Reflections From 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 7:25-31 MARRIAGE, SINGLENESS, & DEVOTION TO CHRIST: CONCERNING VIRGINS Part 4

CHAPTER 7:25-31 MARRIAGE, SINGLENESS, & DEVOTION TO CHRIST: CONCERNING VIRGINS Part 4

Paul in the previous section exhorted believers to find their rest in Christ because of his call on their lives, because of the rescue from God’s wrath. And now that we are the people of God, it is that which defines us, not physical and emotional pain which one day God will eradicate. 

Paul now addresses virgins.  He starts again with the theme of whether or not Christ had previously spoken on the topic and says:    

25 Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy.  

Paul here addresses virgins.  He begins by saying, “I have no command of the Lord” meaning that Christ has not previously spoken on the subject (compare verse 10), but now Paul is giving apostolic insight into the matter and says:

26 I think then that this is good in view of the present distress,

What is he saying here?  What’s the present distress?  We are not certain but we know that he is speaking through the Spirit of God and says: “that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 

27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 

Now this is a difficult passage to accept especially in our culture where a person’s happiness does not take into consideration the good of another nor their honor in the pursuit of personal fulfillment.

            Paul is saying, if you are married “bound”, don’t look for a divorce “released”.   If you are divorced “released”, don’t look for another to get married. 

28 But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you. 

This verse contextually refers to the earlier stipulations in the chapter for divorce and remarriage that Paul addresses.  The apostle’s pastoral concern for the Corinthians well-being is captured by “I am trying to spare you” referring to marriage (which is good but has very challenging aspects to it).

            Paul continues his address with the theme of time and the form of this world (v.29) which is very brief and is passing away.  That is, what we value now in some measure is not what awaits us in the future like “marriage” or “sex” (vv.30-31).  It seems that Paul is wanting to encourage undistracted devotion to Christ regardless of our social status (vv.32-35).  Undistracted devotion, that’s a massive issue today where distractions are not only ubiquitous but lethal and Americans are drowning in it (me included).

            Paul is pointing believers to joy in Christ in ways that are unimaginable to many of us because the kingdom of God is a hazy concept.  He ends the chapter again by giving the boundaries of when one can marry: only after the spouse is dead and only with another believer (vv.36-40).

Personal Conclusion:  the thoughts expressed by Paul are difficult for many believers to bear and are often ignored precisely because we don’t trust that God knows best and actually is out for completing our joy in Him.

            What will we believers do when difficult sayings like those covered in this chapter challenge our devotion to Christ?  May our disposition be as Mary’s was, “Behold the bond servant of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk.1:38).  To follow Christ in this life means that his word has final place in our decisions, attitudes and lifestyles. 

Lord, there are many difficult issues Paul addresses in this chapter, and we trust they are for our good because only you do all things well.  Grant to us a willing heart to follow you regardless of our lot in life (short as it may be) so that when it’s all been said and done we can with one voice say, “To God be the glory great things he has done” (SDG)

Reflections from 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 7:12-16 “MARRIAGE, SINGLENESS, & DEVOTION TO CHRIST: CONCERNING MARRIAGE TO AN UNBELIEVER” Part 2

            Paul now addresses the spouse married to an unbeliever.  The married are to remain married but if there’s desertion or divorce they are to remain as they are and not cling to another.  To the unmarried, they are to remain single, but if they lack self-control, they are to marry.  To the married who are with an unbelieving spouse Paul says:

12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away.

For Paul, when one spouse converts to Christ it’s their duty to stay together and not divorce because of conversion so long as the spouse consents to live together.  This issue was difficult then and remains unto today.  Emotions run high, words are spoken, insults are unleashed, and at times physical abuse occurs.  This can be a difficulty and tricky situation to navigate but there’s a reason for the command:

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

Puzzling as it may be, here’s my best shot at getting the point.  Biblically one is not redeemed because of another’s trust in the living God.  For personal repentance is required of each one to be rescued from God’s wrath. 

Second, the allusion to “unclean” and “holy” are OT themes where being set apart is a sign that one is part of the covenant community and thus males were to be circumcised, the people were to eat kosher foods, etc. 

Third, taking part of said activities were signs one was part of the covenant community but did not guarantee one was part of the remnant (i.e., real regenerated believers in heart evidenced by their obedience to Yahweh).  That is, not all Israel was saved evidenced by their recalcitrant lives and while their lineage is Jewish not all were sons of Abraham (i.e., not all had the faith of Abraham).

Fourth, as it was then, so it is today where people partake of the covenant community’s activities but remain unbelievers.  So, what does Paul mean by “unclean and holy”?  Perhaps being around the believing community does offer an opportunity for genuine faith to arise in both spouse and children.  Again, even if they don’ have genuine saving faith, the Christian theist’s worldview has an impact on them that aids mirroring the image of God and somehow they are “clean and holy”

This text is tough to decipher, nevertheless when a text in Scripture is puzzling, the wise way to proceed is to use what is clearest in Scripture to deal with and try to understand the more difficult passages.  Paul continues:

15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. 16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

Paul notes several things here.  First, the previous verses on “clean and holy” can’t mean someone is in the covenant family because he addresses the issue of “saving” one’s spouse.  Personal repentance and faith is a necessary condition for salvation, thus one can’t be “saved” on another’s faith in Christ (e.g., your parents faith).

            Second, Paul wants believers to understand that in this present evil age, believers married to non-believers will at times experience desertion or divorce.

            Third, sometimes spouses believe that if they persevere in the marriage they will be able to save their spouse via example, but Paul reminds them that this is never a guarantee.  It may happen, but it may not.

            Fourth, the bondage that such a believer may experience is not what God has designed for them but instead His peace.  What could this mean?  Minimally, once we were God’s enemies but now are his friends because of Christ, wrath is no longer ours to bear.  This peace is to be mirrored in our relationships.  He’s saying, “If they want to leave, let them go and cling to Christ”.

Reflections from 1 Corinthians 7: 6-11 MARRIAGE, SINGLENESS, & DEVOTION TO CHRIST Part 1

            Paul continues to develop his thought on marriage and singleness and considers: whether one is married to an unbelieving spouse or not, whether one came to Christ from Jewish or Gentile roots, whether they are redeemed being a slave or a freedman, whether they are a virgin or not.  Furthermore, he considers when one is permitted to remarry and by implication when remarriage is prohibited.

            Whatever state in life the believer finds themselves in, they are to primarily concern themselves with pleasing the Lord.  Paul aims to encourage Christians to let the eternal kingdom of God be the governing factor in their lives instead of the temporal situations in which they find themselves.  He starts off by saying:

But this I say by way of concession, not of command.”   

What’s the difference between these two terms?  A concession is permission to do something, or being allowed to act a certain way (L&N §13.141), whereas a command here does not infer the giving of detailed instruction but of having the right and authority to command subjects to obedience (L&N § 37.42).  Paul is making it clear that if what he refers to (the forthcoming concession), the Corinthian believers do not obey, they are not violating God’s decree which the apostles have been distinctly charged to dispense as Christ’s authoritative ambassadors. 

Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.”    

The term “wish” is a way of describing desire which is a state of affairs that does not necessarily exist, one which may even be impossible, but nevertheless it is felt.  When Paul says, “I wish that all men were even as I myself am”, I don’t think he is referring to his apostleship, nor to his character traits, but to him being unmarried where his devotion to Christ is less distracted.

Paul reveals that he is not married (we are not sure if he was married, a widower, abandoned by his spouse because of his conversion to Christ, etc.) and desires that the Corinthian church not only be single but also self-controlled. 

It is not unreasonable to think that Paul was previously married and abandoned because of his conversion to Christ Jesus.  Being a Hebrew of Hebrews, zealous for the Jewish traditions unlike any of his contemporaries, he would have been an amazing “catch” in that culture, the pride of family, wife and nation.  Yet this monotheistic zealot was converted on that appointed day and his world was turned “up-side down”.

If that was the case and more, then may the weightiness of his words not escape us where elsewhere he declares, “I have counted all things as rubbish for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ…”, “to live is Christ and to die is gain…” etc.  Paul’s supreme treasure above all else was truly Christ; above status, possessions and human relationships.

This is who is speaking and we do well to carefully consider what he is saying and what he means.  Thus, while Paul discloses his personal desire, he understands that not everyone is like him because God (the infinite self-existent one and source of all life) gifts us all with varying talents and abilities.  He now addresses the unmarried and widows:

But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.  But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion

Note that in verse 1 Paul affirms that “it is good for a man not to touch a woman” (i.e., not commit sexual immorality), and uses the same phrase “it is good” for the unmarried to remain single.  Paul is not disparaging marriage but rather accentuating something that seems to be counter-intuitive—in an age of sexual immorality, if you are a single believer, then stay single. 

While it’s good to abstain from fornication and adultery God has nevertheless given the human race sexual desire that longs to express itself.  Is Paul encouraging abstinence at all costs?  No.        

While it is good to remain single, if there’s a lack of self-control, Paul says get married.  It’s better than burning in passions and falling into sexual expression that is outside the confines of marriage.  Now Paul addresses those married:

10 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband 11 (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

Several items stand out here.  First, Paul makes a distinction between the Lords instruction and his.  This could be understood to mean that the former is to be obeyed, and the latter can be dismissed.  The problem with that interpretation is that Paul is clearly God’s called apostle, his authoritative spokesman in a way the rest of us are not.  So, to think that Paul’s views are a “take it or leave it” proposition does not logically fit.

            Second, one could see verse 6 linked to this where Paul distinguished between a command and a concession, between what must be obeyed and what may be obeyed.  The problem though is that the Lord’s instructions, as Paul’s instructions, come with authoritative force which a concession does not possess. 

            Third, many understand this distinction between the Lord and Paul to mean that Jesus himself previously addresses the issue and thus taught on it (e.g., Mt.5:32; 19:3-9; Lk.16:18, etc.) and thus Paul gives the Master’s instructions on said topic.  Yet, when the Lord Jesus does not give instruction on a particular topic Paul says, “I not the Lord”. 
That is, the distinction is not one of authority but one of subject.  This third option seems to make the best sense. 

Moving on Paul discourages the immoral act of abandoning one’s husband, and the husband is also commanded not to divorce his own wife.  Both husband and wife are in a position to act immorally by severing the union and both are in a position to honor Christ in their marital union.

Marriage is an amazing gift that like others requires maintenance, care, nurture and sometimes restoration. When the required care and understanding (here time must be invested) are not practiced, like a car needing an oil change before the engine blows, so too the marriage union when it’s neglected the immorality of desertion and divorce seem to follow.   

So, whether we find ourselves, single, widowed, married, or in a troubled union, God calls us Christians to honor Christ Jesus, our faithful savior and redeemer.  Lord, in our weakness show the sufficiency of your strength as you continue the work began in us by the Holy Spirit.  (SDG)   

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Reflections from Scripture_ 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 7:1-5 “HOW CAN WE HONOR ONE ANOTHER IN THE MARRIAGE UNION?”

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CHAPTER 7:1-5 HOW CAN WE HONOR ONE ANOTHER IN THE MARRIAGE UNION?

            In chapter 7 Paul continues the theme of believers walking uprightly in our relationships.  Because of Christ’s atonement (i.e., his sacrificial substitutionary death on the cross and his resurrection for those who trust in him), God is glorified in our bodies but how is that accomplished.  Here it focuses on the marriage union between a man and a woman.  Pail writes:

“Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise, also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.(1 Cor.7:1-5)

Let’s make several observations.  First, it’s good to be single.  Apparently, someone had previously written to Paul from Corinth concerning the state of the church and wrote: “…it is good for a man not to touch a woman.”  Here, he can’t mean that there is to be no physical contact because he would be contradicting his command elsewhere to greet one another with a holy kiss.

Contextually, this has to do with sexual intercourse as the following verses unfold.  What’s “good” about a man not touching a woman?  It seems he’s referring to the virtue of being unmarried for the purpose of glorifying God and being about the business of the kingdom as the rest of the chapter depicts.  That is, singleness in the church is not to be frowned upon, but rather appreciated and lauded.

As the self-existent One, who is the source of all life, the virtue of goodness is necessarily based on God’s ontological status (i.e., the divine nature in all its perfections shared by each member of the trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit) and thus the Creator rather than the creature determines what is good.  Here, to be single is good, but immorality is not and thus a real problem.  Thus, Paul offers a “game changer”, as we say.

Second, it’s good to be married.  While singleness is a good thing, it’s not if immorality is a struggle, thus, marriage is the good option Paul commands:  But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.  The clause, “But because of immoralities” calls attention to sexual sin contextually (6:12-20) and offers the solution “each man is to have his own wife and likewise also the wife to her husband”.  There are several observations that can be noted.

First, each man is to be devoted to the one woman he has entered into covenant with and not another wife.  Second, that being the case, the singular term “wife” not wives, supports monogamy, not polygamy. Third, this is a safeguard for those longing to sexually express themselves within the context of a one flesh union between a man and a woman.  Fourth, this contradicts the in-vogue notion of “same-sex marriage” that many in Western civilization have embraced.  Fifth, the same holds true for women.  Sixth, both male and female have a bent to immorality, both are culpable before Gods’ court of justice, and both are graciously given a solution—marriage.  Now in this covenant relationship there are duties given for flourishing to obtain.

Third, duties obtain for both man and woman.  Paul continues his thought and describes the duties both husband and wife are to fulfill toward each another.  When Paul says; v-3 “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband” he makes abundantly clear that they equally share the responsibility to make the marriage union flourish.

First, Paul grounds his command of duty/fulfillment on the idea and reality that “authority” over the other’s body is a non-negotiable.  What does authority here mean?  On the surface, biblically when one has authority over another they possess the power to command persons (and affect them) to live a certain way, to do certain things.  This attribute of authority again is grounded in God’s being—one way image bearers express the Creators presence, objective reality and His existence.

Second, Paul is sounding the alarm when he states in v-4:  “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” 

The alarm here is that both husband and wife belong to each other, they are distinct persons, but have a one flesh union which forever changes how they are to live.  It seems clear that they are not “free” to make autonomous sexual decisions, but instead are to always submit to the desires of each other within God’s design for sexuality (which clearly exclude bestiality, homosexuality, heterosexual adultery, etc.), but not as clearly when it deals with oral copulation.

When we consider a text that does not give us specifics (e.g., Paul here does not specify what I brought up), a wise approach to get at the meaning of a biblical text, is to consider the entirety of what Scripture teaches (on a given topic) deal first with the clearest texts and then proceed to the more obscure texts.  By this approach, the obscurity, while not completely removed, does have more light shed on it by the clearer passages in scripture.  After Paul describes both duties and authority, he commands both husband and wife to obey.

Fourth, husbands and wives are commanded to stop sinning against each other.  Paul gives a prohibition because then like today, husbands and wives were sinning against each other by depriving each other of sexual intimacy v-5; “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

To deprive means to withhold something good possessed by one for the benefit of another—the covenant spouse here.  That is, if one spouse desires sexual relations the other is to concede.  Only by mutual agreement is the married couple to withhold sexual relations.

This opens up a “can of worms” that’s filled with pain, manipulation, and abuse which reveals our brokenness as people.  Nevertheless, we must understand that what fuels this command is love for God and Christ Jesus (though imperfectly expressed) in the marriage union between a man and a woman.

Men often don’t walk in a loving manner toward their wives and wives accordingly to their husbands.  The reason for such turmoil is the real distinctions between men and women.  The lack of appreciation and understanding of these distinctions has from Adam and Eve unto today been a real problem.   That is, according to God’s design, a man’s greatest need is to be respected, while a woman’s supreme need is to be loved.  And while the needs are distinct, both spouses are commanded to honor one another.

The prohibition to “stop depriving one another” means that if that’s presently the case, it is to cease in the present.  Yet, if mutual consent to withhold obtains, it’s for a very practical purpose; “so that you may devote yourselves to prayer”.  Could it be that Paul is commanding the spouses to entreat God with the same passion with which they sexually pleasure each other?  I don’t see why not, but this activity of intimacy between spouse and God has a “time” or “duration” of activity not specified.

There’s a time for everything under heaven Solomon wrote and here Paul is saying to married couples, “there’s a time for sex and a time to refrain in order to pray”.  Whatever the duration here, the key is that there’s agreement.  So, there’s a time for sex and a time for prayer, but he does not end it there.

Paul finishes the command and provides the reason for it: “and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control”.  Both spouses are addressed because when marriages fail and adultery occurs there’s usually culpability from both parties.  Paul is alluding to the practical need for sexual relations to continue when he says, “come together again” for the purpose of denuding satanic temptation to commit adultery.

The reason for the command is because there’s a lack of self-control, thus the loving act for the spouses to do is to sexually fulfill each other (however imperfectly it may be done).  Obedience here is the path of holiness to the LORD which is our highest good and joy.

These verses unfold the gravity of marriage and their reflection of God’s love and care for His people.  Elsewhere Paul explains that marriage is the mystery unveiled of Christ and His union with the Church (Eph.5).

We live in a time where “sexual liberation” is lauded in a way that actually dishonors God and thus dishonors human beings.  Sexuality expressed according to God’s design is magnificent, when it goes awry, while for a time may be exhilarating, will in the end be another means for human destruction.  God have mercy on our souls and bodies.

(SDG)

Summary of CHAPTER 4: THE IMPROBABLE WORLD (Pgs. 56-70)

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CHAPTER 4: THE IMPROBABLE WORLD (Pgs.56-70)     

            In this chapter Postman points out that Technopoly has a vigorous ally called “social science”.   He uses a thought experiment to demonstrate that Americans will believe most anything that is preceded by “Studies show…” regardless of how ridiculous it may be.  This is done by stating a prestigious university, stating a study that “doctor so and so conducted” and the rest is assumed to be credible.

Like those in the Middle Ages who believed in the authority of their religion, Postman holds that twentieth century people believe in the authority of their science, no matter what.  The reason for this is that the world in which we live is for most of us incomprehensible and thus any new facts presented are uncritically accepted.  The reason for this is Americans have no unifying worldview from which to access logically truth from error, contradictions from realities.

The Scaffolding of the Old World Replaced by the Framework of Progress

The theological scaffolding that buttressed the belief system of so many and gave it a unifying Christian worldview—meaning to life, was supplanted in the Middle Ages by the instruments of Progress who replaced the theological with the scientific and technological with reliable information about nature and thus end ignorance and superstition.  These technocracies delivered real progress in pharmacology, sanitation, transportation, and communication.  These events were fueled by information—which became the god of culture reinterpreting the structure of nature and the human soul.

Information Glut

Like today, so it was back then that the flood of information was viewed as a friend, not a foe.  It was uncritically viewed as the key to solve human pain and suffering and yet the human plight really was not solved.  That is, very few personal and social political problems result from the lack of information.  Yet, information is what the progressive “Technopolist” affirms to be the “savior” of humanity.  But information “glut” as Postman puts it, does not aid us to reflect on the pros and cons of what’s ahead.  Information does not equal knowledge, knowledge does not equal wisdom and reflection is what’s required to distinguish these human realities.

The origins of information glut did not begin with the age of computers but with Gutenberg‘s old wine press which he converted into a printing machine with movable type.  Postman writes, “Fifty years after the press was invented, more than eight million books had been printed, almost all of them filled with information that had previously been unavailable to the average person…” Subjects like law, agriculture, politics, botany, linguistics, pediatrics, and more were available in book form.

In order to control the flow of said information schools became increasingly the bureaucratic structure for legitimizing certain flows of information and discrediting other aspects of it.  This impacted the areas of science, theology, philosophy and politics where the masses had access to knowledge that was historically unprecedented.

Whether the printed page came from Martin Luther (which spawned the Protestant Reformation), or it came from the likes of Kant and Hume (which sped up the “age of reason”), or it came from Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence (which caused the birth of a nation), no one can question its’ seismic effects on human history.

Moreover, when the printed page (through Newspapers) and the telegraph (with its Morse code) were combined, it removed space from the equation of getting information to the masses, converted it into a commodity (something to be bought and sold regardless of the usefulness or meaning) which resulted in the idea of context-less information.  Here, the fortunes accumulated by newspapers did not depend on the quality or utility of the information, but rather on the quantity and speed of getting it to the masses.

Again, the telegraph and printed page served to prepare people for the photographic revolution where a picture was worth a thousand words, and language was supplemented by new imagery as the dominant means for understanding and testing reality.

These three modes of information—the telegraph, the printed page and the photo) spawned a new definition of information, Postman writes:

“Here was information that rejected the necessity of inter-connectedness, proceeded without context, argued for instancy against historical continuity, and offered fascination in place of complexity and coherence” (pg.69).

These three stages in the information revolution were followed by broadcasting and fifth by computer technology.  Each communicated new forms of information, never before amounts of it imagined, and it increased the speed at which the information was distributed.

What does this mean?

So much information from so many angles through the above mentioned means around the globe (e.g., books, radio, television, advertisements, computer chips, etc.) finds its way into our homes.  Postman among other things concludes that:

“Like the Sorcerer’s apprentice, we are awash in information.  And all the sorcerer has left us is a broom.  Information has become a source of garbage, not only incapable of answering the most fundamental human questions but barely useful in providing coherent direction to the solution of even mundane problems…We proceed under the assumption that information is our friend…(without realizing it can also be our foe)” (Pg69-70)

The setting under which Technopoly flourishes is between information and human purpose; here information appears without discretion with no particular audience in mind and is disconnected from theory, meaning, or any design.

Reflections From 1 Corinthians_CHAPTER 7:12-16 MARRIAGE, SINGLENESS, & DEVOTION TO CHRIST Part 2  

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Paul now addresses the spouse married to an unbeliever.  The married are to remain married but if there’s desertion or divorce they are to remain as they are and not cling to another.  To the unmarried, they are to remain single, but if they lack self-control, they are to marry.  To the married who are with an unbelieving spouse Paul says:

12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away.

For Paul, when one spouse converts to Christ it’s their duty to stay together and not divorce because of conversion so long as the spouse consents to live together.  This issue was difficult then and remains unto today.  Emotions run high, words are spoken, insults are unleashed, and at times physical abuse occurs.  This can be a difficulty and tricky situation to navigate but there’s a reason for the command:

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

Puzzling as it may be, here’s my best shot at getting the point.  Biblically one is not redeemed because of another’s trust in the living God.  For personal repentance is required of each one to be rescued from God’s wrath.

Second, the allusion to “unclean” and “holy” are OT themes where being set apart is a sign that one is part of the covenant community and thus  males were to be circumcised, the people were to eat kosher foods.

Third, taking part of said activities were signs one was part of the covenant community but did not guarantee one was part of the remnant (i.e., real regenerated believers in heart evidenced by their obedience to Yahweh).  That is, not all Israel was saved evidenced by their recalcitrant lives and while their lineage is Jewish not all were sons of Abraham (i.e., not all had the faith of Abraham).

Fourth, as it was then, so it is today where people partake of the covenant communities activities but remain unbelievers.  So what does Paul mean by “unclean and holy”?  Perhaps being around the believing community does offer an opportunity for genuine faith to arise in both spouse and children.  Again, even if they don’ have genuine saving faith, the Christian theist’s worldview has an impact on them that aids mirroring the image of God and somehow they are “clean and holy”

This text is tough to decipher, nevertheless when a text in Scripture is puzzling, the wise way to proceed is to use what is clearest in Scripture to deal with and try to understand the more difficult passages.  Paul continues:

15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. 16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

Paul notes several things here.  First, the previous verses on “clean and holy” can’t mean someone is in the covenant family because he addresses the issue of “saving” one’s spouse.  Personal repentance and faith is a necessary condition for salvation, thus one can’t be “saved” on another’s faith in Christ (e.g., your parents faith).

Second, Paul wants believers in this situation to understand that while being in this present evil age, believers married to non-believers will at times experience desertion or divorce.

Third, sometimes spouses believe that if they persevere in the marriage they will be able to save their spouse via example, but Paul reminds them that this is never a guarantee.  It may happen, but it may not.

Fourth, the bondage that such a believer may experience is not what God has designed for them but instead His peace.  What could this mean?  Minimally, once we were God’s enemies but now are his friends because of Christ, wrath is no longer ours to bear.  This peace is to be mirrored in our relationships.  He’s saying, “If they want to leave, let them go and cling to Christ”.

SDG

Reflections From 1 Corinthians 7:6-11_MARRIAGE, SINGLENESS, & DEVOTION TO CHRIST Part 1

1-corinthians

 

Paul continues to develop his thought on marriage and singleness and considers: whether one is married to an unbelieving spouse or not, whether one came to Christ from Jewish or Gentile roots, whether they are redeemed being a slave or a freedman, whether they are a virgin or not, he considers when one is permitted to remarry and by implication when remarriage is prohibited.

Whatever state in life the believer finds themselves in, they are to primarily concern themselves with pleasing the Lord.  Paul aims to encourage Christians to let the eternal kingdom of God be the governing factor in their lives instead of the temporal situations in which they find themselves.  He starts off by saying:

But this I say by way of concession, not of command.”   

What’s the difference between these two terms?  A concession is permission to do something, or being allowed to act a certain way (L&N §13.141), whereas a command here does not infer the giving of detailed instruction but of having the right and authority to command subjects to obedience (L&N § 37.42).  Paul is making it clear that if what he refers to (the forthcoming concession), the Corinthian believers do not obey, they are not violating God’s decree which the apostles have been distinctly charged to dispense as Christ’s authoritative ambassadors.

Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.”    

The term “wish” is a way of describing desire which is a state of affairs that does not necessarily exist, one which may even be impossible, but nevertheless it is felt.  When Paul says, “I wish that all men were even as I myself am”, I don’t think he is referring to his apostleship, nor to his character traits, but to him being unmarried where his devotion to Christ is less distracted.

Paul reveals that he is not married (we are not sure if he was married, a widower, abandoned by his spouse because of his conversion to Christ, etc.) and desires that the Corinthian church not only be single but also self-controlled.

It is not unreasonable to think that Paul was previously married and abandoned because of his conversion to Christ Jesus.  Being a Hebrew of Hebrews, zealous for the Jewish traditions unlike any of his contemporaries, he would have been an amazing “catch” in that culture, the pride of family, wife and nation.  Yet this monotheistic zealot was converted on that appointed day and his world was turned “up-side down”.

If that was the case and more, then may the weightiness of his words not escape us where elsewhere he declares, “I have counted all things as rubbish for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ…”, “to live is Christ and to die is gain…” etc.  Paul’s supreme treasure above all else was truly Christ; above status, possessions and human relationships.

This is who is speaking and we do well to carefully consider what he is saying and what he means.  Thus, while Paul discloses his personal desire, he understands that not everyone is like him because God (the infinite self-existent one and source of all life) gifts us all with varying talents and abilities.  He now addresses the unmarried and widows:

But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.  But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion

Note that in verse 1 Paul affirms that “it is good for a man not to touch a woman” (i.e., not commit sexual immorality), and uses the same phrase “it is good” for the unmarried to remain single.  Paul is not disparaging marriage but rather accentuating something that seems to be counter-intuitive—in an age of sexual immorality, if you are single believer, then stay single.

While it’s good to abstain from fornication and adultery God has nevertheless given the human race sexual desire that longs to express itself.  Is Paul encouraging abstinence at all costs?  No.

While it is good to remain single, if there’s a lack of self-control, Paul says get married.  It’s better than burning in passions and falling into sexual expression that is outside the confines of marriage.  Now Paul addresses those married:

10 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband 11 (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

Several items stand out here.  First, Paul here makes a distinction between the Lords instruction and his.  This could be understood to mean that the former is to be obeyed, and the latter can be dismissed.  The problem with that interpretation is that Paul is clearly God’s called apostle, his authoritative spokesman in a way the rest of us are not.  So to think that Paul’s views are a “take it or leave it” proposition does not logically fit.

Second, one could see verse 6 linked to this where Paul distinguished between a command and a concession, between what must be obeyed and what may be obeyed.  The problem though is that the Lord’s instructions, as Paul’s instructions, come with authoritative force which a concession does not possess.

Third, many understand this distinction between the Lord and Paul to mean that Jesus himself previously addresses the issue and thus taught on it (e.g., Mt.5:32; 19:3-9; Lk.16:18, etc.) and thus Paul gives the Master’s instructions on said topic.  Yet, when the Lord Jesus does not give instruction on a particular topic Paul says, “I not the Lord”.
That is, the distinction is not one of authority but one of subject.  This third option seems to make the best sense.

Moving on Paul discourages the immoral act of abandoning one’s husband, and the husband is also commanded not to divorce his own wife.  Both husband and wife are in a position to act immorally by severing the union and both are in a position to honor Christ in their marital union.

Marriage is an amazing gift that like others requires maintenance, care, nurture and sometimes restoration. When the required care and understanding (here time must be invested) are not practiced, like a car needing an oil change before the engine blows, so too the marriage union when it’s neglected the immorality of desertion and divorce seem to follow.

Selected Book Summaries from the PATRISTIC & MEDIEVAL PERIOD “Athanasius, On The Incarnation”[1]

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The Universe’s Creation

In his letter On The Incarnation, Athanasius first grounds his apologetic of the incarnation on the universe’s creation.  He does this by addressing fallacious views of creation, the first of which is Epicureanism (fortuitous generation).  They contend that everything is its own cause and is independent of any purpose, but Athanasius argues that the diversity of bodies and parts actually supports an intelligent, creating designer.  Then there are the Platonists (pre-existent matter).  They purport that God created the world with the matter that already existed; in other words, God is seen as a mechanic using available material to construct the universe.  Athanasius contends that this view weakens God, for he could not create the material needed to construct the universe.  But He could not in any sense be called Creator unless He is Creator of the material with which all things have been made.  Moreover he accentuates that the world as well as humans were made ex-nihilo and that Scripture attests to this.  But when Adam disobeyed, the promise of death had to be met out.  Yet, in keeping with God’s goodness, He could not allow his creation, especially his image bearers, his rational creatures to continue in a corrupt state.  Thus, he sent the incorporeal immaterial One who has always been, and through the incarnation takes a body of our nature, and reveals Himself, in order to conquer death and restore life back to us.

The Reason for the Incarnation

Second, Athanasius asserts that the reason for the incarnation was to give man the knowledge of Himself.  For, to be destitute of the knowledge of God is equivalent to a purposeless existence.  Hence, in the incarnation man can get a “front row seat” and somewhat understand the Father and their Maker, and as a result have a happy and blessed life.  But man rejected the knowledge of God (which is the equivalent of irrationality for Athanasius) and replaced it with idolatry, witchcraft, and astrology, even though the creation along with the Law and Prophets gave further attestation to the Creator.  Such darkness prevented man from understanding the knowledge of God, and as such, only the Lord Jesus Christ could bring about such knowledge to man.  In His mercy, he condescended to man to save the lost.

God’s Ubiquity Not Affected by the Incarnation

Third, the incarnation affected not his ubiquity, for even though he was in a body, he never ceased being the sustainer of all things.  He maintained the same nature (separate from the creation).  Moreover, his miraculous acts (healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead) his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead, testified to his dominion over creation and as such, to his deity.  His public death among other things did not show weakness, but rather it demonstrated strength.  It was the means by which he would destroy death, while simultaneously through the resurrection manifest the monument of victory over death.  His public death was also necessary for the doctrine of the resurrection to be believed as a historical event, rather than a mere fable, both by his disciples and those who would later believe.  Christ’s death on the cross, demonstrated his bearing the curse on our stead, for “Cursed is he that hangs on a tree.”  This death and resurrection secures for the believer the joy of life, rather than the torment of death.  For, just as Christ is the first fruits of life, through the resurrection, believers will follow in like manner.  Hence the fear of death to man is overthrown.  Death is swallowed up in victory!

Proofs for the Resurrection

Fourth, the resurrection has many proofs to its veracity.  First of all, the fact that men from all cultures are turning to faith in Christ points to him being alive, not dead.  Second, being the source of life, it was impossible for him not to bring his body back to life.  Third, even if God is invisible, the fact that his works of casting out demons and overcoming idolatry through his people is manifest are proof of the resurrection.  For, demons would scarcely obey in the name of a dead man, but rather in the name of the One risen.

Responding to the Jews Concerning Christ’s Person from the Old and New Testaments

Fifth, Athanasius answers the unbelieving Jews by using the Scriptures to argue for the incarnation with many references.  He starts with the virgin birth (Mt.1: 23, cf; Is. 7:14), and moves on to Moses’ prediction (Num.14: 5-17; Is. 8:4), his living place (Hos. 9:1), his death (Is. 53:3), his birth and death on the cross (Jer.9: 19; Ps.22: 16; Is.9: 10), his miracles (Is.65: 1-2, Rom.10: 20; Is.35: 3) and more scripture.  He then argues from the withdrawal of prophecy and the destruction of Jerusalem (Mt.11: 13; Lk.16: 16), and points to the fact that it was the Lord himself that would save us (Is.63: 9).

Unbelief of the Greeks Addressed

Sixth, Athanasius addresses the unbelief of the Greeks concerning the absurdity of the incarnation and he points out that it is no problem for Christ to manifest in a body if in fact the Logos Manifests Himself in creation.  Moreover, his manifestation in a body is grounded on his relation to Creation as a whole.  Hence, because he wanted to reveal himself to man, he became man.  Another line of argument concerns the reason for the incarnation.  Since man is the only creature that sinned, he would not see or recognize the Creator through his works, so through the incarnation he manifested his works among them.  He continues with many other proofs to counter their scoffing, but ends his letter with an exhortation for those who love knowledge to find it where it only resides: in Christ, where it’s attained through virtuous living that’s grounded in loving the Logos who is blessed forever more.

[1] Athanasius, “On The Incarnation of The Word,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series,

Volume IV, p.36 (T & T Clark Edinburgh, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted in 1996).

 

Summary of CHAPTER 3: FROM TECHNOCRACY TO TECHNOPOLY (Pgs.40-55)

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Recall that Technocracy concerns individuals who through their knowledge and power manage a society—sometimes coercing it with its wishes.  This coercion is accomplished through Technology which is the practical application of knowledge in order to accomplish a task through tools constructed.  These two lead to Technopoly which is a state of culture and mind where technology is deified; the culture finds its satisfaction in technology and thus takes its orders from it.

In this chapter, Postman accentuates the movers and shakers who embraced old technologies in order to make new ones and thus change our world forever which is possible only through the application of ideas.

According to Postman, James Watts and Adam Smith were pivotal in breaking free from medieval thought into the modern era.  James Watt’s invention of the steam engine (1765) with its practical energy and technical skills replaced the medieval manufacture (i.e., things made by hand) and forever changed the material and psychic environment of Western civilization.  Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations justified the transformation of small-scale, personalized skilled labor to a large-scale, impersonal mechanized production.  He argued that the key to wealth was not land but money and provided the principle of the self-regulating market.  In a technocracy (individuals who through their knowledge and power manage a society) the “unseen hand” eliminates the incompetent and rewards those who cheaply produce goods people want.

Other men like Richard Arkwright who developed the factory system (1780) for his cotton spinning mills, or Edmund Cartwright whose concept of the power loom (1806) revolutionized the textile industry by replacing skilled laborers with workers who merely kept the machines operating.

Inevitably machines to make machines came to fruition and are illustrative of the 19th century thirst for invention where the “how” of invention (i.e., the practicality and profit it produced) muted the “why” of its use (i.e., the implications of what it means to humanly flourish) where people became only a means to an end (i.e., “progress” at what cost?).

This revolution leveled the playing field between the Elites and the Masses, for now the new “Royalty” was not inherited but was earned through “smarts and guts”.  Moreover, the speed of life now trumped the contemplative life and the “Old Ways” were seen as obsolete—they were to be kept private.  Does this sound familiar today?  This arrogance of the present and disdain for the past is not new.

Postman notes several reasons for why Technopoly came to prominence in America.  First, the American character was formed by the wonder of the land and ever changing landscapes which linked the idea of newness with improvement.  This lent itself to a view that the impossible is possible and thus constraints on this idea were frowned upon.

Second, our genius and audacity in the likes of Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, etc. were labeled as “Robber Barons” for through their inventions America’s past was eradicated.  These men created the twentieth century and saw technological innovation as king, thus anything from the past that stands in the way of “progress” is not worth preserving.  In other words, the future need not be tied to the past.

Third, our love of luxuries replaced every Old World belief, habit, or tradition with a technological alternative; prayer was replaced by penicillin, familial roots were replaced by mobility, reading was replaced by television, restraint was replaced by immediate gratification, sin replaced by psychotherapy, political ideology was replaced through popular “scientific” polling.

Fourth, new beliefs trumped old beliefs were Nietzsche pronounced that God is dead, Darwin popularized naturalism as means to explain origins, Marx viewed history as deterministic and thus out of our hands, Freud held that our traditional views must be abandoned in order to understand ourselves, John Watson the founder of behaviorism believed that free will was an illusion, Einstein held that there was no absolute way to judge anything and everything was relative.

This century helped us lose confidence in our beliefs yet what could be counted on was our technology.  Thus, for these well-known reasons Americans were better prepared to take on the creation of Technopoly more than anyone else.

 

Reflections From 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 7: PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS ON MARRIAGE & SINGLENESS AS EXPRESSIONS OF LOVE FOR CHRIST

1-corinthians

             Paul continues his instruction to the called saints who are in the world but not of it.  In chapter 5 the apostle tackles the issue of immorality caused by the Corinthians’ pride and warns of God’s looming judgment as the impetus for repentance.

In chapter 6 Paul continues to address the believers’ immorality and resultant ineptness to wisely judge among themselves when being defrauded by another professing Christian.  He then points to Christ’s atonement as the basis for believers to humble themselves before God and each other.  It’s humility that safeguards God’s people from sexual immorality which is for their good, not harm.

In chapter 7 Paul addresses the aspects of marriage, singleness, divorce, separation and remarriage.  These were massive issues then as they are today.  These issues are emotionally charged, and often difficult to grapple with because what can be a joyous relationship too often becomes a miserable existence for image bearers.  Our brokenness has not served us well.

The sexual tension that both married and single experience has not changed and the views in said realities either reflect Gods’ design or rejects it.    Since this letter is for believers and how they are to conduct their lives before the consummation, it’s critical to heed Paul’s teaching (Christ’s authoritative spokesman), and if non-believers mock and contradict what Scripture teaches, God will deal with them.

In the church the sexual confusion over male/female distinctions has adversely impacted our marriages resulting in the divorce of many couples.  Much of this is because God’s people make a habit of ignoring their inheritance—the Word of life, the Scriptures, which bring light to our darkened minds and restoration to our broken dispositions.   Too often (in the name of love) believers unwittingly imbibe a Godless worldview in order to be “relevant” to the culture.  Ironically, the Christian is most relevant when the word of life is spoken and practiced before the watching world not ignored.

In what follows, Paul is going to challenge 21st century believers with what it means to be loving, what it means to be salt and light, what it means to be presently relevant by lauding God’s truth not lies (because we love Christ) in the context of our most cherished relationships.

(SDG)