Day 323 (Nov. 19): Paul tells church not to judge others, God’s apostles are not showy, Paul condemns spiritual pride, Christians should settle their own disputes, avoid sexual immorality, marriage instructions

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

1 Corinthians 4-7

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Corinthians 4:9): I was almost going to say that God continues to use humble people to spread His word and now He has allowed them to be tattered, according to Paul’s letter.  However, it wasn’t really God who made them dirty, hungry, thirsty, tired, weak, bruised, etc., it was the people treating them that way.

A. That doesn’t make the people like Paul spreading the message of the Gospel less humble; if anything, through humility they are able to withstand the mistreatment of others.  I certainly think the things that Paul and his companions experienced — and will experience, including martyrdom — will only increase the power of their witness.

Q. (4:15): I don’t understand Paul saying that He became the church’s spiritual father.

A. He’s the one who founded the church at Corinth, so that makes him their spiritual father.  He’s not really bragging about this, but is rather attempting to get the Corinthians to follow his example the way that a child often tries to imitate their earthly father.

Q. (5:3-5): I don’t understand v. 5.  I think what Paul is trying to say here is that we want to save this man who is disrupting the church.

A. Paul’s order is to expel the man from the church — a form of church justice, something that is sadly rarely practiced today due to our “winking” attitude to sin.  So if the man is kicked out of “God’s” territory (the church), then he is given over to the realm that is not of God, or Satan.  This isn’t a literal punishment: Paul is not saying a demon will get him, but rather he is hoping that being expelled from the community by his friends will cause him such anguish that he will repent of his sin and return to the community a new man.

Q. (6:2): What does Paul mean by the believers will judge the world and the angels?

A. As those who will rule with Christ as heirs, we have the implication that we will have some role in judging (the Greek can also mean “rule” or “command”) the world and angels.  It is a unique passage, frankly, and Paul does not expand on what he means here, so we do not exactly know.  It is possible that Paul is sharing something that he assumes his audience will already be familiar with — i.e. something they understood in their culture that has been lost to history.  Ultimately, we don’t know for sure what he means, but I think it is safe to assume that our role in the next world will be as some sort of ruler or leader of some sort.  Interesting thought, isn’t it?

Q. (6:1-8): I think many people use the justice system to resolve disputes because it is easier than facing each other and figuring it out among themselves.  But, if believers are coming together to form the body of a church, they should be able to settle their own disputes, which I think would actually make them closer.

A. I couldn’t agree more, and I suspect that is what Paul has in mind.

Q. (6:9-11): One of my best friends growing up became gay after a couple years of college.  He has an awesome, but struggling, heart and considering what he has been through — a dad that beat and threatened him on a regular basis, a mom who also suffered physical and verbal abuse and dealt with her husband’s cheating, and had been molested by many men close to him.  With attention from these men, it’s no wonder that he leaned toward homosexuality.  I do wonder how his judgment will fair, but I know that God is God and He is the judge.  I just wish he could get pulled out of that lifestyle.  Pray, right?  I need to call him more often too.

A. There is nothing sinful about being attracted to people of the same gender, but I feel the Bible is pretty clear about sexual relationships among people of the same gender (though I am aware that not everyone feels that way).  We all have our temptations that we must face, and that honestly makes it hard for me to want to pass judgment on homosexuals as a person who has never experienced a sexual attraction to a man.  God knows our hearts, and also knows our past and difficulties, and will judge us accordingly.

Q. (7:8): By Paul saying that it’s better to stay single than married, it sounds so against the way God designed humans and the world.  He made man and woman so they could come together and create more humans.  If everyone were single, the world would die off, well … if they abstained from sex unless they were married.

A. It is interesting to me that Paul brings such a different mindset to the situation then we are used to, and that God — and the Bible — are big enough to handle multiple ideas in tension.  As you well say, without marriage and children, there is no future.  But Paul is probably looking at the situation as a man who wanted to fully devote himself to doing God’s will (as Jesus, who was also never married, did before him).  So it is certainly fascinating that the two men most responsible for the Christian faith were unmarried and celibate — a tradition that is carried to this day by priests, nuns, and monks all over the world.  God can make either way for us work, but I think that Paul at least makes it clear that there are pros and cons to being single or married.  And in a society that is literally OBSESSED with weddings (less so marriages, but anyway…), I bet there are some interesting insights about celibacy in the reading.

Q. (7:10): This verse just makes me think of the spiritual parallel that God created between man and woman should be like the relationship between God and believers, only even more devoted.

A. Yes, I would agree with that.

Q. (7:25-28): What is Paul talking about here?  Why is he advising everyone to stay single?  And, honestly, I feel that some of these letters sound like personal problems of the church way back then that isn’t really our business.  Maybe this is an example of how our secret desires and motivations will be revealed on judgment day?

A. Something I didn’t mention in my above responses was that the early church went through varying degrees of persecution, and that would certainly shade his thinking about being married and having a spouse depend on you.  Imagine the heartache of dying for your faith (or being thrown in jail or sold into slavery) with a wife, or husband, women were martyrs too, you can read about some 3rd Century women martyrs here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetua_and_Felicity)- or even children at home.  I could see why Paul would say, “that’s not a great idea.”

I would also point out, that as a married person, it would naturally be harder for you to see the benefits of being able to give every waking moment over to God as Paul was able to do — and I’m sure his being single shaded his thinking as well.  But note that even in the midst of his thoughts on staying single, he argues that there is no sin in being married (which I realize is a “duh” to us, but anyway).  As I mentioned above, I appreciate that the Bible presents a perspective so radically different than my own.

Q. (7:31b): There are several references we have seen that alludes me to the conclusion that judgment day should have been during these times.  Paul makes the end of days sound imminent.  Yet, we have also read where Jesus isn’t coming until the most evil person rises up.

A. It hasn’t happened yet is all I can tell you.  Paul goes back and forth on the matter- some places he makes it sound immenent, other places not so much, you’ll see.

Q. (7:40): Paul doesn’t sound 100 percent sure that his advice is coming from the Holy Spirit here … or God (not sure who he is referring to).

A. Same difference.  I think he is clearly stating that God has not told him explicitly either way, which is just fine with me.  If God desires to leave the matter open, and clearly He did, then Paul is willing to say so.  That sounds about right to me.

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