Posts Tagged ‘1 Corinthians’

1 Corinthians 16 – Life on God’s Mission

September 27th, 2010

Some passages of Scripture are ordinary, administrative and practical – but they are still God’s word and they will do us good if we really receive what they have to give to us. The theme of this passage is mission – God’s mission. When we meet Jesus and become a Christian, we join in on God’s mission. Every day of Paul’s was spent on mission and ensuring that the churches were sharing in the global mission, playing their part. We too want Jesus to be famous everywhere and for all nations to be excited about Him. God wants to bless our church so that we can bless the city around us and other nations.

Often our life takes a sudden turn when we meet God – although this doesn’t necessarily mean we will move; we may just be caught up in God’s mission in the place we’re already in. Is your life just about you or is it about Jesus’ mission for your life? His mission will change every aspect of your life. Yield your life to His mission without qualification.

Paul demonstrates the wisdom that godly leaders use to make decisions: although there is uncertainty about what to do, he just makes a decision and goes will it, and leaves the details to God. Maturity in godliness means more freedom to make choices and decisions through what we feel is wise and the best. We mature through childlike obedience to God and then He is able to trust us to make up our own minds – but only when our hearts are surrendered to God. God also wants us to seek wise counsel and use our brains, and we know that He can interrupt our course at any time and change our direction. Be attentive to where He wants you to go.

Often we get so anxious and caught up trying to discern the great specific “will of God” for our life, that we become paralysed and won’t do anything until we hear direct instruction from God – but God’s call on our life is already quite clear in the Bible: love God, love people and spread the gospel, to begin with. God gives you a compass rather than a detailed map. As you follow this call that has already been made clear in His word, God will give you more specifics. So do something! Start obeying and going where you believe you need to go – God can steer a moving ship but he can’t steer one that’s on the land.

Verse 2 – Paul talks about there being ‘a wide door’, a massive kingdom opportunity where God was clearly moving, and so he decides to stay. And then he says ‘and there are many adversaries’ – not ‘but’ but ‘and’. Paul knew pain, hardship, difficulty, disappointment and persecution is all part of the mission and the growth of the church – and it is part of our life and our ministry; it’s how we grow up. Just because things turn difficult, doesn’t mean that God is no longer in it or with us – sometimes it is a sign that God is in it. We are guaranteed trouble in this life because we have an enemy who hates God ans hates us. Be prepared for challenges.

Finally, verse 23 – Paul finishes the letter with grace and love. We need the grace of God to do all these things – to strengthen us for the fight and to live on His mission, finishing well at the end.

1 Corinthians 12 – One Body, Many Parts

August 10th, 2010

Paul is dealing with another issue in the Corinthian church – how they have misunderstood and mishandled the things of the Holy Spirit. They have become sensationalists, becoming obsessed with spiritual and mystical ideas, with having simply an “experience” void of any meaning or purpose. They have also become competitive, having rivalry with spiritual gifts, being proud in how “gifted” they were.

But spiritual gifts are for a purpose and a goal. This is why the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts:

1. To honour Jesus

  • You can only say that Jesus is Lord from the heart by the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Likewise you can’t curse Jesus from the heart if you have the Spirit.
  • The Spirit wants to bring about the Lordship and worship of Christ in people’s hearts.
  • The Spirit brings about revelation of Jesus – who He is and the fact that He’s alive
  • Jesus gets a lot of attention when the Holy Spirit turns up. Jesus sent us the Helper who would bring an awareness of Jesus wherever the Spirit goes.
  • The Holy Spirit is God and should be worshipped as such, and yet He brings attention to the Father and the Son.
  • We don’t worship spirituality, or even just focus only on the Spirit, but God Himself in all He is.
  • The Spirit works powerfully when Jesus is honoured and worshipped and enjoyed and exalted.

2. For the common good

  • Same Lord, same Spirit, same Body.
  • All of us are who are in Christ are given the same manifestation of the Spirit.
  • Spiritual gifts and abilities are for the good of others and the building of the Body. It’s bigger than just you – it’s for the Church.
  • The gifts are to server – otherwise they’re not a gift!
  • Paul uses the analogy of a body – you become part of it automatically when you come to Christ
  • You only hurt yourself if you damage the Body, the same if you hurt one part of your body, there is a knock-on effect on the rest of yourself.
  • We need to live for the overall purpose of the Church.
  • Don’t be a cancer! This is someone who only lives for their own purpose, draining the Body of time and energy. Don’t just be a consumer – be a part of the answer and the solution.
  • The part you play is vital for the Body. A healthy body is where every part plays its correct role. How are you functioning?

This deals with two problems:

1. Self pity (v.15-17)

  • We need to resist feeling like we are not a part of the Body just because we don’t have a particular gift or are not a particular part of the Body.
  • We are not called to be the same as each other – not called to do what others are called to do.
  • We fall into self pity when we can’t do the same thing or be like someone we admire and measure as the idea of a successful Christian. Don’t give into gift envy!
  • Be the most useful version of yourself by the grace of God, to the blessing of the Body. Don’t waste your time trying to be something you’re not!
  • God custom-designed us each for a specific purpose. Eph 2 – we are His workmanship, created for good works which He prepared in advance.
  • You learn what your purpose and role is by trial and error.
  • Help others find out what they’re meant to do – tell them what they’re good at (and be brave enough to tell them what they might not be so gifted in).
  • You won’t find out what you were meant to do if you’re not in the Church!

2. Superiority (v.21-23)

  • We are totally wrong when we identify importance with profile.
  • The last shall be first, the first shall be last.
  • Your gift is not there to make you more public. That may happen anyway, but don’t idolise fame and profile.
  • Give honour to the “lesser parts”. Outdo one another in showing honour to others – be competitive about that!

Self pity and superiority are both issues of the same root problem – a security that is not found in Christ. Find your security in Him – not in how good you are at doing particular things. God could take away your gift at any time, or bring someone along who is more gifted in the same thing as you. Ensure your identity is firmly built on Christ!

Temptation – 1: Corinthians 10:1-14

June 1st, 2010

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Paul is challenging the Corinthians on wanting to have it both ways – of wanting to have both God and their idols. This is typical of human nature – wanting to have multiple gods – but you can’t just switch gods when it’s convenient; God has a right to us and a right to be our God because He made us and He is the only true God. We are made to worship Him alone – that’s where we find true life, that’s where life makes sense. Our relationship with God must be exclusive like a marriage – God won’t accept other idols, otherwise it means we don’t really love God.

We also can’t use the line of “being all things to all men” or trying to be culturally relevant as excuses for idolatry. We may think it’s harmless but we allow idols to have power over us when we worship them.

Paul goes back to the Exodus of God’s people to make his point. He says that they did the right “Christian” rituals – once saved by God out of Egypt, they had their own equivalents of baptism and communion – and yet God still overthrew them in the wilderness and all but 2 out of 2 million failed to fulfil their destiny, even though they still remained God’s people and didn’t go back to Egypt. We are foolish if we take that lightly.

Paul says that eternal life is something we need to “lay hold” of. We are saved – by grace – for a reason; we have a God-given purpose to fulfil. And the hurdle we fall at is tempation.

1. Be ready

  • Prepare to be tested. Be careful, don’t be cocky, because testing will come. Wake up!
  • Do not misunderstand or underestimate our enemy. 1 Peter 5:8 – our enemy, the devil, wants to destroy us. He is real and he will use anything at all – any desire or longing or thing we want – as bait to lure us away from God’s purposes for us.

2. “Special case” syndrome

  • We so often make exceptions for ourselves, saying that we can handle certain temptations that others can’t, or that our circumstances excuse us from not giving into temptation because it is just to hard for us.
  • But obedience to God is always hard and any temptation we face is one common to man.

3. Hold fast to Scripture

  • This is the antidote to the devil’s lies, because when we give into temptation it means that we are believing the false promises of Satan and the false picture of the future that he presents.
  • The devil casts doubt on God in our minds and makes us distrust Him – so we need to beat the devil’s promises with God’s promises.
  • Whenever we sin, we are effectively saying that we don’t trust God, but we need to know that God is faithful and that the one who is trustworthy is the one who hung on a cross for our sake.

4. God is in control

  • You are not “giving God a break” when you give into temptation – that is nonsense!
  • God allows the temptation to happen – He knows how much we can handle and He always provides the grace we need to endure it.
  • God does not tempt us, He tests us – to strengthen us. The devil tempts us to destroy us.
  • God cares so much about us – He is our good Father.

5. It will end

  • The testing won’t go on forever – God always has an escape (literally “outcome”) ready for us at the right time.
  • The way to endure is to remember that God has an outcome prepared, that there is an end in sight.
  • Sometimes we think we can’t go on any more, but God gives us the grace to just get through one day at a time.
  • Jesus endured every temptation and endured the cross, and yet He really was abandoned – for our sake, and so that we can endure and reign in life with Him, never being forsaken.

On Mission With Jesus – 1 Corinthians 9:15-23

May 17th, 2010

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1. Culture

  • Each culture has its own language, customs, habits, etc, and we have to learn these if we are cross into other cultures. Culture isn’t confined to being international – there are many sub-cultures within any culture. There are even different cultures just as we step outside our front door!
  • Paul dealt with the challenge of culture crossing – he especially needed to as an apostle.
  • Paul was firm and unmoving in his beliefs and convictions, but he was also pliable and able to accommodate different types of people.
  • The problem is that we often assume that our culture superior and is the “right” way of doing things, and we can equate certain customs and cultural values with the gospel – bringing the gospel plus our customs to other cultures. But what we need to do is bring the gospel in its absolute purest form.
  • It is difficult and it isn’t comfortable to cross cultures effectively.
  • Paul is FREE – he is free from trying to impress people and God. He is not taking on other people’s cultures to impress those people, nor is he trying to earn favour with God. He is free from condemnation and free to live for God alone.
  • Paul’s home is not in any culture because it is in heaven, so he can put aside his cultural comforts and enter any other culture.
  • Paul makes himself a servant to all – for the sake of those who don’t know Christ.

2. Jesus

  • Paul was free because of Jesus. Jesus bought our freedom and peace with God with His blood. Jesus was made a servant so that we could be free.
  • The way Paul enters other cultures like this points to something deeper and more powerful – he is acting like Jesus.
  • God Himself came down and entered our world, taking on our likeness, and made all the effort and took all the steps to reach out to us. He gets on our level and communicates to us in a way we can understand.
  • Like Jesus, we are to take the glory of God to other people.
  • Jesus will take us over borders in order to reach those who don’t know Him.
  • We have to learn the cultures and world in which we live – we need to go as far as we can to reach people, without sinning.
  • Don’t put barriers in the way of the gospel!
  • The onus is on us to take the steps and go to people with the gospel.
  • We need to be flexible and get our priorities right.

3. Challenges

  • Listening challenge: we need to learn to listen to others first, as our propensity is usually to preach at people instead. People will listen more when they’ve been heard.
  • Persuasive challenge: we need to know what and why we believe, and we need to give reason for those beliefs. Sometimes we can be superspiritual and just “leave it to the power of God”, but we need to challenge other people’s worldviews because we love them and want them to know Jesus.
  • Sunday challenge: the church has the challenge of drawing people into the community of God. We need to present ourselves and our meetings in an intelligible way, being accessible to all, and not being lazy about explaining what goes on during meetings.
  • Community challenge: drawing people into zones and small groups, particularly those who are on the fringes, and not sticking to Christian cliques. Jesus left the 99 sheep to go and find the one – we’ll grow to be more like Jesus when we reach out to and hang out with those on the edges.
  • Public challenge: this is how we present ourselves as a church in terms of communications, aesthetics, online presence, etc – presented in a clear and relevant way.
  • Misunderstanding challenge: by trying to reach out into our culture(s), people may accuse us of “selling out” and just trying to be “hip”. Other Christians and other churches may cut us off – but true maturity is putting aside the barriers and our personal preferences in order to advance the gospel whatever it takes.

Jesus & “Your” Money – 1 Corinthians 9:1-14

May 11th, 2010

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Paul has been explaining what true freedom is and what it is to be used for. When talking about money, we have to set the foundation right first, which is that grace is a free gift – it cannot be bought or earned with good works (e.g. giving lots of money to church). We can’t cover our sin with money – the price was God’s own Son. Another thing that needs to be clarified is that Paul is speaking to Christians, to members of the church.

Paul explains that he has every right to be paid by the church – and yet he chose not to in the case of the Corinthian church, as he didn’t want people to think they could bribe him, and the church had only recently been started up. However, Paul does explain four reasons why he has this right, as do the leaders of any church:

1. Common sense

  • v.7 – if you work, you should get fairly paid.
  • Often, Christians are the slowest to get this – some of us have a superspiritual view of money, thinking it is “unspiritual” or the root of all evil, or thinking that it will make the pastors/elders more spiritual and humble by keeping them poor! But money can and should be used for God’s glory, for blessing others – the church needs it. It is the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil – when you treat money as god.
  • Jesus had to be supported financially when he was in full-time ministry.

2. God wants fairness

  • v.8 – it is in the law of God.
  • God has said many times in Scripture that He cares about fairness. He wants there to be justice for those who work – to be given dignity and rights and treated well.
  • Paul uses the metaphor of an ox – good representation of what ministry work looks like: genuinely hard work, carrying a heavy load, extends beyond ordinary working hours, a continuous labour.

3. God’s presence costs cash

  • v.13
  • The Church is the presence of God – extending the Church, doing the work of God’s kingdom requires resources, and that requires money.
  • The Church is God’s plan and only plan for the world – Jesus gave His life for it, and He will build it.
  • We can be tempted to give our money to other ministries that seem more exciting than giving to our church – but the church is God’s mission and the mission we should be on. God has placed us here, to serve THIS city.
  • We are not forbidden from giving to other ministries – it’s just that our priority in giving should be our church. We can give on top of what we give to church.

4. Jesus said it

  • v.14 – ‘the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel’
  • 1 Timothy 5:17-18
  • It is a clear, biblical principle, taught by Jesus Himself.

There are four common myths that stop people from giving:

1. “More people = more money”

  • i.e. thinking that it will just be covered by others. However, every member is needed. The church cannot afford to have people not giving.

2. “It’s ‘my’ money”

  • No it’s not, it’s God’s money. We are stewards – we merely look after God’s money. He can do with it what He likes. Our calling in life is not to accumulate wealth and material possessions, but to steward well.

3. “I can’t afford to give”

  • If we have this attitude, will we ever be in a place where we’re able to give?
  • It sets a principle of “God gets the leftovers” or “God gets whatever I have spare”.
  • The reality is, we can’t afford not to give! We need to learn that God covers us – that He is our security, not money.
  • We can’t outgive God!
  • We rob God when we don’t give to Him the first and best.
  • We need to realign our priorities – where your treasure is, there your heart is also.
  • If we learn to steward with little, God can trust us to steward with large amounts.
  • Learn to give freely, wholeheartedly and crazily!

4. “CCK just needs to survive”

  • i.e. we just need to stop being so ambitious.
  • In truth, we need to be way more ambitious – God has much GREATER ambitions for our city, our nation and our world!
  • This is a serious matter – we need to reach people with Jesus, we need to be building and growing more and more. And in order to do that, each member needs to play their part.

Protect your conscience, protect your brother – 1 Corinthians 8

May 4th, 2010

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The church in Corinth were facing the moral dilemma of whether it was right to eat food that had been sacrificed to idols. We may not have the same problem in our time and culture, but we will struggle with many issues of conscience, many grey areas as Christians. This passage gives us good principles to help guide us through the issues we face.

There tends to be two different types of attitudes:
1. Relativistic – where there is no real right or wrong or absolute truth – very prevalent view in our culture
2. Making universal rules on every single issue – forcing your own convictions onto everyone else

Paul says that the second view is weak. Christianity and the Bible is not about following rules. Jesus in fact had the most trouble on earth with the religious leaders, the legalists.

1. Gnosis and love

  • Paul draws a distinction between knowledge that “puffs up” – the Greek word ‘gnosis’ – and love.
  • He addresses the attitude of the heart – wanting to be right and win all the arguments – the attitude of lifting up knowledge rather than love
  • Don’t be more passionate about debating doctrines rather than the doctrines themselves
  • We often build our life on what group we are “in” with – our hope is in what we know, which is pride
  • If anyone loves God it proves that they are known by God. This is humbling because we only love God because He foreknew us and loved us first
  • We should pursue knowledge for the purpose of worshipping better

2. Knowledge and freedom

  • Paul does address the issue directly that the Corinthians were disputing – that there is only one God, and the idols aren’t real – AND that there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. Paul inserts Jesus’ name here into what the Jews would usually recite (Deut. 6) because Jesus is the revelation of God, the only way to know God
  • You look at Jesus and you see how God deals with people and how He uses His freedom

3. Freedom to love

  • What is our freedom for? The answer is found in Jesus – it is for the sake of love
  • All of us as Christians are at different stages – some do not possess the same knowledge as others and struggle with things that others don’t. We need to be patient and loving towards those with weak consciences
  • Don’t ignore your conscience! Even if other people are doing what your conscience tells you is wrong. Don’t live with a bad conscience – protect it and educate it
  • Loving others sacrificially is far greater than personal freedom – and do it with gladness and joy, so that your joy is made complete in serving others and putting their needs first
  • Don’t flaunt your freedom but serve others
  • Jesus is neither indifferent nor rigid – He is patient with the weak, even though He is always in the right
  • What do you base your hope and identity on? Whose opinion do you care about the most? God should be the answer to these questions
  • Jesus not only gives us an example – He gives us the power and strength to be able to love others in this way. Otherwise it is impossible for us!
  • Jesus also gives us a new, clean conscience

Handling our Differences – 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

April 26th, 2010

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Paul is dealing with the issue of litigation in the church in Corinth, when there were rock star lawyers and suing people was a way of making money. Paul reserves his harshest words for this topic – he wants the church to feel ashamed for such behaviour. In our present day and culture, we may not be taking others to court but we do hold grudges and take vengeance on others.

Paul tells the Corinthian Christians that they have forgotten the following:

1. Themselves

  • They have forgotten their identity – who they are – and their destiny – where they are headed – as the people of God
  • All the saints (that is, anyone who has saving faith in Christ) will one day rule the whole world, including the angels
  • We are God’s ecclesia – His people – so we should be able to sort out our differences amongst ourselves
  • Paul is furious that they were making the Church look like any other organised religion that is just about ripping each other off. He is keenly aware that the world is watching, and so should we be
  • Jesus prayed that His people would be one, would be unified
  • We know better than to get revenge on each other
  • Paul is NOT advocating covering up sins within the church and keeping them secret. He wants the city to see the church as genuine, open and humble, shining for Jesus, and civic authorities have been put in place by God – so there are times when we need to bring issues out into the open for the sake of justice
  • However, this is about personal grievances and wanting money

2. Their Master

  • We follow the example of Jesus – He suffered, forgave, was merciful, took mistreatment without retaliating, was loving, and did not take vindication against others
  • We betray Jesus by not acting like Him and getting revenge
  • However, we can’t just try our hardest to be like Christ – we’ll never make it in our own strength. We are innately sinful – we long for personal vindication in our hearts. But Jesus took all this on the cross – our sin and also the sins committed against us
  • Jesus at the cross gave us a righteous standing with God and the power to live righteously. He was disempowered so that we could be empowered and reign with Him for all eternity
  • Although we as God’s people continually treat Jesus with contempt, He never once gets back at us even though He has every right to
  • Ch.3 – we have everything in Christ. This is why we can suffer losing money, personal grievances, etc
  • Dwell on the fact you have been forgiven – he who has been forgiven much, loves much
  • There’s an illusion that holy people just choose miserable, hard things for sake of it. But the truth is, it’s all done in faith and knowing that they have a destiny which cannot compare – e.g. Abraham
  • We’re not advocating being doormats – we do need to seek justice when necessary

3. Their story

  • If you spend your life grabbing and getting, you will not inherit the Kingdom of God. If you try to hold onto your life, you will lose it – but if you give it up for the sake of Jesus, you will find it
  • In this passage Paul lists any and every kind of person who lives to gratify their own pleasures. He is not picking on certain people, e.g. homosexuals – but having a go at everyone who lives for themselves
  • We have a new story, a different story to the rest of the world
  • You’ll live a joyless life if you live for yourself – everything you try to grab becomes cheap
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. True peace is always costly and God is the ultimate peacemaker – we are called to follow His example
  • None of this is easy but it becomes easier the more you grow in your relationship with Jesus

Sacred Mums – 1 Corinthians 7:14

March 15th, 2010

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We often neglect the subject of motherhood, but it is a relevant topic to all of us – at the very least, we were all born of a mother. It is also an incredibly important and significant role within the church, and should be viewed as such. It is means whereby Jesus can be taken into the home and the family, even if the mum is the only Christian in that place (which is mainly who the apostle Paul is addressing in this verse). Mums can bring godly influence.

The Bible esteems motherhood and holds it in great honour, because it is a calling and a gift from God. There are 6 aspects of this calling:

1. Undervalued calling

  • Motherhood is not valued highly in our culture and it is seen as “unfashionable” now to have children.
  • Mums often feel a sense of shame and embarrassment to say they are “just a mum”.
  • It is not seen as a “real job” – even though it is tough, demanding, 24-7 work!
  • Our culture has wrongly evaluated motherhood – but the Bible evaluates it in the right way, and so we need to view motherhood through scripture.
  • Dorothy Patterson – motherhood offers something no other job can: to work with the people you love the most and want to please the most.

2. A noble calling

  • 2 Tim 1:5 – Paul talks about how Timothy came to faith in Christ because of his grandmother and his mother. These 2 women literally changed the world through their role as mothers.
  • The fifth commandment is a command to honour both our mother and our father (Exodus 20:12).
  • The book of Proverbs continually lifts up mothers and their role and demonstrates their influence (e.g. 1:8, 23:25, 31:1).
  • Mothers get to do work on a child’s heart by the grace of God. The heart of a child is what matters – mothers are to shepherd it towards Jesus. All children are born sinful and foolish, and need their hearts to be transformed by God (which only He can do).

3. A warrior’s calling

  • Motherhood has a weak image but the fact is that actually mums are at war.
  • Ephesians 5 – the passage about spiritual warfare – comes right after Eph. 4 – the chapter about how family/domestic life should work. Home is where the battlefield is.
  • Mums need to battle for their children (e.g. in prayer).
  • Gen. 3 – God describes how the power of evil will affect domestic life and in particular, motherhood.
  • Mums need to be a force for God in the home.

4. A rewarding calling

  • Mums can have faith that there will be seasons of blessing, fruit, reward and fulfilment.
  • Prov. 31:28: ‘Her children rise up and call her blessed’.

5. A spiritual calling

  • If God calls, He also equips with grace and power from His Holy Spirit.
  • Mums need to be continually filled with the Spirit, carrying the presence of God.
  • Mums can trust God to act on their behalf.
  • God cares especially deeply about single mums – covered by the term “widows” in the Bible. Psalm 146:9.

6. A God-revealing calling

  • Motherhood reveals something of the character and heart of God.
  • Gen. 3 – God promises that through children, He will defeat the power of evil. Through one child in particular, Jesus, He did this – He reversed the curse.
  • God is also like a mother to us (Isaiah 49:15).
  • God abandoned His own Son so that He would not have to abandon us.

Jesus, Marriage & Divorce 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, 10-24, 39-40

March 8th, 2010

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The apostle Paul is still addressing the same problems that the Corinthians had with sex and marriage being “unspiritual”, and believing perhaps that they should leave their marriages in order to be spiritual. But Paul embraces marriage and lifts it up the same way as Jesus. Paul shows that this is teaching from Jesus (v.10 – ‘not I, but the Lord’).

The Greek/Roman culture had a very low view of commitment and a very liberal view of divorce. However, the Christian view on these matters is clear – ‘the wife should not separate from her husband. . .and the husband should not divorce his wife’ (v.10).

To understand marriage and divorce we need to go back to Jesus’ teaching on it in Matthew 19:3-9. Jesus quote from the beginning of Genesis – going right back to when God created man and woman and there was the first marriage.

One Flesh

  • A couple become one when they are married – that is what they are.
  • It is a sacred, miraculous thing that reflects the mystery of the Trinity (one God in three Persons).
  • It is so profound and therefore should never be taken lightly.

Covenant Love

  • Our culture teaches that love and marriage is built purely on romantic love, but this does not make a marriage work. Romantic love is indeed a gift from God and should definitely be a part of a marriage, but it is not the foundation on which to build a marriage. We need to get our idea of love from the Bible.
  • Covenant love – choosing to love someone, choosing to commit yourself to them – is what makes a marriage work. Reflected in wedding vows – “Will you love” not “Do you love”.
  • The phrase ‘hold fast’ in this passage is key (v.5).
  • God loves us with covenant love – we look to reflect that love in our marriages.
  • Jeremiah 3 – God experiences divorce and betrayal personally, and that is why He hates it. The rules that allowed divorce were made because of sin and the hardness of the human heart – but it was never God’s intentions. He wants covenant love on display.

Recognising Reality

God understands human sinfulness and has compassion for victims, and so there are cases where divorce may be acceptable:

  • v.9 – sexual immorality is grounds for divorce. The bond of covenant love has been broken, and the victim is spiritually “widowed” so free from that bond.
  • Desertion can be grounds.
  • These things are never black and white though and must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis by the elders of the church. Reconciliation should always be explored because it is God’s intentions to restore.
  • If divorce was legitimate there are also grounds for remarriage – again not a black and white issue, and needs to be brought to the elders.
  • Incompatibility? This is a myth. A marriage is made up of 2 sinners! There is always going to be incompatibility, and there will also be seasons of hardship.
  • Married the “wrong person”? v.20 – remain in the condition you are in.

We need to work at our marriages:

  • Jesus came to give us a new heart so we can do things like commitment and covenant love.
  • Commit to physical love – safeguard your marriage from temptation.
  • Make your marriage holy – make it the thing you refuse to give up on.
  • Model Jesus & the gospel – beautify your spouse.

Singleness, Life-stage and Contentment – 1 Corinthians 7:17-40

March 1st, 2010

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The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth, addressing (amongst other things) the issue that sex and marriage is somehow “unspiritual”, Paul rebukes the idea. This is relevant to us today because this thinking is still prevalent in modern Christianity – that somehow marriage, sex and physical pleasure is “wrong” and unspiritual and shouldn’t be enjoyed. However, everything created by God is good (Genesis 1) and is to be enjoyed as long as we enjoy it as a gift from God rather than as a god itself. Also, Paul teaches that to forbid marriage is demonic teaching (1 Tim. 4).

Paul does have a place for singleness though. He agrees to an extent with the Corinthians that singleness is good, but for completely different reasons.

For those who are married – it is important that they hear this message because they are part of the Body of Christ, and need to know what the Bible teaches about singleness.

Paul’s message to all is this: let each person lead the life he is in, the life God has called him to. We don’t necessarily need to change our situation in order to live for God, or alter our conditions in order to be more spiritual – we can be pleasing to God, glorifying and worshipping Him in our current circumstances (marital state, job, etc). Think about the example of Joseph – He served and glorified God when he was a slave, a prisoner, etc.

Why honour singleness?

1. Practical reasons (it’s a gift)

  • v.7 – it is a gift from God, a blessing – as is marriage.
  • The context of Paul’s letter – ‘in view of the present distress’ (v.26) – it made singleness a wise option.
  • Singleness is not a command from Paul, but a suggestion motivated by genuine compassion (v.25, v.40).
  • It does not mean that you will never be tempted, or that you will love every moment, or that you won’t struggle with loneliness – but God does give grace for every season, and He always knows what He is doing with our lives.
  • Singleness is a precious season where it gets to be just you and God – He cherishes that time He has with you.
  • It is not permanent.
  • It is a gift to be used for the Church. You are to use your gift (whether singleness or marriage) as a way of blessing the Body.

2. Spiritual/eternal reasons:

  • In the Old Testament, the emphasis was on marriage and child-bearing to maintain a legacy and be fruitful. Jesus changed all that – we now leave an eternal/spiritual legacy.
  • Isaiah 53 – Jesus is fruitful and has spiritual offspring, despite being single.
  • The spiritual family we are a part of is greater than any physical family.
  • Isaiah 56 – we have a name better than sons or daughters.
  • In Jesus Christ we possess all things.