Lecture 9: 1st Corinthians Part 3
Lecture 9: 1st Corinthians Part 3
This is the 9th lecture in the online series of lectures on New Testament Survey by Dr Thomas Schreiner. Recommended Reading includes: Article on Divorce and Remarriage – Craig Blomberg, Trinity Journal, 1990; The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross by Leon Morris; Are there Two Will in God by John Piper; Two views on Women in Ministry by James Beck and Craig Blomberg; Word Bible Commentary: Pastoral Epistles, Volume 46, by William D. Mounce and Recovering Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood, by Wayne Gudem and John Piper (article by Vern Poythress entitled, ‘The Church as a Family’)
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‘Flow’ Romans 2:6-10
God will render to every man according to his deeds. He will grant eternal life. ‘God will render’ is implied here. The indirect object is to each one according to his works. ‘To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life, but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.’ Wrath and indignation will be to those who are selfish and ambitious. We have a ‘but’ which gives us contrast. He will give eternal life for those who seek for glory and honor and immortality. This is another way of speaking of the judgement. Those who are righteous will receive eternal life. The unrighteous will receive God’s wrath and indignation. ‘There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.’ Those who do not obey the truth but instead obey unrighteousness, but there will be glory and honor and peace to every person who does good. This is a negative to positive that is nicely structured. When we look at these verses together, it becomes a restatement of the idea of what we had before. We have a nice A, B, B1, A pattern there. This can be called a chiasm which is typical to Hebrew poetry. We just need to explain verse 6 now, ‘God will render to every man according to his deeds.’ Verses 7 and 10 is looking at this text; here is the out working of it in these verses. So you have the principle and outworking of that principle. And then you have verse 11, ‘for God shows no partiality.’ Why does it work out this way? It is because he is impartial. I do think that Paul is speaking to Christians in these verses. I think he really believes that there are people in the category of verse 7 and 10. But they do those good works by the power of the spirit and I don’t think that this passage is hypothetical. I think Paul is saying that those good works need to be there to have eternal life; this is the result of good works, worked in our hearts by the Spirit of God.
2. Lawsuits 6:1-11 (continued)
Now we go back to 1st Corinthians. We are in chapter six discussing lawsuits. Last time we said that they were civil cases, not criminal cases and Paul tells us that it is better to get cheated. Notice that in verse 7, he is using lawsuit language, ‘to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you.’ They would think that victory would be in winning the lawsuit. You either win or lose a lawsuit, but Paul says that to have a lawsuit is a defeat. As Christians, we will have conflicts among ourselves but it is the way we work them out and how they are resolved. Why not rather be cheated. Well, that sounds easy but if someone has mistreated you, you think that you should not let that happen. I can’t let them get away with this. I will get my revenge and assert my rights. I am going to get what I deserve out of this. Paul says, ‘why not rather be cheated? Why not rather be defrauded?’ But instead he says, but you, yourselves are doing wrong! You injury others, you mistreat them. This is the link in 6:9 but don’t you know that the wrong doers will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Paul is saying that if you continue along this course in an unrepentant way you will be amongst the wrong doers and don’t you know you will not inherit the kingdom of God. We should say this to people because the Bible says this. Don’t be deceived about this, Paul says.
The Unrighteous and the Homosexual
In verse 9, there is a reference in Greek to the passive partner in homosexual relations. Another word relates to being in bed and this comes from Leviticus 20, this verb is used with this noun and it seems Paul put these two words together. Some appeal to this verse to say that Paul only criticizes abusive homosexuality, but it seems clear from this work alone that he is indicting homosexuality as a whole. Those kinds of people will not inherit the kingdom of God so if we have someone in our church and/or our own lives committing adultery and not changing and doesn’t seem willing to change. It is right to tell them, they are being deceived. Don’t you know, whatever sin it is, if it is not repented and if one continues to go in this direction, it calls into question whether you are going to inherit the kingdom of God? We all fall into the category of sinners but you were washed in Christian baptism. Verse 11, justification means that you were declared to be in the right; you were justified in Christ; you were sanctified and washed by God. Three different ways of speaking of conversion; our sins were washed away, our sins were made holy in Christ and we were declared to be in the right in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. Therefore, Paul argues, live like it and act like that you have been changed because that is the evidence that you have been changed. This not perfect, but it is significant and observable. Paul is talking about a new life where there is change. Many people go over these verses and don’t see what Paul is saying.
3. Sexual immorality 6:12-20
In this passage, the Corinthian’s seem to be arguing: when you are hungry you eat, when you want sex you have it. Secular and unsaved people talk like this all the time; you just fulfill the bodily appetite when it comes upon you. But Paul argues that this is absolutely wrong. Nothing should master you and the body is not meant to fulfill every desire that comes into it but the body is meant for the Lord and for the future resurrection. So we don’t take our bodies and join them together with a prostitute or anyone else to whom we are not married. And then he says, ‘what do you do with sexual sin?’ He says to run from it; flee from it. He doesn’t say prove how strong you are and how far you can go. Some Christians and non-Christians want to know just how far they can go or how close they can get to doing wrong without doing it. But shouldn’t the question be how far can we go to glorify God? Our bodies are meant to glorify God.
III. Theology of the Cross Applied to Contemporary Issues in Church 7:1-16:4
A. Purity and Marriage 7:1-24
Now we deal with the questions that the Corinthian’s ask about different issues. The first issue is on purity and marriage. The Corinthian’s apparently thought that one would be more spiritual that one would abstain from sexual relations totally. However, you need to put this with chapter 6 where are committing sexual sin. It seems to be a weird congregation but then again, perhaps there are weird things happening in every congregation. Verse 1 says, ‘it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’ I believe Paul is quoted a slogan from the Corinthian church. He is quoting one of their sayings. It is good not to have sexual relations, obviously. This is their slogan and their belief. Paul sees that this has good things about it and bad things about it. I think some of the Corinthians were arguing that this was even true in marriage. This is asceticism isn’t it? Some of them were apparently arguing that it is okay to be married but we are not going to have sexual relations which might explain perhaps why some are going to prostitutes. It is because they are not having any sexual relations in marriage. I have never heard this sort of thing before, especially in the west, but the west doesn’t really suffer with asceticism. However, there may be some legalistic groups in our country and some of you may have come from a very legalistic background where there are all kinds of rules and that sort of thing. I really haven’t travelled in those circles in the last twenty years. Verses 2-5 say, ‘because of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.’ This is part of Paul’s view of marriage and he says your rule shouldn’t be followed ultimately because it will lead people into sin. This is part of Paul’s view of marriage. Part of that view says that regular sexual relations are necessary in marriage in verse 3.
Complementary and Mutuality
The husband and wife have mutual control over each other’s body. When we think of male and female relations, we are known as being complementarians and we are, but this verse emphasizes our mutuality doesn’t it. There are people who are complementarian or hierarchical or whatever word you want to use and they are so rigid about it. They are almost militaristic in the way they understand marriage, but Paul is not like this. There is also the mutuality. He even says that the wife has authority of the husband’s body and he uses the word, authority. Both complementary and mutuality keeps a marriage together. You just can’t say to someone, not to have sexual relations. It is saying that healthy marriages have regular sexual relations and if it doesn’t happen, it is going to lead to sin, Paul is saying. Verse 5, it says that you shouldn’t refuse one another sexually except by agreement that you both might commit yourselves to prayer and fasting. But you must come together again to make sure that Satan doesn’t tempt you. I say this in terms of concession not a command. This is not permission to have sex out of marriage. The concession here is that you can abstain if you want to. I’m not arguing that you have to do this, but if so, it must be a limited period of time.
Remain Single if You Can
Then Paul says he wishes everybody was like him, single. I don’t think Paul ever married. He continues to say, but each one has his own special gift from God; one with one kind and one with another. Most people have the gift to be married; I think that is simply what the Scriptures teach. Paul says being single is a good thing also. A catholic priest can’t be married and now the Catholic Church is suffering from this with homosexual priests who now prey on young boys. Some churches will not hire you unless you are married, but that is a mistake also. It is interesting to see the two extremes out there. In verses 8 and 9, Paul says, ‘to the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.’ But if you have strong sexual desires, you should get married. That is one indication that you ought to get married. He is not saying to marry the first person you find. But this is the whole theology of marriage, this is only one indication. Those who can’t marry have to trust God, but at the same time there is no excuse for sexual sin. Paul continues in verses 10 and 11, ‘to the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband. (But is she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. Here, Paul refers to the teachings of Jesus on divorce and remarriage. Evangelical churches are often very weak on divorce and remarriage. We hardly hear any sermons against it, because our churches are rift with it. Because it happens all the time, because when people want to get divorced, they do. And they disobey Scripture and the churches don’t discipline those who do it. Often, they just let it go. It is a huge problem in our churches. But what is the rule?
Divorce and Remarriage
The rule is no divorce and no remarriage, but of course there are exceptions. But this is the rule and we ought to preach and teach on this because it will help people not get divorced. Of course, there are a lot of other things we should do in terms of seminars and marriage classes to help people stay together and not get divorced. When I was young in the early 1960’s in the Catholic community, no one got divorced. It just didn’t happen. It was a rare thing if someone got divorced in our community. But now, so much has changed in our society. It was said then that it was better for the child but now that has been proved false; it is not better for the child. Kids struggle psychologically for years and even for the rest of their lives. If you are marriage to an unbeliever, what should you do? Of course, the Scripture is clear; if you are a believer you should not marriage an unbeliever. This is in 1st Corinthians 7:39 as it says marry only in the Lord, but you have some people who disobey this and then sometimes you have a person who is married to an unbeliever and then becomes a believer. Early Christians would possibly have said that you should divorce that person because they are unclean. Paul says that you as the believer sanctify that person. You make them clean so to speak. They are not saved and your children, but you put them in the sphere of the holy where they may be saved. So, do not divorce them, but stay with the unbeliever. If they want to get a divorce, then you are free, I think, to remarry. I think this is what Paul is saying. But with believers, if there is no grounds for divorce, the church should exercise church discipline and if the person repents and goes back to the marriage; well then okay, but if they don’t repent and leave; the other person can marry again. The person who leaves gives every indication of being an unbeliever. I also think that divorce and remarriage is permissible in abusage situations, but the Scripture doesn’t say anything about this.
Serve God in Your Situation
Now we are in verses 17-24 where Paul gives us a rule. Don’t think that changing your situation is the key to your spiritual health. Don’t think that if you were only single or if you were married, you could be better off. If only I were a slave or free, etc. These things are irrelevant to God. Stay with what you are doing. If you can get your freedom as a slave then get it, but don’t that if only you weren’t doing what you were doing, then I could really be effective for God. If only I were free from School. If only I had kids, etc. It just doesn’t work that way. There will be new problems that come along in our lives. So Paul is saying for you to serve God where you are in whatever situation you are in. God can use you right where you are. He is telling the Corinthians not to think if only I could be in a different situation I could be more effective. The Bible tells us to trust God in the situation that we are in.
B. Purity and Virgins 7:25-40
So what does he say to people who are engaged to one another? They are to follow God’s leading. Do what the Lord has called you to do. There are good reasons not to get married, for one it will bring problems into your life. If you are not married, you can go places and do things in ministry that you can’t do if you are married. He is not against marriage but of course Paul has experienced this first hand. He can go into situations and circumstances that married people can’t. In verse 39, he says to marry only in the Lord. Actually though, not as many marriages were arranged in the ancient world as we might think. In the Greco-Roman world, the women actually had a lot of choice on what to do. Usually, women were not required to marry a part from their will. But they had quite a bit of freedom. I think remarriage is permitted in case of sexual sin. There is a guilty party; hey, we are all sinners but there is a guilty party. Whenever they remarry, they are committing adultery. I would marry the innocent party but not the guilty party. That is how I would do it.
C. Idol Meats: Edification and Danger 8:1-11:1
So what about food offered to idols? This is the subject in chapters 8 to 10. In the ancient world there were lots of pagan temples, unlike the western world of today. And there were social situations within these temples and they usually offered sacrifices to their gods, food and meat. Some of that would be offered to their gods and some consumed or burned up. But then it would be sold out in the market place. Can a Christian eat that food in a temple and can you eat it when it sold in the market place? There are two groups here, the knowers and then the weak. The weak said that it was always wrong; there are idols involved and you are defiled by it. It hurts your life. But the knowers seem to say that it is okay because idols are nothing. This is only superstition and food is nothing; food is food. God doesn’t care what we eat. Paul is basically with these guys. Well, not totally but certainly closer than he is to the weaker ones. He has more problems with the weak, theologically. Food really can’t hurt you and there is only one God. These weaker ones are going by memories and their conscience which is wrong. But the knowers have big problems and the first problem focuses around a lack of love. They are so interested in being right, theologically, that they grind the weak down with their arguments. If we want to win an argument, theologically, we smack others down. So he says to the knowers in chapter 8, think of what would edify these other people and don’t do this when they are around because it bothers them so much. It is so difficult for them. Think of what would help them and build them up in the faith.