Series: Maintaining this hope
Message – Undistracted Devotion
Paul was the apostle who first preached the gospel to the Corinthians. He therefore had a very unique and special affection and responsibility to and for them.
At his initial visit in Corinth Paul spent over a year and a half with them Acts 18:1-11,
“1 After this he left Athens and came to Corinth. 2 Here he found a Jew, a native of Pontus, of the name of Aquila. He and his wife Priscilla had recently come from Italy because of Claudius’s edict expelling all the Jews from Rome. So Paul paid them a visit; 3 and because he was of the same trade –that of tent-maker– he lodged with them and worked with them. 4 But, Sabbath after Sabbath, he preached in the synagogue and tried to win over both Jews and Greeks. 5 Now at the time when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul was preaching fervently and was solemnly telling the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. 6 But upon their opposing him with abusive language, he shook his clothes by way of protest, and said to them, »Your ruin will be upon your own heads. I am not responsible: in future I will go among the Gentiles. 7 So he left the place and went to the house of a person called Titius Justus, a worshipper of the true God. His house was next door to the synagogue. 8 And Crispus, the Warden of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, and so did all his household; and from time to time many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and received baptism. 9 And, in a vision by night, the Lord said to Paul, »Dismiss your fears: go on speaking, and do not give up. 10 I am with you, and no one shall attack you to injure you; for I have very many people in this city. 11 So Paul remained in Corinth for a year and six months, teaching among them the Message of God.”
1Cor. 9:2 tells us,
“If to other men I am not an Apostle, yet at any rate I am one to you; for your very existence as a Christian Church is the seal of my Apostleship.”
And 2Cor. 11:2 reveals his sense of responsibility regarding their spiritual development by saying,
“For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”
This letter of 1 Corinthians was actually Paul’s second letter and 2 Corinthians his third. We just do not have any record of the first letter.
We know this because in 1 Corinthians 5:9 Paul says,
“I wrote to you in that letter that you were not to associate with fornicators; (10) not that in this world you are to keep wholly aloof from such as they, any more than from people who are avaricious and greedy of gain, or from worshippers of idols. For that would mean that you would be compelled to go out of the world altogether. (11) But what I meant was that you were not to associate with any one bearing the name of “brother,” if he was addicted to fornication or avarice or idol-worship or abusive language or hard-drinking or greed of gain. With such a man you ought not even to eat. (12) For what business of mine is it to judge outsiders? Is it not for you to judge those who are within the Church (13) while you leave to God’s judgement those who are outside? Remove the wicked man from among you.”
So we can see that Paul had already invested quite a bit of teaching and time into these believers and they were quite the inquisitive bunch.
By the time we reach the 7th chapter of 1 Corinthains, Paul begins to address the questions the Corinthains asked of Paul presumably by a letter written to him in response to his first letter.
As we read this chapter I want your focus to be upon the important role relationships hold – especially the marital relationship. Also, how its goals and objectives are similar to those in our relationship with God – which is why it is so easy to allow those relationships to eclipse our relationship and duties to Christ.
Also I want you to pay attention to how God expects romantic-marital love to hold a secondary position in our lives at best – when compared to our devotion and faithfulness to God.
“(1) About the things you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have relations with a woman.”
It is speculated that this was actually a question, which Paul was quoting back to them before answering it.
So the question here it seems was in view of the advancement of their spiritual lives.
So they may have been asking, “If sexual matters in general and marriage in particular is a distraction from a devoted spiritual life – is it safe to conclude that it is better for a man to just not pursue a woman in a way that could lead to sexaul intimacy or marriage?” Paul, seems to agree on the surface, yet with several caveats.
“(2) But because of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. (3) A husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband. “(4) A wife does not have authority over her own body, but her husband does. Equally, a husband does not have authority over his own body, but his wife does. (5) Do not deprive one another–except when you agree, for a time, to devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again; otherwise, Satan may tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (6) I say this as a concession, not as a command.”
So right at the start we see sex is important and in God’s design it is inseparable from marriage itself. Meaning…
- In the sanctified union between a Christian man and woman is the only place God intended or designed sexual expression and fulfillment to take place.
- Contrary to what many Christians think – sex is not a secondary reason for marriage, but a primary one!
- Sexual relations in marraige is both a right and an obligation.
- God dexpect married couples to have sex, and have it regularly in order to avoid temptation due to a lack of self-control.
What does this tell us about our relationship with God? I mean if all relationships are a teaching and illustrative aid towards relationship with God…what does this tell us?
- God desires intimacy with you!
- God will not be intimate with someone who is not His.
- Intimacy is not a secondary consideration in our salvation and restoration to God, it is primary!
- Intimacy with God is both a right and an obligation.
- God expects intimacy regularly in order to avoid temptation through a lack of self-control.
What are ways in which we can initiate intimacy with God? Well, again, what we do in the natural realm in human relationships work as they do because those patterns eminate from the spiritual, from our relationship with God.
Sometimes I think we attempt to hyperspiritualize things which are actually quite simple…
- Moonlit walks on the beach.
- Singing songs
- Reading literature together
- Time talking (Prayer)
- Bragging on Him to others
- Eagerness to have time alone with Him and with others (double – date)
We need to take the time to give expression to the love of our hearts – the God Who loves and has pursued us with all His heart!
“(7) I wish that all people were just like me. But each has his own gift from God, one this and another that.
(8) I say to the unmarried and to widows: It is good for them if they remain as I am. (9) But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with desire.”
“(10) I command the married–not I, but the Lord–a wife is not to leave her husband. (11) But if she does leave, she must remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband–and a husband is not to leave his wife.”
“(12) But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has an unbelieving wife, and she is willing to live with him, he must not leave her. (13) Also, if any woman has an unbelieving husband, and he is willing to live with her, she must not leave her husband. (14) For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the Christian husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. (15) But if the unbeliever leaves, let him leave. A brother or a sister is not bound in such cases. God has called you to peace. (16) For you, wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Or you, husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife? (17) However, each one must live his life in the situation the Lord assigned when God called him. This is what I command in all the churches.”
“(18) Was anyone already circumcised when he was called? He should not undo his circumcision. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? He should not get circumcised. (19) Circumcision does not matter and uncircumcision does not matter, but keeping God’s commandments does. (20) Each person should remain in the life situation in which he was called. (21) Were you called while a slave? It should not be a concern to you. But if you can become free, by all means take the opportunity. (22) For he who is called by the Lord as a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called as a free man is Christ’s slave. (23) You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. (24) Brothers, each person should remain with God in whatever situation he was called.”
“(25) About virgins:
Now remember Paul is still answering questions. The key to this passage is found in two things.
- The Corinthians were inquiring about proper behavior for the Christian life.
- The word “virgin” means virgin daughter.
“I have no command from the Lord, but I do give an opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. (26) Therefore I consider this to be good because of the present distress: it is fine for a man to stay 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) However, if you do get married, you have not sinned, and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But such people will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.”
Notice how the Spirit is leading Paul to encourage devotion to Christ above all else in these believers. Though marriage is both good and necessary – IF you can abstain, you’d be better off in your pursuits of devotion to God and living a life well-pleasing to Him. Paul and the SPirit are trying to spare those who can abstain, difficulty in this life.
Difficulty in what you might ask? The difficulty of living with a divided heart with divided loyalties. Marriage was part of God’s initial design and purpose for manking and therefore it still is. However, since the fall, MANY things have crept into this relationship which actually works to divide heart loyalties and therefore devotion and effectiveness in and to Christ.
“(29) And I say this, brothers: the time is limited, so from now on 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 the world as though they did not make full use of it. For this world in its current form is passing away.
(32) I want you to be without concerns. An unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord–how he may please the Lord. (33) But a married man is concerned about the things of the world–how he may please his wife– (34) and he is divided.
An unmarried woman or a virgin is concerned about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the things of the world–how she may please her husband.
(35) Now I am saying this for your own benefit, not to put a restraint on you, but because of what is proper, and so that you may be devoted to the Lord without distraction.
(36) But if any man thinks he is acting improperly toward his virgin (daughter – by forbidding that she marry), if she is past marriageable age, and so it must be, he can do what he wants. He is not sinning; they can get married. (37) But he who stands firm in his heart (who is under no compulsion, but has control over his own will) and has decided in his heart to keep his own virgin, will do well.
(38) So then he who gives his virgin daughter in marriage does well, but he who does not does better.”
Notice Paul does not present this as a good versus bad argument, but good versus better. Neither are wrong, neither are sin both are acceptable. It is just that one offers the freedom of undistracted devotion to God and the other divided.
“(39) A wife is bound as long as her husband is living. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to anyone she wants–only in the Lord. (40) But she is happier if she remains as she is, in my opinion. And I think that I also have the Spirit of God.”
It is significant, that the view of the World and the truth of God are at variance with one another.
The world holds love up as the supreme reason and goal of life.
Paul, by the Holy Spirit, informs us that the most important thing in life was not romantic love, but pleasing God.
Paul, due to the gift given him, could please God better as a single man, but another may please God better as married, all according to our calling.
Paul is VERY clear here in that he does not desire this answer to the Corinthian’s question to be understood as a noose around anyone’s neck and this has happened in different ways and times throughout the history of the Christian church.
- Roman Catholics insist on celibacy for all its clergy, even if they are not gifted to be so.
- Many Protestant groups will not ordain or trust the single.
God desires intimacy with us, but in His great and gracious heart towards us He has given us teh gift of marital love and other relationships as well. We need to make the most of, and engage in all of those relationships God has permitted unto us in a way which does not compete with our love, faithfulness and devotion to God but rather enhance it.
Remember Paul’s inspired though throughout this passage was to avoid a divided heart and avoid things which will hinder our growth in Christ.