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1 Corinthians


While in Ephesus, Paul receives some disturbing accounts from the church he visited in Corinth on his last trip.  He writes a short letter to address the situation, which has been lost to history.  When things seem to be getting better rather than worse, Paul writes a second letter, ironically known to us as 1 Corinthians.  This book, then, while not the first letter from Paul to the Corinthians, is the first canonical letter. 

On that note, Paul makes an interesting notation in 7:12, regarding his suggestions about marriage.  He makes a point of noting that, with regard to marriage advice, the ideas are Paul’s, not the Lord’s.  The ESV folks say that this still means that the words are inspired, just not dominical (or coming from Jesus’ ministry/teachings).  If that’s the case, that seems to cover most of the epistles.  Some, of course, are directly based on the teachings of Jesus, but most topics covered by Paul and other NT writers seem to be exploring the implications of Jesus’ ministry and atoning death/resurrection.  Perhams it means that, while some other Pauline writings are clear commands, this marriage section is more along the lines of Godly advice.  Yeah?

The folks in Corinth essentially had the opposite problem to those in Galatia.  Whereas the Galatians took the law too seriously and corrupted their understanding of grace by trying to apply the law where it was not appropriate, the Corinthians went, ‘Ehh…law, schmaw!  Let’s get freaky!’  So Paul essentially has to write to them to explain the place that the law and morality (and common decency) still have in the New Covenant.  At one point, he accuses them of being more tolerant of sin than pagans. 

The essential message can, I think, be summed up by 6:12:

‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful.  ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything.

Apparently the ‘All things are lawful for me’ phrase was one that the Corinthians had coined and relied on to absolve them of any responsibility for being a holy people for God’s glory.  As Paul makes clear, that may be strictly true with regards to the impact that sin has on the salvation of a believer.  However, sin still wreaks havoc with our witness, our psychology, our well-being, our relationships; perhaps most importantly, it grieves and dishonors God.  

Before putting our faith in Christ, we were slaves to sin in ways that were beyond our control.  We were born into our condition.  Christ’s death freed us from that slavery.  To voluntarily enslave ourselves again — to destructive desires of the flesh, to the corrupting influence of the world, or to the evil lies of Satan —  is to minimize the impact of Christ’s suffering and mock the holiness that has been purchased for us.


From → [canon], [constant]

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