel in its mist. It is Christian wisdom and here Paul confronts those within the church at Corinth who apparently believed they were promoting such Christian wisdom but were, in fact, utilizing the concepts of a fallen world around them, creating an elitist and therefore divisive mentality. So Paul’s response is to use language of an elitist factionalism, language which would be used later in full blown Gnosticism and perhaps reflects the very beginning of this movement, dualism as it was already in Corinth in the Ad 50’s by writing in verse 6. ‘We do however speak a message of wisdom among the mature.’ The τέλειος  (Greek) or the Perfect, but less anyone think that Paul is focusing on a small sub-group of the total sum of the Christian community in Corinth, he goes on to make it very clear that the mature, the person who has spiritual wisdom is anyone who has the spirit in them, namely all Christians. He sets up a distinction in chapter 2:6-16, particularly in the latter half of this segment between what the King James or AV calls the natural person but which the NIV and other modern translations correctly interprets in verse 14 a contrast between a person without the spirit and verse 15, a person with the spirit.


Chapter 3 has misled readers and even theologians at times because it continues to refer to spiritual individuals but now does subdivide the Christian person into those who are mature and immature; those who merit the title spiritual and the carnal individuals or worldly as the NIV expresses it. On the one hand, there is a fundamental contrast in chapter 2 between the Christian who has the Spirit and the non-Christian who does not. But it is true that there is a contrast among Christians not in the ways the elitists in Corinth were claiming that only a few had the Spirit at all, but more prosaically though no less seriously among those who were mature verses those who were immature. Hence the analogy that Paul uses to illustrate this in 3:1-5, just as some partake only of baby food, drinking milk in Paul’s world, almost exclusively from their mother’s breast verses those who are able to begin to eat and chew and digest solid food often represented by the term, meat. Paul illustrates this contrast with additional analogies but before turning to them, it is worth looking at a well-known and helpful illustration which comes from the literature over the past half century, from the international ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, developed first by Bill Bright back in the 1950’s. Campus Crusade has used a series of diagrams (as shown in the slide) over the years. To illustrate the natural person of chapter 2:6-16, one may think of a circle defining a person’s life, especially the most animated portion of one’s life, the driving power of one’s existence, the capital E as standing for the ‘Ego’ or the ‘self’ and the Cross, standing for Christianity and the relationship with the crucified Lord. The natural person then, according to this diagram has ego enthroned and Christ is not a part of their life at all.  


(Any slides and photos that the lecturer mentions should be down loaded if they are available)


The second two diagrams (on the slide) reflect the two kinds of Christians corresponding to Paul’s teachings in the beginning of chapter 3. The carnal person has accepted Christ, the Cross is their life but at the moment, the ego remains in the center of the throne of one’s life and thus Christ is still dethroned almost to the same extent as one who has never had Him in their lives. The 3rd category of the spiritual person now in this narrower sense of chapter 3 has the ego dethroned, though our self and selfish desires remain with us throughout our lives, they’re never jettisoned from the circle altogether short of eternity but the crucified Messiah is the animated person in power in our lives and thus on its throne. In principle, there is nothing wrong much of use in all three of these diagrams but we perhaps should qualify them by introducing two additional diagrams. It has often been pointed out that it is hardly fair to the entire non-Christian world to say that simply Christ is not in their lives and therefore ego is on the throne of their lives. It may indeed be another god altogether, another religious power or individual or founder of a religion or philosophy that leads that person to an ultraistic or humanitarian or self-sacrificing behavior. It may be a purely atheist or agnostic or evolutionary material individual, with humanitarian care for one’s family or person within a local community or very distance places that animates that individual and again it may not be. But the point is still, it is not the crucified Messiah. 


A second caveat involves our definition of the Christian and hence the carnal and spiritual people to observe with Paul in 1st Corinthians 3:3 and following that those individuals he calls worldly and carnal does so because as he writes: ‘there is jealousy and quarrelling among you.’ You are acting like mere human being when one says, I follow Paul and another says I follow Apollus, etc. Too often, I’m afraid, the concept of a carnal Christian whether in Church or in various Christian organizations has been communicated as if it was a synonym for a nominal Christian. Paul doesn’t use it in this way but rather refers to those who are active church goers but divisive and combative in their participation and worship. The person we would identify as nominal, largely inactive in any Christian worship or group or service of any kind falls under the shadow of suspicion of not having the Spirit of Christ in them at all, thus accounting for their ultimate inaction. There are of course back siders who demonstrate by a returning to Jesus at a later date, because the Spirit had been working on them all along. But we should never become complacent and take for granted those who show only a nominal allegiance to Christianity over a prolonged period of time is truly saved but has merely back slid. We must encourage them to return to Christ.


Conversely, we must be very careful not to elevate the spiritual Christian to such a fixed and water tight category one as to divide them from others who we may think as worldly. If we are honest with ourselves and have the Spirit of Christ within us and truly trying to serve him, but are ruthlessly honest about the strangle hold sin can still have over us, we will admit as with the second diagram that ego and Jesus and perhaps many other things on a fairly regular basis trade places with each other on the thrones of our lives, even if Christian maturity and sanctification puts before us a lifelong goal of allowing us to be center stage more and more. 


Returning to our outline, we see Paul illustrating this contrast, not with baby food verses adult food but now with different workers in God’s field, comparable to different people who have different roles, one person sows, one waters and one harvests, but compared to the role that God plays, they come out looking quite equal. God’s grace acting in our lives creates so much more than any human contribution that it is the ultimate leveler. Again, this conclusion should temper our desire to pit ourselves against our fellow human Christians. Paul again changes the metaphor abruptly in the middle of verse 9 to speak of God’s building in ways in which people build on the foundation of Christ. Variations which from a human perspective can seem quite different, such as getting into heaven or the fellowship of the company of the redeemed in the life to come just by the skin of their teeth. Changing Paul’s metaphor, ‘so as by fire’; where others are securely entrenched with their places clearly marked out and God’s commendation for them on judgment day are truly hearty. One thinks of Christ’s words in the parable of the talents, well done good and faithful servants. But once again, the contrast by which we should focus is not the contrast between different kinds of Christians but between the Christian of whatever level of maturity and the complete outsider. There are some which Paul warns are not building on the foundation of Christ at all. Even with building materials that could easily be burned in a fire. Some are trying even to tear down or destroy God’s temple, verses 16 and 17, and these individuals will in turn by God be themselves destroyed. A metaphor again for eternal damnation and a sober reminder that a person who for a prolonged period of time seems to make a career being a trouble maker in a Christian context without any balancing redemptive side to their ministry. They may, in fact, be demonstrating that any Christian faith they may have professed is utterly gone. They stand lost should they die at that moment and are again in need of being treated as a lost person in need of salvation and not merely an immature believer. Believers on the one hand, Paul insists have available to them every spiritual blessing in at least in this life. What more could they want or ask for and this summary at the end of chapter 3, once again reinforces his plea for them to be reconciled instead of being divided from one another. 


The last antidote to this factionalism accounts for Paul’s words in chapter 4; in four subsections he focuses on how the Corinthian congregation should look at his apostleship and those other apostles and Christian leaders that they have obviously been elevating inappropriately.  Such leaders are merely stewards or servants or under-shepherds of Christ who is the great steward, verses 1-5. Their ministry should never go beyond what is written but should be scripturally based, which will preclude the divisiveness that afflicts the Corinthians. More often than not that they will be persecuted and suffer the hardships of this fallen age in what by human standards seem to be unjust and here, Paul introduces his poignant catalogue, one of a number that punctuate his letters, of his suffering, first for being a believer and for being an active witness for Christ. Yet in the mist of all of this, the apostles do have a special relationship with their flock, but never let it be forgotten that Paul was the one who founded the Christian church. Never mind that other Christian leaders came through and brought and even baptized, and even their disciples baptized additional converts, but Paul as the founder of the church will always have throughout his life a special relationship and care and authority which he appeals gently for now but if necessary later, more firmly. 


Finally, he’s ready to turn to his next topic. The problem of the incestuous offender in chapter 5:1-13 is so acute that Paul moves immediate to the final stages of the process of church discipline that has been outlined already by Christ in Matthew 18:15-18. We can only assume even though it is not explicitly stated that less drastic attempt to deal with the problem as outlined by that same passage in Matthew 18 either had already been tried with no positive results or that the church was unwilling to make those attempts or that the believer, himself, caught up in sin was unwilling to be part of such an attempt at reconciliation. Because we know the specific sin that triggers the demand for church discipline, sexual sins throughout the history of the church when churches have made any attempt to implement Biblical church discipline have commanded a dis-apportioning amount of attention in terms of those sins that trigger the process of discipline in Matthew 18 as illustrated climatically here in 1st Corinthians 5. But it is important to remind ourselves that no passage in either the Old or New Testament, with the Old Testament sins with the high hand being kind of equivalent, leading to people being cut off from their community, already in Old Testament times. No text of Scripture ever gives a list or even a broad set of principles for discerning when such a process of the disciple needs to be begun, other than the very mundane introduction to Matthew 18:15 of a Christian Brother or Sister having something against each other. Hopefully in the vast majority of situations, in all of them, the process never gets as far as the threat of dis-fellowshipping. But it is not a particular kind of sin or level of seriousness of sin that begins the process which we read of at its very end here in 1st Corinthians 5. 


Indeed the two other New Testament texts speaking of partial dis-fellowshipping involve a text and passage we have already looked at, ‘those who are unwilling to work and improperly mooch off the church or society and paradoxically when we come to applying 1st Corinthians, Titus 3:10 tells us that the person who failed to repent after two initial warning should be shunned. How rarely do we put these commands into practice in the church today. Contemporary application is made more difficult because of the contextualization that is required in a world where shunning or ostracizing fellow believers without some are mitigating expression of love and concern, without a plan of restoration or rehabilitation, without a mechanism of accountability being agreed upon and initiated. More often than not, Christians will simply leave one fellowship, either abandoning any outward association of Christian fellowships altogether or simply joining a different one. Church and ministries that take fellowship seriously have regular discovered in the 20th and late 21st century in a western context that a partial dis-fellowshipping is more effective than a full excommunication, which may in fact have been Jesus’ intention all along, especially when we read in the Matthew 18 text, even at the last stages the unrepentant defenders to be treated as a tax collector or gentile. That is as if they were a non-Christian and in fact a rather stigmatized one, but let us never forget that those were precisely the people loved to associate with in order to try to woo them to himself and his Kingdom. Where the church has activities and gathering that are for Christians only, then such excommunicated people should not be permitted to participate but where there are services as many Christian worship services are, to which outsiders are welcomed and encouraged to come, such different believers should not be forbidden to attend but on the other hand, business as usual continue. Friendships may be maintained but they must be treated as people in need of repentance as if they had never come to the Lord in the first place. 


The application of Paul’s teaching in chapter 6:1-11 on lawsuits also requires thoughtful contextualization in a modern world where judicial systems both inside and outside of Christian circles often operate quite differently than they did in the ancient world. But the key principle which motivates Paul’s instruction is annunciated in verse 6 to Paul’s discuss that one brother goes to court against another brother and this in front of unbelievers. If the Gospel is going to be so discredited and defeated as Paul’s puts it; why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Whether or not, it is appropriate in various contexts to take individuals or organizations to court, although there may be Christians among them, given at times Christian alternatives in society, should be adjudicated largely by the issue of whether one is seeking justice for others. First, that the world will admire and bring Christianity into better repute or it will appear rightly or wrongly that someone is selfishly trying to get their own way and thus bring their supposed reputation in disrepute. Conversely, even when there are Christian mechanism set up for binding arbitration to help resolve in-house Christian disputes, motives are for true justice to be served and not merely oneself, the very difficult, but counter cultural demands that Paul’s phrases in the form of questions is that, it may be better for our larger cause simply to allow ourselves, not to take vengeance into our own hands. 


The major section of the body of Paul’s letter, dealing with sexual immorality and prostitution, of the many things that could be said, I’ve chosen to high light the particular puzzling verse, verse 18, flee from sexual immorality, all other sins, people commit are outside their bodies but those who sin sexually, sin against their own bodies. At first glance, that seems false, for example, look at alcoholism, drug addiction, self-mutilation and suicide are all against one’s own body but the term σῶμα or soma could also mean ones entire person or self, including the physical aspect in communion or self-expression with some other person or entity. And as we suggested in the notes of the textbook, that seems to make good sense. No other sin so violates the intimacy of interpersonal intercourse, to use the originally intended double meaning behind that terminology. 


As we turn to chapter 7 and to the questions about which the Corinthians wrote to Paul. We come across a chapter on marriage which has unfortunately been misunderstood, perhaps more often than not in the history of the Christian church. In Roman Catholic circles, Paul’s valuing of celibacy and the Christian life prove to be one highly influential factor in the development of the requirement of celebrant clergy as well as those who takes vows for various monastic orders, recognizing that not everyone in the world could achieve the ideal of celibacy. Catholics, nevertheless enshrine this as the most spiritual ideal. Protestants on the other hand, often than not, have ignored the possibility of voluntary adopting a celebrant life, perhaps because of the Catholic idea and use of it. A celebrant life provides more time for an undivided attention to God’s service. The other difficulty with 1st Corinthians 7 is translating and interpreting verse 1 correctly. ‘It is good for a man not to touch a woman,’ is the most literal translation of the Greek. But touch is being used here as an euphemism much as ‘knowing’ was in the Hebrew Bible when Adam knew his wife, Eve, for sexual intercourse. The original addition of the NIV, ‘it is good for a man not to marry’, which gets at part of the meaning but the most recent addition, has it corrected: ‘it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’ But the point worth observing and pointing out as far back as origins commentary on 1st Corinthians in roughly 200 AD is that this appears to have been a Corinthian slogan, which reflects an ascetic wing of Hellenistic dualism and which reflects a sizable influence in the early Christian history where celibacy came to be promoted, even before the emergence of Roman Catholicism and any similarity to the elaborate institution of the form we know it as. Valuing the completely celebrant life style as a spiritual ideal.  All of the many diverse instructions of Chapter 7 can be understood as falling into place, once we realize that Paul is willing to affirm this Corinthian slogan up to a point but only up to a point. He will never encourage it and in some cases only confirm it in a minimalistic way.  


The very first category considered was with those who were already married and who were considering reframing from sex, altogether. And we have abundant examples in the 1st century of Christianity influenced by Hellenism, of people who proposed and sometimes succeeded in doing that. Paul’s response was, ‘yes, for a very short time and for spiritual benefit but not as a general principle’, because it leaves to satisfying sexual desires in improper ways. We point out in the textbook, reasons for thinking for verses 8 – 9 refer to the widow and widower; here, it may well be that Paul is a widower, himself. We explored this possibility in our introductory lecture to Paul. This was to account to why he makes the comment about himself here rather than under other categories in this chapter. Whether or not that is the case, Paul is much more positive about the possibility of staying unmarried and thus celebrant but again refuses to be absolute in recommending it in general as remarriage is far better than lusting in ways that could lead to sin and improper sex. Returning to those who are married, some considered separation and even formal divorce was the only option but again Paul is reluctant to support this. He does allow for a situation where an unbelieving partner wishes to leave and abandon the marriage altogether and realizes the believing partner may be unable to stop it and therefore a time comes when they need to stop trying to recover something that is not possible to recover. So Paul still doesn’t support the pro-celibacy faction. 


In a preliminary summary in verses 17-24, he encourages to live life where you are, don’t be eager to change your status in life simply because of your new found Christian faith. He returns in verses 25-38 to the unmarried and an engaged couple trying to decide to go through with their plans for marriage and once again stresses contra to the celibacy faction that marriage is in no way sinful but once again commends those who might be a tempted to over value marriage as the only full expression as a reward in Christian life or simply as a rewarding life that there is definitely a time and a place to consider a calling to singleness for the sake of the Kingdom. But for those who marry, it is a life-long commitment and in verses 39-40 gives permission to remarry after one is widowed which was implicit already in verses 8-9 and because a word was used in very similar meaning to the word for being bound earlier on in Paul’s discussion of divorce, he may well be implying there that in those rare instances in which divorce is permissible remarriage is permissible as well. 


Our final notes on the PowerPoint slide remind us that these are the basic concerns of each section and in each case, Paul permits certain exceptions and his own sympathy sometimes agrees with the ascetics up to a point but for very different reasons, freedom to serve Christ wholeheartedly, not because sexuality is somehow sinful. 


We passed very rapidly over the section of 1st Corinthians 7 which does at times get great attention disproportionate to its size in the chapter and is Paul injunction concerning marriage and divorce. In Matthew 19, Jesus had permitted divorce in one instance of sexual unfaithfulness. Here, Paul adds what has often been called, the Pauline privilege when an unbelieving partner wishes to leave. It’s interesting to ask the question, whether or not it’s answerable, whether there is some unique to these two situations that leads Jesus and Paul to permit divorce in ways that do not in other situations and a suggested answer is that the very constituent elements of a marriage from a Jewish and Christian perspective are outlined in Genesis 2 and repeated several places throughout the Bible, namely leaving and cleaving; leaving one’s parents and cleaving to one’s spouse as the human person to one is ultimately devoted and secondly, the sexual confirmation of marriage becoming one flesh. Interestingly, sexual immortality breaks the second of those constituent elements and physical desertion or abandonment breaks the first of those. Addressing the vex question of whether there are other items that were not in view in either Matthew 19 or 1st Corinthians 7 that might legitimate divorce in other times and places, would appear the appropriate way to answer that question is if other circumstances put forward as possibly justifying divorce have in fact so destroyed a marriage that it is as irreparable by definition as when a person has had multiple sex partners or has simply abandon without any intention of returning. To those who would argue that it would never be appropriate to agree to add any other circumstances to which divorce could be justified, it is worth pointing out that Paul has done precisely that. 


Jesus, himself, gave only one exception and yet Paul for some reason felt free to give a second. If one appeals to the argument that Paul was inspired but we are not, there is still the reverse problem, an apparent contradiction exist with Paul not allowing or explicitly stating the exception clause from Jesus. To avoid the charge of contradiction, it would appear that we are required to concede that one or both these chapters is dealing with certain situations specific elements and therefore leaving the door open for asking the question of whether there are other items of destructiveness.  At the same time, we must recognize the very real temptation to follow the camel’s nose into the tent, to use the ancient metaphor and while there may be in rare cases, situations where for example, physical abuse followed prolonged separation and refusal of the offending party to take any steps to repentance; situations of irreversible lifelong imprisonment or terminal illness or terminal mental illness, one must add the caveat, it is never God’s ideal, even in when exceptional situations permitted in Scripture for a divorce to occur. It is also an admission of defeat at one level or another. The goal is always restoration where ever there is any chance of it taking place and that many people who claim they have exhausted all their options, have done so in their own eyes, close friends, council members, regular see many more possibilities and it is their more non agreeable view point that should be consulted.