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16 September 2012

By qanda

The passage we looked at tonight was 1 Corinthians 7. Lots of questions this week. First, up the link to the talk by Kevin de Young that I spoke about. Find it here.

1 – What are we to make of Paul’s clarification in 1 Cor 7:12 where he says “But I (not the Lord) say to the rest…”?

This seems a bit confusing. Is Paul saying this bit is less the word of God than other bits? Well, I don’t think that’s what he’s trying to say here. Paul is talking about divorce in these verses, and he makes a distinction between what Jesus said in Luke 16:18, Mark 10:2-12 and Matthew 19:3-12. Of these three, it’s only Matthew that records Jesus saying that divorce because of adultery is permissible (not desirable).

So what Paul is saying in these verses is that he’s describing a different situation, another exception, that Jesus did not speak about. So he makes the clarification – “I (not the Lord)…”.

2 – What are we to make of verse 1?

The NIV unhelpfully translates this making it sound like Paul is telling them not to marry. It should read “Now for the matters you wrote about: ‘It is good for a man not to touch (i.e. have sex) with a woman’.”

So in the Corinthian church there were libertines (anything goes) and ascetics (nothing goes), and while the end of 1 Cor 6 is probably a corrective to the former, the latter is a corrective to the latter. You’re not more spiritual if you don’t have sex, and that’s not the way to combat sexual immorality. What you need to do (Paul says) is to have one wife, and give yourself to her. That’s the way you combat sexual immorality.

3 – What would you say to a Christian wanting to marry a non-Christian hoping they ‘convert’?

I’d say it’s crazy. Here’s my reasoning.

1 – Beside our relationship with God (which marriage is a pale imitation of), marriage is the most intimate relationship you can have. If our souls are oriented towards God, and he is the focus of our lives and service – it is going to introduce incredible stress if two people in a ‘one flesh’ relationship are pulling in different directions.

2 – In theses verses (v.12-16) he’s not encouraging Christians to enter into that relationship. He’s acknowledging that many will become Christians after they enter into that relationship and find themselves in that situation. He’s giving people a framework for how to understand that situation, not encouragement to enter it.

3 – In my experience it (generally) doesn’t work and causes enormous grief & strain. Strain both in the marriage, grief in raising kids, struggles with how time is spent and priorities are ordered. Marriage is hard enough – this just introduces a whole ‘nother level of difficulty. Often (not always) it can result in the person who was a Christian walking away from their faith. People entering into the relationship always think they’re the exception…but that’s why they’re called exceptions. Because it’s not the norm.

4 – How come women are described as virgins and men are not?

The word Paul uses here is parthenon which can be used about men (See Rev 14:4), but is more generally used to describe a women of marriageable age who hasn’t had sex. When we see the word, our emphasis is drawn to the ‘not having sex’ part of it, as where Paul’s emphasis here is the ‘not married’ component.

So I think he’s just using the term here to describe women who haven’t been married so as to distinguish from those he deals with elsewhere.

9 September 2012

By qanda

The passage we looked at tonight was 1 Corinthians 7:17-24. One clarification, one question.

1 – I made a comment last night when I was speaking about Chappo’s comments on 1 Corinthians 7 about Paul stating that marriage was a good option for those struggling with sex, not necessarily for companionship. This may have sounded like me saying that marriage isn’t for companionship also – I believe it is! (and so does Chappo I’m pretty sure). But part of being in God’s family is that strong companionship, friendship and relationships should also be found outside of a marriage relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Anyway, to say what I was saying better, you can read what Chappo was saying for yourself. He’s a wise man, he says some hard things, but they’re some good things. Read it here.

2 – A good question last night about contentment and singleness – how do you find it. One of my friends who’s a Godly guy gave me the answer I’ve pasted below. The Godliness & wisdom of this answer is astounding. If you’re interested, you can also listen to a talk from Jenny Salt (Australian who works at Sydney Missionary & Bible College) on Singleness here.

I’ve found that contentment is something that needs to be worked hard at (maybe a bit ‘same same but different’ as the way a couple need to constantly work at maintaining their marriage(??)). I see pursuing contentment very much as one of those ‘active’ things, not a passive thing that you just wait for it to happen to you.

For me, key has been constantly reminding myself (and thanking God) for his blessings and the many good things I do have. Ephesians 1:3 comes to mind. And aside from the spiritual, there’s other stuff like good health, being born in Australia rather than North Korea or the Sudan (I’m being serious here!), my friends and family, secure job and relative wealth etc.)

Philippians 4:12 has been a key verse for me that I think of often (meditate on … for want of a slightly better term) and use as a springboard for prayer:

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want…

… whether I’m married or single.

Pursuing contentment has taken much prayer over quite some time. I’ve worked hard at (and prayed for) establishing a large group of great friends, Christian and non-Christian. As a general rule I take every invite / opportunity I can to catch up with friends. My church community and bible study group are incredibly valuable to me.

I’ve also learned to enjoy my own company and taken up sports/hobbies I can enjoy doing solo.

I concentrate intently on rejoicing in the blessings that I have in Christ, the hope that awaits in heaven, and how the things I’m ‘missing out on’ in this life now pale in comparison to the greatness of what awaits in heaven.

Along the lines of 1 Corinthians 7:32, I try to make the most of the freedom I have to serve in God’s kingdom in ways I probably couldn’t if I was married and had a family – even if that just means I’ve got more time to go to meetings or can be more generous with my money than my married friends.

1 Corinthians 7 (Part 1)

By 1 Corinthians, Talks

Here’s the first part of the 2 part series in 1 Corinthians 7 where Paul is talking about relationships. This first part looks at the middle verses in the chapter, looking at how Christians are called by God, and defined by him and not the classifications of this world.

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26 August 2012

By qanda

The passage we looked at tonight was 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. Here are the questions.

1 – If your emotions are very strong & you don’t trust what you might do/say, isn’t it sometimes wise to talk to someone else who is wise first to help you decide what to say before approaching the person you’re angry with?

This is a really helpful question. And covers an area of the talk that I skipped last night due to time. Convenient that, isn’t it – when you don’t say something just say you skipped it! Well, it happens to be true this time, so stop being so cynical. I just realised I’m talking to myself. Back to the question.

As the question really helpfully says, in the heat of the moment, when we’re really hurt or fired up, it can be good to bounce it off someone. My encouragement last night was to go God first. I stick by that – I reckon we need to use God as the person we turn to in situations like this.

But God gives us people to help us through these situations as well. And it can be really helpful to have someone to use as a sounding board to ensure you’re in the right headspace, and you’re reacting in a way that is going to be helpful for reconciliation, and God-honouring.

So it’s good to have people you go to. And it’s important that they’re the right people. Choose people who is wise, Godly, won’t just tell you what you want to hear, won’t hold a grudge against the person, and will drive you towards the things God is calling you towards – forgiveness, Godliness, reconciliation.

Great question – thanks for asking it and giving me the chance to fill in the blanks!

2 – In v.11 where it says you are not that kind of person anymore, what happens when people still struggle with that even when they’re Christians?

Yep, that’s a good question, and a question most Christians ask when they read these kinds of lists. Because the reality is we’re not perfect, and even while GOd is working in us we’re still going to struggle with sin. Let me give the short answer, and I’ll follow that by the theological one.

The short answer is this: Paul’s point here is not to say that Christians won’t struggle with this stuff, but that they won’t be defined by it or settle for it being the norm, because it’s not who we are anymore. We have been washed, sanctified (made holy), justified in the name of Jesus and by the Spirit of God (v.12). That is, we are who we are because of Jesus, and so the way in which we want to live should be consistent with who God has made us (our new self), not who we were and the sin that Jesus died for (our old self).

So if you’re a Christian, and you’re still struggling with sin – you’re perfectly normal. We’re always going to struggle within sin in this life. But God, through His Spirit, works in us to make us more like Jesus even through these struggles. We want to make sure that we work out what it looks like to be a Christian while God works these things out in our lives as well (Philippians 2:12-13).

Here’s the theological answer to go with that, so you’ve got some background. Theologians talk about sanctification in two ways, because the New Testament talks about sanctification in two ways.

1) Positional Sanctification. This is the idea that God sees us as Holy, because Jesus is Holy. When God looks at us, He see perfection, not because we are, but because we are In Christ, and therefore gain the benefit of His perfection. It’s positional in the sense that we are “positioned” with Christ.

2) Progressive Sanctification. At the same time, God knows we’re not perfect, so He actively works in us by His Spirit to shape us into the likeness of His Son. It’s progressive over our lifetime.

So sometimes the New Testament talks about God seeing us as perfect (Positional) and sometimes it talks about us being (progressively) sanctified, made Holy – and it sees no inconsistency in that. God knows we’re not perfect…but He chooses to include us In Christ, through faith, so that we can experience the benefits of what Christ has done, instead of the judgement that we deserve. Not a bad deal.

3 – In your talk there was a lot of discussion around conflict resolution however I understand it was largely direct at conflict between christians.

How does what was discussed play out when confronted with conflict between christian and non-christian, or alternatively where else in the bible is this discussed (also whether this passage is irrelevant due to it dealing with a seperate specific issue). I could see some of the principals are still valid however some of them are simply unviable (e.g. have a christian mediate). This could play out two ways as well I suppose, a Christian creating a civil case against a non-christian or vice versa.

Yep, Paul’s outrage in part at the church in Corinth was that they had infighting that spilled out into the wider community, bringing the Gospel into disrepute. But your asking about disputes between Christians & Non-Christians. Some thoughts.

1 – Paul wasn’t afraid to use the legal / political system. In Acts he appeals to Caesar, and pulls the “I’m a Roman citizen” card which afforded him certain rights (Acts 21:39, 22:22-40, 25:10-12). He also talks in Romans 13:1-7 about submitting to the government, as it’s an instrument of God. So there’s no problem with using the “system” in place – we just need to work out whether we’re using it for our benefit or God’s. Paul used the system not for his good, but for the good of the Gospel.

2 – In disputes with those who aren’t Christians, I’m not sure there are too many specific examples like 1 Cor 6 where we see it played out. But I think Romans 12:9-21 is a helpful passages to draw some principles from:
– Christians aren’t trying to “win” conflict. In response to curses, they bless, they love, they forgive. They never repay evil for evil.
– We aren’t driven by pride, or a need to protect our reputation (although this can be good for the gospel), but by a desire to see God glorified & people come to understand the Gospel.
– Christians don’t engage in revenge / retribution. God will take care of that. I don’t think this means not calling people to account for what they do, it’s about us not taking the law into our own hands.
– Our response to being wronged is to love. Never to respond in kind.

We have the balance in the bible of Jesus who submitted to evil for the sake of God. And we have Paul who used the system for the benefit of the Gospel while not abusing it. But the common theme we have in both is this – that their focus was not on themselves, but on what would bring glory to God.