Some Guiding Principles

1 Corinthians #13. An exposition of 1 Corinthians 7:25-40. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, February 13, 2011.

When you think about the Christian faith what do you think about?  Is the faith about a set of doctrinal beliefs?  Is it a “bag of truths” you claim as your own?  Is it something that connects you with God but has no real bearing on anything else in your life?  Too often people think of faith in abstract terms dealing with “spiritual questions” but not very practical.  On the other hand there are those who approach the Scripture as if it is a book of magic spells that are to be “claimed” and “appropriated” to cure what ails you physically, spiritually or emotionally.  “Here is a verse or a prayer and if I say this or claim that – all will be well.”  We believe this book to be the very Word of God.  This is God’s Word to us.  His Word about what?  Is it a textbook, a cookbook, a technical manual, an instruction book?  How are we to approach it?  It is a book primarily about Him.  It’s purpose is to reveal God to us.  To tell us who He is.  To reveal what He has done for us.  To make clear how we can relate to Him.  Therefore we are not to approach the text in a mechanical, impersonal way but relationally.  What does this say about God?  What does this say about how I’m to relate to Him?  Yes there are instructions for how I’m to live and what I’m to do but I must always read those commands and hear those instructions in light of how I relate to Him and how I’m to live as His child, as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. It is also important as I read the Scripture that I take into account the context of the writing.  What did it mean when originally given?  Scripture did not come to us in a vacuum.  It was written in a particular historical context.  The history recorded is actual history in real time.  The letters are actual letters written to real people in the midst of real circumstances and that impacts how I’m to understand what is written.

Thus when we come to Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth we need to understand something of the context.  What was happening in Corinth?  Why is he writing?  What prompted the letter?  What related only to them in their context and what relates to all believers in every time and circumstance?  These are important questions when dealing with the material in our text this evening found in chapter 7 beginning with verse 25.

Text: 1 Corinthians 7:25-40

What is clear is that Paul is responding to specific questions.
We’ve seen this already in this letter and we are met with it again in this text.
Note 7:25 – “Now, concerning the betrothed…” – ESV.
Most other translations – NASB, NIV, KJV, HCSB = “Now about virgins…”

As Paul deals with marital questions he comes to deal with those who are not and have not been married (virgins).  But this word is spoken in a particular context that would make it wrong for us to apply, indiscriminately to all believers in every time and place.

Look at 7:26 – “in view of the present distress”
There was something the church in Corinth was facing at that time that prompted this response.
Perhaps it was persecution (in a matter of 10 years Nero’s persecution would bring terror).
Perhaps it was a famine – Acts 11:28.
Some think the fall of Jerusalem (70 AD).
Some have thought it was reference to the Second Coming of Christ especially because of 7:29.
But the word Paul uses “distress” is never used by him in that context.
Further the verb tense suggests it was something going on at that time.

In addition Paul make it clear he has no chapter and verse on this but that it is his opinion, his judgement – that is not to dismiss what he says.  After all he is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit!

So how are we to read this passage?
What does it say to us – 20 centuries later?

I want to point out 3 principles or guidelines for Christian living drawn from this text.

  1. Wise and prudent believers understand the importance of ordering life according to the principles that best serve God’s Kingdom.  (7:26-35)
    – Questions related to marriage must be dealt with honestly and with careful, deliberate, consideration.  (7:26-28)
    – The transient nature of this present world demands that you develop a certain level of detachment.  (7:29-31)
    – Faithfulness to Christ demands that you minimize distractions.  (7:32-35)
  2. Neither marriage nor the single life is morally superior or intrinsically godly but must be decided on the basis of God’s will in each particular case.  (7:36-38)
  3. While remaining widowed can be advantageous for kingdom service it is by no means compulsory.  (7:39-40)
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