There’s no doubt that the world we live in offers little in the way of contentment. This applies not only to possessions but also to our relationships. Some say ‘if you don’t like the bed, change the sheets’, ie get a new partner! Some TV shows even throw 2 strangers together and expect them to be happily married. It doesn’t work like that! Paul wrote to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 7:12-24 to urge them not to find that elusive contentment in their relationship status, but in Christ. And what he writes is a game changer in regard to contentment in all of life!
Relationships. According to the way the world thinks, they’re everything. The best that life can offer. In some ways that is true…but what happens when relationships go sour? In 1 Corinthians 7:6-11, Paul gives some answers towards those questions. Not everyone will end up in a relationship. Not every relationship will stay together. Singleness is a gift of God. Divorce needs to be thought about in the light of the Word of God. If we do not allow God the control of our relationships, then the idol we make them into can surely crumble.
It seems that the believers at Corinth were having trouble (as often happens) with sexual issues. We learned something of this in chapters 5 and 6 when we noted how Paul had to address both incest and promiscuity. There was also another extreme view at Corinth which Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5. Some, even those who were married, held to the view ‘no sex please, we’re Christians’. Naturally, Paul had a bit to say about that view and in doing so put marital sexual intimacy into the place that God intended it according to His design.
It seems the members of the church in Corinth, very much like the culture of the people of that city, held to wide ranging views about the place of their ‘bodies’ within the Christian life. Some held the view that it was immaterial what you did with your body, and so, a visit to a Temple prostitute was of no concern. Others held to a much more stricter view (also known as asceticism) that any contact with the body was purely sinful. in 1 Corinthians 6;12-20, the Apostle Paul finds a middle ground between these two extremes, reminding his readers and therefore us, of what God has to say about our bodies, which in the end, belong to Him!
It must be a terrible thing to have amnesia – not being able to remember (among other things) your name or your family! It is a terrible thing to have ‘gospel amnesia’, that is, to belong to a church, but not be able to remember how the gospel of Jesus affects your whole life – especially how you treat your fellow believers! But in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11, this was what was happening at Corinth. They were taking each other- their own brothers and sisters in Christ – to court, rather than deal with each other in love. Was Paul angry? You bet he was, but he also gave these forgetful Christians (and us) some great truths to remember!
It’s hard to be a parent when the time comes to discipline your children. You need wisdom, persistence and a strong love, knowing that discipline, (though painful at the time) when applied in the right measure will produce the desired outcome. As far as we know, the Apostle Paul wasn’t a parent, but he knew a thing or two about parenting believers in fledgling churches, and sad to say, the believers at Corinth were desperately in need of a good dose of it. In 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, we see how Paul did just that and how he did it for the health and growth of the people at Corinth he loved.
So far in his letter to these Corinthian believers, the Apostle Paul has had to tackle many things head on. The church was clearly divided with a party spirit and wrongly paid too much emphasis to the flashy skills of gospel preachers at the expense of the gospel itself. But at the root of all this was the sin of pride. In 1 Corinthians 4:6-21, Paul seeks to expose this lack of humility for what it is – as something that would continue to cause the church to unravel and something that needed to be urgently dealt with. There is no antidote for pride like the cross. It’s only when we come back to the cross that pride gets put back into place.
After the Apostle Paul took time to dismantle the false edifice that the Corinthians were putting in place around gospel preachers in 1 Corinthians 3, in the next few verses of the 4th chapter, (1 Corinthians 4:1-5), the Apostle took time to correct their perspective. Gospel preachers aren’t everything. In fact, they are just servants and stewards, lowly ranked while the One they serve – well that’s a different story! The Lord Jesus is everything! The Corinthians ought not confuse the gospel preachers with the gospel message. One comes and goes. The other is eternal!
No church is perfect. The work of sanctification of God’s people is an ongoing process. Every church falls short of the ideal of ‘what we should be’ in Christ. However, not all churches, like the one in Corinth, had the benefit of having the Apostle Paul tell them where they were going wrong. Paul does this a few times in his first letter to them and in this section of the letter, 1 Corinthians 3:18-23, Paul makes it clear of some of the dangers they were facing – dangers that any church could face and also, must deal with.
The Church in Corinth was in a bit of a mess. It was out of balance. Too much emphasis on one thing at the expense of another. Sometime churches can get like that. Out of balance. In these verses, 1 Corinthians 3:5-17, the Apostle Paul seeks to correct that balance and get the Corinthians back on the right track of serving and following their Saviour.