Lesson 26: "Ye Are Bought With a Price" (I Corinthians 7:23)
I Corinthians 7:12-28
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson # 26. Welcome again! We'll begin this lesson in I Cor. 7:12. If you have your eyes on that, let's read. Beginning in v.12 and we'll read down through v. 17. "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him let him not put her away. And the woman which hath a husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the : else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy wife? But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches."
Alright, v.l 0-11 in our last lesson were addressed to Christian husbands and Christian wives at Corinth, I.e. where both were Christians. Now, the verses we just read are addressed to a Christian who is married to a non-Christian mate, I.e. a Christian man with a non-Christian wife or a Christian woman with a non-Christian husband. When Paul said, "to the rest speak I, not the Lord", (at the beginning of v.l2) that does not mean that this is not authoritative or that this is merely Paul's personal opinion, take it or leave it. That's not the idea. The point is that Paul is giving this command for the first time. In other words, it is not a command that Jesus gave and thus, cannot be found in the teachings of Jesus. Not all laws for the kingdom were given by Jesus himself during his earthly ministry. Jesus himself said to the apostles (John 16: 13-14) "when he, the Spirit of truth (I.e. the Holy Spirit), is come, he will guide you into all truth... he will show you things to come...he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." In Matthew's account, Jesus said to the apostles, "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 18:18). Thus, Jesus said that the apostles would eventually bind new laws that were not bound at that time. Up in v.6, where Paul said he spoke by permission and not by commandment; the same thing is true. By permission (there) means of course, by permission of the Holy Spirit; thus what Paul said WAS inspired and authoritative. Alright now, what does Paul say about living with a non-Christian mate? If the unbelieving mate, I.e. the non-Christian be pleased to dwell with him or her; let them not depart, I.e. don't put them away simply because they are non-Christian or in other words continue in that relationship. Now, I think the idea here is (really) that one spouse became a Christian and the other spouse remained a non-Christian. I draw that conclusion from Paul's conclusion down in v.l7, where he said, "as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk." Then Paul added: this rule is for all churches; this message was not exclusively to the Corinthians. Paul always encouraged Christians to marry Christians, as he did widows (down in v.39). However, I don't know that this absolutely forbids a Christian from marrying a non-Christian and I would not argue that. Certainly, they will be happier if both are Christians. You are running some risk of an eventual family wreck by marrying a non-Christian.
So much for v.12-13, let's go to v.14. When Paul said "the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife" and visa-versa; he did not mean that that makes the unbelieving spouse a Christian or that they will go to heaven simply because they are married to a Christian. Certainly not! The idea of sanctified and unsanctifled, clean and unclean here is taken in the Jewish sense. Under the 10 commandments they were not to touch certain unclean or unsanctified things; e.g. a dead body under certain circumstances. The Christian is not to treat their spouse as unclean, the non-Christian spouse is to be respected, loved and encouraged just as much as if they were Christian. In this sense they were to be considered a clean person and the same is true of their children. The word "holy" at the end of v.l4 is used here synonymously with the idea of clean or sanctified, I.e. precious. Alright, v.15, "BUT!" What does "but" mean? The contrast! I.e. the other side of the coin, so-to-speak. Paul has now covered the situation where the non-Christian be pleased to dwell with his or her Christian spouse. He now moves on to the opposite situation where the non-Christian spouse is NOT PLEASED to dwell with their Christian spouse. So, what do you do? Rope them? Shoot them? Bribe them? Throw the Bible at them! Or try to become a non-Christian like they are? None of the above! Let's read it! "But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart." Now, please do not read into this that the Christian is to encourage the non-Christian to depart in any way. That must not be. However, if after you have exerted all the ethical influence that you can and the non-believing spouse still insists on leaving, let them go. Don't go with them. This is really another way of saying the non-Christian is deserting or forsaking the Christian. If they insist on deserting you; let them desert. "A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases..." The word brother or a sister in this verse means a brother or sister in Christ; I.e. a fellow Christian. Thus, Christians must not become slaves to such a relationship. Christ comes first. Keep your marriage if you can; but, Christ comes first. I don't see how this could mean anything else. I think I should tell you: books have been written on that last sentence in v.l5 and it is looked upon as a very controversial verse.
Then, in v.l6, Paul asked two questions that were undoubtedly asked to cause one to reflect on this and to help one see: it has to be that way. Some feel under such pressure in such situations to try to convert their mate; they think to themselves, I must give-in to the non-Christian so they follow along and are dragged through filth after filth, sin after sin hoping that they will some day influence the non-Christian to become a Christian. Paul said, Don't do it! It's a good way to lose your soul. If you can't persuade them and encourage them to become a Christian by real Christian influence in your marriage; how are you going to convert them without real Christian influence and by forsaking Christ? So, Paul says in essence; learn to recognize the point of departure. Let THEM depart. Got it? Other translations seem to turn the question in v.l6 around a bit; for example the NEB reads like this: "think of it: as a wife you may be your husband's salvation."
Here's a question! If the non-believing partner depart; can that remaining Christian brother or sister re-marry? Well, I told you before; this chapter does not cover remarriage; please do not read between the lines. It is simply not discussed. You can't get blood out of a turnip, my grandfather used to say; and in this case you don't even have the turnip; so, I cannot tell you the answer to that question. There's no need to write to me.
We've already talked about v.l7. You need to recognize that in v. 17 Paul laid down a rule or a principle that is broader than the application here applied to the previous verses. That rule is stated in two different ways, (1) "as God hast distributed to every man...so let him walk." AND (2), "as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk." I would say it like this: start from where you are! Now remember one thing though! Paul's rules Can be miss-applied. Do you remember Paul's rule, "All Can be miss-applied. Do you remember Paul's rule, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient?" (6:12). Paul repeated that rule again in 10:23. But some at Corinth had apparently used that rule to justify fornication; if you read ch. 6 real close. Thus, they were miss-applying Paul's rule. If you're going to use Paul's rules; make sure you keep his rules in context. Someone asked the question, if Herod Antipater and Herodias (Do you remember the one who cut off John the Baptist's head? That was living with his brother Philip's wife, named Herodias?); well, someone asked the question: if Herod Antipater and Herodias had been baptized and started from there (I.e. Paul's rule), would that have made their marriage all right? Well, obviously not. Because, their marriage wasn't right to start with. So, you can't use Paul's rule, "as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk", to justify error, and disobedience, now. Obviously, not! Paul gave this rule to help answer the question: where do I go from here? Be sure to keep Paul's rule in context. Don't use it as a pretext to sin. Don't Miss-apply it.
Then, in v. 18-24 Paul broke into a discussion of that rule that was stated in v. 17. He illustrated it (v. 18-19). He restated it (v.20). Then, he illustrated it again (v. 21-22-23) and then he restated it again in v.24. So, if one doesn't get the idea after all that; there's just not much hope, right? Let's read v. 18-24. Here we go! Beginning in v. 18. "Is any man called being circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commands of God. Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he is called. Art thou called being a servant? Care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God."
Alright, I tried to point out before that Paul's statement in v. 17 (Paul's rule as we have called it), is really a conclusion to the mixed marriage situation in v. 12-16. Thus, in a sense, Paul illustrated his rule before he gave it. If you became a Christian and your spouse didn't or won't, make the best of it. Start from where you are! Try to save your marriage and your soul, both, if you can. If you have to give up your spouse to save your soul; go to it and make the best of it. Start from there. Then in v. 18-19, while Paul was on the subject; he illustrated this principle with circumcision. I guess this is a manly illustration, it doesn't work very well with women. If you were circumcised before you became a Christian; so what! Start from there. If you are not circumcised and you become a Christian, start from there. You don't have to be circumcised to be a Christian. To Christianity, circumcision means absolutely nothing. For a circumcised person to become literally uncircumcised would be an impossibility; unless you use plastic surgery which they didn't have. The point is: "as the Lord has called every one, so let him walk." Start from where you are when you become a Christian. What if you were a slave (v.21)? To become a Christian doesn't make you free; you are still a slave. You are a Christian slave, yes; but, you're still a slave. Now, if you can buy your freedom that's fine; go to it, become a free Christian. But, the point is you can be just as Christian as a slave as you can after you were emancipated. A common metaphor in the Bible is to refer to God's people or God's children as servants, I.e. in a sense, a Christian is a servant (or slave) of King Jesus. Paul plays on that metaphor a little in v. 22. If you are a literal can be human slave with a literal human master here on earth, when you become a Christian, as may slaves back then did; you are just as free in the Lord as anyone else. There's no rank among Christians. If on the other hand you are not a slave and you became a Christian; there is a sense in which you became a slave, I.e. you become a servant of King Jesus, you see. In v. 23, Paul points out, Jesus paid the price for you (I.e. he purchased us with his own blood, Acts 20:28); thus you became a servant of King Jesus, when you became a Christian. So, Paul couldn't resist making a little play on words, here. Notice how Paul closes this slave illustration out at the end of v. 23. Paul says in essence: Don't forget who your master is now...King Jesus. Don't forget that! You see, that implies, don't start going after the wisdom of men. Don't start worshipping idols. Don't enslave yourself to fornication, covetousness, alcohol and all those things Paul listed back in ch. 5 and again ch. 6. You see, Paul keeps making little subtle references back to what he has said in previous chapters. Then in v.24, he restated that principle one more time. Let's read v. 25-28. Here we go, v.25. "Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord; yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife. But and if thou , thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you." Alright, since Paul started off, "Now concerning virgins...", (in v. 25) very much like v.l; I would assume he was answering another question on that list sent to him. Is it better to remain celibate or is it better to marry? My Catholic friends need to read this one close. As Paul indicated; there is no commandments in the Bible as to whether you marry or stay single. You won't be penalized as a Christian for getting married and you won't be rewarded for staying single. If you get married, you must follow the rules. If you stay single you must keep yourself according to the rules. A Christian is free to select either alternative. Paul gave his judgment on the matter and he emphasizes that his judgment (as an apostles) is more than a mere human judgment. That's the idea at the end of v.25. He emphasizes again the same thing he said back in v. 1, that it would be better for a man not to touch a woman, I.e. "it is good for a man so to be" (v. 26). This seems to corroborate the explanation of some that Paul emphasized staying single at that time (based upon that day and age) as we talked about before. And then again, Paul applied his, "let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God's principle. If you are married, stay married and if you are single, stay ingle; that's a rephrasing of v. 27, and also essentially a repeat of what has been said before. However, to marry is no sin if you follow the rues; that's the idea at the beginning of v. 28. The same applies to a virgin. It is not a sin to marry. However, at the end of v. 28; he comes back again to emphasize the present distress idea; here in the words "such shall have trouble in the flesh;" Then, Paul said, "I spare you." That is to say, I would like to spare you a lot of pain and suffering that may arise from your decision to marry; but, whether you follow my advice or you do not follow my advice, it has nothing to do with obeying God or breaking his commandments. This is a good place to break. Have a good day.