Tag Archives: Christianity

1 Corinthians 7:36-38

1 Corinthians 7:36-38 (NRSV)- “If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his fiancée, if his passions are strong, and so it has to be, let him marry as he wishes; it is no sin. Let them marry. But if someone stands firm in his resolve, being under no necessity but having his own desire under control, and has determined in his own mind to keep her as his fiancée, he will do well. So then, he who marries his fiancée does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.

Here we are again with the subjects of passion and self-control. I think it is important to realize that being a believer does not create some magical ability to control natural passions. Now, we can set our vision for life on how the Bible teaches that we should live, and over time the Holy Spirit definitely works through our experiences and passions so that we develop into the lifestyle that God has called us to. However, at a given phase of one’s life, self-control in a particular area may be fundamentally lacking despite one’s faith.

Paul seems to acknowledge this. For instance, in the passage above he says that “If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his fiancée, if his passions are strong, and so it has to be, let him marry as he wishes.”

Earlier in the chapter, Paul stated “if they [single people] are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion” (1 Cor. 7:9).

Notice that Paul basically assumes that some believers may not be 100% successful at self- control. And interestingly, he doesn’t really say anything to shame them for it. Instead, he says they should get married.

Now, if for whatever reason, marriage really is not an option, God can work with people to develop self-control. Often times, struggles with self-control result from despair, anxiety, or a lack of inspiration about one’s purpose or future, although people may not realize that they are feeling this way. But it can be difficult to make yourself feel positive about circumstances to gain self-control when there is a burning, unmet need or a legitimate source of anxiousness that you are dealing with.

Sometimes, to deal with the underlying negativity that causes a lack of self-control, God has to shift one’s attitudes and perspective on life. This can come from His working through circumstances to cause a transformation in one’s thinking. It may seem as though an unmet need is a gap standing in between what you are and what you want to be. But regardless of whether you think your present experience is positive or negative, or whether you are optimistic or anxious about the future, you can believe for God to work through whatever is going on to bridge the gap by leading you to a clearer understanding of His purpose in your life at the present time. If you are having trouble seeing beyond the gap now, don’t let that be an extra source of worry. As you continue walking through life, there will come a time when you see something that transforms your perspective.

I’ll close this post, and my commentary on Chapter 7 of 1 Corinthians, with Romans 8:28 – “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

1 Corinthians 7:32-35

1 Corinthians 7:32-35 (NRSV) – “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.”

Why does Paul assume that married people are anxious? And why would he want for people to be “anxious” about the Lord? After all, Paul writes in Philippians 4:6 (NRSV), “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” According to Strong’s Concordance, the word “worry” in this passage is the same Greek word underlying the word “anxious” in the passage from 1 Corinthians.

Well, in reality, people are anxious. On one hand, you can choose to trust God to deal with a situation instead of consciously entertaining worry about it. That does not necessarily mean, however, that there will not be some undercurrent of anxiousness running through your mind. Even while trusting in God, you are still trying to be responsible and diligent, and these efforts can cause a feeling of anxiousness even if you know that ultimately God has the situation worked out.

Believers want to please God, even though they may not be able to escape some degree of concern over whether they are doing everything they should. We see different sides of ourselves and can get anxious about how the different aspects of ourselves line up with God’s will. Likewise, married people, no matter how well they may generally get along, will always have some differences with their spouse, and to some degree, figuring out how to meet each other’s desires in spite of these differences can be a source of anxiousness.

Some Christians make a big point of saying that being a Christian is not easy. They seem to have a great fear of Christians becoming comfortable and complacent, so they take it upon themselves to knock responsibility and an urge for action into them.

But what I say is, why do you fear Christians becoming too comfortable? Believers have a new nature that wants to please God despite being in a body and mind with frustrating limitations. That makes life hard enough. Why do you feel you must make it harder?

So, basically, what Paul is saying to those considering marriage is, “You are already experiencing some inherent tension that comes with being a believer; are you sure you want to bring another person into the picture, and then have to maneuver through life amid both the tension as a believer and the tension as a spouse?”

Now as I have described in previous posts, there can be a deep sense of fulfillment that comes through marriage. Likewise, there is a very deep sense of fulfillment that comes from being a believer. For some, being married may result in a greater sense of peace in life, because of certain desires that can be met, and for you and your spouse to be able to support each other as you live for God. Paul is perfectly understanding of this, which is why he never tells people not to get married. He just seeks to give people something to think about before jumping into marriage too hastily.

1 Corinthians 7:12-24

I do not have any commentary to make on 1 Cor. 7:12-20, but for the sake of context, the text is below. If there is anything regarding this passage that you would like for me to address, let me know. My comments resume with Verses 21-24 (see the section of the post after the line of asterisks):

1 Corinthians 7:12-20 – “To the rest I say—I and not the Lord—that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you. Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife. However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything. Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called.”

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1 Corinthians 7:21-24 – Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever. For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters. In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God.”

I want to discuss the concept of being a “slave of Christ.” You might feel some discomfort with the idea of being a “slave.” But the intriguing, and ultimately liberating truth, is that if you are a believer, you are a slave of Christ whether or not you intend to be one or know that you are one.

There is a lot about yourself that is outside of your control. You were born with certain hardwired personality traits. You have a conscience that cannot be turned off. You have reactions to things that you see and hear, that often come on too quickly to be blocked.

The first key question is, where are all of these traits going to take you? As mentioned in the very first post in this series, God has ordained that certain things will be accomplished in our lives, and those things will be done. That leads to a second question, how are you going to get there?

Paul warns against becoming “slaves of human masters.” What is your ideal image for yourself and your lifestyle, and who is it coming from? If it is coming from peer pressures, religious leaders, cultural expectations, or whatever values are trendy at a particular moment, it is important to consider whether you have become a slave to them in your mind.

Now, there may be truth in what some of these people say. But as mentioned earlier, there is a lot in your personality and conscience that is outside of your control. Many people feel uncomfortable with themselves or have hidden guilt. Various influences in the world, and perhaps faulty ideas within one’s self, seize upon this discomfort or guilt by persuading people to adopt a certain view of themselves and the world around them. But these ideas often run counter to the mindset that Christ is working to impart to believers. And these problematic mindsets lead to actions that, while sometimes well-intentioned, cause behavioral patterns that counter Christ’s leading.

However, even with those problematic influences going on, what God has ordained for a believer’s life will still be accomplished, because believers’ consciences, in conjunction with their personalities, will still get them to do certain things eventually. But what will be lacking is a sense of peace with Christ’s leading.

On the other hand, to accept the fact that you are a slave of Christ, just believe that Christ is working with the aspects of yourself that you are uncomfortable with to bring you more in line with His will. Appreciate the things your conscience has gotten you to do in spite of internal opposition, and then you don’t have to worry about whether other people think you are good enough according to their worldviews.

1 Corinthians 7:10-11

1 Corinthians 7:10-11 (NRSV) – “To the married I give this command—not I but the Lord—that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

My approach to the subject of divorce and remarriage is very much analogous to my commentary on suing in the previous chapter. It’s about putting the principle of grace into practice.

God does not “divorce” believers who don’t live the way He wants them to. And even if people alienate themselves from God in their own minds by failing to appreciate what He has done for them, His grand plan for the eons is still to bring them back. If He finds someone else who lives the way He wants, He does not use that person’s choice to obey as an excuse to prevent reconciliation with the one who disobeyed. Even though none of us do everything God would want us to do ideally, He works with our minds and attitudes so that we nevertheless move in the direction He has called us to.

As I said in the commentary on lawsuits, God does not deal with people in a punitive way and make them perform works or suffer to compensate for their disobedience. However, there is another principle I mentioned there that also applies here, which is that if someone is persistently interfering with God’s plans that He is working through believers, He still reserves the right to get the person out of the way somehow.

So, with regards to divorce, and remarriage, the most important thing is for people to carry an attitude of grace in their hearts and let this be a guiding principle for their lives and relationships. But at the same time, as with the matter of lawsuits, I respect your decision on what you have to do in order to experience the peace needed to pursue your calling, as opposed to being chained in a state of bondage or frustration.

1 Corinthians 7:1-9

1 Corinthians 7:1-9 (NRSV) – “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: ‘It is well for a man not to touch a woman.’ But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. This I say by way of concession, not of command. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.”

I want to start with end of the passage above and then work backward. Paul writes that “it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.” This series of posts has discussed passion a lot. In particular, how faith in the transformation of believers through Christ allows us to accept our core passions and trust God to work through them.

In the case of sexual passion, it is important to understand that this kind of passion does not exist in a box. What I mean by this is, the hormones and neurotransmitters involved with it, such as testosterone, acetylcholine, GABA, and dopamine, are intrinsically involved with one’s physical and mental energy, central nervous system function, concentration, mood, and memory. This is a point which, unfortunately, I often perceive is not well appreciated in Christian teaching on abstinence until marriage.

It is not the ultimate goal of such teaching that I object to, but rather, the means of getting there. Particularly, the tendency to portray sexual energy as “rebellious,” “sinful,” “selfish,” or a threat to one’s spiritual purity that has to be fought against. Even though it is taught that people ultimately need to trust in God for power to deal with these passions and resist temptation while single, the appeal to trust in God comes only after painting a very negative, and sometimes harmful, picture of one’s natural state.

The consequence of this teaching is that it twists the natural functions of the brain into unhealthy patterns. If one’s mind is stressing out over the biochemical processes involved in sexual desire (and day-to-day mental function), the activity of these chemicals is suppressed, causing poor psychological health in one’s day-to-day life. And unfortunately, when these people eventually get married, their brains may be twisted out of shape already, and the damage can follow them into marriage.

Once people are married, God wants for them to be understanding and respectful of each other’s needs. Paul writes, “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer.”

I suspect this understanding and respect is harder if a couple enters marriage with their brains distorted by harmful teaching during their single years. If years were spent trying to conquer one’s self, I am concerned this could lead to an attitude in marriage that is excessively focused on one’s self.

The challenge, while single, is to confront the faulty ideas, fears, or personal pursuits that keep someone from being able to find fulfillment of desires. For instance, if what you really want in life is to be in a sexual relationship, but you have personal quests, or carry certain fears, or believe certain things about yourself or others that inhibit you from getting married, you can seek God to reorient your thinking so that you can be open to getting married but make a wise decision.

On the other hand, if marriage is really not an option, you can believe for God to lead you to an activity or a non-sexual relationship that expresses your passions. But you need to have a positive view of the chemistry behind your passions in order to see how God can do a creative work through you.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NRSV) – Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

The message of this passage is that the behaviors cited do not jive with the new life that God has given believers and the destiny that He is bringing them into. Those whose objective for life involves pursuing these behaviors indicate that they do not have the vision for life that comes from faith in the Gospel, and thus are actually unbelievers who will not be part of God’s kingdom in the coming eons.

Two behaviors on Paul’s list that have become rather controversial are those which the translation above (NRSV) renders “male prostitutes” and “sodomites.” While these terms may seem to evoke the broad concept of homosexuality, in both the Old and New Testaments, the specific act referenced is sexual intercourse between two men (ex. Leviticus 20:13).

In the passage from Corinthians quoted above, where the NRSV says “male prostitutes,” some Bible translations (including the King James Version) have the word “effeminate,” which needlessly broadens the concept to allude to personality or expressions. To the contrary, Strong’s Concordance makes it pretty clear that this is referring to a role in sexual intercourse.

The other term Paul uses, “sodomites,” has been rendered with the generic term “homosexuals” in some translations (such as the NASB). However, Strong’s Concordance indicates that the term refers to sexual intercourse, with “male” in the word origin.

So where am I going with all this? I know that there are believers with same-sex attraction trying to figure out where they fit in with Biblical morality. Some Christian teaching on the subject has led these people to think that there is a systemic sinfulness associated with their attractions. I went into the translation of words to show why I do not believe in this notion. To the contrary, I believe it is important for these people to feel confident in their core nature and personality, and to have faith that God is working through their nature to bring forth positive developments in their lives.

But what about the specific act of male-to-male intercourse? Except for a small percentage of the population that does not feel sexual attraction to anyone, many people seem to think that if same-sex attraction in a general sense is viewed positively, then desire for intercourse naturally follows and would be seen as an expression of love.

But really, this is not different from some other behaviors on Paul’s list. Such as “revilers.” Sometimes, legitimately righteous indignation gets out of hand and leads to verbal abuse directed at those perceived as immoral or heretical, in the name of “tough love.” On one hand, these believers with righteous anger should respect their core concern about truth and morality. In fact, Paul writes in Ephesians 4:25-27 (NRSV), “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” 

The key is for believers to have a positive view of their core passions but to have a vision for life that involves expression of these passions without problematic behaviors that Paul cites. It is ultimately God who makes this happen. He knows us a lot better than we know ourselves, and He leads us through life in a way such that our unique nature becomes an inspiration to others, and the more that this is realized, the more we receive insights and epiphanies on how to live in peace without the problematic behaviors.

1 Corinthians 6:1-8

1 Corinthians 6:1-8 – When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters? If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another, but a believer goes to court against a believer—and before unbelievers at that? In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—and believers at that.

Apparently, the Corinthians were quite inclined toward suing each other. Paul admonishes them to find wise believers to settle disputes rather than going to secular courts. I think he is concerned about an image issue. If the church’s faith has given believers a deeper perspective on life, but that does not enable them to solve practical disputes, and they are then reliant on non-believing judges, Paul is concerned that observers will wonder whether the Gospel is all that it is claimed to be. But Paul’s deeper concern is their eagerness to sue in the first place.

Now, if someone has filed a lawsuit against you, there is nothing in this passage to forbid you from making your case in court. In this case, the passage above is directed toward the person that issued the lawsuit.

The real question is, what if you have signed a document such as a license agreement with another believer, which the other believer subsequently violates. Paul appears to advise that certain believers act as “judges” to handle disputes among other believers. But in most societies today, with churches split into many different congregations and denominations, I really do not see how such a “judiciary” among believers is possible. Furthermore, Paul assumes that if the Corinthians took their case to a government court, that they were taking their case before unbelievers to decide. But today, depending on where you live and whether Christians can serve in the judiciary, that may not be the case.

Paul also says “to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” (1 Cor. 6:7). What should we make of this?

As with some other matters we have discussed in this epistle, I think it really comes down to attitude. I think what Paul is referring to are situations where a believer may feel the urge to sue another believer simply on the basis that some “right” was violated. I think Paul is encouraging us to exercise the principle of grace in real life. God has the right to punish any of us on the basis of immoral things we have done, but He does not exercise it, and as believers in Christ, God sees us as free from Law (Romans 7), and He works with us so that over time our lives line up with the way He wants us to live.

Similarly, instead of laying the law down on other believers and harassing them over our “rights,” Paul is implying we should be patient with them as God is with us. We can pray for God to work with them so that they become motivated to honor their commitments more seriously, and trust in God for wisdom on how to talk to them about the issue.

At the same time though, even though God does not deal with people in a punitive way, He has determined that His will shall be fulfilled in this world, and He can get people out of the way if they would obstruct what He is working to accomplish through believers (as we saw with the immoral man in the previous chapter). Likewise, in a situation where another believer has obviously wronged you and refuses to correct the situation, and the infraction could derail your progress toward fulfillment of your calling in life, I respect your judgment on what you believe to be the correct course of action. They key is to not make it a self-centered endeavor to defend your rights, but rather, to take whatever action you believe is correct to keep pressing toward the vision for life that God has given you, which is ultimately for the good of those He has placed in your life.