Day 304 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in First Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 7 – Having dealt with problems that had been reported to him, Paul now addresses various issues that the Corinthians had raised in a letter. The first has to do with marriage and sexuality, as a group in Corinth is apparently arguing that Christians should avoid marriage, or at least avoid sexual activity within marriage. Paul’s response in chapter underscores two redemptive patterns that together point us to the incarnation of Jesus.
First, the work of Jesus fundamentally changes our identity and our priorities. The most significant thing about Christians is not our marital status, cultural background, psychological state, or economic activity. Not even social conditions as extreme as slavery or freedom determine our identity. What is most important is that we belong to Jesus: “You were bought with a price.” Since we belong to Him, our calling is not to follow human religious “wisdom” (like that of the anti-marriage party in Corinth), but to devote ourselves “to the Lord” with undivided hearts. This devotion can express itself in a variety of ways, depending on the gifts God gives; thus Paul can commend single life to some, and married life to others.
Second, God uses our ordinary routines and relationships to bring about His redemptive purposes in a fallen world. Marriage, for example, brings about three such purposes. First, it provides appropriate means of sexual fulfillment, and therefore of avoiding temptation and sin. Second, it makes young children “holy” by bringing them into covenant relationship with God through the belief of at least one parent—whose belief apparently can cover the unholiness of an unbelieving spouse in terms of the child’s covenant status before God (Acts 2:39; 16:31). Third, marriage sometimes leads to the salvation of unbelieving spouses. God similarly calls and equips every believer, whatever their circumstances, to advance His life-giving, loving purposes. (Note that Paul treats slavery differently, recommending that slaves seek freedom as they have opportunity [verse 21]. God’s redemptive purpose is ultimately to eliminate such fundamentally unjust social structures. We see this redemptive ethic unfolding more in Galatians 3:28 and Philemon 15, 16.)
Ultimately, this chapter points to the incarnation of Jesus, in which we see the perfect combination of involvement in the world without dependence on the world. Jesus lived a genuinely human life, bearing with all the difficulties and temptations of life in a fallen world. Yet He never let sinful priorities govern His mind-set or lifestyle. His coming has broken the power of this world, so that as we await His return (“the appointed time”), we too are able live faithfully before God.
How do you find your true identity in Jesus alone?
1 Corinthians 8 – Chapters of Paul’s epistle address a second topic from the Corinthians’ letter: food offered to idols, some of which was sold in public markets ( ), and some of which was eaten in feasts at pagan temples ( ; ). Believers in different times, places, and cultures may not share the Corinthians’ precise concerns. Still, the principles of the text are unchanging: in the everyday matters where Christian faith intersects with non-Christian culture, the gospel transforms us to pursue the glory of God ( ; ) and the good of our neighbor ( ; ) by laying aside our personal freedoms.
For the Believer, it is unthinkable to “sin against Christ” or against our brothers “for whom Christ died.” Rather, love for Jesus will lead us to cherish those He cherishes. As a result, we will take care to avoid doing anything that would interrupt the progress of other Believers toward maturity in Jesus (“stumbling block/stumble”). Instead, we will gladly give up our rights out of love for our brothers—even those who seem to us less mature (“the weak”). Like the Corinthians, we often ask, “What am I free to do?” But as Believers in Jesus, we are able to ask a different question: “What am I free to give up for the good of others?” Similarly, when we know spiritual truth, we will use it not to justify doing what we please, but to “build up” other people.
Only by the transforming power of the Gospel can the good of our neighbor come to mean more to us than our own rights and privileges. For in the Gospel, Jesus gave up His own rights and privileges for our sake.
How do you seek to build up those around you?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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