Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: 1 Corinthians Studies|
Chapters 5 to 7
Chapter: 1 Cor 5
Passage: 1 Cor 5:1-5
A. Find Out:
1. What had Paul also heard was happening? v.1
2. What did they feel & what should they have felt about it? v.2
3. What did Paul say about that? v.3
4. When did he say they should act? v.4
5. What did he say they should do? v.5a
6. Why, with what consequence? v.5b
Paul now moves on to the second thing he has been told about: a man is committing sexual immorality with his mother! Corinth was known for its immorality and that had now crept into the church. At the end of the twentieth century the church has again allowed immorality to creep into the congregation of God's people, but the word of God is quite clear about it.
The apostle Paul is clearly scandalised by it. There is no soft “accepting of the people” about this. No, the apostle is (to us) frighteningly clear about it. The man involved should be put of out the life of the church, and note the way it is to be done. It is to be publicly done - when they are assembled together in the name of the Lord. They are to know the power and authority of the Lord and do it solemnly. This man is to be put outside the protection of the church so that he will be open to Satan's attacks and brought to his senses.
We need to see the force of this. The intention is to bring him back into a right relationship with the Lord, and the way to do it is to discipline him publicly, so that he realises the seriousness of what he has done, and so that he will be left alone to the ways of Satan and brought to his knees in repentance.
A. Find Out:
1. What principle does Paul state, with what command? v.6,7a
2. With what feast does he link this picture and why? v.7b,8
3. What had he previously instructed them? v.9
4. Who did that not mean and why? v.10
5. But who does it include? v.11
6. So what instructions does he conclude with? v.12,13
The context is of a man who has been involved in sexual immorality who Paul says should be put out of the fellowship of the church. Now he uses a typically Jewish illustration, that of yeast in dough. Yeast in the dough makes it rise but if not cooked immediately, the yeast ferments and the dough goes mouldy. This was why the bread at Passover was without yeast, as a sign of the haste with which the Jews had had to leave Egypt , not being able to wait for the bread to rise, but also so that it would not go off in delay in cooking. Yeast in Jewish spiritual terms therefore referred to any evil influence. If you allow a little in, says Paul, it will soon spread like yeast does, and the dough will be affected throughout. No, get rid of it quickly!
Paul had obviously written to them before this letter, about these very issues because of the influences of Corinth probably, so now he reiterates his teaching: separate out from those who are immoral and call themselves Christians. We're not in the business of judging those outside the church (which we do so often do!) because they don't know any better, but the members of the church should know better and we are to deal with those who hold onto their old immorality or fall into it.
A. Find Out:
1. What question does Paul now ask? v.1
2. What does he tell us we will do in the future? v.2a,3a
3. So what does he conclude from that? v.2b,3b
4. How did he say they should administer this? v.4
5. Yet what query does he have? v.5
6. What had been happening? v.6
Over the matter of sexual immorality Paul has just said that the church ought to judge the wrong behaviour of the offender and put the person out of the fellowship. Now he extends that thought to include judging all matters of dispute that may arise between Christians. He does this on two levels.
The first level is the spiritual level. In Matt 19:28 Jesus had said that those who follow him will eventually have a place of judging others. So, says Paul, if you are going to have to do that with Christ in a future age, why not learn to do it now within the church.
The second level is the practical level. The way to do that, he suggests, is to appoint specific people in the fellowship who will be able to sit and decide between those who bring disputes if they should arise. How much better to do it like this and allow the Lord to preside over it through His people, than go before the civil authorities and let them decide between you. The only requirement for this though, is people of sufficient maturity that they could preside over such proceedings in an unbiased and wise manner. Do they have such people there who could act in this way. This he asks to provoke them to rise up to this idea and deal with these problems themselves.
A. Find Out:
1. What does Paul say has happened to them and why? v.7a
2. What does he suggest would be better? v.7b
3. Yet what were they doing? v.8
4. Who will not inherit the kingdom? v.9,10
5. How had that applied to them? v.11a
6. Yet what had happened to them? v.11b
Paul has been speaking about going to law against a brother in Christ. In that some of them were already warring against one another in this way, Paul sees that they have been overcome by the enemy, seduced into harsh action against one another, instead of loving one another as Jesus had taught. You would do better to just put up with being wronged, is what he says. In entering into these conflicts you find yourself crossing the boundaries of integrity and truth, and you end up wronging your brothers.
He then gives a list of all those who will not enter into the kingdom of God . He wants to remind them of the severity of what is going on in the church there. It is possible to come into the kingdom but then fall right away because of a particular area of sin that is allowed in and eventually rules in the life instead of Christ. The first part of this list involves those in sexual immorality, which is a direct offence against God's order of creation for man and woman, and the second part covers self-centred wrong doers, which could include those involved in the court actions. That's what you once were, he says, but Jesus delivered you from that, so don't (by implication) fall back to it!
A. Find Out:
1. What does Paul state twice with what two limitations? v.12
2. What does Paul say about our bodies? v.13-15a
3. What abuse does he speak against and why? v.15b,16
4. What are we to do and why? v.18
5. What is our body today? v.19
6. What has happened to us, so how should we live? v.20
Paul still has in mind the problem of sexual immorality which was rife in Corinth , so he lays down some general principles to help them. First he declares that as Christians they are free to live without restriction, such as comes with the “do this” and “don't do that” mentality. Yet total freedom is not beneficial for some things can lead us into bondage. To much of anything is harmful (food leads to obesity, alcohol leads to alcoholism). Some things are specifically harmful in that they lead on to the bondage of the desire for more and more (e.g. wrong drugs, sexual abuse), and so not everything is good for us.
Then he declares that our body, as Christians, is for God's use. When we become a Christian we become one with Christ and his Holy Spirit comes to live within us. Our body has become a dwelling place for God Himself, and therefore we should be careful what we do with it.
In the lax environment in which they were living (much like the West at the end of the twentieth century), he speaks against going with prostitutes. Sexual intercourse is far more than mere physical union, there is also a coming together of spirit in the intimacy and union of the act. For the Christian this is never an option. Sexual immorality with a person other than your spouse is never an option.
A. Find Out:
1. What subject does Paul now move on to and why? v.1a
2. What suggestion does he make but how temper it? v.1b,2
3. What does he teach and why, about marital relationships? v.3,4
4. What guidelines does he give for abstinence? v.5
5. How does he frame this? v.6
6. What does he concede? v.7
The Corinthians had obviously written to Paul with some queries and one of them had clearly been about marriage and sexual relationships. Perhaps, because Corinth was known for its sexual immorality, they had asked how to encourage chastity in their youth.
Paul will expand on this later in the chapter but for now he simply says the state of singleness is good. Some of us need to rest in that. But then he acknowledges that they lived in a climate of sexuality and to remain pure in that was difficult. OK, he says, in the light of that find yourself a partner and express your sexuality within the marriage context, that's fine. However, having got married, he goes on, remember that in that relationship you belong to each other and you have a duty to each other to bless the other's body with your body. For those who would say that Paul was a sexual killjoy these verses come in direct contradiction to that assertion.
Paul teaches that sexual activity is good and right within the marriage context and that both partners should seek to be a blessing to the other through their sexual activity together. His teaching is very practical: hold off in times of prayer and fasting, by all means, but don't abstain any longer otherwise Satan will tempt you on that front.
A. Find Out:
1. What counsel does Paul give to singles? v.8
2. Yet what wise counsel does he give as a concession? v.9
3. What command does he pass on to married Christians? v.10
4. What concession does he allow & with what limitation? v.11
5. What counsel does he bring to “mixed” marriages? v.12,13
6. What further does he say about those situations? v.14
Paul first reiterates what he said in v.1 and what he will yet say again with explanation: if you're single, be at rest in it, yet if you have strong passions then by all means get married, that's the place for them.
But now comes some of his strongest words which modern Christian society in the West in particular needs to hear, and it comes as a command from the Lord: don't separate if you are a Christian married to a Christian, but if you have to, don't take it to divorce. So serious is this subject that we have expanded these comments in a special note that follows. These were instructions for a Christian married to a Christian.
Next he speaks to those who are Christians married to non-Christians. Don't use your different outlooks as an excuse to separate and divorce. If your unsaved partner is willing to live with you now that you have become a Christian, then you live with them. Paul's thinking on this is interesting: the unsaved partner is sanctified by the saved partner! Does that mean they are saved? No, but it does mean they are specially set apart for God's attention because of you and the way is open for God to reach them through you, and the same is true of unsaved children. You, the Christian, create a holy environment for them, so in a sense they are also holy, and open to God in a special way.
ADDITIONAL NOTE : Divorce
A. Christian or Non-Christian
We must first distinguish between practice of Christians and then non-Christians. Christians submit their lives to their Lord and to His word and are therefore bound by His will. Non-Christians will not do that and will perhaps have divorced so that when they come to the Lord they are already in a place of previous sin. God is a God of grace and mercy who can straighten out such things. For the Christian though, we must go by the word of God - now!
B. Basic Biblical Teaching
The Bible is quite clear that divorce is not an option for Christian couples. Jesus forbade it except where one partner had committed (by implication) ongoing adultery with another and was not repentant, possibly with children being born to that illicit relationship. In that situation Jesus recognised it was too much to ask the other partner to hold on in hope (Mt 5:31 ,32). He further indicated that it was only hardness of heart that brought about the need to consider divorce (see Mt 19:4-9).
C. Why no divorce for Christian Couples?
The answer to that, which needs to be heard even (or perhaps, especially) when they has been a breakdown in relationship, is that the grace and wisdom of God IS available to each Christian to bring about reconciliation and healing, even where we feel it is impossible. Our God is a God of resurrection life and no marriage is beyond His help. The enemy will tell us otherwise, even through so-called counsel of leaders. Where the couple are both Christians there is always hope. It may need much love and care and help from others to stand with you, to pray with you and for you and to seek God's wisdom for you but there IS hope.
D. Why Separation but not Divorce
Why does Paul say this is possible? Because he recognises that there may be circumstances in a Christian marriage where the strains have been so great that temporary separation is the best thing to allow a cooling down. But in that separation there should always be prayer for a coming back together, hence no divorce. It may take time and much prayer, but it IS possible.
A. Find Out:
1. What does Paul now say about living with an unbeliever? v.15,16
2. What general guideline does he lay down? v.17,20,24
3. What first example does he give? v.18
4. What is important? v.19
5. What second example does he give? v.21
6. What were the principles behind that? v.22,23
Paul has just been speaking to those who have an unbelieving partner saying they should not separate from them, but now he acknowledges that it may be the unbelieving partner who wants to leave and if that is so then the believer is simply to rest in that. The context seems to indicate that the reason the unbeliever would leave is that they find their live incompatible with the Christian faith and would basically run because of that. Paul's advice is (by implication) hope and pray for your unsaved partner but if they leave and you cannot do anything to stop them, then simply rest in that.
In fact the thrust of all that Paul says in this passage is “rest in the position you find yourself”. He goes on to develop that teaching using the example of circumcision and slavery, both common problems for the early church. Many circumcised Jews were being saved. Fine, says Paul, rest in that, but if you are an uncircumcised Gentile, rest in that as well. Neither state has influence on being a Christian. Some people were slaves. Fine, says Paul, rest in that; receive your freedom if you can, but otherwise just rest in being a slave. You are free before God, and indeed a slave of God's so don't worry about being a slave of man. Be content in the position you had when God called you.
A. Find Out:
1. On what basis does Paul speak? v.25
2. What has he in mind when he gives his advice? v.26,27
3. What does he say he wants them to avoid? v.28
4. How does he view things? v.29a,31b
5. How does he say that should affect outlook? v.29b-31a
There are times when the circumstances of history require unusual advice, and it is advice and not divine commands that Paul brings at this point. We are not told what “the present crisis” is that Paul refers to but we may simply summarise it as circumstances that indicate circumspect and wise behaviour is called for. Paul has already mentioned it twice (v.1,8) and then expanded on it in the passage we considered yesterday: stay as you are. But we must note that that is not a general teaching; it was specific to the historic circumstances prevailing at that moment there. There had been persecution there (Acts 18:12 -) and it may be that there were indications that further harsh persecutions against the Christians were coming.
So it is that Paul continues to bring this same counsel: stay as you are in whatever state you're in (by implication) until these times are past. Get focused, he says, don't get dragged down by affairs of life, marrying, burying, celebrating, acquiring possessions, filling your life with personal pleasure and self-concerns. Changes are coming so that these things will be seen as unimportant. While our circumstances may not be the same, we too need to ensure that our central focus is on Jesus and his kingdom. All the other things are all right, but they are passing and are not of enduring value. Do we wrongly give them that?
A. Find Out:
1. How does Paul contrast a married & unmarried man? v.32,33
2. How does he also contrast a virgin & a married woman? v.34
3. What is his overall aim? v.35
4. How does he contrast two men next? v.36,37
5. What is his guidance on the permanence of marriage? v.39
6. What is his final conclusion? v.38,40
In what we read yesterday we saw that there were indications that the time about which Paul was writing was one where it was likely that persecution was spreading and if you were married you would have constant worries about the safety of your partner. In today's reading Paul enlarges that way of thinking to cover more general principles.
He distinguishes, first of all, between the concerns of the married and unmarried persons. The married person is concerned about the needs of their partner; the single person does not have that concern and is, therefore, able to focus solely on the Lord. This is a genuine benefit of being single. Putting the Lord first should be the priority of the Christian whether married or single, but it is often easier for the single person. It is for that reason that Paul urges caution before rushing into marriage (but for benefits of marriage see Eccles 4:9-12).
Yet in all this Paul is not laying down hard and fast rules, he is just giving simple wise counsel to his readers of that day, the principles of which may still apply to us today. But, he says, if you feel you ought to get married, go for it! But remember, marriage is for a lifetime, not just for a short while.
In this second group of 10 studies we have seen :
We have said that Corinth was known for its immorality. Living in that sort of environment produces moral pressures. Some of the Corinthians appear to have been giving way to the pressure. One man was living with his father's wife, others seem to have been going to prostitutes, others seem to have been having trouble remaining chaste before marriage. Paul's counsel is firm, clear, directing towards holiness, yet very much aware of practical realities. He is a good pastor.
1. Immorality is a sin and should not be in the church.
2. Sin must be dealt with so the sinner has a chance to repent.
3. We must learn to resolve disputes without going to the world.
4. Sexual union is for married partners only.
5. Our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.
6. Sex is for mutual enjoyment in marriage.
7. Marriage is not to be lightly put aside.
Ask the Lord to help you rest in His rules for relationships.
PART 3 : "Food & Freedom"
In this final Part we will see Paul answering the Corinthians' question about eating food previously offered to idols. He encourages concern for weaker Christians and then second, speaks about his own ministry and how he doesn't take up his “rights” as a Christian.