Sermon Summary: Some in the Corinthian church had accepted a false ascetic teaching of depriving themselves of pleasurable material experiences in order to make themselves more spiritual. These ascetic beliefs lead to abstinence which for the married lead to frustration. Sexual immorality became common. Paul clearly rejected this false teaching and re-established the God ordained principles of marriage. Physical intimacy in a lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual marriage is to be enjoyed and is a means of protecting the marriage from Satan's attacks. Our culture faces differently misplaced perceptions of sexual ethics which swing toward liberalism. Anything goes so long as everyone consents. This too has lead to a breakdown of marriage and the family. In Ephesians 5 we see that the union of one man and one woman in marriage hides a metaphorical truth about Christ and the church. A distorted view of marriage therefore leads to a distorted view about God and his purposes for mankind. The ideal marriage, however, as revealed in scripture, is a picture of Christ's authority, unconditional love, mercy, affection, and commitment to His people. Our faithfulness in the church to model these qualities in marriage is a strong testimony to the world of the glories of Christ.
In the second half of 1 Corinthians 7, Paul speaks about Christian contentment, regardless of our lot. And vital to experiencing contentment in our lives is understanding the call of God towards us. Paul argues that true, holy, lasting contentment does not come by way of vocational change or change in social status. Rather, Christian contentment comes from understanding the call of God towards us. Our earthly status is inconsequential when it comes to living for Christ and being satisfied in him. Furthermore, Paul affirms Christian freedom as it relates to marriage and lends his advice on how presently engaged couples should proceed. Believers in Christ are free to marry or remain single, each circumstance has its own spiritual advantages. But whoever marries must marry a fellow believer in the Lord.
As we come to chapter 8, Paul begins to address the topic of Christian liberty as it relates to eating food sacrificed to idols. And if we are not careful, we may be tempted to think this chapter has nothing to offer us and want to skip over it. And that would be a big mistake. In the church, we are not perfectly unified on the expressions and boundaries of the freedom we have in Christ. For example, for some, their Christian conscience may provide them the liberty to vote a certain way or own a gun or consume alcohol. For others, their Christian conscience may not permit these things. So how shall we, the body of Christ, called to live in unity, treat each other? How then do we move forward together? What should guide our behavior when we disagree? This what the next 3 chapters of 1 Corinthians is about: Differing views in the church regarding Christian freedom and conscience and how to live together in peace and in a way that pleases God.
Paul in the previous chapter, had been teaching us that love constrains liberty. Just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean it’s always loving to do it. And in Chapter 9, we see Paul practicing what he preaches. He restricts his own freedom so that the gospel may go forth unhindered. Love constrains liberty in Paul’s life. He refuses and relinquishes his rights for the sake of others. Where does this desire come from in his life? How is it, in an entitlement culture when everyone else is demanding their rights, Paul surrenders his rights for the sake of others? Paul does this because the great burden of his life is that the Gospel might never be hindered. So Paul refuses to be compensated by the Corinthians for his ministry among them. He doesn't want anyone claiming that Paul is only in it for the cash. He wants the Gospel to come to them freely because it is a Gospel about a salvation that is free. Those who really grasp the wonder of the Gospel will do almost anything to get out of the way of the Gospel to let it come with full force and power for the good of others, even let go of their rights.
In 1 Corinthians 9:15-24 Paul uses the example of his own style of ministry to exhort the young church to cultivate habits of personal discipline and self control. Paul's hope for the Corinthians is that they might utilize their new found Christian liberty as a powerful tool for gospel progress. In our present culture - one where personal autonomy and authority is held in near idolatrous esteem - we stand to learn much from Paul's example as well.
We live in a culture that places a high value on individualism. But as followers of Christ we are called to live in community with each other. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 Paul gives use the illustration of the human body to describe how we are to live as the church.
Some truths more important than others. Paul writes to the Corinthian Church with urgency about the truths that are “of first importance.” Indeed, all revealed truth is invaluable, but certain truths are of highest importance, and that's the language Paul uses. And what is of first importance? “That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,” and “that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” The cross and the empty tomb stand at the center of the Christian faith and therefore, Christ’s resurrection is central to everything in the Christian life. It is the ultimate eschatological event. By raising Jesus from the dead, God set in motion the final overthrow of death itself. Think clock ticking. Hour glass sands falling, and its just a matter of time. The resurrection of Jesus is the promise of our resurrection from the dead. Because He lives, we shall also live.