Love, Liberty, and Limitations

Studies in First Corinthians – XIII

In the eighth chapter,Paul deals with a controversial question from the Corinthians, “Can a Christian eat meat that has been offered to idols?” The cheapest meat in town would have been the leftover parts from the pagan temple sacrifices. Some of the Christians, with the understanding that there is only one God and idols could not contaminate food, saved money by buying these cheaper meats. However there were other Christians who were offended by this and could not understand why a child of God would have anything to do with something offered to pagan idols.

We don’t deal with this particular issue today but we do need to have an understanding of the principle. What are the limitations of Christian liberty? Paul gives us an answer which should guide us in making personal decisions in areas that may be questionable.

According to Paul, we don’t answer these questions based on knowledge alone. We answer these questions based on knowledge governed by love. As a Christian we do not live our lives unto ourselves, we live them unto the LORD. We must always remember that others will be impacted by our decisions.

If we make our decisions about what we can or cannot do (perhaps I should say “will” rather than “can”), based only upon what we know, we err because there is someone else involved. We must ask, “What example am I setting for my fellow believer? For the new convert? For the unbeliever?”

“But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak” (8:9).

Paul says that knowledge puffs a man up, making him spiritually conceited and proud. However, love (charity) builds up (edifies) (8:1). If we have knowledge only, we are incapable of judging right. But if knowledge is mastered by love for our fellow believer and a concern for those who do not know the LORD, then that love leads us to think first of others.

We must recognize that our example can be a stumbling block to others. The love of God, put in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, must be the deciding factor. Ask yourself: “If I watch this, how would it effect the young people in the youth group?” “If I go there, could it impact the witness I have with my unsaved coworker?” What example are you setting for those who are watching you? And trust me, they are watching you.

If you could make even one step to the cross easier for one person by denying yourself something which knowledge says you have a right to, wouldn’t it be worth it?

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Concerning Marriage

Studies in First Corinthians – XII

In the first six chapters, Paul has dealt with sins that were reported to be commonly known in the Church at Corinth. He now turns to the specific question they had asked of which this letter was a response. The subject of chapter seven is marriage.

Raymond Woodward points out that we should keep in mind that Paul is addressing specific questions and not expounding a complete doctrine of marriage. It is important that we consider what all of Scripture says on the topic.

We also find very interesting language in this chapter not found anywhere else in the New Testament. For example, Paul says, “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord” (7:12); and “Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment” (7:25). Paul was dealing with issues which Jesus had not addressed. He was giving his judgement on the matter as he was directed by the Spirit and considered the entirety of the Scriptures. We also must answer new and difficult questions regarding sexuality as we are led by the Spirit and guided by the Word.

At first glance, you would think Paul is elevating singleness and undervaluing marriage. He is doing no such thing. He says that it is good for a man not to be married, but he does not say it is better. In other words, it is not sinful for a person to remain single if they keep themselves pure. “But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn” (7:9).

Concerning marriage itself, Paul insists on a monogamous marriage between a man and a woman (7:2). Both the husband and wife have responsibilities and rights which must be respected. Marriage is not an excuse for lust and the satisfying of the flesh. It should be marked by love, discipline, and mutual respect.

Paul also has something to say concerning divorce. If two Christians are married, there is to be no separation. Jesus made only one exception for this (Matthew 5:32) – if one spouse is guilty of adultery, this could be grounds for divorce.

Paul speaks of the power of the marriage relationship for those who have been saved after they were married. He encourages them to remain with their unsaved spouse in order to influence them that they might be saved. As a child of God, the saved spouse is God’s vantage point to reach the unsaved spouse. If your spouse is unsaved, begin to claim their salvation in Jesus’ name!

Paul comforts us regardless of what our relationship status may be with these words:

“Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called” (7:20).
“Let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God” (7:24).

If God has called you to be single, He will give you grace for it. If He has called you to be married, He will give you grace for it. If He called you to marriage and that marriage has led to adversity, He will give you grace for it. If you are recently saved but your loved one is not, He will give you grace for it.

In every instance we are to abide in our calling: submitting to the will of God, depending upon the grace of God, making every effort to bring glory to God…
– Redpath

God’s Property

Studies in First Corinthians – XI

Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
– 1 Corinthians 6:15-17

Those redeemed by the blood of Christ are His body. We are the channels through which He works. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit,” Paul says. Wherever He can find a body surrendered to Him, He has found an instrument through which He can impact the world.

You will find that God always works through a body. “We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ…” (Hebrews 10:9,10). We sin in the body. Christ came to earth in a body; He was “manifest in the flesh.” It was in the body that He overcame where we had been overcome. It was in the body that He died and rose again. Now He lives by His Spirit in the body of His people.

The question for every Christian is: Will I take that which is intended for Christ and give it to sinful purposes? If we are joined to Christ, we are enabled by His indwelling Spirit to control the body. But if we give our body to sinful purposes, we become one body with that which is sinful.

This is the constant battle that rages; either the Spirit of God is to triumph and the life of the flesh die out, or that which is of sin and the flesh will control us until the Spirit is no longer effecting us. Everything is lawful for the child of God, but only when properly under the authority of Jesus Christ. What He allows, I will do. What He rejects, I will reject. What His Word tells me is right, I will accept. What His Word tells me is wrong, I will refuse.

However, this is certainly not attainable in the flesh. Paul tells us how to win the battle. He brings us back, once again, to the cross. He is not afraid to expose sin but he always takes it to the cross!

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
– 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

This is how we stand when on our own we would fall. We are filled with the Holy Ghost! We are bought with a price! We were not “redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold,…But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Remember that you have been bought. You do not belong to yourself. The flesh struggles for freedom but the spirit takes comfort in these words. If He bought you, if He paid the highest price for you, it is because He finds value in you. If you are not your own, it is only because you belong to Him.

I am God’s property. The feet which once led me into sin now lead me into the presence of God. The eyes which once looked to this world are now looking to my Savior, my help. The tongue which once spoke evil now sings the praises of God. The heart which was once full of fear and darkness is now the temple of the Holy Ghost!

You Were, BUT You Are

Studies in First Corinthians – X

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
-1 Corinthians 6:9-10

What an awful and ugly list! Yet, there is not one of us who could not say, “This would be me, but for the grace of God.”

Paul continues to combat carnality by reminding the Christians at Corinth who they are in Christ and what the work of the cross and the infilling of the Holy Ghost has accomplished in their life. Throughout the letter, he adopts the principle that the mightiest drawing power to lift a man out of carnality and sinfulness is the cross of Christ.

And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
-1 Corinthians 6:11

Paul puts a mirror in front of their face, “such were some of you, BUT…” That three letter conjunction is a clear line of demarcation. They were idolaters, fornicators, adulterers, drunkards and everything else on the list, “BUT ye are washed, BUT ye are sanctified, BUT ye are justified.”

Paul reminds them and us that we have been washed by the Word, set apart by the Holy Spirit, and declared righteous by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Washed: “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3).

Sanctified: “Through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:2).

Justified: “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

We are intended to live in victory over sin by the power of Christ in us. This is what we are by the grace of God: washed, sanctified, and justified. Let us be what we are by the power of the Spirit!

That The Spirit Might Be Saved

Studies in First Corinthians – IX

In chapter five of First Corinthians, we come to a major sin issue that was infecting the Corinthian church. The church was tolerating the sin of a brother and it was destroying their testimony in the world. Not only that, but their tolerance exposed their pride in worldly wisdom and human philosophy. Rather than mourning the sin of their brother, they were patting themselves on the back for being “open minded.”

This was not simply a breakdown in the life of one individual, but the wide influence that sin was having on the life of the church that tolerated it. The purpose for which they existed, to reach the lost, was in danger of total collapse because of the sin they had allowed to remain in their midst.

Alan Redpath paraphrases Paul:

“And ye are puffed up,” Paul accuses them, “you are haughty and proud, so occupied with your discussions and theological arguments that you are closing your eyes to this terrible thing that is going on right in the very center of your church life.”

Paul makes it clear that the church should judge the sin of the offending Christian (5:3-5). We do not judge the world; God will take care of that judgement in the future. We do however judge the conduct (not motives or ministry) of those who are inside the church.

His words may seem harsh: “taken away from among you” (5:2), “deliver such an one unto Satan” (5:5), “purge out” (5:7), and “put away” (5:13). This was the action to be taken regarding the guilty party, however, he was not left to be abandoned. He was, after all, a sinner for whom Jesus had died. The remainder of verse five gives the goal: “To deliver such an one…for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”

Church discipline is never easy but it is necessary to maintain our testimony in the world and to achieve its ultimate purpose — the salvation of the erring believer. According to 2 Corinthians 2, that is exactly what happened in this case.

If the church allows sin to remain, it paralyzes its witness, takes away the power, and removes the power of the Holy Spirit. An unholy church is a defeated church. The extent to which sin is permitted is the measure in which appetite for the Word of God will depart.

The Christian who is pure is powerful, but the man who is compromising is spiritually impotent. – Redpath

With What Are You Building?

Studies in First Corinthians – VII

According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

-1 Corinthians 3:10-16

Paul points out the importance of having the correct foundation AND the correct building materials. Some Christians are building on the right foundation with the wrong materials (works of the flesh rather than the works of the Spirit). The Church will not stand on any other foundation than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet even on the correct foundation, it is possible to use the wrong materials.

Paul describes two types of building materials: indestructible—gold, silver, and precious stones; and destructible—wood, hay, and stubble. In this Scripture we see a clear distinction between salvation and rewards. It is possible for a man’s soul to be saved, but his works, being of no value, to be burned. If his motives are not eternal, but temporal or earthly, he may be saved, but his works will be destroyed. Our motives must be to build the Kingdom for the glory of God.

Build on the foundation with materials that will last the test of time. Build with the brick of submission to God’s will and purpose, even in times of suffering. Put in a doorway of prayer. Open up the windows of praise and worship. Be sure to include the gold of purity and righteousness, the silver of a radiant testimony, and the precious stones of victory over temptation.

Paul appeals to the Corinthians to pay close attention to how they build because they are the temple of God. Let us also be reminded, we are the temple of the Holy Ghost. We are intended to reveal the glory of the Lord.

Every one of us is building. Every moment of every day, we are building. Look in your hands – What are you building with today? Will it last?

Direction Determines Destiny

Studies in First Corinthians – II

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

We have in this verse two contrasting positions: those who perish and those who are saved. Both of these positions suggest movement in a particular direction. The living are either “perishing” or “being saved.” Salvation in particular is considered from at least three different points of view in the New Testament.

Sometimes it is spoken of as happening in the past, “according to his mercy he SAVED us” (Titus 3:5). This is justification.

Sometimes it is spoken of in the present, “Ye are saved” (1 Corinthians 1:18). The Greek participle in this scripture is in the present tense and denotes “being saved.” The is sanctification.

Sometimes it is spoken of in the future, “Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Romans 13:11). This is glorification.

Each on of us is either perishing or being saved. Either we are being delivered from the disease of sin and self or we are becoming more sinful and selfish. What is the direction of your character? Is there progress in the Lord or regress into sin? Do you have an increased hunger for the things of God or are you feeding the appetites of your flesh?

What determines the direction you go? It is “the preaching of the cross” (1:18). This does not just mean preaching itself, although that is part of it. The word for “preaching” is the Greek word logos, the same word that we find in the first chapter of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word (logos) was with God, and the Word (logos) was God… And the Word (logos) was made flesh…” (John 1:1,14). It is the WORD of the cross that determines your direction.

Need directions? Follow Jesus!

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