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I CORINTHIANS 7-11

HOW TO BE HOLY IN AN UNHOLY WORLD

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF I CORINTIANS

 

Introduction (1:1-2:16)

1. Paul reminds them of his calling (1:1)

2. Paul reminds them of their high and spiritual calling (1:2-9)

3. Paul exposes their worldliness (1:10-17)

4. Paul reminds them of the spiritual nature of their salvation (1:18-2:16)

Their worldliness (3:1-11:34)

1. Their worldly divisions (3:1-4:23)

2. Their worldly immorality (5)

3. Their worldly disputes (6:1-11)

4. Their worldly thinking about sex and marriage (6:12-7:40)

5. Their worldly attitude toward Christian freedom (8:1-10:33)

6. Their worldly attitude toward the role of the sexes (11:2-16)

7. Their worldly fellowship (11:17-34)

A guide to spirituality (12:1-15:58)

1. How to recognize genuine spiritual gifts (12)

2. Genuine spirituality will always be motivated by genuine love (13)

3. Genuine spirituality always emphasizes those gifts that edify others (14)

4. Genuine spirituality is based on Jesus Christ's resurrection (15)

Final instructions (16:1-18)

Final greetings (16:9-24)

 

INTRODUCTORY INFORMATION ABOUT I CORINTHIANS

1. The city

a. Its important location:
"A glance at the map will show that Corinth was made for greatness.  The Southern part of Greece is very nearly an island.  On the West the Corinthian Gulf deeply indents the land and on the East the Saronic Gulf.  All that is left to join the two parts of Greece together is a little isthmus only four miles across.  On that narrow neck of land Corinth stands.  Such a position made it inevitable that it should be one of the greatest trading and commercial centers of the ancient world.  All traffic from Athens and the North of Greece to Sparta and the Peloponnese had to be routed through Corinth, because it stood on the little neck of land that connected the two.  Not only did the North to South traffic of Greece pass through Corinth of necessity, by far the greater part of the East to West traffic of the Mediterranean passed through her from choice.  The extreme southern tip of Greece was known as Cape Malea (now called Cape Matapan).  It was dangerous, and to round Cape Malea had much the same sound as to round Cape Horn had in latter times.  The Greeks had two sayings which showed what they thought of it -- 'Let him who sails round Malea forget his home,' and 'Let him who sails round Malea first make his will.'  The consequence was that mariners followed one of two courses.  They sailed up the Saronic Gulf, and, if their ships were small enough, dragged them out of the water, set them on rollers, hauled them across the isthmus, and re-launched them on the other side.  The isthmus was actually called the Diolkos the place of dragging across.  The idea is the same as that which is contained in the Scottish place name Tarbert, which means a place where the land is so narrow that a boat can be dragged from loch to loch.  If that course was not possible because the ship was too large, the cargo was disembarked, carried by porters across the isthmus, and re-embarked on another ship at the other side.  This four mile journey across the isthmus, where the Corinth Canal now runs, saved a journey of  two hundred miles round Cape Malea, the most dangerous cape in the Mediterranean."  "Taken from The Letters to the Corinthians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1977 by Westminster Press."

b. Its immorality
"There was another side to Corinth.  She had a reputation for commercial prosperity, but she was also a by-word for evil living.  The very word korinthiazesthai, to live like a Corinthian, had become a part of the Greek language, and meant to live with drunken and immoral debauchery.  The word actually penetrated to English language, and, in Regency times, a Corinthian was one of the wealthy young bucks who lived in reckless and riotous living.  Aelian, the late Greek writer, tells us that if ever a Corinthian was shown upon the stage in a Greek play he was shown drunk.  The very name Corinth was synonymous with debauchery and there was one source of evil in the city which was known all over the civilized world.  Above the isthmus towered the hill of the Acropolis, and on it stood the great temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.  To that temple there were attacked one thousand priestesses who were sacred prostitutes, and in the evenings they descended from the Acropolis and plied their trade upon the streets of Corinth, until it became a Greek proverb, 'It is not every man who can afford a journey to Corinth.'  In addition to these cruder sins, there flourished far more recondite vises, which had come in with traders and the sailors from the ends of the earth, until Corinth became not only a synonym for wealth and luxury, drunkenness and debauchery, but also for filth."  "Taken from The Letters to the Corinthians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

2. The church at Corinth

a. The church's beginning
Paul started this church on his second missionary journey.  See Acts 18:1-18  He stayed in Corinth a year and a half, establishing this church.

b. The state of the church at Corinth
The church at Corinth was being influenced by the world more than it was influencing the world.  It was not influencing the world toward holiness, but the world's unholiness was penetrating this church.

3. The letter

a. It is the second letter to the Corinthians:
I Corinthians is actually Paul's second letter to the Corinthian church.   In I Corinthians 5:9 Paul talks about what he wrote in his first letter.

b. The reason for the letter:
Paul's letter is in response to the news that he had received about the unholiness and problems within the church.  See I Corinthians 1:11, 5:9, and 7:1

c. The messenger of the letter:
It was probably sent with Timothy.  See I Corinthians 4:17, 16:10-11

The city of Corinth was one of the most worldly cities of all time.  It was a port town and a center of the pagan worship of a goddess whose temple priestesses were prostitutes.  We would like the church to influence the world we live in, but often the world we live in influences the church.  That was certainly the case at Corinth.  The church at Corinth had become in many ways a worldly church.  Paul begins his letter to this church describing their worldliness, rebuking and correcting them for it.  Then, beginning in chapter twelve he will begin to describe how they can go from being a worldly church to being a spiritual church.

In chapters seven through eleven we will find probably the most complete chapter in the Bible on the issues  relating to marriage (chapter 7), a chapter that give us instructions about the proper attitude about our Christian freedom (chapter 8 and part of chapter 10), a chapter that describes whether or not it is proper to financially support full-time Christian workers (chapter 9),  a part of a chapter that warns about the severe consequences of worldliness for Christians (chapter 10), a part of a chapter that is directed toward the role of women (part of chapter 11), and one of the key chapters in the Bible on the Lord's Supper (chapter 11).  Your time digging for gold in these chapters will be well spent.

 

(continued from I Corinthians 1 – 6)

4. Their worldly thinking about sex and marriage (6:12-7:40)

b. Their legalistic asceticism: marriage and sex are evil (7:1-9)
Both of the two extremes, license and legalism, were present at Corinth: There were those who desired to be free from all rules and regulations, and those who wanted to put everyone under their  religious rules and regulations.  In the previous verses, Paul dealt with the sexual license that was present in the church at Corinth.  In these verses Paul directs his focus on the legalism that was also plaguing this same church.

William Barclay eloquently introduces us to Paul's subject in these verses:  "In Greek thought there was a strong tendency to despise the body and the things of the body; and that tendency could issue in a position where man said:  'The body is utterly unimportant; therefore we can do what we like with it and it makes no difference if we allow its appetites to have their fullest play.  But that very tendency could issue in a precisely opposite point of view.  It could move a man to say, 'The body is evil; therefore we must bring it into subjection; therefore we must completely obliterate, and if that is impossible, we must completely deny, all the instincts and desires which are natural to it.'  It is the second way of looking at things with which Paul is dealing here.  The Corinthians, or at least some of them, had suggested that, if a man was going to be a Christian in the fullest sense of the term, he must have done with physical things and must refuse to marry altogether."  "Taken from The Letters to the Corinthian by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

(1) Their belief in celibacy:  Paul's advice to those who believed that sex and marriage are evil (7:1-2)
"Now for the matters you wrote about:  It is good for a man not to marry.  But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband."

Thought Question #1:  What do you think was happening at Corinth that made it necessary for Paul to talk about whether or not someone should marry?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do these verses tells us about the role of the sexual relationship within marriage?

 

 

If the immoral cities of all time were rated based on the degree of their sexual immorality and promiscuity, certainly the city of Corinth in Paul's time would be high on the list.  A logical response to the presence of all the moral degeneracy regarding sex in Corinth is to say that all sex is wrong and evil.  This type of thinking is what led to the monastic movement that became such a large part of Christianity in the Middle Ages.  Those who became Monks believed that the celibate life, where one separated himself from all sexual relations, was a more spiritual life than getting married.  It separated them from needing to be involved, from their perspective, in a sin-tainted sexual relationship.

Is it wrong to get married?  Is it more spiritual to remain single?  Paul answers these questions in these two verses.  First of all, Paul says that it is good to remain single.  Paul will explain later that it is good if someone can abstain from marriage and give his or her life fully to God's work.  See 7:8,26,32  But, he also says it is good to marry.

It is because of sexual temptations that Paul encourages some and probably most to marry.  In verse two, Paul is clearly saying that within the sanctity of a marriage relationship, a couple can purely enjoy the pleasure that comes from sexual love-making.  Some from within both Roman Catholicism and the Protestant church have argued that sex is only pure when its purpose is for procreation.  Therefore, according to this argument, sex within marriage is wrong if its only purpose is for pleasure.  But, Paul states clearly here that one purpose of sex within marriage is to give the married couple a pure way to satisfy their sexual desires, so that they will be able to resist the sexual temptations that come from outside of their marriage.

Listen to the words of Proverbs five:  "Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well.  Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares?  Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers.  May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.  A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.  Why be captivated my son, by an adulteress?  Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife?" (Proverbs 5:15-20)

Roman Catholicism requires their Priests and Nuns to abstain from marriage.  This goes against Paul's instructions in these verses.  Some are able to live a single life.  But, it should not be a required lifestyle for all who go into God's work full-time.  Sadly, there are many reports of Priest and Nuns who have been overcome by their sexual desires and who have in an unholy way, broken their vows of chastity and celibacy.  See I Timothy 4:3-5

(2) Their extreme limitations on sex:  Paul's advice to those who believed that sex within marriage is wrong (7:3-5)
"The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.  The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband.  In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.  Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.  Then come together so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."

Thought Question:  What wisdom do these verses reveal to us about how a couple should go about having the most fulfilling sexual relationship?

 

 

Why does Paul give these instructions that the husband and the wife are to not withhold themselves sexually from each other?  The simple answer is that it is because there were some in the church in Corinth who, for some reason, were depriving their mates from having sexual relations with them.  Barclay is probably correct, at least in part, about why some dedicated married Christians at Corinth were withholding sexual relations from their spouses:  "This passage arises from a suggestion from Corinth that if married people are to be really Christian they must abstain from all intercourse with each other.  This is another manifestation of that line of thought which looked on the body and its instincts as essentially evil."  "Taken from The Letters to the Corinthians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

But God is the creator of sex and it is a gift that He gave to us to enjoy.  He meant it to be enjoyably used in the expression of physical and emotional intimacy between marriage partners.  The wedding ceremony symbolizes the uniting of the husband and the wife into one.  From that point on, the bodies of each are no longer their own, but they belong to their spouses.  "Neither wives nor husbands have the right to use their bodies completely as they will."  "Taken from The First Epistle to the Corinthians by Leon Morris.  Copryright 1958 by Wm. B. Eerdman Publishing Company." 

Ray Stedman has some very practical advice, taken from these verses, on how to have a healthy, pure, and enjoyable sexual relationship with one's spouse.  Because it is so well stated, I will quote from him at length:  "First, you will notice that Paul does not say to the husband and wife, 'Demand your own sexual rights.'  He never puts it that way, and yet as a marriage counselor I can say that I have been involved in scores of cases where one of the major problems of the marriage was that one partner, usually the man, demanded his sexual rights from his wife (Occasionally it has been the woman who was the aggressor.)…..Not once does he ever suggest that you have the right to demand sex from your mate.  What he says is that what you have the right to do is to give him or her, as a gift from you, the fulfillment of these sexual desires -- and the responsibility you have is not to your mate, but to the Lord to do so.  It is a matter that Paul puts on the basis of the relationship that a believer has with his or her Lord who asks us to give this gift to our mates in marriage and thus to make it a basis of mutual fulfillment and satisfaction.  In other words, sex in marriage is a gift that you are to freely offer to each other.  It is not a selfish, self-centered satisfying of your own desire . . . Sex is so designed that we have no control over it ourselves within marriage.  We need another to minister to us, and that is designed of God in order to teach us how to relate and fulfill the basic law of life which Jesus put in these terms when he said, 'If you attempt to save your life you will lose it,' (Matt. 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 17:33, John 12:25).  If you try to meet your own need, if you put that first in your life -- 'I am going to have my needs met' -- the result will be that you will lose the joy of life and you will lose everything you are trying to gain.  Instead of finding fulfillment you will find emptiness, and you will end your years looking back upon a wasted experience.  You cannot get fulfillment that way. . . That is not merely good advice -- that is a law of life, as inviolable as the law of gravity.  You cannot beat it any way you try.  The only way to find your needs met and yourself fulfilled is to fulfill another's needs.  Throw your life away, Jesus said, and you will find it.  That is what sex is all about.  It is designed not to have your needs met, but to meet another's needs.  Thus in marriage, you have a beautiful reciprocity.  In the process of devoting yourself to the enjoyment of your mate, and to giving him or her the most exquisite sense of pleasure that you can, you find your own needs met.  That is what is meant by Verse 4.  'For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does,' (I Corinthians 7:4 RSV).  That is not saying that you are slaves of one another.  It is saying that the power to give fulfillment to your mate lies with you.  He or she cannot fulfil himself or herself in this area.  It is impossible.  That is why sex with yourself, solo sex, is a drag.  It does not go anywhere.  It is a dead-end street.  It is a momentary, mechanical fulfillment that leaves you psychologically unfulfilled.  The only way those psychological fulfillments can be met is by your partner giving the gift of fulfillment and you giving him or her the same gift.  That is why God made us with that quality of needing someone else to fulfill us sexually.  This is why unresponsiveness on the part of a partner in sex always creates a problem in marriage.  Frigidity, of whatever type it may be for whatever cause, creates deep-seated psychological problems in a marriage and a rift occurs.  You only need to talk to some experienced marriage counselors to know how true that is.  God has given us the ability to give a gift of love and response to another person, and the joy of doing so is what creates the ecstasy of sexual love in marriage.  So important is this to marriage that the apostle goes on to say that it takes precedence over everything else in your life except an occasional spiritual retreat for prayer . . . .To unilaterally take action to refuse to involve yourself in a sexual union in marriage is to violate this very command of God, and to hurt the marriage very severely……Paul puts his finger on what is one of the most frequent causes for disaster in marriage -- a unilateral refusal to grant the gift of enjoyment and pleasure to one's mate."  "Taken from a sermon on I Corinthians 7 by Ray Stedman.  Discovery Publishers."

(3) Paul's balanced position: celibacy is not for everyone, but for those who have been gifted by God for it (7:6-7)
As has been mentioned, it appears that some of the Christians in Corinth had reacted to the immorality in their city by going to the opposite extreme.  They had ruled out sexuality and marriage altogether.  Paul had deprived himself in this way, but it was not because marriage and sex are evil, but because he was gifted by God to be able to do it.

"I say this as a concession, not as a command.  I wish that all men were as I am.  But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that."

Thought Question:  Single people sometimes wonder if it is God's will for them to marry; what does Paul say in these verses that would help you to answer them about whether or not it is God's will for them to get married?

 

 

Paul's instructions to them is that if they are not gifted by God to remain single, they should get married because otherwise they would most likely eventually be overcome by their sexual desires.  See 7:2  His instructions that they should get married is not a command, for his actual preference is that they would be like him and remain unmarried.  But, he realizes that not everyone was gifted like him and could give up marriage so that they could dedicate their lives to God's work.  Though Paul preferred that they remain single so their lives would not be divided between devotion to their mate and devotion to God's work, he makes a concession because of the power of sexual temptations on the single person.

But, Paul does not say that marriage is wrong, for in verse seven he says his gift from God that enabled him to remain single was not the only gift from God.  He is implying that those who marry have another gift from God.  For related to marriage there are only two gifts from God, the gift of marriage and the gift that enables one to remain unmarried.  Both the ability to remain single and marriage itself are both good gifts from God.

There is some indication that Paul was married at one time.  "He was a Rabbi and it was his own claim that he had failed in none of the duties which Jewish law and tradition laid down.  Now orthodox Jewish law and tradition laid down the obligation of marriage.  If a man did not marry and have children, he was said to have 'slain his posterity.' . . . The age for marrying was considered to be eighteen; and therefore it is in the highest degree unlikely that so devout and orthodox a Jew as Paul once was would have remained unmarried…. "Taken from The First Letters to the Corinthians by Willam Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  We do not know what happened to his wife, if he did indeed he did have one.  She may have died or she could have left him.

(4) Paul's advice to the unmarried and to the widows (7:8-9)
"Now to the unmarried and the widows I say:  It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion."  Widows or single persons have often wondered, "Is it God's will for me to get married?"  The simple answer is that if you desire to dedicate your lives to God's work and you can resist the pull of sexual temptation, you are free to choose to remain unmarried.  But for the rest, to choose to get married is within God's will.  For God did say to Adam, "It is not good for the man to be alone."  Marriage is a wonderful gift of God to men and women, so that we will not be alone.  Also, as Paul cautions us, it can be true that if a person tries to remain single, he or she may end up being controlled by sexual desires rather than by a desire to do God's work.  See I Timothy 5:11-14

c. Their liberal attitude toward divorce (7:10-16)
Today in our country, it is more likely that a newly-wed couple will get a divorce than that it is that they will stay married for life.  When you add to this reality the fact that many couples live together without marrying, it is obvious that marriage for life is becoming the exception rather than the rule in our country.  Divorce was also common in the city of Corinth.  The church tends to be influenced by the culture that surrounds it.  Paul argues in these verses that even if divorce is common in the world outside the church, it should not take place within God's church.  One's partner in marriage, though, can initiate a break-up of a marriage.  Paul gives one example of a marriage partner breaking up a marriage in these verses and Jesus gives another example in Matthew 19. These exceptions will be talked about later in this section.

"To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord):  A wife must not separate from her husband.  But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.  And a husband must not divorce his wife.  To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord):  If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.  And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.  For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband.  Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy."

Thought Question #1:  If a Christian comes to you and wants to divorce her Christian partner, according to Paul's words in these verses, how should you answer them?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  If a Christian comes to you and wants to divorce her non-Christian partner, according to Paul's words in these verses, how would you answer them?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What should happen if one marriage partner is regularly involved in some type of serious crime?

 

 

(1) Paul's command to Christians who want to get a divorce (7:10-11)
Paul makes it clear that what he is saying at this point is a command.  And is it not just a command from him as he is guided by the Holy Spirit, but it was also a command that had been given personally by the Lord Jesus Christ.  "To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.  But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.    And a husband must not divorce his wife."  See Matthew 19:1-9, 5:31,32

Sadly, the divorce rate in our churches has increased as the divorce rate has increased in our society.  Marriage is no longer a lifetime commitment "for better or for worse," but many enter marriage on a trial basis.  But, Jesus and Paul commanded that when couples makes a marriage commitment to each other, they must maintain that commitment for a lifetime.  The Christian is not to divorce his or her mate for such things as "irreconcilable differences," or for any reason apart from their mate being the one who chooses to break off the marriage.

But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband."  A wife may have chosen to separate from her husband in disobedience to God's plan for marriage.  If she does, she must remain unmarried.  For she has no right to remarry as long as she remains married in God's eyes.  For while the marriage partners remain separated but unmarried to other persons, there is still hope that the marriage may be restored.  Also, it is possible that the marriage partners may need to become separated due to some severe and intolerable problem.  "There are cases undoubtedly which justify a woman in leaving her husband, which do not justify divorce.  Just as there are cases which justify a child leaving, or being removed from, the custody of a parent." "Taken from Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians by Charles Hodge.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."  For example, one of the marriage partners may be physically or sexual abusing one of the children.  Another example is that one of the partners may be choosing to violate the law.  But this marriage partner who does separate from his or her spouse is to remain unmarried in hope that they might someday be able to be reconciled.

Ray Stedman makes the following observation from his years in the ministry:  "I could recount to you several instances of wives (in a couple of cases husbands), who have waited patiently through years of single life with little hope apparent on the surface that their mates would ever be changed.  Yet God in grace has changed them and their marriages have been restored after years of brokenness and gone on to happiness and joy." "From a sermon by Ray Stedman on I Corinthians.  Discovery Publishing."

(2) Paul's command to Christians who are married to non-Christians (7:12-16)

(a) If the non-believer is willing to continue in the marriage, the believer must not divorce him or her. (7:12-14)
Some in Corinth who became Christians probably thought that they needed to leave their spouses who did not become Christians.  They could have thought that they would become contaminated by being married to the non-believers.  They also would have been concerned that children from these mixed marriages would also be contaminated by their non-believing spouses.  Paul will explain in these verses that the presence of a Christian spouse has a cleansing effect on the marriage.  Paul, therefore, did not allow the Christians to leave their mates, for the gospel was not to be the direct cause of division, but it was meant to promote peace:  "God has called us to live in peace." (7:15)

"To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord):  If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.  And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him."  Notice that this is Paul's command in his capacity as an apostle guided by the Holy Spirit, but it was not a part of Jesus Christ's commands that are recorded for us in the Gospels.

Paul goes on to give a reason why the believing spouse could stay in the marriage:  "For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband.  Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy."

Thought Question #1:  What is meant by the word "sanctify"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  In what way is the unbelieving husband or wife sanctified through their believing partner?

 

 

Mud makes a white glove become dirty rather than the white glove making the mud clean, but a Christian in a home is able to have a purifying effect on that home.

Possibly you know, as I do, of a home where either the husband or the spouse is a Christian and where the children have grown up to be solid Christians.  This is what Paul is talking about here.  One Christian mate turns a home into a Christian home.  As Paul says here, the Christian mate transforms the home into a "sanctified" or a home set apart to God, a home that honors God.

(b) But if the unbeliever leaves, the believer is not bound. (7:15-16)
"But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so.  A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace."

Thought Question:  According to these verses and Matthew 19:1-19, is there any situation when it is acceptable before God to divorce one person and marry someone else?  Explain your answer.

 

 

Listen to what Charles Hodge has to say about these verses:  "In one case, the marriage binds him; in the other case it does not bind him.  This seems to be the simple meaning of the passage. . . If the unbeliever is willing to remain, the believer is bound by the marriage contract; but if she be unwilling he is not bound."  Taken from Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthains by Charles Hodge.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."  Simply put, if the unbelieving partner in the marriage deserts the believing partner (gets a divorce), he or she is free to remarry in the same way that a widow is free to remarry.

What does Paul mean by, "God has called us to live in peace"?  There are two interpretations of these words.  Some believe that it is reemphasizing that we should seek to keep the marriage together if at all possible.  In the context, though, it appears that Paul is saying that the Christian should keep peace by allowing the non-believer to go if he or she wants to leave the marriage.  In our country, these words mean that if an unbeliever wants to leave a marriage, and the believing partner has made every attempt to make that marriage work, then the believing mate should do all that he or she can to make that separation and divorce be peaceful. 

"How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?  Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?"  Again, there are two possible interpretations of these words.  Same say that these words mean that a believing husband or wife should stay with their mate in hope that he or she might save the mate.  In other words, he or she might become a Christian through the efforts of the believing mate.  But, within the context the correct interpretation appears to be that the believer should allow the non-believer to leave the marriage, for they may never become a Christian.  To put it another way, all of the believer's efforts may not lead to the unbeliever's salvation.  So, the Christian is not to try to forcefully prevent the unbeliever from leaving in hopes that someday he or she might become a Christian.  For, it may never happen.  Paul, then, is saying that the believer should not get into an ugly conflict over an unbelieving partner leaving.  It may result in nothing but a big mess.  Rather, seek to part peacefully.

Of course, if an unbelieving spouse leaves a believing spouse, the believing spouse can choose to not remarry in hopes that the unbelieving spouse may choose to return to the marriage.  There are benefits in this happening.  For example, it is better for the children.  And the believing spouse still sanctifies the home.

d. Their discontent with the status quo (7:17-24)
When these Corinthians became new people when they became Christians, some of them also thought that they should then also have new marriages and a new social status.  "Nevertheless each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him.  This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.  Was a man already circumcised when he was called?  He should not be uncirmcumcised.  Was a man uncircumcised when he was called?  He should not be circumcised.  Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcission is nothing.  Keeping God's commands is what counts.  Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him.  Were you a slave when you were called?  Don't let it trouble youalthough if you can gain your freedom, do so.  For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave.  You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.  Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to."

Thought Question:  What wisdom do these verses give us about dealing with difficult situations in our lives?

 

 

What is Paul saying in these verses?  Is there a message for us today in what he said to these Corinthian Christians?  First of all, let us consider who he was writing to at the time.  Many of the Christians in Corinth were undoubtedly slaves.  A high percentage of those in the world of that time were slaves.  Should these new Christian slaves revolt against the inhuman system of slavery?  Paul explains in these verses that they were to remain slaves, for now that they had become Christians they had already been set free from a much greater slavery by Jesus Christ.

True freedom is the freedom to become who God has created us to be and freedom from sin.  A slave who became a Christian could become a loving and honest servant of God and people, even though he was a slave.  He was not restricted in this sense from becoming a full and practicing Christian.  His position as a slave did not in any way prevent him from being a fully God-honoring Christian.  It is true, though, that as men and women in the Roman Empire were changed on the inside through the new birth in Jesus Christ it affected how people looked upon the system of slavery.  Eventually the system of slavery became unacceptable as Christian slave-owners looked upon their Christian slaves as humans and not as sub-humans.  It ultimately disappeared from Christian western society.

Paul explains that the Christian slave was actually a freedman, for God had set him free—free from sin and free to be an obedient Christian.  But the free man who becomes a Christian has become a slave to Jesus Christ.  In other words, the main issue is not the station you find yourself in, but the main focus should be on being obedient to Jesus Christ.  When we become Christians, we are not to put our focus on changing our status in life or changing our culture; instead, we are to concentrate on obeying Jesus Christ within the situation in life in which we now find ourselves.  A Christian may complain that he or she cannot fully serve God in their marriage, neighborhood, job, or church circumstances; but Paul says that none of these circumstances prevents us from being an obedient Christian.

Paul does say, though, that if a slave had an opportunity to become a free man, it was acceptable for him to make this change.  Also, if we are in difficult situation and an opportunity for a better situation opens up—such as a much better work environment in another job, we are free to make that change.  But, if we are in a difficult situation that we cannot change at the moment (such as slavery was then), we are still free on the inside to grow and to become God's person in that difficult set of circumstances.

Someone once said, "I'm under the pile."  His Christian brother said, "What are you doing under there?"  We may not be able to control our circumstances, but with God's help we can control how we respond to our circumstances.

Ultimately, Paul says, "You were bought with a price, do not become slaves of men."  In whatever situation we are in, we need to remember that we are not to be controlled by our circumstances and we are not to allow the people in our lives to dominate or shape us, but we are to serve the One who gave His blood to set us free.  Each of us can be obedient to Him, no matter where we find ourselves.

e. Concerning virgins (7:25-28)
"Now about virgins:  I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy.  Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are.  Are you married?  Do not seek a divorce.  Are you unmarried?  Do not look for a wife.  But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned.  But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this." 

Thought Question:  In what ways will it be more difficult to be married than single in a time of crisis?

 

 

Who are the virgins that Paul is referring to in these verses?  Some believe (1) they were virgins that had not yet been given by their fathers to be married to young men.  (2) Others believe that they were young women who were living with young men, but had made a mutual commitment to refrain from a sexual relationship with each other.  (3) The final possibility that is offered is that they were virgins who were still in the betrothal stage of their marriages (similar to our engagement period), and had not physically consummated the marriage.

There is a difficulty with each of these three possibilities that are offered to explain the identity of these virgins.  The first view is that they were virgins who had not yet been given away by their fathers.  But, it does not fit with verse 7:36 where Paul continues to talk about these virgins: "If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years, and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants."  These instructions given to a male mate of a virgin obviously could not be given to the fathers of these virgins.  Also the second view that Paul was referring to young men who were living with young women, but restraining themselves from sexual union because of some type of religious commitment also has a major problem.  According to Biblical scholar F. F. Bruce, although this type of practice did take place in the church, it did not start until some time after Paul's lifetime.  The final possibility that is offered is—that they were virgins who were still in the betrothal stage of their marriages—also has a problem.  Leon Morris observes that those who entered betrothal were no longer in the process of deciding whether or not to continue on in the marriage, but the betrothal was a commitment to complete the marriage.  In fact, to break off a betrothal was like getting a divorce today.  See Matthew 1:19 where Joseph who was betrothed to the virgin Mary considered divorcing her:  "Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly."

So, Bible scholars are not sure who these virgins were, nor can we be sure who they were.  I will offer my preference later.  But, the message to us from these verses does not hinge on whether or not we know who the virgins were.  For the message to us remains the same whoever the virgins were.  It is simply this, in a time of crisis or in a difficult time, it is better to be single.  For example, Jesus says the following about the time of tribulation in the last days during the time of the Antichrist: "How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!  There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people."  (Luke 21:23)  It is difficult enough to be a pregnant woman and a nursing mother in normal times, how much worse it will be during a time of crisis.  And it is not just difficult for the woman.  Leon Morris puts it this way:  "A man who is a hero in himself becomes a coward when he thinks of his widowed wife and his orphan children."  "Taken from The First Letter to the Corinthians by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1958 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  The message is simple, the additional concerns and burdens that come with marriage become extremely difficult to bear in a time of crisis.

It is unclear what the "present crisis" was that Paul was talking about.  It could have been some time of difficulty at Corinth that we are not told about.  He could have been referring to the crisis of being a Christian in an anti-Christian world.  But, then he would have been ruling out marriages for Christians for all time.  He may also have been making reference to the last days and the time of great tribulation that the Bible talks about, which will occur just before Jesus' second coming.  For Paul did not know that there would be at least 2,000 years before Jesus would return.  We are not sure about who the virgins were nor are we sure about which "crisis" Paul was talking about.  But we are sure that Paul is warning them and us that it is much more difficult to be married than single in a time of crisis.

For we Americans who have not experienced many times of real crisis, this advice does not seem to be very relevant, but for much of the rest of the world who have gone through many times of crisis, it has been relevant and it will continue to be very relevant to them.  It may also become relevant for American Christians of future generations.

f. Concerning marriage and how it draws us away from heavenly matters (7:29-35)
What if they were already married?  And what if you are already married?  In these verses Paul gives instruction to married people to help them to not allow their marriages and families to prevent them from keeping their focus on heavenly concerns:  "What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short.  From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy as if they were not; those who buy something as if it was not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.  For this world is passing away."

Thought Question:  What does Paul mean when he says we who are married should live as if we are not married?

 

 

Paul did not counsel them to change their worldly state, but he did counsel them to change their attitudes toward worldly things.  Even though marriage draws our concerns away from the heavenly and on to the earthly; nevertheless, Paul exhorted them to live as if this world is about to pass away.  We are to live "as if" the worldly is of less importance to us than that which is eternal.  Notice the 4 "as if"s in these verses.  Bruce gives the following practical advice based on Paul's words in these verses:  "The Christian should as far as possible live in this age as though the age to come were already here, regulating life by its values and not by those current among 'the sons of this age.'  The values of this age are transient and relative; those of the age to come are permanent and absolute."  "Taken from The New Century Bible Commentary I and II Corinthians by F. F. Bruce.  Copyright 1971 by Wm. B. Eerdman Publishing Company."  See II Corinthians 4:17-18

We should have a completely different outlook on life than the non-believer.  The non-believer lives as if there is no God, no life after death, and no judgment by God after death.  Therefore, like the "rich fool" in Jesus' parable in Luke 12:13-21, they say, "eat, drink, and be merry" for tomorrow we die.  The Christian, on the other hand, lives "as if" there is a God, "as if" there is a life after this one, and "as if we will one day stand before Jesus Christ.  This totally different outlook on life should also result in our wanting to live our short time on this earth so that each of our days will count for eternity.  He is not saying, though, that we should, for example, neglect our wives or husbands or families, but he is saying that our families should not be the main focus of our lives.  We should, instead, even if we are married, live in such a way that our lives have the fullest eternal impact that they can have.  We should not think, "How can I have the best life for me and my family?" and then plan accordingly.  Which is what we most easily think and do.  Rather, we should think, "How can my life have the most impact for eternity?" and then we should plan accordingly.  Or better still, we should ask God, "How can my life best be used to fulfill Your plans?" and then we should chart out each day accordingly. 

"I would like you to be free from concern.  An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord.  But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how can he please his wife—and his interests are divided.  An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs:  Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.  But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.  I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord."

Thought Question #1:  In what way or ways is Paul's attitude toward single people different from the way we can look at single people in our society?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Do you know of any single people who are dedicated to things of God and to His work?

 

 

He is not saying that marriage is bad or that it is wrong for a man or woman to be concerned about the marriage partner.  He is simply saying that if you are not married, you can place your undivided devotion on your relationship to the Lord and His work.

Possibly you know a single person or single persons who have this type of singular focus on God and His work.  In my life two women in particular stand out, Margaret MacLennan and Grandma Kelly, who have served the Lord with a singular devotion and have served as a mentor and counselor to many.  Some of the most well-know Christians have been single.  For example, Corrie Ten Boon, Henrietta Mears, and John Stott.

g. More concerning virgins (7:36-38)
"If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants.  He is not sinning.  They should get married.  But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing."

Thought Question:  What do these verses teach us about how we should look on a single person?

 

 

Paul explains once more in these verses that it is not wrong to marry or wrong not to marry.  But the single person is better able to fully dedicate himself or herself to the Lord's work.  So, a man who has the self-control to keep his sexual drives under control can choose not to marry.

Although, as was mentioned before, there is good reason to think that Paul would not be encouraging men to break off with a virgin they are betrothed to, it does seem to fit what Paul is saying in these verses.  He does seem to be encouraging those who have been engaged or betrothed to a virgin to break off that engagement if they are able to control their sexual life.

"So, then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better."  Paul says clearly that a person who chooses to remain unmarried actually is doing better than a person who chooses to marry.  Too often we can look down on the single person as some type of failure.  But, Paul points out here that someone who chooses singleness for God's purposes should be looked upon as having made the wiser and better choice.  Instead of them being seen as less than the married person, we should see them as having chosen the higher calling for their lives.

h. Concerning those whose husbands die (7:39-40)
"A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.  In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of the Lord."

Thought Question:  Some day we may be the only member of our marriage partnership who remains alive; how will these verses be helpful to us at that time?

 

 

He appears to be talking about a widow of an older age.  He says she can marry again, but she should be careful that she does not, out of loneliness, end up marrying the wrong man.  He is particularly concerned that she might marry a non-believer.  He believes that it would be best if she did not marry again.  It is true that most older widows do remain unmarried. 

Paul does say that God's Spirit has led him to see that a widow who remains unmarried will be happier.  The widow in the Lord will be able to put her total focus on the Lord and the Lord's work.

Ray Stedman titles his message on Paul's teaching on singleness in this chapter, "Alone but not Lonely."  Widows often grow closer to the Lord during the time after their husbands are gone, than in the years when they were with their husbands.

There are further instructions to widows given in I Timothy 5:3-16  There Paul gives instructions to younger widows that it will be better for them to remarry.  He also gives instructions to the church on how to provide for the needs of widows in those verses.

These verses give support to what Paul said in 7:15 about a believing mate being able to remarry if the unbelieving partner deserts the marriage.  Here, a marriage partner is not "bound" after his or her mate dies.  Paul explains the meaning clearly of not being "bound":  "she is free to marry anyone she wishes"  The Greek words translated "bound" in 7:15 and in these verses are two different words, but according to Vincent in his Greek word studies, the word in 7:15 is an even stronger word, implying an enslavement to the deserting partner.  So, in both cases—when a mate dies and when an unbelieving partner deserts the marriage—a Christian is free to remarry.  See also Romans 7:2

5. Their worldly attitude toward Christian freedom (8:1-10:33)
What is a Christian free to do and what shouldn't he or she do?  Some things such as lying and stealing are never right to do, but should there be limitations put on doing those things that are not wrong to do?  In these chapters Paul gives guidelines for making decisions about whether or not we should limit doing things that are okay to do.  When is it okay and when is it not okay to do something?

a. Their knowledge of their freedom made them arrogant and not loving. (8:1-13)
Strong Christians in Corinth (those who understood their freedom in the area of eating meat that had been offered to idols) were drawing weak Christians (those who felt it was wrong to eat meat offered to idols) into doing what they thought was sin.  The strong Christians recognized that the meat offered to idols was still just meat and that it was okay to eat.  The weak Christians felt that if they ate meat that had been offered to an idol, they would also be participating in the idolatry.

F. F. Bruce gives the following explanation of the practice of offering meat to idols:  "When sacrificial animals were offered in the temples, the deity received a token portion; what the priests and temple attendants could not use themselves would be sold to the meat market, where it would command a ready sale among the public, because only the best animals were acceptable for the temple sacrifices.  What were Christians to do on the occasions when they bought butcher-meat?  Jews then, as now, had their own arrangements for the slaughtering of animals for food; might it not be better for Christians to have similar arrangements?  There was always the possibility that meat bought in the meat market came from animals which had been offered to idols, and there was a feeling that the meat was somehow contaminated by this association so that any one who ate it would be infected with idolatry.  Over against those members of the church who had scruples of this kind ('the weak', as Paul calls them) there were others who pooh-poohed such conscientiousness and, fortified by their knowledge that there were no such entities as idols, asserted their freedom and right to eat.  Paul's conscience was as emancipated as theirs, and he was willing to go a long way with them, provided (a) due consideration was given to the tender consciences of the 'the weak', and (b) the scandal of public association with idolatry was avoided."  "Taken from The New Century Bible Commentary I&II Corinthians by F. F. Bruce.  Copyright 1971 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."

It can be seen that eating meat offered to idols was as much a part of Paul's society as watching television is a part of our society.  Paul's advice to the Corinthians provides us with guidelines for deciding what we should do in areas like watching television.

(1) Knowledge - (minus) a love for others and love for God = a swelled head (8:1-3)
"Now about food sacrifices to idols:  We know that we all possess knowledge.  Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe that "knowledge puffs up"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What can we do so that "knowledge" will not puff us up?

 

 

Some at the Corinthian church possessed the knowledge that idols were not gods.  Paul identifies himself with that group when he says, "we all possess knowledge."  Paul and they recognized that the idols in Corinth were just pieces of wood and rock.

Now, this knowledge was true, but Paul points out that if this knowledge is by itself, all it does is puff up the one who has the knowledge.  He then can feel superior to those who do not have this knowledge.  If you have more knowledge than someone else, it is very easy for you to feel superior to the ones who are lower down on the knowledge scale than you are.  But, if you care about the person who does not have as much knowledge as you do, you will not desire to feel superior to him or her, but you will desire to do that which will help them.  "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."  Knowledge that does not result in love that builds up is useless knowledge.  See I Corinthians 13

"The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.  But the man who loves God is known by God."  Paul points out in these verses that true knowledge will lead us to loving God and to knowing that we are loved by God.  It is not what we know, but it is knowing that we are known and loved by God that is important.  When do we possess true knowledge?  It is when we know that we are "known by God."

True knowledge does not result in a division of the church into those who have knowledge and those who do not have knowledge.  True knowledge sees the church from God's perspective and knows that what is most important is what is important to God.  All the puffed up person can see is that he or she has more knowledge than someone else.  But the truly knowledgeable person knows above all that true knowledge leads one to know God and to do what He desires should be done. When we add God to our knowledge and are aware of how much He loves each of us, we cannot feel superior to anyone.

(2) Idols = 0, God = everything (8:4-6)

(a) Idols = 0 (8:4-5)
"So, then, about eating foods sacrificed to idols.  We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.  For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or one earth (as indeed there are many 'gods' and many 'lords')," 

Thought Question:  Why do you think that people can come to think that an idol is something more than a piece of wood, stone, or medal?

 

 

Paul begins immediately by revealing the knowledge that was puffing up some of the Corinthian Christians.  They knew that an idol was nothing more than a piece of wood, metal, or stone; and they knew that there was only one God.  They knew that though their fellow Greeks worshiped many gods and that they thought there were many gods, there was only one true God, the Christian God.

Why is it that people all over the world, and even our modern world end up worshiping idols?  Today, we have our movie stars and athletes that become to us more than the very human people that they are.  The people of Corinth worshiped rocks, metal, and wood and treated these mere objects like they were more than they actually were.  We today can worship men.  We worship these mere men like they are more than mere men.  Some of these stars attempt to correct those who worship them by seeking to reveal to their admirers that they are no different than them.  Why do we worship rocks and rock stars?  It is because we all have a need to worship something that is greater than ourselves.  But, we want a god that we can handle, a god that allows us to continue to revolve our lives around ourselves.  It is human for us to prefer to worship these finite gods, rather than being humbled by the realization that we have been created by One who is infinitely greater than us.

Paul does explain further, though, in 10:20 and 10:21 that though there were no true gods behind the idols, those who sacrificed to idols were making sacrifices to supernatural beings.  They were offering sacrifices to demons.

(b) God = everything (8:6)
"yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things come and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live."  Here is what true knowledge should lead to, not puffed up arrogance, but humble love and adoration of God!

(3) A puffed up knowledgeable Christian + a weaker Christian = the destruction of the weaker Christian (8:7-13)

(a) Weaker Christians believe that something is a sin when it is not a sin. (8:7-8)
"But not everyone knows this.  Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled."

Thought Question:  Can you think of something that someone, because of his or her pre-Christian life, may think is a sin, but it is actually not a sin?

 

 

For many of the new Christians at Corinth, it was not easy to separate themselves from their old life and former beliefs that idols were truly gods.  "From their pre-Christian days they were so accustomed to thinking of the idol as a real god, that they could not completely shake off such thoughts.  It is like the situation in the modern mission field where some converts find it very hard to completely rid themselves of a belief in witchcraft . . . not being able to shake off the feeling that they were doing wrong when they ate what had been offered to it [the idol]." "Taken from The Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1958 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

Knowledge plus love causes us to see that though we may know that we are free to do something, we recognize that there are those who do not know that they are free to do it.  Love does not feel superior to those who are weak in this way, but love causes us to be sensitive and caring toward those who are morally inhibited in this way.

"But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do."  Eating food does not bring us closer to God nor does it take us farther away from God.  For as Paul says in Romans 14:17, "the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."

(b) Weaker brothers can be drawn into doing what they believe is sin by their more knowledgeable and stronger Christians brothers. (8:9-11)
"Be careful, however, that the exercises of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols?  So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, when should we limit ourselves and not do something—even though it would not be a sin for us to do it?

 

 

Christians in Corinth who knew that idols were nothing, were eating at social gatherings within the temples of idols.  From invitation cards from Paul's time, we know that it was common to invite friends to eat at the temple of a god.  Apparently, Christians who knew that there were no gods other than the one God, accepted these invitations from their pagan friends.  Paul knew that this was causing the weaker Christians who believed that this was wrong, to have the desire to do this as well.  But when they ate meat that was part of a sacrifice to an idol, they felt guilty about it afterwards and their relationship with God was destroyed.  Paul rebukes these stronger Christians for destroying those for whom Christ died.  If Christ was willing to die for these weak Christians, shouldn't they be willing to deprive themselves of eating in idol temples to save these weaker Christians from being destroyed?  Knowledge plus love leads us to choose to not to do something that we are free to do, because we can see that it might lead a weaker brother into doing what he believes to be sin.  See Romans 14:23

(c) When stronger brothers draw weaker brothers into sin, they are sinning against Christ. (8:12)
"When you sin against your brother in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ."  When these stronger Christians drew their weaker Christian brothers into sin, they were not only sinning against their weaker brothers, but they were also sinning against Christ.  Paul had learned before he was a Christian that we can sin against others and be also sinning against Christ.  When Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, he asked Paul if he was persecuting Him!  Paul's persecution of Christians before his conversion was also a sin against the Lord of the Christians he was persecuting.  See Matthew 25:40; Mark 9:37,41,42; John 13:20  See also Luke 17:1,2

(d) Instead, the stronger brother should choose not to do that which he knows he is free to do, if it might cause his weaker brother to fall (8:13)
"Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall."  The principle that Paul has been teaching throughout this chapter is summed up in this verse.  We should deprive ourselves of doing something that we are free to do if by our doing it, it leads a brother to do what he feels is a sin.

This does not mean that we are to be controlled by legalistic Christians.  Jesus and His disciples were not controlled by the absurd regulations of the Pharisees.  The legalist is trying to control what others do.  He, himself, is not in any danger of being influenced into doing what he believes to be sin.  Out of love for a truly weaker brother or sister, we should limit our freedoms, but we need not be limited by the legalist who is seeking to bring us under his lordship and his domination.

b. Paul's knowledge of his freedom made him loving and not puffed up. (9:1-27)
In chapter 8, Paul urged the stronger Christians—those who were more
knowledgeable about their Christians freedom—to give up their rights for the sake of the weaker Christian brothers and sisters.  Today, the cry is not to give up your rights, but that you should demand your rights.  Paul gives us, in these verses, an example from his own life about how a love for God and others will result in a willing sacrifice of our rights.

(1) He gave up his rights for the sake of others. (9:1-2)

(a) Paul argues that he is an Apostle with the rights of an Apostle. (9:1-2)
"Am I not free?  Am I not an apostle?  Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?  Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?  Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you!  For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord."

Thought Question:  What do you learn about from these verses about how we can tell if someone is an apostle? 

 

 

There were three requirements for one to be an apostle:  (1) He must have seen the resurrected Lord. See Acts 1:22   (2) He must have performed signs and wonders.  See II Corinthians 12:12  (3) He must have proof that he was an apostle by the success of his ministry.

Here Paul appeals to two of these proofs:  (1) He had seen Jesus Christ.  See these verses for descriptions of times when Paul saw the resurrected Jesus Christ: Acts 9:1-6; Galatians 1:11-16; I Corinthians 15:8, 11:23; II Corinthians 12:3 .  (2) His ministry to them had been successful.  "Are you not the result of my work in the Lord . . . For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord."  The seal in Paul's time had an importance in his culture similar to the importance of our signature today.  On many documents there is a place for our signature.  "In ancient days the seal was extremely important.  When a cargo of grain or dates or the like was being sent off, the last thing done was that the containers were sealed with a seal to show that the consignment was genuinely what it claimed to be.  When a will was made it was sealed with seven seals; and it was not legally valid unless it was produced with the seven seals intact.  The seal was the guarantee of genuineness.  The very fact of the Corinthian church was the guarantee of Paul's apostleship.  "Taken from The Letters to the Corinthians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

(b) He gave up his rights (including his rights as an Apostle) for the sake of the Corinthians Christians. (9:3-6)
"This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me.  Don't we have the right to food and drink?  Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas?  Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?"

Thought Question:  What do these verses tell us about the difference between the world's emphasis on demanding our rights and the proper Christian response to our rights?

 

 

Though Paul was an apostle and had all the rights of an Apostle, we see that he had been willing and still was willing to give up his rights for the sake of the Corinthian ChristiansPaul could have been supported fully by the church and he had the right to have a family like the other apostles and brothers of Jesus who all had families.  But Paul had chosen not to be paid by the Corinthian church and he had chosen not to seek to have a family.

From these words, we conclude that the other apostles were married and had families.  From Matthew 8:14, we know that Peter was married: "When Jesus came into Peter's house he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever."

Also, from Paul talking about "the Lord's brothers" in these verses as well as other references to Jesus' brothers in the Bible, it is certain that Jesus had brothers.  They were, though, His half-brothers for though Mary was the mother of Jesus and His brothers, Joseph who was the father of Jesus' brothers was not Jesus' father.  See Matthew 12:46, 13:55, John 2:12, 7:5; Acts 1:14 and Galatians 1:19

(c) For all workers have the right to be supported by their work (his examples: soldiers, planters, and shepherds) (9:7)
"Who serves as a soldier at his own expense?  Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes?  Who tends a flock and does not drink of its milk?"

Thought Question:  What does this verse teach us about why it is right to support full-time Christian workers?

 

 

Paul's reasoning is simple.  A soldier does not serve as a soldier and also have another job to make a living.  No, he is paid for being a soldier.  So a soldier in God's work should also be supported in his work.  Also, one who is a shepherd or works in a vineyard can eat of the fruit of their labors, so should a full-time Christian worker be able to be provided for by those he ministers to.  For he has put all of his energies into doing God's work instead of using that time to work to provide for himself and his family.

(d) The Law says that a worker has the right to be supported by those he ministers to. (9:8-10)
"Do I say this merely from a human point of view?  Doesn't the Law say the same thing?  For it is written in the Law of Moses:  'Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.  Is it about oxen that God is concerned?  Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in hope of sharing the harvest."

Thought Question:  What do these verses teach us about why it is right to support full-time Christian workers?

 

 

Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25:9, that an oxen was to be allowed to eat of the grain it was grinding.  Paul then asks the question, "was it for the oxen that God made this law?"  In 9:10 he answers this question.  The answer is that God gave these instructions about how to treat an oxen to teach us how we are to treat each other.  Just as an oxen was to be rewarded for its labors, so men are to be rewarded for their labors.  His primary point is that as an oxen was allowed to eat of the grain it was grinding, so our full-time Christian workers should also be supported financially by those who have benefitted from their ministry.

(e) Should not those who plant a spiritual crop benefit materially from their labors? (9:11-12a)
"If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?  If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more?"

Thought Question:  What do these verses teach us about why it is right to support full-time Christian workers?

 

 

The Christian worker works so that those he ministers to will have spiritual benefits such as a knowledge of God, hope, forgiveness, peace, and joy.  Should not those who are spiritually enriched by them respond by benefiting them in a material sort of way so as to provide for their necessities?  The answer to Paul's rhetorical question is, of course, "Yes!" 

Ray Stedman has this to say about Paul's argument in these verses:  "This becomes, then, a principle that ought to be universally recognized.  When you are blessed and helped by someone, simple gratitude would dictate that you do something in return to show your gratitude.  That is what Paul is arguing here.  If you have been blessed and helped in your spiritual life, and your family changed and your whole life enriched, how much more, Paul says, should you not therefore support with material benefits those who helped you in this way?"  "From a sermon by Ray Stedman on I Corinthians.  Discovery Publishing."

(f) Just as those who work at the temple receive their food from the offerings, so those who preach the gospel should be supported by those who benefit from their preaching. (9:12b-14)
"But we did not use this right.  On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.  Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?  In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel."

Thought Question:  What can we learn from these verses about why it is right to support full-time Christian workers?

 

 

Extensive instructions were given by God to the people of Israel describing how they were to provide for the priests and levites who worked at the temple.  The priests received portions of four of the five types of sacrificial offerings that were sacrificed to God at the temple.  The priests and the levites received portions of the tithes that the Israelites gave to God.  See Leviticus 7:6,8-10,31-36, 27:1-30; Numbers 18:8-32

Paul goes on to conclude that the Lord himself "has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel."  See Luke 10:7  Although there will always be those who do not believe that Christian work is deserving of a wage, God has made it clear that those who have given their life to God's work should be supported by the church.  In spite of the fact that there are those in Christian ministry who do not work hard enough at the ministry to deserve a wage for their labors, and that there are those who are wolves in sheep's clothing who use the ministry for their own financial gain, it is God's plan that God's workmen should be supported by God's people.

(g) But Paul did not choose to receive this support, so that he could give them the gospel free from any charge. (9:15-18)
"But I have not used any of these rights.  And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me.  I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast.  Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach.  Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!  If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.  What then is my reward?  Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it."

Thought Question:  What can we learn from Paul about the ministry from these verses?

 

 

Paul explains in these verses that it was not an option for him as to whether or not he should preach the gospel.  It was his duty.  He could not choose otherwise.  In Romans 1:14-16 Paul describes his indebtedness to God and his obligation to fulfill the ministry that God had given to him.  Paul understood the meaning of Jesus' words in Luke 17:10:  "So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, we are unworthy servants, we have only done our duty."

In fact, Paul feared what might happen if he did not fulfill his duty to preach the gospel:  "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!"  Paul knew that if he did not preach the gospel he would have been completely forlorn.  It would have been totally unbearable for him if he did not fulfill the commission that Jesus had given to him.

Paul was compelled out of duty to God to preach the gospel, but he was not compelled to preach it free of charge.  He could have received financial support for his preaching, but it was his reward to not receive this support.  His reward was the satisfaction that he was able to give out the gospel at no cost to anyone at Corinth.  See Acts 18:3; John 15:16; Romans 1:14-16

(2) He gave up the freedom to choose his own lifestyle for the sake of others. (9:19-23)
"Though I am free and belong to no man, I made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.  I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings."

Thought Question:  How does Paul's example given in these verses apply to us?

 

 

William Barclay eloquently explains Paul's words in these verses with the following example of a man who also exhibited this pattern of being "all things to all men:"  "Boswell somewhere speaks of the 'art of accommodating oneself to others.'  That was the art which Dr. Johnson possessed in a supreme degree, for, not only was he a great talker, but he was also a great listener with a supreme ability to get alongside any man.  A friend said of him that he had the art of 'leading people to talk on their favorite subjects, and on what they knew best.'  Once a country clergyman complained to Mrs. Thrale's mother of the dullness of his people.  'They talk of runts' (young cows), he said bitterly.  'Sir,' said the old lady, 'Mr. Johnson would have learned to talk of runts.'  To the countryman he would have become a countryman.  Robert Lynd points out how Johnson would discuss the digestive apparatus of a dog with a country parson; how he talked of dancing with a dancing master; how he talked on farm management, thatching, the process of malting, the manufacture of gun powder, the art of tanning.  He talks of Johnson's readiness to throw himself into the interests of other people.  He was a man who would have enjoyed discussing the manufacture of spectacles with a spectacle-maker, law with a lawyer, pigs with a pig-breeder, diseases with a doctor, or ships with a ship-builder.  He knew that in a conversation it is only more blessed to give than to receive."  "Taken from       The Letters to the Corinthians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Paul and Dr. Johnson became all things to all men.  Barclay does not say whether or not Dr. Johnson did it as a means to be able to share the gospel, but Paul did become "all things to all men so that by all possible means" he "might save some."  Although Paul would not allow the Jews—those "under the law"—or the Gentiles—those "not having the law"—to force him into their mold, he nevertheless was willing to enter their worlds for the sake of reaching them with the gospel.  He was willing to go back under the restrictions of the Old Testament law to reach his fellow countrymen the Jews.  He was willing to be part of the Gentile culture, as long as it was not sinful, to reach the Gentile world.  He limited what he did when he was with those who were weakened by an oversensitive conscience. He chose to give up his own interests and preferences for the sake of reaching his world with the gospel.  Can we win our world doing anything less?

(3) He gave up everything for the sake of reaching his world with the gospel. (9:24-27)
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." 

Thought Question:  What do we learn about Paul's type of Christianity and what should be our type of Christianity from these verses?

 

 

He made his body his slave for the sake of others, just as runners in the athletic games of his day made their bodies their slaves so that they might win their races.  Paul uses the sacrificial self-denial of the racers at the local athletic games as an example of the sacrifices that Christians should be willing to make.  "These games, the Olympian and Isthmian, the latter celebrated every third summer in the neighborhood of Corinth, were the occasions for the concourse of the people from all parts of Greece.  The contests in them excited the greatest emulation in all classes of the inhabitants.  Even the Roman emperors did not refuse to enter the lists.  To be a victor was to be immortalized with such immortality as the breath of man can give.  To Greeks, therefore, no allusion could be more intelligible, or more effective, than those to these institutions."  "Taken from Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians by Charles Hodge.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."  Ray Stedman observes that if we went to Corinth today we could still see the stone starting blocks that were used for these races. 

In our own day, we are amazed at the amount of sacrifice our champion figure skaters, gymnasts, and swimmers make in the hope that they might win an Olympic medal.  In fact, as I am writing this part of my notes, the Olympic tryouts for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia have just been completed and there are about two weeks to go until these Olympics.  During the tryouts, there was great joy for those who had labored and sacrificed for years as they were able to win a spot on the Olympic team for the United States, but there was also great disappointment on the faces of those who had labored just as hard and failed to gain an Olympic berth.  Paul's point in these verses is that if there are those who are willing to make this type of sacrifice for a piece of metal that they can only enjoy briefly in this life, should we not be willing to make at least as great an effort and make as great a sacrifice for a reward that will be enjoyed for eternity!

Paul here compares the wreath of some type of greenery that was placed on the heads of the winners in the Greek games "a crown that will not last" to the eternal crown or reward that the Christian labors for.  For this reason Paul knew that his efforts and sacrifices toward the reaching of the lost were not pointless or in vain, like a boxer hitting at the air and hitting nothing.  But he knew that all of his sacrificial efforts would be rewarded in eternity.

For this reason Paul was willing to fight a battle with his own body.  He would not let his own body prevent him from winning the prize.  Olympic athletes often get up early in the morning and train before going to school or to work.  And they often train again in the afternoon or the evening.  Do they feel like getting up early?  Do they feel like pushing their body day after day through painful workouts?  Do they enjoy the sacrifice of not eating such things as milk shakes and hamburgers?  No!  But they do it because they are focused in on being on an Olympic team and competing at being one of the best athletes in the world.  Paul was willing to sacrifice and bring his body into subjection for an eternal goal—to be used by God to reach his world with the gospel of eternal salvation.  It was this type of all-encompassing commitment that enabled Paul to be used of God as powerfully as he was to reach every corner of the world of his day.  Can we expect to be effective in reaching our world today with any less of a commitment?

c. Israel in the wilderness: an example (type) of those who were disqualified; and a lesson to us so that we will not also become disqualified (10:1-33)
Israel's great privilege of being God's chosen nation did not mean that she was immune from God's judgment (nor does it meant that we who are Christians are immune from God's discipline).  Notice in these verses the repetition of the word "all."  "All" of Israel were God's people who were led out of Egypt by Moses.  This included the youngest of them to the oldest, the males and the females, the richest to the poorest, and the most intelligent to the least intelligent.  "All" were God's chosen people and all were greatly blessed to be chosen by God and to be led out of slavery toward the Promised Land. 

But most of Israel would also fail God in the wilderness.  Their failures are a warning to us who are Christians. For we like them are blessed by God, but we also can give in to temptations just like they gave in to temptations n the wilderness.

(1) They were a "type" of our present privileged relationship with God. (10:1-4)
There are many parallels between Israel's relationship with God under Moses and our present relationship with God.
"For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and they all passed though the sea.  They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  They all ate the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ."

Thought Question:  In what ways are we blessed by God in a similar way to the way that Israel was blessed by God when He took them out of Israel and led them in the wilderness?

 

 

(a) They were guided by God as we are guided by God. (10:1a)
"For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud"  God was present with the nation of Israel under Moses' leadership in a unique way.  God revealed His glory to them in the form of cloud, a cloud that became a pillar of fire by night.  The glory of God guided them and protected them throughout their journey in the wilderness.  They were guided by God out of their enslavement to Egypt, into their new life under Moses, and toward God's chosen land; in the same way as we are guided by God out of our enslavement to sin and into our new Life in Christ.  See Exodus 13:21, 14:19; Numbers 14:14; Deuteronomy 1:33; and Psalm 78:14

(b) They were rescued by God from Egypt and the Pharaoh as we are rescued by God from Satan. (10:1b-2)
"they all passed through the sea."  They were rescued by God from enslavement to the Pharaoh of Egypt, as we are rescued by God from our enslavement to the devil and to sin.  See Exodus 14:19-31

(c) They were given a new identity as God's nation, as we are given a new identity as God's church. (10:2)
"They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea."  When they left Egypt under the guidance of the cloud and after they had passed through the sea, they began a completely new chapter in their lives.  They were no longer slaves of the Egyptians, but they now were identified with Moses (they were "baptized into Moses").  In the same way, when we left the old sin-enslaved life of our pre-Christian days we entered a whole new chapter in our lives.  Our Christian baptism symbolized that we are no longer slaves of sin, but are now identified with Jesus Christ.  See II Corinthians 5:17 and Colossians 1:12-14

(d) They ate spiritual food just as we eat spiritual food (10:3)
"They all ate the same spiritual food."  They were nourished and refreshed by God's food from Heaven—the Manna.  In the same way we are nourished and strengthened by Jesus Christ, the True Bread from Heaven.  See John 6:31-35, 48-51 and Deuteronomy 8:3

(e) They drank spiritual water as we drink spiritual water. (10:4)
"and drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ."  They received water from a Heavenly source just as our spiritual thirst is quenched by Jesus Christ. See John 4:14, 6:35, 7:37-39  Exodus 17:1-6 and Numbers 20:1-13 describes how God miraculously provided the people of Israel with water.  In each case the water gushed forth from a rock.  There was a tradition that this rock actually "rolled after the Israelites during their entire journey. Such was the tradition of the Jews, as is abundantly proved by the quotations from their writings, by Weststein, Schoettgin, and Lightfoot." "Taken from Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthains by Charles Hodge.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."  But, Paul is not giving support to this legend in these verses.  Instead, he is revealing to us that it was the preexistent Jesus Christ who accompanied them in the wilderness and provided for their needs.  When water rushed forth from a rock in the wilderness, it was a picture of Jesus Christ the Rock providing for their needs.  In the same way Jesus provides today for both our physical and spiritual needs.

(2) They were an example to us that it is possible for God's people to be highly favored and still become disqualified from God's blessing because of a failure to resist temptation (especially temptation to become involved in idolatry, sexual immorality, and grumbling). (10:5-13)
"The Israelites doubtless felt, as they stood on the other side of the Red Sea, that all danger was over and that their entrance into the land of promise was secured.  They had however a journey beset with dangers before them, and perished because they thought there was no need of exertion.  So the Corinthians when brought to the knowledge of the Gospel, thought heaven secure.  Paul reminds them that they had only entered on the way, and would certainly perish unless they exercised constant self-denial."  "Taken from Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians by Charles Hodge.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."

(a) They lusted after forbidden things. (10:5-6)
"Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, their bodies were scattered over the desert.  Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did."

Thought Question:  What are some ways that Israel disobeyed God in the wilderness?  (For examples, see Exodus 32; Numbers 11, 25, 21:4-9)

 

 

The people of Israel started out on their wilderness journey led by God and fed by God.  But they also still had the freedom to choose or to not choose to follow His guidance.  They had the freedom to choose to seek after or to not seek after the fleshly desires that were part of their old life in Egypt.  "Most of them" failed in the wilderness to continue to follow God; and as a result their bodies were "scattered over the desert."  Instead of entering into the Promised Land, all but Caleb and Joseph were judged by God and died in the wilderness.

Listen to the description given in God's Word about their sin and God's judgment on their sin:  "The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, 'If only we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.  But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!"  (Numbers 11:4)  "But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people and he struck them with a severe plague." (Numbers 11:33)  See Psalm 78:27-31, 106:14,15; Jeremiah 2:13

Israel's choosing to yield to fleshly temptations instead of obeying God is an "example" to us of what can happen to us if we do today what they did.  And, of course, we Christians can do what these Israelites did!  Paul tells us that Demas left him because he loved this present world. (II Timothy 4:10)  Today, also, there are Christians, like these Israelites in the wilderness, who choose worldly pleasures over obedience to God.  Paul says that Israel's failures in the wilderness are "examples" for us of what not to do.

The Greek word translated "examples" is the Greek word, tupoi.  We get our word "type" from this Greek word.  A "type" in the Biblical sense is something in the past that serves as model of something that will occur in the future.  For example, the Old Testament sacrifice for the sins of Israel was a "type" of Jesus' sacrifice for the sins of everyone who has ever lived.  Israel's failures in the wilderness were a "type" of what will happen to us if we also choose to seek after fleshly pleasures over seeking to obey God.  As he judged Israel, so he judged the Corinthian Christians (See I Corinthians 11:30), and so he will judge us!  The Israelites in the wilderness are "examples" to us of what could happen to us if we do not learn from their failures.

(b) They indulged in idolatrous revelry. (10:7)
"Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written:  The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry."  After Moses had been away on Mount Sinai for some time, the people returned to the idolatry they had practiced in Egypt.  They built a golden calf and worshiped it rather than God.  After they had presented their sacrificial offerings to this idol, "they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry."  (Exodus 32:6)

Ray Stedman gives the following excellent description of what "revelry" is:  "This was the scene at the foot of Mount Sinai when the Law was being given to Moses, who had gone up to commune with God.  He was gone 40 days and 40 nights, and after a while the people got tired of waiting so they had a big feast.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But then somebody suggested they dance.  There is nothing wrong with that either.  Israel often danced before the Lord, and God is the God of the dance as well as other things.  But in their dancing, in their indulgence, they got 'carried away' we would say, and they began to dance in a way that was lascivious and lewd."  "From a message by Ray Stedman on I Corinthians.  Discovery Publishers."

It is also possible for Christians to become "carried away" just as they got "carried away."  It is not long after we have been out of God's Word for awhile that we also can look to the world for our happiness.  We also can give in to temptations and fall back into worldliness just as the Israelites fell back into the ways of Egypt

(c) They participated in sexual immorality. (10:8)
"We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died."  In the immoral city of Corinth with hundreds of temple prostitutes at the temple of Aphrodite, the Corinthians were tempted every day to become involved in both idolatry and sexual immorality.

Paul is most likely referring to the sexual immorality that is described in Numbers 25:1-9.  These verses describes how the men of Israel were seduced into a type of sexual immorality and idolatry that was very similar to the sexual immorality and idolatry that also took place between the men of Corinth and the temple prostitutes at Corinth.

Numbers 25:9 states that 24,000 died in the plagues that came as a result of Israel's immorality.  Ray Stedman's observation about the large number who died is very insightful:  "We read these accounts and we say, 'Oh! How brutal, how bloody.'  But it is God's way of saying,  'Look, what you are getting into is more destructive than that!  This is kindness compared with what will happen to you if you keep on doing what you are doing.'" "From a message on I Corinthians by Ray Stedman."

As was mentioned before, Numbers 25:9 states that 24,000 died in the plague that came because of Israel's immorality at Baal-Peor, but Paul says that there were 23,000 who died.  This need not concern us as if one of these numbers is in error, for it is clear that both numbers are round numbers.

Sexual immorality is on the increase in our country.  Our world is steadily becoming more like Corinth.  Just as it was easy for the Corinthian Christians to give in to sexual immorality, so it is easy for us to give in to sexual immorality.  The Internet makes sexual sin even more available to our generation than it was available to the Corinthian Christians.

(d) They tested the Lord and were killed by snakes. (10:9)
"We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes."

Thought Question:  What is meant by "testing the Lord?"

 

 

What is meant by the word, "test" that is used here?  We know what is meant by a "test" in a school room.  The teacher attempts to determine how well his or her students are learning the material that has been covered in the class by giving a test.  Some will show that they have been doing a good job of learning in the class by doing well on the test, and others will show that they have been doing a poor job of learning by failing the test.  God also tests us in this way.  He uses difficult circumstances in our lives to test us.  If we are able to maintain our Christian character during the test, we will have passed the test, but if we fall apart in the trial, we will show that we need to grow in our Christian character in the area where we were tested.

But, should we "test the Lord"?  Who are we to give God a test, so we can see how He is doing?  As Paul says here, "We should not test the Lord."  Obviously, it is never appropriate for God's creatures (you and I) to test God.  We test God by calling into question the way that He is treating us.  Numbers 21 describes how Israel tested God and how they were killed by snakes:  "They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom.  But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, 'Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the desert?  There is no bread!  There is no water!  And we detest this miserable food!  The Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites dies." (Numbers 21:4-6)

We are warned here that we should not follow Israel's pattern and gripe and complain when we do not like how our life is going.  Paul said that he had "learned to be content in whatever circumstances."  (Philippians 4:11)  See also Philippians 4:12-13  We should seek to follow Paul's pattern rather than following the pattern of the Israelites in the wilderness who had not learned to be content with what God allowed them to experience.  See also Matthew 4:7; Acts 5:9; and Hebrews 3:7-11

(e) They grumbled against God "and were killed by a destroying angel." (10:10)
"And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by a destroying angel."  The Scriptures record many times when the people of Israel became unhappy with God's provision for them while they were in the wilderness, and grumbled against God and Moses.  See Exodus 14:11-12, 15:24, 16:2-3, 17:3; Numbers 11:1,4,10, 14:1-4, 16:11-14,41.  In Numbers 11:1, 3:3, 14:12 and 16:31-35 there is a description of how God lashed out in anger against Israel's grumbling.

When Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rebelled against Moses' leadership, God's response to their defiance toward Him and Moses is described in Numbers 16:31-32:  "the ground under them split apart and the earth swallowed them….They went down alive into the grave."  Clearly we should be concerned that we do not in any way become like these grumbling Israelites! 

(f) We should take what happened to them as a warning, so that we will not do what they did. (10:11-12)
"These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.  So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall."

Thought Question #1:  What can we learn from Israel's failures?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What is meant by, "if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall"?

 

 

Caleb and Joshua faced all the temptations that the rest of Israel faced, but they did not give in to idolatry, immorality, or to grumbling as the rest of the Israelites did.  We should realize, from what happened to Israel, how easy it is for us to fall.  And so we should be careful and concerned that we might fall.  We need to be careful that we do not become cocky and confident, thinking that we could never be like them.  We should be like the good driver who is ever concerned that he or she could very easily drive off the road, if there ever was ever a loss of concentration or a loss of focus on one's driving.

(g) We are tempted in the same ways the Israelites were, but God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle. (10:13)
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

Thought Question #1:  Why do we sometimes think that what we are going through is different that what others go through?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How and when can this verse be an encouragement to us?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What are some ways of escape that God can give us?  What are some ways of escape that God has given to you?

 

 

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man."  These words are some of the least appreciated words one can say to a person who is wallowing in self-pity.  When we are feeling sorry for ourselves, what we want to hear is that there is no one who is suffering like we are. In this state we do not want to hear that everyone has the same type of trials that we are experiencing.  We do not want to hear that what we are going through is really quite ordinary and common.  But, Paul is quite clear here.  "No" temptation or trial that we go through is unique to us.  In fact, whatever we are going through is a common type of problem that all people face; whatever our trial!  If we are just willing to look around us more thoroughly, we will discover that we are not alone.  There are many going through similar trials to what we are going through.  In Alcohol recovery programs, the recovering alcoholic is warned against what they call, "terminal uniqueness."

"And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear."  Paul is saying that we need never give in to sin for God will not put us in a situation where we have no choice but to give in to temptation (for example, to sexual immorality or to grumbling).

God does allow us, though, to go through trials that are more than we are able to bear by ourselves.  Even Paul went through trials that were more than he could endure by relying upon his own resources:  "We were under great pressure, far beyond ourability to endure, so that we despaired even of life." (II Corinthians 1:8)  Paul was not contradicting himself in another letter to these same Corinthian Christians.  Listen to what he says in the next verse in II Corinthians 1:9:  "But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God."

Our trials are never out of God's control.  Our trials are God-controlled.  God never allows us to go through a trial that is more than we can endure; with His help!  "Charles Spurgeon said, 'You may be tried till you have not an ounce of strength left.  Sometimes the Lord tests his people till it seems as if one more breath from Him would assuredly cause them to sink.  Then it is that He puts under them the everlasting arms, and no further trial is laid upon them.  This is a blessed thing, for all of you have troubles of one sort or another, and you who are the people of God may take this text and rely implicitly upon it:  'God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that ye are able.'"  "Taken from The Church Stands Corrected by Paul R. Van Gorder.  Copyright 1976 by Victor Books."

"But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand under it."  God provided Israel with many ways of escape while they were in the wilderness, so that they could endure their trials.  He opened up the Red Sea, He provided them with "Manna" to eat.  We can trust Him in our trials to provide some way of escape.

Years ago I was carrying a full schedule in Seminay, working twenty hours a week, and involved in a required ministry that took another twenty hours a week.  I had one class in Seminary that required a sizable paper about every other week.  I was just barely keeping on top of the requirements of this class, on an almost day by day basis.  Then, one day I came to class and discovered that there was still another paper that was due that day, that was an additional requirement of the class.  Somehow, I had not noticed that this paper was also a requirement of this very demanding theology class. 

At that time, this paper seemed to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.  I did not know how I could do this paper and also do the next paper that was also nearly due.  My time and energy were at their end.  That night a roommate who I could easily talk with, got angry with me because I had accidently locked him out of the apartment.  It seemed as if I had no where to turn.  It was late at night and I went on a walk to nowhere in particular.  I felt like I could no longer keep on top of meeting my constant Seminary deadlines.  I felt like I was behind and would never get caught up.  As I walked aimlessly down a dark street in Denver, this verse came to me.  I started immediately to look for the way of escape that this verse promised.  The answer was simple.  I needed to drop that one class that had become too much for me at the time.  It worked out well.  I took it later and was able to finish Seminary, after taking another semester to complete the requirements of the Seminary that I attended.

I will never think of this verse without remembering that walk when I felt like I could not go on with what I believed God wanted me to do.  At that time God used this verse to change my weakness to His strength and hope.  It was special to me because it made it possible for me to complete Seminary, and because it was a God-directed way of escape.

(3) Therefore, flee idolatry. (10:14-22)
"Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.  I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.  Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?  And is not the bread that we break a participation in the the body of Christ?  Because there is one loaf, we who are many, are one body; for we all partake of the the one loaf.  Consider the people of Israel:  Do not those who eat of the sacrifice, participate in the altar?  Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything?  No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons.  Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy?  Are we stronger than he?"

Thought Question #1:  Why were they to "flee idolatry"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  He says that eating meat offered to idols is okay, but in these verses he says to "flee idolatry."  How can you eat meat that has been offered to idols and also "flee idolatry"?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Can you think of any modern-day parallels where it is okay to do something, but there are times when we should flee it?

 

 

(a) Why should we flee Idolatry?  For just as participation in the Lord's Supper unites us with Jesus' blood and body . . . (10:14-17)
"Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.  I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.  Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?  And is not the bread that we break a participation in the the body of Christ?  Because there is one loaf, we who are many, are one body; for we all partake of the the one loaf."

Paul appeals to them as "friends" and as "sensible people."  He asks them to follow his line of reasoning.  He first asks them to consider how their participation in the Lord's Supper was making a statement that they were one with Christ and one with each other.  For it is through the body of Christ and the blood of Christ that we are united with God and with other Christians.  The Lord's table is a visible and objective declaration of our oneness with God and with each other.

(b) …and when Israel ate of the sacrifices, they were uniting themselves with those sacrifices. (10:18)
"Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?"
In Old Testament Israel and in Israel up to the time the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, the priests and those who offered the sacrifices participated in the sacrifice that was made to God by eating a portion of the meat that was offered.  By eating the meat, they were identifying with the One who would one day be a sacrifice for their sins.  They were identifying and uniting themselves with Jesus' death for them.  See Leviticus 7:11-16, 10:12-15; Numbers 18:8-16; Deuteronomy 12:5-7, 18:3-5

(c) ….so, also, participation in the worship of an idol brought them into a common sharing with the idol (10:19-20)
"Do I mean that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything?  No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons."
Just as the eating of the meat of the animal that was sacrificed was an integral part of Israel's system of worship, so the eating of the meat of the animal that was sacrificed was an integral part of the pagan system of worship.

Those who served idols were not actually offering sacrifices to a true god, for there is only one God.  And so, the idol meant nothing at all.  But, demons were behind the worship of idols and when someone practiced idolatry, that person, according to Paul, was involving himself or herself in demonism.  See Deuteronomy 32:16,17

A modern-day parallel to idolatry is involvement in Ouija boards and Astrology.  The Ouija boards, Tarot cards, and Astrology charts are nothing in themselves, but those who involve themselves in these activities are also involving themselves with demonism.

(d) You cannot unite yourselves both with God and with demons. (10:21-22)
"You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons.  Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy?  Are we stronger than he?"

Paul is saying here that we cannot do two opposites at the same time.  You cannot go both east and west at the same time.  You must decide to go either east or west.  Also, we cannot serve God and demons at the same time.  If we are doing one, we are not doing the other.

Also, when we choose to worship anything and revolve our lives around anything other than God, we arouse God's jealous anger!  God's jealousy is not like our human and impure form of jealousy, that is suspicious of everything and controlling, but His jealousy burns out only when we seek another lover.  He jealously desires and requires our love and full commitment to Him.  See James 4:4,5  Nothing stirs up His righteous jealousy more than when we choose that which is evil.  See Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15; Joshua 24:19

Paul is warning these Corinthian Christian that they should "flee idolatry!"  The reasons are as follows:  (1) If they practice idolatry, they are participating in demonism.  (2) They cannot serve idols and God at the same time.  (3) Any worship of idols will stir up the righteous jealousy of God.

The Corinthian Christians could eat meat that was offered to idols, but they were not to participate at all in idolatry.  For idolatry was demon-empowered.  There is much in our society that is okay in and of itself, such as dancing, drinking alcoholic beverages, music, and playing pool.  But, we are not to participate in some of the activities that are associated with them.  Much that goes on in a bar and in bar life is also demonically inspired and empowered.  The Bible does not restrict us from moderately and appropriately doing the activities that have been mentioned, but as we saw earlier in this chapter, we are to flee the immorality that often takes place in bar life where these activities often take place.  In other words, the Corinthian Christians could eat meat offered to idols, but they were not to participate at all in idol worship.  Christians today have the liberty to do things that are not in and of themselves bad, but they should not practice them in settings where it will become easy for them to become participants in that which is bad.  There are some activities that we are to flee from, because it is so easy for us to be drawn into that which is evil and wrong.

But, Paul will show in the following verses that he is not encouraging the Corinthian Christians to become monks who avoid non-Christians altogether.  Although they were to flee idolatry (and immorality), they were not to flee the idolaters. 

(4) Paul gives the Corinthian Christians the following instructions to guide them in their association with the people in the idol-centered culture of Corinth: (10:23-33)
Just as we live in a sin-polluted world, so the Corinthian Christians lived in a sin-polluted and idolatry-polluted world.  A simple solution is to head for the hills and completely separate ourselves from all that is evil.  But, then, we would not be able to reach our world with the gospel.  The solution is that we are to be in the world, but not of it.  See John 17:14-16  Paul's guidelines in these verses also applies to how we are to live in our world.

(a) Do not seek only your own good, but seek primarily after the good of others. (10:23-24)
"'Everything is permissible'—but not everything is beneficial.  'Everything is permissible'—but not everything is constructive.  Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others."

Thought Question:  What does Paul mean by "Everything is permissible?

 

 

Paul explains that we are not just to do what we are free to do.  There are things that we are free to do that would be harmful to others if we did them.

Modern-day example:  We may be free to drink some wine at a meal, but if we had someone over for dinner who has struggled with alcohol in his past, it would not be good for us to do what we are free to do.  And some of us have even chosen not to drink alcohol at all because it has become such a problem in our society.  We are concerned that our drinking might send the wrong message to those who struggle with alcohol or to those who may one day struggle with alcohol.

(b) You can eat meat that is sold in the meat markets without feeling guilty about it. (10:25-26)
"Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, 'The earth is the Lord's and everything in it.'" 

Thought Question:  Why was it okay for them to eat meat that was sold in a meat market that probably had been offered to idols?

 

 

Most or all of the meat that was sold in the meat markets in Corinth had probably been offered idols.  Nevertheless, it was nothing but meat, and eating this meat did not in any way make one of them an idol worshipper.

Paul quotes from Psalm 24:1 to give his reason why it was okay for a Christian to eat this meat that may have been offered to idol:  "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it."  The meat, though it was offered to an idol, remained a possession of God's, and it was okay for them to eat what had been given to them by God.

Modern-day example:  Someone may feel that playing pool is bad because people play pool in bars.  But, the materials in pool balls, pool tables, and pool cues are not sinful and are a creation of God.  These materials did not become unholy because they have been used in bars.  It still remains God's creation and God's possession and it is not sinful to hit a pool ball with a pool cue.

(c)  You may eat what an unbeliever offers you at his home, unless he tells you that that meat was offered in sacrifice to an idol. (10:27-30)
"If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.  But if anyone says to you, 'This has been offered in sacrifice,' then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience sake—the other man's conscience I mean, not yours.  For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience?  If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?"

Thought Question:  Why could they eat meat in a person's home that probably had been offered to an idol, until they were told that it had been offered to an idol?

 

 

Once again, the meat that had been offered to idols was not anything more than meat when it was eaten at someone's home.  But, when an unbeliever said that it had been offered to an idol, in that person's mind it was part of a sacrifice to an idol; and it was not just meat to them.  In their minds, anyone who ate that meat would be participating in a sacrifice to an idol.  In their minds, your eating of that meat could come across as you condoning idolatry.

Here Paul tells the Corinthian Christians that they could go to a non-Christian's home and eat their meat, even though it was probably offered to an idol.  But when someone at the meal told them that the meat was offered to an idol, then, they were not to eat of it.  Why were they to choose to not eat the meat?  It is not because they needed to feel guilty about eating it.  As Paul says, if they could eat the meat giving thanks to God for it, then they were doing what is right, and they could be free from any guilt of conscience.  So, why were they not to eat the meat?  It is because the person who asked the question believed that they would be participating in idolatry if they ate the meat.  So, for the sake of the non-believer who conscientiously believed that they would be participating in idolatry if they ate the meat, they were to choose not to eat it; even though it was perfectly alright for them to eat it.

F. F. Bruce gives a modern-day example:  "A present-day analogy may be imagined if someone with strong principles on total abstention from alcohol were the guest of friends who did not share these principles. He would be well advised not to enquire too carefully about the ingredients of some specially palatable sauce or trifle, but if someone said to him pointedly, 'There is alcohol in this, you know', he might feel that he was being put on the  spot and could reasonably ask to be excused from having any of it." "Taken from The Century Bible Commentary I & II by F. F. Bruce.  Copyright 1971 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."

(d) Whatever you do, do it so that it leads toward God receiving the glory that He deserves. (10:31)
"So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God."

Our normal human reason for doing something is that it will get us what we want for ourselves.  One normal human motivation is the desire to bring us glory.  As members of Christ's Body we are to have much higher purposes for what we do, for now we are united with God in His purposes.  This higher purpose, seeking to glorify God, should be considered in everything we do, even in our eating and drinking.

Modern-day example:  Eating a healthy diet is a way of bringing glory to God.  We can lose weight and keep in shape to the glory of God.  By concentrating on seeking to bring God glory in everything we do, it will elevate our motivation for doing all that we do to the very highest level.  We can be limiting our fat intake to the glory of God. 

(e) Do not do anything that will cause anyone to stumble. (10:32)
"Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God."  We are to have two focuses for our lives as Christians: one focus is to be toward God and the other focus is to be toward others.  We are to seek to glorify God and we are to be concerned that we build up others and not tear them down.

Modern-day Example:  Someone may be seeking to lose weight.  We could flaunt our sugar and fat eating in their face by saying how much we enjoy our greasy hamburger and our milkshake.  But, this would not be the loving thing to do at all.  Instead, we should be sensitive to their rigid diet.  We may even choose to tone down what we eat when we are with them, so as not to discourage them or to tempt them.  See Romans 14:14-16

(f) Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ; do not seek your own good, but seek after the good of others. (10:33-11:1)
"even as I try to please everybody in every way.  For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.  Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ." 

Thought Question:  According to these verses and the previous verses in chapter ten, what principles should we use when making decisions about what we should do and should not do?

 

 

What can we do as Christians?  We can do everything that will bring God glory and that will be helpful to others.  We are not to live for ourselves as the non-Christian often lives for himself or herself.  Instead, we are to follow the example of Jesus Christ and Paul who did all they could to serve God and to serve others.

Modern-day example:  There are many things we are free to do in this world.  For example, we could spend our whole life seeking after clean ways to entertain ourselves.  We are free to do that, but this would be a very poor use of our time.  It would not bring God glory nor would it be helpful to others.  We should follow the example of those who have used their lives in the most productive way that they could for God's purposes and for others' best.

6. Their worldly attitude toward the sexes (11:2-16)
One of the surprising aspects of the Christian life that is taught in God's Word is that Christian freedom includes submission to others.  At least some of the Christian women at Corinth saw freedom as freedom from the need to submit to authority and as freedom from the customs of their culture.  Paul Van Gorder gives the following summation of what was taking place among the ladies in the church at Corinth:  "The truth had a profound effect upon the Christian women of Corinth.  They realized they had been made one with Christ!  They knew that man could be given no higher honor than they had been afforded as God's children.  The women therefore wondered why they could not assume equal places of authority in the church and rightfully disregard their former customs of dress and appearance.  "Taken from The Church Stands Corrected by Paul R. Van Gorder.  Copyright 1967 by Victor Books." 

Paul's teachings in these verses can be confusing.  For it brings up the issue about what part of his teachings was meant to be applied to men and women for all time and what part was meant to only apply specifically to people who lived within the culture of Paul's time.  For example, Paul instructs the women of Corinth to have their heads covered when they prayed and prophesied.  Does this mean that women in the church should have their heads covered in our church gatherings, or did Paul mean that because of the customs of their time that women should have their heads covered?

It is easy to approach this issue with our previous biases, and to base our conclusions on what we would prefer to be true.  But, we need to remember that God created us and He alone knows how we can best experience who we were created to be.  Our version of what we would like the roles of the sexes to be, may lead to us having our way, but it will not lead to our experiencing who God designed us to be.

Many today tell us that true freedom involves being free from all restraints; being free to do whatever we want to do, as long as we are not harming someone else.  The Bible, however, teaches that true freedom comes as we grow toward becoming increasingly more like the men and women God created us to be.  True freedom on the piano is not being able to hit any note that we want to hit.  True freedom on the piano is being able to hit the notes that a composer wrote in exactly the right order and in exactly the timing that the composer directed them to be hit. What, then, is God the Composer of life's plan for the role of the sexes?  This section of verses is a primary teaching section on this subject in the Bible.

Ray Stedman, in the introduction to his message on these verses explains the modern-day relevance of these verses:  "Chapter eleven of First Corinthians has become a great battleground of the 20th Century [and of the Twenty-first Century].  It is a very complex chapter that deals with the question, 'Are women fully human? or Are they only Humans, j.g. (Junior Grade)?'  This passage will deal with the question of male headship and female subjection, and other issues of today.  It used to be that the focus of the chapter was on the question, 'Should women wear hats in church?' but looking on this congregation[that he was preaching to at the time], I can see that is a long past issue.  It has become a question, not so much of women wearing hats in church, but of whether they are going to wear the pants at home!  We shall face these issues that are a part of the swirl of controversy that has escalated in the feminist movement of our day." "Discovery Publishing"  We also shall face this issue as we focus on Paul's teachings on the role of the sexes in these difficult but important verses in the Bible.

a. They were rebelling against God's role for the sexes. (11:2-10)
In these verses Paul is once again correcting a worldly and rebellious practice that was corrupting the church at Corinth.  In this case, it was their rebellion against God's plan for the sexes.

(1) We must realize that it is a part of God's plan that there be a chain of headship between God and Jesus Christ; between Jesus Christ and man; and between man and woman. (11:2-3)
"I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings just as I passed them on to you.  Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God."

Thought Question:  What is meant by "headship?"

 

 

The word for man, when man is being compared with woman by Paul in these verses, is a word that often refers to a husband.  So Paul could be saying that the husband is the head of the wife.  It is the word for husband in Matthew 1:16; John 4:16; Romans 7:2; Titus 1:6, and especially it is the word for husband in Ephesians 5:23.

What is meant by the word, "head" that is used by Paul in these verses?  Not every Bible scholar has come to the same conclusion.  F. F. Bruce, one of the premiere Bible researchers of our time concluded that it does not mean "authority," but "source." "By head in this context we are probably to understand not, as has frequently been suggested, 'chief' or 'ruler' but rather 'source' or 'origin.'"  "Taken from The Century Bible Commentary I & II by F. F. Bruce.  Copyright 1971 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co." 

Bruce, however, is in the minority among his fellow Bible scholars.  "The head indicates a relationship of superior authority."  "Taken from The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1958 by Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing Company."  "The word 'head' simply and plainly means 'government' or 'authority!'"  "Taken from The Church Stands Corrected by Paul R. Van Gorder.  Copyright 1967 by Victor Books."  "The head is that on which the body is dependent, and to which it is subordinate.  The obvious meaning of this passage is, the woman is subordinate to the man, the man is subordinate to Christ, and Christ is subordinate to God."  "From Charles Hodge's commentary on I Corinthians"

The conclusions of Charles Hodge and the others who believe that "head," as it used here, means authority, seem to be supported by the overall teaching of the Scriptures:  "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything."  (Ephesians 5:23-24)  See also I Peter 3:1-6; Colossians 3:8; and Titus 2:1-5

It is interesting that Paul places the headship of a man over a woman between two Divine headships: the headship of Christ over man and God the Father's headship over Jesus Christ.  This placement between these two unquestionable and eternal headships makes it clear that the headship of a man over a woman is also part of God's plan.

Headship of one person over another is unquestionably a part of God's plan.  Each of us has a head that directs our body.  Within the Trinity, the Father is the Head and He directs His Son Jesus Christ. See John 4:34, 10:30  The church has a Head-Jesus Christ, and He directs His Body the church.  So, also is there to be a head of a family.

Headship, though, does not imply that someone is a dictator of someone else.  Clearly God the Father is not a dictator over Jesus Christ, nor do we see Jesus as a dictator over the church.  Instead, what we find is that God has set up a system of leadership.  Those who are not the leaders are to submit to those who have been assigned by God to be leaders over us.  Jesus is a leader over us, but He also submits to the Father.  So, in God's chain of leadership, we often have those we are to submit to, but there are also those who are to submit to us.  For example, a wife is to submit to her husband, but her children are to submit to her. 

Van Gorder does an excellent job of tackling some of the ways that "headship" can be misunderstood:  "I am not suggesting for one moment that woman is inferior to man.  Nor am I setting aside the glorious truth that 'there is in Christ neither male nor female.'  Just as Christ is the head of creation and of the church, so is man the head of the woman.  This in no way teaches the inferiority of Christ to the Father.  Christ is the eternal Son of God, co-equal with the Father in every way.  He is God!"  "Taken from The Church Stands Corrected.  Copyright 1967 by Victor Books."

So, it is not true that the one who submits is less than the one who has been assigned by God to be the head over him or her.  Children are not less than their parents.  But, God has assigned parents to be heads over them.  It is simply God's plan for giving our lives with each other order rather than chaos. 

God's perfect plan clearly includes both headship and submission, not only between a husband and his wife, but even within the Godhead and throughout His creation.  We talk about someone in a meeting being "out of order."  Someone is "out of order" in God's universe when there is an unwillingness to submit to God's plan.

(2) In Corinth, this headship of the men expressed itself (in their culture) through what the men and the women wore or did not wear on their heads. (11:4-6)
"Every man who prays of prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.  And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved.  If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head."

Thought Question #1:  Do these verses teach that women should cover their heads in our modern-day church services?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Do these verses teach that women should speak in church services?  See also I Corinthians 14:33-35

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What do you believe is the main message in these verses for us today?

 

 

(a) A man would have dishonored his head if he prayed or prophesied with his head covered. (11:4)
"Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head."  Bruce concluded that it was unlikely that Paul was saying that men were putting veils over their heads while they were gathering in corporate worship.  Instead, he concludes that Paul is speaking hypothetically of what would be true if men did cover their heads while praying.  If a man covered his head it would have shown in their culture that he who is God's head of a family is submitting to the headship of his wife.

There have been men who have, for one reason or another, given the headship of their homes over to their wives.  In Paul's time it would haven been as if they were wearing a head covering and their wives were bareheaded.  This hypothetical situation would have been dishonoring to the men, for they would then be giving over their God-given place of headship in the home to their wives.

What is meant by "prophesies?"  "In the Scriptural sense of the word, a prophet is one who speaks for another, as Aaron is called the prophet or spokesman of Moses." "Taken from Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians by Charles Hodge.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."   

(b) If a woman had prayed or prophesied with her head uncovered, it was the same as if she had her head shaven as the prostitutes did. (11:5-6)
And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her headit is just as though her head were shaved.  If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head."

It is clear from these verses that both men and women spoke for God—prophesied and prayed—in the corporate services at Corinth.  But, when the women did it they needed to do it with their heads covered.  What does Paul mean when he says that they must have their heads covered?  Van Gorder answers this question in the following way:  "In the East, the women veiled herself in modesty and subjection.  Her veil expressed fidelity to her husband.  In Numbers 5:18, the head of a wife suspected in adultery was uncovered, indicating that she had taken herself out from under the power and government of her husband.  In New Testament times, reputable women wore a veil, in public.  Appearing without a veil especially in a city like Corinth, was the mark of a prostitute.  Often an immoral woman was not only unveiled, but shorn or shaven."  "Taken from The Church Stands Corrected by Paul Van Gorder.  Copyright 1967 by Victor Books.

Charles Hodge gives additional information about the veils that women wore at that time:  "The veils worn by Grecian women were of different kinds.  One, and perhaps the most common, was the pepulum, or mantle, which in public was thrown over the head, and enveloped the whole person.  The other was more in the fashion of the common eastern veil which covered the face, with the exception of the eyes.  In one form or another, the custom was universal for all respectable women to be veiled in public." "Taken from Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians by Charles Hodge.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co." 

These verses bring up a number of questions:  (1) Should women be required to cover their heads in today's church services?  (2) Should woman speak in today's church services?  (3) What is meant by "It is just as though here head was shaved?"  

First, we will consider the question, Should women be required to cover their heads in today's church services?  Few believe this to be true.  A woman in the city of Corinth who removed her veil in public would have been looked upon as rebelling against her husband, but in our culture, few or none would look upon a woman without a hat in church as a rebel.  The issue is not to "to wear a hat or not to wear a hat," but the issue is whether or not a woman is willing to submit to her husband.  In Paul's day, wearing a veil was a sign of a wife's submission to her husband.

A close friend of mine who has a Scottish heritage observed that most women in Scotland wear hats in church.  But, then she said with a twinkle in her eyes, "I don't know, though, if that means that they all submit to their husbands."  The real issue is the attitude in the heart, not what is on the head. 

Should women speak in today's church services?  Some would say, "Yes," and some would say, "No."  F. F. Bruce believes that these verses clearly state that it was proper and acceptable for women to pray and prophesy in a church gathering at that time, as long as they did it in an orderly and submissive way.  He says that whatever is meant by I Corinthians 14:34 where Paul says, "women should remain silent in the church," it does not mean that woman cannot participate appropriately in worship services.  Other Bible scholars believe, though, that Paul was first correcting the problem that some were not wearing veils in the church and then, in chapter 14, he says that they also should not speak in church.

Which position is right?  Is F. F. Bruce right and it is acceptable for women to speak in church gatherings as long as they are in submission to their husbands and to the church leaders; or are the other Bible scholars correct and women are to be silent in church gatherings?  Some would go even farther than F. F. Bruce and say that Paul was only speaking to what was culturally practiced at that time.  They would say that the cultural practice of women wearing veils and submitting to their husbands was practiced in their culture in a similar way to which slavery was a part of their culture.  Slaves were to submit to their masters and women were to submit to their husbands at that time.  But, in our culture, according to their viewpoint, they would say that the cultural practices of veils, wives submission to their husbands, and slavery have all passed away.

Is this practice of wives submitting to their husbands totally a cultural practice of Paul's time that no longer applies to us today?  Verses seven through ten will tell us that these different roles for men and women have existed since the creation of men and women.  Also in I Timothy 2:11-15, Paul goes back to Creation and the Fall, as a basis for his teaching that a woman should not be allowed to "teach or have authority over a man, she must be silent."  What must our conclusion be, then?

There are some conclusions that we can make easily.  First of all, we must conclude that the Bible teaches that women should not be in leadership over men.  Women are not to be Elders in the church, but men alone are to be the leaders over the church.  See I Timothy 3 and Titus 1  Also I Timothy 2:11-15 that was just referred to, clearly teaches that women are not to be in authority over men.  Secondly, it is clear from I Corinthians 14 that church services are not to be unruly or disorderly.

What is the answer to the question about whether or not women should speak in church gatherings today?  Verse five here appears to answer the question.  The women at Corinth could pray and prophesy as long as their heads were covered.  Women today can speak in our services as long as they are submissive to the church leadership and submissive to their husbands.  The key issue that Paul is clearly dealing with here, again, is a lack of submission among the women at the church at Corinth.  This lack of submission among the women was expressing itself when the women did not wear veils and when they spoke out of turn in the services.

The key issue is that there is an order that God designed for the relationship between men and women.  In I Timothy 2:11-15 Paul gives one example of what can happen when God's order for man and woman is reversed:  "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not the one deceived, it was the woman who was deceived."  Eve should not have been the one making the decisions about whether or not to eat the fruit.  Nor should women be in the forefront in making decisions for the church or for the family.  God's order from the beginning is that the men should have this responsibility.

To summarize the above answer as to whether or not women can speak in church gatherings; there are clearly times when the women in the church should be silent. They are to be silent rather than take over the leadership of a church.  Eve took the leadership over her husband and was not silent.  We know where that led to.

Women are to be silent when the leadership of the church wants the women to be silent.  We say that children are to be silent in church.  But, there are times when the leadership wants children to speak (for example, at a Christmas program).  There are times when it is appropriate for women to speak and there are times when women should be silent.

If Paul is saying that women are to be totally silent at all times in church gatherings, it would mean that we would need to make some severe changes in our church gatherings.  Women, then, would not even been able to sing and worship in our services.  We would never be able to hear a women soloist.  We could even say that women could not be children's Sunday school teachers.  Women could not even talk during the time when we are directed to greet each other.

My conclusion is that it is appropriate for women to sing during the worship times, sing solos, share their testimonies, and even share from the pulpit.  Women missionaries and women like Elizabeth Elliot, Joni, and Corrie Ten Boon surely have something to offer to a church gathering. 

The problem starts when a woman or women begin to attempt to direct the church and take over the church.  It is also a problem when women in the church become unruly.  In these cases they are clearly out of line.  That is what was happening at Corinth, and it is what he was correcting in these verses.  That is why Paul also needed to tell the women to be silent.  See 14:34

The next question is what is meant by, "It is just as though her head were shaved?"  The women who did not wear veils in Corinth were the temple priestesses who were prostitutes.  So if a woman in the church at Corinth out of a libertarian attitude removed her veil, outsiders would immediately put her in the same category as the temple prostitutes who also brazenly did not wear veils.  That would have been a disgrace to God's church.  So, if these Christian women removed their veils, they might as well shave their heads and completely identify with the temple prostitutes.  A shaven head at that time either expressed that a woman had loose morals or it was a punishment to disgrace a woman of loose morals.

(3) The order of Creation teaches us that the men of Corinth shouldnot have their heads covered. (11:7-9)
"A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of a man.  For man did not come from woman, but woman from man, neither was man created for woman, but woman for man."

Thought Question:  What is meant by, "the woman is the glory of man?"

 

 

(a) Man is the image of God, but the woman is the glory of man. (11:7)
"A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man."

Notice that Paul is not referring at all here to a local custom.  Instead, he goes back to Creation and puts the spotlight on a principle that has been true since the time of Adam and Eve, and is still true today.

What is meant by man being the "glory of God?"  Charles Hodge gives us the following explanation of what is meant by man being uniquely the "glory of God."  He begins by explaining that men and women are equally created in the image of God. "But in the dominion with which man was invested over the earth, Adam was the representative of God.  He is the glory of God, because in him the divine majesty is specially manifested."  "Taken from Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians by Charles Hodge.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co." 

In other words, though men and women are complete equals with each other, men have a leadership role that is unique to men.  And it is in this leadership role that men are an expression of God's glorious role as Creator, Designer, Planner, Leader, and Guide of all that happens in His universe.  Notice that I did not say that man is the Creator, Designer, etc., but man's role is to mirror those roles of God.

In what way is the woman "the glory of man?"  A way to explain it is as follows:  While I am writing these words the Olympics is taking place in Sydney, Australia.  As usual, the American athletes are doing quite well.  They are the glory of the United Sates.  When they win their gold medals, they play our national anthem.  Not only, then, are the athletes being honored, but their country which produced these fine athletes is also being honored or glorified.  When men fulfill their role as heads of their homes and as leaders on this planet, they are a credit to God their Creator.  When women exhibit Christ-like character they are a credit to their husbands.

(b) Men did not come from woman, but woman from man. (1:8)
"For man did not come from woman, but woman from man;"  God could have created man and woman at the same time, but He chose to create man first.  Paul reveals here that God created woman to be in a supportive role to man.  Today's feminist movement is in total rebellion against this part of God's design for women.  They would bristle at this verse and what I will say in response to this verse.  If anything, they would like to see men in a supportive role to women.  But if God has given men a headship role, that means that women are to have a supportive role to men's leadership; just as we all are to play a supportive role to God's headship over us.

(c) Man was not created for woman, but woman for man. (11:9)
"Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man."  Clearly, the roles of men and women that Paul presents here were not limited to the culture of Paul's time, but they were a part of God's plan from the beginning.  He created man first.  Then God created the woman so that the man would not be alone.

Basically, Paul is saying that Headship is an integral part of God's plan.  God is head over the man, and the man is the head over the woman.  The man is to bring glory to God, and the woman is bring glory to her man.  For that is what God designed to happen.  The man was created first and he is to be an expression of the Father's glory.  The woman was created second and she is to be a support and bring credit to her husband through her godly character.

(d) Because of the angels, women ought to have a sign of authority on their heads. (11:10)
"For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head."

Thought Question:  Why should a woman have a sign of authority on her head "because of the angels"?

 

 

In Ephesians 3:10, we are told that the angels are observers of all that takes place in the church.  When we come together to worship God, the angels are pleased when what takes place is a genuine, heartfelt worship of God.  But in Corinth, they saw that rebellion was also a part of this church's worship as the women in this church rebelled against God's order of being submissive to their husbands and expressed their rebellion by refusing to wear veils.

The angels longed to see God's order preserved; for there were those among their fellow angels who had rebelled against God's order and brought disorder into God's creation.  Paul's point is that we are not alone, and the style of life we live affects even the angels!

Ray Stedman summarizes Paul's words in this chapter up to this point in the following way:  The veil on her head says that a woman "does not pray or preach apart from her husband, and thus she is to wear a veil which, in that culture, was the sign of such a voluntary partnership."

b. They needed to remember, however, that men and women depend upon each other and that all of us are dependent on God. (11:11-12)
"In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.  For as woman came from the man, so also man is born of woman.  But everything comes from God."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe Paul said these words about man being born of woman?

 

 

Eve came from Adam, but Abel, Cain, Seth, and all of the rest of mankind were born of women.  And all of us have our ultimate origin from God, and we continue to be dependent on Him for our life.

These verses were undoubtedly meant to prevent the men of Corinth (and the men of all time) from feeling superior to the women in the church.  How can men feel superior to women when each man was born within the womb of a woman?  Can anyone arrogantly look down his nose at those whom God ordained to give life to mankind?

c. They were rebelling against God's natural distinction between the sexes. (11:13-15)
"Judge for yourselves;  Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?  Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?  For long hair is given to her as a covering." 

Thought Question:  What do these verses teach about whether or not is improper for men to have long hair?

 

 

Paul's final argument concerning whether or not a woman should pray with her head covered is as follows: even nature teaches us that it would be inappropriate for a man to have his head covered and for a woman not to have her head covered.  We recognize that when a woman has long hair it is beautiful, but when a man has long hair it is seen as the very opposite of beautiful.  Therefore, it is very appropriate for women to have their head covered, for God Himself has ordained in His creation that the woman's head should be covered with long hair.

Years ago there was a wrestler who named himself "Gorgeous George."  He was manly in every way except that he had long blond hair.  About that time there was a famous lady who also had long blond hair.  Her name was Marilyn Monroe.  Marilyn's blond hair was beautiful and was her glory.  George's long blond hair just did not go along with his masculine body.  It was a disgrace to him.  But, George meant for it to be a disgrace.  He had designed himself to be a disgraceful villain, a man you loved to hate.  He wanted us to hate his long blond hair that was out of place on his brutish body. 

Sometimes when we husbands get dressed, we ask our wives, "Does this shirt go with these pants?"  Sometimes they wince and say that they do not go together.  Paul is saying here that it is obvious that long hair does go well with a woman, but long hair does not go well with a man.  The reason is that God designed women to have long hair and men to have shorter hair.

d. Paul had made his point and would not argue about it. (11:16)
"If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God."

Thought Question:  Why is Paul's point that all the churches are doing it an acceptable argument to support what he has said about women covering their heads?

 

 

Paul knew that all would not receive his teaching and that some would want to argue with him about what he had said.  Sometimes what we have to say is obviously true, but someone still will not listen to us, and will want to argue.  What Paul had said in these verses was not open to discussion.  What he had said was God's truth, plus it was the practice in all the churches of that time.

The Greek word translated "contentious" means one who loves strife: philoneikos.  Phil  = loves and neikos = strife; therefore a lover of strife.  There are those who love to argue.  Paul refuses to argue with them, but simply says that there is no other practice that I will allow to be practiced in the churches of God.  Paul was not going to change what was practiced in all of the churches, so they should be willing to submit to what was practiced in the churches.  They, like the other churches, should honor their husbands by wearing a veil while praying and prophesying. 

Paul's words here teach us that it is good for churches to have certain customs that are practiced by churches in general.  There are many customs in our country's churches such as meeting on Sunday mornings that help us to go to other church gatherings and feel comfortable.  Paul encourages the church at Corinth to submit to a common practice of the church of his time.

7. Their worldly fellowship (11:17-34)

a. What their Lord's Suppers were like: they did more harm than good (11:17-19)
"In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.  In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.  No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval."

Thought Question:  Some have used these verses to justify the many divisions and denominations in Christianity.  Do you agree or disagree with them.  Explain your reasons for your answer.

 

 

When they came together in Paul's time, it was not for a worship service like we do, they came together for an Agape or Love Feast.  It was somewhat similar to our Pot-luck meals in that it was a time of sharing in a common meal.  The Corinthian church did not come together, though, to share in a Love Feast, they came together to share in a Selfish Feast.

The Love Feast of that time ended in the Lord's Supper.  The Lord's Supper is meant to be symbolic of our unity as forgiven sinners and mutual members of Christ's Body.  But at Corinth it was a totally inappropriate practice because of the discord and disparity among them.  Notice that Paul believes the reports about their divisions "to some extent."  This may mean that Paul was taking into account the possibility that the reports he had heard about their divisions were possibly exaggerated, as reports such as these can be.

Paul concludes this section of verses by explaining that differences are to be expected in the church, so that truth and right will be separated from what is false and wrong.  Bruce observes that divisions in the church are "inevitable."

Our church denominations have proved that Paul was right. There have been differences within the church through the years.  There have been both small differences and large differences.  Some differences are so large they have divided the Church into the Roman Catholics and the Protestants, the Liberals and the Evangelicals, the Charismatics and the Non-charasmatics, the infant baptizers and the believer baptizers, the Arminians and the Calvinists, Premillenialists and the Amillenialists, the Presbyterians and the Baptists,……..

A discussion in an adult Sunday School class will quickly reveal the differences even within one church.  So, Paul recognized that it was inevitable that there would be differences in the church.  These differences are a necessary part of the process whereby the truth becomes divided from error.

In the early church after the time of the apostles, there were also divisions.  There were divisions over who God is and who Jesus Christ is.  Some said that God expressed Himself in three different ways just as water expresses itself in three different ways—liquid, solid, and gas.  There was a major struggle over this issue of God's identity until the church settled on the doctrine of the Trinity.  The view that God is One and at the same time three Persons has become the orthodox position of the church throughout the centuries since that time.

Paul is not ideally expecting them to remove all differences between them.  He knows that there will always be differences in the church and even within any one church.  But, he does desire that this church would remove all selfishness and disunity from their church.

b. The rich thought only of themselves and the poor went away hungry. (11:20-22)
"When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else.  One remains hungry, another gets drunk.  Don't you have homes to eat and drink in?  Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?  What shall I say to you?  Shall I praise you for this?  Certainly not!"

Thought Question:  What do you think the Lord's Supper and meals were like in the church at Corinth?  

 

 

Listen to what William Barclay has to say about the Love Feasts that Paul refers to here:  "The ancient world was in many ways much more social than ours is.  It was the regular custom for groups of people to meet together for meals.  There was, in particular, a certain kind of feast called an eranos to which each participant brought his own share of the food, and in which all the contributors were pooled and they sat down to a common meal.  The early church had such a custom, a feast called the Agape or Love Feast.  To it all the Christians came, bringing what they could, the resources were pooled and they sat down to a common meal.  It was a lovely custom; and it is to our loss that the custom has vanished.  It is a way of producing and nourishing real Christian fellowship.  But in the Church at Corinth things has gone sadly wrong with the Love Feast.  In the Church there were rich and poor; there were those who could bring plenty, and there slaves who could bring hardly anything at all.  In fact for many a poor slave the Love Feast must have been the only decent meal in the whole week.  But in Corinth the art of sharing had got lost.  The rich did not share their food but ate it in little exclusive groups by themselves hurrying through it in case they had to share, while the poor had next to nothing.  The result was that the meal at which the social differences between members should have been obliterated only succeeded in aggravating these same differences."  "Taken from The Letters to the Corinthians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

c. What the Lord's Supper is supposed to be like (as Paul received it from the Lord) (11:23-26)
"For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you."

Thought Question:  What does Paul mean when he says he "received it from the Lord"?

 

 

Paul appears to be saying that he received his instructions about the Lord's Supper directly from Jesus Christ.  Now, how can that be?  For Paul was not one of Jesus' disciples and he did not become a believer in Jesus Christ until after Jesus died, was raised from the dead, and ascended to the Father.  So, when did Jesus speak to Paul?  We know that the resurrected Jesus Christ did speak to Paul on the road to Damascus. See Acts 9:3-6  Also, in Galatians 1:11-12 Paul says he received his knowledge about the gospel message directly from Jesus Christ.  Paul is saying here that he also received his knowledge of the Lord's Supper directly from Jesus Christ.  Paul was not trained by the twelve apostles; he was trained by the resurrected Jesus Christ.  It was from Jesus Himself that he learned about what took place in that upper room where the last supper took place.

"The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed took bread,"  The Corinthians are reminded that the first Lord's Supper was far from a time of selfishness, but it was a time of selflessness.  For Jesus gave Himself for us.  Selfishness did have a part, though, in the first Lord's Supper.  For it was because of the betrayal of a friend that Jesus was killed.

"and when he had given thanks,"  The word for "thanks" is eucharistesas'  It is from this word that we have gotten our word, "Eucharist."  The Lord's Supper is sometimes called "The Eucharist."

"he broke it and said, 'This is my body which is for you.'"

Thought Question:  What did Jesus mean when He said, "This is my body"?

 

 

There is disagreement among Christians about what Jesus meant by these words.  Did He mean that the bread is His body literally, spiritually, or symbolically?  Charles Ryrie explains the different theological viewpoints on the meaning of what Jesus meant when He said, "This is my body:"  "The Roman Catholics teach that the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus, though they obviously do not change their appearance.  This view is called transubstantiation and is definitely unscriptural because it includes the idea that the body and blood of Christ are offered every time the Mass is celebrated (Jesus is crucified over and over again).  In contrast to this, the Bible clearly and emphatically states His death was complete, effective, and once for all (Heb. 10:10; 9:12).  Lutherans hold that the participants partakes of the true body and blood of Christ 'in, with and under' the bread and the wine, though there is no change in the elements at all.  This..[is] called consubstantion.  Others believe (and I think correctly) that the Supper is strictly speaking a memorial (I Cor. 11:24-25—'in remembrance'), the elements being unchanged and Christ being present in the service but not in the elements in any way."  "Taken from A Survey of Bible Doctrine by Charles Caldwell Ryrie."

Jesus could not have meant that the bread was actually His body, for then two bodies of Jesus would have been present with the disciples in the Upper Room, the (1) body that was holding the bread and (2) the body which was the bread.  There can be little doubt that Jesus was speaking symbolically.  "This bread represents my body."  When Jesus said, "This is my body," it was similar to one of us showing a picture and saying, "this is my father," or, "this is my wife," or, "this is my child."  We are not saying, when we show someone a picture like this, that the picture is literally my father, wife, or child, but we are saying that it is a representation of them.  The bread and the cup are like pictures of Christ for us.  They represent Jesus Christ for us until the day that we are physically present with Him and no longer need that which represents Him.

"do this in remembrance of me."  We do much in our country that is a remembrance of some significant event in the past.  For example, we celebrate Presidents' Day, Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King Day, and the Fourth of July.  The Passover Feast of the Jews was and is a remembrance of God rescuing the Jewish people from the Egyptians.

The Lord's Supper is a remembrance and a reminder of what made it possible for a person to become a Christian, and of what made it possible for the church to come into existence.  It is what Jesus did in the past when He died for our sins that is the one and only basis for our being forgiven and accepted before God.  Without His death on the cross, there would be no Christians and no church.  It is not surprising, then, that we are to regularly and symbolically remember Jesus' death for us through our regular partaking of the bread and the cup.

But, the Lord's Supper is more than just a remembrance like President's day.  For we are continuing to benefit from Jesus' death and resurrection on a day by day basis.  He is still the Bread of Life for all who trust in Him.  The Lord's Supper is also a time to look forward to Jesus' return.

The King James' Version says, "which is broken for you."  Because the earlier manuscripts do not have the word, "broken," it appears that this word was added later by someone who thought that the Bible needed this word added to it.  But, Jesus was not "broken" for us.  Instead, not one of His bones were broken.  See Exodus 12:46 and John 18:36

"In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying,  'This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you take it in remembrance of me.'"

Thought Question:  Do these verses tell us how often we are to take the Lord's Supper?  Explain your answer.

 

 

God made a covenant or a pact with us through sending His Son into this world to die for us.  He initiated and made possible this agreement and paid the full cost to make this new pact between Him and us possible.

Blood represents death.  It is symbolic of the end of life.  For those who have put their trust in Jesus death for us, Jesus' blood marks the end of all of our old pre-Christian lives.  Our old self-motivated life earned only Jesus' death and Jesus' blood.  When we drink the cup we are acknowledging our sin and that it was necessary for Jesus to die for our sin, thereby bringing our old life to an end.  We are proclaiming our death to our old life without Christ and our resurrection to a new life with the resurrected Lord.  We are saying to the old pride-ridden, lust-controlled and empty life, "Good riddance!" 

"For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."  When we come together for the Lord's Supper we look to thepast and to what Jesus did on the Cross; we enjoy the present benefits of the cross—God's forgiveness of our sins and the indwelling of Jesus' life empowering our new walk with God; and we look to the future—waiting with eager hope of Jesus' return to take us to be with Him.  We look back in gratitude, we look to Him now in faith, and we look forward in hope!

Notice that Jesus did not say how often we are to celebrate the Lord's Supper.  He says "whenever" you do it. He did not say each week or each month when you do it, He said "whenever you do it." 

He left it up to us how often we remember His death for us through the practice of the Lord's Supper.  Some celebrate the Lord's Supper weekly, others practice it twice a month, and some once a month.  According to what Jesus says here, each is acceptable.

c. What happens when the Lord's Supper is abused? (11:27-32)
If we do not examine and judge ourselves, God will judge us!

(1) What happens if we take the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner?  (11:27)
"Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord."

 

 

Thought Question:  What is meant by taking the Lord's Supper in an "unworthy manner"?

 

 

Van Gorder provides us with these very helpful words about the meaning of "unworthy."  "The word 'unworthy' has needlessly terrified many believers, who have thought they could never be worthy to participate in such a sacred event.  This term does not have the slightest reference to the unworthiness of the person who comes but to the unworthiness of the manner of coming."  "Taken from The Church Stands Corrected by Paul R. Van Gorder.  Copyright 1967 by Victor Books."

Leon Morris agrees with Van Gorder:  "There is a sense in which all must participate unworthily, for none can ever be worthy of the goodness of Christ to us.  But in another sense we can come worthily, i.e. in faith, and with a due performance of all that is fitting for so solemn a rite."  "Taken from The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1958 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

William Barclay clarifies who it is that comes to the Lord's table in a worthy manner:  "We must be clear about one thing.  The phrase which forbids a man to eat and drink unworthily does not shut out the man who is a sinner and knows it.  An old highland minister seeing an old woman hesitate to receive the cup, stretched it out her, saying, 'Take it woman; its for sinners; it's for you.  If the table of Christ were only for perfect people none might ever approach it.  The way is never closed to the penitent sinner."  "Taken from The Letters to the Corinthians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

To come to the Lord's Table in an "unworthy manner" is to participate in a half-hearted, thoughtless, mechanical, careless, and/or irreverent way.  The Corinthian Christians were thinking more about their stomachs and their social status than they were thinking about what Jesus did for them.  We come to the Lord's Table in a worthy way not when we have lived perfectly during the week before Communion, but we come in a worthy manner when we confess or sins and are thankful to God for the sacrifice that He made so that we who are sinful can come into the presence of a holy God.

When someone comes to the Lord's Table in an irreverent and careless way, he or she is coming to the Lord's Table as if the death of Jesus means nothing to him or her.  That is what Paul means by being "guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord."  That person is treating Jesus' blood given for us as if it is nothing of any great importance.

(2) Instead, we should examine ourselves before we eat of the bread or drink the cup. (11:28)
"A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup."

Thought Question:  How are we to "examine" ourselves before taking the Lord's Supper?

 

 

The word "examine" is the Greek word dokimazeto.  It is a word that is used to describe the testing of metals.  So, we should do a thorough and deep examination of our motives and our sincerity before we take communion.  We should also remove any barriers that we can between God and us by confessing any sins that need to be confessed.  Confessing simply means agreeing with God about our sins.

It is a common practice in churches for the Pastor to allow those participating in the Lord's Supper to prepare themselves before taking the bread and the cup.
 (3) Otherwise, God will judge us (11:29-30)
"For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep."

Thought Question:  Do you believe that God still judges those in the modern church like He judged those in the church at Corinth?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"The man who tramples on the flag of his country insults his country, and he who treats with indignity the representative of the Sovereign thereby offends the Sovereign.  In like manner, he who treats the symbols of Christ's body and blood irreverently is guilty of irreverence toward Christ."  "Taken from Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians by Charles Hodge.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."

God will not look the other way when His Son's sacrifice is despised.  The Christians at Corinth were treating the Lord's Supper in a thoughtless and irreverent way.  Were they getting by with it?  The answer is a certain, "No!"  Paul says that because of their selfish attitude toward the Lord's Supper, that some of them were "weak and sick" and others had even died.  "Fallen asleep" is a description of death for the Christian, for we will die and immediately wake up to be with the Lord.

Not all sickness and death among Christians is the result of God's judgment on their sin.  But, we can be confident from what Paul says here that there are those who do become sick and who even die because they have been judged by God.  So, we should reverently examine ourselves before God, particularly when we take the Lord's Supper.  We should be very careful at that time, and at other times as well, to determine whether or not we have any unconfessed sin in our lives, for we do not want to be those who are judged by God.  See Hebrews 12:6-11

(4) But if we judge ourselves, we will not be judged by God. (11:31)
"But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment." 

Thought Question:  What is meant by: "judged ourselves?"

 

 

It is not necessary to say much about this verse. It is very clear.  It is not wise for us to sin and then wait around for God's judgment.  Instead, we should forthrightly and fully call our sin what it is, a rebellious breaking of God's holy law.  We need to say it is a sin and that it is wrong, and then we need to turn from it.  And if we take these steps of judging our own sin, then God will not need to judge our sin.  It is easy to see that judging our sins ourselves will always be much better for us than waiting for God to judge us.

(5) When we are judged by God, He is disciplining us so that we will not be judged in the way the world is punished. (11:32)
"When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world."

Thought Question:  According to this verse, why does God judge Christians—causing them to be sick and to even die?

 

 

God disciplines us to turn us from our sins.  In the Bible we read of God severely judging His people.  We can think that he is being unduly severe with them and with us.  But, we need to remember that if He did not severely judge us, we, then, would continue on in sin and an even more severe judgment would come upon us.  The greatest judgment of all will come upon those outside of Christ, for they will receive the full penalty for their sin in the Lake of Fire. See I Corinthians 5:5

d. What the Corinthians needed to do so that their Lord's Supper would be acceptable to God. (11:33-34)
"So, then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other.  If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.  And when I come I will give you further directions."

They were to reverse their pattern of selfishness and to have their Love Feasts and Lord's Suppers be a true representation of God's love for them, their love for God, and their love for each other.  In chapters 12-14, Paul will describe what love is and how it should express itself in their church gatherings.

Paul sharply says that if the only reason they are coming together is because they are hungry, then they should stay at home and eat.  They were to end their selfish ways and seek to become a united and dynamic expression of the love of Jesus Christ toward each other.

When we come together, we also can come together in selfishness.  We also can think about ourselves and be concerned primarily about what is or is not in our church meetings that is of benefit to us.  Instead, we also should wait on and serve each other, rather than expect to be waited on and served.

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.  ® NIV  ®  Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.  Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

Studies in Corinthians