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.
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.
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.
Motherhood is a high calling. And the primary tasks of a godly mother are to commend the works of God to the next generation. The role and value of motherhood cannot be overstated. Mothers are invaluable, their worth is incalculable and their effects eternal. I cannot think of a more valuable calling! May the Lord grant you all joy and success, may God himself strengthen you as you raise your children to know and fear the Lord.
What does it mean to be a Christian? This is a simple question but it has a multifaceted answer. A Christian is a person who has been united to Jesus by faith. A Christian is a person who has turned from their rebellion towards God, received God’s salvation wrought for them by the perfect and completed work of Jesus and have come under the Lordship of Christ. Being a Christian does not mean merely believing in our head that Christ died for us. It means the truth of God’s love grips us and holds and controls us, such that a Christian is transformed by the grace of God so that they live in a new way, a way that is ruled by God. A Christian is a lot of things, but one thing a Christian is NOT is autonomous. Christians are committed to holiness and righteousness and faithfulness in all our actions and relationships and live under the Lordship of Jesus. This means our thought life, our resources, our relationships, our entertainment, our life decisions and yes, even our bodies all come under the authority of Jesus. In First Corinthians chapter 6, the Apostle Paul teaches how our union with Christ effects the stewardship or our bodies and even transforms our sexual ethics.
Who will inherit the Kingdom of God? In 1 Corinthians 6, the Apostle Paul warns us that those who live in unrepentant sin will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Only those who are washed, sanctified and justified by God will inherit eternal life. And there is hope for the worst of us in Jesus Christ. Jesus loves to take guilty sinners and make them clean. He will wash away your guilt and shame. He will robe you with the righteousness of Christ. Heaven is full of people who once were sexually immoral, who once were greedy etc. but are now cleansed by Christ. And not only will Jesus forgive you, He will change you. He will change you, so that tomorrow, by His grace, you will not be who you are today. He will make you like Himself.
One of the most painful and difficult things to do is remain Christ-like and steadfast in the face of ill treatment from those close to us. In 1 Corinthians 6, we enter into a section in the letter in which Paul is responding to a number of issues, including the subject of how we should handle mistreatment inflicted by one church member upon another? How should we respond to a brother or sister taking material advantage of us? Paul calls the church to a higher Christian ethic, an ethic of non-retaliation. Christians don’t return evil for evil. We endure. We entrust ourselves to God. We hope ultimately in Jesus and no human court. We embrace the meaning of the cross and have it become more precious to us through godly endurance of our suffering. And by enduring loss in a Christ-like manner, we truly win. We bear the Name of Jesus and we follow a crucified Savior who embraced and endured our penalty, a penalty HE did not deserve. He bore the wrath we deserved, the consequence of our sin. Jesus endured ridicule and constant mistreatment that He did not deserve yet He opened not his mouth but rather entrusted himself to the One who judges justly. Ought we not to act as He did? Scripture explicitly calls us to follow in his footsteps.
The local church is an embassy of the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom that exists here now in part and one day in full. The church is the place on earth where the citizens of Heaven live under Christ’s rule and the citizens of God’s Kingdom are affirmed and protected. And the church is endowed with authority, authority to represent God on earth and proclaim the gospel of Christ. And since we represent God to the world, we have an obligation to pursue holiness both individually and corporately. We do this in many ways, but specifically by watching over those who have made a credible profession of faith and are members of the church. We are to examine their life and doctrine and do whatever you can to keep them on the path to eternal life. Guarding them and correcting them when they err or misstep so that they will enter into eternal glory. As members of the church, we are responsible, for maintaining the purity of the church by making sure our confession and our conduct align. That we walk the walk and talk the talk collectively. Together we preserve the holy witness of the church, such that the character of the church, of the members of the church matches the character and commands of Jesus.
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.
Each of us, whether we realize it or not, long for a king. Like the Israelites before us, our hearts cry out for a king, for someone to lead us, for someone to provide and protect us, for someone to entrust ourselves to who is fully trustworthy and capable. Jesus is that King. Prior to his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus' teaching, authority and power have revealed his true identity. He is the Messiah, God's anointed One. And He has come to rescue sinners by becoming a crucified King.