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I Corinthians 6-9    Listen Podcast

How about those Corinthian lawsuits (I Corinthians 6:1-8)

1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?
2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?
4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?
5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?
6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!
7 ¶ Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?
8 No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!

Another of the many problems in the church at Corinth that Paul deals with in this passage is that the members of the church took one another to court by filing lawsuits. Paul calls for these disputes to be settled within the church by other Believers who will serve as judges in such matters. Notice the terminology Paul uses to identify those who have received Jesus Christ as Savior as opposed to those who have not in verse 1: "unrighteous" (Greek: "adikos") versus "saints" (Greek: "hagios"). That word "adikos" is used 12 times in the New Testament and is sometimes translated "unjust." In reference to humans, it identifies those who have not been saved. In contrast, "hagios" identifies those who have been saved.

In verse 7 Paul points out that the very fact that they are willing to take each other to court is a shortcoming of the fellowship of Believers there. The scripture is clear here: Members within the same local assembly should never take one another to secular court over disputes. Let the local church settle these disputes.

There is a pattern established by Christ in Matthew 18:15-17 (see notes) for settling these disputes:

15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’
17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

It is clear that Christ intended for disputes among Believers to be settled among Believers. However, there are two aspects to this that are not clearly defined in scripture. The first one is what to do with disputing Believers in two different churches. Naturally, the preferred course would be to seek cooperation with the other church in resolving the issue according to this passage and Matthew 18:15-17. If the other church refuses cooperation, the leadership of the first church really has no additional recourse in the matter. I do not feel comfortable tying the hands of the offended church member in this matter. Since there is no clear scripture on this particular caveat, I am most comfortable leaving the decision of recourse up to the individual Believer without being critical of his actions.

The second question people ask about church discipline is what you do when the church has ruled according to Matthew 18:15-17, and the person is banished from the church for non compliance. There are two schools of thought here. Some say that verse 7 is the overriding principle here: "Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?" However, I wouldn't find fault with the reasoning that, once the fulfillment of Matthew 18:17 is realized ("let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector"), the offended member is free to treat that banished member as though he were lost with regard to legal steps he may want to pursue. As I said, I find no conclusive scripture either way.

Perhaps Paul is writing this procedure with some provisions of the Mosaic Law in mind. Leviticus 18 (see notes) and Leviticus 20 (see notes) declare that certain horrendous conduct within Israel was to be dealt with by banishing the offender from the people of Israel altogether. Whether Paul's declaration here was influenced by those passages or not, it is worth noting that God insisted that those offences not be overlooked.

It is obvious that Paul's emphasis is the public testimony of the Body of Christ before the world in this passage. It does not speak well for Believers within a local assembly if they cannot get along without taking one another before the "unrighteous" for judgment on property issues. Paul strengthens his argument with two passing references to Believers' responsibilities of judging in the future - judging "the world" in verse 2 and judging "angels" in verse 3. What's he talking about? First of all, he undoubtedly was thinking of Jesus' words in Matthew 19:28-29 (see notes) where Jesus speaks to the disciples about their role in ruling during the millennium. Furthermore, Paul speaks of the event we commonly call the "rapture" in I Thessalonians 4:13-18 (see notes) where he says in verse 17, "And thus we shall always be with the Lord." After the rapture, the white throne judgment takes place in Revelation 20:11-15 (see notes) along with the judgment of angels mentioned in II Peter 2:4 (see notes) and Jude 6 (see notes). These angels will likely be judged at the same time as Satan in Revelation 20:10 (see notes). During those judgments, raptured Believers will be "with the Lord." It must be in that context that Paul is speaking here in verses 2-3.

People who aren't going to Heaven (I Corinthians 6:9-11)

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,
10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

Paul uses the same Greek word "adikos" in verse 9 ("unrighteous") as used in verse 1 to describe those who have not received Jesus Christ as Savior. Those who are saved "will inherit the kingdom of God," and those who are not saved "will not inherit the kingdom of God."

There's a question that I often get asked: "Can a practicing homosexual really be saved?" The answer is here in this passage, a passage that some folks find troubling. As a matter of fact, this is ammunition used by those people who are wrongly convinced that one can lose his salvation under certain circumstances. The principle here is quite clear. Believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and have "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:2, see notes) giving them direction. James 4:17 (see notes) says, "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." All Believers have direction from the Holy Spirit to respond positively toward God.

What happens when a Christian is negatively responsive toward God's leadership - when one rebels against the prompting of the Holy Spirit? Hebrews 12 6-8 (see notes) says:

For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.

As Christians, God chastises us when we rebel against the knowledge of James 4:17 provided by the Holy Spirit's presence inside us. Now here's the extreme case. What about the Believer who sets himself against God's will? Answer: I Corinthians 11:29-32 (see notes); God takes him out of this world if he does not turn from his rebellion. So, here's the evidence of scripture: If a Believer is practicing what we see in I Corinthians 6:9-11, God will take him out of this world (to Heaven, but out of this world) if he chooses to continue in his rebellion rather than respond to God. If he seems to be practicing this conduct without consequence from God's chastening hand, the evidence points to the lack of a salvation experience in the first place (cf. Hebrews 12 6, "For whom the LORD loves He chastens..."). But under no circumstances are we to understand that a person loses his salvation if he missteps in the direction listed in verses 9-11. The scripture is clear here and other places that a pattern of rebellious conduct over time is the indicator.

One more thing: many Believers are bent on being able to identify the authenticity of another's salvation decision based upon conduct. That's not necessary; let God keep score. I Corinthians 5 deals clearly with exactly how we should deal with others in this respect. I Corinthians 5:11 (see notes) says, "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person." Conduct that equates to rebellion against God by Believers should not be judged, per se, but rather identified according to I Corinthians 5:11; subsequently, that person should be shunned according to I Corinthians 5:5 (see notes) so as to encourage that person to correct his actions. Therefore, the bottom line on the issue is this. When a professing Believer openly rebels against the mandates of God, treat that person like a non Believer and not as a Believer...and at the same time, shame them for their conduct. That's scriptural treatment of the issue.

Paul describes the state of the Believer in verse 11 when he says, "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God."

This threefold process (verse 11) of what has taken place to make a Believer a Believer is described as:

For more on the issue of a Believer's salvation, click here to read the article entitled, "What The Bible Says About Eternal Life."

Because inquiring minds want to know, let's identify the conduct specified by Paul in verses 9-10 so there is no confusion here:

How do you treat a temple? (I Corinthians 6:12-20)

12 ¶ All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
13 Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
14 And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.
15 ¶ Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!
16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.”
17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
18 ¶ Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.
19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Paul uses these 9 verses to show that sexual immorality is not compatible with Christian living. The Greek influence in Corinth reasoned that just as the body was made for food, it was made to have an appetite for sexual fulfillment as well. That's the comparison discussed in verse 13 when Paul quotes their sinful Greek-based reasoning, "Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods." He goes on to say in that very verse, "Now the body is not for sexual immorality..." In other words, sexual fulfillment is not a basic need just as food is. You will recall that prostitution was a big trade in Corinth. (Click here to refer to the introduction to I Corinthians.). Paul distinguishes our relationship to God as being different from the rest of the world with his phrase at the end of verse 13, "Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body." He continues that thought into verse 14 with "And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power." In other words, "Whatever the world does, we're different as Believers."

Finally, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, a point that Paul also emphasized in I Corinthians 3:16 (see notes). The Holy Spirit indwells EVERY Believer at salvation - a fact of scripture (cf. Romans 8:9, see notes; I Corinthians 12:13, see notes). Since we are God's dwelling place, how can anyone possibly suggest that it is appropriate to unite oneself with a prostitute (verse 15)? Only at Corinth! A fundamental principle is seen in verses 19-20 regarding our spiritual state as Believers. God dwells in us through the Holy Spirit just as he did the tabernacle and temple in the Old Testament. We carry God around with us; we are his dwelling place. Here's the question: To what kind of places are you going to carry God?

These verses set the state for the discussion of chapter 7 regarding sexual appetite. Paul expresses the complete unacceptability of a Believer uniting with a prostitute in verse 15 where he alludes to Genesis 2:24 (see notes), "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." This one-flesh understanding of marriage and thus the result of sexual relations was also referenced by Jesus in Matthew 19:5-6; Mark 10:8 (see notes) and by Paul again in Ephesians 5:31 (see notes). In other words, sexual relations are completely appropriate within the context of marriage, but completely inappropriate outside of marriage - the point of chapter 7.

Paul deals with marital intimacy issues (I Corinthians 7:1-5)

1 Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: ¶ It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.
3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

In verse 1, the Greek word for "touch" is "haptomai," which literally should always be translated "touch." This "touch" here is a reference to sexual intimacy as it is in Genesis 20:6 (see notes) with its Hebrew equivalent. It's just a discreet way of saying it. It should be considered a translation error to translate verse 1 as follows: "It is good for a man not to marry." While a popular translation has rendered it as such, the Greek word for "marry" (gameo) is not to be found in verse 1, nor is marriage to be understood there. However, Paul is promoting an unmarried life in this chapter based upon "the present distress" he mentions in verse 26. In other words, the conditions within the Roman Empire for Believers at the time of Paul's writing were becoming such that Paul was recommending a life unencumbered with the responsibilities associated with having a spouse. Undoubtedly he has in mind the extreme persecution which existed against Believers at the hand of the Romans. Nero was a very cruel Roman Emperor who began to reign when he was 17 years old in 54 A.D. I Corinthians was written around 57 A.D. Nero's persecution of Christians is well documented; he put them to death for merely claiming to be Christians. Paul does then point out that once married, there is an intimacy protocol between husbands and wives that should be observed. In short, husbands and wives are to strive to satisfy the sexual appetites of their spouses so that there will be no temptation to resort to the unacceptable conduct of 6:12-20 (see above).

For more information on Paul's passing comment regarding "fasting," click here to read the summary on Matthew 17:14-21 for additional details.

How about a single life? (I Corinthians 7:6-9)

6 But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment.
7 For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.
8 ¶ But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am;
9 but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

The topic of verses 1-5 leads Paul to expand his comments on the issue of marriage. Paul extends his comments in verse 6 by saying, "But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment." Let's be clear about what is meant by that statement. Paul is differentiating between actual verbal commands of Christ which serve as a precedent as opposed to issues of marriage never dealt with specifically by Christ in his earthly ministry. Paul is recommending a single life (like his own). He is pointing out that there is no command of Christ recommending a single life, but Paul considered the times critical. In verse 9 he advocates marriage for those who struggle to contain their sexual appetites as discussed in verses 1-5 when he says, "but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion." I'm confident that "burn with passion" is meant there as rendered by the NKJV, although that cannot be proved by the Greek construction of the sentence itself. The KJV simply ends the verse with "burn."

What about divorce? (I Corinthians 7:10-16)

10 ¶ Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband.
11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.
12 ¶ But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.
13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.
14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.
15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.
16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

Verse 10 contains the phrase, "Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord..." In differentiating from his statement in verse 6, Paul is pointing out that he is preparing to deal with an issue specifically addressed by Christ in his earthly ministry. Therefore, this is a precedent from Christ himself. What is that precedent? Here it is: The wife is not to leave her husband; if she does, she should remain unmarried. Likewise, the husband should not put away his wife. Christ addressed this issue specifically (Matthew 5:32, see notes; Matthew 19:1-12/Mark 10:1-12, see notes; Luke 16:18, see notes). That's why he lists it as a command from the Lord.

Yeah, but what if your husband or wife isn't saved? Well, Christ did not specifically deal with this scenario; that's why Paul says in verse 12, "But to the rest I, not the Lord...." But here's what Paul says: if they'll stay, keep them. You can still have a Christian home (sanctified: set apart to the Lord) if just one of the marriage partners is saved (verse 14). Moreover, your children will be the products of a Christian home. I think the principle here alludes to the household-wide adherence to Judaism in the Old Testament. If the head of the household was an observant Jew, so was everyone within the household. Here in verses 12-14, Paul seems to be declaring that one saved parent, husband or wife, makes it a "sanctified" (Greek verb - "hagiazo" - to set apart) Christian household, thus resulting in children who are "holy" (Greek adjective - "hagios" - dedicated or set apart). Since salvation is by individual faith, this verse does not declare anyone saved by default; verse 16 clarifies this. However, the unsaved spouse may choose to leave. Well, you can't tie them up and make them stay in the marriage. Paul is releasing the abandoned spouse from responsibility here in verse 15 when he says, "a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases." What does that mean? The Greek construction for "is not under bondage" comes from the Greek verb "douloo," which means "to enslave." The parsing of the word is third person, singular, perfect, passive, indicative. Literally translated, it would be "has not been enslaved." But everyone wants to know, "Does that mean the abandoned marriage partner can remarry?" That's where the discussion heads in the next few verses.

Stay as you are (I Corinthians 7:17-24)

17 ¶ But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches.
18 Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised.
19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.
20 Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.
21 Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it.
22 For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave.
23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.
24 Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called.

Here Paul once again addresses the situation of marriage within the context of the atrocities that surrounded them with regard to the severe persecution of Christians from Nero's Roman government. Paul says that no one should divorce based upon these circumstances, but he seems to be recommending remaining single if one was currently in that state. He undoubtedly has in mind the ministry he conducted while in prison - a ministry which would have been hampered had there been a wife who needed care during his prison years. So he concludes this topic by saying in verse 24, "Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God."

To make his point, he uses a hot-topic analogy - circumcision. It had been settled back at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15, see notes) that circumcision had nothing to do with salvation. However, it wasn't wrong for a Gentile to seek circumcision. In this context, however, he is showing that even circumcised Jews were not necessarily in favor with God in the Old Testament. Favor with God depended on their personal relationship with God. Likewise, married or unmarried doesn't make one more or less favored before God.

To marry or not to marry (I Corinthians 7:25-40)

25 ¶ Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy.
26 I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress—that it is good for a man to remain as he is:
27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife.
28 But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you.
29 ¶ But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none,
30 those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess,
31 and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away.
32 ¶ But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord.
33 But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife.
34 There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband.
35 And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.
36 ¶ But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry.
37 Nevertheless he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well.
38 So then he who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better.
39 ¶ A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.
40 But she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment—and I think I also have the Spirit of God.

Paul has just been discussing the issue of remaining as you are (with regard to marital status) based upon the critical times in which they lived (probably referring to the great persecution of Christians at the hands of the Roman Empire under Nero). The exact meaning of verse 25 cannot be known precisely. Who are these "virgins" about whom Paul is speaking? Since the Biblical pattern up to that time was for a woman to leave her father's house and go to her husband's house at marriage, perhaps it is referring to all unmarried women. However, based upon the instructions of verses 34-38, perhaps verse 25 is specifically referring to those women who are betrothed to a man (legal contract without marital consummation). Perhaps Paul is encouraging them to remain that way (betrothed without consummation). Paul does point out in verse 25, "...I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment..." He is saying that this is a subject that was not dealt with specifically by Christ, but he is writing concerning the issue in light of the current persecution of Believers. So, considering Paul's discussion over the last several verses leading up to this passage concerning the virtues of remaining single, is it a sin to marry? NO! He hastens to point out that it is best for the unmarried to remain unmarried and that the married seek not to be loosed from their marriages, but if one does choose to marry, it is not a violation of Paul's counsel here. He just warns them that they acquire baggage when they do so in light of the current wave of Christian persecution, but it's not a sin.

Many have sought to isolate Paul's comments on marriage in this passage simply to the context of divorced persons remarrying. This passage is much broader than that. Paul is discouraging all marriage for Believers in light of the persecution to which they were subjected under Nero. I am distressed that some Christians teach that, when divorced people remarry, they are "living in sin." How does the concept of "living in sin" even fit into our scriptural doctrine of salvation and forgiveness anyway? That is a ridiculous teaching! Paul says in verse 27, "Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife." The "to be loosed" of verse 27 is translated from one Greek noun (lusis) and is used only once in the New Testament. It means "divorce" in this context, although the word generally means "release." The verb form (Greek: "luo") is used in the sentence that follows (second part of verse 27) in this Greek form: second, singular, perfect, passive, indicative. Literally, the phrase should be understood as "you have been released." It is not conceivable that Paul was speaking of never-been-married people in verse 27 with that phrase as some have asserted. That's important to understand because of the first phrase of verse 28 which says, "But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you." Again, let me point out that it does a disservice to scripture to teach that a person who marries after being abandoned by a spouse is sinning by doing so or is "living in sin." That cannot be derived from this passage of scripture.

In verses 29-35, Paul again explains the rationale for not taking on the burden of a spouse in light of the persecution that existed against Christians during this period in the Roman Empire. This admonition concerns all people, whether previously married or not, who lived during this great persecution.

So, who is this virgin in verse 36? Some have suggested that the reference to, "if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin" is talking about the father of an unmarried woman. I don't think so. That doesn't make sense without some massaging of the phraseology used here. To adhere to this point of view, one must creatively render the last phrase of that verse, "let them marry." The Greek form is not passive voice (nor is the English). It does not say anything about "being given in marriage" (example of passive voice) as would be the case if it were talking about being given by a father. I think that this verse is probably addressing a couple who is betrothed to be married, but decides not to consummate the marriage in light of the critical situation of the persecution of Believers. However, as time goes on, and she reaches her prime still unmarried and not eligible to marry someone else (because she is legally bound through betrothal), then let the man know that he is not violating Paul's counsel to go ahead and consummate the marriage relationship with his betrothed. That position makes sense, given the specific wording of this passage. (Click here to see the scriptural stipulations regarding betrothal and marriage found in Deuteronomy 22.)

In summary, I think it is clear that I Corinthians 7 was written in light of a critical set of circumstances. My wife, Evelyn, was particularly moved by the autobiography of Gracia Burnham. She and her husband, Martin, served in the Philippines with New Tribes Missions until they were captured by Muslims and held for ransom for an extended period of time. He was shot and killed as the Philippine army attempted to rescue them on June 7, 2002. Throughout their captivity, Martin had numerous opportunities to escape, but did not feel comfortable doing so for fear of his wife's safety. I think this serves as a small example of what Paul is discussing here in I Corinthians 7. Paul uses himself as an example in this chapter. He did not seem to mind being in prison for those years. However, had there been a wife needing provisions at home, he would have been under pressures to provide. Paul seems to be simply suggesting in this passage the efficiency of an unencumbered single life in light of the times of persecution they were experiencing.

How about those idols? (I Corinthians 8:1-13)

1 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.
2 And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.
3 But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.
4 ¶ Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one.
5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords),
6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.
7 ¶ However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
8 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.
9 ¶ But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.
10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols?
11 And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.
13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Paul starts a discussion here that he does not finish until the end of chapter 10. So, we'll start the discussion here, but wait to tie up the loose ends in the notes on I Corinthians 10:14-33 (see notes). The issue here, per se, is eating meat offered to idols. You may recall that this is not a new issue to the early Believers. It was dealt with at the Jerusalem council convened by James back in Acts 15 (see notes), some 8 or so years (approximately 49 A.D.) before Paul is writing here to the Corinthians. Obviously their decree from that council in Acts 15:29 did not settle the issue. That decree was designed to appease the Jewish Believers without imposing the Mosaic Law on new Gentile Believers. In other words, it was a compromise designed to help observant Jewish and Gentile Believers with differing cultural experiences live together in harmony. Corinth is hundreds of miles from communities dominated by Jewish practices, and the issue is being dealt with from a different perspective. Simply stated, here's that perspective: Is it a sin in itself, per se, for a Believer to eat meat that has been offered in sacrifice to an idol? By the way, you will notice in Acts 15 (see notes) that the discussion there was not centered around whether or not it is a sin, but rather whether or not it is "good" (Acts 15:28) to observe those restrictions in light of the existing conflict among Jewish and non-Jewish Believers. As a matter of fact, the letter that was authored as a reply back then concluded in Acts 15:29 with the statement, "...If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well." There was no statement of absolute sin attached with the practice.

Here's Paul's decree on the issue. The practice of eating that meat offered in sacrifice to an idol is not a sin in itself, but some Believers earnestly believe that it is wrong anyway. He emphasizes that it is inappropriate to evaluate one's spiritual condition based upon just one standard of practice when he says in verse 3, "But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him." And what about all of those temple gods to whom the meat was offered? There's his answer in verse 6, "yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live." In other words, "They ain't nuthin'" Paul tells those Believers who have a clear perspective in recognizing that there is no sin involved here to be considerate of the less mature Believers who are offended at the practice. In Romans 14 (see notes) Paul refers to these less mature brethren as "weak" brethren - an implication of being weak in the faith or weak in their understanding of scriptural principles. He warns mature Believers to be conscious of the weak Believers here in verse 9, "But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak." Paul therefore says in verse 13, "Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble." Here's an important principle for mature Believers: Mature Believers take great care in not letting their liberty in Christ have a negative impact on their testimony. That careful and reserved conduct by Christians should extend to all controversial issues of Christian living. For the rest of the discussion on this issue, read I Corinthians 10:14-33 (see notes).

So, is Paul an Apostle or not? (I Corinthians 9:1-27)

1 Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?
2 If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 ¶ My defense to those who examine me is this:
4 Do we have no right to eat and drink?
5 Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?
6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?
7 Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?
8 ¶ Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also?
9 For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about?
10 Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope.
11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?
12 If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? ¶ Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ.
13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar?
14 Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
15 ¶ But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void.
16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!
17 For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship.
18 What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.

In this chapter Paul defends his apostleship. The Greek word for "apostle" is "apostolos." This is the general word used in that day for a messenger. So, an apostle of Christ is a messenger of Christ. An apostle of God is a messenger of God. The word in the New Testament came to be a description of those original 12 who were called by Christ in the gospels. However, Paul points out in verse 1 that he saw Christ on the road to Damascus and visited Heaven and described it in II Corinthians 12:1-10 (see notes). In other words, while he was not called like Peter, John and the others during the earthly ministry of Christ, he was nonetheless called on the road to Damascus just as they were.

One problem though - Peter had already appointed a twelfth apostle in Acts 1 (see notes). Incidentally, you will notice in the study of Acts 1 (see notes) that there's really only scriptural provision for twelve apostles - not thirteen, and Paul definitely claims that twelfth spot here, in this passage. The issue in this chapter is really, "Why should these Corinthians pay any attention to Paul's words to them?" Since the church was quite divided (as we saw in I Corinthians 1-3, see notes), there were those in the church there whom Paul anticipated would not be receptive to his harsh words concerning their wayward conduct.

Paul uses several verses in this chapter (3-14) to point out that a gospel minister is properly financially supported by those to whom he ministers. In verse 9 he quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 to validate that even the ox had a right to the nourishment of the corn while he was plowing. Likewise, a minister is deserving of the financial fruits of those to whom he is ministering spiritually. Moreover, the temple priests are sustained by the sacrifices made by the people (verse 13). He caps off this discussion with verse 14, "Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel."

That being stated, Paul then concedes that even though it would be proper for the Corinthians to lend to his financial support, he has declined to take their support. It appears that his reasoning here was a desire to refrain from receiving support from a church having so many problems with carnality. In verses 16 and 17 he points out that necessity is laid upon him by God to preach and minister; he doesn't do it for a paycheck. In verse 18 he emphasizes that this strategy gives him liberty to speak uncompromisingly.

19 ¶ For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;
20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;
21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law;
22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
24 ¶ Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.
25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.
27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

In verses 19 to 27 Paul explains the limitations he has placed upon himself for the sake of the Gospel, and has determined to live his life for the benefit of others. He blended into the community to which he was ministering in order to gain their respect. That is what he conveys in verses 19-23 - Jews in verse 20, Gentiles ("without law") in verse 21 and "weak" Christians (discussed in chapter 8 - see above) in verse 22.

In verses 24-27 Paul compares ministering for Christ to an athletic competition. Winners endure hardships in training to attain the excellence for victory. That's the way Paul viewed his ministry. He encourages the Corinthians to catch that vision of ministry also when he says in verse 24, "Run in such a way that you may obtain it." After all, it is a battle according to his words in Ephesians 6:12 (see notes), "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." In fact, it's not just a battle of personal satisfaction, but a battle for the souls of men, women, boys and girls. Paul understood that to win this battle meant focusing on the objective when he says in verses 26-27, "Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."