Scripture Reading: I Corinthians 7 - 8 ...
God's Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ was written to those who are living life in this world. There are some parts that are prophetic concerning the future; there are other parts that are deeply theological, containing teaching that we need to know about God and His plan of salvation, about ourselves and about our world; and there are parts that are filled with practical application for those who believe in Christ. Our chapters today are the latter - practical application of the truth that Jesus is the Christ, that He died and rose again and poured out His Spirit to call us to Himself, and that we who believe are called to live in obedience to God's commands, not to earn our salvation, but as a testimony to the power of God at work within us.
In Chapter 7 Paul speaks about one of the most popular topics of our present-day culture: Marriage and the sexual relationship between a husband and a wife. Some might think Paul could not possibly understand these things because he wasn't married and he hadn't read any of the latest books on marriage. But Paul knew Christ and he knew that God's desire is that His children live in peace and harmony and love. His instructions to those who are single and those who are married reflect the heart of God. God's goal for us is "that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord" (7:35).
David wrote in Psalm 86: "Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name" (vs. 11). Some claim to be more committed to Christ than others and try to show it in outward religious rituals and traditions which in themselves may not be wrong or sinful ... BUT, Paul writes, "Keeping God's commands is what counts" (7:19). God reveals His will for us in His Word. He TELLS us that love for Him comes first, and then our commitments to our husbands and wives and our children, and then our commitment to Christ's body, the Church. Living as a disciple of Jesus in obedience to God's Word is not optional for those who are in Christ. "You were bought at a price!" (7:23).
Paul speaks very honestly about the physical oneness God intended for husbands and wives. In this age where the roles of men and women have become so blurred, it is important to understand God’s purposes in bringing a man and a woman together to complement each other in every way. Each belongs to the other and each must give themselves to the other, and in so doing give themselves and their devotion to Christ. In a similar way, those who remain single must do so not for their own selfish purposes, but rather out of devotion to the Lord. Self-centered living, whether in marriage or outside of marriage, has no place in the life of a follower of Christ.
As Paul speaks about divorce, it is clear once again that God hates divorce. Marriage is based on a covenant between two equal partners in the sight of God. Believers should not be “unequally yoked,” as Paul will speak about later. In some cases, however, where two unbelievers are married and one becomes a Christian, Paul explains that the believer should stay married because “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” (7:14).
There has been much discussion about what God means as Paul speaks of remaining in a marriage where there is one spouse who believes and another who doesn’t. What he is speaking about is the powerful influence of the Spirit of God and the testimony of His Word in human relationships. While these relationships are certainly not in line with God’s ideal, yet God calls believers in every relationship to be a light, not allowing the spiritual darkness of those around them to turn them away from their devotion to Christ, but rather to speak truth and to set a godly example to those around them. This is vitally important in the home.
In every situation we must seek God’s blessing and His blessing comes through obedience to His Word. Chapter 7 gives very specific instructions and reminds us that "God has called us to live in peace" (7:15) ... with HIM and with each other. His Spirit gives us wisdom and strength to be and do all that He desires us to be and do. We have a BOND, a oneness, with Christ and with each other that needs to be respected, cherished, built up, protected, nourished and strengthened, so it will grow and be strong.
Chapter 8 deals with another topic for the same reason: building others up in love. "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up" (8:1). "There is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live" (8:6). Paul tells believers not to destroy a brother for the sake of food or other disputable matters. The body of Christ is too important to split it apart over things that are not direct commands of God. Again, we need wisdom to know the difference. Praying for discernment in matters that are personal preference must be a regular part of life for us.
Divisions within the Body of Christ happen more often because of what God DOESN’T say, rather than what He DOES say. People in the church will often accept false teaching when it comes to doctrine taught in the Bible, but will argue and separate over matters of Christian liberty. It is necessary to know what God says and to rightly interpret His Word so that believers are one in heart and mind. And it is necessary to understand that where God doesn’t speak, we ought not to judge one another based on our own feelings or ideas. The oneness of Christ’s Body is crucial for our witness to the world.
Set your mind and heart on Christ every day as one of His disciples. In your relationships with others, put Christ first and others before yourself. Trust God to work in you and through you for His glory and you will have peace in your heart and in your relationships, and through your love others will be built up and encouraged. God's Word is true. Listen to His voice, for as followers of Christ, "Keeping God's commands is what counts!!" (7:19).
"Heavenly Father, in Your wisdom You have given us Your Word and Spirit to guide us through this life. You know our weakness and call us to live to exalt Your name. Help us, Father, to have an undivided devotion to You in all our relationships with others, that our lives may testify that Jesus is our Savior and our Lord! In Jesus' name, Amen"