1 Corinthians 7:29-31 ~ 20140209 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
02/09 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 Live to Please Him; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140209_1cor7_29-31.mp3
29 τοῦτο δέ φημι, ἀδελφοί, ὁ καιρὸς συνεσταλμένος ἐστίν· τὸ λοιπὸν ἵνα καὶ οἱ ἔχοντες γυναῖκας ὡς μὴ ἔχοντες ὦσιν, 30 καὶ οἱ κλαίοντες ὡς μὴ κλαίοντες, καὶ οἱ χαίροντες ὡς μὴ χαίροντες, καὶ οἱ ἀγοράζοντες ὡς μὴ κατέχοντες, 31 καὶ οἱ χρώμενοι τὸν κόσμον ὡς μὴ καταχρώμενοι· παράγει γὰρ τὸ σχῆμα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου. 32 Θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς ἀμερίμνους εἶναι. ὁ ἄγαμος μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῷ κυρίῳ· 33 ὁ δὲ γαμήσας μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κόσμου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῇ γυναικί, 34 καὶ μεμέρισται. καὶ ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἄγαμος καὶ ἡ παρθένος μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου, ἵνα ᾖ ἁγία καὶ τῷ σώματι καὶ τῷ πνεύματι· ἡ δὲ γαμήσασα μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κόσμου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῷ ἀνδρί. 35 τοῦτο δὲ πρὸς τὸ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν σύμφορον λέγω, οὐχ ἵνα βρόχον ὑμῖν ἐπιβάλω, ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὸ εὔσχημον καὶ εὐπάρεδρον τῷ κυρίῳ ἀπερισπάστως.
Last time we looked with a wide angle lens at 1 Corinthians 7. Paul is answering questions put to him by the church in Corinth on celibacy and marriage. He says it is best, considering the present distress to remain as you are. If married, remain married, do not seek a way out. If single, widowed, or divorced, there are advantages to remaining single, and each person must weigh those carefully, but without the gift of celibacy, it would be dangerous to remain single, and it is no sin to marry. In the middle of listing his advantages of remaining single, he gives this shocking instruction:
'From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none.' This is shocking because this is only verse 29 of 1 Corinthians 7. The apostle spent the first 5 verses of this chapter laying out the mutual obligations of husband to wife and wife to husband, forbidding them to defraud one another by acting like they were not married. So in verses 1-5 he demands that married people faithfully fulfill every marital obligation and live like married people, and then in verse 29 of the same chapter, he says that those who have wives should live as though they had none. For all those bible critics out there, here is a real live contradiction. You could point to this and say 'see, the bible doesn't make any sense. It is full of contradictions'. And you could walk away. Or, if you are influenced by German higher criticism, you could come up with a creative theory that these two verses are so different that they had to be written by different people. The earlier part of this chapter was written by the same pro-marriage Paul who wrote Ephesians 5, but the latter part of the chapter was written by the bitter angry celibate male chauvinist Paul. Or, we could say 'all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable' and so both the first and last parts of this chapter are true (and therefore by definition not ultimately contradictory) and they necessary and helpful for me, and I want to listen to what God wants to say to me. By God's grace, that is the approach we will take today.
What is Paul saying, that those who have wives should live as though they had none? Clearly, based on the first verses of this chapter, he intends that every married man (and woman) continue to fulfill their marital obligations to one another, but here he exhorts married people to imitate single people in some very specific ways. He makes this explicitly clear in the context. Look again at the following verses:
So, married people, live as though you were not married in these specific ways: the unmarried man in anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. The unmarried woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. The purpose is to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. The single person has the opportunity for single-minded devotion to the Lord and the things of the Lord, holiness in body and spirit.
Exhortation to Singles
Let me start out by exhorting our singles here today. Are you living up to your full potential as a single person? Are you making use of the advantages of singleness for wholehearted devotion to the Lord? Are you ordering your life in such a way that those who are married would do well to imitate you? When Paul says to married people that they should live as though they were single, he is not telling me to sleep in until noon or after, live on junk food and energy drinks, stop cleaning up after myself or providing for myself, start depending on mom more, spend more time on social media and become an expert gamer. If you are married and that describes you, shame on you! Grow up! If you are single and this describes you, stop wasting the precious gift that God has given you! Paul's point here is that single people have a unique opportunity to live in undivided devotion to the Lord. Single people, this text says that you have the opportunity to set an example for married people on how to live an undistracted purposeful passionate life for the glory of Christ in the world. You have the freedom to sacrifice and serve and give like no other. The data says that a greater percentage of your income is discretionary, which means you can spend it however you please, on new clothes and accessories, entertainment, transportation and leisure, or you can sacrifice and give it away for the glory of God. A greater percentage of your time is discretionary, you can spend it on sleeping, leisure and sports, surfing, socializing, or you can lay your life down and seize every moment for the cause of the gospel. I would invite you, I would challenge you to make your singleness count for the kingdom of Christ. I exhort you to make me jealous by your facebook status (not that I would ever look at that) but make the married people in the church jealous that you are utilizing every resource God has entrusted you with in undistracted devotion to the Lord.
Exhortation to Married People
I would exhort you married people, look at the advantages of undivided single-minded devotion to the Lord, and re-order your life in such a way that, while continuing to meet your obligations, you are living to please your one Master and Lord. By all means seek to please your wife, to train and bless your children, but make it your aim to please the Lord. We so often prioritize and categorize our lives. Of course God comes first. But then comes family, and then work, and then church and then leisure (or vice-versa). What does 'God comes first' look like? What does that mean in how you spend your time? Your money? Your energy? Does 'God comes first' mean that you carve out five or ten or twenty minutes to 'do devotions' each day and give him one or two hours of the weekend? Our service to God is not categorized and separated from all the other areas of our lives. Devotion is not something you can 'do' for ten minutes in the morning. Devotion is what you are. Be devoted to God throughout every moment; allow your devotion to God shape the way you live and how you choose to spend your time and your talent and your money. Allow your relationship with Jesus to so penetrate and infiltrate and permeate every area of your life that everything you do resonates to the glory of God. In your work, do it all to please him. In your relationships with co-workers, point them to Jesus. Redeem your free time to count for eternity. Saturate your family with the gospel.
There is in our culture an unhealthy focus on the family as if family were of ultimate importance. It was Jesus who said 'whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me' (Mt.10:37) and 'if anyone comes to me and does not hate his own ...wife and children ...he cannot be my disciple (Lk.14:26). Families are not forever (unless you are talking about God's family, all those who follow Jesus). If you care at all about your wife and your children, recognize that how you 'do devotions' is training them. You are teaching what is most important by the way you order your life, by how you spend your time. Saturate your own soul in God's word. Spend focused time training your children. Avail yourself of opportunities to become equipped; you wouldn't skip all the practices and then show up on game day expecting to play. The gathering of the church is for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry. It is amazing how we flex and adapt and adjust our lives and our calendars and our meal times and bend heaven and earth so that our kids can be involved in sports or music or drama or recreation or some other hobby or activity, but gathering with the saints for worship seems to be such an inconvenience. Be aware of what you are teaching by the way you order your life. Be devoted to God in your conversation 'when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way (or drive in the car), and when you lie down, and when you rise (Deut.6:7). Let all of life be transposed into the key of glory to God. Married people, learn from the single people what life is all about, and live in undivided undistracted soul satisfying devotion to our Lord Jesus.
Mourning, Rejoicing and Possessing
Paul tells those who mourn to live in undivided devotion to Christ as if they were not mourning. Is your life filled with pain? Heartache? Loss? Grief? Depression? Discouragement? Doubt? Fear? Do not let that define you. Grieve, yes, but grieve in such a way as to live with undivided devotion to our Lord.
Use your hurt, use your pain, use your grief as a megaphone to proclaim to the world 'the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord'
Are you rejoicing? Are you blessed? Are things going well for you? Rejoice as though you were not rejoicing. Rejoice in such a way that the world sees that this world is not all about the pursuit of happiness. Rejoice in this life in such a way that you declare that this world's greatest joys are like a root canal without anesthetic compared to the joy of being in the presence of Jesus.
Do you have possessions? Do you like to shop? Find a discount or a good deal? Do you have stuff? What food do you eat? What kind of car do you drive? What do you wear? How do you present yourself? How do people see you? Let those who buy live as though they were not holding on. Do your possessions possess you? Buy what you need, but do not be defined by what you have. What do you treasure? Have in such a way that your greatest treasure is Christ.
Do you deal with this world? Do you use the things of this world? Do you interact with the world? Can that be avoided? Use in such a way that you do not overuse. Do you go to the bank, the grocery store, drive on the roads, pay taxes, talk on the phone (or text), use the internet? Let those who deal with the world (and we all must), live as though they had no dealings with it. Do not let your interaction with the world become your identity. Use this world and the things in this world, smell the flowers, breathe the air, write a note, for the glory of God.
This World is Passing Away
The time has grown very short. The present form of this world is passing away. James warns:
Isaiah cries out:
The Psalmist reminds us that only God is eternal:
Our time here is so short. Grass that withers, a flower that fades, mist that vanishes. This world is not our home. We are aliens and strangers here, we do not belong. This is not our ultimate reality. Whatever your status, whatever your role, whatever you have been given, live in undivided devotion to the Lord. This world is passing away. Hold nothing back. With every fiber of your being, strain forward, press on toward the goal (Phil.3:13-14). Make it your sole aim to please Jesus.