IN THE FLESH OR BY THE SPIRIT?

Paul continues to encourage the Corinthians to give generously in the Spirit, but unfortunately, this section has given translators a lot of trouble over the years. Mouse has picked up on many of those translation problems and we see that Paul’s message was much simpler than we have been told, his attitude holier, and that his behaviour was entirely “in Christ” at all times. Check it out.  >ᴥ<

You’ll find it very instructive to compare the Mouse Companion Version with your own favourite translation.

2   Corinthians 10:1-6

1     Now I, Paul, appeal to you myself, in the meekness and gentleness of Christ, whose presence in you is truly humility, so I have confidence in you in my absence,

Paul’s appeal, like everything else he does, is in Christ and thus is built on the character of Christ, in this case His “meekness and gentleness.”

Most translations get very lost here because they start off assuming that the King James version is basically correct. It’s not. Paul is not talking about himself—either being humble, “timid” or “meek” when face to face with them, or “bold” from a distance—an idea they have picked up from verse 10. He is talking about the presence of Christ in the Corinthians; there are simply not enough words in the Greek to justify their additions. In the end they get so lost in the idea that Paul is talking about himself that they actually entitle this section “Paul’s defense of his ministry” or even “Paul describes himself.” Neither being his subject at all.

Paul contrasts the presence of Christ in them with his own absence from them. Unlike most translations have it, he is not suggesting that he is only “bold” when not confronted by them, nor is he agreeing that he is “weak” in their presence. That would depict him as cowardly to the level of being unable to tackle their sin on the spot, but having to go away and write them a letter! And of course, we can see that neither is he talking about their sin at this point. He is simply encouraging them in accordance with his gifting, by telling them of his confidence in their faithful obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and giving them sound advice on the best attitude to maintain towards their flesh.

These translators don’t see that the Corinthians have a special place in his heart, and his love for them would totally override any supposed fleshly weakness or timidity anyway—the stakes are too high. And manipulative behaviour, such as sneaking off to write them a letter, would be positively dangerous for them, because Christian discipleship can only ever function correctly when straightforward, honest and true. Manipulation of other people runs entirely counter to God’s way of thinking—the Bible generally describes it as witchcraft—and would thus be sinful disobedience on the part of Paul himself.

We don’t need to worry however—he is actually simply expressing his confidence in their faith being up to fulfilling their promise from the end of chapter 9.

The word they translate as “bold,” in this situation means ‘to have confidence,’ and it says “in my absence” because his confidence is not dependent on actually being there to strengthen and encourage them—he doesn’t need to because the presence of Christ is active in them.

Paul, contrary to what most translations say, is making the point that humility in Christ and real courage are not opposites, nor even contradictory, they are in fact both important aspects of real faith in Christ, and support one another. We are to have, and demonstrate, both the humility of Christ, and His invincible courage, by our faith in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

2    yet I am entreating you, since I’m not present, to have courage, with the confidence I’m counting on to be fearless before any who suppose that we walk by the flesh.

Translation note: Paul is urging them to have courage, because it takes courage to give generously by faith, which is still the thrust of this section. In Paul’s understanding, their courage in giving by faith is equivalent to the fearlessness of faith he will need to obediently, and thus fruitfully, serve the Lord in the presence of the doubters at Corinth, who have assumed that he is walking by the flesh. His reference is to the power he will need to draw upon to show them that he and Timothy are not “walking by the flesh” and they are speaking for the Lord, demonstrated by the power of God accompanying their words and deeds. From this we can conclude that there are no varieties of courage or faith in the life of a disciple—all come down to complete trust in the prompting and empowering of the Holy Spirit.

3    For, though we walk in the flesh, we don’t war by the flesh:

Some of the newer translations lose the clear references to the flesh, strangely assuming that ‘the world’ and ‘the flesh’ are equivalent, and that both simply mean ‘unspiritual.’ Sadly, this betrays an ignorance of spiritual realities—the flesh being ‘the traitor on the inside’ while the world is ‘the enemy’s system of traps on the outside,’ and both are far more serious enemies to our faith than is implied by the simple word ‘unspiritual,’ which implies a technical failure, while Paul is thinking of a catastrophic spiritual failure.

The important distinction in here is the comparison of “walk in the flesh” with “war by the flesh.” Until we leave these bodies and get our resurrection bodies, we have no choice but to “walk in the flesh,” but Paul says we cannot consider waging war, on Christ’s behalf, using our (utterly corrupt) flesh, any more than we can think of fighting the flesh (the bodies) of other people. (This also shows the Satanic and fleshly source of the Crusades—they were not at all an expression of true discipleship, but an unholy land grab based on the greed and pride of the Catholic popes—much like Dominionism today is an unholy power grab by the false prophets.)

4    the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly but the power of God for destroying strongholds,

Translation note: the weapons of our warfare do not “have divine power,” nor are they “divinely powerful,” as the other translations tell us, implying that there are a number of such weapons, they are the divine power required, showing that the power provided by the Holy Spirit is the only weapon we will ever need. We think of the word of God as a “weapon” from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, but it still comes down to the power of the Holy Spirit through our faith in the word. The important point is that our intention, our strength, and the outcome of our “warring” is the destruction of “strongholds,” not people, religions or regimes.

By “fleshly weapons” Paul is not talking about swords, guns or bombs, his “fleshly weapons” would be eloquence, natural charisma, emotionalism, logic, reasoning, etc—all built on the power, or strength, of the soul of man and not requiring the input of the Holy Spirit. Many ‘evangelists’ today use these weapons to extend the ‘church,’ and, as a result, fail utterly to extend the kingdom of God. The means used by the apostles and the early disciples to spread the gospel were: the word of God, prayer, preaching, and example, none of which really counts as a weapon. These all work by faith in God, and only by faith; and without the faith, even these won’t work.

The “strongholds” would be ignorance, prejudice, unbelief, philosophies, theories, religions (idolatry), ideas (pride), and so on, which contradict the truth of God. We are not looking to “destroy” these in other people, we are however to be fully alert to their presence in ourselves and eradicate them from our own thinking.

5    casting down reasonings, and everything raised up against the knowledge of God; capturing every thought to the obedience of Christ;

“Reasonings” in the flesh are a serious trap for the unwary, as they allow the enemy to cast doubt on the word of God and His truth, leading us into disobedience, so we must cast them down using Christ’s faith in the power of God. This is when our ‘sensible’ head considers the pros and cons of a particular temptation or direct instruction from God compared to what the world or the flesh would say, and starts to justify and excuse our behaviour—eventually we find we have talked ourselves into sinning.

“Everything raised up…” refers to the strongholds of the previous verse and the fact that men proudly exalt their lying theories in defiance of God.

“The knowledge of God” could equally mean ‘God’s knowledge,’ ie, absolute truth, or ‘our knowledge of God,’ or ‘anyone’s knowledge of God.’ I think the last is the most likely (though all are true), as these opposing ideas are developed by the enemy to make everyone’s faith in God as difficult as possible.

We need the power (the Spirit) of God to both alert us to our wrong thoughts, and empower us to capture them and correct them so they won’t undermine our faith.

“The obedience of Christ” doesn’t really mean “to obey Christ,” as most translations put it, though it will have that effect, it means to align each thought with the thought of Christ, whose sole motive and intention was (and is) to obey the Father.

6    and holding ourselves ready to vindicate every failure to hear, once your hearing is fully trained.

All the translations assume that Paul is preparing to “punish,” “avenge” or, at least “reprimand” anyone who disobeys (presumably Paul’s own teaching but possibly God’s commands) once they have learned to obey. This is a travesty of Christianity, which is about repentance and forgiveness in Christ. (Catholicism is about punishment for disobedience, but Paul was laying the foundation for the assembly of believers—His body—not for Catholicism or “the church.”)

“Failure to hear” or, more properly, “refusal to hear” is from the Old Testament where it means disobedience, though the idea of ‘hearing’ comes up again in Hebrews 5:8 which, though it has been translated “he learned obedience by the things which he suffered,” actually means “he learned to listen attentively to the voice of God so he could obey it…” So “once your hearing is fully trained” could be rendered, “once you have fully learned to hear the voice of God.”

Paul’s “preparation” is to vindicate any apparent failures, on the part of the Corinthians, before men (God already being fully aware of their pure hearts), ‘proving’ their innocence: the completion of their “learning to hear” meaning that they were fully committed to obedience and properly trained to hear God’s voice, so they would have been living a life without sin by definition.

Paul has nothing to say here about punishment and would never have claimed the right to punish anyone: his task was apostle, not judge nor executioner. (In 1 Corinthians 5:5 Paul instructs them to “deliver” the sinner “to Satan for the destruction of his flesh.” This was not a punishment, but a surgical method of saving the offender’s spirit “on the day of the Lord Jesus.” Though painful, it actually showed how much Paul cared, even for the rebellious.)

Bless you folks, Geoff  >ᴥ<

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GIVING—A RISK OR A JOY?

Mice are generally more known for stealing than giving but today Mouse looks at how we are to give, from 2 Corinthians 9. For disciples of Christ, giving should be for love, by faith and not ‘by the flesh.’ So, unlike those in the world, we don’t give in order to feel good, nor for any benefit to ourselves: we look for no return of any sort, not even gratitude. Even so, God promises that “he who sows generously, will reap generously.” But do we know why?  >ᴥ<

2 Corinthians 9

1     But it’s really redundant for me to write to you about this service to the saints,

Paul says he doesn’t really need to write this, but then he writes it anyway, showing that he’s not quite as confident as he claims. He’s trying to make sure they won’t contradict his rejoicing over them by allowing their flesh to subvert their zeal and thus reduce the generosity of their “promised gift.”

2    as I know your zeal, which I rejoiced to tell the Macedonians about—that Achaia has been ready to give for a year now; and your zeal has motivated most of them.

Almost all the translations insist that Paul was “boasting” about the Corinthians in each of these three verses, but Paul was rejoicing over their faith and, in doing so, attempting to inspire the Macedonians to similar heights.

If he had actually been boasting, he would have been encouraging competitiveness between the assemblies as their motivation for doing what they should have been doing for love. This would not be his intention as it would be entirely the wrong motive and entice them into living (giving) by the flesh.

3    So I sent the brethren, in order that our rejoicing over you would not prove empty in this, that you would be ready just as I told them,

Not only is Paul covering himself by writing to them, he’s even gone so far as to send men to supervise their behaviour. Contrary to appearances, he is not sending these brethren because his confidence in the Corinthians is weaker than he claims, it is so the presence of “the brethren” with them will build them up, strengthening their faith and inspiring them in their giving.

4    and if some Macedonians come with me, to avoid them finding you unprepared and that we were not describing you, as we would be confounded in our confident rejoicing,

All the translations use the wrong meaning of the Greek word λέγω (légō) which means to say, speak, tell, or describe; so they put “to say nothing of you” or something on those lines, though the Greek says, “that we were not describing you.” They also put “we would be ashamed,” or “embarrassed” where he has written “confounded” ie contradicted or refuted—neither ashamed nor embarrassed.

5    I thought it necessary to urge the brethren to go to you in advance, to prepare your promised gift, so it may be ready as a blessing, and not reluctantly given.

So his concern here was not for himself at all, but entirely for the Corinthians and the Macedonians and the strength of their faith and thus their zeal. He wants the Corinthians to rejoice in their generous support of the saints in Jerusalem, and the Macedonians to be inspired to greater zeal by seeing that generosity.

6    And consider: he who sows sparingly, will reap sparingly, and he who sows generously, will reap generously.

Translation note: The first two words in the Greek mean “and this” or “yet this,” so, as that means nothing very obvious in English and he is clearly suggesting they read it and ‘take it on board,’ I thought that “consider” would work well.

This idea is exactly what farmers and gardeners have long known and always used, and it’s only modified on the ground by uncontrollable factors like the weather and pests. One thing is for sure: any farmer who only sows “sparingly,” can only hope to reap sparingly; if he wants to reap “generously” he’s going to have to sow generously. And as we know, this applies to our lives as disciples in every area. In the kingdom of God, resurrection life is the result of death.

7     Each should give as he has settled in his heart, not grudgingly or compelled, for God loves a joyful giver.

Translation note: “should give” seems to be a commonly agreed (and necessary) addition, and I have translated ἱλαρός (hilarós) as “joyful” because I felt that “cheerful” contains a hint of ‘keep smiling, even though it hurts’ which is definitely not what Paul is saying; “joyful” says (to me) ‘giving feels so right!’ Only the Aramaic Bible agrees.

God has no use for gifts which are not joyfully given, because the lie is built in to them, in much the same way as ‘works’ which are done ‘in the flesh’ cannot contribute to the kingdom of God or the assembly of believers. A blessing without the intention to bless, ie, grudgingly given, is not a blessing at all. So we see that God’s reality is a very deep thing, perceiving the most subtle motivations of our deeds themselves, and of our hearts—we have to give “in the Spirit” or we will never dodge the corruption of our hearts.

8    And God is mighty to lavish you with all grace, so that you, always having all sufficiency in everything, may excel in every good work,

All the other translations put “God is able,” but I feel that, in that form it implies that ‘He might, or He might not, but don’t think He can’t,’ but I’m sure Paul is really saying that ‘God will supply, generously, by His infinite power,’ as the word δυνατός (dynatós) also means powerful, mighty and strong. Otherwise we couldn’t always rely on having all we needed to “excel in every good work,” the certainty of which Paul is trying to make clear.

9    as it is written, “he has dispersed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

This is a quote from Psalm 112:9, which says “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn will be lifted high in honour,” a short section describing the blessedness of those who fear the Lord. This psalm also describes the Messiah (who also fears the Lord), so this is also about the inherent generosity of God. Just as the Messiah has graciously dispersed His salvation to all in need and given to the poor, so should we, in the same spirit of generosity, built on our trust in God to supply our needs in turn.

“Their horn will be lifted high in honour” is a blessing for the generous implied by Paul, through his quoting from it, even though he actually stops short. As a result, doing as Paul is suggesting by quoting this verse, would result in it being confirmed or verified by their action. So we will find we can continuously give to the needy, as our personal resources will never be depleted. Experimental proving of this promise has led some to coin the phrase, “you cannot outgive God.”

“Righteousness” in Hebrew thought is virtually equivalent to alms giving, so it is the act of giving itself which will endure forever to their credit before God.

10   He who supplies seed for the sower and food for the consumer, will supply you with seed and multiply it, and augment the fruits of your righteousness,

Translation note: this verse echoes the structure of “seed for the sower” with “food for the consumer” in a common Hebrew construction (in particular see Isaiah 55:10), not the clumsy “bread for food” which most translations put. I have used “consumer” rather than “eater” as it is more general usage today.

The seed which God will supply is their (our) means and resource for contributing to the needs of the poor.

Paul takes the previous verse as referring directly to God and His gracious provision for all, therefore He will provide all they will need to be generous, so He will increase their ability to help and serve the poor, as they step out in joy to do so and, consequently, increase their credit with Him.

11    enriching you in everything for constant generosity which, with us, causes thanksgiving to God.

God’s provision is for the very purpose of constantly giving to the needy, so Paul’s wish is that they use their wealth to benefit others—particularly the poor saints of Jerusalem.

The reason it will cause thanksgiving to God “with us” is that Paul plans to distribute their gifts in such an honourable manner that God will get all the thanks: both from those who receive and from those rejoicing to give.

12   And this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also overflows in much thanksgiving to God

13   through the proofs the ministry provides: their glorifying of God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ; the generosity of your contribution to them and to all;

We must appreciate that this contribution is in response and in proportion to a very real need. Today, looking round the world, we can see many results of ill-considered charity causing immense suffering in plenty of instances, from funding drug users to supporting wars against non-aggressive nations, so we must give prayerfully and intelligently, allowing the Spirit to direct our giving.

14   and their prayers for you, longing for you because of the superior grace of God in you.

They “long for” the Corinthians because there is a strong, and inevitable attraction for all true believers towards those saints who are filled with the Spirit and who thus, through their obedience, reveal the indwelling Christ and the grace of God.

15   Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift.

God’s gift being the grace of giving, together with the inexhaustible supply making it possible, with all its benefits to everyone, particularly the improvement of our relationship with God Himself—the original ‘win-win’ arrangement. As a result, its values take it beyond description.

Bless you folks, Geoff  >ᴥ<

SCHOLARSHIP, SNACKING AND SIN

1. 1 Corinthians 1:1-17

9. 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

The Mouse has found that running a blog is often about knowing stuff, and here Paul shows us what type of knowledge fails us and, at the same time, what type of knowledge can serve us well. Mouse is also very keen on his rations, so it’s good to know the non-reality of idols and the resulting insignificance of the food sacrificed to them. However, Paul shows us that there are two ways here that eating can be sinful—and we’re not actually talking about greed!  >ᴥ<

1 Corinthians 8

1     In the matter of food sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge leads to pride, but love promotes spiritual growth,

Knowledge in the flesh “leads to pride,” which is offset against love because the best antidote to pride is love. Love promotes spiritual growth both among the saints as they love one another, and within each individual disciple as he practices love. Like all spiritual knowledge, idols and idol sacrifice need to be known by revelation through our position in Christ, not by memorising facts.

2    and if anyone considers himself knowledgeable about anything, he has not known anything yet in the way it must be known,

Considering oneself knowledgeable is an expression of the pride of the flesh. The idea is that knowledge in the flesh, in this case regarding food sacrificed to idols, is not the way forward as it leads to setting traps for each other in our pride; though not necessarily deliberately. However, if our knowing is by revelation from the Holy Spirit, we find that it is humbling, in itself, and leads us to love. We are to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5).

3    but anyone who loves God is known by him.

If we come to understand things by hearing from the Spirit, in love, loving God in our obedience, we actually learn about the reality of those things and, at the same time, we will discover that God will fellowship with us, deeply and intimately, leading to our spiritual growth through humility.

4    So, concerning the eating of idol sacrifices, we know that an idol is nothing in the world and that there are no gods apart from one;

In Christ we properly learn that there are no other gods, so idols are nothing and deserve no attention. Responding in any way to them, positively or negatively, is an expression of the flesh, and is just a waste of time that would be far better spent on the one true God.

5    for even if some are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, even as there are many gods and many lords,

6    nevertheless, for us there is just one God, the Father, out of whom come all things, and we are in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ through whom is everything and we through him.

If we are in God (in Christ) then we need have no concerns at all regarding idols because we are not of the world but in God’s reality, where idols are nothing.

7     But not everyone knows this; some, whose conscience is still influenced by idols, eat the sacrifice as something offered to the idol, and, because of the weakness of their conscience, it is defiled.

Paul is not saying the meal is defiled, nor the idol, since both are nothing, but the conscience of the doubting saint.

8    But food cannot get us closer to God; we are no better if we eat, neither are we worse if we don’t.

Faith, love and obedience get us closer to God—food is entirely beside the point, whether we eat something particular, or avoid special foods. We must approach both our food and our freedoms in love, by faith.

9    So take care that your freedom doesn’t in some way become a stumbling block for the weak,

10   for if a weak brother sees you who have this knowledge eating in a shrine, won’t his weak conscience be encouraged to eat things [he sees as] offered to idols?

Which would be sin for him. It’s not that eating is good or bad, but if we do something contrary to our faith, whatever our thoughts, we fall into sin as we have not acted in faith, but by comparison and reasoning. Action that is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23 MCV).

11    Then should the weak brother, for whom Christ died, be lost through your knowledge?

Note that this weaker brother has been snared into sinning—and Paul says that he might actually be lost through doing so! Throughout his letters he consistently maintains the deepest horror of sin in all its forms. This also confirms that “once saved, always saved” is simply a fiction.

12   In sinning in this manner against the brethren, injuring their weak consciences, you are sinning against Christ,

Since Christ died to save each one of us, to then stumble a brother is to undo Jesus’ sacrifice for him—truly a serious sin against the Lord.

13   so, if my food snares my brother, I will eat meat no more, in order to spare him.

Paul again utterly determined to avoid sin at all costs. This particular concern doesn’t really apply to us in the west today as we would never be in a pagan shrine looking for something to eat in the first place (though we might be offered a dish containing halal meat by a friendly neighbour).

The point of the above applies to any situation where we allow our understanding of spiritual principles to release us to do something which a less knowledgeable brother would be uneasy doing, but might feel it’s acceptable once they see us do so. We must prayerfully consider how our behaviour might be observed and refuse to do anything which might undermine a weaker brother or sister—because we must avoid sin at all costs, particularly involving leading another into sin. For this we need to be alert to the ‘check in our own spirit’ where the Holy Spirit lets us know that the situation is tricky.

Bless you folks, Geoff  >ᴥ<

1. 1 Corinthians 1:1-17

DON’T CHANGE A THING

1. 1 Corinthians 1:1-17

8. 1 Corinthians 7:18-40

The Mouse tags along while Paul continues his fatherly advice to the Corinthians: whether you’re circumcised or not, don’t reverse it; whether you’re a slave or free man, don’t feel you have to change your situation; whether you’re a virgin or not, don’t change your condition; whether you’re married or not, it’s better to stay as you are. Marriage will distract you from God, but it’s not a sin. Retaining your single status and your chastity is really the best choice. >ᴥ<

1 Corinthians 7

18 When a circumcised man is called he shouldn’t get uncircumcised. When an uncircumcised man is called he shouldn’t get circumcised.

Paul wants to make the point about not getting circumcised as he doesn’t want anyone getting dragged into trying to keep the law once they’ve avoided it by coming to faith, so he sets the stage with the, obviously impossible, reverse position of the circumcised Jew who comes to faith and, understanding about how faith supersedes the law, wonders if he should have his foreskin returned. If one situation is ridiculous, so is the other.

19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, what counts is following the precepts of God.

Despite Paul’s horror of legalism, he is mature enough in the Lord to see that uncircumcision, or the rejection of religious forms, is equally worthless in directing our lives, so he consigns both to the scrapheap of fleshly methods. The important thing we need to aim for is a happy and loving agreement in our spirits with the revealed will of God. For this to build our holy character we need to be a new creation, directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Worrying about practicing religious rites or rejecting them is simply a distraction, fooling us into believing we are closer to God than we are.

20 Everyone should remain in the situation he was in when he was called.

Paul’s examples in this section are: married or not, circumcised or not, in servitude or not, virgin or not. He doesn’t actually bring up any other life condition because these are the primary ones, where even here continuance or cessation are unimportant.

21 If you were a slave when called, don’t let it bother you, but if you are able to become free then do so.

Being in slavery to anyone or anything other than Christ is going to undermine your single-minded obedience to the Lord.

22 For the one who was a slave when called is the emancipated of the Lord; just the same, the one who is free when called is the slave of Christ.

Paul stresses that the differences between these alternatives are irrelevant because the important thing is to live one’s life before God in purity; whether you do so as a slave or not, or as a virgin or not are truly of no consequence. We are generally driven to change our circumstances in order to get on, to improve our situation by the flesh, but here we are led to trust God with our circumstances when they need to change—in other words we are to live by faith since He owns us, not as the unbelievers live.

23 You were redeemed with inestimable value, so don’t become slaves of men.

Our redemption was effected with the divine life of Christ—a life of “inestimable value” so we were supremely honoured by that act. As a result, selling ourselves into slavery to a man is the equivalent of trashing Christ’s purchase.

24 Brethren, everyone should remain as he was called, drawing close to God.

25 Now, about virgins I have no command from the Lord, but I will give my opinion, as one who by the Lord’s mercy may be relied on.

It would seem Paul had received some kind of enquiry regarding the options open to the celibate and/or the young women. He is still clarifying that living a life free of sin is the target, so marital states are unimportant in themselves.

26 I think it best, because of the present need, to retain your current condition.

Exactly what this “present need” was is not clear, but it’s not going to derail Paul’s determination that all should remain in the situation their calling found them. Whatever our condition, we cannot improve it by changing our circumstances since even utter destitution with intimate fellowship with Christ is riches indeed. If we attempt to change our condition, what we are yearning for are actually the illusions of the world—the illusion that we can be in control of our own lives and circumstances without looking to God.

27 If you’re pledged to a wife don’t seek to be released; if you’re not don’t seek a wife.

28 Though if you should marry you’ve not sinned, and if the betrothed marries she has not sinned, but may well have troubles in this life which I would spare you.

29 But this I say brethren: the time is short so from now on those who have wives should live as though they don’t;

This is not Paul releasing married men to philander, he’s saying “don’t be absorbed in these worldly concerns at the expense of God’s program.”

30 those who weep as though they didn’t; those who rejoice as though they didn’t; those who purchase something as though it were not theirs to use;

31 and they who deal with the world, without using it, for the essence of the world is to deceive.

All the other translations tell us that the fashion, or way of the world, is passing away. Presumably they are hoping that this is the effect of having the gospel out there, but the Greek word means “mislead” or “lead away,” and a realistic assessment of history shows that if anything, the essence of the world, as antagonistic to the things of God, is getting stronger, not passing away. What it does do, however, is lead us away from the truth of God, deceiving us to our destruction.

Dealing with the world is as dangerous as using our flesh, so God has directed us to have as little to do with it as possible, and always remain terribly aware that it will burn us if we get too close. It’s all about humbly placing every aspect of our lives utterly into God’s hands in prayer to provide and direct, not using worldly methods to try to control anything for ourselves, but trusting Him to have our best interests at heart always.

32 I would like you untroubled by concerns—he that is unmarried is committed to the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord,

33 but he that is married is concerned about his worldly responsibilities—how he may please his wife.

34 This difference also separates a married woman from a virgin—the unmarried woman is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is distracted by the things of the world—how she can please her husband.

Other translations are divided on whether this verse stresses that the married man is divided between his wife and the Lord, or that the difference between the married and unmarried woman matches the difference between the married and unmarried man. I have gone for the latter since the Greek merízō (divided) is clearly attached to the two states of the woman, not to the concerns facing the man in the previous verse.

I think the concerns facing the married woman are very similar to the perfectly legitimate concerns that found Martha distracted by her domestic duties. This is what Paul is urging the single people in Corinth to avoid if they can, by not marrying.

35 Again, I’m saying this for your benefit, not to compel your obedience but so that you may honourably and diligently serve the Lord without distraction.

All the other translations include here some reference to “laying a trap,” “casting a noose,” or “ensnaring,” but Thayer’s Greek Lexicon explains that bróchos (noose) also means “to constrain to obey some command,” so the difficulty of seeing his recommendation as a possible trap, when it clearly couldn’t be, is not a problem—he’s simply saying, “Don’t worry, this is not another rule for you to slavishly follow, just helpful advice for those who want to take their discipleship seriously.”

36 But if anyone is being unfair to his betrothed, who feels she is getting too old and so it ought to happen, if he is willing, let him do as she wants, he is not sinning, let them marry!

The other translations get very scrambled on this passage. Most conclude that it is advice to fathers on giving their daughters away in marriage, leading to some very peculiar authoritarian attitudes towards their girls—especially those who are getting past it! The translations which tackle the subject as pertaining to a man’s feelings towards his fiancée, universally take it to mean he is inappropriately lusting for her—so getting married is obviously the only answer!

But what Paul is actually addressing here is the situation between a man and his fiancée—she is keen to start a family but feels her youth slipping away; if he is willing, then he should stop unfairly delaying her and get married, and it won’t be a sin. Paul is still stressing that he is not trying to lay another rule on them.

37 Yet he who stands settled in his heart, feeling no pressure but having control over his own will, and has decided in his heart to retain his chastity, does best.

Most translations here hang on to their assumption that Paul is talking about the couple in verse thirty-six or the father with his aging daughter—none have realised that he is talking about the choice of celibacy. This is addressing the man who (like Paul himself) is single, master of his own life choices, and has chosen the celibate lifestyle.

38 So then, he that marries is doing well, but the one who doesn’t is doing better.

Those translations which were advising fathers with regard to giving away their daughters in marriage, insist that (cruelly) not allowing the girl to marry is the better option! Those talking about a man and his fiancée suggest that it’s better to leave her longing for a marriage she will never see! But we know that cruelty is never an option for a disciple of Christ and so is no option for an assembly either.

39 A woman is bound by the law as long as her husband lives, but if her husband dies, she is free to marry another—if he belongs to the Lord,

Another example of someone who is single. The binding by the law is stopping a married woman divorcing or marrying a second husband while the first still lives.

40 but she is more blessed if she remain as she is, in my opinion, and in that I’m sure I have the Spirit of God.

Paul wants to let her know that while remarrying is entirely legal, and therefore not sinful, once she is widowed she will find her discipleship easier and more fruitful, and so she will be more blessed, if she accepts her new situation as from God and gets on with her life as a single widow.

When he says, “I’m sure I have the Spirit of God,” he means that his spirit has a settled peace from God in regard to the points he’s just been making.

Bless you folks, Geoff  >ᴥ<

1. 1 Corinthians 1:1-17 – 9. 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

SEX AND MARRIAGE

1. 1 Corinthians 1:1-17

7. 1 Corinthians 7:1-17

We mice don’t generally marry, but Paul has written about the subject anyway so we can study what he said. His first concern is that unmarried believers should not be struggling to control their desires for their partners—they should marry and follow the Lord without that stress, and he talks about marital duties. On the way he points out that celibacy has very real benefits for believers. Returning to his main point: divorce is not an option for the saints except where the unbelieving partner wants to leave—then their desire should be honoured in peace. But where does that leave the children? No worries, they’re covered.  >ᴥ<

IMAGE COPYRIGHT QUERNUSCRAFTS

1 Corinthians 7

1          Now, concerning the matters of which you wrote, it’s good for a man to have no contact with a woman,

This is because sexual intimacy is only permitted within marriage, otherwise it is sinful. He seems to be answering a query regarding those who were attracted to particular people and thus in relationship with them—those who were ‘going out’ or betrothed.

2          but to avoid sexual sin, let each man have a wife of his own and each woman her own husband.

Paul says, “if you can do so, refrain from touching her at all; otherwise, get married and so avoid sin.” Sin in all its forms we need to avoid.

3          Let the husband fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise, the wife to her husband,

4          as the wife doesn’t have jurisdiction over her own body, the husband does; and just the same, the husband doesn’t have jurisdiction over his body, the wife does.

This tells us that each partner has a legitimate claim on the other for sexual intimacy. It doesn’t really mean that a wife is not in charge of her own body, just that she doesn’t have the authority to deny her husband for no legitimate reason. Withholding intimacy becomes a weapon which will quickly destroy a marriage. It doesn’t however, indicate that such a claim may be enforced against anybody’s will—that would be abuse or even rape. Partners must approach each other in a gracious spirit of affection, serving each other’s needs, always remembering that God is the third partner in every Christian marriage.

5          Don’t deprive one another except perhaps by mutual consent for a time that you may be free to fast and pray; coming together again so that Satan won’t tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Here’s the power—deciding together to fast for a brief spell from intimacy as well as food so that your prayers may be empowered, and then joyfully returning to each other. The core point being to avoid falling into sin or letting each other do so.

6          I say this as a concession, not a command,

Paul’s concession is regarding returning to intimacy with each other. He is aware of the power of human sex drives and how the enemy can manipulate people into living by the flesh by awakening their natural appetites.

7          for I would like all people to be as I am, but each has his own gifting from God—one has this gift, another has that.

8          So I’m saying to the single and the widows that it would be excellent for them to remain like me,

His gifting seems to be in the area of no great sex drive and so he’s content to remain single in order to serve God without distraction. Obviously his knowledge of the power of his celibacy in God’s service leads him to recommend the condition to these groups if they can live this way.

9          but if they cannot contain themselves let them marry, for it is better to marry than to be inflamed with desire.

If they can’t “contain themselves” Paul tells them to marry each other because their yearnings for each other will incapacitate them spiritually if they are struggling to stay pure.

10       To those who are married I do command (not I but the Lord) that the wife must not leave her husband,

Interesting to note that Paul differentiates his words from the Lord’s as he is unaware that his readers will count his letters as the living words of God.

11        but if she does leave she must remain unmarried or return to her husband—and her husband must not leave her.

God is no fan of divorce, witness His heartbreak over having to send the tribes of Israel away because of their idolatry (infidelity).

12       To everyone else I, not the Lord, am saying, if any brother has an unbelieving wife who is happy to make her home with him, he must not leave her;

13       and if any woman has an unbelieving husband who is happy to make his home with her, she must not leave him.

Here he appears to suggest that this instruction is less binding, as it’s “not the Lord” speaking, but because it has come to be included in the Word of God we cannot actually take it to be so.

14       For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified in his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified in her husband—otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

To know that one partner’s faith is enough to ensure that God sees your children as holy is very reassuring for those whose partners are not believers. It was just this concern from parents which led the Roman Catholic church to instigate infant baptism for entirely false superstitious reasons.

It also shows that God is perfectly well aware that there will be unbalanced marriages, despite His warnings not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

15       But if the unbeliever chooses to leave, let him go—the brother or sister is not reduced to bondage in such cases, for God has called us to peace.

In other words, even if you have been wronged, don’t put up a fight to keep an unwilling partner, rather honour their free will just as God has honoured yours. God knows your pain but we are called to live in peace and to promote peace in all our relationships—particularly our closest ones.

16       For can you know, wife, if you will save your husband? Or husband, if you will save your wife?

We cannot know whether our attempts to manipulate by clinging (which are sinful as the Bible calls the attempt to manipulate others ‘witchcraft’), or our refusal to control through self-denial (the proper way), is more likely to help our partner to come to saving faith; so all we can do is place the whole matter into God’s gracious and capable hands, trusting Him to effect the transformation we long for. Don’t panic—the kids are already accounted for.

17 In principle however, let everyone continue to live the life assigned to him by God; just as the Lord has called him—this is my rule in all the assemblies.

Interestingly, Paul appears to be telling us that a believer being in an unequally yoked partnership could be “the life assigned to him by God; just as the Lord has called him,” because a person could be married already when he or she comes to faith, but their partner may never become a believer, and so even here we are not to separate for reasons of faith, but to allow the unbelieving partner to make that decision and not to despair or feel condemned if separation is the result.

Continuing to live the life one was living when he came to faith is a general rule, as the next few verses make clear, but this will obviously contain exceptions—the life God didn’t assign him to—such as someone professionally involved in any sinful activity, like prostitution, politics, assassination, extortion, and so on.

Bless you folks, Geoff  >ᴥ<

1. 1 Corinthians 1:1-178. 1 Corinthians 7:18-40

SEX AND SHIPWRECK

6. 1 Corinthians 6:9-20

Today Mouse looks at the second half of 1 Corinthians 6. The Corinthians were getting into sexual sin so, horrified, Paul feels he must put a stop to it before people shipwreck their faith. He points out that sinners cannot inherit the kingdom of God so sinning has to stop. They must not give up the freedom Christ bought for them so dearly. Finally he looks at the effects of sexual sin and the reasons it is so devastating to each saint and to his assembly.

9 Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Don’t be deceived: neither the promiscuous, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals,

10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunks, nor slanderers, nor extortionists, will inherit the kingdom of God.

Here Paul returns to the subject of their sexual misconduct. Basically, in whatever way you behave unrighteously, you disinherit yourself. This is not intended to be some kind of exhaustive list, just a scattering of the types of people who cannot be heir to the kingdom of God. This is really pointing out that sin—any sin we choose to cling to—will close the kingdom of God to us.

11 And that’s what some of you were, but you’ve been cleansed, sanctified and justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

It was clear to them that such behaviour is not appropriate for believers, so they repented and came to faith. But here they were returning to their old sins.

12 Everything is allowed but not everything is helpful; everything is allowed but I will not be mastered by anything:

The Corinthians had been told, (by Paul) in respect of eating food sacrificed to idols, that “everything is lawful” but they had extended the application of this liberty to include the illicit sexual practices which are also related to idolatry.

Clearly this is not acceptable, as sexual sin cannot be equated to eating or abstaining from food offered to idols, so Paul points out that some things are not helpful. He then repeats the phrase, so that he can, through a wordplay, make a further point about freedom. The wordplay is something like, “everything is lawful, but I won’t let anything become a law to me,” in other words, if we are enslaved by anything—any habit we can’t, or won’t break—then we have given up the freedom so dearly bought by Christ.

13 foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will bring them both to nothing.

Here he confirms his instruction regarding their possible liberties in food, pointing out that it’s really unimportant because, in the Day of the Lord, both foods and stomachs will be no more.

The body is not for promiscuity but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body;

Misusing the body however, in this way, is not appropriate since Jesus died to purchase us complete: body, soul and spirit, we belong to Him—so our bodies should be consecrated to Him to live a pure and holy life.

When it says “the Lord for the body” it is talking about how God feeds, shelters and clothes the body; how He is preparing an eternal dwelling for it; and He gives strength, healing and life to it daily, here on earth, by means of the Holy Spirit, so that we are fully equipped to serve Him.

14 and God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.

Finally we read that we will be raised up into resurrection bodies because we are in Christ who has risen. How magnificent is the Lord God who has prepared all this for us!

15 Don’t you know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I then take away the members of Christ, by making them members of a prostitute? Of course not!

This is clear enough, but note the word ‘away’ because it tells us that if I unite my body with a prostitute, I am, at least temporarily, no longer a member of Christ, because I have cancelled my own membership. Many translations simply drop the word and thereby miss the implication.

16 Have you not seen that the one who is joined to the prostitute is one body, for it says, “the two will become one flesh”?

Sexual contact forms a permanent flesh-bond between those involved, simply because God declared that it would be so. This was so that marriage would be everything that God intended at creation, honouring Him and His word. This bond may be undone through repentance and renunciation when we come to faith, but it is very much better never to have made the join in the first place—and particularly if we are already part of the body of Christ. The point is that we would be forming that bond, in sin, on behalf of all our brethren in Christ, against their will and that of Jesus.

17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit.

When we come to faith through repentance the Lord joins our spirit to His. This is supposed to be a permanent arrangement, ie, eternal, but since we can break that join with our sin, we need to trust Him to keep us. Being one spirit with the Lord, and therefore with all true brethren in Christ, is a magnificent privilege and honour—one we would be wise to cherish and guard.

18 Run from illicit sexual activity! Every sin a person commits is expressed by the body, but the promiscuous draws sin into his own body.

All the translations struggle with this. The problems (in the Greek) are: 1 The first part talks about ‘every sin,’ while the second part singles out sexual sin as different to ‘every sin.’ There is no ‘other’ in any form, but many feel they have to insert it to make sense of this line. 2 Every sin (in the Greek) is ‘out of the body,’ while sexual sin is ‘into his body,’ but they put ‘outside the body,’ which is clearly not true of ‘every sin’ and, not grasping the ‘into,’ put ‘against’ which really doesn’t mean the same thing. However, ‘out of the body,’ means ‘expressed by the body,’ which easily includes sexual sin, covering ‘every sin,’ and ‘into his body’ means brings, or ‘draws sin into his own body.’

Not only is the sinner directly hurting himself by bringing corruption into his own body—and thereby also risking demonic attention—he is drawing corruption into the assembly of Christ, which he shares with all the believers, bringing weakness and compromise.

19 Don’t you realise that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit in you, whom you received from God, and you are not your own?

Translation note: the ‘your’ here is plural, so Paul is not talking about individual believers at all, he is saying that the bodies of all believers form the temple of the Holy Spirit because He indwells us all. He also clarifies our new ownership now we are disciples of Christ.

20 You are bought in honour, so now honour God in your body.

All the translations translate tē-mā’ as ‘a price’ where its far more common meaning is ‘honour.’ Clearly ‘a price’ tells us that a value is put on us, but it doesn’t indicate high or low. ‘Honour,’ however, in itself implies ‘high honour.’ It also ties far better to the ‘so honour God’ in the second phrase.

‘In your body’ includes the plural form of ‘you’ and the singular of ‘body,’ so Paul is saying, ‘Being purchased by Christ is the ultimate act of His highest honour, so (everyone) honour God in the body (the assembly) by individually fleeing from sexual sin.’

Bless you folks, Geoff  >ᴥ<
1. 1 Corinthians 1:1-177. 1 Corinthians 7:1-17

LITIGATION AND LOSS

  • 1. 1 Corinthians 1:1-17
  • 6. 1 Corinthians 6:1-8

    Recently, as you’ll know, the Mouse has been looking at 1 Corinthians in detail. This is the part where Paul expresses his amazement that they are actually taking each other to court. And what is the outcome anyway—who loses? If we are to judge the world and even judge angels, should we judge minor disputes between our brethren?

    I have actually covered this section already, so some of you may have read it. If so I beg your indulgence as I could hardly get to this chapter and miss it—I would be depriving those who didn’t read it last time! >ᴥ<

    1 Corinthians 6

    1 Does any one of you, having a case against another, dare to be judged by the unjust and not by the saints?

    While considering judging those within or outside the assembly, Paul brings up the subject of brethren who are actually taking each other to the civil court.

    Translation notes: The word for ‘unjust’ also means ‘unrighteous’ or ‘sinful,’ so he is talking about a court run by unbelievers, but it also implies that their judgment will not be in accordance with true justice; and that the main characteristic of unbelievers is their unrighteousness—their lack of justice. The word for ‘saints’ means ‘most holy ones,’ not only implying that their judgment will be in line with deep holiness, but also pointing out that a prime characteristic of a saint is true justice.

    Whether the man taking the other to court in this way is hoping for a ruling in his favour rather than a just ruling (see note on verse 8), or if he simply doesn’t trust his brethren to be just, we don’t know. Either way, his thinking needs to be challenged.

    As believers, all we should seek in any dispute between us and anyone else, believer or not, is peace and God’s ruling, however painful that might be to our flesh. A demand for ‘justice’ from a secular court (or in any kind of meeting) is an attempt to hide from God’s dealings in our lives, ie, rebellion, and a fleshly attempt to defend or justify ourselves, even though defending and justifying us is God’s role.

    2 Don’t you know that the saints will judge the world? If you are to judge the world, are you unworthy to judge matters of such insignificance?

    Paul’s argument here is that we really should be able to sort out our differences the way saints are supposed to do everything: by hearing from the Holy Spirit and doing as we are led—which will normally be self-sacrificially. The reason he describes these matters as insignificant, is because they pertain to the world and the flesh and are therefore insignificant to a believer: all that actually matters to us personally—our provision, defence, security, hope and future are all in Christ, not in anything a worldly court could rule on.

    3 Don’t you know we will judge angels, and not at all the things of this life?

    All the other translations seem to think that because judging angels is such an exalted task, then we will have no difficulty judging worldly matters. While this is true, it’s not what Paul is saying: we are called to the kingdom of God, where our concerns are not even on the same plane as those of unbelievers—all we are interested in is the will of God, whether it applies to angels or men. We are already not part of ‘this life’ in any real sense, so it’s not ‘…how much more the things of this life,’ it’s “…and not at all the things of this life.”

    4 Indeed, if you have everyday disputes to be judged, you appoint those despised by the assembly.

    These ‘despised by the assembly’ are the secular judges whose authority in the assembly is zero.

    5 I say this to embarrass you. Is there nobody wise among you, not even one, competent to reconcile his brethren?

    As believers we each have the wisdom of Christ, so a small matter of worldly property or rights shouldn’t be a problem for anyone in the assembly. Paul is not recommending setting up some kind of arbitration service within the assembly, he’s expressing his amazement that it’s even come up as a problem. His position is, “what are you thinking?”—see verse seven.

    6 No—brother goes to law with brother, and this before unbelievers!

    The outcome of these disputes, managed so badly, is not the justice they claim to seek, but a breakdown in relationships within the assembly and a completely compromised witness, ie, utter failure.

    7 Truly, you have already suffered loss since you have litigation among you. Why not prefer to be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?

    They are trying to avoid material loss by litigation, but the loss they have actually experienced is the serious spiritual loss sustained by the entire assembly because they take each other to secular courts, displaying their worldly ways. It signifies utter defeat in their efforts to live as disciples of Christ. Paul is amazed that they have so misunderstood the nature of a disciple that they would even consider going to law.

    If we are wronged, we need to see that God has allowed it, so we can take it as an opportunity for the indwelling Christ to respond in the Spirit with grace, blessing and forgiveness. This He will do as we turn to Him in faith, committing the brother and the situation to Him, refusing to do anything which might harm our brother.

    8 No, you yourselves wrong and cheat others, even your brethren!

    Here’s the bottom line: they insist on litigation because they plan to win, at any cost, to their brother’s loss. Their motive is not to reach a just verdict, but to cheat their brother. This should never be even considered by a disciple of Christ—everything we do is to be an expression of love or we dishonour God.

    Bless you folks, Geoff  >ᴥ<

    1. 1 Corinthians 1:1-176. 1 Corinthians 6:9-20