Reading for Tuesday, Sept 4: 1 Cor 7
With 1 Cor 7, Paul turns his attention to matters that the Corinthians have asked about, in particular the issue of marriage. Paul gives a wide range of teaching on the subject, beginning with his opening statement: “It is good for a man not to marry,” (v1). A careful reading of Paul’s comments here reveal the reason for this strong statement: the unmarried man is free from the obligation to please his wife, therefore he has more time to devote to the Lord. But Paul sees marriage as a necessary concession, particularly as a safeguard of self-control (v5).
Paul also gives teaching re: divorce and remarriage, quoting the teaching of Jesus in v10-11: “To the married, I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.” Paul offers no nuance or commentary to this statement, allowing the words of Christ to be heard on their own merit. But he does make a few qualifying statements re: what appears to be a particular situation in Corinth. In the case of a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever, Paul encourages the union to continue so long as the unbeliever is willing (v12-14). However, in the cases where the unbeliever deserts the believing spouse, Paul says, “let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace,” (v15).
But Paul sees great value in remaining in situations where our faithfulness can be used for God’s glory. “Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him,” (v17). This is Paul’s counter to the circumcision group (v18). “Keeping God’s commands is what counts. Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him,” (v19-20). These situations hold great potential for the Kingdom of God. Strive for obedience and faithfulness, Paul says, and see how God will operate redemptively in your life.
Paul closes with more commentary on marriage. It seems that these situations were particularly relevant in the Corinthian churches. Providing this kind of teaching seems to be especially taxing on Paul. You get the impression he’d much rather be talking / writing about something else. But Paul isn’t through fielding questions from these believers. He has another matter to turn his attention to: the issue of food being sacrificed to idols.