Lesson 27: "That Ye May Attend Upon the Lord Without Distraction" (I Corinthians 7:35)
I Corinthians 7:29-40
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson #27. Welcome again! It has been mentioned already, that something seemed to be bearing heavily upon the apostle Paul as he wrote these things. Much could be said and really needs to be said concerning the history of the times under which these epistles were written. If you are ambitious enough to read the encyclopedias and crack a few history books, you will soon gain a good bit of insight into the Roman government and the economy at that time. If you have access to a good set of encyclopedias; you have a lot of information right there at your fingertips. If you live close to a public library, the shelves are loaded with this Roman empires stuff and the library people are usually anxious to help you find what you want. You might start by looking under the emperors in the library card catalogue by name, read about Corinth, Rome, etc. As you run across more information, use that to look up other subjects that interest you and dig deeper and deeper. First of all, I'll hand you a few nuggets that I found in only a few minutes. Get a good time-perspective to start with; it was approaching the middle of the AD 50's, possibly AD 54 or 55 or 56 (some 20 years after Jesus went back to heaven) when this book of Ist Corinthians was written. The emperor, Nero came on the throne some time in AD 54 at about 17 or 18 years of age. What we're saying is that Paul wrote this within a year or two after Nero took office. And, it's my understanding there was quite a shake-up in Nero's administration, especially at the beginning. It is said Nero hated Christians. Nero's life could be described as just one big long scandal, really. His mother's name was Agrippina. She was a great grand daughter of Augustus Caesar who was the emperor when Jesus was born; you'll remember the taxing decree in Luke 2:1, I hope. Just about all the emperors in that century were related some way or another. Nero was born during the Administration of Caligula, immediately after Caligula took office as emperor in AD 37, or in other words, very briefly after Jesus died on the cross near the end of Tiberius Caesar's administration (mentioned in Luke 3:1). Caligula was a nickname meaning: little boots. Little boots was great grandson of Augustus Caesar also, and thus a cousin to Agrippina, (Nero's mother). I didn't find anything about Nero's father, but Caligula was a real Castro, Noriega, Colonel Qaddafi type of character. Nero was born in royalty in the court of his uncle Caligula Through some kind of a scandal; Caligula had Agrippina banished, i.e. send away or exiled, when this boy, Nero was about three years old (approximately AD 40). The next emperor, was Claudius who took office in AD 41. The one that chased all Jews out of Rome including Aquila and Priscilla, remember. Claudius was another chip off the old block. He was a lame fellow that stuttered, but, he sent for Agrippina in exile and ultimately married Agrippina. Her son, Nero grew up in Claudius' palace, as Claudius' stepson; which he adopted and spoiled. Then, get a load of this, Nero married Claudius' daughter, Octavia in AD 53 or when Nero was about 17 or 18 years old. It is thought that Agrippina murdered Claudius (her husband) so Nero (her son) could become emperor; which he did, we have already said in AD 54. Five years later in AD 59, Nero got upset with his mother, Agrippina and had her murdered. A couple years after that, he had his wife, Octavia, the daughter of Claudius, killed also. Ultimately he committed suicide himself in AD 68, at the age of 31 years old. In about AD 64 (10 years after 1st Corinthians was written) there was a big fire in Rome, the capital of the empire, for which Nero claimed the Christians were responsible. Some think Nero set the fire and laid it onto the Christians as an excuse to persecute Christians, simply because he didn't like them. At any rate, hundreds and hundreds of Christians were killed by Nero as a result. It is thought the apostle Paul and the apostle Peter were both killed at that time under Nero's orders. It was also during Nero's administration that the Jews revolted against Rome, which led to the War of AD 70 we touched on back in Matthew chapter 24, you'll remember; Jesus foretold some things about that war.
Well, Corinth being the grand central station of the Roman Empire, as we've talked about before, transportation wise, etc., means that the church at Corinth probably felt the brunt of all this. I don't know the details of what happened in Corinth; but, you can see it wasn't good and it wasn't very nice, to say the least. How many Christians at Corinth were killed and imprisoned during the siege of all of that, and how they were killed, I don't know. But, the thing you need to get clearly in focus here IS that this all happened within a decade after Paul wrote this book, we call First Corinthians. The apostle Paul, having spiritual insight into these things, before hand, through the Holy Spirit; undoubtedly, accounts for much of what Paul said HERE in 1st Corinthians, Chapter seven and other places. It helps us to see that Paul was writing from a different perspective than was the everyday point of view of the Christians at Corinth.
O.K., that's enough palaver for a while, let's get back to the text. We want to read beginning in v.29 (1 Cor. 7:29). We'll read seven verses; down through v. 35. Now, hit the pause button long enough to do about a one minute review of the first 28 verses in chapter 7. Try to integrate your knowledge of Corinth with what we've said about Nero. Try to imagine what it would have been like to have lived in, and attended the worship service in, Corinth (at that time) with all the division, opinion and discontent among the Christians at Corinth. Try to imagine the concern and effort of those who went to Paul for advice on marriage and those who were trying to get things corrected in that congregation. We don't know this, but it very well could be that Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus , mentioned in 1st Corinthians 16: 17 were the elders or part of the eldership in the Corinthian congregatioa At least they were working to help solve the problems of the congregatioa Take a minute to reflect on this! And then, lets read. "But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; an they that use this world, as not abusing it; for the fashion of this world passeth away. But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things for the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and hi spirit; but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction."
Alright, I think you can see reflected in Paul's comments, undoubtedly, some of his concerns that related to the times we have mentioned. So, try to see this as nearly as you can from Paul's point of view. Back in v.29, Paul said, "brethren, the time is short..." Say that to yourself two or three times in a pleading voice. Paul wrote this to the Corinthians; but, brethren that statement is just as true this moment for you and me as it was that day in Ephesus, when Paul wrote this to the Corinthians. Take the time to subtract your age form your life expectancy and ponder on that figure briefly.
That's about it, if you're lucky. The lower limit could come down to a heart attack or something worse in the next hour. I'm not trying to be dramatic! I'm just trying to get you tuned into Paul's thoughts. Can you imagine the people in Corinth, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage (concerned enough to send Paul a list of a few questions in the middle of all their arrogance); trying to get a few dollars ahead and get their share of the pie as the economics of Corinth passed by. Assuming, naturally, as we all do, that we'll live to be three hundred. Re-read v. 29, 30 and 31. Can you bring it down home, so to speak? Look at some of the words Paul used: wives, weeping, rejoicing, sorrow, happiness, buying, selling, possessing, using this world. It touches my life! Good days, bad days, wondering about the children. Here comes an insurance salesman. Tomorrow I've got a doctor's appointment A car payment is coming due. I sure wish Nero would lower those taxes. The utility bill is up again. Just like our brothers and sisters in Christ at Corinth, I don't have time to think of a decade down the road. I'm too busy with today. Can you see where Paul was coming from? Now, go to v. 32, brethren, "I would have you without carefulness." Carefulness? That "carefulness" business goes back to those words in v. 29, 30 and 31; another way of saying worry, anxiety, and apprehension. Do you remember the parable of the sower; Jesus said, "that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection." Has Jesus been reading our mail? Have you looked for the thorn bushes around you? A thorn is anything that keeps you from following Jesus. Are you bringing any fruit to perfection? In v. 32, 33 and 34, Paul got into a discussion of the differences in married person and unmarried person. Husbands trying to please their wives and wives trying to please their husbands, both are holding down two jobs so they can move from a Chevrolet to and Audi like the Joneses down the street. Teach a Bible class? They don't even have time to read it; let alone teach it. OH! They've been baptized! They USUALLY go to church on Sunday, unless Apollos is speaking, they don't care for Apollos. I always attend when my preacher comes to town. I sure hate to miss old brother so-and-so next week; but, we've GOT TO GO camping with my brother-in-law down in Ritzy-burg. No, we won't have time to attend services down there; you see the boat ramp opens up at nine. Incidentally, what are you getting your husband for your anniversary, some more golf clubs? Choked by the riches and pleasures of this life? I wonder what Jesus meant by that? That Bible sure is so hard to understand! I think, one of these days, I'm going to take the time to read that chapter.
V. 33, "he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife." Then v. 34, "She that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband." You know, Paul may be right! Marriage can put a strain on your Christianity! I can see his point But, today are the young, unmarried people doing any better than the married people, really? Paul, if the unmarried people at Corinth kept their body and then- spirit holy and were that dedicated; you make me want to move to Corinth. I wouldn't want to dispute the apostle, but, I tell you what, I have usually found married members of the church as active and as concerned as the young unmarried members. Are we talking about two different times, or what?
Let's get to v. 35. "This I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you..." Do you know what a snare is? That's a trap used to catch small animals. You see, Paul knew, some at Corinth look at their Christianity as getting in the way of their marriages. But, Paul looked at it the other way. To Paul, some of the marriages were getting in the way of their Christianity. I'll bet you've seen that happen. They used to attend faithfully and be dedicated and good workers, but then they got married. Just like Corinth, some don't think it's important to be a Christian, or to marry a Christian. If Paul should write to us, what would he say to the congregation where you attend? You got any ideas?
Let's read v. 36, 37 and 38. Please put an eye on it! Here we go! "But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. Nevertheless he that standeth steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better."
I doubt if you can identify with this one. Things have rotated about 180 degrees, 4 or 5 times since Paul wrote that. In those days, the parents made all arrangements, contracts, etc., for marriages. Pappy was the LAW in those days that decided WHO you would marry and WHEN you would marry. Now, I don't know what the question was on Paul's paper, but, it seems some of the Christians at Corinth were concerned about when and at what age they should let their virgin daughters marry as well as their young men, of course. Actually, for teenagers today, that have to have momma's permission; Paul was pretty soft, really. Read v. 36 close. Paul said in essence; if they're of reasonable age and they have that strong urge, its O.K. don't be too hard on them, let'em marry, it's not sinful to marry! End of v.36, It is better to marry than to bum, remember that back in v.9? Don't push them into a lot of temptation for fornication and promiscuity. Let me paraphrase v. 37. Nevertheless, you Christian parents that are trying to hold your young people back form marrying for their very own benefit; that's good. You have their best interest at heart! "he that keepeth his virgin, doeth well." Don't push them into marriage, certainly not! Now, v. 38! Here's a Horsely paraphrase: if they insist on getting married and you can permit it; that's all right — you do well. If on the other hand you can discourage them from marriage until they are more mature; you will have done better. That was Paul's advice.
Then v. 32-40 another question; we don't have the question. But, here's the answer. Are you ready? Let's read V.39 and 40. "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to who she will; only in the Lord. But she is happiest if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God." O.K., can widows get re-married? Paul said very simply the answer is YES and this is the only thing about remarriage mentioned in the whole chapter. Widows are free to re-marry; then Paul added: they'll be happier if they don't However, Christians should marry Christians. If your prospective husband or wife is not Christian, make him a Christian. If he's not teachable enough to become a Christian; he's not teachable enough for you to marry. There's a lot of thought packed in that one. Think about it! Then the last part of v. 40 was a soft reminder that Paul was an apostle and what he was saying was not just some personal opinion drawn from thin air. That is God's authoritative view. Have a good day!