Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In Search Of Truth, 1st Corinthians 7:10-24


Here, Paul gives some instruction regarding marriages where one person is a believer and the other is not. Among the Corinthians, this probably happened when one spouse became a believer after already being married.

You'll notice that in verse 10 and in verse 12, Paul differentiates between his words and the words of "the Lord". He does this to indicate which ideas were already expressed by Jesus during his life on earth(see Matthew 5:32), and which ideas are further revelation from God. The Corinthians were still very new to their faith and understanding, so Paul continued to provide details about Jesus' words when appropriate.

Jesus had already taught regarding marriages in the Jewish culture. Paul expanded on this, saying that a believing spouse should stay with an unbelieving spouse who is willing to stay with the believing spouse. But if the unbelieving spouse wants to leave, the believing spouse should let them go, rather than force the issue and have continuous conflict in the home. (v.12,13,15)

Verse 14 is among the words of Paul that scholars are still trying to completely iron out. The NASB version reads:

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.

Remember that the words "sanctify" and "holy" do not indicate "justification" (which refers to being declared righteous and being rescued from Hell). Sanctification and holiness are about being "set apart" and considered appropriate for God's purposes. Given this definition, even inanimate objects can be "sanctified" or made "holy", and often were in the Old Testament.

So there are a few possibilities regarding the meaning of verse 14. In the most general terms, however, we can agree that an unbeliever is better off, spiritually, in the home of a believer than they would be without a believer in their home. They are exposed to truth more often and may even be used by God in ways they wouldn't have been otherwise. In the same way, children in a home with at least one Christian parent are better off than they would be otherwise.

I should briefly pause and state that this idea is based on the assumption that the "Christian" in this scenario is a genuine believer. Someone that recognizes who Jesus is and allows him to have authority in their lives. It's undeniable that many calling themselves Christians have done more harm with their presence than with their absence, but these are not the people Paul is talking about here.

In verse 17, Paul begins to resist the idea of new believers manufacturing a false environment that feels "more Christian". God, as he explains here, calls each Christian to follow him in the situation God has put them in. Although there are likely some activities that new Christians should abandon when they choose to follow Christ, there is no need for them to change other areas just to fit in with the mainstream Christian crowd. The example used in verse 18 is circumcision. Today, we might find application of the same principle in clothing or musical tastes. As long as our behavior and interests do not enable sinful thoughts or acts, God wants us to be who we are!

Verse 21 refers to slavery, not in our American context for the word, but in the sense of debt slavery, common in the ancient world. If one person was indebted to another but became unable to repay that debt, they often became slaves to that person for a limited period of time to pay off the debt. Paul says here that they are not less of a Christian for being in this situation, but they should try to get out of it and earn their freedom so that they can better serve Christ. We can easily find a parallel here to modern financial debt, which keeps us from serving and giving in the way that we should. (v. 21-24)

Next Week: The Pros and Cons of Marriage

Coffee House Question

What kinds of things can we (specifically geek culture) become slaves to that keep us from investing our lives in God and in people?

1 comment:

  1. We geeks tend to not be the most social people, in the world. That's a stereotype that works becuase it is so often true.
    Some our geeky hobbies (gaming, especially) can be huge time-holes, so they can keep us away from family and friends. Of course, there is the opportunity to game with friends, so these have some potential to be communal activities.
    Our fantasy novels tend to be really long, as well, and those are solitary activities, so I can disappear for more than a week when I get into a Goodkind or similarly-long book.
    So for me, I need to be intentional about scheduling time with people, as my natural preference is to be alone.
    -- Alan