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Bible: What Does 1 Corinthians 6-7 Teach Us About Lawsuits and Marriage?

Updated on September 15, 2016

The Apostle Paul

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Joseph Resists Potiphar's Wife

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No Lawsuits Allowed Between Believers

Avoid Lawsuits: Judge Your Own Cases

Now Paul discusses the issue of lawsuits that Christians in Corinth were bringing against each other (vv. 1-11).

He expresses dismay that they are suing one another before unbelieving justices rather than resolving the disputes among themselves (v. 1).

The apostle also indicates surprise that they do not know that “the saints” will not only judge the world system in the Messianic kingdom one day, but that they will also judge angels (vv. 2a, 3a; cf. Matt. 19:28; 2 Pet. 2:4; Dan. 7: 9-10).

His argument is “Since you will judge these great matters in the future, surely you are competent to settle small issues now” (vv. 2b, 3b)!

He considers it shameful that they should appoint disreputable, non-Christian people to judge them (v. 4), as well as unbelievable that they cannot find one “wise man” among them to try cases (v. 5).

With considerable anger, Paul reiterates his opening objection that Christians are going to court against each other, and standing before unbelieving judges (v. 6).

In verses seven and eight, he argues that it would have been better if one of them allowed the other to cheat him rather than have both attempt to deceive each other.

Unbelievers Will Not Inherit the Kingdom of God

Again, the apostle questions why they ignore the fact that “unbelievers” will not “inherit the kingdom of God” (vv. 9-10).

He delineates ten different kinds of sinful lifestyles that these unbelieving judges lead, tracing four of the first five to illicit or unnatural sexual relationships (fornication, adultery, effeminacy and homosexuality), and three of the last five to unlawful financial activities and practices (thievery, covetousness, extortion).

Paul points out that God saved some of the Corinthians out of these lifestyles; He regenerated them (Tit. 3:5), set them apart for His use, and declared them righteous in His eyes through the merits of Christ and the power of the Spirit (v. 11).

God will give kingdom authority to His new creatures, but the unbelieving remain in their sin and belong “outside the gates.”

Free to Serve God and Others

Next, Paul establishes the principle that Christians are free to practice only those things that profit them (and others) spiritually and that do not enslave them (v. 12).

They must serve the Lord with their bodies—bodies, incidentally, that God will resurrect one day—and not satisfy sexually immoral appetites (vv. 13-14).

He reminds the Corinthians that they are spiritually united to Christ; therefore, joining with the sexually immoral and becoming one flesh with them would be incongruous (vv. 15-17; cf. Gen. 2:24).

Paul commands them to run away (literally, if necessary) from illicit sexual situations in order to avoid sinning against their own body (v. 18; cf. Joseph with Potiphar’s wife, Gen. 39:12).

He makes them aware of the truth that the Holy Spirit of God indwells them and that they do not belong to themselves, but to Him (v. 19).

Consequently, they should seek to honor God with the entire “purchased possession”: body and spirit (v. 20).

Faithful till Death

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I Corinthians 7

Marriage Issues

Paul, now responding to questions that the Corinthians submitted to him about marriage, states that no sexual (physical) contact before marriage is good (v. 1); however, he does permit marriage between a man and a woman in order to head off promiscuity (v. 2).

Married people should show affection toward their spouse (v. 3), and exercise “authority” over their partner’s body (v. 4).

[Is he saying that one who loves you knows what is better for your body than you do?]

They should regularly satisfy each other’s sexual needs; however, if they mutually decide to abstain temporarily, they should spend much time in prayer together to avoid succumbing to Satanic temptations that might lead them into adultery (v. 5).

Paul is not commanding celibacy, but he clearly favors it (vv. 6-7a); he recognizes that God has gifted some people (such as himself) to remain single, and some people to marry (v. 7b).

To those who have never been married and to widows, the apostle advises celibacy (v. 8); however, those without the gift of self-control should marry in order to satisfy their sexual drive legitimately (v. 9).

Prohibition of Divorce

Paul reminds married Corinthians about the Lord’s prohibition against divorce (v. 10).

Marrying someone else after divorce is not an option; the woman must either stay single or reconcile with her husband.

The same command applies to the husband (v. 11).

[This command flies in the face of the apparent double standard in Israel.]

Christian Marriage


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Believers "Yoked" with Unbelievers

The apostle then addresses the issue of believers having unbelieving spouses.

As an authority from God—while on Earth, the Lord apparently gave no commandment about this type of situation—, Paul commands that they, both male and female, not divorce their unsaved partners if the latter are willing to live with them (vv. 12-13).

The saved partners “sanctify” (set apart) any children that they may have with the unbelievers; that is, the children receive a godly influence that they would not otherwise have (v. 14).

However, since God has called believers to peace, and they do not know whether God will save their spouses, Paul commands saved partners to allow separation if the unbelievers wish to leave.

Separation is a status preferable to one that causes difficulties for all parties involved (vv. 15-16).

Whether or not God allows believers a second marriage in these types of cases, Paul does not say.

Counsel for the "Never Married"

Before progressing to a discussion of virgins (namely, the never married), the apostle presents a very important principle, reiterating it three times in the passage: “Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called” (vv. 17, 20, 24).

The rule is so crucial that he directs believers in all churches to follow it (v. 17).

Paul then applies this principle, saying that if one is a born-again Jewish person, do not seek to become a Gentile, and vice versa.

The label (or the medical procedure that distinguishes one from the other) is not important; commandment keeping is (vv. 18-19).

If one is a regenerate slave, Paul advises that he or she become free—if possible (v. 21).

A saved slave is the Lord’s freedman, and a saved, free man is the Lord’s slave (v. 22).

[In other words, a slave (culturally speaking) should live as a free man in a spiritual sense; likewise, a free man (culturally) should behave like a spiritual servant of God.]

God paid for the Corinthians’ redemption with His Son’s priceless blood; they should, therefore, not enslave themselves to men (v. 23).

Paul repeats the principle once more at the end of his discussion (v. 24).

The apostle has not received any divine revelation to answer the questions about the unmarried.

Nevertheless, since God has bestowed sound judgment upon him, these folks should consider his counsel as worthy of trust (v. 25).

[What implication, if any, does this admission have on the doctrine of bibliology?

Does apostolic advice, trustworthy as it is, possess the same authority as divine revelation?]

Paul’s previous conclusion directing Christians to remain in the same status in which they were called applies to singles who, with their married brethren, are experiencing some unspecified distress in Corinth (v. 26).

He advises both the married and the single (that is, the widower) to stay in their present marital status (v. 27); however, if single people (widows or unmarried virgins) decide to marry, they are not sinning.

Knowing that “the present distress” is going to cause much hardship for families, Paul advises them not to marry, desiring to keep the people from unnecessary suffering (v. 28).

The trying circumstances call for them to persevere; they will have to adopt a long-suffering perspective toward life in order to cope with the loss of loved ones and other possessions (vv. 29-31a).

Since singles need only to provide for themselves, Paul considers the unmarried condition as the ideal for that difficult time.

He states again his desire to keep men from experiencing the anxiety that having to provide necessaries for wife and family causes (vv. 32-33).

Likewise, he sees the unmarried female’s status as less stressful and more spiritually focused than that of the wife; the former can fully devote herself to Christ’s service, while the latter must “please her husband” (v. 34).

Paul again emphasizes his motive in offering them this counsel.

He does not desire to control their lives, but to free them to serve Christ without distraction (v. 35).

To fathers with older, virgin daughters, he advises “keeping” them rather than giving them away in marriage (vv. 36-38).

[Paul favorably considers the fathers who choose to keep these daughters around the house.]

The apostle seems to tack on to the end of this section a general principle about marriage: a wife must remain married until the death of her spouse.

After his death, she may marry again; the man she marries, however, must be a Christian (v. 39).

He believes that he knows the Spirit’s mind when he counsels her that she would be happier if she remained single (v. 40).

© 2013 glynch1

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    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Tragic situation in Corinth and also among contemporary Christians. Pray for the strength to follow God's counsel through Paul, on marriage and morality--and a godly life in general.

    • glynch1 profile image
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      glynch1 3 years ago

      Yes, I agree. The Corinthians were a gifted church, yet they allowed the world's philosphies to determine their thinking and lifestyle.

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