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1 Corinthians

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Seriously Married

1 Corinthians 7:8-11

Turbulent days were coming to the church. Persecution, which saw Jews dispersed through the Roman Empire, was coming to Christians too. It might be necessary for the believers in Corinth to leave at a moment's notice and that would be easiest for those with fewer personal ties or commitments. Deep emotional relationships make it difficult to be objective about change; and so unmarried people or widows were in a better position to be instantly mobile.

Faith Seen Up Close

1 Corinthians 7:12-16

It seems that Paul had been asked, "When only one person in a marriage believes in Jesus, should they divorce the other?" The apostle answered, "No!" If the unbelieving spouse is willing to stay, there is no way that the gospel or the church should force them apart. Indeed there is something very special to God about a family when even one person belongs to Christ, because He longs to share His grace with the entire household (Acts 2:39).

Come To Christ Just As You Are

1 Corinthians 7:17-19

Unlike many faith systems, coming to Jesus does not demand any external changes. Although Jesus and the disciples were all Jews, as were most of the early believers, the gospel was soon welcomed by Gentiles who were not required to be circumcised. But that was a problem for some devout Jewish religionists who believed that God wanted to preserve external distinctives.

Christ Is About Eternal Salvation Not Temporary Prosperity

1 Corinthians 7:20-24

There were many slaves in Corinth; in fact, more slaves than free people. Could they become Christians too? If they did, how could they relate in the same church as their masters? These were serious practical problems about which the church leaders had asked for Paul's advice. His answer was straightforward: if slaves became believers, they were still slaves but that did not make them any less a child of God or freely welcomed into the church.

Relationships in a Crisis

1 Corinthians 7:25-28

Religious persecution was a normal hazard for Christians in the Roman Empire (Acts 1:8; 11:19; 13:50), as it is in many places today. The key to survival was mobility; and it was also one of God's methods to spread the gospel from region to region as refugees moved home and took a transportable trade skill with them (such as Paul's tent-making activity) setting up home and business wherever they could.

Hold the World Lightly

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

The city of Corinth was obsessed with its own importance through successful business, new ideologies, morally corrupt religion and sport (Corinth was host to the Isthmian Games, held the year before and after the Olympic games). The massive population of slaves (some of whom hauled ships overland between the Saronic Gulf and the Gulf of Corinth – saving 185 sea miles of potentially dangerous navigation) ensured a cheap source of labour. It was hardly surprising that they were proud to be Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5:2).

Undivided Devotion

1 Corinthians 7:32-35

Paul returns to his advice about singleness and marriage. He recognises that every relationship brings responsibilities, and rightly so. With the possibility of persecution and the inevitable pressure that would bring to married couples and the extended families, he urges caution about rushing into marriage - which would otherwise have been a normal expectation.

Emotions and Choices

1 Corinthians 7:36-38

When situations are uncertain it is usually best not to make lifetime decisions. That was Paul's advice to young men facing the possibility of significant persecution. It would be a difficult time to marry when the believers might have to relocate at short notice. However the Apostle realised that some betrothed couples were deeply in love and wanted to marry, even if it meant facing persecution together, whatever that might mean for their extended families. For those people, they should marry rather than find that they are unable to control their passions, leading to immorality.

Married for Life

1 Corinthians 7:39-40

The wide variety of issues Paul has addressed in this chapter about marriage and human intimacy gives a clue to the grossly disturbed state of relationships in Corinth. And yet Paul's patient explanations have helped many other believers and churches in equally dysfunctional cultures.

Knowledge Puffs Up: Love Builds Up

1 Corinthians 8:1-3

In this chapter Paul responded to more questions from the leaders of the church in Corinth; this time it was about food sacrificed to idols. Social life in the city revolved around the pagan temples where animals were sacrificed; and yet most of the meat was sold for food or to be eaten in the temple 'restaurants'. Some believers took the pragmatic line that if the meat was good they should eat it. Others were troubled in their conscience by its association with the pagan deity and cultic worship, and did not want to eat it.