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1ST CORINTHIANS 7:1-15 Paul addresses divorce. It is interesting that Jesus himself actually raised the bar from the Old Covenant practice to the New. In most other areas he emphasized grace as opposed to law ‘the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’ but in this area Jesus said ‘Moses made an exception under the law for divorce, but from the beginning this was not Gods plan’ and Jesus restricted divorce to the cause of adultery [fornication- actually the word for pornography] only. Here Paul gives some direction. First, you shouldn’t divorce. You also shouldn’t be married to an unbeliever. Well, what should happen to those who were unbelievers when they married, but now one is a believer? Paul says if the unbeliever is ‘pleased’ to stay in the union, then that’s fine. Well what does ‘pleased’ mean? If the unbeliever is physically abusing his spouse, then that doesn’t seem ‘pleasing’ to me. Paul will say if the unbeliever departs, let them go. The believer should not feel condemned by this. He/she had no control in this case. But if there is a divorce, let the one who left remain unmarried. So what happens if you were forced into it, can you re marry? Paul does not specifically say. He does say to the one who left the marriage, they should not remarry. Divorce is a tricky issue. When attending the fundamental Baptist church they taught that if one were divorced they could never be ‘a Pastor’ [even though no one was ‘a pastor’ in this way in the first century church!]. Many teach that Paul’s instructions on Bishops/Elders said a divorced person should not be an overseer. Paul actually said ‘they should be the husband of one wife’. This most certainly could simply be saying they shouldn’t be in a plural marriage. This was common in the first century, so you could take it this way. Overall I find it strange that someone could have been a murderer [Paul] or any other type of sinner, but the divorcee’ seems to be the only sinner that is excluded. The other problem is how much of ‘a believer’ were you at the time of your divorce. There have been well known preachers who initiated the divorce from their wives, they remarried and later wanted this to be treated as any other sin, just forgive and forget. The problem is if you were wise enough in the lord to have known better, then true repentance would entail making things right. Whether that’s reconciliation or simply remaining single, but it sure seems like these types of brothers who went into the whole remarriage thing with their eyes wide open, they should be held to a higher standard. Overall, we should not be in bondage to things that were out of our control. Those who were victimized and the partner left you, you should not be condemned for something that was out of your control. Believers who initiate the divorce from someone who was willing to stay in the marriage, they should not remarry. There have been too many cases where believers divorce other believers, without biblical grounds, and then remarry someone from the church. These situations are not permitted. If the believing spouse was simply ‘difficult to live with’ then that doesn’t cut it. In situations where there was actual physical abuse, well I don’t believe the Lord wants you to stay in the house under these circumstances. But the only biblical excuse for divorce, according to Jesus, is adultery. In all of these gray areas, wisdom must be applied. The high profile ministers who have initiated their divorces and remarried, without the proper biblical grounds, should not be simply ‘forgiven’ and permitted to continue in their public role in ministry. True forgiveness and restoration would entail some sort of repentance and a public change in the situation. Like Paul says ‘to the rest speak I, not the Lord’. I am giving you my opinion on some of this stuff, but I too think I have the Spirit of Christ.
(962)1ST CORINTHIANS 7:16-24 ‘Were you circumcised when you were called into the Christian life? Then don’t become uncircumcised’ [that would be quite a feat!] ‘Were you uncircumcised when called? Don’t get circumcised’. What’s Paul saying? Basically he is keeping the decrees that were made at the Jerusalem council [Acts 15]. He is stressing the importance of Christ’s spiritual kingdom. To the Jew, he is not saying ‘keep trying to become justified by the law and sacrifices’ but he is saying ‘I am not trying to wipe out your culture and heritage, I am trying to bring you into the fullness of what the Prophets have foretold’. This is Paul’s ongoing defense in the book of Acts ‘I stand condemned because I believe that what the prophets said would happen, did!’. Paul says the thing that matters is ‘the doing of Gods commandments’. When we studied Romans I showed how Paul did say ‘the hearers of the law are not justified, but the doers shall be’. Here again Paul stresses the importance of the Christian life being one of true conversion. Those who believe are changed and become doers of Gods law by nature. The mechanism of conversion is Faith, the outworking of that conversion is obedience. So even though Paul is not putting the law on the gentile converts, yet he does teach that they will by nature keep the law [Romans again]. Now he says ‘were you a slave when called? Seek not to become free. Were you free? Don’t become a slave’ and ‘be not the servants/slaves of men’. We actually have hit on this a few times in recent months. Once again Paul says ‘don’t see this new faith as an opportunity to mount a civil disobedience campaign’ but at the same time he makes it clear ‘don’t put yourself under servitude either!’ The New Testament does not justify the institution of slavery or racism! The basic ethos of this new kingdom is freedom from bondage, it was only a matter of time before this new movement would shake the foundations of society and uproot this evil. Make no mistake about it, the anti-slavery movement was instigated by the people of God [William Wilberforce, Charles Finney and many others].
(963)1ST CORINTHIANS 7: 25-40 let’s be a little unconventional today. This passage deals with Paul’s counsel on celibacy and marriage. The historic church has had a bad rap on this issue. It is common today to say the church devalued marriage [and sex] and therefore we should exalt it. Sometimes this attempt at trying to correct the perceived imbalance puts a stumbling block in the way of those who are truly called to live the single life. Though marriage is an honorable thing, a true gift from God, yet living the celibate life can also be considered a very noble thing. It is rare in contemporary evangelicalism to leave this option open. Paul does say this option is not only available, but a noteworthy calling! He also makes it clear that only those who are called to this single lifestyle should attempt it. The church should not force celibacy on people. Now, do our catholic brothers force it upon the Priests? In a way, yes. But don’t forget that no one is ‘forced’ into the priesthood. Some feel like the scandals of catholic priests who abused children can be blamed on forced celibacy. The problem with this idea is many protestant ministers have also fallen sexually, and they were not celibate! The point being we need to be careful when we brand any Christian denomination with an accusation. Now, Paul also makes an interesting statement that we need to look at. He says ‘for the present distress I give these guidelines’. Is it possible that Paul’s seeming harshness on marriage was due to the fact of some type of distress that he saw coming? Possibly the Neronic persecutions? If so, Paul could be saying ‘because of the upcoming severe persecution I recommend everyone just laying low for the time, if married, seek not to be single and vice a versa’. This is possible, we need to keep this in mind when reading this section of scripture. But most of all I think the modern evangelical church needs to retool her message in this area. Marriage and sex are good, God ordained these things in their proper place. But living single and celibate is also considered a very noble calling, we do not normally reflect this balance in the present atmosphere. Also as an aside, a few years back it was common to teach ‘the world/public schools have taken sex and taught it to our kids. They have usurped the job of the family/church’ while there is some truth to this, the problem was some well known TV evangelists began to discuss sex in the Sunday morning setting that was improper in a way [If you local Pastors who read this have done this, be assured I am not talking about you!]. I remember watching a national minister speak openly, with grandma’s and children in the service, and say ‘now speaking about sexual climax’ Yikes!! Just because the family/church dropped the ball on these issues, this doesn’t mean there are no barriers at all while dealing with these issues. Those who do this type of stuff seem to be saying ‘sex is not a dirty thing, therefore we need to bring it out into the open’ while this is true to a degree, there are also age appropriate subjects that should be taught in a private setting. If the church feels the need to delve into these subjects, we need to be careful that we are not crossing boundaries when doing it.
· MORE PROOF FOR GOD- Okay, what’s up with ‘dark matter’? In the 20th century the amazing breakthroughs in science showed us that what we thought was a limited universe, was actually a growing universe that was expanding at a faster rate every day. The further out you got, the faster it was expanding. This discovery [Hubble] worked in harmony with Einstein’s theories. This discovery also created a problem. If the universe is so much more vast than previously thought to be, then the amount of known matter needed in the universe in order to maintain the proper gravitational force was not there. Basically you need so much matter to exist in order for this newly discovered expanding universe to hold together and function right. The problem is that the matter is not there![some say it is still not detected]. So the theory of ‘dark matter’ [unseen, undetected matter] has been floated. This invisible matter is supposedly the single greatest matter in existence, though we have no proof that even one tiny particle exists! Ahh, when stuff like this happens, we need to pay close attention. Why? Well some who defend the young earth theory of creation use this to back up their claim of a young universe. It’s kinda technical stuff, but this ‘dark matter’ has to be there to defend the old age theory [for some!]. Another problem is we have absolutely no proof that this dark matter exists. It is simply believed in because the naturalistic explanation demands it! Sort of like coming to a part in a puzzle where a piece doesn’t fit, so you simply make something fit. Now, the bible does teach that the vast universe is held together [a key role of so called dark matter] by Christ’s absolute power. The other explanation for how the vast universe is able to function smoothly, without the needed matter to create the huge amount of gravity, is that God himself is holding all things together by his omnipotence. In essence, we need God for this puzzle to fit. I am not saying the idea of dark matter is totally false, but as far as we know today, there is no proof that it exists. We as believers should not take an anti scientific stance on everything, to the contrary, true science always backs up the Christian world view [in general] but we also need to be suspicious when science floats an idea that can be explained by the existence of a creator. If the idea is simply out there, with no proof at all [the multi-verse] then we certainly have the right to challenge whether the whole thing is a bunch of ‘dark [invisible] matter’!
(965)1st CORINTHIANS 8- Once again Paul will deal with the issue of what’s clean or unclean, the Christians convictions. Corinth not only had low sexual standards, but also much idolatry. This led to a problem of whether or not believers should purchase the meat sold in the market that was used for idol worship. After the sacrifice was made, whatever good meat was left could be sold on the streets. Now, Paul says the believer knows there is only one true God, so with this knowledge you are not sinning because you know the meat really wasn’t used to worship other gods, because there are no other Gods! But he also says that every man does not have this knowledge. So just like he taught the Romans, he teaches the Corinthians that in all of your freedom, the highest standard is whether you are building others up or tearing them down. If you have a free conscience to eat the meat, then fine, it is no sin to you. But if this liberty is offending the minds of those who are weaker in the faith, then your freedom just became a stumbling block and worked against the main goal of building others up. So the real question isn’t ‘can I do this with a clean conscience’ but ‘does my practice offend or build others up’? Many years ago I had a friend who smoked cigars, he was a believer and simply saw nothing wrong with it. We had a mutual friend who found out about it and bought some cigars and gagged on them. His conscience was emboldened to ‘eat the meat’ and by doing it he sinned. Why was cigar smoking sin to the weaker brother? Because he really wasn’t doing it out of a pure heart with a clean motive. Though the cigar smoker felt he had the freedom to smoke [it wasn’t an every day thing] yet his freedom caused another to fall. So Paul consistently takes this position in his letters. Some day we will get to other verses like ‘the things the gentiles offer to idols are being offered to demons, so don’t partake with them at the same table’ this is dealing with a different thing, I’ll explain it at another time. Paul also says ‘knowledge puffs up, but charity builds up’. One of the side trails believers can easily fall into is thinking the Christian life is simply an exercise is learning things. That is knowledge for knowledge’s sake. While Paul was not advocating ignorance, he was dealing with carnal believers who walked in pride. He was showing them that those who think they stand should be careful lest they fall. Paul was calling them to a higher purpose than just learning scripture and applying it for personal satisfaction, he was calling them to live sacrificially, to take the wrong done to you [legally in court stuff]. To give up the freedom to ‘smoke cigars’ if you will, for the sake of others. Paul was teaching them that it was possible to be right and have the answers to back up your position, but if you are truly not dieing to self, you are simply getting ‘puffed up’.
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