1 Corinthians 5-7
(Sex in the City of Corinth)
November 30th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

- 1 Corinthians 5:8 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

In these chapters Paul addresses issues of morality and law that have been a problem for the Corinthians. The first transgression that he addresses is the most egregious – “A man has his father’s wife (1 Cor 5:1 - NIV)” and the church has not addressed the situation. Paul tells them to kick this man out of the church so that he recognizes the cost of his sin and can later be saved. The church should assign the same consequence to any other egregious sinners in the church - but restrain from judging those outside the church.

In chapter 6, Paul warns the Corinthians not to take each other to court to address grievances among themselves. Instead they should seek to resolve it within the church where there is shared understanding of morals and law.

Paul also warns about all sexual immorality and calls attention to the fact that our bodies belong to God and have been bought with a price – therefore we should treat them as a holy temple. Eugene Peterson’s The Message provides a translation that gives a perspective and understanding not found in the traditional Bible versions:

    There's more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, "The two become one." Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never "become one."

    1 Corinthians 6:16ff (MSG)

Paul also gives us advice on what to do if confronted with potentially immoral situations. He says to run as fast as we can in the other direction: “Flee from sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:18a - NIV).”

The last topic transitions into the main subject of chapter 7 – marriage, which is presumably a response to questions or comments in a letter from the Corinthians to Paul. Paul begins somewhat abruptly by saying “It is good for a man not to marry (1 Cor 7:1 - NIV),” but he recognizes how marriage helps people to avoid sexual immorality (not to mention how it helps to propagate the species). He provides clear instructions regarding the responsibilities of each partner in a marriage: “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife and likewise the wife her husband (1 Cor 7:30 - NIV).”

Paul emphasizes that these commandments are from the Lord, not from him and notes that the responsibility of marriage applies even if one partner is not a believer. For those who remain unmarried, Paul explains how their situation enables them to more fully focus on the Lord’s works.

Reflection and Application

Apparently the specific transgression that Paul references was considered unusual even by pagan standards and was clearly way out of bounds for the higher standards of the Jewish religion and Christianity. Adultery was clearly defined as a transgression in the Ten Commandments, so this situation did not need a new law or explanation.

The biggest issue for Paul was that no one in the church had done anything about it. This lack of action could help to encourage others to break these types of taboos and prevented the man in question from recognizing his mistake. If the church kicks this man out, then Paul hopes that the man will realize what he has lost and may seek to get himself back on the right path. God’s grace was available to this man if he believed and repented. But if no one addresses the topic with him then he will carry on with this sin unaware or apathetic.

There may be a time when we need to call someone’s attention to his sin and take the drastic measure of excluding them from the church or our lives. This is not an action to be taken lightly, but should be considered in extreme cases for the same reason that Paul recommends it, so that the person may recognize his or her sin and repent.

Note that Paul is not suggesting that the church of Corinth try to get this man to change. Instead, he simply says “expel him.” Note also that Paul stresses to the Corinthians that they could reserve these judgments only for the members of the church – those people who have learned the law and should know better.

Paul raises an interesting point regarding the greater availability of a single person to serve God. In terms of discretionary time, he is correct, but that does not mean that the married people cannot be available. Take the case of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was committed to marry Joseph, but this did not deter her from making herself available to serve:

    “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

    “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled?” Then the angel left her.

    - Luke 1:35-38 (NIV)

All people who serve can make use of their unique talents and perspectives. Those who are married have a set of experiences that others can only learn about indirectly, For example, in the church where I worship, we have pastors of both genders. All of the pastors are married. They are able to serve God and the congregation with an understanding and empathy for the joys and challenges of raising a family. A single person may have more time to serve, and can be a worthy servant, but may have less understanding of those who are married. Yet, as Paul explained earlier, there are many different roles in the church, all of which are important.

For my part, I have served God more after I became married and had children. While my discretionary time was less, my appreciation for God’s blessings was greater. The ideal scenario may vary for each of us, but we can recognize that either status is acceptable. We can be available servants regardless of our marital status and should respect our fellow believers regardless of their marital status or family situation.

For those of us that are married, we can take to heart Paul’s advice that each of us should take equal responsibility to serve our spouse – according to God’s commandments to love one another.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. Have you ever had to fire someone from a job? What was the situation?
    2. How can we best serve God from the vantage point of our current relationship status?
    3. How can we balance serving God and serving our family?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we thank you for your instruction to keep us safe and we thank you for the instructors who teach and discipline us. Help us to live in the world but not be transformed by it.

    Prayer Concern
    Church leaders who are married

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: 1 Corinthians 8-11 (Keep Your Eye on the Prize)

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