PRACTICAL THINGS IN THE PERSPECTIVE OF CHRIST
I Corinthians 7-9:18
MARRIAGE AND MEAT
1. RESTRAINT, ROMANCE AND REALISM – I Cor. 7:1-16
Marriage is a physical bond of spiritual people, and mutual affection must be a primary reality. At the sexual level there should be neither imposition nor coldness. Drastic exclusion can lead to temptation, just as careless desire can be defective in self-control. Nevertheless, sexual relations should be subject to prayer exclusion zones, or fasting. Marriage is not the final determinant, but Christ. In that matter, Paul finds non-marriage a great spur to action, but it is a matter of individual calling at this level, whether one finds marriage the call or not.
As to conformity to righteousness in marriage, first and in general, wives are not free to depart from husbands (I Cor. ). We must remember that since adultery meant death, there would not be much question of what to do in that case! In fact, Christ stated it – you can divorce for that and that ALONE. If however a wife DOES leave her husband (not in divorce for adultery), then she is NOT free to marry. The old marriage is spiritually intact. Now Paul, having cited from the tenor of Christ’s command on earth, adds to cover a case. Suppose a woman is married to an unbeliever (assume she was converted when in such a union): then that is no reason for her to leave him; for rather, her Christian presence helps the household, and allows for a setting apart of the children. The reciprocal applies for the man.
If however, the unbelieving partner LEAVES, so be it. Do not pursue the departing unbeliever. That is then the resolution of the matter. You have done what you could.
2. REST IN CALLING – I Cor. 7:17-24
Do not let your becoming a Christian lead to needless eruptions and mutations. Do not become rebels, if slaves; though if liberty comes, grasp it! Avoid petty pre-occupations and differences such as circumcision emphasis. Actually, there is a sense in which if a slave, yet you are freed by the Lord; and if you are “free” you are a slave a Christ. See all things in their spiritual perspective. Don’t be carried away by forms, but act in faith.
3. THE BACHELOR/SPINSTER OPTION – I Cor. 7:25-40
First, on the topic of the unmarried, give careful considerations to remaining as you are: married or not. It is a matter of complete liberty, but if you do marry, be prepared for a burden of weights and concerns. In either case, do not make marriage or any other particular situation, the be-all and end-all, as if earthly bonds should become divine liabilities. Being held by grace, show it; being given love, use it. The whole statute book of this world is for a time, so while you are in it, remember that “the form of this world is passing away” – .
If you do marry, and perhaps you were converted WHILE married, very well: if your spouse dies, you are free to marry again, but ONLY in the Lord, to a Christian. Take great care however before remarriage, since this death leaves you free for more direct service to the Lord, if you are willing and able.
4. THE MEATY ISSUE OF STUMBLING BLOCKS avoided by spiritual sight – I Cor. 8
So far we have been considering many inter-relationships, and the sensitive questions surrounding them, with the spiritual answers. A further example of such spiritual solutions in deep relationship issues, comes with KNOWING what you are free to do, and doing it, when some other Christian, being slow or immature, is misguided, and would think you were rebelling if you used a correct understanding and acted upon it, with spiritual liberty.
Take the case of idols and the meat offered to them. This of course can be SOLD and has a market value. YOU may see correctly that idols are mere imagination, that the meat offered to them is just meat, and buy it. There is one God (as excludes the Moslem idol with the atheist worship of mere ‘nature’): you see that ? Thus you need not be concerned at what is offered to what is not even there, some foolish idol ?
You see all that ? Well done! But if someone fails to see this, has some hangover of mysticism, feels there is some connection through the offering with the evil (after all, the meat is not even in the location now, it is detached because it IS detachable), and then sees YOU eating it, having bought it, that person may be offended.
He or she might think that you were uncaring, without
sanctity, and so gain a weakening impact from your example; or on the other
hand, that person might decide that scruples did not matter, and WITHOUT FAITH, just following you, eat meat
and so disturb conscience. Then it would be YOU and your precious
You must do better than that! Consider the ‘weaker brother’ and watch your conduct so that brotherly love is not a mere phrase, but a potent fact. CARE for each other.
“Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat
lest I make my brother stumble.”
Ø Just as you should not form PARTIES, so you should not REST in your own self as spiritual, as if no one else need be considered. Always before all things is Christ the Head, inspiring, firing, uplifting, the Redeemer, equipped with His word, binding and without scope for remanufacture (John 12:48-50 cf. II Corinthians 11); and then in Him, is the love for each other which shows that it is a body, and not a symbol.
Ø In Christ’s body, merely symbolic relationships are as absurd as a ship with symbolic sails. It will not go. Moreover, that makes any such assemblage, more a myth than a matter of Christianity. The real myth is just one: pretence concerning reality, basking in human constructions in the mind. Christ is not held in mind, but holds the mind and heart, body and spirit, in Himself. THAT is the difference. Christ is LORD, ALIVE and DIRECTOR to those who know Him, changing their hearts, lives, desires and all relationships.
THE DELICIOUS MORSEL OF PAUL’S LOVE OF
I Corinthians 9:1-18
Turning now to his own case, for Paul is himself a redeemed sinner, now sent as an apostle, so how do these things, how does this realm of liberty and sensitivity affect him ?
Am I not an apostle ? he asks. Could he not use his OWN liberty in order to carry about on his evangelical and missionary work, a wife ? and did not Peter do precisely that ? Is it not a basic biblical axiom that you pay for the services rendered, not skimping or disallowing what is legitmate ? is not a labourer worthy of his ‘hire’ ?
But, says Paul, even though it is not too strange if you reaping of spiritual things (I Corinthians ), to be provided the material means for the production, this is not how he chooses to do things in his ministry! For me, he says, preaching the Gospel is a NECESSITY LAID ON ME (I Corinthians ).
In fact, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” he exclaims, as must everyone really called to minister the word of God for Christ. It is not something which you propose to or for yourself. (In the case of the author, it would perhaps have been nearly the LAST thing that would have been chosen, but with God, one does not argue! HE KNOWS what He wants, and one must be acutely careful to do what He desires; for this is the way of that combination of love and trust which is crucial to any relationship with the Lord)! Well does one remember one elder who declared (when one was presenting the bodily resurrection in the midst of a rebellious church in New Zealand, which would not proclaim the necessity of the same, so denying the Christian faith) something so choice that it is a joy to remember: the irony was exquisite.
You, this elder asserted, could have been ANYTHING except a Minister! Apparently, ‘ministers’ must be tame!
Very well, Paul was CALLED and so HAD to do the thing which the living God demanded of him. Do not mistake! It is a profound privilege so to serve the Lord, but naturally one has one’s own preferences and sensitivities, susceptibilities and ways, and when as with Jonah, the call is not what one would ever have dreamed of possessing, it nevertheless is to be followed; for God knows what He is doing, even more than some elders!
Certainly one’s presence in that denomination fin
It is not for profit (heaven forbid! for is costly!), it is not for fame (one can be virtually crucified), it is not for desire (one is heaved this way and that by the rebellious as one is faithful): it is for one purpose, to do what the Lord, risen and ruling, wants in one’s day and generation, and to complete His work, in love, since He is love, in purity and fidelity, since He is faithful and worthy is He who gave His life so that many might be eternally blessed. It is to serve Him.
No, says Paul, I preach willingly for a reward; and what IS that reward ? he asks. It is this: that he might present of gospel of Christ without charge, not abusing his undoubted privilege of being supported, but rather supporting himself so that to the uttermost he might be effective.
Then then is this liberty, this way of finding the least offensive, most sensitive way of serving God amidst the brothers: not in the least as if other ministers should do the same; but in his own case, for his specialised work, this being what is in his heart, so it is in his work and way.
So does love consider, and so does one’s spirit need to reflect, for we are members of one another, and all servants of the Lord, who are His.