In order to understand Paul’s writing to the Corinthians, like any other book, it has to be read in the context of who he was writing to…. And in particular for today’s subject
Lawrence gave us some background last week…..
As we explore today’s chapters there are three factors which need to be kept in mind….
This is a gentile city….. people without the strict Jewish traditions which many other early believers had…
This is a wealthy city…. Where money and other signs of success are venerated…
The city is overshadowed by the temple of Aphrodite…where sex is celebrated and worshipped…..
…(it almost sounds like the city /world we live in)…..
These are the people whom Paul is writing to…….
Then…as I read this letter I try to understand why Paul is addressing the topics he is addressing….out of all the things he could write about…why these things?
Also……Paul knows this church well, many of them have come to Christ through his testimony…. in fact he loves them….he refers to them as ’my beloved children’….
With all these things in mind, we can now look at the text……
Paul has a definite message and this is pervasive in the text… a couple of points he wants to bring through strongly….
In ch 1 Paul prefaces his letter with words and thoughts which will be useful later in the letter…. He knows what he is going to say and builds a foundation in the early verses…….. things like….
Called to be an apostle…..sanctified in Christ….called to be saints……grace of God given to you….that you may be blameless…fellowship of his son…….
Apostle……sanctified……saints……grace…..blameless……fellowship…… Paul is all too aware that the biggest problem for this church is to be holy in a debaucherous city……
As we read the letter it is obvious that Paul is writing to sort out problems and error in the church……
Ch4 vs 14 is a great verse….14 I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you.
Very interestingly……….I see two distinct triggers for Paul’s writing ….. things which help him to understand the problems faced……in the first couple of chapters he addresses topics which are of concern to him personally….he has heard reports of attitudes and activities in the church which are problematic and he writes on these topics…… and then later…form ch7…. he seems to be answering questions which have been asked……
In the beginning of the letter Paul tackles three problems which have been reported to him……three issues which are unacceptable to him…….
In ch1 he deals with sectarianism…… He has heard that one group follows one of the Christian leaders and another group claims to be disciples of another……. This was how it worked in those parts of the world…there were all these ‘big men’ …….great thinkers… influenced of course by Athens and you had to pick one whom you followed…..Paul has to correct them and point them to Christ…….
Lawrence showed us last week how Jesus Christ is mentioned 9 times in the first few verses…..
He tells them that as soon as they follow men they are not following God…..God is different to man…… Jesus is the only one to be followed and all preachers should point you to him …
Then in ch 2 through 4 Paul addresses issues with the obvious conflict between Worldly wisdom and God’s wisdom……. This is a time and place which celebrates learning to such an extent that many of these great thinkers are still studied today…….What did Lawrence say last week about Athens?....
Pericles said, “'Our whole city is an education, for our citizens excel all men in versatility, resourcefulness and brilliance
Paul implores the Corinthians…….Ch 2:5 Your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God……
Then Paul’s third issue he addresses is sexual immorality in ch 5&6…. And this is where we start today….
Read Vs 1 – 5
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus…
Paul says…..It is actually reported….(I cant believe it)…… I hear that you are not just allowing but in some cases celebrating sexual immorality in the church…..
What should they be doing about it?
Vs 13 Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”
Throw them out of the church……..
So….How do you feel about Paul’s attitude towards sexual immorality? Is it right? Does it sit well with you? …….Throw the sexually immoral out of the church…… rough….
Is that not too judgemental?...... should we not forgive????
The argument is often made that we are all sinners and if we were to throw all the sinners out of the church there would be no one left…….this is true….so why does Paul specifically insist that the sexually immoral be cast out?
Why is this particular group of sinners targeted?
Maybe you are someone who is at ease with throwing people who are not as ‘good’ as you out of the church……
…but what about when we actually have people in our church who are not living moral lives? …people we like…..Should we throw them out? Not very loving Christians are we?
After all…..Maybe we can help them in the church…. Maybe the church is a good influence on them…..
What about all the immorality in the World? What should we be doing about the world’s promiscuity?
Am I allowed to talk to people who are sexually immoral? Can I employ them? Should I Bible bash them and insist that they must change their ways because they are going to hell? Should I protest the fact that I have to share a desk with a sexually immoral person?
Those are a lot of questions? Most of us have to deal with these questions daily and if not yet….the time is coming and our children will have to tussle with these questions……
Paul answers these questions in the next few verses, but before we read them I want to remind you about Paul’s words in chapter one, when he introduced the letter…..
9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
Answer No.1….As Jesus did ….we will rub shoulders with immoral people at work, socially and in the family……we don’t get to reject these people…..we are not required to go and live in some isolation camp…….we are required to influence them on a daily basis and not to alienate them…
I guess that sometimes it is easy to point fingers at all the immorality in the world… it certainly makes us feel better about ourselves…… but we are not called on to judge them..
Paul says: 12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges
Paul reminds us that the behaviour of the people on the outside of the church are not our responsibility……God will judge them…..
11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.
12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”
Paul is not judging anyone who is sexually immoral……….unless they are his brothers…
We are required to deal very directly with sexual misconduct in the church…..
Why? Because we have been saved by Grace to be saints who are sanctified therefore blameless in fellowship with each other as apostles…..
This is all about the holiness of the church…we have been called to holiness….. what is the church but holy? ….how are we different to the world? We are different because by Grace through the blood of Christ we are made holy….
If a soccer team had a member who kept picking up the ball and running they would kick him off the field…..if the member of a ballet troupe started to do hip hop in the middle of a show…….
Andre…okay….……baptism…sexually immoral then he can’t be on the team…..
We have agreed when we came to faith in Christ that we wanted to be holy….. to live life by God’s rules… there is nothing unfair or unloving about asking someone who refuses to follow these rules to leave…..
While Paul mentions a few other vices in his list here the passage is clearly premised on sexual immorality…. Sexual immorality is a sin which has very particular consequences…. and this is described in ch 6
15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.”17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
There is something unique about sexual sin…..
In Genesis 2 we read: 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Sex has been designed to be something important, something special…….., something profound enough to bind two people together as one flesh…..sex is in fact a divine act… sexual immorality is a sin ‘against our own body’….
Sexual immorality is different to every other sin…..
The bond between a husband and a wife is of course a picture of the bond between Christians and Jesus…….…We are the bride of Christ….
Paul says……... Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Sexual immorality in the church defiles the body of the church……..
This is difficult to understand in a world where sex is easy and spoken about openly….it is on every TV show and movie…it is joked about and explored in columns in magazines……
But being sexually pure is something which does and will increasingly show us up as different to the world….
Something interesting happens in Ch 7…there is a shift…..while sex is still the topic, Paul writes..
Ch7:1 Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me
It appears that Paul has dealt with the list of things which he had in mind to bring up with the Corinthians and now he is going to deal with some questions ……
It looks like they have written to Paul to ask his advice on some practical issues in the church……
The heading for this passage is ‘principles of marriage’……. But I’m not sure that Paul is the best person to give marriage advice…… bachelor……by his own admission ……thinks marriage is something to be avoided……
He answers the questions, but his heart and mind are on the first 6 chapters and we can see this in his answers…..
There is a TV gameshow called double jeopardy…you are given the answer and you need to guess the question…..
Paul answers questions which we are not privy to…we have to guess what they were..
Ch 7 It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. 7 For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.
8 But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; 9 but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion
Q1…my first guess was that Paul was asked whether marriage is good……but because his answer is that we should get married due to uncontrollable passions…and the passage seems to emphasise the sexual side of marriage…….
I don’t get the feeling that marriage is what Paul is talking about…
I now think that the question had something to do with resisting sexual temptation in a city where temptation was rife…..
We know that from the beginning of the letter Paul’s concern is holiness of the believers in this city…… Paul knows that sexual temptation is a problem(he has already addressed this as one of his main concerns)… Paul’s answer to this temptation is marriage….
In fact… a little shockingly I believe…….. he takes it further…he warns that even in a marriage there is still sexual temptation and as a spouse we must be aware of this…..make sure that your spouse’s sexual needs are met….
Is it our duty???...well….at the very least we need to be aware that if we are withholding sex for some reason then your spouse could very well be lead astray in a city of debauchery and you as a husband or a wife have some responsibility for this…….
Holiness is Paul’s concern…….and it should be ours
Q2 …the question asked seems to be about divorce and circumstances which justify divorce…
Paul brings a very strong message from God on divorce…… as a general principle….’not I but the Lord’ commands… you may not divorce….
12 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say
And here he deals with what appears to be more specific questions which have been asked about being married to unbelievers……
But I get the feeling he is not talking about divorce….. sure everything he says is true, but Paul has another agenda……
From verses 12-16 every answer is reflected on in the light of being clean and holy………
Paul’s concern is holiness….. and it should be ours
Q3……From vs 25 Paul deals with singleness
25 Now concerning virgins:
What was the question Paul has been asked? …I am not sure…there seems to be some distress…some crisis…
My best guess is that the question here…..taking cultural specifics into account…that there may have been a question around the duty of the men in the church to take on a wife ….or for women who were not willing to marry the men…..and some people thought that it was their duty…..
‘ I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment’
This is Paul’s opinion….as Paul says…he is a trustworthy man of God giving his opinion….
26 I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress—that it is good for a man to remain as he is: 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you.
Paul says…get married…don’t get married……. this is your decision…’I would stay single if I was you’, but there will be trouble…….Paul is also personally. particularly concerned that being married would distract us from our work in the church……
There a lot of pressure on single people to find a spouse….both in the days of the Corinthians and today….. why is that?
Loneliness….. fear of missing out….. social standing…. Financial security….sex….
Paul says that these things are not nearly as important as holiness and service to God…..
If Paul is allowed his own opinion here……I will take the liberty to add mine…. Very often the right spouse can enhance our work in the church…..but I think that Paul is concerned that under the pressure to find a spouse too often we make a compromised decision…… the spouse we choose has demands which draw us away from the work of God….
Us older folk can write a list of dedicated young Christians, on fire for the Lord, who now just attend church/or not just because of who they married…..
We end up trying to fulfil the loneliness and the social standing and we no longer live a life we had committed ourselves to……the warning here is to be careful about why we choose to marry and who that person is….If we are just marrying for the sake of marriage then this is something to be avoided……
Is Paul correct in his view on marriage?
Think about it…….What is our main concern for our young people? ….I can tell you….what do we talk about?...... We need to find a husband…… she is so nice….. why do we want our young people to be married? We are worried that our young men will end up sleeping with their girlfriends and we are worried that they will marry unbelievers and be lost to God’s church….hey we have the same concerns as Paul………
Paul declares that there is another option to marrying a dedicated young Christian person and that is singleness and that is far better than marrying the wrong person……it is okay…. Holiness and service are far more important in the greater scheme of things……
Paul’s main concerns for the Corinthians and ourselves are found right in the beginning of the letter
2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, 5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord
Paul is writing to a people…whom he loves…. in a heathen city….be holy…..you have to live among the people…….but remember that you are holy